Trip to Birmingham for Class 323s

boiledbeans2

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I'm planning a day trip to Birmingham to ride the Class 323s, sometime within this month.

I'm unfamiliar with the area so here's what I understand so far from reading the internet.

1) According to Wikipedia, Class 323s are only used on the Redditch/Bromsgrove to Lichfield Trent Valley route, and are the sole type of trains on this route, is this right? So that means I could just turn up at random and ride, without much need for planning.

2) From searching tickets on the WMT website, it seems there are only 2tph from Redditch to Four Oaks, and 2tph from Bromsgrove to Lichfield Trent, is this right? I assume this is a Covid timetable, since it is drastically reduced from what is written on Wikipedia.

3) When is a quiet time to ride the trains? I would like to make some audio recordings of the motors, so it would be good if the train is relatively empty.

4) There is a West Midlands Day Ranger at £28.80, but according to the WMT website, I can't use a 26-30 railcard with it, so it seems very expensive.

5) I'm coming from Guildford, so this seems to be the cheapest way to do it (with 26-30 railcard):
a) Off-peak day return Guildford to Lichfield Trent, £48.55 (same price to New Street. Also same price for weekends and weekdays)
b) Off-peak day return Lichfield Trent - Bromsgrove, £8.35
c) Off-peak day return Birmingham New Street - Redditch, £4.35

The above should allow me to do Guildford - New Street - Lichfield Trent - Bromsgrove - Lichfield Trent - Redditch - New Street - Guildford

6) Would anyone have additional advice or suggestions for this trip?

Thanks in advance!
 
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JonathanH

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4) There is a West Midlands Day Ranger at £28.80, but according to the WMT website, I can't use a 26-30 railcard with it, so it seems very expensive.
The area covered by the West Midlands Day Ranger is very much wider than the area you need - eg out to Crewe, Hereford, Northampton etc - which explains the price.

Multiple journeys in the Network West Midlands area (Longbridge to Blake Street) can be made on a Network West Midlands Daytripper which is £6.90 (or £9.00 for the peak version).
https://legacy.wmnetwork.co.uk/tickets/#/ticket/39
Network daytripper ADULT
Summary
Unlimited regional bus * and tram travel, plus train travel within the specified West Midlands rail zones

There is a map of zones 1-5 here.
See https://www.westmidlandsrailway.co....X3H_CWSssItrf2ofAOzmFzII/wmr_regional_map.pdf

To do the bits outside the West Midlands area, Blake Street to Lichfield Trent Valley is £2.80 return with your 26-30 railcard, Longbridge to Redditch is £3.55 return and Barnt Green to Bromsgrove is £2.55 return. You would be able to buy the daytripper at Coventry.

1) According to Wikipedia, Class 323s are only used on the Redditch/Bromsgrove to Lichfield Trent Valley route, and are the sole type of trains on this route, is this right? So that means I could just turn up at random and ride, without much need for planning.
Only 323s are used on the Cross City line so not much need for planning (although if you want to cover all pairs, you might want to trace the diagrams using Realtimetrains). Part of the reason for the reduction in the timetable is to operate them in pairs for additional capacity on the remaining trains running.
 
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JonathanH

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You can use the tool https://www.westmidlandsrailway.co.uk/travel-information/journey-planning/how-busy-is-my-train to see how long the trains are on the West Midlands routes. It looks like at 3-car 323 is shown as having capacity for 289 and a 6-car 323 is shown as having capacity for 578.

To help you decide which train to catch, we've been keeping an eye on how busy they are likely to be.

Not all of our trains have automatic passenger counting technology on board, so data is often collected manually. We will update this page when we become aware of changes.

Before using this tool, we advise passengers to refer to online journey planners or downloadable timetables to check the latest train times. Being based on recent data, this tool doesn’t take account of future events such as engineering works which may alter train times.

How busy do you expect my train to be?
Use the tool below to find out how busy your train usually is. Things can change though, so see How busy is my train today? by scrolling down for Live updates from the Information Team in our Control Centre.

Trains highlighted as busy have more than 50% people travelling, so you may have a more comfortable journey on a quieter service.
 
