Sunday, 31 January 2016

The Big Issue

(33 044 Salisbury 14.4.1986 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

Back in 1986 we had wonderful Portsmouth to Cardiff trains, with a class 33 at the head of 5 coaches. There were always plenty of seats on the train and it was rare that you couldn't find a whole compartment to yourself. The journey was a pleasure, you could sit back in your deep pile seat, open a picnic lunch and watch the world go by. It was what made railways great, and what attracted a lot of people to the hobby of rail enthusiasm.

Thirty years on you would think that we would have added to the experience, being constantly told that the world is now a far better place, that the country is booming and that railways are the coming thing.

Today we decided to take the train to Bath. It was a Sunday, always a quiet day on the railways. Well, that once was the case! I've noticed railways getting busier and busier over the last few years, but today was a real eyeopener.

Below is the crowd waiting for the 13.10 to Bath and onwards to Portsmouth.

(31.1.2016 Bristol TM copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

We struggled to find a seat on the already packed train, but eventually got one each, but only by asking a couple who'd spread out over four seats to free up some space for us, which they grumpily did. (They were an older pair, not your traditional sullen teenagers!)

After four hours in Bath we returned to Spa station. I was expecting it to be practically deserted on a cold and wet Sunday evening. It wasn't.

Our three coach train came in and it was a nightmare! It was already packed when it pulled into the station, few people seemed to get off, but loads poured on. The end result was not only every seat taken but the entire aisle of the coach was packed - we couldn't even get in there! So NINE of us were stuck in the entrance - and were thrown about all the way to Temple Meads, the only relief was when we stopped at the two intermediate stations and a couple of people got off on to the platform - not to alight but to let other passengers get off the train! Below is an actual picture of this journey!

(A quiet Sunday evening on a cross country route - 31.1.2016 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

It's great that the railways are so busy, but disastrous that people are expected to travel like this. Why isn't the train at least six carriages? Why isn't the alternative route via Bitton open and taking some of this traffic? Why was the line so busy on an ordinary Sunday?

Railways will only get busier as the oil vanishes. The railways will have to take more (and eventually ALL freight), trains will get busier as ridership increases. Why aren't we opening hundreds of miles of railways and tramways each year to cope with something that's no longer a forecast or projection but something that's happening, on the ground, now???

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Bristol Harbour Railway 15.5.2010

All 15.5.2010 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

Back in 2010 I went for a long walk down the Create Centre end of the Harbour Railway, capturing its riverside route and also the abandoned track beyond across the old bridge.

I drove past here yesterday and the bridge is now being converted ready for the White Elephant Metro Bus route, which has been VERY controversial in Bristol due to its secrecy, its destruction of countryside, the road works, the cost (both of construction and tickets!) and the route, which goes out of Bristol through countryside and back in again, merging with ordinary road traffic where congestion is worse. This will in the future be a fantastic tram route, but for now we're stuck with something that nobody wanted and very few people will use.

At one time it even threatened the route of the Harbour Railway but even Europe's Least Green City saw that as a step too far!

If anything positive comes out of this (other than the ease with which it will be converted to tram!) it'll be that the Harbour Railway will become far more visible, which can't be a bad thing. The railway is one of Bristiol's best tourist attractions AND one of our best kept secrets! Where else can you travel behind steam on street tracks, and in open carriages at that?

The next trains will be running on the Harbour Railway on 19 March 2016 - it's well worth a visit and all three destinations - M Shed, SS Great Britain and the Create Centre - are all excellent tourist attractions in their own right, and two of them are FREE!

Shillingstone - a glimpse into the past ... and future.


(Pic copyright 'John M' 1962)

This is what thousands of us alongside the S&D and further afield are working towards! Although this pic dates back to an LCGB tour of the line in 1962, it also shows what we will see again all along the S&D when the line is restored! As well as the normal passenger and freight trains that will run on the new line it has always been intended that the line will feature classic infrastructure and will encourage the operation of specials over the line - particularly steam hauled specials! If you want to help make this happen lease join one, sone or all of the various S&D groups that are doing the work on the ground!

This part of the S&D has been transformed over the last ten years or so, with the station site at Shillingstone being fully restored and a new signalbox built from scratch. This is just a small example of the incredible activity along the line in recent years. Hard to believe that the S&D was once a dead railway!

