News 2002

Above: Holsworthy in Devon was served by a station on the single track line from Halwill Junction to Bude. The station was unusual in having a viaduct either side of it. Derriton Viaduct, pictured here, is on the west side of the station, and has recently been restored for use by walkers and cyclists. For further details, see entry for November 2000. (Richard Martin)
Above: A view across Derriton Viaduct, showing the work that has been carried out on the decking. Viaducts that are left to the ravages of nature often suffer from frost damage arising from water seeping through the ballast and into the masonry below. Clearly, this is now unlikely here. (Richard Martin)

December 2002. Lavant, West Sussex. After protracted delays, the extension to Centurion Way (the rail trail from Chichester to Lavant) is now open. The new section provides a traffic free route from Lavant to West Dean, but the disused railway is followed only as far as Binderton. In total, Centurion Way uses 4 miles of the old Chichester to Midhurst branch line. See also entry for October 2002. (Jeff Vinter)

December 2002. Haltwhistle, Northumberland. The North Pennines Heritage Trust has announced that work on restoring Alston Arches Viaduct is likely to begin in July 2003. This will enable the South Tyne Trail to be extended right on to the platform at Haltwhistle station, but unfortunately the trackbed immediately to the south is dissected by the new Haltwhistle bypass. When this road was built, there was official talk of providing a bridge over it when the South Tyne Trail was extended – it is to be hoped that this really will happen. The restoration of Alston Arches will complete the re-opening of the scenic Alston branch as a railway path, although a detour is required at Lambley where negotiators were unable to secure a route across a short section of privately owned trackbed. (Jeff Vinter)

December 2002. Torksey, Lincolnshire. Sustrans, the Bristol-based path-building charity, has announced that it intends to take on the restoration of the 22 span Torksey Viaduct over the River Trent. The company’s announcement that it was interested in saving this Grade II listed structure was met with overwhelming support, and it is now ‘applying for a grant to undertake a detailed engineering inspection of the viaduct and to negotiate access to the bridge for the benefit of all user groups’. The viaduct, recorded on the English Heritage ‘Buildings at Risk’ register, is situated on the course of the former Great Central line from Lincoln to Retford. (Jeff Vinter/Sustrans Ltd)

October 2002. Willington, Bedfordshire. In September, the Station Master’s house at Willington was advertised for sale with an asking price of £399,000. The advert stated that it was built by British Rail in 1906! (Ralph Rawlinson)

October 2002. Calstock – Callington, Cornwall. It was announced in October that a project for a new 2ft-gauge steam-worked line was attracting considerable support. Tagged the Phoenix Light Railway, it would operate over a disused part of the standard gauge Bere Alston & Calstock Light Railway which had been converted from the 3ft 6ins gauge East Cornwall Mineral Railway in 1908. (Ralph Rawlinson)

October 2002. Axminster – Lyme Regis, Devon/Dorset. The Axminster – Lyme Regis Railway Association has been formed to promote the reinstatement of the branch. The scheme, estimated to cost £12M, has the support of Axminster Town Council who are hoping to get the backing of Devon and Dorset Councils. (Ralph Rawlinson)

October 2002. Skipton-Colne, North Yorkshire/Lancashire. Although their ultimate aims are different, Skipton/East Lancashire Rail Action Partnership (SELRAP) and West Craven Cyclepath Group have agreed to campaign together to prevent further encroachment on the line by developers. (Ralph Rawlinson)

October 2002. Wellington (Ketley Jn) – Buildwas, Shropshire. The Telford Steam Railway, which at present operates trains over ½ mile of track from Horsehay & Dawley through Heath Tunnel, is making progress north to a proposed new station at Lawley Common. It is also hoping to raise £5m to fund the re-opening of the line south to Lightmoor Junction. The intention is to create a six mile Tourist Railway that would utilize part of the freight only line from Madeley Junction to reach Buildwas and Ironbridge Gorge. (Ralph Rawlinson)

October 2002. Kingswinford Jn – Wolverhampton (Oxley Jn), West Midlands. Whilst most of this line is well established as the Kingswinford Railway Trail, track the over two miles between Kingswinford Jn and the Industrial Estate at Pensnett is still in situ but has seen no traffic since 1990. After twelve years of disuse it has become so overgrown that plans by International Stockholders LCP to move steel from its Pensnett site to other parts of the country may be halted by conservationists keen to preserve the plants and wildlife that have taken over. (Ralph Rawlinson)

