Valley Lines Challenge (25th Feb)

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Ascot

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Big disruptions around Cardiff, we've had some delays and some interesting plan diverts! Be an interesting trip report.


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anthony263

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Dissapointing that I couldn't come along although a part of me is glad that I didn't.

I look forward to reading the trip report for this
 

Ascot

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Very good day even with the disruptions. Obviously we had the venue change for the meal from Newport to Cardiff but we all made it which was a good thing. Looking forward to meeting everyone again soon!


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Lrd

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Indeed, twas a good day, enjoyed meeting everyone, your all a great bunch of people! :)
 

Ivo

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Time for the Valley Lines reports to start flooding in!

As you may be aware, there were serious delays through the core of the Valley Lines network towards the end of the afternoon, which were caused by a points failure somewhere between Central and Queen Street which resulted in most traffic running south from Queen Street using Platform 3 (thereby causing disruption to the otherwise independent Bay line). This was a bitterly disappointing finale to what was otherwise a very enjoyable Challenge - the forum's first in Wales.

bb21, gnolife and yorkie were largely unaffected, as their plan saw them returning from Maesteg at the end. This, coupled with the delays and a couple of other things saw them home with what was probably the biggest winning margin in the forum's history - ~15 points! This of course means that bb21 and gnolife, who were working together for the third time, maintained their 100% record in RailUK Challenges - but it wasn't as straightforward as it sounds. Indeed, had everything worked out exactly as everyone had planned, what was probably the biggest win in the forum's history would actually have been the narrowest victory in the forum's history, at just three minutes - and with a different outcome! (I shall go into detail about that later.)

Ultimately the delays were so bad that we had to bend the rules for disqualification. The usual 30 minute timings applied, but instead of disqualification being applied at that point a new method of further penalty points was applied. This means that the winning margin wasn't the only record set today, as two teams were deducted a double-figure number of points...

I shall post my team's report tomorrow. For now guys, feel free to comment as you please! I can however confirm that at least one attendee is a happy man tonight after a certain result at Twickenham (no prizes for guessing who).

See you all in London on the 11th of April! And speaking of which, some important developments will be posted soon.

Oh, and for everyone that knew of the problem, which was everyone - my foot is not any better. I shall go into detail about that tomorrow as well.

My day started at 0715, ready for the bus at 0801. I was feeling confident about how the day would progress and felt better than I had done for a long time, including Manchester (when I had to walk the University driveway). This time of course I was on the first bus of the day from the campus and easily changed on to the X39 bus to Bristol. And at Temple Meads I had plenty of time to buy my ticket, get a bite to eat and make my way up to Platform 5 for the 0854 to Cardiff.

I was the first to arrive in Cardiff. It wasn't long before lewisrday arrived on the scene though, for he was travelling on the 0947 HST bound for Swansea (via a "cheeky" CrossCountry First Class journey from Southampton to Reading), and before long the group numbered five as gnolife, JoeGJ1984 and telstarbox all arrived on the same 0957 service from Manchester. The five us all went off to purchase our Valley Lines Day Explorer tickets, except gnolife who had already so, and then it was on to Cardiff Bay for what we hoped would be a lovely sojourn on the Bubble.

It wasn't to be. 153303 turned up in its place.

We were all disappointed, but continued down to the Bay anyway. A quick photo shoot and a look around outside came and went and before long we were back at Queen Street, and then on to Central ready for the agreed 1030 rendezvous. And at Central we soon ran into Ascot, leaving just the staff members who were coming along for the day - bb21 and yorkie, both of whom were joining up with gnolife. We also learned that Greenback would be coming along. In time, they also arrived - and after a bit of an argument of whether the Challenge rule of synchronising watches should have taken place ('twas nice to be able to overrule the Moderators :lol:), and also a quick chat with Flamingo who had arrived at Central on duty, on my suggestion we all headed up to Platforms 6 and 7 to await our first Valley Lines services. Little did I know that in doing so I had made it possible for two teams to travel on the 1101 to Bargoed - a mistake that, had everything run smoothly for all teams, would have cost my team the victory! (The multiple-member teams both expected scores of 51, with my team's time a grand total of three minutes faster - but in allowing bb21 and co. to use the 1101 to Bargoed they would have acquired Gilfach Fargoed which would have made all the difference.) For the record, this was done because I had iniitially planned to use the 1101 to Penarth, but given I had been planning this it was only fair for everyone to have the advantage. It was present in the main thread for long enough!

1100 came - and bb21, gnolife and yorkie all jumped straight on to the 1101 Pacer to bargoed. Joe then attempted to join them, but the door quite literally closed in his face. Not sure what he made of that...! Of it went, leaving my team, Greenback (who was joining us for the first while) and Lewis, who had made a mistake a not joining the others on their way up to Rhymney via change at Bargoed. Instead, my team - the only one not starting on the Rhymney line - opted for the City Line to Radyr.

