Posts Tagged ‘train’


November 19, 2015

In the past we had travelled on the Settle and Carlisle railway between Ribblehead and Carlisle – it had been two trips. On the most recent holiday in that area we thought we’d complete the journey – and do the most exciting bit for a second time by travelling from Dent – England’s highest station, over the Ribblehead Viaduct and down to Settle. We could take a look at this little town before returning.

We arrived in Settle and watched our train head off to complete its journey to Leeds.

The Friends of the Settle and Carlisle Railway do a fantastic job supporting owners and operators and making sure stations are kept in good order.

But private enterprise does its bit too. Just outside the station there is an old water tank which stored much needed water for steam locos. It has been converted into a home with heritage extras added.



Settle is a pleasant market town and it was market day.


This building houses a rather quirky museum.


As you’d expect, Settle is in glorious surroundings.


Back on the station for our return, we found ‘The Friends’ even provide entertainment by having bird feeders.


Niches in the station wall have unexpected characters to amuse children of all ages.


These little extras make the travelling experience so much more delightful.

The Queen of Sheba

September 25, 2014

According to the King James bible (1 Kings Chapter 10) The Queen of Sheba visited Solomon in Jerusalem and that version of the bible uses these words.

And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones: and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart.

Of course the word train meant a retinue or following – which is really what it still means but meanings are often forgotten and for many the word train, conjures up a railway train.

Jokes have often been made about the Queen of Sheba being an early railway user but in one case a name stuck.

I was looking through some teenage photos of mine and came across this one.


It isn’t the best photo you ever saw, but units like this Southern Electric suburban one were known as ‘Queen of Shebas’ because they were deemed to be very great trains.

I now quote from another bible – one of my old train spotting books.

No further new suburban stock appeared until 1942, when a new four-car unit, 4101, was built to Mr. Bulleid’s design, followed later by 4102 to 4110. The bodies are built with steel sides and wooden roofs, and seat six passengers on each compartment seat, whereas all earlier stock only accommodated five.

It was that six a side seating which gave them the name great. They had a huge carrying capacity. Whereas similar, older trains had seats for 280 people, a Queen of Sheba could seat 456 – a massive load, by comparison.

I travelled only very rarely on a Queen of Sheba and I have to say they were profoundly uncomfortable. The 12 people in each compartment had to lock knees with the person opposite. The seats were very upright and narrow and it was all very cramped.

But they were designed to cope with the huge rush hour crowds in London – and actually, they proved to be a bit of a nuisance and designs soon changed. The problem was station time. With all those dozens of single compartments, potential passengers walked up and down the platform seeking a seat or a suitable compartment. Trains ran late because they spent too long at stations. Future builds took out the compartments and each coach became an open saloon with a central gangway. This meant passengers had less seats, but they could get on and then find a seat, or stand in the gangway. That enabled trains to keep to time.

But the Queens of Sheba served their time, running for about thirty years,

Here’s a better picture from the same train spotting book – and to my mind the old Queen looked far better in the plain green livery.


And here’s the front of this – the first train spotting book I ever had – and an old one even then.


It’s battered, but much loved.

A train from on high

May 6, 2014

Today’s train is really quite a venerable piece. It isn’t a steamer nor even what used to get called a ‘heritage diesel’ or ‘classic traction’. No, it is what currently runs most services between London and the West of England via Taunton. It is an example of the once ubiquitous High Speed Train or HST for short. And they have been running the service on this line for well over thirty years now. Indeed the prototypes of this train were built in 1972 – more than forty years ago. They certainly aren’t new!

But on this occasion it is the viewpoint that I like – almost looking down on the train from high above it.


There’s the train, heading off to the west and shortly it will be in the town of Westbury in Wiltshire.

My vantage point for the photo was on Bratton Camp, an ancient hill-top fort with a very steep slope on the hill. This slope is decorated by the Westbury White Horse, so this view might almost be seen as the opposite of the Eric Ravilious picture featured in March on my Ravilious calendar (click here).

That photo was zoomed in when taken, but I took a second zoomed out to show more of the scene.


The train is little more than a purple line on this photo with the front end about to pass the Westbury Cement Works which is now disused. The train provides some scale (for me) when pondering on the height of the chimney. It is about five and a half carriage lengths high which means 400 feet in English units or 120 metres or so in metric.

The hill above the white horse is just a few metres higher.

Since the cement works closed there has been some debate over the future of the chimney – is in an eyesore or an iconic landmark. Personally, I go for the iconic status and do you know what? I think Eric Ravilious would have done as well.

The Ratty

February 11, 2014

It really is quite some time since I have written anything really about a railway. Indeed, it is quite a time since I have done anything railway or really taken in any trains. But today I shall remember a railway visit back in 1972.

Now the world was different back in 1972. I was a teacher, working full time and my annual – yes, for a whole year – salary was less than one thousand pounds. My wife was a student although by the summer she, too, was a qualified teacher but hadn’t started work. We had bought a house and had a mortgage. We ran a car. We had virtually no spare money for fripperies, but we did manage camping holidays. We went to The Lake District. I recall that we looked at the outside of places. We couldn’t afford to go in. We walked when the weather permitted but of course ‘The Lakes’ is not the driest part of England. We enjoyed lakes, mountains and beaches when we could.

And I enjoyed ‘The Ratty’.

The Ratty is the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway. Of course, we couldn’t afford to actually ride on it, but railways do provide action pretty cheaply. We could certainly see it. The original line opened in 1875 and it was built to a three feet gauge. Its purpose was to carry iron ore from quarries up the valley of the River Esk to the main railway at Ravenglass. It closed in 1913. But in 1915 Bassett Lowke, a name renowned in the model railway field, re-opened it on a fifteen inch gauge. Although pretty well down to toy size, the Ratty even continued to carry freight as well as passengers. After World War II the line was bought by the Keswick Granite Company but the quarry it served closed in 1953 and the line became a ‘heritage’ line in 1960.


And here is a train at Eskdale Green in 1972. I do believe that’s my car on the left. I bet that parking area has long since been made inaccessible to passing tourists. As we can see, the train was popular and the loco clearly has steam to spare.


Another Ratty train. The countryside is, of course, splendid.

It must be quite tough being footplate crew on these little locos.


The driver looks out over the top of the cab.

For the record, poor weather and a shortage of cash made us cut short this holiday. But it is still remembered with some affection.

I Spy – On a Train Journey

December 12, 2013

Now here is a blast from the past which has nothing whatever to do with me. This I Spy book belonged to my wife when she was a little girl although I have to say, it seems to be unused apart from having her name (I think in her dad’s handwriting) on it.


Oddly, for I was, like many kids, an avid I spy person, this was one book I never had. I suspect my dad had sussed it out and reckoned that it was too based on lines we’d never travel. My travelling for the first dozen years of my life was very much confined to Kent, Surrey (including London) and Sussex with one odd trip to Southend in Essex. We were never going to see water troughs, the standard train description lamps nor, I think, post bag catching equipment. So my Dad, I reckon, steered us away from a book that would be disappointing.

He may also have reckoned that he knew enough about railways to point things out to us. I certainly knew about mile posts on the railway.


I suspect I’d only have seen number 40 but from an early age I’d have known what it meant.


I knew, too, about turntables though I suspect the ones I saw were hand operated ones.

Nowadays, I suspect I’d be able to identify any of the items in the book – but many no longer exist.

It’s a nice bit of the past – it carries a 1955 date and steam was still ruling the roost in most parts of the country but the lines I knew best had been electrified in the 1930s.

A Happy Nerd at an Antiques Market

October 12, 2013

We recently passed through the charming little town of Buckingham. It’s a lovely place and well worth a visit and if you arrive, as we did, on a fair weather Saturday, you may find the main street has an antiques market in the middle of it.

Antiques markets are always fun and there are often items I feel I could add to the clutter in our home. One item that really caught my eye here was a wooden box carrying the message, ‘Norfolk Samphire’. I liked it very much, but I am somewhat reasonable and knew that I had no need of it and no use for it. I decided the £24 it might have cost would be better used elsewhere. In any case, I was really looking for a something for a three year old grandson but then something caught my eye, very much for me rather than him. So what does a happy nerd buy? Why, a bundle of old magazines about railways of course.


That’s about half the collection I purchased. These are the 12 magazines entitled Trains Illustrated that cover the year 1960. At that time I was an avid train spotter and in fact I received, each month, a magazine at that time. What I got was the one I regarded as much superior, ‘The Railway Magazine’ which, of course, I still have. My friend Bob often got Trains Illustrated so I did see it sometimes.

Now they’ll make a good read for me, remembering those old days of more than 50 years ago.

I paid roughly 20p each for these magazines which is double the price they were new. They were sold for two shillings originally.

By the way, the trader threw in a brand new toy car for grandson so I reckoned I had a tolerable bargain.

The Isle of Wight Train

June 29, 2013

That’s a couple of loves today – both the Isle of Wight and a train. My photo dates from 1973 which was, frighteningly, now 40 years ago. The Island railways had been ‘rationalised’ in the mid-60s. Only one stub of line remained – the one from Ryde to Shanklin. In the new world of British Rail a new system had to be found for the island. But there was a snag in that clearances for coaches were more limited than elsewhere. The line needed special stock. Well, British Rail was not going to order and get special trains so they came up with a novel solution. Old London tube trains were the answer and the Island Line was electrified to allow them to operate.

The tube trains were old. They dated from the 1920s. I remembered them operating the Piccadilly Line in the early 60s.

The trains were made up into 4 coach sets known as 4 Vec and 3 coach sets known as 3 Tis. Full length, 7 coach trains thus became Vectis – the Roman name for the island.

Enough chat – here’s a photo taken on that old Canon Demi camera.


I never thought British Rail blue with hi-vis yellow ends suited these trains. But they trundled along for quite a few years. Actually, they’d have been well timed in the 1950s for they were real rock and roll trains. In case that confuses, I refer to the way they travelled.

I believe they have been replaced at least twice. One time I travelled the line – in the 1980s and there were some 1938 underground trains coming in to service.

The last I remember were 1960s trains but they may well have been replaced by now.

At least the line is alive and well and has even had new stations added along its length. What a pity the line no longer goes to Ventnor though. And it’s such a shame trains no longer reach Newport or Cowes.

A Guard’s Lamp

June 10, 2013

My Grandad was a train guard on the railway. As such, he’d have started work as a carriage cleaner for the South Eastern and Chatham Railway, presumably after he returned from being a German prisoner of war at the end of World War I.  In 1923 the government merged companies so Grandad then worked for the Southern Railway. In 1948 the railways were nationalised so Grandad then was a guard for British Railways. Guards were in charge of the train. The driver was in charge of the locomotive. On goods trains – which Grandad loved, he was part of the driving team for only the loco and the guards van had brakes. It was a more skilled job than many might imagine. A goods guard had to know his lines and where they were up or downhill. Without judicious use of the guard’s brake it was all too easy for couplings to break and trucks to run away.

Guards had red and green flags for signalling to drivers. But they couldn’t be seen at night so he also had a paraffin lamp. Many, many years ago I purchased a guards lamp. It must have a one in many thousand chance of actually having been grandad’s. It certainly makes me think of him.

Here’s my lamp.


My lamp is a modern one for it dates from the British Railways era.


It has B. R. embossed on the side.

The lamp offered a guard three different colours. He could have white light which may have helped with him being able to do his paper work at night, but the lamp could also show red or green. Turning the top handle put a different colour window in front of the flame.

Here’s the inner sleeve showing two of the three windows.


The burner, inside the lamp lifts out for refuelling.


