Saturday, 29 August 2015

Knockholt 19.5.1986

1521 Knockholt 19.5.1986

1540 Knockholt 19.5.1986

1583 Knockholt 19.5.1986

Knockholt 19.5.1986

1517 Knockholt 19.5.1986

1619 Knockholt 19.5.1986

1600 Knockholt 19.5.1986

1571 Knockholt 19.5.1986

1569 Knockholt 19.5.1986

47 486 Knockholt 19.5.1986

7853 Knockholt 19.5.1986

1551 Knockholt 19.5.1986

1522 Knockholt 19.5.1986

Knockholt is a busy station in Kent, on the main line to Dover from London. 

Back in 1986 the first signs of sectorisation were appearing with the excellent 'Jaffa Cake' livery visible on one of the trains above. An hour or so at the station saw a succession of trains pass through, commonplace at the time but all lost to us now! The highlight was class 47 47 486 on an inter regional train, complete with main line liveried coaches.

Knockholt railway station is a railway station in the south eastern corner of the London Borough of Bromley, in Travelcard Zone 6 and on the South Eastern Main Line. It is located next to the Greater London boundary with Kent district of Sevenoaks. The boundary is the farm bridge at the southern end of the platforms.


The station is 4.8 km (3.0 mi) north-northeast of the village of Knockholt but closer to several other settlements. The station serves several small communities in the Sevenoaks district in addition to Knockholt; Badgers Mount 1.3 km (0.81 mi) to the southeast, Well Hill 1.3 km (0.81 mi) northeast, andHalstead 2.2 km (1.4 mi) south. Within the Bromley borough Pratts Bottom is only 2 km (1.2 mi) west-southwest; and also Chelsfield (although having its own railway station, is in parts closer to Knockholt station) at about 2.7 km (1.7 mi) to the north and west. Many people often wonder why the station is not named after the village within it sits. To avoid confusion with Halstead in Essex, and due to Badgers Mount not entirely fulfilling the criteria for being a village, it was named after the next closest village, which is of course Knockholt.


The typical off-peak service from the station is two trains per hour southbound to Sevenoaks and two trains per hour northbound to London Charing Cross, calling at all stations to Hither Green and then running fast to London Bridge.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Black and White Bristol Temple Meads

(All 24.8.2015 Copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

Something a little different this time! I am a regular visitor to Bristol Temple Meads station, as my son comes up from Sway every month to visit, and I pick him up from the station. I always try to arrive an hour or so early so I can take some pictures, mainly to record the changes prior to electrification.

Monday this week was wet and miserable, so I decided to switch to black and white for a change. I LOVE black and white, but the light and texture needs to be right to make it work. I'm very influenced by classic photographers like Ansel Adams and Bill Brandt, and try to capture a little bit of what they did, though I fear today's subject matter just isn't as punchy as it was! But I'm reasonably pleased with these, especially the exteriors. This simply wouldn't have worked had it been sunny!

I did switch to colour after the two shots I took on the platform mind!

Sunday, 23 August 2015

The Southwold Railway

Halesworth engine shed after closure

No 1 at Halesworth

Blythburgh Station c1900

Southwold railway station postcard

Southwold station 1927 postcard

England wasn't a particularly fertile country for narrow gauge railways, but there were a few passenger carrying lines (as well as hundreds of industrial lines).

The only public railway of less than standard gauge in East Anglia was the Southwold Railway. This ran between Halesworth on the East Suffolk line to the seaside resort of Southwold. It had a ramshackle reputation which the rail company seemed to play on, and this could have been one reason why it was closed so early - in 1929. Looking at this line from today's perspective it seems incredible that it did close - a Network connected route to a popular seaside resort - would be pure gold today for both residents and visitors to the area. It would make commuting to London by rail a breeze ...

But the line is now stirring despite peculiar opposition from some current day residents who probably haven't quite grasped the transport challenges ahead of us and don't understand just how important a rail link will be in the future. The new company is based at Wenhaston and is establishing a rail presence there. It will be nice to see a certain amount of modern equipment being developed for the route offering a reasonably fast passenger and freight link to the main line, but for now most of the input is of a heritage nature. In a way the Southwold is the perfect model for future secondary transport in the UK  a narrow gauge link from the Network to a small town serving the communities on the way. The Southwold Railway WAS an anachronism, but not in the way many people think. It was well ahead of its time, and it becomes more obvious each day that its time lies a decade or so into the future. I will be watching this line with considerable interest over the coming years!

