Railcam upgrades Peterborough broadcasting from Railworld Wildlife Haven attraction

A few years ago Railcam were kindly offered a new site to broadcast from.

Railworld Wildlife Haven straddles the River Nene in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. Situated a few hundred yards from Peterborough Railway station, beside the March line and on the site of the former power station coal yard to the north with the south bordering the Nene Valley Railway on the former LNWR shed site.

Railworld Wildlife Haven Peterborough and it’s Hover train exhibit

Railcam have until now operated two cameras from the site. The first is above the now redundant viewing platform and has been upgraded to a new higher specification PTZ camera than what was previously in use.

The new camera should allow Railcam to provide a closer view of the ECML activity and will be concentrated in that area on a permanent basis. We should have excellent views of services from LNER, EMR, Thameslink, Greater Anglia, Hull Trains and Cross Country as well as the heavy freight quantity that use the March line.

New (on right) and old PTZ cameras which will give additional views of the ECML. The old camera has been donated to Railworld to aid their security.

The second camera was located on the ‘Geoffrey G Steels Bridge’ – named because his personal legacy paid for it! This connects the north and south areas of the haven, crossing the River Nene it provides views of the curved bridge as the March line passes beneath the ECML. This camera has also been replaced with an upgraded model which should provide us with some exceptional viewing over the river. We even have swans and the occasional boat if that interests you while waiting for the next 66 hauled freight.

The view from the footbridge of the curved bridge and River Nene.

Railcam have now secured additional viewpoints at Railworld.

The first of these is on the newly built signal box viewing room. Built on the original footprint of the old Nene Junction box, the volunteers have created this wonderful facility for those wishing to view from a signalman’s perspective.

The newly completed signal box viewing room that sits on the original Nene junction box footprint

The box has been painted in its original green and cream colours and includes a monitor for viewing the camera and the local diagram. The volunteers involved in this project are rightly proud of what they have created and it is likely to be a very popular addition to the attraction.

Railcam diagram available inside the box

The camera is located on the corner of the box and has fantastic views of the freight passing just a few feet away. Facing Peterborough direction, you will be able to see many of those freight trains waiting for the points to change before heading past the location. You will also be able to view the Greater Anglia class 755 “Flirt” passing on a regular basis as well as EMR and Crosscountry services.

View from just below the new camera position, facing Peterborough station and covering the March line.

The fourth camera, which is yet to be activated, is positioned on the Nene end of the viewing platform. Facing towards the curved bridge it will give a similar view to the signal box camera but from the opposite direction.

Another new view, This faces back towards the curved bridge and you can see the new signal box project to the right

All of the cameras are the latest high definition models and have their own additional external microphones for added quality. Three of the cameras are currently live on Railcam with the fourth still in test mode.

Railworld Wildlife Haven began life over 35 years ago when the Reverend Richard Paten purchased the Standard Class 5 locomotive for £3,000 that was the spark that ignited the passion for the Nene valley Railway.

However, this wasn’t enough for the Reverend and so he purchased the disused power station coal yard. His intention was to create a museum but the funding to support the venture wasn’t available so instead, he asked his friend Brian Pearce for ideas and suggestions.

Some of the exhibits on display at Railworld Wildlife Haven

Brian, an enthusiastic conservationist suggested creating a wildlife haven in the middle of a city. The rest they say is history but that history and today’s environment is down to the countless numbers of volunteers and businesses that have driven this project from a coal yard and old shed site into an area of tranquility that makes it hard to believe you are in a city.

This is a charity site, everything here is donated and Brian tells us how one of the footbridges was completed one plank at a time as that was all they could afford at the time. The end result is a mix of enthusiastic volunteers with recycling of old railway structures creating a living classroom for local schools and environmental groups.

Inside the envronmental centre with it’s giant globe created by volunteers from recycled parts

The northern part of the site also boasts the ‘Globe Hall Earth Centre’ that took 19 years to build. It is complete with classroom and many interactive activities. There is a giant 2.5 metre World at the centre, created by volunteers. Remarkably it’s all solar powered driven, utilising a redundant car park barrier gate drive. Brian cheerily tells us how children use it to locate Countries around the World and even the city of Coventry!

