Archive for March, 2010


Gordon Brown saves world economy again!

Monday, March 29 2010

Admirals and Generals banned from first class carriages. World saved!

Standing room only. Glasgow to London train. Photo Moira.

(Click image to see original on Photos from I’ve sat on the floor of a Virgin Train because i could not get a seat… Facebook group.)

Scene a first floor room in No. 10 Downing Street.

Sitting by his desk: James Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service and Leader of the Labour Party.

Enter: Peter Benjamin Mandelson, Baron Mandelson PC, First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, President of the Board of Trade and Lord President of the Council.

PM: Your spells work well. Cameron’s camp is in disarray. His star is dimming.

Aside to audience

See how the necromancer now turns my way, no longer sinning.

Turns to BM

And yet I would have more. The love of the common people I greet,

I will scorn my car, and walk from Parliament to Downing Street.


Debts mount, the people become more common than before,

They want Britain’s Got Talent not Oh, What a Lovely War!

Cancel rail warrants. Make Admirals and Generals go second class

Show your authority is unchallenged, then your Bentley will surely pass.

PM: The army and navy top brass grumble and plot, so do your worst,

May your devilry tarnish their their medals till their fat egos burst.



Time to clip the wings of the jobsworths

Friday, March 19 2010

With an election on the way, what better time to write to your prospective parliamentary candidates to ask demand that if they get elected they take urgent action to stop the harassment of railway enthusiasts.

Marylebone Station from Rossmore Road Bridge. The flying saucer building has encroached upon the site of the original western platform. If Sir Edward Watkin’s plans had succeeded the whole of the area occupied by this building would have become part of Marylebone Station and the station may even have served trains from the continent arriving via the original Channel Tunnel.

Guest editorial by Mike Pease, the founder and vice chairman of the British-Polish Railway and Industrial Heritage Partnership.

A few days ago, I was walking up platforms 3-4 at Marylebone, looking at work that had recently been completed on the station.  A voice behind me suddenly barked, Get back! I turned to see an irate figure in a hi-vis vest glaring at me from the end of platform 1.

I had passed no signs forbidding me to proceed further.  I was nowhere near the end of the platform; nor was I anywhere near either of the edges.  No trains were about to leave, and I was not engaged in any activity that could remotely have been construed as a distraction to a driver or an obstruction of a signal.  Furthermore, I was carrying neither a camera nor a notebook.  Accordingly, I took my time and completed my walk, despite further bellowing.  Nobody stopped me when I returned to the station concourse.

Today (18/03/10 ) I alighted from a Bristol train at Paddington at 12.40p.m., to be greeted by a harshly-delivered Tannoy announcement that all photography was forbidden ‘on and around’ the station.  No information was given on the exact limitations of ‘around’, nor on how the ban was to be enforced.

Clear statements have been made, to date, by the Chief Constable of the British Transport Police, by the Chief Executive of Network Rail, in response to questions in the House of Commons and by several of the train operating companies to the effect that the public are free to take photographs on stations provided that they do not obstruct normal working.  Commercial photographers are required to obtain a permit from the Station Manager.

Nevertheless, the number of incidents of ordinary enthusiasts being stopped, bullied into deleting photographs and generally treated in a rude and officious manner by ‘officials’ is steadily increasing.

In America, far from being treated as terrorist suspects, enthusiasts are encouraged by the railroad authorities to act as extra pairs of eyes and ears and to report any suspicious activities.  Why is it that they are harassed in Britain for no good reason?


Street View gives a good rail view

Wednesday, March 17 2010

DMU departs Swanage Station, perhaps in 2009?
Photo Google Street View

We have already used the Google Street View feature to illustrate our article on the Sheringham level crossing. However, the extension of Street View on March 11, 2010 to 99% of the UK’s roads, approximately 238,000 miles, is worth an article in its own right.

The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum in Tywyn is housed in the building on the left while historic Talyllyn Railway goods vehicles are displayed on the former slate transshipment siding parallel to the main line.

