7.6.18

GOING GREAT WESTERN.

On my recent (has it already been two months since I left?) excursion I had a first-class British Rail pass, which provided an opportunity to compare and contrast top-end accommodation in diesel trains, both Brightline's new ones impressing south Florida, and First Great Western's many-times-spruced-up forty year old High Speed Train sets.

Brightline's Select carriages have wider aisles, part of their 100% Americans with Disabilities Act compliance message.  First Great Western's seats strike me as plusher, giving the impression of proper club chairs, and each seat comes with a permanent table for your tea and your Daily Telegraph.


A number of the trains still have traditional names; the 4 pm service from Westbury onward toward Totnes and Plymouth is The Cornishman weekdays, but not Saturdays.

Move, though, they do, and they're part of a national network that still includes one day train, not quite from Land's End to John O'Groats, although it will run between Penzance and Aberdeen.

I had occasion to ride a Plymouth originating service from Totnes to London Paddington on 30 April.  Scheduled departure from Totnes is 10.19, rightaway comes at 10.21.  I did not note numbers or count cars, it was a standard Inter City 125 formation, with a full first, additional first class seating forward in the snack bar car, then five standard coaches.  Brightline, or the state Passenger Rail operators currently cooperating with Amtrak, could do worse than put such a formation, built to the North American loading gauge and standards, on regional trains here.

The grades west of Newton Abbot are severe enough (a leftover from the days of the Atmospheric Railway) that you want both diesels working well, those Class 42 power units have the oomph of an E8, rather than a contemporary Siemens Charger.  Once they get on the flat country they go.  Newton Abbott 10.34 - 10.35; Exeter St. David's 10.55 - 10.57; Tiverton Parkway 11.11 - 11.13; Taunton 11.25 - 11.27.


What would Sherlock Holmes or William Dean make of what the tea-room has become?

First Group have resurrected the traditional GWR mark, and it's on signage at most of the stations served by the Great Western trains.  That's one of the transition costs of franchise bidding, re-labelling all the stations when a new operator takes over.

From Taunton, the train gets on the direct line for London Paddington.  There are a number of freight trains roaming the rails by day, although a twenty-car freight train is sort of like a French meal without the plat and digestif.  The grandstand at the Newbury Race Course is now the Dubai Duty Free Distributors Grandstand.  Reading 12.46 - 12.48, the overhead wires still look too low to my eye, but the trains, including some dual-mode railcars, do what trains ought to do.  London Paddington 13.16.


I couldn't find the Isambard Kingdom Brunel statue that used to supervise the Lawn and Circulating Area.  The War Memorial is along the down side, facing Platform 1.


Please look after this bear!


At Kings Cross, the traveller can take a picture at the entrance to 9 3/4; at Paddington, share a sandwich with the bear and the pigeons.  Yes, there are lots of real pigeons in the station.


Monday's Cornishman, buttoned up and awaiting the rightaway.

Note, if you've stayed with me for this series, it was DeKalb to Washington to Fort Lauderdale to the Azores and Cherbourg and Normandie and onward to Portsmouth and ultimately to London Paddington entirely by land and sea.  Yes, three weeks involved.  Going home, an afternoon, London to Reykjavik to Chicago on Icelandair.  That's going home on the cheap, and at Reykjavik, northerly location or not, the plane unloads, using rolling stairs, from more than one exit.

No comments: