Recent News


Oct 2020. Alnwick, Northumberland

Colin Davidson, an Alnwick resident since 1969, is behind a project to create a trail on the old railway from the Greensfield area of the town (roughly where new development ceases) to Mossy Ford on the B6341, the Alnwick-Rothbury road. The total length on the trackbed would be just over two miles, and the route would offer links with several existing footpaths, thus facilitating a number of new circular walks. However, two overline bridges on this section of trackbed are threatened with infilling by the Historic Railways Estate (HRE). The HRE is willing to hand over the bridges to the local authority, but that body might not be keen to take them on because of tighter council budgets. Alnwick is still being expanded with new housing, so a Section 106 grant from the developers (now called a ‘Community Infrastructure Levy’ or CIL) might help with the funding. As before, these ‘grants’ (more accurately called levies) are to make developers contribute to works which will improve the local environment / facilities, thus offsetting the negative aspects of the development. Only two landowners are involved in this section, the Duke of Northumberland (who is sympathetic – his ancestors were keen on railways) and an organisation called the ‘Freemen of Alnwick’. (Jeff Vinter, Colin Davidson)

Oct 2020 – Catesby, Northamptonshire

According to a report in Rail magazine, the 1.7 mile-long Catesby Tunnel on the ex-Great Central route is to be opened to cyclists on Sundays, after the completion of the testing facility. It is expected the tunnel could be opened up in this way by next spring. (David White)

October 2020 – Sandsend, North Yorkshire

Camping coaches are back at Sandsend Station. On 21st October, a coach and a wagon were craned into position at the old station. A YouTube video shows them on lorries reversing a mile down the steep bank from Lythe to the old railway station at Sandsend before being lifted into place on the old platform. The Whitby Gazette reports that two camping coaches are once again to be installed at Sandsend, the first station going northwards from Whitby West Cliff on the Whitby, Redcar &Middlesbrough Union Railway which closed in 1958. Planning permission has been granted to the Mulgrave Estate, which owns the station house and the old line in this area. The trackbed is walkable to the southern portal of Sandsend Tunnel, as part of the Cleveland Way long-distance path. One coach, described as a Pullman-style former passenger coach, will have two bedrooms and a bathroom, while the other is to be used for storage of bikes, surfboards, luggage and garden furniture. These are to be sited on track fixed to sleepers which apparently will be actually on the end of the existing platform. The station also retains a cunningly concealed wartime pillbox which defended Sandsend Viaduct. The Yorkshire group was allowed access to this on their Yorkshire Coast walking week some years ago. (Jane Ellis)

Oct 2020 – Droxford, Hampshire

The fabulously restored Droxford Station on the Meon Valley line is advertised for sale in the Hampshire Chronicle for £1.6 million. The owner who is selling Droxford hasn't been there that long, and did much to restore the railway feel of the place, including building a replica signal box (described in the Chronicle as ‘a tasteful one-bedroom annexe which has open plan living space with kitchenette and fireplace, a double bedroom and private bathroom’). Your average signal box, then. Droxford Station was designed by T.P.Figgis, also known for his work on the Northern Line in South London, and had its moment of fame when Prime Minister Winston Churchill used it as his base during preparations for the Normandy D-Day landings. Droxford Station is, in fact, located in the village of Soberton. (Gifford Cox)

Oct 2020 – Wendover – Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire

This perhaps does not meet the criteria for Vinter’s Gazetteer, but here is a trail with a difference: inspired by HS2 and running alongside a live railway. Greenways and Cycleroutes (G&C) have reported on a proposal to create the Misbourne Greenway, a path for walkers and cyclists alongside the Chiltern Line between Wendover and Great Missenden. Born of the struggle to prevent the new high-speed line from isolating communities, as well as the desire to encourage outdoor exercise, this project is being promoted by G&C, Sustrans and Buckinghamshire County Council. The standard of the path will be similar to that of the nearby Waddesdon Greenway, use spare railway land from Dunsmore Lane to Mapridge Green Lane, and – subject to agreement – incorporate the Grove Farm section works into those of HS2. Unlike news elsewhere in this issue, this item shows different railway bodies working well together to create a traffic-free path and cycleway. (Jeff Vinter)

Oct 2020 – Lowdham, Nottinghamshire.

