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Rail Journeys - Steam on the Met and exploring diversions.

Posted On Saturday 14 December 2013 by Murray Colpman (Muzer)

This, the second post in this series, is the first post about a rail trip for its own sake - ie, for rail enthusiast reasons rather than to actually go somewhere. As such it's a lot more complicated and a lot more oddities occur.

I'll just say that, though it seems like there are loads of diversions, this is only because we were actively seeking them out because they're interesting to rail enthusiasts. And besides, diversions are good - the works have to be done anyway, so better diversions than no choice but a replacement bus service. Just think of the diversion opportunities possible before the Beeching axe fell...

So, last Sunday, a friend and I went out with a mission:

* To explore strange diversions
* To seek out new life and new... er, I mean, Steam on the Met
* To boldly risk missing our connection home by going a really circuitous route on the tube

So yeah. I had previously booked tickets for Steam on the Met for the both of us, and we decided to make a day of it. Not a very long day like we have done in the past, but a day nonetheless. And the most interesting thing for a rail enthusiast to do in a day is explore diversions, of course!

So, Reading to Basingstoke was closed, as was Woking to Guildford, so it made for some interesting diversions down our end. There were also some things of interest going on in London as well. My friend came up with the plan for the day.

Our ticketing situation: the same ticketing anomaly as mentioned in the first post to get us to Guildford, then from there a Guildford to London Zones 1-6 route CLANDON/WOKING super off-peak day travelcard.

So, we woke up to get the first train out. Now, this is a Sunday, and one of the biggest things I've learnt as a rail enthusiast is that Sunday service sucks quite a bit. So the first train out was 0820 (actually quite early). We got a Unilink bus to Southampton Central - I bought my Guildford travelcard online on the way there, and picked up it along with buying the anomalous ticket from the TVM. Unfortunately we had both misread the bus timetable because the Unilink website doesn't work properly (I could start a very large rant about buses here, but I won't), but fortunately we'd left enough padding to still arrive in plenty of time for the train. I even had time to buy a panini for breakfast.

We headed to platform 1 and waited for our train. We caught the 0820 diverted CrossCountry (XC) service from Southampton Central (SOU) towards Manchester Piccadilly, arriving 0934 Guildford (GLD)*, formed of 220010, headcode 1M34. In order to avoid the Reading to Basingstoke line closure, this train departed from SOU as normal on the South Western Main line, but at St Denys, diverted onto the West Coastway line. From there, it went on to Havant and joined the Portsmouth Direct line to GLD, which was the first call after SOU. Finally, it joined the North Downs line on to Reading, and resumed its ordinary calling pattern from there.

The train itself was very quiet, at that time in the morning, and so we had a quick chat to the guard about the diversion before departing. We were debating whether to ask the driver for a cab ride, but never did ;)

After leaving the train at Guildford (where we arrived at platform 6 a minute early), we hung around the station for half an hour, my friend (who is into Photting) and I taking various photographs, before heading to platform 3 and catching a diverted Portsmouth Direct service. The Portsmouth Direct line between Woking and Guildford was also closed, so this particular train was diverted fast via Effingham Junction and additionally called at Surbiton, presumably for Woking passengers to change and double back. This was the 1006 South West Trains (SW) service towards London Waterloo (WAT), calling at Surbiton, Clapham Junction, and London Waterloo at 1047. It was formed of 444029, headcode 2P28, and was moderately busy, but not too busy to stop us getting seats. We left on time, but unfortunately there was probably some congestion on the busy junction to the main line, because we lost a few minutes there, arriving at platform 15 at 1053.

We headed for the Underground, but this was our mistake - we stupidly went to the Northern and Bakerloo entrance instead of the Jubilee one, which wasted a lot of time walking along travelators. When we eventually got to the Jubilee line platforms (platform 6 - Eastbound), we caught the first train that arrived towards Stratford, train number 302/trip 4, arriving at 1100**, with end vehicles 96023 and 96078, to West Ham, timetabled to arrive at 1116½. Calling at all stations, of course - Southwark, London Bridge, Bermondsey, Canada Water, Canary Wharf, North Greenwich, Canning Town and West Ham. This train was rather busy when we got on, but quietened down enough for us to find a seat before too long.