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

50 Years on at the Gartell

(GLR 27.07.2008 Source Gartell Light Railway)

Sunday 6th March 2016
The Gartell Light Railway plan to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the ‘S & D’ closure by running two very special steam hauled trains over a unique section of the former Somerset & Dorset line. With the aim of recreating the last ‘double headed’ steam hauled passenger trains over the S & D the GLR’s owner, John Gartell, is keen to replicate many of the details of the day – from using 2 steam engines to haul the special 9 coach trains with the passengers holding special commemorative tickets to running the actual special trains as near as possible to the times that the final trains passed along much of the course of the Gartell Light Railway exactly 50 years ago! In the ‘Pines Buffet’ of the GLR, passengers will also be able to study the display of the extensive collection of S & D photos & memorabilia amassed by GLR volunteer, Ian Matthews.
Demand for the two special trains is expected to be high - especially for the optional fare supplements which will include either a 2 course buffet luncheon (£10 supplement) for the morning ‘Up train’ or an afternoon cream tea (£5.00 supplement) for the afternoon ‘Down’ train. The standard pre-booked fare for the morning or afternoon train will be £20.00.
For more information and to download a booking form visit the GLR website at:-

Action at Weymouth Quay!


(Weymouth Quay 33 118 14.8.1986 Copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

A big step forward for the restoration of the iconic Weymouth Tramway is to extend its current status as temporarily out of use. As well as the heritage project there is also the important need for all docks and harbours to be rail connected as quickly as possible, a process that is well underway elsewhere.

There is currently a petition to assure the line's status and to guarantee no further entrechment takes place - at the very least the physical tracks need protecting to speed up reinstatement. To all of us normal people this does seem pretty obvious LOL - but dinosaurs still roam the Earth in places.

The working of the petition is - 

'27 Jan 2016 — There is a meeting next week that will determine the future of the quay branch line. The 'Temporary Out of Use' tag has outdated and needs to be renewed or turned to Permanently Disused'. Thankfully we have been invited to bring a spokesman along to say protest why the rail trail must stay.

Could you all please send in messages and emails of why you think the tramway must stay. Hopefully some of these will make it into the speech. And as always please share as much as you can.

This is it people, this could determine the future of the tramway, even Weymouth. We must not give up. We must make this dream become reality, in the hands of the Weymouth Quay Heritage Campaign.

~James Newall

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Facebook Spotlight Rail Thing - 70s UK Railscene

(All pics copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

I'm going to highlight our various Facebook groups over the coming months as there as so many of them - what started as a single Facebook group has blossomed to around 500!

This one currently has 855 members and covers the UK railscene in the 1970s. My very first railway photo was taken on 9.7.1971 so I covered almost this entire decade. I was just 13 at the start of it and just beginning to get a real interest in railways. Holidays at Dawlish Warren spurred this on - the line along the seafront was a real eye opener! It was mainly Westerns back then of course, I even remember maroon coaches, but was still very wet behind the ears then and didn't even realise they were anything special or different! 

So if you've an interest in this transitional decade this is the group for you. There are many active members and you'll see a wide range of pics from around the UK.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Branch Line Society 1975

All pics 22.3.1975 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

Many years ago I was a member of the Branch Line Society which as well as producing an excellent monthly(?) booklet listing all rail closures (and eventually some openings!) offered a selection of excellent railtours around the country which accessed unusual track.

I was lucky enough to go on the Hampshire Branches tour in 1975, which went on some very rare track indeed! One of the lines visited was the one to Hamble Airfield which also served a fuel depot and left the Portsmouth to Southampton line very close to Hamble Halt. These shots were all taken at the furthest point we reached, actually on the airfield - and is that a piece of roadside track I spot?

I wish I'd done a lot more of these back in the 70s but my priorities were girls and music back then!

More info (source

The History of Hamble's Railway

By Tony Sedgwick

The Depots

The railway into Hamble was built for No. 1 (Southern) Marine Acceptance Depot of the Admiralty, which was to be on the banks of Southampton Water, upstream from Hamble Common. The line was connected to the London and South Western Railway's Portsmouth - Southampton line near Hamble Lane road bridge in 1917 and was, and still is, known as 'Hamble Road Sidings', the road to the Depot being known as Hamble Road - part of it became Copse Lane many years later.

