‘Bridge Bi-Mode Breakthrough

Class 769 bi-mode trains reach Stalybridge

At 1714, arriving three years and nine minutes late on Platform 5 at Stalybridge station was the 1531 train from Southport to Stalybridge. Though the journey itself seems far from headline-grabbing, the kind of rolling stock and its delay is even more so.

Instead of the usual Class 150 Sprinter unit, the 1531 was operated by 769 442. The four-car unit is one of eight Northern trains that are bi-mode units.

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How I Miss BR Rail Blue (and the use of Rail Alphabet on All Station Signs)

Why, oh why, does our rail franchisees insist on liveries inspired by 1990s football strips?

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Dignified: the BR Rail Blue scheme seen on a Class 304 bound for Stoke-on-Trent in 1992. Photograph by Hugh Llewellyn (Creative Commons License – Attribution-Share Alike).

Call me old (well, I’m almost 37 years old for goodness sake anyway), but I hanker for the smooth, smart, yet strikingly modern liveries of the British Rail era. I hanker for their discipline and adherence to the Rail Alphabet typeface, and other wonders from the Design Research Unit. I miss seeing the yellow text on red signage of the BR Travellers’ Fare outlets and the design language, used on all railway stations from Abererch to Yeovil Pen Mill. Continue reading “How I Miss BR Rail Blue (and the use of Rail Alphabet on All Station Signs)”

Slam Door Trains We Have Known and Loved: The Not So Perfect Ten

A good excuse to reminisce about pre-privatisation diesel and electric multiple units

Alongside today’s Pacers and Sprinters, our first generation EMUs and DMUs were known in the late 1980s as Heritage Units. The bulk of which being slam-door trains. Continue reading “Slam Door Trains We Have Known and Loved: The Not So Perfect Ten”

Greater Manchester Set to Lose Another 17 Trains

Anger as bankers move electric trains to the West Midlands

Class 323 EMU, Manchester Piccadilly station
The Class 323s first arrived in Greater Manchester in 1996, originally for services to and from Manchester Airport. Following issues with Railtrack’s Safety Case, the Hunslet TPL built units’ introduction was delayed by two years. They first appeared on the Hadfield line in November 1997, replacing slam-door Class 305s.

Almost a year after the DfT’s imposition of an evening peak for Greater Manchester’s rail users comes another body blow. Porterbrook Leasing, who owns most of Britain’s trains has refused to offer 17 Class 323 electric trains to Northern Rail’s successors in 2016.

Instead, the rolling stock leasing company (owned by Alberta Investment Management Corporation, Allianz Capital Partners, EDF Invest and Hastings Fund Management) has decided to move them to the West Midlands. At present, the Centro West Midlands boundary sees a number of local services utilising Class 323, and the move allows for greater standardisation. The reason, to reduce maintenance costs. Continue reading “Greater Manchester Set to Lose Another 17 Trains”

Twin Squeaks: Know Your Pacer Units

An absolute beginners’ guide to Britain’s much maligned railbuses

Class 142 Pacer DMU, Manchester Piccadilly, post-rush hour
The most commonplace constituent of the Pacer family, seen at Manchester Piccadilly railway station.

In the late 1970s, the railbus was a far from new concept for British Rail. There had been single car railbuses, such as those by Wickham seen on branch lines. By the dawn of the 1970s, most of the branch lines served by the single car DMUs had closed. Even so, some local routes such as the Penistone and Oldham-Rochdale Loop Lines were threatened with closure. Continue reading “Twin Squeaks: Know Your Pacer Units”

Lost Railway Services of Greater Manchester: The European

The story of Manchester’s former Boat Train service to Harwich Parkeston Quay

The European (Glasgow Central - Harwich Parkeston Quay) map

Since the Edwardian times, Manchester Victoria station’s canopy and tiled map proudly advertised the fact it was possible to travel from there to Leeds and the Hook of Holland. Its ticket office windows also reflect the scale of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway’s ambitions. Today, the railway station is a shadow of its former self, with only six platforms (down from 17) and a leaky roof. Alas, it is almost impossible to get to the Hook of Holland from Victoria without changing at Leeds.

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