The Midline liveried bubble, 55033, together with a class 114 DMU leaving Stratford-upon-Avon for Birmingham on the evening of 2 May 1989. I have long had a soft spot for diesel units and I mostly mean the first generation units with mechanical transmission. I realise that DMUs are not everyone's cup of tea and this section is very much a labour of love. My first train journeys were in this type of vehicle and I remember the excitement of sitting in the right-hand front seat and watching both the driver and the road ahead. I have some interest in later units but they don't have quite the attraction to me of the older and, dare I say, more comfortable versions. Living in Stratford-upon-Avon, the majority of my local photographs are of the various classes allocated to Tyseley depot, although the town saw many "foreign" units arrive on specials over the years. My real favourites were the class 121 "bubbles", followed by the class 114 Derby Heavyweights, as is shown in practice by the photograph above. Both types finished their days in the Midlands working Stratford to Leamington Spa services. This picture, taken from the towing path of the Stratford-upon-Avon canal, is therefore a bit of a favourite. This part of my website may look rather heavily biased in favour of the area around Stratford-upon-Avon and I hope that it will be tolerated. I lived very close to the railway for some years and tried to get as comprehensive record as possible of movements in the area. To learn more about Stratford-upon-Avon station, please have a look at this site, produced by one of the current station staff.   www.stratfordstation.com

It was not only the DMMUs in which I was interested. The diesel-electric Hampshire "Thumpers" were also a great favourite. As is mentioned elsewhere, I spent 4 years travelling to and from Basingstoke and developed quite an affection for the underpowered but characterful 3H units. These elderly trains had an especially pleasing exhaust note, and whilst they were perhaps a tad slow for long journeys were a great form of transport between Reading, Basingstoke and Salisbury.

For the purposes of this section I have decided that the admirable InterCity 125 High Speed Trains are multiple units. I realise that this is not strictly accurate but they do, I think, seem to fall quite naturally into this category.



The 2 single unit DMMUs until recently operated by Chiltern Railways left Aylesbury on 13 October 2017 to make their final main line journey to Tyseley before starting new lives on preserved lines. The train, running as 5T01, was due to pass Hatton at 11.04 and I felt that an image of 121020 + 121034 taken with a easily identifiable background would be best and with no prospect of any sun went to Hatton station. There were a few Autumnal tints on the lineside trees as the train passed the platforms and given the low light levels I was pleased that the blue example was leading. The desintation blind showed "Stratford", an appropriate location as single units were an everyday sight at Stratford-upon-Avon for many years as shown in this shot from 1 July 1986 which shows 55034 sandwiched between 55005 and 55000 with the 18.30 to Birmingham Moor Street. Another shot, this time showing 55034 numbered as T014, was taken on 10 August 1992 as it left Stratford upon Avon in the company of 55032 running as the 14.12 to Leamington Spa.
After photographing a pair of single unit DMMUs at Hatton on 13e October 2017 I hung for a couple of minutes for a shot of DR73929 on its way from Kings Norton OTP Depot to Bicester presumably in connection with some weekend engineering project. The train, 6J40, was running 13 minutes late after a short fester in the loop at Dorridge to allow 68013 on 1H33 to London Marylebone to pass it. I don't usually bother with going-away shots of these Chiltern services but took an image on this occasion to show the developing Autumnal colours around Hatton station.
For the first time since the signalling at Stratford-upon-Avon and the North Warwickshire Line was transferred from mechanical signalboxes to the West Midlands Signalling Centre, on Tuesday 3 October 2017 an RHTT ran to the terminus during daylight hours. The train was 3S02 from Kings Norton and was timed to arrive at Stratford at 10.50 and with it looking likely that the sun would be fully out I went to the station for an image or two. Running a few minutes in front of 3S02 was 172340 forming 2D16 from Stourbridge Junction to Stratford via Dorridge and Hatton North to West Junctions which as usual was routed into platform 1. The RHTT was held on the North Warwickshire Line at Bearley Junction for 2D16 to pass and as soon as the section was clear was released to run into the terminus and as booked came into platform 2, the best for photography at this time of day.
Once DR98908 had stopped in Stratford-upon-Avon's platform 2 the driver had to walk to the other end before a reversal could be made prior to a run to Hatton before returning here and then off again to the West Midlands via Henley-in-Arden. There was plenty of time for this posed portrait before I left for home, pausing for a moment to take a final view from alongside 172340 just before 3S02 pulled away.
The Arriva class 143 DMU that went into Long Marston on 29 July 2017 left the rail facility on its return to Cardiff Canton on 27th September after a false start on the previous Saturday for when a schedule had appeared but was later cancelled. Despite the gloomy and misty weather I went across to take a few images as it left but thought, as the departure time, 09.20, came and went with no sign of movement that another cancellation was on the cards. However, at 09.30 there was a movement in the yard and 143606 soon appeared through the murk and made its way past Pandora before reversing and going into the exchange sidings. In this picture the train, 5Z78, is actually coming towards the camera despite the impression given by the red lights.
It was some 15 minutes later that 143606 made its ways onto the branch where it was stopped to await a member of the ground crew who brought the single line token to the driver so that he had the authority to travel to the staff hut at Honeybourne. I don't know the reason for the visit but there is a new vent and metal patch on the roof which may indicate that some new equipment has been fitted. A similar unit was due to leave Canton for Long Marston later the same day and this seems to indicate an odd railway practice. The driver for 5Z78 was presumably brought in to Long Marston by road to take the train out and another driver will bring the next unit in and then leave by road. Wouldn't it make more sense for the inward train to run first and for the same driver to take the outward working back and so avoid wasted money and road journeys? Maybe I'm missing something or is this just a case of railway dogma?
After taking 2 shots at Croome Perry on the afternoon of 28 August 2017 I called in at Lower Moor to photograph another Bedford Cauldwell Depot to Long Marston move of class 319 EMUs. First along though was an HST forming the slightly delayed 1P57 14.25 Great Malvern to Paddington led by power car 43169. I was pleased to see that none of the tarted-up power cars were on the train; I much prefer the overall uniformity of a single colour scheme. In contrast to the pony at Croome Perry the 2 grey horses at Lower Moor have been able to keep the vegetation in their field under control!
The 13.21 Paddington to Worcester Foregate Street, 1W27, is usually formed of an HST set but on Bank Holiday Monday 28 August 2017 the arrangements were changed and the working was given over to FGW's green liveried 166213. The field to the left of the railway hasn't yet ripened and the whole green effect is a bit overwhelming. I had a play with the image in Photoshop and came up with this in order to make the unit stand out a bit. Incidentally, 166213 was the first of its type to use the Long Marston branch when, on 27 April 2015 it went into the facility for upgrades to its air conditioning system.
The Network Rail test unit, 950001, was due to run north through Hatton on the morning of Saturday 26 August 2017 and with one or two other trains of interest in the area I had a shot of it. The train, the headcode of which escapes me, sat in Hattin DGL for a while to allow some passenger workings to go by before being released onto the main line, on this occasion via the Stratford branch platform and spur just on the other side of the bridge. This isn't the greatest shot ar around 09.40 but the sun wasn't fully out which made life a little easier. I took another view as 950001 went away across the sour onto the down main line.
There was another first for the Long Marston branch on Saturday 29 July 2017 when Arriva's 143606 ran there as 5D94 from Cardiff Canton. The unit ran early throughout and I was alerted that an early arrival at Long Marston might be on the cards when a booked stop at Gloucester was missed and departure from Worcester Shrub Hill was 96 minutes early. Unusally, 5D94 did not report at Norton Junction and didn't appear until it had passed Evesham. I made a quick exit from home and made it to the road bridge over the end of the branch just as 143606 came into view along with, to my surprise, 3 other photographers. Who would have thought we all had gone out for a Pacer; one of most derided trains on the network! The gate into the site was already open and the unit entered the facility within a few seconds. The reason for the visit is currently unknown, to me at least, but may be apparent when it leaves.
Following the test run of The Vivarail prototype DEMU 230001 over the North Cotswold Line on 14 June 2017 the unit was scheduled to provide a shuttle service for visitors to the Rail Live event between temporary platforms at Honeybourne and Long Marston. I had a rough idea of the shuttle times based on arrival times of FGW services at Honeybourne and arrived at Long Marston just in time to see 230001 running along the exchange sidings and out onto the branch. The early morning mist and murk hadn't dispersed completely but a bit of weak sun did manage to illuminate the train.
There was no point in chasing 230001 to Honeybourne as the light there would be all wrong at around 10.00 so I stayed at Long Marston to await the first arrival of the day and the unit's first ever run with members of the public on board. By the time it came back from Honeybourne the light was close to perfect with the lineside shadows having cleared the track. Some new sleepers have been installed in recent weeks along with other work having been carried out to ensure that the branch was up to standard for passenger use.
I don't very often take more than one image of an approaching train as in most cases there is an optimum spot for the best shot and any viewers will be bemused by one taken too far away with bare track in the foreground and a third taken with such a wide angle lens as to create distortion of the subject. Just now and again though a particular location can offer maybe two sufficiently different views and this one at Long Marston does that through having a slight kick in the track just before the road bridge.
Once the first shuttle was inside the Long Marston site I had a gentle drive to Honeybourne to see what sort of photographic opportunties were available as 230001 arrived and then stood at the temporary platform awaiting its second load of punters. Not many, as this image shows with some of the Vivarail staff ready to welcome passengers on board. The micro platform was close to the road bridge and as the train stopped with the first doors in the correct place the other end was on the other side of the bridge.
I waited at Honeybourne until the FGW turbo had dropped off its passengers, most of whom crossed the footbridge to board 230001. The branch to Long Marston isn't over-endowed with photographic locations but there are a few foot crossings where footpaths cross the line and this is about the best for a train heading towards the site. On the longest day of the year the sun is too high for really good images much after 11.00 so this was my last picture of the day as 230001 ran the last half-mile or so to the gates at Long Marston.
My real reason for being at Honeybourne was to take some images of Vivarail's prototype class 230 DMU, 230001, which was due to make some runs over the North Cotswold Line before being used for Long Marston to Honeybourne shuttles during a RailLive event the following week. Running as 5Z23, the train came along the Long Marston branch towards Honeybourne at its booked time carrying a revised colour scheme which has been applied since its previous main line run.
Vivarail's 230001 ran non-stop along the Long Marston branch at Honeybourne using the calling-on lights on the signal to gain the up main line on 14 June 2017. During the RailLive event there is to be a temporary platform here, on the branch, to allow passengers to board and be transferred to Long Marston. There is no sign of it at the moment and I imagine that some work over the weekend will take place to put it in place.
It didn't take long for 230001 to reverse at Honeybourne North Junction before it ran up the main line towards Moreton-in-Marsh for another reversal. Although the sun was too high for good photography I was pleased to take another shot in a completely recognisable location; in my view important for a first run of anything.
Following 230001's journey to Moreton-in-Marsh I went to Evesham for some more pictures as it ran through the station, down to Evesham West Junction and back after reversal. On arrival at Briar Close bridge I could hear an HST waiting in the station until an up train cleared the single track from Norton Junction. Bearing in mind that both HSTs and Adelantes (Adelanti?!) are not long for this line a shot of the two crossing seemed worthwhile. The HST was forming 1W01, the 10.22 Paddington to Hereford and 180102 the 12.06 Worcester Foregate Street to Paddington, 1P47.
Following the departure of 1W01 it wasn't long before 230001 entered Evesham and ran under clear signals to Evesham West Junction for another reversal. Since Long Marston reopened for traffic a lot of traffic never before seen on the North Cotswold Line has appeared but an ex-LUL train converted for main line use was probably never envisaged until Vivarail started their project to convert the former D Stock.
As soon as 230001's reversal at Evesham West Junction had taken place 5Z24 ran back past the signal box towards Moreton-in-Marsh. As this was not a locomotive-hauled train it generated relatively little interest with just a handful of photographers being around to witness the moves. I'll wager that a class 47, running light engine to Long Marston a little while earlier, passed more cameras than 230001... On the run to Moreton-in-Marsh to Evesham a problem was encountered which meant that the unit achieved only 15mph on Campden Bank and so, after leaving Evesham, it ran into Honeybourne Sidings and thence back to Long Marston. I was later told that the problem was no more than a slight issue with electrical mapping of the engine control software which was quickly rectified. The engineers felt that the runs had provided sufficient data and that would be no need for further running. This freed the Long Marston branch to allow the temporary platform to be built. Thanks to Steve Widdowson for the initial information regarding the termination of the train.
There is a Rail Live event at Long Marston during the third week of June 2017 in connection with which the former D class train, now 230001, is to run run a shuttle service for attendees between Honeybourne and Long Marston. On 12 June and for subsequent days RTT showed that some paths were available between Honeybourne, Moreton-in-Marsh and Evesham to allow for main line acceptance and mileage accumualation runs. It's only a short drive for me so I went to Long Marston on the MOnday morning and as soon as I arrived I heard flanges squealing as the unit made its way around the loop in the site, running in a clockwise direction. As it went around the loop there was a gap just large enough to take this broadside view of the train as it left the heavily wooded area and passing the often-seen roe deer in the midground field. More wildlife was in evidence near the bridge in the form of a juvenile fox sniffing around for food.
One of the withdrawn single unit DMMUs, latterly 960011 Pandora is parked close to the road bridge at Long Marston. On 12 June 2017 I took this image of it looking a little the worse for wear compared to when I photogaphed it at Hatton North Junction on 4 September 2007.
It had become obvious by 10.30 that the main line runs for 230001 were not going to happen on 12 June 2017. The unit had made some clockwise runs around the circuit but switched to anti-clockwise which gave the chance for a slightly better image as it ran along the exchange sidings towards the camera. I imagine that the Vivarail staff and management are keen to ensure complete reliability before allowing 230001 onto the main line between Moreton-in-Marsh and Evesham and the mileage today would have provided some valuable data for the engineers.
I went to Long Marston on the morning of 10 May 2017 because an MPV from Kings Norton was working a road learning special from Kings Norton, 6Z13, before the weedkilling season gets underway. While waiting for it to arrive I heard a whistle and saw that a single car from one of the trains of D Stock owned by Vivarail was running around the circuit. This picture won't win any prizes but it does show a battery powered version of a class 230 unit undergoing tests. The lighting at this time of day couldn't have been less favourable but here is another view as the car runs away from the camera along the exchange sidings.
An MPV weedkiller, 6Z13, on a crew training run from Kings Norton to Kings Norton via Long Marston and Moreton-in-Marsh arrived at Long Marston about 10 minutes early led by DR 98960. There have been far fewer MPV moves along the branch than locomotive hauled trains so I was more than happy to get a few shots in the warm sunshine of 10 May 2017 but predictably enough was alone on the road bridge.
The MPV from Kings Norton was due to stand at Long Marston's gate for nearly 2 hours on 10 May 2017 but one of the crew arranged with Evesham signalbox that 6Z13 would run back to Honeybourne to await its path to Moreton in Marsh. This shot was taken just before departure and also shows Vivarail's battery test unit in the far background in the exchange sidings.
I wanted to go to Honeybourne after visiting Long Marston on 10 May 2017 to photograph a test train so tied this in with a few more shots of 6Z13 as it stood behind the up platform while awaiting its path, via a crossover and reversal, to Moreton-in-Marsh. There was a pathing stop here of nearly 2 hours which must make life a bit boring for the crew but on this occasion at least the weather was perfect so some time could be spent soaking up some sun. This train has been scheduled to run several times but on each previosu occasion has returned to Kings Norton after covering just a few miles.
On Thursday 4 May 2017 a friend pointed out to me that a special VSTP working was running along the North Warwickshire Line from Tyseley to Stratford-upon-Avon and back. The timings were such that the only location where the sun was at a half-decent angle was around Stratford-upon-Avon Parkway station so I walked up there, arriving just before the preceding service train, 2D34 from Stourbridge Junction to Stratford via Dorridge formed of 172345 pulled in for its booked stop where a few passengers joined the train for the short trip to the terminus.
The original 645 transparency of this image was found in an old developing tray in the spare room once used as my darkroom and I thought it worth scanning it to show here. I've no idea when it was taken but think it must be around 1992/1993 and was obviously from Kings Sutton, taken in the early evening on a slightly misty day. The collection of vehicles heading for Banbury is best described as a mish-mash both of colour schemes and classes.
A DBC-operated train from Immingham to Long Marston ran on the morning of Monday 27 March 2016 but with cold, dull and misty weather and no idea of what comprised the load I didn't turn out. Later in the day I noticed from RTT that a very late addition to the schedule was a 5D67 from Bristol SPM to Long Marston with a correspong 5D81 return. These were, I guessed the class 153 moves that were arranged but then cancelled on the previous Saturday. The weather had improved so I made the short journey across to Long Marston arriving just as 153368 came around the curve in the background, still a bit misty but clearing quite quickly. The lineside blossom is beginning to show well so I made the shot a little unbalanced to include as much as possible.
I had hoped that the repainted unit would be waiting in the exchange sidings and that a quick changeover would be made but the crew of 153368 changed ends and set off, with a man walking in front, all the way round the inner loop to the workshops on the far side of the site. I hung around in the warm sunshine for nearly an hour with some light entertainment being provided by some local wildlife and a microlight buzzing around the area. At 17.09 I heard a horn in the distance and soon saw some movement, expecting this to be a class 153 in light grey paintwork as on the previous occasion. This time though the unit was in FGW green and I took this shot of it on the loop with 5 roe deer and 4 rooks feeding on the field.
The Long Marston site has an overall speed limit of 5mph so it took a while for 153318 to arrive at the exchange sidings but once there the crew soon changed ends and moved the unit onto the branch to Honeybourne. As the sun was now quite strong this was my clue to head off to the roadbridge adjacent to Honeybourne station for a final image.
The car park at Honeybourne on 27 March 2017 had plenty of spaces so I was able to park easily and made my way to the roadbridge where 153318 had just moved away from the hut containing the single line token thus giving me about 20 seconds to arrange my shot. All was fine and a nice sunny shot of the smart paintwork was achieved. This colour scheme isn't the easiest to photograph in some lighting conditions so it's good to have a decent one in the bag at an early stage.
The second of the 2 movements to Long Marston this week of class 319 EMUs took place on Tuesday 21 March 2016. The light looked promising so I went for a shot at Evesham to make the location recognisable. The same invalid path as the previous day was used so first along was the 12.09 Hereford to London Paddington, 1P51. HSTs aren't going to be this for much longer once the introduction of class 800s has started so a few more images are welcome. I was glad on this occasion that a standard set was in use as I'm not a fan of the power cars in one-off liveries.
Here is one of the hourly Stratford-upon-Avon to Stourbridge Junction trains about to join the main line at Hatton North Junction on 9 March 2017. The unit, 172336, had to wait for a few minutes to allow an early running 6M40 to pass but was still on time as it passed under the footbridge. I have included more sky in this view than is usual for a balanced composition because the blue with thin white clouds superimposed looked so attractive.
For my final 2 shots at Hatton North on 9 March 2017 I moved from the footbridge to the bank at the edge of the field. This view disappears when the undergrowth gets going and has gone altogether by May so it's worth having a few shots on a sunny day. I don't bother with day-to-day traffic if the weather is dull as there's usually something better to do! This image shows 168004 forming 1G39, the 14.40 from London Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill, framed by a variety of still dormant vegetation. The sun was just passing through a thin piece of cloud which took the edge off the light - what, for some reason, used to be called "soft light", a euphonism for slightly dull...
First Great Western's 153305 has been in Long Marston since 11 February 2017 and the story was that it was having a repaint into the current corporate green colour scheme. A train from Long Marston to Bristol St. Phillips Marsh on Saturday 4 March 2017 appeared on RTT during Thursday 2 March and with a departure time of 08.07 was photographable given a reasonably bright morning. I arrived at 07.40 in case of some earliness and within a few minutes saw some movement in the distance as the single unit moved around the loop at the regulation 5mph. It was soon in the exchange sidings and ready for an on-time departure. Rumours of a repaint were correct although it seems that a bit more work will be needed before the train is ready for public use. The FGW green livery isn't the easiest to photograph in most lighting conditions but this light grey undercoat is a much easier prospect.
As soon as the single line token for the branch to Honeybourne was handed to the driver 153305, running as 5D657, left Long Marston and headed off on the first leg of its journey. I had planned to go to a foot crossing just around the corner but as the single line token was in the cab there was no need for a stop and thus no chance to drive half-a-mile or so and make the 2 minute walk to the crossing.
The first working on the Long Marston branch of a class 153 DMU took place on Saturday 11 February 2016 when FGW's 153305 ran as 5D67 from St. Phillips Marsh, Bristol to receive a repaint, presumably into FGW's green colour scheme. As it was a first for the line I had a drive over despite the very cold afternoon and filthy light with low cloud and mist predominating the scene. I don't think that anything other than a first run of something on the branch would have tempted me out and predictably enough I was alone for the few minutes spent on the road bridge largely because, of course, a locomotive wasn't involved... I arrived just as the gates into Long Marston were being opened so knew that 5D67 wasn't far away and took this shot from the north side of the line as such a short formation seems to fit better on the kink in the track. There was just time for me to cross the road for another view as 153305 paused for a few seconds while the single line token was placed in the ground frame to allow it into the exchange sidings.
Vivarail's 230001 made another daylight run on Friday 30 December 2016; this time the schedule showing it go from Tyseley to Nuneaton via a reversal at Leamington Spa in order to perform platform acceptance tests at the stations between Coventry and Nuneaton. It was spot on time for my photograph at Hatton but a late running Chiltern service from Marylebone, 1R25, very nearly blocked the shot as the unit was right underneath the road bridge as I pressed the shutter release. Sadly for Vivarail things went very wrong shortly afterwards. Smoke was seen coming from the front car as 5Z30 passed Old Milverton on the Coventry branch and by the time it reached Kenilworth, unfortunately before it managed to get into the loop, a serious fire had broken out. The fire brigade attended but had some difficulty in accessing the scene presumably because the building works at the site of the new Kenilworth station were secured for the Christmas holiday. This picture at Kenilworth taken by Mike Hollick and used with his kind permission shows 230001, the evacuated Vivarail personnel and the fire brigade. I'm glad to have seen reports that there were no injuries to any of the on-board staff; clearly this was the main concern of all.
The Viva Rail class 230 unit, 230001, had been in the Civil Engineers Sidings at Nuneaton for the thick end of a week as I write this on Sunday 18 December 2016. It should have made several mileage accumulation runs to Coventry Yard on the previous Wednesday, Thursday and Friday but paperwork issues between the DfT and London Midland prevented it from turning a wheel. On 18 December it was shown to run to Tyseley, a more secure location, the route being via Kenilworth and Leamington Spa where a reversal was to take place. As this was its first daylight run I made up my mind to have a shot of it at Hatton and waited for 5Z23 to begin its journey. It started out about 30 minutes late and I had an idea that the 31 minute layover at Leamington might be curtailed so left earlier than may have seemed sensible. In the event 230001 had just passed Warwick Parkway when I arrived at Hatton station so only a short wait was needed before the 3 car unit came around the curve.
The bright and sunny morning of Tuesday 29 November 2016 saw a light engine move from Bescot to Long Marston scheduled along with a return loaded train. Just as I arrived on the road bridge over the end of the branch from Honeybourne I saw movement on the tracks in the background and within a few moments this appeared. I first thought that it was a single car "bubble" DMMU but it was in fact the driving and motor car of a 3 car set running around the complete circuit. It made a further 2 trips before the locomotive from Bescot arrived and stopped the exercise, presumably some testing after repair or maintenance work.
The class 230 DMU which Vivarail, based at Long Marston, has converted from "D" class tube stock made its main line debut on the evening of 28 November 2016. The unit, 230001, ran as 5Z26 from Tyseley to Leamington Spa where it arrived into platform 4 at 21.48 and stood there for about 20 minutes allowing for a small variety of shots to be taken. This platform is a little restrictive for photography but was the only possible option given the amount both of freight and passenger traffic using the station at this time of time. The train was well loaded with staff and a number of Dutch engineers on hand to attend to any problems with the traction equipment.
The train was constructed as a 3 car unit but ran without the centre carriage on this occasion presumably while additional work is carried out on it. This picture was taken just before 230001, now running as 5Z30, left Leamington Spa on the return to Tyseley. A London Midland class 172 was sharing platform 4 ready to form an early morning service to Worcester the following morning. There were just 3 photographers recording the event but some of the crew members took the opportunity to takes some mobile 'phone footage. The unit's lights were switched off for a few seconds and this allowed some colourful reflections of Leamington Spa's platform lights in the windscreen.
The North Cotswold Line RHTT was retimed for a few days in the second week of November 2016 because of the line's closure for engineering work during the night. Monday 7 November was a beautifully clear morning and although 3S34 was scheduled to pass Evesham at 08.25 when the sun would be low in the sky I knew that the line would be free of shadows by the foot crossing between Lower Moor and Fladbury. I arrived just after 08.00 and waited for Evesham's up distant to change to green. It didn't until about 08.45 when a down passenger train, 1P35, the 08.26 Worcester Foregate Street to London Paddington was at Norton Junction formed of FGW's Adelante 180103. There were some convenient and attractively Autumnal trees in just the right place to nicely frame the unit.
I hadn't intended to turn out again on 7 November 2016 but saw a message saying that 56104 was en-route from Washwood Heath to Worcester to assist 56105 and, importantly from a photographic point of view, lead 3S34 from there to Gloucester Horton Road. This was sufficient incentive for me to return to Worcestershire and went initally to the road bridge at Lower Moor. The RHTT was due to follow 1W02, the 10.22 from London Paddington to Hereford formed of a FGW HST led by power car 43030. I'm always happy to photograph an HST and I'm probably in the minority by saying that I much prefer the uniformity of a standard set rather than one with power cars repainted into old-style colour schemes.
I was vaguely aware that FGW had begun to repaint their small stock of class 150 DMUs into the new green colour scheme but had yet to see an example until this one appeared at Croome Perry on 19 October 2016. The train is 2O90, the 12.51 Great Malvern to Weymouth a service which I imagine rarely if ever sees a passenger aboard for the whole journey. The green livery will probably look quite reasonable in fully sunlit conditions but appears a bit dull in the poor light extant on this occasion. I had not before seen a bicycle logo on the corridor connection of a train and assume that this means that accomodation for bikes is available at this end rather than suggesting that a saddle may be more comfortable for long journeys than the seats provided in the DMU...
Another trip to Defford on 12 August 2016 largely because the sun was shining and because there were 3 freights running within a few minutes of each other. Before the freights there were a couple of southbound passenger trains of which the most photogenic was FGW's 158960 forming 2O94, the 14.50 Great Malvern to Weymouth which passed a few minutes after an unidentifiable CrossCountry Voyager running as the 13.07 Manchester Piccadilly to Bristol Temple Meads, 1V57.
A "first" for the North Warwickshire Line looked to be likely on Sunday 24 July 2016 when a 6Y56 Bescot to Hall Green ballast train with Freightliner locomotives was booked to run to Stratford for a reversal before retracing its steps to enter a possession. I am fairly sure that no Freightliner locomotives had previously been to Stratford so was keen to take a record shot. I left home when a friend sent me a text message when he saw the train pass Shirley with 66506 + 66513 topping and tailing about 20 four-wheeled wagons. After arriving at the station I took this shot of a pair of class 172/2s leaving as 2V28 to Worcester, the last NWL train of the day. The ballast train should have been just around the corner but on checking an online system saw that 6Y56 was still standing just to the south of Whitlocks End station and it didn't take a lot of working out to realise that it would reverse there and not make the journey down to me. My friend at Shirley confirmed that that was excatly what happened despite the systems feeding RTT using their alogorithms to "fill in the gaps" and show it arriving at departing from Stratford a few minutes early. The whole thing really was a bit of a shame as a shot of something new down here would have good on such a sunny evening...
Class 172 172344 arrives at Stratford-upon-Avon station on 12 July 2016 with 2S54, the 14.57 from Stourbridge Junction, the photograph being taken from the relatively new footbridge which incorporates lifts. Much as I like taking pictures here I usually wait for sunny conditions for these everyday scenes but on this occasion there was a Network Rail test train, 1Q48, with topped and tailed class 37s just a few minutes behind the DMU.
While waiting for a main line train to move onto the Honeybourne branch at Long Marston on 26 May 2016 the VivaRail test unit, 230001, converted from a redundant D Stock LUL train, was having a run out around the inner circuit. This was the first time that I seen it moving and although a completely clear view was not possible this shot between the masses of blossom does give a decent idea of how the train looks. I don't know what the prospects are of seeing these units on the main line but I should have thought that there are branch lines suitable for them; perhaps including a reopened Honeybourne to Stratford-upon-Avon line should this happen.
