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 10/12/23 - Winter Timetable starts
24/12/23 - Paddington closed
25/12/23 - No GWR trains
26/12/23 - No GWR trains (why not?)

On this day
5th Dec (1927)
Post Office Underground opens to Paddington (*)

Train RunningCancelled
05/12/23 02:24 Reading to London Paddington
05/12/23 03:34 London Paddington to Reading
05/12/23 04:35 Reading to London Paddington
04:59 Swansea to London Paddington
05:33 Bedwyn to London Paddington
05/12/23 06:25 Westbury to Frome
05/12/23 08:41 Westbury to Bristol Temple Meads
05/12/23 11:05 Swindon to Westbury
05/12/23 12:15 Truro to Falmouth Docks
05/12/23 12:45 Falmouth Docks to Truro
05/12/23 12:45 Truro to Falmouth Docks
05/12/23 13:10 Gloucester to Weymouth
05/12/23 13:15 Falmouth Docks to Truro
13:15 Penzance to Plymouth
05/12/23 13:45 Truro to Falmouth Docks
05/12/23 14:04 Bristol Temple Meads to Filton Abbey Wood
05/12/23 14:13 Par to Newquay
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14:30 Bristol Temple Meads to London Paddington
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17:00 London Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads
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05/12/23 17:33 Gunnislake to Plymouth
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19:30 Bristol Temple Meads to London Paddington
19:35 Exeter St Davids to London Paddington
20:16 Frome to Westbury
05/12/23 20:29 Par to Newquay
05/12/23 20:50 Bristol Temple Meads to Weymouth
05/12/23 21:26 Newquay to Par
05/12/23 21:43 Bristol Temple Meads to Gloucester
22:51 London Paddington to Worcestershire Parkway
06/12/23 04:35 Reading to London Paddington
Short Run
06:01 Totnes to London Paddington
05/12/23 06:10 Bristol Temple Meads to Worcester Shrub Hill
05/12/23 06:42 Frome to Cardiff Central
05/12/23 06:46 Castle Cary to Filton Abbey Wood
06:54 Taunton to London Paddington
07:23 Carmarthen to London Paddington
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05/12/23 11:10 Gloucester to Weymouth
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12:15 Penzance to London Paddington
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12:28 London Paddington to Weston-Super-Mare
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14:15 Penzance to London Paddington
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Author Topic: Trip report: Bath Spa to Winsford and back from Manchester.  (Read 296 times)
Mark A
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« on: November 20, 2023, 07:29:08 pm »

tl:dr By the skin of the GWR (Great Western Railway)'s teeth, good runs, both out and back.

So... Down to the station and on to the Saturday morning 05:43 to Paddington, the few other passengers on it being mostly sleeping teenagers. Ticket from the machines as the ticket office wasn't open, and there's a new coffee and snacks place opened on the down platform - the staff were arriving to open up.

This was the start of a three-change journey that went well though it almost fell apart. The train to London ran to time until it caught up with tonnes of stone from Whatley Quarry at Chippenham, heading for Appleford, and running half an hour late (as it had left Whatley half an hour late). Thankfully it didn't later get under the feet of the Oxford connection.

This led to the London train being around 10 minutes down at Swindon, where we passed the freight and quickly up to speed - but still ten minutes down at Didcot, leaving one minute to make the connection. Thankfully staff were looking out for the five or so people transferring and off we went, with the dark and continuing rain hiding the recently infamous bridge at Nuneham.

At Oxford, on to an on-time and quiet Crosscountry Voyager, and off to Birmingham.

It was good to see this train come in on time, checking the stats it was the one that was most likely to be unreliable, and for good measure it had started its day running empty from Eastleigh, travelling via Salisbury. Also, I have a memory of a Sunday morning early wait at Oxford for a BR (British Rail(ways))-era crosscountry train heading north - and that one also arrived right time - but in the wrong direction - as it took one of the through roads at passenger train line speed, throwing a great deal of 'litter' off the trackbed, heading, very late, from Derby up to Reading for its first call of the day - it was well over an hour before it returned.

Saturday's train came in on time, and off it went with me aboard. The call at Banbury was an opportunity to reflect on the reason for the size of that rebuilt station, and this being a train to York and Newcastle, a slight lurch on pointwork after we left was cause to reflect that in several parallel universes the Voyager might have turned right at this point to head for the uplands, followed by possibly a 110+mph descent through Catesby tunnel anddown Staverton bank, part of an alternative and possibly more direct route to its destination.

Back to this world, and though, outside the window, daylight was on its way, there was not the opportunity to HS2 (The next High Speed line(s))-spot, as its works are some way to the east of the ex-GWR line to Birmingham.

Birmingham New Street was slightly busier than the previous stations - it was now around 8 and people were now travelling, and I had only a short wait for a cross platform change on to a clean and electric (and busy) London & North Western train to Liverpool. This was made up of two trains that arrived separately and were coupled together at the platform. On arrival at Smethwick, it emerged that perhaps joining the trains hadn't been completely successful and something terrible was going on in the selective door opening - there was a few minutes pause while the train manager phoned control for advice.

Advice received and doors sorted, the train was on its way again, and after Stafford, it ran for a few miles on the new and far better line at Norton Bridge junction, built as recently as 2016. I left it at Winsford in plenty of time for the connecting (hourly) bus that leaves from outside the station there.

The return journey was from a rain-shrouded Manchester - or more accurately,  some infrastructure owned by Peel Holdings, next to the Trafford Centre (also owned by Peel Holdings), so the start of the return involved walking through the Trafford Centre's car parks and satellite building to the nearest tram stop.

The few minutes wait for the tram at Barton Dock Road stop was an opportunity to look at the layout and think 'Why didn't the designers do *that*?' Mainly on the subject of the accessible ramp, which would have halved the distance to be walked if it had just being spun 180 degrees.