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507020

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When I visited Birmingham to ride on a Class 323 earlier this year, I just did the northern portion from Birmingham New Street to Lichfield Trent Valley. It was only about 6pm but I was the only person in the carriage. I don’t know how full the rest of the train was. It was a 6 car. I’ve always thought the Class 323 interior looks a lot better in West Midlands orange than Northern blue.
 

Dave91131

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In addition to the Lichfield - Birmingham - Redditch cross city line, I believe they can also be found on the all stations Wolverhampton - Birmingham - Walsall services alongside class 350's.

There used to be a single unit on the New Street - International shuttle, but the last couple of times (not since pre-Covid) I've been in the area that has been a 350.
 

JonathanH

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In addition to the Lichfield - Birmingham - Redditch cross city line, I believe they can also be found on the all stations Wolverhampton - Birmingham - Walsall services alongside class 350's.

There used to be a single unit on the New Street - International shuttle, but the last couple of times (not since pre-Covid) I've been in the area that has been a 350.
While 323s have been used on both routes, the capacity checking tool suggests that isn't the case at the moment and Wolverhampton - Birmingham - Walsall is all 350s. As you say, the New Street to International shuttle is also a route that 323s were used on.
 

boiledbeans2

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Multiple journeys in the Network West Midlands area (Longbridge to Blake Street) can be made on a Network West Midlands Daytripper which is £6.90 (or £9.00 for the peak version).
https://legacy.wmnetwork.co.uk/tickets/#/ticket/39

Great! It's a reasonable price. I assume no railcard discount for this either?

You can use the tool https://www.westmidlandsrailway.co.uk/travel-information/journey-planning/how-busy-is-my-train to see how long the trains are on the West Midlands routes. It looks like at 3-car 323 is shown as having capacity for 289 and a 6-car 323 is shown as having capacity for 578.

That's a great tool. I may very well try to aim for the 6-car trains so they will quieter.

Anyway, are there plans to revert back to 6tph through the core section in the near future? Because if there is, then I may delay my trip until the 6tph is restored.
 

boiledbeans2

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I forgot to ask, are there some quiet stations where I can make external video recordings of the train?

Preferably a station with side platforms, on the 4tph Longbridge - Four Oaks section so trains are frequent.
 

birchesgreen

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I think your best bet would be Butlers Lane or Blake Street, though these are beyond FOK but will be quieter. The end of the platform at Chester Road won't be bad. Gravelly Hill has a good view of the station from the bridge.
 

Spaceship323

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For sound recording Bromsgrove to Barnt Green up the Lickey incline would be good, then Barnt Green itself is good for spotting, you will get some freight and XC HST's as well if you time it right.
 

Liam L

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Great! It's a reasonable price. I assume no railcard discount for this either?



That's a great tool. I may very well try to aim for the 6-car trains so they will quieter.

Anyway, are there plans to revert back to 6tph through the core section in the near future? Because if there is, then I may delay my trip until the 6tph is restored.
All of them should be 6 carriages par 1 diagram which usually a 3 car diagram but usually does get extended if there a spare unit.
 

Techniquest

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Definitely agreed on the ticket combination recommended, the Daytripper is excellent value. If it's of interest to the OP, it also covers the trams which can be fun.

Quiet stations to record 323s at, in the core section. Selly Oak and Bourneville are usually pretty reasonable in the daytime, certainly worth considering. Northfield from memory isn't too bad either, and plenty of other trains on the middle lines to help pass the time. North of Birmingham, I concur with the other forum member, Gravelly Hill is good. The view from a nearby road bridge could certainly generate some decent photos, sadly it's been many a year since I was up there so memory doesn't tell me how easy that bridge is to get to.

It's outside the Daytripper area, granted, but Shenstone's quiet normally and definitely worth considering.

The 323s up the Lickey, yes that is fun. Difficult to get decent photos at Bromsgrove in my experience of 323s, not impossible though. It's a shame the motors aren't as noisy as they used to be, they are much less fun now but for the average person living near the railway it's a good thing. Best to open a window and record the sound from there I would say, the more windows open the better.

