Every morning at around 06.45 an empty two-coach train arrives at the remote, and delightfully preserved, Northumbrian station of Chathill – 11 1/4 miles north of Alnmouth on the East Coast Main Line and the most north-easterly place to be served by Northern Rail. After a brief pause it carries on many miles northwards to cross over onto the up line at a former station called Belford, before returning to become the 07.08 commuter service from Chathill to Newcastle.
This is the only train from Chathill for almost exactly 12 hours, until the return working of an evening commuter service from Newcastle heads south at 19.10. There are no trains in the northbound direction at all, so any passenger for Berwick-on-Tweed or Edinburgh needs to travel south to Alnmouth, then return on a northbound train from there. Continue reading “Chathill: a missed connection”
Co-acting signals were once a reasonably common feature on the UK rail network – that is signal posts with two arms, one at low level and one located much higher up, so that drivers could always see one or other of the signal arms when there was an obstruction, such as the station footbridge (pictured above), which would obscure the driver’s sight line to a signal at conventional height.
Today there are only three such signals left on the whole of Network Rail, and having previously had the chance to visit the ones at Cantley, on the Norwich-Lowestoft line in East Anglia and one at Greenloaning, just north of Stirling in Scotland, it was a great pleasure to be able to see and photograph the third of this trio at Helsby, a delightful and unspoiled junction station, roughly midway between Warrington and Chester. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Helsby”
Anyone fed up with fighting for a seat on their daily commute, or their longer distance journey, would be amazed if they were to take a trip by train to a station serving the huge Essar Energy oil refinery at Stanlow on the south bank of the Manchester Ship Canal. Stanlow & Thornton station is officially one of Britain’s least used stations, recording a total of just 88 passengers in 2015/6, or little more than one a week.
Not bad, perhaps, when you consider that there is no public access to the station, which stands within the 1,900-acre refinery complex, but disappointing that it is not better used by those working at, or visiting, the UK’s second largest refinery complex. Continue reading “Lone Rider in North Cheshire”
Transport has hardly captured headlines in an election campaign dominated by Brexit, dementia tax and NHS funding, yet there are some interesting comments and pledges within the partly manifestoes, notably the Labour Party’s proposal to renationalise the railway network by progressively resuming control of passenger services through not re-letting franchises as they expire. This is a theme echoed by the Green Party, which simply pledges a return of the railways to public ownership, without any detail whatsoever about how this might happen, or what it might cost.
HS2 gets a mention in the manifestoes of all the English-based parties, with all the three main parties remaining steadfastly behind the project, but UKIP and the Green Party both pledging to have it scrapped. While the Green Party simply describe it as “wasting money”, UKIP is rather more strident: “Spending £75 billion [wonder where that figure came from?] just to save a few minutes between London and Leeds is ludicrous and, we think, unethical” the party asserts. Continue reading “Railways and the 2017 General Election”
Droitwich Spa is the northern end of an oasis of semaphore signalling in the Worcester area, where there are a total of eight boxes with at least some mechanical signalling, as far south as Norton Junction and south west as far as Ledbury on the route to Hereford.
Like Shrewsbury and also Worcester Shrub Hill, Droitwich Spa has its celebrity signals – in this case it is the pair of down starting signals (DS8) which are of the centre pivot type (pictured above) similar to those on platform 7 at Shrewsbury.
The Great Western box, dating from 1907 and sadly without a name plate on its front side, stands 300 yards north of the station between the Kidderminster route diverging to the left and the single line to Bromsgrove to the right. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Droitwich Spa”
During the long hot summer of 1976 I arrived at Newhaven Marine on a boat train from London Victoria on my first teenage visit to Paris, boarding a Sealink ferry to Dieppe, where a connecting train whisked me off to Gare St. Lazare in the French capital.
Paying a return visit to Newhaven 41 years later it is sad to see that Newhaven Marine station appears to have just been demolished, albeit more than a decade after it saw its last passengers. It effectively closed in 2006, due to safety concerns, and would be passengers were re-directed to the nearby Harbour station. Continue reading “Ghost train to Newhaven Marine”
Anyone with an interest in our signalling heritage simply must pay a visit to Shrewsbury, home to the world’s largest working mechanical signal box, Severn Bridge Junction. This is one of three boxes that can be seen from the station platforms, along with more than two dozen working mechanical signals.
Amongst these, the real gem is SBJ11, a pair of extremely rare lower quadrant centre pivot signals controlling the southern end of platform 7. Severn Bridge Junction is one of two listed boxes at Shrewsbury, the other being the almost equally impressive Crewe Junction box at the north end of the station, where the route to Crewe diverges from the line to Chester. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Shrewsbury”
Gareth’s first book – published September 2017
Pen & Sword Books Ltd
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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”
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”
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”