Heart of England Rover - July 2012

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trentside

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Hi everyone,

I've been wanting to do a Heart of England rover for ages, and finally found the chance to squeeze a 3 in 7 day rover into this week. I started on Saturday 14/07/12 and aim to finish on Thursday of this week. Hope you enjoy these reports - they will hopefully be all up by next weekend.

Day 1 - 14/07/12 - A Surprise HST!

The day before starting my HoE rover, I'd headed over to my mum's flat in Nottingham onboard 153313+379, forming the 1728 from Lincoln. My plan for an early night didn't go well, and I got to bed just before midnight - the alarm going at 0515 wasn't welcome. Luckily, it was a nice fresh morning and a brisk walk down to the station for the 0557 XC service to Birmingham New Street produced a winner with 170110. I'd already got my ticket, so it was straight onboard for an on time departure. This run always seems slow, even slower when you're tired - we were checked at Trent Stores Junction but still reached Long Eaton 5 minutes early.

The north end of Etches Park revealed DCR 56311 - looking far less forlorn than the various examples at Burton on Trent. While we waited at Derby a Reading bound Voyager came in from the south, having come via the Erewash Valley and Toton. I wonder if any of its few passengers appreciated the PSUL move? Still one I need to do myself. I dozed on the way to Birmingham, and woke as we left Wilencote for the run into New Street. Unsurprisingly, arrival was on time at 0724. The walk to Moor Street got me lost as usual - worse as I'd seen the station, but lost it again. The signage is so unclear around Birmingham - or maybe I'm just useless with signs!

The real day began from Moor Street, where I bought a foul coffee from a place on the concourse. To warn others, it's the place directly to the right of the main entrance - the coffee was so bad it left a foul taste in my mouth for quite awhile afterwards, and it was £1.90 for a minuscule cup (I got the same for £1.40 at Lewes last week, and it was lovely!). Still, never mind - Chiltern produced 168219 and 168111 on the 07:55 to Marylebone, both new for me as I've never done any 168s. Journey passed far too quickly, on these very comfy trains, and I was deposited at a deserted Warwick Parkway at 0818. Nothing for it but to cross to the opposite platform and wait in the cold for the Stratford train.

The wait was passed with half a chapter of Jeeves & Wooster and 165031 rolls in with the 0836 to Stratford-upon-Avon, which seems entirely filled with American tourists. Not sure I really like the Chiltern 165s - but it's not a long journey and we reach Stratford a whole 5 minutes early at 0902. I'd done the triangle through Stratford on the Farewell 150 tour, but it had been pitch black outside, so I'd wanted to re-do it in daylight. Mission partially accomplished, and at 0920 172342 appears to form the 0926 to Stourbridge Junction. My first 172 ride and I have to describe it as 'not too bad' - the seats are probably a little hard for my liking, but you can't have everything. The train fills up on the way into Birmingham, but after Snow Hill I'm the only passenger in the carriage until Rowley Regis - where a family join.

Stourbridge Junction results in a +/- 0 minute connection onto the 1049 PPM to Stourbridge Town with 139002 working today. I didn't note out exact arrival time, but it must have been around 1047, unless the PPM was briefly held for us. The ride up to the Town is interesting, but I couldn't get this out of my head. There were plenty of enthusiasts gathered at the Junction and the driver asked if I knew what was coming through - I didn't have a clue, but after out arrival back I got a shock as 43049+066 pulled in working the 'Black Country Museum 125 Special' from St Pancras. To think I thought I'd be having an EMT free day! Most of the passengers departed here, but some stayed on to venture up the SVR from Kidderminster.


East Midlands Trains - 43049 by Trentside Traveller, on Flickr

After the tour had departed, and a couple of 172 headed for Dorridge and Kidderminster, 172336 arrived with a Worcester train and I jumped on bound for Droitwich Spa. Not much activity here, but an impressive array of semaphores which signalled a slightly delayed 170630 in on the 1220 Hereford service. The first significant new stretch of line of the day (other than SBJ-SBT) from Foregate Street to Hereford, and as we went along the weather brightened up. It was obvious that this area had suffered badly with flooding - and the rivers were full to bursting, and a few over bridges were now running over flooded roads and fields. An FGW HST was leaving Great Malvern as we arrived, and I contemplated running over to it - but as we stopped it accelerated away, so onto Hereford it was.

