Paying the price for High Speed folly

 

IMG_4384.jpgCitizens of Nottingham, Leicester and Derby now know the true cost of High Speed Two. After an endless on/off saga they now know that they will not be able to travel on modern high speed electric trains to the capital and that their Midland Main Line will become the only major route from London that is not electrified.

Critics of HS2 always said that the price to be paid for this multi-billion pound vanity project would be a reduction in investment in our classic rail network, and so it has come to pass. Like people living between Cardiff and Swansea and visitors to Windermere, those in the East Midlands will have to make do with a botched compromise, where inefficient new trains that run on both electric and diesel power will work under the wires as far north as Kettering, before switching to diesel power for the onward journey to Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield. Continue reading “Paying the price for High Speed folly”

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Eye Kandy

IMG_2795Take a three hour train trip from Colombo’s Fort station to Sri Lanka’s second city, Kandy, and there are plenty of reminders of the amazing legacy which Victorian railway pioneers left to this former outpost of the British Empire. While the train itself is likely to be one of the modern Chinese-built S12 diesel units dating from 2012, the bargain priced ticket (190 Rupees second class, or just under £1.00) will be a classic Edmondson card, like all the tickets issued at ticket offices throughout the country.FullSizeRender.jpg

For the first 90 minutes of the 75-mile journey there is nothing too special to see, other than three unidentifiable steam locomotives standing at the depot just east of the capital, but things start to change when you get to Polgahawela Junction, 45.5 miles from Columbo and the place where the northern route towards Jaffna and Mannar diverges, with the first opportunity to see the classic lower quadrant semaphore signals that are a feature of the route from here to Kandy. Continue reading “Eye Kandy”

Bulleid Magic at Medstead

IMG_2352.jpgFifty years ago this week-end – on Sunday, 2 July 1967 – I stood by the line close to Basingstoke station while my father photographed the farewell to Southern steam specials from London Waterloo to Bournemouth, hauled by Merchant Navy Class locos 35008 Orient Line,  35028 Clan Line and West Country Class loco 34025 Whimple.

IMG_2313.jpgHalf a century on there was a fabulous reminder for me of that fateful day, at the Summer Steam Gala on the Mid-Hants Railway (Watercress Line), where in less than two hours at Medstead & Four Marks station – at 652 feet the highest station in southern England – it was possible to see even more Bulleid Pacific action than I had watched from the line-side on that day back in 1967. Continue reading “Bulleid Magic at Medstead”

Favourite photo-spots: Par & St Blazey

IMG_2176 (1).jpgPar is one of four junction stations in Cornwall that is still controlled by manual signalling (along with Liskeard, Truro and St. Erth) but arguably the most important as there are numerous through trains onto the 20 3/4  mile Newquay branch on summer Saturdays, with one on high summer weekdays (The Atlantic Coast Express) and two on Sundays.

With its listed signalbox at the south end of platforms 2 and 3 and numerous semaphores to be seen from the station platform and nearby road bridge, it makes a great spot to spend some time, particularly with the nearest signal box and photo spots being at St Blazey, less than ten minutes’ walk away. Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Par & St Blazey”

Chathill: a missed connection

IMG_1257Every 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”

Favourite photo-spots: Helsby

IMG_1111.jpgCo-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.

IMG_1157.jpgToday 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”

Lone Rider in North Cheshire

IMG_1174.jpgAnyone 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”