Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Blog - 2017

January 2017

Charing Cross Station, London - 11/1/2017

11/1/2017 - Leigh-on-Sea to Limehouse. Charing Cross to London Bridge. London Bridge to Tulse Hill. Tulse Hill to St Pancras. Fenchurch Street to Leigh-on-Sea.

My first railway outing of 2017 was just a short jaunt into London to visit some of the London terminal stations for a new book I am writing, which should be out later this year. One station I visited was London Bridge which is nearly finished in its complete rebuild. Although it is all very modern, I personally don't like the way you go into the front of the station, then have to go downstairs to the new concourse (where there aren't any waste bins by the way), then have to go back up to the platforms to catch a train. Plus they have destroyed the old passageway with all the shops that you used to walk through on the way to the terminal platforms, which is a great pity.


February 2017

Alton station with both a South West Train and a Watercress Line train in the picture

18/2/2017 - Aldershot to Alton and return

Alton to Alresford and return on the Watercress Line.

A quiet month by my standards, mainly because I have been suffering from a heavy cold and had to postpone going on a railway trip on 11th February because of it. I did get away with my wife for a few days towards the middle of the month and stayed over the weekend in Aldershot. Whilst there we went over to Alton to have a trip on the Watercress Line. Rather than driving there from Aldershot, we decided to take a train from Aldershot to Alton and then hop over the platform to the Watercress Line platform. It was the first full weekend of operating this year and was quite busy, though I didn't see many children which you might expect, it being half term. Coming back the train was delayed, so as we arrived at Alton, our South West Train back to Aldershot was just leaving as we came in. What a pity they didn't hold the train for the twenty or so passngers that had to wait another half hour for the next train back to Aldershot and London!


March 2017

Plymouth railway station east end

3/3/2017 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return

Went to London to see Procul Harum in concert.

5/3/2017 - Benfleet to London Fenchurch Street and return

Went to London to see Gilbert O'Sullivan in concert. 

24/3/2017 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street. London Paddington to Penzance via Bristol. Penzance to Plymouth.

Went down to Plymouth on business. I managed to fit in a fleeting visit all the way down the Cornish Mainline to Penzance. My original timings gave me approximately fifty minutes in Penzance, but due to a freight train derailment near Castle Cary on the Monday all trains going to Taunton and beyond were being diverted via Bristol. So by the time we git to Penzance we were about forty minutes late, giving me around ten minutes there! Just enough time to take some photos of the station, both inside and out. I then went back to Plymouth on the same HST I had come on, this time 1st class, for just £10. I was treated like royalty and had no end of teas, bottles of water, biscuits and cakes! Plus much nicer seats with a quieter and less crowded carriage than on the way down.

25/3/2017 - Plymouth to Saltash and return. Plymouth to Exeter St Davids. Exeter St Davids to Basingstoke. Basingstoke to Reading. Reading to London Paddington. London Fenchurch Street to Leigh-on-Sea.

In the morning before I returned home I took a quick trip back over Brunel's Royal Albert Bridge into Cornwall to Saltash. I had enough time to take some photos and have a full "Cornish" breakfast in a small cafe before returning to Plymouth.  I then caught a train to Exeter St Davids, before changing to a South West Train to go back to Waterloo via Yeovil. However, when checking the train times on the board at Exeter it said at Basingstoke it would be bus to Woking due to engineering works. When I booked my tickets with The Train Line, this did not show up, so I decided to go to Reading and catch a train to paddington which I did, saving at least half an hour in delay time.  


April 2017

Westbury railway station looking east

8/4/2017 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return. London Waterloo to Weymouth. Weymouth to Westbury via Frome. Westbury to Southampton via Salisbury. Southampton to London Waterloo.

Went down to Weymouth for the day courtesy of South West Trains doing a special offer of a single journey anywhere on their network of for just £14. On the way at Southampton I saw all these people with cameras and then we pulled in next to a steam railtour, "The Royal Wessex" being hauled by Light Pacific no 34046 Braunton as 34052 Lord Dowding. It was waiting for our train at Southampton and then followed us all the way down to Weymouth where there was a large crowd waiting. After a short time in Weymouth I went north and east to Castle Cary and then Westbury, before going back down to Salisbury, where there was another staem engine waiting. This time it was "The Moonraker" special from Solihull to Salisbury being hauled by Castle Class no 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe. I then completed my circular rail tour by going back south to Southampton, and then back to London for another £14.


10/4/2017 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return.

Went up London to see the show, "Carousel" at the London Collesium.


May 2017

Canterbury West signal box

3/5/2017 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street and return

Went up to London for a meeting.


13/5/2017 - Leigh-on-Sea to Barking. Barking to West Ham. London Bridge to Norwood Junction. Norwood Junction to West Croydon. West Croydon to Sutton. Sutton to Horsham. Horsham to East Croydon. East Croydon to London Bridge. West Ham to Leigh-on-Sea.

Went down to Horsham for the afternoon after going on some South London lines I hadn't been on for a while.


