Tuesday, 28 December 2010

diesels under the wires

(Photos Leyland, 24.5.1985 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

I'm firmly convinced that diesels will have all but vanished from our railways by 2040. This is because of Peak Oil, which will make the running of these machines totally uneconomic, and is now official government policy. We'll see all railways either electrified or run by a new breed of steam locomotives, using super efficient wood burning as power.

The above four pictures all show diesels running under the wires at Leyland on the West Coast Main Line back in May 1985.

I'd encourage all railway enthusiasts to photograph this transitional form of transport whilst they still can! Once they are gone they really will be gone for good.

Monday, 27 December 2010



(All 4.7.1977 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

This was Uckfield back in 1977. The station has now been resited to the north of the level crossing and this scene has vanished.

The line used to continue to Lewes, double track throughout and a very useful diversionary route when the main London-Brighton route was blocked. The dinosaurs still saw fit to close this route in 1969 but the call for reinstatement has never gone away and is now stronger than ever.

It's inevitable that this line will be reopened in the not too distant future, and hopefully electrified, once again allowing it to take some of the pressure off the main London to Brighton line. So trains will doubtlessly pass this point again!


Rail Thing Routes - Rails of Sussex
Southern Region Scene - 1970s
Rail Thing - British Railway Stations and Buildings
Rail Thing - Vanished Rail Scenes

Sunday, 19 December 2010


(All 23.11.2010, copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

This is the monorail that serves Disney in Orlando, Florida. I didn't really know anything about this system before visiting, and was quite surprised that it was far from being an amusement park ride as expected. It actually serves a vital function, linking the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and some other Disney attractions to each other and to the Transportation Center. Trains run every couple of minutes and were packed. I was very impressed by the PA system on board which told us exactly why we were waiting for a few minutes just before our station (one of the trains was being switched to the Epcot route). All in all quite an experience.

Monorails can work in very dedicated situations like this - there's a similar short system at Orlando International Airport for example, but must cost a good deal more than conventional rail. A high capacity tramway would probably do the same job at a half the price - but you would lose the experience of seeing everything from an elevated position.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

aldershot 1986


(All 22.8.1986 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

Four shots from Aldershot taken on 22.8.1986. I think this is the only time I've ever been to this location, which is rather out on a limb. Nothing special at the time, but stacks of infrastructure, slam door stock and even that grey liveried class 47. Railways are never static and what seems everyday in one decade is often non-existent in the next.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

narrow gauge in the lowther hills

Britain's highest adhesion railway is (at over 1400ft asl) the Leadhills and Wanlockhead Railway, high up in the Lowther Hills south of Glasgow. I lived in Leadhills for five years, it's a magical place steeped in history and usually deep in snow! The line runs in the summer only and will eventually extend to Wanlockhead, Scotland's highest village. The line was originally a standard gauge light railway, linking with the main Carlisle to Glasgow line at Elvanfoot, closing in 1938. As its name implies this area was once the centre of the Scottish lead mining industry. Today it is the main area in Scotland for panning gold. The line operates at weekends in the summer only. No need to ask why!
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Friday, 30 July 2010

bideford - before reopening

A few glimpses of Bideford back in 1985, when the line was, incredibly, being demolished.

25 years on Bideford has been fully restored, but no sign of train services yet. There's also something happening further down the line at Torrington, and north of Bideford at Instow.

This is a real no-brainer of a reinstatement. Bideford is far too large to be train less, and the problem of the station being on the 'wrong' side of the river could surely be solved by running a tram service across the road bridge into the heart of the town, perhaps using tram-trains? And why not extend this tram route on to Westward Ho!? (Could this be the only correct use of an exclamation mark followed by a question mark in English?) The scenery along the whole route is superb and the location of the line alongside the estuary would bring passengers in their thousands in this prime holiday area. Regular year round traffic taking people into Barnstaple and beyond should ensure the line is profitable from day one, and no doubt freight traffic could also be developed.

This is definitely a line merely sleeping ...
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Tuesday, 1 June 2010

freight 78

A nice shot of a class 37 hauled freight heading through Marks Tey in Suffolk. This was (and still is) the junction for the Sudbury branch which survived both truncation, reducing it from a through route to a branch, and cloure proposals in the dead decades of the 60s and 70s, which is now of course flourishing in common with railways throughout the UK. How long before the missing section is reinstated?
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Saturday, 29 May 2010

50 at basingstoke

One for Paul Beard!

