Archive for October, 2009


Boris the bold

Wednesday, October 28 2009

Tunnel Vision
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What does Boris know about Crossrail that we don’t? Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Image via PicApp.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, talks to journalists at the Tottenham Court Road Crossrail construction site on October 27, 2009. Apparently Boris urged the Government to continue the project.


Getting the message across…

Sunday, October 25 2009


Celia Johnson as Laura Jesson and Trevor Howard as Dr. Alec Harvey in a scene from David Lean’s 1945 classic film Brief Encounter . Still via

Sometimes the Fact Compiler hits the spot so well that any further comment would be superfluous:


Hollycombe’s last 2009 open day, TODAY!

Sunday, October 25 2009


Building plate from Statfold, a 2005 built ‘Quarry Hunslet’, which paid a visit to the Hollycombe Quarry Railway in June 2009. Still from a You Tube video by gruntyfluster.

(Click to view.)

The Hollycombe Steam Collection is a wonderful working museum steam based at Liphook in Hampshire. The core of the collection consists of a collection of steam traction engines, steam tractors and steam showman’s engines. The collection was started by Commander John Baldock in the late 1940s. Over the years his museum grew to include a collection of vintage agricultural machinery and a complete Victorian fairground. Both of these are powered by his steam engines.

No proper steam museum is complete without a railway and Hollycombe has four. There is a 2ft gauge railway which uses two steam locomotives and a section of track from the Dinorwic Quarry. One of the locomotives is a diminutive 0-4-0ST built by Hunslet in 1895. The ex-Dinorwic track uses bullhead rail in cast iron chairs, and apart from sections of the Festiniog Railway is the last working example of this type of narrow gauge track left in Britain (and probably anywhere else in the world). There is also a standard gauge railway which was constructed to provide a run for a 0-4-0ST built by Hawthorn Leslie in 1899 and acquired by the Commander in 1985. Two miniature railways, a 7 ¼ inch gauge line and a 5 inch gauge line complete. The scene.

The sun is shining in Hampshire and today is the Hollycombe Steam Collection’s last open day this year. If you live reasonably close by why not pay this wonderful working museum a visit?



Russian coal to Merthyr Tydfil

Monday, October 19 2009

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Brecon Mountain Railway No.2 1930-built Baldwin locomotive on September 22, 2009 in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. Photo Dan Kitwood ©Getty Images via PiccApp.

Tony Hills has recently converted two of his Brecon Mountain Railway steam engines back to coal firing to avoid soaring oil prices. But although the open-cast Ffos-y-Fran mine is only three miles away, its coal can’t be taken by lorry to the 1ft 11¾ railway. A road ban implemented after residents fought the development means coal can only be dispatched by rail – forcing the mountain railway to source its coal 3000 miles from Siberia.



BR 1961 – NR 2009

Saturday, October 17 2009


Britain’s Railways 1961 (pre-Beeching. Map British Railways.

(Click to see full-size. Map retrieved via Joyce’s World of Transport Eclectica.)

Prompted by the map of the future Polish Rail network on BTWT, I thought it would be interesting to remember what happened to Britain’s Railways. Most of the closures took place in less than 20 years.

There are some interesting comments from transport professionals on the rail section of Tony Gossling’s website – Tearing up the Tracks.


Britain’s Railway Network 2009. Map ©Network Rail.

(Click to download full-size map as pdf file from National Rail Enquiries.)


Tube man abuses passenger

Friday, October 16 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen this train is going nowhere until this little man here gets back off. Because you are a jumped up GIT this train will go. I’m not holding anybody else’s journey up for a little girl like you. Throw him under a train.

Holborn Station at 230pm on October 15th 2009. Video by Jonathan MacDonald.

They say that customer care starts at the top. Perhaps that where the sackings should start too?

A hat tip to London’s Evening Standard.



Some birthday celebrations

Wednesday, October 7 2009


David Shepherd’s 9F 2-10-0 on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway in July 2007. From a photograph by Black Kite.

(Click to see the original colour photograph and for details of licensing.)

Is Britain the only country in the world where steam engines have elaborate birthday celebrations? This year two such events were notable.

