I’m not the only who likes trains though. Scott Willison, aka ‘the Mersey tart’, likes them too – so much that he’s visited every railway station on the Merseyrail map, and is now working through the much larger Northern Rail map. And he’s blogging his adventures on a blog called Round the North we go.
For those unfamiliar with Merseyrail, it is a rail commuter network in Merseyside, somewhat akin to London Overground but pre-dating it by many years. Opened as an integrated network in 1977, it has some of the most consistently reliable trains in the UK, mainly because it is largely segregated from other railway lines. This is in spite of it having some of the oldest trains in the UK, with many of the trains now 35 years old. I’ve been on it once, when Christine and I visited Liverpool in 2010 – we used it to go under the River Mersey to Birkenhead.
Northern Rail, on the other hand, is a much larger franchise, covering many of the local train services from the Midlands all of the way up to the borders of Scotland. It operates over 400 stations, and its trains call at over 500. That’s quite a bit more than the 67 operated by Merseyrail, and so Scott has his work cut out over the next few years.
Particularly as some stations have a somewhat less than regular service. A number of Northern Rail’s services are so-called Parliamentary Trains – essentially, the lowest possible service required to keep some stations open. I’ve mentioned Denton in East Manchester before, but there are a number of others including Reddish South and Teesside Airport. Others, like Manchester United Football Ground, are only open when there’s a match at the Old Trafford stadium.
Thankfully, Scott has focussed on some of the hardest to reach stations first – Reddish South and Denton were done three years ago – and Man Utd was done when there was a rugby match on. Most recently, he’s done the Settle and Carlisle Line, which has just had its 25th anniversary of not being closed down by British Rail, and parts of the ‘little’ North Western Railway between Leeds and Lancaster.
This means that, as far as I can tell, he hasn’t yet made it up the Calder Valley Line where I live. Of course, if Scott is reading this and would like a companion for the journey, he can give me a shout.
Whilst some may see this is a boring pass time, I beg to disagree – it forces you to go to places that you may have never otherwise considered, and they can be lovely. Or not, as is often the case, but worth a try I suppose.