Jack May's Trip to Great Britain and the Baltic States

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  • Member since
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Jack May's Trip to Great Britain and the Baltic States
Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, April 08, 2018 5:53 AM
Thanks to those who inquired about Clare's recovery after they read about her accident in the final episode of my previous report, and to those who encouraged me to continue writing about my travels.  Many other recipients also wrote to me with questions or corrections to particular portions of the reports, and sometimes just comments.  I hope you will enjoy this next series.

Clare's accident in Kiev during June put a dent into our plans for a trip two months later to the Baltic countries with a different German electric traction group.  We were going to join the VDVA (Verband Deutscher Verkehrs-Amateure
on a tour that would cover all three cities in Latvia that have tramways, plus Tallinn, Estonia and Helsinki, Finland.  We had signed up for it, but it had become clear that Clare was in no condition for further traveling, nor was she enthused about another tour with a bunch of rail enthusiasts.  Fortunately we hadn't made our air reservations for that trip.

On the other hand, Clare was improving rapidly, and she had a great group of friends and relatives supporting her and keeping her busy, so she urged me to find a replacement for her and go on the trip anyway.  I ended up doing just that, traveling and rooming with Karl-Heinz Roeber, who Clare and I met on the Intra-Express tour of North Africa some years ago, and again saw in Ukraine on our previous trip.  I had originally planned to meet Clare in Riga (she would have flown directly to there from the U. S.), after I first traveled to various cities with tramways in Hungary on my own.  She suggested I continue with those plans, but I replaced Hungary with England when I found some incredibly low air fares to the British Isles. 

Norwegian Air Shuttle was introducing non-stop service to Edinburgh from Stewart Airport, which is located on the west side of the Hudson River about 60 miles north of both New York City and our home in Montclair, N. J.  The fare was $109 one way.  With Ryanair charging a measly $25 to continue to Riga from East Midland Airport in northern England (near the light rail cities of Notthingham, Birmingham and Sheffield), I decided to travel through that area by rail to visit the tramways in the region, and I even added the Isle of Man to the itinerary (attached).  Lastly, Karl-Heinz indicated that the cheapest way for him to return home was to fly from Stockholm to Dusseldorf, and since Norwegian had a very low air fare from the capital of Sweden to JFK, we both decided to add Stockholm to our itineraries after the formal part of the traction tour ended in Helsinki.  Thus the trip stretched to almost 3 weeks.

I had to rush to make rail reservations, as fares in Britain are very high unless you buy tickets way ahead of time.  But the downside of these "Advance" purchases is that they are valid only for specific trains on specific dates, and are neither changeable nor refundable.  But I decided I could live with that, as the savings were significant and I didn't see why I couldn't meet the requirements.  And that was very easy to accomplish as the "National Rail Enquiries" website is very user-friendly and easy to navigate.  My credit card was debited the amount for each ticket and the software also allowed me to buy a discounted day pass for transit in each city on my itinerary (if I wanted to--I did for Sheffield).  When it was time to travel all I would have to do is insert my credit card into a station fare vending machine (similar to an ATM) and key in a code, and out would pop the ticket(s).  It worked perfectly. 

But I did suffer one glitch, during the reservation process.  When I was transferred to the Virgin Trains website while making my Advance rate purchase from Edinburgh to Blackpool for August 14, I added a ticket from that city to Manchester for the next day.  But I made a mistake and entered August 14 instead of the 15th.  As a result the ticket I purchased from the site had me arriving in Blackpool after I would leave there for Manchester, an impossible itinerary.  I noticed it almost immediately after I printed out the confirmation, and so I sent an email, using the form Virigin Trains provided on its site.  I don't have a copy of exactly what I wrote (as it didn't appear in my "Sent Box" because I used their form), but I think you get the gist.  After several back-and-forths, they still refused to change the date of the Blackpool-Manchester portion or to refund the ticket, even though their computer program issued a ticket that was inherently flawed.  I finally had to call them on the telephone, and at that point they admitted their software should not have allowed the ticket to be issued, and refunded its cost to me.  I then made the correct reservation (at the same rate).  All's well that ends well.

I also found it easy to make hotel reservations for both before and after the tour, as shown in the first attachment.  I soon distributed my itinerary to various friends in Great Britain with invitations to meet me, and found that as many as three railfans would accompany me for six of the days I would spend in the British Isles, and so there was no chance for me to become lonely.

Now all I had to do is purchase my film and pack.

Sunday, August 13.
  On getaway day Clare drove me up to Stewart and we had dinner en route, as meals are an added expense to unbundled Norwegian air fares.  Sue Craig, wife of the late Phil Craig, actually joined us at our favorite Chinese restaurant in Wayne, N. J., and at about 19:00, we continued driving northward while Sue returned to Montclair.  We did not encounter too much traffic as we were going opposite to the predominant flow of cars and people heading home from upstate and the Catskills at the end of this summer weekend.

Clare dropped me at the door of the rather austere Stewart Airport at 19:55 and I joined a long line of travelers, as an express bus from New York City had begun unloading just before we pulled to a stop.  Nevertheless, the check-in line moved reasonably quickly, as did the makeshift security screening, and I was at the gate by 20:40.  The arrivals board had indicated that the aircraft had landed at 20:13, and boarding for the 21:25 flight began at 20:55.  I was placed in window seat 23A in the typical 3-and-3 arrangement of a Boeing 737
(selecting your seat ahead of time is also an added expense on Norwegian).  The flight was about ¾ full and the leg room was quite adequate.  The aircraft pushed away from the gate at 21:32 (25) and left the ground at 21:42.  Meals and drinks were sold and served to those that had pre-ordered them in an efficient manner, the lights were turned off, and the flight was uneventful.  I woke up at around 2:00 and saw a beautiful sunrise. 

Dawn from my window seat on Norwegian's Boeing 737.  This was the last time I saw the sun for 24 hours.

Monday, August 14.  On our descent we passed through thick clouds and it was pouring rain when we hit the tarmac at 8:52.  We rolled to a stop at 9:00 (9:25) in an area that seemed miles away from the terminal and were then taken by bus to immigration, which I negotiated easily.  The tramway station is a bit of a walk from the international terminal, but fortunately the way was all covered, protecting me and other travelers from the barrage of various small animals bouncing off the ground.  Oddly enough (but maybe not so odd), the express bus to downtown Edinburgh was loading from a much more convenient location.

John Hayward from Burgess Hill, a town about 40 miles south of London, was coming up to join me for a day's outing on Edinburgh's trams, and he arrived at the platform at 9:45, almost exactly when I did. We first walked over to the tramway's information center and waiting room, which is inside the original mock-up of the vehicle.  It had been displayed in various locations in the city during the project's early stages, mostly to provide information to the public and garner support.  Being inside also kept us and our baggage out of the downpour and
I was able to buy a day-ticket for 9 pounds from a fare vending machine using my credit card.  The machines take only credit/debit cards and coins (no bills), and do not provide change.  (From here on in, I'll use the internationally accepted abbreviation, GBP, for pounds, which cost approximately $1.40 each--or in another terminology, sell at a premium of 40 percent.)

Above and below:  Two views at the Edinburgh Airport terminal of the tramway.  The top photo shows the mock-up built to educate the public prior to the line's construction, which has since been repurposed (only slightly) as a lounge, while the lower one shows a CAF tram on the scissors crossover leading into the stub-ended center platform station.  Note the "no pedestrians beyond this point" signs and that the line operates left handed.

Before describing our day, here are some salient facts about Edinburgh and its new tramway.  The origin of the city itself dates to ancient times, but the name that morphed into Edinburgh was applied by King David of Scotland in the 12th century.  The "burg" or fortress was first portrayed as Scotland's capital some 200 years later.  As Scotland's second largest city, with a population of about 500,000 (similar to Minneapolis), it is surpassed only by Glasgow, with slightly more than double the number of residents.  Scotland itself, occupying the northern portion of Great Britain, consists of but 30,000 square miles (almost as much as South Carolina) and contains a population of just under 5.4 million (in the ballpark of Minnesota).  The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is very tourist oriented, much like Washington, D. C., with many governmental buildings, historic structures and museums.  It is dominated by Edinburgh Castle, towering above the city on Castle Rock.  There are many arts and music festivals in the summer, and often a shortage of hotel rooms for the huge number of visitors.  The Edinburgh International Festival, a series of performances from the world of music, theater and dance, was in full swing this past August and that is why I did not stay in Edinburgh overnight, as hotel prices were incredibly scarce and high.  I would spend my first night in Blackpool. 

The modern light rail system in Edinburgh dates back to May 31, 2014, some 58 years after the last double-deck car ran on the city's legacy tramway.  It is 8
½ miles long, and runs from the airport to the city center.  A fleet of 27 CAF Urbos 3 low-floor cars operates on 7- to 10-minute headways.  The 7-section double-ended cars are 140 feet long and make 16 stops on their 37-minute trip, with three being adjacent to ScotRail stations for easy connections to the railway system.  It's a spit-and-polish operation, with the cars moving quite fast between stops for the most part.  The section west of the city center is on reserved track with protected grade crossings, while the slower portion in the built-up city center (5 stations) is in pavement, separated from motor traffic by curbing, with the tramway's signals being coordinated with traffic lights.  The line operates on new, attractive reserved track from the airport for the first 6 stations, twisting through fields and open land for the equivalent of 5 right-angle turns in a general southeastly direction to the Edinburgh Park stop, where it begins running eastward parallel to the Glasgow-Edinburgh mainline, but not actually on the railroad's right-of-way (see http://www.urbanrail.net/eu/uk/edin/edinburgh.htm for a map).  It reaches the city center 5 stations later at Haymarket, where it begins running in the center of streets, albeit segregated from motor traffic.  There are four more stops, with two on Princes Street, Edinburgh's principal shopping artery, where a large number of transit buses also operate.  In fact, much of Princes Street is open only to trams, buses and taxis, and the south side of the street borders on a park leading to and affording views of stately Edinburgh Castle and other historic buildings.  Then the line makes a sharp turn to the north and again to the east, to finally terminate at York Place.

The line had to contend with a great deal of controversy starting immediately after the inception of its planning, and finally came in both late and way over budget.  As a result, certain parts of the original plan had to be scrapped, but it seems now that there may well be a 3-mile, 8-station northeastern extension to Leith and Newhaven (on the Firth of Forth), because of the line's great success (ridership was 6.6 million in 2017).  See https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/transport/work-to-extend-edinburgh-trams-to-leith-could-start-in-2019-1-4525948.

Fares and their collection are also a bit complicated and have been somewhat controversial.  The fare system is integrated with the local bus system, Lothian Buses (GBP 1.70 one way and GBP 4 for a day ticket), but only as far as Ingliston Park-and-Ride, the last station prior to the airport.  The cost of traveling to and from the airport is sharply higher, GBP 6 one-way and GBP 9 for a day ticket.  This protects the slightly faster airport express bus, which charges only GBP 4.50, and as a result, much traffic has been diverted to the rubber-tired line.  Interestingly, one of the things that John and I observed were airport passengers rolling their baggage to the Ingliston station in order to avoid paying the surcharge (they didn't do it during the morning's inclement weather, but later we witnessed it once the precipitation let up a bit). 

The trams are operated with both a driver and a conductor, the latter checking tickets and answering questions.  If a passenger doesn't have a valid ticket when he is approached, the fare becomes GBP 10.  This is not portrayed as a Proof-of-Payment type fine, but officially as the "on-board fare."  At times we observed a third employee on board, also checking tickets.  He may have been some sort of auditor to keep the conductor in line, or just present to help out between high-volume stations--I really don't know.  Despite the large number of on-board personnel, it has been stated that the trams actually made money during 2017, with revenues exceeding operating costs.

Now to the narrative.  John and I didn't worry about the rain at the start of our journey, as we had planned to travel straight through to the next-to-the-last station, St. Andrew Square, the location of Edinburgh's bus terminal, where the price of a locker rental to store luggage is much lower than at the left luggage in the railroad station (GBP 12 per item for up to 24 hours--more than $30 since I also had what the airlines call a "personal item"). 
I certainly didn't want to be burdened by my bags for the day's activities--I mused that I could rent a car for the amount of the railroad station's left luggage charge for just the purpose of storing my bags!  As it turned out, thanks to John's advice I ended up paying only GBP 6.50 for enough locker space to stow my two items for under 12 hours. 

This ride, of course, gave me the opportunity to inspect the line and make some initial judgments, which included a recognition of how fast, smooth and comfortable the ride is.  I wondered how long, with this new, excellent mode of transportation, the line's surroundings will remain "green" before its population substantially shifts from 4-legged to 2-legged, with the current preponderance of grazing sheep and cows being replaced by the inhabitants of new residential developments.

Housekeeping accomplished (plus a stop to freshen up), we left the protection of the building and found it was still pouring.  Nevertheless we walked to the end of the line at York Place (one more stop), which was not too onerous, albeit a bit windy, and grabbed some photos.  Looking at the sky, we saw some brightness to the west, and decided to ride all the way back to Ingliston Park and Ride, before resuming our photography.

A tram approaches the York Place terminal in the center of Edinburgh.  Trams turn on a single track, but it is expected that the line will be extended further to Leith and Newhaven.  Low curbs protect the right-of-way from motor traffic along York Place and other streets in the city center.

By the time we reached Ingliston the rain had slowed to a drizzle, for which we were thankful, and were able to take some photos looking toward the curved right-of-way leading to the airport.

An inbound tram is about to take the curve leading into the Ingliston Park-and-Ride station, from which this photo was taken.  Its parking lot was filled, as this is the first station beyond the extra-fare Airport terminal.  The airfield's traffic control tower looms in the background.

We then began to work our way back toward Edinburgh's downtown, stopping here and there for photos, and eventually taking a bit of lunch at Morrisons, a large supermarket in a mall adjacent to the Gyle Center stop.  I was rapidly using up the supply of British currency I brought with me and upon John's cautioning advice, I was loath to use ATMs for more, as I would receive Scottish pounds, which could possibly present an annoyance if I were to try spending them below the border.  Meanwhile we were being teased by the possibility of sun filtering through the clouds and perhaps the appearance of light shadows.

An inbound tram stays on the mainline instead of heading into the Gogar depot and shop as it takes the curve approaching the Edinburgh Gateway stop.  Apparently the word "Gogar" derives from early Scots and means cuckoo.  I wonder if that's the appellation that Nimbys used to refer to supporters of the tramway when they fought (and lost) their attempt to prevent it from being built.

Edinburgh Gateway, an attractive and modern station shared with Scotrail, did not open until December 2016.  The glass enclosed interchange facility allows passengers from Glasgow and other parts of Scotland to access the international airport.

After being refreshed we continued toward the city, continuing to hop on and off trams at various stations along the way.

Grassed track is a feature at the Edinburgh Park Central station and at several other locations.  While it may be more expensive to maintain than a ballasted right-of-way, it provides the line with an attractive panache that is typical for French tramways (and in New Orleans).

My favorite photo of the day.  A scarce ray of sunlight bounces off the front of a tram that has scaled an overpass in front of a dark sky as it approaches the Bankhead station.  The line has a mix of grade separations and level road crossings, with the latter protected by traffic signals or stop signs.

Finally the rain stopped and we walked along Princes Street, observing both the trams and the facade of Edinburgh Castle.  We noted that there is a large amount of congestion along Edinburgh's main shopping street because of all the buses.  It would be nice is some of the lines could be rerouted onto a parallel street.

Two trams pass on the curve just west of Edinburgh Haymarket station on the west end of the city center.  The line has just left its reserved track and entered a short section of street track shared with motor traffic.

A tram heads outbound along Princes Street, at the end of a straight run through Edinburgh's principal shopping district.  It is unusual that not a single bus is blocking the view.

Edinburgh Castle from the south sidewalk of Princes Street.

Time was beginning to run short, and we soon returned to the bus terminal to pick up our luggage, and then walked the short distance to Waverley, Edinburgh's main railway station, located next to a large shopping mall.  John's train was earlier than mine, the 16:30 from Waverley to Kings Cross, and after seeing him off I had a fast "dinner" at the mall's KFC, as I knew I wouldn't have time for refreshment in Blackpool, and my train was leaving at 16:52.

My 150-mile ride to Blackpool, which included a transfer at Preston, was uneventful.  Both trains were on time and not crowded, especially the second one.  The first was in a comfortable diesel-hauled coach operated by Virgin West Coast, which was en route to Euston station in London (on a slower, longer schedule than John's Kings Cross-bound East Coast express), had an arrival time at Preston at 19:15, and the second, a very austere set of Northern DMUs from Manchester Victoria, left Preston at 19:41 for the 25-minute run to Blackpool North.  By the time I arrived it had begun raining again so I walked very fast and almost got lost heading for the Hotel Blackpool.  Luckily I ran into a group of young adults (pub crawlers?) at an unsigned intersection who directed me.  Wet, cold and tired I entered the hotel, which wasn't really that much more than a traditional Bed and Breakfast, and was heartily welcomed by the proprietors, who directed me to a roomy and comfortable accommodation via a series of stairs and passageways that made me think I was negotiating Fawlty Towers.  But where was Manuel?  I was out like a light before 21:30 after being up for some 32 hours since I had awakened in Montclair on the morning of August 13.

Just a note on the rain.  I was in the British Isles for 7 full days, and it rained in the course of every one of them.  Fortunately, unlike my experience in Edinburgh, a great deal of the bad weather occurred at night, with the precipitation clearing away soon afterward, which resulted in reasonably long periods of bright sun during most of my stay.

Part 2 of the report will cover my stay in Blackpool.


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  • Member since
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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, April 09, 2018 3:50 AM
Tuesday, August 15.  After an excellent night's sleep I awoke to overcast skies and headed down, across and down again to the hotel's breakfast room, where the aroma of frying bacon whetted my appetite for the quintessential full English breakfast.  There were a number of couples at other tables when I took my seat next to a window and related my order to one of the proprietors--one breakfast with tea, but hold the baked beans.  The fried eggs, sausage, bacon, grilled tomato, mushrooms and hash browns were delicious (and not too greasy), and while I ate, conversing with some of the others nearby, I saw the weather begin to brighten, and then turn to rain again.  The other visitors were all on "holiday," and lived in cities not too far away and were curious about why an American would come to Blackpool.

Of course I mentioned my interest in the tramway, but also said I enjoyed the laid back ambience of British resorts, and mentioned the Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, Susan Sarandon movie "Shall We Dance," which was shot in Blackpool (by Harvey Weinstein's company).  The same atmosphere is also prominent in one of my favorite British flicks, John Osbourne's "The Entertainer" (starring Laurence Olivier), which takes place in a similar setting, but further north in the resort of Morecambe (I guess they didn't want the trams to distract moviegoers from the drama).

I soon finished, and saw the hotel had all sorts of brochures about Blackpool, including several for the historic tram operation, which I collected.  I returned to the room, washed up and packed, finally going back down to check out and leave my bags until just before train time, which was scheduled for 17:12 that afternoon.  At about 9:00 I stepped out into bright sunlight for the 6-block trek down Banks Street to the Promenade, where I would begin my day's activities on the tramway.  As I walked the sky got darker and darker.  I heard thunder and soon big drops of rain were bouncing off me.  I spied the possibility of getting some protection from the elements from the marquee of a theater and raced toward it, almost getting there before the skies opened up.  The pounding thundershower lasted about 15 minutes, and then I saw blue sky in the distance.

First, a little about this resort city.  With a population of about 150,000, Blackpool was once Britain's largest and most famous destination for vacation goers, welcoming literally millions (17 at its peak after World War II) visitors every summer to its beaches and other warm-weather amusement venues.  Located on the Irish Sea, it had a network of tramway lines into my lifetime (which I rode in 1960), but by 1963 reduced to a single route, operating parallel to the seacoast northward for
11½ miles to the town of Fleetwood, where in former years a ferry operated to the Isle of Man.  The line was especially popular in the summer, carrying large numbers of tourists, many from nearby mill cities like Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield, to and from its amusement piers and bathing beaches, past Ferris wheels, roller coasters and the iconic Blackpool Tower, symbol of the city.

But time and technology have not been good for Blackpool's tourism, as the advent of low-cost jet flights and packaged vacations to resorts in countries like Spain and Portugal, where the weather is more dependable, has reduced the appeal of this community for holiday goers.  The future of the tramway, whose infrastructure and rolling stock were aging, had been in doubt, especially after a series of accidents crippled the line (including a tram catching fire), which led to a shutdown in 2007.  Fortunately the government decided to modernize the last of Britain's legacy tramways, and upgrade it to contemporary standards with new cars and a hefty reconstruction of its track and roadbed.

The resort city continues to attract famous performers to its entertainment venues and a proposal to introduce gambling a la Atlantic City was defeated (no doubt partly due to its "success" in that New Jersey seashore city).  It puts a great deal of effort into its illuminations at the end of each summer, from late August to early November, where the city (and trams) are brightly lit up with over a million lights in unusual and attractive patterns and tableaus (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackpool_Illuminations).  I witnessed it in 1960, and if I ever come back, I'd certainly bring a digital camera to record it.

The old traditional tram fleet operated for the last time on November 6, 2011, and on April 4, 2012 the new era began with 16 Bombardier Flexity-2 100-percent low-floor LRVs placed in service on the 38-stop line.  Many of the heritage cars were retained and spun off to a separate organization, Heritage Tram Tours, which runs its own vintage tram service over portions of the line.  I would ride both today.

From north to south the line operates in several milieus, starting with street running through a thriving traditional street-based commercial district of shops and services, to fast interurban-like reserved track between communities, and then along the paved seaside promenade past beaches and amusement venues to a terminal at the south end of the city.  Service runs every 10 minutes and was heavily patronized on this August day.  A branch is about to be constructed to bring trams from North Pier to the Blackpool North railroad station (basically through the neighborhood that houses the hotel I patronized) and 2 more identical Flexities have been added to the fleet for the extension.  In addition, 9 of the old Balloon double-deck cars from 1934 have been retained and modernized to handle summertime crowds (I saw one of them on the line later in the day).

Still buffeted by strong winds and the occasional raindrop I walked over to the closest stop, North Pier, and soon a northbound tram appeared.  I purchased a 24-hour ticket for GBP 5 from the conductor and rode all the way to the end of the line, Fleetwood Ferry, watching the weather improve through overcast, mostly cloudy, partly cloudy to finally clear, which it remained for the rest of the day.  I started my photography there, working my way by foot and tram to the southern end of the line.  See http://www.urbanrail.net/eu/uk/black/blackpool.htm for a map.

After stopping at their Fleetwood terminal, Blackpool trams navigate a clockwise loop through streets, passing the Pharos Lighthouse, a 93-foot structure constructed in 1840.  Despite being located on a residential street inland, it was used to guide ships safely through the treacherous sandbanks of a nearby estuary when properly lined up with a shorter lighthouse on the Irish Sea's beachfront. 

Above and below:  Two scenes along shopping streets in Fleetwood.  In the top view two Bombardier-built Flexity 2 trams pass each other on North Albert Street.  That thoroughfare feeds into Lord Street, the location of the lower photo.  Fleetwood's retailers appear to be quite prosperous.

After serving Fleetwood's business district, inbound trams are routed onto reserved track that first parallels a road, but then runs cross-country through fields and meadows like an interurban electric railway.  It traverses the village of Cleveleys on private right-of-way along the side of a road to Blackpool.  The location of this photo is the Lindel Road stop in Fleetwood.

