Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Blog 2022

January 2022

Stansted Express train for Liverpool Street waits to depart from Harlow Town Station
16/1/2022 - Leigh-on-Sea to Barking. Barking to Crouch Hill. London Liverpool Street to Leigh-on-Sea.

My first railway outing of 2022. Went to see a friend in Muswell Hill in the afternoon and then to a gig by Xander and the Peace Pirate in Camden in the evening.

28/1/2022 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. London Liverpool Street to Harlow Town and return.

A visit to Harlow today connected with my work. The trains on both sets of lines were pretty quiet, indicating that people are still not venturing out much yet. 


February 2022

Westbound Goblin Line Train at Harringay Green Lanes station on 2/2/2022

2/2/2022 - Leigh-on-Sea to Barking and return. Barking to Harringay Green Lanes and return.

Had to go to both Braking and Wood Green today with my work. Rather than going from Barking into London and then on the tube, I decided to take the Goblin line as far as Harringay Green Lanes and then get a bus to Wood Green from there. The bus each way was very crowded, but the trains were less so. About 50% were wearing masks.  


4/2/2022 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. Moorgate to New Barnet.

Back in London again with my work. This time I had to go to Barnet and Edgware. Again I chose to go "overground" rather than underground, so I caught a Great Northern train from Moorgate to New Barnet, and then a bus from there to Barnet High Street. I then decided to catch a taxi from Barnet to Edgware, rather than get a northern line undergfround train into London and out again. The latter option might have been quicker as I had to wait over half an hour for the taxi to come and then the driver didn't know which way to go, so I ended up directing him! I then got a Northern line tube back into London.


16/2/2022 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street. London Marylebone to Oxford via Bicester. Oxford to London Paddington via Reading.

Had a day out in Oxford inspite of the very windy conditions. Manged to get two excellent bargains - Marylebone to Oxford for just £3.55, and Oxford to Paddington for just £3.55 again. This is where having a railcard comes into it own. The Chilterns train was pretty full going, but the Great Western train (from Worcester) was pretty empty.


22/2/2022 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street. London Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street.

Back at Marylebone, less than a week later: this time to go to Birmingham for just £4.95. I was making a journey that I made just three years ago before Covid and that was to see the group King King play at Birmimgham Town Hall. When we got to Marylebone it was chaos as a train had broken down at High Wycombe and everything had been delayed. In the event we only left about five minutes after the scheduled time, but were stop start outside High Wycombe. We finally arrived at Moor Street about twenty five minutes late, but as I wasn't in a hurry it didn't matter too much.

23/2/2022 - Birmingham Snow Hill to London Marylebone. London Fenchurch Street to Leigh-on-Sea.

Coming back we made the wise decision to get on the train at Snow Hill rather than Moor Street. By the time we picked up at Solihull it was standing room only, mainly because of extra half term passengers. Luckily we got a table seat. 



March 2022


1/3/2022 - Leigh-on-Sea to Grays and rerturn

Had to go  to Grays with my work

2/3/2022 - Leigh-on-Sea to West Ham and return

Went to see Simply Red at the 02 with my wife. This concert had been rearranged four times due to Covid and lockdown restrictions, so hardly surprising that it was only about two-thirds full. We were so lucky that the day we went to this was a Wednesday and was sandwiched inbetween a strike on the tube network. If the concert had been on the Tuesday or Thursday I really don't know how we would have got there by public transport, probably go all the way to Fenchurch Street, walk to London Bridge and then get a train to Charlton, and then a bus or taxi from there.    

19/3/2022 - Leigh-on-Sea to Barking. London Fenchurch Street to Leigh-on-Sea.

Went to London to go on a visit to the inside of Tower Bridge. The journey going was eventful with being stuck just outside Upminster for about 20  miuntes whilst about four trains came past us in the other direction. After that delay we got to Barking and were told to get off the train as it was terminating there! This was due to a points failure in the West Ham area. So as I was on a set time to visit Tower Bridge I was getting coincerned that I might not make it, but in the end I did after a slow tube joiurney on the District Line. The visit inside the bridge was quite interesting apart from the fact that you had to climb several flights of stairs to get to the covered walkway along the top, in spite of the fact that there was a lift at either end!

