A breakdown in communications

IMG_0334What started out as a planned hour long trip to capture some rare steam action on the Portsmouth Line today (17 December) became a three-hour epic that exposes the total inadequacy of real-time information screens on stations, National Rail’s live trains app and the use of a station help point to get accurate information about the impact of serious service disruption.
   My simple plan had been to take a train from Haslemere (09.39) to Witley (09.45) in order to photograph LMS “Black Five” 44871 as it passed the station a few minutes later (09.52) on The Cathedrals Express charter special from Alton to Yeovil Junction, before hopping on the next return train from Witley (10.11) that would have had me back in Haslemere eight minutes later.
   But a fatality at Surbiton had thrown everything into chaos, so despite getting to Witley in time to get a decent shot of the steam special as it approached the station, things then became rather slow and frustrating.

Continue reading “A breakdown in communications”

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Least used stations 2018

Sugar Loaf was Wales’ least used station in 2016/7 but experienced a remarkable eightfold increase in passengers in 2017/8, according to the ORR figures

Apart from studying the intricacies of timetabling, one of the other pleasures for those with a fascination for our railways is publication by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) of its annual station usage estimates, and the remarkable contrasts it highlights between our busiest and our least-used stations.   

While there are no real surprises amongst the busiest – Waterloo with an estimated 94.355 million entries and exits in the year ended 31 March 2018 being the UK’s busiest and Birmingham New Street (43.741 million) being the busiest outside London – the real interest lies amongst those obscure and badly-served places that are our least used stations. Continue reading “Least used stations 2018”

Movement at Marchwood

 

A longstanding candidate for reopening to passengers is the branch line from Totton, just west of Southampton, to Hythe, which forms most of a route to Fawley that lost its passenger services in February 1966 and most of its freight traffic in early 2016, when the last train of oil tanks bound for the huge refinery arrived from Holybourne, near Alton. 

While most of the 9.5 mile route now stands mothballed, there is still the chance to see action on the line, with occasional freight traffic serving Marchwood Port. This once vitally-important military facility, which boasted its own extensive railway system, is reached by a spur off the Fawley branch immediately south of the former Marchwood station, 3.5 miles from Totton. Continue reading “Movement at Marchwood”

HS2 exorcises Paddington’s ghost train

IMG_1592A strategically significant 11-mile stretch of London main line became the first victim of HS2 on Friday (7 December 2018) when train 2M29, the 11.35 Chiltern Railways service from London Paddington to High Wycombe, became the last scheduled service to travel over the Acton to Northolt line, a route running alongside the London Underground’s Central line and extending from Old Oak Common to South Ruislip.

Continue reading “HS2 exorcises Paddington’s ghost train”

Goodbye Gilberdyke

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Like most other projects on our national railway network it is running late and over budget, but later this month the splendid semaphore signalling along ten miles of main line from Gilberdyke to Ferriby, on the north bank of the River Humber, will finally disappear, as control of the route passes to the Railway Operating Centre at York.

It will come as no surprise to those who read my September 2017 feature “Humberside re-signalling delayed” – which, incidentally, provoked outrage from one local NR manager at the time – to see that the planned spring 2018 completion date has been missed by eight months.

But it is also interesting is to see that what was billed as a £34.5 million project when  contracts were first let in February 2016 has, according to the most recent Network Rail press release, now become a £50 million project. Continue reading “Goodbye Gilberdyke”

Plastic Pigs Are Go

IMG_2772Work is well underway at Eastleigh on a major refurbishment of the first four Class 442 “Plastic Pigs”, which are due to be reintroduced onto the Portsmouth Direct Line next month, almost 12 years after their withdrawal in February 2007 by former franchisee South West Trains.
    As part of its new franchise commitment, South Western Railway (SWR) has taken 18 of the 24-strong fleet of Wessex Electrics units and pledged to use them alongside its existing Class 444 units on fast services from Portsmouth Harbour to London Waterloo.

Continue reading “Plastic Pigs Are Go”

Favourite photo-spots: Grange-over-Sands

IMG_8862Having spent much of last year touring the length and breadth of Great Britain in search of surviving semaphore signals to feature in my forthcoming book, I can confidently say that the finest stretch of mechanical signalling in Britain is the 94½ mile stretch of Cumbrian Coast from Arnside, north of Lancaster, along the Furness Line to Barrow-in-Furness, and then on up the Cumbrian Coast Line to Wigton, south-west of Carlisle.

This fascinating and scenic route, boasts no less than 17 signal boxes and two gate boxes controlling semaphore signals, most of which are at stations, and so easily accessible to the rail-borne traveller. Getting around is relatively straightforward (strikes permitting, of course) with Northern Rail services along the routes being roughly hourly from Carlisle to Barrow, with a slightly higher frequency between Barrow and Lancaster. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Grange-over-Sands”