Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Lowestoft Air Show Specials 2012- What a line up!

37425 growls as it crosses Reedham Swing Bridge with the additional 
(and delayed) 17:45 Lowestoft -  Norwich on 23rd June 2012

There are some events in the railway calender each year that really should not be missed. As far as I am concerned one of these is the annual Lowestoft Airshow held over two days each summer. A brilliant day out come rain or shine and made all that much better by the fact that loco hauled passenger trains have become part of the staple entertainment.

Another photographer captures 37425 as it storms through 
Oulton Broad North heading back to Norwich. The locomotive 
had been released into traffic with DRS just days earlier.

 For many years Anglia railways provided class 47's to top and tail a train to between the airshow and Norwich. With the franchise passing to National Express and now Abellio the tradition has remained. 2012 saw a departure from the usual arrangements with the airshow being staged over a weekend for the first time in it's 16 year history. For the rail fan this meant even more extra loco hauled trains!
As if two class 37/4's and two class 47's on passenger trains 
were not enough, 37409 'Lord Hinton' was also to be found 
stabled at Norwich with saloon coach 'Caroline'. This coach 
started it's life as a 'Hastings' unit buffet and also spent time 
as the SR general managers saloon before being converted 
to it's current use.
 In addition to the usual class 47's a pair of 37/4's were also turned out, freshly overhauled by DRS. Two sets of Mk3's were worked too and from the seaside both sandwiched between a pair of locos. 

37419 prepares to work it's fist passenger train in over six 
years; the 16:15 Lowestoft Norwich on 23rd June 2012.

37419 is seen powering the 18:20 Lowestoft Norwich shortly 
after crossing the swing bridge at Reedham. (The bridge visible 
here was the vantage point for the shot of 37425 on the 
swing bridge)
As an added attraction there was also a steam trip in the area which included the use of a former GWR pannier tank along the branch to Cromer, Sherringham and over the North Norfolk Railway to Holt. 
My only regret is that with so much rail action I didn't actually get a chance to watch the airshow!

Pannier Tank 6944 departs from Hoveton & Wroxham
What a line up! Four locomotives all on passenger stock stand at Norwich!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Shanghai to London- Part 3

Wuxi to Beijing-

The journey to Beijing is from Wuxi East Station- which turns out to be very east (especially as we are running late!). A 30 minute taxi ride from the downtown area on one of China’s new 3 lane elevated roadways brings into view another large steel station structure. Today is a fairly clear day but even so the towers of central Wuxi are too far away to be seen.  The station here will be linked to the new Wuxi metro system- but that is still under construction, large ‘cut and cover’ pits littering the cities streets.

Wuxi East Station on the Shanghai -Beijing High Speed Line
At Wuxi East we area allowed onto the platform some10 minutes before the train arrives from Shanghai. While waiting a fast Shinkansen style ‘Bullet Train’ soars through the central track at a line speed of around 300kph. The sight is certainly impressive! Shortly afterwards another similar train arrives to form the G112 service to Beijing South.

Boarding the train here is very orderly. Passengers are already queing at markers on the platform which locate the door position of their coach. As the train doors open passengers board from one door, while departing passengers leave from the opposite end of the coach. This eliminates (at least in theory ) the usual jam of people in the coach aisle.

Two views inside the Japanese 'Shinkansen' train
On board the train is comfortabley apponinted with 3+2 airline style seating. This is all configured to face the direction  of travel but can also be reversed to create a bay of seating for groups- not that I had found any way to influence the seat reservations I had been given.

A glimpse of a freight train on a 'classic' line as we speed past
As sightseers our allocated seats were not ideally placed being with windows which really could line up better. The fact that many of the window blinds are down is a further hindrance. We find some seats more suitable for viewing the scenery but half an hour later we must give them up and move back to our own seats as more passengers arrive. Very few trains in China run with empty seats and this one is no exception, now being close to capacity. Fortunately there are always vestuibles we can stand in to take our photographs when the scenery gets good- and this does happen from time to time along the route. The vast swathes of China’s flat and fairly uninspiring farmland are punctuated, of course, by large construction sites where tower blocks are appearing seemingly in the middle of nowhere. As each City approaches a myriad of further high speed routes converge before entering the cavernous parkway style stations.
Flat rural China. If you look closely you can just make 
out the silhouettes of a large group of tall apartment
buildings in the background

One cannot help feeling that these stations are excessively large, some with almost 20 platforms! Like everything else in China it is a clear sign of the countries confidence in it’s future with infrastructure built with capacity for expansion in mind.

While it certainly does feel link a long journey the 5 hour trip has been pleasant, smooth and very fast. As the rural scene changes to become more and more urban it is clear that arrival in Beijing is imminent. The cities South Station is well connected and having said goodbye to China’s high speed rail system and passing several security checks (which the Chinese seem very keen on) it is just a short hop on the subway to reach the city centre.

Beijing South Railway Station

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The end of a split-box era. Farewell 37087.

Back in January 2009, 37087 is entrusted to the 4M71 Tilbury- Daventry
train following the failure of the booked class 66.
The train is seen here at Woodgrange Park in East London.

The traffic DRS locos have become known for- on 20th July 2010
37087 is seen leading 37229 though Kensington Olympia with
6M95, the nuclear flask working Dungeness
My final encounter with 37087 was on 16th December 2011
when it hauled a stoneblower to Eastleigh. The short
train is seen here emerging from the line to Staines at
Byfleet & New Haw
Ever since the fist class 37 rolled off the production line over fifty years ago the sight of a class 37 with split-headcode boxes has become very familiar. I personally only got into the hobby during the later decade of these locos histories, but even so the 'split box' machines were certainly my favourites. EWS was still using it's last survivors untill the end of 2004 after which it really seemed the end was near for 37's supporting earlier style front ends. DRS however still had some locos on it's books which had avoided the companies modernisation scheme. 37029 lasted in traffic until late 2006 (and has since entered preservation), thus leaving just 37087 to represent the split-box machines on the mainline. Amazingly the locomotive has continued to do just that, being the sole surviving split box machine for 5 1/2 years. Like all things though, good things must come to an end. In June 2012 the locomotive was withdrawn to donate parts to class 37/4's which will now be revived. The curtain hence has fallen on the real, working, split headcode 37's- gone, but certainly not forgotten.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Diamond Jubilee

June 2nd-5th 2012 sees the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II who is still going strong after an incredible 60 years of service on the throne. To make the occasion events have been ongoing up and down the country, with the railways doing their bit to join in the event.
Several operators have made the effort to mark the event with locomotive namings and re-paintings which have included a class 43, 47, 67 and 90.

DB Schenkers 67026 has been repainted into a special livery bearing the Union Jack and re-named 'Diamond Jubilee' for the occasion.
 One of the largest scale events to take place over the weekend was the Jubilee Thames Pageant in which more than 1000 boats sailed on the Thames through central London to crowds of onlookers and, of course, to the Queen. Despite the overall nautical theme the railways played their part in this event too (not to mention transporting thousands of spectators) with LMS locomotive 6201 'Princess Elizabeth' positioned over the Thames to mark the beginning of the event.
2601 'Princess Elizabeth' sounds her whistle to start the Thames Jubilee Pageant. On the boat below the real Queen Elizabeth II can be seen along with the Duke of Edinburgh, Duke of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall.