Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Blog 2023

January 2023

Enfield Town railway station 15/1/23

15/1/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Liverpool Street and return. London Liverpool Street to Enfield Town. Enfield Chase to London Moorgate.

My first train journey of the new years was to go up top London see a friend in Enfield, North London. Luckily my train from Leigh-on-Sea into London went into Liverpool Street as opposed to Fenchurch Street. So as I was going to Enfield all I had to do was change platforms at Liverpool Street. Coming back I decided to travel from Enfield Chase back into London, on a line I hadn't travelled on for several years. 


20/1/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return

Went into London for the evening with my wife to see The Real Thing and Rose Royce at the London Palladium.

27/1/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. Liverpool Street toi Paddington and return. London Paddington to Slough and return.


Had to go to Slough again with my work. This time I decided to catch a fast train from Paddington to Slough via a GWR train, as aopposed to staying on the Elizabeth Line train stopping at all stops on the journey. Not sure if it was six of one and half a dozen of the other regarding time taken. Certainly staying on the Elizabeth Line train would have saved my aching feet at the end of the day. Still is was interesting using the public toilets at Paddington on the north side of the station with their electronic signs telling you how much capacity there is in the cubicles inside!


February 2023

Liverpool Street railway station 23/2/23

17/2/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to West Ham. Woolwich Arsenal to Greenwich. Lewisham to Eltham. Eltham to London Cannon Street. London Fenchurch Street to Leigh-on-Sea.

Went to visit Eltham Palace in South East London with my wife for the day. What should have been a straightforward journey into London and out again turned into a bit of a nightmare. We had planned to get off at West Ham and go on the Jubilee Line to London Bridge, where we would catch a train direct to Eltham. When we got off at West Ham, as we were walking to the Jubilee Line it was announced that a tube train had broken down and consequently there were no trains running. So we quickly went down onto the DLR platfomrs and caught a train direct through to Woolwich Arsenal. My thinking was that we could catch a train from there direct to Lewisham, where we could get another train to Eltham. We got as far as Woolwich Arsenal, but there were no trains going to Lewisham for at least another half hour, so after a fifteeen minute wait we caught one to Greernwich, where we changed back onto a DLR train to Lewisham and then got one to Eltham. It seemed to take for ever! What we should have done was change DLR trains at Canning Town and go to Poplar where we could have got a DLR train straight down to Lewsham. Or if I'd known, got a circular train at Woolwich Arsenal going eastwards which would have gone direct to Eltham. If only I had my London Rail and Tube map with me!

23/2/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street. London Liverpool Street to Leigh-on-Sea via Grays.

Went to the London Palladium to see Rick Wakeman perform "Journey to the Centre of the Earth". It was a great concert which finished just after 10.00pm, so I was able to catch to 22.40 train from Liverpool Street back to Leigh. The only problem was that the train was being diverted via Grays due to engineering work, so it took a little longer than normal. Still I was in bed by midnight.



March 2023

The new two-way information board at London' Euston railway station with the old board in the background

3/3/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street. London Blackfriars to Luton. Luton to London St Pancras.

Had to go to Luton today wioth my job. For a change I decided to get my Thameslink Line train to Luton at Blackfriars. It was about ten minutes klate, but still managed to get to Luton only a couple of minutes late. Coming back I got an East Midlands train from Corby to St Pancras. Only took 20 minutes.


7/3/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return.

Had to go to both Wood Green and Uxbridge with my work, so lots of London Underground travelling today. 


12/3/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to Westcliff and return.


Went to a show at Southend's Cliff Pavilion with my wife.  As parking is so bad there, we decuded to take a train which only cost just over £2 for the five minute journey.



14/3/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street. London Euston to Liverpool Lime Street. Liverpool Lime Street underground to Birkenhead Hamilton Square.

