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!”

Chase Line re-born


IMG_6815When it comes to provincial railway revivals in England, there cannot be anything to match the scale of transformation that has taken place on the 15½-mile long Chase Line in Staffordshire over the 30 years, since an initial ten-mile section from Walsall to Hednesford was re-opened in 1989.

Chase Line services quickly proved popular and were later extended to Rugeley Town (June 1997) and Rugeley Trent Valley (May 1998), initially continuing on the West Coast Main Line to Stafford, but cut back to Trent Valley in December 2008 to free up capacity on the WCML. Continue reading “Chase Line re-born”


Favourite photo-spots: Acle


Paying what will surely be my last visit to the wonderful Wherry Lines before the end of Class 37 operations, my quest this time (Friday, 26 July) was not just to savour more loco haulage, but also to find another of the network’s working distant signals.

Bearing the memorable number A1, this is the up distant at Acle, sole passing loop on the 12¾ miles of route from Brundall to Great Yarmouth, and one of seven semaphores controlled by the station’s diminutive 1883-vintage 20-lever Great Eastern Railway signal box, which stands at the western end of the down platform. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Acle”

SWR cancels its seaside special again

IMG_6552Just three weeks after my previous failed attempt to sample the summer Saturday SWR service to Weymouth and Corfe Castle (6 July), it is profoundly disappointing to have suffered a similar experience again on Saturday (27 July)

Despite an assurance given to me the previous day from the SWR media team (who had kindly given me a ticket after the previous debacle) that the service would be running as planned, it was once again terminated at Salisbury due to “crew shortage”. Continue reading “SWR cancels its seaside special again”

Steel & semaphores at Shrub Hill

IMG_6294A day-out by train from Cheltenham Spa to Bridgnorth, on the wonderful Severn Valley Railway, meant another chance to spend an interesting time waiting for my connecting train at Worcester Shrub Hill, where the usual diet of West Midlands Class 170 units coming and going was interspersed with the chance to see some rare freight action. Continue reading “Steel & semaphores at Shrub Hill”

A cut-price tour of the Cotswolds

IMG_6267Rover and ranger tickets are a great way to see parts of the country by public transport at a bargain price so, having once travelled the entire 268-mile Cornish rail network in a single day for the price of a Ride Cornwall ticket (£10.00 at the time), I felt it was high time to try something similar in the charming Cotswolds.

My ticket this time was a Cotswold Discoverer one day pass (£10.00 adult or £6.90 with a railcard), which offers rail travel from Ashchurch to Gloucester, Yate and Swindon, as well as Moreton-in-March to Oxford, along with a whole host of bus routes across the region, extending from Stratford-upon-Avon in the north to Chippenham in the south. Continue reading “A cut-price tour of the Cotswolds”

Robin Higgs OBE: a personal tribute



Robin Higgs OBE (left) stands alongside another legendary railway enthusiast, the late Sir William McAlpine, at Alton station on Saturday, 20 November 2010. McAlpine had been invited to unveil a plaque marking completion of the station re-signalling project.

Five years ago I took my first step towards becoming a regular volunteer on the Mid-Hants Railway when I attended an introductory event at Alresford. Along with a group of other would-be volunteers, I was then taken by train to Ropley, where a sprightly gentleman in his 80s introduced himself to me and enthused about the Watercress Line. Continue reading “Robin Higgs OBE: a personal tribute”

A tractor in the Rhymney Valley 


As the era of Class 37 haulage on the Wherry Lines in Norfolk draws to a close, it is very heartening to see these 1960s machines make a welcome reappearance on a South Wales route where they have not worked since December 2005.

While the current single weekday return from Rhymney to Cardiff Central is not as easy to photograph as the regular Norwich-Great Yarmouth/Lowestoft services, it is possible for a visitor to the area to get two different and decent shots of the evening service. Continue reading “A tractor in the Rhymney Valley “