03 May 2009

The LEYTR Railrover: Part 1

Transport Minister Andrew Adonis may have had civil servants plan is five-day jaunt around the country using a Railrover to coincide with meeting friends and chatting to those within the industry, but we at the LEYTR chose to travel around as much as the country by train as was possible in seven days, aiming to make the most of our first-class Railrovers by timetabling our trip to coincide with trains offering this accommodation (and the free food went down well, too).

We planned our trip when the light nights were at their peak and had an excellent week - the latter becoming perhaps a little too humid for us both if we're honest. Below are some shots of the first two days, plus a kind of prelude to Day 1, which we undertook to ensure we were positioned correctly for our first trip.

25 June 2005 and we find ourselves in Golders Green bus station in north-west London. TfL has always been anti-photographer here, so I stood capturing a few shots from outside the confines of the bus station while m'colleague chose to tuck into his pork pie :-)

This now really is a 'blast from the past': RMs on Service 13. Many of Sovereign's RMs allocated to this route were referred to as Dartmasters on account of their Dennis Dart engines. Service 13 was one of the last 5 routes to lose RMs in 2006.

We stayed at the Ifor Evans Hall in Camden Town for the night - a basic room but for £25 a night in Zone 2, including an all-you-can-eat breakfast, it was a cracking deal. We regularly stay over in student accommodation when the universities are closed.

Having dumped our things we caught the Northern Line to South Wimbledon where, en route to the Croydon Tramlink stop, I showed m'colleague where ITV's police drama The Bill is filmed.

The Croydon Tramlink in its original red and white livery. The new colour scheme being applied to the trams now under direct TfL control is vastly different.

We returned via Elmers End and the DLR before a few pints at the Head of Steam pub (now more aptly called the Doric Arch) adjacent to Euston station before heading back.

26 June was Day 1 proper and we made good use of our first-class Railrovers by availing ourselves of the first-class lounge at King's Cross station. We travelled on GNER's Highland Chieftain (dep 1200) right the way through to Inverness, where we arrived in glorious weather bang on time at 2008hrs I seem to remember.

"City of Kingston upon Hull" resting upon a punctual arrival at Inverness. I took a similar shot in February at this time, though in complete darkness. The train was the same but the livery wasn't!

Having spent the night in a very good b+b, 27 June dawned with a trip to the Far North using a ScotRail Class 158 to the terminus at Wick.

The early morning sunshine illuminates Inverness station's concourse as we board this ScotRail Class 158 to Wick. ScotRail's had two re-brands since this photo was taken!

M'colleague jumped off at the most northerly rail junction on mainland Britain - Georgemass Junction - to take photos while I remained in the train, travelling to Thurso before reversing back to Georgemass and thence to Wick.

Journey's end: Wick station, the very end of the line. Both Wick and Thurso's stations look identical, even down to the mural of a steam train inside.

The journey was not quite what I'd expected, largely because the scenery isn't as dramatic as that south of Inverness and that it takes around 4.5 hours to reach Wick. The then Scottish Citylink coach service was almost an hour faster, though we had first-class Railrovers so were sticking with the train. ScotRail's Class 158s generally have first-class compartments, though there is no first-class fare north or west of Inverness, so standard-class ticket holders could legitimately sit in first class. This isn't well publicised, obviously, and we had the entire compartment to ourselves in both directions.

Day 2 was by no means at an end, but this is where today's 'from the archive' entry ends. Wick boasts the UK's most northerly Wetherspoons pub - The Alexander Bain - which is where we found ourselves eating lunch. (GL)