Not quite according to plan...
Lunch in Southport
25 October 2023
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Careful cultivation of friends and acquaintances enables us to gather the local(ish) newspaper vouchers that are needed for a Northern Rail £10 day rover ticket, but with rover in hand, the north is our oyster. Almost... Some journeys are not possible, for all kinds of reasons. We begin our odyssey (perhaps not!) with tickets to Manchester Piccadilly on a Transport for Wales service - it gets the day moving more quickly than the Northern stopper from Crewe. There’s a degree of chaos at Crewe - “trespassers on the line” further south. There’s more fun and games at Piccadilly. We’d thought about walking to Victoria and taking the next train to Leeds - but it was cancelled (good thing we checked before taking to the streets!). How about plan B? We thought of heading for the south Lakes line - perhaps visiting Grange-over-Sands or Ulverston - but not all trains from Barrow to Lancaster continue down to Preston, and Northern Rail day rovers aren’t too good on Avanti services. Meanwhile there’s more chaos on the through platforms 13/14 (there’s been a problem with the signalling, it appears). After much standing and studying destination boards, we hop onto a Blackpool North train. “Are the trams running along the new extension yet?”. 
Geoff’s Rail Diaries
No (says Google) - next year... Eventually, we decide on a somewhat indirect trip from Preston to Southport. It’s many years since trains ran from Preston to Southport. We take an Ormskirk train to Burscough Junction, then walk to Burscough Bridge (it’s not far), to continue our journey. At our destination, there’s a (moderately) interesting assortment of trains - third-rail EMUs old and new, our DMU (cl. 156) and 769424, one of the former class 319 EMUs, now fitted with underfloor engines which make them bimodal - diesel from Southport to Bolton, then AC electric under the wires. However, lunch calls... We’re heading back towards Manchester now - on that 319 unit maybe? No, it’s only going as far as Oxford Road, and the times would be very tight for our last-but-one train, so we’re on an earlier train (another 156), changing at Bolton for an ex-Barrow train which terminates at Piccadilly. There, within minutes, our train arrives - the TfW 1630 for Swansea, and it’s a loco-hauled/ propelled service, real comfort back to Crewe. Sadly, it doesn’t stop at the local stations on the Shrewsbury (or ‘Amwythig’...) line - we’re on an aging cl. 150 for the last leg of our trip. Truly a ‘chalk-and-cheese’ experience!
Ageing DMUs at Piccadilly Front ends at Preston - Glasgow and Barrow trains 397148 - Euston train, unusually at Preston's platform 3 Burscough Junction - and we're walking... ...over the Leeds and Liverpool Canal... ... to Burscough Bridge. Rail-head treatment train! Here comes our train for Southport It's arrived! EMU, DMU and DEMU at Southport EMUs modern and ancient 769424 leaves Southport Back to Piccadilly - 67010 on the Swansea train Comfort at last! (it was almost full a few minutes later)