October 2002. Millerhill – Riccarton Jn (Waverley Route), Borders. In September the Scottish Executive awarded Scottish Borders Council £250,000 towards the cost of developing the parliamentary bill for re-opening the line between Edinburgh and Galashiels. At Whitrope, four panels of track have been relaid by the Waverley Route Heritage Association and our Scottish member, Alisdair Wham, reports that two coaches have been delivered. Borders Transport Futures, which is promoting reinstatement of the Waverley route, says that a single track could be relaid through the tunnel, but meanwhile the Forestry Commission has applied for permission to block off both portals to keep out trespassers. (Ralph Rawlinson)

Above: Much of the Monmouth to Chepstow line can be walked between Redbridge and Tintern Quarry, with some parts being utilised for the Wye Valley Walk.  However, the missing bridge over the Wye at Tintern necessitates a detour along the A486 that follows the river as it loops to the west. Fortunately a footbridge (at grid reference 530002) just north of Tintern Abbey provides a means of crossing the river, and the trackbed can then be regained close to the south portal of Tintern Tunnel. The footbridge, now listed Grade II, carried a private tramway (closed in 1935) that ran for ¾ mile from the GWR line to Tintern Abbey Wire Works. The bridge was photographed on Friday 25 May 2002. (Ralph Rawlinson)

October 2002. Dinas Jn – Porthmadog (Welsh Highland Railway), Caernarfon. Work is continuing on the six-mile extension from of the present railhead at Waunfawr. Track is being laid south from Rhyd Dhu and by September had reached Glan-yr-afon. The next working site will be Snowdon Ranger, from where they plan to reach Castell Cidwm at the north end of Llyn Cwellyn. The site for the new station at Rhyd Ddu had been substantially cleared, levelled and prepared. Target date for introduction of services to Rhyd Ddu is still Easter 2003. (Ralph Rawlinson)

Meanwhile the Welsh Highland Railway (Porthmadog) is seeking planning permission to extend its present Porthmadog – Pen-y-Mount Halt line north to Pont Croesor in two stages. The first step is to reach Portreuddyn, where a temporary loop will be installed, providing a longer run for its existing line, hopefully during the 2004 season. (Ralph Rawlinson)

October 2002. Burry Port – Cwmmawr, Carmarthen. The Gwendraeth Valley Railway propose to open a narrow gauge railway over the route of the former Burry Port & Gwendreath (sic) Valley Railway between Burry Port and Cwmmawr with a cyclepath alongside. A three-mile green-field extension to Cross Hands is also under consideration. (Ralph Rawlinson)

October 2002. Ceredigion and Pembroke, Wales. Many developments have been reported by John Grimshaw, chief engineer with the cycle charity Sustrans:

  • NCN 47 Cardigan Branch: Cilgerran to Cardigan is now open after building a new tidal sluice gate.
  • NCN 4 Johnston – Neyland: a new section alongside the operational line at Johnston is now open.
  • NCN 4 Saundersfoot to Amroth: the tramway has been much improved with a balustrade against the sea.
  • NCN 4 Milford Haven: a path has been built along the shore railway.
  • NCN 81 Aberayron Branch: Aberaeron – Llanaeron. It is hoped to improve and extend this section. (The GWR called this town ‘Aberayron’ whereas the modern OS uses the spelling ‘Aberaeron’.)

October 2002. Bailey’s Tramway, Gwent. In Clydach Gorge, a new 40ft footbridge has been built over a gap in the tramway where a retaining wall had fallen away. (John Grimshaw)

October 2002. Willersley to Broadway, Gloucestershire. A planning request has been submitted to build a new cycle trail along this one mile section of the former GWR main line from Stratford to Cheltenham. (John Grimshaw)

October 2002. Newport to Sandown, Isle of Wight. A continuous route from Newport to Sandown will open later this year. Much of this line has been open officially for some time, but this new development will join together previously isolated sections. (John Grimshaw)

October 2002. Lavant to West Dean, West Sussex. An extension to Centurion Way, which follows the former Midhurst branch from Chichester to Lavant, is due to open at the end of this month. The extension will use the old railway line between Lavant and Binderton, before swinging west to join a newly constructed cycle trail alongside the A286; this continues as far as West Dean. It is not obvious that the route through Lavant follows the old railway line because it has been used as the ‘spine’ road for new housing development. (Jeff Vinter)