With a Heritage Tram Tours schedule in hand (which was among the many sightseeing brochures I schrammed at the hotel), I continued toward Blackpool and saw there would be a 11:55 departure from the Cabin stop, and decided to photograph and ride it.  Even though it was a bit early, I spied a museum tram through the windshield of my LRV and got off as planned at Cabin, at approximately 11:40.  Alas, it was just a car out for a test run, and zipped past me, but I did get photos.

Above and below
:  Open-top Birkenhead tram 20, out for a test run, turns back just beyond the Cabin stop on the north side of Blackpool.  The beautifully restored four-wheeler was built by G. F. Milnes in 1900, and is on loan to Blackpool from the Wirral Transport Museum and Heritage Tramway in Merseyside (which I would visit later in the week).  Note the Irish Sea in the left background of both photos.

Blackpool Balloon 723 approaches its terminal at Cabin just before the heritage tram's 11:55 return to Pleasure Beach.  The double-decker was built as part of an order of 27 such cars by English Electric for Blackpool in 1934 and 1935.  Beloved and reliable, these trams constituted the backbone of the system's fleet until the Flexities came in 2012.  Nine of them remain on call for operation during periods of high demand, while another seven are on the Heritage Tramway Tours' roster.  A further few are in tramway museums.  Note the yellow and green Heritage Tram Stop sign.

I eventually boarded Balloon car 723 when it came along and turned back on the advertised, paying the "guard"
GBP 3½for a round trip to Pleasure Beach, the southern terminal of the heritage car service.  The schedule of the vintage tram line (see http://www.blackpoolheritage.com/httours/timetables/) varies depending on the season, day of the week, and any planned special events.  But on this typical summer weekday there were 20 scheduled round trips between North Pier and Pleasure Beach (on a 20-minute headway for the 12-minute run), with 4 extended further north to Cabin (5 more minutes).  It should be noted that the running time over the entire transit line, from Fleetwood Ferry to Starr Gate, is 55 minutes, and heritage cars operate to Fleetwood for special events.

It was most enjoyable viewing the line from the railfan seat on the top deck, and I even took a photo or two from that vantage point, followed by more at the Pleasure Beach loop.  By the way, this is Heritage Tram Tours mission, according to its website:

Heritage Tram Tours is the custodian of the unique heritage tram fleet of Blackpool Transport – the last surviving first generation British tramcar fleet still on their original tramway. In co-operation with Blackpool Transport and Blackpool Borough Council, Heritage Tram Tours aims to retain the operation of vintage tramcars in Blackpool, alongside the new light rail fleet, for the enjoyment and educational benefit of future generations, and to work towards achieving charitable status through the formation of a charitable trust, to care for the trams in perpetuity.

The view through the glass of a rear window on the upper deck of the Balloon car I rode, showing the Manchester Road stop with a northbound Flexity LRV pulling away.  Two of Blackpool's most important amusement venues are quite prominent in this photo, Blackpool Tower on the right and the "Big Wheel" on Central Pier at left.

Heritage Tram Tours' kiosk at its Pleasure Beach terminal loop.

Balloon car 715 lays over on the Pleasure Beach loop prior to its next run northward past the Tower to North Beach.

I continued on a regular car to the end of the line at Starr Gate (3 stops), returned to Pleasure Beach, and then rode another vintage car to the heart of the amusement area.  That and more will be the subjects of part 3 of this report.

With the edit button restored, part  3 test will now  be  inserted here, with photos (checking all posts on this thread for needed photos) to be added within 48 hours.
Finally, I rode a Flexity back to North Pier and walked to my hotel.  I gathered my luggage and continued to Blackpool North station, a trip that I felt was much faster now that it was daytime without rain.  I found a ticket vending machine, entered my credit card and the code I had received when I made the purchase on the web, and out popped my ticket.  One of the turnstiles accepted the credit card-sized form and I found my gate easily.  I was a bit early, but unfortunately the officious personnel guarding the entryways would not allow me onto the platform for photos of various other trains until mine was called.  The Northern DMU local, with open seating, left on time at 17:12 and made the 12-stop, 40-mile run in 85 minutes, arriving at Manchester Piccadilly on the advertised at 18:37

It was a short walk to the Ibis Styles, the equivalent of one stop on the tramway (Piccadilly Gardens).  I had not been very lucky weather-wise on my two previous visits to Manchester, as I encountered large amounts of rain, which, I was told, was not the least bit unusual for Britain's third largest city.  Thus I was not surprised that weather was the theme of the unusual Ibis Styles-branded hotel.  Upon passing through the front door, I saw its quirky art theme, with a blaze of umbrellas hanging from the entryway's ceiling.  There was an attended table in this space, where I was welcomed and asked my name.  It was keyed into a laptop, and almost immediately I was handed a plastic electronic room key.  The hotel's lobby was but a few steps away through a second door, and it did not have a formal front desk either.  However, there were computers on pedestals for the guests and a bar-lounge and restaurant that could not be missed.  This hotel was certainly distinctive in a pleasant manner, and it gave new meaning to the term, "modren."  See
https://wwwontheluce.com/ibis-styles-manchester-review/ for a review.  The elevators were just a few steps away.  And the hotel's budget prices and all-inclusive buffet breakfast was certainly another plus.
As I was walking to the elevator, I was greeted by Andrew Beech, who with Richard Horne (a railfan that I had not met before), would spend the next three nights here in Manchester and would also accompany me during the next few days to other tram venues in the area.  After dropping my luggage in the room and freshening up, we met in the lobby and proceeded to Manchester's Chinatown, where we had some excellent food, drink and conversation.  Both had been living in Croydon, a suburb of London (about 10 miles south) that is the home of London Tramlink (formerly Croydon Tramlink), the place where trams were re-introduced to Great Britain's capital in 2000.  But Andrew, with whom I traveled previously in France, Spain and the Czech Republic, was now in the process of moving from this suburban home to Ledbury, a small village near Birmingham, so I was grateful that he was able to take a little time off from the trauma of settling in a new house to spend time with me (although I don't know the degree this was appreciated by his wife).  Richard, who remains in Croydon, has many connections with Australia, and so we were quite busy talking about tram developments throughout dinner.  We would meet again for breakfast the following morning.

Above and next page::  Two views of 1934-built Blackpool Balloons just south of the Tower.  No. 715 above is part of the heritage fleet, and is painted in Blackpool's traditional green and cream liveryNo. 711 on the next page is on the transit company' roster, and is one of nine painted purple that may be used to meet demand that cannot be fulfilled by LRVs on busy days.  It was probably out for a test run. 
Wednesday, August 16.  It rained heavily overnight, part of a pattern of some rain every day during my entire visit to the British Isles, but on the other hand, like my experience in Blackpool, plenty of sunshine occurred as well--in fact skies were Kodachrome blue for all of today's daylight hours.  Andrew and Richard would spend the entire day in Nottingham, but my plan was to meet up with them in the afternoon, as I would ride the Midland Metro light rail line from Wolverhampton to Birmingham in the morning, and then continue on by train to join them at about 14:00 for an afternoon of railfanning (to be covered in chapter 5).

I finished breakfast at 8:30 and then headed for Manchester Piccadilly, where I had sufficient time to collect my ticket from the fare vending machine before boarding the 9:07 Cross Country streamlined DMU.  My reserved seat faced backwards and on top of that was located in a row with a blank wall instead of a window, but no matter, there were plenty of unoccupied places and I grabbed a good one facing forward next to a large clear pane of glass.  The 62 miles to Wolverhampton were devoured in a little over an hour, and in fact the train arrived two minutes early at 10:11.

The rear of the Cross Country 220-series Voyager DMU (Bombardier 2001) that I rode from Manchester, shown leaving Wolverhampton from the elevated concourse that provides access to the platforms.



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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, April 16, 2018 3:51 AM
Balloon car 715 lays over on the Pleasure Beach loop prior to its next run northward past the Tower to North Beach.

I continued on a regular car to the end of the line at Starr Gate (3 stops), returned to Pleasure Beach, and then rode another vintage car to the heart of the amusement area. I took some photos at Starr Gate and then walked back to Pleasure Beach, stopping for a few additional views along the quiet, park-like, semi-elevated walkway located between the Promenade/trams and the beach/sea.  Starr Gate Depot was built along the old loop in 2011 and now houses the modern tram fleet.  Since they are double ended, service cars need not circumscribe the loop and instead reverse after the double track morphs into the single track carhouse lead.  The huge Rigby Road Depot from 1935 is still extant, and now houses the heritage fleet, including all the Balloon trams.  It is accessible via street trackage via Lytham and Hopton Roads from the Promenade near the Manchester Square stop.

The rear of a Flexity near the Waterloo Road stop south of the Tower.  The dunes and beach fronting the Irish Sea are shown on the left.


 Further southward, the line passes "The Big One," a roller coaster built in 1953-54.

Above and below
:  The Starr Gate terminal of Blackpool's tramway.  In the upper view a Bombardier Flexity has just discharged its passengers and will soon pull forward, change ends and return to the stop to pick up the passengers congregating on the northbound platform.  The lower photo shows the start of the single-track access to the carhouse where trams turn back.


A view of an oncoming Flexity LRV paused at the St. Chad's Road stop, from alongside the boat tram's operator.

I then rode back 3 stops to Pleasure Beach, where I found that the next heritage departure from Pleasure Beach, would be a boat tram.  That would be perfect for this sunny and warm afternoon and I felt very lucky.  I've ridden three of the four boats that have been preserved in the U. S. (two on the Market Street Railway in San Francisco and one each at the National Capital Trolley Museum in Colesville, Maryland and the Western Railroad Museum in Rio Vista, California), but this would be my first trip on one in its native habitat.

Above and below
:  Two photos at North Pier, featuring boat car 600.  With most heritage trips terminating at the pier, a third track was installed to allow cars to lay over, out of the way of regular tram service.  The War Memorial obelisk shown in the lower view was built of granite in 1923.

I rode back as far as the Tower, and then took photos in that neighborhood, which by the afternoon had become very busy with tourists and vacationers.

A southbound Flexity has just passed the Blackpool Tower, which was built in 1894.  Inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris, it is 518 feet high, and contains an aquarium, circus and ballroom at its foot, and viewing platforms at its pinnacle, which are served by elevators (lifts) and is now called the Tower Eye.

Above and below:  Two views of 1934-built Blackpool Balloons just south of the Tower.  No. 711 in the upper view is on the transit company' roster, and is one of nine painted purple that may be used to meet demand that cannot be fulfilled by LRVs on busy days.  It was probably taken out for a test run.  No. 715 in the lower photo is part of the heritage fleet, and is painted in Blackpool's traditional green and cream livery.

Finally, I rode a Flexity back to North Pier and walked to my hotel.  I gathered my luggage and continued to Blackpool North station, a trip that I felt was much faster now that it was daytime without rain.  I found a ticket vending machine, entered my credit card and the code I had received when I made the purchase on the web, and out popped my ticket.  One of the turnstiles accepted the credit card-sized form and I found my gate easily.  I was a bit early, but unfortunately the officious personnel guarding the entryways would not allow me onto the platform for photos of various other trains until mine was called.  The Northern DMU local, with open seating, left on time at 17:12 and made the 12-stop, 40-mile run in 85 minutes, arriving at Manchester Piccadilly on the advertised at 18:37

It was a short walk to the Ibis Styles, the equivalent of one stop on the tramway (Piccadilly Gardens).  I had not been very lucky weather-wise on my two previous visits to Manchester, as I encountered large amounts of rain, which, I was told, was not the least bit unusual for Britain's third largest city.  Thus I was not surprised that weather was the theme of the unusual Ibis Styles-branded hotel.  Upon passing through the front door, I saw its quirky art theme, with a blaze of umbrellas hanging from the entryway's ceiling.  There was an attended table in this space, where I was welcomed and asked my name.  It was keyed into a laptop, and almost immediately I was handed a plastic electronic room key.  The hotel's lobby was but a few steps away through a second door, and it did not have a formal front desk either.  However, there were computers on pedestals for the guests and a bar-lounge and restaurant that could not be missed.  This hotel was certainly distinctive in a pleasant manner, and it gave new meaning to the term, "modren."  See
https://wwwontheluce.com/ibis-styles-manchester-review/ for a review.  The elevators were just a few steps away.  And the hotel's budget prices and all-inclusive buffet breakfast was certainly another plus.

As I was walking to the elevator, I was greeted by Andrew Beech, who with Richard Horne (a railfan that I had not met before), would spend the next three nights here in Manchester and would also accompany me during the next few days to other tram venues in the area.  After dropping my luggage in the room and freshening up, we met in the lobby and proceeded to Manchester's Chinatown, where we had some excellent food, drink and conversation.  Both had been living in Croydon, a suburb of London (about 10 miles south) that is the home of London Tramlink (formerly Croydon Tramlink), the place where trams were re-introduced to Great Britain's capital in 2000.  But Andrew, with whom I traveled previously in France, Spain and the Czech Republic, was now in the process of moving from this suburban home to Ledbury, a small village near Birmingham, so I was grateful that he was able to take a little time off from the trauma of settling in a new house to spend time with me (although I don't know the degree this was appreciated by his wife).  Richard, who remains in Croydon, has many connections with Australia, and so we were quite busy talking about tram developments throughout dinner.  We would meet again for breakfast the following morning.
Previous page:  A view of an oncoming Flexity LRV paused at the St. Chad's Road stop, from alongside the boat tram's operator.
I then rode back 3 stops to Pleasure Beach, where I found that the next heritage departure from Pleasure Beach, would be a boat tram.  That would be perfect for this sunny and warm afternoon and I felt very lucky.  I've ridden three of the four boats that have been preserved in the U. S. (two on the Market Street Railway in San Francisco and one each at the National Capital Trolley Museum in Colesville, Maryland and the Western Railroad Museum in Rio Vista, California), but this would be my first trip on one in its native habitat.
I rode back as far as the Tower, and then took photos in that neighborhood, which by the afternoon had become very busy with tourists and vacationers.
Above and below:  Two photos at North Pier, featuring boat car 600.  With most heritage trips terminating at the pier, a third track was installed to allow cars to lay over, out of the way of regular tram service.  The War Memorial obelisk shown in the lower view was built of granite in 1923.


A southbound Flexity has just passed the Blackpool Tower, which was built in 1894.  Inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris, it is 518 feet high, and contains an aquarium, circus and ballroom at its foot, and viewing platforms at its pinnacle, which are served by elevators (lifts) and is now called the Tower Eye.
Finally, I rode a Flexity back to North Pier and walked to my hotel.  I gathered my luggage and continued to Blackpool North station, a trip that I felt was much faster now that it was daytime without rain.  I found a ticket vending machine, entered my credit card and the code I had received when I made the purchase on the web, and out popped my ticket.  One of the turnstiles accepted the credit card-sized form and I found my gate easily.  I was a bit early, but unfortunately the officious personnel guarding the entryways would not allow me onto the platform for photos of various other trains until mine was called.  The Northern DMU local, with open seating, left on time at 17:12 and made the 12-stop, 40-mile run in 85 minutes, arriving at Manchester Piccadilly on the advertised at 18:37

It was a short walk to the Ibis Styles, the equivalent of one stop on the tramway (Piccadilly Gardens).  I had not been very lucky weather-wise on my two previous visits to Manchester, as I encountered large amounts of rain, which, I was told, was not the least bit unusual for Britain's third largest city.  Thus I was not surprised that weather was the theme of the unusual Ibis Styles-branded hotel.  Upon passing through the front door, I saw its quirky art theme, with a blaze of umbrellas hanging from the entryway's ceiling.  There was an attended table in this space, where I was welcomed and asked my name.  It was keyed into a laptop, and almost immediately I was handed a plastic electronic room key.  The hotel's lobby was but a few steps away through a second door, and it did not have a formal front desk either.  However, there were computers on pedestals for the guests and a bar-lounge and restaurant that could not be missed.  This hotel was certainly distinctive in a pleasant manner, and it gave new meaning to the term, "modren."  See
https://wwwontheluce.com/ibis-styles-manchester-review/ for a review.  The elevators were just a few steps away.  And the hotel's budget prices and all-inclusive buffet breakfast was certainly another plus.
As I was walking to the elevator, I was greeted by Andrew Beech, who with Richard Horne (a railfan that I had not met before), would spend the next three nights here in Manchester and would also accompany me during the next few days to other tram venues in the area.  After dropping my luggage in the room and freshening up, we met in the lobby and proceeded to Manchester's Chinatown, where we had some excellent food, drink and conversation.  Both had been living in Croydon, a suburb of London (about 10 miles south) that is the home of London Tramlink (formerly Croydon Tramlink), the place where trams were re-introduced to Great Britain's capital in 2000.  But Andrew, with whom I traveled previously in France, Spain and the Czech Republic, was now in the process of moving from this suburban home to Ledbury, a small village near Birmingham, so I was grateful that he was able to take a little time off from the trauma of settling in a new house to spend time with me (although I don't know the degree this was appreciated by his wife).  Richard, who remains in Croydon, has many connections with Australia, and so we were quite busy talking about tram developments throughout dinner.  We would meet again for breakfast the following morning.

Above and below::  Two views of 1934-built Blackpool Balloons just south of the Tower.  No. 715 above is part of the heritage fleet, and is painted in Blackpool's traditional green and cream liveryNo. 711 on the next page is on the transit company' roster, and is one of nine painted purple that may be used to meet demand that cannot be fulfilled by LRVs on busy days.  It was probably out for a test run. 
The rear of the Cross Country 220-series Voyager DMU (Bombardier 2001) that I rode from Manchester, shown leaving Wolverhampton from the elevated concourse that provides access to the platforms.
The tramway, or light rail line, between Wolverhampton (population about 250,000) and Birmingham, Britain's second largest city (with 1,100,000 souls), is called the Midland Metro.  For the most part it uses the right-of-way of a portion of the Great Western Railway that had been deemed surplus, a line whose passenger service ran between the two cities until 1972.  Apparently like many other lines that got the axe during the Beeching era, it was needed after all, and the initial 12.5-mile long replacement tramway connecting the two cities was opened in 1999.  However, instead of continuing to the former Wolverhampton (Low Level) railroad station, its outer end was routed off the railway right-of-way onto street trackage to St. Georges, a terminal near the heart of the city center. 

Unfortunately the initial ridership of 5 million per year did not live up to expectations, but a short (less than a mile) extension from Birmingham Snow Hill to the main railway station, New Street (the stop called Grand Central after the name of a shopping mall) on the lower end, which opened in 2016, has already increased patronage by 20 percent to 6 million.  A further extension into the heart of Birmingham (a little over an additional mile), scheduled to open in 2021, no doubt will attract even more passengers.  By 2020 a short branch (about a half-mile) at the outer end of the line, will be opened to the main Wolverhampton Railway station, which is where I arrived this morning from Manchester; in the old days it was called Wolverhampton (High Level).  Both extension projects will integrate the Midland Metro into the national transportation system, as passengers will have direct access to the main railway and bus stations of the two cities (whose combined metropolitan area is the second largest in Britain, with a population of 3.7 million) at both ends.  And, of course, the LRVs will soon reach the core of Birmingham's shopping district.

Midland Metro's original rolling stock consisted of 16 AnsaldoBreda T-69 two-section 70-percent low-floor cars, but they only lasted for about 15 years, as the entire roster was replaced in 2015 with 21 CAF Urbos 3 5-section 100-percent low-floor units.  The larger number and length of the newer cars (79 feet vs. 108 feet) take into account the expected increase in demand once the extensions are completed.  (And even further expansion is planned for the future.)
Anyway, the Wolverhampton project and its associated track renewal resulted in the tramway temporarily being temporarily cut back two stations to Priestfield, and so instead of walking to St. Georges from the rail station (about 0.2 miles), my effort was cut in half, and I headed for the city's bus terminal via a pedestrianized walkway at 10:20, just in time for a route 79 departure (from "Stand" R) for Priestfield
Since it was after 9:30 I was eligible for a "Day Saver" ticket, which I purchased from the driver of the double-deck coach.  The regular bus service on the 79 was supplemented by short turns for the 5 stops, where I (and a few other passengers) alighted for a short walk down a paved path to the tram stop.  The bus traveled alongside the tracks on Bilston Road and I was able to observe the construction, including the point where the line leaves the streets and enters the former railroad right-of-way.  I had ridden the entire line on two previous trips to Birmingham, but aboard the Ansaldo T-69 cars, so as I trundled down the walkway from the bus stop, I obtained my first view of the new CAF cars, which were using a crossover to turn beyond the Priestfield stop.  Thus, having ridden all the way to St. Georges before, I wasn't too disappointed that the street track was temporarily out of service.
The trams were operating every 7 minutes, and that gave me sufficient time to pause at two way stations for photos.

Pretty in Pink.  CAF-built car 19 has just dropped the last of its passengers at the Midland Metro's temporary Priestfield terminal, and is shown gradually moving past the crossover, where it will change ends and head back to the inbound platform to pick up passengers.

Car 30 approaches the inbound platform of the Wednesbury Parkway stop.  A third track, mostly hidden to the left of the outbound platform, is used by trams leaving the nearby carhouse and shop area (behind the photographer) to make their way to Wolverhampton.
The second photo stop was at The Hawthorns, a joint station with the former Great Western Railway line from Snow Hill to Stourbridge, Kidderminster and eventually Worcester.  Rail service through this station also had been discontinued in 1972, but restored again to a full schedule in 1995.  From The Hawthorns to Birmingham Snow Hill the right-of-way now consists of four tracks, two for DMU operation and two for the Midland Metro's LRVs.
A Midland Metro train approaches The Hawthorns, while the original Great Western line to Stourbridge Junction turns in from the left.


Above and below: Two views at The Hawthorns, now a joint station and transfer point for
West Midlands DMU service and Midland Metro electric trams.  Rail service on the 24-mile line to Worcester is frequent, but not often enough for me to have been able to achieve a photo of both types of cars in the same frame of my camera.  Had I been spending the entire day in the area I am sure I could have gotten the juxtaposition.  Also, I may have had the chance to ride to Stourbridge Town, on a branch where West Midlands utilizes the lightweight Parry People Mover.  The DMU is a 3-car Bombardier-built 172-series Turbostar from 2010-11.
The Midland Metro originally terminated on a pair of side tracks at Snow Hill (much like the Los Angeles Gold Line uses two tracks of Union Station), but when it was extended toward the city center, it was ramped onto a street that crosses the railroad on an overpass.  I rode all the way to the Grand Central stop at New Street, Birmingham's principal station, and then, seeing I still had adequate time before my 12:49 departure to Nottingham, walked back for some photos of the new street running section, which is mainly on pedestrianized streets.

