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by Howard Sprenger (unless otherwise credited)
More things culled from RAILDATE MEMO, plus anything extra that's come my way.
Bulleid steam news...
On using Ambergate station today, I spotted a rather soggy poster announcing that proposals have been put forward for Sinfin North and Sinfin Central stations to be officially closed and the passenger "service" on the line to cease. The notice cites as the main reason for closure the fact that few people use the line and that "the signalling on the line is not compatible with modern rolling stock".
As is well know, the line has in fact already been closed to passengers for several years, the one nominal early morning return service is in fact a taxi that runs "as required"! So the lack of passengers is hardly surprising.
I can remember when the branch was re-opened with much fanfare and a generous service provided from Matlock to Sinfin, with additional short workings from Ambergate. There was even talk of re-opening the former Derby (Nottingham Road) station and providing a park and ride station where the line is crossed by the A38 near the junction with the Denby branch.
The Sinfin branch was mainly used by workers at Rolls-Royce and International Combustion and in fact Sinfin North could only be reached from these companies and the gates to it were often locked by Rolls Royce security staff, leaving would-be passengers on the wrong side of the fence.
I wonder if this closure proposal is a harbinger of others, such as Tees-side Airport, Stockport-Stalybridge, and other "ghost" services?
Richard Buckby, Ambergate, Derbyshire
Mark Dyche attended this talk given by Kevin Robertson at Winchester Library, and reports that the attendance was extremely high. If the talk is repeated - miss it at your peril!
and the timetable:
There are pages for the timetable, special event details and, most importantly, at this time of year, the Santa Specials. See:
There are maps and gradient profiles, news of the extensions, and of the signalling, as well as comprehensive details of the Loco and Carriage fleets, and an update on the progress with the Horsted Keynes canopy. There are up-to-date comprehensive stock lists for locos, carriages and wagons. The stock lists also provide an index to the photographic archive, with photos of virtually every item of stock, although photos of wagons are, for the moment, a little thin on the ground!
There is a membership form to print out, should you wish to join the preservation society. Having done so, you can then become a volunteer, and there are pages to visit detailing what is involved, and how to get involved. The Bluebell's Golden Arrow Dining train has its own page, should you be tempted to splash out on that extra-special evening or luncheon in one of our four pre-war palaces on wheels.
A contacts list gives names and addresses for virtually everyone involved in the railway who you might want to contact. The inevitable links page enables you to find out still more information about the Bluebell, since several loco-owning or restoring groups connected with the Bluebell already have their own web sites. All the up-to-date news on the Bluebell is to be found at:
Woody Bay station has been bought by the (L & B Rly) association, and the adjoining parts of the station yard leased together with part of the trackbed towards Parracombe. You can rest assured on the 'taste' issue; the planning authority have been strict, and the association itself is being very careful to be as authentic as possible. With so much of the station surviving almost untouched, it would be daft to do otherwise. For example in the S&T department, of which I am a member, we are planning to recreate individual original signals based on photographic evidence, and round point rodding will be used rather than the more modern channel type.
I am not sure what the current timescales are for opening the first stage of the railway. 1998 is the centenary of the line's opening, but before the line can reopen a car park will need to be constructed next to the station (involving considerable works on the main road as well), and the station building will need further attention and fitting out inside.
There is a web page, run by a member from the Netherlands, at http://web.inter.nl.net/hcc/H.Vink/l&bcont.htm
Based upon the old lines that radiated from Barnstaple, there is a major cycle route the "Tarka Trail". This is an excellent cycle/walking route with in particular the old station at Bideford being a nice feature. Just south of Bideford the "line" goes over some old bridges and into a short tunnel. Great fun. Have a look at:
For anyone else tired of the mudslinging over on the "WHR support" thread, heres some positive news from Rheilffordd Eryri, though I've no doubt some people might want to pick holes in it.
