Monday, 31 March 2014

round and about lisbon

All pics copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing.

I've just returned from my first ever visit to Portugal. We were staying in the heart of Lisbon and had 5 days of travel cards, so made plenty of use of the trams and trains.

Portugal is a very pleasant country, both laid back and efficient. The same applies to the transport! Some of the tramway routes are out of this world (and will be described in future posts). The trains are very regular. Everything is busy, even overcrowded. 

There are also the elevators, there are three tram-style ones and a straightforward (but very Gothic) lift. One of the elevators was less than a minute from our hotel door. There were also closed tramways and a very efficient Metro.

All in all a great week with some unique experiences (including my first tram crash!) and will provide lots of future material for this blog.

Monday, 17 March 2014

subtle changes to hs2 ...

Interesting. The old HS2 is being buried bit by bit. They are even saying that they wish the 'HS' part had never been promoted. Perhaps politicians are, at last, realising that this is the 21st century, not the 20th?

Because, it seems to me, that spin is being rolled out to transform the old vanity 'space paste' project into something far more interesting. New lines and links are being planned, the capacity issue is being promoted over and above the laughable speed one and we're beginning to talk about a railway line rather than something out of Flash Gordon ...

And who knows what further tweaks will be given to the look of this as it heads towards either building or abandonment? It seems that reality is beginning to creep in, that the idea of building a line that people will need and use and, most importantly, will serve a role in the very different economy that's coming, is what's being served up. It appears that the line formerly known as HS2 is transforming into another everyday line that will solve many problems on the existing network, possibly the first route designed to replace the motorway network, which we all know is doomed.
Perhaps with stations and freight handling facilities?

So from being totally disinterested in something that was, to me, a silly dream by nostalgists and politicians stuck in the first half of the twentieth century, perhaps now my ears will prick up a little when it's mentioned. Who knows, I may even blog about it?

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The other Kent and East Sussex

Eridge 2.1.1973

1317 at Groombridge 4.7.1977

Tunbridge Wells West 31.8.1988 

(All pics copyright Steve Sainsbury/The Rail Thing)

By the mid 1980s railway closures were a fading memory, but in a last burst of misplaced nostalgia there was one final closure down south, when the useful (but not as useful as it will be!) route from Tunbridge Wells to Eridge was closed. The excuse was the expense of remodelling the junction at Tunbridge Wells when the main Hastings line was electrified ... and so another part of the network of lines in this area had to close.

The line was quickly resurrected as the Spa Valley Railway, but a few tourist trains hardly compensates for the loss of a seven day a week service. And that important link at Tunbridge Wells is STILL devoid of track.

I got to travel on this line a few times and it was a nice rural route. I must admit that by the 70s a lot of the line's purpose had gone. Once it had provided a gateway to lines to Brighton, Lewes, Eastbourne, East Grinstead and Three Bridges, offering a huge range of trips and keeping a good bit of traffic off the roads. It also made commuting an easy proposition in a whole swathe of this region. By 1985 it really just provided a link between Tunbridge Wells and Uckfield (Lewes no longer being an option) and also allowed people in the West of Tunbridge Wells to access the Network (and London) via the large and gothic station at Tunbridge Wells West.

So the line was closed, the last real closure of any substance in southern England and possibly the whole country. A final fling for Beeching and his empty headed accountant hordes.

But things are stirring. As mentioned above a good stretch of the line is now a tourist railway, but the Lewes-Uckfield line is on the cusp of reopening, there are murmurs about the useful 'Cuckoo' line to Eastbourne and the East Grinstead line now has a group working with banks and others in the area to reopen this useful link (at least for a few more decades) to Gatwick Airport and, more importantly, the Brighton main line. East Grinstead of course has had it's other line (to Sheffield Park) reopened last year, and the Bluebell have a 25 year plan to return to Lewes. The whole area will be transformed for rail.

Withyham 4.7.1977

Still in deep sleep the useful route from Eridge via East Grinstead to Three Bridges is beginning to stir again.

Saturday, 15 March 2014


About a year ago I thought a Rail Thing Facebook group would be a good idea. But it soon transpired that it was far too general, and that Facebook groups needed to be more targeted. So a few more sprang up - Southern Electrics and DMUs, ones for counties, classes of locos, Swiss trains, narrow gauge, trams etc etc. There are now about 300, possibly more! Some have just a few members, several have a few hundred but only one currently has more than a thousand.

Amazingly it's the Disused Railways group and yesterday it reached 5000 members! I've no idea why it's so popular, and it's still not as focused as I'd hoped when I set it up. The idea was just to have pictures of closed lines and a few memories, but it's sort of expanded from that. But it does seem to have captured the imagination of an awful lot of people! Who knows where it will be this time next year.

I became interested in disused lines long before I got involved with the real thing, and as a teenager got to look at many lines, the Midhurst lines, the Selsey Tramway, Cuckoo line, Lynton and Barnstaple, Meon Valley, Gosport, Hayling Island etc, all visited via rail and then on foot. I loved the atmosphere. It's ironic that over the last 15 years I've been trying to encourage their reopening!

We won't see their likes again. With railways reopening everywhere all closed lines are under threat. make the most of them whilst they are still there ...

