Archive for the ‘railway’ Category

The Peak District

September 17, 2016

I like the Peak District so it was with pleasure that I turned my railway poster calendar to September and found a picture of this Derbyshire (mostly) area.


This poster, for the old London, Midland and Scottish Railway was first published in 1923 with art work by R S Wyatt

It features a viaduct with a train in LMS red passing over it.

I suspect this represents the viaduct at Monsal Head – now a walking/cycling trail. I snapped a photo of it in 2008 when I was in the area.


I note from what I wrote at the time that I was unwilling to pay to park near there so was unable to get a good photo but I can certainly find photos of elsewhere on the Monsal Trail.

image004It is a very pleasing area.


The Monsal Trail is clearly a former railway – once part of the third way between London and Scotland.

Eric Ravilious – September

September 11, 2016

Now who’d have thought it? A double dose of interest for me this month. Not only a Ravilious wood engraving, but it is of a train.


This was an illustration for a book called ‘The Hansom Cab and the Pigeons’ published in 1935 by Cockerel Press. This company specialised in handmade books with art work by well-known exponents of illustration.

In terms of the train there is really nothing much right with it, except an overall effect.  The loco appears to have no water or coal storage and those 12 wheeled carriages would struggle on curves. And why did the bridge engineer make the train have to go up and over a hump.

But despite all this I enjoy seeing this image.

The train journey to Weymouth

September 8, 2016

No train journey, for us, starts without a road journey first. We drove to Westbury to catch the Weymouth train which left more or less on 9.30.

The fare is bargain basement in terms of cost for us oldies. On this line if you show your bus pass at the ticket office then you get a third off. It comes out at £11 for a return ticket.

The train was quite full but we found a pair of seats at a table and the couple already there were friendly.

A lot more people got on at Frome, more again at Bruton and yet more at Castle Cary. People were now standing in the gangway and sitting on the floor at carriage ends. This was about the time Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Party leader, had a journey involving some floor sitting.

At Yeovil a huge crowd got on. There was not an inch of space anywhere. It really was sardine conditions. The standing passengers were jammed in. The train guard or conductor had great difficulty getting space for himself having ensured all was safe. I’d love to have taken a photo but I had put my bag on the luggage rack and there was no space for me to stand in a position to retrieve it. The flask of coffee we’d planned to drink, similarly, was up there in the rack and unreachable.

Worse was to come for some folks. After Yeovil there are three small stations which are request stops. Waiting passengers have to hail the train, rather like hailing a bus. Each of the stations at Thornford, Yetminster and Chetnole had waiting passengers. At each station the train stopped and the guard (or conductor) emerged on to the platform to inform the waiting people they could not get on the train. Chetnole, a real wayside place, had just a family of four, with kids clutching buckets and spades for the seaside. We could see the eyes of one little lad well up with tears when told he couldn’t go. The next train followed an hour afterwards.

I have to say the good humour on the train was commendable. It wasn’t a comfortable journey for the standees, in particular but they remained jovial. My sympathies were with our train guard. He was unable to walk up and down the train and as many of the stations are unmanned many will have made the journey without a ticket. And how awful to have to tell people they couldn’t board. He managed it all with aplomb. The simple truth was that the train – a nice enough train – just didn’t have the capacity needed.

Our return journey was not as crowded but people were still standing in the corridor and sitting on the floor in carriage ends. This time I kept my camera. I don’t have a good photo because I had to hold the camera at arm’s length and the train was rocking and rolling a bit.


For this journey, I’ll criticise the train as well as the Great Western company for not providing enough seats. This was one of the horrid class 155 sprinters. They seat 5 across and have a narrow gangway. The seats are virtually all facing the same way – not in groups round a table. There is insufficient legroom for me and I’m not that big. I have to sit in a gangway seat so my knees and feet can be twisted around into the gangway. In my opinion these trains are not suited to lengthy journeys. It’s about an hour and a half from Weymouth to Westbury and this train was going on to Gloucester. They are not air conditioned and whilst OK when moving, for fresh air came in through open windows, when stationary they soon overheat when overcrowded.

These are surely not conditions for passengers which the so called Great Western company can be proud of. I was OK but I do wonder what arrangements were made to compensate people not able to even board the train they hoped to get. And will the guards/conductors get a bonus for having to cope with near impossible conditions and doing it with a smile? They deserve it.

Visit by a Princess

September 6, 2016

People expecting visions of female beauty or grandeur might as well look somewhere else now. There’ll be grandeur and some might think beauty, but it will be of an engineering kind. This princess is a steam railway locomotive which hauled a special through my locality on its way from London to Minehead.