The first of these was the 50th birthday celebration on 5 August of David Shepherd’s 9F class steam locomotive, 92203, named by him “Black Prince”. A solitary Spitfire flew over Doddington station on the Gloucester and Warwickshire Railway. The 9F was arguably British Railway’s most successful standard steam locomotive design. While combining the 1959-built locomotive and the World War II fighter plane may seem somewhat incongruous to some, both the Spitfire and the 9F represent pinnacles of British engineering design and so the choice was very appropriate. Appropriately nine 9Fs were saved from the scrap man’s torch. All but four have been restored to working order.


K1, the world’s first Beyer-Garratt locomotive visiting the former Beyer Peacock works in Manchester where it was built onne hundred years earlier. Photo Pete Waterman.

(Click photo to see more of Pete’s pictures and read his own account of the event on Petes Blog.)

A week later on 12 August, K1, the prototype Beyer Garratt articulated locomotive was taken on its 100 th birthday to visit the former Beyer Peacock works in Gorton, Manchester, where it was built 100 years earlier! Beyer Garratts combined the vision of Herbert William Garratt – an engineer working for the New South Wales Government Railways – with the engineering skills of Beyer Peacock and Co. – a locomotive builder based in Gorton Works, Manchester.

Garratt’s design, which he later patented, incorporated a relatively large boiler mounted on a frame suspended between two swivelling engine units. Garratt visited Beyer Peacock in 1907, soon after they had received an order for a locomotive to run on the 2 feet gauge North East Dundas Tramway in Tasmania. Garratt was able to convince Beyer Peacock that his new design was an ideal solution for the Tramway’s motive power requirements.

K1 was very successful, and the North East Dundas Tramway soon ordered K2 a second identical locomotive. K1 and its sister worked until 1930, when the North East Dundas Tramway was closed down and its equipment put in store. In 1947, Beyer Peacock, recognising the historic value of the K1, bought the locomotive and shipped it back to Manchester. When Beyer Peacock closed down in 1965, the fate of this historic loco was uncertain until it was purchased in 1966 by the Festiniog Railway. As it was too large for the Festiniog loading gauge the locomotive lay unused until 1976 when it was loaned to the National Railway Museum at York.

In 1993, the Festiniog Railway Company commenced the rebuilding of the Welsh Highland Railway. As the WHR loading gauge was able to accommodate K1, the FRC decided to bring back the engine from York and carry out a heavy overhaul so that the locomotive could haul trains on the new line.


Train-tram Rotherham – Sheffield link

Tuesday, October 6 2009


Stadtbahn train from Heilbronn to Karlsruhe. Photo Klaus.

(Click to see picture in original context and for details of licensing.)

On 15 September, Chris Mole, Minister for  Rail, announced plans  to test tram-trains on a new service linking Rotherham and Sheffield in South Yorkshire. Once a feasibility study has been completed, the project would take three years and £24m to get up and running.

Five electric tram-trains would run on existing freight track from Rotherham and then join the Sheffield Supertram network. The scheme replaces a previously-announced tram-train trial on the Penistone Line, linking Sheffield and Huddersfield via Barnsley, which would have used diesel-powered vehicles.

Tram trains were originally mooted in 1975 for the Tyne and Wear Metro which runs over former freight lines, but because of regulatory issues the Metro trains were given exclusive access to the former BR lines. However, in 2002, with the opening of its Sunderland extension, the Metro became the first UK system to implement a form of the Karlsruhe model, using track shared with main-line trains on the section between Pelaw and Sunderland.



Swanage Pier Tramway

Monday, October 5 2009


The southern section of the Swanage Pier tramway looking towards the pier. Photo european byways.

(Click to see the picture in its original context on the European byways blog.)

The Swanage Pier tramway gets more than a passing mention on yesterday’s post on Behind The Water Tower.


Dodging the question

Saturday, October 3 2009

Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships,
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.
Her lips suck forth my soul:  see, where it flies!

Dr. Faustus, Christopher Marlowe


The Rt. Hon. Ernest Marples. From a photo on

As Dr Faustus discovers, there is something inherently unsatisfying about conjuring up people who have passed away. Without spoiling the plot, it is fair to say that Dr Faustus does not get value for money from his deal with Mephistopheles.