As you walk around the Haven you will see 3 Victorian bridges. These once formed part of an aqueduct built by the GNR at Abbots Ripton and were donated by Network Rail who couldn’t bear to see them scrapped.

Part of the old aqueduct, recycled in to the Wildlife Haven as a footbridge.

You will come across various engine parts, the new signal box and my favourite, a Norwegian track cycle that visitors are allowed to use along a small section of track.

Norwegian rail cycle donated to the site

As you cross the River Nene you are using yet another bit of recycled railway infrastructure. This is the old footbridge from north of Darlington station where it used to connect the old steam shed (51A) with the diesel depot. Funded by a legacy from lifelong rail enthusiast Geoff Steels, it connects to the old Peterborough bridge to reach the South side.

The old Darlington footbridge that now connects the north and south side of the attraction. This is the location of one of our cameras.

The south is dominated by railway. The largest exhibit is the 50 year old RTV 31 Hovertrain. Once seen to be the future of railways, it was fully automatic and driver-less, and designed for 300 MPH – London to Edinburgh in 90 mins! On test near Cambridge it reached 104 MPH but was sadly shelved and then dropped after its trials in the fens.

There is over 2,000 sqft of model railways, some SG locos in need of restoration, and even the surprise of the original London North Western Railway turntable pit. This has now been uncovered and it’s cut stone edgings, found in the pit have been put back in position

The old turntable pit in need of a bit of weeding, If you wish to volunteer please contact Railworld Wildlife Haven.

Railworld not only wants visitors. It needs volunteers for just about every job. If you have an interest in helping please contact them directly to offer whatever support you can.

This is an ideal location for the family, with “Entertain and Educate” being the Railworld catchphrase. With access to the Nene valley railway adjacent to the southern side it provides the perfect day out for rail enthusiasts and their families.

Brian Pearce MBE, Chairman of Railworld Wildlife Haven Trustees, in his wildlife Haven setting

Brian Pearce said, ” We are delighted to be furthering our relationship with Railcam. With sustainable rail travel being the most environmentally favourable form of transport for passenger and freight, we believe Railworld Wildlife Haven is the prime location to view the changing face of the railway”.

He continued, ” It also highlights our commitment to the UK’s Circular Economy. We are the elected ‘Champions of Re-use, Re-purpose and Share’! Re-using redundant and unwanted items from the railway makes the Railworld Wildlife Haven the perfect location for children as well as rail
enthusiasts to learn about what can be achieved when volunteers, companies, groups and individuals work together for a common cause. Our partnership with Railcam furthers our exposure and will help us attract more visitors and
volunteers to continue our work” “

The view from the bridge that connects north and south

Railcam director, Adrian Bradshaw added : “We are delighted to be able to renew our successful relationship with Railworld. Brian has been hugely supportive of what we do and it’s great to be able to contribute to the fantastic work that he and his volunteers do there. The Peterborough cameras were already firm favourites among our members, so the addition of extra views and improved quality will only cement their position as some of the best cameras in our expanding portfolio.”

#SpottingFromHome update….

After 89 days, 9 million Tweet impressions, averaging over 100,000 per day, we have decided that now is the time to start winding down the #SpottingFromHome and #SpottingFromWork campaign.

As Covid-19 restrictions have started to ease across the UK, Railcam’s lockdown status is also starting to ease. We are now able to start picking up on our long, long list of camera installs and upgrades (Where safe to do so under social distancing rules), as well as some of our heritage railway partners also planning for re-opening. Our attention will start to shift over to those new/upgraded camera locations, and supporting the heritage railways through what will be a very tricky and possibly stressful re-opening with welcoming back passengers under social distancing guidelines.

Obviously this doesn’t mean everything is back to normal, we still encourage you to stay safe and responsible whilst pursuing our hobby, and we most definitely still want to see your #SpottingFromHome and #SpottingFromWork captures on our social media pages. We will continue to like all of your posts, and will still pick out a few per day for retweets.

On a personal note, I would like to thank every single person who has taken the time to contribute to #SpottingFromHome and #SpottingFromWork. Every single Railcam follower, train operating company, railway based media outlets, social media team member, rail worker (drivers, station staff, train managers, dispatchers, depot workers, we have had them all), people spotting from their back gardens and whilst taking exercise. Thank you for all doing your part to help rail enthusiasts #StaySafeStayHome during these very difficult last 3 months.

