One of the promises made by Stagecoach if they gained the franchise for East Midlands Trains, was to provide a through service from Lincoln to London. They duly created a Monday to Saturday service between Lincoln and St Pancras via Nottingham which commenced today (15 December), with one trip to London in the morning and a return in the evening.
So it was that both the LEYTR Editor's (myself and Graham) set out to travel on the very first trip, Graham driving from Cleethorpes and me having a very early start on the 0520 Stagecoach service 6 bus from Skegness. Thankfully all went to plan and it allowed me 10 minutes to make my way from the bus station to the railway station to get the 0708 to St Pancras on arrival at Lincoln.
I'd pre-booked our tickets on 20 November (ironically through the National Express East Coast website!), Advance Single tickets costing £32 each (exactly half the walk on fare).
There was just enough time to get a photograph of 222012 at Lincoln before boarding. On the platform, were the Town Crier, the press and various railway officials there to see off the very first departure. The train runs to Lincoln from Nottingham empty to work the service.
A few "teething troubles" from the start as we were instructed to ignore the seat reservations - even more necessary in one carriage due to there being no heating. We soon found a place, the BBC cameraman sat a few seats behind and a group of trainee Conductors apparently on route learning on a nearby table. An interior photo can be seen below.
Still in darkness, we departed from Lincoln, the conductor announcing "Welcome aboard this historic first service from Lincoln". As we enjoyed our complimentary coffees (one of the perks of travelling in first class), we were each offered a complimentary Celebrations sweet by one of the EMT managers travelling on board.
The first scheduled stop is Collingham. Platforms here being short, passengers alighting were asked by announcement to move to the leading carriages - this also applied to Newark Castle. We then progressed to Nottingham. Another announcement informed us that there might be a slight bump as we were joining onto another train (222007). There appeared to be a few minutes delay before we got under way, now consisting of 10 carriages. Just before departure another announcement was made that passengers for Beeston needed to be at the front of the train, again due to short platforms.
After Trent Junction, we soon passed the site of the new East Midlands Parkway station. Work on this was well in progress. It was supposed to have been open with the introduction of the winter timetable yesterday, but this has been delayed, and it is now hoped it will be open for early 2009.
After calling at Leicester, we progressed down the Midland Mainline. By this time I was feeling a bit hungry, so ordered a bacon baguette. The conductors on the route appear to have to multi-task and I duly placed my order. Unfortunately, he wasn't sure if we'd got any sandwiches on board but duly went off to check returning about 10 minutes later. The bacon didn't taste particularly nice, but I was impressed by the customer service!
The toilet was rather impressive. Clean, and as well as the usual items, were sterile toilet seat wipes and hand cream!
After the stops at Market Harborough, Kettering, Wellingborough, Bedford and Luton Airport Parkway, we approached St Pancras and watched a Eurostar departing. Arrival at our destination was at 1010, just 10 minutes later than the scheduled time.
Trying to get a shot of Eurostars from the station itself is not easy, but I did manage to get this one.
We left St Pancras and had a ride on a bendibus to Hyde Park Corner to visit a German Christmas Market there. al as cowded as the one at Lincoln, we enjoyed a mulled wine and a German smoked sausage each, and decided to have a brief trip on one of the remaining two routes operated by Routemasters.
Whilst waiting, I noticed over the road what appeared to be a distinctive building which I initially assumed to be the surface remains of one of the many disused stations on the London underground. Further researches have revealed this to be the original entrance to Hyde Park Corner station when access to the platforms was gained by lift. This was replaced by escalators and closed in the early 1930's and is now a Pizza restaurant.
The first Routemaster we saw was 627 DYE, new to London Transport in November 1963. It is illustrated on the left whilst working the service 9 from The Albert Hall to Aldwych.
Next was 650 DYE, new in July 1963, and wearing a silver livery for the Queen's Jubilee in 1977.
Once under way, there was a lucky opportunity to photograph 562 CLT, new in April 1963, picking up at Green Park on a service 9 to The Albert Hall.
Reaching the terminus at Aldwych, chance to get a quick photo of the Routemaster on which we travelled, ALD 913B, younger than those we'd previously seen, being new to London Transport in June 1964. It is seen outside the Warldorf Hotel along with a traditional red telephone box!
Service 15 is the other route operated by Routemasters. Here we saw WLT 324, new in July 1960, is seen on its way from Tower Hill to Trafalgar Square. In the background is the church of St Mary le Strand.
Waiting for a bus at the Strand gave us the opportunity to see 218 CLT, new in December 1962, on a service 9 to the Albert Hall.
We made our way to Oxford Street, this time on a modern Wright Eclipse Gemini bodied double-decker, and walked around some extremely busy shops. One of the smaller ones, which sold a wide range of items from luggage to hats also had, under a glass counter, a rather odd looking substance in a packet labelled "Skunk - intoxicating and legal"!
With the failing light, crowds and traffic, trying to photograph anything in Oxford Street proved a challenge although did manage to get this one of Mercedes bendibus BX04 MYF on a service 73 from Victoria to Seven Sisters.
Suitably tired after walking around several hours, we adjourned for a pint at the Montagu Pyke on Charing Cross Road, a surprisingly quiet Wetherspoons establishment. Next it was another bendibus ride, this time to take us to Euston to visit the Doric Arch, a railway themed pub. Just time before to get one quick photo of LX06 ECE at Euston bus station on a service 68 to West Norwood.
The walls inside the Doric Arch pub are decorated with all manner of maps and railway ephemera.
And a very large model of steam locomotive 92004 on a shelf.
We walked back to St Pancras taking a few minutes to admire the extensive work which had been done rebuilding and cleaning the extensive train shed.
A quick check of the departure board saw the through train to Lincoln lusted, although no indication as to whuch platform it went from.
A large number of passengers gathered to board the departures to Derby, Sheffield and Lincoln, and it was 10 minutes before the booked departure time of 1830 the platform number appeared on the indicator and we were allowed to board.
It was again formed of two class 222 units, with 008 at the rear and 015 leading, the latter to run through to Lincoln. Curiously "Derby" was the destination stated on the blind!
Making our way out of London, we were once again treated to complimentary coffee and also a glass of wine. Normally EMT only allows one glass per person, but due to their being few passengers in our section, we were allowed an additional one each! The conductor appeared to be responsible for catering as well as ticket checks - it would be interesting to see how they cope if it gets busy and any passengers also require meals. Although these are on the menu, no mention was made by announcement of their availability. Scheduled stops were at Luton Airport Parkway, Bedford, Wellingborough, Kettering, Market Harborough, Leicester (where we saw the interesting sight of a Cross Country Voyager unit on a local Peterborough to Birmingham New Street service!), Loughborough and Beeston. At Nottingham, 222008 was detached and we continued with stops at Lowdham, Newark Castle (where we blocked the level crossing a few minutes due to the length of the train) and Collingham. Arrival at Lincoln was at 2129, just 4 minutes late.
The train returns as the 2140 to Nottingham calling at Newark Castle and Lowdham. After watching it depart, I wearily made my way to the uphill part of Lincoln for a couple of pints in The Peacock, whilst waiting the 2300 Stagecoach service 6 bus to Skegness. I arrived back home 25 past midnight, tired but thankful I had the opportunity to travel on the first EMT trains between Lincoln and St Pancras. (PW)