:Above and below:  Two views along the recently opened extension of the Midland Metro in an urban landscape along city streets from Snow Hill station to New Street station.  The area is very busy, so I had to wait a few headways to get photos without too many people.  The lower photo was taken on Bull Street, just east of the Bull Street stop, while the upper view shows a car that has just left the Grand Central terminal and is approaching the Corporation Street stop

In looking back at this morning's events, I couldn't help thinking of the times I rode Pittsburgh's "Jolly Trolley" PCC 1734, which was painted in a similar shade of Midland Metro pink.  The start of my day was extremely successful, and I was soon aboard the 12:49 Cross Country DMU, which left on time and reached Nottingham, 45 miles away at 14:03, in the prescribed 74 minutes after 6 intermediate stops.
  • Member since
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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, April 16, 2018 9:22 AM

With the edit button restored, No. 3 has been inserted in its right place in the earlier post, and here continues the completion of the postings for the UK for this trip:

Wednesday, August 16 continued.  Arrival in Nottingham was on the advertised a few minutes after 2 o'clock, and after I bought a day ticket from a machine for GBP 4, I found Andrew and Richard waiting for me at the elevated tramway station.

Called Nottingham Express Transit, or NET, the 20-mile long tramway network in this city of roughly 275,000 residents was opened in two phases, with the two lines that run northward from the railway station through the downtown area coming first in 2004, followed by two extensions continuing south and southwestward in 2015, more than doubling the length of the now 51-station network.  Clare and I visited Nottingham in 2005, when I rode the original system, which I liked very much.  The main purpose of this visit was to cover the new branches, whose trams are through routed with the lines to the north, which makes the lines quite long (see
http://www.urbanrail.net/eu/uk/nott/nottingham.htm for a map).
Nottingham's original rolling stock consisted of 15 2003-built Adtranz (now Bombardier) Incentro cars, which were followed by 22 Alstom Citadis units, built in 2013-14.  Both are double-ended 100-percent low-floor cars, and are interchanged freely between the two lines.

The system is quite successful with an annual ridership averaging 16.4 million.  Headways on both lines average 7 minutes in base periods, being increased to every 5 during rush hours, which means that on the 13 or 14-station section of joint operation through the city center, frequencies range from 2½ to 3½ minutes.

Andrew and Richard had covered the northern lines in the morning, so we were all on the same wavelength for riding and inspecting the new additions.  Thus, after some photos at the station, we first rode line 1 (which also has been color coded as the Green Line) to Toton Lane.  It was a very pleasant ride, a combination of street running and reserved trackage (a poster child for the light rail mode's flexibility) that took about 30 minutes. 
Above and below: The profile of this style of Citadis front is quite pleasant.  Colin Slater is the primary sportscaster for Nottingham's football team.  The aesthetics of the Incentro in the lower photo is much more traditional, but this view mainly features the station's furniture.
 The outer end of the line operates on reserved track that fits in well with its suburban surroundings.  An Alstom Citadis 302 approaches the Inham Road stop, one in from the terminal.
An outbound Citadis pauses at the Cator Lane stop.  NET stands for Nottingham Express Transit.
Then we worked our way back from Toton Lane to the railway station, taking photos in areas that looked interesting.
An Adtranz (now Bombardier) Derby (England)-built Incentro from 2003 is operating northbound, alongside a French built Citadis 302 from ten years later.  The steeple in the background is from a decommissioned church.
Back at the station, I finally got a photo showing both types equipment in the same frame. 
Then it was out line 2 (purple) to Clifton South (about 20 minutes), followed by a similar modus operandi for photos on the return.
It had begun to cloud up, and after returning to the station, Andrew and Richard decided to go back to Manchester.  I had pre-purchased a ticket at the economical "Advance" fare for my return trip to Manchester, and realized there was still a sufficient amount of time for me to ride the lines to the north, and so I indicated I'd join them for dinner later.
One of the most appealing sections of the Toton Lane branch is a street-running section in the town of Beeston.  Chillwell Road is the type of neighborhood shopping street that was once commonplace in the United States, with a pair of trolley tracks serving the local populace.  The lack of motor traffic is a result of the minimization of parking and the rerouting of through traffic elsewhere.  The view is at Imperial Road with the Beeston Methodist Church in the background.

Holy Trinity is the second station inward from the Clifton South Park and Ride terminal.  An outbound Incentro is shown.

Although there was not enough time for photography, I went ahead and caught the next car to Phoenix Park and rode through the streets of hilly Nottingham.  Of note was that cars in opposite directions run on separate parallel streets at one point and there is some bi-directional single track at the outer end.  Beyond the junction at Highbury Vale the line to Hacknall is not terribly interesting, as it runs on the same right-of-way as East Midlands DMU trains to Worksop (25 miles).  This branch too is single track and it has passing sidings at each station.  One of these days I will have to position myself on an overpass and try to get photos of trams and DMUs passing each other. 
A telephoto view along Southchurch Drive from Clifton Centre, one station further inbound.  Although much of this line operates on streets through commercial areas, parts appear quite leafy.

A wrapped Incentro is shown running outbound toward Clifton South over one of the line's two river crossings.  The Wilford Toll Bridge over the Trent River was opened in 1870.  Retired in 1974, it was renovated and then reopened for pedestrians and bicycles in 1980, with the tram line following in 2015.  As far as advertising wraps are concerned I was pleased that I saw very few on my travels in Britain, specifically only 1 in Blackpool, 3 in Edinburgh and none in Birmingham.

I returned to Manchester on the 18:47 train, which arrived on time at 20:36.  It was a crowded 2-car East Midlands DMU, but still impressive, showing how dependable the railways in Great Britain are--at least until they're not.

I met Andrew and Richard at the hotel and our dinner was enjoyable.  It rained again overnight. 
 Thursday, August 17.  My friends and I had separate agendas for the day.  They were going to travel to Llandudno in Wales to ride the Great Orme Tramway, while I planned to go to Sheffield to ride that city's Supertram.  After breakfast I headed over to Manchester Piccadilly in gloomy weather for my 8:20 TransPennine DMU, carefully avoiding a large number of puddles that had formed from the previous evening's downpour.
I obtained my prepaid ticket from a fare vending machine (after inserting my credit card and the code on my confirmation), which in this case included the optional "PlusBus" feature that added a systemwide tram and bus day ticket for an extra GBP 4 (only 20 cents cheaper than if I bought it in Sheffield).  I took an empty forward facing window seat on the 3-car DMU for the 48-minute scheduled express run, even though my official seat assignment was for the exact opposite, but nobody bothered me.  The scheduled arrival time of 9:08 would give me 2 hours to ride the lines to Malin Bridge and Middlewood before joining John Hayward, who would be arriving from London at 11:00.  We planned to meet a few minutes thereafter at Fitzalan Square, one station toward the city center from the railway station and ride and photograph the remainder of the system (the most interesting part) to Meadowhall Interchange and Halfway (and the short branch to Heddings Park if we had the time).  See http://www.urbanrail.net/eu/uk/sheff/sheffield.htm for a map.
But things did not go as planned.  Twenty minutes after our departure we came to a stop in the middle of nowhere and sat.  A public address announcement was made that a freight train was stalled on the tracks ahead of us.  We waited.  A dmu passed us going in the opposite direction.  At 9:30 we began to back up.  An announcement was made that we would be returning to Manchester, and then follow an alternate route to Sheffield.  We passengers were given a complimentary pastry as recompense.  We got back to the Stockport waystation at 9:52 and many passengers detrained.  Finally we pulled into the same platform from which we first boarded the train--at about 10:00--and all the remaining passengers were told to "abandon ship."
The annunciators on the platform indicated there would be a 10:20 train to Sheffield (which was a regularly scheduled run).  I found an employee to inquire about the indication and was told that the train to Sheffield would soon pull in and it will leave on the advertised, but use a diversionary route, with arrival planned some 90 minutes after departure rather than the usual 50.  And so it was, with the 10:20 train running via Huddersfield and a great many junctions.  I left a message for John on his phone while all this was going on and we spoke at about 10:25.  He indicated he would wait for me and he was right there when the train pulled in at 11:55.  So instead of me having two hours of free time before meeting John, it was he who had to wait for almost an hour before we could get together.
As we got close to Sheffield the skies began to clear and for the most part we had good sunlight for the afternoon.

John reminded me that pre-Beeching there were two direct lines between Manchester and Sheffield with the Hope Valley line (Midland Railway) retained, and the shorter, faster electrified (1500 volts DC) Great Central route through the Pennines via the Woodhead tunnel abandoned!  Pity it wasn't still around.

We were quite fortunate, as when we left the station and reached the Sheffield Station-Sheffield Hallam University tram stop, the first car in sight was No. 120, which is painted in the colors of Sheffield's legacy tramway, which was abandoned in October, 1960.  I had the opportunity to ride it on my first trip to Europe in the summer of 1960, but foolishly I chose to concentrate on the London Underground, Blackpool and the Isle of Man instead; all are still in operation, as compared to lines like Grimsby & Immingham and Swansea & Mumbles, which are long gone (I did get to ride and photograph Glasgow's trams on the trip, however).
Inbound Siemens-Duewag built No. 120 has just pulled out of the Sheffield Hallam University station, on a ledge at the end of a long passageway over the railroad tracks at Sheffield Station.  The car was painted cream with blue trim upon the 50th anniversary of the abandonment of Sheffield's original tramway in 1960.
The South Yorkshire Supertram opened in 1994 and serves the city of Sheffield, with a population of about a half million.  A very successful network, covering 18 miles and serving 48 stations, it carries up to 15 million passengers per year over its 3 through-routed, 5-branch color-coded network.  The two main routes, the Blue and the Yellow, run every 10 minutes in rush hours and every 12 during the base period, which is not as frequent as service on the tramways in the other cities I visited.  However, with the two routes overlapping in places, service through the city center runs at 5- and 6-minute frequencies.  But the short Purple line to Herdings Park (with only two stops on the branch) operates only every 30 minutes at all times, except oddly on Sundays, when its other end is rerouted, giving it a frequency of every 20 minutes, the same as other lines.  That allows Sunday service to the Meadowhall shopping mall, a major traffic generator, to run at a combined 10-minute headway. The Supertram was originally operated by local interests, but since 1998 it is under the management of Stagecoach,* which has applied its own livery to the cars.  On my first visit the cars were painted in a silver color scheme, and then went through a traction white with orange, red and blue striping phase.  (I haven't scanned my "silver days" photos.)
* Stagecoach is one of Britain's most prominent local and intercity bus operators, and can be found it other countries throughout the world as well.  We know it in the United States as Coach U. S. A. and Megabus.  As far as rail service is concerned it holds a stake in the management of a number of Britain's privatized train companies, including East Midlands, which I rode on this trip.  Most interesting (at least for me) was the period from 1990 to 2001 when under the leadership of Bob Docherty, it restored and operated Brill four-wheelers in Sintra, Portugal.
Sheffield Supertram 207, one of 7 dual-powered (750 v DC and 25 kV AC) Citylink vehicles built by Vossloh Espana in 2014-15, in test operation on the inbound side of the Manor Top/Elm Tree stop of the Yellow and Blue Lines.  Since their construction in Spain the carbuilder was sold to Stadler, and since our visit the units themselves have been placed into service--prior to the future inauguration of the tram-train operation.  The train portion of the line will run over Network Rail tracks and therefore the cars also carry the prefix 399, indicating their British Rail system class.  The three-section, 100-percent low-floor double-ended cars have 4 doors on each side, but none are in the center section.
The rolling stock from Supertram's origin has been 25 Siemens-Duewag 40-percent low-floor cars.  These units are now being supplemented by 7 Citylink tram-train cars from Vossloh, and although the tram-train still has a while to go before its implementation, the dual-voltage cars have been delivered and it was our hope to see some of them.  And as it turned out we were lucky, as when we took our first photostop at Manor Top, we came upon one of them in test operation.  We scurried across busy Ridgeway Road and were able to get a photo of No. 207 before it pulled away.  We also got a photograph of Siemens car in an all-blue advertising wrap.
Another view at Manor Top/Elm Tree station, this time in the outbound direction, showing one of the very few Siemens-Duewag Supertram units painted in all-over advertising colors.  In this case, car 111's all blue livery promotes East Midlands Trains, one of the affiliates of the tramway operator, Stagecoach.
The line to Halfway is my favorite and we proceeded out to the terminal with stops for photos in both directions.  Its characteristics remind me of what a modernized Belgian Vicinal could have been, operating in pavement along narrow streets, as well as along sections of reserved track at the sides of roads, with some cross-country reservation thrown in too.  The name, Halfway, raises an obvious question: what is it halfway to?  Most people I asked did not know, but some said it is halfway between Sheffield and Worksop, and others halfway between Rotherham and Chesterfield.  But there was no consensus.
The Blue Line rails converge onto single track for the line's terminal at Halfway, adjacent to a large park-and-ride lot and an easily accomplished across-the-platform bus transfer.
Here are some photos of the Blue Line, shown in sequence from its outer to inner end, although some were made on our outbound trip and others on our return.  All photos shown below are of Siemens- Duewag cars that began coming off the assembly line in Dusseldorf in 1992, and had since been repainted into the official Supertram color scheme.
Above:  Two photos near the Hackenthorpe station.  In the upper view car 117 has just turned off narrow Sheffield Road and entered some attractive reservation before its stop.  The lower view of car 110 is just west of the station.  Parking, stopping and even standing are discouraged here.


The two "Birley" stops, Birley Moor Road and Birley Lane.  In the upper photo car 113 has just come off Sheffield Road to make the station stop, while below, No. 124 partially leaves the pavement of Birley Lane alongside the parking lot of the Birley Wood Golf Course.  Note that one track is anchored in concrete, the other on prw.
The inner portion of the Blue Line, which is shared with the Purple Line.  The trams climb and curve dramatically as they overcome the grade along Park Grange Road from the city to the heights of the Cutlers View, Arbourthorne and Spring Lawe neighborhoods.
After our arrival in the city center we headed out the Yellow Line to Meadowhall Interchange. Much of this route, which passes the system's carhouse and shop, operates near or alongside railroad rights-of-way before it terminates at Meadowhall Interchange, a joint station with the railway system adjacent to a busy shopping mall.  By now clouds had moved in so we did not stop for photos along the way.  When we arrived at the terminal John decided it would be much quicker to return home from this station via Doncaster and King's Cross (East Coast Main Line) compared to going back to Sheffield and riding the Midland route to St. Pancras.  So we bid each other farewell, and I began heading back to the city center.  (See http://www.urbanrail.net/eu/uk/sheff/sheffield.htm for a map.)
But miracles do happen and the clouds vanished, prodding me to stop off at the Valley Centertainment station for photos of the Yellow Line and then to see what I could see at the carhouse.  I was amply rewarded when I arrived at Nunnery Square as I was able to walk along the driveway leading to the shop without trespassing, and get a telephoto shot of the dual powered Vossloh Citylink tram-train car 207 again.
The tram-train itself is an interesting story.  The success of providing commuter train riders a one-seat ride into the city centers of Karlsruhe and other German cities led to pressure on the U. K.'s Department for Transportation to examine this combination of modes, which it did, designing a demonstration (or pilot) project to test the concept between Sheffield and Rotherham.  To quote a paper, "its objective is to demonstrate the costs and benefits of operating a standard kind of continental design of Tram-Train on the national rail network. Its benefits include the potential for lower infrastructure capital and maintenance costs compared to heavy rail service . . ."  

Above and below::  In the upper photo, Supertram cars 106 and 121 pass just east of the Yellow Line's Valley Centertainment station.  The tracks at right are used for freight service over Network Rail and were originally built by the Great Central Railway.  The stop serves a "leisure park" that contains family entertainment venues including movie theaters, miniature golf, bowling, an amusement park and lots of food.  The view on the below is of dual-voltage car 207 (the same one out earlier in test service) at the company's carhouse and shop.  The 7 low-floor Vossloh cars will use a new stretch of track, called the Tinsley Chord, to reach former Great Central rails (shown in the upper view) at a point two stations further northeast of the Valley Centertainment stop, and operate over that line to Rotherham.
Thus the idea was to see whether it would be worthwhile to adopt the technology for cities throughout Britain.  Part of a freight line running parallel to Sheffield's Yellow tram line would be electrified, a connection would be built and service would be extended for 3 miles to the center of Rotherham (population 260,000) and then two miles further to another shopping mall (Parkgate), which could be a major traffic generator for the line.  The plan calls for service to be operated every 20 minutes from the center of Sheffield via the Yellow Line to South Meadowhall and then onto the ex-Great Central freight line to Rotherham Central station and beyond to Parkgate Retail Park.  We did see the junction with the "Tinsley Chord," the electrified connection to the parallel freight line that will soon see tram-train operation.  Running time is slated to be 26 minutes, which compares to the current Yellow Line schedule of 19 minutes to Meadowhall Interchange and the regular mainline rail service over the former Midland Railway from Sheffield to Rotherham of 11 minutes (express) to 18 minutes (stopping at Meadowhall Interchange).  Since the mall at Meadowhall would still have to be served after the tram-train is inaugurated, Supertrams other than the 3 per hour going to Rotherham would also have to be scheduled.  As a result 7 cars were ordered from Vossloh for the project (see photos in the preceding segment and this one), which are similar to those recently delivered to Karlsruhe.  These units went into service prior to the end of 2017, a short while after John and I saw the one being tested.  Dual-powered, they are able to run on 750-volt DC current (which is used on the Supertram and will also be used on the extension to Rotherham Parkgate over Network Rail), as well as 25 kV AC, which is the standard for Britain's [now dormant] plan for the electrification of the Midland mainline from London St. Pancras to Sheffield. That's the good news.
The bad news is that the project has become quite controversial, as it was supposed to be in operation by the end of 2015 and now is scheduled to be inaugurated by the end of 2018, three years late (if that new goal is attained).  Its cost has increased five-fold (500 percent, 15 million pounds to 75 million) so I will be curious how the "lower capital infrastructure costs" cited will be attained.  In any case, we shall see what develops.
Once back in the city center, I took a few more photos and rode the remainder of the system:  to Middlewood (Yellow Line) and Malin Bridge (Blue Line), both of which are entirely street running--think of a slick and speedy version of Philadelphia's former PCC route 23.  (I should mention that traditional fare collection is employed; all cars have either one or two roving conductors that sell a full array of ticket types, ranging from local to interurban distances and from single-trip to day tickets and even weekly passes.  Tickets can also be purchased at municipal offices and on line.)
The "bowstring" (or tied arch) Park Square Bridge was built in 1993 at the lower end of Sheffield's business district and brings all three Supertram lines to higher ground east of town.  The structure carries pedestrians and trams over a major traffic circle (roundabout) and was necessary because of the city's unusual topography, as its downtown portion is in a bowl surrounded by hillsides.

Siemens-Duewag car 113 winds along West Street near the outer end of the city center near the University of Sheffield
Cathedral Square is the center of downtown Sheffield, where cars of the Purple Line terminate.  Compare the rolling stock's two different liveries, the lower being a tribute the colors used by the legacy tramway that quit in 1960.


Above and below:  Additional views at Cathedral Square.  The photo below reflects the reason behind the stop's name.  Sheffield's Anglican cathedral (Church of England), officially known as the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, dates from Norman times (as a parish church) and its slogan is "God has been worshiped on the site of Sheffield Cathedral for over 1000 years and counting."  The cruciform-shaped structure dates from the 15th century.,
I arrived back at the station in time for the 18:11 Trans-Pennine train for which I had bought an Advance ticket, and this time there were no reliability problems.  The crowded 3-car dmu arrived in Manchester on the advertised at 19:03, well in time to meet Andrew and Richard for dinner.  They had an excellent trip to Llandudno, and showed me some great digital photos of the ancient cable tramway they rode.
Friday, August 18.  Today was getaway day from Manchester.  After breakfast Richard and Andrew would head directly to Birkenhead to ride the museum tramway, while I would do that in the afternoon after a morning on the Manchester Metrolink network, which I had yet to sample on this trip, despite having spent 4 nights in the city.  I had ridden a smaller version of the system in 1995 and 2005, but since then a number of new lines were built, which I was anxious to see.  A half-day would not do the job, but it would be a start, with all of the following Sunday providing additional time to ride the network.  As a result I will hold off on reporting on my morning activities in Manchester and instead combine that narrative with the events of Sunday the 19th, in a later chapter.
I checked out and found out that the Ibis would charge me a pound to store my bags--but this was hardly the first time that a large organization would nickel and dime its customers.  My plan was to return to the hotel later, pick up my luggage, and then roll the large carry-on to the railway station, where I would store it until late Sunday afternoon, right before I'd be heading to a hotel near East Midlands Airport prior to my flight to Riga on Monday morning.  Thus I deposited my toiletries and two changes of underwear in my camera bag, which I would take with me to the Isle of Man this evening.
I suspected I'd be getting to Birkenhead after my friends completed their inspection of the property, as Andrew was anxious to get back to his new home a short distance away and Richard would be continuing out to John Lennon Airport on the other side of the Mersey for his earlier-than-mine flight to Douglas on the Isle of Man.  As for me, I would ride and photograph Metrolink until about 12:30 and get to Piccadilly station in time to stow my carry-on at the privately-operated overpriced Left Luggage facility and then ride the 13:37 train to Liverpool.  And that's exactly how it worked out.
The morning's weather in Manchester was a mixed bag of sun and clouds and then in Birkenhead some rain was added to the stew.  My dMU left three minutes after the advertised, but arrived at Liverpool Lime Street two minutes early, at 14:29.  Service is very frequent between Manchester and Liverpool, with trains leaving from both Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria terminals, as well as some way stations.  They say the shortest and fastest line is the former Cheshire Lines Committee (CLC)* route through Warrington.  This line is not electrified and, before the Beeching "rationalization," ran from Manchester Central to Liverpool Central, two mainline stations no longer used (the one in Manchester was repurposed to become the G-Mex Convention Centre, although recently it was renamed Manchester Central again--but no trains other than Manchester Metrolink trams).  My East Midlands train ran over that line, as do services provided by Northern and TransPennine.  The other line runs further north, and was George Stephenson's original Manchester and Liverpool railroad of 1830, the first ever to operate scheduled intercity services.  It later was absorbed by the former London & North Western (L&NW), and is now electrified and served by eMUs.  While this line is a bit longer than the CLC route, with the operation of eMUs it may become faster for services that stop at way stations, due to the superior technical qualities of electrically-propelled trains.  Oddly enough, a non-stop service taking only 33 minutes is operated by TransPennine from Victoria station to Lime Street with dMUs operating under the wire.  There is also another line, that ran from Manchester Victoria station to Liverpool Exchange Street--part of the former Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway (L&YR).  That one is even further north, and is also a bit longer, but in order to use that route nowadays passengers have to change from a dMU to an eMU along the way. 
*The CLC was originally jointly owned by the Midland, the Great Central and the Great Northern railways, and served as their access to the busy and lucrative Manchester-Liverpool market.
Upon my arrival at Lime Street I quickly bought a Merseyside Saveaway day pass for GBP 5.20, which would cover my ride to Birkenhead and then later to John Lennon Airport.  I easily found the entrance to the underground Wirral Line at this busy station and rode a third-rail powered MU train 3 stations to Birkenhead on the other side of the Mersey River.  Service is quite frequent (8 trains per hour) so I did not have to wait long for the 5-minute ride, and arrived at the Hamilton Square station at 14:45.
I found the skies threatening upon emerging onto the street after my long elevator ride from the subterranean platform, and I hurried along the sidewalk for the four-block walk down the hill to my ultimate destination, Woodside Pier.*  The complex is a terminal for hourly river cruises originating in Liverpool and Birkenhead, but most importantly, is the starting point of the heritage tramway, which runs every half hour.  Wallasey double-deck tram 78 was waiting at the loop and I scurried aboard, just in time for its 15:05 departure.  I risked the open platform of the upper deck and fortunately the rain held off during the 8-minute ride to the museum's headquarters and storage barn.  The skies opened up a few minutes after the tram's arrival, but by that time I was indoors.
* The Great Western Railway had a major railroad station on this site.  Among the services that this company operated were through trains to London Paddington station, which disappeared under the Beeching axe.  Apparently the running time, including the ferry ride across the Mersey from Liverpool, was competitive with the other "all land" routes.  In the golden age of railroading there was unbridled competition for Liverpool-London travelers, with the L&NW running to Euston from Lime Street, plus three routes from Central station over the CLC: the Midland to St. Pancras, the Great Northern to Kings Cross and the Great Central to Marylebone.  In a way this is reminiscent of competition for New York-Chicago passengers, with the New York Central and Pennsylvania providing all-land service, while the Erie, Lackwawana-Nickel Plate and Baltimore & Ohio involved a short ferry ride across the Hudson.
The Merseyside Tramway Preservation Society's museum
(http://www.mtps.co.uk/index.htm) is a high-quality operation with friendly and enthusiastic volunteers, on the par or better than many of our similar American establishments, albeit a bit small.  In a sense it's reminiscent of the Baltimore Streetcar Museum.  The organization owns 9 trams, of which 7 are double deckers that originally operated in the Mersey area.  The building contains informative displays (including photos and maps), some trams in various states of restoration and the usual facilities needed and expected by visitors, ranging from lavatories to a book/souvenir shop.  Most of its single track line (there is a passing siding) runs at the side of quiet roads that serve light industrial establishments.  Unfortunately the ride is short, a length of only 56 "chains," or just under ¾ of a mile.