Street View is a boon to railway enthusiasts. It is amazing how many of the photos include pictures of trains!

Junction on a mystery railway

However, there are some places that the Google Street View camera cannot go and for these we have to rely on the Google Maps satellite view. Now many of our readers love a mystery. So who, dear friends, is going to be the first person to tell me the location of the railway in the picture above?


TV becomes ‘englishrail blog’

Tuesday, March 16 2010

There has been a change to our masthead ‘englishrail blog’ replaces ‘Tunnel Vision’ as our name. Now I was very fond of ‘Tunnel Vision’, there was a Shakespearian grandeur in the title which ‘englishrail blog’ definitely does not posses.

Scene 1. A cavern under Marsham Street

DfT official

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble


Beeching, Croucher, Haythornthwaite
Turn iron to tarmac way, it’s second rate
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Enter Lord Adonis

How now, ye hags with tunnel vision!
What is’t you do?

Sadly there is no longer a place for literary merit. In today’s world search engine optimisation rules. The good news is that ‘Behind The Water Tower’ is safe, enjoying top ranking when fed into Google. However, ‘Tunnel Vision’ was going nowhere fast and appeared on page 4 after a Google search. Miraculously ‘englishrail blog’ which was neither our title nor our URL when keyed into Google gave us a No 4 positioning.

The senior management agreed amongst themselves that the title switch was a no-brainer. Half an hour ago we switched and ‘englishrail blog’ when keyed into Google now lists this blog at No. 1.

To all our dear friends (and enemies) who kindly linked to TV – your hyperlinks will still work – but next time you give your website a polish you might wish to update your links to ‘TV’. (Sorry I mean ‘eb’, of course!)

Tunnel Vision is dead, long live ENGLISHRAIL BLOG!


Good news from the CAA!

Monday, March 15 2010

Residents from London and Manchester (at both ends of HS2) join forces to campaign against airport expansion. Photo Plane Stupid.

(Click on image to see original and for details of licensing.)

I must not steal any more material from Railway Eye
I must not steal any more material from Railway Eye
I must not…

What the hell. This story is so good it has to be cross posted. Dear Fact Compiler, a grovelling apology is in the post.

This from the Civil Aviation Authority…

CAA STATISTICS show last year’s fall in passenger numbers was biggest since the Second World War

  • UK airports handled 17 million (7.3 per cent) fewer passengers in 2009 than in 2008, the largest annual decline for sixty-five years.
  • It is the first time numbers have fallen consecutively for two years, reducing passenger numbers to levels not seen since 2004.
  • Traffic declined the most in the first quarter of 2009, with the rate of decline easing as the year progressed.

UK airports handled 218 million passengers during the 2009 calendar year according to figures published today by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), a fall of 7.3 percent (17 million) on 2008, the biggest decline in passenger numbers at UK airports since records began.

Yet another nail in the coffin for Heathrow’s third runway?

(Posted by The Fact Compiler at 09:43 on Railway Eye today and pinched by me in its entirety.)



Marylebone – then and now

Sunday, March 14 2010

‘Black 5’ 4-6-0 44984 dumped at Marylebone Station circa 1965.
Photo BTWT archive.

Note Rossmore Road overbridge behind, built to accommodate the throat of a westward extension of Marylebone Station which was never built. Some of the necessary land was actually purchased by the Great Central Railway Company. It was taken over by the British Transport Commission, and was then used for building flats and the HQ of the British Waterways Board. Subsequent property development has further encroached the station from the West. The new platforms constructed by Chiltern Rail had to be situated to the  North, considerably extending the distance passengers have to walk to reach the station concourse.

A view taken underneath Rossmore Road looking towards the former turntable pit near where the ‘Black 5’ was dumped. From a much larger picture by the Fact Compiler taken on 13.03.2010.

(Click on the image to see the original on the Railway Eye blog.)