If there's a sunny afternoon with little chance of cloud in the Spring I like to make to a trip to Hatton North Junction to photograph a few trains that run around 17.00. As these are routine everyday workings I don't see the point if there's no sun as the results will be worse than others I have already. The first train along shortly after my arrival on 12 May 2016 was an unidentifiable CrossCountry Voyager; I rarely press the shutter for these but in such nice light it seemed worthwhile for once if only to check that my camera was working properly. The train was the 15.45 Reading to Newcastle, 1E56, which was running about 10 minutes late after meeting some delay in the Didcot area.
I was at Hatton North Junction waiting for a northbound freight when a fellow photographer told me that Chiltern single unit 121020 was coming south within the next few minutes working from Tyseley to Aylesbury. After a swift move from the field to the footbridge the newly repainted bubble car appeared under the Shrewley Road bridge and stopped at the up line signal to allow a Chiltern Railways train from Stratford-upon-Avon to leave Hatton station for Leamington Spa. A longer lens might have been a better bet for this shot given that there is no scope here for a more broadside view but I had only the one piece of glassware with me on this occasion.
I spent a short time at Bentley Heath crossing near Dorridge during the afternoon of 19 April 2016. One of several units I photographed was this, 168329, forming the 14.55 from Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone, 1H53. Until the train passed the footbridge and I noticed the number I had no idea that there was such a sub-class numbered 168/3 although I must admit that the numbers of any stock rarely make any impression on me so I may well have seen others without noticing. I inderstand that the 168/3s were originally Northern and Trans-Pennine class 170s which Chiltern acquired for own use. Thanks to Chris Morrison for this information.
A rare daylight run of a test train over the North Warwickshire Line was shown as running on 19 April 2016 and with a passing time for Henley-in-Arden of 17.16 I thought that a shot here would be well worth the 10 Minute drive from home. Earlier in the afternoon 1Q48 with 37609 + 37612 met some delay in the Burton upon Trent area because of the failure of a class 60 on a Kingsburty-bound oil train. I had already planned to be in place for the preceding unit and here are 172211 with a sister unit running as 2S60. the 15.57 from Stourbridge Junction to Stratford-upon-Avon. The test train should have been a section or two behind the units but in fact was the thick end of 30 minutes late and managed to coincide its passing through Henley exactly at the same time as a train from Stratford to Stourbridge Junction. It was a bit of a pain but at least it wasn't the hoped-for pair of Colas class 37s which I had previously thought might be on the working. As it was just a pair of DRS 37s I didn't bother with a night shot later in the day as 1Q48 made another visit to Stratford shortly after 11pm as I would have had it been in the hands of Colas locomotives.
While I was at Stoke Prior to photograph 56098 on 8 March 2016 I thought that a morning shot from here on a sunny day would look good to take advantage of the wider vista recently opened up by the vegetation clearance. Unfortunately, there is little northbound freight on the line at the right time of day but I happened to notice from RTT that a Cwmbran to Bescot empty ballast train was due to run on Sunday 13 March, due to pass at around 09.55. Just as I arrived I saw a passenger train leave the branch from Droitwich and 170502 with a class 153 on the back soon passed by forming 1M06, the 08.54 Worcester Foregate Street to Birmingham New Street. The background was a little hazy with some morning mist but this I quite like as it gives the atmosphere of early Spring.
A new bridge combining passenger lifts and stairs has recently opened at Stratford-upon-Avon station; not replacing the listed GWR bridge although the latter is rather overshadowed by the new contruction. The new bridge is of the standard modern design but with some welcome embellishments such as brick facias and wooden valances to reflect the Great Western character of the station as seen here just before completion. This is marked contrast to similar examples at Shirley and Henley-in-Arden which are less sympathetically finished. I hadn't been onto the station for a while and was curious to find out if any photographs of trains arriving at the station were available from the new structure so with there being little of any interest around, apart from the sun, on 16 February 2016 I walked down to have a look as 2D12, the 09.40 from Leamington Spa, pulled in platform 2. A perfectly reasonable shot is on offer so all that is now needed is a slightly more interesting working to visit here. As the Global Gathering Festival seems unlikely to take place this year the chance of a Chiltern class 68 coming seems rather remote and diesel-hauled trains here are rarer than hens teeth so long wait is likely. I intended to return later in the day when the sun on the other side for an arrival into platform 1 but the sun had faded by the optimum time so another visit will be in order at a later date.
Thursday 11 February 2016 was a rare sunny day with just odd wisps of cloud in the sky so with the prospect of a test train running south along the GWR line from Birmingham to Leamington Spa I planned a trip out. My original idea was to go to Bentley Heath but the test train was 40 minutes early just north of Birmingham and with no way of knowing if it would be allowed a run or turned as booked into Bordesley Loop I went instead to Hatton to make sure of a photograph. In the event the test train was held and so I first had this image of 168219 heading south with 1H40, the 11.12 Birmingham Snow Hill to Marylebone service.
Next along, or at least the next train I photographed at Hatton on 11 February 2016 was 165001 forming 2L41, the 11.34 stopping service from Birmingham Moor Street to Leamington Spa. Chiltern Railways provide the off-peak trains to stations such as Lapworth and Hatton with London Midland adding to the stoppers in peak hours for commuter traffic. In all honesty, these stations have a very poor level of service compared to pre-privatisation days when many more trains stopped and therefore carried more passengers.
Tuesday 19 September 2016 started off with patchy fog but this had cleared by late morning leaving a beautifully clear blue sky. It seemed almost rude not to take advantage of this even though there was little of any real interest on my local lines. I went to Defford, near Pershore, on the Birmingham to Gloucester line and first along was 1M99, the 12.45 Cardiff to Nottingham operated on this occasion by a pair of Arriva Voyagers. I don't often photograph these but the longer than usual train gave the opportunity to show the new signal adjacent to the road bridge. This is probably no more than 100 yards to the south of the existing installation but regulations deemed that it was necessary. Luckliy, it has not been positioned in an awkward place for photography and can easily be omitted from the picture altogether by using a slighly longer lens.
Whilst on the road bridge at Long Marston on 16 December 2015 some sort of diesel powered unit was running around in the distance, too far away to allow any sort of identification. After visiting Honeybourne I went back past the yard at Long Marston just as a 2 car unit was running slowly along the exchange sidings. I did a quick turn around in a convenient gateway and went back for a closer look. The vehicles turned out to be some sort of tram-like contraption with Turkish wording on the bodysides. I have zero interest in European railways and despite visiting Paris and Rouen on quite a regular basis have never pointed a camera at any French trains. On this occasion though, it would have been rude not to have taken a few shots as whatever it is stood in the sun on No 1 road before going away to the right and around the inner loop towards the main working area of the complex.
Wednesday 11 November 2015 initially had the potential to be a bit of a red-letter day with the news that 50007 and 50017 were scheduled to work a 3Q13 Derby to Kings Norton test train via the North Cotswold Line. In the event things changed and the less than inspiring duo of 37602 and 37604 were allocated instead. This held no interest for me so I just had an brief and earlier trip to Long Marston to take a couple of images of some MPV powered vehicles leaving the site after spending just over one week there. The departure time for 6Y54 was 09.30 and it a few minutes after this time that the COLAS Rail branded van delivered the driver carrying the single line token to the sidings. The token was put into the ground frame to allow the points to be switched for the branch to Honeybourne and within a few seconds the train departed for Crewe. The sun, which had been out for quite a while, managed to be behind some thick cloud and this really dampened the Autumnal colours in the undergrowth.
A relatively rare southbound locomotive-hauled train, with a locomotive leading, ran through Hatton on Friday 18 September 2015 which managed to leave its originating point some 2 hours late. Had it run on time I wouldn't have seen this COLAS Rail OTP in Hatton station, running as a 6J02 Banbury Tamper Sidings to Washwood Heath RMC. It was just getting back on the move after having been checked by the signal adjacent to the road bridge because a Stratford-upon-Avon to Stourbridge Junction train, via Dorridge, was just passing Hatton North Junction and joining the main line.
I was just in the process of grinding some beans for my coffee on 16 September 2015 when a friend 'phoned urging me to get over to the Hatton area as soon as possible because 960014 and 55020 were heading north from Aylesbury to Tyseley and were already near Fenny Compton. Having always been a fan of single car DMMUs I grabbed my camera bag and drove over to the 3 arch bridge in Dark Lane, Hatton. As soon as opened the car door I heard a train coming and just had time to take my camera from its bag and grab a rather unsatisfactory shot without checking any camera settings and without noticing that it was set to manual focus after taking some astronomical photographs a few nights ago. The shot is just about acceptable as it shows the rare sight of two "bubbles" in the Down Goods Loop.
The single car DMMUs running as 5T00 from Aylesbury to Tyseley on 16 September 2015 weren't booked to stand in Hatton DGL but rather to wait for their path north in platform 3. Through early running it had to routed along the loop because a train from Stratford-upon-Avon, 1H47, had no choice but to use that platform for the scheduled station stop. After the Stratford train had gone south and 3 trains had gone north 960014 + 55020 were allowed to leave the loop and resume their journey. It was a bit of a shame given the sunny conditions that they were routed through the branch platform but it was fortunate that some trees cast a complete shadow over the line thus avoiding an unpleasant shot in contre-jour. This is far from being 960014's first trip along here; I photographed it in the area on at least 3 previous occasions including on 23 June 2008 when it was running a timing trial before WSMR started locomotive-hauled operations.
The modifications to FGW's class 166 units continue to be carried out at Long Marston with the trains usually running on Tuesdays and Fridays. On 4 August 2015 I took my Morris Minor out for a run and found myself at Honeybourne some 20 minutes before the time that 5Z11 from Oxford Carriage Sidings was due. Just as I was reversing into one of the few remaining parking bays 166204 ran slowly past the down platform. I had no idea that any of these units had been painted into a green livery. I walked up to the ramp on the footbridge adjacent to the Long Marston branch and within a minute or two 5Z11 came up the branch just as the sun cleared some cloud. It was unfortunately at least an hour too early for a well-lit shot here as the sun was not round far enough to illuminate the side of the train properly. I went straight to Long Marston but it was a frustratingly slow journey because of traffic lights in Honeybourne village and a delay while someone reversed out of his drive onto the road in a dangerous location on a blind bend. Because of this I arrived too late for a sunny arrival shot and just as 166204 moved into the sidings the sun went in.
The scheduled departure time for 5Z12 to Reading Traincare Depot is 12.00 but it was about 45 earlier than this that 166203 pulled out of Long Marston on 4 August 2015. The sun had shone for several minutes as 166203 stood in the exchange sidings but disappeared behind thick cloud as soon as it began to move.
Despite having thousands of colour transparencies I can rarely be bothered to spend much time scanning and post-processing my now historic and largely unrepeatable images. Here though is a shot of a class 116 DMU about to enter Droitwich Spa station with a Birmingham new Street to Great Malvern service on 18 April 1987. Although the semaphore signals and their controlling signal box survive in 2015 much else, including the coal yard, the Ruston 0-4-0 shunter and the up loop have disappeared.
The vegetation at Hatton North Junction has seen a lot of growth this summer but there still are gaps sufficiently large to enable a clear shot of a train to be taken. There is quite a lot of colour amongst the undergrowth so I took this image of 168216 forming 1G52, the 16.06 London Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill, on Saturday 25 July 2015 to show as much as possible. The sky in the background includes a lot of cloud but there was fortunately a lot more blue behind me with only a few small fluffy clouds threatening to spoil the fun.
The sole remaining Hastings Line gauge DEMU, 1001, made its 3rd visit to Stratford-upon-Avon on Saturday 4 July 2015. I had photographed the previous visits so had no intention of missing this trip as it arrived at the terminus. The arrival time was just after 11.30 and 1Z40 was booked to run into platform 3, the one furthest over from the station buildings and car park. The best option for an arrival shot is from the extreme end of platform 1 after the train has crossed over from the down main line. On this occasion there was a short wait outside the station to allow 172335 to start its journey to Stourbridge Junction from platform 2 where it had been standing alongside 168001 waiting to leave for London Marylebone at 11.37. Unlike the previous occasion that 1001 came to Stratford, 8 March 1997 there was a little bit of brightness although a complete lack of semaphore signals. This shot is now impossible because of the new lift and bridge which is approaching the end of the construction process. It does seem likely that it will be possible to use the new bridge for a shot of something arriving into platform 1 although I can't be sure at this stage.
I don't often take multiple shots of trains as I'm not keen on the "photo-journalism" approach because, as the saying goes, less is usually more, but on this occasion I did hang around for the passengers to disperse a little and then take a few static images. Here is 1001 standing in platform 3 at Stratford soaking up the warm and rather high sun before its departure to Tyseley for refueling and presumably some attention to the on-board services. To me, this unique train is of far more interest than a mundane locomotive-hauled working although, judging by the lack of postings on various email groups, my view isn't widely held!
There was just enough time for a walk along the island platform to take a final shot of 1001 complete with its "Warwickshire Wanderer" headboard. The sun was into a big clear patch of sky by now and I joined the orderly queue on the platform end for my turn to take this image in the rather restricted available space. The ECS movements to and from Tyseley was shown as running along the Noth Warwickshire Line but as is often the case this didn't happen and both runs were via Solihull.
The returning ECS from Tyseley to Stratford, 5Z41, was a few minutes late leaving and was routed via Solihull and Hatton North Junction instead of the booked route though Henley in Arden. This didn't bother me too much as I had planned to go either to Wilmcote or Stratford Parkway to make sure that my photograph of 1001 was in a recognisable location rather than in open countryside; I don't really see the point in taking an unusual or one-off shot in a spot that could be anywhere in the country. Anyway, I went for the latter option as although there is an attractive footbridge at Wilmcote it is, to say the least, very well photographed and perhaps slightly clichéd. Just after I arrived at the Bishopton Lane roadbridge 172102 with an unidentified sister unit arrived for its booked stop at the station. This meant that 1001 was on the way from Bearley Junction and it soon came into view as it coasted down Wilmcote Bank, just a couple of minutes late.
During a glance through one or two RTT pages I noticed that a Tyseley to Long Marston train was booked to run on Thuirsday 25 June 2015. My initial feeling was that it seemed likely to be some form of OTP movement as no return schedule was shown but a couple of postings from the Stourbridge line said that it was a 2 car DMMU, presumably one of the Chiltern Railways sets used for RHTT work. I couldn't recall having taken a picture of a diesel mechanical unit on the branch so went off for a shot or two. I had a quick look at RTT from a layby in Long Marston village and decided that I probably hadn't left enough time to get across to Honeybourne and be sure of a photograph as class 117 960301 joined the branch so just waited on the roadbridge at the site's rail entrance. The train soon apppeared in the background and its arrival unfortunately coincided with the only completely clear patch of sky; just what one doesn't want at just after 14.00 in June. I would never normally take a picture with the sun overhead and on the wrong side but here, for a one-off of a new class for the branch, I compromised...
The gate into Long Marston had already been opened so there only a brief pause before 960301 was allowed into the site where it now appears that No.1 road is back in use. I understand that the new owners of the unit are to move it by road to Radstock, a preserved line in Somerset. Long Marston is a much easier location at which to load railway vehicles onto a low-loader than many main line depots hence its run down here. If you don't look too closely today's views might very roughly resemble the scene when DMMUs were used on this line when it was still open to Stratford-upon-Avon. The chances of the line being re-opened in the foreseeable future took another turn for the worse today when the Government announced that projects expected to take place soon, such as Midland Line and Trans-Pennine electrification, are to be "paused". It hardly seems likely that a marginal scheme such H2S (Honeybourne to Stratford) will be high on the agenda given such major funding problems.
RealTime Trains showed that a 2Z01, operated by London Midland, was to visit Stratford-upon-Avon on 21 May 2015 as part of a run between Birmingham New Street and Shrewsbury. It was obviously going to be a multiple unit of some sort although probably the not ubiquitous class 172 as it was timed for 75mph running and as a Sprinter. A friend saw it near Solihull saying that it was a 2 coach class 170; a type that I hadn't photographed at the terminus although I do have a single shot of 170508 on the North Warwickshire Line at Edstone Aqueduct. Always happy to take a picture of a "new" class at Stratford I walked down to the station, arriving about 5 minutes before 2Z01's booked time of 09.54 and with time to take a picture of the new and nearly completed footbridge complete with lift access for any disabled (or possibly lazy!) passengers. It good to note that some concession has been made to the GWR heritage of the station with brick facing and wooden valances rather than the more utilitarian examples of a similar same type found at Henley in Arden and Shirley. Anyway, 170504 rolled into platform 2 from Hatton North and West Junctions, narrowly missing a patch of sun, and came to a stop before the crew changed ends and took the train towards Shrewsbury via Henley and New Street. Another "Z" was due into Stratford later the same day, this time steam locomotive 5043 on what I guess was a test run of some sort. I bet that there were more folk around for that...
There was another "first" for me, at least, on the Honeybourne to Long Marston branch on Monday 27 April 2015 when FGW's 166213 ran there as 5Z11 from Reading Traincare Depot. I didn't know about about the first of these trains but it appears that it ran on or about 9 April 2015. The purpose of the visit is for modifications to be made to some on-train equipment including the air-conditioning. All of the company's class 166s are to be modified so this will be a common enough sight over the coming weeks. I do like to get anything new or unusual on the branch so made the short trip from home to record 166213 arriving a few minutes early and shortly after a patch of cloud had receded from the sun.
As soon as 166213 arrived at Long Marston the waiting ground crew opened the gates and gave instructions to the train crew before allowing the unit to move into the sole remaining road directly accessible from the branch. I don't know if the former No 1 road has been removed for good or will be relaid in the future but the lack of it must lead to some loss of flexibility. There was no return train and the train crew returned to Reading by taxi.
The Stourbridge Junction to Stratford-upon-Avon via Hatton North and West Junctions trains become less frequent in the late afternoon and the last service to the terminus via this route is the 17.27 from Stourbridge. Here on, 23 April 2015, it is formed of 172213 and an unidentified sister unit receding around the curve towards the Stratford branch. Not many minutes earlier another class 172 unit, 172342 had run on the up main line as the 16.53 Kidderminster to Leamington Spa London Midland service, 2H24. I don't think that either this train or the one an hour later return but stable at Leamington to form morning services the following day.
Tuesday 21 April was another day of clear skies and with a few odds and around I had a hour or so at Bentley Heath crossing and footbridge just to the north of Dorridge station. First along was Chiltern Railways' 168002 forming 1H58, the 13.55 from Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone. The new livery really suits the lines of these units and is a huge improvement on the previous colour scheme as seen on the same example passing the construction site shortly to become Stratford upon Avon Parkway Station is December 2012.
Once some morning mist and cloud had burned off Tuesday 14 April 2015 turned out to be a glorious Spring day and with a few trains in mind I had a trip to Hatton North Junction. I like the Chiltern Railways livery on these units; it's quite stylish and nicely understated to my eyes. Just after I arrived at about 17.00 168215 came north as 1G50, the 14.45 from London Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill. The lineside trees have just started to show some greenery after the winter but this shot is still much more oprn than it will in a few weeks time.
The popular view of the GWR footbridge at Stratford-upon-Avon is no more. A new and additional bridge containing passenger lifts is now being constructed to aid disabled passengers to cross from platform 1 to platforms 2 and 3. At the monent it is a bit of a monstrosity but if the "artist's projection" of the completed bridge to be found at the station's entrance is to be believed the finished article will have a more attractive appearance with some nods to the GWR heritage of the station in the form of brick cladding and some detailing with wooden valances over the steps similar to those on the old bridge. The train leaving platform 2 is 168109 forming a shuttle service, 1L47, to Leamington Spa where any passengers for stations south of there will have to board a coach to Banbury. This is, of course, a result of the calamitous landslide in Harbury cutting which effectively although not literally blocked the line.
It is just over 12 months since London Midland started running trains to Stratford-upon-Avon to Stourbridge Junction via Hatton North and West Junctions. Here is 172214 with a sister unit about to join the down main line with 2W78. the 12.03 from Stratford. As a very occasional train passenger I prefer this route to Birmingham rather than the seemingly endless run via Henley-in-Arden and Shirley as the fast run from Stratford Parkway to Dorridge seems less tiresome than the constant stop and start of the North Warwickshire route.
A variation on the Chiltern Railways theme was provided here by the 10.12 Birmingham Snow Hill to London Marylebone service, 1H40. This was formed of 2 coach 172103 with 3 coach 168115 bringing up the rear and is seen about to pass through Shrewley cutting a few hundreds north of Hatton North Junction on the sunny morning of 13 December 2014. This isn't a brilliant location, especially in winter when the shadows are lengthy, but it does make a change from the shot from the roadbridge adjacent to Hatton station which is far more popular with photographers because it avoids a rather muddy 10 minute walk along an uneven and overgrown public footpath.
Chiltern Railways' class 172/1 units quite often visit Stratford-upon-Avon and here on Thursday 6 November 2014 is 172101 approaching the stop at Hatton station while working 1H37, the 0914 to London Marylebone. This TOC isn't especially popular in this part of Warwickshire as they are cutting most of the direct services to London leaving passengers with a very infrequent shuttle service to Leamington Spa. Perhaps London Midland could cash in by running an hourly service to Leamington Spa giving a same-platform connection into London trains. The Autumnal colours at Hatton haven't been as, well, colourful this year because of the extremely mild weather conditions but without sun the reds, browns and oranges don't quite have the same appeal. Through not concentrating properly I missed another class 172 on the up main line a few moments later as 172104 led a class 168 on an express service to London.
There were a few freights along the Birmingham to Cheltenham line I wanted to photograph on the sunny morning of 9 September 2014 so went across to the footbridge at Northway, next door to Ashchurch station. On the way over there was quite a lot of early morning mist but the sun was high enough to burn some of it away before 1V44, the 06.00 Leeds to Plymouth HST appeared. In my opinion, these are still just about the best trains operating on the UK network so it was good to get a new picture of one even though the light was yet to reach full strength.
Most passenger trains on the line through Ashchurch are operated by CrossCountry, but there are some First Great Western services adding a splash of colour to the scene. Here is 158798 slowing for the Ashchurch stop on 9 September 2014 watched from the adjacent field by one of the many dog walkers to be found here. If the image looks a little noisy then this may be because I somehow raised the shutter speed to 1/4000 and thereby under-exposed the picture by about 5 stops and had, on this occasion, to do some work on the RAW file!
Another bit of colour on the Cheltenham line in recent weeks has been the use of a South-West Trains class 159 on one or two Great Malvern services. Here is 159017 leaving the Ashchurch stop on 9 September 2014 with 2E17, the 07.23 Warminster to Great Malvern. It's hard to believe that these units were originally used to replace class 50s and coaching stock on Waterloo to Exeter trains - not a lot of progress. I'm not a great one for going-away views but with units there isn't a lot of difference. The signal protecting the level crossing in the middle distance had been on red until this second as the p-way crew had been working on the gates until then.
Chiltern Railways' class 172 work occasional services between London Marylebone to Stratford-upon-Avon, usually in the late afternoon. Here is 172102 coupled to 172101 standing in platform 3, the Stratford branch platform, with the 15.18 to the Warwickshire terminus. The undergrowth has really taken over on this line in recent years and many shots, including this one, are becoming impossible. Here is a shot of 66549 in the same spot a few years ago with an HOBC train and before the trees took over.
Much of the machinery on display at the Long Marston rail event was OTP of some description most of which left en-masse with locomotive haulage. One or two, however, worked under their own power such as this Plasser & Theurer macine which I pictured leaving the site at 11.58 on 20 June 2104 on the way to Retford. Some 50 minutes earlier a different specie of machine had left but I have no idea of its destination. Quite why these two machines could not have been coupled together and taken to Honeybourne as one thus saving a path and couple of road trips to collect the single line token is not clear but pragmatism isn't always to the fore in today's railway. A clue to the identity of the next train to leave the site can be seen in the exchange sidings where COLAS Rail liveried 60087 is recovering the track machines to which I referred earlier.
COLAS Rail has had one of its class 60s, 60087, refurbished and painted into the house colours. The locomotive was moved from Crewe to Washwood Heath during the afternoon of 17 June 2014 and was then booked to go to Long Marston with 37219, also repainted, where it was to go through a naming ceremony. It is a very rare event when I specifically go out for a light engine move but did go over to a field-side footpath at Long Marston when I saw that 0Z61 had passed Norton Junction. The locomotives went by Evesham a few minutes late and clearly reached Honeybourne, there being no loops or sidings between the two places. As I arrived a COLAS 66 left Long Marston light engine on the way to Westbury TRaffic Centre and with luck I thought that 60087 would come the other way in around 30 minutes or so allowing for a token exchange or two and some faffing about. I left shortly after 19.00 just after this unidentified piece of OTP had come down from Honeybourne and later saw that 0Z61 finally made it at 20.52. Light engine moves? Waste of effort!
There was a Llanwern to Long Marston train on Monday 14 April 2014 and with largely clear skies I had a ride across to Lower Moor near Pershore. Just after I arrived on the bridge 180103 came into view from the Fladbury direction with 1W29, the 11.20 Paddington to Great Malvern service running 13 minutes late. I quite like these units with their individualistic styling which the current FGW colour scheme sets off well. This is a nice open location on one the remaining single track sections of the North Cotswold Line, although the greenhouses in the left background are a bit of a blot on the landscape.
After a cloudy start on 2 April 2014 the skies cleared at lunchtime so I decided on a trip to Hatton North Junction to see what turned up. Just after I arrived 172336, forming the 13.27 from Stourbridge Junction, came slowly under the Shrewley Road bridge and crossed over to join the line to Hatton West Junction and the Stratford-upon-Avon branch. The best shot for a train crossing over from the up main line would be from the north side of the footbridge first thing in the morning but I quite like this view and have included as much of the as yet bare-branched oak tree as possible. The unit returned from Stratford later on having left the terminus at 15.03.
The most frequently seen diesel multiple unit seen on the Birmingham to Leamington Spa is class 168 from the Chiltern Railways stable. These stylish trains are currently going through a refurbishment programme and one of the newly done-up examples, 168218, is pictured here just beginning the descent of Hatton Bank while running as the 14.12 to London Marylebone from Birmingham Snow Hill. One of the unrefurbished examples, 168111, albeit from a different sub-class, is seen later on the afternoon of 1 April 2014 as it runs north to Birmingham.
One working that looked quite interesting on the afternoon of 19 March 2014 was a High Marnham to Swindon Transfer job. The originating point meant that it would be on-track plant of some description and as modern OTP can run at 60mph there was clearly not going to be any locomotive involvement. I had no real idea what sort of machine 6Y62 would turn up, but the destination suggested that it might be something to do with the imminent electrification of the Great Western Main Line and so it was, this outfit being a new electrification train which I assume had been on test at High Marnham, once the site of a busy rail-served power station.
While 56312 was approaching Hatton North Junction the 15.13 Stratford-upon-Avon to Stourbridge Junction was waiting at the signal controlling the exit from the curve from the Stratford branch and Hatton West Junction. The train was led by 172218 and was pictured a few minutes after 56312 had gone towards Dorridge. This is a favourite location for photographing the steam-hauled Shakespeare Express later in the year and I wonder if (and hope that!) someone with long arms and a strong back will do a bit of gardening...
Tuesday 5 March 2014 started off bright and sunny and as the sun is now high enough for shadows at Hatton station bridge to be no problem I had a trip there to photograph a locomotive hauled test train. I arrived with some time to spare in case of early running and first along was Chiltern Railways' 168216 running as 1H38, the 09.55 Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone. There are now a few refurbished class 168s running around the system and I do think that the paint scheme looks very good; a definite improvement on earlier liveries.
Although not the most interesting motive power, London Midland class 172s on Stratford-upon-Avon to Stourbridge Junction via Solihull trains add another aspect to a photographic session at Hatton North Junction. It's only in the past week or so that the sun has been high enough to lift the shadows on the branch and 172342 is clear as it runs by with the 15.03 from the terminus on 4 March 2014.
Chiltern Railways has reliveried one of its class 168 units into an attractive silver colour scheme and although I have seen it a few times I hadn't, until 4 February 2014, had the opportunity for a decent shot. I was at Hatton on that morning and was pleased to see that 168218 was allocated to the 09.55 Birmingham Moor Street to Marylebone. The sun was fully out despite there being a few clouds beginning to build up in the south-west and another train has just gone north so there was every chance that a satisfactory outcome was on the cards.
