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by Howard Sprenger (unless otherwise credited)

More things culled from RAILDATE MEMO, plus anything extra that's come my way.

Off The Rails

I'm proposing to keep a record of all the nonsensical things that are happening with our railways, and anecdotes will be placed here. So...a few to start you off - please let me know if you hear of any more.

Steam on BR: The inclusion of any steam tour in RAILDATE must be taken with large doses of salt, not to mention optimism. It is becoming increasingly clear that BR, in the shape of RES (Rail Express Systems), is actively discouraging private charter trips, be they steam or diesel. The recent series of "Pocahontas" charters arranged by Days Out in conjunction with Disney was, apparently, cancelled at the last minute due to a dispute with RES. Days Out was said to be facing financial ruin.

Pete Waterman is already complaining that the special trains business he bought wasn't the one he thought he was buying, and has announced that after 1995, he will no longer be organising excursions. Instead, he will act as a "wholesaler", putting packages together for other tour organisers to run (should they be foolish enough to want to).

Timetables: One of the biggest fiascos to hit the headlines recently concerned the new (Winter) timetable. Introduced in September, buyers were immediately given an amendment supplement, almost half the size of the actual timetable, to correct errors in the main book. Sadly, even with the supplement, this two-volume work proved to be a worthy candidate for the Booker prize, and I heard reports that the whole print run had been recalled and pulped. Can anyone confirm this? Is there a correct timetable available now?

Train Services: Heard the one about the early-morning Cardiff-London service that stops at Woking (or Reading?) to set down, but refuses to pick up commuters? It's run by Great Western Trains, but the commuters' tickets are issued by South West Trains(?). So, despite the fact that the train has spare capacity, "customers" are barred from using it by the simple expedient of the Guard opening just one door to allow a few occupants to leave the train.

There is also a service that stops at Basingstoke that only sets down and refuses to pick up commuters.

Fares: South Wales and West Railways have admitted that they have increased fares on the Teignmouth-Torre route by 56% in order to "suppress demand". They don't have enough rolling stock to cope with the traffic.

Rail versus Road: Increasingly, road haulage is being used to move rolling stock around the country. A recent example is an HST power car that was overhauled at Crewe, and then sent 250 miles back to Laira (Plymouth) on a low loader. The $1,800 charged by the haulier was significantly less than the charge that Railtrack would have levied. The journey took three days, caused severe road congestion, and required the services of seven police forces to escort it on its way (no charge is levied by the police for this - as part of "normal" traffic duties, you and I pick up the tab!) Railtrack's comment was that charging people to use their tracks is how they make their money - time to buy shares in the road haulage business, I think...

Rolling Stock: Suggestions have been made that BR is hoarding up to 300 locomotives in order to deter competition from new companies wishing to set up train-operating franchises. Implications are that National Power only imported new Class 59s from Canada, because it was BR wouldn't sell them suitable locos. Potential train operators with less financial clout, will no doubt decide not to enter the game.

The three rolling stock leasing companies were sold to the private sector on 9th November - two to management buyouts, and the other to a consortium backed by a Japanese bank. The total deal was worth 1.8 Billion UKP.

The Wrong Kind of Bend: Early in November, we heard about a train that couldn't get round a bend because its wheels were binding to much - more details would be welcome!

Maintenance: Time was when each large station had a maintenance man to look after electrical and mechanical equipment like escalators and lifts. Now, though, the work is contracted out to Hall and Towse...who sub-contract it back to bloke who used to do the work. Before, when something went wrong, the man on the spot was usually the first to know, and got down to work. He probably still is the first to know, but now the fault has to be reported up the management chain, then to Hall and Towse, and then (sometimes after a considerable delay) back to our friend the maintenance man who meanwhile has been sitting waiting for the call.

Ticket Inspectors: BBC's "Watchdog" reported on 4th December that Ticket Inspectors are receiving a 50p "commission" every time they impose a $10 on-the-spot fine for travelling without a ticket. Many members of the public have been caught out in thinking that they can buy a ticket on the train as they have previously, but there is now an incentive for Inspectors to treat such cases unsympathetically - and they do! As Richard points out in his article about the Eastleigh- Basingstoke resignalling, you now have to buy a "Permit to Travel", and one hopes these machines are available at all unstaffed stations.

Just to confuse the issue, there are some services where you have to buy your ticket on the train (presumably where there are no Permit machines available), but the poor old travelling "customer" has to know which system his train is operating.