Went up to Liverpool and the Wirral to see King King and Glen Tilbrook in concert in New Brighton with an old school friend. He picked me up at Hamilton Square station so we could take some pictures of the bridges in Birkenhead Docks for my next book which will be on Coastal Road Bridges. No problems with Avanti West Coast save for the fact that they gave me a backward facing seat when I had asked for a forward facing one. I soon moved!

 15/3/2023 - Liverpool Lime Street to London Euston. Tottenham Court Road to Liverpool Street. London Fenchurch Street to Leigh-on-Sea. 

No problems returning from Liverpool to Euston, though this time there were no seat reservations at all, plus the train itself was much quieter than coming up. The main problem was arriving in London with a tube strike on. My solution was to get a bus outside Euston to Tottenham Court Road which was packed as you would expect and took ages due to every traffic light being on red! At Tottenham Court Road I made my way to the Elizabeth Line, whose trains were still running and was only on the train for about five minutes before I got off at Liverpool Street,  from where I walked to Fenchurch Street. A journey which would normally take me 15-20 minutes took me about an hour, but at least I got ther train I was hoping to get.

 25/3/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to West Ham and return. Stratford International to Sandwich and return.

Went to Sandwich in Kent for the day, partly to take some photos of the old bridge there for my book on bridges and partly to meet up with another old school friend for lunch. A pleasant journey each way on Southeastern Javelin trains, though going the train was held up just the other side of Deal at a red signal, making me over 15 minutes late coming into Sandwich. However due to Delay Repay compensation I was able to get almost £3 back of my £9 ticket. Southeastern railways are now one of my favouriote train operating companies!

28/3/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to West Ham and return. Custom House to Abbey Wood. Abbey Wood to Dartford. Dartford to London Bridge.

Had to go to Dartford with my work. Rather than go all the way into London I decided to go via the DLR and Elizabeth Line to Abbey Wood and catch a South Eastern train from there to Dartford, thinking it would be fairly quick, seeing as it was the most direct route. Put it this way I won't be doing that again. I had to change trains at West Ham, Canning Town, Custom House and Abbey Wood, which involved waiting at all of them. Coming back I got a train direct to London Bridge which was not necessarily quicker, but definitely easier!


31/3/2023 -  Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. London Liverpool Street to Harlow Town and return.

Had to go to Harlow with my work today. No problems.


April 2023

No 34046 Braunton at London Victoria

3/4/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street. London Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street.


Went away to Birtmingham with my wife for a short break for a few days. A pleasant joiurney on the Chiltern train to Birmingham Moor Street which was old Shropshire and Wrexham old stock.

4/4/2023 - Birmingham New Street to Dudley Port and return.


Went from Birmingham out to Dudley Zoo for the morning.


5/4/2023 - Birmingham New Street to Aston and return. Birmingham New Street to Coventry and return.

Went to Aston Hall in the morning and then Coventry in the afternoon.

6/4/2023 - Brimingham New Street to London Euston. London Fenchurch Street to Leigh-on-Sea.

Came home today. No problems with Avanti West Coast apart from the fact that they had given us reserved seats facing backwards. We soon moved to table seats facing forwards, though none of the seats were actually reserved.

22/4/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street. London Victoria to Winchester and return. Winchester to Southampton Central and return.

Went on a Steam Dreams train trip to Winchester from London Victoria today to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. The train was hauled by West Country Class 34046 Braunton and the trip went smoothly apart from arriving back at Victoria about ten minutes late. It was a long day getting up at 6.00am and getting to bed about 11.30pm. Outward the train went via Richmond, Staines and Virginia Water. Coming back it went via Reading, Willesden and Kensington Olympia. Due to pathing times we had two stops on the way, the first the take on water and the second to let three trains overtake us. Coming back it was at Willesden. It would have been nicer to not have these but I guess they are designed to give the serving staf time to get all the meals out and cleared up during the journey. Still it was nice to be hauled by a steam engine on the mainline once again and to eat a hearty brekfast and big eveniung meal at a table as you steam through the English countryside. At Winchester we stayed on the platform and then caught the next train to Southampton where we met up with some old friends and then came back to Winchester to explore the city.