Although the official opening of the line from Caernarfon to Dinas is on for tomorrow (Oct. 13th), public trains (due to start on the 14th) have in fact been running all this weekend (11-12th). I understand it was felt that train crew acclimatisation could run OK with the public on board - and so it has proved. I was on the train earlier today, and with zero publicity other than word of mouth around the Caernarfon area (including of course the #1.00 fare for North Wales residents this week!), the coaches were about three-quarters full. It was a little less busy yesterday, but still a respectable turnout.
So what's it like? Obviously I'm biased, but the answer is already pretty special, and distinct in character from any other UK narrow gauge line. The new coaches are as swish as promised, and a lot more spacious than their FR cousins (i.e. I didn't bang my head!); even though the track is by no means fully settled, the ride is surprisingly smooth, and hopefully will continue so at higher speeds than the current temporary 15mph limit. And with Garratt no.138 on the front... as I said, pretty special. Local reaction has been quite something too - I've heard mutters about "why isn't Caernarfon Station more in the middle of town?" (Gwynedd Council please take note) - indeed the narrow platform there is already a bottleneck.
There will be six return services from Caernarfon every day from Oct. 14th to Nov. 2nd, with a special event on the weekend of the 25-6th, when Dinas Works will open to the public for the first time. The same weekend sees the FR Vintage Weekend (latest: the Kerr Stuart diesel has now arrived from Mauritius) and the Dirty Chappies' event at the WHR Ltd line in Porthmadog - so plenty of reasons for visiting.
Ben Fisher - http://www.bangor.ac.uk/ml/whr/
Local press reports that the tourist operation at Gloddfa Ganol slate quarry in Blaenau Ffestiniog is to close. This is as a result of the acquisition of Ffestiniog Welsh Slate Products Group by Alfred McAlpine Slate (operators of Penrhyn Quarry, Bethesda). Gloddfa Ganol will continue to operate as a quarry. Its tourist operation has been run with a distinct lack of enthusiasm for some years.
The site (on the A470, across the road from Llechwedd Caverns) houses a substantial collection of narrow gauge stock, the treatment of which I ave long felt to be one of the shames of British preservation. This collection was assembled by three individuals in the 1970s, first at Pen-yr-Orsedd Quarry (Nantlle - another McAlpine acquisition, but due to be mothballed) as a putative narrow gauge NRM, and then at Gloddfa Ganol, which later acquired the collection.
The collection includes some unusual or even unique items - e.g. 2 1915 Ruston Proctor petrol/paraffin locos (oldest i.c. locos in UK), a pair of De Winton 0-4-0 vertical boiler locos, a Kerr Stuart "Wren" 0-4-0ST used for a while on the Bala Lake (and much earlier, on the Ashover), and 3 WW1 Kerr Stuart "Joffre" 0-6-0Ts imported from France in 1975 after gazumping the French group which had already paid for them. There is also a rake of Nantlle Railway wagons, and the unique trolleys used for transporting the contents of the National Gallery in and out of Manod Quarry during WW2. Condition of the stock ranges from OK if neglected (stored under cover) to appalling; 2 of the Joffres, stuck in exposed positions, would need someone very brave to take on even cosmetic restoration. The 3rd, beside the A470, is better, but it's typical of Gloddfa that only the sides of the locos most visible to the public ever got painted.
A few years ago I enquired of Gloddfa's manager about the status of the collection, as I was in touch with someone who had an interest in acquiring one or more items. About a year later I got a reply that everything was for sale, and had been "professionally valued". I doubted the latter given that the price quoted seemed to have been plucked out of thin air, and no consideraton had been given to the varying conditions of the items in question. So what now for all this stock, now more than ever in need of a good home (or homes)? Does anyone have any intelligence to share on this matter?
From Ken Lunn...
On Friday I received the latest "Underground News" from the London Underground Railway Society, of which I'm a member. They now have their own web site (and in fact included a CD-ROM with the magazine so that members could access the site). Their URL is:
Even if you aren't interested in the London underground, there's a set of "other links" that might be worth pursuing.
A newspaper clipping from the "Daily Mail", sent by Nick Robson:
Parrots did the job of platform announcers in the early days of the railways in Britain, it is claimed today.
