Tuesday, 22 November 2011

derby 1956

ED7 (copyright Rail Thing)

(41535 copyright Rail Thing)

The Rail Thing is still busy buying up negatives of a wide range of railway items. These two were both taken in the year I was born, in Derby. Eventually the aim is that we will provide a full service for railway revival and heritage projects, and that quality photographic prints of all these subjects will be available.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Looe branch, 1972

Following on from Abby's picture of Liskeard yesterday, here are some 1972 shots I took on the branch.

This line is very scenic and also extremely useful, although the strange junction arrangements at both Liskeard and Coombe Junction did lead the GWR to propose an alternative branch line in the 30s, which fortunately never happened!

The line is now VERY busy and getting busier every year. Cornwall held on to a few of its branches - Falmouth, Newquay, Looe and St Ives, but sadly some lines which really should not have closed - and are DESPERATELY needed now - still remain closed. Helston is bringing its line back bit by bit, and the Bodmin Railway is getting closer to Padstow, Fowey has a freight line only but Bude is still about 30 miles from the nearest railhead and Newquay's other branch, which served lots of Cornish villages, remains closed.  

Sunday, 16 October 2011

good girls

Liskeard (Looe Branch platform - copyright Abby Hitchins)

Blackpool 15.10.2011 (Both copyright Danielle Hitchins)

Nice to see I'm starting to have an influence on my two stepdaughters! They've both posted rail shots to Facebook today, and both from locations I've visited and photographed.

Liskeard looks hardly different from when I photographed it back in 1972, though the mock WR sign is a new feature. And Blackpool is, at last, starting to update its tram fleet with some fantastic new vehicles, which I believe they're going to roll out a couplke a month.

Friday, 14 October 2011

East Grinstead. 1977

(All 1.8.1977)

East Grinstead will soon have trains to the south again once the Bluebell Railway finally gets through Imberhorne. Back in 1977 the dream of steam returning to East Grinstead would have been an impossible one, which just shows how much progress has been made in the last 34 years!

Of course back in 1977 rail was on the defensive, you couldn't even be sure that East Grinstead would survive, beoing on a dieselised and truncated route. Once East Grinstead had lines to all four points of the compass, by 1977 you could only go north. Soon you'll be able to head south again, and no doubt eventually east and west as well as the Three Bridges to Eridge route returns to the map. The 1967 closure of the route which gave access to Gatwick Airport and Tunbridge Wells was particularly short sighted!

East Grinstead originally had both an upper and lower station - the lower station is the one that survives. Hopefully future developments will allow all trains to use this lower station to make interchange easier.

Once trains start to operate southwards of East Grinstead how long before the pressure builds on the Bluebell to restore the Sheffield Park to Lewes line? This would give the Bluebell a genuine purpose again as well as allow it to tap into tourist traffic from Brighton and Eastbourne. Okay, so today a lot of people visit the line by car or bus, but these options will disappear altogether over the next few decades. And with the Bluebell also owning the Ardingly route they are setting themselves up nicely for THREE eventual Network connections, surely assuring them of a future role in an energy constrained world?

Friday, 2 September 2011

by the dart

(All 6.8.2011 © Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

My birthday treat this year was a trip to the South Devon Railway, which runs from Totnes (Littlehempston) to Buckfastleigh. I first visited this line in 1972 when it was called the Dart Valley Railway. It was a privately owned heritage style railway back then, which later took over the Kingswear line from BR, the latter route becoming its main interest soon after. A preservation society was set up to take over the Buckfastleigh line, probably the first example of a preservation society taking over a heritage route!

It's a nice line which follows the River Dart for a lot of the trip. It almost connects with the network at Totnes, but has a separate station a pleasant 300m walk from the main station in Totnes. One of the buildings used to be at Toller on the Bridport branch, I have photos of it in its original position.

There's plenty to do at Buckfastleigh, it's easy to pass two pleasant hours there, more if you're a railway buff! And at Totnes there's the excellent farm park with hands-on animals.

The line originally carried on to Ashburton, and one day it will no doubt return there. Amazingly part of the original route was lost to road building back in the days when roads were still being built. It will be nice when the line fulfills its proper purpose again, carrying passengers and freight from Ashburton to the main line at Totnes.

More info (from Wikipedia)

The South Devon Railway is a 6.64 miles (10.69 km) heritage railway from Totnes to Buckfastleigh in Devon. Mostly running alongside the River Dart, it was initially known as the Dart Valley Railway. The railway is now operated by the South Devon Railway Trust, a registered charity.
The Railway's headquarters and museum are located at Buckfastleigh railway station.


  • The line was built by the Buckfastleigh, Totnes and South Devon Railway and first opened on 1 May 1872. It was worked by the larger South Devon Railway Company until 1 February 1876 when this was amalgamated into the Great Western Railway.
  • The Buckfastleigh line was taken over by the Great Western Railway in 1897.
  • The railway was nationalised on 1 January 1948.
  • The line closed to all traffic on 7 September 1962 and was re-opened as the Dart Valley Railway, a preserved steam line, on 5 April 1969.
  • The South Devon Railway Trust took over the running of the line on 1 January 1991.
  • The South Devon Railway was named the Heritage Railway of the Year in 2007. A plaque on the station wall commemorates the event.
  • The South Devon Railway Trust bought the freehold of the line from Dart Valley Railway plc on 8 February 2010.


The line is 6 miles and 51 chains long (10.7 km). It stretches from Totnes (Littlehempston) station to Buckfastleigh stationStaverton station is the only intermediate station on the line. Just north of Staverton is a signal box known as "Bishops Bridge" where there is the only passing loop on the line. For most of its route, the line runs along the left bank of the River Dart. This means that the river, and the best views, can be seen to the left of the train when facing Buckfastleigh, and the right of the train when facing Totnes.


Trains on the South Devon Railway operate daily from late March to the end of October. On most days a single train set operates, providing four journeys a day in each direction. On busy days (most of the school holidays) two train sets operate, providing more journeys. Other services include evening Dining trains, fish 'n' chip trains and Santa by Steam trains. Also the railway runs both full day steam and diesel footplate experience courses throughout the year.

Rolling stock

The rolling stock preserved on line include many examples of steam locomotives typical of the Great Western Railway types that would have once worked on it, such as GWR 1400 Class number 1420. There are also other types of steam locomotives and a number of diesel locomotives. As well as those used in service there are a number that are undergoing overhaul or restoration, or are displayed in non-working condition. The most significant one of these is Tiny a South Devon Railway 0-4-0vb shunting locomotive on display in the museum at Buckfastleigh station. This is the only original 7 ft (2,134 mmbroad gauge locomotive still in existence in the United Kingdom.
There are a number of historic coaches in use including two Great Western Railway "Super Saloons", some coaches once used in the Royal Train, and three auto coaches that were used on small branch lines such as this.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

bournemouth - easy climbing

(All August 2011, copyright Steve Sainsbury)

Bournemouth has apparently got three cliff lifts - a couple of weekends ago we used two of them. Both are very similar and have the same ownership. They both seemed fairly busy even though they are quite short.

I like funiculars, they are fun but also serve a very useful purpose. My favourite is probably the Great Orme Tramway, Switzerland also has some very spectacular (and long) ones, though there are a lot there I haven't yet used.

Monday, 29 August 2011

SBB roadside

(All pics copyright Steve Sainsbury)

I've just sent these five pictures to accompany a future article in Swiss Express.

The Seetalbahn is a fantastic 30 mile long roadside tramway that is part of the standard gauge national network (SBB). These shots are of the line in 1987, there has been much modernisation since, the line now uses ultra modern tram style trains.

In 1987 as well as passenger traffic there was a lot of freight, most seemingly originating along the route, including pick up freights.

Parts of the line have now been relocated on reservation so the roadside mileage is decreasing, which is a shame as the photo opportunities were fantastic.

The line runs from Luzern to Lenzburg, in Cantons Luzern and Aargau.

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Saturday, 27 August 2011

will the cuckoo make a comeback?

(Horam, 1960s copyright Rail Thing)

This is Horam station on the famous Cuckoo line, which ran from Polegate to Eridge and was closed in 1965, apart from the section from Polegate to the large town of Hailsham which survived until 1968.