At Hereford, I considered my options, had a cup of tea from Pumpkin (very friendly staff at HFD), and in the end headed back to Great Malvern with 170630. From there, I had the option of waiting for the Weymouth service at 14:50 or taking a short hop to Worcester Foregate Street and picking up the Weymouth there and getting some extra 165 mileage courtesy of 165111 (second 111 of the day!). The latter won out, so I jumped on the 1434 to Paddington, and hopped out at Foregate Street after we were held for around 5 minutes waiting for a 172 to clear the viaduct. This short jump done, it was only a couple of minutes wait for 158961 on the 1502 to Weymouth, which I was taking as far as Cheltenham Spa. The 3 cars felt like overkill at this end of the route, but no doubt it reaches Bristol close to the rush hour where the capacity will be welcome. The FGW refurb makes these units feel dark and unwelcoming in my opinion, the uncomfortable Richmond seating didn't help either - give me an EMT 158 anytime!

The run to Cheltenham mostly covered old ground, and when we arrived I had a choice to make between the 1542 Voyager to New Street to the 1557 Turbostar to University. Guess which one I decided on... you're wrong, I took the Voyager as it turned out to be 221131 - and I've yet to log a 221. In all, it wasn't too bad - it didn't smell, and the unreserved coach was not busy at all. Arrival into New Street was punctual at 1626, and I was able to connect onto 323305+214 working the 1633 Longbridge run. Another uneventful run, and by now it was getting quite cloudy outside so the wait at Longbridge wasn't the warmest. Next it was 323215 on the 1706 to Redditch, and the 1727 back to New Street. We waited at Alvechurch for quite a few minutes and there seemed to be some sort of incident on the platform that the guard went to investigate. No explanation forthcoming and we ran about 5 minutes late all the way to New Street.

My final plan for the day was to clear the Birmingham to Nuneaton line, but this wasn't to be as the 1822 Stansted Airport service was a no show by departure time, and would've caused me to miss my connection at Leicester. I was also getting hungry, having only eaten a horrible chicken wrap from the newsagents at Stourbridge and a bag of crisps. Options now were limited, the Nottingham XC service also seemed to be delayed, so I jumped on the 1830 Voyager to Newcastle - formed of 220029. As I was boarding I took a glance at the number, and confused a poor Network Rail guy who was directing people to the right train. He'd assumed I was lost, but when I explained he laughed and wished me a pleasant journey.

After depature, I got myself an over-priced cuppa from the trolley (£2.10!) and relaxed until we arrived into Derby at 1905. Two options here, the previously mentioned late running XC service or the 1925 EMT from Matlock. The latter proved the right choice, even though it was formed of dud 153834 - the evil 153 that caused me to miss a day in London earlier this year. The train filled with revellers on their way to get plastered in Nottingham and was quite noisy. The delayed XC was held to let us go out first, so I'd made the right choice - being deposited back in Nottingham at 1951, and heading straight to the Chinese to eat far too much food.

The day covered 364mi 21ch and only produced one dud from EMT. I'm looking forward to doing the remaining two days and hope you've enjoyed this report.
 
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R

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Nice report, makes me realise that I've not explored the line to Stratford-upon-Avon despite it being on my doorstep. Must do some exploring myself.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Nice report, makes me realise that I've not explored the line to Stratford-upon-Avon despite it being on my doorstep. Must do some exploring myself.
 

Techniquest

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A nice and varied day out. Glad you enjoyed your brief visit to my home station, I was at work from 1200 so wouldn't have been able to join you anyway. We've had plenty of rain down here lately so the rivers definitely would have been full! Not been as bad for flooding as it has been around the rest of the country though so can't complain.

And yes, you'd be right about 158961. After Gloucester 3 cars wouldn't have been overkill, definitely not after Bristol!
 

TheJRB

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Great report. Regarding Chiltern's 165s, the idea of taking one all the way from Stratford to Marylebone doesn't thrill me. I didn't realise until recently that they regularly make it that far north.
 

