Robert Hampton

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1st December 2011

Retain the Train
Posted by at 11.46pm | Trains | No responses

Oh hello. Apologies for the gap in blogging. I could offer excuses but the simple fact is that I have been somewhat distracted over the past few weeks. I want to rectify this and get back into writing on this web site, and I hope that December will be a fruitful month.

Unfortunately, my return to blogging today is motivated by some bad news I received from the Friends of the 502 Group, a society I have been involved with since its inception.

We are a group of railway enthusiasts who have custody of two vintage electric train carriages. These two vehicles represent the the last surviving example of the Class 502 trains which ran on what is now Merseyrail’s Northern Line for the best part of 40 years. The 502s were built between 1939 and 1941 and were an early pioneer of features such as automatic sliding doors and the seating layout which became the de facto standard for suburban trains in the UK for the next 50 years. As such they are an important piece of British railway history and need to be saved for posterity.

Unfortunately we now find ourselves without a home as we have been asked to vacate the premises by our current landlords. The full story is over at the Friends of the 502 Group blog, but to summarise: we need money (a lot of it), and soon. We have just twelve weeks to raise £4,000.

We have an online donation page. Any amount, no matter how small, would be appreciated.

Here endeth the begging.

7th February 2010

Iris-ked everything for you
Posted by at 7.19pm | Liverpool | No responses

Various web sites have been buzzing with the news that the former Mersey Ferry, Royal Iris, has ended up half-sunken and derelict in a London dock.

Royal Iris tied up in London, 2006

Some people may struggle to understand the emotions here: on the face of it, it’s just a boat that took people from Liverpool to Wallasey. And let’s face facts, its design was never going to win a beauty contest. But for many Merseysiders, the Royal Iris is not just a ferry, it’s an icon of Scouse culture. This is mainly thanks to the regular cruises it operated during the Merseybeat era, where passengers would receive dinner and an afternoon’s entertainment from one of the leading Liverpool bands. Even the Beatles performed on board on a few occasions. It’s a very sad state of affairs to see it ending its days like this.

Read the rest of this post »

1st August 2009

Adventures in Public Transport, Part XXXI
Posted by at 7.24pm | It's My Life | No responses

Today was the Woodvale Rally, and I was supposed to be there representing Friends of the 502 Group.

No car, but that’s no problem. Yours truly knows his way around public transport, even more so thanks to Merseytravel’s web site which has PDF timetables for every bus in Merseyside. Seriously, it’s a fantastic resource, because each timetable has a little map showing the full route, so even if you’re unfamiliar with the area, you know where you are.

So: train to Hillside, walk to home of person who had event tickets for me, then number 49 to Woodvale. Simples! I even bought my Saveaway the day before to save time.

Train arrived on time at Hillside (or “Bootle Oriel Road” as the automated announcer insisted on calling it). This was where things started to go a bit wrong.

As I got off the train, it started raining. Really heavily. I walked along the main road for a few minutes, getting soaked, before it dawned on me that my usually reliable sense of direction had deserted me and I had no idea where I was.

Stopping in a bus shelter a few minutes later to consult my map (something I should really have done before I started walking) I realised that I would need to go almost all the way back to the station. Bah.

Now on the right road I saw a corner shop and — having forgotten to bring any beverages with me, and forewarned that refreshments at Woodvale are expensive — I went in to buy a bottle of water. Having already been delayed, I was held up further by a man paying for his Daily Mail using 2p coins.

I left the shop and strolled along the road, putting my change in my pocket next to my Saveaway. Or rather, where my Saveaway had been until a few minutes ago. Where was it now?


I really didn’t want to lose my ticket now. I had two bus rides and another train journey ahead of me. I didn’t hold out much hope of finding it, but I decided to retrace my steps. Walking past the corner shop and back the way I came — hurrah! There it was on the ground near the bus shelter.

I picked up the now soggy ticket, sandwiched it between two sheets of card to try and flatten it out, and walked back, passing the same corner shop for the third time.

I finally arrived, late and damp, having learned the hard way to invest in clothes with zip-up pockets.

(worth it in the end though! Check out the Class 502 homepage for more info!)

4th July 2009

Gimme 502!
Posted by at 9.50pm | Trains | No responses

Today was a good day as I headed up to the Lake District to see the Class 502 Electric Multiple Unit which I have been involved with since November 2007. It’s slighly odd to think that in all that time, I’ve never actually seen it in person, but that is all rectified as of today.

Almost came a cropper early on, thanks to Northern Rail sending out their scabbiest Pacer to take me to Wigan. Would I make my seven-minute connection? I didn’t think I would as the train revved up to accelerate away from St Helens Central, only to grind to a halt again as the engine died and the brakes came on. The driver managed to get one of the two engines restarted and we limped along with no lights in my coach. Thankfully we reached Wigan in time for my onward connection to the Lake District.

And here is what I saw:-

Class 502 EMU at Tebay

It’s rather sad, really. These trains were the bees knees back in the day (the first mainline trains to have automatic doors, fact fans). They whizzed up and down the Liverpool to Southport line faultlessly for the best part of 40 years. It’s such a shame that this one (the last in existence) has been left to decay for so long.

This train is now in the care of the Friends of the 502 Group. See our skilfully-designed (in my unbiased opinion) web site for more information.

16th January 2009

Longest of long shots
Posted by at 10.37pm | Trains | No responses

Anyone have a building large enough to store a two coach train in? Preferably for free?

5th August 2008

Five Oh Two
Posted by at 1.20pm | Trains | No responses

Apropos of nothing, this is my new favourite train picture — look, it’s so shiny! Unfortunately, that preserved unit is not quite so shiny these days, but hopefully that can be fixed.