Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Blog - 2008

"Cyberman" Class 455 at Beckenham Junction railway station

January 2008

7/1/08 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return, London Paddington to Greenford and return, London Victoria to Peckham Rye, Peckham Rye to Beckenham Junction, Beckenham Junction to Crystal Palace, Crystal Palace to West Croydon, West Croydon to Sutton, Sutton to Epsom and return, Sutton to London Victoria via Clapham Junction.

My first outing of the year - mainly finishing off a few South London lines which I haven't travelled on before and completing two more branch lines which I didn't have time to do last year.

Class 171 "Turbostar" at Uckfield railway station

February 2008

10/2/08 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street. London King's Cross to Leeds. Leeds to Manchester Piccadilly. Manchester Piccadilly to Bury (Tram)

On my way up to the East Lancashire Railway to take part in their Diesel Footplate Experience. I went this way as it was over £20 cheaper than Virgin and just as quick as WCML trains are diverted via Birmingham on Sunday at present. Also it meant I could go over some new track - Doncaster to Wakefield and Stalybridge to Manchester Piccadilly. Zero marks to Trans Pennine who could only provide a 3-car DMU for the service from Newcastle to Manchester. It was standing room only and someone had taken my reserved seat, which I couldn't find in the crush!

11/2/08 - Bury Bolton Street to Heywood and return (3 times) - This was my footplate experience day, riding in the cab of Deltic 55022, Royal Scots Grey. A very enjoyable day and very nice people at Bury and my fellow drivers!

Bury to Manchester (tram) Manchester Piccadilly to Manchester Airport. Manchester Airport to Wilmslow. Wilmslow to Stockport.

Couldn't resist the opportunity to go another line for the first time, though connections meant having to wait 1/2 an hour on a cold platform at Wilmslow!

12/2/08 - Stockport to Manchester Piccadilly. Manchester Piccadilly to Hadfield. Hadfield to Glossop. Glossop to Manchester Piccadilly. Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston. London Fenchurch Street to Leigh-on-Sea.

Before I returned home I fitted in a little trip on the remains of the Woodhead route, taking in both Hadfield and Glossop. Great scenery and great weather for my time up in Manchester.

20/2/08 - Leigh-on-Sea to West Ham and return. London Bridge to East Croydon. East Croydon to Hurst Green. Hurst Green to Uckfield. Uckfield to London Bridge.

Was hoping to do both the Uckfield and East Grinstead lines in one day, but time restraints wouldn't allow. Still thought the Uckfield Line may well take the Number 1 spot as most beautiful inland branch line.

27/2/08 - Leigh-on-Sea to West Ham. London Bridge to West Croydon via Sydenham. West Croydon to East Croydon (on Croydon tramlink). East Croydon to East Grinstead and return. East Croydon to Harrow and Wealdstone. (Tube to Oxford Circus, Epping, Hainault branch and back to Kings Cross). Fenchurch Street to Leigh-on-Sea.

Managed to get in the East Grinstead branch today as well as go over a couple of remaining London lines. Also decided to cover the remaining Underground lines that I haven't been on before so went out to Epping and Hainault on the Central line.

Hastings railway station looking west

March 2008

13/3/08 - Strood to Maidstone West/Maidstone West To Paddock Wood and return.

Drove over to Kent specially to get this branch-line covered - saved going into and out of London. A funny branch-line - half industrial and half countrified!

22/3/08 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. London Blackfriars to Elephant and Castle. London Bridge to Gatwick Airport via Redhill. Gatwick Airport to Lewes. Lewes to Seaford. Seaford to Brighton. Brighton to Ashford via Eastbourne and Hastings. Ashford to Hastings. Hastings to Tonbridge. Tonbridge to Redhill. Redhill to London Bridge.

One of those days when nothing works out the way you expect it to! I was using one of Southern's day explorer tickets which you can only buy on the Internet for £12.50. Well that didn't work and in the end I had to ring customer services who kindly sent the ticket (really just a piece of A4 paper) in the post. Then I foolishly got the wrong train at Blackfriars, which was going to Sevenoaks via Catford and not London Bridge as I thought. I got off at Elephant and Castle and got a tube to London Bridge but missed my scheduled train. Instead I got another one which went via Redhill (to cover that piece of track) and then I had to change at Gatwick Airport (which I briefly explored) before getting the next one to Lewes and then Seaford. It all meant that I was half an hour behind schedule and wouldn't have time at Brighton to go to Hove and back. Instead I had just three minutes to change trains to get me back on schedule. I was able to do this and then go to Ashford OK and back to Hastings. This is where the real drama began. The train I should have got from Hastings to Tonbridge (a fast one), was cancelled due to a points failure further up the line. We were then told to get the next train (a slow one), which we did, only to be held up due to a fallen tree on the line - just like a scene from the railway children! In the old days I suppose the driver would have got out of his cab and just moved it to one side. But in these days of Health and Safety we had to wait for a team of workers to come to the place (from Tonbridge?) and have the power switched off. Then once this was done, we were still held up by the point's failure, which meant the driver having to manually change the points. We eventually got to Tonbridge about 1 ½ to 2 hours late, so they stopped my train from going on to London Bridge and everyone had to change trains. I was going onto Redhill and luckily a train was waiting. At Redhill I had to wait about 20 minutes for a connection in a tiny waiting room whose automatic door was stuck open allowing all the exhaust fumes from the Great Western diesel unit for Reading to gas us all! I eventually got home about two hours later than scheduled. One of those days!

