A final summer for Britain’s oldest trains

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Paying my annual visit to the charming Isle of Wight on Wednesday, 5 August 2020, meant a chance for some farewell photographs the pre-WWII (1938) Class 483 units before their planned retirement at the end of the year and, hopefully, their “re-homing” in preservation.

After my successful and enjoyable walk last summer to discover a number of interesting photo-spots between Brading and Shanklin, the challenge I set myself this time was to find some new and photogenic locations on a walk back from Brading to Ryde. Continue reading “A final summer for Britain’s oldest trains”

A day out on the Döllnitzbahn

IMG_4488An enforced overnight stay in Berlin, as a result of easyjet cancelling most of its flights to and from London, gave me the chance on my return to the German capital by train from the Zittauer Schmalspurbahn to pay a visit to another of the narrow gauge lines in Saxony, the rather delightful Döllnitzbahn.

After the crowds travelling on the Zittau system it made a remarkable contrast to find myself as the only passenger on one of the services I took, which are essentially run for the benefit of local school children travelling into the town of Oschatz – midway between Dresden and Leipzig – from Mügeln and surrounding settlements. Continue reading “A day out on the Döllnitzbahn”

A trip in Europe’s smallest dining car

IMG_4457After a January visit to see narrow gauge steam on the German/Czech border between Cranzahl and Kurort Oberwiesenthal, my first post-lockdown rail excursion to Europe takes me to another remote corner of SE Germany and the splendid 750mm narrow gauge system based in the charming city of Zittau.

Besides paying a return visit to a line I had visited in very different times shortly after German reunification 30 years ago, I was particularly eager to photograph the famous double departure of services from its junction at Bertsdorf and also to sample the railway’s unique dining service.    Continue reading “A trip in Europe’s smallest dining car”

A forgotten HST speed record

IMG_4335When Great Western Railway trumpeted a fastest ever rail journey from Cardiff to London of one hour 33 minutes 44 seconds in October 2019 by one of its new InterCity Express (IET) trains it was being somewhat economical with the truth about the fastest rail journey between the two capitals.

While the GWR IET might have been able to claim the honour of fastest journey to London from Cardiff, its achievement on 23 October 2019 was comprehensively eclipsed by the real rail speed record over that route, which was set by an HST exactly 35 years ago today, on Thursday, 18 July 1985. Continue reading “A forgotten HST speed record”

Corsican metre-gauge in 1988 and 2007

G David 320HOLIDAY plans for many of us have been thrown into disarray by the pandemic, so this seems like a timely moment to look back at two memorable July holidays from years gone by, when I was able to sample and photograph one of Europe’s most remarkable railway networks.

32 years ago this month I paid my first visit to the fabulous metre-gauge system on Corsica, and over the course of a two–week touring holiday with my future wife contrived to travel in stages over the entire 232km (144-mile) Y-shaped rail network, connecting the northern towns of Bastia and Calvi with Ajaccio on the west coast.

Having recently re-discovered photographs and slides of that memorable July 1988 trip, and a return family visit in July 2007, this is a look back to a time before modernisation, when there was still regular freight on the principal Bastia-Ajaccio axis, when trains still ran to the port at Ajaccio, and when marvellous 1949-vintage Renault ABH railcars were the mainstay of passenger services. Continue reading “Corsican metre-gauge in 1988 and 2007”

Summer of ’62 on the Somerset & Dorset

IMG_4979Features on my late father’s railway travels in Wales and across Gloucestershire during the early 1960s attracted a good deal of interest, so for one final dip into what remains of his photo archive, here are a few shots of the famous Somerset & Dorset Joint line from Bath (Green Park) to Bournemouth in the summer of 1962.

1962 was the year that run-down of the S&D began in earnest, being the last year that it was used by expresses such as the legendary Pines Express before these were diverted away to help build the case for closure. It featured in the Beeching Report of March 1963 and, despite a huge level of protest, services finally ceased on 7 March 1966. Continue reading “Summer of ’62 on the Somerset & Dorset”

Gloucestershire steam in the 1960s

IMG_4930CONSIDERABLE interest was aroused by the account I published last week of my late father’s 1961 rail travels in Wales so, for what will hopefully prove to be one of my final lockdown retrospectives, this is a look through his lens at steam action in Gloucestershire during the early 1960s.

As in Wales, closures across the county began well before Dr Beeching published his infamous report in March 1963, with the routes to Kingham and Andover Junction having already succumbed by the time The reshaping of British Railways was released, as seen in the chronological list below of lost railway routes and stations. Continue reading “Gloucestershire steam in the 1960s”

Freedom of Wales in June 1961

IMG_4743 (1)During this week 59 years ago my late father, Trefor David, embarked on a remarkable week-long tour of Wales from his home near Cheltenham Spa, using a Freedom of Wales ticket that cost him £5 and an Area 9 Runabout ticket, giving unlimited travel between Cheltenham, Newport and Hereford, for 25/- (£1.25).

Just as I have done on more recent rail travels around the UK and Europe, he kept a written record and a photo album of his journeys, most of which were by steam, and covering many routes that would very soon succumb to closure.

In transcribing his diary and scanning some of his photos it is interesting to see how many of the lines he travelled closed well before the infamous Beeching Report was published in March 1963, with the last day of the previous year (31 December 1962) looking like a particularly bleak day for the Principality’s railway network. Continue reading “Freedom of Wales in June 1961”

HST swansong at Moreton-in-Marsh

IMG_4714EXACTLY one year ago today (Saturday, 1 June 2019) the era of mainline HST operation across the West of England drew to a final close, with a special farewell tour of the GWR network by a set formed of power cars 43002/198, the former having been repainted in its original British Rail blue and white livery.

Having long ago become fascinated by a train that literally transformed the fortunes of British Rail in the 1970s, I decided to briefly witness this final run at delightful Moreton-in-Marsh, a place I had also visited just two weeks previously to witness the last day of scheduled HST operation on the GWR network. Continue reading “HST swansong at Moreton-in-Marsh”

The end of metre-gauge steam in Pakistan

IMG_3757EXACTLY 15 years ago today (Wednesday, 1 June 2005) I spent 11 hours crossing the Thar Desert in the Sindh Province of Pakistan aboard one of that country’s last three surviving metre-gauge steam services, the twice-monthly 07.00 service MG-2 Down from Mirpur Khas to Nawabshah Junction.

Hauled by immaculate SP Class loco 138 (Kerr Stuart, 1921) our progress was always going to be pretty slow, with a timetabled arrival at the end of the 81-mile (129km) trip of 13.40. But after being halted in the searing 46C heat of the desert for several hours while the track ahead of us was repaired, we only made it to Nawabshah at about 18.00. Continue reading “The end of metre-gauge steam in Pakistan”