14 January, 2012
Pause in Penzance
The Riviera made a most dramatic entrance to Penzance, skirting an angry sea at first light as wind-swept waves crashed over the break wall and salt spray lashed the train. I knew right then that this was my kind of place. A wicked wind howled through the trainshed as I stepped from the Mk 3 sleeping car that had carried me from Paddington to the Cornish Riviera. Circumstances — specifically the prospects of steam on the Great Central — permitted me precious little time in Penzance, but I was determined to make the most of what time I had. I turned up my collar, wished I'd listened to Maureen’s instructions to bring along a hat, and hiked out to a spot near the PX signalbox where passenger trains mixed it up with wild surf.
Mercury doesn't always provide the most accurate measure of cold. I'm sure that the thermometers in Penzance registered at least a degree or two above freezing, but I'm equally certain that I've never felt as cold as I did huddled against a parapet on the road overlooking the Great Western main and a wild sea. I stayed until my frozen fingers could barely depress the shutter, then retreated to warm up over tea and a full breakfast: £5.50 at “Sullivan’s Big Breakfast Diner,” a little family-run place on the waterfront with an open kitchen and friendly atmosphere that made it difficult to leave. But my friend Ian was waiting in Derby, and even as I washed down the last bit of baked beans with a gulp of tea, there was a fire on the grates of a King Arthur class 4-6-0 in distant Loughborough.
Bristol Temple Meads
I could have selected a CrossCountry service to take me from Penzance to Derby without change, but where’s the fun in that? Besides, I had another agenda, a three-word agenda: Bristol Temple Meads. I’ve rolled through the legendary station too many times with out stopping, each time vowing to return for a proper visit. It was time to make good on that promise. So I grabbed a First Great Western HST to Taunton and a CrossCountry train from there to Bristol.
I had sufficient time between trains to enjoy lunch at a trackside café and explore Temple Meads’ great curved trainshed as well as the original Brunel station, which currently serves as a car park. Near sunset, a CrossCountry Voyager arrived to take me to Derby.
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