Be warned though, there's very little of interest anywhere near Bromsgrove station, and it's very open so if it's a windy day, make sure you have warm clothing as there's not much to protect you from the wind and rain!

I still haven't done the full ride from Bromsgrove to Lichfield Trent Valley on a 323, it's one of those weird things I want to do but just haven't got around to somehow. It's not as if it does any special track or whatever, it's simply one of those things I'd like to say I've done.

Redditch, tiny little station but the town centre is much closer than at Bromsgrove. Worth noting Redditch has a lot more hilly roads than you might expect, which I found out the hard way by cycling up them!

The 6tph timetable, it may well be some way off yet for all we know. Given the issues with train crew in the Midlands at present, it doesn't seem likely to be reinstated for some time. Which probably helps the works at University mind, that rebuild is coming along well from what I saw some weeks back.

If it was me, I'd make the trip as soon as realistically possible. Get up to the Midlands and enjoy the 323s, waiting for a full timetable is only wasting your time. Get up and record the day in history, I say, and have some fun :)

Oh, and to back up someone else's comment, the 323s don't do the Wolverhampton to Walsall or Birmingham New Street to Birmingham International services now. I believe those went over fully to 350s in 2020, but it may have been earlier, I'm really not sure. So yes, until the new trains arrive the 323s are the only type to work the Cross City line, and you'll not normally find them elsewhere either. Apart from Soho EMU depot of course, which can be viewed from passing trains between Birmingham and Wolverhampton, so you might find yourself doing a short journey to Smethwick and back just to view the depot. If 08s are also your bag, 08805 is normally parked at the Smethwick end of the depot when not in use.

Any other questions, feel free to ask and someone here will be happy to answer. 323s have a special place in my heart, and this thread has certainly inspired me to go and enjoy a good ride on some very soon :D
 

the sniper

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You would be able to buy the daytripper at Coventry.

Should be able to buy it from any booking office nationally or hand held ticket machine, but you get a DTX/I196 'Daytripper Exchange' that is formatted for normal ticket stock. Only if you're catching a bus on it do you need to 'exchange' it at a booking office locally for one on proper stock first, as some bus drivers used to be funny about accepting them on the orange stock.

 

Kite159

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They used to be used on the Stour Valley.

A couple years ago (before Walsall - Rugeley got wired up) 323s were common on the Walsall - Wolverhampton stoppers before they got replaced by 350s

I believe from memory there is a couple late night services towards Coventry, 0040 Birmingham New Street to Coventry might be one of them (looks to be formed of an unit from Bromsgrove) however doing those do tend to mean you get stuck in Coventry overnight
 

43 302

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The only 323 service not on the Cross City line is the 2C90 0040 BHM to COV service. I did it last night in fact with 323205!
 

boiledbeans2

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Thanks for all your replies!

I did the trip! Here are my experiences if anyone wants to do a similar trip.

1) Fares. After spending hours (!) on Trainsplit and various TOC ticket websites, the best option was a Super Off-peak return for £34 (with railcard) from Guildford to Redditch using Chiltern. The fare was the same whether to Coventry, Birmingham or Redditch. I bought separate tickets for New Street to Lichfield Trent, as well as the short Bromsgrove branch.

Since I didn't get the daytripper ticket, I couldn't do repeated journeys. But considering a round trip on the Cross-city line is already 3h, and with additional stops at stations for photos/videos, that was a good itinerary for half a day of Class 323s. :lol:

Since I was using Chiltern, I aligned my trip with the only weekday Class 68 diagram from Marylebone to Moor Street.

2) Birmingham stations. Moor Street station was beautiful, with many classic wooden signs and architecture. In contrast, both New Street and Snow Hill reminded me of Euston. Underground, dark and gloomy, difficult for taking photos.

3) Places to record external videos. It seems the north section was much quieter than the south section. I noticed there were quite some people traveling between Redditch and Barnt Green, even though it was the extreme end of the line.

