Archive for August, 2009


Islamabad to Istanbul rail link inaugurated

Sunday, August 30 2009


The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, shakes hands with the driver of the first leg of the ECO’s demonstration container train service from Islamabad to Istanbul. Photo © IRNA.

On August 14, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, inaugurated the Economic Cooperation Organization’s demonstration container train service from Islamabad to Istanbul via Tehran on Friday.

Sending off the train at Margallah Railway Station in Islamabad, he said that the new service will promote trade, commerce, tourism and personal contacts between the ECO countries. “The launch is an epic event, clearing the way for Pakistan’s integration into the regional railways network and opening the trade corridor between South and Central Asia on the one hand and with Europe on the other”.

The demonstration train carried 20 containers with 750 tonnes of freight. The length of the Islamabad-Istanbul rail link is 6,500 kilometres, 1,900km in Pakistan, 2,570km in Iran and 2,036km in Turkey. The train is expected to take 15 days to complete its journey. A regular train service is expected to begin next year.

The idea to establish a railway service between Pakistan, Iran and Turkey dates back to 1970s but the original proposal of linking the Indian and European continents was first made by railway engineers William Low and George Thomas who wrote to the British Prime Minister William Gladstone in 1871. The decision to launch the Islamabad to Istanbul service was made at the 10th ECO summit held in Tehran in March this year.

Officials say the current trade volume between Pakistan, Iran and Turkey is more than $1 billion annually and it is expected to increase considerably when all regulatory issues relating to the rail link have been hammered out.

Dyspozytor applauds Prime Minister Gilani’s sentiments regarding the rail link’s potential for promoting tourism and offers to write as many articles and press releases as may be required in return for a complimentary return railway ticket when a passenger service between the two cities is inaugurated.



Mystery engine and driver

Saturday, August 29 2009


Unknown loco with unknown driver.
Photo Dalehead & Stocks in Bowland website

Imagine a 3 ft gauge narrow gauge railway with a ‘main line’, sidings and temporary track adding up to 13 miles. Some 13 steam engines operate over the 3ft gauge tracks. In addition for lighter duties over very temporary track some 20 ex War Department 20 hp and 40 hp run over a 2 ft gauge system. Amazingly, a significant section of the ‘main line’ remains in situ until the 1980s.

While our sister blog Behind The Water Tower regularly issues alerts about the parlous state of Poland’s surviving narrow gauge railways, it is easy to forget that in the inter-war years England had a rich collection of industrial narrow gauge lines, a few of which survived into the 1950s and 60s. The narrow gauge paradise described above was started in 1922. The railways were built to aid the construction of the Stocks Reservoir at Dalehead on the Hodder Valley near Clitheroe. A base was established at Tosside and railway sidings were specially built at Long Preston on the LMS line near Hellifield. Material was brought to Tosside in a Foden steam lorry or in a trailer hauled by a Fowler traction engine from the sidings at Long Preston.

The ‘main line’ ran 5 miles from Tosside to the site of a dam that was being built to retain the waters of the Hodder; another line ran to quarries from which the stone needed for the construction work was obtained. A temporary village was constructed for the workers with its own pub. The 3 ft gauge railway ran down the middle of ‘Main Street’. A short branch line allowed beer wagons to be delivered straight into the pub’s cellar.

The construction of the reservoir is documented on the Dalehead & Stocks in Bowland website. The railway, its engines and the men who worked them appear in many of the photographs. The website is comprehensively illustrated and is a delight to read and explore. The only gripe that one could possibly have is that no map of the railway is included.



Mystery 3ft gauge railway!

Thursday, August 27 2009


This 3ft industrial narrow gauge railway was originally built circa 1922-23, and extended during 1924. Principal traffic was stone, but it also carried workers to the construction site in a train that was known by locals as the “Paddy Mail”. Most remarkably a substantial portion remained in situ until the 1980s when it was was sold to scrap merchants and all, but the short section above, was lifted.

Have any readers any ideas as to where this railway was? Tunnel Vision does not stoop so low as to have competitions, unlike its Polish sister blog Behind The Water Tower, but you will have to log on tomorrow if you want to know the answer!


Short line success!

Thursday, August 27 2009

This is how it could have been in the UK!

Perhaps it’s not too late for Poland?


LA&LR 425 and 420 deliver 540 tons of semolina flour milled in St. Louis to Barilla Group’s new pasta plant Avon, NY on 16 April 2008. Photo Pete Swanson, LA&LR.

From its beginning as a thirteen-mile short line, the Livonia, Avon and Lakeville Railroad has grown to a system operating about 400 miles of track in western New York and northwestern Pennsylvania. The LA&L operates in Livingston and Monroe Counties, south of Rochester. B&H Rail Corp. serves Steuben County, northwest of Corning. The affiliated Western New York & Pennsylvania Railroad extends across southwestern New York and northwestern Pennsylvania from Hornell to Meadville and Oil City and north and south of Olean.



