Thursday, 29 August 2013

wynenthal suhrenthal bahnen

ALL Muhen 20.5.1987 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing

Back in 1987 I spent a wonderful month travelling round Switzerland visiting most of its narrow gauge railways. First stop was the Wynenthal Suhrenthal Bahnen in Canton Aargau in eastern Switzerland. This was a busy two line system, much of it being roadside or street running, and metre gauge. There have always been plans to extend the Schoftland line to the SBB route via the Sursee-Triengen Bahn, a standard gauge line that would be reduced to metre gauge, but this still hasn't happened.

Part of this line has relocated since these pictures were taken, the former route between Suhr and Aarau being moved to the former standard gauge line that (in 1987) still ran between these two places, so there has been some expansion of the metre gauge.

Some of the street running on this line has been moved to private right of way since 1987, but plenty remains. Part of the metre gauge route between Menziken and Reinach was moved from the street to the trackbed of the former Seetalbahn which formerly ran between these places, and which I was lucky enough to travel on.

Expect much more on Switzerland over the next few weeks as I have reached this point in my photo albums!

Monday, 26 August 2013

first generation DMUs in yorkshire

Micklefield is a busy little station in Yorkshire, the junction for lines from Leeds to York and Hull. Back on 6 April 1987 there was a constant dream of first generation DMUs running through, as well as some HSTs, class 45s, class 47s and one or two newer DMUs. Of course at the time I didn't appreciate any of this, but luckily snapped away anyway!

My favourite shot from this location was one of those really lucky ones. I was walking back to my lorry when I glimpsed this scene in the mist. I probably heard a train horn so knew one was approaching - result a lovely composition of soft afternoon light, straight lines, a first generation DMU and the gentle arch of the bridge dead centre! I've posted this on a general photographic group and people love the composition! A lot more pics of Micklefield are on the Rail Thing Facebook group Rails of Yorkshire.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

a walk up the line

On 20 November 1986 I took a walk along the remains of the Horsham to Shoreham line, which retained track as far as the old Beeding Cement Works.

This was a strange closure, a double track line that provided an excellent alternative route from Brighton to London (with junctions facing the right way) and serving a number of sizeable towns on route. It actually closed on the very same day as the S&D, 6 March 1966.

I did actually see this line when it was still open to passengers, from the car as we were on the way to Bramber castle. I could see Bramber station but, being only 9 years old, was not allowed to visit it. On the next visit the line was closed and overgrown, and I still wasn't allowed to visit it!

Not long after closure the line was lifted apart from the 2 or 3 miles between Shoreham and Beeding. But eventually even that section closed. There was an abortive preservation bid, the main stumbling block being that the last short stretch of the line into Shoreham was still a busy BR route.

So on that sunny November day in 1986 I said goodbye to the line, though I didn't know it at the time. I walked the whole length apart from about 500 metres in Shoreham.

There have always been mutterings about reopening the route. It would seem a sensible time to start planning this now. There are a few of the usual stupid 'blockages', characterless houses plonked for some reason right on the trackbed even though it must have always been clear that the line would be needed in the future. Towns like Henfield and Steyning are ridiculously without railway stations! Other places like Bramber, West Grinstead, Southwater and Partridge Green have (currently unfulfilled) potential to be commuter towns. I can't see the Adur Valley being without trains for much longer, but for now the route is silent, yet another disgusting reminder of the stupidity and shortsightedness of the Flower Power generation.

Friday, 16 August 2013

west coastway


(All 4.9.1986 copyright Steve Sainsbury/The Rail Thing)

My childhood and teenage haunts were mainly along the Coastway West line, in West Sussex. This route was - incredibly - under threat of closure in the late 60s and early 70s, but I don't think the threat was ever real. It would have ruined my life had the line closed, as I used it to get everywhere!

I went to school in Durrington and used the train nearly every weekday between 1967-1972, Littlehampton to Durrington-on-Sea. I knew every inch of this route. Further east Lancing was a bit more exotic, though I did occasionally travel there after school to visit the J D Morris model shop, which had N gauge!

Years later I got these shots of Lancing which turned out to be a pretty good spot for photos. I must visit it again one day!

More info (from Wikipedia)

Lancing railway station is in Lancing in the county of West SussexEngland. The station is operated by Southern.
Platform 1 is for trains to Brighton and London Victoria, and Platform 2 is for trains to WorthingPortsmouth Harbour and Southampton.
The station has 1 ticket office located on Platform 2, and 2 self-service ticket machines, one on Platform 1 and one outside the front of the main station building adjoining Platform 2.
There are no ticket barriers at the station, however regular ticket checks are carried out at the exits from the platforms, by Southern Railway staff and Rail Neighbourhood Officers


Typical off-peak service consists of 5 trains per hour (tph) in each direction:



Annual rail passenger usage*
2004/05 0.729 million
2005/06Increase 0.744 million
2006/07Increase 0.758 million
2007/08Increase 0.801 million
2008/09Increase 0.817 million
2009/10Increase 0.833 million
2010/11Increase 0.911 million
2011/12Increase 0.952 million
2012/13Increase 0.972 million

Friday, 9 August 2013

rails in the road

Many of my favourite lines include a stretch or two of street running, and I know a lot of rail fans are fascinated by these displays of the superiority of rail over road, so to keep you all happy I've just started a new Facebook group 'RAILS IN THE ROAD'.