I stopped at Barnt Green while changing trains between the Redditch and Bromsgrove branch. It's a good place for photos as the station has a interesting platform layout, but probably not good for recording videos. On the Redditch branch, the wheel squeal from the tight turns overpower any motor sounds. On the Bromsgrove branch, only 1tph (in each direction) stops there. I did see some Voyagers and Turbos, but no XC and freight during my short 15 min stay there. :lol:

The north section was quieter. Blake Street and Butlers Lane were quiet stations as mentioned in a post above, but I did not stop there as trains were only 2tph. Even with 4tph (8tph both directions) in the stations I discuss below, there were still gaps of >15min between trains as the trains are not evenly distributed in the hour.

A good station I found was Erdington. I noticed that the entrance was on the south side of the platforms, while the north end is a dead end. So most of the people (if any!) would stand on the south side, while the north side would be empty. So I could take undisturbed videos. But it was quite windy, despite being surrounded by trees.

I stopped at Gravelly Hill as well, as I noticed the station was in a cutting, hoping for reduced wind. But it seemed not that case, it was windier than Erdington! I believe my recordings consist of mostly wind noise. :lol:

Both Erdington and Gravelly Hill were quiet in the evening peak (~5pm). Between trains, the stations were deserted, which wasn't the case for the Cross-city south section.

4) Misc. Just a side question - is it common for smoking on trains in Birmingham? :lol: Most of the Class 323s I boarded either had the smell of cigarettes from the time I boarded the train, or the smell started coming midway into my journey.

5) Return journey. My return journey to London was on a Chiltern Clubman. I was expecting it to be a 2+2 seating version of the run-down Chiltern Turbos. But it greatly exceeded my expectations. The seats were wide and comfy, with a retractable table section (for the table seats).

The only problem was the train length. The trains seem to be 3 or 4-car only. My journey back to London had a reasonable loading. But at Moor Street in the evening, I saw a Marylebone - Kidderminster 3-car Clubman, which was standing room only.

Once again, thanks for all your suggestions and advice! This may very well be my last Class 323 ride in WMT land before they get replaced.
 
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boiledbeans2

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The 323s up the Lickey, yes that is fun. Difficult to get decent photos at Bromsgrove in my experience of 323s, not impossible though. It's a shame the motors aren't as noisy as they used to be, they are much less fun now but for the average person living near the railway it's a good thing. Best to open a window and record the sound from there I would say, the more windows open the better.

How did they reduce the motor sound?

I remember from my sole experience (until now) of the Class 323s from 5 years ago, in Northern land, that they were louder.

But this time, in WMT land, it seemed much quieter, even though I specifically sat in the section over the bogies. I was hoping to be blown away by the motor sound. But unfortunately, it hasn't dislodged the Metro-Cammell Networkers for my all-time favourite train sound.8-)
 

Techniquest

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How did they reduce the motor sound?

I remember from my sole experience (until now) of the Class 323s from 5 years ago, in Northern land, that they were louder.

But this time, in WMT land, it seemed much quieter, even though I specifically sat in the section over the bogies. I was hoping to be blown away by the motor sound. But unfortunately, it hasn't dislodged the Metro-Cammell Networkers for my all-time favourite train sound.8-)

I have no idea how they got quieter, but yes the Northern ones are still a bit louder. As for the Networker sound, I haven't heard it in a long time but I do like that a lot :D
 

birchesgreen

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Interesting to read about your trip but in 46 years of living in Erdington i never thought i'd read this... :lol:

"A good station I found was Erdington"
 

boiledbeans2

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Interesting to read about your trip but in 46 years of living in Erdington i never thought i'd read this... :lol:

"A good station I found was Erdington"
Maybe you will see lots of spotter/photographers at your local station in future after they read this post. :lol:
 

317 forever

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I last rode a West Midlands 323 in 2019 and it still had London Midland interiors. I have seen pictures of examples with West Midlands Trains interiors. Have many of them been refurbished yet? I am due to ride a 323 there in October.
 

Liam L

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I last rode a West Midlands 323 in 2019 and it still had London Midland interiors. I have seen pictures of examples with West Midlands Trains interiors. Have many of them been refurbished yet? I am due to ride a 323 there in October.
All of them have been refurbished.
 

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