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Go West, Young Man...

Ian Fowler

IAN FOWLER tells us about his recent trip down to Cornwall by train.

Following a few requests from our RIGHT LINES readers and strangely even more requests from my colleagues for me to "go away somewhere" (perhaps not in such friendly language), I took the decision to visit our friends at Kernow Model Railway Centre in Camborne.

Normally when I head that way I drive, but given that there is an awful lot of "west" from here and that driving is entirely unproductive, I decided to take the train as my theory is that I could work all the way there and all the way back so effectively, not lose any working time through travel.

It is of course, entirely co-incidental that with the legendary HSTs being phased out that a certain senior manager at GM quite liked the idea of travelling virtually the full length of the Western main line in one go, and even more co-incidental that the pre-booked train ran non-stop from Reading to Exeter St Davids but that discussion is for another day.

The schedule was to leave the car here at Gaugemaster and take the first "cheap" train up to Victoria, take the Underground to Paddington and then a direct train to Camborne. The following days return was more fragmented but the most economical way of doing it was a local train to Plymouth, a fast train to Westbury where a change would be made to a Cardiff-Portsmouth and then a Southern connection from Fareham back to Ford. So, a bit more faffing about but it made the round trip just 73 which youd struggle to do on fuel alone let alone the other factors. This immediately endeared me to Sam, our new accountant.

To make things even more exciting, just 3 days before I was due to travel, the line between Slough and London Paddington was plunged into chaos when one of the newer trains on test, contrived to pull down a not-insignificant stretch of catenary. This closed the line for 24hrs and meant some services were starting/terminating at Reading, so the National Rail app and Real Time Trains was being consulted pretty much all the way to London just in case!

The Southern service I opted to take on the way up is usually well loaded as it is the first off-peak direct train to London, and it was even busier today due to the cancellation of a previous train. It was formed of a 4 car Class 377 Electrostar Unit. Although I was unable to secure a preferred table seat, I was able to sit at a seat with a drop-down table and do some work on the way to London. Sadly, there are no power sockets for public use on-board but I did luck into being on a WiFi fitted unit which meant I could communicate/annoy my colleagues through the medium of Outlook all the way to London, as well as do some spreadsheet work that didnt require internet access. The WiFi was generally reliable but the lack of window blinds, power and a proper table meant that although I was able to work, it wasnt ideal.

The journey itself was uneventful and punctual with the only distraction from my laptop coming from a DB Schenker Class 66 at Crawley Stone Terminal.

Upon arrival at Victoria, the next leg was a Circle Line train to Paddington. The Circle Line is no longer a circle and in fact, runs point to point and I was a little surprised as to how long I had to wait for a train compared to the District Line services that share the same tracks. With some time built in for such an eventuality, it was no problem as I headed to London Paddington.

Paddington is one of my favourite London terminals, probably because the destinations served are generally places people choose to visit rather than are forced to (OK, perhaps Slough aside). The concourse is bright and airy and aside from the awkward high numbered platforms which I swear are actually in Park Royal such is the length of the walk to them, the trains are generally very accessible. There are a decent selection of retailers including not just the usual coffee stores and panini sellers but also catering for those who prefer marmalade sandwiches...

Paddington Station

At this point I was beginning to panic as my train was not yet at its platform and boarding despite other later services being ready. I hastily consulted Real Time Trains which confirmed the departure platform (not yet on the screens) and there was indeed nothing there. Ten minutes before the booked departure time and the good news was that a train rolled into the platform, the bad news being that it was an IEP rather than my desired HST! I was more than a little disappointed by this, not least because of the reputation of the seats on these new trains being uncomfortable. Having said this, the sun was out and I was heading to Cornwall, what was not to like? I boarded the train and found my reservation and bedded in for the long journey ahead.

Paddington Station

First impressions of the IEP were very favourable. There were power sockets at every seat, a decent amount of legroom and windows with blinds that you could actually see out of!