Restrictions do not just apply to the trains themselves. An increasing number of stations require you to have a valid ticket for travel before you can even get on the platform - a return to the days before open stations. However, it is not clear whether platform tickets (remember them?) are available at such places.

The "Watchdog" program highlighted the situation at Watford Junction station where some platforms are "open" to anyone, and other platforms are restricted to fare-paying passengers with a valid ticket. It seems to depend on which train you're catching.

Experiences of the Eastleigh-Basingstoke Resignalling

Thanks to Richard Walker, who sends the following account:

For the record ...

I had to go to South Bank during the "Eastleigh-Basingstoke re-signalling week" and decided to bite the bullet (not the Japanese one!) and go by train despite the havoc anticipated by Radio Solent!

I acquired an umpteen-page special timetable and, having noted the average 40-min increase in schedule time, duly caught a train at Soton/Parkway at some unearthly hour of the morning (about 08:20!). The train (old-style 4-CIG?) plodded up the line rather slowly and reached Bas' in about 50 minutes and Waterloo three minutes early! So far, so good!

Coming home, belted through to Bas' and then pulled up at the junction a couple of miles down the line and stopped. For a long time! (About 20 minutes!) As we passed the signal, I could swear that I could see a little man beside a little wooden hut, with a telephone in his hand! (Thinks ... Rule 55, driver left his cab, brakes not on properly, Weymouth here we come ... :-> ). No chance! Got to Micheldever (nearly) and stopped again - 10 minutes etc. etc.. Got to Parkway about half an hour late (that's half an hour later than the special timetable's 40 mins late!) It appears that RailTrack have re-invented "one engine in steam"(?) and will only allow a train to enter the Bas-Mich section when the previous train has departed from Winchester!

Next day: OK, we'll beat the system, get on at Shawford and save 20/25 minutes each way! One problem: nice, kind, *** Educ. instructor re-times course to start at 09:30 instead of 10:30! Looks up timetable - 07:22!

Have you heard of a "Permit-to-Travel"? I hadn't. Shawford is now un-personed at all times and all you get is a machine that issues these things. There is a very nice notice explaining that you buy a P-t-T for the amount that you would spend on a real ticket. It doesn't tell you how much a real ticket would be! But it does finish up with: "If you haven't sufficient change, put in what you've got". I bought one for 10p! This apparently is quite sufficient to enter into a contract with BR (SW Trains/whoever) and idemnifies you from the dreaded "Travelling without a ticket" fine. The guard was quite happy to return my 10p and issued me a ticket against production of my Amex Card.

I won't bore you much more. Running up and down to/from Waterloo was similar to the previous day (except for the crowds at W'loo Int'l somewhat irate at the cancellation of the Chunnel trains due to the French strike!) except for one more quirk relating to Shawford:

Problem: Wessex Electrics are in 5-car sets. Shawford is a 4-car platform! The guard cannot open 4-cars' doors and is not allowed to open all 5 (quite right too, it's b....y dark at Shawford and I once almost fell out of a slam-door train when the driver overshot the platform).

Solution: Tannoy message on leaving Winchester ... "All passengers for Shawford please go to the Guard's compartment" ... on arrival, the guard opens his door and we all get out there! Easy, unless you're in the back carriage with 7.5 carriages to get through - but then the good news was that it took 15 mins to get from Winchester to Shawford so there was PLENTY of time!

North Devon Ramblings

While in North Devon, why not visit...

The Exmoor Steam Railway, Cape of Good Hope Farm, Bratton Fleming, Barnstaple. A 12.25-inch gauge line in Lynton and Barnstaple country. Open every day except Saturdays from Easter to 1st October (Saturday opening in July and August). Adult fare is $3.00, and you can have as many rides as you want.

Great Torrington Railway, on B3220 next to Rosemoor RHS Garden. A 7.25-inch gauge line open daily from Easter to 10th September, and weekends thereafter until 1st October. Adult fare $1.40.

Bideford Railway Museum, The Signal Box, Bideford Station. Opens on Sunday afternoons, Easter-October. As well as a museum housed in the rebuilt signal box, a length of track has been laid, and a visitor's centre operates in a restored Mk I carriage. Further Information: 01237 423585.

Instow Signal Box, Instow, Near Bideford. Like the Bideford Railway Museum, this is looked after by the Bideford and Instow Railway Group. Opens on 1st and 3rd Sunday afternoons, Easter-October. Fully restored inside, and with a length of track relaid outside. Further Information: 01237 423585.