Ex-LT stock at Ryde Pier Head railway station

April 2008

5/4/08 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. London Euston to Wolverhampton. Wolverhampton to Stafford. Stafford to Crewe. Crewe to London Euston via Birmingham New Street.

Went to Crewe to See Southend United play Crewe. Another problem day though!. First I decided than rather getting the Circle line from Tower Hill round to Euston Square I would get a tube to Monument and then walk through to Bank to get a Northern line to get a direct tube to Euston. The only problem was when we got to Bank this branch of the Northern Line was closed for repairs. Luckily we were able to get a Central line train to Tottenham Court Road and then change for a Northern line train to Euston. We made it with just five minutes to spare! Then when we got to Rugby we were delayed at least 10 minutes due to the mess that's happening there. Plus all trains on the WCML were being diverted via Birmingham. As we got closer to Birmingham we were getting later and later and by the time we reached Wolverhampton we had missed our London Midland connection to Crewe and the next train to Crewe wasn't for another 45 mins! We made the decision to get the next train north which was a Cross Country train to Manchester. I asked the guard whether we could go through to Stoke and then change onto a Derby-Crewe train, but that would have got us into Crewe even later than the next scheduled train from Stafford, so we got off at Stafford expecting a long wait and missing the kick off. Luckily a train to Preston had been delayed so we only had to wit ten minutes at Stafford and we made it to the game with 10 minutes to go! On the way back there were about 50 Southend fans on the train who were all happy after the 3-1 win. Plus the train did arrive on time at Euston despite making extra stops at Milton Keynes and Watford Junction, as well as going via Bescot and avoiding Wolverhampton.

7/4/08 - Derby to Matlock and return.

On holiday in the Peak District this week so travelled on the Matlock branch whilst I was up there. Only £4.50 return!

12/4/08 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. London Waterloo to Portsmouth Harbour via Basingstoke and Eastleigh. Portsmouth Harbour to Ryde Pier Head BY Wight link Ferries. Ryde Pier Head to Shanklin and return. Portsmouth Harbour to Fratton. Fratton to London Waterloo via Guildford.

Killed two birds with one stone. Went to Portsmouth for the day via the two different routes and then over to the Isle of Wight to sample their ex-London Transport tube trains. Then went to the Portsmouth - Newcastle match on the way back - a boring 0-0 draw!

23/4/08 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street. London Blackfriars to Sevenoaks via Bat & Ball. Sevenoaks to London Bridge. West Ham to Leigh-on-Sea.

Went on the small branch to Sevenoaks today which goes through one of Britain's most unusual stations - Bat & Ball - named after a local pub, which is no longer standing. Also went on the DLR to King George V and Beckton - miserable weather! 

30/4/08 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. London Victoria to Horsham via Sutton and return.

Just a quick visit and return journey today as I had to get back home by 3.00pm. Had fun at Victoria though. Had a travel card which would take me as far as Ewell East. Was going to get the 9.20am to Ewell East and then buy a return from there to Horsham to add onto my Travel Card. Then I would get on the 9.30 am from Victoria to Horsham there. However a passenger had complained about a leaking roof(!) and we all had to get off. I rushed to the ticket office but there was a massive queue, so should I take a chance and get on the 9.30 train and then pay at the other end? For some reason a lot of the trains at Victoria were running late and the platform for the Horsham train hadn't even been put up with less than 5 mins to go. It was then that I spotted an excess fares desk and I was able to buy my ticket there and still make the 9.30 train, which left at least five mins late. As we left Victoria there was a Class 66 waiting to come in with a Pullman train going to Bristol, supposedly leaving at 9.44 am! As it had less then 5 mins to go, that was not going to happen. By the time we got to Horsham we were over ten minutes late, being held up outside Sutton for another five mins, so the turnaround was less than ten minutes rather than twenty. The line south of Dorking seemed very quiet and I wondered why it was not used as a possible alternative freight route for traffic to and from the south coast?

Class 153 "Super Sprinter" at Barton-on-Humber railway station

May 2008

10/5/08 - St Albans to Cleethorpes and return as UK Railtours "The Shire Lincs Trip". Route outward - Midland Mainline via Toton, Langley Mill, Shirebrook, Shireoaks, Maltby Colliery, Doncaster by-pass line, Scunthorpe, Barbetby, Immingham Docks, Grimsby, Cleethorpes. Route return - Cleethorpes, Barnetby, Lincoln, Newark Castle, Nottingham, Midland Mainline. Also Cleethorpes to Barton-on-Humber and return.

