Archive for September, 2009


Imperial Wharf opened on Sunday…

Wednesday, September 30 2009

or was it Tuesday or even today?

imperial wharf

Spot the Mayor of London. Photo Twitpic.

(Click to see pic on Twitpic.)

London’s newest station has opened although there seems to be some confusion as to when the official opening took place. Plans to build the station had been in limbo for more than 15 years before property developers  St George agreed to fund a £7 million funding package last year.

The station will be served by three trains in each direction every hour and the station will give local residents a link to the Underground at West Brompton as well as Clapham Junction in the south and Willesden Junction in the north.

There was an apocryphal story going round in the 1960s that when Britain’s railways were nationalised, the people who drafted the bill that was laid before Parliament forgot about the West London Extension Railway, which as a ‘joint line’ had so escaped grouping in 1923. Two old ladies resident in Putney received a few pennies in their bank account for every train that passed. Dyspozytor has fond memories of the line, but that’s another story!

A triple hat tip to: Chris White, London Connections and Railway Eye.



Resco in administration

Wednesday, September 30 2009

class 66

Class 66 locomotives manufactured by Electro Motive Diesel Inc undergoing Engineering Acceptance Certification by RESCO at the EMD Facility in London, Ontario. Photo RESCO.

A very long time ago I got a call from a very young Rick Edmonson to view his collection of vintage rolling stock in Woolwich. Rick took me to a couple of large warehouses sheaved with bulging plastic panels. (His family owned a plastic moulding business.) Inside was an Aladdin’s cave of old railway coach bodies which Rick had rescued from various gardens all around the country. I remember an early Metropolitan Railway 6-wheeler and some royal train coaches from one of the pre-grouping railways. None of bodies as rescued had underframes or wheels, but Rick was in the process of modifying some scrapped underframes on which to mount them.

Rick at the time was looking for a railway preservation project to take over. I was looking for a wealthy patron to give my own project some credibility. Rick took a careful look and rejected it. Having not had a happy experience with the North Down Railway Society he was suspicious of volunteers and anything that smacked of  rule by committee. It was a pity, as I was no democrat, and with Rick’s support my railway might have reached ‘critical mass’ much earlier. As it was we went our separate ways. My project, having overcome all those that said ‘it can’t be done’, became a very popular heritage railway. Rick went on to turn his rolling stock hobby into Resco, a professional railway engineering company. Today, on Railway Eye, I read with sadness that Resco has gone into administration.

What a world – whatever happens the bankers, lawyers and accountants seem to thrive while those who build or repair things are the first to go to the wall when the going gets tough?



82% don’t get rail fares – DfT

Saturday, September 26 2009

“And do you understand the range of different ticket types available to you when travelling by train?”
understanding2Data Department for Transport

A press release from the Department for Transport landed on my desk on Thursday, Official Statistics Opinions Survey on public experiences of and attitudes towards rail travel. Such publicity material is always full of gushing statements –

Respondents were positive overall about rail services. 71% of respondents rated short distance services as good (up from 63% in 2006) and 12% as poor (down from 17% in 2006). For long distance services, 67% of respondents ranked services as good (up from 62% in 2006) and 12% as poor (down from 14% in 2006).

– and always end up in my bin! However, this time prompted by Behind The Water Tower’s sad tale of the two lasses from Poland’s Railway Museum who were stuck at King’s Cross Station. I delved deeper and looked for a question regarding how many passengers fully understand the railway fare structure. Sure enough there it was the penultimate question of the survey –

And do you understand the range of different ticket types available to you when travelling by train?

-a staggering 83% either replied “No” (63%) or said they only partly understood (19%). The most expensive fare is often seven times or more the cost of the cheapest rail journey. Understanding how to go about finding the cheapest fare is essential for those on a limited budget. While those with some understanding of both the UK’s railways and the Internet will generally do quite in the hunt for low fares, many others including the elderly and overseas visitors are gravely disadvantaged.

