Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Welcome Home Wessex!

2415 prepares to leave 2418 out of Waterloo following the first ROG charter. Until 2007 this would have been an everyday scene.
On bank holiday Monday 29th August the Rail Operations Group ran their first passenger charter. The trip was a simple first itinerary using a pair of class 442 EMU's for a return run from Waterloo to Bournemouth. The ROG have so far specialised in performing stock transfers, particularly with their two class 37's fitted with Dellner couplers to avoid the use of barrier vehicles. The recent award of a passenger licence opens up more opportunities for ROG to expand their business, and with a fleet of 5 'passenger' class 47/8's recently acquired hopefully this is a company we can expect to see more of in the charter market.
2406 and 2405 lead a Gatwick Express into Victoria, the
re-building of Battersea power station being very much evident.
The class 442's used on Monday's charter are some of the stored fleet which have been released from Gatwick Express duties and which are currently in the care of the ROG at either Eastleigh or Ely. The later are being kept 'warm' by one of the class 47's, while the Eastleigh based fleet are being used on 'warming runs' on the national network to keep the units in good condition. The fleet were built for use on the Wessex route after the Weymouth electrification from 1988 and worked here until 2007 when the fleet were withdrawn before moving to Gatwick Express. For many the South West Main Line still feels like home for the 442's- but with their future far from certain, will I ever see one at Waterloo again? I'd like to think so.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Summer Saturdays in Anglia- 10 years ago.

47818 hauls the afternoon empties from Great Yarmouth to Crown Point depot. Most of the passenger runs ran via Reedham but the final train was booked to run via Acle. The location is Whitlingham Junction where the lines to Sherringham and Cromer branch from the Wherry lines towards Yarmouth and Lowestoft. 24/08/2006

47818 prepares to run around it's train at at Great Yarmouth. This would have
been the 10:00 departure from London Liverpool St. The loco was a regular
performer on the trains and was painted specially into 'One' colours. 24/08/2006
Last weeks post covered the current loco hauled operations on the Wherry lines out of Norwich to Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft- currently featuring top and tailed diesel locomotives on a short rake of coaches, but I also mentioned the long association of class 47's with these lines. While looking back through my photo archive I discovered that exactly 10 years ago I had found myself in Anglia for my annual trip to Great Yarmouth to sample the 47 hauled summer trains.
The trips comprised of two workings in each direction (plus associated empty moves) where a class 47 hauled the Norwich-Yarmouth portion of through intercity services to and from London Liverpool Street on summer Saturdays. The trains would run as normal to Norwich where the class 47 would back onto the train and then run non-stop to Great Yarmouth. On arrival at the seaside town the locomotive would run round before hauling the set back to Norwich from where it would form the next London departure with it's electric loco. As can be seen from the pictures the class 90, or 86 in previous years, also came along to the seaside for the ride.
One of the very last survivors on Anglia, 9701 is seen at Ipswich.
It would go on to be used by Network Rail.  24/08/2006
In 2016 locomotives for the train were provided by Cotswold Rail, and the current franchise holder was National Express, branding the operation 'One'. By this time almost all Mk2's had been phased out in favor of Mk3 stock with just a handful of Mk2 DBSO's remaining in traffic.
The final year of class 47 hauled intercity trains to Great Yarmouth was 2014.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Now there are TWO short sets in Anglia!

With 50 years between them 37419 and 68019 are seen at Norwich with their respective loco hauled sets for the Wherry Lines. 17/08/16

