Returning by train to Southern England after a two-night stay in Perth seemed like the perfect opportunity to pay an Eve-of-Lockdown Two (4 November) call at the one Tyne Valley signalling location I had not previously visited, Wetheral.
Wetheral station is six miles east of Carlisle and stands high above the River Eden and at the opposite end of the impressive five-span Wetheral Viaduct to the slightly curious looking Corby Gates Signal Box.
Together with the signal box at Dunkeld that featured in my previous post, another of the many Scottish boxes to enjoy listed status is the one at Errol, mid-way between Perth and Dundee and site of a former station, which only closed in September 1985.
Like Dunkeld, it is not only the signal box that is listed at Errol, but also the station building, built in 1847 for the Dundee & Perth Railway, as well in this case as the skeleton of a cast iron footbridge linking the two remarkably intact station platforms.
Take a 15½-mile journey north from Perth along the Highland Main Line and just as the A9 comes alongside the railway you will arrive at the first, and one of the remotest and most charming, stations along this magnificent route, Dunkeld & Birnam.
Despite noise from the nearby trunk road, this is a peaceful spot at which to spend a couple of hours on a sunny morning and to appreciate its fine listed station building, listed signal box and the handful of semaphore signals that are all in view from the station.
Dramatic scenery and numerous viaducts make Cornwall something of a dream for railway photography, with the added attraction of most local services now being formed of the ex-HST 2+4 “Castle” sets and semaphore signalling at five main-line stations within the Royal Duchy.
First up of this quintet is Liskeard, 264½ miles from Paddington (via Bristol) and home to a rare centre-pivot semaphore as well as being a junction for the scenic Looe Valley branch line, whose platform (3) stands as right-angles to the main line and is adorned with 1960s-style chocolate and cream signage.
Having spent time at Liskeard station in the past, I was keen to seek out the first of the six semaphore signals here, the down outer home (LD35) which westbound trains will pass on approaching the station before rounding a sharp left-hand curve that takes them onto Liskeard Viaduct and into the station.
Finding an attractive and remote rural location where there is a variety of freight and passenger traffic, a signal box controlling semaphore signals and heritage diesel action might sound too good to be true.
But that was what I was able to savour on Thursday (22 October 2020) at Earles Sidings, near the village of Hope in the Peak District, and a junction on the Hope Valley Line for a 1½-mile branch line to the country’s largest cement works.
News that the semaphore signals at Tram Inn, south of Hereford, have been replaced seems like a good excuse to publish a few shots I was able to get at this remote spot while on the way to spend a weekend in the B&B at nearby Pontrilas station on Friday, 10 February 2017.
What I remember most about my stop there was the help I got from an ex-railwayman (a fireman) who was running a large car dealership alongside the level crossing and kindly fetched me a step ladder to get the shot looking north!
Finding a holiday destination in Europe that does not require 14-day quarantine on returning to the UK seems increasingly difficult, so I count myself lucky to have been able to take advantage of bargain basement air fares to pay an early October visit to the fascinating railways of Sardinia.
Having previously had two wonderful trips to neighbouring Corsica and its marvellous metre-gauge, I was particularly keen to sample what I could of the numerous narrow gauge (950mm) lines that are dotted about the second largest island in the Mediterranean.
A five-day blockade of the main line between Taunton and Exeter St. Davids from Monday (28 September 2020) meant the rare opportunity to see GWR Class 80x IETs at Yeovil Pen Mill, as services between London and Plymouth were diverted between Castle Cary and Exeter via Yeovil.
Yeovil Pen Mill is a rather delightful spot, 141¼ miles from Paddington, and the only place that these diverted GWR services will encounter semaphore signalling on their journey to Plymouth, with an unusual mixture of upper and lower quadrant arms controlled by Pen Mill signal box.
Regular readers will know I have a fascination for those elusive yellow and black distant signals that are increasingly hard to find on our national network, particularly after the loss of so many with completion of the Wherry Lines re-signalling in February.
Anyone who recalls part one of my Buxton and Hope Valley blogs (May 2020) might remember that it mentioned two working distant signals at charming Furness Vale and another at Middlewood, so on the final day of the recent heat-wave (22 September 2020) it seemed like time to seek them out.
On a long hot summer’s day in 1989 I made one of my most rash investment decisions ever when I followed the example of many other Brits at the time and bought a second home, near Dinan in Brittany. Over the next three decades it gave me a chance to get to know the region and its fascinating, but much-rationaised, railway network.
Having finally and reluctantly decided to sell the house, this seems like a good excuse to look at some of the changes that I have seen on Brittany’s railways over the past three decades, as witnessed on my numerous delightful days by train out over that time.