Date: Saturday 15th May 2021
After an enjoyable 36 hours in Newcastle (read about that next week), we were up relatively early to take the train on the first leg of our journey home, travelling from Newcastle to York with CrossCountry. With both Newcastle and York being major stops on the East Coast Mainline (ECML) there are numerous services that connect the two, with TransPennine Express, LNER and CrossCountry all proving regular services.
We (and by we, I mean I) had chosen to get the one vaguely interesting Saturday CrossCountry service, the 1V52 Edinburgh to Plymouth service which is operated by one of CrossCountry’s High Speed Trains (HST). Leaving Newcastle at 0840 and calling at Darlington and Durham, this service takes the average time of just under an hour to reach York.
CrossCountry have a number of HST sets still in operation, with these having been refurbished to meet accessibility requirements in a similar way to the GWR and ScotRail short sets have been. With HSTs only being maintained at a few major depots, they are not scheduled to operate some of the most extreme routes (such as the 1V60 longest train), however generally run between Edinburgh, Plymouth, and Leeds.
Newcastle station is another of the beautiful major stations of the ECML, with a stunning arched train shed and plenty of open, airy space. With its curved platforms, it reminds me a lot of Bristol’s Temple Meads station, however unlike its south-western cousin, Newcastle was designed by John Dobson in association with engineers TE Harrison and Robert Stephenson.
Until the construction of the King Edward VII Bridge in 1906, trains to and from Scotland had to reverse at Newcastle and cross the Tyne using the High Level Bridge to the east of the station. Whilst some services do still use the latter bridge, it is generally now only the hourly services to/from Sunderland unless a trainset needs to be turned.
Whilst waiting for the train I had realised that, despite attempting to book first-class tickets for the hour long trip south, I had in fact managed to book standard class, causing a minor issue due to a friend who was meeting us at Darlington having bought a first-class ticket to join us. Boarding coach D in the centre of the train, we were well away from the noise of either locomotive and settled in for the relatively short journey south.
Having expected some first-class refreshments onboard and therefore only having had a juice with breakfast, the first stop for me after departure was the café bar in coach B to grab us a couple of hot drinks. Whilst catering onboard is certainly reduced at the moment with only drinks and snacks available, CrossCountry have made efforts to re-introduce catering unlike some operators. It cost me just £4 for a coffee and a hot chocolate, with payment only being by contactless methods for the foreseeable.
Having arrived in the north-east via the Durham coast route we had missed the stunning view of Durham Cathedral and Castle from the ECML and were glad to be provided with a good view from our seats on this trip. If you’re heading south make sure to sit on the left hand side of the train for the best view as you depart, whilst if you’re heading north, you want to be on the right hand side looking out just before you arrive.
After Durham was Darlington, home of the world’s first steam operated public railway which opened in 1825, connecting the Shildon collieries with Darlington and Stockton. Darlington station is another grand construction with a large grade II* Victorian brick trainshed, however is an oddity in that it is built to the side of the ECML itself.
Arriving into York from the north provides some interesting viewing as the mainline passes York Yard, Leeman Road Depot and the National Railway Museum (NRM) in quick succession. Although the NRM did not have much of interest outside the buildings, York Yard had a large portion of Network Rail’s rail adhesion vehicles stored in it, awaiting their autumn duties.
York station itself is a stunning building and is in fact the city’s third station with two former termini having been built either side of the city walls nearer the river. The current structure was opened in 1877, is grade II* listed and has a fascinating history that is worth a post of its own at some point.
Whilst our journey was uneventful and not particularly exciting, it is always nice to have a ride on a HST and this journey was no different, especially as it was through a beautiful part of the country. If you want to take a ride on the last full-length HSTs in the UK, there are usually three southbound (1V44, 1V50 & 1V54) and three northbound (1S51, 1S53 and 1E63) workings each weekday across CrossCountry’s main south-west to north-east route.
Overall Rating 14/25 (read about my rating system here!)