On to Radyr and a slightly early arrival which made an optimistic -1 connection easy. We went down to Llandaf, ready for the trek to Coryton (it is much shorter from Llandaf and cost us only a couple of minutes) - when trouble hit home. The danger with this walk was always going to be whether my ankles would stand up to it, because they have become extremely weak over the last three or four years - and, of course, they didn't. It was easier to run than walk! The others, including Greenback, went off ahead, and I tried a stop-start strategy to keep up.

It wasn't enough. The other guys made it to Coryton two minutes too late - and our plan was in tatters. Time for Plan B, which involved reversing our Valley circular route, and a nasty +1 at Queen Street. OK, so it was only cross-platform - but a +1 is still a +1. And when you have a slow conductor who causes you to lose two seconds on the journey from Coryton, you won't make it. So it was on to Plan C. (For the record, Valley experts will know that as a result of missing the 1145 from Coryton we ended up on the same Pacer we were on to Radyr...)

We decided to head up to Bargoed, where we would catch the bus to Merthyr. The xx16 journeys from Central end at Rhymney, giving a leisurely +16 change to the bus there. Ours was about the same - at Bargoed. D'oh. Greenback left us here, in search of a pub where he watch the Six Nations match between England and Wales at Twickenham, leaving the team on an adventure all round the houses in Rhymney and via the Merthyr ASDA store (which became a running joke through the day for all) and the hospital on to the bus station, where we faced a +3 connection. Not going to happen. Instead, it was into the Tourist Information Centre (in Merthyr?) and Wetherspoon's (meaning Greenback should have stayed with us a bit longer), and via a burger van for me in time for the 1508 back south. (Note that this was the only walk of the day of more than five minutes that my left foot stood up to!)

On to the 143 down south, with us expecting to change at Barry Docks and to return to Cardiff. Doing so would have resutled in a total loss of 10 points, which wouldn't have been a total disaster, so we were happy and fairly confident of attaining 2nd. Down we went, with Ascot remarking at the size of Pontypridd station (the previous limit of my experience on the western Valley lines), and through Radyr and Llandaf once more - when suddenly, we stopped. And waited. And waited some more. And in time, the driver got out! Something was seriously wrong!

We soon found that there had been a points failure between Queen Street and Central. Lovely. We slowly plodded on, and after about half-an-hour finally reached Queen Street where we bailed out and agreed to go down to the Bay for one last point and walk from there. As it turned out, the Bay line as suspended (which we didn't know at the time). Some amusement from watching the points spirng back-and-forth later we agreed to just walk back to Central in an effort to avoid any time penalties.

We returned to Central at 16:57 - and no-one was there! It took almost 15 minutes to walk that, not helped by foot playing up owards the end (again), but we were on-time - and no-one else was. SickyNicky came along at almost precisely 17:00, as he was joining us for the meal - but no challengers. However, before too long bb21 and co. turned up, incurring a two-point penalty, but everyone knew they had won - they had just returned from Maesteg and thus avoided most of the trouble.

And so we waited for Lewis and Joe.

And waited.

And waited some more.

We eventually gave up and headed straight to Filini's restaurant. They eventually arrived, where the official announcement of the victory was made, but I guess bb21 and co. won't be too pleased with the nature of their victory - even if in practice they would have won without the delays.

A bit of restaurant and bar jumping later, and it was eventually time to say goodbye. I had the embarrassment of having to use the lifts at the Central to avoid injuring my foot any more - by this time I was dragging my left foot through the streets of Cardiff as though it was on a skateboard - and off I went on the 12:00, leaving bb21 and yorkie to join their bus for Newport.

All in all, a good day - but a day littered with trouble. Still, a fun thing to do, and nice to finally have a de facto home Challenge for this end of my life! :p

See you all in London on the 11th of April!
 
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Lrd

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Bit late I know, but here is my trip report. (Sorry for the length :p )


The day started off with my alarm going off at 0430 and me crawling out of bed at 0500 ish. I always overestimate the time it takes me to get up and ready in the mornings, but I was out of the house by 0625 and on my way to the bus stop, the bus was on time at 0634 and I placed my shiny new smart card "The Key" on the reader and told the driver to select the product I was still using and not to activate the next one but the machine wouldn't let him so he let me travel for free.

