I am posting this from Costa outside Carlisle station. Bear in mind I was only supposed to be in Carlisle for six minutes. I’m glad that what has happened, if it had to happen at all, on the last day: I’d be really disheartened if the week had begun this way.
My tale-of-woe begins…
A good’s night sleep in The Manor. A good choice, on balance, let down if anything by a fairly average beer liner up by GBG standards. Other than that, great value for money, a lovely breakfast and friendly staff. I had a choice of 08:02 or 10:28 departures going north from St Bees. My day was planned around the latter so I had a leisurely morning, including walking down to the beach and taking in the sea air. It was another fairly grey day, redeemed by a south-westerly wind which was, if not warm, certainly not as bitter as it could have been. The infamous coat came into its own but remained unzipped.
At the start of the Coast-to-Coast walk I sent Chappers a photo to remind him of his exploits. Of course all I got in response was a completely uncalled-for comment about coats. Not that I’m sensitive on the subject.
I got back to the station in time to see the southbound service in the guise of a DRS Class 37 push-pull set. It certainly made an impression, even with the non-railway interested passengers (hikers) waiting on the northbound platform.
Such was my confidence in the railway, it was only after I watched (and listened in awe) to the southbound train leave that I looked how my train was doing. 38 minutes late. Pardon my French but, Shit. With a six minute connection at Carlisle that’s my day screwed. Not least as the next Settle & Carlisle departure from Carlisle isn’t until 14:04. I broke the bad news to the dozen or so others waiting — most are visitors but some locals — as the platform information screen wasn’t working. One couple have a connection at Carlisle via Glasgow to Fort William, so they’re now seriously sweating on the last Fort Bill train out of Glasgow Queen Street.
As it worked its way north, my train is slowly regained time, but… It was “only” 25 minutes late arriving at St Bees. Even with more recovery time, all that is going to do is make the number of minutes by which I missed the S&C train frustratingly small! On embarking the conductor told the joining passengers that it will be “limited stops” – cutting out the request stops. Presumably that’s how the service has made up 13 minutes. That all said, we couldn’t leave until the 10:55 service in the other direction vacated the single line section and the Signaller (term used deliberately here) swapped the token. Actual departure: 10:59 (30 late). It was the same unit as last night, solo this time, and I found myself sitting in exactly the same seat.
At Whitehaven a moderately sized group of primary school aged children and their parents/carers got on. I recall something similar happening here last time I rode on this line but then it was an organised school group. This was the Clampetts on tour. Bless.. Then, as now, the hearding and seating of them took an age. I had a brat behind me, kicking the seat bawling “Mam, can I have something to eat!“, repeatedly, while Mam equally repeatedly ignored him. The day gets better and better.
The thought which floated through my mind at that point was “There’d better be a First Class lounge at Carlisle and they’d better order in extra coffee”. (There isn’t — hence Costa). Credit to the Northern guard: As the train was about half an hour out of Carlisle he went through the train and tried to sort out revised connections for those affected. I didn’t bother him with my insignificant problems. It was a 12:04 arrival – single figures in minutes for my missed connection! Easily the worst leg of the entire week — the weather, the lateness, the uncomfortably full single car unit. The thing is, absolutely none of this was any fault of the staff on this train and, other than perhaps a reliability issue with the other 153 (that, apparently had failed with an electrical fault hence the delay), not really Northern’s fault either.
Not really my thing, but it could be said there was a silver lining in my forced stopover in Carlisle. The all seeing eye-in-the-sky tipped me off to 1Z44, a West Coast Railways special from Edinburgh to Appleby passing through Carlisle half an hour so after my arrival. This turned out to be the locomotive that everyone in the world, seemingly, has heard of — Flying Scotsman. I hung around to take some snaps for posterity — along with about 50 more “men of a certain age” (and one lady with a camera that I noticed).
Bringing the blog up to date half-a-day early has passed the time famously. Thank you for indulging me. The revised plan is to get the 14:04 over the S&C arriving Leeds at 16:53. Then I’ll see where the wind takes me. Worse case is I jump on the next CrossCountry and come home! We’ll see.
Right I’d better move – don’t want to miss this one…