© Geoff’s Rail Diaries 2011 The current low fare offers from Virgin presented the opportunity for a day out. "Where do you fancy" asked Steve. After some discussion, we decided upon Plymouth - just £15 each for the fare from Wolverhampton - excellent value. "I've never been up to Gunnislake - have you?" The "branch" is of course the former LSWR main line, now running only as far as Bere Alston, where the 2-car class 150 reversed to gain the true branch line - the former Plymouth, Devonport and South Western Junction's Bere Alston and Calstock Light Railway. Once running as far as Callington, the line now terminates at the somewhat isolated Gunnislake station, high above the River Tamar. Our train made good progress up the former main line, but the one-time light railway has curves and gradients that wouldn't shame the average "00" gauge model railway. The section from Calstock to Gunnislake, about 3 miles, is scheduled to take 12 minutes! During explorations around the country, I have from time to time found unlikely old railway tracks in obscure places, and thought "wouldn't it be great if trains still ran along here". Bere Alston to Gunnislake is a time warp - they still do run! A tremendous journey - if you're ever in the area, do it! Our return journey from Plymouth was not quite so smooth. We were directed to a road coach outside the station. The inward working that would form the 1710 to Leeds was running so late that it would be turning around at Exeter, and we were to be bussed to Tiverton Parkway (there had apparently been problems with signalling around Bristol Parkway). I have to say that the coach journey was excellent - smooth and punctual (heresy!), and took almost exactly the same time to get to Tiverton Parkway as the HST should have done. The aforementioned train arrived a few minutes later, and after a short wait for one or two others who were being taxied from Newton Abbot, we left, running now about 15 minutes late. "We've got a 15 minute connection at New Street" "I shouldn't worry, there are plenty of trains from New Street to Wolverhampton". I had spoken too soon - New Street was in chaos. There had been problems on the West Coast route near Milton Keynes ("wires down"), and the station was full of people who, on trying to leave the capital for the north-west, had been taken to Paddington. Our train, the 2101 for Manchester, was in, and we got on with moments to spare  - only to be told, a minute or so later, that the train had no engine - please board the train at the other platform (I forget which...). This was no less than a "Virgin Voyager". The four cars were woefully inadequate for the huge numbers of people cramming onto it, though the gentleman who had been on it when we boarded commented "I don't know why everyone is getting on this one. It hasn't got a driver".... So we sat, getting hotter and hotter (sheer numbers), with no announcements. Another train pulled in at the adjacent platform. "That will be going on to Wolves - come on". So we escaped the furnace ("frying pan"?) to join this new train - only to realise that it wasn't scheduled to leave for another 35 minutes. Back to the "Voyager" - from which we noticed that, unannounced, the 2101 now had a locomotive, and, moments later, it pulled away towards the north, practically empty! Our train (presumably having in the meantime found a driver) pulled away about 10 minutes later. Standing in the crammed vestibule end, I can say that the set ran very smoothly... I'm sure Virgin can't be blamed for the electrical problems on the WCML, but the chaotic advice (and lack of it) at New Street was inexcusable. There were some very unhappy "punters" (as my friend Barry used to call them when he worked for BR) who gleefully discussed what they would do to Richard Branson if he were to appear. I suspect a few will think twice before they make another rail journey.... It hadn't marred our day too much - just meant arrival at home some 35 minutes later than planned. And Bere Alston to Gunnislake had been sheer railway delight! 47 816 leaves Plymouth, Paddington bound 90 224 at Wolverhampton D1733 at New Street (1 second hand-held!) Great Western-liveried 47 816 at Plymouth 09 001 at Plymouth Bere Alston, on the outward journey Gunnislake Gunnislake Bere Alston again - return journey