September 2002. Canterbury to Whitstable, Kent. Plans have been announced locally to move more of the ‘Sprat & Winkle’ trail on to the former railway, although the attitude of landowners will be crucial. The plans include re-opening Tyler Hill Tunnel, which passes beneath the University of Kent at Canterbury. Prospects for the success of the tunnel part of the project look good. (John Simmons)

September 2002. Ventnor West to St. Lawrence, Isle of Wight. Most of Ventnor West station still stands, but it is now situated at the start of a residential road rather than a railway line. The road occupies the old trackbed for about half a mile towards St. Lawrence, but where the road ends, a newly dedicated right of way allows walkers to continue along the track for another half mile as far as a demolished bridge. At this point, steps allow walkers to leave the embankment and continue via existing public footpaths. (Roger Mayo and John Elson)

May 2002. Okehampton to Tavistock, Devon. Devon County Council’s North Dartmoor route is now open from Okehampton station to Lydford, with a short diversion around Bridestowe station.  Even this diversion will be removed, if negotations with local landowners are successful. A signed walking and cycling route continues from Lydford to Tavistock, although a local newspaper report suggests that this is ‘off-railway’ until just north of the town, where the trail rejoins the trackbed before crossing Wallabrook Viaduct, and then passing behind Kelly College on an embankment.  It continues on the old formation right up to Tavistock North station, which is now a private residence. A detour skirts around this property, after which the route continues as the ‘Town Trail’ over Tavistock Viaduct, passing through a deep rock cutting and ending a mile further on at Crease Lane. (This is just before the missing bridge over the A390 on the south side of the town.) The newspaper did not state who was behind the project, but it is a safe bet that the partners include Sustrans, Devon CC and West Devon DC. The total distance is 20 miles, with just over half of that on the old railway. There are predictions that this route will become as popular as Cornwall’s Camel Trail from Padstow to Bodmin and Wenford. If anything, it has the scenery and railway engineering to surpass that route. (Chris Cook, Jeff Vinter and Ralph Rawlinson)

April 2002. Rodney Stoke, Somerset. The first mile of a new railway path has been completed at Rodney Stoke, heading towards Cheddar where it will meet the existing Cheddar Valley Railway Walk, which links Cheddar with Yatton on the Bristol-Taunton main line. The objective is to create a through walking and cycling route from Yatton to Wells, using as much of the original GWR trackbed as possible. For further details, see entry for September 2001. (Cheddar Valley Railway Walk Society)

April 2002. West Cornwall. After years of development, the Coast to Coast Mineral Tramway, running 14 miles from Portreath on the north coast to Devoran (between Truro and Falmouth) on the south coast, is finally open. The main components of the route are the Redruth & Chasewater Railway, and the earlier Portreath Tramroad. Both of these lines were built for transporting minerals such as copper and arsenic rather than passengers. When the cycle route was constructed, several sections of tramway, including a passing loop, were found beneath the surface. Walkers or cyclists intending to access the route by public transport should travel to Perranwell on the Truro-Falmouth branch: Devoran lies about one mile south east of the station, and is reached by relatively quiet country lanes. (Richard Lewis)

March 2002. Spain. Since 1993, all the Spanish Regions and more than 180 municipalities have become involved in the Greenways Programme, which seeks to convert disused and abandoned railways into walkways and cycleways. To date, over 530 miles of old railways have been converted. A European Greenways Association has been formed to address the same issues at regional levels. (Railway Ramblings magazine)

March 2002. Gosport Station, Hampshire. The grade II listed Gosport station, designed by William Tite and closed to passengers in 1953, is now just a derelict shell. The owner, Hampshire County Council, is keen to hear ideas as to how its restoration can be funded (contact The Chief Executive, Hampshire County Council, The Castle, Winchester, Hampshire). The old trackbed from Gosport to Fort Brockhurst, south of Fareham, is now a walk and cycle trail. A tram system between Fareham and Portsmouth, given the go-ahead in May 2001, will utilise the old Fareham-Gosport trackbed, but bypass the former Gosport terminus. (Ralph Rawlinson)

Above: The site of Holywell Town station in north Wales, looking towards Holywell Junction, which is actually situated in the village of Greenfield. This steeply graded branch line was only 1¼ miles long, but is now a railway walk and cycle trail. (Jeff Vinter)

