News 2008

Above: This beautiful photograph by Graham Rains makes it obvious why railway enthusiasts, holidaymakers and casual passengers alike fell in love with the scenery beyond the carriage window when they travelled on the former Somerset & Dorset Railway. This view is taken from near Gains Cross, south of Shillingstone, and shows a permissive section of the nascent Trailway awaiting the installation of an improved surface; for further details, click here. The photographer is a member of the committee of the Trailway Network, which is working with local authorities to convert the southern half of this former cross-country rail link into a long distance multi-use trail. Summer 2007. (Graham Rains)

Photographs. Previous years’ news pages have been rather short of illustrations, so it’s a big ‘thank you’ to all those members who have provided photographs to illustrate the stories. It makes a huge difference to a page’s visual interest, so these contributions are really appreciated. (Webmaster)

Railway Photography and the Law. While most members of Railway Ramblers are interested in railways that, to a greater or lesser extent, are no longer there, some maintain an active interest in the modern railway industry and take the occasional photograph. Unfortunately, some minor officials have been treating this as an offence, which it is not. Click here to read the official view from the British Transport Police. (Ralph Rawlinson)

December 2008. Appledore to Lydd, Kent. This line is not actually closed, and so in a sense ought not to be featured here. However, the case is so unusual that it warrants an airing. The line wears a forlorn look, but is used by the occasional train to remove waste from Dungeness B nuclear power station. Now, however, Lydd Airport is to be re-developed as ‘London Ashford Airport’ (LAA), and much is being made of the project’s potential to bring economic benefits to a rural area that has been in decline for decades. A shuttle bus is planned between LAA and Ashford International station, but a feasibility study is also being conducted to investigate the possibility of reinstating the Appledore-Lydd section of the branch for passengers. The number of level crossings on the route is a problem; although not insurmountable, the cost of upgrading these will be considerable. (Jeff Vinter) Update: Although some sources state that re-opening the line would be too costly, there is still optimism that it can be done, as this 13th May 2013 article from the Kent Online website reveals.

December 2008. Christ’s Hospital to Baystone Bridge, West Sussex. As reported in January 2005, the first half mile of the old railway line from Christ’s Hospital towards Slinfold has now been converted into part of The Downs Link, the long distance railway path from Peasmarsh (near Guildford) to Shoreham-by-Sea. The new section runs from Christ’s Hospital station on the Arun Valley line to Baystone Bridge (grid reference TQ 139297), and will be welcomed by path users because it eliminates a lengthy diversion via local roads. (Chris Bedford)

December 2008. Sandford & Banwell, Somerset. Further to the report in June (see below), it has been confirmed that Sandford & Banwell station on the former Cheddar to Yatton branch will be converted into a railway heritage centre along the Strawberry Line, the modern day railway path that now occupies the trackbed. The intention is to restore the building and platform to the condition they would have been in during the 1940s and 50s. Sandford & Banwell was built by the Bristol & Exeter Railway and is believed to be the only unaltered example of a B&ER station left in the country. Next autumn, the empty buildings will be handed over to a new charitable group which will restore and maintain them under the terms of a new lease agreement. (Cheddar Valley Railway Walk Society)

December 2008. Wells to Coxley, Somerset. In September 2007, local residents voted overwhelming for a path to be constructed along the old railway line from Coxley into Wells, this being the northernmost two miles of the former Glastonbury-Wells branch. Somerset County Council has now included this in the Local Transport Plan on a matched-funding basis, which will require the path supporters to raise their part of the cost from lottery type grants. (Cheddar Valley Railway Walk Society)

December 2008. Wells to Shepton Mallet, Somerset. The ‘Strawberry Line East’ group, with the support of Mendip District Council, aims to extend the existing railway path from Wells to Dulcote all the way to Shepton Mallet. This section of the old line runs through a ‘beautiful part of the Mendip Hills with amazing southerly views towards Glastonbury Tor and beyond’. (Cheddar Valley Railway Walk Society)

