16 Jan Jason’s 2017 Mystery Tour – Day 8

Rapido UK Blog / January 16, 2017

Jason’s 2017 Mystery Tour

By Jason Shron

Follow Jason’s Magical Mystery Tour from start to finish:

1 – Roll up for the Mystery Tour!
2 – Reading to New Street to the wilds of Cambridgeshire
3 – In Stockton and Darlington country
4 – Yorkshire to Birmingham via the Wythall Transport Museum
5 – Driving and being run over by buses in Manchester
6 – Crewe-Sheffield-London-Leamington Spa… in one day!
7 – Adventures in Birmingham (via Peterborough)

Monday started with a Pendolino from Crewe to Stockport…

…followed by a Class 158 from Stockport to Sheffield.

The scenery between Stockport and Sheffield is just gorgeous. Rolling hills, wonderful outcroppings, lakes – the lot.

And this is how it is viewed through a 158.

The other side of the train had even nicer scenery.

Let’s be honest. The 158 – with its ten-foot-high headrests – is possibly the worst train in the UK for viewing the passing countryside. And the fact that these things are used on scenic routes like the Settle & Carlisle is just appalling. So I enjoyed looking at the back of the seat in front of me. Just lovely…

Railway modellers know Sheffield for Rails of Sheffield. And I did get to that famous northern landmark. But first I had to do some real anorakking….

Galaxy 4 (named after the Doctor Who story of the same name) is a great little nerdy shop on Glossop Road. Needless to say, I ended up buying most of the shop and I actually had to buy a second suitcase to take all this stuff home. But how could I pass up priceless gems like a 1975 Denys Fisher Doctor Who board game?

If being a mad Doctor Who fan isn’t enough nerd for you, I then went to photograph trams and buses. Honestly, look up the word “nerd” in a dictionary and you’ll see me there.

Bus meets tram. I really stink as a public transport photographer.

And here’s another one…

It’s nice to see the expansion of tram and train services here in the UK.

In Canada we will often have public transport set back by a generation or longer because one single dufus gets elected – or even appointed – to office. Here’s a quick and depressing potted history that gives you a bit of an idea of what we continually have to deal with. This is a tiny list and is by no means comprehensive of the many kinds of stupid involved in transport planning over there. If you don’t care about real trains/trams, scroll down to the interesting stuff about Rails of Sheffield.

In 1968, the newly-appointed bureaucrat in charge of Transport Canada believed that trains were the equivalent of a horse and buggy and ordered Canadian National Railways to stop promoting its passenger trains, stop investing in new trains, and cut services. That was the beginning of the end for Canada’s expansive passenger train network. Whereas Dr. Beeching is an infamous name here, probably not more than a few dozen Canadians remember the name of Jack Pickersgill.

In 1990, what remained of our national passenger railway – VIA Rail Canada – was cut in half because the prime minister at the time, Brian Mulroney, wanted to “kill VIA” (his words). The network has been eroded further many times since.

Here’s a photo of the protests in Regina, the capital city of Saskatchewan, at the loss of their train services. They were never reinstated.

Also in 1990, the province of Ontario started to expand Toronto’s long-neglected subway lines. Then there was an election in 1995, and the new premier, Mike Harris, couldn’t give a toss about public transport. There had been two lines under construction. The line that went nowhere got built as the mayor of that municipality was a friend of the premier’s. The line that was desperately needed due to population density and traffic did NOT go through Mike Harris-friendly ridings and it got cancelled. The contracts were cancelled at huge expense and the tunnels they already dug were actually filled in. Yes, you read that correctly.

The province is now building a tram – not a subway – along the same route as the abandoned subway line, but it won’t be ready until 2021, almost 25 years after the planned opening of the original line. It’s also costing several times as much as the original.

In 2010, after a different provincial government had signed the contracts for two new tram lines in the east end of Toronto, an imbecile named Rob Ford was elected mayor and he managed to convince city council that fully-funded tram lines were rubbish and instead they should build one unfunded subway extension with one stop. Needless to say, it’s now seven years later and nothing has even been started.

Every time you see plain stupidity in your local and regional governments in the UK, remember that stupid knows no international boundaries.

Oh dear – I’ve gone completely off track. Right – back to the tour.

The real reason for the visit to Sheffield, of course, was Rails of Sheffield.

I have to say I was extremely impressed with Rails. They have a huge and efficient operation squished into little buildings spread over a whole “Rails of Sheffield” neighbourhood. They are clearly a growing and vibrant company.

