Homeward bound via the West Midlands 21 October Today is the time for me to head back home via the West Midlands, where I would be stopping off to do a few bits and pieces. By doing the normal split tickets at Cheltenham Spa, I had noticed that there was a First Class Advance for a couple of extra quid on the 11:11 ex Plymouth – Glasgow via Leeds which would be 10 minutes behind the Cardiff – Nottingham, with the extra £2 or so more or less being the price of a cup of tea. Having had an early rise and some breakfast, I checked out just after 09:15 for the walk to Central station, spotting 60054 hauling oil tankers along the centre tracks in the London direction, and also 150280 in Platform 0 on the 09:34 Ebbw Vale Town. It was onboard the 09:45 Nottingham formed of required 170116 for the run to Cheltenham Spa, spotting 66545 hauling containers in the London direction at Wentloog, 60095 and maybe 66511 at Alexandra Dock Junction, and 66154 at Maindee Junction. After alighting from the train, the 11:11 ex Plymouth – Glasgow Central was delayed by 20 minutes, so I nipped out of the station to pick up some provisions from the Tesco store. It was onboard the 11:11 formed of dud 220018 for the run to Birmingham via Camp Hill, with the train tackling the Lickey Incline with relative ease compared to a Class 170 (although everything else would easily urinate over a 170 and leave it for dust if there was ever a head to head race from the bottom to the summit). It is noted that as the traincrew were dealing with something else, the catering staff did not appear until the train was nearing King’s Norton and being as I was getting off at the next stop, I took a bottle of water and some biscuits. Needless to say, I was slightly disappointed in that I never managed to get a cup of tea as that was the reason I parted with an extra £2 or so. Anyway, having arrived at Birmingham 18 minutes behind schedule at 12:16, I made my way to the “Fares to Pay” office so as to purchase the PTE Daytripper with the add on feature. I rapidly made my way over to Moor Street to board the 12:31 ex Stourbridge Junction – Stratford-upon-Avon via Shirley formed of dud 172344 for a run to Henley in Arden for a 35 minute fester to await the same train to head back on the 13:41 Stourbridge Junction for a run to the request stop The Lakes. I then pulled up the walking directions online for the hike to Earlswood, and had spotted a short cut through the park that runs to Earlswood Lakes so as to avoid a large chunk of the main road. I would like to mention that I would not recommend this short cut on a dark December afternoon, as the footpath is not illuminated and there are a couple of narrow country lanes as well. Being as I was going at a sedate pace and with the weather being pleasant, I arrived at Earlswood station 15 minutes or so before the train was due. The reasoning behind this hike is that the standard pattern frequency has the trains passing within a couple of minutes of each other at Earlswood, and although there is an evening off pattern service, there is no way I would be able to make the last train to Glasgow from Birmingham at 19:15. I did consider attempting to score Earlswood in December when I next visit my mum as it would be easier, but this has saved me a task then by getting this one done out of the way. Anyway, it was onboard the slightly delayed 14:53 ex Stourbridge Junction – Stratford formed of dud 172340 for the run to another request stop Wood End, where there was a very evil looking staircase to get from the platform to road level. Taking my time, I gently sauntered via the roadbridge to the opposite platform, reaching it via another evil looking staircase to await the same train to return on the 15:49 Stourbridge Junction (with me getting caught up in the school run) for the run to Birmingham Moor Street, having visited all the stations on the Stratford-upon-Avon line via Shirley. It is noted that out of the former Great Western Railway stations in the West Midlands region, I only require Hatton and Claverdon, most of the present day Midland Metro stops, and a borderline inclusion of Church Stretton (this was on the Shrewsbury & Hereford Railway when built, which was a joint railway between the GWR and the London & North Western). Making my way to New Street, I hopped onboard the 16:42 Rugeley Town via Aston formed of a very busy and dud 170514 for the run to Landywood, spotting 70804, 66025, and 66056 at Bescot. It was over to the southbound platform for the 17:30 ex Rugeley Town – Birmingham via Aston formed of required 170634 straight back to Birmingham. Being as I had over an hour, I decided to switch to the trams, and seeing as the present overrun westbound along Stephenson Street is blocked off due to the extension being extended to Centenary Square and Five Ways, this would give me a chance to grice the crossover departing the terminating platform. It was onboard required tram 24 that departed at 18:30 for the run to St Chads, and having noticed that in the Grand Central direction there was around a 15 minute gap with 2 trams close together, I decided to walk via Colmore Row and Temple Street to the Tesco store to pick up some provisions before boarding the 19:15 ex London Euston – Glasgow Central formed of dud 390036 straight to Glasgow. Having more or less having arrived on time at 23:17, I had a gentle saunter over to Queen Street to board dud 318259 on the 23:34 for the run back home to Barnhill. Overall, I have completed the visits of all the stations along the Stratford-upon-Avon line, plus I have got a required tram on the Midland Metro.