30/3/2022 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return.

Went into London to visit Harrow, Edgware and Barnet with my work.




April 2022

Shipley Railway Station with an Ilkley train 13/4/2022


1/4/2022 - Leigh-on-Sea to West Ham and return. Stratford to Harlow. Harlow to Tottenham Hale. Tottenham Hale to Stratford.

Went to Harlow for my work.  For a change I decided not to go into London via Fenchurch Street and Liverpool Street.  Instead I found out that there is an houry train which goes direct from Straford. Unfortunately no one told me that it was at the very far end of the  station, so quite a long walk and difficult to find. Next time I will definitely go via Liverpool Street! 

11/4/2022 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street. London Kings Cross to Leeds. Leeds to Shipley.

Went away to Yorkshire for an Easter break with my wife, staying at Shipley north of Bradford. For a change everything went smoothly with table seats facing forwards as I asked for. 


12/4/2022 - Shipley to Bradford Forster Square and return. Bradford Interchange to Halifax. Halifax to Hebden Bridge. Hebden Bridge to Bradford Interchange.

In the morning went over to Halifax which involved getting a train to Bradford Forster Square and then walking across Bradford to get the Halifax train  from Bradford Interchange.  The only problem was that at Interchange whilst I was waiting for my train to arrive I accidentally spilt my tea, some of which landed on my foot. Luckily the train was just arriving, so I was able to go into the toilet and put a cold compress on it. At Halifax we got a taxi to take us to Shibden Hall where the TV series, "Gentleman Jack" is filmed. Unfortunately the taxi driver hadn't heard of Shibden Hall and his sat nav ended up taking us to the wrong side of the park where it is situated.  We eventually got there, but he charged us £12 for the privilege.  Coming back we git a differe taxi company with the cab arriving I  just five minutes and we were only charged  £4. In the afternoon we went on another train to Hebden Bridge to look around the town. We found it quite disappointing with graffiti all over the place and not much to see.  


13/4/2022 - Shipley to Keighley. Keighley to Oxenhope and return. Keighley to Saltaire.

The next day we caught a train to Keighley to go on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway. Nice to see that they give a reduction for both over 65s and over 60s who have a senior railcard. As it was the first time for nearly two years that I had travelled behind a steam engine, it was lovely to hear the sound of our steam locomotive pushing uphill from Keighley station. Visited Saltaire on the way back, but disappointed that the canal boat ride wasn't running.


14/4/2022 - Shipley to Leeds. Leeds to London Kings Cross. London Fenchurch Street to Leigh-on-Sea.

Returned back to Essex today. The trai  from Leeds was very busy with lots of people from Yorkshire going down to London for various reasons.


30/4/2022 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street. London Paddington to Bristol Parkway.


Went to Bristol to stay overnight in readiness for being interviewed by BBC TV Points West about the history of Bristol Parkway station, which is 50 years old tomorrow.





May 2022

Bristol Parkway station on its 50th anniversary of opening with a Cross Country service to Plymouth. 1/5/2022


1/5/2022 - Bristol Parkway to Bristol Temple Meads and return. Bristol Parkway to London Paddington. London Fenchurch Street to Basildon. Basildon to Leigh-on-Sea by rail replacement bus.

Started the day by being interviewed at Bristol Parkway station by a guy called Dave from BBC TV Points West news programme about the history of Bristol Parkway station. Glad that my book on Parkway Railway stations was given a mention. Unfortunately the powers that be at Great Western Railway decided not to celebrate this historic event, though the staff I spoke to at the station said they would have been up for it. Still there was plenty about it in the local Bristol media so it didn't go compleetly unnoticed. Plus I was interviewed as well by DJ Jonathan Ray for his radio show where there was quite a lot about the station's history. There's a link to it here:-

After my TV interview rather than hand around Bristol Parkway for the next three hours I decided to go to Bristol Temple Meads for a break. Went bioth ways on a Cross Country service. As expected, both trains were pretty crammed with plenty of people standing. Luckily I managed to get a seat both times, but what a difference copming back from BP on a GWR service from Swansea where there were plenty of seats.


