Wednesday, 29 July 2015

No fatal passenger accidents for a record 8th year

A busy scene at Waterloo- Britain's railways are now busier and safer than ever before according to the latest RSSB report.
The Rail Safety and Standards Board has recently published figures revealing that there has now not been a fatal passenger accident on British trains for a record 8th year. This is a great achievement that the rail industry should duly be proud of- confirming rail travel as one of the very safest ways to move around the UK. The network is now busier then ever before with more and more leisure travelers and commuters choosing to take the train. The last fatal rail passenger accident was in February 2007 when a Virgin Trains Pendolino derailed at Greyrigg killing one passenger.
More however could be done to curb railway suicides which reached an all time high this year. Investment is already being made by Network Rail and train operators who work closely with organisations such as the Samaritans to try to prevent people from ending their lives on the railways.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

World Heritage Status for the Forth Bridge

A Scotrail 170 approaches North Queensferry on the Forth Bridge back in 2010 before the 'endless' task of painting it finished!
67021 exits the Forth Bridge heading south into Dalmeny with
one of the loco-hauled Fife Circle trains. These are now in the
hands of Class 68 locomotives from DRS.
In early July 2015 the Forth Rail Bridge in Scotland was officially awarded 'World Heritage Status' by UN's cultural committees meeting in Bonn. The bridge, completed in 1890 was the longest cantilever bridge in the world at it's time of construction (today it is surpassed only by the Quebec bridge in Canada) spanning the Firth of Forth between Edinburgh and Dundee in Scotland.

The bridge was designed by Sir John Fowler and Benjemin Baker to a grand design (partly to reassure the public after the collapse of Thomas Booche's spindly Tay Bridge which disastrously fell into the Firth of Tay in 1879. 125 years since its completion the Forth Bridge is still carrying up to 200 trains a day and with it's heritage status, also awarded to to structures such as the Pyramids of Giza and the Great Wall of China it is set to be preserved for the future as a Scottish Landmark. 

The bridge is famous for the 'Never ending' task of painting it. A constant maintenance crew have been based on the bridge for much of it's life- however in 2011 Network Rail completed a re-pair and repaint on the bridge which will will last for the next 20 years. 
A Scotrail DMU looks somewhat insignificant against the vast Forth Bridge and the firth below.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Loco hauled on the Cumbrian Coast

37409 'Lord Hinton' leads 2C34 the 14:35 Carlisle - Barrow towards Nethertown on a beautiful stretch of the Cumbrian Coast. 9th July 2015
In an amazing turn of events loco hauled passenger trains have returned to one of the UK's most scenic railways. Four trains in each direction six days a week between Carlisle and Barrow-in-Furness are now in the hands of class 37's from DRS hauling the companies refurbished Mk2 coaches. 
37603 powers along the Cumbrian Coast with the 14:37Barrow-in-Furness to Carlisle on 9th June 2015. On a beautiful day it ishard to imagine how exposed this coastal railway, and the ramshackleseaside cottages can become during a stormy winter. 
In order to fill a shortage of DMU's following the transfer of class 170's from Transpennine to Chiltern the Department for Transport has funded these loco hauled trains, which in turn allow Northern to loan class 156's to Transpennine. This also tallies with a long standing ambition of DRS to run additional 'workers' trains to the nuclear complex at Sellafield- by far the largest single employer in the area.

These trains are ultimately going to be operated with a single class 37/4 in push/pull formation with three standard Mk2 coaches and a DBSO, however for the start of operations the DBSO's have not been available resulting in top and tailed trains. Because there are only a limited number of ETH fitted 37/4's (and only one is required per trainset) the second locomotive has often been from the DRS freight pools, giving a chance to experience regular passenger turns with freight 37's- who would have though it in 2015!?
66424 leads 37605 and flasks as they head southbound on a gorgeous summers evening at Ravenglass on the Cumbrian Coast line. Nuclear traffic makes up a large proportion of the freight workings over the Cumbrian Coast line with trains serving the large nuclear reprocessing facility at Sellafield. 9th July 2015.
The passenger trains are not the only attraction (not withstanding the scenery) of this line- the proximity of the nuclear facility at Sellafield also produces several flows of interesting freight trains along this line, usually in the hand of DRS's varied fleet and often with interesting wagons such as the nuclear flasks. Trains can run each day from Sellafield to a variety of locations on the network to serve Britains nuclear power stations and also docks such as Barrow where nuclear materials are imported and to the low level waste depository a few stops down the line at Drigg.