Back in my train spotting days around 1960 I’d have said that the Princess class of locos was my least favourite of the express passenger designs I might have seen. There was a mix of regional bias and aesthetics in this. I automatically put the Southern Railway designs first and this loco was built for the London, Midland and Scottish Railway.

However, we steam enthusiasts take what we can these days and I was pleased not to miss this loco pass by.


The loco was built in 1933 and is called Princess Elizabeth. Actually, it ought to be the Queen now but it has always been affectionately known as Lizzie and the other dozen similar locos were referred to as ‘Lizzies’.

I never saw this loco in my train spotting days. In fact I don’t recall ever seeing one on a train. My sightings were of engines idle in a depot.

I’m reasonably happy with my photo. I’d have liked a spot a little further to the right to get a bit more side on to the loco. But other enthusiasts had beaten me to the prime spots. I could have gone across to the left, but then I’d have been shooting straight into the sun and had she been working hard she might have been obscured by wind blown steam.

So I took what I could.


And do you know what – she isn’t so bad really.

A railway book with added value

August 27, 2016

I’m not actually much interested in the cash value of items but even so, when I was reading through a Railway Magazine from February 1999 I kind of sat up and took notice when I read that spotters books can ‘fetch extraordinarily high prices at collectors’ auctions – up to £150 for any unmarked good condition Combined Volume published between 1948 and 1957’.

A little later it continues, ‘the scarcest and most valuable of all ABCs is the 1956 Combined Volume depicting a Crosti boilered 9F on the cover’.

Hang on, I thought. I have a copy of that book. I certainly didn’t have it as a train spotter for it is too early for that. I think I bought it for no more than 50p at a sale at some point in the last 20 or so years. Anyway, here it is.


Well, we can see straight away that it is not in top notch condition – but amazingly it is unmarked. There is page after page of pristine numbers.


Would you pay anything like £150 for that? No, nor would I. But of course, virtually all types of loco used on the railways are photographically illustrated – a lot of photos so here’s my favourite Terrier class loco.


Fascinating to know that it could have value. A quick check on Ebay shows one of these books – better condition than mine – with an asking price of £245.

Mine is not for sale.

A U boat

August 26, 2016

On a recent trip to Swanage we parked at Norden and took the steam train down to the seaside town. Our loco was a kind sometimes known as a U Boat. That’s because officially they were class U. She has a 2-6-0 wheel arrangement and locos with that pattern of wheels are all called Moguls.

She faced Norden which makes it hard to get a photo of her at the head of the train at Swanage but we were at Norden in time to see her arrive and get that shot.


This is quite a rare ex Southern Railway engine for me. I never saw her in my train spotting days which were 55 years ago, or more. But I saw and was hauled by her class mates which, of course, look just the same. These were workhorse rather than star engines. They were well suited to rural passenger trains.

But originally this engine had looked quite different and had really been designed for fast main line trains. She was then a big tank engine, carrying her water in tanks next to the boiler. When one of her classmates derailed with dreadful consequences it was suggested that the water in those tanks might have made her unstable. Anyway, the entire class of twenty engines was rebuilt as tender engines as we see her today.

This engine was built in August 1926 so when we travelled in August 2016 she was 90 years old. She was rebuilt into present form in 1928 and served the Southern Railway and then British Railways until January 1964. She became one of the locos that languished, but survived, at Dai Woodham’s yard on Barry Island. She was purchased for preservation in 1976 and entered service on the Mid Hants Railway in 1981.

She moved to Swanage in 2014. And here she is running around her train at Norden at the end of our return journey.


The Permanent Way gang on Rannoch Moor

August 21, 2016

Having left Maid of the Loch at Tarbet (yesterday’s post) back in August 1970, we stayed in a beautiful youth hostel on the banks of Loch Long and the following morning caught the train to Fort William from Arrochar and Tarbet station.

This was to be one of the best railway journeys ever. It was after the steam era and our train was diesel hauled. For the nerds we had an English Electric type one (class 20) in charge of the train. It was underpowered and went slowly affording time to see the surrounding bleak, wild and wonderful scenery.

I looked forward to crossing the remote wilderness of Rannoch Moor. The tales of railway prospectors trying to pick a route almost beggar belief. Elderly men dressed in Sunday best set out to walk across the moor. The weather closed in and they got lost and separated. One of them banged his head on a rock and became unconscious. The brolly one of them carried proved no use at all in the wild weather. Almost amazingly, all survived and the line was built over the moor – still as remote a spot as you could wish for.

But railways need maintaining and during our journey across Rannoch Moor, a permanent way gang were at work. I could, of course, lean out of the window in those days to take a photo of them. The train was travelling at little more than walking pace.