Network Rail New Line(s) Programme

Wednesday, August 26 2009


The Synopsis of Network’s Rail New Lines Business Case

Readers with long memories will remember that when, in June 2008, Network Rail first announced that it was to examine the case for constructing a number of new lines to increase the capacity of Britain’s overcrowded railway network – the project was reported as “Network Rail team to study high speed corridors“. The “s” at the end of “corridors” is significant.

Today, just over a year later, Network Rail released the results of its labours. Although the package is still labelled “The case for new lines”, it is clear that documentation is concerned with establishing the case for building one new line – a high speed railway from London to Glasgow and Edinburgh with branches to Liverpool and Birmingham.


Network Rail’s plan of the ‘New Lines’

There were reports that No 10 and Marsham Street1 were none to pleased that Network Rail’s studies into several high speed routes might eclipse their own announcements about railway electrification and HS2. It seems likely that Ian Croucher, Network Rail’s chief executive, at the last minute razor-bladed out the work on the other high speed corridors so as to ensure that Network Rail’s report would be taken as supporting the official line rather than highlighting its inadequacies.

Whatever the truth of the matter, the material that Network Rail has chosen to publish is quiet voluminous and it will take time for us to digest all the implications so as to be able to publish a meaningful review on BTWT. So for the moment if you click on the link below it will take you to the Network Rail website from which all the documents which Network Rail has chosen to publish today can be downloaded. We look forward to your comments and will be returning to the topic in due course.

1 The Cabinet Office and the Department for Transport



Police raids fail to recover shunter photos

Tuesday, August 25 2009


Hudswell Clarke industrial diesel shunter at Cae Harris.
From a photo by Andy Kirkham

(Click to see the rest of the photo and read a short article about the Taff Bargoed Joint Railway on the RMT Bristol website.)

There used to be lots of opportunities to photograph private industrial diesels working real trains all over the UK. Then the government provided road haulage companies with a nice new highly subsidised tarmac track. Freight traffic left rail for road in droves. The decline in traffic provided the excuse to destroy much of the country’s rail network. Then BR with government support abolished wagonload freight. All these changes meant that private rail networks became virtually extinct and the working private diesel shunter became an endangered species.

Train-spotter Stephen White was on a camping holiday in South Wales with his sister Helen and her two children. Imagine then his excitement when he tracked down a couple of Hunslet diesel hydraulics at Milford Haven. He wasted no time in taking out his camera and snapping them.

Then the White’s troubles started. His sister was woken in the early hours by a telephone on her mobile from a policeman demanding that she take her camera to a police station so that the photographs could be inspected. Miss White explained her brother was a railway enthusiast and hoped that would be the end of the matter. Police then swooped on the camp site the next day, again demanding to take the photos, and threatening to send Special Branch officers round to interrogate the Whites if they refused. In spite of the threats the police were met by a polite, but firm refusal. Finally next day, their car was pulled over by a police officer with his car’s blue lights flashing. Again, the officer demanded the camera and pictures, and again the Whites stood their ground.

Meanwhile Miss White’s home in Lincolnshire had had several visits from the police as had her sister and a next door neighbour. Dyspozytor salutes the brave Stephen and Helen with his favourite tipple, a glass of Zubrowka.

See a picture of one of the engines that Stephen White had photographed and read the whole story here:


Birmingham Councillors sell HS2 station site.

Sunday, August 23 2009

The cramped footprint of Birmingham New Street station.

The Curzon Street site – plenty of room for passengers, trains, buses and cars; also easily reached by trains running along either the former LNWR or GWR main lines. Birmingham Moor Street station is on the bottom left.

With plans to build Britain’s first domestic high speed line, HS2, from London to the West Midlands and the North gathering momentum one would have thought that the Birmingham City Council would be taking another look at Arup’s proposal for new Grand Central Station in Birmingham. But not a bit of it! So keen were councillors to ensure that nothing could interfere with their plans to rebuild the existing New Street Station that they have just sold off the alternative Curzon Street site for a mere £11 million. It seems that the City Councillors prefer to have more shops than a world class station on Britain’s future high speed railway network.



Steam dreams

Sunday, August 23 2009


The British Steam Car undergoing proving trials in Thorney Island, Hampshire. Photo The British Steam Car Challenge.

(Click on photo to go to The British Steam Car Challenge website.)