It is clear that the revenue model of Britain’s Train Operating Companies is based on the presumption that the majority of passengers do not understand the fare structure and will usually pay more for their tickets than they need to. What a way to run a railway!

Source: DfT – Public experiences of and attitudes towards rail travel


A virtual trip down memory lane… (1)

Monday, September 21 2009

or rather down a very black hole!

Braich Goch

Open chamber at Braigh Goch Slate Quarry.
Photo Corris Mine Explorers.

I blame William John Cavendish-Bentinck-Scott, the 5th Duke of Portland. The Duke constructed an elaborate network of underground rooms and tunnels on his estate at Welbeck Abbey in Nottinghamshire. The complex featured on a brilliant TV programme called Stranger than Fiction which was broadcast in the UK in the late 1950s. The producer of the programme seemed to favour architectural follies and unusual railways. At Welbeck he could feature both.

The Duke’s underground complex was reputed to have totalled 15 mi (24 km) of tunnels and underground corridors, connecting various underground chambers and above-ground buildings. They included a 1,000 yd (910 m) long tunnel between the house and the riding house, wide enough for several people to walk side by side. A more roughly constructed tunnel ran parallel to this for the use of his workmen. A 1.25 mi (2.01 km) long tunnel ran north-east from the coach house, to emerge at the South Lodge. It had domed skylights and was lit by gas lamps at night.

The underground chambers included a ballroom 160 ft (49 m) long and 63 ft (19 m) which was also a picture gallery. It had a hydraulic lift that could carry 20 guests. There was also a 250 ft (76 m) long library, an observatory with a large glass roof, and a vast billiards-room. To get this post back on topic there was even an underground railway to carry food from the kitchen!

Seeing the TV programme about the Duke’s creation at a very impressionable age left me with a predilection for things underground. This was reinforced by reading Arthur Ransome’s Pigeon Post where Ransome takes his heroes into a slate quarry inside an abandoned copper mine. No wonder then, that when I began working as a volunteer on the Talyllyn Railway, I became more interested in the slate quarries which gave birth to the railway than to the trains themselves.

(to be continued…)


Boris restores the London River

Thursday, September 17 2009

With a bowler tip to the Fact Compiler.


London no river. Map TfL.

While London mayor, Boris Johnson, was away on a jolly in New York, tube bosses trod roughshod over 1,000 years of history and erased the River Thames. Although Dyspozytor is no fan of Boris, who abolished plans for several new tram lines, he does admire the way Boris on his return immediately gave orders for the Thames to be put back to where it was before.



Language and Management Culture

Wednesday, September 16 2009

by the Assistant Itinerant Deputy Editor


RF (right) at the naming of EMT’s refurbished HST power car. Photo EMT.

(Click on picture to read the full story about the naming ceremony on

Dyspozytor is sufferings from a bout of DUMPS (Down-Up Mood Pumping Syndrome) as the resultant of having attended a really bad presentation at some Polish provincial governor’s office about railway tourism.

Have you noticed how the post-privatisation railway has changed the way it uses language? Railways used to be run on the military management model. Railways had ‘officers’ rather than ‘managers’. Woe betide you if you had an accident. A military man came down from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Railways. His job was to work out who was to blame. Accident reports did not beat about the bush. An accident report into a derailment at Clapham Junction in September 1972 ends, I conclude therefore that the accident resulted from the train being driven past signal W.38 at Danger and for this Driver Orchard must accept full responsibility. Such reports were signed, I have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient servant, C. F. Rose, Major

How the world has changed since then! A report into an accident at Birmingham, Moor Street in March 2008 begins with a preamble. The sole purpose of a Railway Accident Investigation Branch investigation is to prevent future accidents and incidents and improve rail safety. The RAIB does not apportion blame, liability or carry out prosecutions. True to its word the report twists the English language into a knot when it states its conclusion, the underlying cause was that Network Rail did not identify the risk to derailment from the development of voids in an area that was only statically measured and implement specific measures to assess and control it. It is tempting to speculate how the good major would have dealt with the matter.

Acronym soup

Another area where language illustrates the collapse of effective management on our railways is the explosive growth of acronyms which give people – who really haven’t got a clue as to what is going on – a spurious authority when they use them to talk to people who have even less of a clue about what is going on. Here are a few of my favourite that I’d like to share with you. The list was inspired by Roger Ford and his TRAC (Topical Railway Acronym Converter. (Yes that’s Roger on the right in the picture above.)

ARSE – Assistant Rolling Stock Engineer
AWG – Adhesion Working Group
CCF – not Combined Cadet Force, but – Control Centre of the Future
CoCoSigTSI – Command, Control & Signalling TSI. The TSI for ERTMS
COSS – Controller of Site Safety
CP – not Communist Party, but – Control Period (The five years for which track access charges are set under an ACR)
DBFT – Design Build Operate and Transfer, not to be confused with
DaFT – Department for Transport
DEMU – Diesel Electric Multiple Unit not to be confused with
FT – Frankenstein Train (designed by DaFT) – Diesel AND Electric MU
DVD – Driver’s Vigilance Device – plays loud rock to keep driver awake
ELL – what the London tube is becoming
ERTMS – ER… This Might Someday work, perhaps

We thought we should bring this list to a close before the letter “F”.



Bideford, Westward Ho! & Appledore Rwy.

Monday, September 14 2009

GUEST POST by Robert Hall


We often protest about the abandonment of railways or the destruction of the right-of-way of railway routes. However, there have been a few lines which even the most passionate advocate of rail transport, would have difficulties in defending. A few such lines came into being in the wake of Britain’s Light Railways Act of 1896. According to the writer of today’s article Robert Hall, the winner of first prize for ‘long on delightfulness to railfans, short on usefulness’ would have to be the Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore Railway.

The BWH&AR served the only community in Britain whose name ends in an exclamation mark. The clergyman and author Charles Kingsley, published in 1855 his novel of Elizabethan-era seafaring adventure by Bideford mariners, Westward Ho!, which achieved great popularity. In the 1860s, those involved in the speculative building of a new seaside resort some two miles north-west of Bideford, chose to name their development after Kingsley’s novel.

The new resort proved less popular than its promoters had hoped for, and a rail link seemed the best way to encourage its growth. Over the decades, a variety of schemes were proposed, involving a diverse assortment of gauges and routes; but it was only at the very end of the 19th century, that matters began to make progress.  A standard gauge single-track light railway was built, taking a somewhat circuitous route: from Bideford first directly to the coast south of Westward Ho!, then bending sharply north-east to Westward Ho! itself, and continuing beyond, to the village of  Northam.  Distances from Bideford to Westward Ho! and to Northam are about two miles; the railway as constructed, clocked up approximately 4.5 miles Bideford – W. Ho! and 5.5 miles  Bideford – Northam. Admittedly there are hills between Bideford and those communities, which would have made a direct route difficult and expensive to build.

Furthermore, geography also dictated that the cheapest route for the new railway, meant its being physically isolated from the rest of Britain’s railway system. The main line railway, opened in the mid-19th century, was on the eastern side of the wide River Torridge which runs by Bideford. The town “proper”, is on the river’s west side; “Bideford” railway station, on the national network, was in the suburb with the self-explanatory name of East the Water, linked with Bideford town – then and now – by a long road bridge. The new BWH&AR’s terminus was on Bideford’s riverside quay, on the western bank of the river.

The line’s first few hundred yards ran street-tramway-fashion along the quay and adjoining street, before line’s taking off on its own separate formation for the rest of the route. There was a fair amount of dissension between the railway company and the municipality of Bideford concerning this street-tramway section, which some on the town council regarded as undesirable and a nuisance.

