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Tag Archives: railways

  • Second Generation EMUs by John Jackson

    As a youngster in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, my earliest memories of watching trains were at a time when diesel locos were replacing their steam predecessors. As a Northampton lad, those ‘spotting’ days involved regular sessions at the likes of Peterborough, Wellingborough and the West Coast Main Line station at Roade, just south of Northampton.

    It was not until a family holiday in 1964, however, that I had my first experience of trains running on electric power. We were staying just outside Newcastle upon Tyne when I had my first sight of a third rail providing 600-volt DC to power a fleet of ageing ‘North Tyneside Electrics’.

    This class 313, seen at Finsbury Park, was built in 1977. (Second Generation EMUs, Amberley Publishing)

    A little later that summer I was also to witness for the first time that same third rail powering London’s Underground network. Regular sessions at the likes of Clapham Junction and London Bridge were to follow shortly afterwards. It didn’t take long for me to realise the importance of the third rail in providing an intensive service for London bound commuters from what was then the Southern Region.

    Since those days in the late 1960’s, I have witnessed the expansion of electrification across much of the UK rail network. My childhood haunts of Peterborough and Roade have long seen electric trains running under the overhead wires. It should only be a matter of months before Wellingborough joins them as the Midland Main Line overhead electrification is extended northwards from Bedford to Kettering and Corby.

    The initial infrastructure costs of electrification may be high, but it is the considered view that electric trains are more environmentally friendly and, over time, have proved to be both cheaper to run and more reliable than their diesel counterparts.

    A class 717 unit, one of the newest classes, is also seen at Finsbury Park. (Second Generation EMUs, Amberley Publishing)

    The electric multiple unit (EMU) has played an increasingly important part in shaping Britain’s passenger railways and, in the 1970’s, this ongoing expansion of the electrified network demanded a new generation of these electric units. This planning culminated in the introduction of the class 313 units at the end of that decade, working on inner suburban services out of London’s Moorgate station.

    From the Isle of Wight to the Central Belt of Scotland centred on Edinburgh and Glasgow, this second generation of electric multiple units now provides the mode of transport for an increasing percentage of all passenger journeys made in the UK. Since swapping the rat race for the rail tracks and, with my camera as a constant companion, I have been privileged to witness the many types of electric units at work across the UK.

    In my twelfth and latest book, ‘Second Generation EMU’s’, I explore the variety of classes that have graced our railways over the last half century. Starting with the class 313’s introduced back in 1977 and ending with a glimpse of ‘bi-mode’ units. This latest industry buzz word may offer a far cheaper alternative than full end to end electrification of our secondary lines. These bi-mode units offer the flexibility of electric power when available, supplemented by the use of diesel engines when it’s not.

    Bi-Mode power may be one for the future. Meantime, I hope you have the chance to share the journey through the pages of this publication.

    John Jackson's book Second Generation EMUs is available for purchase now.

  • Freight in the Peak District by Paul Harrison

    Living on the doorstep of the Peak District of Derbyshire has over the last forty odd years or so afforded me many opportunities to jump on the train or bus and travel to places to photograph and watch the many varied freight train movements and record the details. My first visits to the area were in the early 1980s usually with my parents, brother and often our Uncle, who introduced me and my brother to a lifetime of railway trains. A favourite treat was to ride the diesel passenger train to Buxton on New Year’s Day to visit the town and have a look around the model toy fair in the Pavilion Gardens where our Christmas money could be spent on items for our model railway layout.

    The driver of No. 60047 is about to relinquish the single-line token to the signaller leaning out of the box with his hook. (Freight in the Peak District, Amberley Publishing)

    Although I have visited the main location of Peak Forest many times since the mid-1990s, I do regret not going up more in the late 1980s and early 1990s, before privatisation of the railways started. Back then it was British Rail and the Railfreight Trainload Sector operations and the local Buxton based Class 37s that ruled the roost with some help from Class 31s and 47s. The new Class 60s were first introduced to the area in 1991 for driver and technical training at first and I quite liked these rugged heavy-duty locomotives even more so as their engines were supplied from the Mirrlees-Blackstone factory in Hazel Grove. Little did I know then that these Class 60s would be the main traction type for my favourite traffic flow the Tunstead to Northwich limestone flow locally known as ‘The Hoppers’. These wagons and the traffic they carried were another reason for my interest in the local freight scene. Along with the various other stone and cement flows and the ‘Speedlink’ feeder service that ran between Warrington Arpley and Peak Forest where the wagons were split into separate portions for onwards dispatch to Hope for cement, Buxton for gas oil and supplies for the locomotive depot, and Hindlow for powdered lime. Plus what I considered to be foreign wagons would turn up sometimes and I would try to figure out what they were being used for. I could happily view these freight trains passing from my bedroom window.