Dyspozytor salutes the brave men of The British Steam Car Challenge toiling away in scorching temperatures at Rogers Dry Lake inside the U.S. Edwards Air Force Base in California. The task they have set themselves is to exceed the previous record by achieving an average speed of 145.6 mph over two runs across a measured mile in opposite directions within 60 minutes of each other. If they manage this in the presence of FIA officials they will have established a new world record for a steam powered land vehicle.

The vehicle weighs 3 tons in working order. It is 25 ft long, 5 ft 6 in wide, and utilises a flash boiler delivering steam at 580 lb per sq in into a two stage turbine driving the rear wheels through a direct gear train. There is no gearbox. Steering is through a conventional rack and pinion and the designed top speed is 170 mph.

This is an admirable vehicle – it is painted green and driven by steam utilising state of the art technology. Although not actually built in Eastleigh Works it was built and developed in Hampshire. One feels that there are many details that Bulleid would have approved of. However, it runs on Goodyear Speed Eagle rubber tires on a dried lake roadbed. Although this is a major mistake, it could easily be put right. All proper steam vehicles run on steel tires over steel rails. If the BSCC team would like some help in arranging the facilities to crack the world steam powered rail record (currently 126 mph and held by Gresley A4 pacific Mallard) they need only to ask.


When will WHR trains run to Portmadoc?

Friday, August 21 2009

NG-G16 no87 Rhyd-Ddu

Welsh Highland Railway NG-G16 No.87 Beyer Garrat  pulls away from Rhyd Ddu with the evening train to Caernarfon. Photo marchiectid. Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0

(The WHR scenery is too magnificent to appreciate by looking at a small thumbnail! Click on the photo, and then on the magnifying glass icon, to view a larger version.)

The planned reopening of the WHR from Rhyd Ddu to Porthmadoc has been postponed for the second time in succession. A Ffestiniog Railway Company press release issued 18 August states.

… we are planning for services in 2010 to follow the pattern very successfully operated in 2009, between Caernarfon and Hafod y Llyn.

Some services will be extended over a further section of new railway to the bridge at Pont Croesor, giving magnificent and extensive views of the Snowdon range and of the Osprey nest site.

If the dispute is settled early enough, then it may be possible to run some trains through to Porthmadog at the end of 2010, but a full summer timetable will not now be feasible before 2011.

The dispute mentioned in the press release is between the FRCo and the Welsh Assembly Government and concerns repairs carried out by a FRCo contractor to a retaining wall to the River Glaslyn near Britannia Bridge at Porthmadog. WHR are claiming £335,429.74. WAG have paid £73,779.38 to date, and WHR are demanding payment of the balance of £261,650.36.

The WAG position is given in the statement below.

The Welsh Highland Railway is currently demanding payment in the region of £250,000 towards the cost of works undertaken at Britannia Bridge on behalf of the North Wales Trunk Road Agency. The amount claimed is disputed on the basis that the Agency can only be responsible to make a contribution towards the cost of undertaking a permanent repair to the training wall, which it considers is significantly less than that claimed by Welsh Highland Railway. The amount claimed by Welsh Highland Railway also includes a significant claim from its contractor for loss and expense, for which the Agency is not responsible.

The dispute highlights the problems of running a project with many actors involved and where the mutual financial obligations are not clear. (Look no further than the disputes between TfL and Metronet and Tubelines for further examples.) In such cases the absence of an agreed arbitration process can spell disaster.

Further information:


Dyspozytor bumps Christian!

Wednesday, August 19 2009


Foreign Office Architects’  visualisation of the new New Street

Readers of Tunnel Vision and our sister blog, Behind the Water Tower, will know that we are not in the news business. We believe that a good article is like a good wine. It has to have lain for a while in our cognitive cellars, and been allowed to reach perfect maturity before it can be brought out and gently savoured in polite company. Some people may prefer news rather than philosophy and for those that do we have no hesitation to recommend Railway Eye. Like its sister in Mordor, the Eye penetrates even the dark depths of the hearts of men toiling in the tunnels of Marsham Street. The Eye reports the news – with amazing accuracy – before it has even happened. (1)

So when one of our carefully crafted pieces actually beats the work of Christian Womar one of Britain’s top railway journalists, we are the first to be surprised. On 30 September 2008, BTWT, in an unusually barbed attack (such venom could only come from the pen of one who knows and loves Britain’s second city) poured scorn on plans for so-called improvements at New Street. More shops, but no more trains, proclaimed the sub-heading. Now, nearly one year later, but perhaps not too late, Womar comes to the same conclusion. As Wolmar is often billed as Britain’s leading transport commentator and BTWT has just bumped Wolmar, does that now make Dyspozytor Britain’s leading transport commentator?

(1) For instance, it has predicted that the DfT’s Frankenstein trains – half electric and half diesel – will turn out to be an embarrassing and expensive fiasco.