Saturday, October 05, 2013

Getting my money's worth: A Northern Rail adventure - A dash, a death and a drink

I am writing this from the comfort of my hotel room in Newcastle (I made it). The lack of updates since leaving for Carlisle are for a variety of reasons. Let's go through the journeys though:

So onward to Carlisle I went from Leeds. I posted a bunch of pictures on Twitter for a while, then I suddenly stopped. As I tweeted much later on, phone signal on that line was occasional at best. To make matters worse, my phone *attempting* to connect and my failed photo uploads meant that it used up lots of battery, meaning on the approach to Carlisle, my laptop had died and my phone was very low, so updates were quiet due to preserving battery (which turned out to be futile, more on this later).

Carlisle. I was outside of a train for less than 60 seconds. I arrived into platform 6, a bay platform, 5 minutes earlier than planned. Right next to platform 6 was platform 5, containing a train to Middlesbrough...VIA NEWCASTLE! It was the train one hour before the one I was due to get. I went to the front of my train on arrival and got out, dashed round and into the train in under 60 seconds. By catching this train, I would arrive into Newcastle an hour earlier than planned, and I did.

I remember my hotel being between Newcastle and Manors stations, a bit closer to Manors. Brilliant! I can get a train to Manors and save some more time! There was one ready to leave and I hopped on it, and the journey took about 2 minutes (ending the day on another Pacer was not in the plan, but whatever).

Then everything went wrong.

I planned on using my phone's map functions to guide myself to my hotel once I got to Manors. I got there and opened the maps application.

goodbye - Peter's Phone, October 2013

My battery died as I arrived at Manors. I got off the train in a bit of a dazed state. I had no idea where to go. I remember it being near the quayside or something like that, so off I went in search of hotels (they usually bunch together). I walked and walked, occasionally asking people directions only for them to not know or to send me to the wrong hotel. Eventually, I stopped off at a corner shop for a drink and the guy knew where the hotel was! I arrived at the hotel one hour and twenty minutes after my train originally arrived into Newcastle. I was exhausted, but I made it. Until I realised I only had 45 minutes to get myself checked in and find/get to "The Gate" to meet a friend and regular listener of my radio show for some food. That bit's not about trains, but he lives in Sunderland and uses the Metro to get to Newcastle. As a true English gentleman, I must see him off at his destination.

And so I went on the Metro, but that's for another blog post. I need sleep.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Getting my money's worth: A Northern Rail adventure - Onwards to Carlisle

I arrived in Leeds bang on time! Hung around for half an hour waiting for the Carlisle train and now I'm off. Going to take lots of pictures as requested by Northern Rail on Twitter which will end up on @theshillito on Twitter and probably here eventually. My phone is being charged up by my laptop, which itself only has 1 hour 20 mins left, so I may end up out of signal at some point :S

ETA at Carlisle: Still 15:32 (on time)

Getting my money's worth: A Northern Rail adventure - Delays from everyone

Delays happen. I get that. Northern Rail have a bit of a bad reputation for this, sometimes unfairly. With the failure of an electric unit resulting in the use of a Pacer unit (see previous post for my reaction to this) and the late running of the service due into Crewe before mine, likely meaning my train had to wait a bit behind this, I arrived into Manchester about 10 minutes late. No big deal, I'll get the tram to Victoria with the hope of getting the 10:21 to Leeds.
The tram got to just inside the door at Victoria station and stopped. There was a tram in front just sitting in the platform not going anywhere. Turned out this was due to not having a driver, and it was sitting there waiting for one (you would've thought they'd do this at a terminus rather than in the middle of three routes, but whatever) so while sitting on the tram waiting to get to the platform, the 10:21 left. Well okay then. New plan. The next train to Leeds was the Selby-bound train at 10:48, which would get me to Leeds for 12:12. Still plenty of time to get to Carlisle on time, which is the important bit. I can't cancel my hotel if I don't do it before 12pm, so as long as I get on a Carlisle-bound train, I can safely make it to Newcastle, regardless of how late it is.