Three class 121 single diesel units, "bubble cars", were set for transfer from Tyseley Steam Trust to Aylesbury on Tuesday 4 February 2014. I have always had a soft spot for these as it was in one of them that I had my first-ever rail trip when a youngster when being taken by my father to Leamington Spa on an early spotting trip. I didn't know which units were being moved and was pleased when the multi-coloured cavalcade came around the surve from Hatton North Junction. The train, 5A00, left Tyseley 51 minutes late but after being able to miss out a scheduled stop in Dorridge loop was only 18 minutes down when I pressed the shutter. The sun was fully out at the scheduled passing time of 5A00, went behind some thick cloud for a few minutes around the actual passing time and, naturally, was fully out again by the time I drove out of Hatton station's car park...
Photographing the 3 single units shown above reminded me that this wasn't the first time that I seen a similar combination. During the evening of 1 July 1986 I saw 55005, 55034 and 55000 leave Stratford-upon-Avon with the 18.30 to Birmingham Moor Street. I often to used to spend half-an-hour around the station and signal box in those days and knew all the staff who were happy to let me stand at the side of the track for mt photographs. That wouldn't happen today...
There was the possibility of a late-running move of the Amersham to Derby S stock move on 14 January 2014 after the leading class 20s failed at Fenny Compton. With this in mind I went to Hatton North Junction in case 7X10 managed to escape after attention from the GBRf fitters who had been despatched to try to effect repairs. Just after I arrived 172334 came from the Stratford-upon-Avon with 2W80, the 14.03 from the terminus to Stourbridge Junction via Solihull. The sun nearly cooperated but disappeared behind some clouds just as the train came into view on the spur between Hatton West and North junctions.
The majority of passenger trains along the GWR's Birmingham to Leamington Spa line are operated by Chiltern Railways who use classes 165 and 168 along with locomotive hauled (or propelled) coaching stock with class 67 locomotives. One of the former is seen approaching the stop at Hatton station on the sunny afternoon of 13 January 2014 while forming 2L47, the 12.01 local service from Birmingham Moor Street to Leamington Spa. Now that the shortest day has passed the shadows at this location are gradually becoming less intrusive although those on the branch from Stratford-upon-Avon still make photography a little difficult as seen in this image of 168112 coming around the curve with the 11.55 Stratford to Marylebone train.
Stratford-upon-Avon sees occasional test trains, sometimes locomotive hauled and sometimes formed of the Network Rail class 150 unit, 950001. On Thursday 9 January 2014 the latter worked a 2Q08 Tyseley to Derby via Stratford and as it was a sunny day I made my first photographic trip of 2014 by walking down down to the station to photograph 950001's arrival into platform 2. This image shows the unit drawing to a halt amidst various shadows prior to reversal and a trip to Hatton along the single track via Bearley Junction and Claverdon. The orange sheeting to the left of the train marks the site of a new bridge incorporating lifts for the use of disabled passengers. This will make a decent photograph of anything arriving in the terminus' platforms just about impossible. I should have thought that a better location for the new structure would have been adjacent to the Alcester Road bridge where disruption to operations when under construction would have been minimised and where users would have been under shelter for more of their trip to platforms 2 and 3.
The test train 2Q08 had run to Stratford-upon-Avon down the North Warwickshire Line via Henley-in-Arden and its next trip was to Hatton, back to Stratford and then along the North Warwickshire to Birmingham before visiting Round Oak. I hadn't planned for a second shot but watched the train's progress on RTT and saw that it had arrived, as booked, into platform 3 at Hatton. It didn't report again and I have no idea what happened: did it fail or go off route under another schedule? Anyway, it left Stratford on time and made for a challengingly backlit picture alongside a pair of London Midland class 172/2 units waiting to run to Stourbridge Junction via Hatton North Junction and Solihull.
Sunday 29 January 2013 was a perfect winter's day and in the course of a walk along the towing path of the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal my wife and I made a short diversion to the roadbridge overlooking Stratford Park & Ride Station just as 172216 pulled away whilst forming 2S06, the 10.10 Great Malvern to Stratford service. The shadows were rather intrusive but I hadn't taken a shot here for some time and thought that a seasonal photograph would make a reasonable update to my collection.
On Monday 16 December 2013 London Midland started to operate a new hourly off-peak service from Stratford-upon-Avon to Stourbridge Junction via Dorridge and Solihull this giving a regular working over the curve betwen Hatton West and North Junctions. Although used by an early morning ECS and the odd charter train, the line hasn't seen a timetabled passenger train for probably close to 30 years. I imagine that this will be relatively popular with shoppers given that, according to my wife, the retail opportunities in Solihull are considerably better than the dismal town centre in Stratford which has been ruined by out-of-town and very unattractive retail parks. My first chance for a photograph or two was on Thursday 13 December, a particularly misty and murky morning although with just enough awkward backlighting at the wrong moment to make things difficult. Here is 172216 about to join the GWR main line at Hatton North Junction with 2W74, the 11.03 from Stratford to Stourbridge Junction.
The new hourly Stourbridge Junction to Stratford-upon-Avon trains running via Solihull simply extend one of the 3 trains per hour that formerly terminated at Dorridge. The up and down workings cross somewhere around Lapworth to allow time for Hatton North Junction to be cleared and here is 172344 crossing from the up main line to the branch with 2D22, the 10.27 from Stourbridge Junction. The opportunities for photographs are limited at this time of the year to say the least but I was keen to take a few shots during the first few days of the service. Oak trees are generally amongst the last to lose their leaves and this fine example has plenty remaining, until the first sharp frost and subsequent wind. In the few minutes since the corresponding up train had passed the light had deteriorated with a bank of low cloud and mist moving in the from the North-West.
Over the course of a few minutes the light at Hatton North Junction on 12 December deteriorated to the point where photography wasn't worthwhile. Several freights went north unrecorded and then 172344 appeared on the branch from Stratford-upon-Avon while forming the 2W76 to Stourbridge Junction. The London Midland unit was held until 67012 passed running some 5 minutes late and passing on its delay to the following train.
Shortly after 172344 had left Hatton North Junction on 12 December 2013, 172219 + 172220 appeared through the mist shrouding the Shrewley Road bridge and were routed onto the branch to Stratford while running as 2D28, the 11.27 from Stourbridge Junction. The best train for this shot, on a sunny morning in June at least, would be the first of the day, 2D00 to Stratford which passes here at just 06.30. We'll see...
On Monday 25 November 2013 I had a couple of hours walking along the canal towpath and nearby footpaths around Hatton. I took my camera and ended up at the station car park just in time to record DR73930, a Colas-operated switch and crossings tamper, coming off the Stratford-upon-Avon branch with a Banbury Tamper Sidings to Rugby DED working. I don't know what the purpose of the train was but assume, having looked at the routing, that it was a crew training run to familiarise staff with the lines in this area. The sun had just gone behind some cloud otherwise this shot would have been virtually impossible given the time of day. There are some attractive autumnal colours around at the moment but these will disappear as soon as the first windy day comes along.
The 2013 Railhead Treatment season has started and there is a daily train from Kings Norton OTP depot to Leamington Spa utilising Multi Purpose Vehicles. The timings are quite convenient with the train passing Hatton in the up direction at 13.42 and returning some 30 minutes later. I like to take the occasional photograph of these workings and as I was out and about on Tuesday 8 October decided to get to the station roadbridge at Hatton in time to do just that. Here is the MPV with DR98958 leading passing the up line's banner repeater signal 2 minutes late with the line-cleaning jet of water clearly visible.
Chiltern Railways' class 172 units appear at Stratford-upon-Avon on an almost daily basis but until Monday 12 August I had yet to photograph one on the line. I was at Hatton during the early afternoon when 1H60, the 14.35 from Stratford to London Marylebone formed of 172101 appeared under the bridge and entered platform 3. The light was poor so a grab shot, just for the record, from the north side of the roadbridge was possible. There were no passengers on this occasion and the train was soon on its way, crossing over the down main line and off towards Leamington Spa and London.
Saturday 25 May 2013 was forecast to be a bright and sunny day but there was much more cloud about than promised. Even so, I went over to Hatton for a couple of photographs and took this view of 168003 running as 1H15, the 10.55 from Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone. The sun held on nicely for this one as the train rounded the curve towards Hatton station passing the rapidly growing lineside vegetation which is much later in reaching this stage of ts development than is usual, following the exceptionally cold weather earlier in the year. Running a few minutes earlier was 168113 forming 1D17, the 09.09 from London Marylebone to Stratford-upon-Avon photographed, as it joined the branch to the terminus.
The first public trains booked to use the new Stratford-upon-Avon Parkway Station were booked for Sunday 19 May 2013. I wasn't able to photograph the first actual arrival, the 09.30 from Stratford to Kidderminster, so decided to wait until when the sun would hopefully be a lot more favourable than at the earlier time. I arrived in time to see 165038 forming 1D19, the 09.36 from London Marylebone pull into platform 1 and a short time later move away towards the GWR terminus after dropping off a couple of passengers. When it returned as the 11.58 to London, several passengers boarded after arriving on foot from a nearby new housing estate. I was told by a friend who went to film the first train here that there was no fuss, no paper banner broken to mark the occasion, very few photographers and not even a bouncy castle in the car park!
After photographing 165038 at Stratford-upon-Avon Parkway I hung on for a few minutes to obtain a slightly different picture, this time of 172331 running as 2S06, the 10.40 from Kidderminster to Stratford. The light had picked up a bit since the Chiltern unit and I was pleased enough to get a sunny shot on the first day of the station's operation. It wasn't all going exactly to plan as some of the automated information equipment wasn't fully operational but that aside everything seemed to to be finished to a high standard including the huge disabled passenger-friendly footbridge built on similar lines to that at Honeybourne. For completeness, here is a view of the outside of the station pictured from the new footpath leading to Bishopton Lane. Just as a reminder of how the site looked before any work was even envisaged, here is a picture of 67001 with the Northern Belle in October 2009.
I have been meaning to go to the Bicester to Oxford line for a while now to have another go at the Calvert to Didcot empty flyash train. The weather on Tuesday 7 May 2013 looked to be perfect so I made a spur of the moment decision to drive to a quiet location just to the south of Islip. I hoped that I would arrive in time to photograph 2T10, the 11.00 from Oxford to Bicester Town and I had only just crossed Mill Lane via the gated crossing when the red warning light was illuminated to warn of the approach of 165024. Once the train had reached its destination at 11.25 it reversed and came back along the single track forming 2T11 which departed Bicester for Oxford at 11.30.
The first train to stop at the new station at Stratford-upon-Avon Parkway ran on Sunday 5 May 2013 where it was booked to sit for about thirty minutes. The schedule said that it should arrive at 12.15 at which time I was still playing the organ at a nearby village church but I managed to make a sharp exit and arrived on the road bridge overlooking the station in time to see 172215 sitting in platform 1 with engineers apparently ensuring that the door and platform clearances were adequate. Within a few seconds I heard a train approaching from behind and took this shot, probably the first to show trains crossing here, as 172219 headed off towards Birmingham and Stourbridge Junction.
The platforms at Stratford Parkway are on a slight curve so it was necessary for 172215 to be drawn forward a few times to ensure that all was well for the full length of the station. As the sun stayed out for my entire visit I took plenty of photographs to ensure some variety and this is the penultimate one before 5T15 went to the GWR station to reverse. It can be seen in the right background that an approach road and small roundabout leading to a drop-off point have now been completed and it seems that little construction work remains to be done. The remainder of the time before opening on 19 May will hopefully see the ground around the station see some landscaping work to make everything look neat and tidy.
My final picture from Stratford Parkway on 5 May 2013 was a wider view taken as 172215 pullled away from the platform. This photograph shows more clearly the area surrounding the station and where some work remains to make it look more attractive. The sun clos to midday at this time of year is already too high for good photography and this effect is exacerbated by the layout of the running gear of class 172 units which is virtually hidden under the bodywork, hence the area of dark shadow in those areas.
Since my last update from the new Stratford-upon-Avon park & Ride station there have been a few changes. The posts for the platform lighting and travel information loudspeakers have been installed along with the rear fencing for the platform edges and access steps for permanent way staff. This photograph was taken on Saturday 20 April 2013 as 172334 headed towards the GWR station at Stratford with 2S30, the 10.55 from Stourbridge Junction. The station is due to open on 19 May 2013 and work is ahead of schedule at the time of writing. It looks as if landscaping remains to be tackled but this will be done only when there is no further infrastructure work requiring heavy machinery to be carried out. There should be a reasonable photograph available of incoming trains from the Bishopton Lane bridge when, or if, anything out-of-the-ordinary visits the town. I'm not so sure about the picture from the A46 bypass bridge visible in the background; a favourite haunt of people wishing to see the Shakespeare Express steam-hauled trains on summer Sundays. I may have a look on the next sunny evening.
An unusual looking movement from Bescot to Bescot via Hereford (twice) and Long Marston was booked for Sunday 7 April 2013. I initially had no idea what it might be but thought that it might be a route learning or refresher exercise. I was told in the morning that it was actually a weedkiller operated by a couple of MPVs and as the only other times these vehicles had previously visited the Long Marston branch was, as far as I know, under cover of darkness I decided to have a couple of shots to fill in the gaps in my photo collection. The train, 6Z10, formed of DR98909 + DR98959 ran a bit late as far as Honeybourne but had picked up some time by the time it reached the end of the branch as here shown. The light was a little tricky with some soft sun coming from directly behind the train but a picture felt worthwhile as it was the first time that I had seen MPVs here.
The weedkilling train from Bescot to Long Marston was booked to stand at the latter for thirty-five minutes but I wasn't at all surprised when the crew simply changed ends and went back towards Honeybourne within two or three minutes. I just had time to walk from the roadbridge to the public foot crossing before the lights came on and 6Z10 moved away on its way to Worcester, Malvern Wells and then back to Bescot. I have no problem at all with photographing MPVs as they are nothing like as common on the system as locomotive-hauled trains and often reach parts of the system where not much activity is seen. I always used to make a point of taking some images of MPVs when they ran to Stratford-upon-Avon with RHTTs but since the abolition of signal boxes along the North Warwickshire Line these have run in the dead of night.
When driving over the Bishopton Lane railway bridge in Stratford-upon-Avon the other day I noticed that a few changes had taken place at the new Parkway station so on 14 March 2103, the next sunny day, I had a walk up there to update my small portfolio of record shots. The train here pictured, passing the newly tarmacked platforms at 11.17, is 172215 with an unidentified sister unit forming 2S24, the 09.55 from Stourbridge Junction. This is quite a good time to be here as it is possible to see two trains within the course of a few minutes. Only five or six minutes before the London Midland train went by, 168216 as seen in this slightly wider view from a higher viewpoint, had passed on the way to the terminus with the 09.10 from London Marylebone. The positions of the platform lamps can now be seen and although much work remains to be done the local press has reported that things are ahead of schedule so the May 2013 opening is not in doubt.
There was a late night test train with a Network Rail class 31 due to pay a visit to Stratford-upon-Avon on Friday 8 March so bearing in mind that these locomotives are not expected to have much future on these workings I went down to station for a look. As I arrived, 165029 was preparing to leave for Oxford with 2V92, the 23.15 departure; the only Chiltern train from here to go to that destination, the others going either to Leamington Spa or London Marylebone. It seemed a good idea to get an idea of the exposure needed before the test train arrived so I took this shot and then this one from the footbridge as it pulled away. I'm not generally one for the more bizzare type of photograph and am not convinced that it really worked but possibly worth a go. Incidentally, views of and from this footbridge will soon be a thing of the past when a new and additional bridge with passenger lifts is put in place to cater for disabled users.
Progress at the new Stratford-upon-Avon Park & Ride station has been quite noticeable during the month of February and by the 28th of that month both up and down platforms had been constructed. Here is a four-car class 172 led by 172222 passing the site as it forms 2S24, the 09.55 to Stratford from Stourbridge Junction and just missing the sun which was starting to burn off some misty high cloud. My previous assertion that the platforms would be sufficiently long for just four coaches seems now to be inaccurate as there actually seems to be plenty of room for a six-coach set to call; possibly useful on Bank Holiday weekends. The probable location of the station buildings can be made out judging by what appear to be concrete foundations just to the left of the up platform.
Saturday 26 January 2013 was the first sunny day for what seemed like weeks and with the prospect of some snow remaining on the ground around Hatton I decided to go over and take a few photographs of whatever turned up. Arriva CrossCountry run a regular service over the line with trains going to, I think, Reading. Here is four-coach 220026 about to pass non-stop through Hatton station on the way from Birmingham New Street to Leamington Spa and beyond. I rarely photograph Voyagers but do take a shot now and again if the conditions are right.
My final shot from Hatton on Saturday 26 January 2013 was of Chiltern Railways' 168219 as it leaves the Stratford-upon-Avon branch with the 11.36 from Stratford to Marylebone. The Leamington Spa and London service from the terminus is currently sparse to say the least with no trains from the capital to Stratford at a decent time in the evening meaning that a drive to and from Warwick Parkway is necessary for anyone wanting to visit London for the day. This may change once Stratford's new Park & Ride station opens in May 2013.
By the time I had made my way to the roadbridge at Ashchurch, 66002 was out of the loop and passing through the station ready to stop beyond the points for the sidings before propelling 6B36 through the second road and onto the Ashchurch branch. While this process was ongoing FGW's 150124 was approaching the station from the south with a stopping train on its way to Worcester so I took a photograph of this showing the sidings with quite a bit of on-track plant around ready for the next Sunday blockade and, more interestingly, the Network Rail man walking in front of the train as it joins the branch. This unusual arrangement is necessary because the branch is sharply curved and crossed by two public footpaths which would obviously be out of the drivers sight with the propelling move.
A chilly Honeybourne station greets FGW's 166219 as it forms the 11.15 Great Malvern to London Paddington service on Sunday 13 January 2013. I was surprised how many passengers joined the train here, probably about a dozen, which I supposed goes to show how much busier this line has become over the years. When I first photographed the area in the 1980s I seem to recall that the first train of the day didn't leave Paddington until the early afternoon. Above and behind the train can be seen the engineers' sidings and the Long Marston branch which leaves the down main line just out of sight around the corner. A fairly recent addition to the platforms here has been the GWR-style seats, a reminder of the days when Honeybourne was a busy interchange station for local services from Stratford-upon-Avon and Cheltenham along with Worcester and Oxford.
One of the roughly half-yearly Network Rail test trains ran to Stratford-upon-Avon on Thursday 10 January 2013. On this occasion 2Q08 was formed of Sprinter unit 950001 so there were, naturally enough in this locomotive-obsessed hobby, no updates about its progress along the North Warwickshire Line from Tyseley to Stratford but it was a reasonable bet that it would run close to the booked times as it was scheduled to use platform 2 at the terminus and as this was occupied by a Chiltern Railways Marylebone service until 11.38 there was little chance of an early run. Here it is arriving at a gloomy and misty Stratford just about two minutes ahead of the booked time, having waited outside the station for 168216 to clear the line. I wonder if Network Rail buy the yellow bin liners to protect the couplers from winter weather especially to match their colour scheme?
The weather for 950001's visit to Stratford-upon-Avon on 10 January 2013 was dull in the extreme with a lot of mist and low cloud. If it had been brighter I would have had a drive out along the North Warwickshire Line but as it was virtually dark I just made the short walk from my home down to the station. The booked time for 2Q08's departure was 12.05 after an arrival at 11.41 and as it was getting quite cold I didn't hang about for a shot of it passing under the station bridge but made do with this static view alongside the rather unattractive but probably lucrative BT advertising hoarding on platform 2. After departure, the unit ran Hatton and back to Stratford before going to the West Midlands and visiting Round Oak and other Black Country locations.
Work on the new Stratford-upon-Avon Parkway station is continuing with progress on both the up and down sides of the line. This scene is from Monday 10 December 2012 amd shows 168002 passing the site with the 09.10 from Londson Marylebone. A lot of the area is quite heavily shadowed but there was a fairly clear patch in just the right place for a reasonable shot.
I hadn't planned to do any railway photography on Saturday 8 December 2012 because of a commitment with some of my wife's family but as we were walking to the station to catch a train to Birmingham the lunch appointment was cancelled because of someone suffering with a heavy cold. As the day was clear and sunny and with the prospect of a very unusual move on the Birmingham to Gloucester line I had a drive over to a farm crossing near Eckington. The first train to come along was FGW's 158955 leading a class 150/2. The top windows of the cab of 158955 appear to have been smashed and some black and yellow tape is holding things together on the left hand side.
I occasionally step onto the Stratford-upon-Avon just to take a record shot of day-to-day trains. This picture of 168107 waiting to leave Stratford as the 11.20 to London Marylebone was taken on Monday 29 October 2012 as I waited to catch the 11.27 to Birmingham. The next year or so will see a change to this viewpoint when a second bridge with lifts is installed to enable easier access to latforms 2 & 3 for disabled passengers. The fairing on 168107 is quite badly damaged, just as it was on 13 May 2011 when I photographed it at Knightcote, near Fenny Compton.
Test trains of one sort or another cover all railway lines in the UK on a regular basis. They add a bit of variety to the scene, none more so that Network Measurement Train which is formed of HST stock. I have a few photographs of the train but only one on the GWR Leamington Spa to Birmingham line in what could be regarded as perfect light so knowing that 1Q21 was running from London Paddington to Derby on the sunny afternoon of Friday 27 July 2012 was hopeful of increasing my stock. In the event the sky was rapidly becoming cloudy by 16.00 and with the train, led by power car 43062, on the way I wasn't hopeful. My pessimism was well founded and the train came around the bend at Hatton North Junction in quite poor light with just a suggestion of shadow showing on the ballast.
First Great Western has recently reintroduced class 180 Adelante trains to some of its Great Malvern and Worcester services. On 18 July 2012 a special train, 1Z28, using 180103 was run from Paddington to Evesham conveying invited guests and associated hangers-on to a ceremony at Moreton-in-Marsh. I decided to avoid Moreton as photographs of suits aren't really my thing so went to Evesham where the train would be clear of intrusive bodies. The weather was awful and I drove through an enormous thunderstorm on the way over which hadn't quite reached Evesham as I made the short walk from the nearby road. That soon changed and the storm was centred on Evesham station when the special arrived four minutes late with the rain bouncing off its roof. The station looks really attractive with all the hanging baskets and other flowers all around. The gentleman responsible for the displays, Bob Carr, was too busy trying to keep a flash flood out of the booking office to see 1Z28 arrive!
Another Adelante, 180108, was working 1P57 from Great Malvern to Paddington on 18 July 2012, and was due to pass 180103 at Evesham. The rain had become even heavier by the time it was due and I was glad to have been sheltering under the canopy on the up platform as it arrived. I deliberately used quite a slow shutter speed to accentuate the falling rain and quite like the result, something that I would miss out on if I shot only in three-quarter full sun. In the down platform, 180103 has just been given the green light to proceed as far as Evesham West Junction where the single line to Pershore and Norton Junction commences and where 1Z28 would reverse ready for the return journey.
I don't usually take multiple shots of a single train or working as the results often become tedious but the way that the weather was evolving at Evesham on 18 July 2012 made me hang around for longer than usual. After joining the up main line at Evesham West Junction 180103 stood in the up platform to await the booked departure time of 15.20. As it pulled into the up platform the sun was beginning to clear the scudding clouds in the background although the temporary stream passing through the booking office, despite Bob's best efforts, can be clearly seen on the down platform.
Just a couple of minutes before 1Z28's departure from Evesham on 18 July 2012 the sun finally broke through. The thunderstorm was still rumbling away in the background and rain was falling within a few hundred yards but even so, the hoped for rainbow didn't appear in the dark sky. Looking at this picture, I can't help but think that when new lighting and security cameras were put in place it would have been much nicer had some effort been made to make them a more attractive design such as has been done at Stratford-upon-Avon where a more traditional style resembling gas lamps has been used. Just for the record, here is a view of 180103 taken in 2007 near Norton Barracks during its first incarnation with FGW.
While at Norton Junction for a shot of the Royal Train on 11 July 2012, I took the opportunity for a photograph looking south as a FGW clas 165 came off the single line before making the final part of its journey to Worcester. The view here has also been compromised with largely unchecked undergrowth and the attractive signalbox is partly obscured. The unit, 165130, is about to pass over the boarded crossing used by the Norton Junction signaller if a token exchange is required here for the single line to Evesham. Another FGW train, running a little earlier is pictured here having passed the soon to be hidden bracket signal showing that the train is routed along the North Cotswold Line.
Chiltern Railways provide a service of sorts between Stratford-upon-Avon, Leamington Spa and London Marylebone. The trains are infrequent and at the time of writing in June 2012 about to be reduced in number as a current late night train is to be axed. The train in this photograph, formed of 165008, left Stratford at 13.06 and is here seen on 15 June 2012 approaching the stop at Hatton station. As the sun was behind some thick cloud it was possible to take a shot from the north side of the line which shows the layout of the line much better than the picture from the "sunny" side.
First Great Western has, with effect from 28 May 2012, started to use class 180 DMUs again on one of their Worcester to Great Malvern diagrams. The train selected was 1W29, the 11.21 from Paddington and the unit in use on the first day was the un-numbered 180103. It ran a little late and is here seen passing a milepost near Lower Moor between Evesham and Pershore telling us that it is 110.5 miles from London Paddington. The sky was mostly clear but there were some cumulus clouds building up in the area; luckily, these kept away from the sun while 1W29 came along. I have always liked these units and think that they look especially smart in the current FGW colour scheme.
During the afternoon of Saturday 26 May 2012 I was told that a DBS class 66 was hauling a steam locomotive, 6201, and support coach from Southall to Tyseley and that it would come to Stratford-upon-Avon to reverse as the turntable at Tyseley is too short for the particular class of locomotive in question. There is no way that I would have gone to photograph such a movement without the diesel locomotive on the front but thought that with the 66 a shot of the train arriving at Stratford in perfect afternoon light would be well worth the short walk from my home. Unfortunately, the trip down the branch from Hatton was missed out but as I was already in place I took a few shots of the usual fare to be seen at the station. This is 172333 arriving either on time at 17.21 or one hour late, with a train from Stourbridge Junction - the one due at 16.21 having failed to appear much to the irritation of the many unhappy campers on platform one waiting to go home after a sunny day in the town. Chiltern Railways' 168108 is in platform 2 waiting to form the 17.40 to London Marylebone.
London Midland's 172333 leaves platform 1 at Stratford-upon-Avon with the 17.26 to Stourbridge Junction with a double load of passengers after the previous train failed to turn up. This shot is due to change dramatically in 2013 when a second bridge, incorporating passenger lifts, is built between platforms 1 and 2 to facilitate the movement of any disabled passengers. At the moment, any such passengers in wheelchairs have to be escorted by a staff member to the end of platform 1 where a gate is unlocked to allow access to a flat crossing beyond the platforms. The gate on platform 2 has also to be unlocked; all in all quite a time-consuming procedure. Welcome though the new bridge will be from a humanitarian point of view, I doubt that it will quite as photogenic as the existing GWR structure which, although remaining, will be hidden from view at this end of the station.
My final photograph from Stratford-upon-Avon on the afternoon of 26 May 2012 shows 168108 preparing to leave the terminus with the 17.40 to London Marylebone. The Chiltern Railways service to and from Stratford is quite sparse but it is hoped that this may improve when the new and additional Parkway Station is built near the existing Bishopton Park & Ride facility. This, with its abundant parking and easy access should encourage more passengers to use the line and will hopefully allow the TOCs to put on mopre frequent trains running later into the evening.
For the third day in a row Friday 25 May 2012 was clear and sunny so in the afternoon I trekked over to Stourbridge Junction, largely to try out a new camera and lens combination. It's not possible to stand on the station here for many minutes without seeing one of London Midlands class 172 DMUs such id the frequency of the service during most of the day and this is 172344 arriving with a service heading for Worcester Shrub Hill. This line is due to be resignalled in August 2012 and I had assumed that the signalbox was to be demolished but was told that Chiltern Railways are to acquire it for use as a mess room for their staff.
First Great Western are planning to reintroduce class 180 DMUs on their London Paddington to Worcester services to replace the current class 165 and 166 units. The week commencing 20 May 2012 saw 180106, in the latest livery for the class, work ECS from Paddington to Worcester and back to familiarise drivers and guards with the stock. On 22 May I went over to Blackminster, a few miles to the east of Evesham, to obtain a shot of 5Z31 as it returned to the capital and the train is here seen accelerating towards Honeybourne and Oxford. I should like to have taken a photograph in a more recognisable location such as Evesham station but the sun would have been too straight at this time of day, just after 10.30.
