Europe’s forgotten railway network


NINE years ago this month (in May 2011) I paid a visit to Europe’s most isolated country, Albania, and spent the next five days travelling the whole of its decrepit railway network, before the most scenic section of route was suddenly closed a year later.

As desperately needed investment seems set to revive at least part of this remarkable and ramshackle system, this is an expanded and illustrated version of my original 2011 account, with an update at the end on developments since that visit. Continue reading “Europe’s forgotten railway network”

Lost metre-gauge in the Douro Valley

IMG_3540EXACTLY 25 years ago today, on Wednesday, 10 May 1995, I went on one of my most memorable ever continental railway journeys, when I broke off from a family holiday near Lisbon to spend an unforgettable 36 hours travelling to the Douro Valley and then sampling two of the remarkable metre-gauge lines leading up tributary river valleys north of the Douro.

Those trips up the Tua Line to Mirandela and later up the Corgo Line from Régua to Vila Real convinced me that these were some of the most scenic rail journeys in Europe, so it came as a real shock to learn years later that the Portuguese Government had allowed these lines, along with the Tâmega Line from Livração to Amarante, to close (in 2008/9). Continue reading “Lost metre-gauge in the Douro Valley”

May 2017 and the Bubble Cars bow out

IMG_9822Shortly before 21.00 hrs. on Friday, 19 May 2017, a piece of railway history was made when the two 1960-vintage Class 121 “Bubble Cars” that had been in service with Chiltern Railways completed their last ever run from Princes Risborough to Aylesbury.

Paying my respects to the 57 year-old machines on Thursday, 11 May 2017, just eight days before the end, there were already a good number of enthusiast passengers travelling the 7½-mile branch line, on a day when services were in the hands of BR green-liveried W55034 (121034), seen above awaiting departure from Aylesbury. Continue reading “May 2017 and the Bubble Cars bow out”

Semaphores in the Tyne Valley

IMG_1437Among the many memorable outings I had while researching my signalling book during 2017, one of the most enjoyable was a day spent visiting four semaphore-signalled locations along the delightful Tyne Valley line between Carlisle and Newcastle.

Highlights for me of that day (19 June 2017) were seeing the two remarkable and Grade II Listed over-line signal boxes at Hexham and Wylam, visiting a remote station whose signal box had been routinely “switched out” for decades (since closed), and the kind invitation from a lady signaller into one of Britain’s oldest working signal boxes. Continue reading “Semaphores in the Tyne Valley”

Semaphores in the East Midlands

IMG_9621After my final pre-lockdown visit to the charming station at Manea, near Ely, it is now time to head further west, and take a look at the half dozen signal boxes which retain semaphore signalling interest on the busy cross-country route between Leicester and Peterborough.

Along a 20-mile stretch of this line, from Melton Mowbray to the village of Ketton, three miles west of Stamford, you will find a couple of attractive stations, one of the country’s most famous signal boxes, and a remarkable survival in the form of a Midland Railway lower quadrant signal on a wooden post. Continue reading “Semaphores in the East Midlands”

Semaphores in south-west Scotland

IMG_6507After last year’s return to Stranraer Harbour, it is time to pay another visit to south-west Scotland and to the four southernmost outposts of mechanical signalling on the Glasgow & South Western main line between Glasgow and Carlisle.

Three of the quartet are Glasgow & South Western Railway (G&SWR) designs, but a fascinating exception is the box at Thornhill, one of the few surviving and working examples on our rail network of a fortified war-time (LMS, 1943) ARP signal box. Continue reading “Semaphores in south-west Scotland”

The wait goes on for Tramlink expansion


TRAMS have been one of the great success stories in UK public transport over the past two decades, with passengers liking the frequent, reliable and environmentally-friendly service they provide, and networks being expanded in all but one of the seven UK towns and cities where trams are operating.

While plans have been implemented, or are afoot, for system expansion in Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Sheffield and Blackpool, one glaring exception is Tramlink, the network centred on Croydon, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in  May 2020. Continue reading “The wait goes on for Tramlink expansion”

Semaphores and Class 37s on the Cumbrian Coast


IMG_8705After last week’s trip along the scenic Furness Line, it is now time to head north from Barrow-in-Furness and take a look at some of the many delightful spots that retain their mechanical signalling along the route through Whitehaven and Workington as far north as Wigton.

My journey to this most northern outpost of semaphores could hardly have got off to a better start on Monday, 3 April 2017 when I boarded the Sellafield workers’ train, the 05.46 from Barrow to Carlisle, which powered by DRS-owned 37401 Mary Queen of Scots hauling four aged Mark II coaches. Continue reading “Semaphores and Class 37s on the Cumbrian Coast”

The fabulous Furness Line

IMG_8733Among all the many trips I went on three years ago in the quest for photos and text for my signalling book, most memorable of all was the week I spent during April 2017 at Barrow-in-Furness, while I explored the wonderful Furness and Cumbrian Coast Lines.

Staying in a bed and breakfast close to the station, which seemed rather more geared to catering for workmen than tourists, I ventured out each day to sample the large number of mechanically-signalled locations, extending almost 100 miles from Wigton to Arnside. Continue reading “The fabulous Furness Line”

Semaphores in North Staffordshire


IMG_7148Taking heed of Government advice to avoid making all but essential rail journeys, the current potentially dismal and very challenging period seems like a good moment to look back to better times, when we were all free to travel at will.

Over the coming weeks I plan to go back almost exactly three years to the time during spring and summer of 2017 when I was touring Britain to get photos and anecdotes for my signalling book, and beginning today with a visit to the North Staffordshire Line. Continue reading “Semaphores in North Staffordshire”