November 2008. Millerhill to Loanhead, Midlothian. This news is a bit late, but earlier in the year Midlothian Council published plans for the Glencorse branch which show the first four miles from Millerhill to Loanhead as an ‘aspirational core cycle route’, which means that it wants to convert this abandoned line into a cycle trail to link up with the existing Loanhead to Roslin path (1½ miles). Beyond Roslin, the line continued to Glencorse and Penicuik gasworks. (Ralph Rawlinson)

November 2008. Llanfoist (nr. Abergavenny) to Brynmawr, Gwent. Most of this route, once part of the LNWR’s dramatic Heads of the Valleys line, is now part of a superb 8 mile railway path, with further improvements in the pipeline. Click here for a detailed report. (Tim Hewett)

November 2008. Various Waggonways, North Tyneside. In the past, the Tyne & Wear area was covered in waggonways, and now North Tyneside Council has produced a series of free leaflets on those in its area. PDF downloads can be obtained from the website here. Alternatively contact Neil Hodgson on 0191 219 2421, or write to Environment, Regeneration & Housing Directorate, Council Offices, Harvey Combe, Killingworth, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE12 6WH. (Ralph Rawlinson)

October 2008. Tenterden to St. Michaels, Kent. Sustrans has now started work on creating this new railway path, with tree management and groundworks being the first priorities. (Sustrans Ltd)

October 2008. Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex. The Downs Link, the long distance railway-based cycle trail from Guildford to Shoreham, used to stop to the north of the town with the the final section of the old railway forming a little used and neglected cul-de-sac. However, Sustrans has now extended the trail southwards along the old railway and a riverside path to connect with the town centre. (Sustrans Ltd)

October 2008. Aldrington to Devil’s Dyke, East Sussex. Signposts have now been installed on the cycle trail from Devil’s Dyke to Hangleton, which is based partly on the former Devil’s Dyke railway. A new route (already well used) is now open between Hangleton and Hove. Please let us know via our Contact page if this extension uses more of the old railway. (Sustrans Ltd)

October 2008. Brockenhurst to Ringwood, Hampshire. The old LSWR line across the New Forest is open for walkers, cyclists and horse riders between Caters Cottage (near Brockenhurst) and Burbush Hill, south of Burley. However, a section east of Holmsley station was converted into a road many years ago, and this remains an unpleasant obstacle for trail users. Sustrans has recently devised a £300,000 scheme which will provide a safe off-road alternative along this section, finishing at Holmsley by passing under a spare arch of the old railway bridge that carries the A35 overhead. The company has yet to find matched funding for the project, but a planning application is imminent. (Sustrans Ltd)

September 2008. Mierystock, Gloucestershire. Further to the entry in July (click here), Mierystock Tunnel has now been excavated and is awaiting the installation of lighting and a new surface so that it can be used by walkers and cyclists. As can happen with such schemes, progress has stalled (presumably for reasons linked to planning and fund-raising), but in the meantime this excellent web page tells the fascinating story of how this Victorian structure was dug out from beneath thousands of tons of colliery waste. The remark that the original Victorian contractor had the good fortune not to be ‘compelled to navigate today’s bureaucratic quagmire’ is a very telling one. We assume that the southern portal of the tunnel is still obstructed by the brieze block wall that was erected after closure. (Jeff Vinter)

September 2008. Luton to Dunstable, Bedfordshire. This long neglected branch, part of a former Great Northern and LNWR route linking Hatfield with Leighton Buzzard, is finally set to be re-used – albeit as a guided busway. Transport Minister Rosie Winterton gave approval for the conversion at the end of August, quashing any hopes that the old line could be revived as a ‘rail trail’. (Ralph Rawlinson)

September 2008. Fareham to Gosport, Hampshire. It is now proposed to utilise the formation of this historic branch for a rapid bus system, previous abortive plans having included rapid light rail and a guided busway. At the Gosport terminus, William Tite’s Grade II* listed station building – now little more than a shell – is set to be restored as housing, offices and a community centre at a cost of £4.5 million. (Ralph Rawlinson)

