It’s a rare thing for proper grown-ups to get a day to themselves. So when it arrived this Friday I took it in both hands and fulfilled a few old ambitions.
To understand me, you have to understand the way of the world twenty-five years ago. The Cross City Line was being electrified, and I was travelling to school on ancient diesel multiple-unit (DMU) trains. A boy sat behind the cab of a DMU could see what they did. You could see the rails leading into the distance and the signals and signs they needed to read.
The Cross City Line is part of a wider Centro network, including the lines to Stourbridge, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Hednesford, and of course the range of central Birmingham stations.
There are some things I fancied doing, and some of them have been on my mind since 1991.
- Take the shuttle between Stourbridge Junction and Stourbridge Town. It’s a Parry People Mover now, class 139. It rides like a Bucking Bronco and takes only three minutes but it’s a brilliant thing. Of course, the class 139 wasn’t in service in 1991 but I’ve wanted to take this little trip since seeing it on the regional map. Awesome.
- Travelling under the city through the Snow Hill – Moor Street tunnel. Actually, I achieved this first, because I got a train from Moor Street to Stourbridge Junction.
- Change at Smethwick Galton Bridge. Since it reopened, looking at the line from Snow Hill to the west of the city via the jewellery quarter, I’ve wanted to travel on this “new” line. Coming back up from Stourbridge, I was able to leave the train at Galton Bridge and descend to the Wolverhampton-New Street line.
- Ride the Metro all the way from one end to the other. It was brilliant. From Grand Central to St Georges in Wolverhampton, it’s a wonderful thing. I love the “new” trams and again I found myself sat behind the driver able to see what they could see. What a flashback to my younger self.
What did I gain from this trek around the region? Well, I got as far as Coventry on fast trains, and walked out to Fargo on Far Gosford St, where I could pick up some Guinness cake and a couple of books at the Big Comfy Bookshop. I saw bits of the midlands most people don’t see. The backs of factories and odd parcels of land which have been mostly forgotten. There’s the odd ramp arrangement up and over the heavy rail sidings where the Metro goes up and over. A completely different world.
I’m only more tempted than ever to run away and become a train driver.