2008 News Archive.

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23/12/2008 - We're back home after a very enjoyable trip to the German Christmas markets. I've written a trip report which can be found on the reports page and I've uploaded a few railway and beer photographs. The trip was made even more enjoyable by visiting a few brewpubs and brewery taps, aided by the excellent "Good Beer Guide Germany" written by Steve Thomas - a must buy for anyone interested in German beers.

03/12/2008 - To make it a bit easier to find the trip reports that I've compiled, I've set up a seperate webpage with them all indexed by date and location.

02/12/2008 - Well the VEV tour was excellent and we managed to visit four brewpubs and five Christmas markets over the weekend. I've compiled a "shortish" trip report and hope to get a few photos uploaded shortly.

27/11/2008 - I've hardly caught up from a rail trip around Switzerland before getting ready for a weekend in Germany and trip to Leipzig Xmas market courtesy of the VEV railtour from Goslar. As I had the laptop with me, I did manage to finish a Swiss trip report and I've now also uploaded some photo's although I've not finished indexing them yet.

29/10/2008 - Having survived and thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Albania, I've finished my trip report and made a start at uploading some photographs to my Fotopics site. The country was much better than I'd expected, the people were all friendly and there was some beautiful scenery in the South towards Pogradec.

22/10/2008 - An interim report from my recent trip to Belgium and Luxembourg (including the Mercia Charters "Fallen Heroes" railtour) has been uploaded along with some of the tour photo's. Hopefully I will fine tune the report as well as upload the remaining photo's when I get back form Albania.

14/10/2008 - I've just uploaded a couple of photo's of 03145 & D2578 from Sunday's BLS trip around Moreton Park.

13/10/2008 - Wrexham & Shropshire Railways have finally got one of their DVT's in service with 82301 currently partnering 67015. Another DVT is also on test with 67012 providing the power. It will be interesting to see how reliable they are and how they manage when one of the modified 67's is unavailable. Presumably it will result in EWS providing two red 67's to work top & tail again.

07/10/2008 - I'm in the process of setting up a web page specifically for my Austrian Beer Guide. This will also be joined by a page for my Swiss Beer Guide at some stage.

29/09/2008 - I've finally got my own domain name for my website so all my pages have now been transferred to www.beerandrail.co.uk. Apologies if I've missed out any of the links - hopefully I'll get them all working properly in the near future.

27/09/2008 - The visit to the D2578 Locomotive Group at Moreton Park, organised by a local BLS member, is going ahead on Sunday 12th October. Details for anyone wanting to visit for a ride on D2578 & 03145 can be found on the PLEG website half way down the page.

12/09/2008 - I returned home from work late yesterday intending to finish packing my bag ready for a long weekend in Germany but instead I discovered that there had been a fire in the channel tunnel. June & I spent until 02:00 trying to find out if we would be able to get on a Eurostar and whether we could use another means of travel but we reluctantly decided to cancel the trip (while we still could without incurring any costs) - very disappointing but as it turned out probably the best thing to do as there were no trains throught the tunnel today at all.

25/08/2008 - We are currently overhauling our Fotopics sites so apologies for any dead links either on my website or in my trip reports. I will attempt to hunt them out and alter them as soon as I can. We now have four URL's for the Fotopics sites as follows:-

Neil's Railway Pages

Neil's Mercia Photo's

June & Neil's Photo Gallery

June & Neil's Beer Pages

23/08/2008 - June & I decided to date boxes and have a night away based on a visit to the Peterborough Beer Festival. This gave me the chance to track down the last class 91 that I need for haulage (it's been my last one since 1992!!) and despite seeing it once it never turned up on any of the trains I did or viewed. We were both glad that we made the trip as it was a very enjoyable weekend. It was the first time we'd managed a trip to Peterborough's beer festival despite this being their 31st event! The festival was well laid out with good facilities and as is fairly usual at festivals, the only thing that let it down was the limited amount of seating. We both enjoyed it enough to visit during both of Friday's sessions and even return again on Saturday for a couple of hours. The slightly strange thing about the festival was the opening hours as it was open all day on Thursday & Saturday but closed for a few hours in the afternoon on Wednesday & Friday. It seemed as though most visitors just went to either Wetherspoons or Charters for a couple of beers during the closure so surely this was a loss of business for the festival? Maybe its down to lack of volunteers (but they seemed to have plenty), CAMRA politics or the local council but in this day and age it seems a bit pointless. We managed to stick to dark beers almost all the time without any repeats (except one when I got the wrong beer!) which is quite rare for a festival. June & I were also surprised by how many women we saw at the festival, quite a few of which seemed to be family outings. Next years festival is on from the 25th to the 29th of August and I'm definitely going to put it on the calender. I had a bonus on the way home of a required 67 on the Weymouth - Bristol "Bucket & Spade" train so our return journey was via Bath Spa. As "Royal" 67006 was on the rear, I had a chance of getting a photo of it starting up at Temple Meads in the evening. Needless to say our connection at Newport fell apart as it always seems to do, with our Portsmouth - Cardiff train going from right time to 16 late and even worse it was full of drunken Welsh rugby cretins (why do the minority always spoil things for the majority?!?) so we had to endure them for 45 minutes instead of 30!

