Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Blog - 2021

May 2021

Leigh-on-Sea railway station - my local railway station.

26/5/2021 - Leigh-on-Sea to Shoeburyness and return.

My first railway journey for over six months. This was partly to do with Lockdown and partly to do with recovering from an operation on my foot in November. I chose this local journey as it was to test the waters so to speak and see how I got on with getting on and off a train. I chose Shoeburyness as there are no stairs there to go up and down, plus it's a pleasant railway journey which goes right next to the sea at Chalkwell. Interesting to see that only about 50% of the passengers on my train were actually wearing masks. Here's a photo of my local railway station, Leigh-on-Sea,  which I use as the starting and ending point for the majority of railway jounreys that I make around Britain. All being well I will try a train journey into London and back next month.



June 2021

South Western Trains Class 707 unit at Shepperton.

5/6/2021 - Leigh-on-Sea to Stratford and return. London Waterloo to Kempton Park. Kempton Park to Shepperton. Shepperton to London Waterloo. Waterloo East to London Bridge.

My first visit to the capital since October last year. Partly to see how my foot would cope after my operation and partly to get some photos of the M3 for a book on motorways which I am currently working on. It involved taking a train from Waterloo to Kempton Park, where the racecourse is and then walking a short distance to the A3/M3 interchange. The trains and tubes in central London that I used were all busy, though the two trains I took into and out of London were still pretty quiet. Waterloo seemed busy as did Stratford. Most people were wearing masks still, though it was noticeable that those who weren't were mainly under 30. 



July 2021

Liverpool Street railway station where four trains are waiting to depart for Stansted Airport, Chingford, Norwich and Clacton

3/7/2021 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Liverpool Street. London Liverpool Street to Chingford. Chingford to Walthamstow Central. Stratford to Leigh-on-Sea.

Went up to London just about a month after I last went. This time I visited Chingford to take some photos for a future book of train terminals. Then went to see take some photos of Tottenham Hotspur's new ground for my website, Unfortunately the line between Hackney Downs and Cheshunt was closed for engineering work, so I couldn't get a train to White Hart Lane. Instead I changed at Walthamstow Central and caught a Victoria line tube to Seven Sisters, where I got a bus there and back.  


31/7/2021 - Leigh-on-Sea to Stratford and return. London Waterloo to Richmond. Richmond to Barnes. Barnes to Kew Bridge. Kew Bridge to London Waterloo.

Four weeks after my last visit to London I am back again. This time to go a river cruise from Richmond, courtesy of Thames River Cruises who still took the boat out despite the fact that there were just 4 passenmgers on board!  Then went over to Kew Bridge to take some photos of Brentford FC's new ground for my website, "".


August 2021

Salisbury station looking east 21/8/2021

6/8/2021 - Leigh-on-Sea to Southend Central and return

Went into Southend fior the day with my grandchildren.

17/8/2021 - Leigh-on Sea to London Fenchurch Street. London Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads via Bristol Parkway.

Went away to Bristol for a few days holiday. The train was re-routed via Bristol Parkway due to changes to the track coming into Bristol Temple Meads from the Bath line.  The train was not even half full, indicating that people are still not returning to the railways just yet. Perhaps people are still being cautious about travelling in public for the time being.

20/8/2021 - Bristol Temple Meads to Bristol Parkway. Bristol Parkway to London Paddington. London Fenchurch Street to Leigh-on-Sea.

When we got to Bristol Temple Meads about half an hour before we were due to leave we saw on the noticeboard that our train had been cancelled and that there wasn't another one to London for another hour. Luckily I asked at the ticket office and was told to get the next train to Bristol Parkway and change there. This we did and there was a train waiting for us at "Parkway" as the locals call it. This was a Class 166 unit more used to the Thames Valley line. Anyway it left pretty pronto and  we arrived at Paddington only ten minutes later than we would have done. 

21/8/2021 - Leigh-on-Sea to West Ham and return. London Waterloo to Salisbury and return. Salisbury to Warminster and return. 

