Category Archives: Railways

South near the border, down Mexico way

A trip I’m planning for May had me wondering, if I’d been that far south before in my life? The answer, seemingly, is no! I did wonder if my very forgettable holiday to Tunisia (Monastir) was as far south as I had gone, only to discover that Los Angeles is further south than that, so literally, at this moment in time, the furthest south I’ve ever been in my life, is Long Beach! For reference, the furthest north would be on the Hurtigruten, when it sailed around the North Cape of Norway (in both directions), the furthest west would seem to be somewhere in the San Francisco area, probably Daly City, which looks slightly to the west of Seattle/Tacoma area, judging by Google maps, but dont quote me on that! The furthest east, using the same guide, would appear to be Vilnius, in Lithuania.

I’m certainly hoping to top a few of those in time, as Alaska is planned for a retirement trip treat, which will then (at some point in the state) be as far west as I’ve gone. Unless I go to the very top of the state, around Barrow, I’m not going to go more northerly than that Norwegian ferry line, and thats not on my plans. Nome would be my dream westerly, but being realistic, it will probably be Anchorage! East, I’d love one day to reach the far east of Russia, by train, but whether that ever happens now, who knows?

But going further south, you bet, thought not stretching my limits that dramatically, all the same. Yes, planning to head to San Diego, down towards Mexico way. In truth, I knew it was near the border, but didnt realize it was just 20 miles until I looked on Google maps! No, I’m not going just to stretch my limits, I’m going to meet someone that I know from Facebook, for the first time!

I know, maybe its the actress in me, but I’m possibly a bit crazier that way than most! I have to say that I have got to know some lovely people, purely by taking a chance on Social media, and writers forums, so…It also allows me to see some Californian scenery on the train that I would never get to see otherwise too. Much to my delight, and possible surprise, Amtrak’s website is designed for visitors from abroad! Yes, I know, they should be, but after recent experience, I did go and check!

So fine, next month, I might not be going south of the border, before that idiot Trump gets around to considering building the wall there, but I’ll get closer than ever before!

Yes, a few clues to the video in there, has to be said, but finding a film version was more complex, as most versions of this were recorded a long time ago. Thankfully, I found this Willie Nelson version from 1989, live!

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A new addition to the timetable

The last regular timetable steam train in the UK was actually in 1968, so in theory, I should remember them. In truth though, I dont, as I dont really remember doing much in the way of train journeys when I was young, but I guess I must have? And all the earliest memories I have of train journeys (other than restored lines) are all either electric, or diesel trains. However, the last steam train on a railway timetable, today! Yes, be grateful, it means I can avoid another typical Valentines Day blog at least!

Currently, its not possible to travel the full length of the Settle and Carlisle railway, as just under a year ago, there was a landslip at the very northern end of the line, so currently Armathwaite is as far north as they go. Most people actually change to coach at Appleby, slightly further south, because the road connection to Carlisle is better, but hopefully at some point the full length of the line will be restored.

Normally these trains are run by diesel units from Leeds, but today Northern Rail decided to do something different, and two return journeys from Skipton to Appleby were run by steam trains today. Dont get me wrong, a number of steam trains run over that line, but only as special tours, at inflated prices. Today, these were at the standard rail fare! Yes, I saw them on TV, the trains looked a little busy lol! Not surprising, I guess?

Will it happen again, who knows? I know Northern Rail were saying how well it went, so maybe one day, the regular train from Leeds to Carlisle will run a full route, behind a steam engine, who knows? But yes, that would have made a lovely Valentines day present, if I’d known about it, and had anyone to take me!

But yes, kudos to a train company for doing something a little different like that.

So fine, we need a train song, right? Snag is, I’ve used most of them in the past. And then I found this…oops… at least its brief!

In A Bog Country Dream

In these days when you can book everything you want online, even simply using a mobile phone, it might be hard for some of my readers to believe that when we had to do these things back in the 70’s, soon after I started work, things were a lot more complex.

One thing I enjoyed, before commuting became a serious part of my life, was travelling by trains. I know, but it was a lot easier back then, when there was just one company running everything, but fine, those days are gone, and I dont want to get political again! The beauty of one company running all the railways in the country, was that British Rail (as it was then) created something called a Rail Rover. Basically there was one for each region, and I had experienced it, as my mother had taken me travelling on the Southern Rail version, during School Holidays, but there was something that interested me far more, when I started work. Yes, the all line version! Basically it gave me the chance, with a lot of planning, to travel some of the more rural lines I would never get to travel otherwise, which was fun. The snag with those lines then, and indeed still now, is that there werent many trains a day on those routes to choose from.

