Tuesday, 15 May 2018

British Rail steam in 1978

(All pics 2.6.1978 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

British Rail steam didn't end on 11 August 1968, as some people think. Almost ten years later it was still going strong on just one line, the narrow gauge route from Aberystwyth to Devil's Bridge. It was to continue until 1989, when the line was the first part of BR to be privatised. The line of course continues to this day, still steam worked.

Back in 1978 I was on holiday at a campsite right next to the line. These were some pictures I took on a warm and sunny afternoon in June, capturing BR steam and the tiny halt at Llanbadarn, then of course a fully fledged British Rail station.

In 1978 this was a real railway with paid staff. Like everywhere else on the Network rail blue predominated, and the VoR locos were the only steam locos ever to receive the BR double arrow symbol.

Friday, 27 April 2018

The Wolverton and Stony Stratford Tramway

(All pics sourced via Google)

The Wolverton and Stony Stratford Tramway opened in 1887 and was 2.7 miles (4.3 km) long, with an extension to Deanshanger (2 miles/3.2 km) opened the following year. The company was bankrupt by 1889!

The line was saved by a group of Bedfordshire businessmen and the original section was reopened in 1891. The section to Deanshanger never reopened, making this a very early tramway closure, the tracks remaining in place for many years after.

The line was taken over by the LNWR in the early 1920s, and became part of the LMS in 1923. This rare circumstance of a steam tramway becoming part of one of the Big Four only lasted 3 years, as the tramway closed completely in 1926. For nearly forty years the tramway operated the largest tramcars ever to run through the streets of a British town, particularly impressive as the line ran on 3'6" gauge tracks. The main traffic was rail workers travelling from their homes along the route to the huge railway works at Wolverton, and the trams were busy thanks to this traffic. The line ran through open countryside between the two towns.

On closure the line was the last street tramway worked by steam in Great Britain. 

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Next stop on the S&D - Chilcompton?


Painting by Wynne B Jones website

The S&D is unusual in that there are currently five active sites along the route restoring the line and/or stations, including the narrow gauge Gartell Railway, just south of Templecombe.

There are now stirrings at Chilcompton, the next station after Midsomer Norton on the route south.
At the New S&D we'd always hoped this was a process that would happen, spurred on by successes elsewhere on the route.

It's still early days of course, but the group's first move is to set up a Facebook group. We urge all S&D fans to join it, so the creators can see just how much support there is out there for the S&D.

The best thing about the Chilcompton site is that it is very close to the existing line at Midsomer Norton, on the almost-blockage-free Radstock to Shepton section.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Hong Kong Tramways

Joining the main route from the Happy Valley loop.

North Point route.

North Point.

North Point.

North Point.

(All pics March 2018 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

Back from my first ever trip to Asia, a week in Hong Kong. Going eastwards means you get the jet lag ON the holiday, rather than when you get back, and it took a couple of days to regain normality!

There are of course many attractions in Hong Kong, not all rail based, and we visited Disneyland (tiny compared to Orlando) and made a few other touristy trips.

The tramway was just one block away from our hotel. The tramway runs on Hong Kong Island, across the water from Kowloon. It's 3 feet 6 inch gauge and the entire route survives. There's one long main route, double track throughout, together with a one way single track route via Happy Valley, a one block 'branch' to North Point, really a reversing loop, but through one of the more interesting streets in Hong Kong, and an even smaller reversing loop at Western Market.

The entire route is urban, with high rise buildings on either side. All the trams are double deckers, very British in appearance and atmosphere, and they rumble along old school style! It's not a quick way of getting around, but it's a lot less crowded than the Metro and any journey is just HK$2.3 (23p in March 2018!)

There are only three tram systems in the world that still use double deckers, the other two being Alexandria in Egypt and Blackpool.

The one development I'd like to see is a new route linking the Star Ferries terminal and the bottom station of the Peak Tramway. Hong Kong has invested heavily in a new light rail system in it's north west corner on the mainland, which carries nearly a million people daily, so it's not an impossibility.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Longleat Miniature Railway in 2008

(All 14.8.2008 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

My garden used to back onto the grounds at Longleat when I lived in Wiltshire. Back in 2008 I visited and photographed the miniature railway there.

It was (and still is) a 15 inch gauge line with excellent infrastructure, rolling stock and permanent way. It's about a mile long, with one main station and a route that takes you through the woods, back along the lake and into the main station again.

The line is generally always busy as it is one of the 'free' attractions once you've paid the entry charge.

All in all a lovely example of a line that almost borders on narrow gauge in the Heywood style. It would be great if the line was extended to actually serve a transport need through the estate, as well as offering a pleasant ride!

Monday, 19 February 2018

Lunch in Sweden

(Above pics Malmo 7.1.2018 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

We had a long weekend in Copenhagen at the start of January, and whilst we were there found out we were only 40 minutes from Sweden. So on the Sunday we decided to pop across the water and have lunch in Malmo, as you do!

Until recently this would have involved a ferry crossing, but from 1 July 2000 it's been possible to do the whole trip by rail. This involves crossing the ├śresund Bridge, which links Copenhagen to Malmo. The bridge runs nearly 8 kilometres (5 miles) from the Swedish coast to the artificial island Peberholm in the middle of the strait. The crossing is completed by the 4-kilometre (2.5 mi) Drogden Tunnel from Peberholm to the Danish island of Amager. The bridge is the longest combined road and rail bridge in Europe.

(Pic by By Nick-D - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45290883)

Malmo is a nice compact city and we found somewhere very nice to eat. VERY expensive though, but that's Scandinavia for you!

After the meal we wandered round Malmo in temperatures well below freezing. I knew there was a heritage tramway somewhere in the city but it wouldn't be running and we headed in a different direction anyway. I did stumble across the remains of lines (below). One could have been the old line to the harbour where trains were driven onto the ferry to get to Copenhagen, but I'm not sure. If it was then I did travel on this in the late 80s, when I travelled down from Helsinki back to the UK overland (carrying a bloody great oil painting!)

Recently partly lifted route into the docks.

Street running freight line, almost certainly disused.

Whatever people say about rail enthusiasts, we do end up in some odd places!

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Micklefield 1985


All 18.6.1985 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing

An hour or so at Micklefield in Yorkshire back in 1985 produced a variety of trains, most of which would now be extinct! The station was still fairly original and was orientated east-west so afternoon photos would catch the sun right - except I never saw the sun out there!