Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Blog 2019

January 2019

No railway journeys made this month.


February 2019

GBRF Class 66 No 66779, Evening Star in unusual khaki green livery at Coleshill Parkway station on 2/2/19

1/2/2019 Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street. London Marylebone to Haddenham and Thame Parkway. Haddenham & Thame Parkway to Oxford Parkway. Oxford Parkway to Oxford. Oxford to Banbury. Banbury to Warkwick Parkway. Warwick Parkway to Birmingham Snow Hill.

I went up to Birmingham to see King King in concert and stayed overnight in the city. On the way I was able to visit some Parkway stations to get some photographs for a book I am bringing out later in the year. There was no snow when I left home, but once we were  out of the tunnel north of Marylebone I was quite surprised to see plenty of it in North London for a change. In fact there was plenty of snow all the way as far as Banbury, then it disappeared. Luckily all the trains ran on time and there were no cancellations. the only train that I got that was full was the Cross Country service between Oxford and Banbury.


2/2/2019  Birmingham New Street to Tame Bridge Parkway and return via Witton. Birmingham New Street to Coleshill Parkway and return. Birmingham Moor Street to Dorridge. Dorridge to Stratford-upon-Avon Parkway. Stratford-upon-Avon Parkway to Leamington Spa. Leamington Spa to London Marylebone. London Fencurch Street to Leigh-on-Sea. 

The next day I bought a West Midlands Day Ranger ticket for £18 and travelled round the West Midlands for a few hours before coming back to Essex. At Coleshill Parkway I was intrigued to see a driver change over of a freight train on the station. The two drivers had a chat before the train departed - see photo. Then at Dorridge I was able to sit out on the platform with a coffee and croissant at a table by the cafe in spite of the cold, as the bright sun made it quite pleasant. I then caught one of the through trains to Stratford-upon-Avon, a Class 172, over a small piece of new track for me between Hatton West Junction and Hatton South Junction. Again all the trains ran on time with no delays and there was plenty of seating, apart from when we stopped at wembley Stadium on the way back, where many Spurs fans got on, leading to standing room only. By the way all the snow had melted in London. 


7/2/2019 Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street. London Blackfriars to London Bridge. West Ham to Leigh-on-Sea

Went up to London for the evening whilst my wife went to a concert at the 02. Met up with her afterwards.

18/2/2019 Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street. Farringdon to Greenwich. West Ham to Leigh-on-Sea

Went with a friend up to London to pay a visit to the Post Offce Mail Rail train. We had a ride on the very small train which was quite cramped for me, though it was an interesting ride with films beamed to the side of the tunnel at different stops and an exhibition of the mail trains form a bygone era. Then took a Thameslink train from Farringdon across the river to Greenwich, where my friend was able to ride on a DLR train for the first time.


March 2019

East Midlands Trains Class 222 DMU 222 at East Midlands Parkway on 23/3/2019

23/3/2019 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return vis Grays. London St Pancras to East Midlands Parkway. East Midlands Parkway to Leicester. Leicester to Luton Airport Parkway. Luton Airport Parkway to Farringdon.

Went up the Midland Mainline to visit two more parkway railway stations for a book I am working on. The day went well with clear blus sky which helped with the photographs. East Midlands Parkway station is a bit in the middle of nowhere apart from being right next to a coal fired power station with large cooling towers dominating the skyline. I was there for almost an hour due to the train times and at one point I reckon I was the sole passenger in the whole station. Gradually various passengers did start to arrive mainly on the shuttle bus from East Midlands Airport. 

At Leicester Yard it was like a scene from the 70s with so many diesel locomotives stabled there inlcuding Class 37's, Class 47s, Class 57's and a lone Class 33.

This was the only railway trip I made this month.


April 2019

Peak Class 44 D8 Penyghent at Matlock station on 9/4/2019

4/4/2019 Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street. London Paddington to Bodmin Parkway. Bodmin Parkway to Plymouth. Plymouth to Totnes.

Went down to Devon for the funeral of a relative, but went into Cornwall to visit Bodmin Parkway to take pictures for my upcoming book on Parkway stations. The train was delayed around Taunton do was running about eight minutes late by the time we left Plymouth so it was touch and go that I would be able to catch my scheduled train back from Bodmin Parkway. In the end the driver managed to catch up some time through Cornwall and I had about eight minutes as opposed to the scheduled fifteen.

Going down there I was on one of the "newish" Class 800s. I think this is the first time that I have ever been on one and to be honest I wasn't that impressed. Although they look all sleek and futuristic on the outside, it is on the inside where the problem lies. Quite frankly the seats suck! There is no padding, or very little, so the result is like sitting on a wooden board! By the time we got to Devon I had a back ache which isn't a good way to sell Great Western Railways to customers. If I was travelling on them everyday I would have to take a cushion or two with me. Coming back from Bodmin Parkway it was a crappy old two car Class 150, yet inside it was so much more comfy. Then from Plymouth to Totnes it was a good old HST. So much better inside. Whoever designed them ought to take a ride in a 800 and feel fir themselves how uncomfortable a train ride is in one of them. 


5/4/2019 Paignton to Newton Abbot. Newton Abbot to Tiverton Parkway. Tiverton Parkway to London Paddington. London Fenchurch Street to Leigh-on-Sea.

