11th September  2004

PRAR on a day out...

This tale starts with the usual stuff about getting to Kings Cross for a railtour, and breakfast at Beanos Cafe. The tour was waiting in platform 6 at Kings Cross, with 66503 at the helm. Lots of people seemed to be on for the Potters bar move (followed by a fast car to the East Lancs for further green shed action). I joined these although I had different plans.

Potters bar was reached for a sensible fare and I bailed for a 365 (515) to Peterborough. As we arrived at Huntingdon I had one of those "what's that doing there" moment and leapt. There were a pair of 365s in the bay platform so I got them (well '505) and the bay in. (This move is the one mentioned in the adverts for Baywatch, but at the time I planned to get it in.)

After the brief diversion it was back on another 365 (538) for Peterborough (which must have been late as the timetable suggested 30 minutes in the sun at St. Neots and it was only about 5). Here I purchased my Central CDR to Walsall. 11.90 for 200 miles (of 15x units).

It was 3 car 158955 across to New Street and then 150102 down to Walsall. From Walsall, Chasewater is a 1 bus ride. There seemed to be lots of buses although not much gen of any use. Ex London Country Leyland National arrives to take me to Brownhills. The bus stop at Brownhills is not particularly close to the Chasewater railway, although it is on top of the former line from Walsall. A brief stroll through along the Wulfrunia Way, taking your life in your hands across the A5, and then up a back alleyway leads to the country park where the Chasewater is sited.

Chasewater we running a DMU (W51370+W51412) when I got there so one trip was sufficient to scratch the line. 2.45 was parted with for this pleasure. They've got some pretty impressive stations for what is basically a green (brown?) field site, but little in the way of track. On their map it looks quite easy for them to close the circle and run a "Catch-me-who-can" layout. I left Chasewater at about 4pm. Here the tale of woe really starts.

I finished the trip, took a few photos then boarded a bus heading for Cannock. Two stops down the road the bus is flagged down by distraught couple who's young child has left it's teddy on a bus. Not the bus I was on, but another one - quite possibly on a different route or run by another operator. Cue much discussion between driver and couple on the subject of bus diagrams, lost property etc...

Bus eventually makes it's way to Cannock where I find it's an hourly service, and I've just missed it. Time for fish and chips. Cannock at 5pm on a Saturday is not a hive of activity. The only excitement was a group of Chavs trespassing on the line and even they didn't do anything interesting. 1725 from Stafford arrives and I board 170397 heading for New Street. Present Walsall - Peterborough ticket to gripper and ask for excess. Gripper says no problem as it's the same fare.

Get to Walsall. Wait. Wait some more, wait a bit more, PA comes to life - there's a points failure. Wait some more - if you wish to smoke please do so on the platform. Wait some more.

Eventually get road, close doors and depart. Head south to Perry Barr. Then turn right and head for Soho. Taking the scenic route although I understand some of these are booked to go that way. Eventually get to New Street. Train to Stanstead (i.e. Peterborough) long gone.

Go to information desk to find out options. Help-desk man taps in the journey and comes up with direct train at 2030 - as it was only 1840 so asked him to try again. This time he came up with a journey via Nottingham.

Board 1849 Nottingham train (170514), which proceeds to turn right at Stenson Junction and avoid Derby. An unexpected development. Get to Nottingham about 5 late, not too bad as it was originally +15 for a Liverpool Norwich. Check screens and find train to Norwich is 20 late. Wave good-bye to 222016 on last direct London train. Investigate tram stop and NET tram. Return to platform. Norwich train is now 30 late, also notice it's not scheduled to call at Grantham...

1564xx arrives and blocks platform. This is the 1855 stopper from New Street which has come via Leicester. Ask platform staff what is going on, explain that I am heading for London via Peterborough. "You'll be ok."

158951 arrives and reverses to form Norwich train. Board train and head West out of Nottingham about 40 late. Back past Trent Junction heading for Leicester. Arrive at Syston to find red signal on the branch. 2030 New Street - Cambridge all stops has been let out in front of us. F@@king network rail.

Follow all shacks unit to Peterborough where we arrive an hour late. There is one train to London left, the 2248 WAGN. As we leave the train at Peterborough fellow passenger is assaulted by three other passengers who then run off down the track in the direction of the EMU sidings. Assaulted passenger is carried off at high speed by some mates to waiting car. Both parties are insistent that they don't want to talk to the police for some reason.

Station staff attempt to control situation. This is quite easy as both parties have buggered off into the night. Police eventually arrive, can't do anything so do nothing. Paramedics then arrive. Not pleased to find their patient has been whisked away.

365521 pulls in to form last London service. This was my last WAGN unit so that's 5(ish) TOCs completely underlined now. This was the only high point of the journey from Birmingham. London service departs and runs semi-fast to Stevenage. We then turn left to take the Hertford Loop. This costs a further quarter of an hour so there's no point trying a tube and Kings Cross - find a night bus instead.

There's no direct night bus home from Kings Cross so basher instinct takes over and I take one heading in the correct direction and change. Wait at a stop for N176, another night bus arrives heading in the same general direction so take that for a few stops. Repeat this procedure until you arrive at Camberwell. In between times tap out email on public terminal announcing how badly the journey is going and try to purchase cup of tea in 24 hour bagel shop.

Eventually arrive back at Penge late - night bus was full and standing for some portions of the route! Leave bus and then debate waiting 20 minutes for the N75 or walking home. Walk home in 25 minutes - no sign of N75 so made correct choice. Arrive bed 0250.

And all because a toddler lost their teddy bear.

Result for the day 2 miles of track and 1 loco.


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