My first "rail tour" of 2008. It was a lovely sunny day and meant that I could go over several areas of virgin track as well as travel on the Barton branch line. The first highlight of the day was passing Toton, whcih I hadn't been to since 1970! I had gone to Derby Works open day and heard that a group  were going to visit Toton Diesel Depot. It was a chance not to be missed, so I got on  train to Long Eaton and then a bus to Toton, where arounf 20 us just descended on the depot. D1 was there and I was able to "cab" it. A travesty that this secial lcoc was never preserved. Anyway back to the trip which went over some freight only lines past collieries south of Doncaster and then past Scunthorpe steel works and onto Immingham. I had been on a Rail Touring Company trip last year which had seen a wait of over an hour on this branch, but no problems to day. We arrived a few minutes late at Cleethorpes. Most passengers went to visit the Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway, which sadly packed up midway through the afternoon. Myself and at least a couple of others caught the 3 o'clock train to Barton-on-Humber for £7.10 return. We had just a few minutes at Barton for photos before the train left and then we went along the line from Harbrough to Grimsby for the third time that day! We got back with around twenty minutes to spare and came back via Lincoln, Newark and Nottingham. It was weird to cross the ECML at Newark, but I managed to get a photo.

24/5/08 -  Leigh-on-Sea to West Ham. Tube to London Bridge. London Bridge to East Croydon. East Croydon to Bognor Regis. Bognor Regis to Barnham. Barnham to Southampton Central. Southampton Central to Chichester. Chichester to Ford. Ford to Barnham. Barnham to Littlehampton. Littlehampton to Hove. Hove to Brighton. Brighton to Hove. Hove to East Croydon. East Croydon to Lodnon Bridge. Tube to West Ham. West Ham to Upminster. Upminster to Leigh-on-Sea.

Great value courtesy of Southern - just £10 for a rover ticket anywhere south of London on their trains, so was able to go from London Bridge all the way to Southampton and then back to Brighton, including the Littlehampton and Bognor branches. In all I went on eighteen different trains, which I think must be a record for me. The downside with going on so many different trains was the probability of having to put up with some anti-social behaviour. This including screaming and shouting children on some trains and one middle aged man (who should have known better) playing his I-pod on full volume without the ear phones. Needless to say I moved carriages rather than putting up with it or confronting him. Whatever happened to all those security cameras that are meant to protect the majority of the British train travelling public? The moral of the story is maybe it's better to travel on trains mid-week when they're much quieter. On the plus side all the different trains ran on time, which must be quite rare!

27/5/08  - Brockenhurst to Lymington Pier and return.

In spite of going to Southampton just three days previously, I didn't have enough time in my schedule to visit this branch. As my wife is a big car fan we drove down to visit Beaulieu Motor Museum and on the way made a little detour to travel on this quaint branch line which is almost like going back 50 years in time. Only £3 return and for the first time since my teens I got on a train without a ticket, due to time constraints. Luckily they do have a guard who lets you pay on the train.

Class 450 at Weybridge Railway station

June 2008

7/6/08 - Wymondham Abbey to East Dereham and return

As I had to drive up to Norwich to bring my son home from university, decided to have a ride on the Mid-Norfolk Railway on the way up there. In spite of atrocious weather - constant rain - had an enjoyable trip on a DMU which I hadn't travelled in one since my school days in 1976. Not many people on the train both ways but it made a nice change to go on a diesel only preserved line as opposed to steam.

10/6/08 - Leigh-on-Sea to Fenchurch Street and return. Waterloo & City Line. London Waterloo to Weybridge. Weybridge to Viriginia Water. Virginia Water to Hounslow. Hounslow Central to Heathrow Terminals 4, 123. Heathrow Terminals 123 to Terminal 5. Heathrow Terminal 5 to Tower Hill.

A short trip out to Weybridge to cover the Virginia Water to Weybridge branch, followed by a visit to the new Terminal 5 stations at Heathrow. Came in on London Underground to Terminals 1,2 and 3 and then caught the free Heathrow Express to Terminal 5. Took ages finding the London Underground station at terminal 5 once I got there! Not very well signposted at all. Also since I was last here Hathrow Connect has taken over the line top terminal 4 whilst Heathrow Express has gone for the new line to Terminal 5.

Class 156

July 2008

5/7/08 -  Leigh-on-Sea to Fenchurch Street and return. London Waterloo to Alton. Mid-Hants line Alton to Alresford and return. Alton to Aldershot. Aldershot to Guildford. Guildford to Ascot via Aldershot. Ascot to London Waterloo.

Quite a pleasant day out going on the Watercress Line. My only problem was their timings at Alton for connections with the Waterloo trains. The timetable says a 4 minute connection which isn't enough. I was on a train that left Alresford a good ten minutesd earlier than timetabled, yet it still managed to arrive at Alton just as my connecting train was leaving! It meant that I was an hour behind schedule and I cut out a planned trip from Wokingham to Gatwiock Airport.

10/7/08 - Leigh-on-Sea to Fenchurch Street. London King's Cross to Grantham. Grantham to Nottingham. Nottingham to Worksop. Worksop to Sheffield.

11/7/08 - Sheffield to Lincoln via Gainsborough. Lincoln to Sleaford. Sleaford to Skegness. Skegness to Nottingham. Nottingham to Sheffield via Alperton.

12/7/08 - Sheffield to London St Pancras via Barrow Hill freight line. London Liverpool Street to Leigh-on-Sea via Woodgrange Park.