Construction proceeded over a couple of years, with opening between Bideford and Northam taking place on 24 April 1901. The extension of approximately a mile and a half from Northam to Appledore was opened on 1st May 1908. This truly put the lid on the “wildly circuitous” scenario: a fraction over seven miles by rail, to cover a “beeline” two and a half miles.


The railway was worked by three Hunslet 2-4-2Ts, ordered new for its opening. Because of the street-tramway section in Bideford, the locomotives were furnished with cowcatchers, and skirting to cover and conceal their wheels and motion. The railway’s passenger coaches were unusual for the time, and in some ways more comfortable and commodious than the then British norm; built by the Bristol Carriage & Wagon Works Company; on general American coach-construction principles. They were bogie vehicles, much wider than then usual on British railways, with open platforms at each end and side steps for access at halts, and a central gangway between two rows of reversible tram-type seats. The railway had six coaches altogether: four composite, two third-class only.  The railway offered freight facilities, and had wagons and a brake van for the purpose; but with its being isolated from the national system, the amount of freight which it actually conveyed, was miniscule.

During its brief life the BWH&AR enjoyed, a quite lively patronage during the summer holiday season, but much lesstraffic during the rest of the year. Quite a few photographers  targeted the railway in its short existence; some pictures show two-coach, some one-coach, trains. In the summer peak season, two coaches were the norm; for the rest of the year, one sufficed.

Timetables show that the railway’s passenger service was, year-round, quite frequent; but starting relatively late and finishing relatively early in the day, and not particularly geared to such likely commuting hours as there may have been. In view of the comparative distances cited above, rail commuting between Bideford and Appledore would seem to have been totally impracticable.


The railway had three proper intermediate stations, Abbotsham Road, Westward Ho! and Northam (with passing loops at the first two). There were also nine official halts. Ss in the case of the County Donegal railway, trains would also stop at unofficial points, for passengers’ convenience.

Under government WW I national emergency orders services on the BWH&AR were suspended in March 1917, and the rails and locomotives were requisitioned for military purposes. The track was speedily lifted and the equipment shipped out (the passenger coaches were not requisitioned, and stayed behind). There were no proposals to try to reopen the railway after the war. New bus services were rapidly introduced instead.

The wartime emergency resulted in the BWH&AR being among Britain’s most short-lived railways: its Northam – Appledore section ran for a mere nine years.

There were storiesy that two of the BWH&AR’s locos and much of its rail were loaded onto a ship which set out for a French port,  was sunk by a German submarine off the north Cornish coast. A couple of other short British lines deemed non-essential, were closed and requisitioned around this stretch of the war: the Great Western’s Uxbridge High Street branch from Ruislip, and the Caledonian’s minor line Inchture – Inchture Village. In each case rumours had it that the lines’ lifted rails had been put on ships destined to take them ultimately to the Western Front; but that enemy action had sunk those ships en route. Were such stories an early urban myth generated by those who resented being pushed-around by those who conducted the war?

Two of the BWH&AR’s locomotives did indeed disappear from the records. The third is known to have gone into industrial use in Britain: spent time working for the National Smelting Company, and was finally scrapped in 1937.

There are a few remaining readily-discernible signs of the railway. As one walks southward along the beach from Northam Burrows towards Westward Ho! the old railway’s course can be seen descending steeply, cut into the cliffside, into the town from the Bideford direction. Most of that length now made into a section of the long-distance South-West Coast Path. Not very far south-west of Westward Ho! along the path, the railway’s one-time course swings abruptly eastward and inland, on an embankment which can still plainly be seen, and the path continues along the coast.

(Sources: two books, both called The Bideford, Westward Ho! & Appledore Railway – by Douglas Stuckey, 1962; and by Stanley C. Jenkins, 1993.)


Will NR awayday bring returns?

Friday, September 11 2009

Picture 13

Tynley Hall, Conference Room.

(The ‘awayday’ referred to in the article is not actually taking place at Tynley Hall, but we had to have a picture. So we choose a photo of a room in a rather nice hotel in Hampshire where Dyspozytor used to organise such events in his shady past.)