Lowdham Signal Box, declared redundant by Network Rail, has been saved by Lowdham Railway Heritage (LRH), a charity set up to re-locate and restore the Victorian structure. It was craned from its working position by the level crossing to the old cattle dock, on the other side of the Grade II listed railway station building. Lowdham Station remains open on the line between Nottingham and Newark-on-Trent. The box dates from 1896 and LRH hope to open it as a working museum by the spring of 2022. LRH member David Moore said: ‘What you’ll be able to do is come in and pull the levers and ring the bells so it will look and feel like it might have done [inside] a railway signal box in the 1950s.’ (West Bridgford Wire)

Nov 2020. Keswick – Threlkeld, Cumbria

The Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) has announced that the Keswick – Threlkeld path, which uses a section of the trackbed of the ex-Cockermouth, Keswick & Penrith Railway, is to re-open to the public on Saturday, 5th December, on the fifth anniversary of Storm Desmond, which washed away part of the path, including two bridges over the River Greta. The work done included the repair and rebuilding of 3 miles of existing trail, the replacement of the two missing bridges, and repairs to the abutment of a third. A couple of hundred yards of new trail have also been constructed to replace the section which was destroyed in the storm. Cath Johnson, Area Ranger with the LDNPA, said: ‘We have also installed new drainage, repaired bridge structures and revetment walls and strengthened key sections of river bank to protect the trail and surrounding land from future flood(ing).’ (Richard Bain)

Sep 2020 – Devon and Cornwall

The MP for North Cornwall, Scott Mann, is looking into a project which could link the Camel Trial (Bodmin to Padstow, via Wadebridge) with the Granite Way (Lydford to Okehampton), and on to the Tarka Trail in North Devon (which can be picked up in Okehampton). The obvious means by which to link the Camel Trail and the Granite Way would be to finish developing the Ruby Trail between Meldon Junction and Halwill Junction (already about three-quarters complete) and then go down the North Cornwall line through Delabole. Under two miles of that are open so far – just a short section starting at Halwill Junction. Mr Mann says such a trail could create jobs in places like Wadebridge, St Kew, Delabole and Launceston, yet it would be a massive undertaking. The missing link is about 40 miles long! (Stephen Hills)

Sep 2020 – Christ’s Hospital, West Sussex

A low-key photo shoot was held in September to mark the opening of the ‘missing mile’ of the Downs Link in Christ’s Hospital, which runs between Mill Lane and Christ’s Hospital Station. The works included repairing two bridges, vegetation clearance, surfacing, drainage and platform repairs. A traffic-free route is now open right through to the mainline station. (Forgotten Relics)

Sep 2020 – Camden – Kings Cross, London

An international competition has been announced to convert a 0.7 mile stretch of abandoned railway into a £35 million raised linear park connecting Camden Town with King’s Cross. The Camden Highline project, planned to open in phases from 2024, will create a new London park and linear walking featuring seating areas, cafés and spaces for charitable activities. According to the brief: ‘The Camden Highline will occupy 1.1km of disused railway viaduct running from Camden Town to King’s Cross and the vacant platforms at Camden Road Station, with a number of access points along its route to connect it to road level.’ The Camden Highline project will regenerate a stretch of disused track, formerly part of the North London Railway, between Kentish Town Road in Camden Town and Camley Street in King’s Cross, bypassing busy roads using eight existing bridges. (Forgotten Relics)

Sep 2020 – West Dean – Cocking Hill, West Sussex

A planning application by the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) has been made for a 3½ mile extension to Centurion Way from West Dean to Cocking Hill. The proposed works to create a shared path for pedestrians and cyclists include replacement bridge parapets, an earth ramp on Drovers Estate, a bridge deck at Littlewood Farm, a new ramp to Cocking Cutting, hard surfacing and associated drainage, earthworks, new hedgerows and a woodland copse. The former railway line includes three tunnels on this section, West Dean, Singleton and Cocking. Singleton and Cocking Tunnels are designated as a Special Area for Conservation (SAC) and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), while West Dean Tunnel is designated as a Local Wildlife Site. The path will make detours around all three tunnels, and that at West Dean will necessitate a half-mile diversion alongside the A286 to link the two sections of the Centurion Way, which sounds less than ideal. The goods shed at Singleton has been Grade II Listed for some time, but since the planning application, other buildings have been given the same status: the ‘ruinous but imposing water tower’ (to quote the SDNPA), the booking hall and the unusually large toilet block ‘constructed for the convenience of race-goers during Goodwood meetings.’  The SDNPA seems surprisingly keen to retain as many features of the old station as possible, and – quite separate from this application – has recently given consent for the refurbishment of the station house. (Tim Chant)

Sep 2020 – Wye Valley Cycleway, Tidenham, Gloucestershire.