Both Bideford and Instow are situated on the Tarka Trail, a walking and cycling path that uses the trackbed of the railway from Barnstaple to Petrockstow. It is 23 miles long, and cycles can be hired at various places on the route.

North Devon Rail Users' Group. Well, you can't actually visit them, but they exist to encourage the greatest possible use of the Exeter to Barnstaple line. They do this by campaigning, publishing leaflets, and keeping the stations looking nice.

Finally, not too far away is the West Somerset Railway, operating between Bishop's Lydeard (bus connections to Taunton) and Minehead. Worth visiting, especially for the well-restored stations and the Somerset and Dorset Trust's museum at Washford.

Le Shuttle

On Saturday 29th April, we took advantage of a 49-pound special day return offer by Eurotunnel (travel before 6am, back after 6pm). It was excellent! By far the biggest drawback is the drive to and from Cheriton (why they couldn't have built the tunnel from Eastleigh, I don't know!) However, once there we were on the French road system just over an hour after we had arrived at the British terminal.

There is a minimum of formalities at this end (seemingly the French are less concerned about who enters their country than we are), and we had little time to wait before we were ushered onto the train. Loading was done speedily and efficiently onto double-deck vans, both decks loading at the same time from each side of the train. The actual journey time was just 35 minutes (although it didn't seem that long), and at Sangatte, we just just drove straight off the train, out of the terminal and away.

The ride in the tunnel was excellent, with hardly any indication that we were moving at all - even on the top deck of train, which must be quite high off the rails. The vans are light and airy, and as cars are being driven through them, the air conditioning efficiently removes all exhaust gases.

We stopped first at Boulogne, where there is an excellent Saturday morning market (very good for vegetables and basket-woven stuff) and then went on to St Omer, where we found one of the many hypermarkets. Lunch of bread, pate and cheese, bought in Boulogne, was taken on the way. After St Omer there was time to have a look around Calais and eat a meal before driving the short distance back to the French terminal. Here we had enough time to visit the duty-free shop, but only because we had arrived comparatively early. We still got on the first train that was available after we arrived, and that was after two (admittedly cursory) passport checks, as well.

After another interminable motorway journey, we were home at 9.00pm, 18 hours after we had left, and having spent eleven hours in France. Needless to say, I can recommend it, but I don't know what the normal fare would be, nor whether they will be doing the special rate again.

India Runs Out of Steam

The Daily Telegraph Magzine (13th May) carried an article by Mark Tully on the demise of steam locos in India, at least on the "prestigious broad gauge" (metre-gauge and narrow-gauge lines still have some steam haulage). 16 locomotives have been retained for special workings, but the "modernisation" reflects the fact that India is now the world's largest manufacturer of diesel and electric locos. In the light of Britain's decline as a "train-builder", I wonder how long it will be before we are importing locos from the sub-continent!

Railroads in NY State

From Nick Robson:

As I was walking through Hickories Park, Owego yesterday evening (as one does), I noticed a freight train passing on the near-by Conrail line that runs through the Susquehanna Valley. Just out of interest, I counted the number of cars and I totalled 175. Some of these were conventional double bogies, but most of them were a type whereby the car behind had no front bogies, but piggy-backed onto the rear bogie of the one in front.

Also, a number of the cars were flatbeds carrying truck trailers: why can't ours do that? Finally, I noticed some well wagons carrying two standard shipping containers stacked on top of each other: what on earth is the loading gauge here?

PS. The train was double-headed by two ugly but indeterminate diesels; I shall try to find out more about them.

                                * * *

Nick has sent me a leaflet on the Tioga Scenic Railroad which runs from Owego near Endicott, NY. If anyone is going that way, and wants to borrow the leaflet - let me know.

SS Shieldhall

Graham Mackenzie has sent me details of this year's sailings of Europe's largest preserved steamship. Dates will be included in RAILDATE, but if you are interested in joining ($10.00 per annum) I have membership details available, so let me know if you want a copy. Better still - contact Graham, who can give you all the information you need.

The ship has been to Poole for a week and was be alongside the Town Quay, adjacent to the the pleasure boats and opposite the "Jolly Sailor" pub. The reason for this visit was twofold: 1. To raise awareness of the ship outside Southampton and district and hopefully increase income, as well. 2. To prepare the crew and ship for a visit to Bristol next May as part of a maritime festival.

                                * * *

Some further notes from Jeff Wiles...