A class 50 on an Exeter train at Basingstoke station 9.8.1986.

The Salisbury-Exeter route was much neglected in the 60s and 70s - incredibly closure was ever considered at one time. It was run down, singled over most of its length and often employed underpowered locos. The 50s however were good for this route, and could be said to be part of the line's revival which since the 80s has seen stations reopened (Feniton and Templecombe) and the line partly redoubled. The next few decades should see the line electrified throughout, nore stations reopened and hopefully some of the branches rebuilt (Sidmouth, Lyme Regis etc). With the New S&D reopening Templecombe should become an interchange station once more, and even the Seaton Tramway should be re-extended to Seaton Junction allowing exchange traffic.

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Monday, 24 May 2010

shanklin 1977

Isle of Wight Railways Remembered

I've always liked the Isle of Wight railway network, even if today it's a lot smaller than it was and will be again. One of the daftest closures of the Beeching years was the Shanklin-Ventnor line which connected the busy seaside town of Ventnor to the outside world. Of course BR at the time fully expected the IOW railways to all have closed by 1975, so that the rather silly situation with the line terminating short at Shanklin would have been short lived. Fortunately at least part of the essential Newport and Cowes line is currently being operated as a heritage line, I can't seriously see Cowes and Newport staying off the network for many more years!
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Sunday, 23 May 2010

20 and APT at beattock 1985


(5.6.1985 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

I lived near here for five years, but five years after these pics were taken. This is Beattock summit on the main Carlisle to Glasgow line. I'd photographed a class 20 with a guards van waiting in the passing loop when quite by surprise the APT came through on a test run!
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Wednesday, 19 May 2010

twyford 1977

Some more random shots from Twyford in Berkshire, all taken on 8 August 1977. One of my favourite locations both for the variety and quantity of traffic passing through, with the added bonus of branch line trains to Henley-on-Thames.
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Monday, 17 May 2010

jaffa cake

(barnham 13.8.1986)

In the mid eighties the first moves towards privatizing the network began to be made with regions being allowed to drift away from the corporate blue and grey. For a brief few months Network South East experimented with the classy 'Jaffa Cake' livery, which sadly soon gave way to the garish red, white and blue. The old slam door stock, which had been exclusively either rail blue or blue and grey for the best part of twenty years, could for a year or so could be seen in a variety of colours. This was by far the best!
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Sunday, 16 May 2010

eighties electrics

(All Kings Langley 3.6.1985 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

A lovely sunny day at this LMR station - very busy with trains, mostly loco hauled back then, and most with blue and grey livery still. From the island platform it was easy to capture most of the traffic on film.

Kings Langley railway station is just under the M25 motorway at Junction 20. It serves the village of Kings Langley, and the nearby villages of Abbots Langley and Hunton Bridge. The station is 21 miles (34 km) north west of London Euston on the West Coast Main Line. The station and all services calling at the station are operated by London Midland.
The station was opened in 1839. From 1909 the station was known as Kings Langley & Abbots Langley, becoming Kings Langley on 6 May 1974.


Monday to Saturday a half-hourly service to London Euston southbound and Tring (Saturdays Milton Keynes Central) northbound. Evenings and Sundays there is an hourly in each. A number of night and rush hour services are extended to and from Birmingham New Street and Coventry. There is one train each weekday morning to and from Crewe.
Preceding stationNational Rail National RailFollowing station
Apsley London Midland
West Coast Main Line
 Watford Junction

Accidents and incidents

  • On 14 March 1935, an express passenger train from Liverpool to London was brought to a halt at Kings Langley due to a defective vacuum brake. Due to a signalman's error a milk train ran into its rear. A freight train then ran into the wreckage.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

oxted 1973

(All 2.1.1973 © Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

Three dull and cold shots taken at Oxted in Surrey on 2 January 1973. These lines were worked by a rather boring procession of rail blue DMUs, at one time these routes were even under threat of closure! They are likely to undergo a transformation in the future with the reopening of the Eridge-Tunbridge Wells Central, Lewes-Uckfield and possibly even the Eridge-Polegate 'Cuckoo) line, offering a huge number of possible routes. Railways were just about at their nadir in 1973, with empty trains, crumbling infrastructure and unhappy customers. I hope these pictures capture that atmosphere a little!

