Railways and the 2017 General Election

IMG_6585.jpgTransport has hardly captured headlines in an election campaign dominated by Brexit, dementia tax and NHS funding, yet there are some interesting comments and pledges within the partly manifestoes, notably the Labour Party’s proposal to renationalise the railway network by progressively resuming control of passenger services through not re-letting franchises as they expire. This is a theme echoed by the Green Party, which simply pledges a return of the railways to public ownership, without any detail whatsoever about how this might happen, or what it might cost.

HS2 gets a mention in the manifestoes of all the English-based parties, with all the three main parties remaining steadfastly behind the project, but UKIP and the Green Party both pledging to have it scrapped. While the Green Party simply describe it as “wasting money”, UKIP is rather more strident: “Spending £75 billion [wonder where that figure came from?] just to save a few minutes between London and Leeds is ludicrous and, we think, unethical” the party asserts. Continue reading “Railways and the 2017 General Election”

Favourite photo-spots: Droitwich Spa

IMG_6885.jpgDroitwich Spa is the northern end of an oasis of semaphore signalling in the Worcester area, where there are a total of eight boxes with at least some mechanical signalling, as far south as Norton Junction and south west as far as Ledbury on the route to Hereford.

IMG_6928.jpgLike Shrewsbury and also Worcester Shrub Hill, Droitwich Spa has its celebrity signals – in this case it is the pair of down starting signals (DS8) which are of the centre pivot type (pictured above) similar to those on platform 7 at Shrewsbury.

The Great Western box, dating from 1907 and sadly without a name plate on its front side, stands 300 yards north of the station between the Kidderminster route diverging to the left and the single line to Bromsgrove to the right. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Droitwich Spa”

Ghost train to Newhaven Marine

IMG_0625During the long hot summer of 1976 I arrived at Newhaven Marine on a boat train from London Victoria on my first teenage visit to Paris, boarding a Sealink ferry to Dieppe, where a connecting train whisked me off to Gare St. Lazare in the French capital.

IMG_0651Paying a return visit to Newhaven 41 years later it is sad to see that Newhaven Marine station appears to have just been demolished, albeit more than a decade after it saw its last passengers. It effectively closed in 2006, due to safety concerns, and would be passengers were re-directed to the nearby Harbour station. Continue reading “Ghost train to Newhaven Marine”

Favourite photo-spots: Shrewsbury

IMG_9963.jpgAnyone with an interest in our signalling heritage simply must pay a visit to Shrewsbury, home to the world’s largest working mechanical signal box, Severn Bridge Junction. This is one of three boxes that can be seen from the station platforms, along with more than two dozen working mechanical signals.

IMG_0210Amongst these, the real gem is SBJ11, a pair of extremely rare lower quadrant centre pivot signals controlling the southern end of platform 7. Severn Bridge Junction is one of two listed boxes at Shrewsbury, the other being the almost equally impressive Crewe Junction box at the north end of the station, where the route to Crewe diverges from the line to Chester. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Shrewsbury”

Glorious Glenwhilly

Scotland’s remotest signal box stands at a place called Glenwhilly, roughly halfway between the resort town of Girvan on the Ayrshire coast and the end of the line at Stranraer, a once bustling port that seems to be suffering badly from the loss of its ferry business to Cairnryan on the opposite shore of Loch Ryan.

Glenwhilly had a station until September 1965 though it’s hard to figure out where its passengers would have come from. There were once a couple of houses at the station and there are odd houses dotted about the wild terrain, but that is about it. Today, however, Glenwhilly remains one of three passing places on the delightful 40-mile trip south from Girvan, where drivers will exchange the unique Tyer’s Tablet for the section from Barrhill for one to Dunragit, another former station, a few miles east of Stranraer. Continue reading “Glorious Glenwhilly”

Still active at 50 – the Class 37s

When three Class 37 locomotives left the Watercress Line during 2016, it was not because the 50-year old diesel locomotives had found a new home in preservation. Instead they were sold back into mainline service, with two being acquired by freight operator Colas Rail (37324/37901) and one going to UK Rail Leasing (37905).

This trio form part of a once 309-strong fleet of English Electric Type 3 locomotives, delivered between 1961 and 1965, and along with the Brush Type 4 (Class 47s) one of the most enduring features of British Railways’ modernisation plan of 1955, which heralded the end of steam and also saw introduction of many far less successful diesel designs. Continue reading “Still active at 50 – the Class 37s”

Favourite photo-spots: Reedham

IMG_6631.jpgReedham can claim to be one of the most picturesque places on the Norfolk Broads, but for me the real magic of the place is finding a country junction on the busy Wherry Lines route from Norwich to Lowestoft, where a branch diverges off for Berney Arms and Great Yarmouth, complete with fine signal box, an array of semaphore signals and a working swing bridge, with a very pleasant pub alongside.

IMG_6610.jpgFrom a photographic point of view, Reedham has everything, with good vantage points from no less that three road over bridges, all within a mile of the station and one offering a view over the swing bridge, as well as panoramic views of trains as they head in a south easterly direction to and from the terminus at Lowestoft. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Reedham”

Farewell Forres

One of the most evident features of a £170 million upgrade programme on the Inverness to Aberdeen route in north east Scotland will be at Forres, where some £35 million is being spent on a brand new two-platform station to the north of the existing one, that will straighten out a major curve in the line, and allow elimination of the manual signal box and loop east of the current station.

Work on the new station was well under way at the time of my March 2017 visit, and looks set to be completed on schedule in October 2017, when the manual signal boxes at both Forres and Elgin West, the most northerly signal box in Great Britain, are expected to close. The result will be a slightly faster journey on this increasingly important rail corridor, but mean the loss of another part of our rich signalling heritage.

Favourite photo-spots: Ulverston

IMG_8480.jpgThere are numerous photogenic locations on the Cumbrian Coast route from Lancaster to Barrow and on to Workington and Carlisle, but one which I found particularly attractive was Ulverston, birthplace of comedian Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy fame, and home to an attractive Grade II-listed station. This opened in 1874, replacing an earlier Furness Railway terminus station on completion of the route to Barrow.

IMG_8565.jpgIt has an unusual layout similar to that at Yeovil Pen Mill in having an island platform and a main down platform with platform 2 not in regular use (and not numbered) so all up trains serve platform 3, while in the down (westbound) direction train doors are only opened on platform 1. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Ulverston”

Save money with a £172 ticket to Ryde

Ryde_IMG_2851Spending £172 to buy an annual season ticket covering a one-mile train journey on the picturesque Isle of Wight may sound like a rather bizarre way to save money on rail travel, but  it is a deal which savvy rail travellers in London, the south of England, the West Midlands and East Anglia would do well to consider.

IMG_9473While the annual “Gold Card” from Ryde Esplanade to Ryde St. John’s Road covers a journey which few of us will ever make, as the cheapest such ticket for any daily journey within the South West Trains franchise area, it represents a sound investment for anyone not qualifying for any railcard apart from the Network Railcard and looking to save money on their train travel.
Continue reading “Save money with a £172 ticket to Ryde”