I was originally going on the Spitfire Tours rail tour, "The Jolly Friar", scheduled to go from Liverpool to Skegness, via Manchester and Sheffield. As it was a lot of new track for me, I decided to go on this tour, getting on at Sheffield. However the tour  was cancelled with less than two weeks to go, and rather than lose my money on the train tickets I had already bought I decided to go anyway and travel the route on scheduled services. The weekend went fairly well, with one or two hiccups along the way. The first one was at Grantham where my train for Nottingham was delayed by about twenty minutes. In fact it was so late that there was a Norwich to Liverpool train due in at the same time and I could get that one instead. I checked for which green light would go on first and it was my original slow stopping train. Of course this meant that I would miss my connection at Nottingham for Worksop - I only had four minutes anyway - so I had well over half an hour to wait at Nottingham. It gave me a good chance to look around the station, have a cup of tea and take some photos. For me Nottingham "Midland" station still has a lot of character and although it's not used as a through route from Sheffield to London, it is still pretty busy with mainly east-west routes, plus freight trains passing through. The Robin Hood line seemed to take ages, but as I was taking notes for my review for the website, it wasn't too boring. The boring bit was at Worksop, where poor connections meant I had to wait ¾ hour for my train to Sheffield. I did start walking into the town, but as it was raining and I had a suitcase I didn't bother. There was a small waiting room by the ticket office, but when it came to 5 o'clock, I was checked out and had to sit on the freezing platform (in July!) for another 15 minutes until my train arrived. Once settled into my hotel in Sheffield I took advantage of travelling on their fine tram system. For tonight it would be out to Hillsborough and the two lines in that area.

The next day I got my train to Lincoln travelling as far as Worksop on the same piece of track from less than 24 hours ago. A red light near Darnall meant we were over five minutes late and I had visions of missing my connection at Lincoln - a mere 6 minutes to change trains. I told the conductor this and he reckoned we would be in Lincoln on time. In the end we were about 2 minutes late so I made my connection. If I had missed it the next train would have been over 2 hours wait. I was contemplating paying for a taxi to take me to Sleaford if necessary, but luckily that wasn't needed. At Sleaford there was a fifteen minute wait - about right I would say, but no cafe on the station. There was a mobile one outside with a cup of tea a mere 50p - probably the cheapest cup of tea in the UK! I was hoping the train to Skegness might be a loco-hauled one, but instead it was a three car Class 153 DMU, which had plenty of room. The journey to Skegness was quite pleasant if slow as it stopped at virtually every station on the route. When I got to Skegness, there on the platform were D1648 Traction Magazine and 47 787 on an earlier train from Nottingham. I was hoping that they might be pulling my return train, but it turned out to be the one I came on. At least this one was an express and only stopped at four stations on the way to Nottingham. At Nottingham there was a 20 minute wait for my train to Sheffield which was a Norwich to Liverpool one. However once we were all on board the guard announced that there was fault which was being fixed and we would soon be on our way. Five minutes later he announced that it would take another 10 minutes to fix and then we would be on our way. Five minutes late he announced that it had been fixed and that we would be on our way just as soon as the light would let us proceed. Eventually 20 minutes after scheduled departure time, we did leave. There were no more problems and I got back to Sheffield OK. After a cup of tea back at the hotel I ventured out onto Sheffield's tram system once again. I made the mistake of taking a tram to Halfway, which is the longest run out - about ten miles to the south east of the town. That was fine but I had to change for the other line partway back into the city and I just missed one, so it meant a half hour wait, I decided to walk to the end of the line and wait for one there, but as it turned out to go through a seedy housing estate I walked back to the tram stop and duly waited. 

For the return journey back to London I knew that it would take longer than normal due to engineering works. When we started to leave Sheffield in a northerly direction,  I knew that we would be going down the Barrow Hill line, which we duly did. Sadly I couldn't see the depot from the track but it meant that I had achieved travelling on all the track that the Jolly Fisherman tour was going to take anyway.

19/7/08 - Potters Bar to Newcastle via Eaglescliff and Ferryhill freight only line. Newcastle to Prudhoe and return. Newcastle to Potters Bar via Sunderland. (UK Railtours Trip - The East Coast Deviation)

A very enjoyable day out to Newcastle on the excellent UK Railtours train. The trip included a tour round freight only lines north of Newcastle or hop off at Newcastle station. I chose the latter and went on the Tyne Valley Line as far as Prudhoe. This was because the last time I had been on this line (circa 1970/71 the line crossed the River Tyne soon after Blaydon and went into Newcastle that way. In the 1980's the route was transferred south of the river to include a stop at the newley built Metro Centre, so I had to make sure I covered this new track whilst I was up there.

Ulverston railway station

August 2008

5/8/08 - Kings Lynn to Ely. Ely to Bury St Edmunds. Bury St Edmunds to Peterborough. Peterborough to Ely. Ely to Kings Lynn.

