R852 PRG's Reviews

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I have just returned from four days away on my own and thought I'd share my activities in a non-conventional style. Many of the places I visited have been on my radar for some time and I'm pleased I've finally been able to tick them off. 

Sunday 15th August 2021

I boarded the 0838 southbound LNER from Durham, headcode 1E04, operated by 801222. This was only my second time on a fully-electric Azuma due to the ones operating north of Edinburgh all being bi-modal. I was seated in coach L for my journey, the only full-length first class coach. The journey down was punctual and the staff were very attentive, something I find to be quite the opposite when travelling to and from Aberdeen. Some of the Aberdeen crews are shameful in comparison. Upon arriving into Kings Cross, I decided to have a jaunt around on the Underground to kill a bit of time before heading over to Reading. I boarded a Northern line service up to the northern terminus of Edgware. This service was operated by 1995 stock No. 51631. I recall in February 2017, when in London with my dad, we had a trip up to Edgware and back to fill a morning in. I remember quite a few ALX400s were still running around at the time, a lot of them being 55-plates like those that had found their way up to Arriva the year prior. Upon arrival at Edgware, I tapped out and back in before deciding to get the next service back into the city centre. Upon returning to Kings Cross, I switched to the Victoria line and boarded 2009 stock No. 12089 as far as Oxford Circus where I changed onto the Bakerloo line to take me over to Paddington. This was operated by the venerable 1972 stock No. 3234. I do love the interiors of the Bakerloo line trains and found myself using them a fair bit over the course of the next few days. I arrived into Paddington at 1317, with enough time to catch the next stopping service to Reading.

After tapping out and ascending to the main station concourse, I made my way to the far edge of the station where the Reading stoppers seem to leave from. The 1329, headcode 2N36, operated by a trio of GWR-liveried Class 387s, was quietly boarding at the platform. I boarded unit 387159 to find it was quite lightly loaded, with perhaps a fifth of the seats occupied, and parked myself at a forwards-facing airline seat. We departed on-time and I noted some of the commuter towns we stopped at including Slough (setting of the UK version of The Office) and Maidenhead (Theresa May's constituency) appeared to take on just as many passengers heading towards Reading as had gotten off having come from London. As I made my way out of Reading station, I decided to fill in a couple of hours on some of the local buses. I was aware that the 17 service was their high-frequency moneymaker akin to the 21, but saw that the 33 service across to Little Heath via Tilehurst (also on the 17 route) was being operated by a selection of older Scania deckers. I headed to Friar Street and boarded 09-plate double-deck OmniCity 1113 across to Little Heath. On arriving at the terminus, it became apparent that the board in front had conked out and was receiving attention from an engineering van. We had nine minutes layover here, so I alighted to grab a photo of the broken OmniCity before boarding for the return trip. As we departed, I noticed on the vehicle tracker that the board behind was in the hands of 810, a 54-reg OmniDekka. I decided to alight at Tilehurst Triangle and waited for it to head back the way I had just come. I was able to nab another photo of this one during the layover and joined it again for its return trip back to the city. It was nice to be able to compare the Scania integral against the more familiar OmniDekka. Both were good runners and seemed to have been well looked-after. From what I saw of the Reading network on a Sunday, it seemed like a solid operation. I decided to call it a day after returning to the city centre and made my way to my hotel for the night where I caught up on some work.

Monday 16th August 2021

I decided to have a slightly later start on Monday as I had arranged to meet with my uncle, who has lived within zones 1 and 2 since the late 1980s. I decided to fill the day in by sampling the Oxford Tube up to Oxford and back. I made my way to the station and boarded de-branded former Gatwick Express unit 387203 on 2P36, the 1015 stopping service into Paddington. Much like my journey the prior afternoon, it was steady away and lightly loaded, arriving into Paddington on time at 1105. I had noted that there was an Oxford Tube every 20 minutes and was likely able to catch the 1150 service north. I boarded a Circle line service down to Victoria, operated by S7 stock No. 21405. I made my way out of the Underground concourse and emerged just next to Victoria bus station. A 5-10 minute walk south brought me to the Elizabeth Bridge where the Oxford Tubes depart from. There were three parked up, suggesting they have a generous layover. I boarded Volvo B11RLE/Plaxton Panorama 50442 and we set away a couple of minutes afterwards. The coach seemed to glide through the streets of London and maintained pace with the rest of the traffic as we powered up the motorway. I spent about an hour and a half watching the comings and goings in Oxford before boarding identical 50427 on the 1515 service southbound. Between 1500 and 1600, it seems the service gains a 15-minute frequency to alleviate the rush period. I boarded the 1515 specifically to see just how busy it got and was surprised to see it became no more than a third full. I sat immediately behind the rear stairwell upstairs which I found to be a very nice spot for future reference. I was thoroughly impressed with the capabilities of the vehicles and amenities on-board; definitely something I'd do again. 