Anyway, onto the tram and a sail into darkness (of the day's end variety) and a quick change of tram in the centre, to pick up another, destination Piccadilly.

I'll never not enjoy the bit where the tram triggers lights to stop the traffic and then dives into the end wall of the plinth that supports Piccadilly station. On this occasion it didn't go quite to plan as a muppet had stopped their car in the box junction and clearances weren't what they should have been.

I'd checked online and the Crosscountry Manchester to Bristol trains are back, including one at 17:03, and I was heading for that, offering a journey with one simple change. First, though, across a very busy Manchester Piccadilly concourse to the ticket counter to ask what I needed as an excess from Manchester in order to use the return half of the ticket to Winsford. I was tired, and a change in surface caught me out, so on being called forward I arrived at the counter at a run, which made the staff even more good humoured To help, I handed over the throughly damp return half of the ticket to Winsford, and a discussion ensued, the circle of which widened to include me, the ticket staff and his colleague. Answer, after some puzzling, a single to Stafford, as the Bristol trains run via Stoke on Trent rather than Crewe.

I *could* at this point have headed for a Transport for Wales service to Cardiff half an hour later, which *would* have run via Crewe, but that would have involved a rather later arrival. Also, the Cardiff train was a 2 car 150, and a 4 car Voyager won out.

Onto the Bristol train with 20 minutes to spare, and the unreserved carriage was empty. By the time the train departed it was full and standing, and the train manager announced that the train was heavily reserved including in first class, and would people please sit in their allocated seat.

Leaving Piccadilly, the rain continued, shrouding the remains of Manchester Mayfield from view, that station being the (very) late haunt of the Pines Express, which drew a finger-touch of connection to GW (Great Western) Coffeeshop home turf, to Bath though not Bristol, and even to Templecombe, but the Pines presumably didn't involve itself with a call there. Or did it?

The overcrowding thinned out a bit at Macclesfield (I nearly typed Mangotsfield), but then filled up again and ran with standing passengers I think as far as Cheltenham. The train ran to time and its arriving and departing clientelle remained almost exclusively the under 26s. The engine beneath the carriage I was in was in the habit of shutting down at every station - and shutting down several times when it got the chance, and this was a bit strange...

I know Voyagers are an acquired taste and certainly were in the early days but though they're externally rather tired, I find the interiors stand up well compared with more recent trains. The seats are cosy if slightly smaller than life for many people, personal impression of the cabin space is that, courtesy of the tilting train envelope, it is petite, but it's attractive, well lit and, given the reading lights, with user-controllable lighting. They do provide the opposite of level boarding though - but there again so do class 80xs and anything else that crams diesel engines beneath the carriages presumably.

On the final approach to Bristol, the train was held for a few minutes - this seems to be a feature of train travel at Bristol Temple Meads, and it's independent of how busy (or otherwise) is the station.

It's refreshing to see that Crosscountry, countering the frequent complaints of overcrowding to the point that people regularly can not board their trains, now openly state that they're unable to strengthen services, despite the rising demand, as all provision - both the rolling stock and the services that they're allowed to provide, is dictated by the Department for Transport.

With the Voyager train arriving on time, a simple cross-platform change onto a very externally grubby and pretty full and standing four carriage 158 that promptly arrived from Cardiff and was heading for Portsmouth.

Home safe, if still very damp, after just 40 hours.


Mark A
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« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2023, 02:49:55 pm »

A week since this quick out-and-back to the north west, and reflecting on it, it was an example of how rail can provide such good opportunities for travel, with a slew of strengths. This is partly inspired by the sights of a very busy Manchester Piccadilly concourse at the end of last Sunday afternoon and the station at Bath Spa pretty busy yesterday.

* The flexible ticketing: no restrictions on getting going early and the opportunity for flexibility on return times and routes. Available at weekends on many TOCs (Train Operating Company), and somewhat locally, more widely available from Transport for Wales who have to an extent done away with off peak travel for longer distance services.

* Not being tied to having to return from the same location as the original destination. Possibly more niche, and OK I had to excess the ticket to get back on route, but good for various boat-related purposes and other things besides.

* Being able to plan to travel when in all probability I'd be tired and reluctant to drive. As an aside, on a recent TV programme it was mentioned in passing that individuals who drive and who do not use other forms of transport can be particularly badly affected when for some reason they are unable to drive through illness or age than others who though they drive a car, frequently use other modes of transport. Multimodal is good for you.

* Various staff: including those at Didcot noting and easing the tight connection out of the first late-running train. Also, the driver of the Crosscountry train back at Bristol who'd presumably had the entertainment of needing to restart one of the underfloor engines at least half a dozen times at Parkway - and was patient when it turned out it took me about two minutes longer to pack up and leave his Voyager than the rest of the passengers, who were off the thing as if they'd been entombed on it for ten years as a result of a shortage of lemon soaked paper napkins. (Oops, Hitchhikers Guide reference there...)

To close, there's often a push to present railway travel as mass transit, with talk in the media of rail travellers purely as 'commuters'. Even that baseload, if baseload it now is, is a mesh of individual experience but as a day-to-day journey it's certainly good if the means of travel is so reliable that it becomes in a way invisible. Stepping away from everyday travel, the railway, to its operators, may be mass transit - but from the travellers point of view it is a kaliedoscope of opportunities to meet others, expansion of horizons and possibilities, travel to offer help or support or simply to an event, sombre or otherwise - all available from a railway station. Millions of passengers and millions of individual reasons for travel.


*Adds photo, definitely not taken in Manchester last Sunday, cos, weather!*
« Last Edit: November 27, 2023, 03:50:52 pm by Mark A » Logged
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