The Southwold Railway was a narrow gauge railway line between Halesworth and Southwold in the English county of Suffolk8 34 miles (14.1 km) long, it was 3 ft (914 mmnarrow gauge. It opened in 1879 and closed in 1929.
Intermediate stations were at WenhastonBlythburgh and Walberswick.

  • Route 

  • The route closely followed the 
    River Blyth, with Halesworth and Southwold both on the north side, but the longest section, including the intermediate stations, was on the south side. Although the line closed in 1929, its track was still marked and identified on a 1933 Ordnance Survey map, a navigable version of which is accessible in the external links section. The line was lifted and the equipment was scrapped in 1941 to help with war efforts. Some track can still be found on the harbour branch and a surviving van is at the East Anglian transport museum (Carlton Colville). There is also a surviving (but derelict) coal shed at Blythburgh.
Parts of the route from Southwold to Blythburgh are walkable, particularly through woodland known as the Heronry on the south shore of the Blyth estuary. The original footbridge at Southwold was blown up during the war but its pillars now support a footbridge.

Proposed re-establishment of the line[edit]

To further the memory of the Southwold Railway and to foster wider interest therein The Southwold Railway Society was formed in 1994 to:
  1. research, collate and add to the information about the Southwold Railway and to augment the existing collection of artifacts and memorabilia relating to the railway
  2. Publish and otherwise disseminate information, display at exhibitions and promote public events
  3. Investigate the possibility of re-establishing part of the line and to promote this if re-establishment was shown to be possible
  4. Initiate and promote other such activities as are determined
The Southwold Railway Trust was established in 2006 with the objective of promoting awareness of the heritage of the Southwold Railway, preserving any remaining artefacts and instigating re-instatement of the railway as a local community and public amenity connecting Southwold to the main line railway at Halesworth.
The trust submitted a planning application in June 2012 with a view to recreating a new station close to the original station site in Wenhaston. Plans include a new station building based on the design of the original, plus a workshop and visitor centre building. The proposals include the reopening of a 12 mile (0.80 km) section of the original railway towards Bythburgh. Lineside walks and picnic facilities, and the conservation and appreciation of local wildlife are also central to the plans. It is hoped that the trust will conserve a little piece of this historic and unique railway for current and future generations. To haul trains on the reopened line the trust is progressing with the construction of a replica Sharp Stewart steam locomotive, based on the designs of the locomotives that served the railway.

Saturday, 15 August 2015


Liestal 25.5.1987

Altmarkt 25.5.1987

Waldenburg 25.5.1987

Oberdorf 25.5.1987 

(All pics copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

The Waldenburgerbahn runs on the very narrow gauge (for Sswitzerland) of 750mm (2'5½") and is situated in Canton Basel-Landschaft. The line is 13.1km (8.1 miles) long, running from Liestal (junction with the SBB) to Waldenburg. There are intermediate stops at Bubendorf, Hölstein, Niederdorf and Oberdorf.

The line is operated by the Waldenburgerbahn AG and is the only normal passenger line of this gauge in Switzerland (though some industrial and funicular lines use it). It was steam operated until 1953.

The original concession for the route was granted on 18 June 1871. The original plans included an extension from Waldenburg to Langenbruck, but this section was not built. The railway opened throughout on 30 October 1880.

In 1909 plans for a longer extension from Waldenburg via Langenbruck to Balsthal, plus a connection from St Wolfgang to Mümliswil, were applied for but World War I intervened and this extension also didn't make it (together with plans for conversion to metre gauge).

Electric operation of the line started on 26 October 1953, using 1500v DC. The original 1953 stock has since been replaced by seven railcars and ten control cars acquired between 1986 and 1993.

The line operates mainly on a roadside reservation with street running in places, There are now eleven intermediate stops and six passing places, allowing a fairly intensive half hourly service to be operated, with additional trains in peak periods.

Tourist steam trains are operated from spring to autumn using 1902 built locomotive number 5, Gedeon Thommen. This loco had previously been plinthed at Liestal station between 1961 and 1980.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Lee on the Solent Light Railway

Lee on the Solent station c John Alsop Collection.