Wallasey No. 78 lays over between trips in the museum courtyard at the end of the line.
Fortunately the rain was only a passing cloudburst and I began walking the line for photos (briefly getting caught in some stray drizzle).  With the last trip of the day scheduled for 16:05 I spent only an hour on the property, and wasn't able to get photos at more than four locations.  Fortunately, as time went on the clouds began breaking up and so I had some sunlight at the end of my visit.  The lovely Wallasey four-wheeler that I rode and photographed was built by Brush in 1920, but only ran until 1933, when the nearby town (about 4 miles from Birkenhead) converted to bus operation. 
The four-wheeler is about to leave Shore Road and enter paved reservation, near the museum end of the line.

Above and below:  The sun shines in Birkenhead.  Although Wallasley 78 was built in 1920, most consider it old-fashioned in design, as it has open balconies on the upper deck (all the better for videotaping).  It was saved because it was acquired by a North Wales farmer and put to use as a storage shed.  Restoration began in 1987 and it emerged from the shop in 2002.  These two views are near the Woodside Pier terminal of the museum line.
Above and below:  The sun shines in Birkenhead.  Although Wallasley 78 was built in 1920, most consider it old-fashioned in design, as it has open balconies on the upper deck (all the better for videotaping).  It was saved because it was acquired by a North Wales farmer and put to use as a storage shed.  Restoration began in 1987 and it emerged from the shop in 2002.  These two views are near the Woodside Pier terminal of the museum line.
After the departure of the car's last trip at 16:05, I headed up the hill to the underground railway station.  With no need to get to the airport until about 18:30 for my 20:10 flight, I explored the Wirral line's underground loop (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wirral_line), which is operated by Merseyrail and connects Liverpool with the Wirral peninsula (hence its name).  The railroad dates back to 1886, when the Mersey Tunnel was constructed for operation with steam power.  It was electrified as a 4th rail 600-volt DC line in 1903.  Originally running to Liverpool Central Station, it connected with trains of the CLC to Manchester and thus trains to London via the Midland Railway, Great Central and Great Northern.  See http://www.projectmapping.co.uk/Reviews/Resources/Merseyrail%203.pdf for a clear map of the Merseyrail system. 
Regarding the three routes from Liverpool to Manchester discussed above, note that the lower horizontal red line is the former CLC line to Manchester and the upper one is the original 1830-built Liverpool & Manchester, which became part of the L&NW (and is now electrified).  The blue line to Kirkby and then gray beyond, was the L&YR route to Manchester, but now you have to change between eMUs and dMUs at Kirkby to make a through trip
The line was converted from 4th rail 600-volt to 3rd rail 750-volt operation in 1955.  In 1977 the Liverpool end of the Mersey Railway's underground line was expanded into a 4-station clockwise loop, which now also serves the former L&NW's Lime Street station.  The government chose the L&NW's line to Euston Station in London for its first major mainline electrification (now operated by Virgin Trains), while the other mainline stations in the city, Central and Exchange, suffered the "Beeching Axe."
I rode around the single-track loop and noticed that the second platform at James Street is still extant, and retains the beautiful tiling on its wall from the original tunnel line.  Apparently it is still used when the loop line has to be closed and trains under the Mersey are cut back to that point.  In order to get to the airport, I decided to ride a commuter train to the South Parkway station and then transfer to a bus.  On my trip from Manchester to Lime Street I had already ridden to the terminal through South Parkway in a dMU under 25kV AC catenary, and now I noticed that I could also get there by riding Merseyrail's Northern line, another third rail electrified line that had been modified and extended as part of the railway rationalization. 
Formerly starting at Liverpool's Exchange station, the L&YR's lines to Southport and Ormskirk date from the 1850s.  They were initially electrified as a 4th-rail operation between 1904 and 1913, but soon afterward converted to 3rd rail (as was the case for the Wirral line, whose conversion, in 1955, finally made the two Liverpool electric lines compatible).  The former L&YR lines were routed into a new north-south tunnel to connect with the former CLC mainline to Manchester, whose trains were relocated from Central Station to Lime Street in 1966, via a connection near the new South Parkway stop.  (Central Station was closed and torn down in 1973.)  And so I detrained at the loop's Central Station stop to make the connection between the two underground lines. 
Service over the Northern Line to Southport and Ormskirk is frequent, with 8 eMUs running every hour on each branch during the peak period and every 4 on each during base hours--an eMU train every 3¾ minutes over the joint section.  But only the Southport line runs southward beyond Central Station.  Nevertheless I didn't have to wait long for a Hunts Cross train and rode the 17:14 for the 5-stop 13-minute trip to South Parkway, and then easily found my way to the main section of the station and the bus "stands" right outside the entry doors.  A number of bus routes run to the airport from various parts of Liverpool via this station and I caught the 17:45 Arriva route 86A, which took only 12 minutes to reach the terminal building.
Now the bad news hit.  My 20:10 flight on Flybe airlines (fly-in-the-ointment airlines?) was going to be delayed for two hours.  The stated excuse was "ATC in Birmingham," whatever that meant (could this activity have delayed the plane: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5eVMmobAWE?  Just as bad, Richard's earlier 17:40 flight was also being delayed for 2½ hours.  And as I reached the gate's waiting area, there was Richard, and we commiserated together while he told me about his visit to Birkenhead.  When his flight was finally called at around 20:00, I tried to get on it, but was told it was "too late to make the change" (implying there were available seats).  Clearly the same aircraft was shuttling back and forth between Liverpool and Ronaldsway Airport on the Isle of Man, so if his flight was late, my flight was also going to be late.  With the schedule indicating a scheduled elapsed time between departure and arrival of 45 minutes, I suspect the minimum amount of time I'd have to wait would be two hours.  I was getting hungry so I grabbed a bite just before the snack bar closed and then waited.
It turned out I had to wait 2½ more hours (bringing up the total to well over 4 hours), with the flight finally being called at 22:15.  I found my window seat and we left the gate at 22:30 (20:10), hitting the wild blue yonder at 22:40.  The Stobart Air ATR-72 turboprop, flying under the Flybe (fly-by-night?) name, had comfortable 2-and-2 seating and was about ¾ full.  The voyage was uneventful, but when it became clear to me that I would miss the last bus* to Douglas (which left at 22:13 and would stop near my hotel), I mentioned that to my seat mate, who said he couldn't help me as a friend was picking him up and they would be driving in the other direction.  But another passenger must have overhead the conversation, as while we were filing off the aircraft the young man offered to drive me to my hotel, indicating it would only be a little out of his way.  He said his wife was picking him up and as long as she was still waiting (she was), everything would be OK.  That was very nice, as I had no idea how much a taxi would cost, but I knew the bus charged only GBP 3.10 for the 10-mile run (I found out later that the cab fare would have been about 23 pounds). 
*  It is also possible to use the steam trains of the Isle of Man Railway to reach the airport.  Its Ballasalla station is a mere 10-minute walk from the terminal.  There is also a Ronaldsway flag stop, that is connected to the airport by a path that takes less than 5 minutes to negotiate.  But service is limited to just a few tourist trains every day.
It turned out Max was an amateur rugby player and was returning home from a match in Ireland.  His regular job was in banking, and he and Jenna were looking forward to a major motorcycle race to take place on the Island the next day.  I responded that I hoped it wouldn't interfere with the operation of the Douglas horse trams or the Manx Electric Railway (it didn't).  Anyway, I was quite lucky that these folks were so kind to me.  I reached the Penta Hotel at around midnight, and a very sleepy middle-aged lady (meaning younger than me) greeted me and gave me the key to my room.  I told her how grateful I was that she had waited for me and she indicated that she knew my flight would be late and it was "no trouble."  My room was huge and clean, and I fell asleep immediately after a very long day.
Before starting to describe my exploits on the Isle of Man I want to mention two messages I received, from Russ Jackson and Nigel Eames, about the electric MU cars that originated service through the Mersey Tunnel, over which I rode on the previous day.  Nigel wrote that these cars, built in 1903, were based on similar equipment built for electric lines in the U. S., specifically the Market Street subway-elevated in Philadelphia.  He stated that they operated until 1956, and described them as "matchboard sided eMUs, built in Birkenhead by Milnes, but unmistakably American in appearance."  He further indicated that the cars had clerestories with some of the trailers originally having open gates at their ends, which were enclosed later.
Russ stated that the railway to "the peninsula was the first line in the UK to use true eMU cars, with equipment by Westinghouse based on what they had designed for U. S. service to compete with the Sprague/GE equipment developed for the South Side 'L' in Chicago.  All previous UK multiple-car electric trains - such as those for the Liverpool Overhead Railway, were motor-trailer sets with all motors fed from the manual controller in the head cab, the power lines running thru the trailer cars to reach motors elsewhere in the train, making them unit trains of fixed length."   A photo of these fine looking eMUs may be obtained from the internet site:  http://www.emus.co.uk/gallery.htm
Saturday, August 19.  I overslept a little bit in the morning and had to rush my Continental breakfast (which was rather spartan) in order to meet Richard at 8:30 as we planned (he stayed at a different hotel).  We wanted to make sure we'd photograph the first horse tram trip of the day, which was scheduled for 9:00.  I didn't finish until 8:35, but I could see the entrance hall from my chair and did not notice Richard about.  I then sat for a few minutes on a couch in the reception area, while I tried called him, but my phone had no service and he didn't walk by.  I should have known that would happen, because the hotel's website had indicated that they had no wi-fi, but free access would be available to customers at their sister hostelry, the Trevelyan--but that was quite a distance away.  Oh well I thought, maybe I'll run into him during the day.
As I left the hotel (I had my work to do) I saw someone walking toward Derby Castle in the distance and I ran a little bit and then yelled out "Richard."  It was him.  He had gone to my hotel (I guess I was too intent on my breakfast to notice him), hung around for a little while waiting for me, and when I didn't appear at 8:30 asked the receptionist to call me--and was told they never heard of me--nobody with my name was checked in!  He then went outside, where he scouted the area.  Anyway, all's well that ends well.
We had a great deal to accomplish in this single day, so we walked briskly toward Derby Castle, although I took off a little time to take these photos of the Promenade.
The beach and promenade in Douglas is almost crescent-shaped.  Many of the buildings facing the horse tramway have traditionally been bed & breakfasts, but their number seem to be declining as the public seems to desire more updated accommodations and amenities.  My hotel, the Penta, has been upgraded, but still needs a great deal more work, such as wi-fi.  See below.
We arrived at the joint horse and electric tram terminal about 8:50 and were struck by how quiet it was.  We knew we already missed the departure of the first Manx Electric Railway tram of the day, which was scheduled for 8:40, but we had not planned to ride that trip.  We took a few photos and peeked into the carhouse, and finally, at about 8:58, suddenly a driver came out of nowhere and led a horse toward the toastrack cars that had been stored outside--for the 9 o'clock departure.  [Why are these open cars called toastracks?  Because their open sides and transverse benches resembles a toast rack.]
No. 43, an open bench (toastrack) trailer, was built by the United Electric Car Company in 1907, in the days when most of its factory output were electric trams.  United was a successor to G. F. Milnes and later was acquired by Dick, Kerr.  Of course all of the horsecar line's rolling stock consists of 4-wheeled trailers, the motive power not being equipped with wheels.
No. 29 is one of two enclosed horse trams built by G. F. Milnes in 1892.  The "saloon" tram is not the only closed car on the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway's roster of 13 trailers, as there is one more (from 1913), as well as an 1883 unit that was turned into a double-decker (No. 18).
No. 44 is a sister of 43 (earlier photo), but is shown after its motor power, Doug, having already been fed and groomed, was escorted from the barn (literally), ready to earn his keep.
This was my third trip to the Isle of Man, with the others being in 1960 and 1990, and so I had ridden the horsecars before.  But before continuing the narrative, a little bit about the Isle of Man.  The small island lies in the Irish Sea between Britain and Ireland, about 60 air miles from Belfast and 70 from Blackpool.  Its size is about 221 square miles, making it smaller than even the tiniest state in the U. S.  With a population of about 85,000, it ranks with small American cities, such as Duluth, Minnesota and suburban areas like Clifton, New Jersey.  Douglas, the capital, has only 28,000 people.  Like the islands of Jersey and Guernsey, it is somewhat autonomous, a self-governing crown dependency, with its own legislature--and currency.  The Manx pound is interchangeable with the British pound (but I steered away from it, as I was told it is difficult to use off the island--I was able to use credit cards for all purchases).  Of course the island is famous as the home of Manx cats, which have no tails (I didn't see any on this trip).  One would think its main industries would include tourism, but no, they are insurance, banking and on-line gambling.  The World Bank ranks it the fifth richest nation per capita, so you can imagine how prosperous the place is.
To quote the Lonely Planet guidebookWhat you'll find here is beautiful scenery in the lush valleys, barren hills and rugged coastlines. In 2016 Unesco designated the Isle of Man a Biosphere Reserve (one of five in the UK) marking it out as one of the most beautiful spots in Britain to enjoy nature. That bucolic charm is shattered during the world-famous summer season of Tourist Trophy (TT) motorbike racing, which attracts around 50,000 punters and bike freaks . . .
It tries to maintain a charming, Victorian demeanor, but that gets more difficult as time goes on.  On our last trip in 1990, Clare and I felt we were taken back to our youth, especially when we saw advertisements for tea dances and church socials.  As a tourist venue, both then and now, it is the home of a number of quaint rail operations, and as such, attracts many railfans each year to its regular service and special events.  The four major ones are the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway, the Manx Electric Railway, the Snaefell Mountain Railway and the Isle of Man Steam Railway.  I would ride all four on this rushed day, under weather conditions consisting of intervals of sun, clouds and rain.
The Douglas Bay Horse Tramway was the most important attraction for me to ride and photograph (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Bay_Horse_Tramway) as the line is in some degree of danger.  With tourism declining as an important contributor to the island's GDP, there are many who believe the horse railway is both a drain on the economy and source of traffic congestion.  The double-track line, which dates back to 1876, is located in the center of the Promenade, a seafront road which separates the beaches from hotels and restaurants.  The 3-foot gauge line runs for about 1.6 miles from the ferry terminal (boats run to Liverpool and Heysham in England, and Belfast and Dublin in Ireland) to Derby Castle, where connection is made with the Manx Electric Railway.  At the present time it appears that after the 2018 season the line will be relocated to the Promenade walkway for its entire length from Derby Castle to the Sea Terminal, and reduced to single track operation with passing sidings--and there are even some who are pressing to cut it back at the War Memorial, only about two-thirds of the way.  Things could change after the 2018 season, so stay tuned.  Needless to say it is unique.
The line runs from mid-April to the beginning of November, generally from 9 a.m. to to 17:30 or 18:00, with service operating about every 15 or 20 minutes, depending on the season.  Running time is 15 minutes and generally cars and horses lay over at the terminals for 5 or 10 minutes. 
The kiosk at Derby Castle was now occupied and while we attempted to buy day tickets, the 9:00 horsecar left, with nobody aboard.  I hadn't realized that we could have purchased our GBP18 one-day Explorer from the tram's conductor.  This ticket would allow us full access to all government rail services on the island (there is also a GBP 6 day ticket for just the horsecars).  But our mistake allowed us to photograph the 9:20 departure and 9:35 arrival of the horse-drawn equipment during our wait.
Steve powered the tramway's first departure of the day (9:00), and is about to complete his round trip at Derby Castle at 9:35.  Note that trailer 42, built by Milnes in 1904, is not equipped with a roof, one of two such cars fully open to the elements.
We decided to postpone riding the line until later, after returning from our electric traction activities, so instead we rode Manx Electric's second trip of the day, at 9:40.  But here are some views of the horsecar line from the afternoon.

William was at the point for the 15:00 trip that Richard and I rode after returning from Ramsey on time at 14:55.  Fortunately it was not difficult to make the transfer.
William was led around tram 42 at the Sea Terminal while its seats were reversed.  The consist is shown ready for departure, with the conductor already selling and inspecting tickets from his traditional position on the running board.
As mentioned earlier Richard and I decided to ride the 9:40 Manx Electric Railway (MER) trip from Derby Castle, the second of the day for the tramway (the 8:40 preceded it), as far as Laxey, where we would transfer to the Snaefell Mountain Railway, which is the subject of this section of the report.  I'll go into detail about the MER later, but will mention now that this attractive tramway is 17¾ miles long, with its first major stop being Laxey (7 miles from Derby Castle), our initial destination.  It took us a half hour to make the trip, which gave us exactly 5 minutes to transfer to the Snaefell's first cog tram of the day, which left at 10:15 and took us up the mountain.  Unlike the MER, which uses trolley poles for current collection, the rack railway uses bow collectors.  Both operate at 550 volts DC, but their gauges are different: 3 feet for the MER and 3 feet 6 inches for the Snaefell.  After a few slides, we boarded car No. 5 for the ride up the mountain.
A view from our car of Mark propelling trailer 43, as we headed down the Promenade to the Sea Terminal.  The sky had suddenly darkened and soon it would rain.
As mentioned earlier Richard and I decided to ride the 9:40 Manx Electric Railway (MER) trip from Derby Castle, the second of the day for the tramway (the 8:40 preceded it), as far as Laxey, where we would transfer to the Snaefell Mountain Railway, which is the subject of this section of the report.  I'll go into detail about the MER later, but will mention now that this attractive tramway is 17¾ miles long, with its first major stop being Laxey (7 miles from Derby Castle), our initial destination.  It took us a half hour to make the trip, which gave us exactly 5 minutes to transfer to the Snaefell's first cog tram of the day, which left at 10:15 and took us up the mountain.  Unlike the MER, which uses trolley poles for current collection, the rack railway uses bow collectors.  Both operate at 550 volts DC, but their gauges are different: 3 feet for the MER and 3 feet 6 inches for the Snaefell.  After a few slides, we boarded car No. 5 for the ride up the mountain.
Manx Electric Railway closed saloon car 20 and its open trailer at Derby Castle just prior to its 9:40 departure for Ramsey.  The kiosk for the sale of tickets is to the right and the horse railway is hidden beyond the rear.  No. 20 was built by G. F. Milnes in 1899.