18/08/2008 - June & I were thinking about a trip over to Worcester to visit the beer festival but after checking out the web gen on the event we decided to give it a miss as neither of us was overly enamoured with the approach that they take to their potential customers. Unlike some CAMRA festivals, itís not free for members (although you do get £2 worth of vouchers). I donít overly mind this but would prefer if CAMRA had a standard policy so drinkers knew what to expect. At Worcester, you donít get a full refund if you take your glass back as they deduct a ďdirty glass handling feeĒ Ė surely this should be covered in the entrance fee? Also the conditions laid down for them to actually accept the glass back at all seem very petty Ė when is a glass not capable of being cleaned! Even if you want to swap from a half pint to a pint they may charge the cleaning fee and just as annoying is the fact that you canít find out what the costs are until you get to the festival. No doubt you'll be told to stand in the corner if you don't like one of the beers! Come on guys, these events are supposed to be fun!! I think we may give Peterborough a look instead!

17/08/2008 - We're back from our latest trip to Austria. It was a very enjoyable break with a good mix of trains (including the Desperate railtour), beers & sightseeing and as usual we were reluctant to return home (especially as we were sat in a brewpub 2 hours before our flight!). I've written a trip report and also uploaded some of the photos which can be found in the Austria - Beers section of June's Fotopics site and in Austria - Railways section of my Fotopics site. I was very glad that I had time to print off a draft copy of my beer guide as not only was it very useful for reference but it also seemed to get a good reaction almost everywhere we went (and even got me two free drinks during chats with brewers!). Maybe I will have a shot at publishing after all, although I still need to finish checking the gen and deciding on the format of the maps (and how much they will cost!).

23/07/2008 - Work on my Austrian Beer Guide is continuing but my desire to make it a "complete" guide with travel details is slowing things down as I need to research the internet to check locations and produce maps. Hopefully I will have a good working copy ready for our trip to Austria in a few weeks!!

17/07/2008 - It was June's birthday yesterday so we took advantage of our free passes by going to Cardiff to see a film (Orange Wednesday 2 for 1 offer!) and had an afternoon in Bristol today. A few pubs were involved with mixed results. Yesterday we called into "The Prince of Wales" Wetherspoons in Cardiff for a quick drink before the film and had a pint of Evan Evans - Welsh Ale. The beer itself was probably quite nice but I could hardly taste it due to the incredibly low serving temperature - the glass had condensation forming on the outside as soon as it was poured and was almost too cold to hold. I got the girl behind the bar to hold the glass to prove my point but she seemed a bit bewildered by it - obviously too used to serving super chilled & tasteless lagers! We had a similar story back in Hereford when we had a quick pint on our way home of North Cotswold - Hung Drawn and Portered in the "Kings Fee" Wetherspoons, although not quite as chilled as the Cardiff beer. I thought that Wetherspoons were supposed to be the champions of interesting and affordable Real Ale but if this attitude is being followed nationally then they could well start to see more beer drinkers giving them a wide berth in addition to those already fed up with the fruit machines, TV's and clubbers with their Alcopop pitchers!

Thursday's experiences were much better with visits to The Hare on the Hill, Zero Degrees (Ironic after Wednesdays experience!) and the Cornubia. The Zero Degrees is very different to the other two being a European style brewpub and I must admit that I made a mistake by trying the Mango beer (which wasn't to my taste) instead of sticking to their dark. The Hare on the Hill is one of the Bath Ales pubs and it had a "proper" pub feel to it. They had a guest ale in addition to beers from Bath and we enjoyed a very good jacket spud with Chilli. Our last port of call before heading back to Hereford was the Cornubia, another proper pub owned by an independent brewery, this time Hidden from Salisbury. We both agreed that another visit to Bristol is due soon to visit a few more of the GBG entries. Back in Hereford, we scrounged a lift with friends to our local, the Three Elms to do the TV & film quiz over a few more beers. Ian the landlord has recently been able to stock more microbrews in addition to the regular Greene King beers so there's normally something interesting to sample now.