The advantage now, is that if you want to plot those journeys nowadays, you just type in a few details on the National Rail website journey planner, and you plan accordingly. Back then, I had a very large (and I do mean large) paper version of the national timetable to work things out from, and that was it. Oh, and none of those hotel booking websites we have now, either! Me, I used an AA handbook, as my hotel guide. So putting together train routes, tying that into my overnight hotel, and…it was interesting! Oh, and in theory, I could have picked up the phone at home, and rang the hotels and booked, but it was the family phone, so I wrote, and sent letters instead! Now, you just go on a website, make a booking, and thats it, but back then, you’d send off the letters, hope you got a positive reply, and move on from there. In truth, probably because I was never looking for hotels in big towns, I tended to get in fine, but yes, doing workarounds, if you did get a rejection, and have to start again, ouch!

One of those lines I wanted to travel dearly, was just about as far from home as I could get, and stay on the mainland. Back then, it was just the line from Inverness to Thurso, and Wick, nowadays called the Far North line, which is a pretty fair description. As you can guess, both then, and now, not many trains to choose from, per day! One of my problems was, that if I travelled to either of the termini (back then, the train split at Georgemas Junction, in the middle of nowhere, now one train serves both) it would be very late at night before I got there. And fine, I was about 18, and that didnt appeal. So I looked for somewhere I could split the journey, and I found somewhere interesting.

Middle of nowhere, pretty much just the station, a hotel, and a couple of houses, and that was it. A tiny place called Forsinard. So yes, it appealed, and at least I didnt have far to go between train, and hotel. Yes, I stayed there. Yes, its about as remote a place as I’ve ever stayed in my life! After 40 years, I have no idea how busy the hotel was that night, all I remember is arriving mid evening, and leaving again the next morning, and that was it. An evening meal, a bed, and breakfast, and that was about the total of my stay!

Anyway, last week, out of curiosity, I thought I’d take a look and see what the current prices were to stay there, to find that it closed about 4 years ago, presumably lack of business? No, in truth, not totally surprised. There were no Premier Inns, Travelodges and the like back then, even not allowing for the limited market for somewhere like there in the first place!

Thing is, nowadays, I tend to stay in chain hotels, but yes, I guess I will always have a soft spot for those quirky little hotels, all the same.

OK, video time. The reason for the blog title is that Forsinard lays in what is now called Flow Country, a large area of peat bog. So, yes, I couldnt resist the pun!

Things do get better

Yesterday was an interesting day, in so many ways. Due to the less than stellar state of public transport, early morning, on a Saturday, my options for getting to work for 9.00 were a bit limited.

The dull, safe bet was to leave here about 7.00, get the 7.30 bus from town, and get to work by about 8.30. Fine, except that I would have had to be up by about 5.45 at the latest, and then sit at work waiting for 9.00 to come round.

What was the other option, I hear you ask? To do something I havent done since August, take a train! It meant I could leave here about 20 minutes later, take a train to Bradford, and get to work (hopefully) about 10 minutes before starting time, ideal for setting up. Yes, attempted the latter!

I got to the station, train on time the indicator board said, great! Only snag was, I got to the Platform, no train! About 2 minutes before it was due to leave (7.50), they announce the train at Platform 6 is there, and we can board, but as you can guess, still no train! A Guard with a silly grin on his face stood on the platform, telling us it would be there very soon, but…

At 7.58, still no train, so I walked outside the station, got the 8.00 bus to Bradford, and got to work with about a minute to spare. Yes, the bus was busy, as companies still seem to think no one works on a Saturday, not true any more! So yes, what is normally a 6 bus an hour service, 2 isnt enough! I know, they wont learn, but…! No, I didnt see the famous station cat either!

As opposed to William Hill, when Saturday was by far the busiest day, in my new job, just the opposite, not many calls. Fine, most solicitors arent working, and only so many other people realize we’re open, so its mainly a day for doing admin, it seems. Fine by me, but…

With about 10 minutes to go to going home time, I got a call! I know, shock horror, in a call center, but besides all that…it was a lovely old lady, but she didnt want to give me details. For legal logistics, we arent allowed to give her more than limited details, non executor, for those who understand the term, so I couldnt go into the account. So I answered her questions as best I could, very generically, but yes, I did my job. At the end, she told me I’d eased her mind about things, and that for me was the main thing.