Welshman

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A good and interesting report. Thank you.
I certainly agree with you regarding the Richmond seating!
Thank-you, too, for linking the "Top Gear" clip - hilarious! :)
 

trentside

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Thanks for the comments guys, really glad you enjoyed it. Just to reply to you all briefly, and to save quoting multiple messages;

fourwheelsteer - The Stratford-upon-Avon line is quite pleasant, not the most stunning scenery but nice - just a shame LM are letting some of the nice wooden station signs rot away.

Techniquest - Yes, Hereford seems like a nice station. The Pumpkin staff really were top notch - she was made up that I already had a loyalty card. I might be back again tomorrow, but not certain yet.

The JRB - Taking a 165 that far doesn't appeal to me either, though FGW use theirs on the Great Malvern to Paddington service too.

Welshman - Glad you enjoyed it, and that you agree about Richmond seats. I didn't used to mind them, but since I've had a bad back they kill me if I sit in them for too long.

Anyway, I've just returned from my graduation ceremony and feel a bit drained, so I'm going to try writing up the second day to help me relax.

Day 2 - 16/07/12 - Rain, Rain, Rain...

Being a weekday, it wasn't such an early start this time. I was up at 0830, allowing me time to take a leisurely walk to the station for the 0911 service to Derby. As I walked down Station Street, I spotted 170108 shunting into Eastcroft depot - before returning to Platform 6. I headed up onto the bridge, was waived past by the barrier staff and down onto the platform - just as a few spots of rain began to fall.

The 16 mile run to Derby went off without event, and once there it was a quick change onto 153381 on the 0940 EMT service to Crewe. This unit was a dud, but I'd only had it working in multiple with 153302 and I travelled in the latter on that journey - so it was a bonus to find it on its own. As usual, the Crewe service was busy and as we set off the rain had really set in - reducing visibility quite substantially. After Stoke, the train emptied out a little and my seatmate moved elsewhere - giving me space to spread out. Arrival at Crewe was dead on time, but deposited us amongst a lot of scaffolding.

After finding my way out, I headed to Pumpkin for a cup of tea - but the queue was huge, so I went to Upper Crust instead. This cost me 10p more, which was annoying (plus no loyalty stamp). The ATW shuttle to Crewe was leaving from platform 9, which was quite exposed - but it wasn't long until 150240 rolled in. This surprised me, as I wasn't expecting to find a 150 this far north on the ATW network. Sadly got stuck in the midst of an annoying family who spent most of their time bickering, but it was nice to get my first 150/2 of the year, and I managed to spot Beeston and Peckforton castles up on their respective hills (can you tell I've just got a history degree?).

I was quite relieved to arrive at Chester, as the family were really grating on me. A nice surprise noticed here as 60009 'Union of South Africa' was sat in the sidings, being attended to - and I was able to grab a couple of pictures of this, as well as 150240. I've linked to the image of 60009 elsewhere, so here's a picture of something a little less interesting;


Arriva Trains Wales - 150240 by Trentside Traveller, on Flickr

The toilet situation at Chester also didn't seem to great, a tiny facility - I'm guessing the ones on the concourse are larger. After negotiating that, it was time for my first ever class 175 ride. I'd heard good things about these units, so was quite excited when 175009 rolled in with the 12:19 service to Cardiff, which I'd be taking as far as Shrewsbury. One issue I noticed immediately was that this unit had its air conditioning on full blast - very effective on a humid day like today, but it was freezing on Monday. I did find the unit comfortable to travel on, and was disappointed that the rain spoilt some of the views over the various viaducts en route to Shrewsbury. The woman next to me also ate a salad for lunch, with coleslaw which gave me a craving for it (and it remains unfulfilled!).

It was just under an hour to Shrewsbury, somewhere I've only passed through on the WAG Express. The station seems very pleasant, and after getting a hot chocolate from Pumpkin (I needed warming up!) I sat down to wait for the 13:59 Manchester service, which I was taking to Crewe. ATW were tarting up the station, giving the waiting room a lick of paint - somehow some of this paint got on my hand. No idea how as I didn't go anywhere nearby - so I spent the rest of the day sporting Arriva corporate aquamarine.

