20 May 2009

The LEYTR Railrover: Part 4

Part 1 can be viewed by clicking here.
Part 2 can be viewed by clicking here.
Part 3 can be viewed by clicking here.

Part 4 starts on Platform 1 in Paddington Station, where our Cornish Riviera train had arrived 90 minutes before we were required to disembark. It's a strange and slightly uneasy feeling, asleep in a carriage on Platform 1 as the morning peak is starting to ensue. Today was 30 June 2005 and our Day 5. We had today and two more days to go, using our All-lines first-class Railrover ticket. Today was also the day both editors parted company.

Going it alone: m'colleague disappears to Warwick while I travel by Class 450 to Portsmouth.

I chose to stick to the schedule and made my way by Tube to Victoria Station, where I caught a South West Trains (SWT) service to Portsmouth and then onto the Isle of Wight. M'colleague - having spent much of yesterday with me on buses - was in dire need of substantial yet complimentary food - so planned an impromptu trip up the West Coast Main Line (WCML) to the West Midlands and back c/o Virgin West Coast, where he sampled the opulent free food to which those travelling first class are entitled.

I'd never been to the Isle of Wight before and at Portsmouth Harbour paid my return trip on the Wightlink FastCat to Ryde - receiving a 34% discount thanks to my Railrover!

The Wightlink FastCat - fast but expensive!

I had plenty of time to take photos of the unique Island Line train service operation on the island, using 1938 London Underground stock. Many are very critical of SWT, choosing not to retire trains that are 72 years old, and to make the required investment in newer vehicles; personally, I think they fit in well on the island - they look just the ticket for the tourists, while also offering suitable journeys for the island's commuters in that area. Although they are outdated Tube trains, they are operated in full accordance with the National Rail guidelines and offer everything you'd expect any other train service in Great Britain to do.

Ryde Esplanade Station

This train was built in 1938 and spent much of its first life working Bakerloo Line Tube trains until retirmement came in the form of the Island Line.

Having subsequently caught one of the trains from Ryde Esplanade to the terminus at Shanklin, I had an hour before catching my first-ever Southern Vectis bus to Yarmouth. My bus was Service 7A destined for Ventnor and was a service we'd planned to catch as it skirted virtually all the south and south-west of the island before I alighted at the stop nearest Yarmouth's ferry terminal.

Today was nice - the temperature was a few degrees shy of 30C and the cool breeze felt on the crossing from Yarmouth to Lymington was very welcome indeed. A return from anywhere on the mainland to anywhere on the Isle of Wight is possible on any service crossing the Solent. So Portsmouth-Ryde and Yarmouth-Lymington is possible. This was something we'd not been able to get confirmed prior to the trip I seem to remember, though I had it confirmed verbally on the day.

Taken at Yarmouth, this Wightlink Ferry gets ready to sail to Lymington.

M'colleague had planned to meet me at Lymington Pier, where he arrived on one of the historic slam-door Class 421 electric trains used on the service. It was one month before we visited that SWT had chosen to keep the Class 421s on the Lymmington Branch due to its self-contained nature and had set about renewing them so that they were able to continue operating post-November of that year when all slam-door emus had to be removed from service. A few months ago we learned that SWT plan to remove the Class 421s altogether by the end of the year, which would bring to an end over half a century of slam-door operation on this route.

The historic Class 421 electric multiple unit named Freshwater. This and its sister train are now the only remaining slam-door trains operating on the National Rail network.

We caught 1497 Freshwater to Brockenhurst Station where the service terminates. We then had a short hop aboard an SWT Class 450 to Pokesdown, where we stayed overnight at a b+b.

Day 6 started with what Top Gear were to copy from us: we left Bournemouth aboard a Virgin Cross Country Voyager and parted company at Basingstoke to have a race to the first-class lounge at Euston Station. I formed the Clarkson opinion that remaining on the Voyager to Reading and then onto a Class 180 Adelante into Paddington then a Service 205 bus to Euston would be the quickest way. M'colleage (Hammond/May combined) said this was quite frankly ridiculous and the quickest was was to alight at Basingstoke onto a SWT service to Victoria and to catch the Underground to Euston.

Thanks to problems entering Reading, I now had plenty of time to take photos thanks to a missed connection.

I would have won had it not been for the 5 minute wait to be allocated a platform at Reading. Everything else went like clockwork. In typical Top Gear fashion, m'colleague had not managed to take a sip from his first buckshee gin & tonic when I burst through the door, a little flustered.

They are now regular performers in the LEYTR area, running for Hull Trains along the ECML. In 2005 I took my first trip on one - a Class 180 Adelante, between Reading-Paddington.

Service 205 at Euston Station (just before the spring to the first-class lounge)

We had an hour to kill here before catching a Virgin Pendolino Class 390 to Manchester Piccadilly and back. I'd never been on a Pendolino before and in 2005 they were relatively new. Very little remodelling of the WCML had taken place by then and yet the journey seemed very smooth and efficient. While in Manchester, we spent our hour looking down at the melee from the confines of the first-class lounge, equipped with its mini bar and fridge.

Today was my first-ever trip on a Pendolino. Very impressive!

Our return trip to Euston took place soon after 1700hrs and we were treated to wine and Belgian chocolates in addition to the three-course feast. It is outrageous that Virgin can offer everything edible for free and yet GNER that was offered only free juice/water, fruit/cookies. NXEC have actually got worse!

Back in Euston and very impressed with the journey, the surreptitious tilting on bends, the food and the on-board hospitality, it was back to the first-class lounge to await our third sleeper service: this time Euston-Fort William. (GL)

To be continued.....

Part 1 can be viewed by clicking here.
Part 2 can be viewed by clicking here.
Part 3 can be viewed by clicking here.

The entire LEYTR Railrover will be uploaded in its entirety to the LEYTRavels blog when the final part has been published on this site.