As another year draws to a close, this seems like the ideal opportunity to take a look back at 2019 on our railways, as captured on my travels around Great Britain over the past year, and a chance to reflect on the rapidly changing face of our network in some of my favourite images of the past 12 months.
2019 was an historic year that has seen the end of long-distance HSTs on both GWR and LNER and their replacement with the new Hitachi 80x series units. It was a year, too, in which new short HST sets began appearing on both GWR and ScotRail services, while the popular Class 37s finally disappeared from East Anglia, but made a re-appearance in the Rhymney Valley.
Pacer Class 142/3/4 units were due to have been phased out by the end of 2019, but will rattle on into the early months of 2020 to cover for late delivery of replacement rolling stock at Northern, GWR and TfW. On 17 January 2019, the driver of 142010 has surrendered a token to the Tondu signaller for the section of line from Maesteg as it works the 15.31 Maesteg-Cheltenham Spa (2G64)
Freight movement through my home station of Haslemere is something of a rarity, but on 2 February 2019 a closure of the main Southampton-Woking route for engineering work saw a handful of diversions via the Portsmouth Direct Line. Here 66170 passes the station with a trainload of empty car-carrying wagons from Southampton Eastern Docks to Halewood (Jaguar Cars).
The following month and some more Class 66 freight action at an unusual location, this time on the Dudding Hill line in North London. Here 66161 approaches the former Harlesden station on 25 March 2019 with a working from Cricklewood to Calvert.
One month before the end of GWR HST working and it was time to see the new order at delightful Moreton-in-Marsh. On 20 April 2019 800315 arrives with 11.22 Paddington-Great Malvern service.
Back to Moreton-in-Marsh on Saturday, 18 May 2019 to witness the last day of GWR HST services. Here 43172/162 depart with delayed 15.48 to Paddington, the last ever up HST on the Cotswold Line.
Finally, on Saturday, 1 June 2019 the HST farewell special train from London Paddington–Carmarthen, with 43002 (in BR Blue) and 43198 rear, approaches Moreton-in-Marsh for its 09.20 stop (seen at the station in the bottom photo)Six months before LNER followed GWR and finally bid goodbye to its HST fleet, 43306/299 pass Montrose North Signal Box on 10 June 2019 with the 09.52 Aberdeen-London King’s Cross.
Shortly before their delayed displacement from Wherry Line duties, Class 37 haulage returned to the Rhymney Valley to operate one, and later two, peak hour services between Rhymney and Cardiff Central. On 9 July 2019, 37418 approaches Lisvane & Thornhill with the 17.01 Cardiff Central-Rhymney
My last visit to savour Class 37 action on the Wherry Lines was on 26 July 2019, when the short set was in the hands of 37716/407, seen here arriving at Acle with the 13.17 Great Yarmouth–Norwich.
The days of Class 483 operation on the Isle of Wight are finally drawing to a close, with replacement stock due to start arriving in the coming year, as part of a major investment in the island’s remarkable railway. On 31 August 2019 483006 is in Sandown station bound for Shanklin as 483008 departs with the 12.18 Shanklin–Ryde Pier Head.
Rail travel in Cornwall is being transformed by the arrival of the Castle sets, the re-formed 2+4 HST units now operating many services in the South West. On 13 September 2019, 43088/086, still in FGW blue, pass Britain’s most south-westerly semaphores at St Erth with 2A86, the 11.41 Penzance-Newton Abbot
New trains and re-signalling are promising to transform the Wherry Lines from Norwich to Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft in 2020, provided they can be made to work! In a scene that will soon be history, 170203 comes off the East Suffolk Line at Oulton Broad North Junction on 8 October 2019 with the 12.17 from Ipswich.
Just as re-formed HSTs are promising to transform local services in the South-West, the same change is taking place in Scotland, where ScotRail is slowly introducing a sizeable fleet of four and five car HSTs under the Inter7City brand. On 9 November 2019 one of these new sets, comprising power cars 43132/032, passes Britain’s most northerly semaphores at Keith Junction with the 11.02 Inverness-Aberdeen (1A50)
Introduction of new bi-mode Class 755 units in East Anglia has been so disastrous that they have earned the nickname Basils, as they have proved so faulty. In a week which had seen the 755s make their first appearance on East Suffolk Line services, 755410 is signalled out of platform 4 at Lowestoft on 3 December 2019 with the heavily-delayed 09.07 Lowestoft-Ipswich
As this will be my final post of 2019, I would like to wish all my readers and friends a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.
My new book “Britain’s last mechanical signalling” is out now, and is available from publishers Pen & Sword, from good transport bookshops and from many online retailers.