Railways Blog

A blog about trains, covering photography, railway history, transport politics and modelling, in no particular order.

Porthmadog Again

Ffestiniog Railway's double-Fairlie A few more photos from norh Wales, starting with 1979-built double Fairlie “David Lloyd George” at Blaenau Ffestiniog, having just arrived on the morning train from Porthmadog. It’s still running in grey livery following an overhaul. Despite being one of the “new” locomotives build since preservation, it’s now 35 years old.
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Today’s new word, courtesty of a thread on RMWeb, is “Crayonista”. It’s a derogatory term for those groups or individuals who propose reopenings of railways lines that make absolutely no economic sense, but look pretty when drawn across a map in crayon. The proposal for a north-south railway across central Wales, linking Cardiff to Rhyl via Brecon, Llanidloes and Corwen is an example of the work of Crayonistas.

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Big Kettles


While my model railway interests centre firmly in the diesel era, there is still room for the occasional kettle on the layout. The first one, A1 Pacific “Tornado” actually belongs to the post-privatisation era fleet. The prototype was only built in 2009, used for charter trains all over the country. Though I’m not certain it’s ever visited Cornwall, it was a performer on the Torbay Express at one point, and I think LNER-style apple green goes well with the WR chocolate and cream coaches used on that train.

Dapol 9F 92226

9F 2-10-0 No 92226 belongs firmly to the transition era fleet. Built in Swindon in 1960, it was part of the final batch for the Western Region that also included “Evening Star”, the last steam locomotive built for British Railways. It had an extremely short life, withdrawn after just five years with the end of steam on the WR. In the early 1960s, Plymouth Laira had a small allocation of these locomotives. As far as I can tell they were all used on the main line east of Plymouth and didn’t run into Cornwall, but modeller’s licence applies. They were (or are, since several are preservcd) magnificent locomotives, and that’s enough of an excuse for running one.

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The NMT Comes to York

The Network Rail Measurement Train at York on 29th June 2014

Network Rail’s High Speed Measurement Train pauses at York on June 28th.

This train is a familiar sight for regular train travellers throughout the country. Converted from a High Speed Train a few years back, it records the state of the track, criss-crossing the country, covering each line every couple of months.

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Evocative Railway Remains

Glen Ogle ViaductPhoto from Scotlandincolour.com

There’s an interesting thread on the RMweb forum about evocative railway remains.

Abandoned railways loomed large in family holidays in the sixties and seventies. Back then the Beeching closures were still very recent, and the trackbeds were still easily recognisable. Indeed, the track was still in situ for the section of the Ruabon to Barmouth line running parallel to the A5 between Llangollen and Corwen in the mid-60s when we holidayed in Angelsea. Later years saw the viaduct at Berwyn covered in half-grown trees. Now it’s restored, and trains again cross that viaduct. An even earlier holiday was on a farm adjacent to the Seaton branch in Devon, again with the track still in place. Now narrow-gauge trams pass that location.

I remember taking  a photo on my old Kodak Instamatic in the early 70s of the closed station at Dolgellau further west on the same route, and being told by a local that I shouldm’t photograph it because it was just too sad.

Nowadays, half a century on from the Beeching closures, railway remains fall into two categories.

First, there are the big spectacular structures that have survived long after they ceased to serve their original purpose. I can think of the viaduct high up the side of Glen Ogle on the closed section of the Callendar and Oban line in the Scottish highlands, along which I have walked during a holiday.  Another is the impressive structure that once carried the Dearne Valley Railway  across the Don Valley, which I see regularly from the former Great Central line between Sheffield to Doncaster on journeys between Reading and York. Then there’s the old Didcot, Newbury and Southampton viaduct south of Winchester, visible from the M3 (and before that the A33)

Second, there are those remants that offer tantalising glimpses of what had once been. One such example is the isolated bits of embankment and viaduct around Swansea Victoria. Another is the plate girder bridge than now carries the A4 across the A33 just south of Reading town centre. It’s not the sort of bridge you’d expect t see for a road-over-road bridge; that’s because the A33 uses the trackbed of the Reading South freight branch, closed in the early 1980s.  Yet another is the surviving long-abandoned track and pointwork from a narrow gauge mineral tramway on the footpath between St Blazey and Pontsmill in Cornwall.

What railway remains do you find evovative, and why?

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As reported by diamond geezer, London Undergound’s C69 trains bow out today after 44 years service on the Circle, Hammersmith and City, and the Edgware Road branch of the District Line. Makes me feel old that I can remember the COP stock they replaced.

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The 2014 Derby Show

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A few photos from the Derby model railway exhibition from a couple of weeks ago. The first two are of Netherwood, an O gauge layout based on the final years of the Woodhead elecrification, set in south Yorkshire, with coal traffic predominating.

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The distinctive class 76 electric locomotives unique to that line are the obvious signature item, but I also liked the class 123 DMU, former Western Region trains that spent their final years on the South Trans-Pennine route, and occasionally ran over Woodhead on Sunday diversions. The model is made from cut-and-shut Lima Mk1 coaches.

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Like Netherwood, Barton Road oozes atmosphere, and although not based on any specific location, it has a very definite sense of time and place. It was predicted that the excellent recent N gauge diesel-hydraulic locomotives from Dapol and Farish would inspire a lot of 60s/70s Western Region layouts, and this is one of the first such new layouts I’ve seen.

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Although neither has a steam locomotive in sight, both of these layouts are historical models, capturing a railway scene long since gone. Which is why using the dated term “Modern Image” to describe them is just silly.

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Is this a Bug or an Issue?

SNCF Wide TrainThe French railways seem have have found a serious bug in integration testing. As reported in BBC news, French red faces over trains that are ‘too wide’

The error seems to have happened because the national rail operator RFF gave the wrong dimensions to train company SNCF.

Our correspondent says that they measured platforms built less than 30 years ago, overlooking the fact that many of France’s regional platforms were built more than 50 years ago when trains were a little slimmer.

This is a prime example of a bug which would have been an awful lot cheaper to fix had it been caught at the design phase of the project.

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Ayrshire 380s

First Scotrail class 380 arrives at Ayr with a service from Glasgow

A few photos of the recently-delivered class 380 EMUs running on the South Clyde network. Here’s four-car 380 111 arriving at Ayr. It’s notable that the interiors of this outer suburban stock are more spacious and comfortable that those of Virgin Trains’ Pendolinos.

First Scotrail 380 crossing the river at Ayr.

The fleet is a mix of three and four-car sets, which often form six or seven car trains at peak times. Here three-car 380 018 crosses the river bridge just outside of Ayr station.

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The folding gangways on these units are near-unique, extending outwards when two units are coupled, and certainly present a strange appearance.

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The Return of the Night Riviera


The very first “Night Riviera” to run following the repairs to the breach at the sea wall at Dawlish, with 57605 “Totnes Castle” at the head of the train. It’s the last remaining locomotive-hauled passenger train on the West of England main line.

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