I wonder how long a small boy would be left alone to wander around here with a camera before being stopped under the Terrorism Act?

The land necessary to accommodate an extended station throat can be clearly seen on this Google Maps satellite image. The raised land to the West of the throat area was the site of Marylebone Goods yard.

Subsequent property development has further encroached the station from the West. The new platforms constructed by Chiltern Rail had to be situated to the  North, considerably extending the distance passengers have to walk to reach the station concourse.


1st through train to Holt in 46 years!

Sunday, March 14 2010

Britannia class pacific Oliver Cromwell brings the first passenger train from the national railway network for 46 years onto North Norfolk Railway tracks on Thursday March 11, 2010. Frame captured from BBC Norfolk video.

(Click image to see the news item and video on on the BBC Norfolk website.)

The inauguration of the North Norfolk Railway’s new level crossing at Sheringham marks the permanent reconnection of the NNR to the mainline railway network after a break of some 38 years. In April 1964, passenger services from Sheringham to Melton Constable were suspended and British Railways services from Norwich via Cromer were truncated at Sheringham Station. Freight services to Melton Constable lingered on for a little longer. From January 1967, BR trains used a small halt to the East of the level crossing.

Although British Railways planned to sell the Sheringham Station site to property development the North Norfolk Railway Company successfully managed to purchase the railway line between Sheringham and Weybourne. Following some delays in the granting of the necessary Light Railway Orders, in 1968, the North Norfolk Railway Company was the first heritage railway in Britain to raise funds through a public share issue.

The level crossing connecting the heritage railway and BR remained in place until circa 1972. The line was used a few time for the purpose of delivering rolling stock.  Finally the level crossing was lifted and the area between the two railways was landscaped it seemed unlikely that trains from the national railway network would ever run on NNR metals again.

In 2007, the idea of reinstating the railway crossing came up in a discussion between NNR directors and senior officials from Network Rail. During follow up discussions with Network Rail, County Highways and HM Railway Inspectorate. All parties agreed that the scheme was possible, but the Railways Inspectorate representative laid down the stipulation that unless the road traffic can be managed better a full crossing would not be possible. However, there would be no HM RI objections to an ‘occasional use’ tramway type crossing.

This is one of these strange occasions where the HM RI seems to be exceeding its safety brief and making ‘political’ decisions which lie properly within the competence of the local authority. So we will have to wait a few more years for officials to retire before we can expect regular NNR trains running into Cromer Station – the most logical place for a NNR / NR interchange.

Till then BTWT applauds the new connection a small step forward in the ultimate dream – the Norfolk Orbital Railway!

Looking towards the NNR headshunt (the NR station is behind the viewer) before work began on the level crossing. Plenty of flowers, but where is the railway? Picture Google Maps, Street View.



William Doxford & Son

Friday, March 12 2010

Drilling entabalure at Doxford’s engine plant, circa 1958.
Photo The Doxford Friend’s Association, Jim Duncan Archive.

(Click on the picture to see the rest of this remarkable set of photos of the Doxford engine plant in the late 1950s on the website.)

How many readers of Tunnel Vision have kept their school text books from the 1950s? Do you remember having to learn long lists of the activities carried out in various places. Cars were built in Birmingham, Coventry and Oxford, railway locomotives in Crewe, Doncaster, Swindon and Wolverhampton, and ships in towns such as Aberdeen, Barrow, Belfast, Birkenhead, Dumbarton, Glasgow, Portsmouth, Sunderland and Wallsend.

It seems as if it was only yesterday that Britain was the engineering workshop of the world, but half a century has passed since then and now we buy cars made in Japan, railway locomotives made in Canada and ships from Norway and Korea.

(A hat tip to Rubber Duck on the website.)



To the West Midlands and beyond…

Thursday, March 11 2010

The cover of the report from HS2 Ltd to the UK Government advising on proposals for a new high speed railway line between London and the West Midlands and the case for high speed rail services linking London, northern England and Scotland.

