Caledonian Sleeper Review

It has become a tradition with Railcam that Model Rail Scotland is too good an opportunity for the senior admins to get together for a catch-up. With Railcam being a national site it’s fair to assume that the admins are as scattered as the cameras. This being the case 7 of us traveled on the Caledonian Sleeper to reach our colleagues, friends and fellow admins.

Not being one to miss an opportunity I contacted Caledonian Sleeper and asked if they could assist or had any objections to a feature article for our supporters.

I am always delighted when dealing with PR departments of TOCS. They tend to be very nice, chatty, accommodating and proud of both their own brand as well as the railway in general. Of course, they agreed but sadly things didn’t go quite to plan….

Caledonian Sleeper Brand

We had been offered early access to the set of mark 5 CAF built sleeper coaches and duly arrived half an hour ahead of check in to do a walk through with the cameras and notebooks. So far so good! While others waited patiently behind the barriers we were ushered through and greeted by duty manager Colin Jackson.

Colin is just what you would expect, a fine ambassador for the Serco owned sleeper. Chatty, friendly and welcoming before sharing the bad news. The new stock has been beset with so many issues since last year’s introduction and it is very sad to say that some of those issues are still on-going.

Colin Jackson – Caledonian Sleeper Duty Manager and a very nice man!

At this stage, the computers weren’t communicating and the whole 1/4 mile train had to be shut down and rebooted a number of times. Nobody was sure what the problem was but, after conversations with some of the on-board staff, this isn’t unusual with water and electrical failures still commonplace.

Quite clearly Jamie and I were both unable and unwilling to board the train while staff worked on solving the issues. That would have been completely unfair and so instead I had a half-mile walk up and down the platform and shared a Facebook Live instead.

By the time we got back to Colin, it was clear that this was potentially turning into a situation where the service may well be canceled altogether. He wasn’t sure what was happening with it being unclear if the issue was stock or locomotive related. All he could say was that people were desperately working to solve the problem.

Now not all of the Caledonian Sleeper problems are down to the stock. Initial teething problems, brake issues and failures gave the “All-New Hotel on Rails” a bad start. Those times seem to have passed for the main part and the more recent problems were with the GBRF operated class 92 locomotives and Network Rail delays.

Caledonian Sleeper operates both the Highland and Lowland services with each train being made up of 16 coaches when departing Euston. The Highland service departs first, splitting into 3 at Edinburgh before continuing on to Inverness, Aberdeen and Fort William. The Lowland service serves Glasgow and Edinburgh. The new stock is PRM compliant and has space for a number of wheelchair users.

By now we had been joined by passengers expecting to be boarded and sat enjoying a nightcap in the lounge car. Far from a late-night tipple, we were all stood waiting behind the barriers. There were a few grumbles as always but Colin did regular visits through the group to explain as best he could.

My professional qualifications are in Hotel Management and if Caledonian Sleeper wishes to market themselves as a hotel on rails they need to up their game. You just can not leave customers and guests as they should now be referred to, stood on a cold platform for over an hour! Get your hosts off the warm train and down with those guests offering a warm drink at the very least. Communication and service are key in the hotel industry and never would you expect to be locked outside of a hotel feeling second rate.

The sleeper is an expensive way to travel. If you have berths booked, especially the higher-end ones now available, the cost will exceed the flight alternative. Make this an experience that those guests wish to repeat because it’s a taste of the old-fashioned luxury experience.

After an hour of standing around with Colin doing his best, the lights flickered on the train and optimism returned! Were we about to get the nod to board? Another ten minutes and we were off down the platform finding our coaches and hosts to book in with.

We all had the classic berth. Very small, narrow bunk-beds and quite claustrophobic if you struggle in confined spaces. If you are sharing a berth, you will struggle to pass each other on the way to the sink so bear that in mind when booking.

The Classic berth. Good facilities but very tight on space.

The club and double berths offer more room I believe but sadly we weren’t able to have a look due to the earlier problems. It’s certainly worth considering an upgrade but this will always come down to value for money.

The berths are very modern. USB and sockets are plentiful. Reading lights and complimentary water and night pack containing an eye mask, ear-plugs, and soap. It’s an improvement on the old dated stock but I just can’t allow myself to call it a hotel in the classic berth.

We gathered in the Lounge-car for our late night and long-awaited tipple. One side of the car is given over to booths for 2, 4 or 5 travelers while the opposite side has stools and a crocodile tooth bench for single guests. A small menu is available if required and a host, the lovely Nancy in our case, will collect and deliver your orders to your seat. I believe there is an at-seat service available in the seated coaches also.

Lounge-car taken during my Aberdeen visit.

The Lounge-car is very brightly lit and the seatbacks are rather high which for me didn’t quite work for a relaxed atmosphere. When I wandered down the train at 2 am the lighting was dimmed and it was much better.

While we sadly couldn’t do our run-through, I did have a brief opportunity to take some phone shots when I covered the Aberdeen Azuma launch. This is as much as I can offer at present but the seated coaches do look reasonably comfortable for the journey and over-head lockable storage is available for your valuables.

Again from my Aberdeen trip – Seated coach with overhead lockers for vauables.

We departed Euston around half an hour late but at least we were on our way. Everyone then wandered off to their berths for what we hoped would be a comfortable night’s sleep before waking in Glasgow refreshed and raring to go.

