Good-bye Tram Inn semaphores

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!

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Narrow gauge across northern Sardinia

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.

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Diversionary action at Yeovil Pen Mill

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.

Continue reading “Diversionary action at Yeovil Pen Mill”

Working distant signals on the Buxton Line

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.

Continue reading “Working distant signals on the Buxton Line”

Three decades of change on the railways of Brittany

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.

Continue reading “Three decades of change on the railways of Brittany”

Temporary reprieve for Britain’s oldest working signal box

Delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic mean that a re-signalling project on Teesside due to be completed this month (September 2020) has slipped to early next year, granting a stay of execution to Britain’s oldest working signal box.

Re-signalling a 4½-mile stretch of the Durham Coast Line from north of Stockton-on-Tees to Billingham has been deferred until February 2021, according to information given to me by Network Rail, meaning another few months’ working life for the 1870-vintage box at Norton South.

Along with nearby Norton East, which is normally boarded up and switched out, this is the oldest working signal box on the national network, but only the East box currently enjoys Grade II listed status, ensuring its future preservation. 

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Last semaphores on the Esk Valley Line

Among numerous surviving outposts of mechanical signalling in the North-East, one rather pleasant place I had not previously managed to visit is Nunthorpe, 4½ miles south of Middlesbrough on the 35-mile long Esk Valley Line to Whitby.

Here an attractive Grade II Listed signal box controls a level crossing, passing loop and four semaphore signals, as well as overseeing train movements towards Whitby and the junction at Battersby, where services to and from Whitby reverse.  

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Summer steam action in Poland

After defying all those who cast doubt on its survival, scheduled steam services from the remarkable Wolsztyn depot in western Poland now look secure for 2021.

Despite heavy reliance on a handful of semi-retired drivers, the twice daily weekday service on the 46km (29-mile) route to Leszno and Saturday services on the 80km (50-mile) route to Poznan will continue for at least another year.

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A final summer for Britain’s oldest trains

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Paying my annual visit to the charming Isle of Wight on Wednesday, 5 August 2020, meant a chance for some farewell photographs the pre-WWII (1938) Class 483 units before their planned retirement at the end of the year and, hopefully, their “re-homing” in preservation.

After my successful and enjoyable walk last summer to discover a number of interesting photo-spots between Brading and Shanklin, the challenge I set myself this time was to find some new and photogenic locations on a walk back from Brading to Ryde. Continue reading “A final summer for Britain’s oldest trains”

A day out on the Döllnitzbahn

IMG_4488An enforced overnight stay in Berlin, as a result of easyjet cancelling most of its flights to and from London, gave me the chance on my return to the German capital by train from the Zittauer Schmalspurbahn to pay a visit to another of the narrow gauge lines in Saxony, the rather delightful Döllnitzbahn.

After the crowds travelling on the Zittau system it made a remarkable contrast to find myself as the only passenger on one of the services I took, which are essentially run for the benefit of local school children travelling into the town of Oschatz – midway between Dresden and Leipzig – from Mügeln and surrounding settlements. Continue reading “A day out on the Döllnitzbahn”