A short journey and we are at the railway station by 0650 and I wonder over to Co-op to buy some breakfast and head into the station to collect my tickets, a combination of 9 tickets and reservations popped out the bottom of the machine, I selected the one I needed to get through the gates and went and sat down at the London end of platform 1 at Southampton Central awaiting my Voyager. At roughly 0707 a 220 rolled in and was in reverse formation, making me walk the length of the train as I was in first class for the first part of the journey. This was my first time in the first class section on a Voyager (not even walked through before) and wasn't too impressed. As we pulled out of Southampton, the trolley dolly came and took a drinks order and I proceeded to eat my breakfast bought from Co-op. A nice pleasant run up to just outside Reading was had. I say just outside as we were held at a red signal, I take a look at LDB on my phone and see are due in to Reading at 0809 (instead of 0804) and started to panic as I was booked on the 0811 HST, we start to move a few moments later and as we pulling into the platform, I see a HST pull in from London and not knowing the new platform numbers, I wasn't sure which platform I had to be at and therefore wasn't sure if that was my HST or not, a quick dash over to platform 7 and I saw the tail end of the HST just leaving and the departure boards showing the 0811 to Swansea, luckily they had already changed as the 0811 was due about 5 minutes late due to a problem with the Great Malvern train earlier at Paddington (the train I saw leave) causing my train to be caught behind it.

I boarded the lightly loaded HST and we were on our way, getting held just outside Swindon for a moment. Just after leaving Newport, I receive a text from Ivo, saying he will be waiting on the platform for me, I let him know that we are about 5 minutes late still. As we pull into Cardiff, I stick my head out the window and spot Ivo and get off the train and make my way towards him, getting caught up by rushing passengers. Ivo informs me that at least two more forum members are due on the Manchester train and we wait for it to pull in. gnolife, telstarbox and JoeGJ1984 soon met us on the platform, off the Manchester train.

We all headed down to the concourse and got caught out by ridiculous lack of ticket barriers that Cardiff have, we eventually made it through and went straight into the ticket office to purchase our rovers, apart from gnolife who already purchased his from Manchester Airport. We then headed for Cardiff Bay, praying that the Bubble was out, but as we approached Cardiff Queen Street, I noticed a 153 coming up from the Bay. We went down to the Bay, stepped off, took a picture, telstarbox disappeared off out the station, so we went and fetched him then got back on the train.

Back at Cardiff Central, we wait at the agreed meeting point, with Ascot soon joining us. Moments later, bb21 and yorkie appeared. Then I think Greenback also showed up, as well as Flamingo who was on duty. Ivo suggested that we start the challenge on Platform 6/7 and all agreed so we all made our way over. We all eagerly awaited 1100 to strike on the clocks and as soon as it did, bb21, gnolife, yorkie and JoeGJ1984 all jumped on the Pacer forming the 1101 to Bargoed, with Joe having a bit of a problem the door. This left me, Ivo, telstarbox, Ascot and Greenback left on the platform, but not for long as everyone bar me got on a train to Radyr. So I was sat waiting all alone for the 1116 to Rhymney (pronounced Rumney, not Rimney as I kept saying all day, thanks to Ivo for pointing that out).

My train arrived, a Pacer, which left at a prompt 11:15:44, I sat in the rear unit as it was a bit quieter, at Bargoed, gnolife, bb21 and yorkie jump on and I wave them down, they inform me that JoeGJ1984 is in the front unit and also give me the bad news of the fact their train stopped at Gilfach Fargoed, giving them an extra point. We made our way up to Rhymney and run for the bus just up the road in the hope of catching the earlier bus (if it happened to be late by a few minutes). We noticed some shuttle bus running from the railway station to some weird destination, we then see it run in the opposite direction, and then come back and turn up another road and park up. Our bus soon turned up (the '2' to Merthyr Tydfil) and we all jumped on board. It was a lovely run through the Valley via Merthyr Asda and we pulled in to the bus station. gnolife, bb21 and yorkie all ran off and I tried to catch up with them (JoeGJ1984 went a different route), we all walked through the town and ended up getting split up again, I noticed the other three in the shopping centre, but I carried on walking straight, using my phone with Google Maps, JoeGJ1984 ran past me, but stopped at a crossroads, I tried to sneak past (in the hope of him losing points) but he saw me and we both ran up the road where we saw a 150 sat in the platform, we end up running round the entire unit and I spot yorkie through the window in the front carriage, so I went and sat with them again, JoeGJ1984 not seeing them, and sitting in the other carriage.