37405 passes the Semaphore signals and box at Reedham 17/08/16
This is certainly not the first time I have written about diesel loco hauled passenger activity in East Anglia (and I hope it won't be the last). For several years now locomotives and coaches have been hired as a stop-gap measure to cover for a shortage of DMU's in the region. It was a surprise to some when the class 47's which had performed these duties for many years were replaced in June 2015 by class 37's. It was perhaps even more of a surprise when in July 2016 a second loco hauled 'short set', powered by brand new class 68's from DRS was also inaugurated to serve the Wherry lines.The reason for the use of 68's on some local services can be directly attributed to the damage sustained by 170204 which struck a tractor on an occupational crossing in April. The unit has severe cab damage and is expected to be out of traffic for many month for repairs to be completed. This situation exasperated the already fragile availability of DMU's based at Norwich Crown Point.
68016 heads across the broads towards Acle from Great Yarmouth.
For the enthusiast it makes the Wherry lines from Norwich to Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft a mecca for loco haulage with two class 37's and two class 68's available on trains every weekday. Combine this with the beautiful scenery of the broads and traditional semaphore signalling and it is easy to see the appeal for the photographer also.
The class 68's are currently scheduled to perform with Abellio Greater Anglia until the end of the current franchise in 2016. It is currently uncertain what plans will be put in place beyond this date to provide continued coverage for 170204.

37419 approaches Reedham with the 14:55 Norwich Lowestoft 17/08/2016

The current booked loco hauled workings in the area (Monday - Friday) are:
37405 approaches Acle with the 13:17 Great Yarmouth - Norwich.
Set 1 (class 37):
07:47 Lowestoft - Norwich
08:36 Norwich - Great Yarmouth
09:17 Great Yarmouth - Norwich
10:36 Norwich - Lowestoft
13:17 Great Yarmouth - Norwich
14:55 Norwich - Lowestoft
15:48 Lowestoft - Norwich
17:36 Norwich - Great Yarmouth
18:17 Great Yarmouth - Norwich
19:00 Norwich - Lowestoft
19:55 Lowestoft - Norwich

68016 'Fearless' at Great Yarmouth with the 18:47 to Norwich.
Set 2 (class 68):
06:52 Norwich - Great Yarmouth
07:32 Great Yarmouth - Norwich
08:09 Norwich - Great Yarmouth
08:45 Great Yarmouth - Norwich
10:05 Norwich - Lowestoft
10:57 Lowestoft - Norwich
16:40 Norwich - Great Yarmouth
17:17 Great Yarmouth - Norwich
18:06 Norwich - Great Yarmouth
18:47 Great Yarmouth - Norwich*
20:40 Norwich - Great Yarmouth
21:17 Great Yarmouth - Norwich
22:05 Norwich - Lowestoft
*Via Reedham

37419 approaches Somerleyton with the 15:48 Lowestoft - Norwich stopping service on 16th June 2016.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Wessex Wind-down

On 16th July 2016 the ROG's 37800 approaches Clapham Junction hauling 2418 and 2415 from Three Bridges to Eastleigh for store.
The new face of the Gatwick Express (all be it working for
Thameslink on a Bedford service), 387201 at East Croydon.
With the continued introduction of new class 387 units on Gatwick Express duties the winding-down and storage of class 442 'Wessex Electric' units has gathered pace. Once trains have been taken out of service they are being held initially at either Brighton Lovers Walk or Three Bridges depots before being moved on behind diesel traction to Eastleigh works for further storage. Due to space constraints at Eastleigh the units which are likely to be in store for at least the medium term are beginning to be moved onward to the Potters Group sidings at Ely for further storage. Moves away from the Brighton Mainline are being carried out by the Rail Operations Group which has seen it's two ex-French Heavyweight class 37's, 37800 and 37884 along with recent purchase 47812 involved in the transfers. A class 47 is due to remain at Ely throughout the storage contract to provide a shore supply to the 442 units. Those currently considered to be in 'warm store' at Eastleigh are seeing some limited use with the ROG on 'warming runs' from Eastleigh to Basingstoke to keep the units in good order.
37884 hauls 2420 onto the South West Mainline at Byfleet & New Haw on 4th August 2016.
The future for the 24 1988 built train sets is still unclear. In the short to medium term Southern will be retaining 6 sets to provide peak hour services from London to Eastbourne while the remaining 18 of the fleet are set to transfer to store.
The ROG is to run it's first passenger train on 29th August using two class 442 units from Waterloo to Bournemouth returning the trains to their original stomping ground in passenger service for the first time since 2007. More details are available at

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Isle of Wight Electrics

It is difficult today to imagine steam locomotives on trains of up to 6 coaches on the pier at Ryde. On 10 July 2004 007, the first class 483 to be repainted into LUL colours approaches Ryde Pier Head.

As the summer holidays are now very much upon us many many peoples thoughts will be turning to their 
006 is seen at Ryde Eplanade on 06.05.28. To the right of
the photo is the Hoverport for services to Southsea. Being
able to watch both the trains on the pier and the Hovercraft
from this spot is a particular highlight of a trip to the Island.
summer get away and for rail fans what could be a better location than the beautiful Isle of Wight? I have been fortunate enough to have always had a connection with the Island and fondly remember waving to Network South East liveried class 483's disappearing into Ryde Tunnel with a hoot from the driver. As I have grown older the ex-London Underground class 483's became a staple of my trips to the Island and over time the attractive Network South East livery was replaced by the 'dinosaur' livery (which must be one of the worst colour schemes every to grace a train!) and finally the return of the trains to London Underground red. 

The current Island Line runs from Ryde Pier Head where it meets Fast Cat ferries to Portsmouth Harbour to Shanklin calling at intermediate stations of Ryde Esplanade, Ryde St Johns Road, Smallbrook Junction (for the Isle of Wight Steam Railway), Brading, Sandown and Lake. The line is a small remainder of a once extensive network of 55 1/2 miles of line which covered this small island. Build by the Isle of Wight Railway the route from Ryde St Johns Road to Shanklin was opened in 1864 with an extension to Ventnor in 1866. The extension to Ryde Pier Head following in 1880. 

A side view of the terrible 'dinosaur' livery on 008 as it travels between Brading and Sandown on 1st August 2007. The livery was intended to pay homage to the Islands reputation of the 'Dinosaur Isle' due to the high number of prehistoric skeletons found on its south coast.

With works on the pier structure very much in evidence
006 heads towards the Esplanade on 10.07.04.
After just shy of 100 years steam trains were removed from the Isle of Wight Railways in 1966, though by this time just a shadow of the former network remained. The 8 1/2 miles which would remain were to be electrified and supplied with former 1923 'standard' tube stock re-configured to run in 3 or 4 car formations as class 485 and 486. The ex-underground units were delivered in standard Rail Blue and given the southern designation 4VEC and 3TIS (a full formation making a 7VECTIS, Vectis being the Roman name for the Isle of Wight!). The units later received Blue/Grey livery before finishing their lives in NSE in the mid 1980's

One of the prettier stations on the route is Brading, where 
007 is seen on 10.07.04. The island platform is an obvious 
indicator that this station has seen busier times- until 1957 
this was the junction for the branch to Bembridge though 
passenger traffic ceased in 1953. 

The 'new' stock was replaced in 1992 with more second hand tube trains, this time of 1938 vintage. These were formed into two car class 483's which could run together as a 4 car set in times of peak demand. Nine trains were delivered to the island (with one further set as a spare). As of 2016 just 5 trains remain with: 004, 006, 007, 008 and 009 in service with 002 also stored on the Island. The stock which is more than 75 years old is now nearing the end of it's useful life and it is likely that a decision will have to be made on the line's future within the next decade. Various options exist from replacing the current trains, converting the route into a tramway, or potentially closing the railway altogether.

009 nears Brading on 07.08.01.

As well as the regular electric trains steam services operate on the 5 1/2 mile former Isle of Wight Central railway route from Smallbrook Junction to Wooton operated by the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. This is a delightful railway to travel on with traditional Island engines and coaches and is well worth a visit.

All of the Island Line trains are maintained at Ryde St Johns
 Road depot where 006 and 004 are seen in 'dinosaur' days 
on 1st August 2007.

W11 'Freshwater' one of the two Terriers of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway is seen between Ashey and Havenstreet on 10th April 2007.