Ramsey-bound Manx Electric Railway car 20 is about to leave Laxey, after having deposited many of its passengers, most of whom who have boarded Snaefell Mountain car 5, which is shown alongside sister unit No. 6.  Car 5 was the first tram of the morning to begin climbing to Snaefell Summit, and left about 2 minutes later.  These cars were also built by G. F. Milnes, as part of an order for the 6 identical units that have served the line from the first day of service in 1895 to the present.
As car 5 climbed, the big wheel; also known as Lady Isabella, appeared. The Laxey Wheel was built into the hillside in 1864 to service the Great Laxey mines.  The still operating waterwheel has a 72' 6" diameter, is 6 feet wide and rotates approximately 3 revolutions per minute.
A placid view through the windows of our tram as it headed up to Snaefell Summit
Snaefell Summit is 2,034 feet above sea level, and the line climbs from its connection with the MER at Laxey on mostly Fell system rack rail for some 5 miles over gradients that are as steep as 1 in 12 (8+ percent).  Built in 1895, the railway was acquired almost immediately by the MER.  It has but one intermediate stop, Bungalow, the former location of a hotel, not too far from the top.   Operating only from April to early November, its overhead is dismantled every year to avoid destruction by winter icing.  Running time is a half hour, and because cars are scheduled to make a connection with the MER, layovers at the summit consume 25 minutes, which, of course, in good weather means that passengers have time to take a short hike and enjoy the surrounding panorama.  When it's totally clear, it is said that six "kingdoms" can be seen from the observation point up a path from the station (Isle of Man, England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Heaven). 
When I first read the history of the tramway I found out that the rack railway employs the Fell center rail system, and that it was surveyed by the son of John Barraclough Fell, who invented the propulsion and braking system.  The name of the mountain is SnaeFELL.  Hmm.  Could there be a connection?  As it turns out, no.  Snaefell is Norse (Norwegian), meaning Snow Mountain.  I guess that coincidences are more common than most people think. (The Vikings settled on the Isle of Man in the 9th century, and the Brits and Scots didn't take over until the 13th.)
We boarded car 5 for the 10:15 trip, one of six G. F. Milnes built for the electric railway (only 5, No. 1, 2 and 4-6 survive as No. 3 was destroyed in an accident in 2016).  The line is scenic, but once we gained some altitude we became enveloped in clouds, more like a cold foggy mist, which somewhat reduced the pleasure of the trip.  The wind was very strong, and I was glad I brought a jacket on this August day (warm at sea level).  With little to do at the top because of being socked in, I positioned myself where I could get a well-lit photo of the 5 if I were lucky enough to witness the wind chasing some of the clouds away.  Indeed, the gods were with me, as for about 15 seconds the sun shone brightly on the scene and I hurriedly snapped away.  I had considered walking down to Bungalow for a photo of our tram slinking down the mountainside before boarding it for the return trip (it would take less than 30 minutes to accomplish that), but with the mist preventing scenic views, I demurred (next time). 
A sign at the station indicated the tram would be leaving at 10:35, rather than the advertised 10:40. I didn't find out why until I arrived back in the U. S.  We had a much lighter passenger load coming down, as many of the outbound riders stayed up on the mountain, probably hiking despite the cold.  I still got a major kick from the ride (this was the third time in over 50 years that I had ridden the railway) and made a mental point of looking for the tree line, the place where nature decrees that tall trees and lush forests must disappear in favor of grasses and shrubs, and later scrub and rock, as I do whenever I ride lines climbing tall mountains.  Not an exact demarcation, the change is less gradual than one would imagine.
Above and below: Snaefell Summit, the end of the line, the top of the island.  Two views of either side of car 5.  Only the blind need ask their neighbors the terminal's altitude. The brief period of sunlight allowed for the photo on the next page.
She'll be coming round the mountain when she comes.  With half-hour headways and a long layover at the summit, three cars are needed to hold down Snaefell service.  We're about to pass No. 1, which had left Laxey at 11:15, on our downward trek.  Note that the double-track railway runs right-handed.  We slipped by No. 6, the 10:45 from Laxey, a minute or two after we departed the summit.
Richard and I thoroughly enjoyed riding in 1895-built equipment navigating steep grades through beautiful surroundings, but did not realize how close we came to not having that opportunity.  Just two weeks earlier, on August 4, car No. 2 lost its brakes when its bow collector momentarily lost contact with the overhead wire.  The crew was unable to stop the loaded tram using its emergency braking system, but finally got it to come to a halt safely by employing the manual Fell brake--19th century technology.  The powers that be immediately lowered the speed limit (that's why we left the summit five minutes early) and instituted a regimen of extra diligence, while inaugurating a comprehensive review.  The results of the evaluation resulted in a declaration that the line's operation was unsafe and it was totally shut down on September 25, a good six weeks before the end of the season.  So we survived a bullet--or maybe the bullet just arrived too late--the line's closure had been fortuitously delayed and we didn't even know it.  Apparently the problems have now been ironed out and with new procedures having been designed during the fall and winter, the Snaefell Mountain tramway reopened on schedule on Good Friday, March 30.
Once back at Laxey, we had some time to take additional photos and explore the area.  While the MER mostly runs every half hour from Derby Castle to Laxey, service runs through to Ramsey only hourly during the high season.  Thus we had a half hour before we needed to board our next tram.  I must mention that there is a dual-gauge track siding that connects the Snaefell and the MER (I should have taken a photo of it).  Apparently when a Snaefell tram has to undergo major maintenance, its 3' 6"-gauge trucks are changed out for narrower 3-foot MER "accommodation bogies" at that point, which allows the car to be hauled to the shops at Derby Castle, where the work is performed.
A general distriibution photo from the internet showing the siding where trucks are swapped.  The photographer is standing at the end of the short dual-gauge track, with the platforms for Snaefell service behind him on the left.  The two tracks at right constitute the MER mainline.
During the interval we saw a sign directing visitors to a mine train, and we followed it.  We came upon the following.
Manx Electric saloon No. 2, having just completed a short turn to Laxey, has run around its trailer and heads for the station to pick up passengers for its return trip to Derby Castle.  Yes, the Great Laxey Mine Railway was operating steam trains today.
Two scenes of the 19-inch gauge Great Laxey Mine Railway.  Originally built in 1827 to serve the Laxey lead and zinc mine, and first employing human and animal motive power, the company shifted to mechanical locomotion using steam in 1887.  (The great wheel shown at the beginning of this chapter was built in 1864.)  The mine closed in 1929 and its two locomotives were scrapped in 1935.  The 0-4-0 at the tunnel portal in the upper photo is one of two replicas of the original steam engines, even to the detail of builder's plates.  Named Ant and Bee,* they were built by Great Northern Steam Ltd. for the reopening of the line as a tourist attraction in 2004.  The tunnel runs under the Manx Electric Railway and the A2 highway.  The Wasp, a 48-volt battery-powered electric locomotive, was one of a group of 4-wheelers built by the Clayton Traction Equipment Company in 1973 for use in tunneling projects.  It was acquired and rebuilt by Alan Keef Ltd. and delivered to the property in 2009.  The passenger car is one of two built by Keef that were delivered in 2004 and 2007.  Each single-truck unit contains one long longitudinal bench seating 10 passengers. * See the Andy Griffith TV Show
Because of time constraints we were unable to ride the mine railway, as we had to get back to Laxey station in time for the MER's 12:10 departure for Ramsey.
Tram 6 near the end of its descent of Snaefell Mountain to Laxey.  It left the summit at 11:45.

i have been corrected by some readers for referring to the Snaefell Mountain as a rack, or cog, railway.  Mike Jackson wrote: "I can't agree that the Snaefell line is a 'cog' railway - it operates purely by adhesion with the Fell rail being used nowadays only for emergency braking as the cars now have dynamic braking [most of the time anyway!] and the Fell brake still works well as you heard.  I'm sure you that know that the cars have two bow collectors to enable continuous contact with the slackly-rigged overhead wire.  In the pre-dynamic braking days the Fell brake pads were often changed, sometimes several times a day. 
"The only places where I've heard of where Fell rail was used for traction for climbing was on the Rimatuka incline in New Zealand & on the 50 mile Mont Cenis line  on the border om the Franco/Italian border on whose closure much of the equipment went to a line near Rio Janeiro.:  A Fell rail is not a rack rail.  When the Snaefell line was built the concern was not getting up the grade, but getting safely down the grade.  They could have employed mechanical track brakes as the cable cars do.  But for some reason perhaps documented somewhere they chose to use a Fell rail.  A crank on the rear platform (only) would operate a scissors-type mechanism to squeeze the Fell rail with iron brake shoes.  The Fell rail brake supplemented the wheel brakes.  Because the contact surfaces on the Fell rail were vertical the likelihood of any surface contamination as occurs on running rails was minimal.  It was a cheaper way to go than building a cable line and conservative enough from a safety standpoint to justify it instead of a track brake."   I guess this proves that you can look at the track, but not always see it.

G. F. Milnes built No. 2 for the opening of service over the Douglas and Laxey Coast Electric Tramway (D&LC) in 1893.  It operated on the 11:10 short turn from Douglas to Laxey and is shown having the direction of its pole reversed during the process of running around its trailer prior to its return trip at 12:55.  The second oldest tram on the MER roster (No. 1 has that honor--and is lettered for the D&LC), it has four 25 hp motors and accommodates its passengers on two longitudinal wooden benches.
After a few photos of MER car 2 and our our visit to the steam-powered mine railway we returned to the station and boarded a motor-trailer lashup to cover the final 10 miles of of the electric railway.
The Manx Electric Railway is a gem of an interurban tramway that dates from a long gone era and still pleases its riders in the second decade of the 21th century.  Some of the most endearing qualities appreciated by electric traction enthusiasts that visit the island include its use of trolley poles for current collection and its open-bench rolling stock. 
The line was opened in pieces starting in 1893, and finally attained its full 17¾-mile length in 1899.  After a short period in bankruptcy it became the Manx Electric Railway in 1902.  It was acquired by the Isle of Man Government in 1957.  For the most part, the double-track 3-foot gauge railway traverses a verdant rural landscape, running through bucolic fields and meadows on a route that also includes some stunning views of the Irish Sea.  It runs virtually entirely on reserved track electrified at 550 volts, DC.  Apparently for a short time after the line's opening the trams used bow collectors, but all were retrofitted with traditional trolley poles by the turn of the twentieth century.
The timetable available to the public shows only 9 intermediate stations, but in reality there are some 70 "official" places to board and alight on request (mostly flag stops with names).  All of the overhead wire poles are numbered (e. g. Derby Castle is pole 2, Ramsey number 1903), with the designation generally displayed on a small green plaque strapped to the wooden mast about 10 feet above the ground.  All MER stops are also listed by the number of their closest pole.

As for the rolling stock, almost all the 25 motors and 23 trailers that remain on the roster were built between 1893 and 1906, although 3 trailers were constructed in 1930 to replace others lost in a fire.  Some other units were destroyed over the years as well, but a total of 48 cars from that era is nothing to be sneezed at.  In general trains are made up of a closed motor pulling an open trailer, but there are exceptions, especially during special events and bad weather.  On a previous trip Clare and I rode in the open motor of an all-toastrack lashup.  And although I've seen photos of 3-car trains, operation of a motor pulling two trailers is apparently rare.

A few minutes before its 12:10 departure time, motor car 19 and trailer 43 arrived at the Laxey station, and we observed most of its passengers transferring to car 6 of the Snaefell Mountain Railway to continue their route to the summit.  We joined the remaining riders on the train, Richard in the motor and me in the open-bench trailer, as I wanted to experience the thrill of rolling along in the breezer at good speed over the 10-mile long outer section of the line to Ramsey.  I truly enjoyed it, although when the sun ducked behind clouds as it did frequently, I was glad I was wearing my jacket.
A new terminal was under construction at Laxey and so a temporary station (platform actually) had been built across Parsonage Road on a relatively narrow spot, with homemade bumper blocks installed just short of the grade crossing.  Despite the "No Trespassing" signs at that location, the crew was OK with us walking down the track to observe and photograph the activities taken to reposition the motor and trailer for the return trip.  This was accomplished immediately after our arrival at 12:55.  Once all the passengers were unloaded, the motor-trailer unit reversed across the crossover at the end of the temporary platform to the opposing track and then were uncoupled.  After the motor headed back into the station the way it had come, the operator threw the switch and the trailer used gravity (and a mechanical brake) to roll down to the makeshift bumper block on the inbound track.  The motor then reversed again over the crossover and finally followed the trailer into the station, where the two cars were coupled.  The motor was not back poled so the operator was very busy, lowering, turning and raising the pole 5 times before the job was completed.  The following four photos illustrate the process (I know a video would be much better).
Trailer 43 sits forlornly after motor 19 had been uncoupled an operated back to the station's outbound track.  After the switch is thrown it will roll back to the station on the other track.
The upper photo shows trailer 43 approaching the bumper block where it stopped a few moments later.  The lower view shows the car after motor 19 took the switch and moved onto the inbound track.
Finally Motor 19 has been coupled to trailer 43.  All that still needed to be accomplished before the two-car unit was ready for its return trip to Douglas, was having its trolley pole reversed.
The two-car set was not scheduled to return until 13:40, so we could now grab a bite, but we figured there wasn't sufficient time for a sit down meal.  Thus we ended up consuming take-out food at a picnic table located at the Ramsey Heritage Center adjacent to the MER's terminal building.  The hot chocolate I consumed was a wonderful antidote for the effects of my outward journey in the open-bench trailer and thus, for the return trip to Douglas, I sat in the closed motor. 

It was still a great ride and we arrived at Derby Castle on time at 14:55.  It wasn't the 120 minutes of a one-way trip on the Electroliner between Chicago and Milwaukee, but 75 minutes of continuous streetcar riding in well-maintained ancient equipment is nothing to sneeze at either.  I took the photo below from car 19 as we slowed down to make our final stop at Derby Castle.
A slight reflection of light from the windows of my tram is shown in this photo of two MER motors in the yard of their Derby Castle carhouse and shop facilities.  No. 21 is virtually the same as car 19 (photo above) except for its livery:  British Railways green, the colors applied to virtually all rail vehicles throughout the United Kingdom when the railway were nationalized.  No. 7 is one of 6 "tunnel" cars built by Milnes in 1894, so called because of their long and slender interiors.  In 2011, a year after it received its present color scheme and "Douglas and Laxey Electric Railway" lettering, its interior was changed from longitudinal seating to a 2-and-1 transverse pattern.
The equipment for our ride from Laxey to Ramsey and then back to Douglas is shown after its arrival at Derby Castle.  No. 19 is one of four "winter saloons," built by G. F. Milnes in 1899.  It has four 25 hp motors and its interior is equipped with 2-and-1 reversible transverse cushioned seats.  Toastrack trailer 43 was built by Milnes in 1903 and contains 11 benches.
We arrived at the end of the line at 15:15 and then hurried lickety split, dodging rain drops, to the terminal of the Isle of Man Railway.  It was only a 1 kilometer hike, and we arrived at the brick facility at about 15:30, in plenty of time for the 16:00 train, which allowed us to take photos and inspect the area.  In fact we had a more time than we expected, as the train that would turn to be the 16:00 departure, which was due to arrive at 15:45, came in quite late.

The railway station is an attractive relic, opened in 1887, and now consists of two brick buildings, housing a ticket office, gift shop, and a vegetarian/fish restaurant, called the Tickethall, that partly occupies both floors of the main building.  After a couple of photos Richard and I entered the main building, and found that a special event was in progress, entitled "Island at War," with a 1940s theme.  Recorded Glenn Miller-style big band music (British musicians doing similar arrangements) was being played over the public address system and many visitors and staff were dressed in World War II military uniforms, medical gear and civilian clothing that reflected the period.  There were some displays of wartime life, including stretchers, vintage cars (including an ambulance and other military vehicles) and even sandbags used for protection against enemy destruction.  But Richard and I were more interested in the railway.
The 3-foot gauge Isle of Man Railway was opened in pieces starting in 1873.  It is now a shadow of its original self, when it was an essential part of the island's national transportation network (as was the Manx Electric Railway).  Now it only runs to Port Erin, some 15.3 miles to the south, but formerly also operated to Peel (11 miles) and even to Ramsey (once a separate company, the Manx Northern), via a 24-mile roundabout route, compared to the MER's 17 3/4-mile direct route.  In 1960 I made a circle trip from Douglas to Ramsey by tram over the MER (with a side trip up Snaefell Mountain), and then returned behind steam.  I still remember how slow the IOM's train was, and how anxious I was to get back so I could take more photos of the horse and electric cars.
The Peel and Ramsey steam lines were abandoned in 1968, when the company's growing losses resulted in serious cutbacks.  Its operation of island-wide bus services, started in the 1920s, had kept the company afloat for a while, but by then, automobile and truck use had even caught up to an Isle of Man whose lifestyle had always seemed to be a decade or two behind the present.  In 1978 the enterprise was nationalized along with the MER, and like the traction line, shifted more and more away from a dwindling mass transportation culture to a tourist operation.  Nowadays, its timetable is combined with MER and Snaefell operations in one folder (the horse tramway still has its own brochure).
Above and below:  The red brick used to build the Isle of Man Railway passenger station in Douglas evokes an impression of Britain's industrial era.  The buildings were constructed between 1887 and 1913 of Ruabon brick, fabricated from clay in Wales and used throughout the British Isles.  The upper view shows the grand archway, the original main entrance to the terminal, topped with two gilt turrets and a clock tower.  The gates were closed and we walked down a hill to the vehicle entrance, where we found the bus shown below.  The conveyance was built by Thornycraft in 1928 for the Isle of Man Railway, when the company began to supplement its rail services with road transport.  The building in the background houses the railway's ticket office, the Tickethall restaurant, tourist information, and a waiting room.

The steam railway has a roster of five operating 2-4-0 Tank steam engines, down from a total of 18 such machines in its heyday.  Almost all were built by Beyer Peacock (including the 5 remaining ones), and range in age from 144 years old (built in 1874) to a young 108 (from 1910).  There are also a few small diesel locomotives, which are used for shunting and work service.
The line that remains is 15.3 miles long, and trains are scheduled to make the run between Douglas and Port Erin in exactly one hour.  The Douglas terminal now has a single, extra wide platform serving two running tracks, with additional tracks on both sides of them for locomotives to run around trains.  There are also some sidings and a lead into the shop and storage facilities.  The train from Port Erin finally came in at 16:00 (15:45).  Locomotive 13, "Kissack", was immediately detached, moved to a crossover, and then operated toward the shed to be coaled and watered, eventually returning.  Naturally members of the public, awaiting the departure of the outbound train, took a great many images from the platform.  Because of a lack of either a wye or a turntable, locomotives can face only in one direction, which in the case of the 1910-built Kissack, fortunately was outbound.  Thus, once it finished its terminal duties and was backed up and coupled to the waiting coaches on the platform, it made a very pretty picture.  By now the rain had stopped, and the sun was shining intermittently, so, with an eye out for the conductor boarding the train, I waited patiently for an opportunity to photograph it in bright light.  I was eventually rewarded and then hurried to a compartment of the ancient rolling stock. 
Locomotive 13, Kissack, is shown running around the train, but prior to coupling up it would be coaled and watered.
One passenger is clearly thrilled to be aboard a steam-powered narrow-gauge train, ready to depart from Douglas.
The 16:00 train from Douglas to Port Erin, already late, is waiting for the stationmaster to give it the highball.
We finally departed at 16:23 (16:00), with the 2-4-0T locomotive producing all the right sounds as it pulled our train uphill (a gradient of 1:65).  After running past the sheds and shop, it was a scenic ride through a mostly wooded landscape.  We passed an unexpected chartered train, which I hadn't been prepared for, so missed a photo.  Our original plan was to ride only as far as Castletown (10 miles), where the train was scheduled to pass its return number, and return to Douglas aboard that train as it was the last inbound run of the day--at 16:37.  But with a late start, and not knowing about the timekeeping in the other direction, we chose to alight at Ballasalla (only 8 miles, about halfway in both distance and time to the end of the line at Port Erin), which we accomplished at 17:00 (16:30).  Even without the lateness we would have missed riding the outer end of the line, but now we also didn't see the platform for Ronaldsway Airport.  At least we were able to drink in the steamy perfume of the coal-fired locomotive and take a few photos before the train continued to Port Erin.
Two views at Ballasalla, about halfway along the line.  No. 13, Kissack, is shown pulling the train from Douglas to Port Erin.
We waited about 12 minutes for the "up train," whose motive power, No. 12, "Hutchinson," was pushing.  Unfortunately the Beyer Peacock unit from 1907 was facing the wrong way for a decent photo, but you have to snap when the opportunity arises.  We took seats in a compartment that was already partly occupied in one of the coaches, and soon were on the way back to Douglas, where we arrived at 17:42 (17:15).  Ridership looked good as many passengers poured out of the coaches.
No. 12, Hutchinson, is about to push the last Port Erin-Douglas train back to its home terminal.
We raced back toward the Promenade, but missed the 17:50 horsecar by about a minute.  The next (and last) tram of the day was scheduled for 18:20, but we decided not to wait, and (heavens!) rode a bus back toward our hotels, alighting near a southeast Asian style restaurant we had seen earlier, which featured Thai and Filipino cuisine.  It was an enjoyable meal after a very gratifying (despite hectic) day of doing what we love best.
Our flight to Manchester was carded for 7:00 the following morning, with the first bus of the day scheduled to stop in front of my hotel at 5:24 for the 40 minute run.  Thus, I pondered, without an alarm clock how could I be sure of not oversleeping?  I doubted anyone would be manning the hotel's front desk overnight to call me.  I did not know whether there might be an Alarm Clock app on my phone, but hadn't a clue about how I'd figure it out and be sure it would function properly.  The solution finally hit me, 4:30 the following morning would be 23:30 in Montclair, and so Clare, right before going to sleep could call me!  She agreed (although she was afraid she might fall asleep early).
Anyway, the exercise turned out to be redundant as I awoke a little after 4:00 and then waited for the phone to ring, which it did at 4:30.  It was nice speaking with Clare anyway.  I was at the bus stop by 5:10 and the coach arrived on time.  Richard boarded one stop later, and we arrived at Ronaldsway at 6:00, with a few others also on board.  Our half-full Stobart Air ATR-72 turboprop, flying under the Flybe name, pulled away from the gate 7:09 (7:00) and left the ground at 7:15.  During the 55-minute flight I couldn't help reflecting on how much I enjoyed the previous day, visiting probably the only place in the world where I could ride vintage horsecars, electric interurban cars and a classic steam train in a setting that for all practical purposes is a totally authentic throwback to an era that existed decades prior to my birth in the late 1930s. 
The ATR aircraft reached the gate on time at 7:55 and with no luggage to claim, Richard and I immediately headed for Metrolink's tramway, whose line 6 terminates at the airport (new designation after a route renumbering early this year--back last August the line was route F).  Most people heading to the city center from the airport choose to ride aboard railway trains, which provide fast and frequent service to Manchester Piccadilly station, as well as points in between, with a running time that varies from 13 to 25 minutes depending on the number of intermediate stops.  Several operators run these trains, with many continuing beyond Piccadilly to other cities. 
The tram however, takes 48 minutes to traverse 20 stops to get to Deansgate, just short of the city center, and another 8 or so minutes is needed to cover the last 3 stops to Piccadilly.  Deansgate was the terminal of the F back last August, but in conjunction with its renumbering as route 6, it now continues through the city center to terminate at Victoria station--also 3 additional stops.  We purchased day tickets (GBP 5.40) and rode the tram, stopping off for photos on this clear morning.  See both
The first for a geographically correct map and the second for a diagrammatic map; both show the new route numbers.
But first a little about Manchester.  With a population of 2.6 million, Greater Manchester is the third largest metropolitan conurbation in Great Britain, falling directly behind London with 13.7 million, and Birmingham-Wolverhampton with 3.7 million.  Metrolink, owned by the public agency, Transport for Greater Manchester (originally Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive), was the pioneer tram operation for Britain's version of the modern day "light rail revolution," and is now the largest light rail system in the United Kingdom.  It currently consists of 7 routes covering 57 miles with 93 stops, having gradually worked its way up to that number over the past 25 years, starting in 1992 with the conversion of two heavy eMU-operated commuter lines to light rail, adding track in city streets to connect them.  The 19-mile original system used the infrastructure of two stagnant commuter services, the Manchester Victoria-Bury line and the Manchester London Road-Altrincham route.  Both lines were electrically operated: the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway equipping the Bury line with 1200 v DC third rail in 1916, while the Altrincham route had first been electrified by the Manchester, South Junction and Altrincham Railway with 1500-volt DC overhead in 1931, which was upgraded by British Railways in 1971 to 25 kV AC. 
The new tram system adopted 750 v. DC overhead for its entire network, and uses high-level platforms, mainly because such platforms already existed on the lines to Bury and Altrincham and that low-floor cars were not yet fully developed, especially for higher-speed grade-separated lines (compared to slower in-city routes running along streets).  When I rode Metrolink in 1995 I could see the new system was implemented in an economical manner, noting that passengers either had to step up to board through certain doors of cars with wheelchair-bound riders limited to small areas on platforms that had been slightly raised to make them flush with the trams' floors.  (I found it easy to trip while walking along platforms if my eyes were not focused on the ground--that was rectified later.)  The initial system was a great success, with significant increases in ridership compared to the commuter lines it replaced, and thus laid the groundwork for its gradual expansion, which is still going on with construction underway on a new line to Trafford Park.
On my second visit in 2005, the lines to Eccles and Salford Quays had been completed, which added some 4 miles to the network, including an extensive amount of street running shared with automobile traffic.  Since then, more openings have occurred and the system now covers 57 miles, with trackage ranging from railroad rights-of-way down to traditional street running, and including even a short subway at Piccadilly station.  Because of its high platforms, many in streets, the system is somewhat reminiscent of Calgary's light rail operation.  However when the system first opened, I couldn't help thinking of Baltimore's light rail line, which went into operation about the same time, and also has a street running segment connecting two former commuter/interurban lines.
The original rolling stock, built by AnsaldoBreda (26 T-68 units and later 6 more T-68As), was totally replaced starting in 2009 with 120 M5000 Bombardier Flexity Swift cars.  Base and rush hour service on each line operates every 12 minutes, although because of overlap, there are some sections of route that see a 6-minute frequency.  For the record, Manchester's legacy tram system closed in 1949.