The conductor was more than a little flustered as he fessed up to it being a late set swap-out which meant that it was 10 coaches rather than 9 which also meant that some of the reservations were in the "wrong" coaches. Directing passengers to their reservations was a challenge but was dealt with professionally and ensured a right time departure. At this point, things took something of a comedic turn as one of the on-board crew (accidentally) triggered the "Is there a doctor on board?" announcement and messages on the screens which were swiftly apologised for and we were told to ignore. I also couldnt get the Wifi to work, so asked a team member about it and they said that it wasnt always that reliable so I reported it to the GWR support team via email. I was astounded to receive a reply within 30mins to say that theyd restarted the router on the train remotely (and I thought DCC was clever) and to try it again. Low and behold, it worked and performed faultlessly for the rest of the journey.

Another observation was how lightly loaded the train was with many free seats which made the journey more comfortable for me if not the bean counters at Great Western Railway, and with the refreshment trolley trundling up and down, this really was a perfect mobile office.

What was noticeable from the window was quite how much freight there was between Paddington and Reading. You tend not to associate this line with heavy freight usage but it was relentless with aggregate traffic, container trains and cement all passing us heading east.

At this point I got my head down and carried on with my "normal" day, and without the usual interruptions got so much more done than being in the office. In fact, the next time I looked up, we were approaching Exeter which was an ideal point for a break.

Paddington Station

Ive written before about the beauty of the sea wall stretch between Exeter and Newton Abbot so wont revisit the topic again, suffice to say that its a view I never tire of and hope that is a line we all continue to enjoy in the coming decades.

From Plymouth onwards, the train noticeably slows and the intermediate stops become more frequent. This enabled me to crack on a bit more and by the time the train pulled into Camborne, Id actually done a whole days work while aboard trains, a huge tick to using this method of transport.

Id also enjoyed the IEP experience. They are nice trains and the seats were no worse than those youd sit on while on an Easyjet plane. Full marks GWR, although I still like Mark IIIs more!

A productive time was had in Cornwall. So much more can be achieved face to face rather than by phone or email and some interesting possibilities were discussed and Id like to thank Chris and Sam for being such good hosts. Watch this space!

If you are ever in Camborne, I really recommend popping into their store. There is so much to see and its a proper model railway store packed with not only the regulation ready-to-run but also a full range of accessories as well as their well-regarded exclusive commissions. You will not be disappointed.

The journey home the following day was less relaxed. The first train was a crowded Class 150/2 DMU (although full marks for the unexpected at seat power sockets) that was running slightly late. The connection with the Paddington train was therefore tight but either fortuitously or by design, the connection was simply cross-platform and (hooray) it was the HST I was hoping for.

Paddington Station

This train was much busier and I shared my table with a student from Plymouth University whos design project on her mac was much more interesting that the spreadsheets on my laptop. The Wifi worked first time and there were power sockets at the seats. Another pleasant experience.

I disembarked at Westbury and had a 50min connection which enabled me to grab a coffee and watch a few stone trains trundle through. The platform got busier and busier waiting for the arrival of my connection which was a hugely overcrowded 3 car Class 158. I had reserved a seat which was occupied by someone else, but he happily gave it up when he realised. This was the least pleasant leg of the journey. The train was packed and standing and it was swelteringly hot. Add to this, it lost 30mins between Westbury and Southampton which meant that many people missed onward connections.

One of the best things about train travel as you strike up random conversations with strangers (so, yes Im that weirdo you fear on buses) and I learned that some of my fellow travellers were heading to an open day at Brighton University with their parents. After doing my best to sell the City of Brighton to them (after all, these are potentially Albion fans of the future) these out of towners placed their trust in me to advise them where to change following the delays based upon, well Im not entirely sure what, but they did nonetheless. After successfully guiding them onto onward connections at Fratton rather than Fareham (I cheated and used my phone to check the best connections) I headed home, getting a strange kick out of helping the general public. I can now see the attraction of working on the railways at the sharp end.

I can really recommend taking the train over driving. You can get loads done that you previously wouldnt have done behind the steering wheel and although you lose some flexibility, it is often cheaper. I arrived home just an hour later than expected, having travelled hundreds of miles, completed 2 days of office work, had lots of discussions with a key customer and was immediately asked by my children if I had "enjoyed my holiday". Kids eh?!

