Comments made by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and widely reported today suggest the he, at least, may finally have seen the light and realised that re-opening closed rail links to fast-growing towns and areas that have developed significantly over the past 50 years is far better value than committing infinite sums to HS2.
Particularly striking was a Grayling quote in The Times, where he goes further than any Government spokesman has ever done by declaring: “People say which is my priority: spend a billion pounds to shave a minute off the journey time or reopen some commuter lines so we get a better service for people? I would go for the latter any day of the week.” Continue reading “Seeing the Light”
Among surviving outposts of mechanical signalling in North East England, one of the most fascinating and photogenic is the 4½-mile section of line between Stockton-on-Tees and Billingham on the Durham Coast route from Thornaby to Sunderland and Newcastle.
Travel this section of line line and you will pass the two oldest signal boxes in Britain, Norton South and Norton East (both dating from 1870), along with two other fine and attractive survivals at Norton-on-Tees (built 1897) and at Billingham (1904). Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Norton-on-Tees”
Tourists are pretty thin on the ground during November in the West Highlands so, ever anxious to avoid crowds, and taking the opportunity offered by ScotRail’s seasonal Club 50 £17.00 flat fare (remarkable value for a 514-mile round trip from Edinburgh) it seemed a good time to make a long overdue return to Kyle of Lochalsh.
While the 82-mile route from Inverness has been hailed as the world’s most scenic rail journey, passenger numbers are distinctly modest out of the tourist season. I and my travelling companion were two of only ten passengers on board the 13.35 service from Inverness after leaving Dingwall on 14 November, with slightly more aboard the 12.08 ex-Kyle of Lochalsh a couple of days later. Continue reading “Off-peak return to Kyle of Lochalsh”
Scotland can boast a splendid signalling legacy, ranging from the two large and listed boxes at Stirling (Stirling Middle and Stirling North) to the numerous listed, though redundant, boxes along the West Highland Line, but what must be among the very finest survivors north of the border is the 1911 North British Railway (NBR) box at Arbroath, formerly known, and still identified, as Arbroath North.
This impressive box can easily be seen from the platform ends at the north end of the station, but can also be viewed at close quarters only a short walk from the station, at the level crossing it controls. From here it is well worth walking through the car park of a large Morrisons superstore to a bridge over the line on the A933 road. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Arbroath”
At 01.04 on Saturday 11 November 2017, the 23.30 hrs Northern Rail service from Manchester Airport will draw into Platform 6 at Blackpool North station and go down in railway history as the last train to be signalled into the station by Blackpool North No. 2 Signal Box and its splendid semaphore signals.
Once the empty stock has left the station, it will be closed for complete re-building, the signals and box demolished, and the 17.5-mile line from Preston shut to until next spring, as work begins in earnest on the route’s modernisation, electrification and re-signalling. This diagram inside the signal box shows the final truncated layout, with just four remaining platforms. Continue reading “All change at Blackpool North”
My nationwide quest to visit every possible location in England, Scotland and Wales that still has semaphore signalling comes to a glorious end at a remarkable outpost of mechanical signalling, and one that for much of the year controls the daily movement of steam-hauled trains.
Three decades after the rest of the West Highland lines from Glasgow to Oban and Mallaig were converted to radio signalling (RETB), one charming reminder of the past is Fort William Junction, just north-east of Fort William station and convergence of the route from Glasgow with the Mallaig extension. Continue reading “Fabulous Fort William”
Parbold was a really delightful discovery in West Lancashire, a small town just over ten minutes travel time on a Southport-bound train from Wigan Wallgate, itself almost alongside the main Station, Wigan North Western, on the West Coast Main Line.
Here a listed 1877-vintage Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway box called Parbold Cabin, stands at the eastern end of the station and controls level crossing barriers and a trio of semaphore arms. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Parbold”
Paying a brief return to Humberside’s fine semaphore signals (see my earlier post “Humberside’s semaphore swansong”) it is heartening – and not surprising – to hear that the timescale for completion of the resignalling project has slipped several months from the planned date of spring 2018.
Not surprising perhaps when a visit this week to Welton, one of the boxes I missed last time, reveals a group of high-vis suited workers sitting in a van bearing the name “Dynamic Track Solutions” and being anything but dynamic – doing precisely nothing in fact!
So there is still time to savour a stretch of main line controlled by mechanical signalling and for me a chance to get to the two easternmost boxes at Welton and Melton Lane, to visit the fine gate box at Oxmardyke and to discover an excellent location to see a variety of traction on the two routes which diverge at Gilberdyke Junction. Continue reading “Humberside re-signalling delayed”
Veteran signaller Alan Hayward has put up a commemorative sign reading 1896-2017 in one window and is already counting down the handful of shifts he still has to work in Poulton No 3 Signal Box before its final closure – and his early retirement – in less than two months’ time, on Saturday, 11 November.
Like four other remaining signal boxes on the 17.5-mile route from Preston to Blackpool North, the last of what were once five signal boxes at Poulton-le-Fylde will be swept away as the route is closed for its long-awaited electrification and re-signalling, a transformation set to take until at least next May to be completed. Continue reading “A Signalman’s Farewell”
Work is expected to begin early next year on an ambitious £1 million eight-month long project to restore the historic Rewley Road Swing Bridge at Oxford, more than 30 years after the last freight train trundled across it in May 1984. Despite having long since lost its rail services, the bridge remains owned by Network Rail and stands close to the main railway line just north of Oxford station.
After securing financial support from a range of bodies, including Historic England, Network Rail, the Railway Heritage Trust and Oxford City Council, the bridge’s custodians, Oxford Preservation Trust (OPT), now plan to invite tenders from specialist engineering firms, with the aim of restoration work beginning early in 2018. Continue reading “Historic Oxford railway bridge set to swing again”