In retrospect this was a particularly stupid closure. Hailsham is far too large to not have a railway service and is certainly paying for it now! But the line also provided an excellent alternative route from Eastbourne to London, and also served several other small towns en route. It may well be sooner rather than later that reopening of this route takes place, for the reasons listed abiove, and also because of the coming revival of British seaside resorts as more and more people choose to holiday at home rather than bear the strain (and soon prohibitive cost!) of flying to more exotic destinations. One of the big advantages of this route is that it will take some of the pressure off the current sole connection between Eastbourne and London (via Lewes and Haywards Heath) which becomes particularly congested where it joins the Brighton to London line.

Generally the closure of rail routes to British seaside resorts in the 1960s was clearly a huge mistake. It is barely believable that important seaside towns such as Ilfracombe, Bude, Padstow, Lyme Regis and a host of others are currently struggling with roads (LOL!) instead of having modern transport drop thousands of visitors on their doorsteps. This will have to change, and fast!

More info on Horam station (from Wikipedia)

Horam railway station was on the Cuckoo Line between Hellingly and Heathfield, serving the village of Horam.


The station was opened by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway on 5 April 1880 and was originally named Horeham Road for Waldron. It was on the line extension from Hailsham to Eridge. It was renamed several times: on 1 June 1890 it became Horeham Road and Waldron; on 1 April 1900Waldron and Horeham Road; on 1 January 1935 Waldron and Horam; and it finally became Horam on 21 September 1953.
The station closed to passenger traffic on 14 June 1965 but freight trains continued to pass through until 1968 when the line was closed completely.
Preceding stationDisused railwaysFollowing station
Line and station closed
 British Rail
Southern Region

Cuckoo Line
Line and station closed

Present day

The Cuckoo Trail foot and cycle path runs over one of the platforms. Sections of the two platforms including a concrete nameboard,some lamp posts and seats are preserved. The rest of the station site is now a housing estate and a car park.

More info on the Cuckoo Line (from Wikipedia)

The Cuckoo Line is an informal name for the now defunct railway service which linked Polegate and Eridge in East SussexEngland, from 1880 to 1968. It was nicknamed the Cuckoo Line by drivers, from a tradition observed at the annual fair at Heathfield, a station on the route. At the fair, which was held each April, a lady would release a cuckoo from a basket, it being supposedly the 'first cuckoo of spring'. The railway line served the following Sussex communities: PolegateHailshamHellinglyHoram for WaldronHeathfieldMayfieldRotherfield and Eridge. Services continued through Eridge and onward via Groombridge to Tunbridge Wells.
The Hailsham-Eridge section closed in 1965, the Polegate-Hailsham branch surviving until 1968. Eridge-Tunbridge Wells closed in 1985, and this line has been resurrected as the Spa Valley Railway.


The Cuckoo Line was built by the London Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) in two sections, starting with the branch from Polegate to Hailsham which opened to traffic on 14 May 1849. The remainder of the line to Eridge was engineered by Frederick Banister, and opened to traffic in September 1880.[5] The station buildings were designed by Banister's son-in-law, Thomas Myres.
The line from Three Bridges to Tunbridge Wells (via East Grinstead High Level and Groombridge) opened on 1 October 1866, with the connecting line from Uckfield via Eridge opening on 3 August 1868. The final part of the route opened on 1 February 1876: a connection between the LBSCR station at Tunbridge Wells West and Tunbridge Wells Central, the station operated by the South Eastern Railway (SER). This single-line section passed through the short Grove Tunnel to Grove Junction, sited a little south of the SER station on its Hastings Line. In 1881 a new track alignment was built between Polegate and Hailsham allowing trains to run into Polegate at the west end of the station and direct to Eastbourne.
At the 'Grouping' in 1923, the railway passed into the control of the Southern Railway. When the Southern Railway was nationalised in 1948, the line became part of the Southern Region of British Railways.
Following the Beeching Report in 1963, the line was recommended for closure. The section from Eridge to Hailsham was closed to passenger traffic in 1965 (the section between Heathfield and Hailsham remaining open for freight until 1968), whilst the short branch from Polegate to Hailsham remained open until 8 September 1968. The closure of this section was hotly disputed – even British Railways itself agreeing that Hailsham was a growing town and that buses would be unable to cope with the demands of the increasing population.
The line between Eridge and Tunbridge Wells West remained open until 1985. Despite having survived 'Beeching', no money was spent on the line and British Rail regarded a track and signalling upgrade to be unviable. Closure was announced in February 1985, and the last passenger trains ran on 6 July 1985. Grove Junction was removed the day after closure, but the depot at Tunbridge Wells West remained in use for another month.

