Exploring Greater Manchester
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© Geoff’s Rail Diaries 2016
Geoff’s Rail Diaries
10 February 2016
This outing had been on the "to-do" list for a long time. A few tentative plans had been scuppered by bad weather, but eventually, a good day looked likely, according to the forecasts. A day riding on Manchester's magnificent new tram network is low cost entertainment - the "Wayfarer" ticket (covering trams, trains and buses) is incredibly good value - just £6 for "concessions". Travelling on the Crewe - Piccadilly line, all that's needed is a day return to Holmes Chapel, where the fun begins... Our first sight of the trams - an entirely new fleet since my last visit several years ago - was at Manchester Airport station, where we hopped onto car 3100 for the interesting route through the city's southern suburbs (entirely new formation - lots of tight curves, steep little hills etc.) as far as St Werburgh's Road. Here, we're on the former Midland main line to London, where the little grey and yellow trams roll in the footsteps of the "Blue Pullman". Changing trams, we followed their route as far as East Didsbury, the present terminus of this branch. We'd no particularly firm plans for today's outing, though they did begin to set as we headed back towards the city centre. "Let's stay on this one to Bury". The journey through the centre to Victoria is not quite as smooth as it will be - works are in progress on the second crossing, necessitating a single-track section, through which we followed another tram just a few yards ahead. These vehicles may run on rails, but they're not trains... Victoria is much changed since the last visit - then, the trams entered and left the station rather furtively through what was, in effect, a hole in the wall. It's now altogether more convincing - but we'll keep going and take a closer look later.
"We can catch a bus from Bury to Rochdale and return along a different tramline". Yes, good idea - but what's this in Bury bus station - a "Minsterley Motors" bus, with the Shrewsbury - Ludlow service main stops on the side. Lost or what? ("What" - on hire to a local operator). We duly found our bus, for a bumpy ride (worse than Shropshire? Surely not!) to Rochdale. It's time for a leg stretch. I realised I'd never been to Rochdale town centre before. It's a hive of activity - the river Roch, culverted through the centre since Victorian times, is being partly "opened up". This is, apparently, going to reduce the risk of flooding - but will also make for an attractive town- centre feature. We're feeling peckish, and the town hall, with its amazing clock tower, advertises a "Bistro". Worth investigating - and it gives us a reason to look inside this building. Wow! It's incredible! We were nearly tempted to stay for the guided tour (but made do with a good-value lunch instead). Our ride from Manchester to Bury takes us along the route of the former BR line. Much of the Rochdale route is also on a former railway - the Oldham line. However, the first few hundred yards run through the streets, and at Oldham, we diverge into the streets again before returning to the railway - all good fun. Back in Manchester, we spend some time at Victoria, before walking through the streets where the new second crossing is being installed - past another fine town hall to the old Midland Hotel and Central station. Time is ticking by and the light (it's been a wonderful cold, bright and sunny day) will be going soon - it's time to head back to Piccadilly for our train home. Links: Manchester Metrolink On foot: assorted other sights
Manchester Airport station Our first of several At St Werburgh's Road At St Werburgh's Road Passing trams East Didsbury East Didsbury - tram for Bury Bury - tram for East Didsbury Not in service at Bury Bury, Shropshire... New Rochdale Rochdale old and new Street running in Rochdale The L&Y map at Victoria Tramlines at Victoria The new Victoria The old Victoria The old Victoria The old Victoria The hole in the wall Exchange Square Follow that taxi! Leaving Central Tram Canyon Approaching Central The magnificent Midland Hotel