Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Delightful Didcot in a Downpour (2)

No 1 son's cunning plan for a bit of old-fashioned train watching at Didcot owed its success to the fact that he is a season ticket holder for his work at The University of Arts, based at High Holborn, in central London. He also has a season ticket to the new five level multi-storey car park.
This was built roughly where the "reservoir" is shown on the plan used in yesterdays blog and repeated here.
This splendid edifice is linked to the station entrance by a massive footbridge. This replaced the more mundane original which would have been very much exposed to last Saturdays steady precipitation.
No 1 son was doubly excited as this expedition would allow him to drive to floor 5, dizzy heights to which he had never ventured on his commute!
It was still raining!
Lifts down to level 2 brought the disparate generations to the footbridge level ...
... whence, noting the excellent advertising for the Railway Centre, the true delights of the location revealed themselves. First a long section parallel to the main line on the right and the "stopping" Oxford lines on the left ...
... followed by a right hand turn to cross the tracks ...
... continuing left via a huge ramp to the station entrance.
Well; not quite to the station entrance!
There is a lengthy sprint past the bike sheds and potentially in the rain before you get to the station itself!
Notwork Rail's on-line station information, plan and pictures thereof has not quite grasped the change in access from the car park and duly warns passengers that "the stairs are outdoors"!
They are NOT!

At the first right hander, however, was an open unglazed "viewing window" ideal for fbb's purpose.
All main line and all "down" stopping services passed close by with approaching main line "up" trains viewed via the top of the open steps opposite.
More viewing was available from the unglazed ramp down to the station itself.
So the excited three generations were ready to observe the new-look Great Western Railway and its services.

At this stage, it should be explained that everything long distance through Didcot is now worked by the green slugs (Hitachi bi-mode) so there is very little visual variety. There was no freight during the relatively short fbb visit to relieve the observational monotony.

No 1 son informs fbb that die hard train spotters accumulate at the end of the station platforms where they can spot (binoculars in hand) the trains turning right for Oxford and not passing through the station ...
... but they could be observed afar off from the car park viewing gallery. There are half hourly GWR trains fast(-ish) from Paddington to Oxford ...
... and half hourly CrossCountry services from Bournemouth via Reading to Birmingham and Manchester
Also observed on the near side of the water tower was the Railway Centre's little steam-hauled shuttle chuntering back and forth.
No 2 grandson was disappointed in the poor quality of the phone-camera enlargements, suggesting that his "proper" camera would give much better results. Sadly that was back in Wantage!

But it was not long before the excitement increased to fever pitch as main line trains hoved into view ...
... but that excitement will have to be held in check until tomorrow's blog. Boo, Hiss!

And The Puzzle Picture?
Sheffield correspondent Roy wished to make an exploratory bus journey from Chesterfield (of which more in a later blog) and decided to test-ride a National Express service as a change from the more mundane Stagecoach offerings.

In a lemming-like attempt to lose passengers, National Express has closed its enquiry office in Sheffield and has removed the self-serve ticket machines.
Of course, it is all on line, but you can buy tickets at a Post Office. You have to know exactly what you want, the PO cannot offer timetable enquiries or advice, but they will issue you with a ticket. The technology creates something described by Roy as, "almost as long as the journey itself".
The mind boggles.

Roy's vehicle was this rather splendid coach operated by Skills of Nottingham ...
... and National Express does make actual timetables available on their web site.
Roy was on the 0635 departure on Sunday last.

Printed leaflet? Don't make fbb laugh.

 Next  Delightful Didcot blog : Wednesday 30th October 


  1. Andrew Kleissner29 October 2019 at 07:49

    You cheated! Knowing Didcot station slightly, I thought of the car park ... but discovered that one needs to buy a ticket to park there, even on Sundays. So you were very crafty to use your son's season ticket. I therefore condemn you to a week in the dark abyss of Bus Substitution (actually, knowing that operators often bring out weird and wonderful vehicles for that, you'd probably be quite pleased!)

    On a different point, "hove" is already the past tense of "heave",

  2. I see from the quoted timetable extract that XC trains are allowed 23 minutes to get from Reading to Oxford, but GWR takes 27 minutes for the identical run. This extra 4 minutes must surely be recovery time: a remarkable extension of the achievable* Paddington to Oxford journey from 54 to 58 minutes!
    * unless Paddington departure to Reading departure cannot be achieved in the booked 31 minutes!

  3. Andrew Kleissner29 October 2019 at 14:00

    Two thoughts.

    1. Most express trains do Paddington to Oxford in about 23 minutes, though the timetable allows for about 26. From the December timetable change they will only be allowed 22/23 minutes. Those 800s may have hard seats but they can go.

    2. Surely the Oxford services on the quoted extract are not run by 800s but by 165s which (I would guess) have a lower maximum speed and inferior acceleration; while the XC services will be Voyagers, starting from Reading. I would guess that the only 800s going towards Oxford are the trains to Worcester and Hereford.

  4. Andrew Kleissner29 October 2019 at 14:01

    Sorry, I meant to say "Most express trains do Paddington to READING in about 23 minutes". They're not supersonic (yet!)

  5. Andrew Kleissner29 October 2019 at 14:11

    Me again! In the new timetable the standard Paddington-Oxford time will come down to 52m with stops at Slough and Reading. There are a few peak long-distance services which will be doing it non-stop in 44m.

  6. Correct! As part of requirements set by the DfT, high speed GWR trains have to use the old HST timings until the December mass-change