Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Reading 1973


(All 6.8.1973 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

This was Reading on my 17th birthday. I'd only been taking pictures for just over two years so was still very much a beginner (as the photos will prove!) 

This was pre-HST of course, so all the express trains were loco hauled, mainly by class 47s and 50s. This was also pre-TOPs so they just carry 4 digit numbers. I also managed to catch a Hymek running light engine. To me back then it was just another diesel of course!

I'll use this as yet another opportunity to encourage everyone to get out and photograph everything! The more ordinary and everyday the more it will be valued in the future ...

Crowborough 1977


(All 4.7.1977 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

Back in 1977 Crowborough station was an impressive place, complete with a fine array of Southern Region signage. Services were provided by first generation DEMUs and the whole place was in a bit of a time warp even then!

The station had of course been on a secondary main line until 8 years before these pics, when the Uckfield to Lewes section was inexplicably closed, converting this useful diversionary route into a long branch line, and cutting off the tradd from the south coast. Nearly 50 years later we are STILL trying to get this short 8 mile section reopened!

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Isle of Grain 1984


(All pics 9.5.1984 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

A line that rarely appears in photos or on the web is the long branch to Grain. Passenger trains vanished as long ago as 1961, but the line currently sees about one train an hour carrying freight only, a mix of Freightliner and ballast trains.

Back in 1984 most freight trains were for the oil refinery at Grain, these services finishing with the closure of the refinery in 1997. It was pure luck catching this 33 hauled one at Beluncle. I'd been driving a lorry which broke down in the area and the repair garage was just along the way from the line, so whilst I was waiting for it to be repaired I thought I'd grab a few pics, within seconds the train appeared!

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Snowy Rye in 1979


(All; copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing 19.2.1979) 

On a snowy 19 February 1979 I took a trip over to the Hastings-Ashford line which was still very much a classic railway - and had even been under closure (notices were issued and posted!!) a few years earlier.

Like other stations on this line the platforms were staggered, which was something you simply didn't see over me side of Sussex (Littlehampton). I think at this time the route was still double track throughout, which helped push up costs in the attempt to close the line! This probably is why the station buildings survived all along the line as well. All in all it meant that this was a line that was a pleasure to travel on, empty trains across an empty landscape, especially on bleak winter days like this!

It's all change now with the once threatened line a major artery feeding traffic from along the crowded south coast into Ashford International station, delivering thousands of travellers on to Eurostar to Paris, Brussels and beyond. 

Friday, 9 December 2016

Appleby 1984


(All 8.8.1984 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

Despite being born in Carlisle I still haven't travelled on this line! I was due to a few years ago via a Steam Dreams railtour but it was cancelled at the last moment. In fact there are still a lot of lines in the UK I've never travelled on. Perhaps I should stop going abroad so much?

But I did stumble upon Appleby station back in 1984 and managed to get these few shots, with the incredible luck that the Warcop freight was in the platform!

We've had our eyes on the Dent station cottages for a while as a potential place to stay, I'd love to spend a day or two travelling on and photographing this route, one we almost lost in the 70s and 80s!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

The Overseas Railway

Images of the seven mile bridge from the road (15.11.2016)

A few images from the Flagler Museum in Key West (16.11.2016)

On the way back towards Miami (17.11.2016)

(All the above pics are copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

I've long nurtured an ambition to drive on the Overseas Highway from Miami to Key West, and finally managed it last month.

The Overseas Highway was, between 1912 and 1935, the Overseas Railway, often labelled the Eighth Wonder of the World. The line linked many of Florida's keys via bridges to the mainland, and was a spectacular route, practically unequalled in the world. Unfortunately the line was hit by a huge hurricane on Labor Day, 1935, washing away 40 miles of the track, some of which washed up on the mainland. The impoverished Florida East Coast Railway simply could not afford to repair the route, selling the trackbed and structures to the Florida government, who converted the route to a road. The road is of course every bit as spectacular as the railway, although being the driver perhaps I didn't get quite the view I would have done from the train!

I was surprised that at least two of the structures, including the largest, were still substantially intact, a fantastic tribute to this line. I've since learned that many of the smaller bridges alongside the road were also railway structures, now converted for use by people fishing and cycling.

There is a small, rather eccentric, museum for the route in Key West itself, and I got to visit this as well. The lines originally reached the harbour at Key West and, incredibly, the line once offered through trains from New York to Havana!

All in all this was a fantastic few days. Key West, continental USA's most southerly point, is a wonderfully laid back and freedom-loving town, very lively at night, especially on Duval Street where we stayed. I suspect this laid back attitude spills over to the museum itself! But the real monument to Flagler are the surviving bridges which give a real feel of the magnificence of this route.

As the oil runs out the trains should return, the road is just as vulnerable as the railway was, and probably presents more potential for disaster if a hurricane hits, which will happen one day. The islands are low lying and I noticed many of the new properties are built on stilts, so perhaps that awareness of vulnerability and resilience will spill over to the people that decide future transport on the Keys.

Below are some shots of the line when operating. (All sourced via the Internet)