Why was I wandering around an industrial estate in Birkenhead last weekend with my friend Scott? The answer may surprise you!
I was here to visit the Bloom Building, an events space on the edge of Birkenhead town centre, conveniently located between Cammell Laird shipyard and the Queensway Tunnel toll plaza. The event this space was hosting on 25th March was The Big Chat about the Transport Shed from National Museums Liverpool (NML).
The subject of the event was NML’s extensive Land Transport collection, which includes more than 200 items. As part of the event, there were activities for kids, a guitarist playing transport-related pop songs – a thankless task when no-one in the room was paying the slightest bit of attention – and trinkets from the museum’s collection on show.
The main attraction, though, was a talk given by senior persons at NML, about some exciting plans that they have for the future of the collection.
Continue reading “Museum Piece”
It took us over ten years to get to this point.
Britain was gearing up to host the 2012 Olympics when the prospect of a new fleet of trains for Merseyrail was first floated. It was four years later that Stadler was awarded the contract to replace the sturdy but ageing Class 507 and 508 trains.
We waited patiently. The occasional press release gave a tantalising insight into progress. A completed bodyshell, preliminary testing. Things were starting to come together.
As part of the construction process, there was a mockup on display at Birkenhead for a while, to allow “stakeholders” (ugh) to give feedback on the design. I went to see it (OF COURSE) and was impressed by the technology on show and the thoughtfulness that had gone into the design. Wheelchair users, cyclists and prams had been designed in from the start, rather than as an afterthought.
Continue reading “777th Heaven”
I sat in the waiting room at Bodø station alongside a few other souls who had turned up way too early for their train. A charming little display of historical railway memorabilia harked back to an earlier era. The present-day station is a modern affair, with two tracks for passenger trains either side of an island platform, and a small freight yard.
I was leaving Bodø behind to return to Oslo, a journey which would see me on the rails for 18 hours or thereabouts. The first leg of the journey would last just under 10 hours and take me to Trondheim for an onward connection to Oslo.
My journey would take in the full length of the Nordlandsbanen, the 450-mile route that winds its way through northern Norway to Trondheim. I was pleased to be on a train this time, unlike my rail replacement bus experience a few days earlier.
Continue reading “The Long and Winding Railroad”
I stumbled out of bed at 6.45am, and groggily made my way to the bathroom, in an attempt to wake myself up with a shower. The early start was needed to get myself back to the railway station for the 7.58am rail replacement bus to Bodø. Yay!
It was so early that the hotel had not put out the full breakfast buffet, and I had to make do with some cereal and a croissant. I ate in a deserted dining room, with a solitary other diner who looked about as happy as I was.
I checked out of the hotel and headed back to the railway station, where I joined other intending passengers on the concourse. Tucked away in one corner was the check-in point for the sleeper train, just to taunt me.
Continue reading “Bussy Galore”
Next morning I was at Oslo Sentral bright and early – well, early, anyway – for the next phase of my trip. Exploring Oslo was all well and good, but the purpose of this trip was TRAINS! So I was happy to be back on the rails again.
Oslo Sentral is a typical European railway terminus. In other words, it’s a giant shopping mall with the trains almost an afterthought amidst the branches of Starbucks.
I found my platform for the 08:02 to Trondheim, which was operated by an offshoot of the Swedish state-owned railway operator, SJ.
Continue reading “Trondheim Hammer Dance”
Twenty years is a long time to work in the same place. Two decades of showing up to work on time each and every day, diligently working hard with my esteemed colleagues to add value to the business. Since the day I was on-boarded, I have relentlessly pursued corporate synergies and leveraged the opportunities and challenges that have arisen in my workflows.
(Did the above sound good? Please take my word for it, and definitely don’t go through my Twitter archive)
My lack of ambition was finally rewarded on my 20 year anniversary, when my employer offered to purchase a gift to celebrate my inability to get sacked. The only rule was that it had to be a single, tangible gift (no asking for a cash alternative).
I briefly toyed with the idea of buying Hornby’s new model of the Advanced Passenger Train, together with the additional coaches to make it up to a full length prototypical train, but I quickly realised that I would never be able to actually run it anywhere, due to lack of space.
Thoughts then turned to the possibility of a holiday and — because I have a brand to maintain — I started looking at train trips.
Continue reading “The Norwegian Expedition”
The morning of Monday 4th July was bright and sunny as we arrived at Berlin Haputbahnhof for our train home. I was in a bright and sunny mood. After three nights in Amsterdam and a further three nights in Berlin, we were capping our trip with an epic train journey home.
From Berlin we would take the 10:46 train to Cologne. Then the 15:40 from Cologne to Brussels. Then the 18:56 from Brussels to London. Which should arrive in London at 19:57 – plenty of time for a leisurely stroll up the Euston Road to get the 21:07 London Euston to Liverpool, depositing me in my home city just after half past eleven. That is 14 hours, covering 800 miles.
The railway gods were not smiling.
Continue reading “Those Who Trespass (#Amsterlin Part 7)”
We were back at Amsterdam Centraal bright and early (well, early, anyway) the next morning. Our time in the Dutch capital was at an end, and it was time to continue on the next leg of our tour, to Berlin.
I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it in passing, but I like Berlin, and I was looking forward to showing Mark and Peter some of the highlights. But first, we had the small matter of a train journey.
There was just time to stop and appreciate the splendour of Amsterdam Centraal station, before heading for our train.
Continue reading “Three Pessimists Tour Europe (#Amsterlin Part 5)”
In all my international train travels, and despite visiting Amsterdam twice by train, I had never actually travelled on Nederlandse Spoorwegen. Yes, I have never entered one of their bright yellow trains – shameful. It was high time we put that right.
Mark had suggested we take a day out to visit the Spoorwegmuseum, the Dutch national railway museum. It is in Utrecht, just a short train ride from Amsterdam. Naturally, I didn’t need much convincing, so on Thursday morning we marched back into Centraal station and trekked to Utrecht.
We purchased our train tickets from the NS ticket machine at Amsterdam Centraal. Nearly all train tickets in the Netherlands are issued on smartcards, either the reusable OV-Chipkaart or – if you are ignorant tourists like us – on a single use disposable card, which nevertheless contains a chip, and costs an additional €1 for the privilege (the Dutch word for this supplemant is “toeslag” which to English ears sounds like something you’d put in a Grindr profile, but… I digress).
Continue reading “Utrecht: The Ex-Railway Station (#Amsterlin Part 4)”
It was a grumpy, annoyed Robert who ordered breakfast in the Wetherspoons at St Pancras station. Things improved with the arrival of Mark and Peter, whose train from Brighton had also been cancelled (although they only had to wait 15 minutes for the next one).
I felt a little better after I had finished my breakfast of scrambled eggs and black pudding (which is a perfectly cromulent combination, no matter what judgmental types may say). Together, we headed for the Eurostar check-in and Priti Patel’s Security Theatre.
Continue reading “Chunnel Chums (#Amsterlin part 2)”