    A double-headed Freightliner train of empty HIA hoppers heads to Tunstead for loading. (Freight in the Peak District, Amberley Publishing)

    It was during the mid-1990s that I picked up my Dad’s Zenit camera and soon acquired one of my own, another similar Zenit 11, which did the job in taking photographs of the trains passing through Hazel Grove and recording what was going on at Peak Forest. A better Minolta SLR camera with auto-wind on came a few years after and the better optics and focusing certainly helped. By 2007 I had saved up to buy a new Sony A100 Digital SLR which became my main camera having tried several different digital cameras up until then, the best of which was probably the Sony CD camera, which recorded onto mini three inch size CD-R discs and that performed well until the A100 was purchased. And so with the ability to take more photographs recorded onto a memory card I began to take more of the trains and the wagons that they were formed of. I still try and visit the Peak Forest area when time permits and enjoy seeing what has changed since my last visit especially the locomotive colours and wagons.

    After publishing my first book in 2002 on the history of the traffic from Tunstead to Northwich and beyond, I published my own booklet in 2006, which commemorated two railway anniversaries in Hazel Grove where I grew up. It wasn’t until many years later when an acquaintance in the DEMU modelling society had his book on modern wagons published by Amberley Publishing that the thought occurred to me to maybe try getting a book of my own published. And so the idea of a book looking at the Freight traffic in and around the Peak District was born using my own photographic material.

    Paul Harrison's book Freight in the Peak District is available for purchase now.

  • Turkish Steam Railways by Mick Pope

    Turkey is probably best known, in recent years, as a holiday destination for British sun-seekers and being a neighbour of war-torn Syria. Over the centuries Turkey, a country these days with one small foot in Europe and a larger one in Asia, has been the centre of a huge empire under the Ottomans and at times the focus of international conflicts. As a result of this strategic position various countries and alliances have had an interest in Turkey’s internal affairs including its transportation infrastructure. Modernized, under Kemel Attaturk, to a greater extent than most Middle Eastern states, Turkey has centres of heavy industry and although the majority of the population is concentrated in the west and coastal areas, it has cities in the east that need lines of communication and also to provide transit from the countries on its eastern border – Iraq, Iran Syria and Russia. Turkish railways, now government run, had backers from a variety of countries when first built and this is also reflected in the builders of many of its locomotives which came from manufacturers in, among others, Germany, France, the US, and Great Britain.

    The main motive power on the Zonguldak to Irmak line comes from the big American-built 2-10-0s known to enthusiasts as 'Skyliners'. (Turkish Steam Railways, Amberley Publishing)

    A lover of and photographer of railways, when the last steam locomotives were withdrawn from the national system in the UK in 1968, I found I had a big hole in my life. At first I filled it by tracking the last steam locomotives that clung on in industrial service in the UK but these were rapidly disappearing, a process accelerated by the decline in the coal industry. I was just finishing university and starting in my first job. Once settled in the latter, and getting married along the way, I realised that I would have to travel further afield to satisfy my appetite for steam locomotives. China was still building them, India was a heavy user and South Africa had some magnificent beasts but all these places were inaccessible for either political or cost reasons. So I concentrated at first on Eastern Europe where the communist states still ran some steam hauled services. I was also aware that Turkey was just that bit further and had a fascinating variety of locomotives but a visit there went on the back burner until the 1980s when I had the financial means to travel further afield and an understanding wife.

    A 2-10-0 leading a mixed train heads off into the east towards Kars and the distant mountains. (Turkish Steam Railways, Amberley Publishing)

    A solo trip to Turkey was a bit of a step too far in organizational terms and so I signed up for a 1984 tour with the Railway Travel and Photography group with whom I had travelled to South Africa in 1980. This blog is as much about the adventure of the tour as to the steam locomotive content. The normal modus operandi for such a tour was to divide the group up to travel around in a fleet of hire cars to pre-booked hotels, something I had experience of in South Africa. So it was that we arrived at Istanbul airport and were divided up with two drivers and one non-driver per car. On this trip, and a later one in 1985, my co-driver was Nick, owner of a well known company producing railway related videos. Nick had rallied cars and, being no slow-coach myself, we tended to arrive at our pre-booked destinations somewhat in advance of the rest of the party! I also returned in 1988 for a last look, a solo trip as I had more confidence.

    Here a Kriegslok waits with a scheduled service in Karakuyu station. (Turkish Steam Railways, Amberley Publishing)

    Turkey is not a country for drivers of a nervous disposition. The code of the Turkish driver is ‘insha allah’ which roughly translates as ‘the will of god’. In practical terms this means that, on a blind corner, one is very likely to meet a car head-on driven on the wrong side of the road. The belief behind this could be put in western terms as ‘if your number is up there’s nothing you can do about it’. We saw many wrecked cars and other vehicles – a coach from Iran abandoned on its side with luggage strewn across the roadside, in one place half a horse that had presumably half crossed the road. Our own group managed to damage most of their vehicles in some way or other, one being a complete write-off. Our own vehicle suffered a bizarre accident. It was the time of the sugar beet harvest [lots of extra trains] and the roads were full of overloaded trucks. While following one along a dirt road at 60mph it hit a bump and a dozen of the roots flew off and bounced along the road towards us. Most missed or hit a glancing blow but a few miles on the temperature gauge hit red and we realised that something was wrong. On stopping we found a round hole in the front grill and a sticky mess embedded in the radiator. We crept to the next town and stopped. While standing with bonnet open scratching our heads a local approached and offered the comment that a relative had a garage and could help us. We followed him to a shanty among the roadside shops where a beaming mechanic offered the typical ‘No problem’ response one often gets in less developed countries. While we sat drinking sweet Turkish tea in the cafe opposite, they whipped out the radiator, welded the leaks, pressure tested it and reinstalled it, all for about £5!