Unfortunately, due to a combination of our late arrival into Waterloo and (more importantly) walking the wrong route to the Jubilee line Underground platforms, we missed our planned train upon arrival at West Ham platform 6, so had to cut out a small portion of our route, visiting Pudding Mill Lane. A bit of a shame, but no big deal - this was a part of our route we only grafted on on the train to London anyway, so removing it again was no problem.

So, we continued on our original route by heading over to platform 1, and catching the 1129½ (public timetable 1129) c2c (CC) service towards Stanford-le-Hope, alighting at Barking, platform 4 - the first stop after West Ham. This train was formed of 357027, with headcode 2D16. It was again moderately busy, but we didn't bother trying to find a seat since we were only going one stop. It departed West Ham and arrived at Barking perfectly on time.

We then had a half-hour wait at Barking for our third diversion of the day - the 1157½ (public timetable 1157) CC service to London Fenchurch Street, arriving 1221 (public timetable 1223), but diverted via Stratford for the benefit of Christmas shoppers. Not all services were diverted this way because it was purely for the benefit of the public rather than due to engineering works. We crossed over to platform 8 - this platform due to it being one of only two through platforms that can access the junction, and watched as the train, formed of 357018, headcode 2B23, arrived.

The train was very quiet, so we found a table seat quite easily. We departed two minutes late, at 1159, and soon diverged at Barking, Tilbury Line Junction West onto the Gospel Oak to Barking Line, fondly known as the GOBLIN. We passed through Woodgrange Park, before diverging at Woodgrange Park Junction onto a chord to the Great Eastern Main Line, which we joined at Forest Gate Junction. We proceeded down the amusingly-named Up Electric line - amusing because all the lines have been electric for quite some time! We passed through Forest Gate and Maryland stations before calling at Stratford, platform 5. We ran parallel to the Docklands Light Railway, seeing plenty of Crossrail developments as well as the work in progress on Pudding Mill Lane DLR station, until we diverged at Bow Junction onto a short line back to the London, Tilbury and Southend line, rejoining at Gas Factory Junction. We called at Limehouse, and finally terminated at London Fenchurch Street, platform 1 at 1222, one minute late by the working timetable and on time by the public one.

From there, we walked to Tower Hill, platform 3 (inner rail/eastbound), in order to catch a Circle Line train to King's Cross St. Pancras. After a short wait, a Circle Line service with end vehicles 5557 and 5521 (C stock), forming train number 206 on trip number 8, arrived. We had a minor wish to travel on some C stock, so this was lucky. It was timetabled to leave at 1232, and arrive at King's Cross St. Pancras at 1245, platform 1. On the journey there (in which we managed to find seats without too much hassle), we commented on all the development around that area, mostly relating to Thameslink, and how it was hard to keep up with it all! We called at Aldgate, Liverpool Street, Moorgate, Barbican, Farringdon and King's Cross St. Pancras.

Upon arrival at King's Cross St. Pancras, we headed to London St. Pancras station, and (after missing the escalator the first time whilst trying to navigate the frankly ridiculous shopping complex), up onto the East Midlands Trains, high-level platforms. Part of the Thameslink core was closed, and so Thameslink trains were running from these platforms rather than the usual low-level ones.

When we made it up the steps, we noticed they had a rather unusual arrangement - a few ticket barriers had been claimed and segregated from the rest, and opened up (presumably normal ticket acceptance rules would have to be out the window!). They had a few people managing the queue from the barriers to platform 1, where the train stood, while we waited for a massive flood of people to depart. A small trickle, including us, boarded the train - the 1303 First Capital Connect service towards Bedford, scheduled to arrive at West Hampstead Thameslink at 1309½ (public timetable 1310), formed of 377522, headcode 1G24. The train, again, was very empty, so we boarded and it departed on time, after getting photos of it in this unusual location. The train passed through Kentish Town without stopping, and arrived on time at platform 4 of West Hampstead Thameslink. We walked to West Hampstead (tube), platform 1 (Northbound), and boarded the first Jubilee line train - end vehicles 96020 and 96037, forming train number 325 on trip number 7, the 1316½ towards Stanmore. We called at Kilburn, Willesden Green, Dollis Hill, Neasden, and Wembley Park, platform 3 at 1326¾ where we alighted.