So here's the updated timetable with delays and changes as-of writing this post on the train to Leeds:

Depart TimeDepart Station--Arrive StationArrive Time
08:50+5minCrewe--Manchester Piccadilly09:44+10min (arr: 09:54)
10:48Manchester Victoria--Leeds12:12 

This still gives me over half an hour leeway at Leeds, which means I should still be able to make it. We'll see how the day continues.

Getting my money's worth: A Northern Rail adventure - Pacers at Crewe?

I've never seen a Pacer at Crewe before until now...

Getting my money's worth: A Northern Rail adventure - Crewe

"The 08:31 Northern service to Manchester Piccadilly via Manchester Airport is currently running 16 minutes late."

Well that's a good start. The train I want is running 5 minutes late because of this. Oh good. First train of the day, and I already face delays. Well, it's a good job I factored in delays longer than this. If only this were Japan, where delays of over a minute are very rare.

Getting my money's worth: A Northern Rail adventure - Prologue

I'm a crazy person.

There I said it. I'm bat-poo crazy.

Today, on the 4th October 2013, I will be travelling on the train for almost the entire day, give or take a few connections.

A few weeks ago, Northern Rail partnered with a newspaper publishing company to publish an advert in a variety of their publications which included a token. Collect two tokens and you can buy a ticket for unlimited Northern Rail travel for a day for £10. As a side story, I travelled to Buxton to obtain newspapers that actually contained said tokens, and bought 10 copies, meaning up to 5 days of travel.

I've used a couple on some silliness, going to Leeds, Selby and Brough, but I thought "what would get me my moneys worth? Well, going to Carlisle might be an idea, right at the top of the Northern network map. Nah, too easy. That just requires a change at Manchester and Leeds. How about going all the way round? On the Northern Rail network map, there is no Northern connection between York and Darlington, meaning the only way to get to Newcastle would be to go via Carlisle.


So here's the plan. On weekdays, the Northern Rail Day Ranger is only valid on trains after 8:45am. So, I will be on the 08:50 from Crewe to Manchester Piccadilly. I will walk to Victoria (or maybe get a tram). From Victoria, I will get the train to Leeds. Depending on how quickly I get there, I could maybe  get the 10:00 or the 10:21, arriving into Leeds at 11:33 or 11:57 respectively. Following that, the trains are a bit sporadic, so I've given myself plenty of time to account for delays at Crewe, Manchester or on route to Leeds, as the train to Carlisle leaves at 12:49, arriving at Carlisle at 15:32. Now, I don't know Carlisle station very well. The last time I got off a train there was due to overhead line problems meaning my Pendolino to Scotland had to stop there and I had to get a Voyager onward to Edinburgh. It was a very quick change and I didn't really pay much attention (it was a morning service). Unless we accidentally arrive early in Carlisle (it can happen) I will have just under an hour to wait before my train to Newcastle leaves at 16:28 (the previous one leaves a few minutes before I arrive), arriving in Newcastle (proper Newcastle-upon-Tyne, not Newcastle-under-Lyme, which is down the road from me and doesn't have a train station anyways) at 17:59.

So in a slightly less wordy way:

Depart TimeDepart Station--Arrive StationArrive Time
08:50Crewe--Manchester Piccadilly09:44
10:21Manchester Victoria--Leeds11:57

This is all assuming A) There are no delays, and B) I don't get stupid ideas and go elsewhere. I've got a hotel booked in Newcastle, so I will try and contain myself, and the number of trains between Leeds and Carlisle aren't frequent, so if I miss that, I will struggle catching up.

I will post some pictures and ramblings throughout the day tomorrow. I hope it's still bright at 6pm in Newcastle, as I want to play with the Metro :D

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Train Stations - That's a thing now

Okay, so if you don't know me in real life, or follow me on Twitter, you may be unaware of my recent hobby(?) of going to places on the train and taking a picture of myself next to a station sign. I started doing this for several reasons. Partly to get me to walk more (walking around a place I'm stuck in, or to the next station while I wait for said train) and also because I like travelling.

I got asked a lot if I had a goal. At first, I didn't really. Now though, I have a goal: All the stations on the Cheshire Day Ranger map. The map is here and I'm currently (at the time of writing this) 42 stations down (plus others from outside the map where I've gone on a wander).

Album of stations (inc non-Cheshire Day Ranger ones)