The Anonymous Widower

Trains Uncoupling and Coupling at Cambridge

Unusually, my connection out of Cambridge to Newmarket was late, so I had to wait about ten minutes before I moved on.

Whilst I waited, my train from King’s Cross split into two, with the first part going on to Kings Lynn and the remainder waiting patiently at the platform in Cambridge.  A couple of minutes later an incoming train from Kings Lynn attached itself to the coaches in the station. Everything was quick and easy, just as it had been, when I’d seen trains do similar things at Crewe.

To some this might seem pointless, as why don’t the longer trains run all the way, but I suspect the procedures get the appropriate number of seats in trains.  Surely, if it is done as professionally as I have seen, then it is a way of getting the capacity right and saving fuel to everybody’s advantage.

September 30, 2010 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , | 1 Comment

Welcome to Euston

I arrived at Euston on time at about a quarter to eight!

It was clean, neat and tidy, but really it is not the most welcoming of stations.  Perhaps, it is if you are going a few miles in a taxi, but I was going to Kings Cross for a train to Cambridge.  On a good day, I’d have walked and possibly had breakfast, in one of the few stations in the world, that can call itself a destination in its own right; St. Pancras.  So I struggled into the Underground, luckily against the flow of people and took the one stop to King’s Cross. I thought about breakfast, but as I wasn’t really hungry I took the 8:45 to get home.  It was virtually empty, so that was at least good!

September 30, 2010 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | 2 Comments

The Sleeper to Euston

AFter a curry in Fort William, I boarded the sleeper for London around 19:30 and it left on time at 19:50.  Or should I say it left for Edinburgh, where the various coaches from all parts of Scotland were joined up into one long train for London.

I had a whisky before I retired and slept soundly until Crewe.  This was despite the fact that the steward had told me, I’d got the worst berth in the carriage over the bogie and I would have difficulty sleeping.  The next thing I remember was being woken with my breakfast.  As a coeliac, I just had the coffee and the juice, but actually, I wasn’t that hungry, as I’d eaten well in Scotland.

So would I tske the sleeper again?

Perhaps this one, but I doubt I’ll take the one we did as a family with a car to the South of France.  I didn’t sleep well on that and spent most of the trip trying to find out where I was.  But at least C and myself christened the berth.

The third sleeper was again with C on the Eastern and Oriental Express from Bangkok to Butterworth for Penang.  That was a memorable trip, but it’s probably one I wouldn’t risk for some years.

September 30, 2010 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

Mallaig to Fort William

The ferry crossing was windy and cold,but uneventful and about an hour after landing, I was able to take the train for Fort William.

This is another line famous for the view as you can see from the pictures.  But again the line was suffering from crowded trains.

September 30, 2010 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | 1 Comment

Over the Sea From Skye

The bus took a more or less direct route between Kyle of Lochalsh to Arnadale with a small detour to Broadford to put down and pick up passengers.

It was my first time on Skye since about 1972.  Then we had all come, with our three boys crammed in the back of our 1969 Porsche 911T. Strangely the car still exists and is in New Zealand.  But a picture of the car is the only one of the holiday.

Porsche 911T on Skye

That Porsche 911T was the first performance car we had and we acquired it for £1650 courtesy of a loan from my favourite bank manager, David.

I remember for that holiday we left early in the morning from the Barbican and first stop was Gretna Green at about 7:30 in the morning.  So when people say I push myself, it’s nothing new in my book.

We stayed somewhere north of Portree and I remember that we were greeted on the doorstep by a dead sheep.  It was nothing against holiday homes or anything sinister, but just an inconvenient expiry.  In the end we got the Police, who found who owned it and it was quietly disposed of.

I also remember we hurried off the island and I can still remember hurtling up Glencoe towards Glasgow, which we achieved at an average speed of about 80 mph.  Or that’s what I claimed at the time!  But it was certainly fast on an almost empty road.

The detour to Broadford reminded me that in 1975, the village had an airstrip. C said that next time we came we’d fly! I doubt I will and she sadly can’t!

I went straight to Arnadale and immediately got the ferry to Mallaig.

Arnadale to Mallaig Ferry

September 30, 2010 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Kyle of Lochalsh

Kyle of Lochalsh is the end of the line and from here I got a bus directly to Arnadale on Skye for the ferry to Mallaig. Be warned that buses only run direct in the months when the ferry is running.  There are a couple of restaurants in Kyle and a well-stocked Co-operative supermarket, which I used to buy some filling for my rolls.

September 30, 2010 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh

The Kyle of Lochalsh Line is one of the great railway journeys in the world. It is probably best described as legendary, as anybody of a certain age, who has ever collected engine numbers or closely observed trains, has heard of the railway, that winds its way from Inverness almost to the Isle of Skye.

I’d spent the night in a comfortable B&B called Ivanhoe, where they went to a lot of trouble to get me some gluten-free rolls for my  breakfast.  They prepared a buttered spare for my lunch with some salmon or meat that I might buy on the journey.  I would certainly stay at Ivanhoe again.

The line sweeps between sea and mountains and alongside lochs on its way to Kyle of Lochalsh.

The real problem on the line is that there is just too little capacity.  I have been reading in Modern Railways about the problems of the replacement of the inadequate Pacers, that I used to get from Doncaster to Scunthorpe.  Surely the thing to do would be to create rakes of say four or five Mk 3 coaches and use those on lines like this with a diesel engine and then cascade the Class 158s to where they are desperately needed like East Anglia, Lincolnshire and the North.