The funny thing, I was still on the call at the time we could go home, but what could I do? Thankfully, a few moments later, we were done, and I actually got out only about 5 minutes late. Then things picked up, I still just about got to the bus station in time for the 4.10 (no idea how?), just about got out of Huddersfield before the football crowd came out, and actually got home in about an hour and a quarter, definitely a PB! After the morning trip, amazing!

But yes, the main thing, easing someone’s worries, and making her feel better about events. Now that was the important thing!

The video, a bit of Yazoo. Though for many Brit’s, the Flying Pickets version is probably better known! Ah well…

LA Beach Baby, so much easier!

One of the pains of going to the beach, both times I was in Hollywood, was getting there. Well, fine, it was a dozen miles or so, and slightly more from downtown LA, but that wasnt the heart of the issue. Even in these days, when public transport in the city has improved no end, no trains went anywhere near the sea. So, getting to Santa Monica was an, err, interesting, and lengthy bus journey both ways, when I decided I needed to go there. Its fair to note that Pacific Palisades is an even tougher journey, but that wont be changing in the near future. Santa Monica, however…

The last time there was any kind of passenger train service to Santa Monica, was 1953. Well, fine, until Friday, the last time any kind of official train service to Santa Monica was 1953. Yes, railway services return on Friday, care of the Expo line, which will cut the time to get there from downtown, to about 45 minutes, as opposed to the 75-80 at good times, and heaven knows, during the rush hours!

Yes, fine, we Hollywood lovers would either have to bus to a connecting point on the Expo line, or go via downtown, but in truth, the latter will probably be about as quick, and more pleasant than the bus service! In truth, from downtown at least, to Pacific Palisades, you’d probably be better off taking the train, then getting the local bus from Santa Monica!

My main problem at the moment, getting there, to travel on it, of course. But hopefully, one day in the not too distant future, I’ll be able to arrive at dear old Santa Monica pier, without feeling worn out by the bus journey. That will be special, in more senses than one.

LA, and Hollywood, I really miss you, crazy as that sounds!

The video? Well, what I will hopefully be, once again, in Santa Monica.

What kind of fool?

Yes, I planned to write this blog last night, but simply ran out of time. As most will have noticed, yesterday was April Fools Day, which brings out all the pranksters, with stories that on any other day, you might think could be true, but on that one day of the year, no chance!

The first one I saw yesterday morning, actually featured a famous local celebrity, and a surprise transfer out of town. Even in these days of social media (and yes, she’s on Facebook), I’m not sure how many know about the famous Huddersfield Station cat, Felix. And yes, despite the name, Felix is a she! I’m yet to see her at the station, because I hardly use it nowadays, and on the rare occasion I have been, nowhere to be seen, probably sleeping!

But the big story, she’d been poached by a larger station in the area, Leeds, and was going to move there. It seemed from comments on her Facebook page, that some people hadnt spotted the date before commenting! Anyway, many of us did realise, and commented accordingly. In the end, a hasty denial that Felix was truly going nowhere, beyond Platform 8, was posted up on her page!

The other related story, that wasnt actually an April Fool, was the transfer of the Rail Franchises around here. Well, on paper, its transfers, in practice, its more of the same. The people who were running Trans Pennine Express, and Northern Rail changed their image, made lots of wild promises about improving journeys, both on punctuality, and quality of train services were provided, but I wont be holding my breath. We were promised a much better service by TPE a few years back, and nothing really happened! Maybe it will this time, but…I suspect it will turn into another April Fool, given the date it happened!

Oh, me, post up an April Fool, of course I wouldnt! Well, maybe…Yes, fine, I did. I claimed I would no longer need to use public transport, because I’d laid my hands on one of these.

CJ and Todd

Nice, isnt it? Yes, I wish, could certainly get to LA a lot quicker in one of those, for sure. And probably fly at a higher altitude than 38,000 feet too! Faster than 500 mph, or so, as well, I should think. But yes, sadly, I only own it in my dreams, ah well…

The video. Well you’d have to be a fool to believe some of the things posted yesterday, so I selected this

Waiting for the train that never comes!