As I drove my wife up to Kings Lynn for the day to visit her friend, I arranged to travel on some westerly East Anglian lines for the day. However the plan didn't quite go to plan.... Firstly I nearly missed my train at Kings Lynn. Although I arrived at the station with ten minutes to spare and duly parked the car, when I got to the ticket office there was a long queue and only one out three possible kiosks open. What made it worse was that three different people appeared at various times in the ticket office and none of them thought, "Oh there's a long queue, why don't I open a second booth and help the people to catch their train?" I got my ticket just in the nick of time, but I don't know what happened to the other three passengers behind me. Anyway the train left dead on time and got to Ely on time, where incidentally was a South West trains unit waiting to take a Liverpool Lime Street train out. I changed trains and got on the train to Bury St Edmunds OK. I was then going to get one back to Cambridge and go onto Stansted Airport before returning to Kings Lynn. Timing issues meant that as my train arrived at Bury St Edmunds the Cambridge train was just leaving from the other platform.  I was prepared for this and took a walk round the shops of Bury St Edmunds for what seemed a very long hour. When I got back to the station and asked for a single to Cambridge I was told that my train, the 13.55 had been cancelled due to a faulty unit and that the next one would be in another hour! I didn't fancy traipsing all the way back up the hill in the pouring rain into Bury, so I decided to retrace my steps and go back the way I had come to Kings Lynn and abandon the Stansted leg of the trip. Then once I was on the train I had the idea of staying on at Ely and going all the way to Peterborough and back, which would still fit into my time schedule. So when the guard came to check my ticket I asked him the price of a cheap day return from Ely to Peterborough he said just £8.90, (compared to £9.70 single from Kings Lynn to Bury St Edmunds). So I made the decision to go to Peterborough, especially as I hadn't travelled on this route since 1981! The journey to Peterborough there and back went OK, though the scenery was pretty flat being the Fens. It was interesting to see how March had shrunk so much as a railway centre, though there were still quite a few locos stabled there.

12/8/08 - Liverpool Central to West Kirby and return

Believe it or not although I used to travel by train to school in Birkenhead each day, I have never been further west than Birkenhead North! So when my wife and I stopped off for the morning in Liverpool on the way to a holiday in the Lake District, I managed to slip in a trip on the Wirral line to West Kirby whilst she went shopping. There wasn't time to go to New Brighton on the same trip, but that can happen in the future when I travel on the Borderlands line to Bidston from Wrexham.  Only incident of note to report was on the return trip at Birkenhead Park, Here there were four ticket collectors on the platform checking everyone's tickets as they got off the train. Would you believe one of them was openly smoking on the platform! Isn't that an arrest able offence??!!

16/8/08 - Carlisle to Barrow-in-Furness. Barrow-in-Furness to Lancaster. Lancaster to Carlisle.

As we were staying in Carlisle on the last two days of our holiday I couldn't let the opportunity to travel down the Cumbrian Coast line go by. So whilst my wife went shopping in Carlisle this time, I set off on the 10.14 to Barrow. I had toyed with the idea of getting a rover ticket and could have had a Cumbrian Coast Rover for £15, but in the end settled for Cumbrian Round Robin for £24 which allowed me to travel on to Lancaster and then back up the West Coast Mainline to Carlisle. Although my trains were on time to Lancaster taking almost four hours, the return leg took only 50 minutes and I managed to catch a delayed Edinburgh train getting back to Carlisle at 15.30 in time to see "The Scots Guardsman" steam train on Platform 3 at Carlisle waiting to go back down the Settle line.

22/8/08 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street. London Liverpool Street to Stansted Airport. Prestwick Airport to Killwinning. Killwinning to Largs

23/8/08 - Glasgow Queen Street to Aberdeen. Aberdeen to Inverness. Inverness to Edinburgh Haymarket. Haymarket to Bathgate and return. Haymarket to Polmont.

24/8/08 - Polmont to Glasgow Queen Street. Glasgow Queen Street to Helensburgh Central. Helensburgh Central to Drumgelloch. Drumgelloch to Paisley Canal. Paisley Canal to Ayr. Ayr to Ardrossan Harbour. Ardrossan Harbour to Larkhall. Larkhall to Anniesland. Anniesland to Springburn. Springburn to Glasgow Queen Street. Glasgow Queen Street to Polmont.

25/8/08 - Polmont to Edinburgh Waverley. Edinburgh Waverley to North Berwick and return. 

What a weekend. In my train spotting days Scotland was always the holy grail for me as that was a rail area I never quite managed to get to. I did travel to Edinburgh from Crewe twice in the late 70's but didn't get to travel by rail in Scotland again until the early 2000's. So this weekend more than made up for it. I would have travelled up by rail but Virgin wanted to charge me £110 for a single from Euston to Glasgow, so with Ryan Air only wanting £35 for a flight from Stansted to Glasgow Prestwick there was no competition. I did manage to secure a single from Edinburgh back to Kings Cross for £40 with National Express East Coast and in doing so meant that I filled in the gap from Edinburgh to Berwick and so completed the ECML.

Once at Prestwick I got a train To Kilwinning and then to Largs, doing my first Scottish branch. I then caught the ferry across to Cumbrae doing a bit of family history in the process as that was where my granny's family came from. On returning to Largs the plan was to get a bus to Wymess Bay and then do the Gourock and Wymess Bay branches. But when I eventually got a bus and got to Wymess Bay there was a wait of ¾ of an hour, so I stayed on the bus toying with idea of getting off at Greenock or Port Glasgow and then doing the two branches, but being a stranger and not knowing where the stations were, missed getting off and so decided to stay on till Glasgow and get to my hotel much earlier as I was feeling pretty tired. I did go down to Queen St to check out he status of the Dundee to Aberdeen line after a landslide but was told that the line was open again. I also went down to Central station and took some photos of various branch line units.

