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Tag Archives: John Jackson

  • Survivors of Beeching by John Jackson

    It seems like only yesterday that I was lying on the carpet at my best friend’s house. Dave lived ‘seven doors down’ and had the superior Hornby double 0 gauge model railway layout. As school chums, we spent many a happy hour playing trains there.

    The view from the train as it approaches St. Ives. (Survivors of Beeching, Amberley Publishing)

    On more than one occasion I distinctly remember our two dads having the audacity to invade our space and enter our playroom. I recall their conversations on how this man Beeching would have a lasting effect on their lives, not to mention ours.

    My Dad was explaining that the railway lines east of Northampton would soon be no more. These were the very lines that I had taken for granted were there to take us home to see my Nan who lived not far from Haverhill on the Essex and Suffolk county border.

    David’s Dad had responded in a ‘tit for tat’ sort of way by explaining that this would also ruin their family holidays to Hunstanton in particular.

    In those days, when car ownership was not a given, I didn’t appreciate that there would have been similar discussions going on across the land as the country came to terms with the Beeching Act or the Beeching ‘Axe’, as it would become known in the annals of twentieth century history.

    How could I be expected to understand the economic necessities of a radical review of our railways?

    Fast forward a quarter of a century and adulthood had made me realise just what the ‘before’ and ‘after’ railway map looked like once the substantial cull of lines, stations and services had been fully implemented.

    The remote outpost of Altnabreac on Scotland’s Far North Line. (Survivors of Beeching, Amberley Publishing)

    Most childhood weekends had been spent watching the variety of steam locomotives heading up and down the West Coast Main Line. These steam locos were ousted by the rapid introduction of diesel engines followed by the northward march of the line’s electrification. Worse, Roade station, ‘our’ station had become just one of the station closure casualties. There would be no more spotting from the platforms at this strategic point where the Northampton loop split from the main line.

    In time I would, of course, get things in perspective and come to terms with the post Beeching railway map. My goal to travel on all the passenger lines in the country would be that much easier to achieve and there would be considerably less stations to visit.

    But there would still be challenges. The remote station of Rannoch may be on the West Highland Railway Line but, oddly, its road access is from much further east. The B846, a no through road, runs for about fifteen miles from the isolated village of Kinloch Rannoch, itself a similar distance from the main A9. This makes Rannoch around thirty four miles from the comparative civilisation of the Central Highlands. Yes, Rannoch is most certainly ‘a survivor’.

    My seventh title for Amberley, ‘Survivors of Beeching’, is a recognition that many lines were saved for today’s rail travellers to enjoy. The line from Cambridge to Sudbury is gone and Haverhill station has been consigned to railway history. That said, my wife and I continue to enjoy travelling on the lines that have survived. From the branch from St. Erth to St. Ives in Cornwall to Scotland’s Far North line to Wick and Thurso, the lines featured in my book are examples of what today’s railway network still has to offer.

    John Jackson's new book Survivors of Beeching is available for purchase now.

  • DB Cargo Locomotives and Stock in the UK by John Jackson

    Railways have been around in this country for nearly two hundred years, and there have been many significant milestones when documenting their place in British Social History. In the early days, they were the only way to travel as they pre-dated both motor car and aeroplane. They were also instrumental in giving the UK a standardised time for us all. Often taken for granted, they helped deliver day to day necessities such as the milk, the mail and fresh meat, fish, fruit and veg to our towns, if not directly to our doors.

    On a more sombre note, they played an extremely important part too in the country’s efforts during not one, but two, World Wars.

    66001 at Toton in August 1998. (DB Cargo Locomotives and Stock in the UK, Amberley Publishing)

    Times change of course, and our railways have seen many changes since those early days of the iron road from Stockton to Darlington. Steam locos have been replaced by diesel ones, and these diesels have in turn given way to electric power. For many, though, the railways’ usefulness has been superseded by private car and commercial lorry. Some of us opt to fly between the UK’s towns and cities.

    Our railways have been nationalised, and subsequently privatised, with a drastic streamlining under the Beeching Axe carried out between the two.

    One significant outcome of privatisation was the 1990’s creation of the company that was to handle much of the country’s rail freight movement. English, Welsh & Scottish Railways (EWS) inherited much of British Rail’s freight related assets and that company, in turn, evolved into DB Cargo today.

    In 1998, the company proudly displayed their first few examples of their Class 66 locos. This unveiling was a hint of what lay ahead. Older locos were deemed life expired or unsuitable to meet the company’s future plans. They were to be replaced by this new order. It was an order that would see two hundred and fifty Class 66 locos delivered in a little over two years. This display, at the company’s new home at Toton on the Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire border, was held over the weekend of August 29th & 30th 1998. It was seen by many, myself included, as an endorsement of promising times ahead in the rail freight sector.

