Railway Adventures

A Reservation

A Reservation, a Diversion, a Termination and a Successful Culmination
That old dilemma again - whether to travel by train or by car, this time to the Merseyside Railway Society fixture at the Severn Valley Railway on the 22nd May 2012.
The itinerary published by Alan T. indicated travelling on the 12.20pm from Kidderminster, which was easily achievable for me by either means of transport, or so I thought. I soon ruled out travel by car on the grounds of cost and in favour of the comparative relaxation of a train journey.

A Reservation
The recommended route from Newton Abbot to Kidderminster is via Birmingham with a return fare, including railcard discount, of £53.65, or over, off peak. The first off peak service available to me would be the 10.03 from Newton Abbot which would get me to Kidderminster far too late. It having occurred to me that the traditional route via Worcester would be shorter and therefore cheaper I investigated this option. The National Rail website was still quoting high fares even by this route but I found what I was looking for on the Red Spotted Hanky website. I could book a day return to Worcester for £35 and a day return from Worcester to Kidderminster for just £3.65. Importantly I could travel at these fares starting with the 07.19 from Newton Abbot which, with changes at Cheltenham Spa and Worcester, would get me to Kidderminster at 11.05. Perfect. I duly booked my tickets and made a seat reservation on the required train.
My eager anticipation of the fixture increased as I read the various e-mail exchanges amongst M.R.S. members and a good weather forecast for the day was the icing on the cake.
I was awake well before my alarm went off at 6 o’clock on the morning of the 22nd. I left the house in plenty of time and drove to Newton Abbot where I parked in a car park, a short walk from the station, where the cost of a full day’s parking is £2.80. Unfortunately the free on street parking described in my previous articles has disappeared under Teignbridge Council’s new “charge for every inch of available space” policy.
My train, the 07.02 Cross Country service from Paignton to Manchester Piccadilly, formed of a class 220 Voyager (the number had worn off the front end and I didn’t record any details later), arrived on time and left on time at 07.19. So far so good. We called at Teignmouth, Dawlish and Exeter St Davids where 159108 was just arriving down the bank from Exeter Central and 150122 and 143617 were amongst the units to be seen on the depot.159022 was in New Yard awaiting its next trip to Waterloo.
After a brief stop at Tiverton Parkway 66595 was the only locomotive to be seen in an almost empty Fairwater Yard as we approached Taunton.

A Diversion
Somewhere between our Tiverton Parkway and Taunton stops had come the announcement that, owing to a signalling fire at Worle disrupting trains, we were to be diverted via Westbury and our arrival at Bristol Temple Meads would be some forty minutes late. So, after leaving Taunton on time we set off up the Great Western main line through Castle Cary to Westbury where we took the line to Bath Spa and into Bristol, from the opposite direction to that intended. 66086 and 150101 were seen at Westbury.