Honestly, if I never travel with Trans Pennine Express again, after 3 weeks time, it will still be too soon. Though to be fair to them, it would be right to say that today they were only 50% to blame, the other half falling firmly on the shoulders of National Rail.

But, if TPE had been honest on the situation a little earlier, instead of 30 minutes after the train was due, I might have been able to rescue matters. Of course, if I had, you wouldnt be getting this bonus blog rant, so…

So, the story of my morning was as follows…

I left here at 8.30 this morning, to walk across (just under 10 minutes) to where I have to get the bus, when I make an early start on a Sunday morning, as the first bus from the estate is 9.08. As it happens, I could have got the 9.38, but more on that shortly.

The train was due at 9.18. At 9.12, it was showing as on time, quite a rare sight with TPE. But then, it started showing as later, and later, until…at 9.42 an announcement was made. Seemingly, there was a ‘slight’ over run on the engineering works between Manchester and Huddersfield, and to quote the announcer, they had no idea when a train might turn up, but they would let us know later, if, and when one would.

So, I did a rapid dash to a nearby Hills shop, rang work to let them know I wasnt going to be in by 10.00, funnily enough. I went back to the station, nothing had changed. So I gave up the fight, got a bus home, and gave up on the day, and a days wages. I might, even then have got to work very late, with a lift, but blamelessly (not knowing what a joke TPE was today) Nicole had made other plans, so that was that!

I know, I cant blame TPE for over running engineering works, and I dont. But what I can blame them for, is the lack of useful information. All they were doing on the departure board, was every minute, adding another minute to the expected arrival time. In the end, seemingly, the train arrived 61 minutes late! I expect it was ‘slightly crowded’ by then, rolls eyes!

So, TPE, please, just let us passengers, who you rip off so regularly know whats really happening with their trains.

No, given their utter incompetence, its not going to happen!

Yes, the video is dedicated to what I was doing today, waiting for the train that never came!

Too clever for my own good, aka train issues!

Yes, thats right, tomorrow I head down south, to Newbury, for the top up session of the permanent make up look, after which I might look so much like a middle aged version of Jean Harlow, it might be scary! Fine, maybe a very slight exaggeration, but possibly not?

The funniest point about all this, and sheer coincidence in the planning, its all going to happen on what would have been Jean’s 104th birthday. Yes, on March 3rd 1911, somewhere in Kansas City, a new baby was born, to be named Harlean Harlow Carpenter, and the rest was history! So what better day could there be, to complete my new Harlow look?

As far as I know, my mind is not being changed to match the look, but dont quote me on that! 😛

But fine, that has nothing to do with being too clever for my own good, does it? Well, unless someone thinks that ending up thinking I’m Jean Harlow would be a bad thing, anyway.

No, what happened was that because I knew when I was travelling to Newbury well in advance, I bought the train ticket about a month ago. Shrewd move, what could go wrong? Well, in this case, and not in the sexual sense, the earth moved, quite literally. Somewhere between Banbury, and Leamington, at about the same time as I booked my tickets, there was a landslide. And yes, you guessed it, the line is still closed! There is a bus service between the 2 points, but it adds an hour to the journey time, which I really havent got to spare.

So now, I’ve cancelled those tickets, rebooked by a different route, all of which costs me a few extra pounds, but not too many. Which gives me the chance to try out the latest in the long line of privatised train companies. Until Saturday, the East Coast line was ran by the publicly owned company, the eponymous East Coast Railway.

But now, for better, or for worse (and judging by todays reports, its worse), it has been added to the privately owned railways, nominally Virgin East Coast, though I gather Stagecoach actually owns a large share.

Part of the problem for many is a simple one. East Coast ran the line very successfully, the private companies who ran it before them, didnt. Virgin, we shall see…

The video, a tribute, or otherwise, to the train company concerned

Life can get crazy at times!

Yes, I am back! Sorry, but the last 10 days or so have been a bit crazy (to put it mildly), and I really havent felt in the right state of mind to post things, for various reasons. Hey, I’m not sure I am now, but lets give it a whirl.

Firstly, the body work job! Yes, that worked wonderfully, really, really pleased with it, though I must admit, it was a few days before my lips recovered, even after the rest of the body looked fine. But everything is great now, in that sense, and as promised, I will post a photo at some point, just havent got any at the moment that I can use, so… But yes, the whole thing made me realise maybe how physically frail I am, as on top of the bug, the whole thing just knocked me over completely. Lets just say I slept well, and leave it at that.