No, this isn’t a photo of a bunch of guys breaking into someone’s flat. Adam Davies, Ian Beardsley and I are going from one office to another in the Rails of Sheffield neighbourhood. I think Rails is big enough to actually incorporate as its own town, Railsfield or something like that. We can run a spur from the Midland station to the back of the shop and have every second Meridian from London terminate there. Oh, the possibilities!

I had a great meeting with John Barber, “the man himself” who has built Rails of Sheffield into a hugely successful model train business. Honestly, Compared to Rails’s state-of-the-art shipping department, Rapido’s shipping department looks like Ronnie Barker’s shop in “Open All Hours.”

I know Rails’s stock is online, but it’s worth visiting the shop to see all the models in person. And there are a LOT of models. Here’s one corner of the shop:

The Rails team knows of my obsession with double decker buses and they kindly gave me a souvenir of my visit…. A Routemaster phone! This was very useful on the train to London.

That Meridian to London was extremely busy.

Actually, I kept on getting visits from fellow railway modellers. It was uncanny!

First RMWeb’s own srihaggis – colloquially known as Kyle Baldwin – joined the train in Derby, and we had a good chat about RDCs and APT-Es.

Kyle kindly took a photo of me leaving Leicester station!

A few minutes later, the guard comes through and says: “I know that T-shirt! Were you just in Rails?”

Sure enough, it’s Matt Dawson, who does all of the locomotive weathering for Rails of Sheffield! I’ve seen his work in person, and it really is superb.

I was so excited to see Matt that I punched a hole in his tie.

The trip was a momentous one for me, as it was the first time I had gone to London for a proper visit in over eight years. Instead of just going from Paddington to Kings Cross, I was actually going to spend time in the world-famous capital city.

And I was dragging a suitcase full of Doctor Who books and a 1975 Denys Fisher Doctor Who board game with me everywhere I went.

The reason for my visit to London was to take Ben Ando from Revolution Trains to a whisky shop in Soho. And boy was it a whisky shop. 1100 types of whisky! Unfortunately, the man in the shop clearly hadn’t drunk a drop of whisky in his life and was almost, but not quite, completely useless.

I settled on a peated bottle of Glen Scotia, which is now reverently packed in my suitcase in the middle of my laundry…

Ben, Mike Hale and I tried to go to Mildred’s in Soho, a world-famous vegetarian restaurant that’s too trendy to accept bookings, even when I dropped the name of world-famous DEMU member Mike Hale.

The wait would have been 90 minutes and the three of us would have upped the average age of the clientele by about 19 years. 20-somethings can afford to spend half an evening standing around a restaurant. We got a taxi to Itadaki Zen, a different vegetarian restaurant which was really lovely and quiet. The toilet was so “zen” and clean I actually was tempted to steal the counter and sink and bring them back to Canada.

We asked a pretty Japanese lady to take our picture.

Unfortunately, I was distracted by the prettier things outside the window.

Ben put together an agenda for our meeting that had about 47 items, and we managed to get through five or six before I had to go to Marylebone to catch my train. For our next dinner meeting we’ll start at 2 p.m.

We’re very excited about the forthcoming N gauge Pendolino. We’re starting production at the big Rapido factory immediately after Chinese New Year. Production quantity is approaching 15,000 carriages and locomotives so it will take us several months to make them! If you haven’t ordered one, I recommend you get your order in to Ben and Mike by the end of this month or you won’t likely get one. This promises to be as groundbreaking for N gauge as the APT-E was for OO gauge.

I love Marylebone station. It’s my favourite London station. And that’s not just because Doctor Who was filmed there in late 1969.

OK. I lie. It is entirely because Doctor Who was filmed there in late 1969.

Geoffrey Palmer played Edward Masters, a luckless civil servant who dies of a Silurian plague shortly after leaving Marylebone. The story is Doctor Who and the Silurians starring Jon Pertwee. Definitely worth a watch if you have a spare three hours.

My wife, Sidura, loves central London. For me, it’s way too busy. I’m provincial. I’m from Canada. I can’t handle the hustle and bustle of central London, especially dragging a 70LB case of Doctor Who books and a 1975 Denys Fisher Doctor Who board game everywhere I went. That’s why, when tasked with finding a hotel in London, I booked one in Leamington Spa.

That’s the Mallory Court hotel. I cheaped out and stayed in a room in the modern annex, but it’s still nice and quiet.

The next report will be my final one from this trip. It’s certainly been a whirlwind tour!

NEXT: Adventures in Birmingham (via Peterborough)

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