Rare freight action at Haslemere

IMG_1175    Freight services made a re-appearance on the Portsmouth Direct Line on Saturday (2 February), when engineering work in the Southampton area led to a handful of car-carrying services to and from Southampton Docks being diverted along the route through Haslemere and Guildford.
   The last regular freight had been oil traffic from the Holybourne terminal near Alton to the Esso refinery at Fawley, but this twice-weekly working ceased in September 2016.
   Two of the diverted services passed through Haslemere in day-light, the first being a long train of empty car-carrying wagons from Southampton Eastern Docks to Halewood (Jaguar Cars) at 10.50, hauled by 66170 (698P).IMG_1196
Next up was service 496Q, conveying cars from from Morris Cowley plant at Oxford to Southampton Eastern Docks, hauled by 66181 and seen here (above and below) approaching Haslemere at 14.25, running 35 minutes late.IMG_1204
The week-end engineering work between Eastleigh and St. Denys also saw diversion via the Portsmouth line of SWR’s hourly fast services between Waterloo and Weymouth.IMG_1183

 

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Metrobus yes, but where’s the metro train?

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Anyone who had spent one hour 50 minutes on a bus travelling the ten or so miles from Cribbs Causeway shopping centre to Temple Meads station, as I did this week, would realise how serious Bristol’s traffic congestion has become.

Whilst my choice of a 73 bus, rather than the shiny new m1 metrobus and its route via the M32 motorway, inevitably slowed my journey, it still took around half an hour longer than scheduled and underlines the need for some radical action. Continue reading “Metrobus yes, but where’s the metro train?”

How green was my valley

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Investment in upgrading the important Valleys Line services radiating north from Cardiff has been on the political agenda for some considerable time, with ambitious plans announced for partial electrification and/or conversion to light rail.

Yet while all the bold talk continues, the saga of delayed electrification to Cardiff and cancellation onwards to Swansea is a warning not to take anything for granted, and a mainstay of Valleys Line operations today remains the reviled Pacer (Class 142/3) units. Continue reading “How green was my valley”

A trip to Tondu

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Along with those at Pembrey and Ferryside, featured in my previous post, another South Wales signal box potentially being replaced during Network Rail’s Control Period 6 (2019-24) is Tondu, sole passing place on the eight-mile branch from Bridgend to Maesteg.

The former Tondu Middle box is another Great Western Railway Type 3 design and dates from 1884 although, unlike Ferryside, has been subject to some subsequent alterations.

It stands immediately north of the station and controls a passing loop (currently out of use), as well as access to a seldom-used diversionary route to Margam and a remaining stub of the closed Blaengarw branch. Continue reading “A trip to Tondu”

South Wales’ last main line semaphores

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Travel down Brunel’s Great Western Main Line towards Bristol, pass through the Severn Tunnel into Wales and, after a change of train at Swansea, it will be exactly 208 miles from London Paddington before you reach the first of two semaphore signalling outposts on the South Wales Main Line.

Pembrey & Burry Port marks the start of old technology in signalling terms, and is the first of six surviving boxes between here and Clarbeston Road (junction of the Fishguard and Milford Haven routes) that are due to be closed during Network Rail’s forthcoming Control Period 6 (April 2019-March 2024). Continue reading “South Wales’ last main line semaphores”

Cumbrian Coast Class 37 farewell

IMG_8449As operation of Class 37-hauled passenger services along the wonderful Cumbrian Coast is due to end on 28 December 2018, this seems a good moment to post a few images from a memorable week in Barrow during early April 2017, when I was visiting locations along the route to get photos and background for my forthcoming book on Britain’s last semaphores.

Continue reading “Cumbrian Coast Class 37 farewell”

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”