'In 1861 almost every station on the Edinburgh to Glasgow railway line kept a parrot,' says Jack Simmons, co-editor of The Oxford Companion to British Railway History. 'It called out the station's name most distinctly on the train's arrival.'
Mr Simmons says the birds lost their platform perches three years later - even though they were more audible and intelligible than porters, who did the job on other stations.
I've treated myself to this book (and a good book it is, too), but it's not the sort of volume you read from cover to cover. In dipping into it, I missed this entry, but if *Professor* Simmons says so, it must be true, as he's one of the country's leading authorities on railways.
Pity this didn't happen in the Home Counties... "Beakonsfield, Beakonsfield, change here for Leighton Buzzard, Aylesbury Duck, and Cockfosters..."
Mark Dyche points out that Winchester Library has a large stock of railway books, and has a lot more tucked away than is displayed on its shelves. If you are after a particular book, but cannot find it - ask. The chances are they have it somewhere.
I am considering starting an on-line magazine for railway modellers - non commercial, no advertising - just features and articles submitted by enthusiasts for other enthusiasts, both beginners and experts. Is anyone interested in such a new magazine? (I know others do exist) I would like to include practical tips and also some historical data for modellers of all abilities.
Please post comments and suggestions (good & bad!!) to this group or if you prefer direct to me at mailto:email@example.com .
Further details at http://www.nezz.co.uk/Railway/
January will see the start of an entirely new locomotive based magazine which is the cullmination of nearly a year's worth of planning and ideas which will gradually be brought together in a magazine which we expect to be a very interesting read. The magazine called "Motive Power" will be in an A4 format with some colour shots which will grow in amount as we get settled down. It will be of 85% Australian content and 15% overseas which we hope will cater for most everybody.
We are currently seeking interest in the magazine overseas,so if you are interested or would like to contribute articles/photos please contact the Managing Editor Stuart Ellis at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
We also would like to hear from someone who would like to be editor of a U.K section. This would be just a short section bi monthly. Once again contact Stuart at the above email address.
When I was a lad, I used to collect old Railway Magazines and Modern Railways - which cost an arm and a leg at the time (e.g. 30-40 pence in 1978). I often visit the GCR at Loughborough, and its now possible to buy a whole year's worth, and more, of magazines for 25p! (e.g. Modern Railways 1967-68). So if you've got an interest in recent railway history, plus loads of empty shelf space, then its a good time to buy.
On the other hand old copies of more recent magazines are much more expensive. Early copies of TRACTION are now selling at 3 pounds, with recent copies of TRACTION at 1 pound ! So for the price of issue 3 of Traction (one magazine), you could get Railway Magazine 1965-1975 (132 magazines plus a hernia), and 25p change. Funny old world.
I suppose that this reflects supply and demand, and that younger people read less these days. Also shows once again that things do not have to be old, to be collectable.
I took my camera on a few trips in southern Manchester today (Saturday 8 Nov), and have put up the results on the WWW at
I thought people might be interested in the sort of thing that can be seen (literally) today, especially readers from far and wide on the Net. I'd be interested in your comments and questions, both textual and technical: have I put too many pictures in one page, for example? Maybe this will cause loading of memory problems? Why has Carling been replaced by Fosters in Stockport buffet?
Although TRACTION does contain some weird stuff, Robert Forsythe's column on the Net remains the only one of its kind written by someone who actually knows what he's talking about, and reads uk.railway. Keep up the good work, Robert.
If anyone has similar interests please email me. I am not really interested in steam trains or preserved railways - but the history behind rail routes. ie what prompted the building of a particular line, by which company, what kind of traffic and density etc. Look forward to hearing from you.
and 12":1' scale photopages!
This firm provides spares for Hornby Dublo and Wrenn - (nearly) everything from wheels to transfers. Some are original spares, others are being specially made. If you are interested, Howard has a copy of their latest list.
...wishes to produce a video for the enthusiast and would like to know what train enthusiasts would like to see in the video in what would be a special one off high quality production for collectors.