First Great Western is to recommence using class 180 Adelante units on Worcester trains from the Spring timetable change. The first to appear on the North Cotswold Line was 180106 which ran from London Paddington to Worcester and back on Sunday 1 April 2012 to check clearances on the new platforms installed when parts of the line received double track. Because of my recent appointment as organist of a local church I wasn't able to see the down run but arrived at Evesham in plenty of time for the return, 5Z38, running in perfect light at the optimum time of day for the sun's direction. Things don't always go to plan and through a chain of events involving a late running Worcester-bound HST and a very speedy run by 180106, this unsatisfactory shot of 5Z38 passing Evesham station was the best I managed.
After a fairly dull start the morning of Thursday 8 March 2012 turned out, by 09.00, to be favoured with clear blue skies. I made my way over to the Worcester avoiding line and just after I had arrived 170106 came around the sweeping curve with an service probably going to Cardiff although I must admit that I can't be bothered to check the online timetable to find out the actual working. This version of the Arriva CrossCountry livery looks, to my eyes at least, quite reasonable in good light although the white panels on the sides of the coaches with the company's name do break up the tidy lines to some extent.
Class 172 DMUs have taken over from the older class 150s on the majority of suburban routes to and from Birmingham Snow Hill. I don't mind photographing these now and again and here is 172335 on 5 March 2012 at Bentley Heath crossing, near Dorridge, about to cross over to the bi-directional line which the majority of trains terminating at the station use. Dorridge is as far south as these units travel outside peak hours, the stations between here and Leamington Spa (Lapworth, Hatton and Warwick Town) relying on an hourly service from Chiltern Railways.
Most passenger trains on the Birmingham to Gloucester line are operated by CrossCountry Trains as shown here but those to and from Worcester and Great Malvern are run by First Great Western. Here is one of their class 158 units, 158798, passing Eckington with a service from Worcester to Weymouth. The vinyls on the sides of the coaches are formed of labels showing some of the destinations served by FGW.
Occasional test trains run to Stratford-upon-Avon and this one, 2Q08 from Tyseley to Derby, should have run a couple of weeks ago. At that time 950001, the Network Rail sprinter, wasn't operational due to an equipment failure and DRS 37s opertaing in top-and-tail mode were used on the previous day of the diagram. For reasons outwith my knowledge the train didn't run on the day it should have come to Stratford and so ran on 26 January 2011. The yellow sprinter was back in service by then and is here seen arriving at platform 2 of the terminus of the second of its two visits. It didn't stay long and before I had packed away my camera 172218 with another of the same type was arriving from Stourbridge Junction ready to form the 14.27 departure back to the West Midlands.
I quite like taking the odd picture of Chiltern Railways' units if the location and the sun are favourable. Here is 168005 about to leave the Stratford-upon-Avon branch at Hatton on 16 January 2012 forming the 11.40 departure from the terminus to either London Marylebone or Leamington Spa; I can't recall at the moment if this is one of the services that goes all the way or just forms a local making a connection for the capital and can't be bothered to look it up at the moment. The trees to the left of the train are a bit of a nuisance in the winter as they cast shadows over the main lines. Don't they restrict sighting for branch trains and need a good trim?!
It struck me on Sunday 15 January 2012, another completely sunny day, that I hadn't yet taken a photograph in good light of a class 172 DMU at Stratford-upon-Avon station. I therefore wandered down to the station to record the arrival of 172217 just after 14.00 when I knew that the light would be in just the right place. Here then is the train about to come to a stand in platform 1; a view that will change within a couple of years when a second bridge is constructed to accomodate a lift to facilitate the movement of disabled (and no doubt some lazy!) passengers to platforms 2 & 3. At the moment, anyone unable to used the stairs of the existing footbridge has to be escorted by station staff to the crossing seen at the end of the platforms where the gates need to unlocked. If the station is unmanned at the time, tough... These were the equivalent views on 27 November 2011 and 28 March 1990.
Friday 13 January 2012 wasn't especially unlucky as it turned out to be the first properly sunny day of the year. With this in mind I had a trip across to a spot near Eckington on the Birmingham to Cheltenham line with a view to photographing anything that came along. The first train to appear, just a few minutes after I had arrived, was 150102 which had recently been acquired by First Great Western after many years of working around the West Midlands on local services from Birmingham's stations. The train here seen heading south towards Ashchurch was going to Weymouth although I very much doubt that any passengers would be so indiscriminating as to travel for such a long journey in such an unsuitable mode of transport. These DMUs are just about all right for a short run of perhaps thirty minutes or so and I'm sure that most passengers from Great Malvern or Worcester use this service for just that purpose rather than the whole of the scheduled trip.
The afternoon of Sunday 30 October 2011 saw an unusual train at Hatton North Junction when a First Great Western HST set led by power car 43163 worked as 5E43 the 12.30 Old Oak Common to Ferme Park transfer, the set being hired by East Coast to fill a gap. Although the two depots are probably fewer than five miles apart as the crow flies HSTs are not permitted to work over certain London lines resulting in this move involving perhaps a couple of hundred of miles of travel. I had not previously seen a FGW train on this line, other than a pair of back-to-back power cars a few years ago so thought the trip worthwhile. The sun was behind thick cloud until 43163 passed Hatton North's favourite landmark, the rusty white shed, when it popped out. This meant a frantic effort on my part involving changing the zoom setting, focus and exposure in order to avoid having the leading power car and coach in shade whilst the rest of the set would have been in the sun. The shadow just in front of the train comes from a large nearby oak tree and the edge of the cloud was just in front of that. This explains to some degree the slight lack of sharpness evident in the picture. Running a few minutes ahead of 5E43 was the daily RHTT, formed on this occasion of DR98909. This is the first RHTT I have seen this year, as the other local lines are covered in the middle of the night.
This picture shows 150019 arriving at Stratford-upon-Avon from Stourbridge Junction at 17.20 on Saturday 22 October 2011 whilst an unidentified (which means I couldn't be bothered to have a look at the number!) class 168 waiting to leave in twenty minutes or so for London Marylebone. I thought that it was worth recording this everyday scene because the class 150 DMUs won't be working around for much longer as new class 172s gradually come on stream giving North Warwickshire Line passengers some much needed relief from the grubby and uncomfortable older units. Incidentally, I suppose that some will be dubbing the 150s "Heritage Units" before much longer in the way that everything more than 10 years old on the railway now seems to be called that these days.
Most of the passenger trains on the GWR route from Leamington Spa to Birmingham are formed of Chiltern Railways' class 168 units but examples of class 165 do turn up, especially on the shuttles between Leamington and Stratford-upon-Avon. This unit, 165016, is heading for Stratford on 30 September 2011 and will have just received some adverse signals telling the driver that he is be turned off the down main line and into the branch platform at Hatton station. Arriva CrossCountry trains also use this route and here is 221132 on its way to Manchester. I was expecting a four coach unit, hence the back of the train being partly hidden in the adjacent undergrowth.
London Midland's new class 172 DMUs have been running from Stourbridge Junction to Stratford-upon-Avon for a couple of weeks so I thought it high time that I went out and took a shot or two when a sunny afternoon came along. The sky was reasonably clear at 14.45 on Friday 23 September 2011 so I drove over to Henley-in-Arden to photograph the 13.55 from Stourbridge. Just before the train was due a cloud blew across the sun and hung around as 172337 drew to a stop in the platform. Fortunately, it largely cleared just as the train moved away towards Stratford and although this shot isn't quite what I had planned the light was perfectly acceptable.
Honeybourne station has recently seen the most radical changes to its track layout since the North Cotswold Line was singled. A new up platform has been constructed along with, obviously, a newly relaid up line. I have been waiting for a decently sunny day to photograph a train using the new facilites since the platform opened on 22 August 2011 and an opportunity presented itself on Friday 2 September. Here is FGW's 166210 standing in platform 2 with a train bound for London Paddington while a single passenger makes his way to the new and very substantially built footbridge which has been designed both with steps and ramps to allow access by able bodied and disabled or infirm passengers. This picture isn't quite as sharp as I should have liked as, much to my embarrassment, there was a large set of greasy fingerprints on the lens filter which I must have touched at some point over the past few days. A gentle rub with a lens tissue sorted that out...
The first run of a class 172 DMU to Stratford-upon-Avon with passengers on board took place on Tuesday 30 August 2011 when London Midland gave its staff, friends and families the chance for a run from Birmingham Snow Hill before the new trains enter service from 5 September. Here is 172345 arriving at the terminus's platform 1 spot on time at 10.30 with the first run of the day which didn't seem to have generated a lot of enthusiasm amongst those eligible to travel; I doubt that there were more than a dozen or so passengers on board although there was a second run at lunchtime with a much longer layover at Stratford which may have been more interesting to potential passengers . The view from this footbridge has changed a little in the last twenty-odd years; here is a picture of a class 114 unit taken in 1990.
The first passenger carrying class 172 to visit Stratford-upon-Avon had a break of around twenty minutes before returning to Birmingham Snow Hill. This gave the passengers the chance to visit the coffee shop and other facilities on the platform and for the crew to record the event. The driver of 172345 poses for a photograph beside his cab before returning north on 30 August 2011. There have been almost daily mileage accumulation runs of these units to Stratford for some time now and it is is good to be able to take a few photographs while they still are clean and shiny. My final picture of 172345 was taken as it left the station, passing the new London Midland station sign and running-in board.
As I mentioned above, there have been many mileage accumulation runs of class 172 DMUs to Stratford-upon-Avon. Just after the first passenger carrying train had left the station two twin coach sets, 172211 + 172213, ran in on a such a duty. All the other units of the type that I have seen have been three coach sets and having differing capacities will enhance the flexibility of the type in commuter and outer suburban use as they can be couple into various formations. This train stayed in platform 1 for about fifteen minutes and is seen again just prior to departure along the North Warwickshire Line to Tyseley.
I was just about to make a pot of coffee at around 10.15 on 3 August 2011 when I received a text message from a friend in the Birminhgam area saying that a pair of class 172 DMUs were heading towards Stratford-upon-Avon on a mileage accumuculation run. I hadn't taken many photographs of these new units in the sun so as the weather looked good I made the short journey to Edstone aqueduct. The train appeared about at the time expected formed of 172340 + 172339, both units now fitted with their seats. The new trains were introduced to the press a day or two earlier and I imagine that they made a better impression than the class 150s widely used in the area at the moment.
The last day of June 2011 was notable in railway terms for the running of a charter train from Stratford-upon-Avon to Edinburgh. Inward charters are relatively frequent but it is unusual for one to commence at the terminus and even with a departure time of before 06.00 I was keen to obtain a photograph if the weather was half decent. It was more than half decent so I drove to Wilmcote and then had a very pleasant fifteen minute walk along the canal towing path to a foot crossing over the railway about half way to Bearley Junction. First along was a pair of Chiltern Railways units, led by 168005, heading for Stratford. I can't remember whether this runs as an advertised service or ECS but I do know that it is the only scheduled train that runs from Birminhgam via Hatton North and West Junctions and is here seen accelerating away from Bearley Junction.
Chiltern Railways are planning to operate some of their inner suburban services with new class 172/1 multiple units. In connection with this, 172104 ran from Derby to Marylebone (via St Albans) and back on Monday 16 May 2010. The train, 5Z74, the front end of which bears more than a passing resemblance to one of the company's class 168 units, is here seen climbing Hatton Bank spot on time and no more than a minute or so before the rapidly increasing cloud cover became a nuisance.
The view looking south from the occupation bridge at Knightcote towards Fenny Compton is seen much less frequently than that from the other side, probably because the sun is "off the front", as some say, not much after 08.30 in the morning. To redress the balance a little here is Chilern Railways' 168111 heading north towards Leamington Spa with a Marylebone to Birmingham service on the morning of Friday 13 May 2011. The train to Kineton COD, 6M19, obviously followed the DMU as it was audible, althougb hidden by the background trees, as it ran along the branch towards its destination.
By the time that 168107 came south from Birminhgam towards Fenny Compton on 13 May 2011, the shadows across the track had virtually cleared with just a few vestiges left on the wheels of the DMU. This is a very pleasant rural location with little noise other than a distant rumble from the M40 if the wind is in the wrong direction. It's not the sort of place I tend to visit very often because it is a little anonymous but now and again it does make for a nice change, especially for up trains, in the earlier part of the morning.
The spell of warm and sunny weather continued on 3 May 2011 so, with a few freights scheduled to appear on the GWR Birmingham to Leamington Spa line, I went to a location just north of Hatton North Junction. It's a pleasant spot which rarely sees any other people unless a kettle is around but I still don't visit it very often as it doesn't have enough identity for my taste. Still, on a sunny day it makes for an attractive picture and first along was Chiltern Railway's 168110 heading towards Leamington Spa and London Marylebone. I quite like these units and their predominantly white colour scheme shows up well against almost any background, snow excepted.
Before going home on 27 April 2011 after photographing 31602 I decided to wait for a few minutes so as to photograph a FGW HST climbing away from Honeybourne and up towards Moreton-in-Marsh. In the fairly still Spring air the train, led by power car 43187 was audible for some time, although not quite as loud as a GWR Castle would have been some 40 years ago! The newly laid down track is now in place although not yet in use and the recently cleared undergrowth to the left of the train is growing up again at quite a rate. I don't imagine that it will be long before the up photograph is once again obscured as it was for many years before the recent work took place.
The New Measurement Train did a return run over the North Cotswold Line on Thursday 21 April 2011. Running as 1Z15 09.00 Derby to Derby via Oxford the train, topped and tailed by power cars 43013 + 43062, is here seen a few minutes after leaving Evesham and just before crossing the Blackminster Road level crossing. The newly laid but still uncommissioned down track with its clean new ballast is in the foreground of the picture and the misty background is partly the result of the high pressure weather system over the most of the country and partly because a smallholder had just lit a bonfire in an adjacent field. The new track has been laid on both sides of the crossing behind the camera but the major work needed to put it across the road itself has still to be done, as can just be made out in this photograph of FGW 166219 heading towards Evesham, Worcester Foregate Street and Great Malvern.
The GWR line between Birmingham and Leamington Spa sees regular passenger traffic from both Chiltern Railways and Arriva CrossCountry. An example of each is seen in this picture taken near Wawick on 19 April 2011 as 165021 heads towards Leamington with a Moor Street to London Marylebone service and a Voyager heads north with a Reading to Manchester train. The trees on the left are a bit intrusive but I have been to my usual haunts around Hatton far too often recently so thought that a change was about due.
The Network Rail New Measurement Train runs along the Birmingham to Leamington Spa quite regularly but a southbound run in the early afternoon is unusual so I took the chance on 23 March 2011 to try for a well lit photograph at hatton North Junction. The train, 1Q16 from Derby to Old Oak Common, was led by a newly repainted power car which was yet to receive any branding or, I think, numbers. There are many lineside trees at this location and it is difficult to avoid a picture with shadows over part of the train but I still think that this is an atractive spot with refreshingly few passers-by enquiring if a steam train is coming...
The class 172 mileage accumulation runs continued on 16 and 17 March 2011 with 172332 working with GBRf crews between Tyseley and Stratford-upon-Avon. The sky began to clear at lunchtime on 17 March so I thought that a sunny shot of the new unit might be possible, unlike the one that I had taken earlier in the day at Edstone, just north of Bearley Junction when the preceding class 150 was in perfect light but the 172 managed to come in a thick bank of low cloud blowing in from the west. My afternoon shot was at Henley-in-Arden where the sun was perhaps a little too straight at that time but just about about acceptable, especially when compared with my earlier efforts.
London Midland, who operate the suburban railway services throughout the West Midlands, are soon to replace their ageing and increasingly decrepit class 150 DMUs with new class 172/3 units. One of these, 172332 visited Stratford-upon-Avon for, I think, the first time on 15 March 2011 on a mileage accumulation and test run. The train is here seen arriving into platform 2 at Stratford as the usual arrival platform for trains from Birmingham, No.1, was under possession by a gang carrying out refurbishment work on the canopy. It is only within the past few months that train have been able to run directly into platforms 2 and 3, the required work having been carried out when the resignalling of the whole line took place late in 2010. It's a pity that the sun wasn't out at the time because it would have been in the perfect place for this move.
There was a turnround time of about ten minutes at Stratford-upon-Avon for 172332 before it retraced its tracks over the North Warwickshire Line to Tyseley, the main London Midland depot for the area. Here it is leaving the terminus with evidence of the work being carried out to the platform canopy and GWR footbridge, the latter having required the construction of a temporary footbridge so that passengers can access platforms 2 and 3. The corridor connection to be used when units are coupled will make revenue protection easier for the on-train staff and will generally increase the flexibility of the trains when compared to the existing class 150 DMUs.
Once 172332, as shown in the two pictures above, had returned to Tyseley on 15 March 2011 it was sent on another trip to Stratford-upon-Avon. The new unit is here seen passing Wilmcote station with its distinctive GWR footbridge and buildings before dropping down the 1/75 of Wilmcote Bank before having to wait outside the terminus for the 13.27 from Stratford to Stourbridge Junction to clear the crossover. The return of 172332 happened in an unfortunate patch of bright sunshine; unfortunate because at this time of day it is in exactly the wrong place for photography so I didn't bother with another picture.
The Cotswold Line, between Oxford and Worcester, is currently undergoing a lot of change as much of the single track is replaced with double in order to improve timekeeping. The secton of line between Moreton-in-Marsh and Evesham is due to be doubled although there is, is mid-March 2011, little sign of much happening; the work currently being concentrated on the more southerly area, south of Moreton. One of the level crossings that will have to be adapted for double track is that at Littleton and Badsey, visible in the background of this photograph taken on 14 March 2011 as 165111 heads towards Evesham, Worcester and Great Malvern. The GWR station here was on the far side of the Blackminster Road, although a goods yard was situated where the scrapyard dealing with defunct cars is now to be found.
Tuesday 8 March 2011 was the second sunny day in a row for which I was free to take whatever photographs took my fancy. I knew that Chiltern Railways were running crew familiarisation trains using 67013, a five coach and DVT with the first run, 5Z50, scheduled to leave Birmingham Moor Street at 09.43. As the sun would be in just the right spot at Hatton Station Junction at about 10.20 I went there, arriving just in time to take this shot of 168214 leaving the Stratford-upon-Avon branch as the 09.35 from the terminus to London Marylebone. Much as I like seeing trees around the countryside I do wish that Network Rail would decide that the one doing its best to hide the third coach were too close to the line and remove it.
The weather forecast for Monday 7 March 2011 was for blue skies and unbroken sunshine in the area south of Birmingham. With this in mind I went to Bentley Heath crossing, just north of Dorridge station, with the intention of taking whatever came along. I no longer go out for ordinary or scheduled traffic such as Freightlineers if the conditions aren't close to perfect as I won't achieve anything that I haven't bettered on a previous occasion. However, when the light is as good as it was on this day I will happily take anything and just as I arrived on the footbridge 150005 with 153325 tagged on the back came south forming a train due to terminate at Dorridge. These DMUs won't be around for ever as London Midland are due to take on a fleet of much more comfortable class 172/3 units so it does no harm to have a few record shots in the bag. The light was still a little too straight but the inclusion of the 153 in the formation made the shot worthwhile.
The local trains to be found on the Brimingham Snow Hill to Dorridge line aften give the chance to photograph some colourful combinations, none more so than this blue and green medley, with 150132 leading, on the approach to the crossover giving access to the local platform at Dorridge station on 7 March 2011. I'm generally not much of a fan of ground level shots but I do quite like the picture here, taken from the fence alongside the road as the train passes under the footbridge from which the previous photograph was taken.
First Great Western are currently hiring an Arriva class 150 on a day-by-day basis to cover one of their diagrams to Great Malvern. Here is 150242 passing Croome Perry at about 13.15 on 3 February 2011 with a train from Malvern heading south. I'm always happy to photograph DMUs especially when an example in an unusual colour scheme for the area. The blue grids covering the lineside drains are a bit of a distraction here but at least, in this photograph, they nearly match the train's colour.
Arriva CrossCountry's HSTs still make welcome appearances on the NE - SW corridor, providing decent accomodation for passengers in stark contrast to their Voyager fleet with their noisy, cramped, vibrating environment and poorly positioned seating. On 3 February 2011 power car 43366 led the 06.32 Dundee to Plymouth service, 1V39, through Croome Perry wood a couple fo miles south of Abbotswood Junction. This was the second such train I photographed during my short session here but the earlier one was not as well lit as this which ran about ninety minutes earlier when the sun's direction was less favourable.
Following work to renew the station roof at Stratford-upon-Avon, attention has now switched to refurbishing the Great Western footbridge. So that this can be carried out without closing platforms 2 & 3, a temporary footbridge is in the process of being installed. On 18 January 2010 I wandered down for a look and arrived just in time to photograph the arrival of 150010 as it was about to pass under the new bridge which was having the final touches applied.
The original Great Western bridge, whilst still in use on 18 January 2010, was shrouded in plastic sheeting ready for, presumably, the metalwork to be shot-blasted before repainting. It isn't hard to see that the woodwork will need quite a bit of remedial work as much of it, particularly at ground level, has become quite rotten. Here, 150010 is leaving the station as the 13.27 to Stourbridge Junction.
This photograph and the one following were taken at Banbury on 25 January 1986. At the time, there was no fence obscuring the view from the trackside just to the south of platforms and no-one seemed to mind if one stood there to take pictures. It was, of course, the ideal spot on a sunny Saturday afternoon when there was quite a variety of movements, both unit and locomotive hauled. This shot shows a pair of single unit "bubble cars" leaving the main line platform at Banbury on their way to Oxford as an all stations stopping service.
In contrast to the picture above, this one shows a four car DMMU leaving Banbury station's platform 1 for London Marylebone. The scene here has changed in the intervening years but not as much as one might expect. The signal controlling this train's departure is still in the same place but the starter for platform 2 is now a three aspect electric variety whilst the lower quadrant signal operating the up loop has been moved a few yards further south. The clock just visible alongside the taller of the two starters, very much a Great Central feature rather than Great Western, has gone as has its counterpart at the north end of platform 3. One of the main changes is the recent, at the beginning of 2011, appearance of two new lower quadrant signals at the south end of platform 2, not to mention the erection of a row of portacabins just about where I was standing on 25 January 1986.
Banbury station has recently seen a couple of very unusual new arrivals in the form of two new signals operating in the lower quadrant intended to faciliate the reversal of First Great Western HSTs diverted from their usual route because of major engineering work at Reading station. Network Rail must have dug deep into their spares cupboard to find the necessary hardware, including the finials, and the result is pleasing for those, me included, who like semaphore signalling especially those following the Great Western pattern. I wanted a shot or two of the signals and because of their position in relatiion to the sun's position, needed a cloudy day. January 1, 2011, was exceptionally dull with a nasty drizzle falling on the way up the M40, although it has cleared a little by the time that I had reached Banbury. The first train to appear was 168219 on a Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill service and this is seen entering the station with the new equipment alongside.
The first of the diverted FGW HSTs that I photographed on 1 January 2011 was led into Banbury by power car 43069 and is here seen about to enter the down loop prior to reversal amidst a lot of recently erected lineside clutter in the form of communication antennae. These trains, the details of which I couldn't be bothered to find out, ran in the down direction from Paddington to Banbury via the Chiltern Line and then onwards via Oxford and Didcot West Curve to regain their normal route, up trains following the reverse procedure. To be quite honest, I probably wouldn't have made a lot of effort for these diversions had it not been for the new signalling arrangements at Banbury, especially in such awful light.Having said that, when another possession takes place later in the year and in decent sun, a shot or two on the Chiltern Line itself, in particular in and around some of the stations, will be on my "to do" list.
As I mentioned above, the diverted HSTs ran along the down loop at Banbury, where the crew changed ends before taking their train back towards Aynho Junction. The exit from this loop is protected by an earlier example of a lower quadrant signal from Western Region times, this having replaced the original Great Western structure at some point in the 1960s. The light was truly dreadful as this train stood waiting for the Arrival CrossCountry Voyager to get out of the way but even so, I think that this wide-angle view was worth the effort. The conductor of the FGW train can just be made out ensuring that passengers, of which there were very few, neither joined or left the train here.
When the trains were ready for departure from Banbury's down loop, the appropriate signal was pulled off to give it the road from there onto the up main line. The new signal replaced a disc used for shunting Chiltern terminating services and therefore has a long term future here even when the diversions for which it was put into place have finished. Here, power car 43023 is seen at the rear of the train as it pulls forward on the down main line before crossing onto the up line and heading south either to the Chiltern Line or Oxford.
Not all of the diverted HSTs used the loop at Banbury for reversal. Here is power car 43135 standing in platform 3 ready to head south as a member of staff gives the right-away after checking that no passengers have made unauthorised entrances or exits from the train. This wrong-road procedure is facilitated by the new signals just off the plaform end, the right-hand of which is pulled off in this shot of the train moving away. The picture is unfortunately a bit blurred as I sneezed at the precise moment that I pressed the shutter release...
After a cloudy start the afternoon of Wednesday 8 December 2010 was one of those when the light was perfect. The latest class 60 to casue widespread fuss is 60099 which has received the house colours of Tata, the Indian steel company that now seems to operate much of the world's steel industry. I should quite like a picture of the locomotive before it expires and without having to make any real effort such as driving half-way across the country, so with it being scheduled to work 6E55, the Theale to Lindsey empty oil tanks which left Theale close to an hour early, I thought that a chance might present itself. I reckoned without the seemingly dogmatic approach of Reading signalling panel whose determination not to allow any freight to run earlier than its booked path is legendary. It seemed particularly bloody-minded today when an available path caused by the non-running of 6M22, the Westbury to Stud Farm stone empties, might easily have been used. The upshot was that this picture of 168218 leaving Warwick Parkway was the only northbound train to appear in the perfect light. My only other shot was of 66403 on a very late 6O96, the GBRf operated 10.25 Mountsorrel to Eastleigh Virtual Quarry loaded ballast train. I wouln't normally take such a picture but a class 66 in the DRS livery of its former leaser is rare on this line.
Having spent a few minutes at Hatton over lunchtime on 23 November 2010 I returned home via Wilmcote and dropped into the station there just in time to take a photograph of the daily Rail Head Treatment Train which runs down and up the North Warwickshire Line. I knew that shadows from trees in the garden of the old station house would be a problem but thought that there might just be a clear enough patch of sun in the middle of the platform. There was, just, as DR 98958 led the formation south towards Stratford-upon-Avon and I think that the spray of water from the middle of the train just catches enough light to be an effective highlight.
Given that Tuesday 16 November 2010 started with freezing temperatures and thick fog I didn't expect to see a lot of sun but the fog lifted well before lunchtime leaving a beautifully clear blue sky. That being so, I wandered down to Stratford-upon-Avon station just as the 13.27 DMU to Stourbridge Junction was leaving, in the hope of getting a couple of shots of the day's RHTT arriving. It ran much earlier than the previous day and sprayed its way into the platform just five minutes later at 13.32; a contrast to the day before when it didn't pass Edstone Aqueduct until 13.40. I was pleased to still see a bit of Autumnal colour in the Silver Birch tree adjacent to platform 1 as was half expecting the leaves to have blown off before now.
It is hard to resist a few shots of any train standing in perfect light so I just had to take another view of DR98909 as it stood under Stratford-upon-Avon's footbridge on 16 November 2010. By now, the new LED signal at the other end of the platform had cleared and it was only a few seconds before the driver of the RHTT sounded its horn to warn a p-way gang that he was about to head their way and then back to the Birmingham area via Henley-in-Arden and Shirley.
Monday 15 November 2010 was another of those beautiful days with clear winter sunshine. Whilst I quite wanted to take a couple of pictures I couldn't be bothered to travel far so just went a few miles from home to the aqueduct at Edstone, on the North Warwickshire Line with the aim of getting a shot of RHTT. Running in front of the MPV set was 150005 on a Stourbridge Junction to Stratford-upon-Avon train which is here seen having just passed a new signal put in place during the recent extensive engineering work on the line.
This picture of the North Warwickshire Line RHTT is taken from exactly the same spot on the towing path at Edstone Aqueduct as that of 150005 shown above but with a much wider angle lens. The two MPVs with 98908 leading are on the run down to Bearley Junction and then Stratford-upon-Avon on 15 November 2010. There are still some Autumnal colours around here although some very strong winds over the preceding weekend removed vast numbers of leaves from trees around here and thus marked an end to one of the most colourful seasons that I can remember.
