Friday 10 March 2017

The Wonders Of Westerfield

Not the first place you'd think of, if I'm honest. For those of you not in the Ipswich area Westerfield is a small station on the outskirts of Ipswich on the East Suffolk Line where the Felixstowe branch, erm, branches off and therefore has more trains passing through it than it does passengers using it. In 2015/16 it was estimated that an average of just over 23 passengers a day used the station. I'm quite surprised it was that many to be honest. However it's quite a good location if you want to photograph the unusual and I've been there twice this week.

Firstly on Monday I went to finally clap eyes on the last Class 66 to be built, 66779, which was named Evening Star in a big ceremony at the National Rail Museum in York last year. It is regularly used on a Felixstowe - Doncaster run and also conveniently sits at Derby Rd signal for the best part. of half hour waiting for other trains to pass in the opposite direction, as the Felixstowe branch is mostly single track, with just the Derby Rs passing loop available. This meant I could snap one of the very few Sheds I'd get out of bed for at more than one location.

First was Derby Rd station, the next stop after Westerfield on the branch, but weirdly much closer to the centre of Ipswich than Westerfield. It is actually quicker to walk to Ipswich town centre from Derby Rd than it is to get the train! Anyway I didn't have long to wait before the celebrity loco came round the corner.

Knowing where the signal was I then headed to a road bridge I knew would give me a decent shot. It didn't disappoint.

66779 waiting at Derby Rd signal
So it was back to the car and over to Westerfield which you'd never know was so close to a big town like Ipswich. Again I didn't have long to wait.

Fast forward 74 hours and I was back at Westerfield, with Tim this time, waiting for a grand old lady. A yellow Class 31 loco was in the area on driver route familiarisation duties. The 31's were officially retired last year, indeed there was a special railtour to commemorate this, so to get what could be the final chance to see one on NR lines was too good to miss. However, before the 31 turned up a freight train came through the station announcing itself in pretty good style. Luckily Tim was doing a test video and caught it. Ignore the sun, the sound is worth it!

And then the star attraction arrived. As you will have noticed from the above video the sun was playing merry Hell with getting good quality so her arrival was not great. However, she had to turn round and it was gratifying to see all those aboard her taking photos too.

31233 in the Westerfield sun
Then she was off with a toot, a roar and cloud of smoke. Notice how the driver waits for the 156 to pass before pulling away, a really nice touch which was much appreciated. Wherever this grand old girl ends up I hope she has a happy retirement. She has served us well.

I took one other decent picture while at Westerfield, which struck me later that in a couple of years will be as nostalgic as the 31. By then all the units on Greater Anglia will have been replaced and the single car 153's will no longer be in our area, so make the most of them while they are still here. Here is 153309 which was working the Felixstowe branch today.

153309 at Westerfield en route to Felixstowe.
My thanks to Tim for not only spotting that the 31 was coming to Westerfield, but also for doing the chauffeuring! Nice one mate.

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