The 1359 rolled in formed of 175006 - the unit was already packed, and those boarding at Shrewsbury only made this worse. I spotted a vestibule seat and settled down on this - and it proved very comfortable. Eventually I had to move, as the trolley lady had asked the guy opposite me to move to allow her space and he proceeded to stand blocking the access to the back cab and shoving his rucksack in my face. In the end, I gave him the seat and found another opposite the toilet - where a young woman was busy yelling at her toddler, who didn't appear to be doing anything wrong. Poor kid!

The DRS depot at Crewe was the usual fest of 37s, 47s, 57s and 66s - along with various coaches, the varieties of which escape me. After we passed this, it was into the station on platform 6, so back across the footbridge to platform 5 for the 1449 London Midland service to Stafford. 350128 rolled in a few minutes early, and I found a seat in the very back of the train - this was the third stretch of new line today, taking in the WCML from Crewe to Stafford (as I'd only previously been via Stoke). The rain had eased a little by this point, and as we arrived at Stafford the 15:21 to Euston was already being announced. This was formed of 350247, and again it waited time in the platform - before continuing south. Another previously covered stretch of line, and it's not too long before I'm deposited at a very wet Lichfield Trent Valley - a few minutes down at 1542.

The rain is really hammering down here, so I leg it up to the high level platforms and into the shelter. 323212 rolls into view a few minutes later, paired with... 323214 - I've only done 3 323s and already a dud. I head to 312, which isn't - for a slow and dull run into Birmingham New Street on a Cross City service. So boring, but it scratched the line off my 'need to do' list and I won't have to worry about it again. Arrival there reveals that there are problems on the south end of the WCML - and my next train, the 1650 Virgin service to Coventry is cancelled. I decided to leave this (as I'm covering the BHM-COV line tomorrow hopefully) and clear the stretch of line between Water Orton and Nuneaton, which I'd missed out on the other day. A call home reveals the earliest train I can get is the 17:22 - as my mum won't be home in time for me if I get the 17:09, and she has the only key for the entrance to her building.

A bit of a fester, and even worse it produces a dud in the shape of 170105. This run also isn't too interesting, I'm probably saying this as the guy next to me fell asleep and kept elbowing me - I put up with this a couple of times, and tried to be understanding. The third time he did it, it was much harder and I'm ashamed to say I shouted at him - it certainly did the trick, and he was very apologetic. I don't like losing my temper in public, and I did subsequently feel bad - but I shouldn't have been in the situation where some sleeping bloke was elbowing me in the side. As a result of this, I was quite pleased when we got to Leicester.

The final train of the day produced 43045+54, the latter is a mega dud. It has worked my three previous HST journeys from Leicester to Nottingham - once on the front, and twice on the back. EMT certainly like swapping their powercars around! Heading towards East Midlands Parkway, we were checked and reduced to a crawl - allowing a Lincoln service to pass us. As we left Parkway, and passed Trent a Cross Country 170 was also put in front of us resulting in a 4 minute late arrival at Nottingham.

Overall, I didn't enjoy this day as much as Saturday - it was nice to do some new track and also experience a 175 for the first time (plus the surprise of a 150/2 to Chester). The weather really did put a dampener (sorry!) on things, and I'd like to repeat the Crewe-Chester and Chester-Shrewsbury lines on a day with better visibility. Total mileage was a low 290mil 17ch, but still enough to push me on the brink of 6000 miles in total for the year.
 

Techniquest

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Definitely do the North Wales Coast on a nice day if you can, it's stunning. Crewe to Chester I'd personally get a book out for or slam some tunes on, done it way too many times to care. 150s aren't rare up there with ATW, just depends on what ATW have to use on it. 150s also work to Manchester after all, if they're short they'll shove a 150 on it and grim and bear it when the complaints roll in. Better than no train, and it's better now all the 150/2s with them have tables and are 2+2. Believe you me, it's a long way from Hereford to Manchester Oxford Road via the WCML (this was back in 2005) on an ex-Scotrail 3+2 150/2 with no tables and low seating. Same for Cardiff to Crewe, again in 2005...

Glad you enjoyed some of the northerly parts of the ATW empire you covered, I find Chester to Shrewsbury to be really boring and fall asleep (or want to) when I go up that way!

Also glad you liked the 175s, the seats in the saloon are also pretty decent when you get the chance to try them next. The air con is mostly like that, unless it's failed, so be prepared next time. A godsend when it's warm outside mind!

