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by Howard Sprenger (unless otherwise credited)
More things culled from RAILDATE MEMO, plus anything extra that's come my way.
Harvey Saunders asks:
Is this true?
They say that when a Train Operating Company books a path with RailTrack, they actually book a set of rails. For example, when SWT book a path for an up train from Southampton, between Basingstoke and Clapham Junction, their booking is for the Up Fast line only.
In the old days, if there was a temporary delay on this line, control might have routed the train on to the Up Slow to keep things moving etc. Now, that doesn't happen - SWT would have to book (and pay for) the extra path unless RailTrack declared the Up Fast totally unusable. So, we see Southampton expresses sitting on the Up Fast while the locals carry on as normal.
Howard Sprenger replies:
I don't know, but I strongly suspect this is the case. On a recent steam special, the train wasn't able to enter Holyhead station because its booked platform road was out of use due to a points failure. Despite the fact that RailTrack knew about the failure for some time (without fixing it), they hadn't "gauged" an alternative platform for the steam engine, so it stayed outside the station precincts while a diesel pulled the coaches into the station.
Another interesting story was at Brighton, where the tracks were left uncleaned for several weeks. The fallout (mainly organic) from the coaches was left to pile up, and though our glorious summer (and under an overall roof) the stench became overpowering. Nothing to do with RailTrack, of course - they only exist to charge operators for using their rails, not to provide a pleasant atmosphere for passengers who are not (of course) their customers.
If anyone can confirm RailTrack's charging policies, or supply any more examples of the break-up of BR creating "an improved service for the customer", do let me know...
A safer railway? Any train coming to a stand on the line incurs penalty fines from Railtrack in addition to the costs already paid for using the line. In the past, when a driver suspected there might be a problem with his train he would "stop and examine". Now he crosses his fingers and carries on, hopefully, to the next scheduled stop.
An interesting advert in the Hampshire Chronicle (12/1/96) was an invitation for "expressions of interest from high quality bus and coach companies" to operate rail feeder services for South-West Trains (now owned by Stagecoach). The first two contracts were between Bordon and Liphook, and Romsey and Winchester, with buses and ticket machines being provided by Stagecoach. Indeed, by now you might have seen the Romsey-Winchester bus going through Hursley village.
At the time the report first appeared in RAILDATE, I commented that it was good to see real efforts to attract traffic to the railway by providing such services, and wondered whether Stagecoach (the biggest bus operator in the country) were reluctant to run the services themselves because they were concerned about their monopolistic position.
I can now reveal the name of the company that was successful in getting the tender to run the services. Step forward Stagecoach subsidiary, Hampshire Bus!
Hear about the 40-odd passengers on the last train from Waterloo to Bournemouth, who were recently deposited at Brockenhurst at midnight? they were told that because of engineering works, they would be conveyed to their destination by bus. They watched as the train reversed out of the station, and the late-shift station master locked up his office and headed for home. Then they waited... and waited...
At 1.30am, having failed to raise any railway officials by telephone, they called the Hampshire Constabulary, who contacted British Transport Police at Southampton. A policeman arrived at 2.10am to find the stranded passengers (some of whom had managed to get into the signal box to escape the cold wind) and knocked on the door of the Forester's Arms which had the only light still burning in the village. While they huddled in the bar, South West Trains regional duty manager was busy phoning for taxis, and these began to arrive at 2.20am.
A spokesman for SWT insisted that an order for buses had been faxed to the Wilts and Dorset Bus Company, but that company claims that the fax never arrived.
Following the fiasco last year when Railtrack issued a timetable that was so full of errors that it had to be recalled, pulped and reissued, the map accompanying the new Summer timetable manages to omit 16 stations in the Portsmouth/Southampton area. Only the map is affected, and a Railtrack spokesman has stated that as the stations appear in the actual timetable, people will realise that trains still stop at them, but one can't help wondering whether this is a freudian slip...
Just to show that it's not all bad news, I was glad to see that Railtrack have been spending some money renovating the station clocks at Waterloo and Kings Cross. This latter clock now chimes out the hours again for the first time since 1924.
From Lawrence Hanney:
I was on Winchester station on 29 December seeing my son off to Brighton after the Christmas break.
The plan was to catch the 15.18 direct train to Brighton. However when the preceding train, the 15.13 SWT shuttle to Southampton Central, stopped at Winchester it couldn't start again. Very stange noises from under the rear of the train. There followed some interesting manoeuvres.
1) Run the failed train forward under gravity.
2) Run the Brighton train into the platform and get the passengers off.
3) Reverse the Brighton train into the siding.
4) Get the next train, the 15.23 Weymouth, to push the failure forward. This involved stopping it outside the station with flags and detonators, then letting the driver proceed under caution into the platform to do the pushing. There passed quite a time connecting the two trains up...
5) Drive the Weymouth and failure south.
6) Bring the 15.18 Brighton out of the siding back into the platform, let the passengers back on and it finally gets away at 16.26. - just in time to clear the siding for a 'terminates here' to use it!
