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Railway Renaissance

RR_CoverGareth’s first book – published September 2017

 Pen & Sword Books Ltd

ISBN: 9781473862005

Order 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”

Railway rambling on the Isle of Wight

IMG_8597There is something rather special about a trip to the Isle of Wight. For many it is the charming scenery and fine beaches, for others it is the glorious countryside and fine walks.

Having already appreciated it all by walking the 65-mile long coastal path, what continues to make the island so special for me is its quaint railway systems – as well as the thrill of being able to travel there on the world’s last commercial hovercraft service. Continue reading “Railway rambling on the Isle of Wight”

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Haslemere’s Grade II Listed Signal Box

IMG_8356Control of colour lights by traditional lever frame is a reasonably common feature of Britain’s signalling infrastructure, but few signal boxes can surely match Haslemere, where 2018 marks 81 years since replacement of its semaphore signals by colour lights in 1937, to coincide with electrification of the Portsmouth Direct Line.

Haslemere is one of only three surviving signal boxes on the route, the others being at Farncombe and at Petersfield, with the latter also being Grade II Listed. What makes Haslemere unique among this trio, however, is in retaining its complete and original 47-lever frame, controlling signals and points between Liphook and Witley. Continue reading “Haslemere’s Grade II Listed Signal Box”

Favourite photo-spots: Westbury

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For variety of passenger and freight traction, there can be few places in the South of England to match Westbury, a small and unremarkable Wiltshire town best known for its White Horse, carved into the chalk hillside overlooking the town.

Westbury stands 109 miles from London Paddington and is a major junction on the Berks & Hants route via Newbury to the South West, being the point where it crosses the busy Bristol to Portsmouth line, while other services run from here to Swindon via Melksham.

Add the regular stone traffic originating at the nearby Merehead and Whatley quarries, and you are in for pretty much non-stop action on an average weekday, with the three hours I spent there on Friday (17 August) producing no less than five different classes of passenger unit and three different classes of freight loco. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Westbury”

Waiting for that weekday train to Okehampton

IMG_8078Okehampton is one of those places where the argument for reinstating train services seems to have been won in spades, yet time marches on and, in spite of the right noises being made, nothing actually seems to happen.

For more than two decades the residents of this Devon town, and those wishing to sample tourist attractions, like the Granite Way path leading south over the Grade I Listed Meldon Viaduct, have been tantalised by a seasonal service on one day a week. Continue reading “Waiting for that weekday train to Okehampton”

Lymington branch – then and now

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Returning to the 5¼-mile Lymington branch line this weekend, almost a decade after the end of heritage traction, I was interested to see how the designated community railway had fared in the absence of the slam-door stock that had made it an enthusiast mecca from 2005 until May 2010.

When the two 3-CIG slam-door units were finally stood down there were not sufficient electric units to replace them, so the line is worked from Mondays to Fridays by a Class 158 diesel unit and only sees electric traction at week-ends, when services are in the hands of a Class 450 Desiro unit. Continue reading “Lymington branch – then and now”

Railway rambling in Snowdonia

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Membership of the Welsh Highland Railway Society (WHR Society) must rank as one of the greatest British travel bargains, since it offers a year’s free travel on this remarkable 25-mile long line for less than the cost of just one full round trip.

The annual fee of £39.00 compares to a Porthmadog-Caernarfon return fare of £39.80, with members not only getting unlimited free travel on Britain’s longest narrow gauge railway, but also three privilege rate (66% discount) tickets for family or friends and unlimited privilege rate travel on the Ffestiniog Railway. Continue reading “Railway rambling in Snowdonia”

Favourite photo-spots: Llandudno & Deganwy

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Re-signalling along the North Wales coast earlier in the year (see my posts on Rhyl, Abergele and Prestatyn) means mechanical signalling in the area is now confined to Anglesey on the main line and to three locations on the delightful Conwy Valley Line from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Llandudno.

On the branch proper, the remaining signal box at North Llanrwst controls four semaphore signals and the only passing loop on this line, while at the northern end of the route there is an interesting outpost of mechanical signalling between Deganwy and the seaside terminus at Llandudno, 1¾ miles to the north.

Llandudno Station Signal Box is an impressive structure dating from 1891 that, like so many others, has been ruined by the replacement of its traditional glazing with uPVC windows. It controls movement in and out of the three platforms, and the notable feature here is the gantry at the exit from platforms 1 & 2, with shunting arms alongside each of the starting signals, and another alongside the platform 3 starting signal. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Llandudno & Deganwy”