Before I continue with the narrative for Sunday, August 20, I want to go back to Friday, August 18, when I spent the morning on Metrolink prior to leaving for Birkenhead and the Isle of Man.  As I mentioned in chapter 8, I left my bags at the hotel after checking out and then was free to ride and photograph some of the lines that had opened since my trip in 2005.  I chose to direct my attention to the line to Ashton-under-Lyne, as it seemed to be the most interesting, a combination of private right-of-way and street running.  This  8-mile line opened in two sections, to Droylsden in February 2013 and then to its current terminal in October of the same year.  One of its most interesting aspects is its exit through a portal in the rear of Piccadilly station.
I first took some photos on both sides of my hotel, especially near the four-track Piccadilly Gardens station, where a great deal of service is provided by 4 lines, with another 2 almost adjacent.  Only route 5 does not traverse the immediate area.
My first view of Manchester's M5000 cars occurred when I walked from the railway station to the Ibis Styles hotel via the busy pedestrian walkway that crosses over London Road.  I witnessed activity of the same nature each day I used Piccadilly station, which was originally named London Road.  Since 1992 these tracks have carried trams from Bury and Altrincham into the basement of the station, where passengers reach their trains via stairs, escalators and elevators.  Now with Metrolink's expansion, they are busier than ever.

Previous page: The stop at Piccadilly Gardens has four tracks, with two carrying trams to and from Victoria station (route 4 on the way to Bury) and two to Deansgate (routes 2, 3 and 7 to Altrincham, Eccles and Media City, respectively).  Destination signs on the trams to do not carry route numbers.

Just northwest of the platforms, a pair of tracks comprise one of the two cross-city lines between Deansgate and Victoria.  Two services use these rails, route 1, Altrincham to Bury (one of the original routes from 1992) and route 6 from Manchester Airport, which began use on January 20, 2018, when the line was extended eastward from Deansgate to Victoria.  The "Second City Crossing" (2CC), used by route 5, Rochdale to East Didsbury,opened February, 2017, relieves congestion on this trackage.
I then rode route 3 (route E at that time) directly to its Ashton-under-Lyne terminal, riding through both portals surrounding Piccadilly station and then choosing location candidates for my photos.  For what its worth I found the street running to be a bit slower than corresponding operations in Sheffield and Nottingham.  Andrew Beech provided some history of Ashton-under-Lyne's legacy tram operation. 

It had two tramway systems, one municipal and the other a private company, the private one bought out by the local municipalities in 1921.  The new tram terminus, on a site that was served by the first generation tramway line that connected Ashton with Oldham, lies to the north of Ashton town center, near the railway station.  Most of the first generation tramways ran to the south of the new terminus, although the new line does have street running along much of the alignment of the first generation tramway.  Ashton was an early convert to the trolleybus, and its trams were replaced by trolleybuses as early as 1925. They ran (though not all the way to Oldham) until 1938 when they were replaced by motor buses to enable through running to Oldham to recommence. The two main routes from Ashton to Manchester were converted to trolleybus operation in 1938 and ran until 1966."

Above::  Two photos at Ashton West, the first stop for route 3 trams after leaving their terminal.  This section of the line is on private right-of-way, generally in central reservation.  Views are looking east and west from the station, respectively.  Note the ramp to the high platform.
I rode Metrolink's route 5 to Oldham on Sunday, and that trip will be related later.  Examination of the maps (links above) shows Ashton to Oldham would have been a circumferential line.  After inspecting the terminal I worked my way back along route 3, stopping at a few stations for photos.

An outbound tram approaches the Edge Lane stop on Manchester Road.  A substantial portion of line 3 consists of street operation with the trams mingling with motor traffic.  In other locations, where the street is too narrow to host a stop, the tracks are routed off the roadway to stations alongside.

The Etihad Campus stop serves the sports facilities of the Manchester City football (soccer) club, including the 55,000-seat Etihad Stadium, a major traffic generator for Metrolink.  Etihad, the airline of Abu Dhabi, has paid huge sums for its sponsorship.  (The stadium of Manchester City's rival, Manchester United, which seats 75,000, is also served by Metrolink, with all but one tram line stopping nearby at Trafford Bar.)  It is both an intermediate stop on line 3 and the terminal of trams on line 7.

Time was running short so rather than waiting for the sun to emerge from behind clouds near the portal I took my photos and headed back to the hotel, where I reclaimed my bags and then went back to Piccadilly station for my train to Liverpool.  As related on page 60, I dropped the large bag in the left luggage and retained the smaller one for my trip to the Isle of Man.

Above and below:  The portal to the back of Manchester Piccadilly station is shown in these two views just west of the New Islington stop.  Trams of routes 3 and 7 pass through here, while those on routes 2 and 4, which terminate at Piccadilly, join them through the front portal in both directions.

Alan Pearce sent a note and some photos correcting the location of the last two pictures in chapter 13.  He wrote that the location is not the back portal of Manchester Piccadilly station, but rather the east side of a road underpass about a quarter-mile away.  A long center track that was used to reverse trams in earlier times is located between the underpass and the station.  Sorry about the error, but on the other hand, it gave me the opportunity to show Metrolink's original AnsaldoBreda T-68 cars, as recorded by Alan's camera in September 2013.
Above and below:  Two Alan Pearce views of Metrolink's portal at the rear of Manchester Piccadilly station.  The upper photo clearly shows the center track.

The walk to the Metrolink tram terminal at Manchester Airport was a bit long, and once we arrived we saw that the regular 12-minute headway was being operated early this Sunday morning.  Now numbered route 6 and running all the way through to Victoria station, back in August it was called line F and ran only as far as Deansgate-Castlefield, 4 stops shorter than now.*  But that didn't matter, as we were going to concentrate on photographing the outer end of the line, which runs through a blend of industrial and residential neighborhoods.  It is a very photogenic line (although a bit slow running), and we stopped at several stations for photos in the sunny weather.  This 9-mile extension of the East Didsbury line from St. Werburgh's Road (see below) opened on November 3, 2014 and consists of a combination of street running, central reservation, side reservation and cross-country prw.   Again, here are the links for maps of the Manchester Metrolink tramway; Geographically correct:
 https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b6/Map_of_Manchester_Metrolink.png. Diagramatic:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manchester_Metrolink#/media/File:Manchester_Metrolink-_Schemaplan.png Even with the switch in identification from letters to numbers, the route designations are still not displayed on the trams' destination signs.
An inbound M5000 is shown in the suburb of Wythenshawe en route to Deansgate-Castlefield at the edge of central Manchester

Above and below::  Two additional views of Metrolink's photogenic Manchester Airport line on private right-of-way.  There are some sections of street running as well.  In the upper view an outbound M5000 is approaching the Wythenshawe Park stop, while below, a little further toward the line's junction with the East Didsbury branch, an M5000 approaches Northern Moor station.
The rear of an inbound tram on route 6 from Manchester Airport is shown crossing under St. Werburgh's Road after stopping at the station of the same name, the first after the line's junction with the 5 from East Didsbury.  This right-of-way once was used to bring Midland Railway mainline trains from St. Pancras Station in London to Manchester Central Station.
St. Werburgh's Road station is just beyond the junction of the 6 with the 5, and after a photo, we transferred to an East Didsbury-bound car to ride that route.  The 5 is not as interesting, as it runs on a railway right-of-way.  We rode out to the line's end point and then returned toward the city center.  The outer part of route 5 (2.7 miles) was opened on May 23, 2013, while the inner portion, now routes 5 and 6 combined (1.7 miles), came on line on July 7, 2011.
Andrew Beech provided the following information about the history of the East Didsbury line:  "This line runs along a former Midland Railway mainline railway that connected Manchester Central station (now the G-Mex conference centre) with London St Pancras via Derby and Leicester.  The Beeching Report in 1962 prescribed savage cuts to Britain’s railway network and among the recommendations was that no two cities should be joined by more than one mainline railway.   So Manchester to London is now served by the Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston line and Metrolink has taken over the northern part of the Manchester Central line.  Actually the section into Manchester through East Didsbury remained open for freight for many years after passenger service was eliminated.  Also local Manchester trams operated from the city to East Didsbury by a more direct route, and the outer portion was on reserved track.  But that did not deter the authorities from replacing the trams with buses in December 1947.
We got off our Rochdale-bound tram at Deansgate-Castlefield, a four-track island-platform station whose center rails were being used to turn back route F cars from the Airport (as mentioned earlier, these cars now run to Victoria). 

An Altrincham-bound tram stops alongside the outbound platform  of the 4-track Deansgate-Castlefied stop, while an Airport tram waits for passengers.
We then headed for Rochdale, but by the time we got to Oldham, Richard decided to head back, as he no longer had sufficient time to visit the Heaton Park tramway (which I did later--see below) and get back home to Croydon at a reasonable hour.  I wished him farewell (and wondered if I'd catch up to him at the park--I didn't) and continued toward Rochdale, where I stopped over for a photo at the Shaw & Crompton station. 

The rear of a Rochdale-bound tram was photographed from the outbound platform of the Shaw & Crompton stop.  On weekdays every other tram on route 5 is turned back here, providing most of the line's passengers with a 6-minute frequency.
This 14-mile, 19-stop line, the eastern end of the 5, opened in pieces in 2012-13, and runs over a railroad alignment as well (the former Lancashire and Yorkshire from Victoria station), but with a little twist.  The diesel line closed for conversion to light rail in 2009, but instead of a "cheap and dirty" project with no major infrastructure changes, in both Oldham and Rochdale it leaves the railway right-of-way and travels through the city center via a surface alignment (mostly on street) to serve traffic generators in town rather than isolated railroad stations.  I saw this approach for the first time in the town of Worth, on an extension of the Karlsruhe tram-train, and was very impressed.  At the places where the line left and reentered the railway two power conversions (15kV AC to 750 v DC) were put in, as high voltage is not safe in an urban streetscape--but with Metrolink using 750-volt DC throughout, that was not necessary here.  In Rochdale the line leaves the railroad alignment right before the passenger station (direct dMU service between Manchester Victoria and Leeds) and then ends at Rochdale Town Centre, two stops later.
By now it had begun to drizzle and so I didn't attempt to take any more photos, but I'd like to come back to illustrate this modus operandi by showing the connecting tracks from the railway to the street and back.  In addition I'd like to stop at the Newton Heath and Mostyn station for a photograph, as the line runs on bi-directional single track through that stop, as the former second track of the commuter line which preceded Metrolink is still connected to the national railroad system (now Network Rail) for freight service to a waste disposal facility.  The former platform used for trains to Oldham and Rochdale was removed and the track opposite the Metrolink station is not electrified.  I should mentioned that the trams I rode in both directions were delayed prior to entering the section of single track, despite running on a 12-minute Sunday headway.  I couldn't help wondering what happens on weekdays when route 5 runs every 6 minutes in each direction.
After a quick turnaround at Rochdale Town Center I traveled directly back to Victoria and then transferred to a Bury tram, which I rode for 6 stops to Bowker Vale, one stop beyond Heaton Park station.  I had been told that the walk was shorter from there to the park's tramway, which lays in the northeast quadrant of the grounds of the over 600-acre recreational facility.  It was still a good 15-minute hike, almost a mile, but I was rewarded after I arrived, as the drizzle gave way to a sufficient period of sun for me to take some photos.
The tramway museum in Heaton Park is open only on Sundays, and today it was operating a single car over its line.  I found the inner terminal and then, after paying for a round-trip, rode tram 619 to the outer end, which is flush with a closed gate from the street and just past the museum's visitor’s center, shops (book and maintenance) and the main carhouse itself.

Blackpool replica open car 619 has taken its passengers about as far as they can go.  Until 1934 these tracks continued onto Middleton Road, joining one of Manchester's tram lines.  The designation, Thornton Gate, refers to a stop in Blackpool, not the iron fence behind the tram.
This end of the Heaton Park Tramway was originally a short section of private right-of-way used as a spur by Manchester Corporation Tramways from 1903 to 1934.  Special excursion cars were operated to bring school children and others groups to Heaton Park on Sundays from throughout the city.  Paved for bus use for a short period thereafter, in 1979 the founders of the museum were able to scrape off the tarmac and restore the rails, also extending them toward the center of the park so the line is now 1 kilometer long
I found the museum members at the park to be quite friendly and accommodating.  When I saw that double-ended car 96 was spotted in perfect sunlight for a photo, but its pole was facing the wrong way, I went over to the nearest volunteer and asked if it would be OK to reverse the pole.  He immediately did so, introducing himself, and then after my photo took me for a tour of the entire operation, including the Lakeside carhouse (also called the "back shed"), located close to the other end of the line, which he opened for my inspection.  I saw a large number of historic cars in both barns in various stages of maintenance and restoration.  He told me that the organization's collection consists of about 14 trams, but not all are stored at the museum.  From the knowledgeable details he provided (his name is Joe Savage), I suspect he is in charge of the mechanical end of the all-volunteer operation.

Hull tram 96 rests on spur track leading into Heaton Museum's main carhouse and shop.  The four-wheeler was built in 1901 by Hurst Nelson as an open-top double-decker.  The upper level was removed in 1933 when the car was reconfigured for work service.  The Hull streetcar system closed in favor of trolleybuses in 1945 and No. 96 was sold along with a number of passenger cars to the tramway in Leeds, where it was renumbered 6 and continued to serve until the system in that city was abandoned in 1959.
Heaton Park's back shed hosts No. 173, a single truck double decker built by Brush for Manchester in 1901.  Originally delivered with an open top, the tram's upper deck was later closed in.  After being retired in 1931 it was sold and ended up being used as a garden shed for many years.  The museum acquired the car and had it restored to its original condition.
After this wonderful visit I hiked back to Metrolink, paying my respects to the geese, ducks and other birds bathing in ponds along the way, but this time I headed to the Heaton Park station, which I found to be just about equidistant from the inner end of the tram line as Bowker Vale (but much more scenic).
No. 619 was the car of the day, shuttling back and forth over the 1-km line.  It was reconstructed from a Blackpool English Electric-built Railcoach (No. 282 from 1935) in 1987 to portray one of the three Vanguard trams built for the Blackpool and Fleetwood Tramroad in 1910.  Before its final conversion it had been renumbered 619 (in 1968).  Rebuilt for one-man operation in 1973, it ran regularly both before and after its 1987 reconstruction into this replica.  Blackpool donated it to the Heaton Park Tramway in 2010.
As soon as I got to the shelter of the tram stop, it began to rain again.  I felt very fortunate that my itinerary was bestowed with good weather when I needed it.  It was a quick ride to Piccadilly station, where I bailed out my suitcase.  Since it was about 4:30 in the afternoon and my train connection for Long Eaton wasn't due out until 17:46 I decided to have an early dinner, which I consumed within the station at a branch of the American chain, T. G. I. Friday's.

Above:  Two scenes in Heaton Park while on my return to Metrolink.  Tram 619 surely adds to the park's ambience.  The path leads down to one of its ponds, which many of the park's young visitors frequent in order to feed the bird life that congregates there.
Fully refreshed I boarded a very crowded dMU heading for Sheffield and eventually found a seat (my assigned one was already occupied).  The train seemed to dawdle and didn't arrive in Sheffield until 18:43 (36), seven minutes late.  My connection, another East Midlands train that was heading to London, was a few platforms away, so it was up, over and down, and I boarded at 18:46.  Of course the train didn't leave a minute later, as it waited for passengers that were not as fleet as I was.  So we pulled out at 18:52 (47), now five minutes late.  My connection with a Skylink bus for East Midlands Airport via the Pegasus Business Park, where my Holiday Inn Express was located, was tight, so I hoped we could make up the time, but we drifted along and didn't arrive until 19:34 (29), still five minutes late.
I had hoped there would be other passengers alighting and one could tell me where the bus stop was, but no such luck--I was alone.  Upon reaching the foot of the stairs I had no idea whether to turn left or right.  And the bus was due at 19:34.  But there was no point of hurrying or panicking--while considering the situation I witnessed it glide by.  I found the stop, 2½ blocks away, and now would have to wait for almost an hour, because Sunday evening bus service is not very frequent.  Fortunately the stop had a shelter as it soon began to rain, but at least my luggage and I were protected.  The area was totally quiet--hardly any traffic--road or foot.  It was too dark to read, so I just stood there bored, pacing from one end of the shelter to the other.  I was glad I ate dinner in Manchester, because there was absolutely nothing around.  Finally at 20:36 (34) the bus pulled up, but when I told the driver my destination was the Business Park, he said that this trip doesn't stop there.  Fortunately, after arriving at the airport, he told me to stay aboard and he would take me there.  Very nice British hospitality for the 3-minute trip.  I contemplated writing to commend the driver, but then had second thoughts when I considered it possible that his thoughtful actions could get him into trouble with management, so I scotched that.

Fortunately the hotel had not lost my reservation.  But what else could go wrong?  After I was settled in I went down to the desk and asked about a Business Center where I could print out my boarding pass.  Ryanair charges 70 Euros (about $85!) if you don't bring a boarding pass to the airport, but it will not issue one if you don't select a seat (and I was too cheap to pay extra to do that) until 72 hours before the flight.  I had no access to a computer on the Isle of Man, but I thought “no problem;” an airport hotel surely would provide its clientele with that necessity.

"No, we don't have computers for the public."  Uh-oh.  But the clerk clearly was using a computer and printer on her side of the counter, so I asked her if I could use that one.  "No."  "But I'll have to pay a penalty of 70 euros for nothing tomorrow morning."  "Wait a minute, if you can email the boarding pass to the hotel I'll be able to print it out."  Now I had to figure out how to do that using my new Samsung Android.  Fortunately I had email and the internet to access the Ryanair site.  As a result I was able to click the right buttons to tell its check-in program to email my boarding pass to me.  It actually came--in the form of an attachment--and now all I had to do was forward it to the hotel.  Thank goodness her printer wasn't broken.  Now I could go to sleep without worrying.
Monday, August 21.  I awoke at 4:45 to get ready for my 7:00 Ryanair flight to Riga.  As mentioned in the initial part of this report, the second half of my trip would involve joining the VDVA (Verband Deutscher Verkehrs-Amateure), a German railfan organization on its tour of the Baltic States.  I was bypassing the Lithuanian portion of the trip (Lithuania does not have streetcars), but would meet up with the group in Riga in the evening.  While my Holiday Inn Express in Castle Donington did not have a Business Center, it certainly had an excellent breakfast policy aimed at its clients heading for East Midlands Airport, with fresh food (fruit and pastries) and hot beverages available starting at 4 a.m., and a full breakfast buffet at 6:00.  I finished my Continental Breakfast at 5:35 and then began my trip to the Continent.  This will be discussed in the posting..
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Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 3:08 PM

No text will be missing by the end of this day, Wednesday, 13 June.  But, I still have no idea which photos you can see and which have vanished in the transmittal.  If photos are missing, then let me know, and I will use the edit buttono to put them at the locations of their captions.

Meanwhile, for the sake of my own sanity and self-preservation, I have assembled two pdf books for Jack's Southern Euroepan tour and now am working on the one for Great Britain.

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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, April 23, 2018 12:39 AM

With others receiving Jack's travel report not posting its insallments, I guess it is left to me to do so.   To make it easy, I will wait until all the British Isles reports are received, have the book on those reports reviewed by Jack to check on my editing, keep a Word version when putting it into Pdf, and then post the whole thing in one new thread in one new posting.  I wll then ask that this thread be removed with the new one replacing it.  Then also do similarly for the second half of the three-week tour.  Meanwhile, this can stay as is.  Now see below as per 1 June '18.

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Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, April 29, 2018 11:20 AM

But rather than start a new thread, I am asking the moderator to delete all my posts after the first two.  As soon as this is done and I visit the website, at a wideband location, I will in one posting add installments 3 - 11 or 12 to complete Jacks UK visit report with all installments in proper order.   Thanks!

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Posted by Miningman on Monday, April 30, 2018 1:16 PM

Thanks for all this David. I feel for you...definitely a frustrating and difficult task for you...and all this after years and years of incredible and significant information and contributions. Your enthusiasm is admirable.

I certainly hope these tribulations will end soon.

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Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 6:03 AM

he Edit button has been returned to me, and I plan on posting all photos with then next few days.  Meanwhile, here is a continuation of the story, photos to come:

Monday, August 21.  I awoke at 4:45 to get ready for my 7:00 Ryanair flight to Riga.  As mentioned in the initial part of this report, the second half of my trip would involve joining the VDVA (Verband Deutscher Verkehrs-Amateure), a German railfan organization on its tour of the Baltic States.  I was bypassing the Lithuanian portion of the trip (Lithuania does not have streetcars), but would meet up with the group in Riga in the evening.  While my Holiday Inn Express in Castle Donington did not have a Business Center, it certainly had an excellent breakfast policy aimed at its clients heading for East Midlands Airport, with fresh food (fruit and pastries) and hot beverages available starting at 4 a.m., and a full breakfast buffet at 6:00.  I finished my Continental Breakfast at 5:35 and then began my trip to the Continent.
Skylink, the bus company that delivered me to the Holiday Inn, has a robust early morning timetable serving the airport:
Lv   Pegasus Business Park 5:42 5:47 6:02 6:10 6:17 6:32
Ar   EMA Airport           5:45 5:51 6:05 6:14 6:20 6:35

I was able to catch the 5:42, which arrived at 5:44.  The airport was an organized mad house, and security lines were very long.  I was glad (at the time) that I got there early, especially as the hike to my [furthest] gate was incredibly long.  It was a beautiful cloudless morning, and all the flights (and there were lots of them--mostly to resort cities) were on time--except my 7:20 departure.  There were few seats in the Ryanair "bull pen" and I remained on line for the flight as the departure board changed from 8:00 to 8:30 to 9:00 and finally to 8:40.
I had not paid for a seat on the aircraft, and when I received my boarding pass, found that I was assigned to 2E, presumably a middle seat on the B-737.  But when I finally boarded, by climbing a portable stairway at 8:15, I found that there was no row 1 on my side of the aircraft, nor was there a 2D seat (there was a 2A, 2B and 2C across the aisle) and the 2F window seat was empty.  I was in an emergency exit row and I had to promise to help if the aircraft experienced any problems.  I was quite happy I didn't pay for the privilege of selecting my seat, and as a result ended up with a 2-seat row with gobs of legroom all to myself.  I couldn't ask for anything better--and the plane was crowded, with almost all every place taken.  I couldn't help recalling that I had gotten a multiplicity of emails from Ryanair before the flight, urging me to buy a seat, including the warning that I could be assigned to a "dreaded middle seat," which technically I was.
We rolled onto the runway at 8:39 (7:20) and left the tarmac at 8:52.  It was a smooth flight with unobtrusive sales pitches for food, drink and tax-free products.  The sky was interesting, looking like pools of water or lakes and mountains for most of the journey.
We landed at 13:08, reaching our spot near a gate at 13:12 (12:05), a little over an hour late.  It could have been a lot worse.  Weather was comfortably warm (in the 70s) and the skies were a mix of sun and clouds.  After navigating the stairs (I was one of the first because of the location of my seat) it was a short walk to the terminal and customs and immigration were perfunctory.  There was a Tourist Information Office (without any transit maps), but I was able to get a city map and buy a 24-hour transit ticket for 5 euros.