THINGS I SPOTTED AVAILABLE IN MODEL FORM

GWR HST Set 43005/041 Meningitis Trust Support for Life

B31-519 Class 158 766 2 Car DMU GWR

B31-520 Class 159 013 3 Car DMU BR Network SouthEast

B32-733DS Class 66 040 EWS (DCC-Sound)

B32-737 Class 66 065 Ex-EWS DBS Branding Weathered

B32-738 Class 66 711 Sence GBRF Aggregates

B32-756 Class 57 603 Tintagel Castle GWR

B32-940 Class 150 232 2 Car DMU GWR with Figures

B37-550B 46t POA Mineral Wagon Yeoman Weathered

B37-552C 46t POA Mineral Wagon ARC TIGER Weathered

B38-650A PCA Metalair Bulk Powder Wagon Blue Circle Cement

B38-651A PCA Metalair Bulk Powder Wagon Grey

DA2D-005-000 Class 59 002 Foster Yeoman Silver

DA2D-005-000D Class 59 002 Foster Yeoman Silver (DCC-Fitted)

DA2D-005-001 Class 59 103 ARC Village of Mells

DA2D-005-001D Class 59 103 ARC Village of Mells (DCC-Fitted)

DA2D-005-002 Class 59 206 DB Schenker

DA2D-005-002D Class 59 206 DB Schenker (DCC-Fitted)

DA2D-005-003 Class 59 204 National Power

DA2D-005-003D Class 59 204 National Power (DCC-Fitted)

DA2D-007-004 Class 66 612 Freightliner Unbranded

DA2D-007-004D Class 66 612 Freightliner Unbranded (DCC-Fitted)

DA2D-007-006 Class 66 737 Lesia GB Railfreight

DA2D-007-006D Class 66 737 Lesia GB Railfreight (DCC-Fitted)

DA2D-007-008 Class 66 114 DB Schenker

DA2D-007-008D Class 66 114 DB Schenker (DCC-Fitted)

DA2D-019-009 Class 43 HST GWR Green 43187/188 4 Car Set

DA2F-010-005 JNA Falcon Network Rail NLU29047

DA2F-010-006 JNA Falcon Network Rail NLU29064

DA2F-010-007 JNA Falcon Network Rail NLU29076

DA2F-010-008 JNA Falcon Network Rail NLU29391

DA2F-010-009 JNA Falcon Network Rail NLU29299 Weathered

DA2F-010-010 JNA Falcon Network Rail NLU29348 Weathered

DA2F-025-001 MJA Bogie Box Wagon Set Freightliner Heavy Haul 502003/004

DA2F-025-002 MJA Bogie Box Wagon Set Freightliner Heavy Haul 502017/018

DA2F-025-003 MJA Bogie Box Wagon Set Freightliner Heavy Haul 502021/022

DA2F-025-004 MJA Bogie Box Wagon Set Freightliner Heavy Haul 502045/046

DA2F-044-001 FEA-B Spine Wagon Twin Pack Freightliner 640707/708

DA2F-044-002 FEA-B Spine Wagon Twin Pack Freightliner 640721/722

DA2F-044-003 FEA-B Spine Wagon Twin Pack Freightliner 640719/720

DA2F-044-004 FEA-B Spine Wagon Twin Pack Freightliner 640011/012

DA2F-045-005 IOA Ballast Wagon Network Rail Yellow 3170 5992 028-4

DA2F-045-006 IOA Ballast Wagon Network Rail Yellow 3170 5992 041-7

DA2F-045-007 IOA Ballast Wagon Network Rail Yellow 3170 5992 065-6

DA2F-045-008 IOA Ballast Wagon Network Rail Yellow 3170 5992 081-3

DA2P-005-310 Mk3 Buffet Coach First Great Western 40221

DA2P-005-321 Mk3 1st Class Coach GWR Green 41146

DA2P-005-322 Mk3 1st Class Coach First Great Western 41145

DA2P-005-332 Mk3 2nd Class Coach GWR Green 42300

DA2P-005-333 Mk3 2nd Class Coach GWR Green 42579

DA2P-005-334 Mk3 2nd Class Coach GWR Green 42351

DA2P-005-335 Mk3 2nd Class Coach GWR Green 42299

DA2P-005-336 Mk3 2nd Class Coach GWR Green 42301

DA2P-005-337 Mk3 2nd Class Coach First Great Western 42075

DA2P-005-338 Mk3 2nd Class Coach First Great Western 42039

DA2P-005-361 Mk3 TGS Coach First Great Western 44009

DA4D-005-000 Class 59 002 Alan J Day Foster Yeoman

DA4D-005-000D Class 59 002 Alan J Day Foster Yeoman (DCC-Fitted)

