Firstly, my apologies for the dreadful and embarrassing spelling in the title of the last post as it was originally uploaded (and thus will remain forever titled on WordPress’s system and Twitter 😳).
As I begin to think about uploading this, I am not quite home. In fact, I am on board the 20:40 Nottingham — Birmingham, waiting to depart … the very last leg of the week’s odyssey.
Turned out nice in the end…
Carlisle station, I regret to say, looks horrible at the moment — rather like Derby a few years ago; completely hidden behind scaffolding and plastic screening while major works take place. The two bay platforms at the south end are lost in a maze of temporary barriers and hoardings.
Back on the rails: All stations to Leeds (well, apart for a few beyond Skipton). A mere 2¾ hours. Departing from Carlisle it was a modestly loaded train, at least at the end I’m in, so I was able to drop back into enjoy-the-ride mode (and not let the two American blokes about four rows back with booming voices bug me!). To help me back into that frame-of-mind, blue sky could be seen and even, gasp, sunlight on the hills in the distance. That distance being toward Newcastle, but it gave cause for hope.
Sure enough, once past the newly rebuilt section at Eden Brows, the glimpse of sunshine was behind us and, whilst so far looking dry, the countryside was distinctly grey (apart from Armathwaite where the signal box has been painted in the brightest interpretation of MR Lemon Chrome).
Just past Culgaith, literally a blink and you’d miss it moment… I saw the sun! Nature is truly toying with me. The big hills to the east had their heads in the clouds. (I don’t know what those hills are called, but Chappers will have walked over them). The platform at Appleby was thronged with excursionists waiting to reboard their Flying Scotsman hauled ‘Cathedrals Express’ which will take them to Euston — arriving there at 22:33! The illustrious train to follow us means there are plenty of folk out on the lineside and over bridges. Some are even snapping our Sprinter (two x 158s to give four cars) as a consolation while they wait. An exclamation from one of the aforementioned Americans at Garsdale made me chuckle; “It looked like someone was working in that signal box“. (At least he didn’t call it a ‘tower’). I can’t tell you the raptures they were in on seeing the sign at Dent announcing it as the highest main line station in England.
Just a few of the dozens of snaps taken on this leg of the journey…
Once I got south of the scenic bit I began to start exploring options from Leeds. The eye-in-the-sky had come up with a good suggestion which involved the North Midland route through Normanton, thence Barnsley and ultimately Nottingham as originally planned. The downside to that for me is no comfy (or in other words, less crowded) bit. Another thought was to go via Knaresborough to York then give in and vegetate on a CrossCountry back to Derby. However that fell through as there didn’t appear to be a service beyond Knaresborough at a convenient time. That being so I started thinking a Kings Cross to Doncaster & get the CrossCountry from there. That plan will involve having to adjourn to the Alexandra licensed waiting room at Derby until the next stopping service to Willington. So be it. The decision I did make at that point was that Leeds would have to be snap time one way or another.
Around then I then noticed my coat is filthy. That’s through leaning on a wall while sheltering from the elements at St. Bees this morning. Good job I’ve got another (ha ha!).
I was still thinking about my onward travel options: …or stay on to Grantham and get the Manchester Piccadily train from there to Nottingham. Or even pick up the original plan from Doncaster and walk between North Gate and Castle stations at Newark (via a pub?). Decisions, Decisions!
Anyway, back to the journey. The train arrived at a red signal outside Leeds station at 16:45 (three minutes early) and was held there five minutes before finding a path to its booked platform. I was very much looking forward to a leg stretch (and a Personal Needs Break) by then.
Call of nature taken care of, I fell prey to the Cornish pasty concession on the overbridge to sustain me. While still chomping my way through that, I hopped on the 17:15 VTEC for Kings Cross, more-or-less having made my mind up I would get off at Doncaster. The further decision as to whether to get on the CrossCountry Reading service and go straight back to Derby, or revert to my original plan, could be deferred until then.
The decision in the end was to, in effect, cut out the loop over to Hull and get back on my original schedule. The downside of two short hops on Virgin Trains is that there wasn’t enough time to avail myself of their hospitality. On the Leeds train the trollies only appeared around the point I would normally be turning right toward Moorthorpe and Sheffield — barely a few minutes out of Doncaster. On the Newcastle train, a Class 91 & Mk4s whereas the Leeds was an HST, service was in full swing but time was still against me (and for that matter, nothing was offered!).
As the Leeds train was four minutes late at Doncaster (at one point I worried it might be regulated to let the Newcastle in front — instead they re-platformed the Newcastle) we came to a dead stop at Retford to let the Leeds out in front again. Let me tell you how severe the Up Fast superelevation is through Retford when stationary!
Newark: I set off on my trek between North Gate and Castle Stations with an hour & a half to do it in. Somehow, I found myself entering the Clay Tavern on the wonderfully named Slaughter House Lane on impulse. It had “PINT” branding outside (Pubs In Newark Together — the outfit that I think are responsible for the town’s beer festival — which is coming up at the end of the month I noticed). Turns out it’s a Marston’s house. I had a Thwaites Lancaster Bomber as the best of an average bunch of three. From there to the GBG listed Vaults for a quick ‘un. Without the signs you’d never know his place existed. It has a very nondescript entrance to, as the name suggests, a two room Cider and Ale House at half-cellar level. I had a 8 Sail – Victorian Porter (5%). That’s more like it.
A short walk over the Trent (or more accurately, the Newark Navigation!) with the sun shining — Yes! Sun! (See the photo at the top of the page) — to Castle station. There I had a quick mooch round to see all the resignalling that has taken place since I was last out that way. Then onto the already waiting Matlock train as far as Nottingham. The very last train of the entire week is a Class 170, complete with First Class which not that many people use at the best of times, least of all at 20:40. (Except railway staff, it seems).
I think that’s where I’m going to sign off for this page and upload it. I’m not quite home, but certainly back on familiar ground. I’ll try and get round to a ‘concluding remarks’ entry in the next day or so to wrap things up. Until then, good night all, and thanks for reading (and commenting many of you, through various media).