Save money with a £172 ticket to Ryde

Ryde_IMG_2851Spending £172 to buy an annual season ticket covering a one-mile train journey on the picturesque Isle of Wight may sound like a rather bizarre way to save money on rail travel, but  it is a deal which savvy rail travellers in London, the south of England, the West Midlands and East Anglia would do well to consider.

IMG_9473While the annual “Gold Card” from Ryde Esplanade to Ryde St. John’s Road covers a journey which few of us will ever make, as the cheapest such ticket for any daily journey within the South West Trains franchise area, it represents a sound investment for anyone not qualifying for any railcard apart from the Network Railcard and looking to save money on their train travel.
Continue reading “Save money with a £172 ticket to Ryde”

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Ghost train to Paddington

Ghost_02Take a trip out of London on a West Ruislip-bound Central Line service and for a lengthy part of the journey – from North Action to South Ruislip – a little used and partly single track railway line runs alongside, and there are even a clutch of mechanically-worked semaphore signals to be seen as the tube train approaches Greenford station.

This is what was once grandly known as the New North Main Line, but is now less glamorously known as the Acton to Northolt line, running for a total distance of 11 miles from just west of Old Oak Common depot on the Great Western Main Line to a junction with the Chiltern Railways route from London Marylebone at South Ruislip. Continue reading “Ghost train to Paddington”

Favourite photo-spots: Yeovil Pen Mill

IMG_2467.jpgDespite having been scheduled for replacement during 2016, Yeovil Pen Mill signal box remains an isolated outpost of semaphore signalling in the south of England, where the nearest surviving manual signals are those at Liskeard in Cornwall and at Marchwood on the freight-only Fawley branch near Southampton.

Pen Mill is a delightful station, standing on the eastern side of the town alongside the Pittards leather goods factory, with relatively easy opportunities to photograph signalling at either ends of the station and two excellent pubs close by (the Great Western and the Pen Mill Hotel) to pass the time between trains. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Yeovil Pen Mill”

Favourite photo-spots: Craven Arms

IMG_9602Controlling an important junction south of Shrewsbury between the Marches Line to Newport and the Heart of Wales line to Llanelli is Craven Arms Crossing, which was once one of two signal boxes here, along with one at the station itself, some 300 yards to the south.

IMG_9644.jpgWhile the box itself looks more like an East German border post than a traditional signal box, and the station has long been reduced to basic “bus shelters” on each platform, the station footbridge and platform ends offer a splendid vantage point from which to appreciate the collection of lower quadrant semaphore signals that are  a feature of the Marches Line. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Craven Arms”

Heritage traction on a Breton branch line

Chateau_04In summer 2016, Brittany remained one of only three regions in France to see local services still worked by single car X2100 units, which were in service alongside the new generation X73500 units on routes such as the branch line heading south from Rennes to Chateaubriant. Weekday services on this pleasantly rural route comprise just three or four round trips, with one  late afternoon working as far south as Retiers.

Chateaubriant’s well-preserved station has become an interchange with the re-opened route south to Nantes, which has been converted into light rail route T1 by the Pays de la Loire region and is currently served by eight trams a day, with a significantly more frequent service operating from Nantes as far north as the towns of Nort-sur-Erdre and Suce-sur-Erdre.

 But co-ordination of the two rail services appears almost non-existent. Looking at the summer 2016 timetables, there was only one viable connection a day in each direction – with a southbound departure from Rennes at 07.43 connecting into a tram that gave an arrival in Nantes at 10.29, while in the reverse direction the only connection was from a tram departing Nantes at 10.10 that gave a connection into a train service arriving into Rennes at 12.51. Continue reading “Heritage traction on a Breton branch line”

Narrow Gauge to the Rhodope Mountains

Narrow gauge railways have always held a particular fascination for me and one which I had long wished to visit was the 125km (78-mile) 760mm gauge Septemvri-Dobrinishte line in Bulgaria. Despite persistent closure threats the line continues to be run by Bulgarian State Railways and is the country’s only narrow gauge line.

IMG_1057This is a truly remarkable railway that traverses some fabulous scenery and feels like a step back in time when you are able to look out of the window and see horse-drawn ploughs being used in the fields. With the four daily round trip hauled by diesel locos dating from the mid-1960s, it is a trip not to be missed. Continue reading “Narrow Gauge to the Rhodope Mountains”

A metre gauge adventure in Greece

IMG_9792My interest in the extensive metre-gauge network around the Peloponnese Peninsula in Greece had been aroused during a summer-time visit in 1979, when I had travelled a few sections of the remarkable route, from Athens to Korinthos (Corinth), Mycenae to Tripolis and Olympia to Patra, while on a low-budget student month touring Greece and Greek islands.

Having fallen victim to the Greek financial crisis in 2011, which left only two isolated sections of the system in operation – Olympia to Pirghos and Katakalo and a Patra suburban service – it was good discover that much of the system was still useable three years later and to have the chance to travel much of the route on a two-day PTG Tour in October 2014.

Beginning at the new Korinthos station, where narrow gauge lines are alongside the new standard gauge suburban electric service from Athens, our train was top-and-tailed by two Alco diesels (9101/9105) with one proper coach and three converted baggage cars. After three years of no regular traffic, the track is in remarkably good condition, but there is no signalling, so we have to proceed cautiously over all the many level crossings. On the first leg of our trip, I manage to get a shot of Mycenae station, which looks a sorry sight compared to the image in my colour slide from July 1979. After a brief stop at Arghos we head down the Nafplio branch, attracting a lot of local interest as we do. Continue reading “A metre gauge adventure in Greece”