That may have been the plan but… I certainly couldn’t get to sleep. Maybe I’m not used to being confined in a 2ft 6 bunk? maybe it was the claustrophobic feeling and unfamiliarity? I put it down to one of those things and headed off to chat with Nancy in the Lounge-car who kindly offered me a coffee and a chat about her experience as a sleeper host over the years.

After calling at Preston around 4.20 am I decided to move back to the berth and leave the staff to set up for breakfast. This is not included in classic but can be ordered if desired. We did get a coffee and biscuits delivered though which did me just fine.

We arrived into Glasgow on time and we gathered on the platform until our number was complete. It wasn’t until this point that we discussed our sleeper experience as a group. None of us had slept well if at all. The only thing we could put it down to was the ride of the mark 5 coaches. Many of the team have made this journey before but not on the new stock.

Glasgow concourse just after arrival.

When sleeping on a train you expect a few bumps and bangs along with that unusual feeling of movement but this was quite telling. I’ve had discussions with other writers and it would appear that the general consensus within the industry press is that while the investment and standard of the new stock are welcome, the ride just isn’t as good. Do let us have your feedback if you have an opinion you wish to share.

I do try to travel on a service a few times before making up my mind and so if Caledonian Sleeper wishes to invite me back anytime I’ll gladly give an update.

Overall? It’s not a hotel on wheels… yet. It’s not cheap but if you can upgrade to a larger berth then do so. Cleanliness is excellent. Facilities excellent, staff fantastic, punctuality is mixed due to departure and waiting issue but we did arrive on time, comfort average. Overall I’ll give the service a 7/10 which would be around an over-priced 3 star hotel with room for improvement in some areas.

Our thanks of course to the Caledonian sleeper team for accommodating us and being open to all we asked.

My apologies for the delay in publishing this but Sadly I have been unwell and am behind in my reporting.

LNER warn of Storm Dennis disruption

STORM DENNIS: LNER URGES CUSTOMERS TO DEFER WEEKEND TRAVEL

London North Eastern Railway (LNER) is advising customers of disruption to their journeys on Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 March as Storm Dennis is expected to bring severe weather conditions to the UK.

High winds and heavy rain are forecast resulting in possible speed restrictions being imposed by Network Rail along much of the LNER route. Reduced services will run across the weekend. As a result, journey times will be longer and short notice delays and cancellations are expected.

Warrick Dent, LNER Safety and Operations Director, said: “We are encouraging our customers with tickets dated for Saturday 15 February or Sunday 16 February to defer travel to Monday 17 February, where possible. “We expect services to be extremely busy throughout the weekend and will have extra staff on duty to help.”

For the most up to date travel information, customers can check www.lner.co.uk or follow @LNER on Twitter.

Retro HST Pictures from LNER

For those who haven’t yet seen the images released by LNER this afternoon.

First pictures of repaint released by (c) LNER

Work is well underway at Craigentinny for power cars 43206 & 43312 while the coaches are being prepared by Wabtec in Doncaster.

HST repaint in progress. (c) LNER
Coaches are being repainted by Wabtec in Doncaster (c) LNER

Our thanks to LNER for sharing the images and do let us know if you will be out with cameras for the final tour!

LNER BIDS FAREWELL TO THE INTERCITY 125 HIGH SPEED TRAIN

London North Eastern Railway (LNER) will celebrate more than four decades of service from the iconic High Speed Train (HST) on the East Coast route with a special farewell tour in December.

LNER will mark the retirement of the HSTs by operating a four-day special service taking in the majority of destinations along the LNER route.

To make the farewell tour extra special for those onboard and people keen to see the HST make the final journey along the East Coast route, the train will be painted in the original British Rail InterCity 125 livery.

Money raised from the tour will go towards LNER partner charity, Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). The charity works to prevent male suicide and has already benefited from more than £100,000 in donations from LNER customers donating ‘Delay Repay’ claims to help the campaign.

David Horne, Managing Director of LNER, said: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us to express our appreciation for the decades of service from the iconic Intercity 125 on the East Coast route. We recognise the huge transformation these trains gave to rail travel when they were introduced in the 1970s, and want to show our appreciation by taking them around the route one last time.

We’re particularly delighted that on its last service with LNER, we will take the HST on a route it’s not done with us before, from Aberdeen across to Inverness.

Our HST farewell tour gives our customers and communities the opportunity to see the train in its original lively after serving the country so well over the years before being replaced by our new world-class Azuma trains.

I’m also delighted we are able to partner with the Campaign Against Living Miserably charity to help us build on the £100,000 already raised by working together and giving the proceeds of this farewell tour to CALM.”

The tour will begin on Wednesday 18 December when the Intercity 125 HST will travel from Edinburgh to Aberdeen, and then as a special treat for those on board the train will take a special route on to Inverness. The second day will see the farewell service depart Inverness for Edinburgh with day three covering Edinburgh, Newcastle, York and Leeds before a final stretch on day four stopping all stations from Leeds to London King’s Cross.

Tickets will be available from UK Rail Tours and will include free travel with LNER on any of its services either to reach the departure station or to return home. The schedule has been designed to give as many people the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the specially liveried Intercity 125 using power cars 43206 and 43312 as part of the final journey along the East Coast.

LNER’s farewell tour will follow the last day of High Speed Trains in passenger service for LNER with the final service on Sunday 15 December. This is likely to be the 19:35 London King’s Cross to Leeds service with the 17:05 Harrogate to London King’s Cross forming the last southbound service.

