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Railway Renaissance

RR_CoverGareth’s first book – published September 2017

 Pen & Sword Books Ltd

ISBN: 9781473862005

Order at Waterstones or Amazon

When a 35 mile stretch of the former Waverley route from Edinburgh to Carlisle reopened on 6 September 2015, it became the most significant reopening of any UK railway since the infamous Beeching Report, ‘The re-shaping of British Railways’, was published in March 1963.
In his report, Dr Richard Beeching recommended sweeping closures of lines across the UK to improve the financial performance of British railways, which led to wholesale closures over the following decade and a reduction in the UK rail network from 18,000 miles in 1963, to some 11,000 miles a decade later.

Continue reading “Railway Renaissance”

Britain’s most southerly semaphores

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Spending a few days at Carbis Bay finally gave me the opportunity to photograph our most southerly semaphore signals, which stand around three-quarters of a mile beyond St Erth station, but are totally out of view from the station platforms.

IMG_9044.jpgTake a walk down the A30 from St Erth station for a about half a mile, passing the closed Lamb & Flag pub, then head down a narrow lane signposted Rosevidney and you come to an over-bridge with a good, though distant view of the two elusive semaphores.

These are down section Signal SE7 and up outer home SE68, which stand almost opposite each other at a point on the main line from Penzance, where a section of straight track bears round to the right as it approaches the station (pictured top). Continue reading “Britain’s most southerly semaphores”

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Railway rambling in SW Cornwall

IMG_8870.jpgOne of Britain’s finest long distance walking routes must surely be the 630-mile long South West Coast Path, which extends all the way from Minehead in Somerset to the Sandbanks Ferry near Poole in Dorset. But for those who like to mix their walking with some scenic rail travel the path offers few opportunities for what I call railway rambling, with one notable exception.

That exception is a seven-mile stretch of the path from the small town of Hayle (meaning estuary in Cornish) to the charming and cultural resort of St. Ives, which takes in the estuary at Hayle and then follows the route of the scenic St. Ives Bay Line, with numerous attractive photo-opportunities of both railway and seascape along the way. Continue reading “Railway rambling in SW Cornwall”

Mallaig station, ScotRail and the RBS £1 note

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For me, a banknote collector as well as a railway enthusiast, one of the joys of visiting Scotland is the nostalgic opportunity to put £1 notes in my wallet once again, thanks to the Royal Bank of Scotland continuing to issue them, the last of the three Scottish note issuers to do so.

Sadly there seem precious few people left who, like me, will ask for the £1 notes in any RBS branch, so awareness of their remaining legal tender falls, and a number of retailers erroneously assert that they do not accept them.

One such culprit I recently encountered was in the booking office at Mallaig station, where a ScotRail supervisor instructed the booking clerk she was overseeing not to accept the £1 notes I was tendering in part payment for my ticket to Arisaig. Continue reading “Mallaig station, ScotRail and the RBS £1 note”

Scotland’s Grand Tour on the cheap

IMG_8632As spectacularly scenic railways go there is nothing anywhere in Britain to match the Scottish route from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh and the West Highland Lines from Glasgow to Fort William, Oban and Mallaig.

Such is their appeal that ScotRail now markets a ticket known as the Scottish Grand Tour – a chance to travel a near 500-mile circular route encompassing both the Kyle and Mallaig lines, with bus and ferry links included.

Grand Tour tickets cost £89.00 (£58.75 with a railcard) for a single journey in either direction, giving you four days rail travel within eight consecutive days in which to complete the journey, at any time, except on departures from Glasgow or Edinburgh before 09.15 on weekdays.

But at this time of year, as well as in the spring months, there is a much cheaper way of doing the Grand Tour for holders of a ScotRail Club 50 Card (£15 a year and available to anyone over the age of 50). Continue reading “Scotland’s Grand Tour on the cheap”

A taste of re-nationalised railway

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Railway catering has been a subject dear to my heart ever since I was first lucky enough to sample the delights of the Manchester Pullman during one of my first journalist jobs, in about 1980.

For many years after that I would take every opportunity of an inter-city journey to sample breakfast, lunch or dinner, and had many memorable meals and encounters until restaurant service had all but disappeared in the aftermath of privatisation in the mid-1990s.

Initial East Coast franchisee GNER remained a beacon of light, with its impressive commitment to full catering, but once short-lived franchisee National Express took over the rot set in and, just as happened on the West Coast under Virgin Trains, proper meals were replaced by the airline-style service we have today. Continue reading “A taste of re-nationalised railway”

A look at the future of signalling in Wales

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Eight years after its opening in October 2010, the £16.5 million Wales Railway Operating Centre (WROC) is really starting to come into its own, as more and more of the Principality’s network falls under its control.

Situated in an anonymous and highly-fortified building, surrounded by razor wire and a bomb-proof wall, half a mile west of Cardiff Central and overlooking Canton depot, the WROC works round the clock 365 days a year, employing a total of around 180 Network Rail staff.

In addition, and in a separate first floor room from the signallers, the integrated control room sees a further 46 Arriva Trains Wales staff sitting opposite the NR team, overseeing operation of the whole Welsh network and stepping in to manage incidents as they arise. Continue reading “A look at the future of signalling in Wales”

Railway rambling on the Isle of Wight

IMG_8597There is something rather special about a trip to the Isle of Wight. For many it is the charming scenery and fine beaches, for others it is the glorious countryside and fine walks.

Having already appreciated it all by walking the 65-mile long coastal path, what continues to make the island so special for me is its quaint railway systems – as well as the thrill of being able to travel there on the world’s last commercial hovercraft service. Continue reading “Railway rambling on the Isle of Wight”