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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 will be celebrating its 20th anniversary next month (May). Continue reading “The wait goes on for Tramlink expansion”

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”

May 2017 and the Bubble Cars bow out

IMG_9822Shortly before 21.00 hrs. on Friday, 19 May 2017, a piece of railway history was made when the two 1960-vintage Class 121 “Bubble Cars” that had been in service with Chiltern Railways completed their last ever run from Princes Risborough to Aylesbury.

Paying my respects to the 57 year-old machines on Thursday, 11 May 2017, just eight days before the end, there were already a good number of enthusiast passengers travelling the 7½-mile branch line, on a day when services were in the hands of BR green-liveried W55034 (121034), seen above awaiting departure from Aylesbury. Continue reading “May 2017 and the Bubble Cars bow out”

Semaphores in the Tyne Valley

IMG_1437Among the many memorable outings I had while researching my signalling book during 2017, one of the most enjoyable was a day spent visiting four semaphore-signalled locations along the delightful Tyne Valley line between Carlisle and Newcastle.

Highlights for me of that day (19 June 2017) were seeing the two remarkable and Grade II Listed over-line signal boxes at Hexham and Wylam, visiting a remote station whose signal box had been routinely “switched out” for decades (since closed), and the kind invitation from a lady signaller into one of Britain’s oldest working signal boxes. Continue reading “Semaphores in the Tyne Valley”

Semaphores in the East Midlands

IMG_9621After my final pre-lockdown visit to the charming station at Manea, near Ely, it is now time to head further west, and take a look at the half dozen signal boxes which retain semaphore signalling interest on the busy cross-country route between Leicester and Peterborough.

Along a 20-mile stretch of this line, from Melton Mowbray to the village of Ketton, three miles west of Stamford, you will find a couple of attractive stations, one of the country’s most famous signal boxes, and a remarkable survival in the form of a Midland Railway lower quadrant signal on a wooden post. Continue reading “Semaphores in the East Midlands”