NEWS 2020
Above: West Derby station on the Liverpool Loop Line of the former Cheshire Lines Committee. The former railway is now a popular cycle trail, with the route running along the southbound platform seen here on the right. The trail – still called the Liverpool Loop Line and now part of NCN62 – runs from Halewood (on the Widnes side of Liverpool) to Southport on the coast, although there is an off-trackbed diversion intermediately at Aintree, where the live Liverpool-Preston line gets in the way! 15th November 2019. (Jeff Vinter)

April 2020. 'Now is the time to say goodbye. (Goodbye.) Now is the time to yield a sigh. (Yield it, yield it.)' This website will be replaced overnight on Sunday 26th/Monday 27th April, so this post will probably be my last here, after 23 years as Webmaster – 20 on this site and 3 on its predecessor. The club's new website is compatible with modern devices such as mobile telephones and tablets, and has about one-tenth the number of pages accessible here, where the page count now lies somewhere between 350 and 400; a huge body of work for any new Webmaster to take on. In future, news will be published in our magazine first, thus prioritising members, but a selection of interesting stories will be cascaded subsequently to 'News | Recent News' on the new site. The current News pages and Photo Galleries will continue to be available in an archive area accessible from the new site, as long as members want them; look out for 'News | RR Wiki' and 'News | Photo Gallery'. A new Webmaster will take over from me later in the year. Given the pandemic, I am not sure about the precise timing of the hand-over, but a sensible compromise would be to get my successor in post soon, with me assisting for a 'settling in' period. Members will be able to read further details in the next magazine. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: The exterior of Down Street station, a 'lost' stop on London's Piccadilly Line; for further details, see the story below. 9th February 2011. (Mike Quinn, used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike Licence 2.0, from an original at

April 2020. Yesterday TV Channel. With such far-reaching restrictions in place as a result of the pandemic, readers may be interested in a series entitled 'The Architecture the Railways Built', starting on 'Yesterday' at 8:00 pm on Tuesday 28th April. Although this may be a repeat from another channel, it provides something of railway historical interest at this time of lockdown. The first episode includes the extraordinary Down Street station on London Underground's Piccadilly Line. Situated between Green Park and Hyde Park Corner stations, which were close enough to drain Down Street of patronage, the station was closed in 1932, but was used during World War 2 by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his cabinet as a bunker; and that is how it survives today – as a little known 1940s time capsule. (Lisa Hebborn)

April 2020. 'Country Walking' Magazine. Subscribers to 'Country Walking' received the latest edition of the magazine on 21st April, and what did they find within its pages but an article entitled 'Got the Railway Rambling Bug?' This multi-page spread features a number of disused railways which can now be walked or cycled, and it gives this club a good plug too. The magazine's circulation is reported as being in excess of 58,000, so perhaps we will garner some new members from this very welcome publicity. (Tim Chant)

April 2020. Nationwide. Despite the good news reported in the story below, most railway path developments are currently on hold due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, including two big projects being managed by Railway Paths Ltd – the restoration of Bennerley Viaduct as an aerial walkway and visitor attraction, and the basic restoration of the GCR's gothic-styled Levenshulme South station prior to a community group developing it as a new community centre. The sensible expectation is that the delay in project completion will be approximately equal to the number of weeks that the building industry is suspended. Of rather greater concern is the question, 'How will the pandemic affect project costs?', because projects like these have fixed budgets. When Covid-19 is behind us, the government will want to get both the nation and the economy working again. No useful purpose will be served by leaving this work in abeyance, so let us hope that ways will be found to complete it. (Jeff Vinter)

April 2020. Whitby to Scarborough, North Yorkshire. Scarborough Council is to receive a combined grant of £583,000 for improvements to the surface of the popular 'Cinder Track' on the 4 mile section form Burniston to Scarborough. The council announced that its planned work will 'vastly improve users’ access and experience, promote environmentally sustainable methods of travel, facilitate active lifestyles and help to support wildlife'. Much of the grant is being channelled through Sustrans, the national cycling charity, by the Department for Transport, following a similar project earlier this year to improve the Whitby-Hawsker section of this old railway. The council has an over-arching 'Restoration Plan' for the whole 21½ miles of the trail, which – like many other rail trails in the UK – has become so popular that its surface has worn out. Sustrans does not have grant-awarding powers because its only source of regular income is what it receives from the regular, voluntary giving of its supporters. (Jane Ellis)