Following the radical changes of recent days to the scene around Henley-in-Arden I thought that I may as well wait for a day with some decent light before going back once to obtain a picture of the area just north of the station where the signalbox and associated semaphores used to be. Wednesday 10 October 2010 was such a day so I planned to go and have a shot of the 13.05 arrival from Stourbridge Junction. Here then is 150019 about to pass the patch of bare earth occupied by a the signalbox for over 100 years and no doubt even this patch will soon be indistinguishable from the rest of the surrounding vegetation.
A Rail Head Treatment Train is booked to follow the DMU in the picture above down the North Warwickshire Line. Sure enough, about 25 minutes later I heard the hissing and rattling as DR98909 led the MPV formation towards Henley-in-Arden. Shadows from the trees on the left of the station had begun to encroach on the tracks through the platform but the main part of the scene was in the beautiful sun that had followed a cloudy start on 11 November 2010.
During the afternoon of 25 October 2010 I had a quick trip around the Wilmcote, Edstone, Wootton Wawen and Henley-in-Arden area to see if I could find any of the engineering trains on the North Warwickshire Line. All that was visible from public vantage points was the back of a ballast train just to the south of Edstone Aqueduct so after not photographing that I went to Henley and found this road-rail vehicle loading some redundant material from the lineside adjacent to the signalbox. The inside of the 'box was being stripped of anything either reusable or valuable before demolition. A large lorry with a skip and hydraulic crane was in the car park at the south end of the station and here is a picture after the road-rail vehicle has unloaded its scrap, including the upper quadrant down outer home signal which was situated a few hundred yards to the north of the signalbox. Note that the new LED signal operated by from Landor Street is illuminated.
The weekend commencing 24 October 2010 saw the closure of the North Warwickshire Line for the thick end of one week while the semaphore signalling was removed and some track remodelling took place. I have long had a fondness for the line and its infrastructure despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that no locomotive hauled trains are scheduled to run along it. The sole remaining lower quadrant signal between Bearley Junction and Tyseley was to be found just to the north of Henley-in-Arden station and here is a picture of 150011 passing it on Friday 21 October as it slows for the Henley stop with an afternoon train from Stourbridge Junction to Stratford-upon-Avon. The shot I actually wanted would have been taken just before the unit passed the upper quadrant signal visible over the middle coach but the undergrowth was just too obtrusive; much worse than that visible over the front of the class 150. Conventional stepladders wouldn't have been much help as the ground on this public footpath was too soft and uneven for them to be safely used.
This is the view looking towards Henley-in-Arden using the lower quadrant advance starter as a photographic prop on 22 October 2010. The train is the Rail Head Treatment MPV set used to blast leaf debris from the line and apply a layer of sandite material to give enhanced grip. It is fortunate that the ash tree just inside the fence had lost most of its leaves during the preceding few days of the shot would have had even more vegetation obscuring DR98959 than was already the case. It's a shame that the signal's finial had been removed as semaphores with them just don't look right but sadly, there were very few left along this stretch of line. The RHTT had been standing in the station for around 15 minutes waiting for a path back along the section of line to Shirley, the next block section, as 150005 forming the 14.27 Stratford-upon-Avon to Stourbridge Junction was occupying the line. The MPV had previously run to Stratford-upon-Avon with DR98909 leading.
This picture shows 150011 approaching the stop at Henley-in-Arden station on 22 October 2010 with the 15.27 from Stratford-upon-Avon. It is passing the two semaphore signals at this end of the station and is kicking up quite a cloud of sandite material; being the first train to run over the up line since the RHTT shown above had passed. The replacement LED signal on its heavily engineered gantry is also in view; functional no doubt, but not quite as photogenic. The light picked up a little as 150011 pulled away from the station and ran past the two signals at the north end of the platforms.
If anyone actually looks at my DMU pictures then they won't be surprised to see yet another version of this shot at Henley-in-Arden. My excuse this time is that this is last photograph with active semaphores and signalbox that I took as the 'box was due to be closed and signals taken down within a few hours of this being taken on 22 October 2010. The advantage of the new signalling régime will much be the potential for more frequent services between Stratford-ipon-Avon and Birmingham although it is unclear at the time of writing if anything of this sort is even in the planning stages of being planned... Here is the same unit, 150049 passing the much less frequently starting signal at the south end of the station.
I have always had a soft spot for the single unit "bubble" cars that used to work branch lines; indeed my first ever train ride was in one of these when they worked the Stratford-upon-Avon to Leamington Spa shuttles. One of the remaining class 121 units in still in regular service for Chiltern Railways and 121020 was booked to run from Aylesbury to Kidderminster (SVR) on Thursday 7 October 2010 where it is due to perform at a gala over the coming weekend. I think that the blue colour scheme carried by this unit is most attractive so went to a bubble-sized spot on Hatton Bank where I knew that the sun would be in just the right direction at a little over 14.00. Just after I arrived, 66154 ran into the Down Goods Loop with 6M48, the 10.02 Southampton to Bescot loaded train of Ford cars. I took this to mean that 55020 was close behind and indeed, it appeared no more than two minutes later.
This is a picture that at first glance looks quite ordinary but is actually quite unusual. It shows Chiltern Railway's 168108 on Saturday 2 October 2010 shortly after leaving Hatton station and heading for Birmingham, but having run via the Stratford branch platform and using the spur normally used only by freight trains which have been looped and not turned out onto the down main line by the crossover just south of the station. I can only assume that 168108 was a stopper from Oxford, the Chiltern Line being under an engineering possession, booked to call at Hatton, but through late runnng was put into the branch platform to allow an Arriva CrossCountry service to pass without meeting too much delay.
After a dull and foggy start, the morning of 30 September 2010 became clear and sunny and after reading that there was a 5Z37 10.22 Tyseley to Southall ECS I went across to the footbridge just south of Hatton cutting for a photograph of it. First along was 168214 on a Brimingham Snow Hill to London Marylebone service which, in perfect light, was well worth a shot. Unfortunately, the ECS was, according to a message posted from the Birmingham area, just a single coach hauled by WCRC's 37685 and I really cannot pretend to have a lot of interest in such short formations, less interesting even than a nuclear flask train and this, taken in my garden shed at the weekend. I left before it arrived, just catching a glimpse from the field near to the Hatton Locks car park. A shame, as a full length set of coaches would have looked good on such a nice day.
Continuing my photographic efforts along the North Warwickshire Line, the afternoon of 1 September 2010 saw me at Henley-in Arden. The shot that I had had in mind wasn't available because of a lot of tall grass and will need some substantial steps to achieve. I had left myself enough time to get back to the station footbridge in case something was wrong further along the line and I arrived back with a few minutes to spare before 150011 passed the signalbox and upper quadrant semaphores on its way to Stratford-upon-Avon from Stourbridge Junction. The signals and 'box, of course, are due for demolition within a few weeks and although I have plenty of shots taken from this exact spot, I felt that another in perfect late summer light wouldn't go amiss. Many people will disagree, but I feel that a scene like this on a country railway has far more to commend it than yet another picture of a class 60 on an oil train or a class 66 on an intermodal on an anonymous piece of main line, especially when the scene is about to change for the worse.
The North Warwickshire Line, from Tyseley to Stratford-upon-Avon, is in the throes of radical change. The remaining areas of semaphore signalling at Shirley, Henley-in-Arden and Bearley Junction are soon to be removed and the associated signal boxes demolished. The final dates for the 'boxes have now been set and I decided that it was time I went to Shirley to record a few scenes before all is changed. Bearing in mind the disappointing summer we have endured and that there's no point in going for an early afternoon shot much before the middle of August as the sun is too high, it was the last day of that month before I had about 90 minutes of decent light at the right time. Here is 150108 slowing to stop at Shirley station where the train will terminate before crossing over to the up line and returning to Kidderminster. The signalbox has been beautifully decorated by the resident signaller with a variety of plants, including this sunflower, for its final summer.
I have always thought that there is a lot more to railways than simply photographing locomotive-hauled trains on the main line as there is rarely much infrastructure of any interest on such lines and those who ignore the byways with some historical artefacts miss out. This is the 1907-built GWR signalbox at Shirley on 31 August 2010, just a matter of weeks before its demolition is scheduled. I understand that there was, until recently, some hope that if may have been preserved and used as office accomodation by London Midland but the plans have fallen through and a fairly rare surviving of a platform located 'box will be lost. Just to the Birmingham side of this scene is a short siding, these days used only very occasionally in the event of a unit failure but in busier days was used in the peak hours to stable a unit. Even further back in time there was a goods yard and shed in what is now the builders' merchant immediately behind the 'box. Here is an earlier shot of 150014 taken from the steps of the signalbox on a very wet day.
There is a twenty minute frequency passenger service to Shirley, where the trains currently terminate before leaving the station under the control of the upper quadrant starting signal and using the crossover to regain the up line before returning to Birmingham. The light was a little too straight for the picture of 150010 and in completely the wrong place for the linked picture of it about to crossover but I do, at least, have a record of the signals. Once the resignalling has been completed the trains currently terminating at Shirley on to the next station, Whitlocks End, where a new crossover will be installed. Quite why this extra movement was deemed necessary is unclear; I would have thought that a simpler option could have been developed which didn't need a seemingly wasteful move.
The crossover mentioned in the caption to the picture shown above is being used here by 150011 as it regains the up line at Shirley before it froms the 14.22 to Worcester Foregate Street on 31 August 2010. A lot of the ironwork in the picture looks as if it is ready for a good rub-down and new coat of paint. I wonder if this will happen when the forthcoming major possession is underway? Both the starting signal and ground dummy on the left of the train will be removed and the former's replacement is just visible by the DMU's roof. The ground signal will not be replaced as the crossover will be resited to Whitlocks End, the next station to the south. Just before leaving Shirley I took this picture of 150108 leaving for Kidderminster, largely so that I had a record of the outer starting signal with a train passing by. The longest lens that I had with with me was a 150mm example which wasn't, unfortunately, quite long enough for the job.
I had gone by train to Shirley for the pictures in the sequence above because there is rarely anywhere to park a car in the nearby area and travelled back to Stratford -upon-Avon on 150015. This is here seen amidst the faded Buddleia (Scrophulariaceae, a member of the figwort family) spikes from the Alcester road overbridge about to depart as the 15.27 to Stourbridge Junction. A chunk of plaster render has recently fallen off the station wall adjacent to the car rental company's office. How long will that stay unrepaired?
Chiltern Railways' class 168 make almost daily appearances at Stratford-upon-Avon, after a period when class 165 were exclusively found on the Birmingham Snow Hill services. On Saturday 14 August I happened to be walking past the station as 168112 was about to shunt across to platform 3 after arriving as the 13.53 from the London terminus. I had my Canon compact camera in my pocket and was attracted to the picture by the dark sky which was rapidly approaching with the odd flash of lightning warning of an imminent thunderstorm. In the event this didn't really materialise to any extent and I made it home without the soaking that I expected.
One of the regular but infrequent test trains to visit the terminus at Stratford-upon-Avon ran on Friday 28 May 2010. This time it was formed of the Network Rail class 150 DMU 950001, was allocated the headcode 2Q08 and was due in at 08.53. It ran just about an hour late and is here seen leaving platform 1 en-route to Hatton where it was to reverse, return to Stratford and then head off back towards Birmingham. There are few photographic opportunities at Stratford station on a sunny morning; some cloud being welcome as it offers a bit more flexibility. The arrival managed to avoid the sun so I was able to take a shot from the footbridge. My thanks to David Weake for the information and updates on this working.
This week has been "Week 1" of the NMT HST's regular schedule so it was due to run as 1Z21 from Paddington to Derby on 23 April 2010. For a change the light was spot on for this train and this shot is, I think, my first on the NMT on this line in anything approaching perfect conditions. The power cars were 43013 and 43062 and the bright ensemble is seen rounding the curve at Hatton North Junction on the final leg of the journey to its home at RTC Derby.
Just before going home from Budbrooke on 21 April 2010 I hung on for a few minutes until a northbound Chiltern Railways' train came along so that I could try out this shot that I've had in mind for a little while. The unidentified class 165 has just left Warwick Parkway station and is passing a field adjacent to St. Michael's church who no doubt used the cross during their Easter celebrations a few weeks ago.
There is a frequent passenger along the GWR line between Leamington Spa and Birmingham, most of which is formed of Chiltern Railways' class 168 units. Here is 168111 shortly after leaving Warwick Parkway station en-route to Birmingham Snow Hill on 9 April 2010. Although I quite enjoy a session photographing multiple units once in a while, it is a shame that no locomotive hauled passenger trains use this route on a regular basis; the WSMR services, with the exception of the 11.20 departure from Marylebone to Wrexham for which the sun is unfavourable, now all run via Coventry. Arriva CrossCountry do have a presence on the line with an hourly service to Birmingham New Street, and an unidentifiable class 220 is here seen running north up Hatton Bank shortly before 168111.
The remaining pockets of semaphore signalling in Warwickshire are scheduled for replacement in the Autumn of 2010 when control of the North Warwickshire Line is transferred to Landor Street Junction Panel. The nearest signals to my home are those at Bearley Junction and as Monday 8 March 2010 was clear and sunny I made up my mind to go and take a few shots from a couple of the foot crossings between there and Wilmcote. For reasons involving a sheep, a muddy, icy and slippery canal bank and the RSPCA I ended up at a crossing further north than I had intended for my first shots with the result that the sun wasn't quite as far round as I should have liked. Still, the signals were the real target with 165002 heading to Stratford-upon-Avon from London Marylebone being almost incidental and really just providing an additional prop. The signals here did, of course, operate in the lower quadrant, being firmly in GWR territory, but were converted a good twenty years ago to the then standard for semaphores. The splitting home signal was changed after the outer starter which had already gone over to upper quadrant operation by the time that I started taking an interest.
The Railhead Treatment Trains (RHTTs) commenced operations during the week of 13 October 2008. In my part of the world, these are all MPV operated which I quite like as one doesn't get to see these vehicles very often. Here is DR98961 moving away from Bearley Junction on 15 October 2008 as it heads from the North Warwickshire Line towards Stratford-upon-Avon. The train was slightly delayed because of a "Cathedrals Express" with 30777 Sir Lamiel having run early and been allowed to precede it to the terminus. The weather was quite poor but this did allow the headlight of the MPV to give a nice reflection on the nearside rail.
Great Western distant signals operating in the lower quadrant are very thin on the ground. I can think only a two or three around Worcestershire, some in Cornwall and this one operated by Bearley Junction signalbox on the up line between Stratford-upon-Avon and Birmingham. I wasn't sure if it was being pulled off at the moment because of a speed restriction at the junction so was pleased to see that it was in use today. The Sprinter, 150019, is slowing for the stop at Wilmcote station on 8 March 2010 as it passes the signal on its way to Stratford. As I was keen to get a photograph of a train passing it in the "off" position, I waited until 150019 returned from Stratford as the 14.27 to Stourbridge junction.
The majority of the passenger trains on the GWR Birmingham to Leamington Spa line are in the hands of Chiltern Railways' class 168 Clubman units. Most photographers ignore these because there's no locomotive involved but I usually take a shot or two of them if the conditions are favourable especially when there's some contrast between the train and the background as with this picture taken on 2 March 2010 with a longish lens as 168106 rounds the curve near Hatton station on the way to London Marylebone. Note also the relaid track of the down line commencing after the pointwork leading from the Stratford branch platform, also used on occasions by freights leaving Hatton's Down Goods Loop.
Class 168 units now visit Stratford-upon-Avon on a daily basis after having been quite rare for some years. Here is 168109 about to leave the Stratford branch at Hatton Station Junction with the 11.38 to Marylebone on 2 March 2010. This train was halted at the signal just behind the third coach for several minutes while 66517 working 4M55, the 08.55 Southampton to Lawley Street freightliner pulled out of the down goods loop. The exit from the branch platform in the up direction would, if the signal were overshot, have put this train directly in conflict with the freight, hence the former being held on the short double track section at the end of the branch to avoid even the remotest possibility of a collision.
I recently seem to have developed a bit of an obsession with obtaining pictures of DMUs at Henley-in-Arden. One of the pictures I have been after is a train passing the inner home signal in good light, a commodity which of late has been in short supply. The best train for the angle of the sun is that arriving at Henley at 14.05 and the sky looked as if was clear enough to make the short trip from home on 11 February 2010 and sure enough, 150003 appeared right on time with the sun in a big clear patch. Part of my keenness to get photographs here is that fact that the signals and associated signalbox will be gone by the Autumn and I much prefer the winter sun with its lower angle than that later in the year. The bay platform line and adjacent siding have already been disconnected with new track and ballast having been laid through the statiion. All of the work so far has been taking place overnight to avoid disruption to the hourly passenger service, but I believe that at least one weekend of daylight activity is planned later in the year.
When a train is in clear sunny conditions, moving very slowly and a quite different perspective is available by widening the field of view, it is inevitable that a second shot is inevitable. I can't see the point in putting online two or more shots that are identical save for the train having moved a couple of inches, but when the wider angle gives another view altogether, perhaps by including a station platform, I think it is worthwhile. What I still call an ATC ramp is a new addition to the down line at Henley-in-Arden but there is currently, on 11 February 2010, no sign of any new signal posts. No doubt these, when they arrive, will be the ugly and massively over-engineered variety that are now in vogue.
During the recent snowy weather I was lucky enough to obtain a reasonably attractive picture of 150007 from the towing path at Edstone aqueduct betwen Henley-in-Arden and Stratford-upon-Avon. When the sun appeared on Saturday 30 January 2010 I decided that it would be a good idea to repeat the shot but with the "normal" landscape, so here is a very clean 150122, albeit with 2 coaches rather than 3, in the same spot. After taking this photograph I made the short drive north to Henley in order to finally get a sunny shot of the 13.05 arrival there; one which cloud has so far meant I have missed. On arrival, the sun was beautiful so I took this view of the switched out signal box and starter and inner home signals and newly laid track, not to mention the recently arrived white trackside container no doubt to accomodate something or other for the ongoing engineering work. By the time the passenger train was due some small patches of cloud had appeared: need I say more?
After a very cold spell with heavy snow and leaden skies, the morning of 7 January 2010 turned out to be beautifully clear and sunny but with below-zero temperatures so that the snow wouldn't disappear too quickly. I was keen to get a shot or two in these perfect conditions but didn't want to run the risk of a bent car or worse just for a photograph of a train. With this in mind I went just a few miles from home to the aqueduct at Edstone, between Henley-in-Arden and Stratford-upon-Avon, arriving in time for the train from Stourbridge Junction due to pass there at about 12.10. Unsurprisingly, 150007 was a few minutes late when it came into view, running through the very attractive Warwickshire countryside. The surroundings fields were an absolute picture in the snow and here is the view towards the diminutive River Alne, which runs along the extreme left of the picture, passing the small hut just visible by the hedge.
This picture is dated 7 June 1986 and shows Tyseley's unit T702 standing in platform 3 at Stratford-upon-Avon with the 08.30 to Birmingham Moor Street. This unit was the last class 116 to remain in all blue livery and at this date was not to remain unpainted for much longer. Virtually everything in this scene has changed; the Ministry of Defence cold store has been replaced by a Morrisons supermarket, the college building on the far side of the Alcester Road has been extensively extended and the siding to the right of T702 has been lifted. Trains to Birmingham no longer leave from platform 3 after shunting from No. 1, but simply reverse without the need to change platforms. The Chiltern Railways trains to London Marylebone now use platform 3 as there timing is such that most arrive before and leave after the Birmingham services so a change of platform is necessary.
My intention on Wednesday 25 November 2009 was to photograph 3S87, the RHTT from Kings Norton to Kings Norton via Stratford-upon-Avon, somewhere along the North Warwickshire Line. In the event, the weather was quite poor at the time that I should have had to have left home so the plan was put on hold. At about 13.15, tooo late to drive out anywhere for the train, the sky looked as if it would clear so I just made the short walk down to Stratford station. A couple of minutes after I arrived, the 13.27 to Stourbridge Junction formed of 150003 pulled out of platform 1 under a sky that was just too dramatic to ignore. After the Chiltern Railways class 165 just visible on the left had gone at 13.40, the sun went behind a thick bank of cloud and I thought that yet another dull shot was on the cards. Fortunately though, 3S87 was running a bit late and the winter sun came back out. As the train was running late it didn't run right along the platform but stopped before the footbridge, where the crew changed ends before going back north. The signal was cleared to green by Bearley Junctiion's signaller almost before 3S87 had come to a halt so that it could leave immediately and run along the North Warwickshire Line with its long signalling sections without causing delay to the following train.
The weather forecast for the afternoon of 12 November 2009 indicate that strong winds and heavy rain would replace the clear skies of the morning. Hoping to catch to catch a cloudy but bright interlude I headed off to Wootton Wawen station, on the North Warwickshire Line, with the intention of taking a photograph of 3S87, the RHTT scheduled along there. When I arrived at the bridge over the station, the sun was out and, being in a cutting, the line was shadowed with a brightly lit background. This wasn't at all what I wanted, so had a quick drive to Danzey, on the other side of Henley-in-Arden where the sun, if out, would be in the right place. Naturally, as soon as I arrived, a thick bank of cloud appeared but as the train appeared in the distance a small hole in the cloud allowed the sun to poke through. New London Midland station signs have recently been erected here, replacing the previous Regional Railways versions. I really enjoy these short sessions on my local lines and much prefer it to spending a few hours alongside a main line somewhere photographing routine traffic, especially in poor light. Maybe, after many years, I have become more selective!
Friday 6 November was another dull and drizzly day in Stratford-upon-Avon so I took the opportunity to obtain another couple of shots of 3S87, the RHTT that runs down and up the North Warwickshire Line with a reversal at Stratford. I do like to take pictures of these short trains in station settings so that there is some definable character to the shot, especially when the light is on the dire side of dreadful. Here is DR98908 leading the formation through Wilmcote, a pretty well preserved example of a Great Western country station, unusually with buildings still extant on both sides of the lines. That on the down side, adjacent to the train, has been closed for as long as I can remember but I can recall the booking office on the up side being in use. I believe that a cardboard model of the down side building used to be available and examples are probably in use on model railways somewhere in the country.
There wasn't too long to wait before 3S87 reappeared, climbing the last few yards of the 1 in 75 of Wilmcote Bank before passing the eponymous station, but even in that short time the light deteriorated quite dramatically.. I took this shot early enough to show the privately owned and well maintained buildings on the up side of the station, along with part of the substantial house once occupied by the Stationmaster here. The GWR knew how to look after their staff in the days when the holder of such a position was a prominent member of the local community. I know that it's down to personal choice but I do feel that those who photograph only locomotives in the countryside miss out on some great historic locations and infrastructure. In how many places does one see a bicycle shed built in such as style as this, with accurately shaped woodwork? OK, the colour, a pinkish brown, is not authentic GWR but it does match that of the other stations along the line. New London Midland Railway signs are gradually appearing in the area and I imagine that it won't be too long before Wilmcote gets the treatment.
Arriva CrossCountry trains have recently been using an HST for at least one of its services, 9S53, the 06.40 Plymouth to Aberdeen, although I believe that the headcode is soon to revert to the more traditional class 1S53. I wanted a photograph of the set with the newly painted power cars but still with the MML coaches as these transitional pictures are more interesting in years to come than those showing the overall corporate liveries. The train was due to pass Bromsgrove at 10.05 so, on Friday 17 October 2008, I went just south of that point and had to wait only a short tome before the welcome sight of 43303 at the head of the train came into view. I committed the cardinal sin of cutting of the top of the electricity pylon in this picture so went the whole hog and cropped the image slightly to increase the impact of the train and make it look as if the error were intentional!
On Thursday 5 November 2009 I decided not to bother with a shot of 47805 hauling the Burton-upon-Trent to Dollands Moor empty steel train but went instead to Henley-in Arden station for a few more pictures of a DMU and the RHTT going to and from Stratford-upon-Avon. The old railway infrastructure at Henley is unlikely to survive for much longer given that resignalling is imminent so I thought that it would be a good opportunity to top-up my images from here. First along was 150019 slowing for the station stop while working a Stourbridge Junction to Stratford-upon-Avon train. Despite there being plenty of blue sky around, I wasn't lucky with the sun on this occasion so the Autumnal colours aren't shown to their best advantage but I was happy enough to secure some more photographs of this attractive country byway.
The DMU in the picture above soon cleared the signalling section which currently ends at Bearley Junction and this allowed the signaller to pull off the signals giving 3S87, the Kings Norton to Kings Norton via Stratford-upon-Avon RHTT, a clear road. A couple of minutes after the inner home signal was raised, the sun came out and I took this picture of the bay platform and siding signals. I did once ask a signaller here if it might be possible to take pictures with these signals in the "off" position, but he declined, saying that he thought it quite possible that the points, if moved across to allow the signals to be pulled off, might well not go back again! Anyway, 3S87 with DR98958 leading, came right on time and shortly after the sun went in again, this time into a sky full of black cloud.
I hadn't really intended to stay at Henley in Arden for the return of 3S87 but changed my mind so as to get this picture as it ran through the platform with its water jets going at full belt. A cloudy sky was helpful on this occasion so that a shot looking towards the south-west was possible. Unlike the last time I saw this working, it had been held to right time either at Stratford station or Bearley Junction which meant that it should have crossed a Stratford-bound class 150 in the platform. Fortunately, the DMU was a minute or so late and my shot, with DR98908 now leading, wasn't obscured.
I always like to take a few pictures of the RHTTs on my local lines and once the clocks have changed at the end of October there are few better places for a shot than Henley-in Arden. Here is DR98912 leading 3S87, the Kings Norton to Kings Norton via Stratford-upon-Avon train, past the signalbox and associated semaphore signals. To be quite honest, as one who was brought in GWR territory, I should prefer signals operating in the lower quadrant but the pegs here still are an attractive feature of the North Warwickshire Line. It won't be long, probably less than 12 months, before the box here is taken out of service and the signals replaced with modern equipment operated from Landor Street panel so this year may well be the last chance for this shot. For a better view of the signalbox, use this hyperlink. One benefit of the resignalling will be that a half-hourly passenger service will be possible throughout the day with the chance to run trains with fewer stops, thus resulting in much reduced journey times. There will also be more paths available so the few special trains that run from the north to Stratford may be routed this way.
The regular passenger services along the North Warwickshire Line run between Stourbridge Junction and Stratford-upon-Avon. These are currently formed of class 150 DMUs although new class 172 units should make an appearance in the relatively near future. Here, 150007 forming the 14.27 from Stratford, calls at Henley-in-Arden and is using platform 2 from which the overall canopy was removed many years ago, the passenger accomodation now being a steel and glass shelter. The canopy remains on platform 1, but somewhat bizarrely, there are no seats of any description. New signage was being fitted during my visit and it is to be hoped that a use may be found for the boarded up but still sound building. In common with several other stations along the line, Henley has been painted in some rather odd colours, bearing no relationship to any railway company colour schemes either past or present. Before many minutes had passed, 3S87 returned north and is here seen between the up and down signals on the Stratford side of the station. The RHTT has to wait here for a few minutes until the preceding passenger train had cleared the section by reaching Shirley station.
With the prospect of a few freights along the line through Hatton and with Friday 23 October being the last weekday before the clocks go back for Autumn I spent a couple of hours at the south end of the cutting. The first train at which I pointed my camera was the 12.20 Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill formed of class 168 168109. I can rarely resist taking pictures of these units when the sun is in the right place and especially when there is such an attractive cloudscape. I do not know whether it is down to the topography of the area but the skies around Hatton and Warwick often have a highly photogenic appearance during the early afternoon. One of the regular Autumnal features of the landscape at Hatton is a field of pumpkins ready for the customers at Hatton Country World preparing for Halloween celebrations.
Whilst waiting for some freight activity at Hatton North Junction during the afternoon of 24 October 2008, I whiled away the time by photographing the regular passenger trains. I never think it's a good idea to upload every single image taken during a session at a single location but I do quite like this shot of a three coach Chiltern Railways class 168 unit, 168218, forming a London Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill service. The shadows were becoming a bit intrusive by 4pm so I switched to a stronger lens which helps to accentuate the curve, and almost tunnel-like effect of the tree-lined railway.