March 2002. Various locations. The following details have been gleaned from recent newsletters published by Sustrans Ltd., the Bristol-based path-building charity:

  • North Water Viaduct (on the closed line from Bervie to Montrose) has been acquired by Railway Paths Ltd. so that it can be restored as part of a long distance cycle route from Aberdeen to Berwick upon Tweed.
  • The ‘first section of path’ between Irvine and Kilmarnock has been completed to a high standard and is proving popular already with users. It is assumed that this refers to a 4 mile section of the former Glasgow & South Western Railway from the A78 in Irvine to Crosshouse station.
  • A new railway path between Mickleover and Etwall, on a former Great Northern line, is now open in Derbyshire. (Sustrans Ltd.)

January 2002. West Lothian and North Lanarkshire local authorities are seeking support for a study into re-opening the line from Bathgate to Airdrie, most of which has been converted into a cycle trail. (Ralph Rawlinson)

January 2002. Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire. A rail user group has been set up to press for the re-instatement of the line from Mirfield to Low Moor, which re-opened in May 2001 (albeit to walkers and cyclists only) as the Spen Valley Greenway. The group’s objective is to put the intermediate town of Cleckheaton back on the railway map. (Ralph Rawlinson)

January 2002. Hayling Island, Hampshire. The ‘Hayling Billy’ trail, which uses most of the former branch line from Havant to Hayling Island, is to be re-surfaced at a cost of £90,000 to make it accessible to the less mobile. (Ralph Rawlinson)

January 2002. The Wannie Line, Northumberland. A ‘Wannie Line Project Group’ has been established to promote access to the former Wannie Line, which runs from Scotsgap to Bellingham. A ‘Rothbury Branch Line Group’ has similar hopes for the branch line from Morpeth to Scotsgap and Rothbury. The objective is to negotiate with landowners for access to these old trackbeds, using, in the case of the Wannie Line, funds from the English Rural Development Partnership. (Northumberland Railway Walks Society)

January 2002. Leadgate, County Durham. The old steel-carrying line from Consett to Ouston Junction (near Chester-le-Street) was converted, by Sustrans Ltd., into a cycle trail some years ago. It is sad to relate that, since the conversion, ‘virtually all’ of the surviving bridges east of Consett have been demolished. The latest to be threatened with this fate is the ‘ugly railway bridge’ known as the Garden Place Bridge in Leadgate. While a new road crossing will be installed in its place, there is concern that the destruction of these bridges removes the segregation of trail users from ever increasing traffic flows. If you feel that this is a step in the wrong direction, write to Sustrans Ltd at 35 King Street, Bristol, and/or Durham County Council at County Hall, Durham. (Northumberland Railway Walks Society)

Above: Ham Green viaduct, north of Bickleigh, on the former GWR branch line from Plymouth to Tavistock and Launceston. Devon is a tremendous county for railway walks, ranging from the ancient Haytor Granite Tramway (where granite sleepers still remain in place) to various sections of the Southern Railway’s ‘Withered Arm’. This was the name given to the Southern’s lines west of Exeter, which were closed to passengers during the 1960s. Thanks to the far-sighted policies of Devon County Council, it is still possible to walk or cycle much of this network, e.g. Barnstaple to Braunton, Barnstaple to Petrockstow, Mortehoe to Ilfracombe, Meldon to near Bridestowe, and even parts of the Bude branch around Holsworthy. Amazingly, all of these places were once served by direct trains from Waterloo, most famously ‘The Atlantic Coast Express’. (Jeff Vinter)

January 2002. Bideford, Devon. In an extraordinary case of ‘lost and found’, two steam locomotives from the Bideford, Westward Ho! & Appledore Railway have been found on the seabed off the south west coast of England. They were commandeered by the government in 1917 for use on the Western Front, and carried as deck cargo on a ship that was attacked and sunk by a German submarine. As a result, the engines have rested on the seabed ever since, but divers hope to salvage them so that they can be put on display in the Bideford Railway Museum. (The Tarka Trail, which uses the former railway line from Barnstaple to Torrington and Petrockstow, runs nearby.) Latest: The local authority has just listed the BWH&AR’s former two-road engine shed in Bideford, which is currently used as a bus garage. (Northumberland Railway Walks Society and Ralph Rawlinson)