We crossed the island to platform 2 and caught the 1329½ Metropolitan Line service towards Uxbridge, formed of the train with end vehicle 21084, forming train 440, trip 8. We called at Preston Road and Northwick Park before alighting at 1337 at Harrow-on-the-Hill, platform 4.

Our roundabout journey complete, we were now here in good time for the 1350 "Steam on the Met" service run by the London Transport Museum which we were booked on. Being a steam charter (a cheap one, incidentally!) with a rather tight timetable, naturally it was rather late, but this is only to be expected. It eventually arrived on platform 6, with locomotives L150 (GWR 4575 class, renumbered from 5521) and Metropolitan Railway Electric Locomotive 12 "Sarah Siddons" on the Uxbridge end, and Class 20 20142 on the rear. Metropolitan 1 was suffering technical problems so was replaced by L150. They also weren't sure whether or not Sarah Siddons would be ready in time, but it was.

We entered one of the 1950s ex-BR 4TC carriages (coach B, the one we were booked into), in a compartment. We had an enjoyable but all too short trip up the line to Uxbridge when we eventually left at 1400. When we arrived at Uxbridge (platform 2/3) at 1421 (compared to the scheduled time of 1408), we headed back without being allowed to alight, departing at 1426 (compared to scheduled 1412) and arriving back at Harrow-on-the-Hill platform 6 at 1444 (compared to scheduled 1430). The trip both ways was enjoyable, and more comfortable than you come to expect on the tube...

We had discovered that as a result of Sarah Siddons being ready there was one extra trip than had been advertised originally (presumably "buy on the day" only), so we decided to chase it down the branch on its next trip and take photos. To this end, we crosed to platform 4 once more, and caught the 1452½ Metropolitan Line service towards Uxbridge, calling at West Harrow and Rayners Lane on the way, formed of front vehicle 21115, forming train 422/trip 10. We alighted at Rayners Lane platform 1 at 1457, and got photos and videos of the train coming through on its next Westbound working.

To catch the return, we then stayed on platform 1 and travelled up to Eastcote, on the 1514 Metropolitan Line service towards Uxbridge, Eastcote (platform 1) being the first stop at 1516½. The train number was 425, with trip number 9, and the front vehicle 21068. We caught the train returning as the light faded. Finally, again staying on the platform, we caught the 1551 Metropolitan Line service towards Uxbridge, calling at Ruislip Manor, Ruislip, Ickenham, Hillingdon and Uxbridge platform 4, where we alighted at 1556½. It was formed of front vehicle 21108, forming train number 433, trip number 10.

We found a Burger King in Uxbridge where we had lunch/dinner and stocked up on chocolate in the M&S. We returned to Uxbridge station to take photos of the steam locomotive when it arrived, using the light inside the station as it was already dark outside.

Once we got our photos and the train had left, we embarked on the trip back. From platform 4 we caught the 1653 Metropolitan Line service towards Aldgate, formed of front vehicle 21097, forming train 444 with trip 11, and calling at Hillingdon, Ickenham, Ruislip, Ruislip Manor and Eastcote before we alighted at 1706½ at Rayners Lane platform 2 to change onto a Piccadilly Line service.

So we waited for a while on the same platform, until at last we caught the 1719½ Piccadilly Line service towards Cockfosters, formed of front vehicle 126, forming train 240 with trip 9. It called at South Harrow, Sudbury Hill, Sudbury Town, Alperton, Park Royal, North Ealing, Ealing Common, Acton Town, Hammersmith, Barons Court, and, at 1752, Earl's Court platform 5 where we alighted. We briskly walked up the escalator, aware that we were running out of time.

At the Earl's Court subsurface platforms, we looked at the tube times map and the "next train" diagram, did the maths and realised that we would not arrive in time. We started to form a contingency plan - there was another train we could pick up that would provide a cross-platform interchange with ours at Surbiton, where ours waits for some time.