    Turkey has some amazing scenery – off the top of my head the cave houses at Goreme, the semi-deserts of the far east and the camel serai’s, fortress like stone buildings with stables for the camels underneath come to mind. At one of the latter we encountered some delightful fair-haired, green and blue eyed, children who might have come from a totally different world to the typical darker haired Turkish children.

    The enthusiasts' special seen in earlier shots crosses a viaduct as it descends into Egridir. (Turkish Steam Railways, Amberley Publishing)

    And so, briefly, a mention of the raison d’être of the trip – the trains. The service tended not to be very frequent but often quite slow and so it was possible to overtake them and photograph them at several different places. On a couple of occasions I drove side by side with a train on a parallel road while Nick hung from the window videoing it. Some scenic locations were fabulous. I recall in particular the line from Zonguldak to Cankiri where huge American built locos struggled over steep gradients, at times assisted by another locomotive at the rear, or the line to Kars where the landscape resembled the moon. In complete contrast was the system of branch lines in the west around the lakes at Burdur and Egridir. Here the sugar beet season saw extra trains hauled by a variety of German built locomotives of various vintages and a complex timetable of passenger trains shuttling back and forth.

    All this is sadly now gone and my recent trips to Turkey have involved sitting in the sun sipping cold beers. The railways did make a half-hearted attempt to run tourist trains but the infrastructure dictates that this would probably only appeal to a small market of diehard enthusiasts and the skills to maintain steam locomotives have been lost. Still, I have my photos and videos to remind me of these adventures. I share some of the former in my latest book.

    Mick Pope's book Turkish Steam Railways is available for purchase now.

  • Diesels and Electrics in London and the South East by Malcolm Batten

    London is self-explanatory, but where exactly is the South-East? It all depends on the context. In 1986-8 British Rail decided to regroup the railways from a regional basis to a business-based system. The regional basis had dated from the formation of British Railways in 1948 from the former Great Western Railway, LMS, LNER and Southern Railways. The Eastern, North Eastern, Midland, Southern, Western and Scottish regions had largely reflected the boundaries and working practices of the former companies and had had a degree of autonomy in terms of locomotive design, liveries etc. Now with the withdrawal of the differing pre-nationalisation locos and stock and many of the early non-standard diesel designs new approach was called for based on the core business patterns of the railways. Thus came Inter-City for, as the name implies, inter-city traffic, Regional Railways for local services, RailFreight etc.  But one of the new business units was called Network South East. This took in Greater London and the outer commuting area to London up to about sixty miles each way. Fair enough, but this inevitably included most of what remained of the former Southern Region, much of which was electrified on the third rail system. So for operating convenience as much as anything, Network South East took in the whole of the former Southern Region main line area, as far as Weymouth and Exeter – hardly the geographical south-east! At one time the Southern Railway had continued on to Plymouth and into north Cornwall but this had all been axed under the Beeching cuts in the 1960s.

    Network South East was launched at Liverpool Street station on 9 June 1986 when Class 47 No. 47573 was named The London Standard. (Diesels and Electrics in London and the South East, Amberley Publishing)

    Network South East was launched on 9 June 1986 with a number of events – one was the unveiling of a new livery for locomotives and rolling stock at Liverpool Street Station in London. Stations had their seats and lampposts painted red as part of an NSE ‘house style’. A Network Card was introduced giving one third of travel within the area. This however came with restrictions. Thus although NSE stopping trains reached Peterborough you could only get the discount to Huntingdon, the station before Peterborough. This was because Peterborough was also served by Inter-City trains from London. If you wanted to benefit from the discount you would need to alight at Huntingdon and re-book onwards at full fare to Peterborough. Similarly NSE trains reached Exeter, but you could not get NSE discounted fares to there as there were also Inter-City trains from London, albeit by a different route. You could however get NSE discounted fares to Weymouth and Yeovil, for, although these stations were also served by Regional Railways, this was not on a direct competing route from London. Confused?

    While some of the Class 68s carry Chiltern Railways livery, others are in Direct Rail Services colours such as No. 68009 Titan at Marylebone on 23 June 2018. (Diesels and Electrics in London and the South East, Amberley Publishing)

    Shortly after the launch a ‘Network Day’ was held later with a Rover ticket giving unlimited travel in the NSE area for a flat fare. This was very well patronised and inevitably many people decided to travel as far as possible which was just short of Exeter. Rail enthusiasts also tried to maximise loco haulage on this route. I recall standing in the carriage end gangway of a very crowded train all the way to Yeovil!