(Click on the cover to go to the DfT webpage from which the whole report – in 11 pdf files – can be downloaded.)

The Government today published the report that it had received from HS2 Ltd, in December 2009, containing recommendations regarding the building of a high speed railway between London and Birmingham – part of a future North – South high speed railway. According to a DfT ‘Command Paper’ (also released today) this would be the first section of a Y’ shaped’ network that would eventually extend through Manchester as far as Glasgow and Edinburgh (along the left arm of the ‘Y’ and also (along the right arm of the ‘Y’) through Sheffield and Leeds to Newcastle. As well as the report itself the DfT also published details of the proposed route as far as Rugely to the North. The DfT also hold detailed recommendations from HS2 Ltd for the route as far as Manchester, but these were not published.

The government envisage the project starting in 2017, costing between £15.8 billion and £17.4 billion and reducing the journey time between the UK’s two biggest cities to between 30 and 50 minutes. This line would be completed by 2026

Lord Adonis, the Secretary of State for Transport made a statement today in the House of Lords. He concluded with an appeal for cross-party support for the project.

High speed rail is a policy of huge strategic significance for the country. The time has come to create a credible plan, and for this to be a national cause.

The Conservative Party view on the proposals were set out by Shadow Transport Secretary Teresa Villiers who said in January.

Labour has not focused strongly enough on the need for a top class rail hub for Heathrow to connect it to Europe via the HS1, to provide an alternative to thousands of short haul flights.

BTWT will publish a detailed critique of the proposals and route in due course. Meanwhile the fact that – 13 years after Labour were elected to power – the proposals are being published just before a general election make me just a tad cynical as to whether the project will ever be realised in its current form.




A little help from my friends – (2)

Friday, March 5 2010

by Phill Davison

40122 at Ramsbottom Station on the East Lamcs Railway, Phill Davison at the controls. Photo Phill Davison archive.

(Click image for details of licensing and to view original on flickr.)

We have already featured Phill Davison’s stunning photography. Phill also pushes an evocative pen. This is his tale of what happened when he and his friend, both aged 15, missed their last train home from Manchester Victoria to Leeds on a very cold, December, Saturday night in 1983.

Andy and I had missed the last train to Leeds from Manchester. It was near midnight when we arrived at the station. There was no prospect of catching a train until 8 the next morning. We were only 15 at the time, been stranded in Manchester in the wee small hours wasn’t recommended in those days.

Andy was going away camping with the ‘208 Air cadet squadron’ the next day.  That wasn’t going to happen if we couldn’t get back in time.

The station was now empty of passengers, the last service trains had long since gone. A feeling of despair descended upon us!

But the station came alive again after midnight, the place bustled busy with the newspaper trains. Manchester Victoria has one of the longest platforms in Britain. They used to be able to pull three full trains onto one platform to load them. This night they were all class 40 hauled. (They usually were.) The noise of the whistling engines combined was loud.

A class 25 was parked in the Bury bay platforms, It’s Sulzer engine spluttering away under the cavernous station canopy. The leading train had 40177 up front, we went up and asked the driver where he was going. It was Newcastle bound he said, but they were Holbeck men and would be coming off at Leeds.

ACE… we thought!

We told them our sob story, The driver and second man both said they’d take us back to Leeds, but we would have to ask the station supervisor if it was OK. The second man pointed down the platform to some stairs leading up to offices above the platform. He told us we needed to see the ‘Scottish bloke’ but he was a bit of a miserable old git, he’ll probably say no.

So off we went, polishing our sob story on the way, it was pretty obvious the guy was an old misery from first glance, we thought we had no chance, he didn’t look very friendly at all. Things weren’t looking good! We finished off our tale, he looked us up and down a bit, then slammed his cup of tea down on the desk. ‘Come with me he’ growled, and off he stormed down the platform, my mate and I chasing after him in hot pursuit…

Read the rest of Phill’s story, here:

Read Phill’s photographic tribute to the Class 40s, here: