Friday, 30 August 2013

Prologue: There and Back Again

What did you do with your Bank Holiday?  Some beers, meet the family, watch Ben-Hur or a Bond film?

I went to Middlesbrough.

Over here in Merseyside it's easy to forget how poor the railway services are in other parts of the country.  If I want to catch a train from my local station, Birkenhead Park, I don't even bother looking at a timetable.  I know that if I turn up I'll have to wait ten minutes, max.  It's that easy.

The Esk Valley Line, from Middlesbrough to Whitby, is seventeen stations that get five trains in each direction.  A day.  Four in each direction at weekends.  If you're going to travel on this line, you'd better be sure you know when the next train is, or you'll be stuck.

For me, living on the other side of the country, it presented a problem.  I'd miss the first and last trains just getting to and from Middlesbrough.  If I timed it wrong, I'd be out in the countryside with no way of getting home.  The easiest thing to do was just to book myself into Middlesbrough Travelodge and collect the whole line over the course of three days.  It also meant I'd be able to squeeze in the North Yorkshire Moors Railway line to Pickering, which Northern Rail inconsiderately added to the map at the last revision and whose timetable is even more infrequent.

So.  Three days.  A whole load of stations.  A lot of walking.  A lot of pints in country pubs.  Worked for me.


gottago said...

Wow that is an abysmal service.

gottago said...

Oh and I look forward to the countless Coronation Street references when you reach Battersby.

David said...

It's not an abysmal service: it's an appropriate one and pretty much the same service it's had for 50 years +. None of the villages on the moor have more than 1500 souls; you can get from Middlesbrough to Whitby faster by the much-more-frequent express bus and the only reason the line survived Beeching was that the roads are so sinuous and indirect that there was no way a school bus could get the kids to Whitby!

But it is one of the most beautiful lines in the country!

Fact-ette: the link to Middlesbrough is much more recent than the rest of the line which originally ran from Stockton to Whitby via Yarm and Stokesley; now long-closed. Hence the train reversal at Battersby. But I anticipate...