How do I get reservations for a journey not considered logical by the booking engines?

py_megapixel

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5 Nov 2018
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4,547
Location
Northern England
I want to make a long journey by train - however I would like to change trains a few times along the way (while still following the same route) to have a bit of variety and take some different traction. I was also hoping to build in a large layover at a station along the route to get a drink on the station and watch the trains for a bit.

This used to be easy - just buy an open return, and I can pretty much do what I like as long as I stick to a permitted route. But compulsory reservations now seem to be the norm on intercity services, and a booking engine will obviously never produce long layovers and what looks like gratuitous changes of train, especially considering that there is an hourly XC service along the route. So I can't get reservations for the journey I want unless I pay for individual singles for every train, which I am not prepared to do as it's far more expensive.

Is there any way I can get reservations, or am I condemned to Voyagers for what I hoped would be a much more interesting journey?
 
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roversfan2001

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19 Feb 2016
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Lancashire
TrainSplit (and TrainsCanBeCheaper) has a very good booking engine that allows you to specify where you want to change and how long you want the connection time to be (I think to a maximum of 99 mins + minimum connection time). If this still doesn't work then a good old ticket office will be able to sell you the ticket and issue you reservations for whatever trains you wish to use.
 

Watershed

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26 Sep 2020
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2,678
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UK
The only TOC with a true compulsory reservations policy is LNER. All other TOCs are just recommending reservations to various degrees. And in any case, even on LNER 'enforcement' appears to be very lax.

If you can't get reservations for the trains you want, you can obtain reservations at a ticket office, or by contacting the relevant TOCs. I often find it's easiest to get these by contacting them on Twitter.
 

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