The Cuckoo Line today

See also: Spa Valley Railway
Today, the Cuckoo Line remains a closed railway – a footpath and cycleway known as The Cuckoo Trail runs along much of the route from Polegate to Heathfield. Polegate retains a railway station, albeit on a different site to that formerly used by Cuckoo Line trains, whilst the site of the station in Hailsham is now occupied by a housing estate and a public car park. Hellingly station survives as a private residence. At Horam the platforms are preserved including a nameboard. Heathfield station building is now a shop selling kitchen utensils but the site of the platforms is now occupied by industrial units. At Mayfield the station building survives as a private residence but the trackbed has now been removed and replaced by the A267 Mayfield bypass. Rotherfield and Mark Cross station is a private residence. Soon after closure of the Eridge to Tunbridge Wells West section, a preservation society was formed with the intention of reinstating the passenger service on the line. The Tunbridge Wells and Eridge Railway Preservation Society (TWERPS) acquired the line in March 1996 and by December 1996 had started to run a steam-hauled passenger service along part of the route. The line has been marketed as the Spa Valley Railway and it has gradually extended services with the final section to Eridge opening on the 25th of March 2011.
Shawpits Bridge, near Hellingly
Cuckoo Trail between Polegate and Hailsham


D1 Class No. 297 Bonchurchand train, derailed at Tooth's Bank, North of Heathfield, September 1897.
The line had a good safety record: there was only one reported accident on the line. On 1 September 1897 at Tooth's Bank, 2 miles north of Heathfield, the 08:18am service from Eastbourne was running around 4 minutes late and was trying to pick up time in order to meet a connecting train at Groombridge. As the train entered the curve at around 40 mph it left the tracks. Driver James McKinlay was killed and Fireman Lewis Minns seriously injured, whilst 30 passengers suffered minor injuries. At the subsequent inquiry, Lt. Col. G. W. Addison reported that the main cause of the accident was excessive speed as the driver was attempting to make up lost time in order to make a connection at Groombridge. The track itself was in poor shape with many rotten sleepers and "curves having irregular elevation" which contributed to the accident. Following the inquiry, much of the track was relaid and the train scheduling was altered.
In April 1968 a lorry collided with a low road bridge under the line at Horsebridge north of Hailsham damaging the bridge causing immediate closure of the line. As the freight train service between Hailsham and Heathfield was due to be withdrawn the following month it was not considered worthwhile repairing the bridge so the line was prematurely abandoned forthwith. Some wagons isolated at Heathfield goods yard were cut up on site.

Route description

The Cuckoo Line diverged from the main Eastbourne to London line at Polegate, and ran northwards on a single track to the market town of Hailsham, which was the terminus for 31 years until the line through to Eridge had been completed. The line then passed through the villages of Hellingly (where a link to the Hellingly Hospital Railway joined the route, worked by overhead electric traction), HoramHeathfieldMayfieldRotherfield & Mark Cross, then via Redgate Mill Junction to join theOxted Line for Eridge. The route continued north-eastwards, leaving the Oxted Line at Birchden Junction heading for Groombridge, High Rocks Halt and eventually Tunbridge Wells West. Through trains could continue on the single-track connection through Grove Tunnel to join the Hastings Line (heading towards Tunbridge Wells Central) at Grove Junction.

Name changes

Horam station was originally built as Horeham Road. In 1900 it was renamed Waldron & Horeham Road. Over the years, Horeham changed to Horam as the hamlet grew around the station, prompted by growth including an Express Dairies depot, and the name changed again in 1935, before becoming simply Horam in September 1953.