I have similar ambivalent feelings about my own experience. First of all, as this was a ‘free sample’ I didn’t get to choose the two people that I could question. ‘Doctor’ Beeching and Ernest Marples would not have been my first choices. Perhaps, having entered into their own compacts with the ‘Dark Side of the Force’, they were more easily available than any of the historic personages that I would have chosen for myself.

Given a choice, I would have loved to have met with George Stephenson and to have asked him how he came up with 4ft 8 1/2 in. I can understand the 4ft 8 in part, derived from the 5ft between wheel centres of the horse drawn wagons on the original “L” plate laid wagonways but where did the extra 1/2 inch come from? Or Brunel – please Sir, why did you have an odd 1/4 inch in your broad gauge? Or George Jackson Churchward, Why did you build only one pacific for the GWR? Or even, Bulleid, How on earth did you come up with the three-dimensional oscillation of the Leader’s valve gear?

Neither was I given any say about the choice of venue – Bewdley Station – which cast a shadow over the proceedings. Now I’m a great admirer of the Severn Valley Railway, which has a strong claim to be considered Britain’s premier preserved railway, and Bewdley is kept exactly how I imagine a Great Western Railway station should be. It’s just that the SVR also represents a massive missed opportunity. Just imagine if the preserved railway line continued northwards to Ironbridge – the home of one of Britain’s most important industrial heritage museums – or even extended all the way to Shrewsbury!

Severn Valley Railway

Map of Severn Valley Railway showing the missing northern section. Taken from the New Adlestrop Railway Atlas by Richard Fairhurst.

I hasten to point out that acquiring the trackbed of the southern section of line was a magnificent achievement of the early SVR preservationists. It was not their fault that when the opportunity was there there just were not the funds available to acquire the whole line.

Anyway back to my tale. I stood at the North end of the up platform at Bewdley holding both Beeching and Marples under their arms in what I hoped would be perceived as a friendly and non-threatening manner. Marples shook himself free and looking decidedly uneasy began to sidle off towards the exit. Hold on, I commanded. You must answer one question. Then you may return to where you came from.

Be quick, be quick, pleaded Marples, coming to a halt. 1

I was lost for words. I only had one question and time was running out. What should it be? Then suddenly I had a flash of inspiration! The half-preserved Severn Valley Railway helped to frame my question. If British Railways had been obliged to offer closed railway lines to local authorities on a free of charge basis, could most of the UK’s closed branch lines have been saved?

Only the Midland main line was ever profitable, snapped Marples, now half-way down the platform.

Lord Beeching? I prompted.

You must understand that the branch lines really did make a loss, started Beeching.

This time I was prepared, and I cut in, But if  lines could have been taken over by local authorities on a free of charge basis – just as some lines have been transferred in Poland – they would have been freed from the capital costs and the share of the central overhead, which were charged to them when they were part of BR. Then there was the possibility of using volunteers for certain tasks which would have further reduced costs.


‘Doctor’ later Lord Beeching. Photo Urban Outlaw via flickr.

(Click to see original and details of licensing.)

An interesting question, replied Beeching with a smile.2 I got the distinct impression that he was trying to tell me that he had only carried out the job that he had been hired to do by his political masters and that the decision to decimate Britain’s branch lines and break up the rights of way had been taken elsewhere.

By this time Marples was nearing the exit. I had one last chance. You’ve not answered the question, I yelled after him.

What’s he shouting? asked Marples of some people near the barrier.

You didn’t answer him, someone replied.

I’ve forgotten the question, said Marples.



1. While Googling for photographs of Marples and Beeching. I came across this information on Wikipedia which would explain why Marples would have felt extremely uneasy on returning to Britain.

2. While researching background information for this post I came across this article on Tony Gossling’s site. Tony postulates that railway closures were the ultimate result of high level social engineering to advance the interests of those who profited from the expansion of the oil and road industries.

3. Is Dyspozytor loosing his marbles? Shortly after shouting after Marples I woke up. The whole episode had been an all-too-realistic dream. Apparently I really had been shouting!