Went on an unusual visit to the lost village of Imber on Salisbury Plain. The village was taken over by the military in the 2nd World War and the villagers were forced to move out. They were never allowed to return and so the village is in the middle of Ministry Defence property and used for training with mock houses replacing the original village houses which have all been destroyed. The only original building still standing is the village church which does not belong to the MOD. So on various days during the year members of the public are allowed to come to the village and go into the church. When it is open on a designated saturday in August a variety of ex London buses, old and new ferry passengers from Warminster station onto the plain and to the village of Imber and others in the locality. It is quite a surreal experience with the church open selling teas and cakes. Part of the experience is to see all this wild army training area with the occasional old tank next to the narrow road.
23/8/2021 Leigh-on-Sea to West Ham and return. London Waterloo to Hampton Court

Went to Hampton Court Palace for the day as hadn't been there for about twenty years. Had a pleasant cup of of tea and piece of cake in a cafe on the other side of the river Thames.  
24/8/2021 Leigh-on-Sea to West Ham. London Waterloo to Kew Bridge and return. Stratford to Leigh-on-Sea. 
My third journey out of Waterloo in four days. This time it was to go to a football match between Brentford and Forest Green Rovers at the newly opened Brentford Community Stadium, which is right next to the ground. The main concern that I have is that the platforms are quite narrow and there is only one way into and out of the station. I think it would be a good idea to build another entrance straight from the station to the ground. We left before the end so I didn't see how crowded it gets, but I guess they stagger people using the station.





September 2021

28/9/2021 - Leigh-on-Sea to Southend Central and return.

My one and only outing by train this month due to having an operation on my foot in early September. This was a trial to see how I got on, so just went on a short journey into Southend and back. The only downside was that we just missed a train leaving at 42 minutes past the hour and then had to wait until 07 past the hour. The next one after that was five minutes behind. It's a pity the timetable planners don't arrange the trains more evenly during the hour when there are four trains an hour off peak into London from Southend!
I will be making up for lack of train journeys in October and November. Watch this space.....


October 2021

Trans Pennine Express Class 802 unit at Liverpool Lime Street

8/10/2021 - Leigh-on-Sea to Fenchurch Street. London Euston to Crewe. Crewe to Chester.

Went up to the North West primarily for a school reunion in Birkenhead on the saturday evening, but also to visit a few places, including Chester, where I went to primary school. I went with London North Western Trains as it was much cheapoer at just £9.55, as  opposed to £50 plus with Avanti. I really don't remember Virgin being that expoensive when they ran trains on the WCML franchise. It may have been a few minutes longer, but it was fine and not too crowded, unlike the sunday when I came back to London Euston on an Aventi train from Crewe. It was also interesting to see all the work going on just outside Euston for the HS2 project, which is obviously going to take a few more years yet.  

9/10/2021 - Chester to Manchester Victoria. Manchester Victoria to Liverpool Lime Street. James Street to Bebington. 

On the saturday morning caught a Northern Trains train to Manchester Victoria which was busy, but not crowded. Then came back to Liverpool Lime Street on Trans Pennine Express service from Newcastle which was on one of their newish Class 802 trains. A very smooth journey I would say, but again the train was very crowded. Then after meeting a froiend in Liverpool it was on one of the old class 507/508 units over to the Wirral. Probably it will be last time I travel on one of these before the new Class 777 units comeinto use - i saw plenty of them as I came into crewe on Friday. 

10/10/2021 - Bebington to Chester. Chester to Runcorn. Runcorn to Crewe. Crewe to London Euston. London Liverpool Street to Rayleigh. 

Returned back to Essex, but not before I took the opportunity to travel on the Halton Curve for the first time since it has been reopened. I last went on it back in the early 70s. Both trains from Runcorn to Crewe and from Crewe to Euston were full to overflowing.

19/10/2021 - Leigh-on-Sea to West Ham. London Bridge to St Leonards Warrior Square. St Leonards Warrior Square to Bexhill.

Went down to Hastings to stay overnight as was attending a concert by the group King King at the De La Warr OPavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea. 

20/10/2021 - St Leonards Warrior Square to London Bridge. West Ham to Leigh-on-Sea

Returned home after the concert.