The project to take the Wye Valley Cycleway through Tidenham Tunnel is gathering pace after months of uncertainty (concerning bats!) which ended when planning permission was finally granted. Workcamp No 2 was established with wigwam accommodation, track-lifting commenced both north and south of the tunnel, as did clearance work along the line. The tunnel works had to be complete by the end of September (those bats again), including blacktop, lights control box and 132 light fittings. A trench for the cables was excavated in the tunnel and then the various sections were laid. Each of the eight cables required 17 people to carry it into the tunnel and the distance increased every time as the team worked their way towards the far end. Other work included making alcoves for bat shelters and a shield under the air vent to catch any falling stones. David Judd, one of the project volunteers, writes: ‘It was truly magical when the lights were switched on and the tunnel revealed in all its splendour.’

It is both fascinating and heart-warming to see what goes into the reopening of a disused railway line for leisure use. Project Leader John Grimshaw, of Greenways and Cycleroutes, stresses the importance of volunteer input, which both saves on cost and gives local people a sense of ownership – which should see them continue to look after the line after its completion. Andrew Combes, one of the volunteers, commented on the work team: ‘It’s a family of lunatics, but a family, nonetheless!’ It is also an example of how walkers, cyclists and bats can be accommodated in the same space: a way forward in other locations too? The short clip about the recent workcamp is well worth watching: https://youtu.be/u7lB-79LG6E (Wye Valley Cycleway; Forgotten Relics)

Sep 2020 – Royds Park (nr. Liversedge) – Heckmondwike (station site), West Yorkshire.

Between grid references SE 201247–SE 217237, a path exists along a 1½-mile section of the former Leeds (New Line) and utilises the superb Heckmondwike Cutting, which is no ordinary cutting thanks to the five stone overbridges and short tunnel which take it through the town.  Most of the path is on the trackbed and, at the Heckmondwike end, one can continue south-east for another half mile along what was clearly intended as a potential extension to Walkley Lane (unofficial) and then a footpath (SE 220229–SE 221227) to Heckmondwike Junction.  Unfortunately, a plan to infill the cutting beyond the station site for up to 74 new houses was given the go-ahead in 2019, despite opposition from scores of local residents. (P. Earnshaw; J. Vinter)

Sep 2020 – Dudley, West Midlands.

An engineering innovation and test centre to develop the next generation of Very Light Rail coaches is to be built on the site of Dudley Station and, according to the Construction Enquirer, there will also be a 1½ mile test track ‘along a disused railway line’.  The article does not specify which line this might be, but as the ex-LNWR line to Dudley Port is earmarked for the Midland Metro extension, and the ex-GWR line north towards Tipton is built over, that leaves the ex-GWR line south towards Netherton. This raises the intriguing possibility of the re-use of Dudley Tunnel. At Netherton station site, a building of possible railway provenance remains intact and bricked up on the road above the cutting. (Forgotten Relics)

Sep 2020 – Gedling, Nottinghamshire.

The former railway mineral line from Netherfield to Gedling Colliery (now Gedling Country Park) has been designated as a potential cycle and walking route in the local council’s development plan. Tracing further back, the line was part of the Great Northern Railway extension from Derby which takes a circular route around the north of Nottingham. Initial work has been carried out to see if the two-mile route is feasible. The findings from the study suggest that there are many benefits for residents if the route was to be created. The route could improve residents’ health and help improve connectivity within the borough and the city, whilst reducing car traffic. The greenway would connect six existing parks and open spaces along the route to help create a green network. However, the plan would require support from Nottinghamshire County Council, Network Rail and Nottingham City Council. There is also mention of utilising it as a possible tram route. The Colliery closed in 1991.  Reading responses to the reports on local media, the line has been fully fenced off for at least five years and is now significantly overgrown.  There also seems scepticism that the route is too peripheral and doesn't cover sufficiently populated areas for it to be considered viable, and therefore reach construction stage. (Alan Green)