16/52022 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street. London Paddington to Totnes.

Back at Paddington  after a fortnight, to go down to Devon to visit my uncle there. Lovely journey, especially along the seawall part around Dawlish. Good to see that the seawall improvements are just about finished. 


17/5/2022  - Totnes to Penzance. Penzance to St Erth. St Erth to St Ives and return. St Erth to Totnes.

 Went down to Cornwall for the day to visit Penzance and St Ives. To my surprise we were hauled down there by a GWR HST service which had come from Gloucester, a newish service I believe. I had forgotten how long the journey through Cornwall takes with no less than fourteen stops before we reached Penzance.  The weather had been  OK all the way down, but as soon as we came out of the station at Penzance it bucketed down for the rest of the day. We had lunch in Penzance before getting a train to St Erth and then getting the shuttle service to St Ives. I was pleased to see that there were 4 carriages on our train, but as the weather was so bad it wasn't that well patronised. Also since I last went on this line, the train no longer calls at Lelant Saltings (most of the tine) which was a park and ride station. Thus has now been replaced by St Erth, which has a large car park for the purpose. The rain in St Ives was even heavier, though it did finally  stop when we're leaving. 


18/5/2022 - Totnes to Exeter St Davids. Exeter St Davids to Barnstaple.  Barnstaple to Exeter Central. Exeter Central to Exeter St Davids. Exeter St Davids to London Paddington.  London Fenchu St to Leigh-on-Sea. 

 The next day was glorious sunshine and I went to Barnstaple and Bideford (by bus) to take photos of their bridges for a future book on bridges. As I managed to complete my task much quicker than I planned, I got an earlier through train back to Exeter Central and spent some time visiting the museum there before going back down the hill to Exeter St Davids to catch my train back to Paddington. As usual I had asked for a table seat facing forwards but they gave me a single seat going backwards! As the carriage I was I  was pretty empty I was able to find an empty table seat facing forwards so everything was alright in the end.



27/5/2022 - Leigh-on-Sea to West Ham. London Waterloo to Totton.

Went down to the Southampton area to visit some friends staying overnight at their house.  The train was gig from Waterloo was very full with many people going away for the weekend after work. It was interesting to see the ten car trai  divide ar Southamptkn Central with the first five carriages going as an express to Weymouth, whilst the last five carriages which I was in was a stopping train through the New Forest to Poole. 

28/5/2022 - Totton to Poole. Poole to Christchurch. Christchurch to Totton. Redbridge to Southampton.  Southampton to London Waterloo.  Tottenham Court Road to Paddington.  Paddington to Liverpool Street. London  Fenchurch St to Leigh-on-Sea. 

Got the train  at Totton through to Poole where i went to photograph the two road bridges there. Then came back to Christchurch to do the same thing. Then back to Totton to photograph the Redland Causeway Bridge.  I actually walked across the bridge and then caught a train fro  Redbridge Station to Southampton Central. As it was an unstaffed station and I didn't have a ticket I bought a permit to travel ticket from  the machine in the station.  Then only problem was that it didn't say the price of the ticket and you had to put some coins in before it gave you a ticket. So I put £2.50 in guessing that would be the  approximate fare. No one checked my ticket on the train  in  the five minutes it took, so I suppose I could have not bothered.  At Southampton I had a half hourwaug so I had a late lunch of a salad sandwich from WH Smiths and a cup of tea from the station cafe. My train back to London was just as crowded as coming.  In London I took the chance of a ride on the new Elizabeth Line from Tottenham Court Road to Paddington and then back along the line as far as Liverpool Street. It was full of tourists trying it out like me, so still a but of a novelty for many people. It was smooth and quick in this section. I timed the journey from Farringdon to Liverpool  Street and it took just over a minute.  Much quicker than the Circle Line.