Comment: It is good to see the DfT provide funds for a transport route created exclusively for walkers and cyclists. Can we hope that, in the near future, people might view it as rather more than just the Department for Internal Combustion? (Webmaster)

April 2020. York, North Yorkshire. One unexpected consequence of this winter's excessive rain and recent storms was that the large flows of water have moved around the silt on the River Ouse in York to reveal the tracks of a lost 18" narrow gauge railway. These have been revealed near the city's Millennium Bridge, and formed part of a horse-drawn tramway that was used to convey armaments from the so-called Ordnance Wharf on the river to military barracks in Fulford. Obviously, no one knows how long these relics will remain extant, but click here to read the Yorkshire Post's illustrated article. (Jane Ellis)

March 2020. Daventry to Braunston, Northamptonshire. Anyone hoping that the 1½ mile section of railway-based cycle trail from Daventry towards Braunston would continue along more of the old LNWR trackbed will be disappointed to learn that, although Daventry District Council has set aside £730,000 for an extension to Braunston, it will follow the towpath of the Grand Union Canal and not more of the old railway. A report in a local newspaper explained that, 'This avoids drainage and safety issues that would arise from continuing the path along the route of the former railway line, as well as the need to clear vegetation.' [Yet again, it seems that 'health and safety issues' are being used as the all-purpose bogeyman to prevent the re-use of a wasted asset. Webmaster.] The current trail starts at grid reference SP 576630 off Welton Road, Daventry, and appears (from online OS mapping) to continue to the railway overbridge at SP 561648. A reasonable interpretation of the somewhat vague particulars in the newspaper suggests that the extension will start from the current end point, possibly using a little more of the trackbed, before crossing fields to reach the canal towpath. Tim Coghlan, MD of nearby Braunston Marina, commented: 'Using the old railway line that linked Daventry to Leamington Spa has been under discussion for many years. I would have preferred the old railway line, as it is far more interesting and dramatic, including a fine cutting, and would have helped its future preservation. Too many old railway lines are being destroyed in developments. But this new cross-fields route has the compensation of providing funding for improving the towpath from the Braunston tunnel entrance down to the village, which is in part unuseable in winter'. Mr Coghlan expressed the hope that this project would act as a stimulus for more of the canal towpath to be improved. The scheme is being funded by monies raised from local developers, but is dependent on the agreement of the Canal & River Trust and the granting of planning permission. (N.J. Hill)

March 2020. Christ's Hospital, West Sussex. For many years, walkers and cyclists travelling along the Downs Link from Guildford towards Shoreham-by-Sea have had to leave the old LBSCR trackbed near Itchingfield and take a road-based diversion to reach the trail's continuation beyond Christ's Hospital station. We are pleased to report that, after years of negotiation with landowners, the Downs Link now follows the trackbed into the station's old Guildford platform, which has been cleared completely, and the new route is shown on the Ordnance Survey's latest definitive maps. There will be a public opening event and celebration walk at 12:45 on Friday 24th April, starting from the disused platform at the station. All that is needed now is for the Surrey local authorities to improve their end of the trail, which in places over the last six months has been indistinguishable from a bog. We recognise that Surrey CC's parlous financial situation is the result of past government policies, but hopefully the situation will improve now that the country has a government in office which is not totally obsessed with austerity. For further details of West Sussex's recent good works on this trail, click here. (Paul Hamlin, Graham Lambert and Jeff Vinter)

March 2020. Totton to Fawley, Hampshire. Few railway lines have closed in recent years, but this freight-only branch is one of them – and it seems very unlikely to be converted into a trail. On 5th March, the Hampshire Chronicle published a sizeable article on plans to re-open the now mothballed line to passengers, noting that local councils are giving the proposal strong support, especially given development plans in the area which include building a small new town on the site of the old Fawley power station. Supporters say that this amount of building will cause gridlock on the A326 (the main road from Fawley to Southampton), but opponents along the rail corridor are 'horrified' at the prospect of passenger trains passing their homes, and claim that the railway will make no difference at all to traffic levels on the A326. For good measure, they claim that the closing of level crossings to let trains pass will make the local traffic situation even worse. (Presumably, these people are unaware of the phenomenal success of other rail re-openings, such as Edinburgh to Tweedbank.) The Fawley branch has been described as the only realistic re-opening proposal in the county. All the old stations would be re-opened, with the former Hardley Halt re-developed as Hythe & Fawley Parkway, and a new station built to serve Hythe Town. (Chris Cook and Jeff Vinter)