More info (from Wikipedia)

Oxted railway station serves the commuter town of Oxted in Surrey, England. A relatively busy interchange station and terminus, all rail services are provided by Southern. The station is the busiest suburban station on the Oxted Line and is a terminus for some services on the Uckfield branch of the Oxted Line. Trains depart to London Victoria via Clapham JunctionLondon Bridge via East Croydon stationEast Grinstead and Uckfield in East Sussex.


Oxted was built as a joint London, Brighton and South Coast Railway/South Eastern Railway station when the South Croydon to East Grinstead line opened on 10 March 1884. The three platforms are connected by a subway which runs under the track. In addition, a lift is provided for entry to Platforms 2/3. There are tunnels at each end of the station:
  • Oxted Tunnel 1 mile 23 chains (2.07 km) at the London end
  • Limpsfield Tunnel 551 yard (501 m) at the country end
In 1951 the station had a train every thirteen minutes of the day, services running to Victoria and London Bridge in the up direction and to Tunbridge Wells, Eastbourne and Brighton in the down. Locomotives using the station on an average weekday would be of the following classes: BR4 2-6-4T's (14), C2X 0-6-0 (2), H 0-4-4T (12), L 4-4-0 (1), LM2 2-6-2T (5), LM4 2-6-4T (38), N 2-6-0 (2), Q 0-6-0 (8), U 2-6-0 (1) and U1 2-6-0 (2). In addition, diesel 10800 was a regular visitor to the station four times a day between 1952 and 1954.
The station was the scene of a bomb attempt by suffragette sympathisers in 1913 – Harold Laski (later a professor at the London School of Economics and chairman of the Labour Party) and a friend placed the device in the men's toilets. Although it did detonate the damage was limited as the fuse failed to ignite the petrol contained in the device. A similar device (containing some pieces of metal and a watch in addition to the explosive charge) was planted at the Bank of England on 13 April 1913, which was successfully defused.


On the London-bound platform is a manned ticket office (staffed daily till late) and two standard quick-pay self-service passenger-operated ticket machines in Southern branding are located outside the station on the London-bound side and at the entrance to the underpass on Platforms 2 and 3 side (Uckfield/East Grinstead bound.) The station is the biggest served solely by Southern on the line, and is staffed 17 hours a day. The station accommodates a cafe, refurbished toilets, two waiting rooms and a line control centre in a large concourse.
All of the platforms are linked by a subway which also links the two main streets in Oxted together as well as the local supermarket and the town's leisure complex.
There is an underground car park located under the adjacent supermarket.
The station acts as a terminus for the Uckfield branch of the Oxted Line and trains use platform three on a regular basis after termination for both train maintenance and cleaning. The present signal box opened in the 1980s and covered control of the Uckfield line in January 1990. It replaced the previous original wooden structure located at the end of platform 2/3
The station was also the first station and terminus on the Southern network to receive two fully DDA-compliant ticket windows which will move down to accommodate easy use by wheelchair users. The station is also linked to the Southern Control Centre in Croydon, by two help points (one on each platform) where passengers can receive help 24 hours a day externally.


In 2010 the station was refurbished a new lift installed, followed by a deep clean and internal rezoning.
In May 2010, Platform 1 and 2 were lengthened by Balfour Beatty to take 12 car trains.
During January 2011, Southern installed a number of ticket gates on the Main Concourse as well as the exit and indoor area in between platforms two and three. Gate-line staff operate at the station also.


As of October 2011 the typical off-peak service is:
  • 2 trains per hour (tph) to London Victoria from East Grinstead
  • 1 tph to London Bridge from Uckfield
  • 2 tph to East Grinstead from London Victoria
  • 1 tph to Uckfield from London Bridge
Sunday and some peak-hour services to Uckfield start from this station. All services are currently operated by Southern.
Annual rail passenger usage*
2004/05  1.236 million
2005/06Increase 1.268 million
2006/07Increase 1.310 million
2007/08Increase 1.851 million
2008/09Decrease 1.430 million
2009/10Increase 1.431 million
2010/11Increase 1.470 million
2011/12Increase 1.555 million
2012/13Increase 1.579 million
2013/14Increase 1.692 million