Almost 14 years after I made a dawn departure from Sunderland on Tuesday, 18 December 2007 aboard the first scheduled passenger train to be operated by Grand Central it is time to sample our newest “open access” operator on the East Coast Main Line, with a trip on the first Lumo service from King’s Cross to Edinburgh Waverley.
Back in the days when I was helping to launch the Grand Central service a key requirement for any would-be open access operator was satisfy the ORR that a new service would generate new traffic to the railway and be “not primarily abstractive”, in other words would not be devaluing a franchised operator by stealing its fare-box.
After visits earlier this year to Leominster, Woofferton Junction and Sutton Bridge Junction, it is time to pay a return on 20 October 2021 to the southernmost outpost of mechanical signalling on the charming Marches Line between Shrewsbury and Newport.
Abergavenny is a delightful spot to watch and photograph trains, with an attractive 160-year old Grade II Listed station building and a Great Western Railway timber signal box from 1934 standing south of the station and controlling a total of 11 semaphores from its 52-lever frame.
Scheduled steam services will continue to operate from the world-famous depot at Wolsztyn in Western Poland for at least the next two years, under an agreement between the depot and the Marszalek (Marshal) of the Wielkopolskie province, who comes from Wolsztyn and is determined to see steam working continue.
There had been fears that the twice daily services to Leszno on Mondays to Fridays and two Saturday returns from Wolsztyn to Poznan would finally come to an end on Saturday, 27 November this year, after which there is the usual seasonal break in services until mid-January.
My successful August visit to photograph trains and signals at Sutton Bridge Junction in Shrewsbury prompted me to pay a return on Friday, 1 October 2021 to another of the locations on our national railway network where semaphore signals go both up and down.
Gobowen is a very pleasant spot on the GWR route from Chester to Shrewsbury and a junction with the former Cambrian route south to Welshpool that awaits eventual re-opening as far south as Oswestry, to which rails remain in situ and a bay platform awaits a return to use.
Finally resuming an extended tour of the wonderful narrow gauge railways in eastern German, my travels take me on 22 September 2021 to the city of Dresden and a return to the two steam-worked narrow (750mm) gauge lines I last visited back in 1990.
Much has changed over the past three decades, but it is reassuring to see that daily steam-hauled services still continue to operate on the 16.6km (10.4 mile) Lößnitzgrundbahn to the north-west of the city and the 26.1km (16.3 mile) Weißeritztalbahn to the south-west of Dresden.
After an enjoyable visit last month (2 August 2021) to Par and St. Blazey, it is time to pay a return visit to another of the doomed trio of Cornish signal boxes and spend a few hours photographing trains and semaphores at Lostwithiel.
Like the box at nearby Par, Lostwithiel Crossing Signal Box enjoys a Grade II Listing and, until its planned closure in autumn 2023, controls more semaphore signals (14) than any of the other mechanical signalling outposts in the Royal Duchy.
Taking another rail excursion from the Scottish capital following an enjoyable day at Stonehaven, my destination this time (3 September 2021) is the first, rather than the last, of the ten remaining outposts of mechanical signalling between Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
Cupar is a pleasant place to visit, even on a gloomy day, being just one hour by train from Edinburgh, with an attractive and historic station building and a 1910-vintage North British Type 7 signal box that stands north of the down platform and controls three semaphores from its 32-lever frame.
After my early summer trip to Arbroath and Inverkeilor (blog post: 10 June 2021), it’s time to take another train trip from Edinburgh to North-East Scotland, to see and photograph trains and signals at the final outpost of mechanical signalling on the East Coast Main Line to Aberdeen.
Stonehaven, 16¼ miles south of the Granite City, is home to an attractive and listed Caledonian Railway Type 2 box dating in its present form from 1901, but the extension of a much earlier Caledonian Railway box dating from the opening of the station in 1849, and now controls a total of six semaphores.
SHREWSBURY is by far and away the finest area for mechanical signalling in Britain, with four signal boxes controlling the station area, one being the largest mechanical signalling box in the world, two enjoying Grade II Listings and one controlling the last working lower quadrant distant signal.
Having spent time appreciating the magnificent listed boxes – Severn Bridge Junction and Crewe Junction – at ether ends of the station, it is time to take a walk of just under a mile south through the town centre to re-visit another of the town’s quartet of signal boxes and spend a few hours on Wednesday, 18 August 2021, photographing trains and signals at Sutton Bridge Junction.
CORNWALL has long been one of the country’s most remarkable outposts of lower quadrant semaphore signalling, but time is fast running out for much of its marvellous mechanical infrastructure, with a major re-signalling project due to be completed in autumn 2023.
After an enjoyable visit to see and photograph the signalling at Liskeard in October (2020) it was time to make an overdue return (on Monday, 2 August 2021) to what is arguably finest of the five remaining junctions to retain semaphores along the 56-miles of route between Liskeard and St. Erth.