Aug 2020 – Weymouth, Dorset

Dorset Council have announced plans to remove the famous Weymouth Harbour branch line, starting in October 2020. Opened to goods traffic on 16/10/1865 and to passengers on 4/8/1889, the line was last used in September 1987 and closed 2/5/99 although track remains in situ along Commercial Road and Custom House Quay. Almost the whole length of this line can be walked although it is in the roadway which can be difficult with traffic. Anyone interested should visit before October to view the remains before they are removed. The Council has said it is looking at preserving ‘some historic elements’ of the line, which may possibly involve leaving a section of track in situ. (Tim Chant)

Aug 2020 – Winchester, Hampshire

Recently our correspondent just managed to find a space in Garnier Road Car Park next to the old GWR trackbed just south of Winchester. This is because last September a new refreshments establishment, called The Handlebar Café, was built on the trackbed – increasing footfall considerably, but not necessarily onto the old line. (Richard Lewis)

Aug 2020 – Appleby – Warcop, Cumbria

At long last, the new route for the A66 in this area has been finalised and a final round of consultations is due to start. The route of the road will avoid the trackbed of the old railway, which the DfT must regard as some kind of asset, despite the ‘final solution’ inclinations of the Historic Railways Estate. Sustrans has developed a great scheme for a combined Appleby - Warcop cycle trail and preserved railway, which all parties are enthusiastic about, so we could be looking at a super new facility for the area, plus the heritage line, the Eden Valley Railway. (James Winstanley)

Aug 2020 – Bennerley Viaduct, Notts/Derbyshire

Broxtowe Council has now transferred its promised £100,000 grant to the Bennerley Viaduct project, and the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct remain very active with other funding bids. Restoration work has resumed following the lockdown period, and a recent trial-dig to assess the stability of the ground where the new access ramp will be built found no problems. RPL is putting the ramp works out to tender and has finished the design for the decking, which will be the next job to go to tender. (James Winstanley)

Aug 2020 – Tidenham, Gloucestershire

Railway Paths Ltd (RPL) have signed an agreement which will enable Defra to release a £63K grant to John Grimshaw’s ‘Greenways and Cycle Routes’ organisation to deal with the route of the trail near Tidenham where, some years ago, land slipped down the valley side and still blocks the old railway. John has developed a speciality for making previously intractable ex-railway routes happen, and currently all the signs for a new trail from Tintern to Chepstow are very positive. He has certainly got beyond historic wrangles over walkers and cyclists using Tidenham Tunnel. (James Winstanley)

Jul 2020 – Shepton Mallet, Somerset

The ‘Strawberry Line’ is a traffic-free route between Yatton and Cheddar in Somerset that utilises as much of the ex-GWR trackbed as possible. Its eventual aim is to link Shepton Mallet and Clevedon-on-sea, and a short section in the first of those two towns is currently a prime candidate for conversion, where plans to link new estates in the north of the town with the main shopping area are well advanced. The route is on Council-owned land, the Council is supportive of the project, and it would avoid a dangerous road crossing by using a former railway bridge…yet Historical Railway Estate of Highways England – who are responsible for the bridge - are blocking the proposal. As Mike Fletcher, writing in West Country Bylines, puts it: ‘Instead of seeing the bridges, embankments and cuttings left when railways closed as potential assets, these structures – often magnificent works of Victorian engineering – are simply seen as a burden.’ HRE claims it might be costly to ensure the bridge is safe to pass under, even though it is clearly safe enough for hundreds of cars and lorries to cross over it daily. The real reason is that HRE wants shot of responsibility for the bridge. If the government is serious about promoting cycling and walking, it could start by getting its quangos in order. (RR)

Jul 2020 – Fawley, Hampshire

Last month a ‘fact-finding’ passenger train traversed the Fawley branch – also known as the Waterside line - carrying, among others, Network Rail Chairman, Sir Peter Hendy, and Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, as plans for a large new residential development at Fawley have revived hopes of restoring the rail link. The line could also give a boost to the still operational, but threatened, Hythe – Southampton ferry. South Western Railways are keen to reopen the 6-mile line to passengers and say the necessary upgrading work could be completed in four years at a cost of around £45 million. The line does see occasional freight workings to Marchwood Military Port, while the last train to Fawley oil refinery used the line in 2017. In June, Hampshire County Council won government funding to develop the business case for the reopening scheme. (BBC News; Alan Johnston; Gas Hill)