Please feel free to join and add pics and stories of your own!

brecon mountain railway

Huge car park, which was certainly needed!

The workshop - passengers can watch proceedings from the mezzanine, a very useful feature!

Running round at the end of the line (for now).

Heading north.

Running round.

Lakeside view.

Pontiscill station.

Intriguing roadside stretch at Pontiscill - sadly just a connection to the depot and not a running line!

Loco detail.

An idea as to how busy this little line is.
My birthday treat this year was a trip to the Brecon Mountain Railway. I usually make it a rule to visit rail connected lines only but the original plan to visit the Dean Forest Railway was scuppered by them not running a service on my birthday - BMR was the next closest.
It was a real treat. I'm a fan of narrow gauge lines and this is a very well organised and friendly line. It's not very old, and still has a mile or two of track to reopen. It's not a volunteer run line but a real business.
First surprise was Pant station, a new build. It had some of the atmosphere of a Swiss mountain station. It did have probably the worst shop I've ever seen on a steam line though, which was a surprise. Definitely one for tourists and not rail enthusiasts! But everything else was excellent. Fast and efficient service at the ticket office, reasonably priced, no barriers at the station so could get to see everything. The mezzanine into the workshop was excellent.
As for the trip itself - fantastic! Scenic all the way, into the Brecon Beacons National Park within a mile, following a lake and through the woods. But the best bit - and this was a real surprise - was that you were allowed to stand on the open platforms of the train! I haven't done this since a trip on the Mollibahn in Germany about 8 years ago! Which meant that going out I was right next to the engine and coming back I got a nice clear view of the track.
The train passes intermediate station Pontiscill non stop going out but coming back stops for 20 minutes so you get to see the lake and spend some money in their (very reasonable) café.
All in all a great day though I'd like to have spent my £40 birthday money there as well, but I spent that the next day at Modelzone in Bristol!

Sunday, 4 August 2013

meanwhile ... deep in the woods

(All pics copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

Bristol is pretty much Britain's Least Green City, with a non-existent suburban railway network and, unbelievably, NO trams!!

But even here the 21st century is beginning to intrude and rail development is starting to happen - at last. Last week we went for a walk down the floating harbour and environs and found a few modern touches, plus a bit of history. Above is a shot of the revitalised Portishead line, now being reopened to passengers but not until 2018! What's the problem - it looks ready to me!!

At Ashton there is still a platform, just waiting for the trains to return.

And as we walked along we heard the squeal of brakes then a deep throated roar as this appeared in the woods above us ....

Pulling wagon after wagon, and reminding us of the long freight trains common in the USA.

Across the river was a piece of history, the bottom station of the Clifton Rocks Railway, which lurks under the rock and links this part of the city to the Avon Gorge Hotel, or more precisely linked!

And just a bit closer to the city is the end station of the Bristol Harbour Railway, a fascinating and little known heritage line that runs a few weekends a year. It has several interesting features including steam, open wagons for carriages, some genuine street running and the rare case of three interesting and useful terminals - at the Create Centre (here), the SS Great Britain (a British icon) and the M Shed (a fantastic FREE museum).

So despite all the attempts of the council to make Bristol about as unGreen as possible other more enlightened people are turning the clock forward and giving us a vision of what the transport future of Bristol will be. With a revived suburban network with new stations and lines we can start to throw off our dependence on that ridiculous 20th century anachronism, the car. And the Portishead line plus that Harbour railway have a connected fate I think. The buffer stops above are only about 300 metres from the Portishead line, linked by a bridge (on which the rails are still in situ!)

The Portishead line needs a fresh approach. Of course a regular train service into Temple Meads will be excellent and well patronised, and can provide an excellent onward service via the network, But why not also tap into all new traffic and bring it into the heart of Bristol, over the bridge and along the harbour railway and then, on street, right into the centre? You could have an hourly diesel service from Portishead  to Temple Meads (with perhaps the occasional through train to Paddington) coupled with a regular interval tram service from Portishead (with perhaps an on street section into the heart of the town) to Bristol Centre.

With the tram option now available and visible the line could kickstart what we all know Bristol needs - a proper city wide tram system. And also with trams in Portishead the rather obvious (but currently closed) route into Clevedon and Weston could also form yet another tram route with a fantastic future.

Let's get started!!