Wednesday, November 2, 2016

United Kingdom - Jim & Rosslyn

Well the "train" (model and 12" to foot) related activities continues...

We made our way from London Heathrow to York to see the National Railway Museum before going cross country to Porthmadog Wales to ride the Welsh Highland Railway and the Ffestiniog Railway before returning to London to finalise our trip.


We landed at Terminal 5 and took the Heathrow Express to London Waterloo then Underground to St Pancreas. Rosslyn and I walked to meet my wife at London Kings Cross to collect the reservation cards for our train travels in the UK - these cannot be booked outside the UK anymore....

Heathrow Express & Underground

Two Pigeons taking a ride on the underground with us....

London Kings Cross - York

Virgin East Coast 11:20 to Edinburgh was our train got off at the second stop our speed in most areas was 125mph.

York Museum

We were going to go twice but as we had caught a bug along the way in the USA it finally caught up with us so day one of two at the museum was spent in bed trying to sleep it off...

York to Porthmadog

We took a taxi to York station and found our train information - platform 11 the furthest away via the subway. We were so early we saw the train before ours leave!  When our train pulled in we boarded, the luggage racks were a challenge someone after us removed Rossco's suitcase so he had to intervene. Once sorted all were happy. We rode on the TransPennine express to Manchester and upon arrival I checked the departure board for Shrewsbury and our train was missing.....

I asked the information person who said our train didn't arrive so I will have to take the next one at 12.30 meaning we will miss our connection to Porthmadog.  I was told there would be about a two hour wait at Shrewsbury. I went to ticketing to see about transferring our reservations I was told "changes cannot be made on the day of travel" you will just have to find a seat somewhere – great news with two more legs to go…..   I sent Andy Dixon a message to say we were delayed and would be late for dinner….

The 12.30 train had the 11.30 and 12.30 passengers so there was a crush around the doors. I joined in and made my large presence felt by putting my suitcase on the steps to force entry. I got two seats and warded off the many that tried to get Rossco's seat. People were standing in the space between seats throughout the carriage for the entire trip.

We sat at Shrewsbury station for the two hours and boarded on time. .

The four carriage train was to be split down the line so we needed to be in the correct carriage set  Away on time we got about a mile down the track before we stopped and after 5 minutes an announcement came saying that the opposing train had problems and as it single track we will have to wait. Well it only took about 15 minutes before we moved.

However we certainly made a great choice to take this train we wound through river valleys between steep hills until we reached the coast then along the beach and cliffs with only feet to the edge as we moved at about 10 mph. Beautiful scenery every bit as stunning as the Coast Starlight along the ocean near Santa Barbara but it is green not straw a colour.

Andy Dixson met us at Porthmadog station and took us to our hotel. We had a delightful dinner and great discussions were held with Andy and time got away from us - we chatted so much we forgot to take photos - Sorry Lionel...


The plan was to take the Welsh Highland Railway to Canarfon and return then the following day take the Ffestinog Railway to to Blanaeu Ffestiniog before returning to London Kings Cross.

Welsh Highland Railway

It was very wet outside before we were due to leave the hotel so I ordered a taxi to take us to the station. We collected our tickets and we had seats 1 and 2 in the Pullman observation car - nice! We arrived 40 minutes before our departure so we sat on the platform seats until 10 minutes before departure then boarded.

The seats were at the very front immediately behind the loco. Pity the heavens were open pretty much the entire trip.

Back at the station we boarded our first class Pullman coach for the trip back to Porthmadog. Again we had seats 1 and 2.

Ffestiniog Railway

We took a taxi as it was raining again. Door to door service again and we boarded the Ffestiniog Pullman coach to Blanaeu Ffestiniog.  We had seats 1 and 2 again right at the observation window.

Upon arrival at the first station men in overalls were scurrying around. After a few minutes the conductor came in to advise due to a problem he couldn't disclose we will be delayed for at least 10 minutes. He then proceeded to ask if anyone had connections to which 4 people in our carriage said yes. We were advised that we may not make the connection and we could catch a bus from the station to make sure we made the connection. Rossco and I decided that as we had come halfway around the world to ride this train and we were in the prime seats in the fanciest coach if we missed the connection too bad we would figure it out.

Well we got underway in about 10 minutes and there was no mention of connections again. We arrived at Blanaeu Ffestiniog to be told to walk the entire length of the train to the track level crossing to get to the platform we needed - plenty of time he said! Not so, before reaching the track level crossing the train arrived at the platform. We had to rush against exiting passengers and just made it. I got on and Rossco about 30 seconds after me and then 30 seconds later the doors closed.

We wound down on the trip to Llandudno Junction where we boarded the next train after about 15 minutes. This one took us to Chester where we knew we were very tight for time. The conductor had advised us we will arrive on platform 7 and our next train would be on platform 1 and we needed to take the overpass. We only had 6 minutes between trains - the look on the conductor’s face said "good luck".

Before the train stopped we had all our bags and were standing by the door ready to alight. We quickly found the lift up to the overpass and down on the other side. Found sign to platform 1, hurried and got on and the train that left within the minute.

Well we sat and “cooled off” once again on the 20 minutes ride to Crewe.  Again we had to get from one side of the station to the other via the overpass. When we got to the correct platform I asked the assistant where to stand on the platform for our train.  He asked “See the numbers 7, 8, 9?” I replied “Yes” and looking down his nose at me he said “walk up there” pointing to “1”.  So Rossco & I walked about 200 metres to “1” and arrived as the train pulled in. The door opened and we hauled the bags in and found our seats.  The train left within the minute.  The seats were high backed with nice white linen antimacassar embroidered with “Virgin Trains First Class”, very spiffy.  China mug and steel cutlery on the table in front of us and after sitting down we were immediately offered cool drinks and snacks followed in five minutes by our luncheon and munchies for the ride. Later tea and coffee.

The two and a bit hour ride passed quickly and we lobbed into Euston station at peak hour on Friday afternoon – wow wall to wall people rushing everywhere.  Miraculously we found Kaye within a couple of minutes of me sending her an sms to her detailing where we were standing.

Rossco enquired about getting to Bedford to be told he had to take the underground to St Pancras where he could find the train he needed.  We said our farewells and parted company, Rossco to the underground and us to the hotel nearby.

I hope you have enjoyed the travel story from Rosslyn & I.

I will post another update detailing the train travel Kaye & I took over the following 4 weeks in the UK soon.


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