Cross Country Trains run several HSTs from Scotland and the North East to the West Country route. Thes relatively elderly sets still perform as well as they always did and provide infinitely more comfortable accomodation for passengers than the noisy, cramped and vibrating Voyagers. Here is 43357 leading the 06.32 Dundee to Plymouth service past Croome Perry Wood at 14.06 on a sunny Friday 16 October 2009. I was a bit disappointed that the Autumnal colours in the background have yet fully developed so I may return in a couple of weeks given the right conditions.
While standing on the grass verge at Croome Perry on 17 December 2008 I received a message from a friend saying that a full Arriva Cross Country HST set was on its way with 1V39, the 06.32 Dundee to Plymouth service. I think that HST liveries have improved as time has passed and the latest is the finest so far applied to these trains. Here is 43303 leading the set out of the wood as a Voyager from the same TOC recedes towards Abbotswood Junction. This isn't the best location for HST photographs as the rear power car is out of view but at this time of the year one's options are limited. A little while earlier, 47237 had gone north with Advenza's empty scrap train from Cardiff to Shipley. There is no worthwhile northbound shot here at the best of times and at this time of day in mid-December a going away shot, although largely unsatisfactory in my eyes, is the only choice. The wagons on this train always bring back happy memories of chasing class 33s around Kent on the trains conveying Channel Tunnel lining segments.
Most Stratford-upon-Avon to Marylebone services are formed of Chiltern Railways' class 165 stock, with occasional substitutions by class 168. Whilst I have seen several 168s it has always been on occasions when I have had no camera available. When going walking into Stratford-upon-Avon I have taken to carrying a compact digital camera to record the day-to-day street scenes around the town and from time to time donate a CD of images to the local archives. It has always been said that in 20 or 30 years time it is the ordinary scenes that will be of far more interest than special events; one does forget how much the average High Street changes in a relatively short period. Anyhow, I had my Canon Powershot A550 in my pocket (the model with a proper, zooming, optical viewfinder, none of this ridiculous holding a camera at arms length to compose a picture for me!) when I passed Stratford station just as the 09.38 to Marylebone was about to leave on Friday 16 January 2008 so finally obtained the shot I have been waiting for some time to take.
Tuesday 6 January 2009 started off with freezing temperatures and clear blue skies. After a trip to the gym and swimming pool I decided to head over to the Cotswold Line to, hopefully, take advantage of the sun and any snow still lying around. There certainly was plenty of snow around Fladbury but unfortunately it was largely in shadowed areas, that in the sun having pretty much melted. There was still a small amount on the surrounding hills but it didn't look as if would last long. The first train to come past the boarded foot crossing between Fladbury and Lower Moor was 165104 forming the 12.06 Worcester to Paddington Service. These units have made a bit of a resurgence on the line since the timetable change in December, after not having been seen along here for a while.
Everything appeared to be running to schedule on the Cotswold Line on 6 January 2009 because the 10.22 Paddington to Hereford train came north just 13 minutes after the class 165 unit shown above passed me. I'm not especially fond of ground level shots, much preferring a little height in order to better show the local environment rather than just a train in an unidentifiable piece of countryside, but on a line such as this with a fair number of lineside trees it is difficult to find a location clear of shadows in the middle of winter. Low-level shots also require a lot of care in the post-processing stage in order to avoid a white halo around the train roof against the sky; the result of over-sharpening. This sin also manifests itself by making the radiator grills of locomotives and power cars look too bright and almost silver in colour. All this, linked with heavy colour saturation, makes so many photographs seen on picture galleries look totally unnatural and nothing like the actual scene by the lineside.
Adding a welcome splash of colour to the sunny scene at Croome Perry on 16 October 2009 is 153380 leading an unidentified class 158 on the 14.51 Great Malvern to Weymouth. I quite like the current First Great Western colour scheme as it generally provides a good contrast to whatever background one has in the photograph. I generally prefer to take southbound shots in this area at Defford, a couple of miles south of Croome, but the lineside trees cast quite heavy shadows by 14.30 at this time of the year.
The afternoon of Wednesday 14 October 2009 became clear and sunny after a murky start and with nothing much of interest about I went for another photograph of the RHTT train running along the North Warwickshire Line. I initially looked at Henley-in-Arden but the sun was a little too straight at 13.15 so decided to move south a few miles to Edstone Aqueduct, where the line swings around onto an east/west axis. I heard the horn on DR98957 blow for a crossing just as a narrow boat started its journey across the longest cast-iron aqueduct in England and thought that I might have my shot obscured; an unusual situation to say the least. In the event, all was well and 3S87 came about 5 seconds after the boat had cleared my position.
As Autumn porgesses the Raihead Treatment Trains start their daily journeys around the country both to clear leaves from the line and to apply Sandite, a paste intended to aid adhesion in slippery conditions. The West Midlands RHTTs are based at Kings Norton from where one diagram runs down to Stratford-upon-Avon, where arrival is scheduled for 13.48. I wasn't surprised to see a slightly early arrival on 13 October 2009 when DR98907 + DR988957 came into the station before reversal and a northbound run along the North Warwickshire Line via Henley-in-Arden. The other line to Stratford, that from Hatton to Bearley Junction, is not covered as there are no real gradients that might cause problems for the trains running over it. Here is a slightly closer view as the MPV stands in platform one while the crew changes ends, and a heavily backlit shot as the train, 3S87, departs a few minutes after the 13.41 Chiltern Trains service to Marylebone has started its journey.
For those with a fondness for photographing class 150 DMUs, the line between Birmingham Snow Hill and Dorridge is a happy hunting ground as there is regular service at 20 minute intervals throughout much of the day. The train generally run into the bi-directional platform 3 at Dorridge and return north within a few minutes of arrival. Here is 150001 crawling towards the crossover from the up main line at Bentley Heath, situated just to the south of the crossing, to the line leading to the platform. Dorridge is also served by Chiltern Trains' class 165 and 168 units to and from London Marylebone and here is an example of the latter, 168106 slowing for the station stop.
After photographing a ballast train at Aldington I made the short journey to Evesham station to find that the up platform was well populated with passengers waiting for the shuttle train to Worcester, this section of line being open for business. Within a few minutes, 165130 came into the platform for the passengers on it to alight ready for the onward journey to Oxford in one of the fleet of coaches waiting in the car park. This picture is slightly unusual in that it shows a down train in Evesham's up platform, with the ground signal in the "off" position to allow it to run wrong-road for a short distance until the single track to Norton Junction is joined.
At the time of writing in mid July 2009, the Cotswold Line is about to become the subject of dramatic changes as much of it is about to receive double track after many years of being largely single. One of the sections of line to see this work carried out is that between Evesham and Moreton-in-Marsh so with only a few days to go before a two week long closure I went to this location just west of Evesham to take a few pictures of the scene pre-alteration. The first working that I saw was the New Measurement Train working as 1Z16 Derby to Derby via Worcester and Oxford with power cars 43062 + 43014. The weather was cloudy so I took the opportunity to take my photograph from the north side of the line which, to my eyes, was the more attractive view with the houses and churches of Evesham clearly visible in the background.
Before leaving this location near Evesham I took a photograph of a First Great Western service train, the slightly late running 11.22 Paddington to Great Malvern om the approaches to Evesham station. Once again on a dull day the better view was from the north side of the line showing the attractive stone occupation bridge leading to a riverside hotel and the less pleasing and much more modern bridge taking the Evesham bypass over the line. Much clearance work on the south side of the cutting took place in the early Spring and the remains of several trees can clearly seen in this view. Just off the stone bridge in a field is this ex-railway van used as a store of some description. The white paint marks, a circle containign a cross, showing the van to be withdrawn from service are still visible.
Most passenger trains between Paddington, Worcester and Great Malvern are currently formed of HST stock but Turbos of classes 165 and 166 do make appearances from time to time. I was told that a local MP complained to First Great Western about the older and inferior DMUs being used in preference to the the newer HSTs! Maybe someone should give him a lesson on railway chronology...Anyway, here is 166201 on the approaches to Worcester on 4 June 2009 with the 13.21 Paddington to Great Malvern which, at this point was running in the region of 20 minutes late.
A more conventional scene with an HST leaving Worcester is here seen as the 15.11 Hereford to Paddington passes Norton Barracks on 4 June 2009 with power car 43023 leading. The line through here is becoming quite overgrown and due to the presence of a large tree on the left hand side of the line a hefty shadow is cast across both tracks, this becoming more and more obtrusive as the sun moves round towards the west. This is one reason for switching to a longer lens as the afternoon progresses; the other being to foreshorten the view and bring closer the tower of Worcester Cathedral.
Tuesday 2 June was another hot and sunny day so in the absence of any one-off in which I was interested I decided to have a trip to the Birmingham to Gloucester line to take a few photographs of some steel workings. There has recently been quite an upturn in the number of trains conveying steel to and from the Midlands and I expected to see at least 4 trains. First along though was an Arriva HST service, 1V39, the 06.32 Dundee to Plymouth with power car 43303 leading. The sun at Claydon, near Ashchurch was perhaps still a little straight at just after 2pm but at least the light would move in the right direction as the afternoon progressed.
Most of the passenger traffic on the Birmingham to Gloucester line is run by either Arriva or London Midland but First Great Western makes its presence felt with trains to and from Worcester and Malvern. Here is 158959 with the 14.51 Great Malvern to Weymouth just after the station stop at Ashchurch on Tuesday 2 June 2009. This train is usually a sign that an empty steel train is on the way as 6V07 from Round Oak to Margam, if it's running, is generally allowed out of Worcester as soon as it has cleared the section towards Norton Junction.
The use of class 153 single units on their own isn't all that commonplace in the West Midlands, the best known being the shuttles from Coventry to Nuneaton. First Great Western also use the modern-day "bubbles" and on some long distance runs. Here is 153318 on the 12.26 from Southampton Central to Worcester Foregate Street on the final approach to Ashchurch station. There isn't much of a northbound shot at this location but with a long lens a train-sized gap (for a small train!) in the lineside undergrowth can be found with the escarpment of the Cotswold just visible in the background.
The photogenic units of Chiltern Trains run at roughly half-hourly intervals and on a nice day such as 1 June 2009 it is inevitable that they form regular photographic subjects. This then is 168111 accelerating away from the station stop at Hatton, situated just around the corner. The composition of the picture may initially look a bit odd as there is more sky in the shot than would be considered normal but I was keen to include the moon, visible above the smaller of the two background trees. A case of full sun and half moon...
I don't have a great fondness for class 220/221 Voyagers, but on the bases that they are better to photograph than to travel on and also that I think that everything moving on the railway should be photographed at some point I take the occasional shot of them if the light is good enough. Here is 220031 passing Hatton North Junction on 1 June 2009 with a train to Manchester Piccadilly. It is a great pity in my eyes at least that a few mainline passenger services weren't routed along this line in earlier days as it is far more photogenic than the alternative route to Birmingham via Coventry.
Saturday 23 May 2009 saw quite a variety of traffic on the Leamington Spa to Banbury line and remarkably, the weather forecast was more than favourable in that long sunny periods were predicted. Some of the trains were scheduled to run via Oxford and others via the Chiltern Line through Bicester North so it seemed a good idea to be somewhere north of Aynho Junction so as to be able to see the maximum amount of traffic. I decided upon the bridge adjacent to Banbury stone terminal as all the trains in which I was interested were southbound. The first up train along was a Virgin "Blockbuster", 1Z06, the 05.45 Liverpool Lime Street to Euston formed of two class 221 Voyagers, 221104 and 221105 respectively. Just to show that the northbound shot from this bridge isn't up to much, here's a picture of 221140 accelerating away from the station stop at Banbury. Thanks to Chris Beaumont for the Voyagers' ID
Whenever I go somewhere to take railway photographs I do like to obtain a representative sample of all the traffic on the line including whatever units are on the passenger services. The fact is that today the majority of trains on our network are units and it seems worthwhile to photograph them as classes and liveries change from time to time and it is good to have a record. I think that the Chiltern Turbos are quite photogenic in good light and here is the 09.03 Kidderminster to London Marylebone slowing for the station stop at Banbury, formed of 168218 and an unidentified sister unit.
The area around Hatton cutting is a mass of blossom in early May 2009, exemplified here by the Hawthorn in flower all around Chiltern Trains' 168108 as it climbs the bank with a train from Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill on 9 May. The regular passenger services along this line help to fill the long gaps between freight services, especially in the afternoon, when one is lucky to get two or three freights in a three hour session. I quite like photographing units but the short formations can give problems in areas with panoramic views and I find that a longer lens helps to fill the frame and draw in the background, in this case the north-east side of Warwick looking towards Cubbington.
Dorridge station, on the GWR line from Birmingham to Leamington Spa, enjoys a 20 minute service throughout the day. The trains are invariably formed of London Midland class 150 DMUs which shuttle up and down from Stourbridge Junction via Birmimgham Snow Hill and Moor Street stations. Here is 150002 approaching journey's end on 19 March 2009 as it slows for an adverse signal which indicates that the train will be routed over the crossover just to the south of Bentley Heath crossing and into platform 3, clear of both up and down main lines. A Chiltern Trains class 168 can just be seen disappearing around the curve in the background as it travels the final few miles of its journey to Birmingham Snow Hill.
First Great Western's class 153 single units are not uncommon on the Cheltenham to Worcester line but they are mostly seen coupled to another, longer, unit. Here though is 52329 runnng solo while crossing the Warwickshire Avon at Eckington with what I think is the 12.26 from Southampton Central to Worcester Foregate Street. I wonder how often a passenger travels the whole route on this train? It forms a local service via Westbury and Bristol so is probably well used for intermediate stations, but hardly a time-efficient train for a longer journey.
The first visit to Stratford-upon-Avon by an HST set took place on 11 March 1989 when a BR 125 Special organised by Hertforshire Railtours travelled to the terminus. The train originated from St Pancras and ran to Stratford via the Chiltern Line and Leamington Spa and after reversal went to Norwich via the North Warwickshire Line; the only HST to have used that line, and Tyseley, then on to Great Yarmouth eventually returning to London Liverpool Street. As it was Red Nose Day, each power car (43092 + 43055) had a large plastic nose affixed to the horn grille. The weather has dreadful and the light so poor that I didn't attempt a colour transparency but the nose can be seen on this picture as the train heads towards Birmingham, having just joined the North Warwickshire Line at Bearley Junction. Thi scene has changed quite a bit in the intervening years. There is a hedge along the fence against which I was leaning so that the view from the field is largely obscured, there are many masts and boxes around the signal box and the whole area is a bit of a mess. The 'box here and all associated semaphores are due for removal over the next 18 months or so, when control of the line passes to the new panel at Landor Street.
I had a quick trip to Badgeworth on 16 March 2009 to photograph a few bits and pieces in the bright morning sun. Unfortunately, the light became rather milky as I approached Cheltenham but I hoped that it might clear a little as the sun's heat burned off some of the high cloud and it wasn't too bad as 1V31, the 1V31 06:08 Edinburgh to Plymouth Arriva HST led by power car 43304 came around the bend from Cheltenham station. This is one of the few locations on the line from Birmingham to Gloucester which is usable after mid-morning, as it swings round to a roughly east - west direction so that the sun is well onto the side of the train for quite an extended period.
There is quite a variety of diesel multiple units along the line from Gloucester to Cheltenham and two different examples of the colour schemes are here seen at Badgeworth on 16 March 2009. First Great Western's 150261 is heading east towards Cheltenham as a sister unit, but from the Arriva stable heads west at the same time. The light had dipped quite badly for this shot but I kept my camera ready just in case a decent crossing shot presented itself.
Some major tree felling has recently taken place around Evesham station, none more drastic than that in the cutting immediately on the south side. It is many years since a shot like this was possible, probably close to 20 years in fact, when I remember going across on occasional Sunday afternoons when InterCity diversions of class 47s and coaching stock took place. This train is the 11.22 Paddington to Great Malvern formed of Adelante 180104 pictured a few yards before the Evesham stop. The cutting sides are currently a little messy but the piles of woodchips will soon disperse making for a very decent shot and one well worth taking before the 2 semaphore signals are removed and the single track doubled. I wonder if the redundant ivy-covered telegraph post will be removed to open the view a little more?
In theory, this scene should have been history well before 2009, but First Great Western are still using four class 180 Adelante DMUs to fill in gaps in their fleet. The majority of services along here are in the hands of HSTs with some Worcester trains being formed of class 166 units so it made a change on 3 February 2009 whenI photographed 180102 on the Cotswold Line at Lower Moor while it was forming the 11.22 Paddington to Great Malvern service.
A stock move to Long Marston was planned for Friday 23 November 2007. In the event this did not happen but I decided that as the light was so good it would be a shame to miss out on the chance to photograph the day-to-day traffic along the Cotswold Line. I was on the boarded public crossing at Lower Moor near Fladbury when this class 180 Adelante, 180112, came along, forming the 11.25 Worcester to Paddington service. From the start of the new timetable on 9 December 2007 these stylish units will start to go off-lease to be replaced by HSTs. I, for one, will miss their distinctive appeareance although regular passengers and operating staff may feel differently as their reliability has not been quite as good as it should have been. The Autumn colours that were so vivid along here a few weeks ago have almost entirely disappeared now that we have had some frosts and strong winds.
The next train to take the single line from Evesham to Norton Junction on 23 November 2007 was 180111, the 09.52 London Paddington to Hereford train. The bridge in the background marks the location of the long-gone Defford station, and in itself a good photographic location for most of the year. The shadows at this time of the year are a little intrusive, although shots are still possible albeit with a long telephoto lens.
Not all Cotswold Line trains are class 180 Adelante, some representatives of class 165 and 166 also appear. The 10.52 Paddington to Worcester Foregate Street was next along in the hands of 166205 in the striking, and to my eyes attractive, "neon" livery of First Great Western. Some remnants of Autumnal colour are still visible in the wood beyond the train but the best has now gone.
166205 did not spend long at Worcester and returned to London Paddington as the 13.21 from Foregate Street. This one caught me slightly unawares and the composition of the picture isn't exactly as I would have wished. I had planned to take the shot from the top step of the stile leading from the crossing into the adjacent field but didn't quite have time to climb high enough but I did manage to get a clear and fairly wide view of the train's colour scheme.
Class 180 180111 returned from Hereford as the 13.25 to Paddington and by the time it passed me at 14.36 the sun was getting quite low and the colour had an attractive golden tint. The bridge in the background is a popular location for down trains in the afternoon and if something out of the ordinary leaves Long Marston after lunchtime, there may be a dozen or more photographers spread out along the hedgerow.
As soon as 180111 had cleared the single line to Evesham, the daily RHTT working was able to head west towards Worcester. The working is 3S81, the 07:38 Kings Norton to Ledbury with MPV DR98973, which runs to Oxford in the morning and returns after lunch. There was no spraying taking place at this point as the location is not on much of a gradient nor is there a problem with leaf fall.
I can rarely resist the opportunity to photograph a FGW class 180 Adelante if the weather conditions are good. The sun could not have been better placed at Evesham on 4 October 2007 as 180109 approached the station stop so there wasn't really much of a decision to make. It seems slightly incongruous that one of the most modern diesel units is signalled along the Cotswold Line by GWR-style lower quadrant semaphores, but that, for me, is a large part of the attraction of this location. I wonder if the signalling will be replaced if, and it seems likely, the line from Oxford to Norton Junction near Worcester is re-doubled? There wouldn't seem to be a lot of work necessary here to stick with the existing arrangements, but whether a modern Network Rail would want to keep 19th century methods of working is a different matter.
I was expecting this train, the 14.51 Great Malvern to Weymouth FGW service formed of 158950, to appear before 6V07 with 60063 as in the appropriate section. Sometimes though, the trains from Round Oak can get away slightly early and if there is sufficient headway they will precede the unit. I'm never one to turn down a well-lit shot of a colourful DMU and think that the latest FGW livery is attractive, especially as the trains are generally kept in good external condition.
This summer has again seen the hiring in of HSTs to run on various trains to the South West. The first to go south from Birmingham on 23 August 2008 was this, led by National Express liveried 43307, forming 1V29 from Manchester to Newquay. The train was running in the region of 10 minutes when it passed Northway, near Ashchurch. It's surprising how much enthusiast attention these HST runs generate considering how they were largely ignored for the first 30 years of their lives..
A most unusual HST formation was used on the Cotswold LIne during the afternoon of Sunday 15 June 2008. The driver rostered for the Hanborough (the first station north of Oxford on the line) to Worcester Shrub Hill shuttles did not sign 165s or 166s so a set was made of two power cars and 2 coaches, the short formation being sent from St. Phillips Marsh just for these workings. The only one convenient for me was 1Z73, the 15.40 Hanborough to Worcester and here are 43182, 42277, 44059 and 43042 passing the site of Littleton & Badsey station between Honeybourne and Evesham only a few seconds before the sun went behind a large black cloud. I chose this location because it is one I don't much use and has a recognisable background, but was surprised that the sun was so far around at this time, about 16.20.
One of the trains I was hoping to see at Hatton on 24 May 2008 was the single unit "bubble" 960014 which was scheduled to make a run from Tyseley to Euston as a crew training run in connection with diversions from the WCML to the Chiltern Line. This didn't turn up so I assumed it was cancelled so my next shot was of Arriva Trains Voyager 220018 heading south through Hatton station. I include this photograph here only to show the apparently penny-pinching with which the recent repaint from Virgin Trains' red livery has been carried out - note the lighter yellow patch of the front end where the Virgin shield emblem used to sit. One would have thought that a complete job would have been done for by the new operator of the train; note also the red coming through just above cantrail level on the near side of the leading vehicle.
The Chiltern Trains Bubble, 960014, has been in use again recently, this time in connection with Arriva Cross Country crews learning the Chiltern Line and parts of the network between Acton and Euston in readiness for weekend diversions of Voyagers over the route. There are a couple of runs during the day but this, on 23 June 2008, was the last and the Arriva crew has obviously been dropped off somewhere and 960014 is heading back to Tyseley for the night. These single units have long been a favourite of mine and this train was definitely the highlight of the afternoon for me.
A special train ran from Birmingham (Snow Hill) to Stratford-upon-Avon on Tuesday 1 July 2008 carrying various London Midland Trains dignitaries. There was no mention of the type of train involved but my guess was that a reliveried class 170 would be rostered for it. I went to Edstone Aqueduct on the North Warwickshire Line to see the working and wasn't especially surprised when... a reliveried class 170 appeared! Despite the sky being largely clear a large patch of cloud managed to be in the wrong place as 170508 passed under the longest cast iron aqueduct in England. Although there have been occasional vists by class 170 to the line I believe that this is the first of an example in this colour scheme. A few minutes earlier, 31454 had gone in the same direction forming an 0Z31 Derby to Derby via Stratford-upon-Avon, presumably as a driver route knowledge refresher for SERCO trains.
The Network Rail HST makes regular trips along the Great Western Main Line to Paddington and the West Country returning to Derby on a Friday afternoon. Such a trip took place on 15 August when it ran north via Hatton and Solihull. Here is the train, 1Z21, contrasting nicely with the green background, passing Hatton North Junction just about spot on time at 16.35 with buffer fitted 43013 leading. The sun was just coming out but was still right on the edge of some dense cloud.
Class 168 DMUs are the mainstay of Chiltern Railways' services on the Marylebone to Birmingham line, but 165s and 166s do turn up from time to time. Here is 165031 forming an up train about to pass under a relatively new footbridge near Shrewley in Warwickshire. This bridge was erected to replace a foot crossing when higher speed trains from the Chiltern and Virgin stables began to use the line. This spot is pleasant enough but is really a little bland for my my taste and lacks any real clue to its identity or location.
Most Stratford-upon-Avon to Marylebone services are formed of Chiltern Railways' class 165 stock, with occasional substitutions by class 168. Whilst I have seen several 168s it has always been on occasions when I have had no camera available. When going walking into Stratford-upon-Avon I have taken to carrying a compact digital camera to record the day-to-day street scenes around the town and from time to time donate a CD of images to the local archives. It has always been said that in 20 or 30 years time it is the ordinary scenes that will be of far more interest than special events; one does forget how much the average High Street changes in a relatively short period. Anyhow, I had my Canon Powershot A550 in my pocket (the model with a proper, zooming, optical viewfinder, none of this ridiculous holding a camera at arms length to compose a picture for me!) when I passed Stratford station just as the 09.38 to Marylebone was about to leave on Friday 16 January 2008 so finally obtained the shot I have been waiting for some time to take.
There has been a lot of fuss made about the training runs for the upcoming WSMR trains between Banbury and Marylebone with class 67 locomotives, but very little has been said about the blue & grey single unit also runnning in the Birmingham area. I much prefer bubble cars to 67s so made the effort to go out on 7 April to get a shot of it which is here seen approaching the outskirts of Balsall Common, between Coventry and Birmingham International stations.
There was supposed to be a trial run of GWR Castle Class 5029 Nunney Castle from Tyseley to Stratford-upon-Avon on Tuesday 14 April 2008. For reasons I can't quite fathom, I decided to go and have a shot of the tender-first run, complete with single support coach, on the North Warwickshire line. The only place where the sun would be just right is on the section of line where it passes under the Edstone Aquaduct and curves around on an east-west axis. In the event the steam run was cancelled but I did capture this shot of 150017 forming a late running Stourbridge Junction to Stratford service. The formerly scruffy farmyard in the background has recently seen a lot of refurbishment and conversion into an expensive-looking residence, although only the outbuildings are visible in this long lens view.
Some crew training runs in connection with the forthcoming WSMR trains between Wrexham and London Marylebone using the single car DMMU 960014 took place on Friday 18 April 2008. The first run was to Birmingham New Street and the second up the main line to Leamington Spa. I am far more interested in seeing this old survivor of the early DMU fleet than the test runs with class 67s as these will be around for some time and I can get my phototgraphs when the fuss has died down. This train was runnng about 15 minutes late at Hatton due to some earlier signalling problems and managed to run through the platforms at exactly the same time as a northbound Chiltern Trains class 165. I quickly grabbed this receding shot as the 960014 passed a load of untidy clutter on the ballast - the seemingly inevitable aftermath of majot engineering work. Just why the mess can't be cleared when the work ends escapes me; it seems to invite vandalism.
The bubble car 960014 was booked to run straight through Hatton station on its return to Birmingham but through previous late running lost the path and was looped in Hattons Down Goods Loop. It ran into the Stratford-upon-Avon Branch platform, rekindling memories of the many years that units of this type shuttled back and forth between Leamington and Stratford. The reason for the looping was to allow a down Arriva Trains Voyager to pass on the main line.
If it were not for the branding on the sides of 960014 this picture could almost have been taken in the 1980s, at least if one ignores the modern signalling. In earlier days a train such as this would have turned left at the junction and gone to Stratford-upon-Avon but this working is a training run for WSMR crews and will take the spur onto the down main line at Hatton once the Voyager shown above has cleared the section.
Here are 43003 + 43002 working from Brush's site at Loughborough to Old Oak Common on 6 March 2008; the final power cars in the current MTU conversion programme. It is unusual for these recently refurbished power cars to work under their own power, they are normally dragged by a class 47 with a couple of barrier coaches in the consist. The routing of 0F70 was also unusual, despite it being to me at least, the obvious route and preferable to either the WCML or the even more bizarre run through Cheltenham, Gloucester, Swindon and Didcot to Reading and OOC. Whatever the reason, the power cars made for a very rare sight on this line and worth the trip, even when the deadful light was taken in account.
The New Measurement Train made one of its regular runs over the Cotswold Line on 4 October 2007, this time formed of HST stock with power cars 43013 showing off its new headlights and 43062 on the back instead of a locomotive-hauled substitute. No doubt this was the reason for a total lack of messages about its running on the "gen" groups. Here is 1Z20, the 09.20 Derby to Derby via Worcester, Oxford and Worcester, passing the signalbox at Evesham some 29 minutes early at 12.13. Because a down passenger service was running late, 1Z20 did not have to wait in the platform at Evesham for the booked departure time, 12.44, but went straight off after the token had been exchanged.
While I was chatting to an old friend, Gerald Robinson, at Berkswell on 21 April 2007, 153375 tried to sneak past the camera. The working was 5G49 1400 Tyseley-Coventry, the unit heading off for a spell on the Coventry to Nuneaton servive. The single unit looked to have been recently painted into Central Trains green livery. It's a shame about the horrendous mess in the foreground but the train was running very slowly towards an adverse signal and wasn't exactly announcing its presence for a better view... Thanks to Mike Hollick for the train ID.
