Hereford is probably best known for the remarkable Mappa Mundi housed in its cathedral, and for Ronnie Radford’s equally remarkable 1972 FA Cup goal for Hereford United against Newcastle United, but the city also has an interesting railway history and a place long overdue a proper visit.
While the Bulmer’s Railway Centre and the steam loco King George V that I remember visiting in childhood are both sadly long-departed, this remains an important junction on our national railway network and one of those curious places that is in England, but managed from Wales.
Almost four years after my visit to the works here to see work well underway on SWR’s ill-fated £25m plan to refurbish Class 442 units (“Plastic Pigs are go” – November 2018) for use on the Portsmouth Direct Line, it is time to spend a few hours witnessing the busy railway scene at Eastleigh.
While not able to visit the works this time (27 September 2022) there is plenty of action to see and photograph from the station platforms, as well as from Campbell Road over-bridge, leading to the works south of the station.
Returning to one of the last two outposts of semaphores on the South Wales Main Line, my aim on Friday, 5 August 2022 had been to photograph new TfW Class 231 “FLIRT” trains passing the doomed semaphores at Pembrey & Burry Port while on test runs between Swansea and Carmarthen.
But despite seeing a handful of the new Stadler units on Cardiff Canton depot as I passed by on my way to Pembrey, and regular Swansea-Carmarthen paths being shown on Realtime Trains, none of the new units was in action and passing services remained the usual diet of Class 153 and 175 units.
Spending a few days in Abergavenny while on a walking trip in the Brecon Beacons with family and friends meant another chance to capture locomotive action and lower quadrant semaphores at this southernmost outpost of mechanical signalling on the Marches Line.
After being rather unlucky with the weather on my previous (October 2021) visit, I was particularly keen to check out the scope for photos from what is called Caederwen footbridge, north of the station, as well as a road bridge some distance beyond.
My continuing quest to find and photograph working semaphore distant signals takes me back to the delightful Poacher Line from Grantham to Skegness, and to one of the six stations along the 58-mile route that only enjoys a “Parliamentary” service.
Hubbert’s Bridge is a fascinating spot, just 3¾ miles west of Boston, where a futuristic looking signal box dating from 1961 makes a stark contrast to the traditional crossing gates which it controls, along with six semaphores that include working distant signals in both directions.
Following my early summer visit to Blair Atholl (blog: 6 June), the current bargain price £10.00 flat fare offer for Scotrail’s Club 50 members tempts me to pay a return visit from Edinburgh on 26/7 October 2021 to another delightful spot on the Highland Main Line and its most northerly outpost of semaphore signalling.
Kingussie is an attractive small town that stands 11¾ miles south-west of Aviemore and boasts both a listed station building and a listed signal box with the latter, dating from 1922, controlling a passing loop and a total of six semaphore signals from its 17-lever frame, all of which can be seen from the station and from a nearby footbridge.
Following my springtime visit to Pembrey & Burry Port I felt inspired to pay a summer Saturday (10 July 2021) return to the other doomed outpost of semaphore signalling on the South Wales Main Line.
Ferryside is one of two request stops between Pembrey and Carmarthen and a delightfully picturesque spot on estuary of the River Towy (Afon Tywi) at which to spend a couple of hours watching trains passing the five semaphores controlled by Ferryside Signal Box.
Dramatic scenery and numerous viaducts make Cornwall something of a dream for railway photography, with the added attraction of most local services now being formed of the ex-HST 2+4 “Castle” sets and semaphore signalling at five main-line stations within the Royal Duchy.
First up of this quintet is Liskeard, 264½ miles from Paddington (via Bristol) and home to a rare centre-pivot semaphore as well as being a junction for the scenic Looe Valley branch line, whose platform (3) stands as right-angles to the main line and is adorned with 1960s-style chocolate and cream signage.
Having spent time at Liskeard station in the past, I was keen to seek out the first of the six semaphore signals here, the down outer home (LD35) which westbound trains will pass on approaching the station before rounding a sharp left-hand curve that takes them onto Liskeard Viaduct and into the station.
Finding an attractive and remote rural location where there is a variety of freight and passenger traffic, a signal box controlling semaphore signals and heritage diesel action might sound too good to be true.
But that was what I was able to savour on Thursday (22 October 2020) at Earles Sidings, near the village of Hope in the Peak District, and a junction on the Hope Valley Line for a 1½-mile branch line to the country’s largest cement works.
Paying what will surely be my last visit to the wonderful Wherry Lines before the end of Class 37 operations, my quest this time (Friday, 26 July) was not just to savour more loco haulage, but also to find another of the network’s working distant signals.
Bearing the memorable number A1, this is the up distant at Acle, sole passing loop on the 12¾ miles of route from Brundall to Great Yarmouth, and one of seven semaphores controlled by the station’s diminutive 1883-vintage 20-lever Great Eastern Railway signal box, which stands at the western end of the down platform. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Acle”
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