However, this turned out to be unnecessary, for the train we caught on platform 4, the 1757 District Line service towards Wimbledon, formed of front vehicle 5596, train number 74, trip number 19, ran early. We called at West Brompton, Fulham Broadway, Parsons Green, Putney Bridge, East Putney, Southfields and Wimbledon Park before arriving at Wimbledon, timetabled at 1815. We arrived at (from memory) platform 2, and ran over the footbridge to platform 8, and caught the 1816½ (public timetable 1816) SW service towards Guildford with a few minutes to spare. It was formed of 455710, with headcode 2G53, and called at Surbiton, Hinchley Wood, Claygate, Oxshott, Cobham & Stoke d'Abernon, Effingham Junction, Horsley, Clandon, London Road (Guildford) and Guildford at a timetabled time of 2042½ where we departed.

This train was quite quiet, and departed a minute late at 1817, but unfortunately lost a few minutes throughout the journey, eventually arriving at 1913. It seemed to be accelerating very slowly out of stations, which implied to us it was probably leaf fall/wheel slip issues, which is only fair enough.

We arrived at Guildford platform 1 (the bay platform) and switched to platform 6 to catch the 1920 XC service towards Bournemouth, formed of 221133, headcode 1O24. It followed the route of the diversion from the morning, arriving into Southampton Central platform 4 2042½ (public timetable 2043). We departed at 1923 and arrived at 2044, making up a minute of delay along the way.

Finally, at the end of a long day, we changed onto the 2059 SW "Salisbury 6" service towards Romsey on platform 2, formed of 158888, headcode 2R76. We called at St Denys, before alighting at Swaythling platform 1 at 2106½. We were just a couple of minutes late, departing at 2101 and arriving in the end at 2108.

So ended our journey - we went our separate ways. All in all, it was rather good - a few minor delays throughout the day but nothing particularly game changing. In fact, an early train helped us quite a bit!

*In the first blog post I listed the calling pattern for the whole service - I think this is probably not worth it unless it is odd in some way, so in this post onwards I'll only list the stations called at between the ones we boarded and alighted from.

**London Underground usage is rather spontaneous and generally rushed, so I rarely record actual arrival/departure times, instead just recording the train number and later looking up the trip number and timetabled arrival/departure times. Unless otherwise stated, all London Underground timings are timetabled only.


Rail Journeys - Southampton Airport (Parkway) to Guildford and back

Posted On Sunday 8 December 2013 by Murray Colpman (Muzer)

Yesterday was the first ever Student Robotics Guildford tech day, and a few of us from Southampton wanted to help out, so what better way to visit than by train?

So, the four of us met at Swaythling [SWG] Station at 0705 - despite not visiting this station by train today, it's a useful meeting place where our walking routes home fork, and also allows us to buy tickets from SWG from the Ticket Vending Machine [TVM] in case we get more lucky on the way back.

Speaking of tickets, I was using a particularly good anomaly to get to Guildford [GLD]. I won't reveal it here, but people who know me probably know which one it is. Three of us got this with Groupsave-3 [GPS-3], and the final person buying a full-price ticket because he wasn't coming back with us and needed to use the ticket to go further along the route.

In order to avoid hassle at the ticket barriers at GLD, we also bought GPS-4 London Road (Guildford) to GLD returns. We did not actually use these tickets for travel, but just to avoid explaining why tickets are valid to barrier staff.

Before leaving SWG we spotted a large Freightliner train pass, but were unable to identify the loco class.

So, we walked to Southampton Airport (Parkway) [SOA] in good time to catch the 0738 South West Trains [SW] service towards London Waterloo - calling at Winchester, Woking [WOK] and London Waterloo; headcode 1W92. After watching the anticlockwise SW "Salisbury 6" local service (formed of a 158) depart and a CrossCountry Empty Coaching Stock [ECS] move (formed of a 220), our train, formed of 444005 and 444016, arrived on platform 1.

The train was empty enough for us to get a table for the four of us, with plenty of free seats, but not exactly quiet either - surprisingly busy for me, but then again, I never understand train usage at weekends ;). The train left on time, and the journey was comfortable - exactly what I expect from a 444. After a brief stop at Winchester, we continued on non-stop to WOK, with a hassle-free ticket check shortly before the stop, even gaining a minute somewhere along the line - arriving into WOK platform 2 one minute early, at 0820 compared to the scheduled 0821.