All the territory you've covered on this trip thus far is stuff I've done to death, so I'll refrain from saying it's boring. However I do agree with you on Lichfield to Birmingham. Did you sit in the motor car? Best place to choose on a 323, otherwise you really will be bored on that line. And no, it's not any better doing it when XC are diverted that way...

Sounds like you're making good progress with clearing the Midlands, and congratulations on graduating :D
 

trentside

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Wow, I didn't realise the 150s occasionally make it to Manchester - still, I can think of worse things to do it in. The Farewell 150 tour gave me some idea of my maximum tolerance for the original 3+2 seating layout, still good fun mind!

I know your feelings for the stuff in your local area - most of the East Midlands stuff I've done to death, on the Lincoln to Nottingham and Lincoln to Sheffield lines I can picture every bit in my head - they're both lines I choose to read on every time. I think Lichfield to Birmingham New St also now falls into that category, even in the motor car :lol:

Thanks for the congratulations - this rover is a sort of treat for actually getting that far. I'm broke, and can't really afford it - but for new track and some nice days out it's worth it. My last lines left in the Midlands with regular services are Shrewsbury to Wolverhampton, Stafford to Birmingham and Rugeley Trent Valley to Birmingham - all should be done by tomorrow night. Managed to sleep in this morning, so couldn't go out and get it all done!
 

PHILIPE

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ATW have several 150 Diagrams which work at the North end, 2 on Wrexham/ Bidston, 1 on Chester/Crewe local and 1 on Blaenau Ffestiniog. They
work up on 21 55 Cardiff to Crewe and back on 23 08 Shrewsbury to Cardiff.
 

Welshman

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Definitely do the North Wales Coast on a nice day if you can, it's stunning.
Also glad you liked the 175s, the seats in the saloon are also pretty decent when you get the chance to try them next. The air con is mostly like that, unless it's failed, so be prepared next time. A godsend when it's warm outside mind!

Congratulations on graduating :D

I certainly agree about the NW Coast line. Even though I live along there, I never tire of the scenery, especially from Rhyl to Bangor. Sit on the land-side and you can view the magnificent panorama of Snowdonia and the Conwy estuary - sit on the sea-side and you have the NW coast, the Great Orme, the Menai Straits and the Isle of Anglesey before you.

And as, like me, you find Richmond seating uncomfortable, I'm sure you've found the seats in the 175s are excellent and very supporting. And, as an added bonus, a lot of them match-up to the panoramic windows.

May I also add my congratulations on your Graduation?
 

trentside

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Thanks Welshman. I must say that the 175s are already becoming a firm favourite of mine, the seats are great, legroom is good and the windows provide great views over the scenic routes they work.

Day 3 - 20/07/12 - Duds, Delays and Voyager Overkill

Today had a slightly different start, as I'd headed back to Lincoln on Tuesday - so needed to get back to Nottingham. It turned out a friend was also heading to Nottingham on the 0726 from Lincoln, so I would have some company on the first leg of my journey. I'd got down to the station in time for the 0704 (the daily Meridian to London via Nottingham) but the 0726 had better timings for me - so that one it was, producing dud 158780. An uneventful journey, chatting to my friend and comparing plans for the day (he was off bus bashing!).

Arrival into Nottingham was in time and in the pouring rain. It turned out the 0911 XC service was also departing from platform 6, but as this is not well sheltered I said goodbye to my mate and headed into Pumpkin for a free Cappuccino (love these loyalty cards) - it turned out to be far better than the one from the independent place at Moor Street (I can still taste that - foul!). It was still raining when 170638 arrived, but the doors weren't released until and EMT service had pulled in behind. Once onboard it was only a few minutes until we headed off - and after Burton, the guard came down and began chatting to a couple ahead of me. I learned an interesting fact from this, in that if you can smell the chocolate at Bournville it means it's going to rain!