    My book takes a period from 1969 to 2018 so covers the old BR regional era, the sectorisation era including Network South East, and the post privatisation era. However it only covers loco haulage so the majority of NSE operations with diesel and electric multiple units are not included – other authors have produced albums on this subject for Amberley. I have also decided to take a more restricted geographical boundary of some sixty miles each way from London. During the timescale of the book the specific motive power types of the old regions like the Western Region diesel hydraulics and the Southern Region class 33s were replaced by standard class 60s, 66s, 67s and 70s etc on freight traffic. Few diesel or electric locomotives are now used on passenger services, but where they are, privatisation and the changing of franchises has seen a variety of local liveries come and go.

    Malcolm Batten's book Diesels and Electrics in London and the South East is available for purchase now.

  • Trains Around Peterborough by John Jackson

    I was only a few years old when I first visited Peterborough. Although I didn’t appreciate it at the time, it was the city’s prominence at an important railway crossroads that was to blame. When I look back, I suppose my love affair with the city started at the end of the 1950’s. That enthusiasm for the city has never gone away.

    My father had encouraged me to share his passion for the steam locomotive. Today that passion extends far beyond these shores to most things transport related around the world.

    But Peterborough has been in my blood for over half a century. Some of my earliest memories involve the long, but exciting, train journey to visit my aunt and uncle who were then living just outside Hull, then in Yorkshire’s East Riding. The journey from our family home in Northampton meant a change of trains, and stations, in the city of Peterborough.

    The sign commemorating Mallard’s world record. (Trains Around Peterborough, Amberley Publishing)

    Our journey included the stretch of track just north of Peterborough where Gresley’s A4 Pacific Mallard reached a speed of 126 miles per hour. That 1938 achievement between the villages of Little Bytham and Essendine still stands to this day. It is marked by an appropriate sign that can be seen by the eagle-eyed observer passing at a hundred miles per hour!

    In my earliest travelling days, in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, steam locos still held sway although diesel power was starting to make its presence felt around Peterborough on the East Coast Main Line and beyond.

    The line from Northampton to Peterborough, our line, was to fall victim to the ‘Beeching Axe’ a few years later. In common with many other lines in the area, passenger services were withdrawn as the UK rail network was cut back by around a third. The lines westwards from Peterborough towards Market Harborough and Rugby were also victims to this pruning.

    Nevertheless, Peterborough remains an important railway crossroads, and its diversity of both passenger and freight traffic, continues to draw today’s enthusiasts to the station and surrounding areas.

    Of course, much else has changed in those fifty or so years. The East Coast Main Line has been electrified, our railways have passed into private ownership, and Felixstowe has emerged as the UK’s largest container port. Much of this container traffic reaches its customers by crossing East Anglia and passing through Peterborough station. It is featured here but its worth mentioning that more examples can be found in my earlier Amberley Publication, ‘East Anglia Traction’.

    One of Hitachi’s new Azuma trains passing through Peterborough. (Trains Around Peterborough, Amberley Publishing)

    More recently, we have seen the passenger operator of intercity services on the East Coast Main Line, Virgin East Coast, surrender its franchise. This has left these services in the hands of LNER, owned by the Department for Transport, at a time when the line is seeing significant changes to the type of trains provided.

    My book, ‘Trains around Peterborough’, takes a look at the rail traffic found in the area in the years leading up to these changes, together with a comparison with the scene around the time of rail privatisation a quarter of a century ago.

    By the time this book appears, the word ‘Azuma’ will probably have passed into common usage. The LNER launch publicity is already on display at their principal stations, including Peterborough, where they are advertising an Azuma journey into London’s Kings Cross station in just fifty-one minutes. These Azumas, the word means ‘east’ in Japanese, are built by Hitachi and use Japanese bullet train technology. They are replacing the class 91 loco and mark 4 coaching stock that has operated the route since electrification in the mid 1980’s.

    But Peterborough offers the rail enthusiast so much more than just these new Azumas. Spending time on the stations platforms offers the chance to witness passing passenger services from up to six different operators to and from most compass points around the city. The three main freight operating companies, DB Cargo, Freightliner and GB Railfreight, also provide a variety of freight types through the area, alongside more unusual offerings of just about any type of loco and train seen on the network today.

    I hope you have the chance to share this journey through the pages of this publication.

    John Jackson's book Trains Around Peterborough is available for purchase now.

  • The Scottish Rail Scene in the Twenty-First Century by John Jackson

    The date was 9th August 1968, a day I remember well. That was the day I crossed an imaginary line, and my imagination turned to reality. My love affair had begun.

    Leaving Carlisle’s Kingmoor yard behind me, my first entry in my beloved spotting notebook was to be at the isolated community of Beattock, around forty miles north of the border on the West Coast Main Line. That was the day that I had crossed the border from England to Scotland for the very first time.

    The iconic Forth Bridge, spanning the Firth of Forth since 1890. (The Scottish Rail Scene in the Twenty-First Century, Amberley Publishing)

    In the next few days I will notch up my fifty-first consecutive year of visiting Scotland at least once, and, most years, many times more.

