Poland has been totally transformed over the past three decades since the drab and sinister days of communist rule were overthrown by Lech Walesa and his brave shipyard workers, and nowhere is that change more evident than on PKP, the national railway network.
Pictured above is Pt47-65 arriving at Chełmża on 13 April 2018 during the first day of its trip to Hel and back.
Having been the last European country to retain steam traction, 1988 marked withdrawal of the last true main line class, the Pt47, with steam then rapidly disappearing over the next three years and eliminated entirely by 1992, except at the remarkable museum depot in Wolsztyn. Continue reading “Steam-hauled to Hel and back”
Having reviewed the many railway re-opening prospects around Britain for my book Railway Renaissance, one of the most compelling candidates is unquestionably the Avon Rail Link – a missing nine miles of line that would give Stratford-upon-Avon a southern link to Oxford, London and the South-West – by reinstating a section of line that has been the subject of re-opening efforts for decades.
Pictured above is 37608 approaching Long Marston on 31 March 2018 towing EMU 350263, which formed 535Z, the 08.55 from Northampton EMD, with the EMU being taken to Long Marston for corrosion repair work
Shakespeare’s birthplace has been a terminus to passengers on local services from Birmingham and Leamington Spa ever since the end of services to Evesham and Worcester on 5 May 1969, yet its attraction as one of the UK’s foremost tourist destinations meant that more than a million passengers passed through its station in 2016/7, the first time that seven-figure total had ever been achieved. Continue reading “Avon Rail Link: it’s time for action”
ScotRail operator Abellio commendably uses two loco-hauled sets for weekday commuter services on the Fife Circle, but from an enthusiast point of view seems to be missing a trick when it comes to stock utilisation.
Pictured above is 68020 at Haymarket on 8 March 2017 with the 17.11 departure for Glenrothes with Thornton
Looking at the movements morning and evening of the two Class 68-powered six-coach trains reveals that they spend far more time working empty from and to their Mossend and Motherwell bases near Glasgow than they do in revenue-earning service. Continue reading “A missed opportunity for more loco-hauled services in Scotland”
Readers of my previous blogs will know that in less than a week’s time the North Wales Main Line will be closing for the week-end as new signalling is commissioned and five mechanical signal boxes between Talacre and Abergele & Pensarn will be signalling their last trains before final closure.
Having already featured the boxes at Prestatyn, Rhyl and Abergele, following a visit kindly arranged for me by Network Rail, this seems a timely moment to take one final look at the signalling that is about to disappear from these locations, as captured on last month’s visit (23 February 2018) and on my previous visit to North Wales one year earlier, in February 2017. Continue reading “North Wales Semaphore Finale”
The pressing need to simplify railway ticketing has been a long running theme on Britain’s fragmented network, but nothing tangible ever seems to happen, and we continue to live in a crazy world where getting the cheapest fare for my most recent day return journey involved buying no less than four separate sets of tickets.
My Sunday trip from Haslemere to Cardiff – for the Wales vs. Italy Six Nations rugby international – would have cost me £55.50 (using a railcard) had I opted for the cheapest direct ticket, a super off-peak return (not via London), travelling to Guildford, then on to Reading and from there directly to Cardiff. Continue reading “The madness of split-ticketing”
In less than three weeks’ time a key milestone will be reached in the £50 million North Wales Railway Upgrade, with closure of five mechanical signal boxes between Talacre and Abergele and the commissioning of new colour light signalling that will be controlled by the Railway Operating Centre in Cardiff.
On the day of a visit last month to Rhyl No. 1 box (featured in my previous post) I was also fortunate to be able to visit two of the other doomed boxes, those at Abergele & Pensarn and at Prestatyn.
As with Rhyl No. 1, Abergele & Pensarn is another Grade II listed LNWR box, dating from 1902, which stands between the running lines at the eastern end of the Grade II listed, but unstaffed, station. Continue reading “Goodbye, Abergele, Farewell, Prestatyn!”
When Castlerock Signal Box closed in November 2016 it brought an end to regular use of mechanical signalling on Northern Ireland Railways, but did not completely spell the end of its distinctive somersault signals.
Pay a visit to Portrush, at the end of a short branch line from Coleraine, on the Belfast to Londonderry main line, and you are in for a signalling treat.
Although having long since ceased to see daily use, the signal box remains, together with five of the distinctive wooden-posted somersault signals. Continue reading “Somersault survivors on NI Railways”
In only one month’s time – over the weekend of 24/25 March – a key stage in Network Rail’s £50m North Wales Railway Upgrade will see closure of five mechanical signal boxes, including the finest working box in Wales, at Rhyl.
Rhyl No 1 Box is one of a pair of Grade II listed boxes London & North Western Railway boxes that flank the station. Its larger cousin is the disused Rhyl no 2 Box at the western end of the station, which closed in 1990 and boasts a 126 lever frame that makes it comparable in size to Severn Bridge Junction Box at Shrewsbury. Continue reading “Eleventh hour dawns for Wales’ finest working signal box”
Edinburgh has pretty much anything a tourist could be looking for, with its castle, Royal Mile, Holyrood and a plethora of fine buildings and open spaces. What it does lack, though, is a railway museum, with the nearest being some way out of the city at Bo’ness, home to the Scottish Railway Museum.
While it is good to see that a pair of junction signals from Stirling (SN18/SN11) have pride of place in the National Museum of Scotland, there is scope for much more, so it seems high time to consider a magnificent and listed building that stands in an ideal location, within a stone’s throw of Princes Street.
Waverley West Signal Box was built by the London & North Eastern Railway in 1936 to control early colour light signals on the western side of Waverley station. It lasted just 40 years before being decommissioned in November 1976, so has now stood empty and unloved for longer than it was actually in service. Continue reading “A railway museum for Edinburgh?”
On Friday (16 February) I made what must be one of the world’s cheapest inter-city train journeys, when I travelled the 111 miles from London to Birmingham for a fare of just £5.50 (without using any railcard). Later that day I returned from Birmingham, again in the comfort of a spacious Mark III carriage and a loco-hauled train, for just £5.50.
London to Birmingham is by far the cheapest long-distance rail journey in the UK because it is pretty much the only one on the franchised railway where there is genuine on-rail competition between operators.
After more than 20 years of privatised railway, the only other significant point-to-point journeys where passengers have benefited from competition are on the East Coast Main Line, where presence of the two “Open Access” operators – Grand Central and Hull Trains – has led to fares competition from York and Doncaster to London. Continue reading “The great HS2 fares conundrum”