Thank you for all those 9 million little interactions, you have been amazing.

As always, whenever we mention new camera locations, we get the inevitable requests to put cameras here, there and everywhere. We have a list of well over 20 locations on our books to start working through now, some will end up as part of the Railcam network, some won’t. A lot has changed in the last 3 months for everyone, so now our task is to get back in touch with potential hosts for our cameras and work through the backlog where safe to do so.

Once again, a huge thank you to all who have taken #SpottingFromHome this far, it’s been a blast! Remember to #StaySafe and stick to #EssentialTravelOnly and we will hopefully be back to enjoying our hobby again very soon.

Jamie (CSK)

Runcorn Rover’s Return: Railway workers rescue couple’s missing pooch

A couple has been reunited with their much-loved missing pet dog after a four-day search of the railway in Cheshire.

Rover in contractor EricFormby’s arms

Rover, an 18-month-old Cocker Spaniel, went missing in Runcorn on 30 May causing his owners Alan and Laura a weekend of worry.

After receiving a report of the missing pup, Network Rail mobile operations manager Andy Smith went to look for him.

On Tuesday (2 June) Andy found Rover, but he escaped again before finally being brought to safety away from the railway line.

Rover back safe in his basket alongside owners Alan and Laura

To help round up the poor pooch, Andy enlisted the help of Dave Ball, Network Rail off-track team leader, and railway maintenance workers from contractor EA Formby Ltd, who all immediately downed tools for the continued search.

The team eventually found run-away Rover on a railway embankment about two miles from where he had escaped. 

After 15 minutes of patiently waiting for the cautious canine to accept their help, the team managed to coax Rover to safety and he was returned to owners Alan and Laura after four days of hide and seek.

Owners Alan and Laura with Rover after his railway ordeal

Dave Ball, off-track team leader at Network Rail, said: “Many of us in my team are dog lovers with pets of our own. Rover is a beautiful Cocker Spaniel and clearly well looked after, so we are so happy that he is reunited safely with his family. 

“It must have been really scary for Rover by the railway and we’re really glad to have got him safely away from danger and back home where he belongs.”

The Network Rail and contractors from EA Formby who finally found Rover

Owners Alan and Laura were overjoyed to be reunited with Rover. 

Alan said: “We are so grateful to the efforts of the team at Network Rail who rescued Rover. We’ve got our little family back together and we couldn’t be happier.”

Network Rail worked with local group ‘Bindi’s Lost and Found Pets’ in the search for the missing dog.

Donna Ryan, founder of Bindi’s Lost and Found Pets, said: “We had been looking for Rover for four days in the very hot weather. I am very happy he was returned to Alan and Laura. We are very grateful to Network Rail and the Runcorn community for their work to find him.” 

Because the railway is very dangerous, anyone who sees a dog on the track is advised to ring the Network Rail helpline on 03457 11 41 41 so our specially trained staff can help.

Rover in Eric Formby’s arms after being rescued

Please never venture onto railway lines to look for an animal yourself as there are many hidden dangers on the tracks and the consequences could be fatal.

The Architecture The Railways Built visits the Settle-Carlisle

To coincide with the latest episode (Tuesday 19th May) of Yesterday’s The Architecture The Railways Built, hosted by Railcam member and avid supporter Tim Dunn, we are streaming all four of our cameras from the Settle-Carlisle Line LIVE on YouTube for the entire day.

© UKTV/Yesterday

Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Kirkby Stephen, Ribblehead Station and of course Ribblehead Viaduct will stream throughout the day for you to enjoy during the buildup to the airing at 8pm on TV channel Yesterday (Freeview 19, Sky 155, Virgin Media 129).

© UKTV/Yesterday

Watch the Yesterday preview here https://bcove.video/2TgRjE1

As well as the beautiful Settle-Carlisle Line, York station is also featured in this episode, and you can watch our camera overlooking the grand old station on our YouTube channel or via the links below…..