May 2023

Littlehampton railway station 6/5/23

1/5/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. Farringon to Stevenage. Stevenage to Welwyn Garden City. Welwyn Garden City to New Barnet.

Had to go to both Stevenage and Barnet with my work today. Going from Stevenage to Barnet I decided that rather than go back into central London and then get a slow Northern Line tube back out to Barnet I would get off at New Barnet and get a bus from there. I did this although it meant a change of trains at Welwyn Garden City. It has a strange system there (similar to Stevenage in fact) where if you want to cross over to another platform via the stairs you have to go through a ticket barrier on each platform, whereas if you go in the lift you don't have to go through a ticket barrier to change platforms! Strange.... When I got to New Barnet being a bank hoilday I had to wait a full twenty minutes for a bus to take me into Barnet. Made me wonder whether I would have been quicker going all the way into London and out again...


6/5/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to Stratford. London Victoria to Shoreham-by-Sea via East Croydon and Hove. Shoreham-by-Sea to Ford. Ford to Littlehampton. Littlehampton to Barnham. Barnham to East Croydon via Horsham. East Croydon to London Bridge. West Ham to Leigh-on-Sea. 

Rather than watch the Coronation I went out on trains for the day, mainly to take pictures of bridges at Shoreham and Littlehampton for my next book which will be on the road bridges found round the coast of Britain. It poured down most of the day, especially when I was in Shoreham-by-Sea and I got soaked! Interesting being in London whilst the Coronation was taking place. Plenty of people about who weren't going to watch it, plus plenty of police and people giving out freebies connected with the coronation. My train was quite empty leaving Victoria but was pretty full from East Croydon onwards.


15/5/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. London St Pancras to Luton. Luton to Farringdon.

Had to go to Luton today with my job.

28/5/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Liverpool Street and return. 

Went to see Barclay James Harvest at Islington Assembly Halls.


Cardiff to Penzance train arriving at Dawlish station on 30/6/2023

1/6/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. London Paddington to Newport. Newport to Cardiff. Cardiff to London Paddington.

I was going to make a two day trip to South Wales, staying overnight in Swansea, but due to an extra train strike being added for friday 2nd June after I had booked tickets, I had no alternative but to just go to Cardiff for the day, knowing that I would be able to get back home.  


2/6/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to Grays and return. Leigh-on-Sea to Southend Central and return. 


Had to go to both Grays and Southend with my job.

15/6/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return.

Went to Uxbridge for the day with my work. Still took an hour to get there from Aldgate tube station.

30/6/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street. London Liverpool Street to London Paddington. London Paddington to Exeter St Davids. Exeter St Davids to Dawlish. Dawlish to Totnes.

Went down to Devon for the weekend to see my Godfather who lives near Totnes and to get some photos of bridges for my next book on coastal bridges. Decided that although taking the Elizabeth Line from Liverpool Street is fine, but coming from Fenchurch Street, walking to Aldgate station and going just one stop before changing at Liverpool Street and then going down two levels is posibbly just as long as getting a circle line tube from Tower Hill, or going from Tower Hill to Embankment and then chaning to a Bakerloo Line to get to Paddington! I stopped off at Exter to get some pictures of a bridge there, then as I had a bit of spare time went as far as Dwlish where I was able to go into a tea shop and have a Devon Cream Tea, before getting a Cardiff to POenzance HST as far as Totnes where my uncle met me.




July 2023

Bubble car at Swansea railway station


1/7/2023 - Liskeard to Looe and return.

After driving from Totnes to Liskeard with my Godfather we were able to go on the branch line from Liskeard to Looe, a trip I hadn't done for over ten years, and which was new for my Godfather. Coming back the train actually went into the station at Combe Junction Halt so I was able to quickly get off the train and get a photo. The train wasn't too crowded either way, but then it was early on in the summer and I am sure it will get much busier in the coming weeks.