The next day I got the train from Glasgow Queen Street to Aberdeen for just £10, then Aberdeen to Inverness for even less at £7.50, and then Inverness to Edinburgh for just £10.  All the connections worked fine and although I had seat reservations on all three, it was interesting that on the first two journeys there were no seat cards in place, but I was still able to get my place - all seats by the window facing the direction we were going in. The plan was when I got to Edinburgh I would get a train out to Bathgate do that branch.  However my train was a little late so rather than rush between two platforms at Waverley, I would get off at Haymarket and catch the one there. The only problem was that it was a two car unit full to the brim with standing room only and due to a long wait outside Uphall it was a straight turn around at Bathgate, so didn't get a decent picture. The thing that made it worse was that at Haymarket there was poster from ScotRail saying that they would put on extra carriages during the Edinburgh festival  - but obviously not this particular train. Plus going past Haymarket depot there were loads of empty units carriages doing  nothing. Joke! Also a train from Edinburgh to Glasgow Queen Streets was also just two carriages and cock a block full.

Sunday was obviously the highlight of the weekend and full marks to the Scottish Preservation Railway Society for organising such as great trip. With some unusual places visited, (an important part of my coming to Scotland in the first place),  friendly and helpful stewards and a well organised meal system, meaning that you could get a cheap hot meal for a bargain price; plus my three travelling companions were all friendly and good company and despite the fact that it was a 12 hour day, it will rank as one of my main railway highlights of the 2008. Hopefully another tour can be organised next year covering the other Glaswegian branches that were left off this itinerary. Here's a video of the day from You Tube.

On the final day returning to sunny Essex there was one downside. Although I had time to visit the North Berwick branch, my train from Waverley to Kings Cross had a seat reservation saying facing, but was in fact going backwards and in one of those cramped airline seats. I wish they would do what they say these big railway companies. Still I managed to swap seats at York and go the right way. Although we were about ten minutes early at York, by the time we got to Kings Cross we were actually 15 mins late. Anyway a great weekend and now I need a week to recover!

28/8/08 - Orpington to London Bridge. Northern Line - London Bridge to Edgware and return. London Bridge to Barnehurst. Barnehurst to Slade Green. Slade Green to London Bridge via Woolwich. London Bridge to Orpington.

My wife had gone to visit some friends in Bromley to I caught a train from Orpington nearby and went on the Northen line to Edgware which I hadn't done before. I was then going to do the two curves from Slade Green. The first one from Barnehurst worked OK, but when I got to Slade Green the more frequent ones from Crayford to Slade Green had stopped running for the day, so I will have to do this curve another time.

Class 460 "Juniper" at London Victoria railway station. Press on photo for larger picture.

September 2008

21/9/08 Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return via Tilbury. London Victoria to Gatwick Airport on the Gatwick Express. Gatwick Airport to Redhill. Redhill to Reading via Guildford. Reading to London Paddington.

A trip to finish off my penultimate Southern region line - Redhill to Wokingham, plus I wanted to try out the Gatwick Express. Due to engineering works my train to Fenchurch Street travelled via Tilbury, a route I hadn't been on, west of Grays for several years. It was interesting to see the amount of freight on this route, though sad to see the derelict remains of Ripple Lane. On the way back a Eurostar passed us at speed and I noticed it was a very long train - at least 12 coaches.  The Gatwick Express was OK, though a little overpriced for such a short journey - does it qualify for the most expensive journey per mile on the railway network? Due to engineering works at Gatwick airport I couldn't go direct to Reading from here, but had to change at Redhill. A very enjoyable journey through the North Downs as far as Guildford. I should have got off at Wokingham and taken some photos there and then gone back to London via Waterloo. Instead I went onto Reading and had to wait over half an hour for a train to Paddington, which was only three coaches and full to overflowing. How come Health & Safety never do anything about overcrowded trains? At least South West trains always put plenty of coaching stock on their trains. An interesting footnote - when checking the photos I took that day, the one of the Gatwick Express showed several "orbs" on and around the front of the train. See above. Any comments?

24/9/08 Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. London Waterloo to Wokingham via Hounslow. Wokingham to Guildford. Guildford to London Waterloo via Woking.

I did this trip mainly because I didn't get any photos of the trains or stations at Wokingham and Guildford from the other day. Plus I had to come into London to change over the CD I got my son from a shop in Oxford Street. I got the 11.20 from Waterloo to reading and it went Ok as far as Barnes and then was stuck for 10 minutes. The driver announced at first that it was a red light holding us. Then he said there were problems with the level crossing gate ahead. Then he said we would be going via Hounslow and passengers for Richmond etc, would have to change at Feltham and go back on themselves. So we duly went on the Hounslow loop not stopping at any of the stations on that route, coming to a stop only at the junction with the line from Twickenham. In the end we were running about 20 minutes late and the diversion messed up the automatic train announcements. This meant that when we started to leave Feltham, it stated that the next stop would be Richmond and leaving Staines, the next stop would be Twickenham, etc! This caused a lot of confusion to the people who had just got on the trains at each stop! The delay meant that I missed the train I was hoping to get at Wokingham and had to wait to the next one. I got my pictures OK, but it had the knock on effect of stopping me going from Guildford to Surbiton via Effingham Junction. Instead I chose a fast train via Woking to make sure I got back home at the time I should have. The only problem was that my ticket went as far as Surbiton, but the train didn't stop at Surbiton after Woking and lo and behold a ticket collector checked the ticket as soon as we left Woking. So I had both my Surbiton ticket and Travelcard and he was OK, when I expected him to cause a fuss. 