Arriving into London in the midst of the afternoon peak, I walked back up to Victoria bus station. I had just over an hour to kill before meeting my uncle and decided to catch the 390 service to Kings Cross then catch an Underground over to Paddington where I had arranged to meet with him. There was a row of five Borismasters on the stand for the 390 and I boarded the first one, operated by LT746. Believe it or not, this was my first time travelling on this vehicle type, almost a decade after the first examples entered service. We were initially off to a bad start as the bus seemingly refused to start and needed a number of hard resets to get it going again. Once we were away, though, it was a smooth if not slightly arduous journey with the stop-start nature of the traffic. I alighted at St. Pancras and headed straight into the Underground, with a Hammersmith & City service arriving onto the platform at the same time I was. This was operated by S7 Stock No. 21411, getting me to Paddington in twelve minutes. After meeting my uncle, we boarded a Bakerloo line train, operated by 1972 Stock No. 3240, a few stops eastbound to Regent's Park and had a walk through the streets of Marylebone before having something to eat. We then boarded another Bakerloo service back over to Paddington, operated by No. 3254. We parted ways and made our arrangements for when we meet again next week, and I boarded the 2048 train back to Reading. This was operated by IET 800001, the first of the class numerically, and my first non-LNER class 800. It was a half-hour ride back to Reading, where I headed back to my room and retired for the night. 

Tuesday 17th August 2021

I woke up around 0730 on Tuesday and decided to make my way straight into London. After checking out of my Premier Inn in Reading, I walked to the station and boarded the 0831 stopping commuter service from Reading to Paddington, headcode 1P82. It was operated by a trio of GWR 387s, 387158 being the unit I sat in. We picked up a fair few at the likes of Twyford, Maidenhead and Slough but most people had a pair of seats to themselves and there were no standees to be seen. On arrival into Paddington, I boarded a Circle line service to Victoria exactly as I had done the morning prior. It was operated by S7 Stock No. 21308, getting me into Victoria at 0937. After making my way up to the station concourse, I found my stopping service to East Grinstead, headcode 1L20, in the far corner much like I had found my train at Paddington on Sunday afternoon. Again, it was three units, although Class 377s this time. I boarded the central unit, 377464, with five minutes to spare before departure at 0950. The service on the Oxted line branches just after Oxted at Hurst Green, with some trains going to East Grinstead and some going further south to Uckfield. It was a pleasant run down to East Grinstead, with most of the small handful in my coach alighting at the stations en-route. I had just under an hour to kill before heading to the adjacent Bluebell Railway for the day, so waited to get a photo of a Metrobus 400 service at the bus stops next to the station. I made conversation with an older lady here who spoke with quite a peculiar accent. As it turned out, she had been brought up in the same area of Aberdeen as I live and had spent most of her working life in the north-east of England. Quite a connection.

I walked down to the Bluebell Railway platform at East Grinstead, connected to the mainline by a single track which enables rolling stock to be moved without the need for road transport. It started to rain just as the first train of the day from the southern terminus of Sheffield Park arrived, in the hands of 1905-built H-class No. 263. This pre-grouping era loco was part of a small class built by the South East & Chatham Railway for work on suburban passenger services. It remained in the hands of the Southern Region following nationalisation and by the time of the 1960s, despite being non-standard, continued to work in the Sussex area until withdrawal in 1964. The vintage coaching stock for this service were well-accompanied by the pre-grouping livery carried by the loco. I found myself in the compartment of a Metropolitan Railway composite as far as Horsted Keynes, where I alighted and caught the connecting northbound service back up to East Grinstead. This was operated by Maunsell Q Class No. 30541, the only one of the twenty built to survive. Its coaching stock were Southern region BR Mk1s. I got quite comfy and had a table to myself for the duration of the afternoon, doing a full round trip to Sheffield Park and returning to East Grinstead just after 3pm. After having a late lunch, I decided to make my way to my Premier Inn for the night, located just outside of the town centre in the Felbridge area. I caught a 400 service from the high street, operated by double-deck OmniCity 6955. I debated a trip to Crawley to fill the evening in, but decided against it as I was feeling tired and just opted for an early night.