31/10/2021 - St Albans City to Grain (Old Station) via South Acton, Clapham Junction, Lewisham, Dartford and Gravesend. Grain (Old Station) to Ashford International via Lee, and Tonbridge. Ashford International to Dungeness and return. Ashford International to St Albans City via Maidstone East, Beckenham Junction, Crystal Palace, Brixton, Clapham Junction and South Acton.

Went on my first railway excursion for over two years on the UK Railtours, "The Doctor Syn" from St Albans to the Isle of Grain and Dungeness. It was as usual well organised and it was interesting to cover several new pieces of track including Kew East Junction to New Kew Junction and  Lee Spur Junction as well as the two treight line mentioned above. As often happens with these types of excursions the inevitable delays occurred with us leaving Dungeness half an hour late and by the time we got to St Albans we were an hour late. Still it was an enjoyable day out after Lockdown, seeing as it had been rearranged twice.




November 2021

68010 at the buffer stops on Platform 3 at Birmingham Moor Street.


1/11/2021 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. London Marylebone to Solihull. Solihull to Widney Manor. Widney Manor to Birmingham Moor Street. Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone.

Went up to Birmingham for the day to take some photos of local motorways for my upcoming book on Britain's Motorways. This involved going to Widney Manor where I made a short walk to the M42 first of all. Then on into central Birmingham where I caught the bus into Aston and back to get some shots of the A38 (M). Then back home. As usual travelling with Chiltern was an enjoyable experience and a cheap one at that - only £7.00 single going all the way from Leigh-on-Sea to Birmingham Moor Street. Plus going, I was loco hauled by 68010, which was a first for me. 


9/1/2021 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. London Paddington to Reading. Reading to Winnersh and return. Reading to Maidenhead. Maidenhead to London Paddington.

Went to Reading and Maidenhead to take some more photos of motorways for my Motorway book. Caught a Class 345 train from Reading to Maidenhead and from Maidenhead to Paddingon. Whilst they seemed new and clean, I still thought the seats were quite hard like the Class 800s with no thought given to passenger comfort. Plus there are no toilets on board which is a very bad decision by someone as the trains will be used on longish journeys, with between Reading to Shenfield being the longest one. Comparable suburban trains do have toilets such as Thameslink, and this I think will be an unpopular decision. It's all very well saying that there will be toilets at each station, but half the time these are never open, or are shut in the evening, so not a wise choice.

20/1/2021 - Leigh-on-Sea to Liverpool Street and return. Farringdon to Hendon Central and return.

Went up to London again to get more photographs of motorways; this time of the M1. 

30/11/2021 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. London Kings Cross to Leeds and return. Leeds to Bradford Interchange and return.

My final journey of a busy month for trains and for taking pictures of motorways for my motorway book. This time I went to both Leeds and Bradford to take them and had a pleasant journey to and from London. From Leeds to Bradford was not so pleasant as the train seemed to be going at just 10-20 mph all the way. The driver announced that as the rails had become wet from snow the previous couple of days there was no grip. This was a Class 195 unit going all the way to Chester, so I don't know what time the train eventually arrive there, but coming back to Leeds I got another Class 195 train and this time there were no problmes. So why would that be?



December 2021

An Oxford train at Wembley Stadium station on 12th December 2021

11/12/2021 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Liverpool Street.

Went up to London to see the Human League at Wembley Arena. For a change decided to stay overnight in a hotel in London, hence the next entry. 

12/12/2021 - Wembley Stadium to London Marylebone. London Liverpool Street to Leigh-on-Sea


23/12/2021 - Leigh-on-Sea to West Ham and return. London Waterloo to Farnborough and return.

Went to Farnborough as part of my work. The trains either side of London were pretty quiet as you would expect so neat to Christmas.  

30/12/2021 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Liverpool Street and return. London Liverpool Street to Bishops Stortford and return. London Euston to Hemel Hempstead and return.

Had a pleasant couple of trips out of London to both Bishops Stortford and Hemel Hempstead again with my work. This time the trains were even quieter than my trip a week ago.