Postcards - December 2003

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I went on a visit to British Telecom's Network Management Centre in Oswestry. This fascinating place is responsible for managing BT's network throughout the UK, as well as its international links. The main control room is dominated by a 25m wide display screen showing information about the network. They also monitor TV channels to help them predict traffic peaks. My thanks to BT for a very interesting visit, and to the IEE for organising it.
3rd December 2003

101 Farewell (Overture)

These Class 101 units have been in operation for about fifty years on Britain's railways. New safety rules will mean that their much-postponed withdrawal will definitely happen at the end of this year. I paid a visit to Manchester where a handfull of sets are still working on suburban services, to say goodbye. (Why overture? Because the main event is yet to come, as I intend to ride on the special farewell train later in the month.)
Set 693 came to Manchester from Glasgow and still carries the orange Strathclyde livery. It is seen on the left standing at Rose Hill, and on the right making a smoky exit from Marple.
Set 685, usually known as "Daisy", was painted some years ago into a historic green livery as part of a promotional campaign for the Blaenau Festiniog branch line. Here are a couple of shots of her at Romiley on a Rose Hill to Manchester via Woodley working.
5th December 2003

Class 101 Farewell Tour

Three Class 101 twin units were turned out for a final farewell tour. The departure screens and the public address system at Manchester Piccadilly announced this train as the 11.30 to Manchester Piccadilly!
Daisy was, of course, one of the sets used. She recently acquired some nameplates.
The tour travelled first to Buxton (left) and then back to Manchester and on to Preston (right).
Next, we moved on to the rather tatty ferry terminal at Heysham Port (left) and then in the dark to Barrow and finally back to Manchester Piccadilly (right). All in all, a fun day out and a fitting good-bye to these trusty trains.
21st December 2003

The Welsh Highland Railway

I paid a visit with a couple of friends to this newly extended narrow gauge railway which runs from Caernarfon to Rhyd Ddu in the foothills of Snowdon. The motive power for our train was this hefty "Garratt" locomotive, built in Manchester in 1958 for South African Railways and returned to the UK in 1997. Remarkably, this locomotive is newer than some of the Class 101 diesel railcars I rode on last week!

The WHR's rolling stock includes this very comfortable Pullman carriage which we rode in for part of our trip.
The scenery as the train winds up into the mountains is spectacular. We were extremely lucky with the sunny weather - even the clouds you can see around the top of Snowdon (left) cleared later in the afternoon.
Leaving the WHR we headed to Porthmadoc where I snapped this scenic view of the mountains across the water before visiting the Ffestiniog Railway station to see the last train of the day.

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