Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Blog - 2020

January 2020

Aylesbury Station looking at the north end of the station 28/1/20

28/1/2020 Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. London Marylebone to Banbury. Banbury to Haddenham and Thame Parkway. Aylesbury to Aylesbury Vale Parkway and return. Aylesbury to Harrow-on-the-Hill.

My first train trip of 2020. I should have been going to visit the new Worcestershire Parkway station thanks to Cross Country putting tickets on sale for this week and then suddenly taking them off their wesbite again, as it's still not open! So instead I changed my plans to visit two Parkway stations in the Chilterns area for my upcoming book on Parkway Railway stations. After a brief visit to Banbury I caught a train back down the line to Haddenham and Thame Parkway, where I was able to get some decent photographs without snow in them, which is what happened when I visited the station almost a year ago. I then caught a 280 bus from the station to Aylesbury - cost £3.60. I then went up to Aylesbury Vale Parkway station to take some more photos. I had been there soon after it had first opened about ten years ago and it was like a building site. Today it was still like a building site! The station building and car park are all complete of course, but they have decided to rebuild the walkway onto the platform, so everywhere is a mess at the moment. Funnily enough the station building was all deserted - all locked up in fact, for whatever reason. Also my train was like a ghost train at first with just a handful of passengers, but all five carriages did fill up as the  journey progressed. Then it was a brief stop at Harrow-on-the-Hill to take some more photos. Then home after a quite pleasant, if coild day.



February 2020

Class 170 at Worcestershire Parkway station on 25th February 2020, two days after it opened

18/2/2020 Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. London Kings Cross to Leeds. Leeds to New Pudsey. New Pudsey to Bradford Interchange. Bradford Interchange to London Kings Cross via Halifax.

Went up to Yorkshire for the day primarily to take some more photos for my book on Parkway Railway stations. It was the first time that I had been on an LNER Azuma and I must say that I was quite impressed. The journey was very smooth and we arrived on time in Leeds. We had some time in Bradford where it was pouring down beforecoming back on the 14.50 Grand Central Adelante to Kings Cross for just £9.90! Although the train was much older it still has a little more character than the Azuma! We saw quite a lot of flooding especially around Newark where the River Trent had burst its banks, but no problems with water. Just a hold up around Peterborough which meant we were ten minutes late getting into Kings Cross.


20/2/2020 Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. London Marylebone to Leamington Spa. Leamington Spa to Stratford-upon-Avon. Stratford-upon-Avon to London Marylebone

Went up to Stratford-upon-Avon with my wife for the day. The fare each way was just £7.25 each way all the way through (with a senior railcard) as Chiltern Railways had special offer on fares north of Banbury in the month of February. Well done Chiltern Railways! I wish some other train operating companies would do the same.

25/2/2020 Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. London Euston to Birmingham New Street. Birmingham New Street to Worcestershire Parkway. Worcestershire Parkway to Worcester Shrub Hill. Worcester Shrub Hill to London Paddington.  

Went to visit the newly opened Worcestershire Parkway station to get some photos for my upcoming book on Parkway Railway Stations. Decided to go via Euston for change and see what the new TOC of Avanti was like. Much the same really. I was going to go to Sandwell and Dudley once I got to Birmingham New Street but my train was almost ten minutes late and I missed the connection. Then git a Cross Country train to the newly opened Worcestershire Parkway station. I was quite impressed and was pleased that it has finally come to fruition. The car park looked like it had over a hundred cars in it which is promising. Coming back to London Paddington I had to go into Worcester to get the same train back as that particular service doesn’t stop at Worcestershire Parkway. I don’t know why as it’s only a couple of minutes extra on the journey. At Oxford it was interesting to see a lot of passengers walking past my Paddington bound train to get a Chiltern Trains service to a Marylebone instead. interesting....


March 2020

No train journeys made this month for obvious reasons....


April 2020

No journeys again this month


May 2020

No journeys made this month

June 2020

Seats at Southend Central June 2020 - a sign of the times....
26/6/2020 - Benfleet to Southend Central and return
My first train journey for four months due to Lockdown restrictions. It was just a short journey into Southend and back to test the waters, plus I was desperate to travel on a train again! I made sure I had a mask and bought my trickets in advance, though I could have paid in cash at the tickest office if I wanted. I was only one of two people getting on the train. On the train there were about twenty people altogether in an eight carriage train, so everyone was fairly spaced out. I would say about 80% of the passengers were wearing masks and the majority of them were under thirty. 
Coming back the barriers were wide open at Southend Central main entrance, with no staff to be seen, so it makes you wonder just how many people were travelling for free on the railway network at this time. This time I would say only about 50% of the passangers onn my train were wearinmg face masks, though it was pretty quiet. It was OK and worth doing it, though I wonder how long it will be before people start using the trains in numbers pre-Covid 19?

July 2020

Advert at London Blackfriars 12/6/20 - How to kill the railways!
12/6/2020 - Leigh-on-Sea to West Ham. London Waterloo to Putney. London Blackfriars to Finsbury Park and return. London Fenchurch Street to Leigh-on-Sea.

My first journey by train into London since before Lockdown. Again the c2c train was pretty quiet until we got to Upminster when about 50 were waiting, having come from Grays and having to change there. Even then there seemed to be plenty of room on the train, though at Barking many more got on, going just the one stop to West Ham, where I got off. I then got a Docklands Light Railway Train to the Excel Centre where a few weeks earlier the Nightingale Hospital stood. When I got there it had completely gone! It was back to being an exhibition Centre with adverts for exhibitions due to take place in August.
I then went back to Canning Town and took a Jubilee Line tube to London Waterloo. The train was busy but there was still room for people to sit on alternative seats. At Waterloo it seemed much quieter than for a summer saturday, apart from the number of trains using the station. I took a train to Putney which was busy, but again there was plenty of room for people to social distance.?
Coming back into Central London by the District Line, I got off at London Blackfriars where I came face to face with a large advertising board telling me not to travel by train for leisure purposes! Talk about trying to make you feel guilty! However just a few days later Lockdown restrictions were eased and this advert become redundant. I then got a through train to Finsbury Park travelling for the first time through the tunnel linking the Thameslink Line out of St Pamcras with the Great Northern Line out of Kings Cross. Then it was back home on the c2c line.?
Overall I would say that at least 80% of the people were travelling by train in London for leisure purposes and most of them were young people below age 30.??
25/6/2020 - Leigh-on-Sea to Barking. Barking to Gospel Oak. Gospel Oak to Richmond. Richmond to London Waterloo. West Ham to Leigh-on-Sea.?
A couple of weeks later I again made the train journey into London from Essex. This time I got off at Barking and went on the Goblin Line to Gospel Oak for the first time since it had been electrified. Although the Class 710 Aventra trains look impressive from the outside, I really think having all the seats sideways like the Class 378 Capitalstar units is a big mistake. I like many passengers, prefer to travel facing in the direction the train is going and found my neck aching more and more as I tried to look out of the window. Plus they haven't any toilets, which is also a big mistake as again many people want to use the toilet on a train jiourney, however short it is.
After taking a few photos at Gospel Oak, I caught a thriough train to Richmond, again another journey I hadn't made for several years. It was sad to see rows and rows of Crossrail trains lined up in sidings by Old Oak Common, waiting for business. I then went on a short river cruise with just ten other people on a vessel with a capacity for 150! So sad.
My train from Richmond back into Waterloo was quite busy and almost what you would expect for a saturday afternopon, so maybe numbers of people using the trains are starting to creep up a little. Still it was a large majority of under 30's using them.?

August 2020

Old and new at Didcot Railway Centre. GWR 2900 Class 2999 Lady of Legend waits to depart as a GWR Class 800 passes on the Didcot by-pass line with a fast train for London Paddington.
12/8/2020 - Tenterden to Bodiam and return
My wife and I decided that we would like to go on a steam train trip at least once this year, so chose to go on the Kent & East Sussex Railway. We did go away to the Cotswolds a couple of week's earlier, but unfortunately the Goucestershire & Warwickshire Railway hadn't reopened. We did also consider the Bluebell Railway but sadly the prices they were asking priced us out of a journey with them. Their loss. So it was for a more reasonable £15 return we chose a trip on the Kent & East Sussex Railway on one of the hottest days of the year.
After a pleasant drive from Essex we arrived in time to have a picnic lunch in the car park. We then took our booking form to the ticket office and got our tickets. Surprisingly we weren't actually given set seats, so when it came to getting on the train it was a free for all!  They did have alternative table seats kept empty, though many of the passengers in our carriage weren't bothering to wear face masks, which was rather selfish I thought, especially when it said clearly on the tickets face masks should be worn. The other problem was that the previous train was about fifteen minutes late into the station. Once we were allowed onto the train, we were sitting there for another fifteen minutes whilst the driver had his lunch break! Not a good idea in such hot weather with no air conditioning. It would have been better if we had stayed on the platform, which was cooler.
Finally, we got going and it was nice to be riding on a train behind a steam locomotive again. The next problem however occurred when we arrived about forty five minutes late at Bodiam. There was a shop on the platform selling ice creams and as it was so hot it seemed as if the whole train wanted to buy one. The problem was that there was just one man serving, working his socks off to serve everyone. So a twenty minute break eneded up being an hour break! By the timne we got back to Tenterden, we were too late to go and have a cup of tea at one the several tea shops that were open, so it spoilit the day somewhat. If only they could have had two people serving...
22/8/2020 - Leigh-on-Sea to Liverpool Street and return. London Padington to Didcot Parkway and return.
Went to Didcot Railway Centre for the day with a friend. It was the first time I'd taken a train journey out of London since February. Both times on the GWR mainline we travelled on Cotswold Line trains which were about half full, so gradually passengers are starting to come back to the trains, but for how long? The Didcot Railway Centre had given us set times to enter the grounds and then we could stay as long as we liked. Being such a large place there was plenty of room for social distancing, and face masks only had to be worn in the gift shop and on the shuttle train where each group had a carriage to themselves. Although I had only been there a few years ago, it was still a pleasant day out in lovely August sunshine.