    Old and new corporate colours on 90018 & 90028 at Nuneaton. (DB Cargo Locomotives and Stock in the UK, Amberley Publishing)

    That promise may not have been totally fulfilled but the DB Cargo owned examples of this class, together with a mixed bag of loco survivors from a previous era, have earned their place in the annals of railway history.

    My sixth title for Amberley, ‘DB Cargo Locomotives & Stock in the UK’, takes a look at the workings of the company in the 21st century. Like them or hate them, these Class 66 locos, or ‘sheds’ as they quickly became known, form the basis of our hobby for the many enthusiasts who rise to the challenge of trying to see the whole of this UK class during each calendar year.

    Many of the 250 class members on DB’s books have since found permanent work aboard, leaving around half on them based in the UK. Before those loco despatches to mainland Europe, I recall the red-letter day when I saw loco number 66222 pass through the high level platforms at Tamworth station, meaning I had seen all 250 EWS locomotive examples (as they were then) through the Staffordshire town.

    A mix of diesel and electric locomotives meet today’s DB Cargo needs. The book’s pages take a look at the variety of workings on which they are found.

    Whatever the level of interest of today’s rail enthusiast, the place of DB Cargo in the freight sector in particular can’t be ignored. A browse through the pages of this book gives an indication as to why.

    John Jackson's new book DB Cargo Locomotives and Stock in the UK is available for purchase now.

  • East Anglian Traction by John Jackson

    Lowestoft has also enjoyed its fair share of locomotive-hauled passenger services in 2017. On 20 July, No. 68005 Defiant sits at the buffer stops having arrived with the 12.05 departure of Norwich. (East Anglian Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    My wife, Jenny, and I have been privileged to have travelled to many far-flung corners of the world. Yet it was Amberley Publishing who coaxed me to come out of copy writing ‘retirement’ to produce a range of railway titles on subjects much closer to home. Nothing could evoke stronger memories of my lifelong love affair with this country’s railways than writing ‘East Anglian Traction’.

    Although I was born and brought up in Northampton, it was the trips back to my parental roots that sparked this railway enthusiasm that was to last a lifetime. You see, both my parents, and several generations before them, came from a little corner of Essex, close to the Suffolk border.

    For many years our family made use of the long-closed station at Haverhill in order to return to our family roots. The railway line may have closed half a century ago but the memories of family outings around East Anglia by train will remain with me forever. Sadly, I did not possess a camera in those days – and, hence, have no photos of steam hauled passenger trains on the area’s branch lines. Despite the traction change from steam to diesel multiple units, the axe fell on this Stour Valley line in March 1967.

    The Freightliner stabling point at Ipswich still receives its fuel by rail. The tanks are worked to Ipswich from Lindsey on Humberside. On 5 October 2015, No. 66556 is seen shunting a short rake of fuel tanks at the stabling point. (East Anglian Traction, Amberley Publishing)

    It is ironic that it has taken half a century for the politicians and decision makers in this country to realise that there is a demand for connections that are east to west. Historically, those lines from north to south (i.e. to and from London) have seemed to be the priority. I say, bring on the East West Rail Link ASAP. This should see the reinstatement of direct services between our two major university cities of Cambridge and Oxford.

    Meanwhile, I have spent those intervening fifty years travelling the railway lines of East Anglia that have survived. What’s more, in recent years, my wife persuaded me to make sure that my camera is our constant companion. The photographic fruits of these extensive travels have been on display on the internet for many years now.

    That said, Amberley coaxing me to produce a modern record of East Anglian Traction has been one of my most enjoyable projects.

    At the opposite end of the traction spectrum can be found a small fleet of GA's one, two or three-car diesel multiple units. These can be found across the region's non-electrified lines. A typical East Anglian scene on 4 May 2014 sees a single-car unit, No. 153309, calling at Hoveton & Wroxham while working a Sheringham to Norwich local service. (East Anglian Traction, Amberley Publishing)

     

     

     

    You see, for me the region is an area of railway contrasts and setting foot on today’s platforms at many stations in East Anglia is like stepping back in time by a couple of generations. If those who run today’s railway are to be believed, much change is, however, in the offing. There is a promise by today’s passenger operator of the areas franchise that virtually all its rolling stock will be replaced in the next few years. We shall see.

    As I write this, the last remaining semaphore signals in the Yarmouth and Lowestoft areas are being replaced.

    Meantime, we have enjoyed our adventures in this lovely part of the world. Our aim was to compile a record of rail operations in the area in the second decade of the 21st century – before future changes are delivered and the railway we know today is consigned to history.

    It just remains for me to say thank you to Amberley for giving me the opportunity to once again re-visit my roots. I also hope that the reader gleans a sense of my enthusiasm and enjoys browsing the books pages.

    John Jackson's new book East Anglian Traction is available for purchase now.

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