Monday 1 May 2023

Fetch and Carry by Train

A Simple Start to Ease into This Year’s Rail Adventures!

Every year I tend to have a few bigger trips lined up by March or April and this year is no different. Two are Great Rail Journeys escorted tours, chosen and booked as soon as they were advertised to “bag” them and get a start made on the calendar for 2023; one is a Eurostar visit to Amsterdam which we promised ourselves when the through services began and now are finally taking, and one is to the Isle of Wight and Sussex which we have been doing each summer for the last eight years - and this will probably be our last. One more is a few days in Birmingham with friends.

We have not done a railway “adventure” since last autumn’s trip to Sorrento and quite frankly we are a bit out of practice! General busyness along with the wave of rail and other strikes has kept us at home apart from the few day trips and family gatherings which I’ve reported here. Looking forward to the forthcoming trips to Amsterdam and to the South of France would just be too exciting without something else to occupy our minds! Fortunately we had a good reason to pay a short visit to friends in Croydon who are moving soon and downsizing: I was able to broker a gift from them (of some clergy robes they no longer need) to another acquaintance who could use them in one of his country churches, and so we arranged a couple of nights’ stay with them to fetch the robes and to visit their present home for the last time. They are moving soon to Chichester and that move is the reason they’ll no longer be taking their holidays near there and so our annual trips to join them will be ending this year.

St Mildred's Parish Church, Addiscombe
Hoping that no strikes would disrupt our plans, I booked Advance First tickets between Peterborough and London Kings Cross and then, once I was more confident that Cross County’s trains between Stamford and Peterborough might be operating (i.e. the day before we travelled!) I booked Standard Class returns for that bit of the trip. Per passenger mile that is the most expensive leg of the journey…

We had some family duties to carry out in the morning of the day of our departure, and our hosts had things to do, too, so we did not leave until noon. We had a large suitcase with our own stuff for a couple days in uninspiring weather plus gifts for our hosts and with enough space spare for the robes we were transporting back to Lincolnshire. 

Although our train out of Stamford was some ten minutes late (no explanation given, but looking at Live Train Times online it seems to have been late since shortly after leaving Birmingham), this did not affect our journey at all and we easily made the connection at Peterborough into our pre-booked LNER train to London. This was a five-car "Azuma" train from Lincoln and there was plenty of space in our First Class section. The simplest "Deli" menu was on offer and this provided the light lunch we needed, departure from Peterborough being on time at 12:30. We were soon in London and had a little shopping to do (there are some great shops at St Pancras, across the road) before making our way down to Croydon. We were in no hurry, knowing that our friends were busy. When we were ready to go we made our way to the "basement" platforms at St Pancras for the next Thameslink service to East Croydon. This was on time (although with such a frequent service the concept of "on time" is not all that significant!) would get us there at 15:17, so I sent a WhatsApp message to say we expected to arrive at our friends' home at about 16:00.

The Brighton or Horsham Thameslink trains stop at all stations through the central London "core" and then after London Bridge run non-stop to East Croydon, the whole journey taking just about half an hour, much of which is spent imitating an Underground train through central London, complete with automatic doors! At East Croydon we made our way up the ramps to the tram stop, where we had just three minutes to wait for the next tram. We were very soon at Addiscombe, the stop for our friends' home and would have been half an hour early getting there! I had grossly over-estimated the amount of time it would take to get from the station to their house: the tram was there for us just as soon as we had touched-in our Oyster cards, it was not delayed and the walk from the tram stop at Addiscombe was only a matter of three or four minutes. Thus we had twenty minutes or so to spare around the shops at Addiscombe, which turned out to be very useful as we picked up a handy collection of Lego bricks in a charity shop, ideal for the next visit of the senior grandchildren ...

We had a great time with our friends and after a couple of nights packed our luggage complete with the items we had come to fetch and set off home after lunch on the third day. The tram took us back to East Croydon station where we happened to arrive just before a Thameslink train was due in, so we went straight to the indicated platform and waited just a few seconds as our train arrived. Our train from Kings Cross was not due to leave until 19:06 (I had allowed plenty of leeway, not being sure of timing when I booked, and this train has some advantage - including reasonable fares - as will become clear), and we filled the time with a museum visit; there is never a shortage of things to do in London and quite a lot is within easy reach of Kings Cross and St Pancras stations. We had already visited both the Canal Museum and the Jewish Museum between trains, and even the British Museum and the British Library are close to hand, although it would take a lot of changes of train to see all of what they offer, and this time we visited the Foundling Museum, chronicling the history of Coram's Foundling Hospital which gave a fascinating insight into some of the profound social problems of Georgian London as well as revealing the great humanitarian effort of individual good people to solve them. 

After spending some time in the First Class lounge at Kings Cross we took the 19:06 Lincoln train, another five-coach Azuma but this time quite busy. The staff did a fantastic job of serving everyone's refreshments efficiently but in a polite and friendly manner and we were on time at Peterborough, a perfect journey. One advantage of this train is that it connects at Peterborough with the once-a-day East Midlands Railway service to Nottingham via Stamford, so there was not long to wait before our train: indeed, it was already at the platform waiting for its crew and we were able to board long before departure time. Again the train was on time and we were soon home and I shall now be able to contact my local colleague to come and collect his new vestments from me!

This was the easiest, smoothest and best train journey I have had for a long time. There were simply no problems: even though the first train was a few minutes late it did not affect us and all the rest were on time, clean and tidy with, where appropriate, full catering. Fares have risen somewhat this year and I was not in a position to book ever so early, so it was a bit more expensive than I have been used to but it was quite acceptable - I could always have booked Standard Class if I'd needed to get the price any lower.

1 comment:

  1. thank you for sharing your experience. I enjoy reading your post, it's quite exciting.