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 two 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.
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.
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.
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.
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”
An 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”
After a January visit to see narrow gauge steam on the German/Czech border between Cranzahl and Kurort Oberwiesenthal, my first post-lockdown rail excursion to Europe takes me to another remote corner of SE Germany and the splendid 750mm narrow gauge system based in the charming city of Zittau.
Besides paying a return visit to a line I had visited in very different times shortly after German reunification 30 years ago, I was particularly eager to photograph the famous double departure of services from its junction at Bertsdorf and also to sample the railway’s unique dining service. Continue reading “A trip in Europe’s smallest dining car”
When Great Western Railway trumpeted a fastest ever rail journey from Cardiff to London of one hour 33 minutes 44 seconds in October 2019 by one of its new InterCity Express (IET) trains it was being somewhat economical with the truth about the fastest rail journey between the two capitals.
While the GWR IET might have been able to claim the honour of fastest journey to London from Cardiff, its achievement on 23 October 2019 was comprehensively eclipsed by the real rail speed record over that route, which was set by an HST exactly 35 years ago today, on Thursday, 18 July 1985. Continue reading “A forgotten HST speed record”
HOLIDAY plans for many of us have been thrown into disarray by the pandemic, so this seems like a timely moment to look back at two memorable July holidays from years gone by, when I was able to sample and photograph one of Europe’s most remarkable railway networks.
32 years ago this month I paid my first visit to the fabulous metre-gauge system on Corsica, and over the course of a two–week touring holiday with my future wife contrived to travel in stages over the entire 232km (144-mile) Y-shaped rail network, connecting the northern towns of Bastia and Calvi with Ajaccio on the west coast.
Having recently re-discovered photographs and slides of that memorable July 1988 trip, and a return family visit in July 2007, this is a look back to a time before modernisation, when there was still regular freight on the principal Bastia-Ajaccio axis, when trains still ran to the port at Ajaccio, and when marvellous 1949-vintage Renault ABH railcars were the mainstay of passenger services. Continue reading “Corsican metre-gauge in 1988 and 2007”