A Termination
En route a further announcement had told us that our train would be terminated at Bristol and that onward travel on the 10.00 Bristol Temple Meads to Manchester Piccadilly was recommended. I felt sorry for my fellow passenger who I overheard telling someone on the phone that, yes, he would meet him at Bath station but having just travelled straight through would have to wait for a train back from Bristol. We had been due to arrive at Bristol Temple Meads at 08.53 but our diversion, even though we ran non-stop all the way, meant our arrival was not until 09.21.
I had been recalculating as we went along and was wondering if travel via Birmingham would be a better option to get me to my destination on time, even though I thought I would probably have to pay a supplementary fare. The 10.00 Bristol to Manchester would have taken me to Birmingham New Street and by changing there and again at Smethwick (Galton Bridge) I could achieve an arrival at Kidderminster of exactly 12.20. That obviously wasn’t going to work: risky connections with no time to book a ticket and get on the Severn Valley train. I resolved therefore to stick with my planned route and somehow to catch up with the M.R.S. party albeit later than planned. My recently purchased smartphone proved very useful in being able to access rail travel information on the move by the way.
While I was sitting at Bristol Temple Meads on the 10.00 departure, 220003, I watched the 07.25 Plymouth to Edinburgh Voyager arrive at 09.50 and depart a couple of minutes later having arrived by the traditional normal route, so trains were obviously getting through now. It had been due there at 09.26 but my ticket would not have been valid and there was neither any possibility of swapping trains nor any advantage in doing so. We left on time at 10.00 and 66503 was in Stoke Gifford Yard as we called at Bristol Parkway at 10.08.
My connection at Cheltenham had been going to be into the 07.23 Warminster to Great Malvern service but this would have been long gone by the time I got there. This service operates every two hours so I decided to make the most of the places at which I would be forced to spend some time and to be satisfied with catching the 2.05pm Kidderminster to Bridgnorth train. Having liaised by text with both Brian and David and arranged to meet everyone else at Highley, I settled down to work out my new plan.
Arrival at Cheltenham Spa was at 10.40 and I alighted onto a station platform which, perhaps surprisingly, I couldn’t recall ever having visited before. Certainly I had never taken any photographs there. It turned out to be quite busy as you might expect. 150241 left for Maesteg at 10.42 and at 10.49 221124 arrived with the 06.44 Newcastle to Plymouth. Three minutes later 66119 passed through with a southbound freight and at 10.58 170113 called with a Nottingham service, the 09.45 from Cardiff Central. 150221 arrived at 11.02 with a terminating 09.54 from Swindon followed five minutes later by track machine DR73805 heading north. Terminating services make their way to a siding on the east side of the line north of the station prior to forming southbound trains. 170637 departed for Cardiff at 11.12 with the 09.11 from Nottingham and 221141 called at 11.27 forming the 09.07 Manchester Piccadilly to Bristol Temple Meads. At 11.29 143265 terminated after arriving with the 09.15 from Maesteg and 158960 called at 11.35 on its way from Great Malvern (depart 10.50) to Brighton. As 221129 pulled into and out of the southbound platform at 11.40, I thought I’d better cross to the northbound side to be absolutely sure of catching my next train. As I was crossing the bridge I heard another train approaching and was disappointed to see I’d just missed the chance to take a picture of 66423 and its train of Tesco/Less C02 wagons forming the 08.22 Daventry to Wentloog.
221137 departed with the 11.00 Bristol Temple Meads to Manchester Piccadilly at 11.47 and at 11.50 my train, 158766, forming the 08.23 Southampton Central to Great Malvern arrived. We departed at 11.51, three minutes late and after calling briefly at Aschurch took the Worcester line at Abbotswood Junction, pulling into Worcester Shrub Hill at 12.16 where I was pleased to see 172341, my first sighting of a member of that new class. Taking great care to ensure that I was at the correct one of the two Worcester stations for my connection, I stayed on 158766 and alighted at Worcester Foregate Street at 12.19. There are many trains connecting Shrub Hill and Foregate Street but there are also many which call at only one or the other and I wasn’t taking any chances. It’s quite a long walk from one to the other too and I’d had enough disruption for one day.
In revising my plan earlier, I had hoped to be able to photograph some of the surviving semaphore signals in the greater Worcester area before their imminent demise. I decided therefore that I would take the next Birmingham train as far as Droitwich Spa where I would have just over quarter of an hour to photograph what was there.