Interesting. Passengers were kept well informed to start with, but the staff obviously had problems connecting up the two trains and this distracted them. The plan was good, but it took a long time to execute and the platform was COLD! But it was nonetheless interesting...
Here follows some (possibly interesting) correspondence between me and Nick Robson, former "Smoke Rings" Editor and now our Midhurst and North Harbour Correspondent:
Recently we found ourselves on the borders of Hants and West Sussex, and had a go at tracking down the stations at Midhurst. The LSWR one was easy as it is now used as offices, but we couldn't decide where the LB&SCR one must have been. In the end, the most promising site was just off the Chichester road, where there is a largish industrial estate (through which you can get access to a new housing estate). Were we in the right area? Also, we felt there must have been a bridge or tunnel under the Chichester road, but we couldn't find any trace of that either.
We followed the road to Chichester, and found the stations at Cocking, Singleton and Lavant - massive buildings considering the sizes of the vilages they served. Singleton was particularly interesting as the line is at the roof level of the station building, and has two island platforms accessed by an underpass and steps. Apparently it was the station for Goodwood racecourse, which explains its size, but why the others were so big is a mystery to me. On one of the platforms there was still a seat, even though the line closed closed to passengers before the war! Incidentally, the station at Lavant is interesting, being incorporated into a new housing estate, with a cycle track where the line was.
West of Midhurst, Elstead has been redeveloped and the station buildings removed, but Rogate is still there, and according to a notice pinned to it, someone is applying for planning permission to convert it into three dwellings.
An interesting day, and I shall probably buy the Middleton Press book as a result, but I'd be interested if you can add anything in the meantime.
Thanks for your most interesting note. You were right about the site of the LB&SCR station; it was where the industrial estate is now. A bridge over the country lane outside the estate took the line east and then south (I think).
One of the patrons of the line was Lord Egremont of Petworth Park, so I guess he was keen that the station buildings should be of a certain quality.
As with so many local lines, it is a great pity that the line is beyond saving; can you imagine its present-day value in terms of tourism, notwithstanding the three tunnels?
Overall, you do need to refer to either of the excellent Middleton Press "Midhurst" books for firm facts. Also, don't forget that most informative article some years ago in "Smoke Rings" by Robson, N J.
The other publication title I have is "The Chichester and Midhurst Railway", by Paul Clark, Turntable Publications, Sheffield, 1979. It is still from the better "antiquarian" railway book stockists.
It is a much more learned (and wordy) job than the Middleton books, but the two approaches really do complement each other.
I am fairly certain that the current Chichester road uses some of the old trackbed, but I would have to look at a large-scale map to be sure.
I couldn't find my copy of Smoke Rings with Nick's article, but he later sent me a copy. As yet, I haven't purchased any of the publications he mentions, but if you are ever out that way, I can recommend a visit to the old stations. Singleton, in particular, is fascinating.
Long after this line closed, the southern section from Chichester to Lavant was retained for mineral traffic. A few years ago, even this traffic dried up, and the trackbed was converted to a cycle path. There is now a proposal to start shipping gravel from the Lavant area, but it is a legal condition of the gravel-extraction plans that the material be taken away by rail and not road. In addition, oil deposits have been discovered further up the line at Singleton, so there is a real possibility that track might be reinstated from Chichester to Singleton. Fortunately the line was originally built to double-track standards, so a single-line railway line should be able to co-exist with the cycle track. Watch this space...
We recently took a trek up to Newbury to uncover what's left of the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton line between there and Winchester. The controversial bypass will use part of the trackbed from where the present dual carriageway ends (near Burghclere) to Enborne Junction, where the DN&S joined the GWR main line, so this seemed like a good time to see what remained.
There is no roadbuilding activity at weekends, so no protesting either, and we were able to trace the track without getting embroiled in the politics. The site of Enborne Junction is visible from a minor road that runs parallel to, and to the south of, the West of England main line, and from there, we followed country lanes sticking as closely to the railway route as possible until we reached the first station at Weyhill. The platforms still survive here (together with the horse dock) but all the buildings have gone except for the old stationmaster's house some distance away. A pile of red bricks on the trackbed suggested that something had been demolished fairly recently - possibly one of the old air-raid protected signal boxes that were a feature of the line from wartime. A few bridges survive between here and Burghclere, but presumably they will soon be cleared away.
Burghclere station is now a delightful private house, and well away from the bypass construction site. To the south is one of the ARP signal boxes, and one or two other trackside buildings. The next station is Highclere (where the Arthur Askey version of "The Ghost Train" was shot) and here too, the ARP signal box survives together with other odd buildings including a row of railway cottages to the south. Next comes Litchfield station, easily missed from the dual carriageway which follows the trackbed at this point. Take the turn to Whitchurch, and almost immediately turn back on yourself, and you will find it nicely preserved as a private residence. It's a little way up a private drive, which makes photography difficult, and when you approach the gate, it magically (and embarrassingly) swings open due to an infra-red beam across the drive. Just time for a quick picture, then into the car and away...!
The next stop was Whitchurch ("Town" to distinguish it from the LSWR station, from which it is actually quite a distance away). A footpath runs along the trackbed here, and it is possible to get a good view of the station building, which has also been converted into a house. Also remaining is the subway that connected the platforms, and carried another footpath across the railway. Just south of Whitchurch is the hamlet of Tufton - an interesting place that seems to be contained completely within a farmyard - real feudal stuff! Situated by the River Test(?), a tall viaduct still crosses at this point.
Finally (having visited Sutton Scotney on a previous occasion) we arrived at Worthy Down, where a platform was built to serve a nearby defence establishment. I've seen many pictures of this, usually taken from the overbridge to the south. The thing that strikes me in all of them is how open everything is. It's a different story now, with trees having completely taken over the site. However, the platform is still there, complete with a small building which looks like a waiting shelter, but was actually known as the "Admiralty Store".
All in all a very pleasant day, and although some locations have been completely obliterated (like King's Worthy) and others are about to be (like Weyhill), it's amazing how much is left to see.
Fifty years since the last steam locomotive ran along Calshot Spit, Air Ministry Works Directorate Locomotive No. 1, now Talyllyn Railway No. 6, will be on static display at the Calshot Activity Centre on 14th April from 11.00am to 4.00pm.
The narrow gauge locomotive which used to operate for the RAF on Calshot Spit up to 1945, was acquired by a company called Abelsons, and after renovation in 1953, was donated to the Talyllyn Railway at Tywyn on the Mid-Wales coast. The locomotive has recently been on display at the RAF Museum at Hendon, and is making a detour via Calshot back to Tywyn. Royal Netley Hospital Railway
Plans are afoot to build a 10.25-inch line on the trackbed of the old Netley Hospital Railway. The line will operate every day through the year, and it is hoped that it will be open during 1996. Volunteers are sought to help with tracklaying. (I don't have a contact address, but if anyone does...) A Trip to Wales
Lawrence Hanney writes...
A cheap return on the Cambrian Coast line from Machynlleth to Pwllheli is extremely good value, and becomes even better value if your 8 year old son bobs about behind the drivers cab and gets noticed and invited in!
Friday was the first day of the centenary year on the Snowdon Mountain Railway. Going on the first train of the year has its advantages and disadvantages. Snowdon in the Snow is Spectacular, even if the frost prevents essential trackwork on the top quarter so you only go 3/4 of the way. Frost also freezes water, so the traction was diesel, but very comfortable (more comfortable than wooden-slatted coach seats on steam) and as it was the first train of the season the railway manager was on board, told us lots of things we would not have heard otherwise, and showed me and Philip around the sheds on return to Llanberis!
Over Easter, we took a trip over to the Bradford-on-Avon area, and found Limpley Stoke station, formerly the junction station for the Camerton branch (GWR). I had heard of a book dealer trading under the name of "The Thunderbolt", but had never associated the name with "The Titfield Thunderbolt". The connection is that the Limpley Stoke-Camerton branch was used as the location for the film, and the proprietor of "The Thunderbolt" is currently restoring the Limpley Stoke station building.
He still has a lot of work to do, but the station is open every Sunday, and there's a interesting selection of titles available. As work progresses, he's hoping to provide teas and light refreshments, so if you're out that way, it's worth a visit.
An Australian ***er, Cheryll Clark, recently visited Hursley for some CICS Level 2 Education, and took the opportunity to bring her father, John Allitt, with her. He is a railway enthusiast and modeller, and while they were over they visited the Watercress Line, the Bluebell Line and the London Transport Museum, as well as taking a trip on Eurostar to Paris.
On Monday 12th February, their last full day in England, they popped into the clubhouse for a drink, and paid a visit to our layout. John was very interested to know that we had a model railway on site, and was impressed by how much had been done to it. I pointed out that most of the work had been done many, many years ago, and that little more than routine maintenance on an "as required" basis was done now. It was a pity the new control panels for Hursley Park were not installed, but at least an impression was given of a layout that is still improving, and John saw fit to record what he saw on video.
I've supplied Cheryll with details of our home page, so that she can keep in touch with Raildate and Rolling Smoke Rings on behalf of her father. He's looking forward to his next visit, when I've promised to take him to Didcot and Pendon...
Does anyone know of a hotel or guest house in the Romsey area that uses an old railway carriage as part of its accommodation? Cheryll and John had heard about it, but couldn't get any definite information. The only place I could think of was the old station at Horsebridge. HPMRS Web Pages
The home page is accessible from the main Club home page (available from the Hursley home page), or directly at:
"Rolling Smoke Rings" is available at:
Please send me any suggestions for improvement. In particular, if you know the whereabouts of any .gif files of British railways (not too big), please point me in the right direction.
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