September 30, 2010 Posted by | Food, Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Edinburgh to Inverness in the Cab of an HST

Part of the reason for the trip north was to travel in the cab of a diesel  High Speed Train from Edinburgh to Inverness.  This was organised by East Coast and I don’t think they’d be too happy, if you used this page as an excuse to try to do the same. But thanks to everyone at the company, for giving me the trip of a lifetime!

I travelled with their Driver Manager, who himself had spent years driving trains, and an experienced driver from Newcastle, so if anybody thinks that having me in the cab compromised anything, then there was no way I could.

The first thing that struck me about the journey was how quiet it was in the cab of the HST, despite having a 2,250 horse power diesel engine in the next room.  Compare this with the engine in a typical heavy truck and it’s about five times as powerful, but then it has to pull nine full coaches, with the help of the other power car at the back of the train and a total of 4,500 horses. Compare it too with the 3,300 horse power of the Deltic of the 160s and 1970s.  But that was a 100 mph train, as opposed to the 125 mph of the HST.

It should also be said that the noise and vibration was much less than that I experienced as a passenger on one of the dreaded Pacers on my way to Scunthorpe.

Before you watch the video, note that the occasional screeches are the signal warnings, which must be cancelled by the driver.

As they say, enjoy the film! The video has now been shortened, by cutting out some of the repetitive bits!

Incidentally, my typing and vision has improved a bit, since the trip.

Was that improvement caused by travelling in a HST? If it is, then it’s a very unusual cure and something you won’t get on the NHS!

To say the least it was a train journey of a lifetime, usually at 90 mph on a line that rises to 1,400 feet above sea level. How many trains in the world do that sort of speed on a line that was opened in the last century.  Remember too, that the youngest HST is 27 years old!

Some journey! Some train!  But then good engineering is absolutely timeless!

Some of my friends, think that I didn’t take this film.  So here’s a picture of me in the cab.

I actually didn’t realise I looked that scruffy, but then I was travelling to be warm!  Hence the Ipswich Town woolly hat! Was it the first time, such a hat had been worn on an HST?

September 30, 2010 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | 32 Comments

Of Egyptian Halls and Steam Lorries

My main purpose in going to Glasgow, was to see an old mate, John, and his son, to reminisce about old times.  Now John had been with me, when I went to the Queen’s Award party at Buckingham Palace in I think, 1981. 

We had coffee in the hotel in Queen Street station, which made my point about stations as destinations for business, pleasure or sin!  I’d also told John that I wouldn’t mind seeing the Sentinel Works, the first building designed by Archibald Leitch, the man responsible for so many sports stadia in the British Isles. 

In some ways visiting the Sentinel Works had become more important to me, after reading about sorry state of the Egyptian Halls in Glasgow, in the latest Private Eye. I’m certain that if these two buildings had been in Edinburgh, then solutions would have been found for both! 

Sentinel manufactured steam lorries amongst other things and to see one still going strong is a sight to behold. 

Sentinel Steam Lorry


I saw this one in 2007 on the A505 near Baldock. 

If the Egyptian Halls are in a sorry state, then the Sentinel Works are only held up by the integrity of Leitch’s design. 

September 30, 2010 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | 1 Comment

To Glasgow and Back

I’d been to Glasgow a few times before in my life.  The first was when I was a student and I hitched to see Spurs play in the Glasgow Cup, the second and third  were when I passed through on the way to and from Skye with my family and the last time was many years ago, when C took her first flight with me in Tango-Tango, my Piper Arrow.  In the last case, we were actually aiming for Prestwick, but weather meant a diversion to Glasgow Airport.  It’s sad to think, that the two people who accompanied me that day,  C and my youngest son, have both passed away. I can still remember us all getting out of the small plane at the General Aviation Terminal and saying to a pilot with a smart uniform, that today had been my wife’s first flight.  He suggested that because of the weather, that she deserved a Purple Heart!

I’m not sure now, where I’d hitched to Glasgow from in I suppose the summer of 1966 or 1967, but it could either have been Liverpool or perhaps London, where I was working at the time in Enfield Rolling Mills.  I do remember though going over Shap in an old Albion truck in the pouring rain, as there was no M6 in those days.  I also remember waiting perhaps two or three hours for a lift on the A74 to somewhere nearer to my destination.  In the end I got a lift from a driver in a van that had been delivering the Scottish Daily Express.  I think, it’s the only time in my life that I’ve had any positive thoughts to that rag in any of its guises!  I remember that the match was at the old Hampden Park and Celtic were the opponents.  Searching the Internet I did find this program, which sets the match in 1967, which must be right.  But then I must have known C at the time, so it’s surprising she let me go off hitching around the country.  Unless this was when she was being a mother’s help in Ireland for the Wright family from Norfolk!  Two of their daughters; Amanda and Caroline were later bridesmaids at our wedding.  They also had a brother Tim.

I also remember passing that day on the beach at Wemyss Bay after taking one of the Blue Trains from the centre of Glasgow.

I don’t remember much of the match, but I think Spurs won and I also remember a Rangers supporter who turned up getting thumped for his trouble!

After my troubles getting lifts in Scotland coming up, I took the late train down to Manchester.  It was very late and I remember I wrote a letter of complaint, about having to use a taxi to get to my friend’s house in Manchester.  I think they sent me a cheque for about nine shillings!  It gave me my first reward in the art of complaining.

So that trip shows, I’m just reverting to type after over forty years, by travelling around!

But on Monday, the trip was different!  My host kindly dropped me at Waverley, I bought a ticket from the machine and fairly soon, I was on my way to Glasgow in a smart new train. It’s when you do this sort of journey you realise how far trains have come in the last twenty years or so.  And also how far, some of the lines have still to go!

September 30, 2010 Posted by | Sport, Transport/Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment