Wednesday, 9 August 2017

East Somerset Railway 6.8.2017

It's almost becoming a tradition, my birthday trip to the East Somerset Railway! This year was even better as, purely by chance, the dining train was running. This was a superb experience, great food and atmosphere and excellent service throughout. Highly recommended!!

After the meal I trekked round Cranmore station trying to get photos. I've never found this line that easy to photograph, but the shots are there if you look for them! I also got a bargain in the shop - a secondhand copy of The Longmoor Military Railway (David & Charles) at just £3.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Gartell Railway

John 'C.J.' Penny on duty at Common Lane signalbox. An open day at the GLR will require the 'bobby' to make over 1000 lever movements. Note the Stevens lever frame... Midford lives!

'C.J.' at work turning GLR No.6 'Mr.G' on the turntable at Common Lane ready for a wedding special, whilst John Gartell takes a ride...

Two more recent pics of the Gartell Railway, courtesy of John 'not C J' Penny!

The Gartell railway runs for a short distance on the trackbed of the Somerset and Dorset Railway and is well worth a visit. Their website gives details of the line and opening days.

Originally posted on somerset and dorset
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Radstock rejoined ...

I've no idea why in 2008 this should be needed anywhere, least of all a large urban area like Radstock/Midsomer Norton, but here we go!

We now have little time, perhaps only two weeks in which to save the land required for this link for use as a proper connection to the national network. If you feel strongly about ‘green’ transport or regeneration of the small rural town of Radstock, please go to and sign the petition. Of course, if you have already done so, please accept my thanks and apologies.

I am sure you will understand if I ask you to pass on this message to your friends and colleagues.

Yours sincerely,

George Bailey
North Somerset Railway, North Somerset Heritage Trust

Originally posted on somerset and dorset

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Saturday, 16 June 2007

chance discovery

Sometimes I stumble upon lines that I don't even know exist! Found this one on an evening walk at Clevedon last week. It appears to be 10 1/4" gauge. I thought Clevedon was railless but was wrong!

At one time Clevedon had four stations, one on the short GWR branch from Yatton (how on earth did that ever close?) and three on the Weston, Clevedon and Portishead Railway. Maybe one day they will all be open again? The branch to Yatton has to be an early candidate for reopening post Peak Oil as it is short and the junction station is still open. Through trains to Bristol by 2020 perhaps?

There is now an active group seeking to preserve the memory and some features of the WC&P. How long before they look at restoring part of the line? It's in a busy tourist area becoming busier each year and the engineering works needed to reinstate it are practically non-existent.
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Friday, 8 June 2007

talyllyn in the snow

This is great - the Talyllyn Railway attempting to do a bit of snow clearance, which looks like great fun!

cute corris

One of the less well known Welsh NG lines is the Corris Railway, now making great strides in restoring this lovely line. The video below gives some idea of what's going on down in the Corris valley.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

aln valley approaches starting gate ...

The Aln Valley Railway ran from Alnmouth to Alnwick in Northumberland and was closed in 1966. It has long been the subject of a preservation scheme with elements of tourist and 'real' traffic in its plans.

A recent study costing £30,000 has found that operating costs would be covered by just 10,000 passengers a year, easily achievable in an area where there are few other heritage railways but many tourists!

Veering onto Rail Revival territory, the scheme includes an ultra-light rail link into the heart of the town from Alnwick station.

Rolling stock already owned by the society includes 2 locos and 2 coaches. All being well tracklaying should commence in about 6 months time.

the southwold militant tendency

Okay, I know it's not a scene from the Southwold above, but in a few years it will be - albeit on 3 foot gauge!

Our sister site has had a visit from a lovely Southwold troll. In response to my original post - '

The Southwold Railway are having a few problems from the locals. They don't want Southwold turned into 'Toy Town'.

They obviously have a 70s idea of preservationists - as knuckle dragging Asperger's Displaying NHS-wearing train buffs. And a 70s idea of what the Southwold Railway will be - a plaything for the socially inept and wealthy.

Perhaps the Southwold Railway need to be proactive and explain that all communities will need railways in the future as Peak Oil hits. That what they are planning is first and foremost a transport link that will keep them attached to the wider world once their cars splutter to a stop. That a railway will be able to carry freight in and out, that unless they stake their claim now and start building their line before the rush they'll be left behind as the skills of railway workers and builders become a fought over commodity.

Fortunately at Midsomer Norton we seem to be bereft of the Learning Difficulties Community, and that we are welcomed with open arms. We have the advantage of having many members in the community who remember the line running up to 1966. The Southwold of course closed in 1929, few locals there will remember it.

The Southwold Railway WILL be rebuilt, it's just such a shame that a few locals can't understand what's going on ...

Our troll chum came up with this gem -

The Southwold countryside is for EVERYONE not just some selfish overgrown "enthusiasts" who wish to play trains at everyone else's expense.

Which suggests he/she TOTALLY missed the point of my original post - and which underlines the difficulty of actually reasoning with these people! The whole point of my post is that the new Southwold Railway will be NOTHING to do with 'playing trains' - which we all know would be economic suicide - but with providing a future transport link on the back of a tourist start-up (a la Swanage, Minehead etc etc). Yet all that comes back as 'argument' is a repetition of the same criticisms (now of course anachronistic) of both 70s style 'rail buffs' and others' views of rail enthusiasts that haven't moved on since the 70s. The anorak-tendency!

If this is the opposition then no wonder railways are springing up everywhere. There will always be the occasional (normally retired and adrift from the community) lefty who will try to come up with facetious arguments, but they are always trampled down by logic.

The new Southwold Railway will open sooner rather than later with 'opposition' like this, and the countryside will indeed by enjoyed by EVERYONE (including the immobile young and old, the disabled etc) from the windows of a train carriage.

Southwold should indeed be proud of its railway 'enthusiasts' (overgrown or not) who are looking to the future rather than the past, and will give Southwold modern transport again well in advance of other, more backwards-looking, communities.

And isn't it great that post Peak-Oil transport planning is already firing off such intriguing dialogues? Railways certainly are riding the crest of a wave of popularity - and that's before the average fool in the street has even heard of Peak Oil!

So let's hail 'Disgruntled of Southwold', a true dinosaur of the communist era. Perhaps the railway will dedicate a statue of him/her in an ironic gesture once the first trains steam back triumphantly into Southwold!!
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Saturday, 19 May 2007

English narrow gauge renaisscence

Woody Bay, 1980 and 2006.

The English narrow gauge railway is on its way back - and about time!

There were (I think!) five English public narrow gauge lines - the Lynton and Barnstaple, Rye and Camber, Leek and Manifold, Ashover and Southwold. I'm not counting the Ravenglass and Eskdale and Romney, Hythe Dymchurch as they are 15" gauge and still very much with us!

Only one, so far, is physically back, even if only a small part has been restored. And quite rightly it's the magnificent Lynton and Barnstaple, which may well have 8 miles running within ten years. It's a no-brainer restoring the L&B, along with the S&D it was probably England's favourite line.

The Rye and Camber doesn't currently have a preservation group, but remarkably about half a mile of the track survives, and (climate change and sea level rise permitting) it may well see the light of day again.

The Leek and Manifold is currently sleeping, but the physical route survives as a footpath and may also attract preservationist interest sooner rather than later.

There is now an active preservation group dedicated to restoring the Ashover Railway, at least in part.

And the Southwold Railway - despite nostalgist opposition from some misguided old fogeys - is definitely on the way back, with a very active group persuing a business plan which includes tourist and 'real' trains.

And yes, I know there are/were other English NG lines. Volks Railway for example. And the Snailbeach is also being restored. There's also the fantastic Leighton Buzzard Railway, the Sittingbourne and Kemsley and a few others, mainly built on former standard gauge routes. So there's still a lot of interest for English fans of NG railways, something that can only increase as the years pass. It may well be of course that there is a huge expansion in the narrow gauge network as Peak Oil hits, with ultra-light tramways etc springing up everywhere. But perhaps that's a subject better persued in Future Economics and Rail Revival!
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Friday, 11 May 2007

site visit - swanage railway May 2007

The park and ride station at Norden.

Crowds at Swanage - on a wet Wednesday in May!

Soft focus Corfe Castle.

I visited the Swanage branch a few times shortly before it closed in 1972. Then it was a depressing sight with almost empty trains traversing a long siding and reaching a forlorn terminus. It seemed barely believable that a line that passed the tourist honeypot of Corfe Castle and terminated in a classic small seaside resort could do anything but make money, even in the 70s.

The line duly closed, the track was ripped up on most of the route, the platforms at Swanage were demolished and the station site at Corfe was threatened - unbelievably - with a by-pass. For several years the future of the line was in the balance, the preservation society struggled and the by-pass was still a threat on the horizon. To visit the line today both of these previous situations seem incredible - it is a thriving transport link as well as one of the most important tourist facilities in the region.

We arrived at Norden on a wet Wednesday, not even sure trains were running. Not only were they running, but behind steam (albeit a GWR loco!) We had a few minutes in the catering coach, which had a nice range of snacks etc. The journey is quite scenic, especially around Corfe, running through heathland and fields. The train had five coaches which were pretty full throughout. The coaches themselves were a little spartan. The staff were very friendly at all points and seemed to really enjoy what they were doing.

The shop at Swanage was a little bland with nothing standing out as a must-buy. The destination is excellent, with many small shops, a vegetarian restaurant and of course the sea front. You really feel like you've used the train to get somewhere.

There were a lot of junk wagons lining the route but the lineside generally was neat and tidy with no litter. The intermediate stations were pleasant, especially Corfe Castle which had a real Southern Region atmosphere.

Generally a very pleasant and professional set up with much to commend it to both railway enthusiasts and the general public. I'm looking forward to visiting again in a few years with hopefully the extension to Wareham complete and the narrow gauge museum at Norden open and running demonstration trains on a decent length of track.
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Monday, 7 May 2007

abbey light railway

A bit of a rarity - tourist line construction in the 1980s. This is the Abbey Light Railway under construction. This is a narrow gauge line based near Leeds.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

south tynedale railway

Not an easy line to find much on, but this is a 4 minute plus shot of this narrow gauge railway in northern England.

manx delights

The Isle of Man is still a railway enthusiast's dream come true with 2 steam lines and 2 electric lines - and a new 19" gauge mine railway at Laxey. A few youtube offerings to give a taste of this island.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

towards the new steam age ...

It's no big secret that oil is running out, Peak Oil is a phrase on everybody's lips these days. Peak Oil will see the end of road transport, air travel, plastics and a whole lot more. It will also be the death-knell for both network and heritage diesel trains. But a less-familiar term also being bandied about is Peak Coal. As oil runs out and a desperate world switches to coal for its energy then coal production will also soon peak. This is going to create a very tight squeeze on coal for heritage railways.

However, steam can be generated by other means - not the mad scheme by the Ffestiniog a few years ago to use oil-burning (now of course reversed) - but by burning wood and perhaps even other biofuels. Already a few new-build and prospective lines in the UK are looking at wood-burning, it's also been discussed (informally) at the Somerset and Dorset.

There's no reason why wood-burning wouldn't work. Technically it requires more cleaning of the insides, but this is a good thing! Steam in the UK has always used coal because it used to be a cheap and readily available home-produced fuel. Peak Coal will see the end of this. Other countries with large forests used wood-burners in the past - Russia, Canada, USA and Finland for example.

The future is steam, if we survive the rigours of the end of fossil fuels of course. Even a nuclear power station is a huge steam engine - uranium is processed to produce heat to boil water to drive turbines. The railways everywhere will have to look to electrification (using renewables) or steam for lightly-used routes, steam burning wood. The forests will help stabilise the climate and will provide a cheap, local, carbon-neutral (with replanting) and renewable energy source for the new generation of steam trains. Railways will be far more heavily used with no competition from the dying road network. The rail network will expand enormously.

What this means for heritage railways is unclear. Heritage railways in the future will need to provide real transport in addition to their tourist role in a more difficult world, steam won't have the same novelty value when it's everywhere, but I'm sure the heritage railway community is already taking these changes on board and will adapt very well to the new conditions.

Expect many diesel locomotives to appear at bargain prices in the market over the next few decades!

For wise words see here!

Monday, 23 April 2007

Leighton Buzzard Railway - site visit August 2006

A few shots from the Leighton Buzzard Railway taken in August 2006.

This is a retrospective site visit so if I get something wrong blame my memory!

This was fairly easy to find and the station at Pages Park had a nice Colonel Stephens' atmosphere and surprisingly good facilities. The catering area is large with a good range of food reasonably priced.

The trip is unusual, starting alongside the very pleasant Pages Park, then going through the backs of houses and factories over a few ungated crossings before the scenery opens out a little amongst modern housing before the line swings in a large curve and then runs alongside a road (though separated from it by a low hedge). The destination station at Stonehenge is small but well-appointed with a nice shop and interesting free industrial railway museum.

The locos and carriage stock are interesting and the trains seem well-patronised. All in all a delightful and unique little line that deserves to be seen!
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Thursday, 19 April 2007

S&D Petition

As always the Somerset and Dorset Railway down at Midsomer Norton is innovative - the current buzz is around the petition lodged with Number 10 to release funds to reopen the line as a vital transport link. Signatures after just three days are already 77. Just 250 and the government have to reply!

Wording is - The Somerset and Dorset Railway was, and will be again after Peak Oil, a vital sustainable transport link across Wessex. The government should release funds and simplify the planning and construction process to allow local people to build, own and operate the line in preparation for when our oil runs out.

To sign up please click here - and tell all your friends!
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Friday, 13 April 2007

Clutton - at first base ...

This is the remains of the station at Clutton, currently the subject of a preservation scheme. The platforms have been infilled, and the buildings are long gone.

Visible restoration work so far seems to extend to putting in a few fence panels.

Off-site in an adjacent yard we spotted this intiguing sight!

Closer inspection revealed a (narrow gauge?) diesel and

a mark one carriage.

site visit - avon valley railway, 13/04/07

One of the regular features I want to have on this site is visits to lines around the country to assess just how well they are doing in a number of fields - enthusiast interest, atmosphere, visitor facilities etc. For good or ill the Avon Valley was chosen to be the first, mainly because it's just down the road ...

Or is it? Travelling from Bristol there are no road signs pointing it out, and I was practically in Bath before I figured out how to get there. A twenty minute journey took almost an hour! There were no brown signs at all, especially at the important point where we should have headed into Keynsham rather than continuing on the A4.

First signs were good - a very large car park (though almost full even on a diesel-only Friday in April) and a neat and friendly-looking station. The ticket office staff were very pleasant and buying tickets was easy. They offer a disabled and carer discount.

Our next port of call on site was the catering area. It was fairly busy, and only took a few minutes to deliver a portion of chips. There were plenty of drinks and ice creams, but crisps were a problem - there was an empty box of salt and vinegar and otherwise just a box of plain. This isn't really very good as kids hate salt and vinegar and plain! This whole area is due for refurbishment this year, and the plans look like this will become a really classy area in future. Cost will be £250,000!

The quality of the food was very good, especially the (very reasonable) sandwiches.

Another area to be upgraded this year will be the dining area - currently this is all outside, but a covered dining area is part of the redevelopment plan. There were plenty of bins (including recycling bins) but the tables were a bit plain and tired.

Much trade at Bitton is from cyclists who use the excellent cycleway which runs alongside. There were bikes everywhere, and this is one of the principal areas of activity in which the AVR excels - catering for non-travellers.

The whole route is paralleled by the cycleway, which extends from Bristol to Bath. This does detract somewhat from the atmosphere of the railway, but you can always sit the other side! Views are better on the eastern section, despite there being a lot of trees alongside. On the western section to Oldland much of the line is in rock cutting and approaching Oldland there are some very boring modern houses alongside the line. The lineside is also quite tatty with lots of litter and rubbish alongside. It could do with a tidy up! All in all the scenery is rather bland, although the under and over bridges give some interest to the line. The best section is the last bit to Riverside.

The station at Oldland is just a platform. Today was diesel day and the Pullman liveried class 73 looked quite smart.

Avon Riverside is a very new construction so still looks quite stark. The path down to the riverside looked very inviting.

Back at Bitton there is plenty of atmosphere and little touches making it a very pleasant place to spend an hour or two. The lack of covered eating space is being addressed. The shop was a bit boring, half Thomas and half bog-standard tourist and enthusiast fare. I like to buy something from every line I visit, but there really wasn't anything here, so I left empty-handed.

All-in-all a very pleasant and friendly line. However there was one thing I found really difficult to understand - visitors were allowed to smoke on the platform despite there being children around, but the thing that really amazed me was that one of the smokers was a VOLUNTEER! My own line is a totally smoke-free area so I did find this aspect a little disturbing. No doubt it will be addressed soon!