Fort Brockhurst c1900.

Map of the line

This little known light railway was incorporated on 14 April 1890 and was opened on 12 May 1894. The line ran from Fort Brockhurst station on the Gosport branch via Privett and Browndown to a seaside station at Lee-on-the-Solent. The line originally used its own locomotives but was effectively worked by the LSWR on 1 August 1909, from when railmotors were employed. The line remained nominally independent until a few days after Grouping, the line being (reluctantly) taken over by the newly formed Southern Railway. The line closed to passengers as early as 1 January 1931 and to freight on 30 September 1935, being lifted during World War II.

There has been some talk of reopening the line as a light railway or (unlikely!) as a busway!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The Lynton and Barnstaple - an inspiration to us all

Woody Bay 23.6.1980

Woody Bay 30.7.2006

Killingon Lane 30.7.2006 (All copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

'Perchance it is not dead but sleepeth'. So proclaimed the board left at the buffer stops at Barnstaple Town station back in 1935, on the day the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway closed. It was an act of pure genius.

For many years the line was sleeping, deeply. Railways were in decline, enthusiasts dared not even contemplate reopening railways. We were heading towards a future of robots, colonies on Mars and twelve lane motorways.

And then slowly railways WERE reopened, by enthusiasts and mainly for enthusiasts. And in time the preserved lines, as they were then called, became tourist attractions and the general public took to them as steam vanished from the Network.

They rebranded themselves as heritage railways and began to offer more than just rides, with some lines offering services for people to get from A to B.

Somewhere in that period a few brave souls decided the L&B's time was coming, that it could be nudged from that deep sleep. And why not? It sat in a prime holiday area, ran through fantastic countryside and was just about intact. And after a quiet start with a few dead ends it finally began to return, once Woody Bay had been secured. Very very small steps, but a head of steam is building up, and the line now unashamedly proclaims that its long term aim is to rebuild the whole route. We don't need to be shy of our aims any more! A step towards this was the formation of Exmoor Associates, a group that exists purely to obtain stretches of the line as they come on to the market. This will then ease extension of the line. 

For now the line offers a trip of about a mile, but there are big plans falling into place. The line is now about to acquire Blackmoor (Gate) station. Snapper Halt and Chelfham Viaduct have both been restored to a degree by the line.

The L&B model has inspired others, not least the New Somerset and Dorset Railway, which aims to restore the whole 100 miles of that line.

We are moving towards a transport paradigm shift. Road traffic will give way to rail traffic as the oil vanishes. Rail has a huge energy efficiency over road, it has only been cheap and easy (and heavily subsidised) oil that has skewed this. As the oil (and the cars and lorries) vanish we will all switch to rail. Where does this leave the L&B - and the rest?

The heritage railway per se is doomed, for the same reason roads are. Some are already aware of this and are morphing into community railways. What few if any are aware of is that the particular skill set they already possess will be priceless in an oil-free future. Our non-electrified railways won't be diesel worked, but will use steam. Fashion and modernity will vanish as our fossil-fuel sunbsidised economy simplifies. The best use of assets will be the long-term. There's no reason why locomotives and coaches can't last over 100 years - because some already have! Railways will become the heart and lifeline of every community. 

As for narrow gauge light railways - their golden age is now only a decade or so away. An ideal solution in less heavily populated areas the brief interregnum, when cheap oil allowed roads to steal the light railways' traffic away, will soon come to an end, and we all need to be ready to get the rails down as quickly as we can - not only between Lynton and Barnstaple but throughout these islands. The L&B will once again become a virtuous model and will pick up from where it left off, only this time without subsidised road traffic to compete against.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Last Look at Trafford Park

(All 1.5.1986 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

A last look at some of the lines that in 1986 littered the Trafford Park Estate in Manchester. I walked a fair bit of the lines but didn't see a single item of rolling stock.

I think at least part of this system survives, but it seems crazy that it is not busy with trains, offering a far more efficient delivery service than our crumbling roads ever will. Hopefully as time goes by more and more of this system will come back to life and offer an inspiration to other estates around the country, giving them a resilence that road-only served estates will only be able to dream of!