07/07/2008 - I've written a trip report from my short visit to the Czech Republic & Austria and uploaded some of the photos to the Czech republic - Railways and Austria - Railways sections of my Fotopics site. I've been very busy this last week trying to finish off our new patio while also working on my Austrian Beer Guide in the hope of having a good working version ready for our trip to Austria in August so things might slow down on the website for a few weeks.

24/06/2008 - Never wanting to waste a staff travel free pass (although I frequently do when using them to get to airports!), I decided to have a trip to Shrewsbury to take a few photos of the 67's in use by W&SR and 6M86 if it was on time. All went pretty much to plan and I had two bonuses - required 67023 on 1P65 and both guards accepting my boxes after I'd asked very politely! Despite the apparent meeting regarding W&SR joining ATOC (which would make our staff travel officially valid), no-one knows what is happening but as long as you ask and are only making a short journey, most guards seem to allow priv tickets and boxes. The photos have been placed in Latest photographs album but will eventually move into the Britain - Railways album.

23/06/2008 - A month at work is enough for anyone so it was time for another trip abroad - to the Netherlands. June and I had decided to spend a few days visiting some towns in North Holland before doing the Mercia tours on 21st and 22nd June. We visited Enkhuizen, Alkmaar and Zaanse Schans which also gave me time to hunt down some required Dutch electrics. I've written a trip report detailing all the rail gen as well as some info on the places that we visited and the beers that we found. The Dutch rail photo's can be found in the existing folder on Netherlands Railways. Some photographs from the two tours will be placed into Mercia albums All Good Things and Blaze of Glory

20/05/2008 - June & I are just back from a weekend trip to one of our favourite destinations - Austria. The reason was to visit the Kraft Bier Festival Wien 08 although we flew to Linz so travelled to/from Wien by train. We also took the opportunity to visit Tiergarten Schonbrunn (Vienna Zoo), one of the best that I've ever been to. I went a bit overboard with the photography - one advantage of a digital SLR is the ability to rattle off plenty of photographs in quick succession then review and delete at your leisure! I've done a short trip report of our visit. The trip to Austria has also reminded me that I need to add quite a few notes to my Austrian Beer Guide that I'm working on in the hope of getting it fully up to date and finished. From a railway point of view, the weekend saw the use of a Wiener Lokalbahn V100 on the weekend Erlebniszug to Ernstbrunn although it sadly wasn't the loco that everyone had hoped for. Also, the Erlebnis Zauberberge to Murzzuschlag was a 1042 on Saturday and a 1044 on Sunday instead of the more usual Nostalgie 1010 or 1141. As June & I were using Wien 72 hour tickets we didn't stray far from the centre but there's always plenty to keep us occupied in Wien! As I'll be using my FIP coupons on my next trip, I expect to be a bit more mobile and hope to include a trip on a 2143 to St Aegyd am Neuwalde on the new bike train.

05/05/2008 - Hard on the heels of the Three Elms festival was another that I wanted to go to, this time at the re-opened Live and Let Live on Bringsty Common near Bromyard. Unfortunately for me I was booked to work on Saturday and Monday so this meant visiting on Sunday when public transport is a little sparse. Having the car restricted my beer intake to a couple of halves but the pub was worth visiting anyway as a thank you to the new owners who have put in so much effort with the excellent restoration during the last few years of the 11 year closure. I would thoroughly recommend anyone with a bit of spare time in the Worcester/Hereford area paying a visit to the once again thatched roof 16th century building. Anyone wanting more information on the pub, can check out their website. Beers available at the festival included a couple from Tirril Brewery near Appleby, the latest brew from Malvern Hills called Santler and (my favourite of the day) Breconshire "Ramblers Ruin", a lovely rich and malty amber ale.

01/05/2008 - It made a refreshing change at work today to see a "proper" train formed of loco and coaches! Wrexham & Shropshire Railways have now started their service from Wrexham to London Marylebone using some refurbished Mark III coaches (in blue and grey) and top & tail 67's hired from EWS. Hopefully the trains will be a success but keep out of my way when I'm heading for Dee Marsh!!

29/04/2008 - I've just returned home from my second trip of the year, this time to Germany to do the Mercia Charters tour followed by a few days travelling round some of South Western Germany visiting brewpubs in Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, Frankfurt and Esslingen among others, as well as hunting down some new 110's and 218's. Shortly before I left home, I got the gen that Bochum Dahlhausen museum was having an open day which involved some shuttle trains running to/from the museum so I was also able to have a trip on some of them following the Mercia tour. I've uploaded some photographs onto our Fotopics site in the Germany - Beers, Germany - Railways and Germany folders. I also managed to find time to pop over to my local pub, The Three Elms, on Sunday 27th April for the last day of their St. Georges beer festival. Despite only being a small festival, it made a nice change to be able to sample a few brews and walk home afterwards! Beers sampled included Applefords "Power Station", West Berkshire "Diamond Stitch", Beartown "St Georges Bear", Wadworth "St George & Dragon" and Whitehorse "Saracen". Well done to Ian and his staff for holding the event - hopefully more will follow in the future. I've also just finished a trip report including details of my rail moves and the brewpubs that we visited.

