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 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.

Continue reading “Working distant signals on the Buxton Line”

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. 

Continue reading “Temporary reprieve for Britain’s oldest working signal box”

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.  

Continue reading “Last semaphores on the Esk Valley Line”

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 forgotten HST speed record

IMG_4335When 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”

Summer of ’62 on the Somerset & Dorset

IMG_4979Features on my late father’s railway travels in Wales and across Gloucestershire during the early 1960s attracted a good deal of interest, so for one final dip into what remains of his photo archive, here are a few shots of the famous Somerset & Dorset Joint line from Bath (Green Park) to Bournemouth in the summer of 1962.

1962 was the year that run-down of the S&D began in earnest, being the last year that it was used by expresses such as the legendary Pines Express before these were diverted away to help build the case for closure. It featured in the Beeching Report of March 1963 and, despite a huge level of protest, services finally ceased on 7 March 1966. Continue reading “Summer of ’62 on the Somerset & Dorset”

Gloucestershire steam in the 1960s

IMG_4930CONSIDERABLE interest was aroused by the account I published last week of my late father’s 1961 rail travels in Wales so, for what will hopefully prove to be one of my final lockdown retrospectives, this is a look through his lens at steam action in Gloucestershire during the early 1960s.

As in Wales, closures across the county began well before Dr Beeching published his infamous report in March 1963, with the routes to Kingham and Andover Junction having already succumbed by the time The reshaping of British Railways was released, as seen in the chronological list below of lost railway routes and stations. Continue reading “Gloucestershire steam in the 1960s”

Freedom of Wales in June 1961

IMG_4743 (1)During this week 59 years ago my late father, Trefor David, embarked on a remarkable week-long tour of Wales from his home near Cheltenham Spa, using a Freedom of Wales ticket that cost him £5 and an Area 9 Runabout ticket, giving unlimited travel between Cheltenham, Newport and Hereford, for 25/- (£1.25).

Just as I have done on more recent rail travels around the UK and Europe, he kept a written record and a photo album of his journeys, most of which were by steam, and covering many routes that would very soon succumb to closure.

In transcribing his diary and scanning some of his photos it is interesting to see how many of the lines he travelled closed well before the infamous Beeching Report was published in March 1963, with the last day of the previous year (31 December 1962) looking like a particularly bleak day for the Principality’s railway network. Continue reading “Freedom of Wales in June 1961”

HST swansong at Moreton-in-Marsh

IMG_4714EXACTLY one year ago today (Saturday, 1 June 2019) the era of mainline HST operation across the West of England drew to a final close, with a special farewell tour of the GWR network by a set formed of power cars 43002/198, the former having been repainted in its original British Rail blue and white livery.

Having long ago become fascinated by a train that literally transformed the fortunes of British Rail in the 1970s, I decided to briefly witness this final run at delightful Moreton-in-Marsh, a place I had also visited just two weeks previously to witness the last day of scheduled HST operation on the GWR network. Continue reading “HST swansong at Moreton-in-Marsh”

Buxton & Hope Valley semaphores: part 2

IMG_3574After last week’s look at mechanical signalling on the Buxton Line and at Peak Forest, it is now time to hop aboard the Hope Valley stopping service from Manchester Piccadilly to Sheffield take a look at three of the four semaphore-signalled locations on this busy, charming, and scenic route.

Our first stop on this 29 July 2017 visit comes just half an hour after leaving Piccadilly aboard a Class 142-worked stopping service at New Mills Central. From here to New Mills South Junction is a brisk 25-minute walk, with fine views over the valley to Furness Vale, barely a mile away (and featured in part 1). Continue reading “Buxton & Hope Valley semaphores: part 2”