Coming back it was another 2 car Class 150 from Paignton to Newton Abbot, though I could see a 800 waiting in the sidings to form the next train. So I had a lucky escape. Then it was another HST from Newton Abbot to Tiverton Parkway, so a lovely ride along the sea wall by Dawlish. Not so from Tiverton Parkway to Paddington. I tried sleeping but it was impossible with no bit sticking out to hold your head into the seat. So yet again my back was aching after only half an hour. It was even worse between Reading and Paddington with lots of buffeting and no cushioned seats to protect your body. I love going to the West Country but these new trains are putting me off from future journeys down there.


9/4/2019 Matlock to Rowsley South and return. 

Had a few days away in Matlock for an Easter break and visited the Peak Rail preseved line from Matlock to Rowlsey South. It was a new presreved line for me and although it is only four miles long it was still enjoyable. I got on at the Matlock end and although there is a peak Rail shop at Matlock network railway station you can't actually buy your tickets there. Instead you have to buy them on the train and so they don't accept credit/debit cards. Apart fom this it was nice to be hauled by a proper "Peak" for the first time in my life. Although I had been hauled by Peak Class 45s and 46s from Birminghma to Bristol and York in the past, these Class 44 were mainly used on freight in their hey day.


16/4/2019 Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. London St Pancras to Sheffield. Sheffield to Barnsley. Barnsley to Huddersfield via Penistone. Huddersield to Bradford Interchange via Brighouse. Bradford Interchange to Wakefield Kirkgate. Wakefield Kirkgate to Meadowhall. Meadowhall to Doncaster. Doncaster to Lon don Kings Cross.

Had a very enjoyable day trip to Yorkshire lasting twelve hours. Although I had several tight connections to make, I was pleased that they all worked out OK. So hats off to Northern Rail for a change, for everything running smoothly. From Sheffield I had a South Pennines Day Ranger ticket which allowed me to go all over South and West Yorkshire. The journey between Penistone and Huddersfiled was the first time I had been on that route since 1978. At Bradford I was able to travel on the Grand Central service as far as Wakefiled Kirkgate which I was pleased to see had been greatly improved since I was last there. Still no customer toilets on the station though. At Meadowhall I had just a four minute window in which to catch my train to Doncaster, but that was fine. However when I got to Doncaster I found out that my train to Kings Cross had been cancelled - something that has only occurred to me on a handful of occasions in the past ten years. I was completely unaware of the fact that most trains on the East Coast Mainline had been affected by problems with the overhead gantries in the Stevenage area earlier in the day. It was a good job I went up to Yorkshire from St Pancras and not Kings Cross as my day would have been ruined. The kind Virgin employee at Doncaster told me to get on the next train to Kings Cross and although I didn't have a seat reservation for it, I still got a seat and was actually back in London twenty minutes earlier than planned. So a very ewnjoyable day where I was able to travel on all the lines I wanted to.


24/4/2019 Leigh-on-Sea to London Liverpool Street and return.

Went to see Mott The Hoope 74 at the Shepherd's Bush Empire.




May 2019

Class 71 electric locomotive at Locomotion Museum, Shildon

11/5/2019 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Liverpool Street and return. London Kings Cross to Shildon. Shildon to Bishop Auckland. Bishop Auckland to Darlington. Darlington to London Kings Cross. 

Went on a UK Railtorus trip to Locomotion at Shildon and the Weardale Railway. As it was schewduled to leave Kings Cross soon after 8.00am, I had to be up at 5.30 am in order to get there on time. This was made worse by their being very few tube trains running from Liverpool Street that day. My friend and I had decided to leave the trip early at Shildon and make our way seperately onto the Weardale Railway, before coming back into London a few hours earlier than the trip was scheduled to. The only problem was that the train got slower and slower the further north it went, meaning that we were an hour and a half behind schedule by the time we arrived at Shildon! We still went round Locomotion but left out the Weardale railway part and went round the town of Bishop Auckland instead. This meant we were able to catch our scheduled train at Darlington back to Kings Cross, arriving at half seven as aopposed to half ten. So I walked in through the door at 9 o'clock rather than midnight.


18/5/2019 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Liverpool Street and return. London Liverpool Street to Whittlesford Parkway. Wittlesford Parkway to Cambridge. Cambridge to Stansted Airport. Stansted Airport to Harlow Town. Harlow Town to London Liverpool Street.

Went To Cambridge for the day but split my journey up so that I could visit Whittlesford Parkway, Stansted Airport and Harlow Town stations to take some photographs.


June 2019

Rocket in all its glory at the Manchester Science and Industry Museum 8/6/2019

8/6/2019 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Loverpool Street. London Euston to Crewe. Crewe to Preston. Preston to Buckshaw Parkway. Buckshaw Parkway to Deansgate. Manchester Piccadilly to London Eustion. London Fenchurch Street to Leigh-on-Sea.

Had an enjoyable if nectic day in the North West. The main reason for the day out was to visit Crewe Diesel depot open day, a place I hadn't been to since the early 70s in my trainspotting days. Unfortunately it was raining maost of the day and it was very crodwed so it was hared to get photos of all the various locomotives there without someone getting in the way. After an hour or so there, we went over to the Crewe Heritage Centre with many others and enjoyed going on the APT. Unfortunately there wasn't that much else to see and it seems so much smaller than it should be for such an iconic railway town. It was then onto Preston on another Virgin train, the cost being a mere ?2,30 with a senior railcard. Then down to Buckshaw Parkway for more photogrpaphs for a future book. Then into manchester for a visit to the Science and Industry Museum where Rocket is on dispaly, the first time I had seen the fanlous locomotive. Then back down south and into the sunshine.