Horton-in-Ribblesdale Camera
© Railcam UK
Kirkby Stephen Camera
©Railcam UK
Ribblehead Station Camera
© Railcam UK
Ribblehead Viaduct Camera
© Railcam UK
York ROC Camera (Station)
© Railcam UK

Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway Virtual Steam & Diesel Gala

With many enthusiasts looking at galas and railtours they ‘would’ have been on this weekend, the calendar of upcoming events remains bare. One heritage railway is breaking the block of emptiness by bringing you the first ever ‘Virtual Steam & Diesel Gala’, and it is building up to be a wonderful day.

© Steve Town

The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway Virtual Steam & Diesel Gala takes place on Saturday 16th May on their Facebook page, and features a full day of interactive entertainment for all ages, with the aim of raising much needed funds to help the railway through lockdown and to get up and running again once restrictions are lifted.

Essential to everyone is your Gala e-Guide, which details the events taking place, these can be purchased in advance at https://rhdr.vticket.co.uk/section.php/23/1/support-us along with a number of other ‘virtual’ products that will help out the railway going forward.

During this difficult time the railway’s survival relies on the generous support of our friends. We realise that lots of our regular passengers are missing their train journeys on the RH&DR and are looking for ways to continue to support us.

Supporters Virtual Ticket

  • We’ll send you a printable e-certificate to say thank you – it’s the least we can do! 

Travel and Supporters Ticket

  • An official invitation and ticket to travel on an exclusive train on the first Saturday when we return to service. The invitation will be sent via e-mail so please ensure that your e-mail address is correct
  • A Supporters Virtual Ticket. More information here: https://rhdr.vticket.co.uk/product.php/152/supporters-virtual-ticket
  • This ticket is limited to 100.
  • We’ll send you a printable e-certificate and well as our usual e-ticket to say thank you – it’s the least we can do! 

Virtual Steam & Diesel Gala e-Guide

  • Purchase our e-guide for this event and help to support the railway. (*This e-guide will be e-mailed to the e-mail address used when purchasing.)
  • Visit our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/RHandDR to join in the fun and see your favourite locomotives.

Why not add a Virtual Coal Bucket to your e-Guide purchase?

  • In addition to our e-guide this option also includes a Virtual Coal Bucket that’ll be filled and shown on our social media pages. We’ll fill the bucket – label it with your name and fill our locomotive tenders with it LIVE when we can safely return.

How about a Virtual Bacon Roll & a Coffee

  • Get your Gala day off to a traditional start with a virtual bacon roll and a coffee from the Heywood Buffet.
  • Note: you will not receive this virtual bacon roll or coffee – you will be supporting the Railway by purchasing this virtual item.

Virtual Fish & Chips from The End Of The Line Restaurant

  • It’s lunch-time at the Dungeness End of the Line Restaurant and virtual fish and chips are top of the menu choices.
  • Note: you will not receive this virtual bacon roll or coffee – you will be supporting the Railway by purchasing this virtual item.

Virtual Afternoon Tea in Hythe’s Vintage Tea Room

  • Tea for two at the Hythe Vintage Tea Room would bring any visit to the RH&DR to a distinguished close but on Virtual Gala day this will be a special treat.
  • Note: you will not receive this virtual bacon roll or coffee – you will be supporting the Railway by purchasing this virtual item.

All of the above are available to purchase at https://rhdr.vticket.co.uk/section.php/23/1/support-us

© Steve Town

Like many of you, everyone at the RH&DR was looking forward to a busy weekend seeing some of our favourite locomotives travel the line between Hythe and Dungeness.

This year we’re unable to invite you all to visit us so we’ve decided to bring the railway to you.

We’ll be featuring our favourite videos of previous services including parallel runs, multiple headers and visiting locomotives plus live q&a sessions, competitions and more.

Visit our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/RHandDR to join in the fun and see your favourite locomotives.

‘Our annual Gala with its unique Romney combination of many locomotives in use on challenging and unusual workings is for me one of the highlights of the railway year. To allow a year to pass without recognising this key weekend in our year is unthinkable. That this year this must be in virtual format is very different and we all understand why. However, I for one am looking forward to it hugely. Danny Martin – General Manager

Look out for a few Railcam Supporters packages on offer to!

#StaySafeStayHome

Railcams “Spotting from home campaign” success

When the UK Government issued it’s Corona virus lock-down guidelines in March it affected every person in the UK. While we all had to think about working from home or making essential journeys the new “norm” is likely to have a long influence in what we can and can’t do.