29/9/08 Bishops Stortford to Stansted Airport and return. Stansted Airport to Cambridge and return. 

As I had to visit Luton today, I took the liberty of making a detour via Bishops Stortford so I could cover the curve north out of Stansted Airport. Everything went OK, though I think it is bad that they don't let you on the Cross Country train until about five minutes before departure, even though it is sitting on the platform for well over half an hour.

October 2008

2/10/08 Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street. London Kings Cross to York. York to Hull via Selby. Hull to Bridlington. Bridlington to Scarborough. Scarborough to York

Bought an East Yorkshire Round Robin ticket for £18 courtesy of Northern, which meant you could go anywhere from York to Scarborough to Hull. Was debating which was to go as connections were better going to Scarborough first, though whichever way you went Hull was the problem. Decided to go via Hull first in spite of the fact that I would miss my connecting train to Scarborough by 4 minutes - how about a change here Northern? In the end I got the next train to Bridlington which only meant a 30 minute wait as Hull as opposed to 1 ¼ hours. I thought we would have gone straight down the ECML and joined the Leeds - Hull line at Hambleton North Junction, but instead we went via Selburn-in-Elmet where we stopped adding to the length of journey. I hadn't been to  Selby  station since the 1980's and it was where I saw my first Deltic coming over the swing bridge and on its way to King's Cross. I feel a bit sorry for it now, as it is no longer on the ECML and much quieter. It does have a nice waiting room with a display of old pictures of the station and trains from different era. Hull is also a nice station, though again not as busy as it once was, but has been restored beautifully with the old Station Hotel right at the end of the platforms and the bus station incorporated into the railway station.  Beverley is another station I was impressed with, having that grand canopy over the station (as does Filey). In fact all the stations on the line seemed to be very well kept, especially Driffield. Scarborough was also a pleasant station.


3/10/08 York to Northallerton. Northallerton to Middlesbrough. Middlesbrough to Whitby and return. Middlesborough to Saltburn and return. Middlesborough to Bishop Auckland. Bishop Auckland to Darlington. Darlington to York.

Got a very good value Tyne/Tees ranger ticket from Northallerton which took me to all the above places. Had a nice trip to Whitby on the slowish Esk Vale line. Sad to see that Whitby is another branch line terminus that has been reduced to just a single track, making it difficult to accomodate visting excursions. The journey back was spoilt by three selfish teenagers who insisted on playing their i-pod at full volume much to the annoyance of the other passengers, whilst the guard took a blind eye. Come on Northern get your act together on such antisocial behaviour. The trip to Saltburn was interesting mainly because of the amount of industrial lamdscape we travelled through. Whilst Middlesborough looks to be on the up. Darlington still looked very run down, especially in the North Road area. However Shildon looked better with its extension of the NRM.

4/10/08 No train journeys today after the excesses of the past two days, but a visit to the Yorkshire Eye and the National Railway Museum meant plenty more trains to see. Sadly it was at the end of the day so couldn't see as much as I wanted but considering it is free, well worth a visit.

5/10/08 York to London Kings Cross. London Fenchurch Street to Leigh-on-Sea.

Returned home via the ECML. Took about an hour longer than coming up due to engineering works in the Huntingdon area.

14/10/08 Epsom to Guildford. Guildford to Effingham Junction. Effingham Junction to Wimbledon. Wimbledon to Epsom.

Was visiting Epsom with my work, so had some spare time and decided to do a round trip to Guildford and Wimbledon to make notes for this website, as when I went on this route last year I didn't bother. The maion thing of note was that I dropped my trusty Olympus camera on the platform at Leatherhead station and when I took it to my local camera shop, was told it was beyond repair. Luckily I have been able to buy an idential model on e-bay.

24/10/08 Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street. Moorgate to Finsbury Park. Finsbury Park to Stevenage via Hertford North. Stevenage to Kings Cross. Blackhorse Road to Barking. Barking to Leigh-on-Sea.

I had wanted to do the spur to Stevenage via Hertford North for some time, partly because I'm not sure whether I can recall going further north than Grange Park in the 1970's and partly to write a review for a new section on spur lines for the website. All was going OK until we got to Drayton Park where the driver announced that the train I was on, the stopping 09.52 to Letchworth via Hertford North would terminate at Finsbury Park due to a broken rail at Welwyn North. Everyone got off at FP and waited. Then we were told that all trains wer being diverted via Hertford North anyway and I was able to get on a First Capital Connect train which went non-stop to Stevenage. It only took about tweny minuted but was so fast that I couldn't really do a review of this spur. Coming back I caught a National Express train back down the same stretch of line, which took twice as long, though I was able to go online and buy a couple of Who tickets at the O2 in December! Back in London I then caught a tube to Finsbury Park (again) and then went on the Piccadilly line all the way to Cockfosters, which I had never covered before. Coming back rather than go to Fenchurch Street, I changed onto the Victoria line and went to Blackhorse Road, where I had to wait a good twenty minutes for a Goblin Line train to Barking. I'm pleased to say that London Overground have continued where Silverlink Metro left off in keeping the stations graffiti free, though they should increase the frequency of the trains to every twenty minutes instead of every half hour.