    Just a couple of years ago, my visit to the re-opened Borders Railway ensured that I have still visited every open passenger railway station in that country. Of course, many escaped my grasp due to the ‘Beeching Axe’ taking out much of the Scottish passenger rail map before both my maturity and financial position would have enabled me to visit.

    Back in 1968, I was a teenager with a hobby, but it was so much more than that. It was, and still is, a passion. My father had lit the touchpaper by sharing with me his love of steam engines. Those beasts may have come and gone but my love affair with our railways remains. In recent years, my camera has become my travelling companion as I pursue another railway target, this time to take at least one photo at every station on the rail network. That remains a tall order.

    So, fast-forward fifty years from that teenage moment in 1968, and I am standing on the single platform at Altnabreac. This isolated station is just over forty miles south of Wick on the Far North Line. My wife and father-in-law, and our car, are left behind at nearby Scotscalder as I make the ‘out and back’ journey with a twenty-minute connection here at Altnabreac having arrived on the lunchtime southbound train and then returning north almost immediately.

    The remote outpost of Altnabreac on Scotland’s Far North Line. (The Scottish Rail Scene in the Twenty-First Century, Amberley Publishing)

    As I stood at this remote outpost I had to pinch myself. The motivation for this particular journey was to take a photo, not just for my private enjoyment, but also for imminent publication.

    I had decided that Altnabreac was to feature on the Far North Line pages of ‘The Scottish Rail Scene in the Twenty-First Century’, my tenth title for Amberley Publishing. It didn’t matter that there was no road access to this station whatsoever! The twenty minutes waiting here between trains gave me the chance to archive yet another chapter in my Scottish Railway memories.

    I have thoroughly enjoyed travelling the length and breadth of Scotland’s railways over the last half century. Of course, the Scottish railway scene has changed much in that time. By the time of my early ventures north the steam engines had disappeared, but in their wake came a wide variety of Diesel locomotive types. Most of these locos seemed to spend most of their time stabled out of use at the many depots that littered Scotland in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Most of those locos and depots have also been consigned to history. But Scotland’s railways still have much to tempt me north.

    The last few years of these travels are reflected in this book. The publication takes a whistle-stop tour of those lines that survived into the twenty-first century. From the border city of Carlisle to the Far North termini at Wick and Thurso, the book covers the length and breadth of the country. I have included as many lines and locations as space constraints allow. I hope you have the chance to share my journey.

    John Jackson's new book The Scottish Rail Scene in the Twenty-First Century is available for purchase now.

  • South Devon Railway by Bernard Warr

    This is the third book I have written for Amberley but the first about railways, a subject that is close to my heart. My romance with the South Devon Railway started on a hot summers day in 1965 when I was being driven along the old and winding A38 road in Devon. We came upon Buckfastleigh, much more famous among tourists for Buckfast Abbey than anything to do with railways in those days. My friend and flatmate, Nigel, in whose car we were travelling, pulled into the entrance of the station approach road but found our way barred by a substantial gate, firmly locked and chained. We climbed out to have a look and found a notice attached to the gate telling us that the former railway from Totnes to Ashburton was to be reopened by a private company as a tourist attraction. An appeal for help was made and an address to contact for information was given.

    Buckfastleigh Station in 1965. (Image Bernard Mills, South Devon Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    This sounded interesting and I contacted the address to offer my help, deep down expecting to be told that they wanted people who knew something about railways and could be of more use than a humble bank clerk. How wrong I was! They welcomed me with open arms and I was soon a regular attendee at the weekend working parties. On site, a veritable treasure trove of Great Western Steam engines and coaches had been assembled ready for the day when services could recommence. As it turned out, it was to be nearly four years before the first fare paying passenger was carried. The problem being the section of the line between Buckfastleigh and Ashburton. The Ministry of Transport wanted to keep this strip of land to enable the A38 to be straightened and widened. Because of this the company was only able to run services between Totnes and Buckfastleigh from April 1969.

     

    The very last train from Ashburton on 2 October 1971 was the 3.05pm to London Paddington, loading to eleven carriages, seen here approaching Buckfastleigh in the capable hands of former GWR loco 4588. (Image Bernard Mills, South Devon Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    In the succeeding years, as the railway prospered, so did Buckfastleigh, enjoying something of an economic renaissance as a result. Meanwhile the Dartmoor town of Ashburton, bereft of the tourist railway, has not participated in similar economic success.

    The last trains to Ashburton ran in 1971 and included enormous through trains from both Swansea and London Paddington and on this day, the line saw more visitors than at any time in its history.

    Shortly afterwards the road contractors moved in, ripped up the track and obliterated the line north of Buckfastleigh. An enormous embankment was built across the Buckfastleigh Station goods yard, removing at a stroke, the many storage sidings it contained.

     

     

     

    The bridge over the River Dart north of Buckfastleigh in 1971, with the station and goods yard in the background, all soon to be obliterated by the widening of the A38 Trunk Road. (Image Bernard Mills, South Devon Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    From this low point the company slowly built the new business, establishing a regular train service during the summer months and undertaking maintenance of the track, rolling stock and engines during the winter months. In those early years although the line passed through delightful scenery alongside the River Dart, it was very much a line to nowhere as the new station at Totnes, facilitated by the company, was divided from the town by the river and no one could get on or off!