This was the 1308 from Merthyr Tydfil to Barry Island, but I was leaving the service at Abercyon for a run back up the Valleys to Aberdare, with JoeGJ1984 doing the same, and the other three to carry on back down to Cardiff. We arrive at Aberdare a few minutes early and I stay on the unit (a 150) for the return service leaving at 1422. I alight at Pontypridd for another run back up the Valleys on a Pacer to Treherbert, once again I stay on the same unit and head back south. My plan was to change at Radyr to get a City Line train via Ninian Park to arrive at Cardiff Central at 1650 but this never happened thanks to a points failure somewhere between Central and Queen Street along with a failed train. On the approach to Radyr, the guard announced that the train will no longer be calling at Llandaf, Cathays or Queen Street and was running fast to Central. After checking LDB for Radyr, I still opted to change at Radyr for the City Line. As the train I was on left the station, me and JoeGJ1984 were left on the station, the 1634 City Line to Coryton was still showing on the screens, but a few moments later, it just disappeared with no announcement or anything. Another look on NRE, showed the next best thing would be to get the 1653 service to Barry Island, arriving at Cardiff Central at 1709, which was later than the agreed 1700 finish but was better than an hours walk into Cardiff. The train (a Pacer) appeared and we left on time, we called at Llandaf on time, but came to a stop a few moments later. The guard soon came over the PA and informed us that due to earlier problems, we were currently sat in a queue of trains right up to Central. We pulled in to Cathays and most people left the service to seek alternatives, I was still hopeful that we could still make it to Central or even Queen Street fairly soon, until I saw the driver and guard stood on the platform talking, so I decided to get out, ask the guard for the quickest route to Queen Street (as I knew the way to Central from there) and made my way by foot. As I left the platform, I could see the taillights of a 150 one signal further down the line so knew this was the right decision.

On my way to Queen Street, I made a quick call to Ivo to advise him of the situation and to let him know that I was on route via foot power, as opposed to diesel power. As it was approaching 1730, I was told that the group had started to make their way to the restaurant and that I should join them there. I made it with a few minutes to spare, and as the new disqualification time was extended to 1745 I only lost 10 points!

I finished with a grand total of 32. If I were to be on time and able to go via the City Line, I would have scored 45 (losing out on Gilfach Fargoed). Which I thought was reasonable, not knowing everyone else's planned score (and final score for that matter). JoeGJ1984 eventually showed up, after presumably staying on the train after getting stuck at Cathays and we had all had a quite enjoyable meal in the restaurant (where SickyNicky had also joined us).

We then proceeded to a pub, after a bit of debating, I spent all of my change in the fruit machine and winning nothing. I then bade farewell to all and made my way to Central station as I was booked on the 2044 off Newport (2030 off Central). I got up to the platform and was greeted to an absolutely packed train and platform, I stood by the door and had everyone ask me where the train was going, luckily I knew, and was even able to direct them to the imminent HST (ex Swansea) as most were going to Newport. As always, we were delayed leaving thanks to the HST being late and the 2030 being the last train of the night to Portsmouth. Thankfully the train emptied out at Newport and I went and sat at a table seat and promptly fell asleep, not waking up till Westbury. I got the 2324 bus home and was home by 2345, ending a great day out.

This was my first meet and enjoyed meeting everyone and will defiantly be coming to future meets (if I am wanted of course ;) ). Thanks all.
 

bb21

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I just can't believe that some of you did not recognise Flamingo, even though he was wearing an FGW name-badge.

Thank you indeed Ivo for allowing us to get the 1101. gnolife's quick-thinking meant that we set our sights on one more station than originally planned, giving a total of 54, although we would also incur a 2-station penalty with our plan, making the final score 52.

Most of the day have been described by the guys above. After leaving lewisrday at Abercynnon, we continued onto Llandaf, then proceeded as Ivo's plan was two and a half hours earlier - catching the 1415 from Coryton. Getting this side of Cardiff out of the way proved to be a blessing as we avoided a full-on encounter with the points failure.

Our second half consisted of getting to Bridgend via Rhoose and finally up to Maesteg and back to Central via the SWML. The Maesteg line must have been one of the slowest I ever remember, with a particular stretch of tracks approaching a signal box (where tokens are exchanged) limited to 5mph running. Due to the problems at Queen Street, there was some knock-on congestion on approach to Central. We eventually arrived 4 minute later than planned and as a result lost one further station, ending on a score of 51.
 

Ivo

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Bit late I know, but here is my trip report. (Sorry for the length :p )
Long? That? Nah. Have a look at this baby! :p http://www.railforums.co.uk/showthread.php?t=41967

This was my first meet and enjoyed meeting everyone and will defiantly be coming to future meets (if I am wanted of course ;) ). Thanks all.
You are of course welcome to come along again! We hope you will ;)

I just can't believe that some of you did not recognise Flamingo, even though he was wearing an FGW name-badge.

Thank you indeed Ivo for allowing us to get the 1101. gnolife's quick-thinking meant that we set our sights on one more station than originally planned, giving a total of 54, although we would also incur a 2-station penalty with our plan, making the final score 52.
Remind me to not do that again. If everything had gone to plan for everyone that decision would have cost my team the victory! <(
 
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