29/10/08 Minster to Ramsgate. Ramsgate to Ashford via Canterbury West. Ashford to Folkestone Central. Folkestone Central to Minster via Dover Priory

After dropping my wife and daughter off at Howletts Zoo to the east of Canterbury, I drove to Minster village which was much bigger than I anticipated. Due to road works going on in the middle of the village I just missed my train to Ashford, so decided to go to Ramsgate and then catch the train to Ashford from there. The whole purpose of the trip was to cover the curve south of Minster which sees only three trains a day in each direction. It was the first time since the early 1970's since I had travelled from Ashford to Dover and it was interesting to see the Eurochannel route running next to the original main line. Dolland's Moor yard was disapponting with only one train in the yard, plus a couple of Class 66's. It was sad to see the remains of the yards to the west of Dover which once been so busy on my last visit. Ashford station was its usual cold and unfriendly self, but I achieved my aim and duly picked up my family, before driving back to Essex.

November 2008

18/11/08 Otford to Maidstone East. Maidstone East to Ashford. Ashford to Tonbridge. Tonbridge to Sevenoaks. Sevenoaks to Otford.

Hadn't travelled on the line from Otford to Ashford via Maidstone since the mid-70s and then it was in the dark, so keen to see what this line was like. I thought the train fare of £12.50 for a cheap-day return was bit steep, but enjoyed the trip. Had half an hour to kill in Ashford so walked into the town centre. Not much to write home about though.

28/11/08 Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return.

Accompanied my wife to a course in London. Whilst she was on here course I went on some tube lines that I hadn't covered before. These were Metropolitan Line to Watford and Chesham - the latter being the only true branch on the London Underground network with its own branch train that runs to and fro all day long between Chalfont & Latimer and Chesham. It also the furthest tube stationfrom the centre of London. Came back into London on the Piccadilly Line from Raynors Lane to Hammersmith, but held up for about half an hour by signalling problems.

29/11/08 Potters Bar to Skipton and return

Went on our annual pre-Christmas train trip with UK RAIL (HRT) wuith my wife to celebrate our wedding anniversary -  this time to Grassington Victorian Christmas Market in the Yorkshire Dales. Was foggy all the way but the sun came out as we left Skipton on the coach. Enjoyable trip as usual with plenty of good food and service. The only down side was a group in our carriage who had a bit too much to drink  and were rather loud - having had champagne with their breakfast.

December 2008

10/12/08 Leigh-on-Sea to Fenchurch Street and return. Balham to Clapham Junction. Clapham Junction to Wimbledon. Elmers End to Cannon Street.

Today I went on the southern section of the Northern line all the way to Morden, which I hadn't been on before. I was then going to catch a bus to Wimbledon and get on the Croydon Tramlink line, but just missed a bus, so caught the tube back to Balham and went to Wimbledon via Clapham Junction instead. Then went on the Tramlink all the way across Croydon to New Addington and to Elmers End where I caught a train back into London. Didn't have time to do the Beckenham Junction section, so will have to do that another time.

16/12/08 Leigh-on-Sea to Fenchurch Street and return. London Blackfriars to Wimbledon. Wimbledon to Epsom. Epsom to Clapham Junction. Clapham Junction to Victoria.

Had some business to do in Epsom in the morning. On the way was sitting on the First Capital Connect train at Herne Hill when I heard this strange sound which gradually got louder. All of a sudden I realised that it was steam train and I looked out of the window to see 34067 Tangmere going past on the other track with a Cathedrals Express to Winchester via Redhill. It was a surreal moment as you could have been back in the 1930's as you saw that train going past. As we set off you could smell the train as we travelled along the track. Coming back into London I managed to fit in going on the Victoria Line to Brixton and the Central Line to Ealing Broadway and West Ruislip. I now have only two more lines to go on be3fore I complete my aim of travelling on every London Underground line.

18/12/08 Leigh-on-Sea to Fenchurch Street and return. London Bridge to Hither Green via Slade Green and Crayford. Hither Green to Grove Park. Grove Park to Bromley North. Bromley South to Beckenham Junction. Beckenham Junction to East Croyon (via Croydon Tramlink). East Croydon to Clapham Junction. Clapham Junction to Richmond.

Today was the day when I finally achieved my aim of travelling over every London Underground line. First I went on the Crayford Spur which I narrowly missed out on in the summer. Then it was down to Beckenham Junction to complete all the Croydon Tramlink lines. Then up to Clapham Junction and across to Richmond, where I got on a District line train to complete that section as far as Turnham Green. Whilst I was waiting on the tube train at Richmond, two pigeons got on the train and started walking around looking for scraps. They got so carried away that they stayed on the train as it pulled off! I don't know how long they would have travelled with us, but at Kew Gardens an old lady got on and shooed them of the carriage much to everyone's disappointment. I then travelled on the Picadilly Line and the Northern line to Finchley Central, where I changed tubes and got a branch tube to Mill Hill East, where I completed my London Underground challenge. I was so excited that I told the driver what I had done as well as taking some photos!

After a pretty exhausting 2008 I've got plans to visit the branches of Birmingham and Manchester in January, followed by some more West Country lines and possibly Wales in the summer. See you next year...........