Robert Hampton

Rover 2006: Friday

Depart From Arrive To TOC Train
Scheduled Actual Scheduled Actual
10:14 10:14 Aigburth 10:23 10:31 Liverpool Central ME 508125
10:57 10:56 Liverpool Lime Street 11:54 11:58 Preston NT 156440
12:30 12:48 Preston 13:50 14:07 Barrow-in-Furness TP 175004
14:53 14:53 Barrow-in-Furness 17:15 17:12 Carlisle NT 156459
17:21 17:23 Carlisle 18:50 18:53 Wigan North Western VT 221132
19:11 19:20 Wigan North Western 19:52 19:54 Liverpool Lime Street NT 156471
20:13 20:17 Liverpool Central 20:22 20:25 Aigburth ME 508117

Today's trip proved to be a salient lesson in the planning of connections.

The main purpose of today's outing was to ride the Cumbrian Coast line from Barrow-in-Furness to Carlisle. This line runs through beautiful scenery, skirting the edge of the Lake District. I've used this line as far as Ravenglass (home of the narrow-gauge Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway), but have never done the whole line. The trip is something of an epic journey, taking a little over 2½ hours to complete.

Once again my journey began with the Liverpool to Preston service. This time I was taking the 1057 departure, formed of 156440, seen here at Lime Street.

156440 at Lime Street

We left on time (actually 1 minute early according to my watch) but were held outside Wigan North Western for some reason and arrived at Preston 5 late.

This is where things started to unravel slightly. I had planned to catch the 1230 Transpennine Express service to Barrow-in-Furness (which starts from Manchester Airport so doesn't actually cross the Pennines, but I digress). This train is timetabled to reach its destination at 1350, giving a 5-minute connection into the 1355 to Carlisle. 5 minutes is the absolute bare minimum connection time, but I decided to chance it.

I watched with dismay as the 1230 change from showing as “on time” to “expected 1236” to “expected 1242”. At 1242 a train duly appeared. Unfortunately it wasn't the train I wanted, but a northbound Pendolino, 390048 Virgin Harrier.

390048 at Preston

Eventually 175004 turned up with the Barrow train, which left 18 minutes late.

175004 at Preston

We arrived at Barrow 17 minutes late and the onward 1355 connection had long gone. It wasn't too bad as the next train to Carlisle was only 45 minutes away, due to leave at 1453. Indeed, the inbound working arrived just after our train did (you can see it in the picture below, in the right-hand platform).

Barrow-in-Furness is a pleasant but fairly nondescript station. Note the semaphore signals in the foreground.

General view of Barrow-in-Furness station

And here's a closer view of 156459, waiting to leave for Carlisle.

156459 at Barrow-in-Furness

Right on time, we set off for Carlisle, through the Lake District scenery. Not long after departure, the rain started pouring down. It was just about possible to make out some vague shapes through the window.

The rain-soaked view from the train

This station shares a name with a district of Merseyside and that's all they have in common!

Bootle station (Cumbria)

My train was fairly lightly loaded leaving Barrow, but it wasn't long before the reason for this line's continued existence loomed into view: Sellafield. The black smudge in the picture below is nothing sinister, just dirt on the train window.

Sellafield nuclear facility

Sellafield is home to the infamous nuclear reprocessing facility. Much of the nuclear material is transported by rail. Some of the nuclear flasks could be seen from the train, parked in sidings inside the security fence.

Nuclear flasks at Sellafield plant

We then rolled into Sellafield station itself. Our train's arrival must have coincided with shift change at the plant, as a sizeable number of workers boarded our train, as well as the southbound train visible in the picture below, which was formed of a 156 coupled to a 153, providing 3 coaches overall.

Sellafield Station

The passenger and freight traffic generated by Sellafield are a big factor in the continued survival of this line, which has to be worth the occasional discharge of radioactive material into the Irish Sea. Right?

We continued north. There are lots of stations on this line. Some serve small towns such as Whitehaven or Workington, and tiny isolated communities such as Braystones.

By the time we reached Carlisle, most of the nuclear workers had left, replaced by a businessman whose attempts to conduct a mobile phone conversation kept getting frustrated by loss of signal as the train passed through remote countryside.

From Carlisle it was a fairly straightforward run back home, as Virgin Super Voyager 221132 conveyed me back to Wigan for an onward connection to Liverpool.

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