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The wait goes on for Tramlink expansion

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TRAMS have been one of the great success stories in UK public transport over the past two decades, with passengers liking the frequent, reliable and environmentally-friendly service they provide, and networks being expanded in all but one of the seven UK towns and cities where trams are operating.

While plans have been implemented, or are afoot, for system expansion in Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Sheffield and Blackpool, one glaring exception is Tramlink, the network centred on Croydon, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in  May 2020. Continue reading “The wait goes on for Tramlink expansion”

Corsican metre-gauge in 1988 and 2007

IMG_3990HOLIDAY plans for many of us have been thrown into disarray by the pandemic, so this seems like a timely moment to look back at two memorable July holidays from years gone by, when I was able to sample and photograph one of Europe’s most remarkable railway networks.

32 years ago this month I paid my first visit to the fabulous metre-gauge system on Corsica, and over the course of a two–week touring holiday with my future wife contrived to travel in stages over the entire 232km (144-mile) Y-shaped rail network, connecting the northern towns of Bastia and Calvi with Ajaccio on the west coast.

Having recently re-discovered photographs and slides of that memorable July 1988 trip, and a return family visit in July 2007, this is a look back to a time before modernisation, when there was still regular freight on the principal Bastia-Ajaccio axis, when trains still ran to the port at Ajaccio, and when marvellous 1949-vintage Renault ABH railcars were the mainstay of passenger services. Continue reading “Corsican metre-gauge in 1988 and 2007”

Summer of ’62 on the Somerset & Dorset

IMG_4979Features on my late father’s railway travels in Wales and across Gloucestershire during the early 1960s attracted a good deal of interest, so for one final dip into what remains of his photo archive, here are a few shots of the famous Somerset & Dorset Joint line from Bath (Green Park) to Bournemouth in the summer of 1962.

1962 was the year that run-down of the S&D began in earnest, being the last year that it was used by expresses such as the legendary Pines Express before these were diverted away to help build the case for closure. It featured in the Beeching Report of March 1963 and, despite a huge level of protest, services finally ceased on 7 March 1966. Continue reading “Summer of ’62 on the Somerset & Dorset”

Gloucestershire steam in the 1960s

IMG_4930CONSIDERABLE interest was aroused by the account I published last week of my late father’s 1961 rail travels in Wales so, for what will hopefully prove to be one of my final lockdown retrospectives, this is a look through his lens at steam action in Gloucestershire during the early 1960s.

As in Wales, closures across the county began well before Dr Beeching published his infamous report in March 1963, with the routes to Kingham and Andover Junction having already succumbed by the time The reshaping of British Railways was released, as seen in the chronological list below of lost railway routes and stations. Continue reading “Gloucestershire steam in the 1960s”

Freedom of Wales in June 1961

IMG_4743 (1)During this week 59 years ago my late father, Trefor David, embarked on a remarkable week-long tour of Wales from his home near Cheltenham Spa, using a Freedom of Wales ticket that cost him £5 and an Area 9 Runabout ticket, giving unlimited travel between Cheltenham, Newport and Hereford, for 25/- (£1.25).

Just as I have done on more recent rail travels around the UK and Europe, he kept a written record and a photo album of his journeys, most of which were by steam, and covering many routes that would very soon succumb to closure.

In transcribing his diary and scanning some of his photos it is interesting to see how many of the lines he travelled closed well before the infamous Beeching Report was published in March 1963, with the last day of the previous year (31 December 1962) looking like a particularly bleak day for the Principality’s railway network. Continue reading “Freedom of Wales in June 1961”

HST swansong at Moreton-in-Marsh

IMG_4714EXACTLY one year ago today (Saturday, 1 June 2019) the era of mainline HST operation across the West of England drew to a final close, with a special farewell tour of the GWR network by a set formed of power cars 43002/198, the former having been repainted in its original British Rail blue and white livery.

Having long ago become fascinated by a train that literally transformed the fortunes of British Rail in the 1970s, I decided to briefly witness this final run at delightful Moreton-in-Marsh, a place I had also visited just two weeks previously to witness the last day of scheduled HST operation on the GWR network. Continue reading “HST swansong at Moreton-in-Marsh”

The end of metre-gauge steam in Pakistan

IMG_3757EXACTLY 15 years ago today (Wednesday, 1 June 2005) I spent 11 hours crossing the Thar Desert in the Sindh Province of Pakistan aboard one of that country’s last three surviving metre-gauge steam services, the twice-monthly 07.00 service MG-2 Down from Mirpur Khas to Nawabshah Junction.

Hauled by immaculate SP Class loco 138 (Kerr Stuart, 1921) our progress was always going to be pretty slow, with a timetabled arrival at the end of the 81-mile (129km) trip of 13.40. But after being halted in the searing 46C heat of the desert for several hours while the track ahead of us was repaired, we only made it to Nawabshah at about 18.00. Continue reading “The end of metre-gauge steam in Pakistan”

Buxton & Hope Valley semaphores: part 2

IMG_3574After last week’s look at mechanical signalling on the Buxton Line and at Peak Forest, it is now time to hop aboard the Hope Valley stopping service from Manchester Piccadilly to Sheffield take a look at three of the four semaphore-signalled locations on this busy, charming, and scenic route.

Our first stop on this 29 July 2017 visit comes just half an hour after leaving Piccadilly aboard a Class 142-worked stopping service at New Mills Central. From here to New Mills South Junction is a brisk 25-minute walk, with fine views over the valley to Furness Vale, barely a mile away (and featured in part 1). Continue reading “Buxton & Hope Valley semaphores: part 2”

Buxton & Hope Valley semaphores: part 1

IMG_0923After last month’s features on semaphore signalling along the wonderful Furness and Cumbrian Coast Lines, it is now time to take a trip to another significant outpost of mechanical signalling in North-West England, with a two-part look at the Buxton and Hope Valley lines.

For those unfamiliar with this corner of England, there is some dramatic scenery and old industrial towns to appreciate, with a fairly regular flow of passenger traffic along the Hope Valley route, substantial leisure patronage of the Buxton line and the remarkable oft-photographed quarry backdrop at Peak Forest. Continue reading “Buxton & Hope Valley semaphores: part 1”

Europe’s forgotten railway network

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NINE years ago this month (in May 2011) I paid a visit to Europe’s most isolated country, Albania, and spent the next five days travelling the whole of its decrepit railway network, before the most scenic section of route was suddenly closed a year later.

As desperately needed investment seems set to revive at least part of this remarkable and ramshackle system, this is an expanded and illustrated version of my original 2011 account, with an update at the end on developments since that visit. Continue reading “Europe’s forgotten railway network”

Lost metre-gauge in the Douro Valley

IMG_3540EXACTLY 25 years ago today, on Wednesday, 10 May 1995, I went on one of my most memorable ever continental railway journeys, when I broke off from a family holiday near Lisbon to spend an unforgettable 36 hours travelling to the Douro Valley and then sampling two of the remarkable metre-gauge lines leading up tributary river valleys north of the Douro.

Those trips up the Tua Line to Mirandela and later up the Corgo Line from Régua to Vila Real convinced me that these were some of the most scenic rail journeys in Europe, so it came as a real shock to learn years later that the Portuguese Government had allowed these lines, along with the Tâmega Line from Livração to Amarante, to close (in 2008/9). Continue reading “Lost metre-gauge in the Douro Valley”