Not snow-covered mountains, but just clouds.
Bus route 22 connects the airport with the city center, stopping near the railway station.  It runs on a frequent headway, but had to fight a large amount of traffic, so I didn't arrive in downtown until about 14:00.  It was an easy walk to the VDVA's hotel, the Ibis, and they were expecting me.  My roommate Karl-Heinz had not arrived yet.  He too was skipping Lithuania, as was John Wilkins and Dick Aaron, who appeared at the hotel (by taxi from the airport) at roughly the same time as I did.
With the weather so nice, I told them I wanted to get moving as fast as possible and suggested they have lunch without me, but before I finished freshening up, I changed my mind as I began to get hungry.  Having traveled with John and Dick before, I knew exactly where I could find them, and caught up to them at the McDonald's down the street from the hotel.  After obtaining 24-hour tickets for them and taking a few photos in the downtown area, we began riding, stopping off here and there for photos.
The countries of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia (working south to north), lying on the eastern edge of the Baltic Sea, are often referred to as the Baltic states, but are settled by distinct ethnic groups.  The populations of each of the countries and their capitals are:

Lithuania   2.8 million         Vilnius   575,000   20.5 pct.
Latvia      2.0 million         Riga      650,000   30.7 pct.
Estonia     1.3 million      Tallinn   430,000   30.2 pct.

As you can see, the number of people in each country, is less than those in the top two cities in the U. S., and their population is concentrated in their capitals, especially in Latvia and Estonia.  In fact the population of all three Baltic states combined is less than New York City's.  Until the beginning of the 18th century the region now comprising Lithuania was controlled by Poland while the present Latvia and Estonia were under Swedish influence (which explains why most Lithuanians are Catholic and those residing to the north are Lutheran).  The three became part of Russia during the 1700s and remained that way until the end of the First World War, when they were awarded their independence.  That was not to last, as they were occupied by Russia after the Hitler-Stalin pact and then by Germany during most of World War II.  After being overrun again by Russia they became part of the postwar Soviet Union.  During the Gorbachev era the three countries regained their independence (peacefully) and now have democratically-elected governments, allied with Western Europe.
Riga itself is a lovely city.  Clare and I recognized that when we visited in 1997, when our daughter-in-law was pregnant with our first granddaughter in St. Petersburg (Nastya is now 21 and a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin.)  We traveled by rail from Riga to St. Petersburg to Moscow to Bryansk (where Paul's wife Irina grew up and her family still lives) to Kiev.  Riga reminds me of many cities in western Europe (that were not destroyed in World War II), including Paris and Madrid, with a downtown area populated by substantial buildings, many of them in art-deco style.  In the oldest part of the city there are some magnificent churches (mostly Lutheran, but also Catholic and Anglican), and one can get some fantastic views from their observation platforms.
The Riga tramway system is unusual in that it does not carry the bulk of the city's passengers, as more patronize the larger network of trolleybuses.  Although there are officially only 8 lines (while there are 17 trolleybus routes), the tramway nevertheless plays a significant role in serving Riga's citizens.  The number of tram routes is deceiving however, as if you look at the map (https://www.rigassatiksme.lv/files/tram_03032018_preview_eng.pdf) you will see 8 lines radiating from the center.  But 2 are through routed (1 and 5), while 4 have terminal loops in the city center (2, 7, 10 and 11).  That only accounts for 6 of the 8 lines, as the remaining 2 (routes 3 and 9) overlap the other lines and have infrequent headways.  (This past August there were two more low-frequency overlapping routes, the 4 and 6, but they're gone as a result of recent rationalization.)  Only the 1, 5, 7 and 11 have really good frequencies (5 to 8 minutes in rush hours), while the 2 and 10, because of some bi-directional single track, have their best headways limited to 12 to 20 minutes.
The well-maintained system is broad gauge, 5 feet or 1524 mm, which is very common in the former Soviet Union, especially on its mainline railway network.  Riga is also noteworthy because it still uses trolley poles for current collection, although once its older cars are replaced with low-floor equipment the poles will be retired.  (The use of trolley poles in Latvia of course, was one of the main reasons I decided to go on this tour.  We would also visit Daugavpils, which uses trolley poles as well, and apparently has no plans to convert to pans.)
Back to the rolling stock, which provided the lively and dependable operation we experienced.  There are three basic types of cars, all single-ended (although you could say four if you count the differing number of sections in the articulated cars separately).  The roster includes the ubiquitous streamlined Tatra T3 PCC and its upgraded version, the angular T6 (formerly the T3M in Soviet nomenclature), plus new 100-percent low-floor Skoda 15T models.  All were built in what is now the Czech Republic.  The photos below illustrate those cars and are followed by the narration of the day's activities.

A 1988-built Tatra T6 on the spaghetti of tracks that weave through Riga's downtown.  The tramway has 48 of these PCCs on its roster, and they are usually found on routes 3 and 7.

This train of Tatra T3s goes back to 1981 and is representative of the majority of cars operating on Riga's tramway system--all with trolley poles.  The location is the Imantas iela stop along Bebru iela, a wide suburban-like arterial with a grassed center reservation.  There are 134 of these fine PCCs on the roster.  At the time of my visit route number 4 was assigned to tripper cars that beefed up rush hour service on the western end of route 1, but this route designation is no longer used.

Above and below:  Two views of Skoda 15T trams near Kleistu iela along Anninmuizas bulvaris, another of Riga's wide thoroughfares, only one stop beyond the location of the previous photo.  The extension of tramway service through these "wide open spaces" was accomplished in 1984.  Because of the location of the sun, the lower view is my only photo showing the door side of these cars (and from the back yet).  Fifteen of the Skoda-built 3-section 100-percent low-floor articulated 15T cars are on the roster, supplemented by six 4-section 15T1s.  Officially listed in Skoda's catalog under the ForCity Alfa brand, these cars are also very popular in Prague, which has 250 such standard-gauge units.  Riga has since ordered 20 more, fifteen 3-section (103 feet long) and five 4-section (135 feet) units.  Sadly, I did not photograph any of the longer 4-section units, nor any without advertising wraps (although I did see one, but only one).  [Those who have read my previous trip report, which included a visit to Bratislava, may recall that there are 30 similar Skoda ForCity meter-gauge T29/T30 cars operating in that city.]

We first rode across the Daugava River and stopped for photos as soon as we turned northward onto center reservation.  We then rode T3 cars on the 5 out to its end point at Ilguciems, headed back to its junction with the 1, and then concentrated on the new Skoda units that were operating out to Imanta.  As it turned out all we saw were 3 section articulateds.  The next day we noticed that some Skoda cars were also running on the 11.  Otherwise the system was all Tatra.
The weather turned partly cloudy and we headed back to the Ibis, where I found that Karl-Heinz had arrived.  We all went out to the Forest restaurant, recommended by the desk clerk, where I had an excellently prepared roast duck as a main course.  The group, which included other Americans including Frank and Carol Graham, Julien Wolfe and Thomas Palkon, would not arrive until about 21:30.  It had been a long day, but I was looking forward to our first fantrip the following morning.
Tuesday, August 22.  The first tour day that Karl-Heinz and I would attend would be a busy one, with both a morning and afternoon charter.  We had to get up early to join the group, which numbered 60, to board a scheduled route 15 articulated trolleybus, which would take us to Riga carhouse No. 3 at 8:15.  The hotel's buffet breakfast room would open at 6:30, but we didn't want to get up that early and be the first down, so we arrived in the very crowded space at about 7:30.  We would breakfast here for 5 mornings and were quite happy with the victuals and their presentation.  I said hello to the German tourleaders and the others I knew on the trip, and was given the official 56-page booklet, which contained all the pertinent information for the next 8 days, including schedules, route maps and rolling stock rosters, as well as a list of all the participants.  It was beautifully prepared, but only in the German language.  But since I was rooming with Karl-Heinz I wouldn't have any problems.  Besides, Lars Richler, who I first met two months earlier on Thomas Fischer's Ukraine tour, and Rolf Hafke, the President of the VDVA, spoke good English.
Each member of the group was given a 24-hour ticket and the trackless trolley dropped us at the carhouse at about 8:50 in drizzling weather.  Some of the quintessential features of electric traction tours conducted by German groups are long visits to carbarns, especially in eastern Europe where large numbers of unusual work cars can be found, and while I took a few photos in the rain, I boarded one of our three units as soon as I could.

This was the lineup of cars that greeted us when we entered Carhouse 3.  Left to right:  Tatra T6 PCC 35302 (used for the charter), Replica car 1901 (also used for the charter) and Tatra T3 PCC 30144.

Above and below:  Two scenes of work equipment from further back in the carhouse.  No. 88021 is a partly cut-off T3 PCC whose rear was converted for spraying and No. 88006 is a snow sweeper.  The lower view shows a further assortment of sweepers with a train of T3s at left.

We left at 9:30, exactly on the advertised.  At various photostops I transferred among our trams, which included No. 1901, a replica car fashioned to look like one of the system's original units at the time of its opening in 1901.  It operates in a special tourist service on weekends, which is apparently quite popular.  On our last day in Riga, Friday, August 25, I came upon it carrying a wedding party.  A pair of Tatra T6 PCC cars, led by No. 35032, was also included in our procession.  These were constructed for Riga from 1988 to 1990 (Riga's T3s were built between 1976 and 1987).  No. 88032, a Tatra T3 PCC converted into a double-ended training car with relatively few seats, was the last member of our touring party.  All had poles, but the 88032 was also equipped with a pantograph for its role in teaching new operators the essentials. 
The rolling stock numbering system should be explained.  The two carhouses are No. 3 (on route 7) and No. 5 (on route 1).  All passenger trams have a '3' or '5' as the first numeral of their 5-digit car number.  The numbers assigned to all work equipment begins with '8'
Here are some close-up equipment views of the cars.
Above and below:  Four wheeler 1901, emblazoned with tourism slogans in various languages, is a replica, usually used on a fixed route tourist service on Saturdays and Sundays.  Built in 1982 by the tramway and Riga carbuilder RVR on an old RVR carbody, it has a great deal of pep and is relatively silent.

Tatra-built T6 35032, at the point of a 2-car train, is in beautiful condition for a 27-year old vehicle that sees use every day.  Riga's roster includes 48 of these angular-looking PCCs.
After heading through the city center we traversed the northeastern end of route 5, which in part hugs the Daugava River and ends at Milgravis (with a short section of bi-directional single track leading up to the loop).  After returning to downtown we followed route 11 to its terminal, Mezaparks
(see https://www.rigassatiksme.lv/files/tram_03032018_preview_eng.pdf  for a map with updated route numbers).  Both routes are interesting with lots of prw, plus there is some "gutter running," with the tracks located on either side of a roadway next to their respective curbs.  We had plenty of photo stops in all kinds of light.  Gradually the rain let up and the dark sky began to lighten, with the sun finally coming out when we were on the final leg of the fantrip, inbound on route 11.

Above and below:  Training car 88032.  This beautifully running Tatra T3 PCC was built in 1982 and converted into a training car in 2011.  I suspect its conversion into a double-ended unit involved replacing its rear end with the front of another T3.  And a pantograph was added to supplement its trolley pole.  The lower view shows its formerly blind side with its pole up, while the upper photo shows it operating with a pantograph.
One of our first photo stops:  Training car 88032, replica 1901 and T6 PCC 35032.
It was about noon upon our return to the city center, but rather than having lunch during the 90 minutes before the start of the afternoon charter from Carhouse 5, Julien, Karl-Heinz and I completed some essential work.  First we stopped off at the railway station and purchased tickets for the next day (Wednesday) to Daugavpils.  Almost all of the group would be traveling to that city by charter bus, but we prefer rail.*  The fare was very low and once we accomplished that we saw we had enough time to make a round-trip on route 2, one of Riga's lightest routes, but an interesting one nevertheless.  By that time clouds had rolled in again, and the rest of the day was a mixture of clouds and sun.  This is the result of working during your lunch hour.

Route 2 is equipped with Tatra T3 cars running as single units, as it has a light amount of traffic and thus relatively poor headways (half hourly at best).  After looping with other lines near the market downtown, it crosses the Daugava River and operates on its east side.  Of special interest is that its outermost stop is not a true terminal.  After stopping for passengers, the cars immediately round a loop and head back 5 stops to Zasalauka station (shown here, with a layout that also allows short turns), where their layover is taken (with time to take photos, the operator kindly indicating she wasn't leaving for four more minutes).  There is also no opportunity for laying over at the line's inner city center end.
* Karl Heinz and I--with Clare--were among a small group that rode rail from Lviv to Vinnytsia instead of  the bus on the Thomas Fischer Ukraine tour  two months earlier--and also between Algiers and Oran along with Dwight Long and Paul O'Brien on Fischer's tour of Algeria a few years earlier.
After our round-trip on Route 2, Julien, Karl-Heinz and I rode route 1 to Carhouse 5 and arrived a little after 13:30, the time the group was supposed to gather, a half-hour before the afternoon fantrip was about to start.  That gave us a little time for more photos.
As I mentioned earlier, the car numbers assigned to Riga's rolling stock contain 5 digits, with the first numeral being '3' or '5' for passenger trams (depending on which carhouse they are assigned) and '8' for work cars.  Rob Hutchinson indicated that the next three digits of the passenger cars are actually their unique number (there is no duplication), which raised the question of what the last (fifth) digit represents.  I guessed that perhaps it could be a mathematical check digit, although I determined the numbers do not directly compute into the popular mod 10 or mod 11 schemes.  So I would be greatly appreciative it any readers know or can discover the answer to that question.  Rob further indicated that the middle three digits (the actual car number) are 000-190 for Tatra T3s, 203-218 for unrebuilt T6s and 501-530 for rebuilt T6s.  The Skoda low floors are 701-720 for the 3-section, 801-806 for the 4-section..
Another question I was asked is whether those of Riga's cars equipped with poles use a fixed or swiveling trolley.  The answer is swiveling, which is similar to the harps used on trolleybuses.
Rail grinder 88001 still looks like it could haul passengers.  The two-tone blue livery is reminiscent of the color scheme used for New York City buses in the recent past.
We had a pair of Tatra T3 PCCs for the charter, plus a bright and shiny T3 work car that followed us out route 10.  We spent a long time at the loop that encircles Carhouse 4, which is no longer active but is used for storage of out-of-service equipment.  Although the views below look like double track, the inbound rails are hiding behind the building on the right.  The track on the left was being used by outbound route 10 cars.
The roof over the rear end of a Tatra T3 PCC was removed to fabricate this work car for the movement of materials.  How about some seats in that section to supplement car 1901 for good weather sightseeing?

We spent an inordinate time at that location, and by the time we continued on route 10 the clouds were rolling back in.  But in any case it would have been difficult to have photo stops on the bi-directional single track and not hold up service, which was operating on an 18-minute headway at this time .  As a result I went back to the line on Thursday, during the period when the group had a fantrip on Riga's trolleybus system.  Here are some photos from that visit on a dark, drizzly day
Our group rode in these two beautifully maintained Tatra T3 PCC cars that date from 1987.

Previous page: All three of our chartered cars pause for photos at Telts iela, the location of the former Carhouse 4.
The VDVA held its "welcome" dinner this evening after the second fantrip was over.  It was a buffet affair in the nearby Hotel Mercure, an upscale brand of the same chain* that owns the Ibis where we were staying.  After dessert, all of the Americans were asked to introduce themselves, and several other participants spoke as well, including the officers of the VDVA.
I will abandon chronological sequence, temporarily skipping our visits to the Latvian cities of Daugavpils and Liepaja, in order to continue with our last day in Riga on Friday, August 25.
* Accor Hotels sold its two American-based chains, Red Roof Inn (in 2007) and Motel 6 (in 2012).  It still operates in North America, but with upscale units including Novotel and Sofitel.  It also has a connection with railroads, as it now owns the Fairmont hotel chain, successor to Canadian Pacific and Canadian National hotels (such as the Chateau Lake Louise and Jasper Park Lodge) and it also owns Pullman Hotels.

Above and below:  The outer end of route 10 has 7 stops and one passing siding before its terminal loop.  Most of the line runs along Bauskas iela, the only arterial road in this quiet area.  The lower photo shows the attractive Sterstu iela stop.

Friday, August 25.  This was our last day in Riga, and it dawned dark and drizzly, and remained that way until late in the afternoon.  I decided to do some riding and photographing on my own prior to meeting the group (which was concentrating on trolleybuses) at 15:30 for a walking tour of Riga's old city.  As a result there was no reason to get up early for a change, and Karl-Heinz and I had breakfast at a leisurely pace after which I purchased a 24-hour ticket from a newspaper kiosk for EUR 5.

By now I had ridden all the tram lines except the outer end of the 7 beyond Carhouse 3, so my plan for the morning was to finish my inspection of the network.  Route 7 employs Riga's newer PCC cars, the T6s, which we had for our first fantrip.  Like most of the other routes the 7, which runs on a frequent headway, operates on the street for its inner section, and then uses center-of-the-road or side-of-the road reservation in the less built-up areas further out.  There is one place, however, where elevated roadways leading to a bridge over the Daugava River results in the line operating over a section of right-of-way not directly adjacent to the street.  I took advantage of the overpasses and also stopped to snap some other photos.
An outbound train of T6s on route 7 has just turned off Maskavas iela near its Elijas iela stop and will thread its way through some underpasses to avoid a complex intersection at the end of a bridge over the Daugava River before returning to the same street.

Above and below:  Tuesday morning's charter revisited on route 7.  Above, replica 1901 decorated for a wedding party came upon me by surprise, and the best I could do was to snap a photo from the rear.   Below, a very old wooden house stands at the corner of Maskavas iela and Daugavpils iela as Training Car 88032 heads inbound.

It was odd to get deja vu (all over again), as while I was walking the line, two of the chartered cars from our Tuesday fantrips came along (at different times).
After finishing with the 7 I went out on the single-track route 10 for some photography, hoping the weather would clear (It didn't, and the photos were shown earlier), followed by a visit to the Latvian Railway Museum, which was conveniently on the way back, being just across the river from downtown and accessible by tram lines 1, 2, 5 and 10.  It is quite extensive, with displays both indoors and out, but after paying my EUR 2.50 entry fee, I found out that the captions for all the exhibits are only in Latvian--no spoken or written English.  But there were a number of things I could figure out.
The Latvian Railway Museum courtyard, displaying two trains with large Soviet Era locomotives.  At left a TEP60 with Russian markings, one of 1,241 made in various Soviet plants from 1960 to 1985.  No. 1206 was manufactured in Kolomna, near Moscow.  To the right a class 52 (now class TE) 2-10-0 locomotive built by Henschel in 1942 for the Deutsche Reichsbahn, one of 6,719 Kriegslokomotive that served Germany's war effort.  In 1947
No. 036 became one of many sent to the USSR as reparations and was regauged to 5-foot (1524 mm) with service including Latvia.

I then headed for the main railway station for some more photos.

Above and below:  Two photos of 1524-mm gauge Latvian Railways multiple-unit rolling stock at Riga's railway station.  The upper view features a modernized train of ER2 cars.  These were among the second generation of Soviet eMUs (Elektrichkas) when built in 1962 for operation under 3000 v. DC catenary.  Capable of a maximum speed of 80 mph, No. 969 was substantially rebuilt and overhauled in 2010.  Both electric and diesel-electric MU trains are shown in the lower photo.  At left is an unmodernized ER2T, built in 1987.  Contrast the body of this unit with the one shown above.  At right is an example of a DR1A diesel MU, capable of 75 mph, which was built in 1973.  Many (if not all) of these cars were built by RVR in Riga, at one time the USSR's largest builder of electric and diesel trains.  According to Julien Wolfe, who rode on some of the electric units that afternoon, "this train was like a time machine, . . ., as the intense traction sounds were unlike any I had heard in the past 50 years.  These cars generated a perfect rendering of how B-types, Lo-Vs or Lackawanna eMUs sounded when starting and achieving good speed."

Afterwards, I consumed an ice cream pop (my typical lunch when on the road) and did some shopping for a gift for Clare, who so kindly let me go on this trip on my own.  Then it was time to meet the group (including Karl-Heinz) and their Latvian/German/English-speaking city tour leader.  This turned out to be rather tiresome, as we must have spent an hour in the market, which is located in huge halls that were repurposed from Zeppelin hangars.  We looked at a broad variety of plentiful food, with a narration that was 95 percent in German.  Karl-Heinz and I decided to abandon the tour and visit the old city ourselves.  We walked onto the Daugava bridge (used by the tram lines) and took some photos of Riga's skyline as the horizon lightened.  Then it was into the quaint and attractive old city on our own, where we found charming views and finally a pleasant restaurant for dinner, which provided us with tasty, well-prepared cuisine.


A Tatra T3 PCC rolls down 11 Novembra krastmala along the Daugava, with the spire of the old city's St. Peter's Lutheran Church in the background.  Back in 1997 Clare and I rode an elevator to the tower for an excellent view of the city
The steeples of three churches that date back to the 13th century appear in this view from the bridge (Akmens Tilts, not Arthur Miller) that carries Riga's trams to the west side of the Daugava.  From left to right they are the Cathedral (Lutheran), St. Jacob's (Roman Catholic) and St. Peter's (Lutheran), with the tower of City Hall in the center of the photo.

Top-to-bottom:  The tower of the 13th century Cathedral dominates this view of one of the many cul-de-sacs that crowd Riga's charming old city.   The facade of the Pullman Hotel, which dates back to 1789.  Now part of one of Accor's luxury chains, I had to wait a few minutes to get a photo that didn't include any of the many Mercedes that pulled up to its main entrance.
One of my last views of the old city showing a number of the restaurants that sport outdoor seating. The tower of City Hall is behind the buildings.

Despite the weather I had a good day. Reverting back to Wednesday, where we traveled to Daugavpils for another day on the trams, will now be discussed.

Wednesday, August 23.  The group would leave for its 150-mile bus ride to Daugavpils at 8:00, but Karl-Heinz, Julien and I had to be on the road earlier, as we were traveling to Latvia's second city by rail at 7:40.  After breakfast we wandered over to the railway station, and once we were satisfied with our photos, boarded our three-car dMU train, which consisted of a motor pulling two matching trailers.  The train departed on time and then traveled under 3000-volt DC wire to the end of suburban electric service at Aizkraukle (some 55 miles), from which we continued for another 90 or so miles beyond, at good speed, still paralleling the Daugava River, which only occasionally was in view.  For the most part we saw forests, fields and streams.

The clock tower atop Riga's railway station indicated we had only 13 minutes to catch our train to Daugavpils.  Although there is only one long-distance train using the facility, which carries compartment sleeping cars for both St. Petersburg and Moscow, the station has a full array of amenities, including ticket windows, travel information agencies, snack bars, news kiosks and even a supermarket.  It serves mostly suburban riders along five electrified lines that radiate from the city.  The current building was completed in 1965, on the same site as an original 1861 structure. 
We arrived in Daugavpils on time at 11:07 (average speed with stops about 40 mph), and actually beat the group's bus, which rolled into the station's forecourt about ten minutes later.  During the interim we bought our return tickets to Riga (EUR 7.05 each way), now knowing from experience that the train would definitely be preferable to a bus ride.  Daugavpils, in the southeastern corner of Latvia and with a population of just under 100,000, is located close to the borders of Lithuania, Belarus and Russia, and thus is a crossroad of commerce.  This would be my second visit to the city, which I managed as a day trip from Riga in 1997, virtually on the same schedule as today.  I also passed through it (without stopping over) on a 2005 train ride from Vilnius (where I had a few-minute connection from Kaliningrad) to St. Petersburg, and spied a streetcar from the window of my sleeping compartment.  I liked the city very much, especially in terms of the tramway, because it traverses extremely quaint neighborhoods as well as a series of architecturally splendid churches along its main traffic artery, 18 Novembra iela.  Of course the system's use of trolley poles is instrumental to the equation.  In fact one could say that the only portions of the city that are visually unappealing from the windows of a tramcar are buildings constructed during Latvia's communist period (1945-1989).
Our Latvian Railways three-car dMU is shown ready to leave for Daugavpils.  The RVR logo on the face of the DR1A motor unit indicates the equipment was built by Rigas Vagonbuves Rupnica, Latvia's largest manufacturer, which in Soviet times also built thousands of iconic PCC-like RVZ-6 trams (one of which we would ride today in Daugavpils).  This three-car unit was among a large number constructed in the 1970s for operation in all corners of the Soviet Union.
Historically, Daugavpils has had many names, depending upon whom its rulers were, including Dvinsk (Russian) and Dunaburg (German and Yiddish).  Its current name was established relatively recently when it became part of an independent Latvia in 1920.  The majority of its population (over 50 percent)* are ethnically Russian and that language is ever present, but the use of the Cyrillic alphabet on signs is discouraged--a sign of Latvian nationalism and a lack of trust of its behemoth of a neighbor.  All in all however, Daugavpils does not look prosperous.  Most of our tour-members referred to the city as Dunaburg. 

