Friday 16 September 2016

Something For The Weekend, Sir?

No other reason for the title than I'm writing this on a Friday evening. Two main topics tonight and undecided which order to put them in but think I'll go with the loud and garish first.

Last night saw me haring around East Suffolk as another Network Rail test train was in the area. Officially the PLPR in PLPR Test Train stands for Plain Line Pattern Recognition. Unofficially (meaning I've just made it up) it stands for Proper Locos Proper Racket and I wanted to hear as much racket as possible. Two 50 year old 37's were on duty, in far better nick than this particular 50yo, and pleasingly were different to the two that were on duty last month. This time I wanted a closer look so was at Lowestoft to see them come in.

This was the first time I had got close up to a test train and thanks to the outside darkness I was able to see inside one. There only appeared to be two NR staff on board but what they have in front of them looks like a TV production gallery.

Hi tech stuff on the test train
I had the opportunity to chat to the friendly driver who after first being rather uncomplimentary about the 37's ended up agreeing that they weren't that bad after all. He told me about the various test trains at Derby. This PLPR can measure to speeds up to 70mph, the "Flying Banana" and a Class 68 hauled one can measure up to 125mph, but another one that normally has a 37 one end and a DBSO the other can only measure at 30mph, and those duties can get a bit tedious. I told him I was heading to Darsham and could he put on a show when he pulled away. He informed me there was a driver change at Beccles but he would pass the message on. I left him in peace to have the rest of his break and took a couple of pics of the two locos, 37602/9. 37602 was in the dark so this moonlit shot turned out reasonably well.

37602 in the Lowestoft moonlight
At the other end 37609 was bathed in light, and proved a perfect model.

37609 in the limelight, well floodlight anyway
Since the train was on the little used Platform 4 I thought it appropriate to video her leaving from the even less used Platform 1, which is now a car park!

It was then time to hot wheel it down the A12 to Darsham, and see if my request for a show had been passed on. I think it's safe to say it had. This simply has to be heard over headphones. Both of those magnificent locos at full power. I honestly can't think of a better sound on the railways and they are British, and half a century old. Enjoy.

Moving on and you will have noticed that over the last couple of years I haven't been exactly complimentary about Go Ahead's management of their companies in East Anglia, particularly Anglian. I have always stressed my issues have not been with Anglian themselves, but Go Ahead's running of Anglian. Well it looks as though the disease is spreading. There have been many cancellations on both Hedingham and Chambers this week due to driver shortages. This afternoon the following statement from Hedingham appeared on Spotted Brightlingsea Facebook page in response to passenger complaints over the cancellations, and was published on Essex Buses Yahoo Group. I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

 "Dear customer

We are sorry that there have been cancellations
and delays on our Route 87 over the past two weeks.

We currently have a shortage of drivers and are
actively recruiting more. We have a vacancy of
six people but, even with our supervisors driving
buses and colleagues working overtime, we don’t
have enough people to run the full timetable service.

We are prioritising the journeys that school
children make and, to give you more certainty
about what services are running each day, we are
publishing a list of cancelled services on Twitter.

Being realistic it is likely to take a few weeks
more for us to recruit drivers and train them but
in the meantime we are working in partnership
with another local company from Monday to cover
some of our work alongside pursuing the option of
bringing in agency drivers as soon as we are able.

Thank you for your patience and understanding
during this difficult time. I’m sorry we’re not
able – even with our drivers working additional
shifts – to keep the full service running.

Kind regards

Gavin Hunter | Managing Director - Go East Anglia "

Finally I went shopping in Diss earlier today, and as luck would have it managed to spot Simonds recently purchased Scania Omnideckka. I'm fairly certain it's the first decker I've seen in Diss Bus Station and is accompanied by two Galloway Solos, one of them being one of the new Solo SR's, and a Simonds E200. Fair to say it was a bit soggy in Diss.

Simonds Scania Omnidekka BV55 UCY

That's it for this week, have a good weekend.


  1. Driver shortsges aren't news in the northern home counties, at least. Arriva had a long-term problem (for years) at Harlow, and too had to bring in a contractor for an entire service. The news wasn't blazoned, neither were (are) the cancellations. At least Go-Ahead tweet them. Who else does that, or even pre-informs their customer services? And they are sometimes planned. (In mitigation I can understand they don't want to alert the TC, but what about the passengers, TC?). There seems to be plenty to criticise anyway about Go-Ahead (and the rest), but does it have to be everything?

    Good to know at least NR can do something right, though!

    1. Well to be fair there are many things I could criticise Go Ahead for but don't. As for letting people know via Twitter how many pensioners (who use buses more than anyone else) do you see at bus stops checking their smartphones for cancelled buses? Nope me neither. It's a gesture picked up by those of us who monitor such things but probably not many others.

      Incidentally national media, Government Select Committees and all sorts thought it was worth criticism when Southern rail, operated by Govia, which is 65% Go Ahead, cancelled many services due to, erm, staff shortage! If no one criticises or complains then nothing ever gets done.

      As for NR if they could only get their signals working reliably then most of their criticisms would go too. The amount that have failed this week, bearing in mind I only follow AGA, Southeastern, FGW and VTEC has been nothing short of scandalous.

  2. That sound again. Neil Diamond's song, "Beautiful Noise" springs to mind when I watch those vids of the class 37s. I guess I know what I will be watching for part of tomorrow and the day after and... You get the idea.

    Thanks for another wonderful blog, look forward to the next. Have a good weekend.

    John D.

  3. Few weeks ago there was one Solo SR that looked a right mess in Ipswich. We had one on 118 but this one was heading to Diss and one side looked like it had ran along a wall. 330 (the 14 plate Sr) has been on too. Seats still brick hard and still suspension issues. Terrible bus! Had pleasure of working in Brundall for 2 days last week and every time I heard the 37's, I just stopped and listened. Unfortunately, never had the time to go and see them.

  4. The 37s would have sounded even better if they'd had a decent load ... four carriages are a featherweight! Bring back the "Hook Continental" (hauled for a while by Class 40s but I'm pretty sure the 37s reigned supreme after that, I certainly saw one hauling the train in 1970) - it must have sounded great climbing out of Liverpool Street! (Mind you, a "Britannia" would have been even better, not that you're "into" steam I know).

    1. This is true, but you don't get 37's dragging heavy loads now, well not unless I'm on board anyway. It's all about location these days to hear them at anywhere near full clag. Another one tonight, a Colas 37 so hopefully another good opportunity.

      Dead right about steam! Nice occasionally but hardly a fanatic.