Take a trip out of London on a West Ruislip-bound Central Line service and for a lengthy part of the journey – from North Action to South Ruislip – a little used and partly single track railway line runs alongside, and there are even a clutch of mechanically-worked semaphore signals to be seen as the tube train approaches Greenford station.
This is what was once grandly known as the New North Main Line, but is now less glamorously known as the Acton to Northolt line, running for a total distance of 11 miles from just west of Old Oak Common depot on the Great Western Main Line to a junction with the Chiltern Railways route from London Marylebone at South Ruislip. Continue reading “Ghost train to Paddington”
Despite having been scheduled for replacement during 2016, Yeovil Pen Mill signal box remains an isolated outpost of semaphore signalling in the south of England, where the nearest surviving manual signals are those at Liskeard in Cornwall and at Marchwood on the freight-only Fawley branch near Southampton.
Pen Mill is a delightful station, standing on the eastern side of the town alongside the Pittards leather goods factory, with relatively easy opportunities to photograph signalling at either ends of the station and two excellent pubs close by (the Great Western and the Pen Mill Hotel) to pass the time between trains. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Yeovil Pen Mill”
Controlling an important junction south of Shrewsbury between the Marches Line to Newport and the Heart of Wales line to Llanelli is Craven Arms Crossing, which was once one of two signal boxes here, along with one at the station itself, some 300 yards to the south.
While the box itself looks more like an East German border post than a traditional signal box, and the station has long been reduced to basic “bus shelters” on each platform, the station footbridge and platform ends offer a splendid vantage point from which to appreciate the collection of lower quadrant semaphore signals that are a feature of the Marches Line. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Craven Arms”
In summer 2016, Brittany remained one of only three regions in France to see local services still worked by single car X2100 units, which were in service alongside the new generation X73500 units on the branch line heading south from Rennes to Chateaubriant.
Weekday services on this pleasantly rural route comprise just three or four round trips, with one late afternoon working as far south as Retiers. Continue reading “Heritage traction on a Breton branch line”
Narrow gauge railways have always held a particular fascination for me and one which I had long wished to visit was the 125km (78-mile) 760mm gauge Septemvri-Dobrinishte line in Bulgaria. Despite persistent closure threats the line continues to be run by Bulgarian State Railways and is the country’s only narrow gauge line.
This is a truly remarkable railway that traverses some fabulous scenery and feels like a step back in time when you are able to look out of the window and see horse-drawn ploughs being used in the fields. With the four daily round trip hauled by diesel locos dating from the mid-1960s, it is a trip not to be missed. Continue reading “Narrow Gauge to the Rhodope Mountains”
My interest in the extensive metre-gauge network around the Peloponnese Peninsula in Greece had been aroused during a summer-time visit in 1979, when I had travelled a few sections of the remarkable route, from Athens to Korinthos (Corinth), Mycenae to Tripolis and Olympia to Patra, while on a low-budget student month touring Greece and Greek islands.
Having fallen victim to the Greek financial crisis in 2011, which left only two isolated sections of the system in operation – Olympia to Pirghos and Katakalo and a Patra suburban service – it was good discover that much of the system was still useable three years later and to have the chance to travel much of the route on a two-day PTG Tour in October 2014. Continue reading “A metre gauge adventure in Greece”
Think of the Czech Republic and the odds are that what springs to mind are the cultural and nocturnal attractions of its capital, Prague, or the population’s legendary beer consumption and the vast range of beers on offer. Less likely to feature is a vast, efficient, and predominantly state-run rail network and two fascinating narrow gauge rail systems on opposite sides of the country.
While it does not enjoy the reputation among those interested in European rail systems of two neighbouring countries – Austria, for its numerous narrow gauge lines and Poland for its surviving steam – the Czech Republic is a very scenic, cheap and attractive place to spend a few days and the two narrow gauge systems – one privatised and one still in the hands of state operator České Dráhy (ČD) – are remarkable places to visit.
What these two 760mm (2’ 6”) systems have in common is regular steam operations during the summer months and being home, for the moment at least, of a fleet of aged Tu47 Czech-built Bo-Bo diesel locomotives, dating from 1954-59 and currently the mainstay of daily scheduled passenger services. Continue reading “Narrow gauge delights in the Czech Republic”
Scheduled steam working at Wolsztyn in western Poland out-lasted the rest of the country by more than two decades, thanks principally to the efforts of Howard Jones MBE and his Wolsztyn Experience, which helped fund continued use of steam on services from the town to Poznan and Leszno by offering footplate experience courses, that have attracted enthusiasts from all over the world.
But changes at PKP Cargo, owner of Wolsztyn depot, and privatisation of the local passenger services, led to a funding crisis and the suspension of the remaining twice-daily Wolsztyn-Leszno service at the end of March 2014. Continue reading “Last steam to Leszno”
Where is the international airport whose rail link is only served by steam-hauled trains? It may sound like a rather fanciful question, but the answer is Ronaldsway on the Isle of Man, where a modest airport halt stands behind an industrial estate, some 300 yards from the airport terminal, mid-way along the 15-mile route from Peel to Port Erin. The regular steam-hauled trains stop on request to the guard, or by making a hand signal to the driver.
I know this to be true because I alighted there myself at the end of a brief three-day visit in May 2013 to this fantastic island, with its three separate rail systems (four if you include the horse-drawn trams), all Government-owned and for an inclusive fare (a three-day Island Explorer ticket cost me £32.00) offering a marvellous way to explore all corners of the island. Continue reading “Manx Magic”
It became a byword for violent disorder during three years of devastating civil war between 1992 and 1995 and the massacre that took place during that bloody conflict, but the industrial town of Tuzla, in north-eastern Bosnia-Hercegovina has acquired a new distinction, as home to the last working industrial steam locomotives anywhere in Europe.
At a small workshop, next to a closed-down coal mine on the western outskirts of the town, Merim Alicic and his small team of skilled engineers are fabricating new cylinders and other components that are needed to keep a five-strong fleet of huge World War Two-era steam locomotives on the rails. Continue reading “Europe’s last big steam show”