Network Rail’s hundred or so members are enjoying a two day ‘awayday’ to discuss corporate governance. We have been sworn to secrecy regarding the location. “Don’t want hordes of placard waving customers trampling all over the golf course, do we old boy?” Ironically, it is the angry customers that are part of the reason the reason that NR’s members are enjoying their two days of luxury.

Each Christmas – New Year holiday brings misery to hundreds of thousands of passengers who suffer badly delayed trains or services cancelled altogether as civil engineering works over run. Each year, the Office of Rail Regulation imposes heavy fines on Network Rail for missing key targets. Yet every year, Network Rail’s remuneration committee awards senior directors very large bonuses! Clearly something is not right.

Network Rail is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee. Imposing fines on the company does not hurt the shareholders – there are no shareholders! It does not hurt the executive directors – they continue to enjoy their bonuses. The fines only increases Network Rail’s costs and these are ultimately passed on to the passengers – a double whammy!

For some time now a debate has been gathering momentum about the mechanisms which are supposed to ensure that Network Rail is effectively governed. At Network Rail’s 2008 AGM, a group of renegade members including Lord Berkeley, chairman of the Rail Freight Group, and Rob Holden, the London & Continental Railways chief executive, forced through a resolution by 42 votes to 34 to establish a governance ‘Review Group’ to consider the effectiveness of the company’s corporate governance practices, with particular reference to the accountability of the Board to its members and of its members to the company’s wider stakeholders.

Also in 2008, the House of Commons Transport Committee, in its report Delivering a sustainable railway: a 30-year strategy for the railways stated in its circumlocutory manner, we do not agree…that the governance structure of Network Rail is adequate… Passengers, Government and train operators all have a significant stake in the success of Network Rail. The current system where members are effectively approved by Network Rail’s Board, albeit indirectly, is inadequate. [emphasis added D.]

The NR Governance Review Group report has not been made public. (If you have the report do please send us a copy!) However, the Office of Rail Regulation did published the Report it commissioned from KPMG on Network Rail: Membership aspects of governance.  The reported noted that, members with experience of the railway industry agreed that the current membership structure and approach are flawed.

The views of the remaining Members differed both from this view and from one another! The report observed that the divergence of views seems to stem from a lack of consensus between Members about their role… this is not conducive to the exercise of effective governance.

Two particular issues emerged from the study. There is insufficient clarity about the role of Members and the way they are selected. Members also lack access to the information and analysis needed to take an informed view of Network Rail’s performance, including future prospects, and to hold the company to account efficiently.

The ORR has the option of requiring changes to Network Rail’s corporate Governance procedures through alterations to its licence conditions as part of the periodic review process. Let us hope that the output from today’s ‘awayday’ will make it unnecessary for the ORR to impose reform from above.



Tornado brings Winton Train to London

Friday, September 4 2009


A1 pacific Tornado 60163 with the Winton Train at London Liverpool Street Station on 4 September 2009. Photo CTK.

Sir Nicholas Winton has been referred to as the ‘British Schindler’. In 1939, as Europe was descending into war, he organised safe passage for hundreds of mostly Jewish children out of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. All in all, Winton saved the lives of 669 children, finding them homes in the United Kingdom. Around 20 of the children he saved recreated their 1939 journey by steam train across Europe this week, arriving at Liverpool St on Friday morning. Sir Nicholas – now 100 years old – was there to welcome them.



Mystery works

Tuesday, September 1 2009


What and where is this?

We’re a tad tied up with trying to save Poland’s national railway museum, so please forgive us if you are annoyed that the posting on our two blogs has become a little ragged. So in the meantime another mystery. I found this little gem on a very well known railway website to which full attribution will be given in a day or so. It seems that I must have passed the site of these works every weekday for a year or so without ever having had any idea that they ever existed! So what was this and were was it? And, oh yes, the Fact Compiler gets full marks for getting right the approximate location of the boulders and stream whose picture we published a couple of days ago.