We crossed via the footbridge from Platform 2 to 5, in time to catch the invalid connection of the 0825½ (public timetable 0825) SW service towards Portsmouth Harbour - calling at GLD, Haslemere, Petersfield, Havant, Fratton, Portsmouth & Southsea and Portsmouth Harbour; headcode 1P17. The train arrived into the platform mere minutes after we did, formed of 450105 and 450101.

This train was significantly more empty than the previous one - we easily found a group of six seats facing each other to sit in, with enough room to be comfortable despite the 3+2 seating layout of the 450s due to the quietness of the train. We left on time, and though the journey was short, I can say once again that it was comfortable, as I can expect with a 450. We arrived at GLD platform 4 at 0832½, on time (public timetable 0833).

We exited the station via the West exit, it being closest to the university. The barriers accepted (and ate) our GPS-4 London Road (Guildford) to GLD tickets without hassle.

The tech day itself went rather well.

After finishing the tech day, three of us made our way back to the West entrance of the station, and entered through the barriers with the London Road (Guildford) to GLD tickets, again without fuss. After spending a while getting realtime trains to load (my phone's fault, not the site's!), we made our way to platform 5 for our train home, the 1934½ (public timetable 1934) SW service to London Waterloo, calling at Worplesdon, WOK, Clapham Junction and London Waterloo; headcode 2P66. After watching many 450s and a 455 pass through the station, our train, formed of 450544 and 450039, arrived.

The train was even more empty than the previous one, and again we found six seats facing each other to sit in. We left one minute late, and only just making up that one minute, arriving into WOK platform 2 at 1944, on time. The train was once again comfortable but the journey really too brief to appreciate.

We remained on the island platform but moved over to platform 4, watching a SW service towards Exeter St. David's and Bristol Temple Meads, formed of 3×159, leave. After once again watching multiple trains arrive and depart, including a rather fast 444 from Weymouth passing through without stopping, our train, formed of 444031, arrived. It was the 2000 SW service to Weymouth, calling at Winchester, SOA, Southampton Central, Brockenhurst, Bournemouth, Branksome, Parkstone, Poole, Hamworthy, Wareham, Wool, Moreton, Dorchester South, Upwey and Weymouth; headcode 1W81. We found a block of four seats in the front coach, unfortunately not facing each other, and sat down. After leaving on time, the guard came around almost instantly and again checked tickets without hassle. The train was again comfortable, though unusually rattly for a Desiro (but not nearly as rattly as the average Turbostar, for example). The journey was comfortable, although the Rail Gourmet-run trolley service had run out of Coke which I was planning on buying.

We gained a minute in the run to Winchester, but departed on time so arrived at SOA on time exactly at 2040½ (public timetable 2041), on platform 2. Unfortunately this did not time nicely with a local service to Swaythling, so we walked back.

Shortly after leaving SOA, we spotted a light loco running from West Ealing Plasser Sdgs to Totton Yard, again being unable to identify the class.

So, as can usually be expected from SW, an almost perfect journey. This is a good start to this blog...

EDITED 20131214 - added platform numbers where not explicit; added public timetable.



Posted On Tuesday 3 December 2013 by Murray Colpman (Muzer)

Because I'm bored/crazy/something, I decided that I'll blog about every train journey I make - short or long, eventful or uneventful. This is because Tom Cairns still hasn't fixed RailMiles, and also because I want to show that most train journeys are perfectly normal and when there are delays, they're probably for a good reason (I'll try to find out what that reason is for anything more than about ten minutes).

I have train logs that I've been keeping on my phone to various levels of detail from late July onwards. I might upload these at some point. This logs the journeys I made to a level of detail that will allow me to determine which route the train took (possibly with the help of external documents that I hold), but aren't really intended for public consumption. They also contain the unit numbers on which I travelled (if I remembered to note them down - most of the time), headcodes or train/trip codes or any equivalent that I can find easily, and scheduled (always WTT) and actual timings.

To start us off, next weekend I'll be going to Surrey on the Saturday followed by London on the Sunday, so I should have some interesting things to talk about by then.

I'm a rail enthusiast but have many other interests too, so don't expect anything like a post every week or something.