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Onward connections.

UK rail trip – 2022

Day 40 – 12th May, 2022

I woke up and checked out of the hostel. One of the first things I had to do this morning was to make a reservation for tonight’s Caledonian Sleeper to Fort William in Scotland. I caught the London Underground to King’s Cross St. Pancras station and dropped into the ticket office. The train leaves from London Euston. But, as I was meeting Justin at London St. Pancras, I thought it more convenient to make the reservation there. There were no reservations available. The person behind the counter suggested to call the Caledonian‘s sales office, stating that I might find better luck there. So, I proceeded to do so. The sales agent advised the Fort William train was all booked out. However, the Glasgow train wasn’t! There was just one more seat available. So, I booked it. As for the onward connection to Fort William and Mallaig, I had to take a chance that it would get me to Mallaig on time to catch the ferry to Armadale in time for the first of two buses across to Kyle of Lochalsh – where I would be staying for tomorrow night!

London St. Pancras International.

It wasn’t long before Justin sent me a message saying that he was almost at St. Pancras. So, I walked over to the Thameslink entrance and waited outside near the barriers. Not long after, I saw him coming up the escalator. I’ve been following Justin on Twitter for a few years now. So, it was very easy to recognise him. We greeted each other and exchanged mobile numbers. This would make it easier to set up a time later this evening. He had a couple of pubs in mind! We set up a rough time as to when to meet up. Now to decide what to do with the rest of the day. Well, what does one do when he has a BritRail Pass that enables him to board any train that operates on the National Rail network? I walked over to London King’s Cross and boarded an LNER service for Doncaster.

London King’s Cross (13:33)
1:39 (143:44)
Doncaster (15:12)
250.8 km (13507.4 km)

On my way to Doncaster, I was calculating train times to get me from Glasgow to Mallaig in time for the ferry crossing over to Armadale. As long as tonight’s train gets in on time at Glasgow Central tomorrow morning, I should be fine. I’ve had a pretty good experience with on-time running with overnight trains. I guess because the timetable is so padded, time can easily be made up. With that worked out, I formulated my travels for the rest of the day. I’ll catch a train from Doncaster to Manchester Piccadilly, then another back to London Euston.

DB Schenker class 66/0, number 66 198. Still in EWS (English, Welsh and Scottish Railway) livery.

After arriving in Doncaster, I had about 20 minutes to wait. This soon became half an hour – my train to Manchester Piccadilly was running a little late. It wouldn’t have mattered if the train had been cancelled. It would just mean I might have to take a different route back to London – like changing at Sheffield for London St. Pancras International. But, for the moment, all was ok. While waiting for my train, I received a message from Justin. He suggested The Queens Head. I replied, stating that it looks good to me!

Doncaster (15:42)
Transpennine Express
1:20 (145:04)
Manchester Piccadilly (17:02)
98.4 km (13605.8 km)

Thankfully this train was formed of 2 class 185 sets, totalling six coaches. Otherwise, the train would have been quite full. Because of this, I was still able to find my seat of choice – two seats on each side of a table. I plugged in my phone charger and laid the phone on the table. All that was left was to sit back and enjoy the ride. After the train arrived in Sheffield, a girl named Jasmine sat in the seat opposite me. We started chatting halfway between Sheffield and Manchester Piccadilly. She was a student at one of the universities in Sheffield and was off to Manchester to attend a memorial service. We talked about the places I’d spent the last several weeks travelling to. She was quite surprised that I hadn’t yet visited Stratford-upon-Avon (where she came from). I said I just hadn’t got around to it yet. She said I should. I promised, there and then, that I would.

Before long, we arrived at Manchester Piccadilly, We exchanced Facebook details and she went on her way. I checked for the next couple of trains back to London Euston. There was one that had already been announced for boarding. I chose to catch the one after – again, so as to be in position for the best possible seat.

Manchester Piccadilly (17:55)
Avanti West Coast
2:10 (147:14)
London Euston (20:05)
295.3 km (13901.1 km)

This later train was still in a position to get me back to London in time to meet up with Justin at The Queens Head. The pub is closer to St. Pancras and King’s Cross than it is to Euston. So, it would be about a 15-20 minute walk. Looking at the map, I realised I’d already walked half of it before, when I’d stayed at the Generator hostel.

I hopped off the train and made my way to the pub. On the way, I received a message from Justin saying that he was just finishing off at work. I arrived at the pub, ordered a pint of cider, and found a table outside. Not long after, Justin arrived. We spent the next couple of hours talking about railways – what else do two railfans talk about? Of course, we also talked about my travels and what I’d done so far. A few pints later, it was time to part ways. It was great meeting you, Justin! I hope to see you again on this trip, but certainly the next!

I found my way back to London Euston. The train was already in the station and I didn’t have to wait too long for boarding.

London Euston (23:50)
Caledonian Sleeper
7:27 (154:41)
Glasgow Central (07:17)
645.7 km (14546.8 km)

Unlike the last time I caught the Caledonian, which was mostly empty, this time it was very full! I settled in for a night of broken sleep. 😀

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