3/7/2023 - Totnes to London Paddington. London Fenchurch Street to Leigh-on-Sea.

Came home on the monday morning, the first day of an overtime ban by train drivers. My train from Totnes was fine, but the following one to Paddington an hour later was cancelled, so I was lucky. 

4/7/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to Grays and return.


Went to Grays with my job.


12/7/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to West Ham and return.

Went to see The Who live at the 02.

25/7/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street. London Paddington to Cardiff Central. Cardiff Central to Port Talbot Parkway. Port Talbot Parkway to Swansea.

Went to Swansea staying overnight there for the first time ever. Was going to get off at Cardiff on the way and take a train to Cogan to take some pictures of a bridge near there but my train was delayed around Ealing so I was over ten minutes late and it was leaving as my train was pulling into the station at Cardofff Central. So this had to be abandoned.


26/7/2023 - Swansea to Carmarthen and return. Swansea to Cardiff Central. Cardiff Central to London Paddington. London Paddington to Whitechapel. London Fenchurch Street to Leigh-on-Sea.


Got a train to Carmarthen to take photos of the bridges there. Returning from Carmarthen it was the same train that I had come in on. At Swansea it reversed and then went all the way back to London. At Paddington I decided to take the Elizabeth Line train all the way through to Whitechapel and then get a tube back to Tower Hill as some of the train ticket companies suggest. It was really not worth it as I would have been better getting off at Liverpool Street and catching the undreground from there. you live and learn.


28/7/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to Barking and return.

Went to Barking with my work. 

31/7/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to West Ham and return. London Bridge to Ladywell and return.

Went to Lewisham to meet up with a friend for lunch. 


August 2023

Railbus at Ribble Steam Railway, Preston


10/8/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to West Ham via Tilbury. London Waterloo to Southampton Central

Went down to Southampton for a couple of days to visit some friends and take pictures of bridges.


11/8/2023 - Southampton Central to Bursledon. Bursledon to Fratton. Fratton to Havant. Havant to Barnham. Barnham to Shoreham-by-Sea. Shoreham-by-Sea to Havant. Havant to Southampton Central. 

Spent the day travelling along the South Coast to visit a few places to take pictures of bridges. Got the Hythe ferry to and from Southampton which was quite an enjoyable expereince, especially taking the train along the pier both ways from Hythe.

12/8/2023 - Southampton Central to London Waterloo. Stratford to Leigh-on-Sea.

Coming back was another day with no overtime. We were going to get the 11.00 from Southampton originally but that was cancelled the day before, so we were planning to get the 11.30 instead. However our friends dropped us off at Southampton station much earlier than anticipated, so we caught the 10.30 instead. We were very lucky to get seats as the train was so overcrowded by the time it reached Clapham Junction you wouldn't believe it. It was made worse by having extra passngers in the form of people from off the cruise ships that had arrived back in Southampton that morning as well as rugby fans going to Twickenham. It was full to standing when we left Southampton and at each stop more and more people squeezed on so all the gangways were used up as well. I don't know if there is a legal limit for the number of passengers using a train, but if there is this would definitely have broken it! 

18/8/2023 - Rayleigh to Billericay and return

Made a short journey to Billericay and back to visit some relatives

25/8/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to West Ham. London Fenchurch Street to Leigh-on-Sea

Went up to London to meet up with a friend

26/8/2023 - Wansford to Yarwell and return. Wansford to Peterborough Town and return.

Made a visit to the Nene Valley Railway near Peterborough for the day. Sadly, no steam locimotives were running today. Instead we were hauled by a "Peak" which I didn't mind.