The arrival of several class 150/1 units displaced from London Midland by class 172s, has seen them become an everyday sight in the West Country. At first there was great sport in trying to get pictures of them in their London Midland livery but all are now in First Great Western colours and they have settled into the general railway scene. I was pleased therefore that when my train arrived at 12.28 it was formed of one of the only three class 150/1s which remain with London Midland, 150109, forming the 11.40 from Hereford to Birmingham New Street via Bromsgrove. Departing at 12.29 our arrival at Droitwich Spa was at 12.38 giving me just enough time to alight and make my way to the footbridge in order to photograph 150109 departing past a wonderful bracket signal as it headed for Droitwich Spa Junction to take the right hand line to Bromsgrove. There was another chance to photograph a train and the signals as 170632 and 153366 ran through non stop on the 11.43 empty stock working from Tyseley to Worcester Shrub Hill at 12.45. My first ride on a 172 was 172339 which arrived at 12.53 with the 12.46 from Worcester Foregate Street to Whitlocks End, via Birmingham Snow Hill. We departed at 12.55 and I finally arrived at Kidderminster at 13.05.
43106 arrived from Bridgnorth and would haul the 2.05pm return. After a good look round the impressive S.V.R. Kidderminster station, I made my way into the leading coach, hoping my fellow members would still be at Highley when I got there. They were.
There are other reports of the M.R.S. outing itself so I’ll resume my story with the return journey to Newton Abbot which began just after Bob, Dave and I had spent some time on the bridge over both main and Severn Valley lines, adjacent to Kidderminster Town football ground. By the skin of my teeth I managed to catch 172340 and 172344, forming the 16.46 from Dorridge to Worcester Shrub Hill, as Alan R. and John smiled and waved at me from the opposite platform.
After calling at Droitwich Spa at 18.08 we arrived at our destination at 18.17. As we passed the signalbox at Worcester Tunnel Junction and the stabling sidings on the site of the former engine shed, coded 85A, in the triangle of the Droitwich, Shrub Hill and Foregate Street lines, I reflected on past visits here in the early sixties and in particular on the row of withdrawn former GWR railcars which stood at one time outside the sidings of Worcester Works, on the opposite side of the line to the shed. All now long gone.
At Shrub Hill I was able to buy a sandwich and a very nice mug of tea in the refreshment room before it closed and I then set about trying to record the many semaphore signals in and around the station. The evening sunlight was glorious but needed some care in order to try to make the best of it in my photo’s.
170634 was stabled in the long siding in between the main platforms while 150121 and 153318 called at 18.23 with the 15.28 Warminster to Great Malvern.
The highlights at various times of day at Worcester are the arrival or departure of the several London trains, in this case the 15.51 from Paddington due to terminate here at 18.07 but which arrived late at 18.44 with 43031 at the front and 43037 on the rear. The HST departed towards Foregate Street then returned forming the 18.49 from that station back to Paddington, using the same platform at Shrub Hill in both directions. I wondered whether it would be worth revisiting Worcester in the near future to photograph the semaphore signals with class 180 “Adelantes” when they are reintroduced to these services.
150109 reappeared at 18.48 as the 17.59 Birmingham New Street to Great Malvern and at 19.05 “Turbo” 165135 arrived as the 17.32 from Oxford, also bound for Great Malvern. My train, the 18.50 from Great Malvern to Bristol Temple Meads pulled in at 19.10 formed of 153318 and 150121; I boarded the latter and we left at 19.10. I considered travelling through to its destination on this train but I reasoned that an inter-platform interchange at Bristol would be more risky than a same platform change so, after calling at Aschurch at 19.35, I alighted at Cheltenham at 19.58. 170116 was in the station with the 18.46 Cardiff to Nottingham and 150221 left at 20.03 as the 20.01 Cheltenham to Swindon. My connection, 221131 as the 12.51 Glasgow Central to Plymouth, arrived thirteen minutes late but I was glad to get on board what would hopefully be the train to take me home to Devon. We left at 20.08. This time I could see no loco’s at all in Stoke Gifford Yard as we stopped at Bristol Parkway at 20.38.
At a busy Temple Meads, amongst all the activity, I observed150104 on the 20.49 to Weymouth, but my attention was on the announcement that following vandalism and cable theft that morning at Nailsea and Backwell, all trains were being delayed owing to the need for hand signalling. Thus I learned the truth of what had happened earlier in the day.

A Successful Culmination
Sure enough our progress, as the landscape became dark, was slow, held up by other trains and by the situation which had caused my earlier delay and diversion. As it was we took one hour and nine minutes for the scheduled thirty two minute journey to Taunton and after calling at Tiverton Parkway and Exeter St Davids we finally arrived at Newton Abbot at 22.51, forty five minutes late, not bad considering the severe disruption caused by third parties earlier in the day.
What a long day but at least perseverance had paid off and I had managed every aspect of my planned trip plus some unexpected route coverage and some unscheduled photographic opportunities. In particular, as always, I was glad to have met my fellow members of the Merseyside Railway Society, almost as much as I was glad to get home to my family and a nice cup of tea.