20/5/2017 - Leigh-on-Sea to West Ham. Canada Water to Crystal Palace. Crystal Palace to Balham. Balham to Streatham Common. Streatham Common to Battersea Park. Queenstown Road Battersea to Vauxhall. Vauxhall to London Waterloo. London Fenchurch Street to Leigh-on-Sea.

Another afternoon of travelling over some South London lines I hadn't been on for a while, before going to the Royal Albert Hall to Roger Hodgson in concert.

29/5/2017 - Gravesend to Ashford International via Margate and Dover. Ashford International to Ramsgatevia Canterbury West. Ramsgate to Canterbury West. Canterbury West to Ashford International. Ashford International to Stratford International. Stratford International to Gravesend.

After dropping my family off at Ebbsfleet International to catch the Eurostar to Disneyland Paris - not Eurodisney as the info sign at Ebbsfleet mistakenly states - I drove to Gravesend. I then went on a Kent Rover ticket all round the coast of Kent, spent some time in Canterbury and then went to Stratford International before going back to Gravesend.


31/5/2017 - Leigh-on-Sea to Fenchurch Street. London Bridge to Tonbridge. Tonbridge to Ashford International and return. Tonbridge to St Leonards Warrior Square. St Leonards Warrior Square to Ore. Ore to Brighton. Brighton to East Croydon. East Croydon to London Bridge. West Ham to Leigh-on-Sea.

Using my Kent Rover once more I went down to Tonbridge and across to Ashford International, before going down to Hastings and along the Coastway East line to Brighton and then back up to London.


June 2017

Hull Trains Class 180 Adelante at Hull Paragon station 30th June 2017

2/6/2017 - Gravesend to Dartford. Dartford to Hither Green. Hither Green to Cannon Street. Cannon Street to Dartford via Deptford. Dartford to Gravesend.

Went into London from Gravesend before going to Ebbsfleet International to pick up my family returning form Disneyland Paris. I went into London via Sidcup and came back via Charlton. I had a good look at the work going on at London Bridge and from what I saw there is still a long way to go!

24/6/2017 - Denham to Wembley Stadium and return.

Went to Wembley Stadium to see Jeff Lynne's ELO in concert. Decided to drive round the M25 to catch a train in from Denham. The only problem was that there was a major accident on the M25 which meant we were held up for nearly an hour and missed the train we were hoping to get. In the end we had to wait for nearly half an hour for the next one, so we arrived at Wembley just as they were coming on stage. After the show it was "interesting" to see how the crowds returning north were shepherded. It was fine for passengers going back to Marylebone as they just went straight onto the platform, but passengers going north were put into three differnt queues - Birmingham, Oxford and High Wycombe. I wnet into the Birmingham queue, not knowing whether Denham counted for this one or High Wycombe. We were allowed onto the platform about five minutes beofre the train was due in, to stop overcrowding on the platform. Luckily we were in the correct queue and we caught the train we were meant to, though it was very full until Denham where at least forty passengers got off, just ten minutes later.


30/6/2017 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street. London Kings Cross to Doncaster. Doncaster to Hull via Selby. Hull to Selby. Selby to Leeds. Leeds to Goole via Knottingly. Goole to Hull.

Had to go up to Hull on business. I was tempted to go the whole way on Hull Trains but it was so exepensive that I caught a Virgin East Coast train first and changed at Doncaster onto a Hull Trains there. It was interesting going up the old East Coast main line to Selby and then east to Hull rather than the direct way via Goole. At Hull Paragon station there were plenty of banners for Hull being the 2017 City of Culture, plus an interesting statue of Philip Larken on the platform. Also Hull station doesn't have any ticket barriers unlike Leeds. I went back west to Leeds where I caught the rare train to Goole via Knottingley. It was very full - in fact over full in my opinion as far as Knottingley, then there were just a handful of us left to Goole - "track bashers" as one of my felllow passenegrs put it. By the way there was a guard on board but he didn't check our tickets once!


July 2017

Aberdeen railway station

1/7/2017 - Hull to Doncaster via Goole. Doncaster to Barnetby via Scunthorpe. Barnetby to Sheffield via Gainsborough Central. Sheffield to London St Pancras. Limehouse to Leigh-on-Sea.  

Returning home from Hull, I made a detour to catch the saturdays only service that goes via Gainsborough Central from Cleethrorpes to Sheffield. It was pretty empty when I got on at Barnetby and I don't think more than a handful got on at the stations of Brigg, Kirton Lindsey and Gainsborough Central. However at Retford, Worksop and all the stations into Sheffield there were plenty of passengers, so much so that the train was full by the time it got to Sheffield. Nothing of interest on the journey back south from Sheffield, apart from at Chesterfield where 60103 Flying Scotsman was waiting on the northbound platform with an excursion! A word on train fares. A single from Hull to Doncaster with Northern (on a saturday - so off peak) cost me just £8.50. Yet a single from Doncaster to Barnetby with Trans Pennine - a comparable distance (also off peak on a saturday) - cost me a whopping £17.60, over double the Northern fare. The words "rip off" come to mind here.


8/7/2017 - Leigh-on-Sea to West Ham. Lewisham to Barnehurst and return. Lewisham to Peckham Rye. Peckham Rye to Streatham Common. Streatham Common to Tulse Hill. Tulse Hill to London Blackfriars. London Fenchurch Street to Leigh-on-Sea.