Jul 2020 – Upton & North Elmsall, West Yorkshire

A local group want to reinstate Upton and North Elmsall Station near Wakefield, which was once a stop on the Hull and Barnsley Railway and closed in 1959. The line, which was built to transport coal to Hull's docks, ran through what is now Upton Country Park, and the group plan to lay a single track across the original route. They intend to apply for a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant to bring the project to fruition. A replica of the station would be built on the site of the demolished railway buildings, with part of it used as an information centre and café. There would also be displays about Upton Colliery, which was served by the line. The two-and-a-half-mile railway would continue past the old colliery site and through Barnsdale Tunnel, which remains in good condition despite having been disused since 1959. It would terminate just before the A1 at Barnsdale Bar. Members also plan to lay a footpath and cycleway alongside the rails. (Forgotten Relics)

Jul 2020 – Keswick, Cumbria

Covid notwithstanding, the £8 million project to rebuild the Keswick – Threlkeld railway path in Cumbria continues apace, and remains on target for completion by the end of the year. Contractors have been carrying out work to stabilise river banks washed away by Storm Desmond in 2015. Two bowstring rail-over-river bridges designed by Sir Thomas Bouch have also been reinstated and there are some excellent videos of this work on YouTube. Low Pearson’s and Brundholme Bridges have been replaced, while an abutment of a third – Rawsome’s – has been repaired. Such was the damage of the river banks at the Brundholme site that the new bridge is 20 metres longer than the old one. The greatest achievement however is the opening-up of the two short tunnels on the route: Big or Bobbin Tunnel, a 92-yard structure that today burrows under the A 66, was infilled when the railway closed in 1972. A few thousand tons of material have been removed and it will soon form a welcome addition to the revamped cycleway and path; Wescoe Tunnel was completely blocked by mud and debris from Storm Desmond and has now been cleared (see picture on back cover of magazine No. 167). (Jeff Vinter; Bob Prigg; Forgotten Relics)

Jul 2020 – Athlone, Republic of Ireland

A 25-mile rail trail has been created between Athlone and Mullingar in the Republic of Ireland. A route map with access points may be found on the Westmeath County Council website. The trail, which was opened in October 2015, uses a converted stretch of the Midlands Great Western Railway and is intended eventually to form part of the proposed Galway to Dublin Cycleway. The line closed as recently as 1987 and a single track remains in situ alongside at least part of the trail. A new bridge is planned to cross the River Shannon in Athlone, which would bring the trail into the centre of the town. (Phillip Earnshaw)

Jun 2020 – St. Margaret’s Loop, East Grinstead, East Sussex

East Grinstead Town Council is to acquire the trackbed of this abandoned railway from Railway Paths Ltd in order to implement its plan to develop a walkway and cycle trail over the route. It is too early to say when this will happen, especially in the current circumstances, but Sussex-based members might like to keep an eye on the local press and alert us when an announcement is made. The new trail will provide a feeder route to the Worth Way, just west of East Grinstead Station. St. Margaret’s Loop is just over half a mile long and once provided a London-facing connection between the two railway lines that crossed at East Grinstead, i.e. Three Bridges-East Grinstead-Tunbridge Wells and London-East Grinstead-Lewes-Brighton. (James Winstanley)

Jun 2020 – Upper Wensleydale, North Yorkshire

The Upper Wensleydale Railway project is a plan to reopen the section of line from Garsdale on the West Coast Mainline, to the market town of Hawes. It is hoped that a reinstated junction with the existing Leeds – Settle – Carlisle railway line at Garsdale will allow ‘through’ trains to run from Hawes via Garsdale Junction to Settle, then onwards through Hellifield and Clitheroe into Lancashire for Preston and Greater Manchester. Investigations and consultation with local landowners, Local Authorities and other key stakeholders have begun and were boosted by the line’s surprise inclusion in a list of fifty projects for government consideration in the second round of its Restoring Railways Fund programme. The Wensleydale Railway heritage line currently operates at the other end of the dale, from Leeming Bar to Redmire, with a physical though rarely used connection to the ECML at Northallerton, and long-term pretensions to reach Hawes and Gardale to the west. (Peter Billington)

Jun 2020 – Preston, Lancashire

Further to the report in RR 166 on the Longridge path extension to Deepdale, there is also a private promoter plan, reported optimistically for over a decade now, for a new tram on the old formation from the city via the Deepdale area to a Park & Ride in the area of the former Courtaulds works, adjacent to the M6 motorway. This project is claimed to be able to share the trackbed with pedestrian and cycle use, and most recently a start date for construction of March 2018 was predicted, but raising of the necessary finance and any work on the site keeps slipping. (Gas Hill)