One hobby that has been forced into isolation with us is Train-spotting. Ever since the first Ian Allen books were published it has been a British quest to get each number of a locomotive ticked off of a list. Usually done at railway stations, the train-spotter has been part of the railway family for many generations. The hobby has drawn many into committing their whole career to working on the British Railways whether it be a ticket inspector, Guard, Driver, Station staff or Senior Management.

With the lock-down in full force the traditional spotter has been forced to think out of the box and Railcam Social Media supremo, Jamie Rowley has been the man to lead.

Using the hashtags #spottingfromhome and #spottingfromwork, Jamie led from the front and gave a new dimension to the old hobby. No longer are spotters crossing off numbers and sharing information within small groups. Instead, they have joined in with the Railcam campaign and taken the opportunity to use social media, Sharing many photographs or videos, some from on-board staff, the internet has been awash with rail related content.

Jamie added, “The #SpottingFromHome idea came after I saw a news article circulating in the very early days of lockdown showing 3 young enthusiasts still out by the lineside taking photos. It occurred to me that we already have the cameras there, we have the enthusiast base already aware of what we do, so why not bring trainspotting indoors. Enthusiasts could use our cameras to take screen captures and share them with the wider railway family by simply including the hashtag #SpottingFromHome and tagging @railcamlive, so we could like and share some of our favourite captures throughout the day.”

Jamie continued “I fully expected there to be a moderate amount of interest in this for a week or so, but it has gone from strength to strength, and shows no sign of slowing down! It has been great to see interaction from the TOC’s social media teams, especially Northern, TransPennine Express and Transport for Wales, as well as industry professionals such as the British Transport police.”

“This interaction from within the industry has expanded so quickly that we have had to start including #SpottingFromWork, for key workers to share what they are ‘spotting’ at work. Train drivers, station staff and depot workers are regularly updating us on what they are seeing passing through deserted stations or from the cab window, and also giving us an insight into some of the areas of the railway we wouldn’t usually get to see.”

Tweets surrounding the campaign on Twitter alone have generated 2.7 million impressions over the past 4 weeks. Other social media platforms have seen similar increases due to the hashtag campaign.

Railcam Director Adrian Bradshaw said, “We’re amazed and delighted at the runaway success of the #SpottingFromHome and #SpottingFromWork initiative. It’s great that we have been able to do our bit to keep rail enthusiasts safe and entertained during these strange and difficult times.”

Railcam started broadcasting just over ten years ago and has 49 mainline cameras to view as well as 22 Heritage, 2 guest and 26 International cameras available. The site has over 32,000 registered users and there has been a huge increase on demand since lock-down began.

The campaign has not only been supported by site members but by social media followers and the some of the Train Operating companies themselves. Train spotting has had a tough time over the years with its image. However, nowadays the community is seen as a welcome addition to the railway family with spotters encouraged to share information and safety concerns with rail staff and police, the hobby has become an extra pair of eyes which helps not hinders.

As we do our best to look toward the future, times and the hobby will be very different. Changes will have to be made with the nation accepting that we are a long way away from reinstating the norm from a few months ago. Maybe the new digital way of spotting from home will become the new normal but, maybe not. Whatever happens though, the Railcam campaign has certainly brought a new way of sharing to the forefront and long may it continue.

#SpottingFromHome or #SpottingFromWork – Let’s get involved http://news.railcam.uk/index.php/2020/03/28/spottingfromhome/

Contact: media@railcam.uk

Dovey Junction / Dyfi Osprey Project Camera

We are delighted to welcome the Dyfi Osprey Project’s live camera to Railcam.

The railway is very much a secondary focus here, as we get some stunning close up shots of the beautiful Ospreys.

Dovey Junction (Cyffordd Dyfi) is situated on the Cambrian Coast Line and is the junction point for Transport For Wales services to/from Aberystwyth and Pwllheli.

The Dovey Junction / Dyfi Osprey Project camera can currently be found on the Railcam website under the ‘Featured Free’ camera list or by the YouTube link below.

© Dyfi Osprey Project

The Dyfi Osprey Project has been running at Cors Dyfi Nature Reserve near Machynlleth since 2009. Find out more about the work and history of the Dyfi Osprey Project here.