* According to a recent census, Russians are 53.6 percent of the population, with Latvians coming in second at 19.8.  The remaining quarter are made up of Poles, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, etc.  Until the German occupation Jews made up as much as 45 percent of the population.  On my 1997 trip I saw Swastikas graffitied on what may have been Jewish-owned businesses and storefront schools.
This introduction, taken from notes from my earlier trip, may be overly long, because as it turned out, there was little time to explore the city outside of the tram lines--mostly due to the weather.  In fact our two charters didn't even cover the entire tram network.  While it was partly cloudy when we arrived at the Riga station, by the time we got to our first destination it had become dark and overcast, and soon it began raining, the degree varying from light to steady, with short lulls.  In fact, in order to see anything, we continually had to wipe the windows of our trams with our sleeves or handkerchiefs, as they were constantly steaming up.  But the streetcars we rode certainly protected us from the elements, although as a result, many of our photo stops were shortened by a desire to get back into the shelter of our tramcars as quickly as possible.
Snowplow GS 4 at the rear of the carhouse.  It is not clear why Cyrillic letters are used to identify the car
The tramway has three routes, with some 37 stops covering about 16 miles.  It was not built until 1946, and of course, it's Russian 5-foot gauge.  And like most tramways that were under Soviet influence, it has loops at the ends of all its lines and uses single-ended equipment.  The system was extended to its current size in about 5 different steps, the most recent being in 1990.  Sections of single track have a detrimental effect on headways.  While route 1 has frequent service (cars seemed to run every 8 minutes), the other two lines operate at frequencies just under every half hour.  Most of the track appeared to be in excellent condition, and it also seems that money has been (and is being) spent to upgrade the system's overhead and line poles (with no indication of a move away from the use of trolley-pole current collection).

The tour bus took us to the carhouse and shop, which is located at Butjerova iela, the northern terminal of routes 1 and 2 (see
http://www.urbanrail.net/eu/lv/dauga/daugavpils.htm for a map).  Thus we could observe plenty of action with cars constantly looping during the substantial amount of time we spent exploring the grounds.  In addition to seeing trams that were not in service on this day, we also were able to photograph work cars and many pieces of rolling stock that had been withdrawn from the active roster.  The latter were way in the back of the facility, where long strings of equipment seemed to be rusting away--it looked like the organization has rarely ever scrapped anything.

Sweeper S-37 was also in the back of the carhouse, probably similarly lettered in Cyrillic (is that 'C' an 'S'?)  One of the tramway's Tatra T3 PCCs in dead storage rests behind the work car.

A string of ex-Schwerin Tatra-built T3 PCC cars is located in the far reaches of the carhouse.  They look like they're still in pretty good condition.

Ust-Katav built KTM-23 No. 007 is in service on route 1, and is shown laying over on the loop at the carhouse.  Although it is not apparent, the 2014-built unit is equipped with a low floor in the center.
The roster is interesting and relatively compact.  All service at this time is provided by cars manufactured in Ust Katav, Russia, with the newest, built in 2014, consisting of eight 4-axle PCC-like KTM-23 units and four 3-section 70-percent low-floor KTM-31 cars.  They operate on the busy route 1, while routes 2 and 3 get older 4-axle KT-5s (1990-91) and the single KT8 (1994).  There are a few other cars on the roster that could be placed into service if necessary, including a pair of RVZ-6s and some Tatra T3 PCCs, that had been purchased second-hand from the Schwerin tramway in Germany.

No. 031, a pole-equipped Ust-Katav KTM-31, was spotted on one of the many tracks at the carhouse.  The three-section low-floor articulated car was not in service on this Wednesday--in fact none of these cars were being operated.  Perhaps the four units on the roster are allergic to heavy rain.

KTM-23 No. 008, painted in advertising colors, is shown operating inbound on route 1, along side-of-the-street reservation on 18 Novembra iela after having left the Tukuma iela stop.
We would use the KTM-8 and a KTM-5 for our first charter, and then switch to an RVZ-6  and a Tatra T3 train and for the second.  The trams we rode were excellent portrayals of the evolution of of Russian carbuilding from 50 years ago, starting with the production of the KTM-5s.  Eventually over 15,000 of these workhorses were built from 1969 to 1992, followed by about 1,500 KTM-8s, an updated version, from then (after the breakup of the Soviet Union) until 2007.  I suspect the desire for handicap-accessible units finally resulted in the retirement of the blueprint of what probably is the largest production run in streetcar history.  I rode on many of these cars during my visits to an assortment of cities in Russia and its former satellites starting in the 1990s, when our son went to live there after graduating Rutgers with a major in Russian in 1989.  I found out that there were/are few cities that did/do not have some on their rosters.  One almost exception was St. Petersburg (Leningrad), the largest tramway in Russia (in fact the world), which tended to have its cars built locally, although they did operate a small number of KTMs.  Another car type used extensively in the Soviet Union during that period and now into the 21st century, are Czech-built Tatra T3/T6 units, which still constitute substantial portions of the car rosters in large cities like Moscow and Kiev.  As mentioned earlier, we would ride in a train of T3s, plus an RVZ-6 car built in Riga, whose manufacturer competed with Ust-Katav until about 1990, but was not nearly as successful.  What was necessary in all these cities was a car that would not derail on bad track nor throw its riders around when traveling at decent speeds.

Our first trip covered all of route 1, from the carhouse to the railway station (Stacija) and back.  The dark overcast sky eventually evolved into a steady drizzle, but that was insufficient to prevent us from having a few photo stops, mostly away from the motor traffic along 18 Novembra, an important artery.

Above and below:  Two photos of the start of the Stacija (railway station) loop of the 1 line.  Only a short walk from the city center and the station, the scene looks like it could be out in a lush residential area.  In the upper view a KTM-5 in scheduled service on the route slows for its terminal stop.  Below, our chartered KT-8 car is shown right behind the regular.  The main difference in the appearance of these two models is the presence (or absence) of the ribbed metal.
A view of our two chartered cars leaving the Stacija loop and approaching Maizes iela, where they will join the line's double track.  Again, a view of a grassy and leafy landscape in the midst of an urban area.

After we returned from our first round trip many of us had the opportunity to take more photos at the carhouse, while others took advantage of this rest stop's facilities.  Our second trip was aboard a two-car train made up of Tatra T3s 080 and 078 and RVZ-6 car 061.  The T3s came from Schwerin, Germany in 2002, after they had served that city during the 1970s and 80s, and were later modernized for continued use in 1992.  To operate in Daugavpils, their gauge was widened from standard to 5 feet and their pantographs were replaced by trolley poles.  Their smart-looking blue and white color scheme was retained, and in fact, Daugavpils' RVZ-6s were repainted into that livery.  I've always liked the RVZ-6 cars, which were built for this city between 1978 and 1988, and for many other tram systems as well, eventually numbering about 6,000 units.  It is said that the bodies of these cars are based on American PCCs and/or Tatra T2s, and you will see the startling resemblance below. 
On this trip we followed all of route 2 to its terminal loop at Maizes Kombinats.  This is my favorite line, as after it turns off the "mainline" used by the 1 and 3 lines, it immediately becomes single track and passes many quaint, doll-house sized dwellings.  The 2 resembles a small-town tram line, but certainly not an American one, because of its setting among the tiny wooden houses.  When I rode it in 1995, most of the parallel streets were dirt roads, but since then many have been covered with asphalt paving.  There is a single passing siding on the line and service operates on a 28-minute (!) frequency. 

Our second charter consisted of RVZ-6 tram 061 and a train made up of T3 cars 080 and 079 in the same color scheme.  The location is at the extremity of the Maizes Kombinats terminal loop of the mostly-single track route 2.
I should mention that we were unable to go out on the long northern portion of route 3, as it was temporarily out of service due to an overhead wire problem.  Since we could not turn toward the center of the city after traversing route 2, as the track layout forces all route 2 cars to head northward, we had to run all the way to the carbarn before reversing and heading to the city center.  Thus there is no through service from the 2 to downtown.  Perhaps there is a method to this madness, since fare collection in Daugavpils remains traditional, with single tickets for occasional riding sold on the cars, and transferring to other lines entailing the payment of another fare (thereby creating additional revenue).  After looping through the carhouse we finally headed downtown, where the trip would end.  We followed route 3 to its Cietoksnis terminal, operating on single track past the last 3 stops from the junction with route 1 to the loop.  At our photo stop, which was held in steady rain, Karl-Heinz and I decided to abandon the trip and ride route 3 in a regular service car, as we still had ample time to make our train.  Thus we made a round trip to Stropu ezers, covering the remaining portion of the system, along the single track (with one passing siding) from the point where the line leaves the 1 and 2, through a very wooded area.  The operator was very nice to us, waiting at the northern terminal for us to take our photos, and then not charging us the EUR 0.43 fare for our return ride (nor did she make any remarks about our soaked footwear). 

As the result of our photo stops, the regular route 2 car, a KTM-5, caught up to us, which presented an opportunity for another picture.  I believe this scene, more than any other, is evocative of the tiny houses that dot the surroundings of the bi-directional single-track line.

An equipment view of RVZ-6 tram 061.  The 1987 Riga-built unit is stopped next to an unpaved road along route 2.  Some have said these cars resemble Brilliners more than PCCs.
A close-up view of ex-Schwerin Tatra T3 cars 080 and 079 along the Maizes Kombinats terminal loop of route 2.  These PCCs, from 1981 and 1975 respectively, still ride beautifully.
Above and below:  Photos of KTM-5 car 106 in the rain at the terminals at both ends of route 3.  While most of the group was being picked up by the charter bus at Cietoksnis ( photo on previous page), we two rode this 1991-built tram to Stropu ezers loop (below).  As inviting as this park-like area would be on a sunny day, we did not want to wait 25 minutes for the next car.  The 106 certainly does not look newer than the fantrip cars, but it is.

Upon our return to downtown, we grabbed a fast bite (the hot watery soup was just what I needed to warm up) and walked to the railway station, where we met Julien--and also John Wilkins, who needed little persuasion to abandon the bus and take the train back to Riga.  We left in our 3-car motor-trailer-trailer dMU set on time at 17:35, and this time sat in one of the trailers.  After a very comfortable ride, we arrived back in Riga at 21:13, ten minutes early.  Except for the weather, it was a great day of riding streetcars.  Now on to Liepaja..
Thursday, August 24.  If the previous day's rain signified the worst weather of the tour, then today we had the best.  Although it was partly cloudy when we finished breakfast a little before the 8:00 departure of our bus, by the time we reached Liepaja to ride its small tramway the sky was totally clear.  However we did not go there directly, but rather took a slight detour to visit Cinevilla, a site used by Latvia's fledgling movie industry for large-scale sets, both indoor and outdoor.  We arrived at Latvia's version of a Hollywood back lot at about 9:30.  From my observations, the site looked rather distressed and dilapidated, but apparently quite a few movies have been produced there, as the ramshackle backdrops can be painted and decorated as needed.  Among the outdoor 'props' were a church and some quaint structures placed in a setting of a market square and cobblestone streets.

The purpose of the visit however, was to see a replica tram used for movie scenes, as well as a steam locomotive.  There were few other visitors, but some souvenir stores and a restaurant were open, and interestingly, there seemed to be a fundamentalist or evangelical Christian rock group performing on an indoor stage.  Anyway, we stayed for much too long a time, about 90 minutes.

Arbitrarily numbered 12, this decrepit 4-wheeler could be cleaned up if needed for a movie.  The pole and lighting fixture evoke an era over a century ago.

Cinevilla's 2-10-0 steam locomotive is typical of those that operated throughout the Soviet Union before dieselization and electrification.  Movie goers would find it familiar.

Back on the bus at about 11:00 we continued to the carhouse in Liepaja, arriving at about 13:20.  All in all, the detour to the studio added only about 20 miles to the normal 140-mile trip, but the 90 minutes at Cinvevilla was deadly.  Liepaja, pronounced Leap aye yah, or Libau by our German group, is Latvia's third largest city, and has a population of about 70,000.  Located on the Baltic Sea and due west of Riga, it is surprising that there is no direct rail service between the two cities.  Only one round-trip per week is operated by Latvian Railways, from Riga on Friday evenings and back on Sundays.  This was the reason I didn't get to this city on my 1997 trip--it didn't occur to me to make a day trip by bus--a mental lapse that was now being corrected.  So I was happy to finally get to Latvia's third tramway, in a locale that looked rather pleasant and prosperous.

Unlike the two other systems we visited, the tramway here is meter gauge and uses pantographs for current collection.  The system dates back to 1899 and is now 4.3 miles long, after a 1-mile extension at its southern end was opened in 2013 (see
http://www.urbanrail.net/eu/lv/liepa/liepaja.htm for a map).  Its entire roster consists of 16 single-ended Tatra KT4 2-section articulated trams that date from 1979 to 1987 (some received used from Cottbus, Germany).  The only concession to its origins is a beautiful single-truck sweeper, built by Herbrand in 1899.  The company was unable to operate it onto the street, but did maneuver it into the sun for photographs under its own power on trackage behind the ancient carhouse.

Above and below:  Liepajas Tramwajs is proud of its sweeper and keeps it in excellent condition.  The Herbrand-built work car dates from 1899, the same year that electric rail service began in the city.  Herbrand is a long gone Polish carbuilder.   Martin Heyneck and other readers corrected me about my portrayal of Herbrand, builder of Liepaja's work car, as a Polish tram manufacturer.  It was a German company, which was founded during the 19th century in the Koln area.  In 1917 it was absorbed by Linke-Hofmann of Breslau (now named Wroclaw).

There was no point of operating a fantrip, as the company hadn't retained any heritage cars, so each participant was given a day ticket to ride the city's single line.  With the carbarn located near the railroad station at the northern end of the system, I first walked to the beautiful facility, which is now mainly used as a bus terminal, and then began riding, first 3 stops to the northern terminal at Brivibas iela, and then southbound, stopping at interesting locations for photos.

Liepaja's railway station has a beautiful facade, but the structure now serves mainly as a bus terminal.  I guess it could be technically described as multi-modal, as the frequent tram service in the forecourt is supplemented by regional bus operations and a single once-per-week train departure and arrival.  I was unable to find out when this substantial building was built, but it is clearly a landmark.

Above and below:  Brivibas iela, one of Liepaja's major arteries, is the operative name for the location of these two photos, which feature Tatra KT4 car 234 advertising Skoda.  Earlier this year the company issued a tender for 6 or 7 new trams.  I wonder if Skoda, the supplier of modern low-floor cars to Riga, will be the successful bidder.  The upper view shows the Brivibas iela terminal station, while below No 234 is shown operating inbound on the street carrying that name.

Martin Heyneck and other readers corrected me about my portrayal of Herbrand, builder of Liepaja's work car, as a Polish tram manufacturer.  It was a German company, which was founded during the 19th century in the Koln area.  In 1917 it was absorbed by Linke-Hofmann of Breslau (now named Wroclaw).

Thursday, August 24
continued.  Chapter 22 left off near the northern terminal of Liepaja's single tram line.  I began riding the 4.3-mile long route and stopped off at various points in the city center and along its southern end for photos.  With an 8-minute headway, there were ample opportunities to record the features of the line, and even if a truck, automobile or pedestrian got in the way of a photo, as they occasionally did, it was just a matter of waiting a few minutes for the next car.  Unfortunately all but two of the KT4s were wrapped in advertising, but much of the designs were not terribly distasteful.

The city center is anchored by Rose Square (Rozu laukums), a lovely park alongside the tram line on Liela iela.  To the north is the city's main house of worship, the Lutheran Holy Trinity Cathedral.  The "Trading Canal" separates the northern part of the city, where the carhouse and railroad station are located, from the main commercial area of the city.  This was my first stop for photos.

Above and below:  The Holy Trinity Cathedral dominates the center of Liepaja.  Tatra KT4s supply all the service on the Liepaja's tram line.  Almost all of the track is on prw, as shown very distinctively in the upper view, where room alongside the main street was made for a bicycle and pedestrian walkway.

Working my way southward along side-of-the-road reservation, I stopped off at the Livas laukum station in the midst of a picturesque old residential neighborhood containing quaint wooden houses.

Arnolda iela is a couple of blocks up from the Livas laukum stop.  This is the "old" Liepaja with tiny wooden houses that provide their residents excellent access to transit, and presumably are occupied by traditional working families.  The roadway along Krisjana Valdemara iela is quite narrow, and it is unlikely that automobile users would be comfortable driving on the tramway right-of-way.  This neighborhood is quite a contrast to the those in the newer sections of town that are shown below.

Further south the line enters a mile-long extension built in 2013 through a newly-built neighborhood of detached homes that could easily be mistaken for a residential street in a suburb of an American city--except for the trolley tracks in the middle of the street.

Above and below:  Another of my "favorite" sections of Liepaja's tramway.  I don't know if the neighborhood has a name, but I was impressed how modern and prosperous it looked, despite those ugly poles and catenary lining and above Ventas iela.  You may think I'm nit-picking, but it is highly likely that I'm being satirical.  After passing car 243 several times on my travels I finally was able to capture one of the line's two trams that do not display advertising, as per the lower view.

I then walked a few blocks further outbound to Mizras Kempes iela, where the line turns eastward onto a well-manicured center-of-the-street reservation in an arterial that runs to Lake Liepaja.

Martin Heyneck and other readers corrected me about my portrayal of Herbrand, builder of Liepaja's work car, as a Polish tram manufacturer.  It was a German company, which was founded during the 19th century in the Koln area.  In 1917 it was absorbed by Linke-Hofmann of Breslau (now named Wroclaw).

After a few more photos Julien also came by and we decided to have dinner, as our bus wasn't scheduled to leave from this point until 18:30, which was almost two hours later.  Meanwhile, Karl-Heinz, who had left us in order to search for a post office to buy stamps, returned, indicating his mission was successful. 

We had a very nice dinner in the restaurant of a nearby hotel and saw that other members of the group had the same idea.  Before we knew it it was time to board our bus, and it was a quick 3-hour trip back to our hotel in Riga.  We had an excellent afternoon in a very pleasant city.

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Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, June 14, 2018 5:02 AM

Still a lot of photos to be posted and a few Blackpool captions relocated to the right place, but there is progress.   Particularly notable are the Isle of Man photos, including the narrow gauge interurban and two narrow-gauge steam lines.

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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, June 18, 2018 9:27 AM

Saturday, August 26.  The events of Friday, August 25 in Riga were related in before the discussion of Liepaja.  Today was getaway day from that Riga, with our bus scheduled to leave at 9:00 and arrive in Tallinn, Estonia, some 200 miles due north, at 13:30.  But it didn't quite happen that way for several reasons (excuses?), and we didn't check in at our hotel (in a rather chaotic way--the hotel didn't know we were coming?) until after 16:30.  It turns out that the hostelry is an ancient landmark, the building dating from the end of the 14th century, becoming a hotel in the early 1990s, after Estonia's communist regime fell.  This probably explains why it doesn't have an elevator--and I was not pleased our room was on the third floor (it could have been worse--others had to climb to the fourth--ugh).  The Gotthard Residents is in Tallinn's beautiful old city, among its narrow streets and attractive arches.  And that was the reason that our bus couldn't take us directly to its entrance, so instead we had to climb a steep hill, burdened with our luggage, to get to the front door. 
One of the reasons why our arrival in Tallinn was late was that we took a detour to the town of Parnu in Estonia to see a narrow gauge steam locomotive on display in the downtown area.  We had to walk some distance from where our bus was parked to reach the steam engine, and unfortunately it was facing the wrong way in terms of the sun. 
The other photos below illustrate what I could see of a driverless bus experiment in Tallinn, which unfortunately we reached a bit too late to try out.  Two tiny (8 passenger) automated (autonomous?) buses were being tested alongside the center reservation of a tram line that was out of service because of a major rebuilding project.  The test ran from July 29 to August 26 and the buses operated on Mondays to Saturdays from 8:30 to 17:30.  The roadway used by the vehicles was cordoned off from regular motor traffic by barriers.  I arrived just in time to photograph the last trip of the day (actually the last trip of the entire test period).  See http://www.cetusnews.com/tech/Driverless-buses-take-to-the-roads-in-Estonia's-capital-Tallinn.BkgtCw6WYdwW.html.  The article relates some near misses.)
The tram line was scheduled to go back into service six days later, on Friday, September 1, but by then we would be in Stockholm.  They say that timing is everything, but sometimes there is little that can be done to control it.  All in all I'd have to say that our Saturday was a bust; had we arrived in Tallinn anywhere near our scheduled time some of it could have been salvaged, but that was not to be.

On the positive side though, Karl Heinz, Julien and I found a restaurant in the attractive gentrified center of the old city, and had very good dinners


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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, June 18, 2018 10:05 AM

 I had problems today with Imgur.   Pictures dissapearing as soon as I tried to use the copy image button.  I may have solvd the problem for use tomorrow, but if anyone has suggestions.  Let me know. 

Today, Tuesday, the 19th.  This posting is a test.  The German WWII 2-10-0 sent to Russia and used in Lithuania and Estonia and now on a plinth outside the Talilin RR Sta:

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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 6:14 AM

Bad news today.   Started having problems with Imgur, then the problems grew to encompass every website, which started govomg the timed out message.  No problems until I pulled up Imgur, and problems don't exist with the narrow-band server at the Yeshiva  ---- except that Imgur is unavailable with narrow-band!

So no progress on adding photos today, unless someone can email me a suggested alternative.

Apologies and thanks

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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 9:57 AM

This is a test posting.  I am going to try every possible way of posting a picture while still on the Yeshvia's narrow-band server and not using an additonal website.  I am by no means assured of success, but I feel an obligation to at least try;


Didn;t work



didn;t work


didn't work, would have distorted colors anway.


didn't work


didn't work

Libra Office

None of these ideas worked.   Anything else worth trying?

posted a few pix today 21 June before Imgur started giving problems

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Posted by daveklepper on Friday, June 22, 2018 6:01 AM

Was able to add some more photos today, and should complete Talilin on Sunday, 24 June, completing Jack's Baltic States narrative.

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