Friday, 22 July 2011

knocking about Knockholt

(all copyright Rail Thing/Steve Sainsbury 1.4.1986)

It's April Fools Day 1986 and this is the small station of Knockholt in Kent. Back then everything passing through was in corporate blue and grey and even back then this was a busy spot with a lot of passing trains. As well as the electrics running to the Kent coast there were the unique 'Hastings' diesel units which were narrower than usual electric units and used only on the route to Hastings, which was electrified a few years later, resultiung the retiring of these unusual units. One has survived into preservation.
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Friday, 1 April 2011

eastleigh 1963

I am working on building a really big railway website to be launched later this year and to this end I've been buying stuff up like it's going out of fashion!

Just purchased is this negative which features 76017 approaching Eastleigh in 1963. I just caught the end of the steam era on BR and this was my neck of the woods, but didn't start taking photos until 1971, so I'm also building up a stock of places I had visited but hadn't taken pictures of.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

rural dorset 1973

(All © Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing 7.8.1973)

 Four shots taken at Maiden Newton back in 1973. I'd visited here to travel on the Bridport branch (which will no doubt feature in future posts!) but the junction station itself was still a gem back then (and may well still be!)

The 'main' line is if course the Dorchester to Castle Cary route which had suffered some 'rationalisation' in the 60s, losing a lot of the intermediate stations and being single tracked. The line now is very busy and it can't be too long before double track is reinstated and hopefully some of the closed stations reopened. Whether the Bridport branch is reinstated is another matter. It is more likely that a wholly new route from Bridport will eventually be built to a junction somewhere on the (now buzzing!) Exeter to Salisbury main line, another route that suffered rationalisation in the 60s, much to everyone's regret now!

But back in 1973 railways were on the back foot, you could often be the only passenger on a train and much of the old steam-era infrastructure remained. The diesel units in these shots are also now ancient history, as are my brother's flares in picture 3!

Maiden Newton railway station is a railway station serving the village of Maiden Newton in Dorset, England. The station is located on the Heart of Wessex line between Castle Cary and Weymouth.


The old signal box
Opened on 20 January 1857 by the Wilts, Somerset and Weymouth Railway with the section of their route from Yeovil Pen Mill to Weymouth. This completed their main line from Chippenham to Weymouth, the first part of which had opened in 1848. The railway was a part of the larger Great Western Railway which meant that through trains ran from London Paddington station.
The station consisted of two platforms with a flint station building and goods shed at the south end. A signal box was added later.
From 1857 to 1975 the station was the junction for the Bridport Railway and an extra bay platform was added at the north end of the station for these trains. This can still be seen at the west end of the station and this end of the trackbed is a footpath and cycleway.
Preceding stationHistorical railwaysFollowing station
Cattistock Wilts, Somerset and Weymouth Railway Grimstone and Frampton
Terminus Bridport Railway Toller


Looking north
Although the signal box was closed during a rationalisation scheme, the station retains two platforms as it is a passing place on the single line between Dorchester and Yeovil. The entrance is on the northbound platform, the side closest to the village. Access to the southbound platform is normally by the footbridge but there is a level crossing at the south end of the station for passengers who are unable to use the bridge. The station building survives but is no longer used by the railway.
The electric key token instrument for the block section to Yeovil are now operated by the train crew under the supervision of the signal operator based at Yeovil Pen Mill. The block section to Dorchester West is operated under the 'tokenless single line' principle with track circuiting.


The station is served by Great Western Railway. Services originate from Gloucester and Bristol Temple Meads (apart from one early morning service from Westbury) and are operated by Class 150Class 153 or Class 158 diesel multiple units. Eight trains in each direction call Mondays to Saturdays and three each way on Sundays all year (plus two additional trains in the summer months).
Preceding stationNational Rail National RailFollowing station
Chetnole Great Western Railway
Heart of Wessex Line
 Dorchester West
Annual rail passenger usage*
2002/03  22,133
2004/05Decrease 17,635
2005/06Increase 18,252
2006/07Decrease 16,462
2007/08Increase 17,600
2008/09Increase 22,070
2009/10Increase 22,680
2010/11Increase 23,058
2011/12Decrease 19,652
2012/13Increase 21,242
2013/14Decrease 20,258