To start this post I guess I should announce to my readers that after years in the wilderness watching / flying aeroplanes, having children (well one actually) and getting involved with my local footie team, I’m finally going back to my original hobby and the love of my life (not to be confused with Epi, the other love of my life). To that end I have rejoined the Railway Correspondence and Travel Society – they’ve very kindly restored my original membership number to me! With many railway locomotives having been named after famous British regiments, the RCTS is often referred to within the railfan community as the Royal Corps of Train Spotters 😉 So, I’m back to being a genuine Railway Enthusiast…

Last Friday I decided to pop over to Willesden Juction for a couple of hours of watching the trains. For London based rail enthusiasts Willesden Junction has always been a place to visit on a regular basis. With the North London Line that connects the Southern and Western Regions to the Eastern Region as well as the West Coast mainline, the quantity and variety of trains to be seen is amazing. It is a sort of Mecca, if you will 😉

I had 2 hours available and they were well filled by the passing traffic. As soon as I arrived I was gifted a Class 92 electric (only the second that I can recall seeing) on a empty steel train bound for Scunthorpe. I enjoyed watching the crew change as did a young lady with a child in a buggy on the platform – she even gave me a friendly smile as we passed each other – I guess she enjoyed her moment of train spotting!

Crewe change for 92031 at Willesden Junction High Level

Catching the numbers of the fast trains on the Westcoast minline from Euston to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Scotland is definitely a young man’s game. The class 390 units of Virgin have a small set number on the side of the cab and focussing on them as they pass requires good timing – I got around 40% – my old eyes are definitely not as quick to focus or track as they once were 😦 As for their Voyager diesel units – goodness knows where their numbers are… Work in progress for me 😉 The freight contined to pass – Freightliner operated class 90’s on the West coast mainline along with unique loco 86501. Direct Rail Services, a branch of the UK’s nuclear industry that has discovered that providing locos for other trains as well as those carrying spent fuel rods can be a lucrative business. And more Freightliner – more containers for the south coast.

The local services on the North london Line were provided by London Overground class 378’s whilst on the West Coast mainline London Midland trains provided services to Bletchley, Rugby and Nuneaton. In a 2 hour period I recorded 60 different locomotives / units.

London Midland Unit 350235 passes on West Coast Mainline

However, that wasn’t the full story of the day’s enjoyment. I was standing on the footbridge that crosses the west coast mainline when I espied a man in trackside orange overalls and a construction helmet talking to a couple of other enthusiasts at the other end of the bridge. Then he walked along the bridge towards me…

Ok – at this point I will say… No Names, no Pack Drill…

Approaching me, this man who works for a company involved in maintaining our railways, asked if I knew the area well. Apparently the other two enthusiasts on the bridge hadn’t been able to assist him – perhaps they were suspicious or maybe they lacked the local area knowledge that he was looking for – not impossible as the names and track layout have changed a lot over the years and not all enthusiasts will have taken an interest in the various sidings and junctions anyway.

He flourished a bunch of aerial photos and admitted that he was struggling to get his bearings. No problem for me – I pointed out Scrubs Lane to him, the various lines and where they went to and how to get to Old Oak Common depot on foot. He was apparently tasked with doing a pre-liminary survey before bringing in a crew to upgrade the South West Sidings so they could be brought back into use…

08511 shunts wagons beside the old South West Sidings signal box in 1982 – long since gone!

I’m just amazed that Contractors are not supplied with detailed information by Network Rail so they can do their job – I can only assume that it’s part of the process of letting that they have to find out the information by themselves as a demonstration of their competence! Not sure that’s a reasonable means of assessment? The contractor involved is based south of the river (no civilisation once you cross that bridge 😉 ) so I’m not surprised that the engineer with a south London accent didn’t know the area around Willesden. If he / I’d had more time I could have shown him a great sandwich bar on Old Oak Common Lane – Sue’s Cafe… 🙂

Sue's Cafe
Sue’s Cafe on Old Oak Common Lane – Recommended by John Lewis Partnership Drivers 🙂

I hope he was able to successfully organise his team after our meeting 🙂