Details of the full tour dates, locations and costs for travel in Standard and First Class:

• 18 December – Edinburgh-Aberdeen-Inverness

o First Class £140

o Standard £95

• 19 December – Inverness-Edinburgh

o First Class £130

o Standard £90

• 20 December – Edinburgh-York-Leeds

o First Class £155

o Standard £95

• 21 December – Leeds-London King’s Cross

o First Class £220

o Standard £125

• LNER will offer customers the option to combine Day 1 and Day 2 together with a bundled ticket for £150 Standard or £250 First Class.

Anyone with a seat reservation on the HST Farewell Tour and wishing to book a seat reservation with LNER to join a service to get to or from the special farewell service can contact the LNER Customer Solutions Centre on 03457 225 333 or by e-mailing customer.care@lner.co.uk

Tickets are available for sale at www.ukrailtours.com

The Intercity 125 diesel-powered High-Speed Trains were built by British Rail between 1975 and 1982 to operate on long distance routes in Britain, and have run on LNER’s route since 1978. LNER will be the last train company to operate the HST on long-distance high-speed services – the purpose for which they were designed.

All LNER’s existing fleet of HSTs and Intercity 225 electric trains are being replaced by new Azuma trains built in County Durham.

Those all important schedules and camera passes,

Wednesday 18th December

1Z43 Edinburgh to Inverness via Aberdeen – https://railcam.uk/rcdata/RCData2_detail.php?r=S&sid=13147812

Thursday 19th December

1Z46 Inverness to Edinburgh via Highland Mainline

https://railcam.uk/rcdata/RCData2_detail.php?r=S&sid=13147871

Friday 20th December

1Z48 Edinburgh to Leeds via York

https://railcam.uk/rcdata/RCData2_detail.php?r=S&sid=13147937

Cramlington Cameras – 12:19

York North Cameras – 14:18

York ROC Camera 1 – 14:25

York South Cameras – 14:54

Doncaster Camera – 15:14

Saturday 21st December

1Z50 Leeds to London Kings Cross

https://railcam.uk/rcdata/RCData2_detail.php?r=S&sid=13147937

Doncaster Camera – 11:41

Peterborough Camera – 13:21

Feature – LNER launches Aberdeen to Kings Cross Azuma services

For those of you who know me and my past this may not be a complete surprise but….. I have never travelled the full route of the East Coast Main Line! With strong connections to the South West and being raised in Devon I have never found the necessity to travel any further than Newcastle.

What have I missed? The answer of course is an awful lot of premium railway through a wonderfully scenic environment. So when LNER asked me if I would like to Join them at Aberdeen for the introduction of its new Azuma service to London Kings Cross I gladly accepted.

Aberdeen’s Lord Provost, Cllr Barney Crockett with David Horne, Managing Director LNER for the start of Azuma services.

7 am on a wet and dark Tuesday morning and we have just heard LNER Managing Director David Horne and the Lord Provost of Aberdeen, Barney Crockett, welcome us to the Granite City.

David Horne, Managing Director of LNER, said: “As one of our most popular routes, and Aberdeen being Scotland’s third largest city, we’re proud to be introducing our new Azuma trains connecting Aberdeen with Edinburgh and London. The Granite City is the gateway to the UK’s largest national park, the Caingorms, as well as being surrounded by some of Scotland’s most scenic coastlines. It’s a magnificent destination all year round and what better way to get to and from Aberdeen in style and speed than with our Azuma trains”.

There is a loud thump and crash. It’s the next arrival and a 5 piece drumming band to escort us to the 0752 departure for Kings Cross. The band in the smart yet somehow spooky make up and uniforms have a carefully choreographed light show in honour to the “Northern Lights” name of the Aberdeen service. This works incredibly well in the dim, murky conditions of a November pre dawn morning. Fabulous and what a way to launch a new service, nobody is left half asleep as we head on to platform 5! Well done LNER, it certainly grabbed the attention.

The drumming band Spark, Leading the way to platform 5 at Aberdeen.

LNER operates three services in both directions every day between Aberdeen and London Kings Cross. An additional fourth service also operates on weekdays in both directions between Aberdeen and Leeds. The inaugural northbound Azuma service arrived on the previous night.

Jo Robinson, VisitScotland Regional Director, said: “The launch of the Aberdeen LNER Azuma service is just the latest in a line of exciting developments for the city.  It is important that visitors have the option to travel easily, sustainably and comfortably so the expansion of the Azuma trains into the North East is great news.

The region is going from strength to strength with the Aberdeen Art Gallery re-opening its doors earlier this month after a huge refurbishment and Scotland’s biggest travel trade event, VisitScotland Expo, will be held at the new P&J Live arena in April next year – shining a global spotlight on Aberdeen and the surrounding area.

These developments contribute to Scotland’s ongoing tourism success story, which is the heartbeat of the Scottish economy and touches every community, generating income, jobs and social change.”

The journey by rail is roughly 520 miles and takes on average 7 hours and 12 minutes. However, todays journey is booked at 6 hours 57 minutes and I believe there will be further reductions in time once the new Hitachi class 800 is let loose with new timetables and pathing allowances.

We all love an HST. Just an honest observation on the fantastic workhorse that led the British railways back into the world of what the travelling public expected and deserved. Introduced between 1976 and 1981 these glorified diesel multiple units, as some referred to them, were not given the warmest of welcomes. How times with opinions change!

The move away from traditional locomotive and coaches, shunting and running around at stations was viewed with a stark look over the top of the glasses in a way the headmistress would reinstate the correct atmosphere to a class of disruptive children. From the moment the class 43 took its first trip, time and effort was saved by a driver simply walking from one end of a train to the other. Yes it caused a shortage of work for some staff and the early retirement of some giants such as the Deltic but it brought in a new era of radical change in how a railway could operate.

Northern Lights HST service arrived at Aberdeen with 43239 leading. This will soon be a thing of the past.

The HST has done the UK and its designer Sir Kenneth Grange proud but it’s now time to allow these thoroughbreds their shorter formation duties or retirement. I don’t expect we will be viewing the 80x stock with such a romantic, rose tinted glasses view when they finish but in truth, at present we just don’t know.

The benefit of the new trains is obvious if you have been on one. The acceleration is much better and the braking more efficient. Those two aspects alone, researched and worked on over a length of time, should allow for a decrease in journey times. Added into the equation more seats, more legroom, better wifi, better access for those with limited mobility, electric doors and much greener for the environment and you can see just why these sets have appeal for the Train Operating Companies.

LNER Azuma 800104 sits on the blocks of platform 5 Aberdeen ready for the first run to Kings Cross

While I will happily accept that the new trains feel somewhat sparse and clinical, the seats may not be as comfortable as a mk3 and they have little character, I would ask readers to accept that the railway has to evolve and the operators have to provide a reliable service. They are not running the Orient Express here. It has been a hard fought battle to secure funding and investment to see a once in a generation change for the next 20 – 30 years. Passenger feedback across both GWR and LNER has been positive with the results far superior to the current rolling stock in use.

It’s very much an ongoing project to deliver the Hitachi class 80x’s into service. GWR have had theirs for some time, LNER for around 6 months with 8 of the 9 car 800s and 2 of the 9 car 801 now received and in service along with a number of 5 car sets. The fleet should be completed by June 2020 when all 65 sets of 5 or 9 have been put into service. TPE and Hull trains are now rolling out their sets but it’s LNER who have made the first announcement of modifications.

They have announced the introduction of additional luggage space in each carriage. The modification will install additional floor mounted luggage racks for large items where some non-reservable seating is currently located. The modifications are due to commence in the new year and are essential for the long distance journeys.

Scotland is synonymous with castles, mountains, lochs and history so settle down and let me take you through some of the most scenic countryside and history of the ECML as we travel from Aberdeen, into the North east of England and down to London.

The original line was built during the 1840s by 3 companies. The North British railway, The North Eastern Railway and The Great Northern Railway. The three companies were amalgamated in 1923 to form the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) following the Railways act of 1921.

The route runs from London to Edinburgh via Peterborough, Doncaster, York, Darlington, Durham and Newcastle. LNER services run further on to Aberdeen, Inverness and Glasgow.

The main competitor of the LNER was the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) and the two companies went head to head in a battle for passengers. This created such competition that names were given to trains and speed and luxury were the order of the day. For LNER it generated the birth of the Nigel Gresley designed pacifics. The A3 Flying Scotsman and A4 Mallard being arguably the most famous locomotives in the World. The Mallard holding the World record for a steam locomotive when recording 126 mph between Grantham and Peterborough.

The line was electrified for most of its length between 1976 and 1991 which allowed for the introduction of the intercity 225 sets onto the ECML.

The route that we take has a number of tunnels but it is the bridges which are the standout structures. The Tay bridge, The Forth Bridge and Royal Border Bridge being the most well known.

Tay Bridge

Crossing the Firth of Tay between Dundee and Wormit is the 3,290 metre Tay Bridge.

The first bridge was opened in 1878 and replaced the train ferry that had operated until that time. Designed by Thomas Bouch, the bridge was a single track, lattice grid construction made of cast and wrought iron.

Sadly there were a number of design flaws within the original bridge which ultimately led to its collapse during a storm in December 1879. The disaster cost the lives of 75 people on board a train that was passing at the time.

In March 1882 work began on the replacement bridge and it was completed and opened to passenger traffic in June 1887. The bridge is 19 metres upstream from the original and reused many of the original materials from the first bridge. However, this time the materials were severely tested before being installed.

The Tay Bridge. You can still see the original pier footings beside the replacement. credit LNER

During 2003 the bridge was given a £20.85 million refurbishment and strengthening overhaul which won the BCI Civil engineering award.

Forth Bridge

At a total length of 2,467 metres the John Fowler and Benjamin Baker designed cantilever bridge is one of the most used images to promote Scotland.

Opened in March 1890 the bridge spans the Forth between the villages of North Queensferry and South Queensferry, the bridge has the second longest cantilever span (521m) in the World. The bridge is double tracked and clears the water by almost 46 metres. It contains over 6.5 million rivets!

View of the Forth Rail & Road Bridges from South Queensferry, 8th June 2015.

The bridge was the first major structure in Britain to be constructed in steel and used 42,000 tonnes of the material. During the peak of construction some 4,600 workers were employed in its creation. Once completed and opened. the bridge was pivotal for the LNER and ultimately led to the “Race to the North” with journey times being slashed from 13 to 8.5 hours.

Royal Border Bridge

Although this feature mostly focuses on the Scottish section, I can not go without mentioning 659 metre Royal Border Bridge. Just over the border with England in Northumbria, the bridge spans the River Tweed between the previously Scottish Berwick-upon-Tweed and Tweedmouth.

It is a stone and brick structure containing 28 arches that each span 18 metres carrying the track bed 37 metres above the river.

