I had been looking forward to today for ages – the Big Bang Fair at the NEC and meeting my Virgin Trains pen-pal for the first time.
The day started early. I had stayed in Coventry on Friday night so we could get to the NEC for 9am. We caught a CrossCountry train from Coventry to Birmingham International and then got a shuttle bus to the show. I was really excited to be here and was hoping to be able to give out some of my new business cards advertising my website. As soon as we got in the show hall I headed straight to the Network Rail stand. This year they had a questionnaire for you to complete to help indicate what jobs at Network Rail you might be suitable for – I came up as suitable for a few different roles related around technology. I gave the lady I met, Selina Clarke, one of my business cards and she was really impressed with what I am trying to create, which was lovely to hear. She gave me an envelope and said she was really impressed with my enthusiasm for trains and that the envelope might get me a rail related experience that I could write about on my website – more excitement 🙂 – watch this space for more information…. Next we visited the HS2 stand and I met several people who were interested in my website, learnt some more about possible careers at HS2 and played an interactive game. Then I went back to the Network Rail stand and got to try out some augmented reality goggles (I could see a station and lots of information screens up in the air). After visiting a few more stands it was time to head to New Street to meet my pen-pal.
We caught the 1133 Virgin Trains Pendolino service from International to New Street and waiting on the platform to meet me were; Alfie (my pen-pal), his mum and Lucy (from the Virgin Trains social media team who put me in touch with Alfie back in November last year). It was exciting to meet Alfie for the first time and say hello in person. We spent some time looking at the trains, taking photos and writing down the train numbers. We were lucky enough to see the driver getting into a Virgin Pendolino that was on the platform before heading off to London Euston. The driver saw our Virgin tops and lanyards and realising we were big fans asked if we would like to have a look in the drivers cab. We both had a sit in the drivers seat and both got to sound the horn (Alfie did high and I did low) – it was great sharing this experience with a fellow fan and friend. Then it was time to go for lunch. Alfie had bought me a gift – it was a Virgin Trains mug with my name on (it’s amazing) and some photos of Virgin Trains. I also gave Alfie a gift – a set of GWR Top Trumps Cards and an old dispatch baton – he loved this and even took it in to school on the Monday to show his teacher. After lunch we went to Moor Street Station so I could write a review – it was snowing heavily while we were there and very cold. After this we all went back to New Street and I took Alfie on his first Midland Metro tram journey. We travelled as far as Jewellery Quarter, got off and while waiting for the return tram we were lucky enough to see two West Midland Railway trains at the mainline station (which is right next to the tram stop). When we got back to New Street we went back to platform 4b and did some more trainspotting – there were so many trains coming in and out of the station – Alfie starting shouting out the numbers so my mum could write them down while I took photos – it was definitely a team effort. Then it was time to say goodbye 🙁 – I had really enjoyed my time with Alfie and hope to see him again soon – in the meantime it will be back to letter writing and the occasional video call.