There was a system of narrow gauge lines during the building of the depot and associated barracks to the north of Hamble Lane. Immediately after crossing Hamble Lane for the second time, a siding was laid to assist in the construction of A V Roe's aircraft factory and aircraft, this later being used to bring in supplies, including coal. The line terminates by the square tower which was a feature of the Avro factory until it was demolished in recent years. A 1934 photograph shows half a dozen or so wagons parked on this line, but in 1936-37 a new hangar was built and the line rerouted, however, this arrangement was short lived as AST (Air Sevice Training) the then owners of the factory went over to oil-fired heating and the line was closed, the points being removed in 1939 or 1940.

Early in 1919 the building of the Acceptance Depot was abandoned, the only user, and later owner of the line being Avro. The motive power on the line in the early days seems to have been a War Department six-wheeled saddle-tank engine, which it appears Avro hired as and when required.

According to an official BP booklet, the site of the Acceptance Depot was purchased by shell Mex in 1923 (it became Shell Mex and BP Ltd in 1932) for a site for an oil installation, the first oil rail tanker being hauled to Hamble Road Sidings by carthorses from Hamble Village.

Records indicate that various Southern Railway locomotives were loaned to Shell Mex in the early 1920's, but in 1926 they purchased their own locomotive from the War Department at Bramley. It was delivered in February, became No.5 and worked the line until 1950.

Early 1920s Locomotive                 Locomotive No.5
( Click on image to see larger picture.)
A loco shed was built for No. 5, its location was where Spitfire Way and Barton Drive now meet, about where the lamp post is. No. 5 was always kept in an immaculate condition with a green livery lined in black and white, burnished copper pipes, fittings and chimney. It was assisted later by various small petrol or diesel locos which rarely left the bounds of the installation, and when No. 5 was away for heavy repairs its place was taken by Southern Railway engines. Three goods trains called at Hamble Road Sidings for SM & BP trade in 1938 and this number had doubled by 1948, so it can be seen that she was kept busy.
During 1943 a third line was laid at Hamble Road Sidings, floodlights being installed at the same time, whilst the track inside the depot was altered to suit the requirements of the period.
In 1950 two diesels locos arrived, No. 21 on 15th April 1950 and No. 18 in August 1950. No. 5 after many years of good service was sold for scrap, leaving Hamble on 22nd June 1950 whilst its smaller partner at the time, No. 13, left on 19th September 1950 - the latter by road.

Locomotive No.18- click to see a larger image                 Locomotive No.21 - click to see a larger image

During the late 1950's the track was completely relaid to enable the heavier tank cars coming into use to be used on the line. The engine shed was re-sited within the SM & BP depot and the original brick shed demolished, the siding to it became a loop, which at the time of writing September 1999 can still be seen.
1967 saw the arrival of a larger diesel loco, No. 24 and subsequently No. 21 and No. 18 left, No. 21 being "loaned" to the Mid Hants Railway and was last seen on a siding near Alton. No. 18 - which was built for the War Department in 1942 has defied research, its fate is unknown

Locomotive No.24- click to see a larger image

When it was decided that Hamble was to be the terminal for Wytch Farm oil, the method of getting the oil to the terminal had to be evaluated, rail being one of the methods considered. A four month period of test trains was arranged, the first to arrive was on 26th July 1985 and consisted of 10 bogie tanks with two BR Electro-Diesels of the '73' class and loco 11, one at either end. The second train was worked by BP 'No. 24' which unfortunately broke down in the middle of Hamble Lane causing more than a few people to be late for work. Thereafter, trains were worked from Hamble Road Sidings by a British Rail diesel-electric 400hp shunter until trials finished in December 1985. It was decided that a pipeline would be the preferred method, but until it was laid the oil went to the Esso refinery at Fawley.
BP locos 18, 21 and 24 were unusual in that they had a revolving orange light on their roof, as when the wind was in a NE or SW direction their track crossed the runway of the airfield, and the flashing light gave warning to aircraft.
In the 1980's there were several passenger carrying trains seen on the line organised by railway enthusiast clubs and societies, but these stopped short of the second crossing over Hamble Lane and did not enter the depot, and were worked by Diesel-Electric units.
The line has not been used since December 1985, No. 24 left in 1986 and the lines inside the terminal were taken up. The line outside remains in position and can be followed over most of its length on the Hamble Rail Trail (still one piece missing September 1999).
In November 1992 another loco arrived and was parked on the line opposite the surgery in Copse Lane. It was painted maroon and named "The Man of Kent" having come from the then recently closed Isle of Grain depot. During 1993 it was repainted BP road tanker colours and was named "Hamble-le-Rice" during week ending 13th March 1993. It never strayed outside the terminal gate and during 1998 was moved to another BP site, but it is still on Hamble Terminal's "books".
The Future

During a recent conversation with a BP official it was stated that, although at the moment they have no use for the line, they do not intend to give the line up.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Isfield 1977


(All 4.7.1977 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

Isfield is one of the two stations on the famous 'Missing Link' route in Sussex (the other being Barcombe Mills). This was the Lewes-Uckfield route, which gave a convenient alternative route to the Brighton Main Line, astonishly closed in 1969, with attempts to reopen being made ever since - which are now surely about to bear fruit!