September 2008. Sandsend, North Yorshire. Members who have visited Sandsend Tunnel (on the NER’s former coastal line from Whitby to Loftus) will be aware that the north portal had been shored-up and stressed for a considerable number of years. In July this year, as a result of ground movement caused by rain and the unstable cliffs, it finally gave in and collapsed. (Ralph Rawlinson)

September 2008. Saltney Ferry to Mold, Flintshire. Flintshire County Council has announced that it would like to convert the whole of this line into a footpath and cycleway. The cost of conversion is estimated to be between £6m and £18m, depending on how many refinements are included. (Ralph Rawlinson)

August 2008. Watchet to Washford, Somerset. Further to the entry in June (click here), the club has just delivered to Exmoor National Park a detailed survey and report on the current state of the old West Somerset Mineral Railway between these two points. The trackbed is currently a public footpath, but the report highlights where improvements can be made to increase usage. The club will be invited to make a further report when the trail has been upgraded. (Jeff Vinter)

Above: A recently opened section of the Ystwyth Trail, which links Aberystwyth and Tregaron. This photoghraph was taken at grid reference SN 697684, between Tynygraig and Ystradmeurig, looking south; the scenery hereabouts is fairly typical of the line. This is the region where the red kite survived until its re-introduction elsewhere in Britain. Our photographer comments: ‘When we moved to Wales in the 70’s there were only seven native breeding pairs left; now we see dozens every day, some over our garden.’ Summer 2008 – without rain for once! (Bob Morgan)

August 2008.Aberystwyth to Tregaron, Ceredigion. Timing is everything! Just as European funds ran out, the final sections of the Ystwyth Trail have been completed. There is still work to do (particularly near Tynygraig, where a difficult landowner has obstructed the re-opening of that section), but the quality of the work is consistently high, and missing bridges have been overcome by re-grading embankments to provide easy links and crossings of local roads. The section towards Ystrad Meurig and the site of Strata Florida station is particularly attractive and features one of the few remaining road-over-rail bridges. Overall, the Ystwyth Trail is a very welcome addition to the UK’s stock of railway paths, providing largely traffic-free access to some very fine countryside. (Bob Morgan)

August 2008. Bovey Tracey to Moretonhampstead, Devon. Proposals by Devon County Council to convert four miles of former GWR trackbed between Lustleigh and Moretonhampstead into a cycle trail moved a step closer at the end of July. The council’s plans are soon to be considered by Dartmoor National Park, having been modified to take account of earlier objections which led a previous application to fail. The long term objective to is to create a safe walking and cycling route from Teignmouth and Newton Abbot to Okehampton, where a link can be made with the existing Granite Way. When the local communities in Bovey Tracey, Lustleigh and Moretonhampstead were consulted, 87 per cent favoured the scheme, although there was some vocal opposition in Lustleigh. A short section of the old railway, between the northern edge of Bovey Tracey and Wolleigh, was converted into a railway path by the National Park authority in the early 1990s. The planned route from Bovey to Moretonhampstead will be known as the Wray Valley Trail. (Jeff Vinter)

Left: 2008 will be the year when the Cambridge to St. Ives branch breathes its last as a railway, for it is being converted into a guided busway at a cost of £116.2 million – a figure which has led many locals to dub the project the ‘misguided busway’. In late 2007, the run-round loop at Fen Drayton was cleared, revealing this buffer stop which had lain hidden in the undergrowth for years. It really is the end of the line now. December 2007. (Steven Parker)
July 2008. Cambridge to St. Ives, Cambridgeshire. An attempt to find out how far this controversial guided busway has proceeded drew a blank, although the Webmaster did come across a few complaints from Cambridgeshire residents about the project’s poor communications; these do seem justified given the lack of readily accessible information on progress. However, in April, contractor Edmund Nuttall (now renamed BAM Nuttall) published a guide to the project, including much technical information plus artist’s impressions and photographs of work in progress. The latter make it obvious just how much concrete will be used in the scheme – 50,000 cubic metres of the stuff, in fact. (Jeff Vinter)
Above: On a brilliant summer Saturday at Sturminster Newton, the club’s Webmaster, Jeff Vinter (second from left), handed over to the committee of the Trailway Network a cheque for £2,500. This gift, from the club’s Footpath Fund, is to help with essential trackbed acquisition south of Stalbridge; the story below provides further details. The photograph was kindly provided by the freelance photographer who covered the occasion for the Vale Advertiser, a free newspaper delivered to every home in the Blackmore Vale area.

