The wait goes on for Tramlink expansion


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”


First Class single from Haslemere to Sofia (via Athens)

A Frecciarossa service departs Bari Centrale for Brindisi and Lecce on 26 May 2023

A final trip using the half-price First Class Inter-Rail ticket bought in last year’s 50th anniversary sale is also my longest, and takes me from home to Milan, then south through Italy to Bari, before sailing across the Adriatic to Patras and on by bus and train to Athens. From there it is north on the fateful route to Thessaloniki, before finishing in Bulgaria with a visit to the spa town of Velingrad.

Setting off in glorious spring weather on Tuesday, 23 May 2023, I am hoping for some sunny sightseeing along with all the rail journeys, having arranged to spend two days in Bari, Athens and Thessaloniki and then finish up with three days at the apartment I stayed at in Velingrad during a visit in March 2022.

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First class single from Haslemere to Podgorica

An hour late and in pouring rain Montenegran Railways Co-Co electric loco 461-029 is about to depart Podgorica on 11 May 2023 with the southbound Lovcen service from Belgrade to Bar

After last month’s enjoyable trip from home to Split via Switzerland and Austria, it is time to head off slightly further afield this time and take an Inter-Rail journey via Stuttgart and Zagreb to the Serbian capital Belgrade, and from there head south to Montenegro on the acclaimed scenic route to Podgorica and the Adriatic Coast at Bar.

For those who may have missed the account of my Split trip, this is the second of my three planned excursions using the first class Inter-Rail pass I bought in the 50th anniversary half-price sale in May 2022. It is one that will give me a first taste of two European capitals – Belgrade and Podgorica – as well as an overnight journey on one of the newest and most scenic rail routes in Europe.

Continue reading “First class single from Haslemere to Podgorica”

Czech JHMD NG system awaits a white knight

Nine months after my delightful summer visit (July 2022) and six months after its shock closure, a short break in Prague meant the chance for a day trip to Jindřichův Hradec to see what has become of the Jindřichohradecké místní dráhy (JHMD) narrow gauge system.

Following 25 years in private ownership this wonderful 79km (50-mile) long 760mm (2ft 6in) gauge network had been forced to close on 2 October 2022 after amassing huge debts and its management falling out with the local authority, which financially supported its diesel services.

Continue reading “Czech JHMD NG system awaits a white knight”

First class single from Haslemere to Split 

The statue of an early female Inter-Railer looks on as a local train from Chur arrives at Thusis

Having foolishly missed out in my student days, last year’s 50th anniversary half-price offer was enough to tempt me to finally embark on some Inter-Rail adventures, buying a two month first class pass for just €429 (£377.17) and then being faced with the question of where in the whole of Europe I should head for?

After endless scrutiny of my newly-acquired European Rail Timetable I decided to make three single journeys from my home in Haslemere to destinations in Central and Eastern Europe – before flying home each time – that would give me the chance to visit many new places and travel on some of the most scenic stretches of line across Europe.

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Full Island Line service resumes at last (well almost)

Returning for a two-day Easter week working trip to the Isle of Wight, it was good to see that the promised half-hourly rail service has at last begun, almost 18 months after the route from Ryde to Shanklin re-opened.

While Ryde Pier will not reopen until at least June, it is good to see significant progress on the new transport interchange since my last visit in early December 2022, which suggests it could be completed in time for the peak summer season.

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West Coastway Class 313 swansong

313204 approaches Barnham with 2S09 from Portsmouth & Southsea (09.57) to Littlehampton

Paying a visit to Littlehampton and Bognor Regis last month to photograph the semaphores and Class 313 workings, I had noticed a couple of foot crossings west of Barnham station that had distinct potential as photo-spots.

So making a return visit to this busy junction, my challenge was to see if I could capture a final glimpse of Class 313s working all six of the weekday West Coastway diagrams they are scheduled to operate until their final withdrawal from service on 20 May 2023.

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GWR IETs diverted via Yeovil

Mid-week closure for engineering work of the route between Castle Cary and Taunton meant another excuse to savour the rare sight of diverted GWR “flying cucumber” Class 80x IETs as they passed Yeovil Pen Mill on 23 March 2023 while working services between London Paddington and Plymouth.

Returning to photograph a scene I had last witnessed in September 2020, it was once again apparent how the single line between Castle Cary and Pen Mill, as well as the long sections of single line between Yeovil and Exeter, make for some pretty slack timetabling of the diverted services and replacement of some stopping services by mythical bus connections.

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Doomed trains and semaphores on the West Sussex coast

Having outlived three other locations along the Mid-Sussex Line by almost a decade JM in, time is fast running out for the semaphore signals at Littlehampton and Bognor Regis, along with the veteran Class 313 units that continue to pass them every half hour, but will be gone by the time of the May 2023 timetable change.

Earlier this month (on 3 March 2023) Arun District Council approved a plan by Network Rail to remove the two semaphore signal brackets at the platform ends of Bognor Regis’ Grade II Listed station and it seems certain that the two brackets at Littlehampton are also on borrowed time.

Continue reading “Doomed trains and semaphores on the West Sussex coast”

Snow and semaphores in North-East Scotland

There are now just four signal boxes remaining along the important 108¼-mile long route linking Aberdeen and Inverness in north-east Scotland, following a number of resignalling projects over recent years.

Most recent casualties in the march of progress have been the boxes at Forres and Elgin West in 2017, followed by those at Inverurie and Dyce in 2019, leaving the current quartet of mechanically-signalled locations at Keith, Huntly, Kennethmont and Insch.

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Favourite photo-spots: Hereford

Hereford is probably best known for the remarkable Mappa Mundi housed in its cathedral, and for Ronnie Radford’s equally remarkable 1972 FA Cup goal for Hereford United against Newcastle United, but the city also has an interesting railway history and a place long overdue a proper visit.

While the Bulmer’s Railway Centre and the steam loco King George V that I remember visiting in childhood are both sadly long-departed, this remains an important junction on our national railway network and one of those curious places that is in England, but managed from Wales.

Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Hereford”