The men have stepped aside to allow the train to pass. It’s interesting to note the lack of hi-vis jackets. In terms of settlement or habitation, there is nothing.

Life has not taken me back to Rannoch since that day, but on a recent visit to Scotland we looked at Arrochar and Tarbet station, for old time’s sake.


It would not have had any Gaelic back in 1970.

Thornbury Railway opens

August 13, 2016

Recently I was browsing at some older Railway Magazines I had and in the December 1957 edition I came across this item.


First of all then, let me give credit to Colin H Maggs for the photo and for the extract about the opening of the line, below.

The railway, 7½ miles long, was opened on Monday, September 2, 1872, after the works had been at a standstill for twelve months, as the Midland Railway had the costly London extension under construction and its directors were undecided whether to proceed or not. On the opening day shops were closed in Thornbury, the town decorated and in the evening the inhabitants were entertained with fireworks and illuminations.

The Mayor of Thornbury left Bristol by the first train, and, with a hundred other guests or passengers, was welcomed to his town by a brass band. Fifty people booked from Thornbury on the first train to Bristol. In the afternoon 600 children and teachers travelled by a special train of 18 coaches to Yate and back for 4d. each, and also were entertained to tea.

Now I never knew the railway at Thornbury but I know the place for my wife’s great grandmother was born there in 1857. She died, aged just over 100 years later a couple of months before this article was published. My wife knew her great granny who had long since moved to Cornwall.

But would she, I wondered, have been at the opening of this railway line? I decided probably not for she was already 15 when the Thornbury branch opened and in service in Bristol.

But her younger sister, Edith, born 1864 may well have been one of those 600 children enjoying the trip to Yate.

We know a little of Edith who was living with her mother, recently re-married, in 1871 in Thornbury. By 1881 Edith was in service at Westbury on Trym in Gloucestershire and by 1891 she was in service in Bristol. In 1892 she married Maurice O’Brien who was a bookbinder originally from Yeovil in Somerset. They seem to have set up home in Edmonton in Middlesex. We know the names of 6 children born between 1894 and 1906.

Maurice died in 1929 in Edmonton. Edith died in 1947, still in Edmonton.

Cigs and Veps at Crawley

August 3, 2016

1998 was not, for me, a good time on the railways of Britain but I still took the odd photo. Here we see my old home town of Crawley in Sussex and just arriving at the station is a former 4-Cig in the hideous livery that Connex used back then.


Back in the 1960s the Cigs had replaced my much loved 6-Puls and 6-Pans. They had been built in the 1930s. By 1998 these Cigs were life expired and got castigated as ‘slam doors’. They were, and perhaps rightly, not deemed suitable for the 21st century.

My luck was in as two trains passed at Crawley.image004

On the left we see the back of the Cig train. These had been built to be mainline express trains and had the benefit of big picture windows. On the right a stopping train made up of a 4-Vep is arriving. These were pretty hideous items from day one – which was after the Cigs were built. These had a door to every seating bay to get people on and off quickly and the seats were narrow. Whereas the Cig had two seats each side of the central corridor the Veps had two seats on one side and three on the other. They were built to replace the old stopping electric units of various kinds. Their one virtue was that they were gangwayed throughout the train so you could get on and then find a seat.

These photos were amongst my earliest digital pictures. I was in possession of a very basic digital camera in 1998.


Gilsland to Greenhead

July 19, 2016

Gilsland and Greenhead are in Northumberland. They are both close by Hadrian’s Wall and about a mile and a half about. I was there on what was a very adventurous family holiday in 1962. Up until then I had never left the south of England and the previous year had seen my first trip outside the home counties.

1962 was at the peak time of my railway mania and I needed to prove I had been places by buying tickets. Often it was a platform ticket but smaller stations often didn’t issue them so I got a cheap ticket – like this one from Gilsland to Greenhead.


Now I find that ticket interesting now for all sorts of reasons. First of all it is a 3rd class ticket and that class had ceased to exist on 3rd June 1956 so although the ticket was issued in 1962, it had been printed long before. But it was printed only from 1948 when British Railways came into being. The price had been hand altered as well from 5½d to 6d which is 2½p in present money.

But also making it interesting is that, presumably, 625 people had bought such a ticket before me. One wonders why that number of people wanted to make that single journey. Maybe they were people visiting forts on Hadrian’s Wall. Gilsland is close by Birdoswald Fort and Greenhead is by Magnis Fort.

Sadly, both stations were closed in 1967 although the line, between Newcastle and Carlisle still exists. There is a campaign to reopen Gilsland station