Fittleworth 15.5.1977

Beeding 20.11.1986

Baynards 20.5.1977

Selham 3.7.1977

Itchen Abbas 24.6.1976

Mold 2.4.1985

a glimpse into the future

(Copyright Tim Hall)

This is a lovely shot from the fantastic Perrygrove Railway in Gloucestershire. Whilst the less aware amongst us may think of this as an image from the past to me it's very firmly and uncompromisingly an image of the future. The Perrygrove line uses the principles of Sir Arthur Heywood, a man so far ahead of the curve that we still haven't caught up with him! He promoted the 15 inch gauge as the minimum for real railway work. The costs are far lower than for standard gauge or indeed two foot, yet using careful engineering principles trains can carry worthwhile loads.

Unfortunately the brief petroleum interlude stopped development in the bud, but it's clear that as we leave that age then we will simply take off from where we left it, and 15 inch gauge lines will fill a very useful transport need in many parts of the UK.

The beauty of steam power of course is that it can use WOOD as a fuel source. Wood is infinitely sustainable and packs in almost as much energy as the sort of coal that's left. Any half decently managed railway in the future will, with careful woodland management, be able to provide all its own raw materials for energy (and sleepers, building materials etc), making any such line resilient and very profitable.

This is the future. Heart warming isn't it?

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Rebuilding Midford!


We’ve reached that special time in the history of the New S&D when we can begin to rebuild our first station! At the last AGM it was decided that the appeal to raise the money needed to rebuild the iconic station at Midford would be launched in March 2014.

We expect to need somewhere in the region of £40,000. Remember we already own the station so the funds are for the materials etc to rebuild the station buildings, put in services, signage, cosmetic signals etc. The completed station will then become an information point for the rebuilding of the line and will also become a visitor centre. Hopefully there will also be some office/storage space as well!

Donations of any size are welcomed. You can donate using Paypal (to or by cheque (payable to ‘New Somerset and Dorset Railway’ sent to New S&D (Midford Appeal), 10 Bellamy Avenue, Hartcliffe, BRISTOL, BS13 0HW.

Remember volunteers are always welcome to help with the current clearing and maintenance of the site – for info please email

This is a very exciting time to be involved with the restoration of this iconic station and line!
Please remember we can also take donations in the form of used stamps or coins (please see website for more information).


Tuesday, 4 March 2014

chattenden and upnor

(Copyright Max Sinclair)

The Chattenden and Upnor Railway (later known as the Lodge Hill and Upnor Railway) was a narrow gauge railway serving the military barracks and depot at Upnor and associated munitions and training depots. It was built in 1873 as a 18 in (457 mm) gauge railway, converted to 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge around 1885, and continued in use until 1961.

The Chattenden and Upnor Railway was originally laid in 1873 to 18 in (457 mm) gauge, as a training exercise for the Royal School of Military Engineering which was then based at Chattenden. The line ran from Pontoon Hard by the River Medway and climbed steeply towards Chattenden. A spur lead from Church Crossing to the Upnor Depot of the Royal Engineers and until 1895 a branch ran from Chattenden to Hoo.

In 1885 the railway was relaid and converted to 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) gauge by the 8th. Railway Company of the Royal Engineers who managed the line. In 1891 the Admiralty took over Upnor Depot to use as a gun and ammunition store. Another armaments depot was constructed at Lodge Hill, north of Chattenden which was also served by the railway. In 1905 the entire Chattenden enclosure was taken over by the Navy, and in 1906 the railway was also taken over by the Navy and renamed the Lodge Hill and Upnor Railway. The Navy extended the line to connect with the 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge branch from Sharnal Street on the South Eastern & Chatham Railway's Hundred of Hoo branch.

The railway saw intensive use during the Second World War, but use declined after the end of hostilities and the railway closed in 1961.

More pics here.

Saturday, 1 March 2014


Pics via Google Images.

A few days ago a similar picture to the above was posted to Disused Railways and it brought an immediate response from many members! Everyone was fascinated by it. It appears to be a street running NG line in a British street. I'd certainly not seen anything like it (apart from some very short stretches of NG inset track in SW London back in the 80s that was part of a waterworks system) so I spent an hour or two doing some research.

It turns out that the line is in Shrewsbury, very close to the old Abbey station. The track is still in situ (probably not worth the bother of lifting it!) but the line is no longer used.

The track is 7 1/4" gauge and was used to move freight around the yard. Whilst it appears to be on a public road it probably isn't, it's more like a paved back alleyway. I haven't been able to find out when the line closed, but I would imagine 10-20 years ago. There were two locos used, a diesel outline and a steam loco - both were miniature versions of full size locos rather than Heywood style engines (which is a shame). It appears the chief product handled was sugar. The line went into one or two buildings. Length was in the region of 300-400 metres going by the map (below). It's likely that the track in the buildings has been lifted.

So if you get the chance take a look. As stated above it's near the old Abbey station, off Abbey Foregate. The arch in the distance is next to Home Bargains. 

So the line had several unusual if not unique features. It seems to have been used for freight only, it ran mainly on-street and is still there! More info always welcomed of course - please email to

'Main' line on right with siding to building on left.

Map of line, red is in situ, blue is lifted.

We always love to hear about unusual bits of line, open or closed. If you know of anything like this please email or post to one of the Facebook groups!