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Railway Renaissance

RR_CoverGareth’s new book – published on 30 September

 Pen & Sword Books Ltd

ISBN: 9781473862005

Order now 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”

Summer Saturday at Yeovil Pen Mill

IMG_1293Weymouth remains a great magnet for day trippers and holidaymakers, so on the first Saturday proper of the summer holidays, and with the added bonus of seafood festival, there was bumper traffic to the resort from Yeovil Pen Mill on 14 July 2018.

IMG_1158In less than 90 minutes during the mid-morning there are four services to the resort from Pen Mill, including the highly popular 09.50 SWR service from Basingstoke where three coaches of its five-car formation continue to Corfe Castle on the Swanage Railway (described in my earlier blog post). Here 158886 + 159014 (rear) depart for Weymouth and Corfe Castle. Continue reading “Summer Saturday at Yeovil Pen Mill”

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Favourite photo-spots: St. Erth

IMG_1752Cornwall remains a delightful and photogenic outpost of mechanical signalling, so after my earlier features on Par/St Blazey and Lostwithiel, it is time to pay a visit to Britain’s most south-westerly railway junction, St Erth, which lies 56 miles on from the Royal Duchy’s first semaphore signals at Liskeard, and 299½ miles from Paddington.

St. Erth must rank as one of the county’s most unspoiled locations, with semaphore signalling being the perfect complement to the charming GWR junction station, complete with independently-run station buffet and a place where even the original footbridge was saved from replacement by a new structure after a fervent local campaign. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: St. Erth”

On the trail of the Atlantic Coast Express

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Today it would unquestionably be regarded as one of the UK’s most scenic rail journeys, but sadly the six miles of railway line from Wadebridge to Padstow was lost to the network in January 1967. Now the only way now of travelling these final miles of the famous Atlantic Coast Express (the ACE) are on foot, or by bike, along what has now become part of the hugely popular Camel Trail.

Taking a delightful and leisurely two-hour stroll, it is not difficult to imagine those final nine minutes aboard the ACE as it neared the end of its 259¾ mile journey from London Waterloo (11.00) and had seen portions of the train detached along the way for Exmouth, Sidmouth, Bude, Plymouth, Ifracombe and Torrington, before the remaining three coaches finally reached the Padstow buffer stops at 5.21pm. Continue reading “On the trail of the Atlantic Coast Express”

Lunch on the Line – GWR-style

IMG_2277Friday lunchtime on 29 June 2018 and the end of a scorching week in the sunny South West. Standing on platform 5 at Exeter St. David’s and waiting for the slightly delayed arrival of the 13.02 “Cornishman” to London Paddington, an announcement that the train is one coach short (a shortage of coaches, we are told!) and that the service is already “full and standing” is hardly the news any weary traveller wants to hear.

Faced with the prospect of standing in a crowded vestibule for two hours, I did what any astute reader of the GWR timetable would sensibly do – I went to the rather exclusive restaurant car (17 covers) and managed to secure a wonderful – and now extremely rare opportunity – to remind myself why eating on the move was always such a pleasure. Continue reading “Lunch on the Line – GWR-style”

Favourite photo-spots: Lostwithiel

IMG_1066Among a number of marvellous locations in Cornwall to savour GWR-style lower quadrant signalling, one of the most attractive must surely be the delightful town of Lostwithiel, standing on the banks of the River Fowey, with its station and signal box situated just over the 16th century Lostwithiel Bridge from the town itself.

Lostwithiel’s 1893 GWR signal box, known as Lostwithiel Crossing, boasts a 63-lever frame and gained a Grade II Listing in 2013 for being one of 26 “highly distinctive” boxes that were selected for listing in a joint project undertaken by English Heritage and Network Rail. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Lostwithiel”

A Wherry nice day out

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Heritage traction, mechanical signalling and good beer make the Norfolk Broads a distinctly attractive place to visit, not just for those interested in boating, but also for those who fancy remembering British Rail of the 1970s and 1980s, travelling in Mark III coaches to the distinctive roar of English Electric Class 37 locomotives.

Pictured top are 37419/425 approaching Acle on 1 June 2018 with the 13.17 Great Yarmouth-Norwich service

For the past four years a pair of Class 37s, on hire from Direct Rail Services, has top-and-tailed a three-coach “short set” on regular weekday services from Norwich to Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, as well as seasonal summer Saturday services to Great Yarmouth. Continue reading “A Wherry nice day out”

Favourite photo-spots: Oulton Broad North

IMG_0165For its combination of manual signalling, interesting scenery and the regular chance of Class 37-haulage, there can be few places in England more attractive for rail enthusiasts than the Wherry Lines in Norfolk, linking Norwich with the seaside resorts of Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.

This 46¼-mile network features a total of nine manual signal boxes, two of which also operate swing bridges, a weekend-only request stop (Buckenham), and Berney Arms, one of the remotest and quietest stations (albeit without any signalling) in the whole of England. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Oulton Broad North”