Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Blackpool was the first customer for the Flexity2 trams, and so was where the 'world launch' of the product took place on September 8, 2011, see here. The new trams began working on April 4, 2012, with the 05.00 service to Fleetwood. Apparently the weather was appalling, and the driver had to stop frequently to remove debris from the tracks. Packed with enthusiasts and the press, the tram derailed on windblown sand on a sharp curve in Fleetwood. It was not the most auspicious start for the new trams, but things have been better since. I was certainly much impressed yesterday.
My previous visit to see the old trams is here. Heritage trams can run on the new system and can be seen on holidays and special days. One enthusiast's video record from May this year is here.
The large glitter ball in the background is called They Shoot Horses, Don't They? and is by Michael Trainor and The Art Department. This rotating ball is 6m in diameter, covered in some 47,000 mirrors. The name comes from the 1969 film about a ballroom marathon, and of course reflects Blackpool's association with dance.
Photos © Skip Cottage
Sunday, July 14, 2013
I should also point out that there are two other stations on the line at Nethertown and Braystones which are also request stops, but not on every service that passes!
I planned to break my journey in Barrow, a town that I had last visited in 1961.
The Shipbuilders' Gallery holds a splendid collection of ship models. (Cue nostalgic memories of the hall at Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery in Glasgow filled with such models which I used to visit often growing up there in the 1950s.) The photo above is of the model of the battlecuiser HIJMS Kongo, built in Barrow for the Japanese navy in 1912. It is an example of the international reputation of the Vickers shipyard which had already built two battleships for the Japanese navy by that time.
Kongo cost £2,500,000 and was the last important ship which the Japanese had built abroad. Apparently, her design was an improved version of the latest British battlecruisers of the time, and back in Japan, served as the template for similar home-built warships. Kongo was twice rebuilt and refitted in Japan before being sunk by an American submarine off Formosa in 1944. The full history of the ship is here.
The Dock Museum is not all about ships and shipbuilding. The ground floor of the museum covers the social history of Barrow (which is absolutely fascinating), the second floor of the graving dock was home yesterday to an art exhibition, and there is an area where one can watch a variety of films - I particularly enjoyed the one documenting the history of the Furness Railway. I did not realise that, although the origins of the railway were in transporting slate and iron ore, the railway took on a new lease of life in the late nineteenth century and early 1900s, serving a growing tourist market. The railway had its own ships, bringing tourists from Blackpool/Fleetwood to Barrow, then onwards by train, to its own boats on Conniston and Windermere. Part of the Furness Line is now a heritage railway between Haverthwaite and Lakeside. I can't believe it's already four years since I visited, see here.
For me, it was time to catch the 14.16 on to Lancaster (part of the old Furness Railway's route to Carnforth) and complete a round trip back up to Lockerbie. At Barrow, the train from the north duly arrived, the same Class 153 that I had travelled on earlier, back from Whitehaven. But we were all told not to get on board. The train then backed into a siding to couple up to another coach to form a two-car unit, and we were some twenty minutes late in getting away. Now, I don't know if this was a regular occurrence but perhaps Northern Rail was aware of what was to happen.
It was on to Roose, Dalton, Ulverston, Cark, Kents Bank, Grange-over-Sands, Arnside, Silverdale, and Carnforth. At Kents Bank and Grange a large number of passengers were waiting for the train to arrive, and it was standing room only, even with the two coaches. The day had been one of the Morecambe Bay charity walks, from Arnside over to Kents Bank, see here. Now that looks fun! And by all accounts, it certainly had been a great day yesterday for the participants.
Arriving at Lancaster, I crossed the platform to join a Virgin Pendolino heading for Glasgow. Whoosh... I got off at Carlisle, crossed the platform again, and to my surprise, found another Pendolino headed for Edinburgh but due to stop at Lockerbie. So I was home in a jiffy, in comfort.
Well, not quite. There had been an accident on the M74 at Johnstonebridge, blocking the carriageway, and all traffic north was diverted onto the service road, my usual way home to Skip from Lockerbie. After a mile or so barely moving, I struck out and had an evening hurl to Wamphray via Boreland!
One more day of my Rail Rover ticket remains, to be used by Tuesday. Now, where to go?
Photos © Skip Cottage
Friday, July 12, 2013
Royal Liver Building.
A suitable musical accompaniment to these photographs can be found here.
'Life goes on day after day ...' (Earworm warning!)
Museum of Liverpool.
Photos © Skip Cottage
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
My first ride of the day was the 10.07 Virgin Trains service heading for Birmingham, stopping at Oxenholme and Lancaster. I got off at Preston where the Voyager had arrived right on time.
Now, I knew it would be busy... and it was! I'm pleased that the event has been such a success, as the NRM has come in for considerable criticism in the past year or so. I'm fond of the museum and have visited many times. But I've never seen crowds like this. Wonderful. Given that there has been talk that the museum may have to close (for example, see here), the success of this fortnight's event must be welcome.
I just wanted to go to York this week, and be part of a unique occasion. I wasn't disappointed. I'm glad I made the effort. Photography was well nigh impossible. But, above (right to left) is Dominion of Canada, Mallard and Bittern. Note DoC's bell! Of these locomotives, only Bittern still steams, and I photographed it working up the East Coast Main Line back in 2010, see here. (That was the day when it set fires on a number of embankments, and was taken out of service for investigation and repairs almost immediately!) That year I also saw Mallard being pulled to Shildon behind Tornado, here.
here. As has Union of South Africa, see here.
here. It's usually an attraction at the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA. It has received a 'cosmetic restoration' at the NRM's workshops in York since arriving from the States, and looked spectacular yesterday.
Exporail (the Canadian Railway Museum) at Delson/Saint-Constant, Quebec, having been donated to celebrate Canada's centennial. From the photos I've seen, it looked in a rather poor condition there, but has received a excellent 'cosmetic restoration' at Shildon, and looks splendid now. I particularly liked the side valances. I found it interesting to be standing at rail level, and appreciating the height of the locomotive, rather than the usual view from a platform.
Some appreciation of what was involved in getting these two locomotives from North America can be seen in this video of them being loaded onto Atlantic Conveyor at Halifax, Nova Scotia, on route to Liverpool. It's one thing to have an idea 'How about getting the two A4s back to this country for Mallard's anniversary', but it is quite another to have made it all happen. I'm in awe of those who had the ideas and worked through the logistics of the operation. The locomotives will return to their home museums next year.
Class 150 DMU, seen here on arrival at Lancaster. The first part of this journey, via Shipley, Bingley, Keighley, Skipton, Gargrave, Hellifield and Long Preston, was familiar to me, as it's the route from Carlisle to Leeds via Settle. But just before Settle yesterday, we looped west via Giggleswick, Clapham, Bentham, and Weddington towards Carnforth. I had wanted to travel this line some years ago in the reverse direction, and was waiting at Carnforth when the service was cancelled that day. But all went well yesterday, and indeed the scenery yesterday was quite magical - blue skies, green fields. Very pleasant.
It had been an interesting day, going to new places, seeing beautiful scenery, experiencing the good and the bad about train travel in 2013, with a wallow in nostalgia included.
Photos © Skip Cottage