    At about the time that the last trains to Ashburton ran the company was offered the freehold of the line between Paignton and Kingswear with the ferry across to Dartmouth. This proved to be an enormously successful venture and by 1989 the company decided that the line from Buckfastleigh to Totnes was losing money and could not continue to operate under their control. It was offered up for sale. Fortunately, the volunteers who had been supporting the Buckfastleigh – Totnes line banded together, formed a charitable organisation and negotiated a lease from the company with their first trains running from 1991.

    Copper capped chimney and gleaming brasswork. This picture of Small Prairie 2-6-2T No. 5542 as it passes Hood Bridge Permanent Way cabin says it all! (Image Bernard Miles, South Devon Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    The charitable status helped obtain grant aid to construct a pedestrian footbridge across the River Dart at Totnes which opened in 1993.

    Suddenly the ‘line to nowhere’ had gained a purpose and passenger numbers (and therefore revenue) soared. Over the years, other attractions have been developed; at Buckfastleigh there is the Otter Sanctuary and Butterfly World, whilst at the Totnes end is the Totnes Rare Breeds Farm. All very appealing for the family visit and makes an enjoyable day out. But of course, the real attraction is the Great Western steam engines with copper capped chimneys, gleaming brasswork and the smell of warm oil, burning coal and the steam! Long may it remain so.

    Bernard Warr's new book South Devon Railway is available for purchase now.

  • Beyer, Peacock & Company of Manchester by Colin Alexander

    The Quantock Hills have recently reverberated to the distinctive sound of two Maybach MD870 engines, as preserved Beyer, Peacock ‘Hymek’ diesel-hydraulics D7017 and D7018 were reunited in service on the West Somerset Railway. I first fell in love with these stylish machines when another preserved example, D7029, filled Newtondale Gorge in North Yorkshire with her distinctive growl, and more recently, the fourth survivor D7076 performing superbly on the East Lancashire Railway. The 101 ‘Hymeks’ were among the last locomotives to emerge from the famous Gorton Foundry of Beyer, Peacock, established 1854.

    One of Beyer, Peacock's most iconic designs was its 1864 4-4-0T for London's Metropolitan Railway, the world's first underground line. (Beyer, Peacock & Company of Manchester, Amberley Publishing)

    Among its early products were the famous condensing tank engines for the world’s first underground line, the Metropolitan Railway.

    Beyer, Peacock was a versatile manufacturer, constructing some of Britain’s smallest narrow gauge locomotives, as well as the largest of all. By 1907, the Gorton Foundry had erected 5000 steam locomotives, of which two-thirds were for export. Beyer, Peacock locomotives were renowned for their build quality.

    Internationally, Beyer, Peacock will always be associated with the legendary Beyer-Garratt locomotive. This was an ingenious solution to the problem of moving heavy trains on lightly laid permanent way, steep gradients and tight curves. It was effectively two locomotives supplied by one boiler suspended on a frame between them. One locomotive carried the water tank and the other the fuel. This configuration ultimately allowed larger boilers and fireboxes, as there were no wheels directly beneath.

    The design was patented by Herbert William Garratt, who came to Beyer, Peacock in 1907 with his articulated locomotive design, and the Gorton Foundry constructed the world’s first Beyer-Garratt locomotive. This was the diminutive K1 for the narrow-gauge Tasmanian Government Railway. Happily this iconic machine is now preserved in Britain. From this neat articulated 0-4-0+0-4-0 evolved some of the largest and most successful locomotives ever built, running in 48 countries.

    Beyer, Peacock Works No. 1989 of 1881 is a Class 23 0-6-0ST of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway, seen in preserved condition at Haworth on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, in May 1981. (Beyer, Peacock & Company of Manchester, Amberley Publishing)

    Of more than 1600 Beyer-Garratts to run worldwide, over 1100 were built by Beyer, Peacock.  Many of them were destined for South Africa where the GA Class 2-6-0+0-6-2 of 1921 demonstrated its superiority over the ‘Mallet’ articulated locomotive favoured in the USA.  By the end of that decade the South African Garratt had evolved into the massive GL Class 4-8-2+2-8-4, an example of which, appropriately, is preserved in the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry.

    The Beyer Garratt design was ideal for developing nations where infrastructure needed to be inexpensive and light axle loading was required. It also obviated the need for costly double-heading with extra manpower.

    Just a few weeks ago I was privileged enough to sample Beyer-Garratt haulage for the first time, as a former South African Railways’ NGG16 locomotive took me from Porthmadog to Caernarfon on the spectacular Welsh Highland Railway, with a grandstand view of the engine from the observation car. The effortless way in which she dealt with steep gradients and sharp curves was amazing to see.