Everything on railways carried a mark. The burner has BR/SR pressed into the brasswork.


That indicates British Railways, Southern Region which was where Grandad worked.

I don’t think we can blame the railway for the writing on the porcelain wick surround. That’s a manufacturer’s trade mark.


What an efficient and useful item – so well designed for its purpose. I love it.

The Looe Line

May 28, 2013

Looe is a small fishing harbour and town on the south coast of East Cornwall. It’s a pretty place with the Looe River running through it. Like many a Cornish seaside place, parking can be a problem, but Looe has an advantage. It has a branch railway still running. And a fascinating line it is too.

It starts at Liskeard which is also on the main railway from London to Penzance.


There’s a lovely GWR signal box and the signal man when we were there was very chatty. There is even a super lower quadrant signal.

Now oddly, for Looe is south of Liskeard, the line starts at a terminus platform and the way out is northeast.



There’s the single carriage train arriving from Looe.

We boarded the train for it was going back to Looe. This is a remarkable bit of railway. Within a couple of miles we have gone hugely downhill, passing under the main line which strides across us on a lofty viaduct. To do this we have changed direction on a tight curve. We left Liskeard heading northeast but we are travelling southwest when we go under the viaduct.  We continue to work down and around. By the time we stop at the little station at Coombe we are heading almost due north. We have travelled over two miles but are only about half a mile from Liskeard station.

Near Coombe we have joined a much older railway – one originally built to carry mineral traffic from the Cornish hills to the harbour at Looe. That happened at Coombe Junction.


But we, at Coombe station, are heading away from Looe which is down the right hand railway, whilst the line to Liskeard veers off to the left. Our driver must go to the cab at the other end of the train for the rest of the journey.

And there, in the distance, is unlikely Coombe Station. It is nowhere in particular, really.


We now really begin our journey to Looe, travelling down the East Looe River – a pretty journey.

Looe is a great place for egrets – the incomer birds that seem to have now colonised our country.


For our return, later in the day we took a riverside seat in the train. Trains, these days, are air conditioned. You can’t open windows so photography is harder. But here’s a typical view of the river.


And so, back to Liskeard, with the same performance at Coombe, but in reverse, of course.


It must be lucky that this odd little line survived. It is good to see that there are some steam specials on the line as well as the simple little diesel railcar. It’s a lovely trip whatever the train – a journey of less than 9 miles in total. We made the journey on September 27th 2012.

Sir Nigel pays a visit.

April 26, 2013

Yes, it is time for another steam train here. This is one of the steam specials which come through on my most local railway line every now and again. In fact this one was back on 3rd July 2008.

Sir Nigel Gresley was a very famous locomotive engineer. Before 1923 he designed engines for the Great Northern Railway but when the government decided that the dozens of companies should be merged into four, Nigel got the job designing the stock for the whole London and North Eastern Railway which served all of Eastern England and up into Scotland as well.

Amongst Sir Nigel’s very famous engines there is Flying Scotsman. This name was also used for a train running between London and Edinburgh but that loco still exists and has done main line tours locally.

Another one of Sir Nigel’s engines is Mallard. I always think of this as a strange name. Mallards are lovely waddly ducks. Mallard is the fastest steam engine ever. Ducks and engine seem poles apart. Mallard was one of a class of engines known as A4 pacifics. We train spotters often called them streaks. The streaks were Gresley’s streamlined engines for pulling prestige expresses. At some point one of them was named after him and it is this one that visited my local area.

Actually, I must have sneaked out of work for a short while, for this was taken at Pewsey.


There are things that pretty well give away that this is a heritage train rather than an old picture. The track is continuous welded rail laid on concrete sleepers for one thing and the engine sports a headlamp for another. But there we have a Mallard look-alike heading west.

Later in the day Sir Nigel returned and this time I was able to snap the loco on my most local embankment.


The engine was just coasting at the time but the fact that the photo was taken into the bright evening sky would have masked any steam.

Now a confession. These well-known locos are not by any means favourites of mine!