Posts Tagged ‘Railway’

North Yorkshire Moors Railway

July 15, 2016

Today we are going back a few years – I think it was about 1974 and a family group shared a holiday in the North Yorks Moors. Inevitably, with me as part of the group we had to make use of the railway that crosses the moors which had become a heritage line. Back then the bulk of the line was operated by a diesel train of the type still totally common on the ‘real’ main lines. It was just the length form Grosmont to Goathland that was steam operated.

I was not always good with photos and captions but I have a black and white shot of a steam loco.


The loco is number 5428. This was a general purpose engine built for the London Midland and Scottish Railway. Altogether 842 of these engines were built between 1934 and 1951. The common nature of these engines earned them the nickname of black fives – solid, reliable and unglamorous. The 55A on the front is the code for her home. Of course it was a historic address by this time – Leeds, Holbeck.

This particular engine was built in 1937 and now carries the name of a railway photographer – Eric Treacy. (S)he is still in service on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

But my photo has a little family bonus for on the other platform there are family members.


That’s my wife in the big sun hat and my sister in law looking utterly fed up with being at a railway and then the hirsute man is my brother in law. Mother in law was on this holiday as well. Perhaps she was with me, taking photos.


May 18, 2016

I have never been to Northern Ireland. The six counties which are somewhat wrongly referred to as Ulster were subjected to troubles from 1968. One always suspected that the troubles were restricted in terms of where they happened, but the publicity was bad and like many another person from the east side of the Irish Sea, I kept away. It didn’t stop us from visiting Eire – the republic comprising the bulk of the island including counties that made up historic Ulster. But the six counties that have remained a part of the United Kingdom have still to be visited by me. That’s my loss, of course.

Back in the 1950s Bangor, in Northern Ireland was seen as a holiday destination and was advertised on the railways.


As ever, a railway poster, depicted here on a 2016 calendar, has made the place look very attractive and worthy of a visit which I am sure it is. This poster first saw the light of day in 1955 and was the work of A J Wilson.

Back in the mid 50s only about one household in every five actually had a car so holidays by train were still very much the norm. It must have been exciting to make a sea crossing and still be on British soil able to speak the same language and use the same currency. It would also have been quite expensive so only the more well to do folks would do it.

For me, a holiday in 1955 was camping in a farmer’s field in really quite primitive (but memorably wonderful) conditions little more than 20 miles from home in Sussex.


We were definitely a carless household. Dad hired a lorry and driver to take and collect us.

Deal and Walmer

April 29, 2016

I reckon I know Kent quite well. My mum was born in the county and so we often visited her Dad and other relatives in the county. For six years I had children at Uni in Canterbury and that meant frequent visits at the start and end of terms. And then we found that ancestors from longer ago came from other parts of Kent and we visited them. We have friends in Kent and my daughter now lives in the London part of Kent.

But I reckon my only visits to Walmer and Deal would have been passing through them on a train during my train spotting years back in the early 1960s.

Walmer and Deal feature on this month’s railway poster calendar.


As I lived in the south of England I might well have seen this poster adorning station platforms, encouraging folks to visit places for holidays. The poster was produced by Frank Sherwin in 1952. 1952 was the first year from which I have real, definite memories. I don’t remember this poster which probably stayed in use for years. Mind you, until around 1960 places like Deal and Walmer were just way beyond my ken. They might as well have been in outer space for all I knew about them. There seemed no possibility that one would ever visit places as far flung as these. Deal was all of 70 straight line miles from where I lived but honestly, back then this was much the same as another planet. I suspect those 70 miles would have needed four train changes and probably would have taken quite a bit of a day.

Maybe not knowing these places is an omission I should put right one day.

An M7 tank again

October 2, 2015

The old M7 tanks were designed at the end of the 19th century. They were steam locos and built for hauling passenger trains in south west London. They were an immediate success and 110 locos of the type were built between the first in 1897 and 1911. But they became utterly redundant from that job as lines were electrified and they migrated to other areas to haul local passenger trains on branch lines. They survived a very long time. The last M7 loco was withdrawn from service in 1965.

Two of the class have been preserved. One of them is based on the Swanage Railway and is still in regular service. When built, in 1905, she was number 53 of the London and South Western Railway. But much to my delight she is running in the form and colour I knew in the early 1960s – so she is number 30053 of British Railways.

image002 Here she is shunting down onto the train at Swanage. Tank engines were designed to run either way round equally well, but they still look better with the boiler leading. Once attached to the train we see her bunker first.


Like any working steam loco she has a fierce fire burning under the boiler.


Here’s the front end again.


Here we see the loco number and another little plate which says 71B. That little plate was called the shed plate and the 71B was code for a depot where the loco was based. In this case it means Bournemouth which is where locos on the Swanage branch would have been looked after.

Now to be a true train spotter for a while.

This was one of my spotter’s books from 1962


We can see I had deemed it important enough to fork out half a crown on this publication – and here’s a bit of one page in the book.


First of all 30053 is underlined which meant I had seen it. And the shed it was allocated to was 75E.

Time to look at another page in the book.


This shows us the codes for sheds and names them. 75E was Three Bridges which was my most local shed. It is also underlined which means I had visited that shed. 30053 was one of my home engines when I was a spotter. I have a feeling it was usually at the sub shed at Horsham and worked trains between Horsham and Guildford.

I feel privileged that I can still enjoy seeing this old friend hauling trains.


The Fairbourne Railway

September 11, 2015

Mid to North Wales is almost crowded out with steam railways of the narrow gauge variety. One that might be easy to miss is the miniature line at Fairbourne.

Fairbourne has a mainline station on the Cambrian Coast Line. In a bid to develop tourism the potential resort of Fairbourne was built, reaching away from the main railway and down to the sea front. A tramway was built to help build the village and that became the Fairbourne Railway. Originally it was built to a two foot gauge but has been progressively narrowed and now the two rails are just 12½ inches apart.

It makes a pretty sight as the little train trundles between Fairbourne and a point on the Mawddach estuary a couple or so kilometres away. Small ferries can link with the train to take passengers across the estuary to Barmouth.

We chanced upon a train when we visited in August 2015.


There’s the train, with Barmouth in the background, as she makes her way from the ferry station towards Fairbourne.

The little loco, Sherpa, hauls its load past us.


She leads her train onwards,  towards Fairbourne.


Meanwhile, back at Fairbourne, the loco Yeo was being readied for the next journey.


Sunlight Year Book

May 8, 2015

If you are like me, any time you come across the words Sunlight Soap you’ll begin to hum or sing alternative words to a well-known Christmas Carol – While shepherds watched.

While shepherds washed their socks by night
All seated round the tub.
A bar of sunlight soap came down
And they began to scrub.

But never mind that. Let’s look at my Sunlight Year Book for 1898.


Yes, it has suffered some damage. I wonder if somebody found it a handy place to put down a hot saucepan.

Inside you’ll find everything you might want to know. This includes a full list of all the members of parliament and all sorts of other things. I’ve picked on some of the line drawings to give a feel.

For those folks of 1898 keen on keeping cattle there was advice and numerous drawings of different breeds.


Keeping on an agricultural theme you could discover what crops were grown in Britain.


You could learn about the latest fashions.


Or how to read a gas meter.


Your maids could discover how to do the washing.


How splendid! There is even some information about railways.


Just for the record, regular trains from Newport to Paddington take about 1 hour 57 minutes these days. That’s an average 0f 73.5 miles per hour. Kings Cross to Newark is more impressive at 1 hour and 13 minutes these days or about 98 MPH!

Now I think that book is lovely. I hope you do too.

Hythe Pier Railway

March 30, 2015

Hythe tramway

A couple of days ago I wrote about the Rye and Camber tramway and my dad’s visit to it and commented that it was still possible to be hauled by a loco a bit like the one that hauled him.

Actually, I was way off in my thoughts, for his loco, back in 1930, had been petrol engine whereas the one I was thinking of  is actually electric. It runs along Hythe pier which extends out into Southampton Water from the village of Hythe.


There’s the pier and railway and here’s the loco.


It’s actually quite a small neat little thing and clearly has a substantial train which it will soon propel back to the pier head where it connects with the ferry for Southampton.


The pier railway has been running since 1922.

Piers need repair and this service out to the pier head was carrying some timber to keep the pier in good order. This was on a small truck attached to the train by a long metal pole.


And here it goes (click here to see the train move off).

Photos and video date from October 2012.

Morfa Mawddach

November 17, 2014

Morfa Mawddach is a railway station in west Wales.


Let’s try to get the pronunciation first. Morfa is pronounced ‘more var’ Mawddach starts off as mou as in mouse. Then has a th sound as in ‘the’ and ends ack.