Wednesday 18th August 2021

I got up just before 5am after one of the best sleeps I've ever had in a Premier Inn. My agenda for today was Brighton and I decided to get straight on the trail. I caught the 0544 400 from just outside the hotel, using a Metrovoyager ticket to cover my travel down to Brighton on Metrobus services and then on Brighton & Hove stuff around the city. This was in the hands of OmniCity 6958, which went like a bat out of hell on the country roads we traversed to get to Crawley. For such an early morning service, I was surprised at how we had picked up best part of twenty passengers by the time we'd hit Crawley Bus Station just after 0600. A half an hour wait here ensued before 6983, a slightly younger example, arrived light from the depot blinded up for the 271 down to Brighton. Despite it being best part of two hours from end to end, a number of others appeared to be making the same journey as me. I sat behind the stairs and had no less than five others upstairs with me throughout, this having increased to about fifteen by the time I alighted at the Old Steine. I'd highly recommend the 271 to anyone looking for a leisurely ride through the Sussex countryside. As I'd arrived in Brighton a good couple of hours earlier than expected, I had much more time to play with. After getting a few photos in the morning sun, I set my sights on the first 26 up to Hollingbury ASDA. As luck would have it, this was 57-plate OmniDekka 675. I was very impressed with how it took hills as if it was on the flat. I'd be very happy if it found its way up to Go North East. 

I alighted at Hollingbury to find Enviro400ER MMC 311 waiting time with a 5B on the half-hourly extension to the University of Sussex campus. This was a pleasant but brief ride, with the USB port charging my phone an impressive 10% over the course of the fourteen minute journey. On alighting at the university campus, I checked the vehicle tracker and noticed that three ex-Go North East artics were running one behind the other on the 25. I decided to photograph the first two here and board the third. First up was former 5347, now numbered 127, followed by 5339, now 125, ten minutes afterwards. I then boarded 126, formerly 5341, on the third board. There was a near-ten minute layover at the University of Brighton campus, where I alighted for a few photos and engaged in conversation with the friendly driver. The only internal differences that I noticed were the addition of USB ports; it still retained its 'Go' moquette and the distinct bell noise. When it returned to the Old Steine, I boarded 57-plate OmniDekka 681 on the 50 up to Davey Drive, a residential area of Hollingdean. The 50 operates with a PVR of four OmniDekkas on a frequency of every fifteen minutes. After a lengthy driver changeover en-route, I alighted at Davey Drive and got photographs of OmniDekkas 655 and 682 on the following boards. I then boarded 55-plate 660 to return to the city centre. I disembarked at Churchill Square and walked up to the railway station with the intention of having a ride over to Hove to tick off a Class 313, now the oldest EMU type in service on the network. A return with my railcard came to just £2.15. I boarded 313215, which was operating short runs from Brighton to Hove and back on a half-hourly frequency, the headcode for this one being 2N34. The journey was over within a few minutes, and after grabbing a quick photo, I boarded 313220 on 1S21, a longer service that was making its last stop before terminating at Brighton.