The Royal Borders bridge from the air. Credit LNER

Built by the Newcastle and Berwick Railway the bridge was not completed until after the railway was operational. Instead wooden viaducts were in use for traffic and to bring materials to the site. The bridge was eventually opened by Queen Victoria in in August 1850.

If you are now tempted to venture northwards what can you expect? The train we are on is clearly heading south but here are a few points of interest at the places we are calling at and additionally some notable places, as advised my friend Jim, an ex signaller on the section, who gives his look out the window suggestions.

Jim’s must sees.

Some places I think are interesting and stunningly scenic on the East Coast Main Line. All views from the left hand side of the train heading Southbound.

1. Passing Craiginches after leaving Aberdeen with Torry Lighthouse on the left as the train goes round a right hand curve.

2. Small section between Craiginches and Portlethen.

3. Between Newtonhill and Stonehaven
11 to 13 minutes after leaving Aberdeen.

4. Between Arbroath and Carnoustie.

5. West Ferry immediately after passing through Broughty Ferry towards Dundee, with the River Tay and both Road and Rail Bridges in the distance.

An LNER Class 800 Azuma crossing over the River Tyne showing off some of the amazing UK engineering architecture. Credit LNER

6. Travelling over the Tay Bridge.

7. Between Kirkcaldy, Kinghorn, Burntisland, and Dalgetty Bay, with views of the River Forth and bridges.

8. The Forth Bridges.

9. Various segments of scenery between Edinburgh, Dunbar, and Berwick Upon Tweed, especially 5 miles north of Berwick at the Scottish Border (Marshall Meadows) the view is absolutely stunning.

10. Leaving Newcastle going across King Edward Bridge above the River Tyne.

Now the calling points.

Aberdeen

The starting point for todays journey is Scotland’s third largest city. Aberdeen is well known for its links with the oil industry and its heliport is one of the busiest commercial heliports in the World. The seaport is also the largest in the north east of Scotland as Aberdeen constantly supplies the north Sea rigs with both supplies and workforce.

Welcome to Aberdeen for the Azuma

Known as the Granite City because of the locally quarried stone being the main construction material for building, the city can appear very grey. However, during sunnier conditions this changes to a sparkling silver as the mica in the granite sparkles and gives the reason for its secondary nickname of the Silver City.

The location was originally settled some 8,000 years ago and prior to the discovery of North Sea oil and gas the main industries were fishing, textiles, shipbuilding and papermaking. The fishing fleet has now reduced but still has a prominent existence. It can also boast of having the first steam powered trawler!

As well as the outstanding architecture, the City has a number of prominent statues including William Wallace, Robert Burns and Robert the Bruce.

Stonehaven

Stonehaven lies around 15 miles south of Aberdeen and is our first stop on this journey. It was originally an Iron age fishing village which expanded inland from the sea.

©Garry Dixon

The town is situated at the southern end of the Causey Mounth trackway which connected the Bridge of Dee to Cowie Castle and was used by the Earl of Marischal and the Marquess of Montrose to lead an army of 9,000 men in the first battle of the English Civil war.

The traditional fishing industry and fleet diminished by the late 1930s and its main area of commerce is now marine services and tourism. The local Dunnottar Castle brings in a large number of visitors every year. The town also boasts an Olympic size open air swimming pool which is filled with a mixture of tap and filtered sea water. It is the northernmost lido in the UK.

Montrose

Montrose is a former Royal burgh which lies around 38 miles north of Dundee. The skyline is dominated by the 67m high steeple of Old and St Andrews Church. The town has an active port but the major employer is GlaxoSmithKline.

The town was plundered by the Danes on numerous occasions but in 980 it was razed to the ground during a raid. During the War of Independence, Edward I visited the town with 30,000 men and stayed at Munros Castle.

Since 2008 the town has hosted the Montrose Music Festival at the end of May. It has become Scotlands largest free music event with over 200 gigs being played over 3 days.

Arbroath

We are now 45 Miles south west of Aberdeen and have reached Arbroath, the home of the famous Smokie! The Arbroath Smokie is protected under the Geographical Indication and must be produced within 4 km of the town to bear the name. Made from Haddock, salted and smoked overnight, it’s an obligatory food for anyone visiting the town.

Caught by my friend Jim at Arbroath. My companion is the editor of the excellent Railway Herald, Richard Tuplin

Some fun facts for sports fans is that the town’s football team holds the record for the largest winning margin in a senior football match, 36 – 0 during a Scottish Cup match against Bon Accord in 1885. The home ground, Gayfield Park is just 5 1/2 yards from the high tide line making it the closest stadium in Europe to the sea.

Dundee

Next on our journey is Scotland’s fourth largest city. Dundee developed in the 12th century and established itself as an important trading port. During the 19th century the city expanded further due to the industrial revolution and in particular the Jute industry.

Dundee is branded as “One City, Many Discoveries” and this is celebrated by having the RRS Discovery, Scotts Antartic exploration vessel berthed at Discovery Point. The City is also recognised by UNESCO for its association with design and medical research.

The V and A design museum and Discovery at Dundee. Credit VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

The old town and castle were occupied by the English during the First War of Independence but recaptured by Robert the Bruce in 1312. Dundee has often been at the centre of military conflicts and has been besieged on many occasions.

The most famous railway link to the city is of course the Tay Bridge which was originally opened in 1878. Sadly this collapsed during a storm 18 months later while a passenger service was on it and 75 people sadly lost their lives.

Leuchars

First recorded during the reign of William the Lion ( 1165 – 1214) Leuchars is best know for the 12th Century St Athelnase Church. It is described as one of the finest surviving examples of an unaisled Romanesque parish churches in Scotland.

The town was also home to an RAF base with the Typhoon jet until the base was changed to Army use in 2015.

Leuchars is also the nearest station to the town of St Andrews, the home of the famous Scottish University attended by Prince William. St Andrews is also internationally known amongst the sporting fraternity for being the home of golf. It hosts the oldest professional tournament, The Open, with it’s famous claret jug trophy, each July over the links course.

Kirkcaldy

We are now just 12 miles from Edinburgh and the east coast town of Kirkcaldy. The town is the 12th most populous settlement in Scotland and dates back to the Bronze Age. In more recent centuries it developed into an industrial centre for Salt, Coal mining, Nail making and Linen. The linen industry then developed into a floor cloth and subsequent Linoleum producer until the mid 1960s.

The town has the nickname of “Lang Toun” (Long Town) which relates to the towns original 16th century 0.9 mile main street.

Out of the Scottish fog and through Markinch station. © Steven Carty

Inverkeithing

The name Inverkeithing is derived from the Scottish Gaelic meaning “Confluence, inflow”. The town itself has some evidence to date it as far back as AD 83 when the Roman General Agricola made an excursion into Northern Scotland. It was generally well settled before the 5th century when its first church was created.

The town holds an historically strategic position and was granted burgh status due to its proximity to the narrowest crossing point of the Firth of Forth in addition to its sheltered bay.

The original burgh was unusual in construction as unlike most fortified burghs its walls and four gates were built from stone and not the usual wooden Palisades.

In 1651 there was a Battle of Inverkeithing, fought on two sites. The first was fought close to Pitreavie Castle and the second around the peninsula of North Queensferry which is now where the Forth Bridge stands.

Haymarket

Haymarket is an area of Edinburgh located to the west of the city and is the focal point for many Transport systems. There is a main crossroads with a clock tower at its centre. The tower itself is actually a war memorial and lists football players from a number of teams who gave their lives during the First World War while serving in McCrae’s Battalion, better known as “The Footballers Battalion”.

The station itself is the second in Edinburgh and offers connections to Glasgow, Fife, Carlisle, Inverness and Aberdeen. It has recently been redeveloped and while some older buildings remain in use, it looks very different to its original 1842 Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway terminus building.

Edinburgh

The City of Edinburgh has been recognised as the capital of Scotland since the 15th century. Located on the south shore of the Firth of Forth ( try saying that after a wee dram or two!) it is the second largest city in Scotland.

It boasts some truly magnificent buildings and events so it is extremely difficult to pick a couple for suggestions. However, If you plan a trip then lets go for the Fringe Festival. This is the World’s largest arts festival which in 2018 lasted for 25 days, with 55,000 performances in 317 venues. Now that truly has to provide something for everyone?

For a building? it has to be Edinburgh Castle which dominates the skyline. It’s also worth mentioning that much of Edinburgh is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Edinburgh Castle viewed from Salisbury Crags. Credit VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

The earliest known habitation in the area was a mesolithic camp site dated around 8500 BC. The Castle Rock has revealed traces of both Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements.

Nicknames include Auld Reekie which means Old Smokey and was given for the view from the countryside of the smoke covered Old Town area of the city.

I have decided to just give you the Scottish calling points of the service to tempt you in to a visit but, additionally the new route will call at Berwick upon Tweed, Newcastle, Darlington and York before an almost 2 hour non-stop delivery into London’s Kings Cross terminus.

LNER Azuma 800104 completes the launch run of Aberdeen to London Kings Cross service.

The journey on a clear day, not the foggy day that we unfortunately experienced, is an absolute must for any railway fan. The railway architecture alone is worth the effort but, couple to that some of the most spectacular views from a train window to frame a long lasting memory, then you have a result that will leave you wanting more of this historic route.

LNER HST Farewell

Details have today begun to appear concerning the expected LNER tribute to the HST.

An earlier tweet from Tim Dunn has got the ball rolling with LNER stating they will provide further information in the coming days to confirm final details.

© @MrTimDunn

It is believed that 43302. the World record holder for the fastest diesel locomotive, along with a set of 7 MK3 coaches and a second power car will be repainted, not vinyled, into original BR HST colours for the special charity journeys.

© @MrTimDunn

The charity journeys are expected to be –

18 Dec: Edinburgh to Aberdeen

19 Dec: Aberdeen to Newcastle via Inverness

20 Dec: Newcastle to Leeds via York

21 Dec: Leeds to Kings Cross

The charities to benefit are believed to be,

The Samaritans

https://www.samaritans.org

The CALM Zone

https://www.thecalmzone.net

We are awaiting confirmation from LNER on the final details, but it appears the cat is well and truly out of the bag!

Heritage Painting (http://www.heritage-painting.com) will take care of the Powercars, and they couldn’t be in better hands, judging by their recent work with the 125 Group on their fleet of MK3s.

The MK3 coaching stock is believed to be being taken care of at Craigentinny Depot.

Interest in this final HST fling is likely to be off the scale, we recommend keeping a close eye on LNER social media accounts in the coming days if you want to be part of this fond farewell.

Competition Announcement!

Last week we launched our News & Features pages with the Lincoln Azuma article.