There had been rumours at work of changes being made in staffing, most of which didnt sound good to me. So, when I got an email late Tuesday evening, asking me to ring one of the bosses, I had an inkling, I didnt want to know. Due to my lack of mobile phone, and a lengthy delay on the train, care of Cross Country (over an hour, compensation requested, though nothing heard yet on that front), it was actually about 4.45 on Wednesday before I heard the news, that my section of the department would soon be no more. Various options available, so on to Plan B, more of which later.

Yes, that bug, virus or whatever it was, combined with everything else, has still been laying me low, until the last couple of days. Even now, the cough isnt entirely gone, just better, but…

But as I say, Plan B. A job had caught my eye anyway, that was just the push needed to really do something about it. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I had a phone interview on Sunday morning, and I’ve got a ‘proper’ interview in London, on Monday. Would be quite something if I can get that, and get the redundancy money from my current job, but these sort of things dont usually happen for me, so…lets wait and see.

Looks like the black dress will be coming out again, though I’m not sure if I can face wearing heels all the way to London and back. Might take them with me, might just wear my wedge heels (no balance issues), or I might go mad! Suspect the first option is the most likely one.

Apart from all that, the only other big event was Nicole’s birthday, also on Sunday. Dinner out etc, had a wonderful time.

And really, thats it, or the edited version of it, anyway. As you can see, its been a bit crazy, a bit tiring on the middle aged body, but finally, I’ve appeared again.

The video, not the greatest Abba song of all time, but it seemed apt.

Due to work shifts, and things, its quite possible it will be next Wednesday before I write again. My only day off in that period is Monday, and well, I’ve got an interesting trip to make then!

Oh, I forgot, the wonders of online shopping, and the like. Due to the snow today, I didnt get out as planned. Therefore I thought I’d get my railway ticket online, using my pre paid card, once topped up. Only thing is, it didnt work! Got an error message on the East Coast website when I went to buy, but the system has taken the money off the card, but no tickets! Seemingly, it will be about 7 days before this corrects itself. So in the meantime, I’ve got to pay again for the railway ticket, and then I’ll have money on the card that I dont need! Aargh!

Railways and holidays

Here in the UK, in theory we get a new railway timetable every 6 months or so. Thing is, I’ve lived in Huddersfield since 2005, and as far as Trans Pennine Express is concerned at least, I dont think the times of the trains have changed in all that time…until now! Indeed the only change I remember between Huddersfield and Leeds, was when the 2nd stopping train an hour was switched away from us, to provide Brighouse with a better service.

But this Sunday, everything changes in a big way. From now on, we get an extra train per hour during the day en route, and more carriages too, not before time! Though the cynic in me does wonder if that just means one extra set of train delays per hour, or cancellations through them not having enough staff for the new service! But lets give them a chance…

The only irony with all this, because the stopping trains have also had to be tweaked, it means that when I finish at 8.00 or later (up to 9.15, due to getting a taxi on a 10.00 finish), I will lose out! My last race for the 8.13, or 9.13 stopper is done! That will now leave at 26 minutes past the hour, and assuming the .41 TPE train is on time, will be passed by it. Please note, I did say assuming! So now, not only will the .50 bus be impossible to get (always a piece of challenging fun), getting the o’clock one will be very tight, unless the train is bang on time. Yes, stop laughing back there, I know!

But during the day, it should, should be better, lets wait and see.

So today, I made my last journey on the old timetable, and yes, you guessed it, we were late! 6 minutes late leaving Huddersfield, increased to 15 by the time we reached Manchester Piccadilly. A hasty turn around, and with their lenient scheduling, we were about 10 late by the time we reached the Airport station.

Yes, Manchester Airport, as tomorrow I fly back to Jersey, after over 30 years. Yes, its fair to say it will have changed, and fine, I barely remember what it looked like anyway! So…but given people I knew back then, its still going to be sort of funny going back, especially as the hotel I stayed at is no longer there.

But yes, for the next week or so, you can get blogs from Jersey, if you’re good. What its like now, my reaction to returning, and other things too, I’m sure. So watch this space.

The video, perhaps the most famous song inspired by waiting at a rail station, something I was doing earlier today