Bulgarian narrow gauge on a budget

Having a weakness for anything narrow gauge, the offer of some cheap as chips Ryanair flights to and from the Bulgarian capital tempts me to pay a springtime return visit to that country’s remarkable state-run and sole-surviving narrow gauge railway, the 125km (78-mile) route from Septemvri, south-east of Sofia, into the Rhodope Mountains close to the Greek border.

When the 2,800-mile round trip from Stansted to Sofia had cost less than £28.00 it means my four-day mini-break came in at a remarkably modest total of just £195.65, including flights, all rail travel, accommodation in Sofia (one night) and Velingrad (two nights), as well all my restaurant food and drink.

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Reedham Junction then and now (2017-2022)

HUGE CHANGES have taken place at Reedham Junction since I spent a wonderful day there exactly five years ago (on 17 March 2017), with a protracted project to re-signal the Wherry Lines finally completed in February 2020, bringing an end to this marvellous outpost of semaphore signalling.

Five years ago Reedham Junction Signal Box controlled the double track Norwich-Lowestoft route and a junction with the single line to Great Yarmouth via Berney Arms. This was shut for almost two years when the signal box here was closed on 22 March 2019 and connection to the Berney Arms route was temporarily severed.

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Return to Tondu

THREE YEARS after my previous visit (blog: 17 January 2019) it is time to make a return to Tondu and attempt to get some shots north and south of the station featuring a trio of the numerous lower quadrant semaphores that survive here.

My challenge on 8 March 2022 was to see the hourly services to and from Maesteg passing the three signals I had not photographed before – down outer home signal TU64 from the platform end at Sarn, along with down section signal TU57 and up outer home TU2 from a bridge north of Tondu station.

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A new look at Leuchars

Significant signalling changes have taken place at Leuchars, railhead for the important university town of St. Andrew’s and one of two remaining outposts of semaphore signalling on the route between Edinburgh and Dundee, along with Cupar, which I featured on 4 September 2021.

While the century-old (1920) North British Railway signal box remains for the time being, a £4m upgrade programme, undertaken during two weekends in February, has seen both down (LE20) and up (LE30) home signals replaced by colour lights, as track was renewed near the box and a cross-over re-sited.

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Contours at Carmont 

A few days spent north of the border, in Edinburgh, and some remarkably cheap LNER advance purchase tickets gives me the chance to head up the East Coast once again and pay a visit to one of the last outposts of semaphore signalling between Edinburgh and Aberdeen I have yet to photograph.

After an enjoyable day at Stonehaven last year (blog: 2 September 2021) my destination this time (2 March 2022) is Carmont Signal Box, which stands 5½ miles south-west of Stonehaven in a remote and picturesque setting, where I am hoping to get some of the panoramic views of trains and semaphores I have seen posted elsewhere. 

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