Weymouth’s wasted asset

IMG_6394A bright red aspect still shines out from signal DR205, more than 30 years after the last scheduled train passed it in order to make its way towards Weymouth Quay station, by travelling along what must surely be the finest and most wasted section of railway line in Dorset – the 1.2 mile long Weymouth Harbour Tramway.

IMG_6275For a route last used when a charter train passed over it in May 1999, the Harbour Tramway remains remarkably intact, still signalled at its junction north of Weymouth’s Town station and surprisingly free of obstructions, such as the parked cars that were once literally bounced out of the way when the Channel Isles Boat Express made its sedate progress along Commercial Road and Custom House Quay. Continue reading “Weymouth’s wasted asset”

Seeing the Light

IMG_7926Comments made by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and widely reported today suggest the he, at least, may finally have seen the light and realised that re-opening closed rail links to fast-growing towns and areas that have developed significantly over the past 50 years is far better value than committing infinite sums to HS2.

Particularly striking was  a Grayling quote in The Times, where he goes further than any Government spokesman has ever done by declaring: “People say which is my priority: spend a billion pounds to shave a minute off the journey time or reopen some commuter lines so we get a better service for people? I would go for the latter any day of the week.” Continue reading “Seeing the Light”

Off-peak return to Kyle of Lochalsh

IMG_6114.jpgTourists are pretty thin on the ground during November in the West Highlands so, ever anxious to avoid crowds, and taking the opportunity offered by ScotRail’s seasonal Club 50 £17.00 flat fare (remarkable value for a 514-mile round trip from Edinburgh) it seemed a good time to  make a long overdue return to Kyle of Lochalsh.

While the 82-mile route from Inverness has been hailed as the world’s most scenic rail journey, passenger numbers are distinctly modest out of the tourist season. I and my travelling companion were two of only ten passengers on board the 13.35 service from Inverness after leaving Dingwall on 14 November, with slightly more aboard the 12.08 ex-Kyle of Lochalsh a couple of days later. Continue reading “Off-peak return to Kyle of Lochalsh”

All change at Blackpool North

IMG_7526.jpgAt 01.04 on Saturday 11 November 2017, the 23.30 hrs Northern Rail service from Manchester Airport will draw into Platform 6 at Blackpool North station and go down in railway history as the last train to be signalled into the station by Blackpool North No. 2 Signal Box and its splendid semaphore signals.

IMG_5263Once the empty stock has left the station, it will be closed for complete re-building, the signals and box demolished, and the 17.5-mile line from Preston shut to until next spring, as work begins in earnest on the route’s modernisation, electrification and re-signalling. This diagram inside the signal box shows the final truncated layout, with just four remaining platforms. Continue reading “All change at Blackpool North”

Fabulous Fort William

IMG_5851.jpgMy nationwide quest to visit every possible location in England, Scotland and Wales that still has semaphore signalling comes to a glorious end at a remarkable outpost of mechanical signalling, and one that for much of the year controls the daily movement of steam-hauled trains.

Three decades after the rest of the West Highland lines from Glasgow to Oban and Mallaig were converted to radio signalling (RETB), one charming reminder of the past is Fort William Junction, just north-east of Fort William station and convergence of the route from Glasgow with the Mallaig extension. Continue reading “Fabulous Fort William”

Favourite photo-spots: Parbold

IMG_5073.jpgParbold was a really delightful discovery in West Lancashire, a small town just over ten minutes travel time on a Southport-bound train from Wigan Wallgate, itself almost alongside the main Station, Wigan North Western, on the West Coast Main Line.

Here a listed 1877-vintage Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway box called Parbold Cabin, stands at the eastern end of the station and controls level crossing barriers and a trio of semaphore arms. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Parbold”

Humberside re-signalling delayed

IMG_5614.jpgPaying a brief return to Humberside’s fine semaphore signals (see my earlier post “Humberside’s semaphore swansong”) it is heartening – and not surprising – to hear that the timescale for completion of the resignalling project has slipped several months from the planned date of spring 2018.

Not surprising perhaps when a visit this week to Welton, one of the boxes I missed last time, reveals a group of high-vis suited workers sitting in a van bearing the name “Dynamic Track Solutions” and being anything but dynamic – doing precisely nothing in fact!

So there is still time to savour a stretch of main line controlled by mechanical signalling and for me a chance to get to the two easternmost boxes at Welton and Melton Lane, to visit the fine gate box at Oxmardyke and to discover an excellent location to see a variety of traction on the two routes which diverge at Gilberdyke Junction. Continue reading “Humberside re-signalling delayed”

A Signalman’s Farewell

IMG_5336.jpgVeteran signaller Alan Hayward has put up a commemorative sign reading 1896-2017 in one window and is already counting down the handful of shifts he still has to work in Poulton No 3 Signal Box before its final closure – and his early retirement – in less than two months’ time, on Saturday, 11 November.

IMG_5373.jpgLike four other remaining signal boxes on the 17.5-mile route from Preston to Blackpool North, the last of what were once five signal boxes at Poulton-le-Fylde will be swept away as the route is closed for its long-awaited electrification and re-signalling, a transformation set to take until at least next May to be completed. Continue reading “A Signalman’s Farewell”

Historic Oxford railway bridge set to swing again

IMG_5037.jpgWork is expected to begin early next year on an ambitious £1 million eight-month long project to restore the historic Rewley Road Swing Bridge at Oxford, more than 30 years after the last freight train trundled across it in May 1984. Despite having long since lost its rail services, the bridge remains owned by Network Rail and stands close to the main railway line just north of Oxford station.

After securing financial support from a range of bodies, including Historic England, Network Rail, the Railway Heritage Trust and Oxford City Council, the bridge’s custodians, Oxford Preservation Trust (OPT), now plan to invite tenders from specialist engineering firms, with the aim of restoration work beginning early in 2018. Continue reading “Historic Oxford railway bridge set to swing again”

Dudding Hill: the line that time forgot

IMG_4995Looking at the massive success of London Overground in reinvigorating rail corridors around the capital, such as the North London, East London and South London Lines, it is perhaps remarkable that there is one short stretch of line in North London where time has seemingly stood still, with control by semaphore signals and a sparse traffic comprising the occasional slow-moving freight train and empty stock movements between the capital’s termini.

This is what is known as the Dudding Hill Line, a four-mile long stretch of double track route which diverges from the North London Line at Acton Wells Junction, close to North Action underground station, before heading in a clockwise arc passing junctions with the West Coast Main Line at Harlesden, the Chiltern Railways route at Neasden to end in a triangular junction with the Midland Main Line at Cricklewood. Continue reading “Dudding Hill: the line that time forgot”