This was my first experience of New Street station after its rebuilding, and the space was truly amazing. Even though I knew the old station as well as I know my own home I struggled to know where anything was and had to follow signs as if I were in a place I'd never been before. It did feel strange. Getting to platform 2a by following signs to "Yellow Lounge" (or was it "Blue Lounge"? Or was that the one where we arrived?) seemed odd. I've never thought of platforms being in lounges before - although at Paris Gare to Lyons they are in halls - and I did not notice any soft furnishings, but then we did have a train to catch. And there it was, a Pendolino occupying the whole of platform 2 and the standard class seats, ours, were at the other end. Departure time was imminent, so we boarded and walked through, deciding to stop at the on-board shop (what we used to call the buffet) and bought coffee and biscuits, there having been no trolley on our train from Stamford.
Our time at the exhibition is not really the subject of this blog, but I'll just say that the facilities of the exhibition centre were excellent and the show itself was up to the usual standard for the Christian Resources Exhibition. I'd only ever been to the national one before and this was quite a bit smaller but did have what we'd come for and a lot of other useful stuff as well. There was a restaurant within the exhibition hall and although the prices were on the high side, as they generally are at these places, the food was good and were were able to meet over lunch, discuss what we'd seen and decide on the afternoon. There was a lecture I wanted to hear but after that we would go home, rather earlier than we had originally thought, so our seats on the homeward train would not be reserved. It did, however, allow me a little while in the city centre to pop into the Ian Allan model shop just off New Street ...
My colleagues joined my on my little expedition and then we walked back to the station along New Street, entering via the ramp to the newly-opened Grand Central shopping centre, a huge improvement on what had been there before, although the Birmingham Shopping Centre as I recall it from the seventies, seemed pretty good at the time, but Birmingham is a more significant shopping destination now and needs this sort of place. There were still, naturally, some units not let but it was already a thriving, busy place. We found the escalators down to the concourse of the station and sought platform 12 for our train home.
This platform does not (yet?) have any seats for waiting for trains so we stood. We had no reservations for this departure and there were several people waiting, and it was only a two-car train (they are often three-car): we boarded through separate doors and scrambled to get a table together - and succeeded! There were plenty of seats but we did want to be together to continue our discussions - all rather unfortunate for the poor lady occupying the fourth seat at the table, even more so as she also got off at the same station as we did and so may cross our paths again!
This time there was a refreshment trolley and we enjoyed glass of wine to cool off and relax after a fairly heavy day of trekking round exhibitors' stands. Passengers came and went: it was peak travel time by the time we reached Leicester but we were home smoothly and easily with big carrier-bags full of brochures, samples and business cards which will keep us busy for some months to come, and over an hour earlier than planned. For a business trip, altogether a grand day out - and I have some new stuff for my model railway, too!