On the 17th of January 2015 a small group of us travelled around the West Midlands of the UK on a West Midlands Day Ranger ticket which allowed us unlimited travel in the specified area (for more information about this ticket, click here). This is the report for this rather eventful trip.
It was an early start, half 3 in the morning for me. As I was the driver, I had to pick everyone up and drive us to our start point at Northampton station in time for our first train at 06:38AM. I had hoped to be able to get the guys Breakfast on the way but sadly nowhere was open. This was the first mishap. Anyway, Our first train took us to Crewe without problem. it was formed of a 4 car London Midland class 350/1, which was quite comfortable and we had the saloon next to first class all to ourselves, which was nice. We arrived at Crewe at 08:38 and quickly got a bite to eat from the Upper Crust on the platform to make up for a missing breakfast.
From Crewe we boarded another London Midland class 350/1 to Birmingham New Street, leaving at 08:49 and arriving at 09:48. On this leg while one of our group was absent we were preparing for a secret plan that we had been working on for some time. The week before it was the 21st birthday of one member of the group and we decided to surprise them at one point during the day, more on that later. We arrived in Birmingham only to discover that another member of the group had either Lost or had the Wallet stolen! a frantic search of the area we were sitting in yielded nothing and I had to purchase them a new ticket! Soon though it was time to board our next train, a CrossCountry Voyager to Leamington Spa Leaving at 10:04 and arriving at 10:37, an uneventful journey but our nerves were building due to the earlier incident.
Upon Arrival at Leamington Spa we had about 10 minutes to kill and I got chatting to a couple of spotters who were watching for the Chiltern loco hauled trains. After which we boarded a Chiltern class 168 to Stratford upon Avon. From there our train onwards to Stourbridge was delayed by 10 minutes and I had seen a Morrisons supermarket just by the station, unfortunately I realised a bit too late that it was on the other side of the line to the exit so we didn’t have time to go, we had to make do with the cafe on the station platform. Our next train was the delayed 11:26 to Stourbridge Junction formed of a 3 car London Midland class 172.
As we were arriving at Stourbridge junction we saw the rail-car shuttle to the town centre pulling away, no matter, as they run only every 10 minutes. From Stourbridge Town station we walked into the town centre, found a Weatherspoons pub where we sprung the birthday surprise on the group member and enjoyed a fantastic pub lunch! Unfortunately during lunch our next mishap occurred. I lost my ticket! We searched the area and couldn’t find it, so after giving up and exploring Stourbridge town centre for a bit we decided that the best thing we could do is head back to the station a bit earlier than planned and replace my ticket. Soon we were back at the junction and were waiting for our onward connection to Worcester Shrub Hill station. This was the 15:09 departure, it was formed of a 2 car class 172 and it was quiet.
At Worcester we were waiting about 15 minutes for our next train, the 15:54 from Worcester to Birmingham New Street, one of our group was using the facilities when it arrived which lead to what can only be described as the quote of the day: we opened the door and shouted “Terry, there’s a toilet on the train, stop s**ting!” we then leapt onto the train and managed to get the whole front carriage to ourselves! Bad luck was to strike again though, these things always come in threes. In the rush to board Terry’s phone had vanished! we went to find the guard who kindly called up Worcester shrub hill station and asked them to have a look, and sadly they weren’t able to find it.
We arrived at New Street starting to wonder whether or not we should abandon our plan and just go home, and after much discussion we decided to press on and continue. our next train was the 17:25 to Lichfield Trent Valley formed of a 3 car London Midland class 323, shortly before it arrived we noticed a football special from the nearby Aston Villa football team, Uh oh, our train is going to be packed!, strangely though despite passing through Aston station, right next to the stadium all was quiet. we arrived at Lichfield at 18:08 and boarded the 18:13 to rugby, formed of a London Midland class 350/2, which was rather uncomfortable due to having 5 seats per row instead of the normal 4.
At rugby we thought that we would be waiting for half an hour which would have allowed us a reasonable break, but we were directed onto a late running earlier train instead. unfortunately one of our group desperately needed the toilet, and both on this train were out of order, we took a gamble and got off at the next station (Coventry) and boarded the next train (which had caught up at this point), only to discover that it had the same problem! so it was a mad dash across the station at Birmingham new street to use the station toilets.
We had some time to kill so we then had an explore of the station at its current phase of construction and stocked up on some supplies for the rest of the journey. Our next train was the 20:22 to Nuneaton formed of a 3 car CrossCountry class 170. Arriving at Nuneaton at 20:51. where we connected to the branch train to Coventry, leaving at 21:15 on a London Midland class 153.
At Coventry we were hoping for an earlier train to take us back to Northampton but we had to wait 25 minutes for the 22:00 because that was the first one we could get. It was formed of a London Midland Class 350/2 and we managed to get the small saloon next to first class to ourselves again.
We arrived at Northampton at 22:33 and all we could think about now was the fairly long drive home. during which disaster struck yet again! one of the car tyres got a puncture and we had to change the wheel. I finally got home at about half past midnight and virtually collapsed into bed. Rounding off a rather eventful day to say the least.
Below are my photographs from the day.