March 2020. Ryecroft (nr. Walsall) to Lichfield via Brownhills, West Midlands/Staffordshire. Further to our report in May 2019, the West Midlands' Express & Star reported recently that the existing trail from Lichfield Line Junction to near Pelsall has been extended northwards to an overbridge on the Wyrley & Essington Canal, where a flight of new steps takes walkers up to the canal towpath. Local trail development group Back the Track undertook the trackbed clearance, which brings the overall distance up to just under 5 miles. The start and end points are now grid references SP 016998, near Lichfield Line Junction, and SK 053064, the intersection with the canal. south of Pelsall. The long term objective is to reach Lichfield. Curiously, the newspaper's report did not refer to the trail as the McClean Way, which is its intended name. Maybe when it reaches Lichfiled … ? (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

March 2020. Nr. Harrow & Wealdstone station to Belmont, Greater London. Given the understandable scarcity of railway paths in London, our correspondent felt that this one deserved a mention. Now known as the Belmont Trail, it is the result of a scheme launched by the London Wildlife Trust to re-open part of the old Stanmore branch line as a railway path. Recently, the route has been 'refreshed' and waymarked to make it more appealing to both walkers and cyclists. At 1¼ miles, it is not particularly demanding, but would make a pleasant out-and-back Sunday afternoon stroll during the colder months. The trail can be picked up at grid reference TQ 167909, which is at the south-east corner of Stanmore Golf Club and just west of Wemborough Road, the latter providing access for walkers and cyclists. Heading south, the car park which occupies the trackbed at TQ 165905 is the site of the sole intermediate station, Belmont; the low height of the nearby bridge reveals that no small amount of trackbed infilling has gone on here. The following section is rather a squeeze past back gardens which have encroached on to the trackbed, but things widen out as the trail approaches Wealdstone Cemetery. Along this section, a few railway relics remain, including a gradient post and a ¾ milepost. After the cemetery, the trail rises on a tall embankment as it approaches Harrow & Wealdstone station, but stops short at Forward Drive / Christchurch Avenue (TQ 161893), where steps take one down to street level. Given time and the inclination, a section of the former branch platform can be found at the nearby main line station. (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

March 2020. Nationwide. On BBC Radio 4's 'Farming Today' programme on Thursday 5th March, a representative of the Open Spaces Society was interviewed about that organisation's response to proposals by the Home Office, which would make trespass a criminal as opposed to civil offence (click here for further details). While the proposals are designed to protect communities from the nuisance caused by so-called 'travellers', who each summer cause misery with their encampments, the OSS fears that the legislation may be drafted in such as way as to make temporary and unintended forms of trespass, such as diverting from a footpath where it is flooded, a criminal offence. At this stage, the Home Office is 'consulting' on its proposals. (Jeff Vinter)

March 2020. Bradford to Keighley, West Yorkshire. An article appeared in the Bradford Telegraph & Argus on 3rd March, reporting that Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport, has rejected the plan to close and partially infill Queensbury Tunnel. He thinks that other possible uses are as a cycle track, a tramway, or part of a light railway system. As regular readers of these pages probably know, restoration of the tunnel is part of the 'North of England Connecting Communities Initiative'. It is good to see Mr Shapps supporting the local community's view and also resisting the negativity of the DfT. (Graham Daurge)

February 2020. The Lost Railways of Devon and Cornwall. There is an interesting article at the link here, which provides an overview of almost every lost railway line in Devon and Cornwall. Of particular interest is news that the government will establish a £500m fund to help finance feasibility studies into long-closed railways that could be restored. Devon County Council intends to bid for money to support its Bere Alston to Tavistock re-opening proposal, which has been simmering on the back burner for years, as our reports in previous years attest. However, the first two re-opening proposals to benefit from the fund will be in the north: the Ashington-Blyth-Tyne line in Northumberland, and the Fleetwood-Poulton-le-Fylde line in Lancashire. (Jeff Vinter)

Two scenes from the Downs Link, formerly the cross-country line from Guildford to Shoreham-by-Sea via Christ's Hospital.

