Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Another 'Northern pass' day out by rail

My 'Northern' train pass extended end date is 30th June, after which we don't yet know if it will terminate, be further extended, or replaced. So I'm 'making hay' while it is valid and decided to have a look at the scenic Leeds to Carnforth line today.

The journey started with the 09:57 from Wilmslow to Manchester Airport, then a Blackpool North train as far as Salford Crescent, and thence to Manchester Victoria by a train running in from the north west.

Please click on any picture for a larger image.

This is the MoSI site in Manchester, where I once fired and drove steam locomotives, now given over to the construction of the Network Rail Ordsall Chord 

Manchester Victoria, taken from my train to Leeds which is in platform 1, the southernmost of the heavy rail platforms. South of these are the Metrolink tram platforms.

 My fourth train of the day is the 11:16 from Victoria to Leeds. This the slower of the two railway routes between these major northern cities, passing Rochdale, Littleborough, through the 1.6 mile Summit Tunnel to Walsden, Todmorden, Hebden Bridge, Soweby Bridge, Halifax, and Bradford. At least as far as Sowerby Bridge it is more scenic than the faster route through Standedge Tunnel, Huddersfield, and Dewsbury.

Bicycle huts at Todmorden


My fifth train of today, the 13:16 from Leeds to Morcambe in Leeds station alongside a Virgin East Coast express for London Kings Cross. I will ride this 'Northern' train, which comprises a single coach Sprinter and a two-coach 'Nodding Donkey' pacer, as far as Carnforth. I will ride in the Pacer, not the Donkey!

The next train will take me from Leeds to Carnforth, initially following the River Aire through Shipley, past Titus Salt's mill at Saltaire, Bingly with it's famouse 'Five Rise' staircase of locks on the Leeds Liverpool canal. We pass the northern end of the Worth Valley heritage railway at Keithley before heading for Skipton. 

After crossing the watershed between the Aire and the Ribble around Otterburn, at Settle Junction we veer away from the Settle Carlisle railway through Giggleswick, Bentham, and Wennington before crossing the Lune at Arkholme and curving in to cross the West Coast Main Line immediately north of Carnforth, and turning sharply south to run into that station.

Beautiful overall roof at Hellifiled

Looking north to Ingleborough

After Settle Junction the Settle Carlisle line leaves us to the north

Looking north to the hills around Hawes

....Or maybe this is Ingleborough?

....Or this? Or Whernside, or Pen-Y-Ghent? Anyway, this is 3-Peaks country!

Wennington Station

Carnforth is of course famous as the film location for 'Brief Encounter', and there is a David Lean exhibition in the heritage centre there

The Heritage Centre is well worth a visit. I only had about 25 minutes here and there was a lot to see

The famous refreshment room at Carnforth. But where are the curly tipped sandwiches and pork pies under perspex domes?

There is a lovely 'Joyce of Whitchurch' clock on the platform, however

The station no longer serves the West Coast Main Line, whose high speed tracks are separated from the platforms by railings

At Carnforth 125mph Pendolinos flash through behind the railings on the WCML while I wait for my sixth train of today, the 15:24 from Barrow to Manchester Airport, the very same train I travelled on exactly a week ago on my Barrow trip.

Here are a couple of videos which show why the platforms at Carnforth are safely separated from the main railway lines:

First, the same Colas Rail log train I saw last week, heading for Chirk:

Next, a Trans Pennine class 350 heading south from Scotland, while a Voyager heads north:

Our train was, as last week, a Trans Pennine Class 185 leased to Northern (so my Norther pass is valid on it). This is in the colours of the new TPE franchise which commenced on 1st April, and is seen at Preston during a booked 20 minute wait for another TPE 185 (also leased to Northern) to arrive from Blackpool North, whereupon the two trains will be combined to run as a six car unit to Manchester Airport.

The unit from Carnforth to Preston had been quite full and I found a reserved seat to sit in that was reserved from Preston onwards. At Preston I left this unit to continue my journey in the second unit when it arrived. In the meantime more passengers were turning up and crowding onto the first unit! 

The second TPE 185 unit arrives at Preston from Blackpool North and slowly advances towards the unit from Barrow to couple up to it. It was this unit that I boarded for the remainder of my journey to Manchester. So was this my 7th train of the day?

The unit from Blackpool North was far less crowded than the unit I'd travelled from Carnforth on, so I had a comfortable ride from Preston to Manchester Piccadilly, where we arrived on time. From there, as last week, the 17:02 to Crewe took me home to Wilmslow.

At Wilmslow the awful 88 bus again failed to show. I'd spent the thick end of 8 hours today on 8 trains, all spot on time. But buses will be buses - totally unreliable! So my wife ran me the last couple of miles home in her car!

Useless buses aside, today has shown yet agin just how good our rail system is.

Cumbrian Coast next week? If the weather is good, that'll be the next 'Northern pass' outing!


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