    Statens Järnvägar No. 75 was an 'A' Class 2-2-2 built by Beyer, Peacock in 1866 as Works No. 627. (Beyer, Peacock & Company of Manchester, Amberley Publishing)

    Like other British locomotive manufacturers dealing with the economic difficulties of the 20th century, Beyer, Peacock began to experiment and diversify. It dabbled in the manufacture of steam road wagons and took over the established Suffolk steam tractor firm of Richard Garrett in 1932. The factory’s versatility was demonstrated as tanks and other armaments were turned out during wartime.

    Attempting to keep pace with changing technologies on the world’s railways, Beyer, Peacock built small quantities of electric locomotives and later, usually in collaboration with other companies, diesels too. By 1949 the firm had joined forces with the established electric traction manufacturers Metropolitan-Vickers specifically to develop non-steam locomotives. For this, a separate factory was established at Bowesfield near Stockton-on-Tees. Beyer Peacock’s first experience with electric traction had come as early as 1890, when in conjunction with the firm of Mather and Platt, it was involved in constructing the tiny four-wheeled locomotives for the City and South London Railway. One of these can be seen today in the London Transport Museum.

    By 1966, locomotive orders had dried up and Beyer, Peacock ceased production after 110 years, with more than 8000 locomotives having emerged through the factory gates. There are many examples of Beyer, Peacock locomotives surviving in preservation around the world, but the company’s single greatest legacy is surely the Beyer-Garratt, which opened up so much of the developing world.

     

    Colin Alexander and Alon Siton's new book Beyer, Peacock & Company of Manchester is available for purchase now.

  • London Rail Freight Since 1985 by Malcolm Batten

    London owes its existence and development to the River Thames. The site was originally chosen as a settlement by the Romans who named it Londinium. The location was chosen as the nearest point to the estuary that the Romans could bridge the river with the technology at their disposal. The building of the first London Bridge then dictated the shape of the emerging settlement. Becoming a barrier to any ships that couldn’t pass under it, which meant that the wharves, warehouses and all other amenities associated with shipping came to be sited along the river to the east of the bridge. For several hundred years after the Romans left, London Bridge remained the only bridge in an expanding London. Other bridges would be added to the west, but it would not be until Tower Bridge opened in 1894 that a bridge was built to the east. This would then remain unique until the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge opened at Dartford in 1991 – still the only bridge across the river east of Tower Bridge, and all because of the need to provide clearance for shipping.

    Coming off the North London line and passing through Stratford, Class 47 No. 47476 Night Mail heads a Ford 'blue train' returning to Dagenham on 25 March 1999. (London Rail Freight Since 1985, Amberley Publishing)

    When railways first came to London, each line was built by a different company seeking to link their area to the capital. There was no through service from one side of London to the other, and indeed the railway companies were prevented from entering the central area of the City and West End. The traffic congestion that developed eventually led to the building of the world’s first underground railway, opened in 1863. The Metropolitan Railway ran from Paddington to Farringdon, linking the Great Western Railway’s Paddington station with the Great Northern Railway’s Kings Cross station and passing close to Euston station, built by the London & Birmingham Railway. When the Midland Railway opened their station at St. Pancras, next to Kings Cross, this was also served by the Metropolitan Line. But also significantly, the Great Western made a connection to the Metropolitan at Paddington and this allowed through freight trains to run to Smithfield Market until 1962. The Metropolitan would eventually be joined to the District Railway, opened in 1868, to form a Circle Line linking many of the main line termini.

    Class 60 No. 60025 Joseph Lister prepares to tackle the bank with the Langley-Lindsey return empty tank wagons, also on 19 July 1994. (London Rail Freight Since 1985, Amberley Publishing)

    While this enabled passengers to connect between the lines of different railway companies, albeit with changing trains, what of freight traffic from one line to another? In order to transfer freight traffic from one company to another, the various London railway companies to the north of the Thames made links to the orbital North London Railway which ran from Broad Street station in the east to Richmond in south-west London. The NLR also had a freight line into the east London docks. But when freight needed to cross from north to south London or vice versa, the railways came up against the same problem as the roads – no bridges to the east of London because of the need to provide clearance for shipping. There was a railway tunnel to the east of London Bridge – Brunel’s original Thames tunnel from Wapping to Rotherhithe opened in 1843 as a foot tunnel. This was converted to a rail tunnel in 1869. This did carry some freight traffic until the early 1960s, but its usefulness was limited by the fact that access on the north bank was from the west. Any freight trains wanting to enter the tunnel would have to reverse in the busy Liverpool Street Station first – not very practical. This tunnel is now used by the very intensive London Overground network and does not carry any freight. Until the 1960s some cross-Thames freights were routed by what is now the Thameslink route from Farringdon to Blackfriars and over the bridge there. But this involved a steep gradient, and the line now carries an intensive passenger service so no freight trains are now routed this way. Most cross-Thames freight (and passenger) traffic was normally routed via Kensington Olympia and the river bridge at Chelsea. This remains the case today, including traffic to and from the Channel Tunnel. When this line is unavailable due to engineering works, trains use the river crossing at Barnes Bridge – even further west.

    Shunting the yard to the west of the station on 25 September 1987 is No. 47376. The towers in the background, the nearer one of which is residential, are a local landmark. (London Rail Freight Since 1985, Amberley Publishing)

    While the one-time mass of transfer freights and trip workings between marshalling yards had long gone, as had the pick-up freights from local goods yards, there was still a reasonable amount of freight to be found in the 1980s and 1990s. This has declined somewhat since. Economic depression, the further losses to road transport and the closure of some sources of traffic have been factors. The regular Ford ‘blue trains’ have ceased with the end of car production at Dagenham, although there is still some rail traffic emanating from there. The Channel Tunnel has not generated the amount of through rail traffic that was at first anticipated. Instead, lorries clog the motorways to Kent to join the tunnel shuttle trains (or ferries) to cross to Europe. However the ever-present building work around London has kept the stone and aggregates traffic busy. The building of Crossrail led to a major rail freight flow, transporting the extracted spoil from the tunnelling site at Westbourne Park to Northfleet, where the spoil was loaded onto ships for land reclamation further downriver. Freightliner traffic from the ports of Felixstowe, Tilbury and the new Thames Gateway port, which opened in November 2013, is another major part of the London freight scene.

    This book takes the freight routes around London geographically, in an anti-clockwise direction, starting in East London north of the Thames and ending in South East London. The varying types of traffic, and the various locomotives and liveries used on these trains are depicted over a period of forty-plus years.

    Malcolm Batten's new book London Rail Freight Since 1985 is available for purchase now.

  • Holiday Trains by Greg Morse

    I’m on a train, a train heading in the wrong direction. It’s heading in the wrong direction because it’s taking me to work. I got on at Swindon with the same faces I see every day – plus a few new ones (who, as all commuters know, have no right to be there – at least not in ‘your’ seat) – and now I’m trying to write to you. I’m doing it the old-fashioned way, and my pen is bouncing all over the page as the wheels bounce over points and joints and goodness knows what. My fellow travellers tuck in to muffins and pastries, sip their lattes, read their papers and prod their phones. It’s February, and it’s quieter this morning as many are joining their children on their half-term holidays. Their absences mean the cloud of yoghurt-breath, BO and flatulence is smaller than on some days, the chances of being trampled or tripped up just a little bit less. These peccadillos matter far more than they should, but it is alas the way of things when using trains to facilitate the daily grind.

    GWR families wait in line at Swindon to board the trains for Trip Week, c. 1910. Destinations included Weymouth, Weston-Super-Mare and Cornwall. (Holiday Trains, Amberley Publishing)

    As my train powers on to Paddington, I start to think about my return this evening, but muse more on the prospect of heading the ‘right way’ in the mornings too. Not to Bath or Bristol, but a little bit further to Weston-Super-Mare – a seaside town, and well known and loved by me since childhood. During that wonderful Whitsun week, there would be endless ice creams on the Grand Pier, endless sandcastles, countless visits to the old Model Railway. There would often be a train ride too – a day trip to Bristol behind a chugging diesel (a Class 33, for those – like me – who like to know such things). How wonderful it all was! But how wonderful too it must have been to have gone to Weston in the days of steam, waiting on the platform with raincoats over suitcases, buckets, spades and all the paraphernalia of the traditional British holiday. It’s a tradition that goes back a long way: when Swindon had a railway works, Weston – along with Tenby, Torquay, St Ives, Weymouth – was a favourite choice during ‘trip week’, during which thousands would down tools and leave the town virtually empty as trains took them away from it all for a short precious while.

    The prized destination for many once the railways had come: Anchor Head, in Weston-Super-Mare, c. 1910. (Holiday Trains, Amberley Publishing)

    Weston’s origins can be traced back to the Neolithic period, but it was the fashion for sea bathing – sampled by George III at Weymouth in 1789 – that set it on a course away from farming and fishing. Many of the first visitors came by coach from Bath and Bristol in numbers soon sufficient to warrant a hotel, Weston’s first opening in 1810.

    As with Brighton, at first there were objections, local landowners being somewhat wary of this still-new technology; so much so, that when Parliament granted the Bristol & Exeter Railway powers to build a line between those two cities on 19 May 1836, Brunel – the company’s engineer – was obliged to bypass the town some 1½ miles to the south. As work progressed on this important broad gauge route, however, there was a change of heart (although fears about ‘noisy’, ‘smelly’ steam engines were such that when the first train arrived in the town on 14 June 1841, it was hauled by a team of horses).

    Brunel’s original station was a small affair in Regent Street, but when the branch was doubled in 1866, a new facility was opened on the other side of the road – conveniently doing away with a decidedly inconvenient level crossing. Though modified for mixed-gauge working in 1875, it was also in this year that powers were acquired to lay a four-mile standard-gauge loop into the town, allowing a Weston stop to be added to certain through services. By the time it opened on 1 March 1884, branches had been built to serve 14 more seaside resorts, including Blackpool (1846), Southport (1848), Eastbourne (1849) and Torquay (1859). The railways were starting to become a key part of the nation’s holiday-making. Holiday Trains explains how that situation developed.

    Greg Morse's new book Holiday Trains is available for purchase now.

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