I hardly ever use trains. I live slightly off any direct route to anywhere so driving has always seemed to be a more convenient option plus I have an incessant fear of arriving anywhere late and heading to the wrong place. However, I decided that after driving into central Manchester and getting lost on three previous occasions, catching the train to attend BlogCamp last Friday would be the better decision.  Plus the venue was adjacent to the station (Bonus Point #1) and the return fare was £10.70 (Bonus Point #2 as fuel and parking costs would have probably been around £25-£30).

At the station the bloke in the ticket booth told me that the train I needed would be leaving from Platform 3.  I had a scout around but couldn't find Platform 3 anywhere and there wasn't any walls that I could run through either.  I eventually got pointed in the right direction to a siding where a 2-carriage train was heading for Bolton (first change).  I have found out that I don't do travelling backwards very well and that eating a banana in public always prompts knowing looks and sniggers.

The route from Blackburn to Bolton appears to be a massive secret.  There is nothing to look at as the majority of the track is embedded into a hill, completely going underground at one point.  It's like someone decided that if you were going to escape from Blackburn and head in a southerly direction then it was best to do it by stealth.

And the mystery continues at Bolton as once you embark onto the platform as none of the announcement boards work, other than to welcome you to that station.  And if you're looking a little lost then no-one dares to look you in the eye.  I could see two busy platforms - the one I was on and the one over the bridge - but had no clue as to which was the correct one for Manchester.  I had to leg it over the bridge to the ticket inspection booth, only to be sent back to where I had just come from.  On the way back I passed a sign which said "Trains To Manchester, Platform 2".  Ahem.

The journey to Manchester was pretty uneventful, apart from my usual practice of eavesdropping and trying to second-guess where people are going and why.  What?  Everything is blog fodder.  Everything!

The journey back was a tad more entertaining, starting at the 'Information' booth on entry to the station.  I was heady with post-event chat and probably had a little lager breath.  When I asked which platform I had to be on to get to Bolton the man with all the 'Information' said, "I don't know.  It's my first day!" and actually *facepalmed* himself.  Yes, really!

Platform found, train found, no seats anywhere, packed in like sardines and an announcement that the train would be splitting at Preston with one half going to Edinburgh and the other to Windermere.  Cue major panic from most of the passengers wondering if they were on the correct half of the train.  With much smugness, I was glad I was getting off at Bolton and heading home.

Bolton navigated (successfully) and a seat to be found (hurrah!) for the last leg of the journey.  I started scribbling some notes about Blog Camp but was very aware of the train slowing down and a rather strange smell.  We stopped completely, the driver started walking down the centre aisle of the train announcing that the back engine had packed up and he was going to try and restart it.  The British do 'communal groaning' very well, don't they?

The driver and conductor both came back up the train having made some emergency repairs.  The next tannoy announcement explained that we were still limping along with only one engine working properly and as we were going uphill we were going to be limping along at 20 miles per hour.  Joy.  There was a small light on the horizon though.  After the next two stations, the route into Blackburn was all downhill so the one engine might not burn itself out.

I pulled my phone out and tried to ring home (take-away had been ordered for a certain time and I was in charge of bringing wine home with me) but we were in a signal black-spot.  Of course... we were back on the secret Blackburn/Bolton track, weren't we?

I made it home in one piece, albeit with a 35 minute delay, but now I'm wondering what on earth could go wrong on the train journey to London next Saturday!