Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Bow 1977


(All 9.6.1977 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

Five years after the Okehampton line closed to passengers I took these photos of Bow station.

I'd travelled on the route in the summer of 1972, just before closure to passengers. At that time the line was still double track and I'd managed to get the seat at the front of the DMU which gave me a view of the line ahead. It was impressively engineered and was clearly a former main line. The trains still stopped then at Bow, as well as the other intermediate stations at North Tawton and Sampford Courtenay. The whole trip up from Exeter had been steeped in Southern Railway heritage, despite the line being by then under the control of the Western Region. I was glad I got to travel on this lovely stretch of line as at the time it perhaps seemed that it was gone for good.

It isn't of course. Passenger trains run again - after a fashion - to Okehampton, at least in the summer. But the big development of course is the inevitability of the line's reopening through to Plymouth, inevitable because with sea level rise accelerating and storms getting worse the fantastic line through Dawlish is under a death sentence, although that may well be an extended one. The effect of storm damage to the coastal route is to effectively cut off much of Devon, including the resorts of Torquay and Paignton, together with Plymouth, plus the whole of Cornwall, from the rail network. This of course happened a couple of years ago, and the economic effects were dreadful. Each year the coastal route becomes more vulnerable and more expensive to keep open. A second route is absolutely essential and most of it of course is still there - the line to Meldon to the north of Dartmoor, and the line from Plymouth up to Bere Alston on the western flank, with reopening a further six miles to Tavistock in the pipeline. The stretch in between, only around 20 miles, is still there waiting for the tracks to be relaid.

Hopefully full use will be made of this asset in the future, with regular express and local services (plus freight of course) making full use of the brillinatly engineered ex-SR route between Plymouth and Exeter, feeding far more traffic on to the Exeter-Salisbury-Waterloo route. Capacity needs to be increased, but it's all possible with redoubling of the Exeter-Salisbury line now under way. And hopefully Bow station, and all the other intermediate stations along the route, also get their trains back. Let's do this properly!

Hatfield Peverel 1985


(All pics 11.6.1985 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

It's Flaming June in 1985 and I've found myself at Hatfield Peverel station somewhere in the east of England.

Whilst it wasn't pleasant taking photos in these conditions as usual the rain brings out a very different feel to a place, giving the shots a bleakness that sunny shots would miss.

It was a busy station with quite a variety of stock coming through. This was the tail end of the BR blue era but a few carriages with Inter-City livery are starting to appear in the loco hauled rakes.

I also tried to capture a few atmosphere/existentialist shots, which I think managed to catch the everyday feel of the place. All in all a good hour or so well spent!

Friday, 12 August 2016


(All 7.8.2016 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

As part of my long weekend 60th birthday celebrations we took a trip to the Isle of Wight on Sunday and rather than use the steam railway we preferred (as we had three non railfans) to take a trip on the electric line from Ryde Esplanade down to Shanklin. It's been almost 40 years since I last travelled on the Isle of Wight trains and it was nice to see that not too much had changed! Still the old underground stock, although newer than the last time I was there, surprised to see the pier was single track (with the second track still in place) and nice to see two new stations since my last visit (Smallbrook Junction and Lake). The trains we used were both full, which was good to see. Shanklin was a far more interesting destination than Wootton would have been, with the seaside busy and some nice pubs and restaurants along the front.

A real treat was the hovercraft that took us over to the island. This is a wonderful service, quick and busy. It kept the 'real heritage' experience going, the 60s feel of the hovercraft and the earlier feel of the trains providing an experience of real history still doing the job it's supposed to. A highly recommended day out. My next WILL include the steam railway!