As part of the launch we ran a competition with the First prize being sponsored by https://ukdepartureboards.co.uk

The very easy question was …. What does Azuma mean in Japanese?

The answer contained in the article ….. The name Azuma is derived from an archaic word used to mean ‘east’, originally applied to the fifteen northern and eastern provinces of Japan. According to legend, the hero Prince Yamatotakeru, on his mission to conquer the eastern barbarians, was badly homesick and cried ‘Azuma wa ya!

We thank you all for taking the time to read our feature and for taking part in the competition.

The winner is Charlotte Saunderson.

Our Second prize of an exclusive LNER goodbag…..

The winner of the Goodybag is …. David Mitchell

Joint Third prizes were of Railcam Merchandise

The Mug batch goes to Sara King and the Cap batch to Antony Edinborough.

Winners need to forward their contact details to simon@railcam.uk by 2pm on Friday 15th November 2019 to claim their prize. Any unclaimed will be redrawn.

Once again many thanks for supporting Railcam UK

Latest on floods affecting Northern

Northern warns flooding disruption in South Yorkshire may continue until Monday morning – Updated 6pm Saturday 9 Nov

Northern is warning customers in South Yorkshire that some routes are likely to stay closed at least until Monday morning.

While flooding in the area continues to subside, tracks in several locations remain under water.

Flooding at Todmorden

Northern is working closely with colleagues at Network Rail to return normal working to the railway as soon as possible, but conditions are difficult and many assessments can only take place once all water has been removed.

A spokesman for Northern said: “Flooding in some parts of South Yorkshire continues to have an impact on our ability to run services.

“The rail industry is doing all it can to deal with the issues caused by flood water, but in many cases the full picture will not be apparent until all water has been drained from the tracks.”

The spokesman added: “Until further notice we are still advising customers not to travel in some areas as rail travel is not possible and roads are also badly affected.

Rotherham tracks

“Colleagues from Network Rail are working around the clock to try to return to normal working conditions and we would like to thank our customers in South Yorkshire – and across the North – for their ongoing patience and understanding.”

Northern customers across the network are advised to allow extra time for travel and to check ahead as there remains potential for disruption to services and timetables may be amended on some routes.

Status at 6pm on Saturday 9 November

Customers are advised not to travel on the following routes until further notice:

  • Doncaster – Scunthorpe, due to flood water at Kirk Sandall the line remains closed with no estimate as to when the route will re-open
  • Sheffield – Goole, flooding continues to cause issues and there is no current estimate for when the route will re-open
  • Sheffield – Doncaster, due to severe flooding at Rotherham and between Mexborough and Conisbrough disruption is expected to continue and there is no current estimate for when the route will re-open

There are also problems still affecting other lines in the North:

  • Sheffield  – Leeds via Moorthorpe, flooding at Rotherham Central and Consibrough means services will not call at Rotherham until further notice

For up-to-the-minute train running information please check National Rail Enquiries.

Cascaded HST’s to enter service with EMR in early 2020

  • EMR, LNER and Department for Transport have reached an agreement for High-Speed Trains to be cascaded to EMR
  • LNER sets were significantly refurbished in 2016 and offer improved passenger facilities
  • First will arrive with  EMR shortly and due to enter service in early 2020

East Midlands Railway can confirm it will start to temporarily operate a cascaded fleet of High Speed Trains (HST’s) in early 2020.

The fleet will be cascaded from London North Eastern Railway (LNER) following an agreement between EMR, LNER and the Department for Transport.

By the end of 2020, all EMR Intercity services will be delivered by Class 222 and Class 180 trains. These trains meet the PRM-TSI compliance and are significantly more modern than the HST’s which will be removed from the East Midlands franchise.

Working the driver route learner/refresher for the Derby closure, East Midlands Trains Class 222 No. 222102 at Laceyfileds Footbridge, approaching Langley Mill, 5Z02 Derby to Derby. 9th April 2018.

By December 2022, an overall investment of more than £400 million will replace or refurbish all trains on the network, including the introduction of the brand new bi-mode units on EMR Intercity routes.

The current LNER fleet of HST’s was significantly refurbished as recently as 2016 which included new seat covers, tables, carpets and improved toilets.

The cascaded fleet also offers better accessibility and facilities for passengers, including:

  • Passenger toilets with improved accessibility
  • Call for aid facilities
  • Larger wheelchair spaces
  • Priority seating – including moveable armrests
  • At seat power sockets in first and standard class

Further improvement work will also be carried out before entry into service with EMR, including the installation of a new on-board Passenger Information System.

This is a temporary measure, designed to provide the best possible passenger experience, while EMR works to introduce a more modern and improved train fleet, better suited to the needs of the network.

In addition to the cascaded trains, EMR will continue to offer a high-quality passenger assistance programme, ensuring all passengers can travel with ease and will receive the support they require.

East Midlands Trains HST, powered by 43044 & 43089, passing Shipley Gate working 1B23 Leeds to St Pancras International. 16th February 2019.

Chris Wright, Fleet Director, East Midlands Railway, said: 
“By December 2022, we will have replaced our entire train fleet to provide modern and accessible trains better suited to the routes they operate. That work is already well underway but it does not happen overnight.

“The agreement to temporarily use the cascaded HST’s means we can provide a much better service for all passengers travelling on our EMR Intercity services in the short term, while we invest to provide a better service going forward.”

Railcam News & Features Launch with New Azuma Service.

Welcome to Railcam News & Features!

