Escaping One Village to Another – Leaving Birmingham by Train
Escape From The Village
A trip to The Village to escape from the world.
In this journey
- I want time off. I will not be stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered!
- Escaping Birmingham, Transport for Wales Birmingham New Street to Porthmadog
- Travelodge Porthmadog
- Exploring Porthmadog
- Welcome to your Village – Portmeirion
- Free to go… home? Back to Birmingham with Transport for Wales
- Aftermath: Free to Go, or Free to Stay?
It might have been a late start for me, but my esteemed colleagues continue to think I was in the office. In the past, Nokia’s Grande Vaslse was the most annoying sound in the world.
Nowadays? The ringtone Microsoft Teams makes me want to do bad things. I’m sure a few of us would consider throwing our devices in a river and walking away for some time if to escape that ring tone.
With a minimally packed bag (and I mean, minimal enough to brush my teeth, have a change of clothes, a camera and some other bits and pieces), I headed off.
Jumping into an Uber for the first part of the trip seemed like a logical thing to do. Well, mainly as I was in a lazy mood, and wasn’t prepared to fight the bus for a seat.
The one thing I made sure I had enough of – was some snacks and water, as I would be on an Express Sprinter for the best part of four and a half hours.
Maybe I should have packed the Bose noise-cancelling headphones instead of my cheapie earbuds…
Arriving at the station, it was time to play “travel fun” at New Street station. With my tickets issued electronically, as opposed to paper tickets, I headed straight for the barrier. My pass was let through and I was clear to head to the platform.
The ticket was issued as a split ticket. I’ve gone over split ticketing in the past and how it can save real money on longer-distance train journeys. This time, my ticket would be valid between
- Birmingham and Caersws
- Caersws and Porthmadog
For the return, there would be a little wrinkle, but we’ll get to that when we get to it.
Going down to the platform, there would be a short wait as the train came back from Birmingham International station.
But soon enough, my box of hell arrived.
The Class 158 “Express” Sprinter. Lots have been written about this class of train, varying from “Garden shed engineering” to “Intercity comfort for Interregional services”.
The truth, as usual, is somewhere in between – depending on if the air conditioning is working.
To be honest, my eyes glaze over at Class 158 trains, as I spent far too much time in my past commuting between Telford and Wolverhampton when I was younger.
So seeing I was stuck in one of these for four and a half hours… wasn’t what I wanted to be honest.
However, these trains are some of the only trains that can traverse the Cambrian Line, due to the line being signalled with ERTMS as opposed to the classic TWPS system with the multi-aspect lights.
Oh, the price of being lazy, and not getting in a car to drive.
The train was operating as a four-car service today, with two cars of the train heading off to Phileli, whilst the other two cars would operate the service to Aberystwyth. The trains would operate together as far as Machynlleth, and divide there.
Therefore there was more than a little confusion about where people needed to sit.
Speaking of sitting, let’s look at the seats. Whilst the train may be in Transport for Wales white and red, the interior hasn’t seen much of a refit apart from stickers. The interior is as to how the train was when it was operated by Arriva Trains Wales. And it shows how threadbare the seats were becoming.
In addition, no catering options were offered on the train due to… the thing.
For the first part of the journey up to Telford Central, I sat in an airline seat. These seats sadly do not have mains or USB outlets on unrefurbished trains.
The train sped through the West Midlands and Shropshire, passing by my old haunts of Wolverhampton and Telford, before arriving at Shrewsbury – where the train reversed and headed out on the Cambrian line
At Telford, I moved from the airline seat to a table seat as one set became free. The main reason to move was to move closer to a mains outlet. Perfect to charge my phone and laptop, as the free Wi-Fi gave out after 50Mb.
As the train passed onwards past Welshpool and Newtown, the Welsh countryside was giving a marvellous display.
The train made a stop at Machynlleth, where the four-car train was divided into two two-car trains, with the forward portion going onto Aberystwyth.
The portion I was sitting in would go forward to Phiwelli. It’s important to check which portion of your train is going where.
As the train peeled away from the line to Aberystwyth, it started making its way along the Cambrian Coast Line.
Now, a hint for those who are new to travelling on this line – for the best views, sit on the left-hand side of the train as opposed to the right – you’ll get lots of estuary and water views on that side.
On the right-hand side, it’s more mountains and small towns, holiday resorts, holiday camper vans…which people were taking full advantage of in the sun.
A line like this is very much a rural line, so it becomes the home of the request stop – so people were asking the guard for a particular train stop, or the train was being stopped as it was hailed – something I don’t see when riding the city lines in stopping patterns.
Eventually, the train arrived at Minnifford – my cue to pack my trash up, as my station was next. It would also be where I would be picking up the train the next day.
Welcome to Porthmadog.
Next: Travelodge Porthmadog
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