One of my favourite classes of DMMU was the Derby Heavyweights, class 114. Several sets ended their days at Tyseley Depot and spent a lot of time shuttling between Stratford-upon-Avon and Leamington Spa. With only 1 car powered, their performance could best be described as ponderous, but the seats were comfortable and the ambience, in my opinion at least, much better than the class 150s currently used in the area. This picture was taken during the afternoon of 28 March 1990 and shows T027 arriving at Stratford from Leamington. Note that the signalman has already set the ground signals and the points for the train to reverse out and run back into platform 2 for the return to Leamington; this was before the track and signalling was altered to allow departures from platform 1. The whole scene here has totally changed, the gasholders, signalbox, goods loop, siding alongside the platform 3 tracks and semaphore signals all have gone, there is an anti-trespass fence at the far end of the platform, and a Morrison's supermarket has been built on the ground to the left.
Here is another view of T027 after shunting into platform 3 at Stratford-upon-Avon on 28 March 1990 and prior to departure for Leamington Spa. The upper quadrant starter is in the off position but the guard hasn't changed the destination blind, probably realising that it wasn't worth the effort as the few passsengers using the train in the mid-afternoon would have had as good a knowledge as him where the train was going. The signal to the left of the starter controlled the exit from the down goods loop which ran behind the signalbox; this was still occasionally used at the time for stabling the stock of excursion trains. It wasn't long for this world though, being severed the following year and removed altogether within a few months. When the line was open to Cheltenham, virtually all down steam-hauled freights used the loop as there was a water column at the station end of the line. There were no water troughs on this line so station stops were necessary for water-taking and the loop was used to avoid the platform road being occupied for too long.
The single unit DMMU Pandora was booked to visit the South-West on 25 June 2007 and to return to Derby the following day. The latter move was running as 5Z21, the 09.00 from Bristol Barton Hill depot, being routed via Didcot, Reading, Didcot because of a possession at Didcot West Curve to Oxford, Hatton and Birmingham. 960011, formerly 55025, is reported as being an early candidate for withdrawal so even though the light was quite poor I decided to have an attempt at a shot. I think that such a short train always looks better in an identifiable location with some background rather than open countryside and as Hatton station is only about a 12 minute drive from my home, I went there. Here is Pandora some 39 minutes early passing the down platform. The former class 121 has had extensive modifications since her last passenger duties, one of the most noticeable being the slewing of one of the 2 exhaust pipes into a single pipe, also used as a mount for one of the video cameras. Note the insulation on the pipe around the camera's mount.
I can't admit to a great fondness for Virgin Voyagers. It's nothing to do with the fact that they displaced locomotive-hauled trains but more that they strike me as being poorly designed and painted in a rather garish colour scheme. Having said that, when you're standing in the sun at a location for hours on end waiting for a freight that doesn't actually appear, anything is going to get photographed. So in between pictures of rabbits, buzzards and scenery, the odd Voyager is going to get the D200 pointed at it, as did 220029 at Hatton North Junction on 5 September 2007. With Virgin about to lose the franchise for these trains, I suppose that one should have a record of what is around hence this picture appearing here. In years to come I wonder if there will be surge of nostalgia and a preservation group for the class? Just look how class 47s were ignored and despised by most enthusiasts and how some strange people will now go for miles to photograph one travelling light engine and get all wound up if the sun goes in on their shot.
The beginning of October usually marks the start of the railhead treatment season when various trains run either to apply Sandite to the rails or to blast away leaf debris rolled into a slippery paste by other trains' wheels. Most lines have some form of treatment but only those using top-and-tailed locomotives ever seem to get any publicity. It may be unfashionable to say so, but I much prefer to have the chance to photograph a train formed of Multi-Purpose Vehicles (MPV) as they are more elusive than locomotives which, after all, can be photographed somewhere practically every day. Here is MPV DR 98957 running as 3S87, the 09.05 from Kings Norton, about to pass under the cast iron aquaduct at Edstone on the North Warwickshire Line, where some Autumnal colours are begining to show, some 30 minutes early at 13.00. As this stretch has a gentle downhill gradient no jetting is being done, but I heard the spraying start as the train approached the braking point for units going towards Bearley Junction and onwards to Stratford-upon-Avon. Click on this hyperlink for a closer view of the unit.
After photographing 3S87 at Edstone I went to Henley-in Arden for another crack at it, despite knowing that the sun would be straight into the lens. I needn't have worried as mist and cloud built up quite quickly after I arrived. The early running continued as the MPV sprayed through the station startling at least one passenger waiting for the 12.20 from Stratford-upon-Avon - he heard the train approach, got up from the seat and leapt back as this appeared! Henley station has some attractive features, click on this hyperlink for a look as the train continued north.
Tuesday 23 October 2007 was a bright and sunny and although I wanted to get out and take some pictures, I couldn't be bothered to travel far. That being the case and with my wife having taken a day off work, we walked along the towing path of the Stratford-upon-Avon to Wilmcote where there is a convenient occupation bridge. The first train to come along was 165001 forming the 10.54 London Marylebone to Stratford. Chiltern Trains' service don't appear to call at Wilmcote station these days, maybe because they run quite close in front of the Central Trains units from Birmingham which means that a quick shunt is required at the terminus for the first arrival and the time gained by not stopping at the station is useful here.
Next along was 150106, the 11.54 from Stourbridge Junction to Stratford-upon-Avon. I think it is important to record these everyday workings as in 20 or 30 years it will be these that are of more interest than the higher profile trains, which get photographed to death by every man and his dog. Just before the train left Wilmcote station, visible in the background, this Kestrel   flew by keeping a beady eye on proceedings.
The 09.05 Rail Head Treatment Train from Kings Norton to Stratford-upon-Avon via the North Warwickshire Line, 3S87, was the final train I photographed at Wilmcote on 23 October 2007. As with all diesel units, the majority of photographers ignore these highly complex machines in favour of yet another shot of top-and-tailed locomotives doing the same function. I get far more satisfaction in picturing an MPV on my local patch than having to travel miles in Autumn, with its uncertain weather, just to stand in a gallery of other enthusiasts getting virtually identical shots. This is the last week that this shot, on a sunny day at least, will be possible. The shadows were rapidly encroaching and I had to use a powerful lens to get the train in a clear patch. Once the clocks have gone back, that will be it for this bridge until late spring next year.
I decided to have another go at photographing the RHTT working to Stratford-upon-Avon on 22 October 2007, this time at the station itself. With this sort of working, I prefer to have some background rather than countryside so that the location can be identified. The 09.05 from Kings Norton, 3S87, is here seen arriving at Stratford spot on time at 13.40 with its spraying jets still in operation.
3S87 is allowed 5 minutes in platform 1 at Stratford-upon-Avon before returning along the North Warwickshire line to the Birmingham area. The crew took advantage of the PNB facilities before rejoining their unit and leaving, again turning on the jets which, of course make for a more interesting photograph. The background to this photograph has recently been transformed with the building of a new complex of retirement homes; see last year's shot from a similar spot on the platform for a comparison.
Most passenger services over the Cotswold Line between Worcester and Oxford are formed of class 180 Adelante stock, but now and again substitutes appear. On 18 October 2007 165125 in the attractive FGW "Neon" livery was out and about and is here seen about to make the stop at Evesham station with the 11.25 Worcester Shrub Hill to Paddington train. Evesham is the site of one of the passing loops on the line and as soon as the the class 165 had stopped, the signal for the down line was pulled off in readiness for a down Adelante to proceed towards Worcester.
Central Trains have painted some of their class 150 DMUs into a new colour scheme. Never one to miss a colourful DMU I took this shot of 150102 trailing its bluer cousin on a Stourbridge Junction to Leamington Spa stopping service. OK, I would have much preferred it to be coming the other way and with the newly-painted unit leading, but there you go... These trains now run only in peak hours and with relatively few Chiltern Trains' services calling at all stations, some parts of the line to Birmingham have the worst service they have ever had. This picture from Hatton North Junction is timed at 18.17 on 5 September 2007.
There is much evidence of recent cabling work in this view taken from the footbridge at Bentley Heath, near Dorridge, on Friday 27 April 2007. The train, formed of 150125 and a sister unit in the now obsolete Anglia colours, is a Dorridge to Worcester local via Birmingham Snow Hill; it has come from the loop adjacent to the track machine stabled in the down siding which serves the outer face of the island platform at the station. The housing estate on the left is the site of the extensive goods yard which served the area of which there remains absolutely no trace.
Here is one of the most frequently seen but least photographed trains on the UK network, a Virgin Voyager. This one was working the 06.44 Newcastle to Bournemouth train, a long way for any through passengers given the noise, vibration and poor seat positions in relation to the windows. Given that these units convey passengers on some long journeys, I would have thought it possible that they could have been better designed and provided a more comfortable and quieter environment. From a photographic point of view, I don't suppose they're too bad in a decent location and good light, the garish red livery providing a contrast to most urban and rural scenes.
The weather forecast for Wednesday 24 October 2008 was for wall-to-wall cloud so it was a pleasant surprise when the sky cleared at around 09.30. I went to Hatton with the intention of taking some pictures of day-to-day trains, including Chiltern Railways' units, Virgin Voyagers and a couple of Freightliner and EWS intermodals. The first to appear was 168215 working the 09.52 Birmingham Snow Hill to Marylebone service which is pictured approaching Hatton station at the South Junction where the branch from Stratford-upon-Avon joins the main line. A lot of re-signalling work is being carried out here at weekends with all existing gantries being replaced and, in some cases resited, along with some additional new signals in a few locations.
This was my first sight of a former Virgin Voyager in the colours of Arriva, the franchise holder for Cross Country railways. 220017 is seen heading north towards Hatton North Junction on 6 February 2008 with a train for, I think, Manchester Piccadilly. This was very much a grab shot as I was watching some rabbits in the adjacent field and only heard the train approach at the last moment. If I had known it was coming I should have gone for a much wider view to see more of the new livery.
Here is a picture of 170397 in slightly amended Porterbrook livery, the unit being on hire to cover a shortage. The location is, of course Croome Perry wood near Pershore.
Whilst walking from the lane where I had parked my car at Wootton Green on 12 February 2008, I heard what I thought was the farmer shooting rooks or pigeons but when I arrived on the occupation bridge I saw that an automatic gas-gun bird scarer was the source of the noise. It was made a bit more interesting by the addition of the head and yellow cape although, with the random timing of the detonations, it still made me jump every time it went off. The train is a partly rebranded Arriva Cross Country Voyager heading for Bournemouth via Leamington Spa and Oxford.
I soon found out from the signalman at Norton Junction that 6V05 from Round Oak to Margam was not running but I decided to hang on as I had seen this class 158 heading north and knew that it would return from Worcester and head to Brighton. This is the first of this class I have seen wearing First Great Western livery. Verdict? Not bad, but would look better with a third vehicle in the train. The distant signal on the bracket has been lowered, telling the driver that the road is clear across Abbotswood Junction and onto the down main line.
Just after the class 158 shown above had cleared, the round was put across for a train to leave the Cotswold Line. Within a few minutes this HST came around the curve forming a Paddington to Worcester service, led by power car 43029. This is the first HST I have photographed here since they took over the majority of workings from the clas 180 Adelante which, sadly, have now virtually disappeared from the network.
Yet another variety of class 150 livery was the next to appear at Badgeworth, this time Arriva Trains West on 150253 on a local service to Cheltenham. This stretch of line sees a great variety of diesel units and is a good area for those enthusiasts not totally obsessed with locomotives. I've always liked DMUs and am quite happy to spend an hour or two photographing these colourful little trains.
Cheltenham's importance has long been recognised by the railway and still benefits from direct trains to and from Paddington. I had previously photographed the down working, led by 43155, but in an attempt to give some variety to the day's action, here is the up train with 43156 at the pointed end accelerating away from Cheltenham and pasing the village of Up Hatherley, just visible behind the trees in the background.
Here is a brightly-coloured 150127 in Silverlink livery with small FGW brandings. This is obviously the company's solution to overcrowding but I cannot but wonder if the passengers are too grateful for the less than comfortable seats these units provide. I'm sure they are fine for a trip from Gloucester to Cheltenham, but not much further...From an enthusiast's point of view, these transitional liveries give a welcome splash of colour.
I can rarely resist pointing my camera at anything when I am by the lineside in lovely winter light and I think that the Chiltern Railways' trains look good against a dark background. Here is 165032 leading a class 168 out of Hatton cutting on Saturday 26 January 2008. The signal poking out of the first coach's roof is shortly due for removal as a replacement has been erected by the footbridge a few hundred yards to the south. A lot of new signals have appeared in the area as part of a major resignalling project in the area, together with more lineside cabinets desinged to make the railway photographer's life less easy!
I am not one of those photographers who ignore diesel units unless they are being hauled by a locomotive as I feel everything on the railway is ephemeral as as such should be recorded. This picture shows 165003 passing non-stop through Warwick Parkway with a London Marylebone to Stratford-upon-Avon service whilst a 168 waits in the station with a train from Birmingham Snow Hill. The Stratford trains form a local service and as such stop at the station in Warwick town rather than Parkway which has a much more frequent stopping pattern.
Passenger trains calling at Ashchurch station are generally formed of class 158 stock, but on 31 July 2007 a northbound service produced my first sight of FGW's 150249 in the new "Neon" livery. Here is the unit about to make the station stop with at least 2 customers to increase the payload.
Central Trains have now made a start in at least partly branding the class 158s acquired from Trans-Pennine in their house style. This picture shows 158810 leaving Ashchurch station for the south with the Central logo applied over the red and gold of the former operator. It's a small thing, but I do like to get pictures of these intermediate and probably transient colour schemes, and with multiple unit liveries changing so frequently these days a large slice of luck is needed. I can't understand those who totally refuse to photograph units but will chase half-way across the country for yet another picture of an EWS or DRS 37. Units are the most colourful part of the current railway scene and in most instances, to my eyes at least, enhance the appeal of the industry.
I have always liked the single unit DMMUs and here, at Hatton North Junction, is 960011 "Pandora" coming from the north with 2Z21 Derby to Eastleigh spot on time at 12.21 on 4 September 2007. A gang of 3 permanent-way workers is conveniently hidden behind the unit; I don't normally mind track workers in my shots but with such a small train their presence in full orange high-visibility gear would have been a little distracting. Single unit DMMUs were a long-standing feature of the lines between Birmingham, Leamington Spa and Stratford and it was good to see one again, albeit in a very different livery to the blue & grey they carried for much of their working lives.
Central Trains have painted some of their class 150 DMUs into a new colour scheme. Never one to miss a colourful DMU I took this shot of 150102 trailing its bluer cousin on a Stourbridge Junction to Leamington Spa stopping service. OK, I would have much preferred it to be coming the other way and with the newly-painted unit leading, but there you go... These trains now run only in peak hours and with relatively few Chiltern Trains' services calling at all stations, some parts of the line to Birmingham have the worst service they have ever had. This picture from Hatton North Junction is timed at 18.17 on 5 September 2007.
This picture as taken in a location at one time very popular with railway photographers, especially in the 1990s when it was possible to see 4 or 5 freights with a couple of hours late on a Saturday afternoon. I had been meaning to go and have a look at the scene for a while and on 4 September 2007 made the short trip from Hatton to this bridge over the M40 between Rowington and Lowsonford in Warwickshire. The first train to come along was 168003 on a Birmingham Snow Hill to Marylebone working. The shot has changed a lot since I used to come here in 1994, witnessed by this picture of 47363 on the Saturday Leeds to Southampton freightliner taken from much the same spot on 23 April 1994. Today's shot was taken at about 14.30 and by 15.30 the shadows had gone completely over the line. The 1994 picture was taken at 16.10...
The August Bank Holiday Monday in 2007 again produced an HST working along the GWR Leamington Spa to Birmingham main line. In contrast to last year, the train today ran in the down direction, the working being 1Z53, the 11.45 Reading to Leeds, headed by power car 43060. Unlike last year, when I caught the up train in a lucky patch of sun, this year's run missed good light by a few seconds as it passed Hatton station. I wanted to get my shot somewhere easily identifiable so as to emphasise the unusual nature of the working. The train had worked the 1V49 09.41 Newcastle to Newquay on Saturday 25 August, the usual northbound diagram being fulfilled by a Virgin Voyager in order to release the higher capacity HST for passengers from the Reading Festival. Note the new signal on the end of the up platform; the inclusion of what appear to be "calling-on" lights on the pedestal seem to indicate that a fully-signalled move from the up main to the Stratford Branch platform, via the ladder crossover, may be in the offing. Even if this isn't the case, the new signal will cut down the length of the section; currently Hatton North Junction to a location at the south end of Hatton cutting.
Summer Saturdays in 2007 have once again seen the use of HST stock on various trains to and from the West Country. Here is a Midland Main Line set, led by power car 43060, approaching Ashchurch in Gloucestershire on 28 July 2007 with 1V29, the 07.25 Manchester Piccadilly to Newquay train. It is always good to see something different on the railway and these HSTs make a pleasant change from the omnipresent Virgin Voyagers. This is the best train for favourable light in my part of the world, the others being around lunchtime and towards evening, when I doubt that I could be bothered to go out.
Saturday 9 December saw an ECS move consisting of 158863 head north through Hatton as 5Z58 08.30 Bristol Temple Meads to Haymarket. I took the photograph mostly to record a member of the class in the Alphaline livery on this line. The colour scheme was common enough on the nearby Cheltenham main line, but this was the first time I had seen an example along here.
The New Measurement Train went on a trip to the South West on 14 February 2007. It was noted returning past Taunton at around 15.00 and I didn't expect to see it before leaving Abbotswood Junction, but , in fact, it reached there at 16.28 whilst I was still in a location suitable only for a southbound shot. As I have always been foiled in my attempts to get a decent photograph of the HST, usually by the train running with class 37 power, I decided to take a going-away view as power car 43014 tailed the formation away from the camera. Maybe next time...
The New Measurement Train lived up to its name in one respect on 5 July 2007 when it visited some track for the first time. It was booked to run along the Cotswold Line as 1Z20 from Derby to Worcester and Oxford, before returning by the same route later the same day. Here it is, nearly catching a lucky patch of sun, passing Evesham signalbox and the rather lop-sided looking signal gantry. 1Z20 had to sit in the station for around 15 minutes to allow the passage of a northbound passenger train and 37410 running as a light diesel from Long Marston. I was surprised to find myself alone on the bridge for this working, given that it was a new working for the line.
Class 150 DMUs form the mainstay of services along the North Warwickshire line to Stratford-upon-Avon. Here is the lowest numbered of the class, 150001, about to pass under the longest cast iron aquaduct in England, to be found at Edstone near Bearley Junction. Although it's not visible in this shot, this where the branch to Alcester and Redditch diverged from the main line, and water for the branch engine was taken from the canal, a ladder, stop-cock and leather being provided for this purpose near to where I was standing for this photograph.
Easter weekend 2007 saw engineering work closing parts of the WCML. To cater for the expected extra demand between London and Birmingham, Chiltern Trains strengthened their services by, in some cases, using 2 class 168 units on Snow Hill trains. Here, on Good Friday, is the 14.20 from Marylebone just after leaving Warwick Parkway station and attacking the 1/110 average gradient of Hatton Bank. Some of Warwick's famous architecture can be seen in the background, including the tower of St. Mary's Church and the Round Tower of the castle. Warwick is not immune from delinquency, as evidenced by the abandoned shopping trolley in the extreme bottom right-hand corner of the picture.
A couple of miles to the north of the picture above is Hatton Cutting. Just leaving this on Good Friday morning is 165020 with the 11.40 Stratford-upon-Avon to Marylebone train. The leading coach has been adorned with vinyls commemorating the author, Roald Dahl, who lived near Great Missenden for many years. Click on this hyperlink for a closer look at the appropriate part of the train.
On Friday 30 March 2007 I photographed 66179 leaving Long Marston and then decided to have another shot at Honeybourne Junction. The train from Long Marston arrived at Honeybourne at 12.15 but it was clear that there would be a delay as the 10.52 Adelante from Paddington was due to call at the station at 12.32, meaning that the single line from Moreton-in-Marsh to Evesham was occupied. Here is 180111 approaching the station with 66179 and the JNAs visible on the branch. The crew member at the ground frame will have to wait for the Adelante to get away from Evesham about 12 minutes after leaving here, before he will be able to extract a token from the machine in the hut which will unlock the ground frame and allow him to operate the point levers.
Here is another view of 180111, this time leaving Honeybourne station for Worcester. The scale of the site here can be well seen here, with the currently unused island platform prominent to the right of the train. It is possible that the line will be doubled in the forseeable future, in which case the island will be again used by up trains. The rusted lines on the extreme right were once those used by trains to and from Stratford-upon-Avon, and also by locomotives needing to use the coaling stage or those depositing wagons in the associated sidings.
Class 168 is the mainstay of Chiltern Railways' express services between London Marylebone and Birmingham Snow Hill. Here, the first of the class, 168001, is seen on the climb of Hatton Bank with the 13.50 from London. On a line such as this, one learns to appreciate the passenger trains, such is the paucity of freight movements and in any event, I think it's important to record all aspects of todays railway. In 20 or 30 years time, it's the photographs of day-to-day scenes that will be looked at with more interest than one-off or special workings.
During the afternoon of 25 January 2007 a little cloud began to build up. When it's in the right place, i.e. not obscuring the sun, cloud in a blue sky can add a lot to the scene, hence my inclusion of this picture of 168104 on a Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill train passing Hatton North Junction. I quite the look of these units and am happy to take photographs of them when conditions are right. After all, if one photographs only locomotives, a lot goes unrecorded and there are long gaps between shots on a line like this. New trunking has been laid along the curve from Hatton North to Hatton West Junctions - the connection to the Stratford-upon-Avon branch and it looks as if there's more work to coming judging by the piles of material lying around.
Not all regular passenger services heading south from Worcester are FGW Adelanti. This train is heading for the main Cheltenham line at Norton Junction and is formed of Alphaline 158751 with 150240 tagged on the back. This is one of those locations that I would almost never visit were it not for the lower quadrant semaphore signals. Without them, there would be little of any interest at all in the picture; just a woody tunnel between the M5 and Norton Junction roadbridge.
Here is one of the most modern 21st century diesel multiple units under the control of 19th century-style signalling. The train is the 10.23 Worcester Foregate Street to London Paddington, formed of 180108 and pictured at Norton Junction, Worcester on 16 March 2007. The route over which this train is signalled is regarded as the main line and the distant signal for the junction can be cleared to a green aspect only for trains heading up the Cotswold Line to Oxford and London. The other route controlled by the bracket signal leads to Abbotswood Junction and the main Birmingham to Gloucester line. The lower quadrant distant signal, in itself quite a rarity these days, is lowered only if the train can proceed over the single track lead across Abbotswood Junction and onto the main line.
Just a couple of miles up the line towards Worcester is an occupation bridge carrying a bridlepath over the railway near Norton Barracks. This bridge gives a good view in both directions but my preference is for the shot looking towards Worcester. This picture of Adelante 180107 on a Paddington-bound service was taken in the late morning of 16 March 2007
For the sake of completeness, here is the view of a down train at Norton Barracks. 180106 is on the final leg of its journey to Worcester as it passes underneath the M5. In the distance on the up line is 47826 bringing up the rear of a Worcester to Cheltenham special run in connection with the Cheltenham Festival; 57601 was on the front.
First Great Western Adelante units form most of the passenger trains on the Cotswold Line to and from Paddington, Worcester and Hereford. Here is 180105 on the long and gentle climb from Oxford to Chipping Campden with the 10.52 Paddington to Worcester service. The backdrop is the wooded northern slopes of the Cotswold Hills, one of the more attractive pieces of scenery on the line. Note the Moreton in Marsh up distant signal in the left background; this station is just a few minutes to the south of this location.
I don't miss too many opportunities to photograph the stylish Class 180 Adelante units when the light is favourable. Here is a Worcester to Paddington working passing the village of Lower Moor between Pershore and Evesham on Thursday 8 March 2007. It looks as if some major cabling job is about to take place if the piles of concrete trunking are anything to go by. The wreck of a car alongside the white wall is intriguing; has it suffered a high-speed shunt, or just been cut in half?
This is the view of a down Paddington to Worcester train at Lower Moor on 8 March 2007 to compare with the picture of an up working above. This scene may be about to change for the worse. The field visible above is the subject of an attempt to obtain planning consent for a huge glasshouse in which a hydroponic "food factory" will be established. The mounds of earth are the results of architectural digs to establish if anything of historical interest was on site. There is obviously a lot of local opposition to the proposed development which, if built, will range from 8 to 11 metres in height and will cover the whole field. Even from a more prosaic standpoint I can imagine the reflections that would be generated on a sunny day would not be conducive to good photography...
The standard units for Reading to Basingstoke trains in 1989 were 3H diesel-electric "Thumpers", named of course after the characteristic sound of the low-revving English English engine contained, in this case, in the compartment behind the driver. These were not especially powerful trains and their acceleration could best be described as ponderous but they had oodles of character and I enjoyed every one of the many miles I travelled in them. Here is 207017 approaching the stop at Mortimer station at 17.07 on 23 June 1989 to the accompaniment of a wave from a walker in the adjacent field. I have often wondered why people wave at trains; I have never seen anyone wave at a coach on the road...
Less commonplace on the Reading to Basingstoke line than the thumper shown in the picture above, but giving a welcome splash of cover on the evening of 23 June 1989 was class 101 unit L837 led by 51437. The well-preserved platelayers hut was a bit of a rarity even then, most of these structures having long since become derelict. It looks as if the original brick-built hut has been lost but replaced by a newish garden shed. I guess that this was still in use at the time and I do recall talking to a ganger on this stretch of line who said that the good state of the track was a matter of considerable pride to him and his colleagues.
Here is a slightly unusual scene at Hatton - a 5Z82 Bristol to Neville Hill move of 2 class 158 units. These have never been commonplace on this line, the only others being a Liverpool to Portsmouth Harbour and return some years ago. The units are 158795 and 158798 - note the numbers on the leading unit - they are in several different font sizes with a white number 9.
We don't seem to have a lot of snow these days so even though I'm not keen on snowy shots without the sun, I thought it worthwhile to include this picture of 165038 in Hatton cutting on Saturday 10 February 2007 whilst working the 12.20 Marylebone to Birmingham Snow Hill. I was surprised how much snow remained in the cutting, as only a few miles away in Stratford-upon-Avon, it had almost completely thawed. The roads on the way over were quite badly flooded in parts, especially in the lanes around Claverdon and Pinley.
New   As I mention elsewhere, I do like the FGW Adelante DMUs and shall be sorry to see them leave the Cotswold Line. Here are two units at Evesham on 15 January 2007, the driver of the northbound train having just obtained the token for the single line to Norton Junction from the broom cupboard on the platform. This train was running late and the southbound service should already have been at Moreton in Marsh, meaning that this shot would not have been possible; such is the inflexibility of single lines. The good news is that some parts of, if not all the line from Wolvercote Junction, Oxford to Norton Junction is looking set to be redoubled over the next couple of years. A consultation exercise is taking place with detailed examinations of the project to commence in February 2007.
New   I have always had a soft spot for the single car DMMUs, or bubble cars as they were inevitably called and as far as I can recall one of my first train rides was in one of these units. They were daily visitors to Stratford-upon-Avon for many years although by 1992 the much-loved units such as 55012 had been been replaced with higher-numbered versions imported from the former Western Region. Here, 55034 + 55032 are standing in Stratford station with the midday train to Leamington Spa on 10 August 1992. Stratford no longer has a dedicated Leamington service; a 2 hourly Chiltern Turbo now fulfils the role of the local stopping train, although stopping by request only at Bearley and Claverdon.
New   This is what the Ultrasonic Test Train looked like in 1985. It consists of two Park Royal DMU vehicles carrying the numbers 975007/8 and on 10 August was carrying the reporting number 6Z08. It was running from Derby to Marylebone when I photographed it passing Leamington Spa station.
New   Some of the locomotive-hauled InterCity trains to Poole had been replaced with HSTs running only to Bournemouth in 1993. Here are power cars 43071 + 43079 climbing the bank out of Leamington Spa on the morning of 19 March 1993. This sort of incline had little effect on the performance of these trains; after all, they come with a built-in banker... I like HSTs and have always appreciated the purposeful exhaust note when they are running hard - once the edgy turbocharger shriek had passed.
Friday 28 July produced yet another bright, sunny and warm afternoon, so once the sun had dropped from its highest position I drove over to Defford in Worcestershire with the aim of getting a few freight workings passing the site of the erstwhile station. I was pleased when 150240 appeared on a Bristol service, as a well-lit shot of this unit advertising various sites throughout the South-West has evaded me ever since it first came out in this colour scheme.
