Bye bye bubble cars

IMG_9874.jpgAn notable feature of the May 2017 timetable change is withdrawal of the very last of the first generation diesel multiple units still in use on the national network. These are the two Class 121 “bubble cars” which for the past 14 years Chiltern Railways has used on peak-time weekday shuttle services between Aylesbury and Princes Risborough.

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Increasing maintenance costs means that their time is up and, after the final services on Friday, 19 May 2017, the two celebrity units 121020 (W55020) and 121034 (W55034) will be offered for sale to preservation groups, from whom there is likely to be a great deal of interest. Continue reading “Bye bye bubble cars”

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Railway Renaissance

RR_CoverGareth’s first book – published September 2017

 Pen & Sword Books Ltd

ISBN: 9781473862005

Order at Waterstones or Amazon

When a 35 mile stretch of the former Waverley route from Edinburgh to Carlisle reopened on 6 September 2015, it became the most significant reopening of any UK railway since the infamous Beeching Report, ‘The re-shaping of British Railways’, was published in March 1963.
In his report, Dr Richard Beeching recommended sweeping closures of lines across the UK to improve the financial performance of British railways, which led to wholesale closures over the following decade and a reduction in the UK rail network from 18,000 miles in 1963, to some 11,000 miles a decade later.

Continue reading “Railway Renaissance”

Glorious Glenwhilly

Scotland’s remotest signal box stands at a place called Glenwhilly, roughly halfway between the resort town of Girvan on the Ayrshire coast and the end of the line at Stranraer, a once bustling port that seems to be suffering badly from the loss of its ferry business to Cairnryan on the opposite shore of Loch Ryan.

Glenwhilly had a station until September 1965 though it’s hard to figure out where its passengers would have come from. There were once a couple of houses at the station and there are odd houses dotted about the wild terrain, but that is about it. Today, however, Glenwhilly remains one of three passing places on the delightful 40-mile trip south from Girvan, where drivers will exchange the unique Tyer’s Tablet for the section from Barrhill for one to Dunragit, another former station, a few miles east of Stranraer. Continue reading “Glorious Glenwhilly”

Still active at 50 – the Class 37s

When three Class 37 locomotives left the Watercress Line during 2016, it was not because the 50-year old diesel locomotives had found a new home in preservation. Instead they were sold back into mainline service, with two being acquired by freight operator Colas Rail (37324/37901) and one going to UK Rail Leasing (37905).

This trio form part of a once 309-strong fleet of English Electric Type 3 locomotives, delivered between 1961 and 1965, and along with the Brush Type 4 (Class 47s) one of the most enduring features of British Railways’ modernisation plan of 1955, which heralded the end of steam and also saw introduction of many far less successful diesel designs. Continue reading “Still active at 50 – the Class 37s”

Favourite photo-spots: Reedham

IMG_6631.jpgReedham can claim to be one of the most picturesque places on the Norfolk Broads, but for me the real magic of the place is finding a country junction on the busy Wherry Lines route from Norwich to Lowestoft, where a branch diverges off for Berney Arms and Great Yarmouth, complete with fine signal box, an array of semaphore signals and a working swing bridge, with a very pleasant pub alongside.

IMG_6610.jpgFrom a photographic point of view, Reedham has everything, with good vantage points from no less that three road over bridges, all within a mile of the station and one offering a view over the swing bridge, as well as panoramic views of trains as they head in a south easterly direction to and from the terminus at Lowestoft. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Reedham”

Farewell Forres

One of the most evident features of a £170 million upgrade programme on the Inverness to Aberdeen route in north east Scotland will be at Forres, where some £35 million is being spent on a brand new two-platform station to the north of the existing one, that will straighten out a major curve in the line, and allow elimination of the manual signal box and loop east of the current station.

Work on the new station was well under way at the time of my March 2017 visit, and looks set to be completed on schedule in October 2017, when the manual signal boxes at both Forres and Elgin West, the most northerly signal box in Great Britain, are expected to close. The result will be a slightly faster journey on this increasingly important rail corridor, but mean the loss of another part of our rich signalling heritage.

Favourite photo-spots: Ulverston

IMG_8480.jpgThere are numerous photogenic locations on the Cumbrian Coast route from Lancaster to Barrow and on to Workington and Carlisle, but one which I found particularly attractive was Ulverston, birthplace of comedian Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy fame, and home to an attractive Grade II-listed station. This opened in 1874, replacing an earlier Furness Railway terminus station on completion of the route to Barrow.

IMG_8565.jpgIt has an unusual layout similar to that at Yeovil Pen Mill in having an island platform and a main down platform with platform 2 not in regular use (and not numbered) so all up trains serve platform 3, while in the down (westbound) direction train doors are only opened on platform 1. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Ulverston”