A railway museum for Edinburgh?


Edinburgh has pretty much anything a tourist could be looking for, with its castle, Royal Mile, Holyrood and a plethora of fine buildings and open spaces. What it does lack, though, is a railway museum, with the nearest being some way out of the city at Bo’ness, home to the Scottish Railway Museum.

IMG_7443While it is good to see that a pair of junction signals from Stirling (SN18/SN11) have pride of place in the National Museum of Scotland, there is scope for much more, so it seems high time to consider a magnificent and listed building that stands in an ideal location, within a stone’s throw of Princes Street.

Waverley West Signal Box was built by the London & North Eastern Railway in 1936 to control early colour light signals on the western side of Waverley station. It lasted just 40 years before being decommissioned in November 1976, so has now stood empty and unloved for longer than it was actually in service. Continue reading “A railway museum for Edinburgh?”

The great HS2 fares conundrum


On Friday (16 February) I made what must be one of the world’s cheapest inter-city train journeys, when I travelled the 111 miles from London to Birmingham for a fare of just £5.50 (without using any railcard). Later that day I returned from Birmingham, again in the comfort of a spacious Mark III carriage and a loco-hauled train, for just £5.50.

IMG_1737.jpgLondon to Birmingham is by far the cheapest long-distance rail journey in the UK because it is pretty much the only one on the franchised railway where there is genuine on-rail competition between operators.

After more than 20 years of privatised railway, the only other significant point-to-point journeys where passengers have benefited from competition are on the East Coast Main Line, where presence of the two “Open Access” operators – Grand Central and Hull Trains – has led to fares competition from York and Doncaster to London. Continue reading “The great HS2 fares conundrum”

Semaphores and NER signal boxes on the Blyth & Tyne

IMG_1733For a route that has seen only freight traffic since its closure to passengers in 1964, the line heading north east from Newcastle to Bedlington and Ashington has done remarkably well to retain its traditional infrastructure.

Much of the route is double-track and there is a fine group of six North Eastern Railway signal boxes still in use and controlling a large array of semaphore signals, as well as level crossings at each of six locations. Continue reading “Semaphores and NER signal boxes on the Blyth & Tyne”

Wooden gates and semaphores in North East Lincolnshire

Re-signalling in the Barnetby area at the end of 2015 may have removed some of the finest remaining semaphore signals on the national network, but it did not completely spell the end of mechanical signalling in North Lincolnshire.

Besides the three recently-renewed semaphores at Gainsborough Central (featured in my previous post: Back to Brigg), and one semaphore protecting the Brigg Line at nearby Gainsborough Trent Junction, another surviving outpost is on the fascinating Barton-on-Humber branch line. Continue reading “Wooden gates and semaphores in North East Lincolnshire”

Back to Brigg

Monday, 1 October 2018 will mark a significant and unwelcome anniversary in the history of the 21-mile long rail link from Trent Junction near Gainsborough to Barnetby via Brigg in Lincolnshire. It will be a quarter of a century to the day since the axing of daily passenger trains on this direct route from Sheffield to Grimsby and Cleethorpes in 1993, and their replacement with a token “Parliamentary” Saturdays-only service.

IMG_7238.jpgPaying a long overdue return visit to a route I had not travelled since withdrawal of daily services, I was keen to see at first hand the Brigg Line Group’s success at building passenger numbers along the line. So, after an early morning bus ride from Barton-on-Humber to Brigg town centre, I made my way to the station for a trip on the first departure of the day, the 09.26 service to Cleethorpes. Continue reading “Back to Brigg”

London’s last lower quadrant semaphore signals

IMG_6940Greenford East Signal Box in north-west London is a remarkable survivor. This 1904-vintage Great Western Railway box is the last of its kind in Greater London, and the only place in the capital where the line is controlled by lower quadrant semaphore signals.

Not only this, but if one counts the daily Chiltern Railways “Parliamentary” train to and from London Paddington as a genuine service (see my earlier post: “Ghost train to Paddington”), then these are also the last semaphore signals in the London area controlling passenger services. Continue reading “London’s last lower quadrant semaphore signals”

Britain’s newest semaphore set for service

IMG_6856.jpgHenwick Signal Box is probably best known as the place where trains were famously delayed one day almost five years ago (in February 2013), when a luckless signaller got trapped in the toilet! Happily it now has another distinction.

Work is nearing completion near the box on reinstating a turnback siding, to allow services terminating at nearby Worcester Foregate Street to clear the station before returning towards Birmingham or London, with exit from the siding being controlled by new signal HK9. Continue reading “Britain’s newest semaphore set for service”

Britain’s rarest main line signal survives another year

IMG_5746.jpg2017 was supposed to have been the year that re-signalling of the Leicester to Peterborough line saw its last mechanical signalling swept away, with closure of the nine remaining signal boxes along this important cross-country route.

But as the year draws to a close, there is still no sign of any change to the status quo, and information supplied to me by Network Rail suggests that re-signalling of this route does not now even figure in its plans for Control Period 6 (2019-24). Continue reading “Britain’s rarest main line signal survives another year”

Happy 10th birthday Grand Central!

IMG_4569.jpgTen years ago today (18 December 2007) Grand Central Railway Company (GC) finally got onto the national railway network, when its first scheduled passenger service left Sunderland for London Kings Cross.

While GC has since gone from strength to strength and is now the UK’s largest and most successful Open Access train operator, it was far from plain sailing in the early days, when its operations were beset by reliability issues and cancelled services became a recurrent headache. Continue reading “Happy 10th birthday Grand Central!”

South Western Railway short-changes its most loyal customers

IMG_1583.jpgGold Card (annual season ticket) holders in what is now the South Western Railway (SWR) franchise area have, without warning, lost a great perk of their long-term loyalty to the railway.

After 20 years in which previous franchise holder Stagecoach gave its annual season ticket holders six free week-end tickets a year, this attractive and valuable perk has been quietly abolished by new franchisee FirstGroup/MTR. Continue reading “South Western Railway short-changes its most loyal customers”