Returning into Brighton just before 2pm, I decided that there was little else that I could expect to achieve there before I would need to start making my way back up to London, and so decided to board the 1409 train, 1M75, up to London Victoria. This was in the hands of a trio of Gatwick Express 387s, my unit for this journey being 387220. I sat at a pair of forwards-facing airline seats, with about a dozen others scattered throughout my coach. The journey was pleasant and we arrived into Victoria on-time. With three hours to kill before my northbound LNER at 1818. I boarded a Circle line service to Paddington, in the hands of S7 Stock No. 21520, before switching to 1972 Stock No. 3250 on a Bakerloo line service to Piccadilly Circus. Here, I switched onto a Piccadilly line train up to Cockfosters, the traction for this leg being 1973 Stock No. 138. After tapping out and back in and having a brief layover at Cockfosters, I boarded No. 233 on the train behind as far as Kings Cross, landing there exactly one hour before my train was due to depart. I spent best part of half an hour in the First Class Lounge, my first time there since it was refurbished, before heading to Platform 2 and boarding 1N29, the 1818 to Newcastle. I was slightly miffed to see this was 801222, the same unit I had travelled south on. Nonetheless, I had a table of four to myself, the journey was punctual and the crew diligent. I alighted at Durham at 2109, where my dad picked me up.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself over the course of these four days and am glad to have been able to tick a lot of these things off at long last. I've travelled a lot further this summer than I have before in the past. I hope this has made for an enjoyable read and that this format for lengthier reviews is easy to digest. I hope to follow this up with a similar review of my escapades next week. Many thanks for reading.
Lover of Volvo B10BLE/Wright Renowns.

My YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLf5tJq...pvNU8vv1SA

My Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/142814434@N05/
Following my four days away in the middle of August, I enjoyed another four days exploring the south the following week. 

Tuesday 24th August 2021

Tuesday was the shortest of the four days in terms of movements. I suppose it was more of a means of positioning myself for the days that would follow. After getting a lift through to the station from my sister, I boarded the 0955 CrossCountry service at Durham, headcode 1V54. Although this diagram is booked a HST and I had booked it with this in mind - although it did happen to be significantly cheaper than all of the other trains that day when I was booking - I had noted on Realtime Trains that it had ran with a Voyager the previous day. Nonetheless, the train materialised in the form of a HST, with 43303 leading and 43239 on the rear. I sat in coach E, in the back half of the train, and had a pair of airline-style seats to myself for the duration of the trip. It was a comfortable ride to Cheltenham Spa, arriving at 1350. Although a near four-hour journey, having spent much of the last two years commuting between Aberdeen and Newcastle on a regular basis, my body has grown accustomed to journeys of such lengths. After grabbing a photograph of 43303 at Cheltenham Spa, I headed out to the bus stop outside the station where I bought a Cheltenham Dayrider on the Stagecoach app and boarded Enviro 36259 on an E into the town centre. I had something to eat and got a few photographs of the many Enviro400s coming and going along the main stretch before boarding MMC 10749 on a 94 to get me to my Premier Inn for the night. I spent the rest of the evening doing some work in my room before having an early night.

Wednesday 25th August 2021

I spent the daytime on Wednesday at the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway. I caught a D to the Park & Ride site at Cheltenham Racecourse, in the hands of 37241. Some of the traffic on the thoroughfares into the town centre was very intense and it seemed that the D/E services weren't running to much of a timetable. After walking up the road to Cheltenham Racecourse station, I boarded the 1225 service to Broadway, comprised of maroon Mk1s, with Modified Hall No. 7903 Foremarke Hall at the head. This locomotive was one of the last GWR Modified Halls built, its construction taking place in 1949 following nationalisation the previous year. I had a table to myself for my short hop to Winchcombe, the first station reached after leaving Cheltenham Racecourse, and crossed over to board the connecting service back, ran by Manor Class No. 7820 Dinmore Manor, accompanied by a rake of chocolate and cream Mk1s. I was able to secure another table to myself for the return trip to Cheltenham Racecourse, where, after sitting for a while, we embarked on another trip to Broadway. At Toddington, Growler Group-owned Class 37/0 No. 37215 connected onto the back of the train, with the Manor uncoupling at Broadway and the Class 37 hauled the fairly heavily-laden train back to Cheltenham Racecourse. It was driven very enthusiastically and is definitely one of the finest classic diesels I've travelled behind. Pleased that I timed my visit to catch it. Upon arrival back at the Racecourse, I grabbed a quick photo of 37215 as it was turned around and began the walk back to the Park & Ride site.