A quick jaunt round some of the remaining lines in South London that I needed to cover. Despite industrial action going on at Southern my trains to and from Streatham Common ran on time. At Blackfriars I wasn't able to get on the underground due to a fire, so had to walk along the embankmant to Mansion House where I caught my tube to Tower Hill OK.


23/7/2017 - Benfleet to London Liverpool Street. Moorgate to Finsbury Park. Highbury & Islington to Hackney Central. Hackney Downs to Cheshunt. Cheshunt to Stratford. West Ham to Benfleet via Ockendon.

Went up to London for the evening to visit some lines I hadn't been on for some years.


25/7/2017 - Leigh-on-Sea to London Fenchurch Street. London Kings Cross to Berwick-upon-Tweed. Berwick-upon-Tweed to Haymarket. Haymarket to Edinburgh Waverley and return. Edinburgh Waverley to Tweedbank and return.

Went up to London on a mini break partly to cover the reopened Waverley route and to cover some suburban lines in Glasgow. Stopped off on the way at Berwick-upon-Tweed to take some pictures of the bridges there. It's a nice station and town and travelling onto Edinburgh I was able to catch "The Highland Chieftan" train right through to Haymarket where my accommodation was. After checking into my room I made my way back to Haymarket and onto Edinburgh Waverley where I was able to get onto my Borders Railway service to Tweedbank about twenty minutes before departure. I was glad I did get on so early as it was packed with both tourists and commuters and when it did leave at 18.23 it was standing room only on the mere 2 car Class 158 unit. I had been down the line before a few years ago as far as Newcraighall so it was interesting to see the new line and all the stations that have been built. As it stops in the Edinburgh suburbs and satellite towns south of the capital it was nice to see plenty of commuters getting off, who now use this service rather than going into Edinburgh by car or bus. When we reached our final stop, mostly tourists were getting off to go into the large car park next to the station, obviously having spent the day in Edinburgh. It would be nice to see it extended all the way to Carlisle one day, but I can't see that ever happening due to cost and lack of big towns on the route.    


26/7/2017 - Haymarket to Edinburgh Waverely. Edinburgh Waverley to Aberdeen. Aberdeen to Dundee. Dundee to Perth. Perth to Haymarket. Haymarket to Glasgow Queen Street. Qlasgow Queen Street Low Level to Charing Cross. Charing Cross to Kilpartick. Kilpartick to Dalmuir. Dalmuir to Rutherglen via Westerton. Rutherglen to Glasgow Central Low Level. Glasgow Queen Street Low Level to Charing Cross. 

Next morning I took the 08.28 from Edinburgh to Aberdeen. Rather than getting on the train at Haymarket I went into Edinburgh to get my the full value of my £10 fare for a first class ticket. If I had gone 2nd class it would have only been a fiver - thanks to the Scottish government's policy of subsidising their railways. English politicians take note! The only negative thing about the journey was that it bucketed down all the way so I wasn't able to get some of the pictures of the bridges I was hoping to get, but it did clear up for the return journey via Perth. I stopped off in both Perth and Dundee but prefererred Perth as a town. I then came back to Haymarket before joining the hordes of commuters going home to Glasgow, being met at Queen Street by the hordes of commuters going home to Edinburgh! I was lucky enough to get a seat in second class and observe the work being done in electrifying this line. After checking in at my hotel, I went west out to Kilpatrik and then back through the centre of Glasgow to Rutherglen, this time being surrounded by hordes of Celtic fans going to a match. 

27/7/2017 - Glasgow Central to Carlisle via Kilmarnock. Carlisle to Leeds via Settle. Leeds to London Kings Cross. London Fenchurch Street to Leigh-on-Sea.

The next morning I got the 08.37 from Glasgow Central to Carlisle via Kilmarnock which was quite a slow journey, but on one of the least used routes in Scotland. Yet it used to carry express trains from London over the old Midland Railway route. After a short break in Carlisle it was off to Leeds via the Settle & Carlisle. Again the train was pretty full, though this time there were four carriages. Again the weather was very wet and misty, so I couldn't enjoy the route as I had done the previous time I had travelled on this route. Finally, after another short break in Leeds, it was back to express train travelling with Virgin East Coast back to Kings Cross after a pretty hectic few days in Scotland.


August 2017

34092 arrives at Bury Bolton Street on 16/8/17

16/8/2017 - Bury Bolton Street to Rawtenstall and return.

On holiday with my wife in Lancashire. As it was almost ten years since I last visited the East Lancashire Railway when I drove a Deltic, I decided to go back to cover the line to the north of Bury which I hadn't travelled before. On the journey back we sat next to a locations manger for film companys who was filming the journey for possible use in a period drama set in early industrial Britain. 


30/8/2017 - Upminster to West Ham and return. Canada Water to Clapham Junction. Clapham Junction to Imperial Wharf and return. Clapham Junction to Wandsworth Town. Wandsworth Town to Putney. Putney to London Waterloo.

Spent a day in west London visiting some of London's bridges for a new book I am writing to be published next year.