 30/5/2022 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street.  London St Pancras to Luton. Luton to St Albans. St Albans to Mill Hill Broadway.  Tottenham Court Road to Abbey Wood.  Abbey Wood to Canary Wharf. West Han to Leigh-on-Sea. 

Had to go to Luton with my work.  I had bought a ticket from St Pancras to Luton as my travel card didn't go that far via the West Midlands website. It was only when I went to pay for it that I realised that I had accidentally bought an e ticket for use on my phone.  I hate these things as I much prefer a simpler card ticket. My fears were justified as I decided to get a West Midlands train which was much quicker than getting a Thameslink  train on the underground platform. When I tried to access the ticket it would just not download and I showed thus to the gate  guard at the East Midlands  railway platforms. He tried and couldnt get it to open, so he ended up giving me a permit to travel note. By the time he'd done this I had just a minute to catch my train and had to run  up the platform with the guard blowing his whistle.  I'm too old for this but did catch it just!  At Luton it still wouldn't work so I had to get a gate inspector to let me through. Coming back to London I came on a Thameslink train so no problems. 

I made use of my time in London to go all the way on the Elizabeth Line to its terminus at Abbey Wood. Like the previous time the trai  was full of tourists trying it out. After Canary Wharf it was pretty empty. At Abbey Wood I took some photos in  and outside of the station. Coming back I realised that I didn't need to go back into Central London as I was going to West Ham. I should have got off at Custom House and changed onto a DLR train, but instead I went to Canary Wharf where I thought I could easily transferring z Jubilee Line train. Not so. They are two separate stations and not an interchange,  so I had to walk about half a mile to get to the Jubilee Line station  and missed a train that I could have easily caught if I'd changed at Custom House. Be warned!




June 2022

Deltic no 50009 "Alycidon" at Loughborough Central sidings at the Great Central Railway 11/6/22

11/6/2022 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. London St Pancras to Loughborough and return. Loughborough Central to Leicester North and return.

Went up to Loughborough to visit the Great Central Railway for the day with a friend. I was at St Pancras Midland platforms for the second time in two weeks, though this time I made sure I had a paper ticket. The train we were catching was already boarding when we arrived so we made our way to our reserved seats only to find that the signs were showing all seats were unreserved, so we chose to sit in other seats seeing as someone was already in ours. Then after about five minutes the signs changed to reserved status which wasn't very helpful as the carriage and the train was already pretty full due to the previous train to Nottingham having been cancelled. So we decided to stay in our seats which said reserved from Kettering to Nottingham. I took the view that rather than cause a scene asking the other passengers to move out of our seats I would stay put and if the people got on at Kettering came to their seats I would move out, but they never did, so all ok there. The train was dangerously full with many people standing in the aisles. I don't know if there is a maximum capacity for trains, but if there is I'm sure we were pretty near to it. Luckily a lot of people got off at Leicester and it was much more normal after that.

At the Great Central we paid £19 for the privilege of having an adult rover ticket (with no senior concessions available). If we had wanted just a straight forward return that would have been just two pounds cheaper, but that was only available after 2.30pm and then it could be used as a rover ticket anyway! I wasn't sure if the £19 was a little steep for a preserved line of 9 miles, but when I investigated most of the other "big" preserved lines, it was actually quite good value with prices ranging from £25 to £30 in most cases. We ended up going up and down the line a couple of times, once behind D5185 the diesel for the day and once behind 78018, the steam engine for the day. I liked Loughborough Central best as being the station which seemed most like a station from a bygone era. Also we had time to make our way down to the shed where we saw a variety of steam and diesel locos including a beloved Deltic, 55009, Alycidon. Now that would have been good if that had been the diesel for the day.