28/8/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street. London Euston to Preston via Birmingham

Went up to Lancashire for a few days with my weife for a short holiday. We had booked to go on the Tuesday and come back on the Friday, but due to rail strikes being anniounced at the very last minute we had to move everything a day forward to make sure we could get home ok. We also ended up going via Birmingham on a through train which went ok and arrived on time at preston where it terminated.

 29/8/2023 - Preston to Lancaster and return. Lancaster to Carnforth

Visited Lancaster for the morning and then caught another train up to Carnforth where we had tea in the famous Brief Encounter cafe. We then got a pre booked taxi  for a visit to Leighton Hall where we stayed for a couple of hours. The same taxi driver brought us back, but when we got on the platform at Carnforth our Northern Trains train back to Preston had been cancelled. Luckily we managed to get a bus from just outside the station to take us back to Lancaster and then took a train from there back to Preston.

30/8/2023 - Ribble Steam Railway

Went to visit this in the late morning. For the second time in a month a visit to a heritage railway was greeted with no steam locomotives running. Instead we had an old GWR bubble car. Had one ride on the railway to its end then tried to buy lunch in the cafe. there were no sandwiches available or hot food and nothing at all for my wiofe who is gluten free. A disappointing visit. 

31/8/2023 - Preston to London Euston via Birmingham. London Fenchurch Street to Leigh-on-Sea

Came back home to Essex having to share our carriage with a loud group of football fans supporting Hibs on their way down to Birmingham to see them play at Aston Villa. Once they got off it was quite a pleasant journey.



September 2023

Hull Paragon station - one of my favourite railway stations

4/9/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. London Liverpool Street to Harlow Town. Harlow Town to Tottenham Hale.

Had to go to both Harlow and Harrow with my work.


16/9/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. London Kings Cross to Doncaster and return. Doncaster to Hull. Hull to Hessle. Hessle to Goole. Goole to Doncaster.

Had a pleasant day going to East Yorkshire by train to take photos of some bridges up there. Going I caught the 10.35 to Doncaster which was going to Leeds. The 10.05 service to Leeds had been cancelled and I thought the train was going to be really busy, especially as Doncaster races were on. Surprisingly my carriage - coach A was less than a quarter full, despite the fact that 90% of the seats were reserved. When I booke the ticket earlier in the week, I was told that my ticket was the last one available and the train was now fully booked. Yet in reality it was nothing of the sort. It always surprises me how in most inter city trains from London there are all these reserved seats which are never used. There must an algorithm here?!!!
Anyway, once at Doncaster with all my trains being Northern I was half expecting a cancellation, such is their reputation at the moment, but no all my trains ran and were on time. So I was able to get the photos I wanted of the Humber, Boothferry and M62 Ouse bridges. Coming back at Doncaster I caught the Grand Central service from Bardford which arrived about 9 minutes late into Doncaster and it was mayhem trying to get to my reserved seat with people trying to go both ways sown a very crowded carriage. Yet once we all settled down the train - an Adelante - did make up the lost time and we were actually about five minutes early into Kings Cross. So all in all an enjoyable day out on Britain's railways.


29/9/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to West Ham. London Bridge to Orpington. Orpington to Waterloo East. London Waterloo to Farnborough and return. London Fenchurch Street to Leigh-on-Sea.

Went to Orpington to accompany my wife who was being picked up there by a friend who was taking her to Bournemouth for the weekend. I will then repeat the journey in reverse on Sunday. Then went back into central London and onto Waterloo East where I transferred over to Waterloo where I caught a train to Farnborough to do with my work.





October 2023

Thanet Parkway station in Kent with a London bound Javelin HS1 train arriving.


1/10/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to Stratford and return via Grays. London Bridge to Orpington and return.

Went to Orpington to meet my wife back from her weekend trip away in Borrnemouth in Orpongton where she got dropped off from her lift. I was literally there for two minutes getting off a southbound train meeting here by the ticket barrier and then getting straight on a train back to London Bridge!

7/10/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to West Ham via Grays. Stratford International to Canterbury West and return. Canterbury West to Thanet Parkway and return.