May 2020 – Bennerley Viaduct, Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire

The restoration of Bennerley Viaduct on the Notts/Derbs border was suspended on 24th March, just as the coronavirus lockdown was introduced.  However, Bill Tomson, who oversees this project on behalf of the charity Railway Paths Ltd., has informed the club that the contractors re-started their work on Monday 18th May.  The intention is to develop the viaduct as an aerial walkway across the Erewash Valley, linking the canal towpaths on either side to create new walking opportunities in the area. (Bill Tomson)

May 2020 – Newquay to Perranporth, Cornwall

The former Newquay to Chacewater railway between Newquay and Perranporth is due for a new lease of life as a rail trail thanks to a Cornwall Council project to create four new walking and cycling routes under the name ‘The Saints Trails’.   Outline details and a high quality map can be found at the first link below. Surprisingly, most of the funding will come from Highways England. (Peter Murnaghan)  Update: According to Cornwall Council’s website (see second link below), work on the Newquay Perrranporth trail started in January 2020 in the Goonhavern area.   The route was due to be completed by March 2021, but obviously this date will be missed by several months due to the pandemic.  (Jeff Vinter)

  1. Newquay-Perranporth Map: www.cornwall.gov.uk/media/39572748/10-intro-route.pdf
  2. Saints Trails Latest News: www.cornwall.gov.uk/transport-and-streets/sustainable-transport/active-travel-walking-and-cycling/saints-trails/latest-news/

May 2020 – Weymouth to Portland, Dorset

Work continues in Rodwell, Weymouth, at the Buxton Road overbridge (grid reference SY 675779) on eponymous The Rodwell Trail, which re-uses the northern part of the former joint LSWR and GWR branch line from Melcombe Regis to Easton.  The work, which should be finished in June, is an ‘inspection on steroids’, in which any faults are being remedied by the local council’s contractors.  (Tim Chant)

May 2020 – Moretonhampstead, Devon

Further to our report in January this year, it transpires that the local resident who informed our walk leader that the town’s old station was to be re-developed, with the historic railway remains being lost … was right about the development but wrong about the rest.  Historic England reports that the goods shed (to be converted for residential use) and platform (which may be ‘lost’ or buried) both fall within the developer’s plans, but the engine shed is outside the development area and will survive because it is listed. HE also tells us that the line of the platform will be retained in the development, while back in January we reported that the developer was sympathetic to creating access to the new Wray Valley Way directly from the station area; currently, walkers and cyclists wishing to follow this railway path south to Lustleigh and Bovey Tracey must take a long diversion via the town centre.  (Brian George and Jeff Vinter)

May 2020 – Merthyr Tydfil, Mid Glamorgan

An online survey regarding Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Councils' joint proposals to reopen Merthyr (aka Abernant) Tunnel to walkers and cyclists has received almost 800 responses. The tunnel would form part of a 4-mile traffic free route linking Merthyr and Aberdare. Merthyr councillor Geraint Thomas said 'The consensus appears to be very much in favour of reopening, but there are many factors to take into account, including initial and ongoing costs. As soon as we have a clearer idea of workable plans, we'll be reporting back.' (Chris Parker)

Apr 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)

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 https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22849243

Apr 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)

Apr 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)

Apr 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)

Apr 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)

April 2020. Birmingham, West Midlands

Archaeologists working at the site of the proposed HS2 Curzon Street Station in Birmingham have unearthed what is thought to be the world’s oldest roundhouse. Curzon Street was once the northern terminus of the London and Birmingham Railway, which opened throughout in 1838. According to Industrial Archaeology, the roundhouse was built 'to a design by Robert Stephenson, (and) opened on 12 November 1837, which predates the previous oldest example, in Derby, by almost two years.' The main station building has long stood forlornly in the middle of waste ground, but is now to become part of the new HS2 station on the site. The bulletin (erroneously) added that 'this Grade 1 listed building is the world’s oldest surviving piece of railway architecture.' (Jane Ellis)

Mar 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)

Mar 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)

Mar 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)

Mar 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 Lichfield … ? (Keith Holliday and Jeff Vinter)

Mar 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)

Mar 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)

Mar 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)

Feb 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)

Feb 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)

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)
Right: 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)

News from 2000 to 2019 in original RR Website archives...