I took my two train-mad boys to Ocean Village, and while there we took a look at SS Shieldhall. Entrance was free and we spent about an hour wandering round and checking out the souvenir shop. Lots of pictures of the old Ocean-going liners which took their imagination, especially as the Oriana was in. They enjoyed it - especially when they found out what her cargo was! (If you want to know - go and have a look!...Ed £via Jeff!¨) Good way of passing some time if other members of the family want to explore the shops in Ocean village.

RS Trade Counter

Ref previous notice, the RS Trade Counter at Hedge End is, unfortunately just that - trade only. However, you can browse through their catalogues and get advice (even on how to order as a non-trade customer).

Model Shop in Southampton

Mark Dyche asked about a model shop in Shirley:

 I was taking my son to a trumpet exam, took a wrong turning in Shirley,
 and chanced upon a model railway shop which I had never heard of.  It's
 on the junction of Janson Road and St James Road.  I can't remember the
 name of the shop!  However, I had a quick look inside.  Mainly  N and
 OO gauge, with what looked like a very neat collection of lineside bits
 from Wills, Ratio, etc.  Open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday if I
 remember rightly.  If I go past again I will note the name and phone
 It certainly had more in it than Solent Models or Beatties!
                                * * *

Dave Solly was the first to respond:

 The name is FOOTPLATE and the address is 109 Janson Rd Shirley.
 The shop is open 1100-1900 (Tuesday and Thursday) and 0900-1800
 (Saturday), but he is "open" for mail order 6 days a week.
 As far as I could see the stock was approx 50/50 N and 4mm.  The 4mm
 included a good range of Parkside and Ratio, plus Bachmann RTR.  He
 doesnt have coach or loco kits yet, but is planning to introduce these
 soon.  (I gather he builds locos professionally as well, so could
 perhaps be a useful source of the "fiddly bits" that nobody ever has.)
 I haven't bought anything yet (not self-restraint, just paying off
 the holiday we just had!)
                                * * *

...and Mark added a few more details...

 Thanks for forwarding David's info.  I think he was proposing to open
 on another day (Wednesday?) in September, but I'm not sure, so a phone
 call ahead might help.
 Another small point: Take a cheque book, he does not take Access/Visa

Calling All Train Spotters

Seen by Rod Blakeman nearing Redbridge on the line from Romsey at around 1900 on 1st May... Class 20 "Knottingly" hauling five or six tank wagons. Can't be many of these left on active service, and they're usually seen in pairs when they're seen at all. Does anyone know how unusual this sighting might be? (Could it have been a weedkilling train?)

                                * * *

From Graham Mackenzie, 31st July 1995: Spent a day around Westbury last week. Lots to see if your interest is in 150s, 158s and HSTs. Patience and the right time of day will yield both types of class 59 on stone trains and with luck a class 60. Class 37s also appear on other odd workings such as permanent way and tanker trains, plus the Summer-only Regional Railways working to Weymouth. For the summer holidays, there is also a class 143 "bendy bus" on a shuttle between Westbury and Bristol.

Quite a lot goes on in and around the station area, but you will miss the doings on the avoiding line and the chord from the Berks and Hants to Bristol. There is a good overbridge near the north end of the chord that gives a good panoramic view over the majority but for the best view you probably need to be about 100 feet up and look down, model railway like.

Spotting in Style

An article on Radio Five (15th May) concerned the cul-de-sac of new houses near the London-Manchester main line that is gradually being taken over by trainspotters. Mel Thorley (a BR driver) started it off by buying the end house, and put a deposit down, even before knowing what kind of house was to be built there. With his fellow spotters, he has bought two more in the row, and now intends to buy a fourth. The back gardens have been filled with railwayana, including the cabs from three diesel locos, and the neighbours won't talk to him. If they all move away, the whole of Buttercup Close could become a shrine to the anorak.

Going Loco

So, this lorry driver was told to go to Didcot Power Station to pick up BR's 0-6-0 diesel shunter, and bring it back to Old Oak Common for a service. (Why it has to go by road, is another matter, but presumably it's cheaper than paying Railtrack to hire the rails for the trip). Anyway, spying a tenderless "Nunney Castle" temporarily standing in the sidings, he duly loaded that up and trundled it back to OOC! Nobody queried what he was doing, or even noticed it had gone. The first anyone knew about it was when one of the co-owners, driving west on the M4, happened to see his loco coming towards him on a low loader! Needless to say, there was much head-scratching when the load arrived at OOC, but it stayed overnight, and was returned to Didcot the next day.

