Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Basingstoke 28.10.1983


(All 28.10.1983 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

Back in 1983 I was still managing to take a couple of weeks a year rail roving around the south. There was still plenty of variety and a lot of the trains were far from overcrowded (younger readers will find this odd!) My favourite three locations for variety and ease of photography were Southampton, Salisbury and Basingstoke. All had plenty of variety and it was easy to get from one to the other, following the sun if it was shining.

On October 28th 1983 Basingstoke produced a nice variety of electric and diesel trains, including loco hauled of course. 33s and 50s were commonplace, as were 47s. The bottom picture even saw a blue liveried Hampshire unit still up and running.

This scene quickly changed within a few years as BR vanished and more and more loco hauled trains were handed over to units. But all three locations are still interesting in 2016, and of course a lot busier than they were back in 1983.

Manx Electric Railway

(All pics September 2016 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

The Manx Electric Railway is unique in the British Isles, a 3 feet gauge railway/tramway that 
combines roadside running, dramatic scenery, interesting stops en route and some of the oldest (and the oldest!) tramcars still running in regular service worldwide.

The best way to reach the line's Douglas terminus at Douglas Castle is to use the horse trams which provide the most intensive service along the promenade, the buses are far less common and not near as much fun!

Trains run basically every hour and leave Douglas via a dramatic cliffside climb, before turning inland on roadside tracks through lovely countryside, reaching Laxey via more clifftop running in about half an hour. Here trains/trams connect with the Snaefell Mountain Tramway (a railway!) and in summer there are 18" trains towards the Lady Isabella waterwheel a little up the valley.

Beyond Laxey the line becomes even more dramatic, arguably giving the finest scenic run in the British Isles, before descending down to Ramsey, the island's second largest town, via the backs of gardens and a short stretch of roadside running in Walpole Avenue.

All in all one of my favourite lines in the world and well worth going back to again and again, even if very little ever changes!

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Lincolnshire backwater in 1985


(All pics 19.6.1985 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

Back in 1985 I was driving a lorry around the country, a very cheap way to visit lots of places and take lots of photos!

A part of the country I really don't know very well is Lincolnshire. Southern and Western Region, and Switzerland I know like the back of my hand, most if not all of the railways, same with the stations.

So I turned up at this strange little place, I knew it was one of two stations in Gainsborough, and I vaguely knew (this was pre-Internet of course!) that it didn't see many passenger trains. But I was lucky enough to snap a class 56 on a freight in the twenty minutes or so I was there.

The line and station are still there of course - hopefully they get a few more passenger trains these days!

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Five Days on the Isle of Man

(All 4.9-8.9.2016 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

I've just returned from a wonderful 6 day trip to the Isle of Man. I'd previously visited in 2003 with my son, this time I was with my wife and mother-in-law, but still managed to catch plenty of rail action! Not a lot has changed, although if anything there's more rail activity on the island now than back then.

My favourite line is of course the Manx Electric Railway - a true vision of the future for rural transport on the mainland, an accountant's dream with all stock depreciated away to nothing thanks to its average age of over 100! With roadside running, cliffside running and stunning views, plus open coaches, there's really nothing much to compare in Europe! The horse trams were right outside the hotel and we used them for transport, the novelty quickly wearing off, and another little glimpse into the future particularly for link tramways from smaller towns and villages to the nearest main railway station. Got to see and photograph the Laxey Mines Railway which wasn't quite open last time I was there (or indeed this time, but only because it wasn't a Sunday!) I also 'climbed' down Groudle Glen and got some pics of the delightful station at Lhen Coan on the Groudle Glen Railway, again a line I was fated not to travel on this time because of the limited opening just out of season, though I did get to travel on it in 2003. We travelled (the only passengers) up to Snaefell with a fantastic driver who gave us a running commentary, hitting the mist half way up and ending up somewhere high with no views (it had been the same in 2003). We found out later that the fog had caused terrible problems for the planes with 48 hours of delays. And finally the Isle of Man Steam Railway. Our initial plan was to travel on the 11.50 on Tuesday, but it was cancelled (replaced by a bus of all things!) so we turned this round and booked for the Dining Train on Thursday evening, which was a fantastic experience in the dark and rain  and I got a glimpse of yet another Manx line - the Crogga Valley Railway. So there are several reasons to go back ...

A lot more to come over the coming days.