I boarded E200MMC 37621 on a D service back into the town centre, quickly grabbing a meal deal from Greggs before boarding E400MMC 10759 on a 94 to drop me within a five minute walk of Cheltenham Spa station. My intended train, 2T28, the 1723 service from Great Malvern to Westbury, was running to a delay due to a shortage of train crew. Thankfully, I'd allowed enough padding at Gloucester for my onward connection to London, which just so happened to begin from Cheltenham Spa. Nearly twenty minutes late, I boarded 166208. This was my first time on one of the Turbos and I enjoyed the ten-minute journey to Gloucester. I'd definitely hunt more down on a return visit to GWR territory. After a short wait at Gloucester, 1L86, the 1814 to London Paddington, rolled into the same platform I'd alighted from the Turbo on, formed of 802101. It was a very lightly loaded service, with about ten in my carriage at its peak. Upon arrival into London at 2000, I debated how to kill a few hours before boarding the Night Riviera to Plymouth. I ended up deciding on a return trip to Reading, with 800029 there on a busy Oxford-bound service and 387201 on the return. I then waited around for a little while before boarding the sleeper service, with 57603 being the loco on the front. Having cheaped out and only bought a seat, I sat in one of the two seated carriages and dozed off. 

Thursday 26th August 2021

Departure from London was 80 minutes late due to 57603 failing and a replacement having to be sourced from Reading. We were underway at 0105, and I managed to get a few hours sleep before arriving into Plymouth at 0523; the amount of padding in the pathing allowing for such a delay to be made up. I noted that it had been 57605 that had been brought from Reading to get us away. After pottering about in the station for a while, I boarded 06-plate Enviro400 472 on a 51 the city centre. After grabbing a bite to eat, I got my bearings and checked the online tracker to see what was out on the road. Having previously noted that a large number of services covered the interchange at Derriford Hospital, I decided that that would be the best place to head first. 69-plate E400 City 576 rolled onto the Parade with a 42 and I boarded; the journey fell behind schedule due to a high volume of passengers and I missed a connection onto an Omnidekka on the 34 back. I noted an ex-London Enviro400, 460, and caught it back into the city centre the long way round on the 51. It was a good run and there were several points where we sat and waited time. Arriving back at the Royal Parade for just after 0900, I sighted Omnidekka 6009 on the 34 to Derriford and decided to go straight back up. It retained its Brighton & Hove interior like many of those that made their way north in 2015. It seemed to be a mechanically sound vehicle and it arrived at the hospital a good few minutes early. Here, I returned to the city centre on another E400 City, 573, on the 42. I then decided to have a run out to Plympton on the 'Spark' 21/21A network; the ride out was provided by another City, 556, and I got off at a fairly photogenic stop to get a few photos before returning to the city centre on 552, alighting at the Royal Parade at bang-on noon. I had secured early check-in at my Premier Inn to allow me to have a rest to keep me going for the remainder of the day, and made the short walk there. 

After napping and freshening up, I headed out again at about 1415 and caught a short ride up to the railway station on the 72, provided by 63-plate Enviro400 512. After a short wait at the platforms, 2E15, the 1448 service from Penzance, arrived in the form of a 'Castle' HST set, with 43094 leading and 43158 on the rear. This was a very lightly loaded train, with only myself and a handful of others in the rearmost carriage. Upon arriving at Exeter St. David's just before 1600, I made the pleasant walk into the city centre to meet with my friend from Stagecoach South West at a Wetherspoons. If I recall correctly it was called the Chevalier Inn. After a quick bite to eat, we headed for the newly-opened bus station to board stripes-liveried Trident 18308 on a Newton Abbot-bound 2. On his recommendation, we alighted on the winding, upward approach to Exminster and he stalled the driver to enable me to get a photograph. About ten minutes thereafter, we boarded ex-Coastliner 700 Scania N230UD E400 15602 on another 2 back to Exeter. After waiting in the bus station for about fifteen minutes, 18368 appeared with the now-since withdrawn X7 commuter service from Exeter to Torquay. As my companion lives in Paignton, we decided to catch this all the way down to Torquay and finish things off down there. In my years, I have been on many a decent Trident, but this thing was in a league of its own. Following a stop of about twenty minutes to rectify a red ABS light, the driver put his foot down as we headed down the A380 and we achieved 60mph at various points. On arrival at Torquay Strand, we alighted and waited for a 12 to Paignton. I was able to grab a photo of an ex-Sunderland Dart during this brief interval. Scania N250UD MMC 15308 arrived and made a spirited run along the coastal road to the neighbouring Paignton. Despite it being nearly 2000, Paignton bus station was quite busy, with several deckers nearly full loaded. After parting company with my friend, I boarded GWR 150266 on 2E35, a northbound stopping service. After fifteen minutes, I alighted at Newton Abbot and returned to Plymouth on the fairly busy Penzance-bound 802013, having come from London with 1C92. After having had a superb day, I boarded 509 for the short hop to Derry's Cross, dropping me at the door of my Premier Inn. 