Please email your comments to: email@example.com
At long last, I've scanned some photographs of Spanish and French railways that Ken Lunn sent me a while ago. The results from the ID Dept scanner are excellent (sorry you can't see tham Ken!) They can be found from the HPMRS home page, or directly at:
(Where ˙is the tilde character.)
An Australian based restorer and mainline operator. We are currently building a links page on our website dedicated to mainline operators and Loco (diesel, steam & electric) restoration groups. If you run or know of an eligible site I would appreciate an email. Thanks
PS. Check out our site for details of mainline operations in Victoria, Australia.
Richard Flinders, Manager-SRV Web Site http://srv.railpage.org.au email firstname.lastname@example.org
Nick Robson sent me an advert placed by Norfolk Southern (in the USA) recently. They claim to have raised clearances on their line to allow an extra 3ft height to their loading gauge. This allows than to carry containers in double-deck formation. Nick wonders whether there isa standard loading gauge throughout the USA, or whether each railroad makes its own arrangements. Could result in some interesting through-running!
See our latest pictures at http://www.primenet.com/~claygill/pictures.html
Or take a ride over Donner Pass at http://www.primenet.com/~claygill/donner.html
By Graham Mackenzie
As you know, I am one of the engine room crew on "Shieldhall" and my day started at 06.45 to ensure that there was a full head of steam for our departure time of 09.00. "Waverley" was berthed astern and she left at 07.00 to pick up passengers from various places around the Solent. The weather was very misty with vis about 150 metres, with a promise that it would clear by mid to late morning. By the time that we departed, sharp at 9, we could see clear to Marchwood, but as we progressed down towards Calshot, so the visibility deteriorated to about 50 metres.
On arrival at Calshot we stooged around in the fog and followed various radar contacts until we could just make out the faint shape of "Canberra" followed close astern by HMS"Cornwall". We then joined the convoy back to Southampton just off the starboard quarter of the frigate with "Waverley" off the port quarter. The fog by this time was quite patchy and hence, the number of small craft increased. By Fawley, the firefighting tugs were out, adding more moisture to the atmosphere. The whole scene being made quite dramatic by the foggy background. The downside was that the aerial displays were almost unseen. Just off Hythe I had to go below for my next hour's stint, so I missed the parachute descent.
My next scene was just as "Canberra" was berthing and the sun was beginning to shine with some strength. Clustered all round were vessels of all shapes and sizes with ourselves in the middle of them all. After watching and listening to the various bands for a while, our skipper decided to liven up the events by sounding a salute on our steam whistle. This was the signal for every other vessel to start sounding off. The police launch then offered to cut a path through the fleet for us to allow us to turn around. The offer was accepted and with blue light and two-tone horn sounding, we were escorted through the fleet. After turning, we gave "Canberra" a farewell salute on the whistle which she answered and we then proceeded slowly away from the scene.
"Canberra" was in excellent shape outside and looked very smart with gleaming white paint and little signs of rust. I gather that the areas away from public view are not so good. Bedecked with flags and messages it could have been a happy occassion, but the paying-off penant flying from the foremast was a reminder that this was final.
After berthing at Town Quay, I sat in the sun and looked to where "Canberra" was berthed. How different from two hours ago. No other vessels around, flags and bunting all taken down, how lonely she looked. On the Wednesday evening, she was moved to a lay up berth in the Eastern Docks awaiting a decision.
So ended a memorable occassion. There are now reported to be just two sea-going passenger carrying steamships under UK registry, "Waverley" and "Shieldhall". One a paddler, the other recip and none are turbine.
We are hopeful that starting early early next year we shall be contracted to take part in surveying the whole UK rail network. This will be done using a specially converted rail vehicle fitted with digital video cameras, GPS satellite location and other sophisticated technology. We will need to have a team of people both to work on the train and to assist with processing the captured images. The positions will be salaried and all expenses will be paid.
If you are interested, please contact me at email@example.com and I will be please to provide you with further information. If you wish to have a preview of the technology, please look at our web site at
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