Gareth’s next book – out now!


Pen & Sword Transport – ISBN: 9781526714732


Almost a century after the first colour light signals appeared on Britain’s railways in the early 1920s there are still a considerable number of places where the passage of trains is controlled by the Victorian technology of a signaller in a signal box pulling a mechanical lever that will tug up to ¾ mile of wire that then moves a signal arm up or down.

Replacement of mechanical signalling has been going on in earnest since the 1960s and continues apace, with losses over the past couple of years at Blackpool, North Wales, Humberside, and at a number of locations in Scotland. Next to go will be the delightful Wherry Lines between Norwich, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft. Continue reading “Gareth’s next book – out now!”

Semaphores in North Staffordshire


IMG_7148Taking heed of Government advice to avoid making all but essential rail journeys, the current potentially dismal and very challenging period seems like a good moment to look back to better times, when we were all free to travel at will.

Over the coming weeks I plan to go back almost exactly three years to the time during spring and summer of 2017 when I was touring Britain to get photos and anecdotes for my signalling book, and beginning today with a visit to the North Staffordshire Line. Continue reading “Semaphores in North Staffordshire”

Magical Manea  


IMG_3420Completion of the Wherry Lines re-signalling in February 2020 means that there are now just two outposts of mechanical signalling in the whole of East Anglia, both of which are on the busy cross-country route between Ely and Peterborough.

Having spent a few hours at Whittlesea last summer, it was time to pay a return visit to the other place along this route with working semaphore signals, the charming and remote village of Manea, mid-way between Ely and March. Continue reading “Magical Manea  “

Saving the planet – one weekend at a time

IMG_2999Contrary to what Greta Thunberg and many Millennials and Generation Z-ers might care to believe, the idea of trying to avoid harmful pollution by making less use of the private car is also deeply ingrained in some of us who date from earlier generations.

Faced with the lack of a car for a weekend, my challenge was getting from home (Haslemere) to visit family (near Cheltenham), then a day trip to Cardiff for the Wales vs. Scotland Six Nations match, which became a visit to Park Junction Signal Box at Newport when the match was called off. Continue reading “Saving the planet – one weekend at a time”

Britain’s tramways: West Midlands Metro

IMG_2784To mark publication next month (April 2020) of my new book – a history of Croydon (London) Tramlink – this is the first in an occasional series taking a look at Britain’s urban light railways, and begins with a visit to Birmingham and a trip on its fast-expanding West Midlands Metro.

The system that was originally known as Midland Metro opened almost exactly a year before Tramlink, on 30 May 1999, and there are a number of parallels in the history of the two systems, both making extensive use of former railway alignments and both suffering from financial difficulties in their early years. Continue reading “Britain’s tramways: West Midlands Metro”

Return to Berney Arms (almost!)

IMG_4325England’s remotest station is back in business, almost a year and a half after its longer-than-planned temporary closure, as part of the Wherry Lines re-signalling programme.

Train services resumed to Berney Arms on Monday, 24 February 2020 after the line between Reedham and Great Yarmouth was re-opened to passenger traffic, along with the route from Brundall to Lowestoft. Continue reading “Return to Berney Arms (almost!)”

Time to get a GRIP on railway revivals

IMG_1640Confirmation that HS2 is to go ahead raises fundamental questions about the way in which every other railway revival project around the country is treated in future, given that the traditional economic case for HS2 has always been distinctly questionable.

Campaigners have spent years, and in many cases decades, in trying to bring rails back to a host of places around the country that include Wisbech, Portishead, Keswick, Skipton-Colne, Tavistock-Okehampton, Fleetwood, Ashington and Uckfield-Lewes. Continue reading “Time to get a GRIP on railway revivals”

Day return to Dalwhinnie

IMG_2601Completion of re-signalling work early last year at Pitlochry and Aviemore has left just a handful of mechanically-signalled locations along the splendid Highland Main Line between Perth and Inverness, most northerly of which are those at Dalwhinnie and Kingussie.

Taking advantage of another ScotRail Club 50 £17.00 flat fare ticket, I was keen to see what signalling interest there was at remote Dalwhinnie and then move on to Kingussie, where its unusual signal box is one of many across Scotland to enjoy Listed status. Continue reading “Day return to Dalwhinnie”