31/03/2008 - I've had a bit of a sort out with my Fotopics site and have created a second gallery. My Transport photographs can still be found on my original hfdned Fotopics site. All of my other photographs have now been moved to June & Neil's Photo Gallery.

28/03/2008 - Several of my railway collections in my Fotopics site have been updated.

26/03/2008 - With the planned trip to Albania put back to the Autumn due to other commitments, I decided with my mate Denzil to plan a trip to Bulgaria and Romania as he'd never been to either country. I'd not been to Bulgaria for over 11 years and had only passed through Romania briefly with Dave Roberts in 2004 while on our way from Hungary to Serbia. We've just returned having survived the week and while the trip was enjoyable, we decided to base it mainly on train travel rather than tourism. The only beers I found were the usual bottled varieties, most of which now seem to be owned by the usual international brands. The one beer that did stand out though was Silva in Iasi, Romania - a very nice 7% dark beer. I've put together a trip report and a selection of photographs from the trip can be found on our fotopics sites in the Bulgaria - Railways and Romania - Railways sections. Time now to start planning my next trip - to Germany this time around the Mercia Charters tour on 19/04/08.

09/01/2008 - Time to start looking at holidays for 2008. So far I've got a trip to Albania planned for May (one of the few European countries I've never visited) and no doubt there'll be a trip to Austria during the Summer.

08/01/2008 - A selection of photographs have been uploaded to my fotopics site from my recent trips to Austria & Germany.

05/01/2008 - I've just received some photos of DRS owned 37515 after its collision with an articulated lorry full of potatoes in Scotland. My thoughts are with the driver of the 37 and I hope he makes a full recovery after something that's every drivers nightmare. Once again the design of the class 37 has seemingly proven its worth with the nose looking to have taken the brunt of the impact and hopefully the driver had a chance to get out of the seat before the windscreen came in. I certainly wouldn't have liked to be in that position in a class 60/66/67 as you'd be lucky to even get out of the seat in time!

28/12/2007 - I'm just back from spending Christmas in Vienna with my girlfriend June. Despite me coming down with a heavy cold on Christmas eve and June slipping on some ice on our way back to Salzburg, we both had a great time, particularly on Christmas day itself. We had us the chance to visit a few brew pubs in Wien (Vienna) including one that had only been open for a few months. My cold curtailed things a bit but we did also pay a visit to Salm Brau on 24/12. Unfortunately the Christmas beer had just gone so we hit the Dunkel instead.

Christmas day saw spending a few hours wandering round the Schonbrunn winter palace (including a very welcome hot chocolate with rum and bowl of goulasch soup in the hilltop cafe) and the Christmas market in the courtyard. Aftwerwards, we headed back into the city for an visit to 1516 Brewing Company (might have been the only brew pub open on the 25th?) for an evening meal of roast goose - and very nice it was too! I still can't get a fix on this place though. The first time I visited was on a busy Friday night and I wasn't impressed - it was packed with tourists and the service was pretty poor. The second time was a quiet Sunday lunchtime and the food was good but most of the beers were off. This time, the service was good and very friendly, the food was superb and all the beers were on and tasted good except for the stout which I don't think was quite ready (we were warned about this though).

My original intention on Boxing Day was just to suss out where the Eipeltauer Privatbrauerei was as we expected it to be shut but luckily the owner Christian was in to do some paperwork so invited us in. It's always good to see a new brewpub making a go of things and Christian seems to be doing well so I wish him the best of luck. His beers are named after the Wien postal districts with his regular beer called 1190 being a very nice Marzen (5.2%). I'll have to return when he's got some of his others on the go and mid May is a possibility as he's planning a craft beer festival (featuring beers from various Wien brew pubs), possibly the first of its kind in Vienna. I did manage to find a bit of time spare for the railways. We had a day trip to Bratislava on Boxing Day, using IC405 from Wien Meidling to Bratislava Hl.st. 1014.018 provided the power to Bratislava Petrzalka then 263.003 took over for the short journey around the Bratislava suburbs to the main station (Hl.st.). We left the train there for a stroll around the town while dual voltage electric 350.017 took the train forward to Kosice. As Bratislava was very cold and very quiet (even Mac's was shut!) we soon decided to head back to the station and caught one of the now hourly services via Marchegg back to Wien. Sadly the gutsy 2143's have now finished on these trains so I had to put up with a rather dull 2016.009 :-(

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