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!”

Basils at Brundall

IMG_1307As there are just two weeks left to savour semaphore control of the Wherry Lines from Norwich to Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, this felt like the moment to pay a farewell visit, and attempt to see some Class 755 action at the same time.

Introduction of the new Stadler bi-mode units has been little short of disastrous and the spate of last minute cancellations continues, with workings cancelled on my 16 January 2020 visit including the 11.36 Norwich-Great Yarmouth, with the 12.55 to Lowestoft being heavily delayed. Continue reading “Basils at Brundall”

Britain’s fastest growing stations 2019

IMG_9407Aside from looking at the fluctuating list of our least used stations, one of the other fascinating aspects of the annual ORR station usage statistics is to examine those stations which have seen most growth in passengers, and attempt to identify any pattern to the changes.

Having already reviewed our least used stations, I have now taken a look at those stations seeing most growth in 2018/9 compared to the previous year. The table below lists the 29 places on our network that saw passenger numbers rise by more than 50% year-on-year. Continue reading “Britain’s fastest growing stations 2019”

Britain’s least used stations 2019

IMG_1171Just like everything else about our railways, be it timetables, electrification or new rolling stock, it was running late. But 14 January 2020 has finally seen publication of the Office of Rail & Road’s (ORR) eagerly-awaited station usage statistics for 2018/9.

While there are no surprises amongst the busiest stations – with Waterloo continuing to top the list at 94.2 million entries and exits – the surge in traffic at Redcar British Steel (40 passengers in 2017/8 rising to 360 in 2018/9 prior to closure in December 2019) has led to new joint winners of the accolade for Britain’s least used station! Continue reading “Britain’s least used stations 2019”

Germany’s steam-hauled ski train

IMG_1084After autumn visits to two of Germany’s wonderful narrow gauge railways on the Baltic Coast, my first overseas trip of the New Year took me to the opposite end of eastern Germany and by 750mm gauge steam to the country’s highest town.

This is the ski resort of Oberwiesenthal, which stands close to the border with the Czech Republic in the Erzgebirge mountain range and is reached by rail on the charming Fichtelbergbahn, a 17.4 km (10.9 mile) line that connects with the standard gauge DB network at Cranzahl.

The railway takes its name from the Fichtel Mountain, which is close to the ski resort, and opened to traffic in 1897; although its current identity was only adopted on its privatisation just over a decade ago. Continue reading “Germany’s steam-hauled ski train”

In search of 313201

IMG_0932An October 2019 visit to Bognor Regis and Littlehampton had reminded me that the South Coast currently plays host to our oldest mainline EMUs – the fleet of 19 Class 313 units, which transferred from London Overground to Southern almost a decade ago (May 2010) and dates from 1976-7.

Having seen the interest their departure from Great Northern services had attracted, it seemed high time to spend a day travelling on Class 313 “Coastway” services to photograph the vintage units in action, and in the hope of coming across celebrity unit 313201 in its BR corporate blue and white livery. Continue reading “In search of 313201”

Images of 2019

IMG_4243As another year draws to a close, this seems like the ideal opportunity to take a look back at 2019 on our railways, as captured on my travels around Great Britain over the past year, and a chance to reflect on the rapidly changing face of our network in some of my favourite images of the past 12 months.

2019 was an historic year that has seen the end of long-distance HSTs on both GWR and LNER and their replacement with the new Hitachi 80x series units. It was a year, too, in which new short HST sets began appearing on both GWR and ScotRail services, while the popular Class 37s finally disappeared from East Anglia, but made a re-appearance in the Rhymney Valley. Continue reading “Images of 2019”

Wayside semaphores in The Malverns



Travel on one of the newly-accelerated GWR Cotswold Line services from London Paddington to Hereford and in the 44¼ miles from Moreton-in-Marsh to Ledbury you will pass no less than seven signal boxes controlling semaphore signals.

Having previously featured Moreton-in-Marsh, and the wonderful array of semaphore signals at Worcester’s two stations, it is time to head west over the River Severn for a visit to two lesser known outposts of mechanical signalling. Continue reading “Wayside semaphores in The Malverns”