After all the action south of the river last week, I decided to head west along the Thames valley on Tuesday, travelling along Brunel’s billiard table to Reading. Reading is the furthest west that I can go with my Freedom Pass, and like Watford Junction and Shenfield, can only be reached if I travel on TfL Rail – I can’t use the ticket beyond West Drayton on GWR services.

Back in another life – my first period as a trainspotter – Reading was a bit of a mecca. There was a good mix of freight through the station and the cross-country passenger services along with the regular London to Wales and West Country expresses. It was the closest station outside of London with such an interesting mix of traffic, being only 36 miles away – 30 minutes on a fast service. Life’s curve balls led me on another path in the late 1980’s so the last time I visited Reading to watch trains was in 1986. If I had visited in the early 21st century, I probably wouldn’t have noticed much difference, but a major rebuilding of the station began with the project to electrify the Great Western Railway in 2010. The new station was completed in 2013 and officially opened in 2014. Of course, it was in use throughout the rebuild – you can’t just totally close one of the most important commuter stations for the capital! The work didn’t finish there though – a new flyover was built in 2014/15 to remove the conflict between trains travelling towards Didcot and those heading down the West Country.

The most popular place to stand for the spotter on the old Reading was at the end of platform 5. There was a piece of platform where you could dangle your legs over the edge in safety as in this 1975 shot taken from the old platform 4…

47101 at Reading, SEP75

…Class 47, 47101, gets a Southampton bound intermodal service going again after a crew change.

In an anomaly of the rebuilding, that platform oddity seems to have survived but without the ramp. Taken from roughly where the edge of that old photo is, here’s a Cross-Country class 221, 221132, arriving on what is now platform 8…

221132 at Reading

Apart from that, the station is almost unrecognisable on a spotting level. The old station had 12 platforms whilst the new station has 15. That may not sound like much of an increase, but believe me, the station seems much larger! There is one other surviving feature of the station I remember – the booking hall which is now a Fullers public house…

Three Guineas

The station is dominated by a massive concourse/bridge across all the platforms…

Reading Station

From the enthusiast’s point of view, photography is not as easy as it was, and you are faced with choosing whether you want to photograph the relief line platforms where you will get some freight, or the mainline platforms where you get the express services. I spent much of this first visit trying out different angles around the mainline platforms.

You can go for a simple posed 3/4’s view like this shot of GWR 800306 at the London end…

800306 at Reading

…but getting decent shots of trains approaching the station at either end is mainly thwarted by the overhead line equipment, the end of platform barriers and switchgear buildings. I did get creative through the windows of the bridge, catching this Cross-Country service arriving through the ‘steel forest’ with 220004 leading…

220004 at Reading

…but you need a long lens to pull that trick 😉

On a really bright day like this, there are deep shadows on the platforms and it’s possible to get some nice shots of the hustle and bustle as a train gets ready to depart. Here, the guard of 800011 is waiting for the dispatcher to give the ‘Right Away’…

800011 at Reading

…Again, the long lens was my friend for this shot.

Despite the limitations of the station photographically, I will certainly be giving it another visit in the not-too-distant future and hopefully add some freight to my collection of shots 👍

I had a disjointed return to trainspotting last May – various interruptions due to the ongoing Pandemic and also some reluctance on my own behalf. However, from mid-January I have been much more active, using my hobby as the driving force for getting out to exercise.

One thing I have been doing is taking an indirect route to my destination – this forces me to change trains which throws in some ‘up and over the bridge’ type exercise in the middle of the journey. It also gives some variety to the trains I travel on – which is good for that other trainspotter desire, haulage. Quite why we persist with that term when almost all the trains we travel on are self-contained units these days, I don’t know. I guess no one’s come up with another suitable word. But I digress.

Here’s an example of the sort of cross-London trip I’m talking about. For my ‘On Borrowed Time’ post I took two runs out to Clapham Junction. The direct route from where I live would be the Northern Line down to Waterloo and then a South Western Railway train out from there. Instead, I routed Northern Line to King’s Cross…

…Metropolitan / Circle Line to Farringdon. Then it was Thameslink to London Bridge. From there I took a Southeastern service to Waterloo East…

..Then it was short walk into Waterloo itself to get on the train out to Clapham Junction…

…If you were counting, that’s 5 different types of traction for haulage and a lot of platform changing on the way – repeat for the return trip and that’s 10. You get the idea – and see how how it’s encouraging me to do more walking 🙂

Yesterday was a day for a wander about – no specific destination planned and make things up as I go. Northern line down to Kentish Town, then a Thameslink service to West Hampstead Thameslink…

…A short walk across to West Hampstead Overground station and a Class 378 across to Willesden Junction. The line north from there is shared between Bakerloo and Overground services, so I took the Bakerloo train…

…north to Wembley Central. A walk along High Road with the Fire Brigade offering a diversion…

…it’s always busy along there at lunchtime! Then it was onto the platform at Wembley Stadium station…

…to catch a train into Marylebone…

Back on the Bakerloo Line to Baker Street and on the Metropolitan to King’s Cross where Harry Potter was not to be seen but several Azuma’s were…

Then it was time for a quick pint in The Euston Flyer on the way across to Euston station…

..Where I caught an Overground service back out to Willesden Junction and then changed to another going east as far as Gospel Oak. From there it was onto the Goblin for the short hop to Upper Holloway – Thank god it was a short hop (train was full of Schoolgirls! 😬) Then a walk up the hill to get back on the Northern Line at Archway and home. That’s 16000 steps and quite a lot of haulage 😊

Trying to push Cee’s Midweek Madness Challenge a little earlier into my week to make room for the PPAC challenge that started last week. I decided to pick a single subject and work around it for my entry…

I have chosen to show images of Paddington Station – two ‘I’s in there…

Paddington is the London Terminus of the Great Western Railway – sometimes jokingly referred to as the Great Way Round or God’s Wonderful Railway. Although the GWR as was became part of British Railways in 1948, rail privatisation in the 1990’s saw the GWR name resurrected for this franchise. Here’s a shot of some trains and some empty platforms at Paddington…

Paddington has often appeared in movies and stories – The Hound of the Baskervilles comes to mind as an older example, but more recently in films depicting the adventures of Paddington Bear. Like most kids in the UK I remember the tales of Paddington Bear by Michael Bond very well. Paddington is well represented on the station with a statue…

…and with a plaque and a special seat…

…But very close by is a memorial to the employees of the Great Western Railway who lost their lives in the 1st World War. A single Soldier serves to remind us of the tragic loss…

…Finally, there is a reminder of the Victorian era and the man who built the Great Western Railway. Seated comfortably on a chair we find Isambard Kingdom Brunel…

…and behind we see one of the current Hitachi built class 800 units that provide services to Bristol and beyond.