So what is this all about you may ask? Well, as Railcam continues to grow with even more camera installations the number of subscribers grows too. To provide you with some additional information and special events from Train Operating Companies we have decided to go ahead with a dedicated News & Features section on the Railcam pages.

The media team is made up of three. Jamie will continue with his daily movements information and Steven (Cheggs) will be posting in Cheggs Corner. I am the newest member and my name is Simon and I will be covering special events and features along with Jamie. We hope that you will enjoy the section and show your support. If you have anything newsworthy then we can be contacted via media@railcam.uk

Please make sure that you read to the end as we have a few goodies to give away as competition prizes to launch the section.

SO introduction done!

Monday 21st October and Jamie and myself were kindly invited by the wonderful team at LNER to attend our first event as Railcam News & Features. Our first event was to be the introduction of Azuma services from Lincoln to London Kings Cross.

As always, not everything went to plan and my attempt to interview Modern railways Journalist Phil Sherratt, live on facebook was thwarted by the mic not working. Apologies to those who watched and we’ll get it better next time!

Jamie and Simon meet up with the well known Tim Dunn for our journey south

LNER have invested in a new fleet of 65 class 800 & 801 Hitachi units. The class 800 are bi-mode while the 801 is an Electric unit. Modern clean and efficient, the units have much better acceleration and braking capabilities than the romantic HST sets or the class 91 225 sets which are all now very old. The more efficient performance will help reduce journey times as new timetables are introduced.

This new service from Lincoln increases the number of direct daily services to Kings Cross to five and according to Suzanne Donelly, Commercial Director of LNER, puts Lincoln firmly on the LNER map.

Interior of the LNER Azuma

“We’re thrilled that Lincoln is the first destination along our route to benefit from additional services with our new Azuma fleet. This marks an important moment for the city, and we are confident that our Azuma trains will not only revolutionise the customer experience for those who travel with us but open up huge economic benefits for the city and wider area.

“The new services provide significantly more opportunities for business travel, tourists and international visitors wanting to experience the many historic and cultural attractions Lincoln proudly offers including the cathedral, castle and magnificent views from the medieval wall.”

The Azuma fleet will provide a two-hourly Monday to Friday service departing London at 10:06, 12:06, 14:06 and 16:06. Southbound services will depart Lincoln at 11:18, 13:23, 15:26 and 17:14.

The current 07:30 Lincoln to London and return service from London at 19:06 will be replaced by an Azuma train later in the year as the transformation of LNER services on the route continues, and additional weekend services will be introduced in December.

Twin Azumas at Kings Cross. The name Azuma is derived from an archaic word used to mean ‘east’, originally applied to the fifteen northern and eastern provinces of Japan. According to legend, the hero Prince Yamatotakeru, on his mission to conquer the eastern barbarians, was badly homesick and cried ‘Azuma wa ya!’

If you are yet to travel on the Azuma, which is the LNER brand name, then we suggest you give it a go. OK we accept the seats are not the same as our beloved HST mark 3 or mark 4 coaches but they are specified by the DfT and not the operating companies. Personally I find them comfortable and I have heard a number of people within the industry as well as outside of it that find them more than acceptable for long distance journeys. Many of the complaints seem to be coming from HST romantics who have yet to even board an IET set.

We are all very different and all opinions are respected but please do go and try for yourselves. The 80x classes are here to stay and will form the backbone of the network for years to come. The light and airy coaches are an improvement. There is additional legroom, more seats, improved wifi and additional storage.

LNER class 800 Azuma ready to leave Lincoln on it’s inaugural service

Our journey from Lincoln left at 1118 and left under diesel power, switching to Electric at Newark for a very quiet and smooth run to Kings Cross where we arrived a few minutes early. The journey was relaxed while we discussed the implementation of the class with other journalists and invited guests. There appears to be real optimism about how the current influx of new trains is going across the entire network. There are some delays, a few teething issues and the age old resistance to change but overall there is real optimism that the UK Rail Network is being brought into the 21st century.

Now for the all important competition!

We have a few giveaways including a departure board, Azuma goody bag and some Railcam merchandise.

First Prize is from https://ukdepartureboards.co.uk and we would encourage you to visit their site to put in your Christmas wishlist from the family!

No more fiddling about with apps just glance at your very  own real departure board. Displaying departures from any UK train/tube/bus station/stop. Fully customisable via online configuration web app.

The board uses a 3.2inch crystal clear OLED display and comes in four colours. Dimensions: Width: 10cm Height: 4cm Depth: 3cm. WiFi ready and even has a built in alarm clock / buzzer. Perfect for your bedside table or office desk.

Second prize is an exclusive LNER Azuma Goody Bag. This includes a notebook, pen, jellybeans and some very special postcards.

The contents of the LNER Azuma Goody bag. The bag itself is featured in the earlier gallery.

Joint third prizes, (first winner to contact us will have the choice) is our fabulous Railcam UK Merchandise. One prize contains a baseball cap, badges and pen, the second option contains the mug, keyring and badge.

Entry will require you to Like and share this post on social media and answer the following question….

What does Azuma mean in Japanese?

The answer is somewhere in the above feature so if you have missed it please go and have another look. Best of luck and the winner will be announced on Sunday 10th Novemeber 2019 during the evening.

You can enter by answering directly on this article or via our Facebook post or Twitter post. We ask you to share the Facebook and Twitter posts to help spread the word about our News & Features extension to the site.