Gareth’s first book – published September 2017
Pen & Sword Books Ltd
Scotland’s remotest signal box stands at a place called Glenwhilly, roughly halfway between the resort town of Girvan on the Ayrshire coast and the end of the line at Stranraer, a once bustling port that seems to be suffering badly from the loss of its ferry business to Cairnryan on the opposite shore of Loch Ryan.
Glenwhilly had a station until September 1965 though it’s hard to figure out where its passengers would have come from. There were once a couple of houses at the station and there are odd houses dotted about the wild terrain, but that is about it. Today, however, Glenwhilly remains one of three passing places on the delightful 40-mile trip south from Girvan, where drivers will exchange the unique Tyer’s Tablet for the section from Barrhill for one to Dunragit, another former station, a few miles east of Stranraer. Continue reading “Glorious Glenwhilly”
When three Class 37 locomotives left the Watercress Line during 2016, it was not because the 50-year old diesel locomotives had found a new home in preservation. Instead they were sold back into mainline service, with two being acquired by freight operator Colas Rail (37324/37901) and one going to UK Rail Leasing (37905).
This trio form part of a once 309-strong fleet of English Electric Type 3 locomotives, delivered between 1961 and 1965, and along with the Brush Type 4 (Class 47s) one of the most enduring features of British Railways’ modernisation plan of 1955, which heralded the end of steam and also saw introduction of many far less successful diesel designs. Continue reading “Still active at 50 – the Class 37s”
Reedham can claim to be one of the most picturesque places on the Norfolk Broads, but for me the real magic of the place is finding a country junction on the busy Wherry Lines route from Norwich to Lowestoft, where a branch diverges off for Berney Arms and Great Yarmouth, complete with fine signal box, an array of semaphore signals and a working swing bridge, with a very pleasant pub alongside.
From a photographic point of view, Reedham has everything, with good vantage points from no less that three road over bridges, all within a mile of the station and one offering a view over the swing bridge, as well as panoramic views of trains as they head in a south easterly direction to and from the terminus at Lowestoft. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Reedham”
One of the most evident features of a £170 million upgrade programme on the Inverness to Aberdeen route in north east Scotland will be at Forres, where some £35 million is being spent on a brand new two-platform station to the north of the existing one, that will straighten out a major curve in the line, and allow elimination of the manual signal box and loop east of the current station.
Work on the new station was well under way at the time of my March 2017 visit, and looks set to be completed on schedule in October 2017, when the manual signal boxes at both Forres and Elgin West, the most northerly signal box in Great Britain, are expected to close. The result will be a slightly faster journey on this increasingly important rail corridor, but mean the loss of another part of our rich signalling heritage.
There are numerous photogenic locations on the Cumbrian Coast route from Lancaster to Barrow and on to Workington and Carlisle, but one which I found particularly attractive was Ulverston, birthplace of comedian Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy fame, and home to an attractive Grade II-listed station. This opened in 1874, replacing an earlier Furness Railway terminus station on completion of the route to Barrow.
It has an unusual layout similar to that at Yeovil Pen Mill in having an island platform and a main down platform with platform 2 not in regular use (and not numbered) so all up trains serve platform 3, while in the down (westbound) direction train doors are only opened on platform 1. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Ulverston”
Spending £172 to buy an annual season ticket covering a one-mile train journey on the picturesque Isle of Wight may sound like a rather bizarre way to save money on rail travel, but it is a deal which savvy rail travellers in London, the south of England, the West Midlands and East Anglia would do well to consider.
While the annual “Gold Card” from Ryde Esplanade to Ryde St. John’s Road covers a journey which few of us will ever make, as the cheapest such ticket for any daily journey within the South West Trains franchise area, it represents a sound investment for anyone not qualifying for any railcard apart from the Network Railcard and looking to save money on their train travel.
Continue reading “Save money with a £172 ticket to Ryde”
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”