Went over to Kent for the day to meet up with an former work colleague of mine who I hadn't seen for around thirty years. Had lunch with him and walked  around Canterbury for a while before catching a train from Canterbury to the newish Thanet Parkway station.  Took a few photographs in case there is ever an updated edition of my book on Parkway Railway stations. It's still got an air of "newness" to it, especially in the lifts which still smelt brand new if you know what I mean. Apart from the station frontage which looks quite impresssive with a massive "Thanet Parkway" sign next to it, the station looks rather plain and brand with a long length of black "fencing" and various security cameras. There was just a single ticket machine outside and uncovered - what happens in heavy rain and if there's a lot of cimmuters on a monday morning all wanting to buy a ticket. It needs a few flowers and maybe some advertising posters to brighten it up a bit.

30/10/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return.

Had to go to both Walthamstow and Uxbridge wit my work.

31/10/2023 _ Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. London Bridge to Catford Bridge and return.

Went to Catford to visit a friend.



November 2023

Two newish Classs 745 units at Norwich Railway station on 22nd Novemver 2023


12/5/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to london Liverpool Street.

Went up to London to see Focus in concert in Shepherd's Bush.

22/5/2023 - Rayleigh to Shenfield and return. Shenfield to Colchester and return. Colchester to Norwich and return.


Went up to Norfolk for the day to get some pcitures of the new Herring Bridge in Great Yarmouth for my latest book which is on Briatin's Coastal Road Bridges. Was very impresses with the three different Greater Anglia trains which I caught each way. Nice and clean and new and all of them were on time with plenty of room. May well use them again sometime soon.

Apart from the above two trips an unsually quiet month of train travel for me. 


December 2023

D5631 at Shgeringham Station on the North Norkolk Railway 29/12/23

7/12/2023 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. Old Street to Highbury & Islington. Highbury & Islington to Moorgate.

Went to Islington to see Xander & The Peace Pirates. I made the mistake of getting a tube to Kings Cross to take the Victoria line to Highbury. But as Spurs were at home it was impossible to get on a tube, so got on a southbound  Victoria train to Euston, changed onto a northern Line tube to Old Street and then got a train from there to Highbury & Islington. Did the same journey in reverse coming back.but stayed on until Moorgate.


28/12/2023 - Rayleigh to Billericay. Witham to Norwich.

Went away to Norfolk for a few days with my wife, staying in Norwich. Unfortunately there were engineering works taking place around the Chelmsford area. This meant getting off the train at Billericay and getting on a rail replacement bus - or in reality, a coach - and driving by road to Witham where we caught another train all the way to Norwich. All trains from Liverpool Street were using Billericay as well, rather than Shenfield as the place to catch the coach. Presumably because it had a large car park to cope with the coaches needed a large area to turn into. The only problem with this was the route meant going through the ancient village of Stock, with its very narrow lanes and houses right next to the road. Not a pleasant exeperience for the locals. Anyway. It worked out ok and we caught our scheduled train at Witham with plenty of time to spare. 


29/12/2023 - Norwich to Sheringham and return. Sheringham to Holt and return.

The next day we caught a scheduled train from Norwich all the way to Sheringham, which took about an hour. It was pretty busy all the way to Cromer. We then had an hour or so to walk round the shops before getting our secheduled train on the North Norfolk Railway. It was called a "Mince Pie Special" as the price included a mince pie and mulled wine or hot chocolate. All credit to the NNR who nicely catered for my wife, who is gluten free and instead privided her with a shortbread biscuit instead. It was diesel hsuled outwards, but steam hauled back.  


30/12/2023 - Norwich to Witham. Billericay to Rayleigh.

Coming back our train was much busier with it being a saturday. This meant at Witham we had to queue for well over twenty minutes befoire we could get on our coach. Though we did get back to Billerciay in plenty of time to catch out train back to Rayleigh.