The Dyfi Osprey Project is part of Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust. Montgomeryshire is one of 47 Wildlife Trusts in the UK, you can find out more about the work of Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust here.

Supporters and Volunteers are key to the success and continuation of the Dyfi Osprey Project.

Becoming a member of the Trust or making a donation are great ways to support the project.

Equally, we rely on the support of our team of volunteers to undertake a range of activities from greeting visitors in the 360 Observatory to keeping the boardwalks clear. We can’t do what we do without them!

You can find out much more about the wonderful Dyfi Osprey Project and Core Dyfi Nature Reserve by visiting their website at https://www.dyfiospreyproject.com

#SpottingFromHome

#SpottingFromHome @railcamlive @CrossCountryUK

With the current COVID-19 crisis, the opportunity to get out and enjoy our hobby has been drastically cut, so with that in mind we are asking everyone to take advantage of our live cameras and do a bit of #SpottingFromHome.

Simply screen grab any interesting train movements you see on our cameras as you are watching, post them to Twitter and tag us, @railcamlive and we will give our favourites a like/retweet throughout the day.

All we ask is that you don’t crop the images. You can also tag the train operating companies involved if you like, and please do include the hashtag #SpottingFromHome

We have recently had a number of rail staff taking part whilst they are out keeping the railways running, so also look out for #SpottingFromWork. A huge thank you to all those #keyworkers and #FrontLineHeros across the rail industry.

You can find our cameras on our website at www.railcam.uk and our YouTube page at http://www.youtube.com/c/RailcamUKLive

If you are not a twitter user, we have a Facebook group, Railcam Gallery, which you can find at https://www.facebook.com/groups/163274401131139/

Remember to #StaySafeStayHome The trains will still be there when we get through these difficult times.

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.

A look ahead to Grand Union

Railways to our Core

At Grand Union we are passionate about Britain’s railways. We are committed to the traditional values of providing a high-quality customer service and comfortable journey experiences at a fair price.

Grand Union has been founded with the primary aim of providing a new customer-focused standard of train service, which challenges and changes the current passenger experience. By providing greater passenger choice through competition with existing franchise holders, new journey opportunities that in turn deliver wider economic benefits, and value for money for rail users and taxpayers, we are confident we can achieve this.

As an independent company, Grand Union has submitted its application for a passenger track access agreement requesting to operate a service on the Cardiff to London route. In August 2019, Grand Union resubmitted its application, proposing an extended service from Cardiff Central to Llanelli.

Grand Union has also advised the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) of its intention to operate a service between Stirling and London via the West Coast Main Line.

Llanelli to London

The Initial Route

The service is planned to start in 2021 with calling points of Cardiff Central, Newport, Severn Tunnel Junction and Bristol Parkway, then express to London Paddington. It will also stop at Cardiff Parkway when it opens.

Grand Union’s trains will cut the current average journey time between Cardiff and London by 20 minutes, with a target journey time of 1 hour 45 mins. Services will be operated by 125mph electric trains released from the flagship routes on the East Coast Main Line.

© Grand Union

The Expanded Route

It is proposed to increase the frequency of this route to an hourly service in 2023, when the route would also expand from Cardiff Central to operate fast to Swansea and Llanelli, with no intermediate calls, with a target journey time to Swansea of 2 hours 30 mins to/from London Paddington. These services would be operated by a new fleet of Hitachi Class 802 bi-mode trains.

© Grand Union

Stirling to London

The Route

This route is planned to start in May 2021 and will operate four times per day. Starting at Stirling it will call at Larbert, Greenfaulds (for Cumbernauld), Whifflet (for Coatbridge and Airdrie), Motherwell and Lockerbie in Scotland and in England at Carlisle, Preston, Crewe, Nuneaton and Milton Keynes, before terminating at London Euston.

The line will avoid the congested Edinburgh and Glasgow stations, giving passengers a faster service without any changes required. Electric trains will be used along the route, with a potential travelling speed of up to 125mph.

© Grand Union

Further reading….

You can read more on the proposed Grand Union routes, including Working Local, All Aboard for a Relaxing Experience and A New Freight Service at the following links,

Llanelli to London – http://www.granduniontrains.co.uk/llanelli-to-london/

Stirling to London – http://www.granduniontrains.co.uk/stirlingtolondon/