Arrival into Tamworth was prompt at 1000 and I headed to the low level platforms to find a toilet. It turned out these were closed, and the temporary ones were closed for cleaning - I assumed with a 30 minute wait this wouldn't be a problem, but even with a slight delay the toilets had still not re-opened and the cleaner appeared to have disappeared entirely. The 1031 to Crewe appeared at 1036, slightly delayed due to an earlier bridge strike - and an attempt to use the toilet onboard failed as the door was stuck open. Great stuff from London Midland today - in this case, 350261 failing to deliver. Luckily it was only a short hop to Rugeley Trent Valley where a waiting 170635 provided the necessary facilities. After my dull trip from Lichfield to Birmingham, I wasn't sure I'd enjoy the run from Rugeley either - but the first stretch of the line wasn't unpleasant, though as we approached Walsall things dulled up and I was travelling over familiar territory.

Arrival into New Street was on time at 1203 and it was a hop over to platform 4b for the 1224 ATW service to Shrewsbury - the platform was quite crowded and a few people seemed more than confused by the platform displays telling them which part of the train to travel in. The units forming this service were refurbished 158833+827, and very pleasant they are too - though the high number of reserved seats and large numbers of passengers made finding a seat tricky. Eventually found one and settled in for the journey. The weather remained quite changeable and we ran from moments of sunshine into quite dark cloud, the humidity made it quite warm on the train and eventually the trolley guy came along and opened the windows. Quite a relief!

Shrewsbury was also reached on time - and it was a short wait for the 1340 to Milford Haven. There seemed to be some problem with the 1324 to Holyhead, as it remained in the station until we had departed and didn't appear to be going anywhere in a hurry, the BTP were also present. As I've only done two 175s, I would have to be pretty unlucky to get a dud - but that's just what happened when 175006 rolled in. This train was also busy but I managed to find a seat, and enjoy the scenery down to Hereford. I really like this line and I'm glad I'd managed to arrange my plans to take it in.

I had less time at Hereford this time, and by the time I'd crossed to platform 1 the 1440 to New Street arrived, formed of dud 170630. Second dud in a row was slightly annoying to say the least, especially when I discovered that the next service would have been formed of 150107 - after bailing at Great Malvern, where we arrived 9 minutes down at 1517 (no explanation forthcoming, but we were held outside the station for awhile), I weighed up my options but decided in the end to head for Oxford to get the Cotswold Line done. The 1522 was also late, departing at 1534 formed of 165134 (phew, not a dud!).

This service proved quite enjoyable, not the most stunning scenery ever but it's pleasant and green. The weather also brightened up, but on this train the trolley girl was making an effort to close every single window - no idea why as it made the train stuffy. The ticket check after Worcester Shrub Hill was also interesting, the conductor didn't appear to think my ticket was valid but after staring at it for quite sometime, he just walked off - so no idea what that was about. Arrival into Oxford was also delayed, we reached there at 1653 having made up some time on the way.

After a quick stop in Pumpkin, I had a choice of trains (both Voyagers sadly) with either the 1707 as far as Leamington Spa or the 1736 through to Stafford. In the end, the 1707 ran sufficiently late that people were already arriving for the 1736 and crammed themselves into the four car 220. I made the decision to wait for the 1736 - and while this was also delayed, departing at 1742, I managed to find a free seat. Oxford seems to be a very chaotic station with not enough capacity to reverse and terminate so many peak time trains, indeed the 1707 had a knock on effect, but several on time arrivals managed to delay the 1736.

The 1736 would be something of an endurance test, as even though it was a more bearable 221 (138 to be precise) I would be on it for 1hr 45m, around an hour longer than I'd usually spend on one of these (though I know you can do Scotland to Cornwall on them!). In the end, my seatmate left at Coventry and I had space all the way north to Stafford. With these stretches of line done, I'd completed all lines with regular passenger services in the West Midlands :)

The return from Stafford produced 350266, and I found a seat in a small section adjacent to the first class area. This train ran to time despite departing a couple of minutes down at 1944, and with arrival back the rover was almost complete. 170115 turned up on the 2049 to Nottingham, and I dozed for much of the journey and after meeting back up with my friend it was time to board 158810 (a new one!) for the 2225 to Lincoln - and after chatting about the London Underground for most of the way, I got in my taxi after another early arrival at 2338. The taxi dropped me at home and after logging my journeys in rail miles I went to bed, quite pleased at having such a good time in the Heart of England.

Total mileage for the day 513mi 69ch - and made July my highest mileage month to date, with one more bash to come!
 
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