Friday 27th August 2021

After having sufficiently caught up on sleep from the previous couple of days, I awoke at 0745 and after getting ready, made the walk up to Plymouth station to board 2U12, the 0850 from Plymouth to Cardiff, comprised of another short HST set; 43016 leading and 43153 on the rear. Although it was initially a quiet ride through the countryside, the train got progressively busier on the other side of Exeter, the bulk of the other passengers disembarking with me at Bristol Temple Meads. A forty-five minute break at Bristol ensued before catching 1A19, the 1204 from Temple Meads to London, in the form of 800315. This was my first time travelling on a GWR service from start point to end point. Again, this was a busy service, but it arrived into Paddington a couple of minutes early at 1339. I had just around five hours to kill before meeting my uncle for dinner and catching the 2100 LNER northbound, so I decided to have a ride about on the Underground and some buses. I headed down into the Underground concourse and boarded a southbound Bakerloo line service as far as Elephant & Castle, operated by 1972 Stock No. 3235. After having lunch at a traditional pie and mash shop in Bermondsey, I caught Go-Ahead London WHV187 on a 188 service as far as Canada Water bus station. At Canada Water, I boarded 378140 on an Overground service to Highbury & Islington. I was bemused by a woman who boarded this service by mistake and pressed the emergency alarm after the doors had closed rather than just jump off at the following station and catch the next train in her intended direction. 

At Highbury & Islington, I tapped out and back in again to catch 2009 Stock No. 11072 on a Victoria service for the few stops to Oxford Circus. Here, I changed onto the Bakerloo line once again and boarded 1972 Stock No. 3543 all the way to the northern terminus of Harrow & Wealdstone. Here, I boarded the Arriva-operated 340 service to Edgware, operated by hybrid Gemini 2 HV172. This vehicle retained its Stagecoach interior, evidence of a TfL contract change somewhere previously. At Edgware, I alighted and boarded the first southbound service on the Northern line, operated by 1995 Stock No. 51663. I alighted at Warren Street and switched onto an extremely busy Victoria line service for the hop over to Oxford Circus. Here, an evidently inexperienced woman among the crowd of standees told her band of children to simply hold onto the pole in the centre and in doing so made it impossible for anyone not standing next to the doors to move. A kind stranger gave them a shove out onto the platform and we were all able to disembark. I made the walk round to the Bakerloo platforms and caught 1972 Stock No. 3547 across to Baker Street where my uncle was waiting for me on the other side of the barriers. After having dinner together at the adjoining Five Guys, I caught a Hammersmith & City service operated by S7 Stock No. 21317 back over to King's Cross and only had to wait a short while before they announced my train, 1N34, the 2100 to Newcastle. I noted that the Azuma was 801213 and watched the mass of humanity making their way further down the train and boarded coach L. It was very quiet in First Class although a number of people from standard whom I presume were unable to find seats did try to join us only to be frog-marched back up the train by the rather taciturn guard. Upon arrival at Durham a few minutes late, I made my way down to the bus stop at Wharton Park to catch the N21 but it failed to materialise. Rather than wait for the one an hour later I opted for a taxi home. After a good few days away, I was in bed for 1am. 

Apologies for the delay in getting this review published, but life gets in the way. I will be back in the north east for ten days at the end of September so will hopefully be able to have a few local outings which may be worthy of a write-up or two. Thanks for reading.
Lover of Volvo B10BLE/Wright Renowns.

My YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLf5tJq...pvNU8vv1SA

My Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/142814434@N05/