Usual traffic on the line is formed of a selection of Northern Rail's DMU's from classes 142, 150, 153 and 156- while adequate for the job the certainly do not provide the level of comfort of a loco-hauled Mk2. 10th July 2015.
2C42 the 17:37 Carlisle Barrow pulls into St Bees on 9th July 2015 with
37423 'Spirit of the Lakes' at the helm. Here it will cross the other loco hauled set before continuing on to Barrow-in-Furness.
The current loco's and stock are due to run for the foreseeable future but if you want to catch the top and tail operation, complete with freight 37's you will have to be quick- the first DBSO has already started training on the Cumbrian Coast route. If you like great scenery, and class 37's I can only say that you really must get yourself up to Cumbria- and hope to have the glorious weather I have enjoyed. I hope to be back before long to try a few more of the spectacular photographic locations this part of the world has to offer.
On 10th July 2015 'freight' 37218 is seen heading north from Seascale with 2C41 the 14:37 Barrow - Carlisle.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Double Thumpers at the Spa Valley

Different styles of Thumper meet at Eridge on the Spa Valley Railway. 1317 and 1133 on loan from the Lavender Line.

The weekend of 4th and 5th July 2015 marked a historic occasion for the Spa Valley Railway- it was 30 years since the closure of the original line from Eridge to Tunbridge Wells.
To mark the anniversary it was decided to do something special, and thanks to many very generous donations to raise the funds for road transportation it was agreed to bring a 'guest' class 205 Thumper unit to the line to join the resident class 207.

'Oxted' 2D 1317 was one of the units working on the line on its very last day, so it was fitting that the DEMU was purchased by the Spa Valley Railway when it finished its service with Southern (numbered 207017) in 2004. It has been restored to blue/grey livery as it would have worn on the last day of service. In the future the the unit will also be re-united with it's original trailer coach which is currently being restored. 1317 has been restored beautifully and is in many ways the best example of a thumper in preservation- it will be the only three car set, and also unlike the remainder of it's class mate and the class 205's it retained its original filament lamps throughout it's BR career while other units received more modern strip lighting. The units has been finished internally with prototypical 'trojan' moquette seat covers and looks quite the part.

1133 at Eridge. The author recalls traveling on the Uckfield
line with this unit on many occasions- and photographing it in
the near platform - still used by Southern services today.
1133 is a slightly older 'Hampshire' unit which passed to the Lavender Line on completion of its service with Southern (as 205033) on the (London)-Oxted-Uckfield and Ashford-Hastings routes. The motor car has been restored to a high standard and currently runs with the restored driving trailer coach from 205021, on loan from Hastings Diesels. While 1133 did not run on the final day of the Tunbridge Wells - Eridge line (that honour befell 1125 which hauled the final train) the unit did take part in the final 'Last Thump' railtours bringing down the curtain of the class running on the British main line for Southern.

Complete with the headboards from 30 years ago 1317 prepares to lead the 4 car train away from Eridge.
On the Saturday the two units operated all services on the line and the weather was beautiful from start to finish making this a fantastic, and well supported day out. Later on in the evening both thumpers joined together to run as a 4 car train. There was even a special photo-shoot organised at Eridge where the units were shunted into adjacent platforms in order to re-create the side by side photograph from 30 years earlier.

Recreating the scene from 30 years previous. 1317 and 1133
stand side by side at Eridge.
The two thumpers pass at Groombridge. The different in front
end styling can clearly be seen.

All in all I think everyone agreed that this was a splendid day out and one which no thumper fan would want to have missed. If you did- 1133 will be staying at the Spa Valley for the summer affording a few more opportunities to catch the DEMU's together- the next at the railways summer diesel gala from 30th July- 2nd June.
1121's trailer leads 2H 1133 at Ford Farm Crossing. The second
track is the mainline from Oxted to Uckfield.
Also running on the Saturday was another DEMU- Hastings Diesels 1001, these days the only Thumper to get a chance to stretch its legs on the mainline network. A sighting of 1001 working the Warwickshire Wanderer tour brings the total number of 4-SRKT engines heard for the day to four- not something easy to achieve since 2004 when thumpers bowed off the main line!
1001 with the Warwickshire Wanderer railtour bound for Stratford on Avon seen passing Wandsworth Town.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Early Bluebird

It is already warm at 06:20 on the hottest day of the year as 73141 'Charlotte' leads a test train and 73201 'Broadlands' through Hersham on 1st July 2015. This time of year, with super long days, brings about all sorts of opportunities that cannot be taken at other times. This photograph is possible for just a few months as at other times of the year the sun rises on the other side of the railway. 
By next summer it is highly likely that the class 73/0's from GB Railfreight will have been replaced by Network Rail's own class 73/9's. 
The train here is seen with the first leg of its days schedule, 1Q85, from Woking to Waterloo. On the next part of the trains duty while heading down to Southampton the test vehicles developed a fault resulting in the train returning early to Hither Green.