DA4D-005-001 Class 59 103 Village of Great Elm ARC

DA4D-005-001D Class 59 103 Village of Great Elm ARC (DCC-Fitted)

DA4D-005-002 Class 59 206 John F Yeoman DB Schenker

DA4D-005-002D Class 59 206 John F Yeoman DB Schenker (DCC-Fitted)

DA4D-005-003 Class 59 204 National Power

DA4D-005-003D Class 59 204 National Power (DCC-Fitted)

DA4F-010-005 JNA Falcon Network Rail NLU29001

DA4F-010-006 JNA Falcon Network Rail NLU29021

DA4F-010-007 JNA Falcon Network Rail NLU29046

DA4F-010-008 JNA Falcon Network Rail NLU29198

DA4F-025-005 MJA Bogie Box Wagons Freightliner Heavy Haul 502019/020

DA4F-025-006 MJA Bogie Box Wagons Freightliner Heavy Haul 502005/006

DA4F-025-007 MJA Bogie Box Wagons Freightliner Heavy Haul 502011/012

DA4F-044-005 FEA-B Spine Wagon Set Freightliner 640221/222

DA4F-044-006 FEA-B Spine Wagon Set Freightliner 640309/310

DA4F-044-007 FEA-B Spine Wagon Set Freightliner 640155/156

DA4F-044-008 FEA-B Spine Wagon Set Freightliner 640177/178

DA4F-045-007 IOA Ballast Wagon 3170 5992 091-6

DA4F-045-009 IOA Ballast Wagon Network Rail Yellow 3170 5992 031-2

DA4F-045-010 IOA Ballast Wagon Network Rail Yellow 3170 5992 001-5

DA4F-045-011 IOA Ballast Wagon Network Rail Yellow 3170 5992 040-3

DA4F-045-012 IOA Ballast Wagon Network Rail Yellow 3170 5992 059-3

DA4F-050-001 O&K JHA (End Hopper) Foster Yeoman 19300

DA4F-050-002 O&K JHA (End Hopper) Foster Yeoman 19303

DA4F-050-003 O&K JHA (End Hopper) Foster Yeoman 19306

DA4F-050-004 O&K JHA (End Hopper) Foster Yeoman 19313

DA4F-050-101 O&K JHA (Middle Hopper) Foster Yeoman 19335

DA4F-050-102 O&K JHA (Middle Hopper) Foster Yeoman 19337

DA4F-050-103 O&K JHA (Middle Hopper) Foster Yeoman 19349

DA4F-050-104 O&K JHA (Middle Hopper) Foster Yeoman 19361

DA4F-050-105 O&K JHA (Middle Hopper) Foster Yeoman 19370

DA4F-050-106 O&K JHA (Middle Hopper) Foster Yeoman 19398

GF371-383A Class 66 101 DB Schenker

GF371-384A Class 66 111 EWS

GF371-641 Class 70 805 Colas (Air Intake Modifications)

GF371-660 Class 57 603 Tintagel Castle GWR

GF377-103 90t JGA Bogie Hopper VTG Weathered

GF377-925A PCA Metalair Bulk Powder Wagon Blue Circle Weathered

GF377-927A PCA Metalair Bulk Powder Wagon Grey Unbranded Weathered

R3485 Class 08 Laira Diesel Depot BR Blue

R3609 GWR IEP Bi-Mode Class 800/0 Train Pack

R3666 Railroad Yeoman Aggregates Class 59 004 Paul A Hammond

R3685 GWR HST Set 43005/041 Meningitis Trust Support for Life

R3691 GWR Hitachi IEP Class 800/0 Paddington Train Pack

R4779A GWR Mk3 Buffet (TRFB) 40743

R4780A GWR Mk3 Trailer Guard Standard (TGS) 44086

R4781B GWR Mk3 Trailer Standard (TS) 42250

R4781C GWR Mk3 Trailer Standard (TS) 42200

R4781D GWR Mk3 Trailer Standard (TS) 42129

R4781E GWR Mk3 Trailer Standard (TS) 42581

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