Left: The new surface which West Sussex County Council has been installing on its section of the trail, which extends from Shoreham to Baynards, on the boundary with Surrey. The prospect seen here, from Baystone Bridge (near Christ's Hospital) towards Guildford, has probably not been so clear since the rails were lifted in 1965. Note the surface water in the middle distance, which reflects the sodden autumn and winter of 2019-20. February 2020. (Tim Grose)

Below: Apart from the new surface – a vast improvement on what went before – the other significant feature in this photograph is the pair of metal bridge parapets. These stand atop no ordinary railway bridge, but a girder bridge mounted on top of an arched brick bridge. This unusual arrangement, which carried the line over the River Arun, came about because the 19th century Railway Inspector found the gradient in Rudgwick station too steep, and ordered the railway company to reduce it. The only way to do that was to work backwards and raise up the approach embankment, which (unfortunately for the railway's costs) included the then too low original brick-built river bridge. February 2020. (Tim Grose)

February 2020. Peasmarsh, nr. Guildford, to Shoreham-by-Sea (Surrey/West Sussex). Further to our report in December, West Sussex County Council is now well into its programme of improving the Downs Link long distance trail, which re-uses the former railway lines from Guildford to Christ's Hospital, and from Christ's Hospital to Shoreham. At the date of our correspondent's visit, not everything was open officially, but the 'Link' (at least in places) has not looked so good for years, if ever. However, elsewhere, our correspondent described the trail as a 'swamp', and, north of the county boundary at Baynards, it was awful: here, the old railway was so wet right through to Cranleigh that he 'gave up trying to dodge the water and ploughed straight through'. If local authorities want trails like this to justify their existence, they need to be easily useable, pleasant experiences with an all-weather surface. Clearly, West Sussex is doing something constructive south of Baynards, but Surrey County Council and Waverley Borough Council need chasing to 'raise their game' at the north end of the route. (Tim Grose)

January 2020. Newquay to Perranporth, Cornwall. A plan for a new cycle trail from Newquay to Perranporth, largely using the trackbed of the former Newquay-Chacewater railway line, has been developed by Cornwall Council. This was voted on at a meeting at County Hall on 21st January. (We do not yet know the result, but have asked Cornwall Council to inform us.) A separate traffic-free route has been designed from St. Agnes to Truro, although the council's mapping does not make it clear whether or not this will use more of the old branch line. A summary of the council's plans can be viewed by clicking the link here; collectively, the four routes shown at this link will be known as the 'Saints Trails'. The majority of the funding will come from Highways England, with Cornwall Council making a local contribution. The Newquay-Perranporth route also has a Facebook supporters' group, which can be found here. (Jeff Vinter)

January 2020. Cheddar to Shepton Mallet, Somerset. The latest newsletter from the Strawberry Line Society reports that the society's branches and associates 'have had considerable success in creating new sections of cycleway in and around Wells and Shepton Mallet'. Unfortunately, the newsletter provides no further details. We hope that these new sections of cycleway are based on the old railway! (Jeff Vinter)

January 2020. Shillingstone, Dorset. Many readers will recognise Shillingstone as the sole-surviving station built by the Dorset Central Railway, which now provides interest (and a rather nice café) on the North Dorset Trailway. North of the station en route to Sturminster Newton, the trackbed is owned by Bere Marsh Farm, so a diversion takes the trail slightly to the east of the old line. Recently, this farm has come on to the market for the first time since before the railway closed, and the Shillingstone Station Project has made two substantial offers for the trackbed – but both have been rejected because the present owner wants to sell the farm as a single lot. Now the group is aiming to raise £250,000 in loans in order to buy the farm, detach the trackbed, and then re-sell it. If any reader is interested in helping, contact Jon Jenkins at Shillingstone Station, Shillingstone, Blandford Forum, Dorset, DT11 0SA. (Tim Chant)