I did see this line when open, a quick glimpse from a scout coach as we drove from Ashdown Forest to Eastbourne, but never travelled on it. In 1977 the station presented a forlorn picture with the tracks ripped up but little else changed, just a vague air or regret that this closure ever happened - what were they thinking?

Some years later the station was restored and a short heritage line opened, the Lavender Line. Whilst this has neatly preserved this section of route for future Network use the rest of the route still languishes, just waiting for the trains to return. Once restored it will be a busy route, especially when work is being done on the main London-Brighton route. Back in 1977 of course this was all well in the future, Isfield just being one more closed and decaying station, once so common in Sussex, a sad indictment of short-sightedness that even now astounds as we move into the post-oil world.

So get up to the Lavender Line whilst the option is still there - it'll be one of the few heritage lines that completely morphs into a network line, its own little place in history and one more layer of the fascinating history of this line.

More info (from Wikipedia)

Isfield is a preserved railway station on the closed section of the Wealden Line which served the East Sussex village of Isfield near Uckfield. Originally opened in 1858, the station closed in 1969 and was sold into private hands in 1983 to subsequently become the current centrepiece of the Lavender Line, a heritage railway.


Serving a relatively rural area, Isfield was a quiet station on the busy through-route from Brighton and Tunbridge Wells. Architecturally, it was a mirror image of Barcombe Mills station; equipped with two platforms, the main station buildings were on the Up side, whilst a small wooden waiting shelter was provided for the Down platform. There was no footbridge between the platforms, but passengers could easily cross by the level crossing just to the west of the station.
During the First World War milk churns were brought by rail to the station, a handbell being rung from the signalbox to warn of the approach of a train. The trains also carried German Prisoners of War to the village for forestry work in the area around Plashett Wood; at the end of the day, the prisoners were marched back to the station where a train would take them back to their camp.
Although the last train ran on 23 February 1969, the station remained open to issue bus tickets until the buses themselves were withdrawn on 6 May.
Preceding stationDisused railwaysFollowing station
Line closed, station open
British Rail
Southern Region

Wealden Line
Barcombe Mills
Line and station closed
Heritage Railways  Proposed Heritage railways
Line closed, station open
Lavender LineBarcombe Mills
Line and station closed


Station frontage
Following its closure in 1969, Isfield Station remained neglected and overgrown, envelopped by a shroud of trees and grass. After fourteen years of disuse, it was auctioned on 14 June 1983 by British Rail and sold for £60,500 to Dave and Gwen Milham who operated a landscaping business in the area and had attended the auction merely out of curiosity. A first inspection of the station site revealed a 3-foot (0.91 m) high carpet of grass on the platforms and trees up to 20-foot (6.1 m) high flourishing on the down line. The Saxby & Farmer signalbox was structurally sound, as was the main booking hall area which nevertheless needed new ceilings and windows, and part of the slate roof had to be relaid. However, in less than 18 months the station had been transformed back into a period working station bearing the green and yellow colours of the Southern Railway which had taken over the Wealden Line in 1922.

Replica waiting shelter
The wooden down waiting platform had been sold to the Bluebell Railway in 1978 and so Dave Milham had to commission a replica from local craftsman. Graffiti was sandblasted from the walls and hanging baskets, milk churns and original gas lamps were brought in to adorn the platforms. Track materials came from a British Rail surplus at Croydon and three sidings were subsequently laid out with a smallheadshunt together with a special connection to facilitate the easy unloading of stock delivered by road. The Milhams converted the stationmaster's house into a family residence and made it into their home, converting the first class passengers' waiting room into a lounge area.

Restored signal box
It was decided to operate the station as a small heritage operation called the Lavender Line after A.E. Lavender & Sons who were the original coal merchants who operated from the station yard; lavenderwas also grown in the area. Rolling stock was purchased and the first engine, a Barclay 0-4-0 saddle tank locomotive (945/1904) known as "Annie", arrived on 23 February 1984, the 15th anniversary of the station's closure. The second engine, a WD Austerity 2-10-0, came to Isfield shortly afterwards and, following a year-long restoration, was the object of a visit by Dame Vera Lynn on 6 August 1985 who gave the locomotive her name. It was sold the following year to a wealthy American who gave it as a wedding anniversary present to his wife. The Dame Vera Lynn nevertheless returned to railway use, first at theWatercress Line, and now with the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.
Having invested around £750,000 into the site, Dave Milham sold his interest in the Lavender Line in 1992, leaving the operation to be taken over by the Lavender Line Preservation Society, a group of enthusiasts whose membership rose from 15 to around 300 in little under 15 months.

Future and Possible Extensions

Despite attempts by the Wealden Line Campaign to have the line from Uckfield through Isfield to Lewes reopened to passenger traffic, a July 2008 study concluded that although technically feasible, the line would be "economically unviable".
The Lavender Line Preservation Society has expressed an interest in reopening the line between Uckfield and Lewes in the long-term future and has submitted proposals to East Sussex County CouncilWealden District Council and Uckfield Town Council. In December 2008, a petition was presented to East Sussex County Council requesting that it acquire the trackbed from the Lavender Line's northern boundary to the former site of Uckfield station, to lease back the section and to allow heritage services to be run over it.
In April 2009, the Council's Director of Transport and Environment recommended that the petition be refused on the basis that a heritage operation would prejudice the reopening of the line and the costs entailed would divert funding away from core Council services.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Weymouth 25.10.1983


(All pics 25.10.1983 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

Weymouth was always a fascinating rail destination back in the 70s and 80s, with its ancient wooden buildings, the remains of its suburban network down to Portland, the disused miniature railway at Radipole Lake and, of course, the famous Weymouth Tramway, which saw mainline trains being hauled through the streets of the town.

Not long after I took these shots of the wooden station at Weymouth it was demolished and a smart station put in its place. Soon after the Tramway would fall into gradual disuse, though of course the track remains and the line looks like it will soon be running again, albeit as a heritage line.

In 1983 the main line was still diesel worked with class 33s pulling 4-TC sets, which continued to Waterloo from Bournemouth behind electric units. It was a smooth operation, all swept away with electrification. This line had of course been the last steam main line in the UK, with steam lasting until 9 July 1967. Weymouth's other route was the winding and scenic line through Dorchester West, up through Yeovil and on to Castle Cary, on its uppers in 1983 but now getting busier year on year.

I seemed to always be tired at Weymouth, it being just about the furthest place I could visit on a Southern Rover or Runabout Rover ticket - but every time I had a ticket I always found my way there!

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Faygate 1977


(All 3.8.1977 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

Four shots of Faygate station taken on 3 August 1977. This was an odd little place on the Mid-Sussex route, with the signalbox being the only building on the platforms.

More info (from Wikipedia)

Faygate Station is located on the Arun Valley Line, between Littlehaven and Ifield, 34.4 miles (55 km) miles from London Bridge It serves the small village of Faygate and the Faygate Business Centre, situated on the A264 in the countryside between Crawley and Horsham.


The single track branch line of the London Brighton and South Coast Railway between Three Bridges and Horsham was opened 14 February 1848. Crawley and Faygate were intermediate stations each with two platforms to enable trains to pass. The line was doubled throughout during 1862 to coincide with the extension of the railway from Horsham to the Arun Valley.


The station is unstaffed, and is served mostly in the peak hours. As of April 2015, there are 11 northbound and 12 southbound trains calling at the station on weekdays with no trains in either direction on weekends. Northbound, trains run from Horsham to either London Bridge or London Victoria; one of these trains is extended from Littlehampton. Southbound, trains run from London to Horsham; one of these trains is extended to Southampton Central.
Preceding stationNational Rail National RailFollowing station
Arun Valley Line

Faygate National Rail
Faygate Station, Faygate, West Sussex - - 27052.jpg
Local authority
Station code
Managed by
Number of platforms

Annual rail passenger usage*
Increase 5,217
Increase 7,105
Increase 8,000
Decrease 5,986
Increase 6,352
Increase 8,178
Decrease 7,704
Increase 13,204
Key dates
Opened 14 February 1848