One of the more colourful passenger trains I photographed at Defford during the afternoon of 2 November was 158766 in Trans-Pennine livery, working a Cardiff-bound service. This has fairly been transferred to Central Trains, and it is to be hoped that this colour scheme will be retained for a while, at least.
Stratford-upon-Avon has a regular service to London Marylebone - roughly every 2 hours on weekdays and Saturdays. Here is 165016 with the 11.38 to London on Saturday 4 November 2006 approaching Hatton station at the West Junction. This is a strange junction in that the line from Bearley Junction is single track, which gives way to a very short stretch of double track between the South and West Hatton Junctions. No trains are booked to cross here so the retention of this short section is a bit of a mystery.
New   Here is the equivalent shot to the one above from 1992. It shows a hybrid unit of classes 116 and 101 leaving the Stratford-upon-Avon branch on 20 June of that year. The vegetation has grown considerably since that date meaning that it is no longer possible to obtain quite such a wide-angled view. The up main line had recently been relaid and this accounts for the gleaming ballast so evident in the picture.
Bank Holiday Monday, 28 August 2006 saw Virgin hire a Midland Mainline HST set to use on their 1V36 07.45 service to Reading to allow more passengers heading to the Reading Festival to be accomodated. HSTs of any sort have never been especially common on the line through Hatton and I believe that this is the first MML set to travel over these former GWR metals and therefore wanted to photograph it somewhere identifiable so decided on the platform at Hatton station. The black clouds were a bonus as was the fortuitous burst of sunshine in an otherwise stormy sky. The train passed here spot on time at 08.55.
Passenger services on the Hereford, Worcester and Paddington line are shared by FGW HSTs, Adelanti and 165/166 Turbo units. On of the latter, 166221 is here seen about to make the Evesham stop with an up Worcester train on Monday 27 November 2006. Is the colour of the skip in the yard coincidental with the door colour, or is it a FGW example?!
In common with most lines in the country, the North Warwickshire line to Stratford-upon-Avon has seen regular RHTT trains for the past few weeks. I thought it was high time I went to my local station to take a few photographs. The arrival is timed at 12.31, just after the 12.27 passenger service to Stourbridge Junction has departed and on a sunny day this is just late enough for a well-lit picture. Here is MPV 98959 running as 3J87, the 09.03 from Bescot passing evidence of recent engineering work just beyond the platforms at Stratford-upon-Avon station on 21 November 2006.
The 09.03 MPV RHTT from Bescot is booked to stand at Stratford-upon-Avon for several minutes, perhaps to allow the crew a PNB at the station. Here is MPV 98959 standing in platform 1 awaiting reversal. I find these highly complex and technologically advanced vehicles quite interesting, more so than a couple of locomotives topping and tailing a few water tanks. After all, it is not difficult to find locomotives to photograph, but these vehicles tend to appear only in the weed-killing and Autumnal leaf-fall seasons. Stratford-upon-Avon station is liberally decked with advertisements for the current Royal Shakespeare Theatre season, during which all of the Bard's plays are being performed.
After the booked stop and reversal at Stratford-upon-Avon, 3J87 returns to the Birmingham area. It looks as if this unit has not seen much in the way of cleaning since the start of the season - the constant spraying clearly takes its toll... The time of this photograph is 12.36 when the sun is pretty much into the lens for a northbound shot, so much so that I had to take the picture one-handed so as to shield the lens from direct illumination.
Turning around from the picture shown above, this is the scene as MPV 98959 leaves Stratford-upon-Avon en-route to the West Midlands. The pile of sleepers just visible beyond the train roughly marks the site of the proposed steam centre it is hoped to build here. This would apparently be a major attraction for the general public and would include a turntable to avoid the need for either a trip to Hatton and Dorridge for reversal via a triangular junction, or tender-first running. There would also be a servicing facility operating as an outpost to the museum and workshops at Tyseley. The planning application for this site was recently withdrawn to allow for the plans to be re-drawn. The original submission made insufficient allowance for parking and for adequate access and egress to and from the site. Anyone who has tried to leave Station Road in order to head away from Stratford-upon-Avon at a busy time will know the problem faced here...
It is said that Adelanti are not to be used on the Paddington - Worcester - Great Malvern - Hereford circuit for much longer. With that in mind, I have made an effort to get a few shots of them in the Evesham area. Here is a set on a "down" run heading for Worcester passing the attractive scenery around Lower Moor.
Multiple unit trains are often ignored by the enthusiasts of today who seem obsessed with locomotives however mundane the working. When looking back over the work of such great photographers as Michael Mensing, it is the local workings that I find to be of the greatest interest. The endless shots of express passenger workings are fine, but for real nostalgia I much prefer the photographs of local trains, whether of the then ubiquitous GWR Prairie tanks or 3 car suburban DMUs. With this in mind, I make an effort to record non-loco trains whenever possible. I spent a few hours at Dorridge on Saturday 21 October and photographed quite a few unit moves, including this shot of numerically coincident 168217 and 168218 Chiltern Trains' units on Marylebone and Birmingham Snow Hill trains.
Dorridge has long been the station at which a lot of southbound local trains from Birmingham terminate. It is normal for the trains to cross over to the down side of the island platform north of the station at Bentley Heath for the turn-round and return to Snow Hill, but on occasions they continue through the main up platform to a ladder crossover on the south side. Here, 150237 is heading up to perform the shunt move on 21 October 2006. This is one of the ex-Anglia units recently acquired by Central Trains and still carries a modified form of the now obsolete colour scheme of the previous operator.
In the caption to the photograph above, I described the shunt move carried out by Central Trains' units at Dorrdge. Here, refurbished 150014 has crossed from the up main line to the down relief, from where it will return north. The ladder crossover is clearly visible behind the train. The innermost line is occasionally used to loop northbound freights if a passenger train is catching it. In happier times, the 4 track section ran from Lapworth to the south as far as Moor Street and there have been proposals to reinstate at least part of the formation, but this would be difficult bearing in mind that at most stations, car parks have been built on the old formation.
Here is the "normal" move being performed by 150010 during the afternoon of 21 July 2005. The unit is crossing from the up main line to the bi-directional spur to the down island platform at Dorridge, where the overbridge can just be made out in the background. The train will return north within about 10 minutes using the same set of tracks over which it is about to travel.
I spent a while at Fladbury, between Pershore and Evesham on 24 October 2006 and took a couple of unit shots while waiting for 47714 with some IZA wagons destined for store at Long Marston. This was the better and shows 165101 on a Paddington - Hereford working. The compressed perspective from using a long lens gives a good view of the pleasant countryside in this part of the Vale of Evesham not to mention the point when the line was slewed across when it was singled in the 1970s.
This picture, taken on 7 August 2006, shows a First Great Western Adelante unit at Fladbury on the Cotswold line. I find these modern units quite attractive; maybe it's the FGW colour scheme or perhaps the striking styling of the front end. These trains won't be on the Worcester to Paddington services for much longer by all accounts, so it is well getting one or two shots while they are around.
Here is the view looking south from the roadbridge at Norton Junction as 180110 on a Paddington to Worcester service leaves the single track Cotswold line and heads towards its destination.
As Hatton is on the main line betwen London Marylebone and Birmingham Snow Hill, there are plenty of opportunities to photograph Chiltern Trains' various units. I quite like class 168 so have included this photograph of 168133 accelerating away from the stop at Hatton station. Not all services stop here, in fact the local service is absolutely apalling outside the peak hours. Considering that the station is only a short walk from the enormously popular Hatton Country World, I find it surprising that Central Trains don't make more of this connection.
Network Rail's class 101 DMMU 901001 was booked to run to the south-west from Derby on 17 June 2006. It ran nearly one hour early and is seen here at Stoke Prior having just descended the Lickey Incline. It's good that it is still possible to still see a "proper" DMU, albeit in a colour scheme previously alien to the class.
I was keen to get a shot of the 6X52 Portbury to Washwood cartic at Abbotswood Junction, especially since it has been retimed to run a little later. I tried on Wednesday 12 July when the lighting conditions were perfect. It is due at this location at around 19.30, but by 20.30 it had still not appeared. This Paddington to Worcester HST was the only train of any real interest to come north in the 3 hours I stood here - and the "Neon" power car just had to be on the back, didn't it?
The only train of any real interest I saw at Croome Perry during the afternoon of 1 July 2006 was this MML HST set returning from the South West as 1E41 09.40 Newquay to Newcastle. I like HSTs; they sound good and make a pleasant change in the summer months from the relentless barrage of Voyagers. I'm a bit surprised that so few enthusiasts make any effort to photograph them. On this occasion, the power cars were 43061 + 43072.
This is my first transparancy of diesel units and was taken at Leamington Spa on 20 October 1984. The train is the 09.50 Stratford-upon-Avon to Leamington Spa and is formed of 55009+55012. The leading unit was repainted into the blue and grey carried by 55012 within a few weeks of the date of this photograph.
Almost one year later than the picture above was taken, 55002 was working alone on the 09.50 Stratford-upon-Avon as it arrived at Leamington Spa on 8 October 1985. Note the uneven lengths of the exhaust pipes on the leading end of the unit. The signal box was not in use at this time, having been replaced with the Solid State Interlocking system, the headquarters of which are situated on the down side of the line, adjacent to the car park.
Heading north from Leamington Spa and Warwick, Hatton Bank is soon encountered. With a gradient averaging 1/110 it has alway presented quite a challenge to down trains and even relatively lightweight class 116 units on Leamington to Birmingham trains were slowed to around 30mph. Here is such a train climbing the bank on 11 April 1986.
Not all trains From Birmingham to Stratford-upon-Avon run via the North Warwickshire line as one train each way per day uses the route via Hatton North curve and Solihull. On 16 May 1986 a class 116 is seen near Claverdon with the 17.25 from Birmingham Moor Street to Stratford having come this way.
As I've mentioned elsewhere on this site, Stratford-upon-Avon used to see a lot of day excursion traffic. This time exposure shows Longsight allocated LO 350 + 349 standing in platform 2 awaiting departure time before returning to Blackpool on 3 February 1990. For those interested, the exposure on 100asa transparency film was 12 seconds at f8. 645
For a few days at the end of November, it was possible to obtain this shot of the 08.20 Stratford-upon-Avon to Birmingham train. I recall 20 November 1986 as being particularly cold and didn't hang around for many minutes. The train is actually being shunted between platforms 1 and 2, as nothing was allowed to depart from platform 1 at this time because the signalling was not set up for this move.
One of the more colourful units to arrive at Stratford-upon-Avon was this ex-Clydesdale class 101. I saw it on the morning of 1 July 1991 but was unable to get out of the office during the day to record it on film. However, it stuck to diagram and is pictured here leaving the Warwickshire terminus in the company of a mis-matched 116/118 unit still in corporate blue and grey. The Tyseley unit unit number appears to been applied in a rather amateurish fashion, as does the paint covering the front-end damage - the colour there is more akin to the bodyside shade rather than the normal yellow. Still, I suppose that this were the final months of DMMU workings in the area, so it probably wasn't worth spending too much on the cosmetic appearance of local trains.
On occasions, Tyseley depot had other area's units in their possession and they were often sent out when their own sets were booked for maintenance. Such was the case on 19 July 1985 when Bristol's B431 was in use on the 08.12 Stratford-upon-Avon to Leamington Spa shuttle. It was always amusing to see the passengers avoiding the first class compartment, absent from the usual units, thinking that a supplement would be charged!
Saturday 11 April 1987 saw a steam special hauled by 35028 Clan Line come to Stratford-upon-Avon. As the train included an ETHEL, some fairly complex shunts were required, so Saltley shed sent down 47613 to help out. The class 47 is standing in the long-gone down goods loop as a Leamington Spa to Stratford service arrives at its destination under a dodgy looking sky. My notes don't reveal the identity of the 2 bubbles, but 55012+55002 would be a good bet....
An interesting anachronism on the North Warwickshire line to Birmingham was the daily train booked to start at 08.13 from Henley-in-Arden. This gave the rare opportunity to photograph a unit in the otherwise platform 3. The train, formed of the usual class 116 3 car set, is seen here on 29 August 1986 with the guard returning to his van in order to give the right of way to the driver.
Here is one of my few shots on the Stourbridge town branch, taken on 5 March 1986. It shows 55004 arriving at Stourbridge Junction after a journey of just a couple of minutes from the town station. Another single car unit is just visible behind the signalbox, indicating that the daily changeover was imminent. The size of the signalbox is testament to the area's importance in earlier days, with considerable numbers of freights heading for Brierley Hill and Dudley sites, or to the Handsworth line via Langley Green. Even at this relatively late date a class 25, 25205 is in position ready to bank heavy trains.
The Tyseley-based single units were not only used on the Stourbridge branch and Stratford-upon-Avon to Leamington services, but often strengthened other suburban trains. 55000 is seen here leaving the platform at Longbridge on 28 August 1986 with a terminating train, which is now in the process of crossing over to the refuge siding on the up side of line until it's departure time for either Four Oaks or Lichfield, on the other end of the Birmingham Cross City line is reached.
In the summer of 1986 there was a dated train between Birmingham New Street and Barry Island. Two 3 car class 116s from Tyseley were used for this service, and on 14 June 1986 the leading set, pictured at Longbridge, was one of the sets with a slightly modified paint job on the front end. It's amazing what a difference a few brush strokes makes to the appearance of an otherwise standard unit.
I spent a couple of minutes lining up this shot at Longbridge on 14 June 1986 and whilst waiting for the Four Oaks bound to train to move, heard the unmistakeable racket of a pair of 37s thundering south. I was, of course, completely bowled by this train, which must have been an additional working, as everything else turned up as expected. Still, if the loco-hauled train hadn't been occupying the down main, then the unit closer to me would have been on its way to Redditch by this time...
Another shot at Longbridge, this time taken on 19 November 1986, shows a down HST hammering through the station. These trains had attained quite high speeds by here if given a clear road and the sound was a deep throbbing, the somewhat edgy turbocharger shriek having gone by then. This was a transitional period with the blue & grey being gradually replaced with the new InterCity colours complete with set numbers on the front of each power car.
As part of the 1985 celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the Great Western Railway, Bristol's B430 set was repainted into chocolate and cream livery. It was often to be seen around Birmingham and on 16 May 1987 it was in use on the Cross City line where I photographed it at Longbridge station.
Birmingham University station is situated on the stretch of line between New Street and Kings Norton. Running alongside the canal, it uised to offer some interesting locations but whether this is case since the advent of overhead electrification I could not say. On Saturday 7 February 1987, a Longbridge to Four Oaks service was composed of a class 116 unit with the trailing driving coach replaced with a single unit bubble car, and a normally formed 3 car class 116. This type of mish-mash set was far from unusual and added to interest of the unit scene around Birmingham.
Barnt Green is the junction for the Redditch branch, the line for which curves sharply away from the Birmingham to Bristol line. Line occupation, especially in the summer, meant that trains from Redditch often had quite a wait in the platform until Saltley Power Box found them a path. The usual class 116 is shown here on 16 August 1986 waiting at the signal before heading off to Lichfield City via Birmingham New Street.
This somewhat anonymous scene shows the prototype 151002 standing at Stourbridge Junction while working on a trial run on 15 February 1986. It is shame that these stylish second generation units were not produced in greater numbers. In my opinion, this design was much more attractive than than ubiquitous class 150, which forms the core of the diesel unit scene in the West Midlands today.
Moving across from the main Bristol line to the one from Birmingham to Worcester, here is a class 116 on a Shrub Hill to New Street train passing the end of Langley Green yard. This freight facility was still in daily use at this time with at least 3 trips from Bescot calling with traffic such as chlorine gas, scrap metal and cement. In the case of the latter two comodities, the yard was used as a convenient run-round point for trains coming from the Handsworth line, which was used only by freight traffic at this date, 9 August 1986. The combination of upper and lower quadrant semaphores were controlled by the box on the platform at Langely Green station, situated around the bend behind the train.
A few miles to the south-west of Langley Green is the station at Rowley Regis. By the time this photograph was taken on 8 March 1986, freight traffic to the various industrial termini hereabouts had finished, but the trackwork and and signalling were still pretty much intact. This picture shows the inevitable class 116 DMU on a Birmingham New Street to Stourbridge Junction stopping train approaching the station.
Going further towards Worcester, this was the scene at Droitwich Spa on Saturday 6 July 1985. The train is a Bristol-based class 115 receding from the camera towards Birmingham via Kidderminster and Stourbridge Junction. The neat 3 road coal yard was still in use at this time and it was possible to obtain a much wider angle shot than is possible today. Only when scanning this slide did I notice the rake of permanent way wagons in the siding adjacent to the up loop. I do not recall ever having since this piece of rare track in use since this date. The line of telegraph poles with their mass of wires is also notable, as is the lack of the M5 motorway in the background.
Moving out into the Worcestershire countryside, this picture shows a Tyseley class 116 heading north near Defford with a Gloucester to Birmingham train. The date was 19 July 1985 and was my first visit to this pleasant location.
Lincoln Central is the location for this photograph taken on 3 May 1985. The signals protecting the crossing have already been replaced to danger by the signalman in the High Street box in preparation for opening the gates over the busy road. Note the horseshoes nailed to the wall to retain good luck within the box.
On the same day as the photograph at Lincoln Central, I took this shot of a class 120 at the soon to be closed Lincoln St Marks station. The unit had arrived from Derby and was about to return to the same town.
Manchester Victoria is the location for this photograph of a class 104 unit bursting out of the station with the 10.15 to Blackpool. This was a strange train, at least in my limited experience. I saw it hauled by classes 40,45 and 47 as well as the smoky unit pictured on 27 February 1986.
The class 110 Calder Valley units were not long for this world by February 1986 so I took the opportunity for a couple of shots in the bay platforms at the east end of Manchester Victoria on the 27th of that month. The light was very low inside the cavernous station, but I was quite pleased with the atmospheric outcome. The destination blind on this somewhat grubby unit states it is off to Southport.
This shot shows not only a class 110 unit, but 142001 and one of the unique third rail Bury electrics inside Manchester Victoria on 27 February 1986. It is to my lasting regret that I didn't make any effort to record these electrics units, particularly as a lot of the line retained semaphore signalling right to the end.
Stratford-upon-Avon is the destination for many special trains. This picture shows one of these, the Poynton Parish Puffa, standing in the long-gone "cold store" sidings on 29 June 1985. This train was formed of class 108+104 combination and, obviously I suppose, ran from Poynton in Cheshire, which incidentally is a very attractively decorated station, adorned with many enamel advertisements.
The passengers on the Poynton Parish Puffa were treated to a visit by the steam locomotive 46229 Duchess of Hamilton on 29 June 1985. The return working of the steam special left a short while before the DMU went back to Cheshire and I photographed both from the window of the signal box. The industrial units in the background are the site of the erstwhile Stratford-upon-Avon shed and coaling stage.
Another special from the north-west visted Stratford on 20 April 1985 and once again was formed of a blue class 104 unit. The train is seen here leaving platform 2 of the station at around 18.30, being pictured from the canal towing path.
Buxton units, this time with the signature white roof adornments, again visited Stratford-upon-Avon on 26 October 1985. This time, the train was 1L04 from Manchester Piccadilly formed of another 104+108 combo, and it is pictured about to pass the signalbox in extremely dull conditions.
Class 120 units were not frequent visitors to Stratford-upon-Avon, especially after a light snowfall. When this happened on 8 February 1986 the unit stuck to its diagram between Birmingham Moor Street and Stratford, which gave me the opportunity for a few shots around the station area. I had good relationships both with the station staff and the regular signalmen and was able to wander pretty much at will. This picture shows the 11.10 from Birmingham passing the intermediate starter signal before arriving at the terminus.
The return working of the train shown above, the 12.20 Stratford-upon-Avon to Birmingham Moor Street is seen leaving from platform 3, as shown by the lower quadrant signal being in the "off" postion. Platform 2's starter was the tall upper quadrant signal protruding from the centre car of the train.
On sunny mornings, I quite often used to leave home for work at around 08.00 and walk to my office, then in the town centre, via the railway line. I did this on 4 June 1986 because 55033 had recently been allocated to Tyseley after a spell in South Wales. It is seen here leaving the station as the 08.12 to Leamington Spa. Virtually everything in this photograph has changed. The Ministry of Food cold store has been replaced with a supermarket, the college of further education has been rebuilt and extended, and, of course, the semaphore signals have gone, being replaced with colour lights operated from Bearley Junction. Even the World War II air raid shelter, a concrete pipe buried in the ground, upon which I was standing, had disappeared. The class 116 unit in platform 2 will follow the bubble as far as Bearley, this being the 08.20 to Birmingham Moor Street.
Much earlier on the morning of 4 June 1986 than described above, the weedkiller with  47013 had done its stuff at Stratford. While waiting for that to arrive I took this shot of a class 116 leaving the siding to form the 06.30 to Birmingham. At this time, Stratford was a signing-on and stabling point and if one was lucky, a unit would have been put in this siding on the previous night. This piece of track was not regularly used and I was pleased to get this shot with the lower quadrant signal in the "off" position, even though the sun was not yet on the track.
While I was eating my breakfast on the morning of 18 May 1986, I saw a plain blue parcel unit, 55995, head towards Stratford-upon-Avon station. "What on earth...?". I thought and grabbed a couple of cameras and dashed down to investigate. A class 116 had failed in the cold store siding and Tyseley sent 55995 down to effect the rescue. I was sort of disappointed at the time that a locomotive hadn't come, but in retrospect this was much more interesting. The parcel unit has been attached to the errant unit and as the crew are about to top up the 116's cooling system, I assume this was the cause of the failure. Sadly, I didn't have time to photograph the departure as I hadn't finished my breakfast or dressed in an entirely suitable fashion for a day at work!
A variation on the parcel unit theme is seen here at Reading on 30 January 1987. This beauty is 55992 in gloriously tatty rail blue arriving from the London direction on an unknown working. Note the differences from 55995 shown in the picture above - the corridor connections for starters.
This picture is dated 9 May 1987 and sbows 55994 topping a 3 car class 116 at Kidderminster while working a service to Birmingham New Street. The contrast from the 2 units shown above is striking, particularly the modification to the cab ends and the brighter blue and red livery. It looks as if the warm and sunny weekend had brought out a large number of insects judging by the fatalities apparent on the yellow end...
As I stated in the preamble to this section, I am treating HSTs as diesel units for the purpose of this website even though this is not strictly accurate. I have always liked them, especially the purposeful looks and the deep exhaust note when working hard. Here is a set passing Longbridge and just catching a weak patch of sun on a showery morning whilst working an unidentified up service on 28 March 1986. It is nearly all in the original blue and yellow livery but with an InterCity rear power car. The smoke from behind the penultimate carriage is from a 3 car class 116 DMU on a Four Oaks local train.
In contrast to the HST set shown above this Paddington to Plymouth train is in the full InterCity livery. It seen approaching the Reading stop on 3 January 1987.
This shot was also taken at Reading, this time on 30 January 1987 and shows bubble car 55002 hauling a driving trailer from set L280 on the down through road. Although the destination blind on the trailer implies that this was an excursion, the train was carrying no passengers and went towards Didcot. Just visible in the background is the chocolate and cream inspection saloon that he been painted into these colours for the GWR 150 celebrations 2 years previously.
I have so many DMU shots from Stratford-upon-Avon that it is not long before another couple of shots have to appear. This picture from 3 October 1986 shows a four car class 101 coupled to bubble car 55002 forming the 16.30 to Birmingham Moor Street. Stratford's well-known gasholders, not to mention the semaphore signalling and the associated signal box, have long since disappeared.
The Network Rail class 150 DMU 950001 did some travels around Warwickshire on 6 July 2006. The weather was extremely unpleasant and the unit, running as 2Z08 from Tyseley, is seen here arriving at Stratford-upon-Avon in the middle of a torrential downpour accompanied by lightning and thunder. The storm had caused various problems in the locality, including sigalling problems leading to the cancellation of the inward working of the train forming the 10.27 from Stratford-upon-Avon to Stourbridge Junction and power being off at my home close by.
Here is a view of the other end of 950001 just before it left Stratford-upon-Avon for Birmingham. The rain was quite literally bouncing off the train's roof at this point. Behind the unit are about 20 cheesed-off passengers who have nearly an hour's wait for the next passenger train into Birmingham. Many people would not bother with photographing such a working as no locomotive was involved, but I find this unit of infinitely more interest than a light class 37 move, which it seems causes enormous interest.
Tyseley depot acquired several "power twin" sets in August 1986 which were capable of keeping to accelerated "sprinter" timings. Three of the sets are seen here in platform 3 at Stratford after a proving run from Birmingham. They were about to return as ECS to Tyseley before entering normal service.
Until 1987, the GWR's Moor Street station was the terminus for trains both from the Leamington Spa and Stratford-upon-Avon lines. When Snow Hill was reopened a two platform through station was constructed adjacent to the terminus, which then became redundant and was closed. On 7 February 1987 the 12.10 to Stratford departs from Moor Street in the capable hands of driver Geoff Davies. For a view of the interior of the station, click  here.  Moor Street lay derelict for many years, but now has been restored and will be used again by trains to relieve pressure on Snow Hill. The date of the reopening is not yet known as Network Rail seem incapable of providing the requisite signalling.
A portent for the future is here seen at Small Heath, Birmingham on 1 March 1986. Sprinter 150143 is heading for Tyseley depot where it will be stabled. The destination blind says "Birmingham New Street" which indicates that its diagram has been completed. I have never been especially fond of these units - they are to my eyes particularly bland and uninspiring, but nevertheless worth recording. The version of the class 150 with corridor connections look slightly better as the plain front end is broken up to some extent.
Heartland Rail and Cotswold Rail ran their first train as a TOC on Saturday 15 April. My wife and I were fortunate enough to be among their guests for the trip, which was from Gloucester to Penzance. The train led by 43070 is seen here after arrival as ECS in Gloucester station, alongside a FGW set being used on a Gloucester to Swindon local service. For those interested, the exposure for this shot was 1/125 @ f3.5, using an ISO setting of 500 - yes it was a bit dull! From a technical perspective, the lack of "noise" at this sensitivity is quite impressive, and no, I haven't used Neat Image to clean it up. Our train suffered a slight problem at Totnes, the cause of which was found to be no more than a snap connector joining, or rather not joining, 2 wires in a control box. As soon as this was rectified we made a storming ascent of Rattery bank and had a clear run to Penzance.
As a passenger, photo opportunities were obviously limited so I contented myself with this view of the Hornby-liveried power car standing in Penzance station shortly before departure. We had a superb run back, with an early arrival at Bristol Temple Meads after a high speed run from Newton Abbott. We also departed Bristol early and arrived in Gloucester some 9 minutes ahead of schedule. My thanks are due to Adrian Parcell and Mark Honey of Cotswold Rail for a great day out.
Two ex-GNER HST power cars were deposited in the sidings at Evesham on Friday 12 May 2006 while en-route to Long Marston. They are here seen being passed by a northbound 180110 on Saturday 13 May 2006. A bird appears to have come to a messy end on the earlier run up to Paddington...
On 23 April 1988 the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive held a "Midline Day" based on the recently re-opened station at Birmingham Snow Hill. They were fortunate enough to secure the services of the lovely Hastings DEMU, 203001, which was set to work on Leamington Spa to Stratford-upon-Avon trains. It is seen here thumping its way up Hatton Bank during the afternoon. The presence of several people at the trackside, (on the wrong side for the sun and well away from the boarded crossing!) indicates that a steam special was in the area. If memory serves, it was 5305 on "The Risborough Venturer".
Midline Day wasn't especially noted for its fine weather, but I certainly wasn't going to miss the chance of a Hastings unit in the Stratford platform at Hatton station just because the sun was behind a bank of cloud. 203001 is seen about to depart for Stratford on 23 April 1988. The current scene here is very much more overgrown with the houses almost totally obscured.
A different breed of thumper to that shown above is seen here. This is 207010 leaving Mortimer on the Basingstoke to Reading line on the morning of 1 May 1990. These ponderous, but characterful units were the mainstay of the Salibury/Basingstoke to Reading services for many years and their characteristic throb was always a pleasure to hear. 645
A couple of years before the shot of the class 207 shown above was taken, I pictured 205027 leaving Basingstoke for Reading. This was a good location both for passenger and freight traffic as it was possible to cover not only the Reading line but also the main Waterloo to Southampton and Exeter route.