Mixed traffic on the Settle-Carlisle line

IMG_3875.jpgMy nationwide quest to photograph Britain’s last mechanical signalling, in connection with a new book project, has brought me back to the Settle & Carlisle line, that amazing 72 miles of line between Settle in North Yorkshire and Carlisle in Cumbria, which 30 years ago was under sentence of death.

Reprieve in 1989 has been followed by many years of effort by the Friends of the Settle & Carlisle Railway to sustain the interest which that closure threat generated, and to build a new generation of travellers, both tourists and local users of the many stations on the line that were re-opened, and which now play a key role is sustaining and developing this remarkable tourist corridor. Continue reading “Mixed traffic on the Settle-Carlisle line”

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Paying the price for High Speed folly

 

IMG_4384.jpgCitizens of Nottingham, Leicester and Derby now know the true cost of High Speed Two. After an endless on/off saga they now know that they will not be able to travel on modern high speed electric trains to the capital and that their Midland Main Line will become the only major route from London that is not electrified.

Critics of HS2 always said that the price to be paid for this multi-billion pound vanity project would be a reduction in investment in our classic rail network, and so it has come to pass. Like people living between Cardiff and Swansea and visitors to Windermere, those in the East Midlands will have to make do with a botched compromise, where inefficient new trains that run on both electric and diesel power will work under the wires as far north as Kettering, before switching to diesel power for the onward journey to Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield. Continue reading “Paying the price for High Speed folly”

Bulleid Magic at Medstead

IMG_2352.jpgFifty years ago this week-end – on Sunday, 2 July 1967 – I stood by the line close to Basingstoke station while my father photographed the farewell to Southern steam specials from London Waterloo to Bournemouth, hauled by Merchant Navy Class locos 35008 Orient Line,  35028 Clan Line and West Country Class loco 34025 Whimple.

IMG_2313.jpgHalf a century on there was a fabulous reminder for me of that fateful day, at the Summer Steam Gala on the Mid-Hants Railway (Watercress Line), where in less than two hours at Medstead & Four Marks station – at 652 feet the highest station in southern England – it was possible to see even more Bulleid Pacific action than I had watched from the line-side on that day back in 1967. Continue reading “Bulleid Magic at Medstead”

Favourite photo-spots: Par & St Blazey

IMG_2176 (1).jpgPar is one of four junction stations in Cornwall that is still controlled by manual signalling (along with Liskeard, Truro and St. Erth) but arguably the most important as there are numerous through trains onto the 20 3/4  mile Newquay branch on summer Saturdays, with one on high summer weekdays (The Atlantic Coast Express) and two on Sundays.

With its listed signalbox at the south end of platforms 2 and 3 and numerous semaphores to be seen from the station platform and nearby road bridge, it makes a great spot to spend some time, particularly with the nearest signal box and photo spots being at St Blazey, less than ten minutes’ walk away. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Par & St Blazey”

Chathill: a missed connection

IMG_1257Every morning at around 06.45 an empty two-coach train arrives at the remote, and delightfully preserved, Northumbrian station of Chathill – 11 1/4 miles north of Alnmouth on the East Coast Main Line and the most north-easterly place to be served by Northern Rail. After a brief pause it carries on many miles northwards to cross over onto the up line at a former station called Belford, before returning to become the 07.08 commuter service from Chathill to Newcastle.

This is the only train from Chathill for almost exactly 12 hours, until the return working of an evening commuter service from Newcastle heads south at 19.10. There are no trains in the northbound direction at all, so any passenger for Berwick-on-Tweed or Edinburgh needs to travel south to Alnmouth, then return on a northbound train from there. Continue reading “Chathill: a missed connection”

Favourite photo-spots: Helsby

IMG_1111.jpgCo-acting signals were once a reasonably common feature on the UK rail network – that is signal posts with two arms, one at low level and one located much higher up, so that drivers could always see one or other of the signal arms when there was an obstruction, such as the station footbridge (pictured above), which would obscure the driver’s sight line to a signal at conventional height.

IMG_1157.jpgToday there are only three such signals left on the whole of Network Rail, and having previously had the chance to visit the ones at Cantley, on the Norwich-Lowestoft line in East Anglia and one at Greenloaning, just north of Stirling in Scotland, it was a great pleasure to be able to see and photograph the third of this trio at Helsby, a delightful and unspoiled junction station, roughly midway between Warrington and Chester. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Helsby”

Lone Rider in North Cheshire

IMG_1174.jpgAnyone fed up with fighting for a seat on their daily commute, or their longer distance journey, would be amazed if they were to take a trip by train to a station serving the huge Essar Energy oil refinery at Stanlow on the south bank of the Manchester Ship Canal. Stanlow & Thornton station is officially one of Britain’s least used stations, recording a total of just 88 passengers in 2015/6, or little more than one a week.

Not bad, perhaps, when you consider that there is no public access to the station, which stands within the 1,900-acre refinery complex, but disappointing that it is not better used by those working at, or visiting, the UK’s second largest refinery complex. Continue reading “Lone Rider in North Cheshire”