The Folding Society

Event Reports - Ghost Train to the Swindon Smallwheels Ride 19th October 2002 

If you look up on the trainline web site the times of trains from Birmingham to Swindon for Saturday 19th October, you find a 07:51 which does not require any changes of train. On arrival at Birmingham New Street, this train is listed on the departures display panels, with the platform shown as 11. It even appeared on the individual platform display above the platform. By 08:05 there was still no sign of the train, the 07:45 to Redditch was being shown as due on 11b on time, and the time for the Swindon train arriving was altered to 08:03. 10 minutes later, neither train had yet arrived, and both were back to being shown as on time. Another 10 minutes later I spotted a member of the station staff, and was able to ask what was happening. He checked his information sheet, and was able to tell me there was no such train, though the display over his head still showed it. A few minutes later the train was deleted from the screens. I trudged up to the information desk, where it was confirmed that there was no such train, but that it had been listed for the last few Saturdays (presumably a problem with the new timetable - there was such a train in the summer timetable). I eventually caught an 08:42 which was going to Swansea, and changed at Gloucester. The train Manager was very helpful in pointing me towards a luggage space - not easy to find on Voyagers, but in the process he fell foul of the doors in the coaches, which close even when there is someone going through (a point I have commented on before!) and his glasses got knocked off and bent.

I already knew I would have to change trains on the way back, so a compact folder seemed the most appropriate choice. For a visit to Swindon, Henry the Green Bicycle seemed the fitting choice, but Henry is currently unavailable (explanations at a later date), so I took the Black Five instead (well, Stanier was with the GWR at one time!). I still managed to arrive at the start point in reasonably good time, to find 4 other riders enjoying refreshments - some regulars were otherwise engaged this weekend with the V-CC activities at Kidderminster. Apart from my Brompton, the folders consisted of a Birdy, SP-Brompton and two Bike Friday SatRDays.

We were fortunate to have another sunny day for the ride, although some of the off-road tracks we used turned out to be very muddy in places - all the bikes will now have been cleaned following the ride I'm sure. We took a short ride out to a pub for a relaxed lunch stop, before making our way back, with a stop for further refreshments at the Swindon and Cricklade steam railway centre - we may use it as the lunch stop on a future occasion, as it had good food at reasonable prices. On our previous ride on this route we got rather lost, and ended up doing some serious off-road riding - fortunately in view of the muddy conditions we managed to find a less agricultural route back, though it still involved one muddy patch.

We had no mechanical disasters on the ride, but it was noted that the Birdy Red is running out of line, and one of the tow Bike Friday SatRDays suffered a loose head set, and was found to have a seat distinctly out of register - which explains why Mike Roberts appeared to be riding it leaning to one side! The Black Five also suffered from a build up of mud between the mudguards and tyres, which required some work to remove it.

Apart from the phantom train, all the trains ran on time, and at this time of year are much less full than in the summer months, and consequently travel is more comfortable. This was another very enjoyable Swindon Ride - many thanks to Mike Roberts for organising it.

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Last updated: 20 October 2002