English speakers can find Welsh hard! But being able to pronounce it properly matters. The station is a request stop. If you are on a train and wish to alight at this station you have to ask the guard. I remember our first attempt when we asked the guard if he’d make sure the train stopped for us at ‘More fur more datch’. He claimed not to know the place. I suspect he was teasing us but taught us how to say it.

We took our children camping close by this station three times in the 1980s. Back then it still had something of the former grandeur of an important junction station. Once upon a time it had been known as Barmouth Junction and looked like this.


By 2006 when we revisited it was a single, rather windswept and desolate platform.


Scenically this is a marvellous place. It is just south of the Mawddach estuary and Barmouth lies across the other side. A long bridge enables trains to cross and it has a footpath alongside it.


In 2006 we walked across.


The estuary is fantastic and the southern side is dominated by the brooding hulk of Cader Idris.


The bridge itself is a wonderful bit of engineering.


That looks towards Barmouth.

And this shows the view to Morfa Mawddach.


There’s a view out to sea as well.


It’s a great train journey, of course. There are miles and miles of spectacular scenery from, say Machynlleth in the Dovey valley right through to Pwllheli on the Lleyn peninsula.








A birdcage

September 23, 2014

Now actually, I’m of the opinion that birds should be free. I really can’t approve of them being shut up in cages.

But no worries – for this is not about a cage for birds. Some might say this is sad, but it is about a railway carriage – this one.


This carriage is called a birdcage and was once part of a three carriage set.

What makes this a birdcage is the raised roof over the guard’s van.


This raised section allowed the guard to look over the roof of the train and make sure all was well with all parts of the train he was guarding.

The carriage dates from 1910, but coaches like this, albeit not so handsomely painted, were still around when I was a train-spotter in about 1960. I remember them with some affection. It’s possible my grandfather may have had the odd turn in one of those carriages, although he always preferred to be a guard on  goods trains.

This carriage was built at Ashford for the South Eastern and Chatham Railway.


I have very little doubt that there is a real family connection with this coach. At the time of the 1911 census my relative Norton Ware (he’d have been my grandad’s great uncle) worked in the carriage department at the railway works in Ashford. He was a timber converter and he had the same job in 1901. As far as I know timber conversion meant turning a tree into usable timber – so quite an early job in the production of a wooden bodied railway carriage. But I feel sure that the timber in this carriage must have passed through Norton’s hands.

I regard this carriage as almost a family piece!

Edmonson Tickets

April 18, 2014

My life in tickets

Last year, when we visited the Isle of Wight Steam railway it was a wonderful day and a grand experience. But I did comment on one thing that I regrette3d and that was that the railway issued modern tickets. I commented that it probably made book keeping easier since the computer, somewhere, kept all records. But I fell, that for me, one part of the heritage experience was missed.

At the Bluebell Railway, last month, that little snip of memory was rekindled properly as the Bluebell issue good old fashioned Edmonson tickets.


Yes that looks the part. It’s a proper railway ticket with serial number. A clerk should record the first and last serial number of the day and then compare it with takings in the till. He should be able to tally his results and show he hasn’t been fiddling the books.

When Thomas Edmonson evolved this system, back in the 1840s, it was a huge step forward in the accounting process. Before that, all tickets had been individually written. But we can sympathise with the Isle of Wight Line for it still involves much adding up and checking.

The thing that I remember most about the issuing of these tickets was a double clunk noise as the ticket was pushed both ways into the date stamping machine. That noise is just so evocative of the start of a train journey and what a pleasure it was to hear it at Sheffield Park Station. The date appears on the reverse of the ticket.


This date allows any ticket inspector to see that the ticket is valid for the journey you are making.

The Edmonson ticket had other advantages. The card was robust enough for the clipping process.

A triangular notch was removed from this card as I left the booking hall and went on to the platform. In a sense, this doesn’t matter on the Bluebell, for the ticket, which looks like a standard return from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead, is in fact a day rover. You can travel back and forth as many times as you like. But again, the clipping was a part of the experience. If the ticket had been a ‘real’ return ticket that triangular notch could tell a ticket inspector I had already made the journey and was riding a train fraudulently.

And again, the clipping had a sound – one I associate with railway travel.

It’s good to bring back those memories.

Because we took the absolutely magical brake van ride at Horsted Keynes, we got another ticket. This one is not an Edmonson – it was more like a bus ticket.


The date has not been entered but it was the same date – 23rd March 2014.

Of course, both tickets have been added to my collection. Both help to keep memories alive for me.