Steam on BR

For much of the summer, there has been a ban on all steam specials, so I have removed details of proposed trips from RAILDATE as a result. However, it is becoming clear that the charter companies (particularly Waterman Railways) are cancelling steam specials at very short notice - even as late as the day they're supposed to be running. Reasons include poor levels of booking and the fire risk which led to the total ban.

Information given in RAILDATE is the best I have available (usually taken from the latest edition of any railway magazine I can find) and all are checked when a new magazine comes out. Clearly, I cannot take any responsibility for last-minute cancellations, so I recommend that you always check before making any journeys to see a train in action.

The alternative is for me not to include details of steam trips at all, but I figure that you would rather know when they are scheduled (and then check that they are running) than not have any dates to go on.

From our Icelandic Correspondent

Nick Robson sent me this - no steam ban in Reykjavik (poor old Magnus Magnusson never got to go trainspotting then!)

Report from the HPMRS roving reporter on:

The Railways of Iceland

There aren't any.

Mainly because the population of Iceland is so small (sheep outnumber people by 4 to 1), and partly because the terrain and climate is so severe (they have only recently completed a ring road around the island), it was deemed too expensive to build any railways, and so effectively, Iceland went straight from the horse age to the road vehicle age.

To be precise, the Icelanders did build a quarry line a couple of miles long in the early 1900s to help them build the harbour at Reykjavik. The motive power, a nondescript narrow gauge 0-4-0 of German origin, is parked on one of the harbour quays.

From our Hellenic Correspondent

In mid-September, we popped over to Athens, as one does, and took the opportunity to sample their railways. They seem to have two systems - one standard gauge and the other, metre gauge. Amazingly for a city the size of Athens, there were just two stations - one for each gauge - and they were each no bigger than, say, Winchester station.

We decided to go down to Corinth to see the canal, and for this, we needed to go on the metre gauge line from Athens (Peleponesse) station. The fare was about $4 return (half-price for children) and the journey took 2 hours 10 minutes in stock that looked as if it dated from the early 1950s (although it was difficult to say). We were loco-hauled by something which looked a bit like a class 20.

On the way back, we inadvertantly caught the "express" which cost us an extra $1 or so each (excess fare) and was a more modern diesel railbus. This journey back took about 1 hour 30 minutes, and the well-loaded train fairly rattled along compared to the one we took to Corinth.

We also tried out the Athens Metro. This is a standard gauge line that just runs on one route (roughly NE to SW) from Kifissias to Piraeous, passing through the centre of Athens on the way. It is split into three zones and travel on one or two zones is about 60p (three zones is more, but I can't remember what). There is building work going on to add what looks like a branch eastwards from the centre of Athens. We rode to Piraeous to see the ships, but hardly spent an hour there before coming back. The line is heavily used (we had to stand each way) and the journey is puncuated by wandering minstrels and poets who try and do a gig on each coach before hopping into the next one at station stops.

Athens still has a trolley-bus system, but unfortunately we didn't get to try it out. However they appear to have a well-coordinated bus system with pre-bought tickets from and to anywhere in the city for 60p. The half-hour journey to and from the airport costs around $1.

Scalefour Group

S4 Group (and HPMRS ) member John Ibbotson alerted me to the fact that their latest project, Southwark Bridge has appeared on the cover of MRJ. This is the same group that created Winchester Chesil, and Southwark Bridge is naturally to the same standard (better, they would hope, although that seems an unreasonable goal to set yourself!)

South West Main Line Steam Company

This grandly-titled new preservation group has been testing a Peckett 0-4-0ST with brake vans on the Clifton Maybank spur adjacent to the main line at Yeovil Junction. The spur was closed about 60 years ago, and considerable work has gone into clearing the site and relaying the track. A Class 03 shunter is due to arrive, and the group are leasing the turntable from Railtrack. The first public event will be Santa Specials on 16/17 December.

Roye England

Roye England, the creator of Pendon, died in September 1995 at the age of 88. He had lived in the UK since arriving from Australia in 1925, and smitten by the fast-disappearing English country scene, he decided to devote his life to creating a 4mm/ft model - the model which was to become Pendon.

It seems he did little else! For instance, he worked for a time at the MG car factory at Abingdon, stamping chassis numbers onto the metal plates that were attached to the cars, and lived alone in an old pub which he ran as a Youth Hostel. The layout was housed in a wartime corrugated iron hut in the back garden until it was moved to its current site at Long Whittenden.

Apparently he rarely cooked, indeed he rarely even had a hot meal, preferring to survive on bananas and chocolate wafer bars. Having lived 88 years, who's to argue with his diet, and what better memorial could there be than Pendon.

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