Above: The former GWR engine shed at Moretonhampstead in Devon was built by the Moretonhampstead & South Devon Railway in the early 1860s. Note how the walls fan out from the ground upwards: this is not a trick of the camera, so was the shed really built like this, or is the splay a sign of structural degeneration? The new Wray Valley Trail runs to the right of the shed, behind the three silver birch trees which can be seen in the upper right, above the green fuel tank. 15th January 2020. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: Two views of the former GWR goods shed at Moretonhampstead. When these photographs were taken, the whole station site was still being used by B. Thompson & Sons (Transport) Ltd, but the company occupies a valuable piece of land in the town, and it is likely that they will walk away richer after selling it and moving to a new location. In the upper picture, the engine shed can be seen in the distance, in the upper left. In the lower picture, Thompson's green livery recalls Southern Railway green – which seems a bit of an affront to an ex-GWR establishment! 15th January 2020. (Jeff Vinter)
January 2020. Moretonhampstead, Devon. The former GWR station site at Moretonhampstead is due to be cleared. A notice at the site entrance states that a developer has applied for permission to level the site and erect 35 new homes, although a local resident stated that the application has been granted and the scheme now provides for 39 new homes. This development will mean the loss of the town's historic broad gauge engine shed and goods shed, but the developer has promised to provide direct access from Station Road to the newly-opened Wray Valley Trail, which re-uses much of the old trackbed south to Bovey Tracey. Currently, visitors wishing to use the trail cannot access it from Station Road, but have to walk uphill to the town square and turn left into Pound Street, then left again into Pudding Lane. The trail can finally be accessed at grid reference SX 753856. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: The stone cutting at Lustleigh, looking south towards the former village station. Signs warn trail users to pass through here without stopping, and the size of the boulder on the trackbed leaves no doubt as to why this advice should be followed. The cutting dates from the early 1860s, which means that all this was excavated by picks, shovels and manual labour. 15th January 2020. (Jeff Vinter)

January 2020. Moretonhampstead to Bovey Tracey, Devon. Further to the above report, a visit on 15th January revealed that the new Wray Valley Trail is to become part of NCN28. Signs (albeit with a rather temporary appearance) have been erected, and a planning application has been made to install an information board at the start point in Pudding Lane, Moretonhampstead. Substantial bronze signs point the way from the town centre. 60 years elapsed between the railway closing and the trail opening, so one should not be surprised that the trail does not follow every yard of the railway's former route. However, Dartmoor National Park Authority has made a good job of linking together those extant sections where landowners said 'Yes', and the diversions are generally within sight of the old railway. An imposing feature is a sheer-sided rock cutting just a few yards north of intermediate Lustleigh, where the station survives in private ownership. (Jeff Vinter)

January 2020. Southern Area members have been asking our correspondent about the fate of the plaque commemorating the Surrey Iron Railway on the wall of the former Young's brewery in Wandsworth. This extract from an article in the August/September edition of 'London Drinker' magazine (published by Camra) provides the answer: 'The new Sambrook’s Brewery in Wandsworth will include a tap room that will be four times the size of the current tap in Battersea and be open seven days a week. There will also be a shop and visitors’ centre cum museum to showcase the unique historical character of this iconic brewing site. The old Young’s coppers will be retained as part of this experience, along with surviving iron and brickwork from the Surrey Iron Railway that was the first public railway in the world, sanctioned by Parliament in 1803. The new Sambrook’s tap and shop should be open before Christmas this year [2019], with the brewery becoming fully operational early in 2020.' We do not know if the tap and shop have opened yet, but Sambrook's brewing on Young's old site is great news, and keeping the history of the Iron Railway is a very welcome development. (Keith Lawrie)

January 2020. Cutsyke to Methley Junction, Castleford, West Yorkshire. On the website for this route (the new Castleford Greenway) is news that a planning application has been made to connect this trail to the existing Methley-Stanley trail, which forms part of NCN67. The intention is to use as much as possible of the trackbed which currently separates the two sections, and install a metalled surface in order to make the whole thing an all-weather route. The completed trail from Cutsyke to Stanley will be about 5 miles long. (Keith Holliday)

January 2020. Bennerley Viaduct, Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire. Further to our report in December, Railway Paths Ltd has just signed a 'significant' contract with contractors, who will soon start the main repairs of this iconic Grade II*-listed viaduct which straddles the Erewash Valley near Ilkeston. The original intention had been to have the viaduct open by about April, but the scoping works by the companies tendering for the contract found that additional repairs were required, which has increased the overall cost and will, inevitably, delay completion. (Jeff Vinter)

January 2020. Totton to Fawley, Hampshire. The former Southern Railway's branch line to Fawley, on the edge of the New Forest, lost its oil traffic about three years ago, but the local Three Rivers Community Rail Partnership is keen for it to be restored and re-opened to passengers. Last month, our correspondent was travelling by bus in the area and crossed the branch on an overbridge at Hythe. He looked down on the line and was surprised to see a rail-mounted JCB, flailing the bushes either side of the running line. Obviously, maintenance work continues, even though the line is mothballed. While it may never see use as a rail trail, re-opening to passengers would be a good result – especially given the amount of development that has taken place in this area during the last 50 years. (Richard Lewis)