A Signalman’s Farewell

IMG_5336.jpgVeteran 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.

IMG_5373.jpgLike 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”

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Historic Oxford railway bridge set to swing again

IMG_5037.jpgWork 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”

Dudding Hill: the line that time forgot

IMG_4995Looking at the massive success of London Overground in reinvigorating rail corridors around the capital, such as the North London, East London and South London Lines, it is perhaps remarkable that there is one short stretch of line in North London where time has seemingly stood still, with control by semaphore signals and a sparse traffic comprising the occasional slow-moving freight train and empty stock movements between the capital’s termini.

This is what is known as the Dudding Hill Line, a four-mile long stretch of double track route which diverges from the North London Line at Acton Wells Junction, close to North Action underground station, before heading in a clockwise arc passing junctions with the West Coast Main Line at Harlesden, the Chiltern Railways route at Neasden to end in a triangular junction with the Midland Main Line at Cricklewood. Continue reading “Dudding Hill: the line that time forgot”

Steam-hauled return to Leszno

IMG_4962More that three years after its March 2014 suspension, (see my earlier post “Last steam to Leszno”) scheduled standard gauge steam returned to Europe in May 2017, when two return weekday services from Wolsztyn to Leszno in Western Poland returned to steam haulage.

IMG_4866This followed the agonisingly slow setting up of a trust to own and manage the famous steam depot at Wolsztyn, the return to traffic of two locomotives and the sourcing of suitable coaches to operate the service, which should also see two Saturday round trips between Wolsztyn and Poznan, once track renewal work has been completed later this year. Continue reading “Steam-hauled return to Leszno”

Favourite photo-spots: Moreton-in-Marsh

IMG_5442When Network Rail was completing a £67 million project to re-double two sections of the Cotswold Line between Oxford and Worcester in 2011 there was not enough left in the kitty to re-signal the two re-doubled stretches of line – four miles from Charlbury to Ascott-under-Wychwood and 16 miles of line from Moreton-in-Marsh to Evesham.

So in a remarkably British piece of cost saving,  semaphore signals were only replaced at Ascott-under-Wychwood and Evesham, while those at Moreton-in-Marsh were not only reprieved, along with the 1883-vintage GWR signal box, but a new semaphore was added at the south end of the down platform, in order to allow terminating trains from London to return without the need to cross to the up line and reverse back into platform two. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Moreton-in-Marsh”

Humberside’s semaphore swansong

IMG_4217.jpgRail-borne visitors to the UK’s 2017 city of culture could probably be forgiven for failing to spot during the latter stages of their journey what many enthusiasts would describe as some of the finest remaining semaphore signalling in England. It survives on a 9.5 mile stretch of line between Gilberdyke Junction and North Ferriby, but is being swept away in a £34.5 million upgrading project, due for completion in Spring 2018.

A key driver of the decision to replace reputedly the largest number of semaphore signals on any English main line route is a wish to enable later services at Hull, as the manual signal boxes are all closed overnight. That means the last train departing Hull at 22.20 and the final arrival of the day, according to the current timetable, a Northern Rail service from York at 23.35. Once re-signalling has been completed, the hope locally is for faster trains and potentially for all-night services. Continue reading “Humberside’s semaphore swansong”

Mixed traffic on the Settle-Carlisle line

IMG_3875.jpgMy nationwide quest to photograph Britain’s last mechanical signalling, in connection with a new book project, has brought me back to the Settle & Carlisle line, that amazing 72 miles of line between Settle in North Yorkshire and Carlisle in Cumbria, which 30 years ago was under sentence of death.

Reprieve in 1989 has been followed by many years of effort by the Friends of the Settle & Carlisle Railway to sustain the interest which that closure threat generated, and to build a new generation of travellers, both tourists and local users of the many stations on the line that were re-opened, and which now play a key role is sustaining and developing this remarkable tourist corridor. Continue reading “Mixed traffic on the Settle-Carlisle line”