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”

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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”