July 2008. Templecombe to Poole, Somerset/Dorset. On Saturday 26th July, the club’s Webmaster visited Sturminster Newton to represent the club at a formal hand-over to the Trailway Network of a donation of £2,500 towards the acquisition of a key piece of S&D trackbed south of Stalbridge. The Trailway Network has applied to Badger Brewery for ‘matched funding’ which, if successful, should enable this purchase to go ahead fairly quickly. Further south, a new link from Blandford Forum to Charlton Marshall is expected to be open from the start of September. This will create a continuous railway path all the way from Blandford to just south of Spetisbury, after which it is hoped to turn attention to the Gains Cross-Blandford section, which – if it can be secured – will link Sturminster Newton right through to Spetisbury. (Jeff Vinter)

July 2008. Millerhill South Junction to Glencorse, Midlothian. It looks as though work could start soon on converting the first four miles of the Glencorse branch, which was retained to serve Bilston Glen Colliery. The colliery ceased production in 1989 but the single line serving it was not officially closed until 2002 and is still mostly in situ. A cyclepath already follows the central section for 1½ miles between Loanhead and Roslin and includes the 150ft high and listed Bilston Glen Viaduct. (Ralph Rawlinson)

July 2008. Haltwhistle to Alston, Northumberland/Cumbria. Northumberland County Council has received grant support for a £400,000 upgrade of the South Tyne Trail between Rowfoot (near the former Featherstone station) and Alston. The work includes waterproof decking for Lambley Viaduct. (Ralph Rawlinson)

Above: Bob Prigg’s gloomy but dramatic photograph of high seas at Dawlish, taken in January, illustrates vividly why the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) has decided that it might be worth re-opening the old LSWR line from Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton and Tavistock. For full details, see story below.

July 2008. Okehampton to Bere Alston, Devon. There’s good news and bad news about this section of the former LSWR main line from Exeter to Plymouth. The good news is that, following plans to re-open the line between Tavistock and Bere Alston, a feasibility study commissioned by ATOC found that there was a case for re-opening the whole 20 miles between Okehampton and Bere Alston. ATOC says that the former LSWR line would provide a diversionary route to take pressure off the GWR line, where rising sea levels regularly flood the track around Dawlish. Only this month, rough seas demolished part of the town’s sea wall, which fell on to the west of England main line, causing considerable disruption to services. The bad news, of course, is that re-opening the LSWR line to rail may lead to the closure of the popular Granite Way, which now re-uses much of the trackbed between Okehampton and Tavistock. However, this could be avoided if only a single track were relaid. (Ralph Rawlinson/Jeff Vinter)
Left: A Southern Railway parcel label for Tamerton Foliot Halt, which was situated between Bere Ferrers and St. Budeaux (Victoria Road) on the LSWR line from Tavistock to Plymouth. Trains to and from Gunnislake still run through the site, but the station was closed to all traffic on 10th September 1962. (Jeff Vinter Collection)

July 2008. Tavistock, Devon. Fancy a holiday in a former railway station? The listed Tavistock North station, on the market last year for £600,000, has been converted into three self-catering houses. (Ralph Rawlinson)

July 2008. Whitchurch to Horrabridge, Devon. Following previous reports, a further three mile section of the former GWR line between Tavistock and Plymouth has been converted into a cycle path. The new section links Whitchurch and Horrabridge, and will form part of a new through route – to be known as ‘Drake’s Trail’ – which will run from Tavistock to Plymouth. The new section includes Magpie Viaduct and Grenofen Tunnel, plus a new bridge over the River Walkham to replace the missing Grenofen Viaduct. 17 miles of trackbed are involved, and the good news is that less than one mile of this still remains the subject of negotiation. Drake’s Trail will reach Plymouth via the existing railway path, built by Sustrans in the 1980s, which starts at Clearbrook, just south of Yelverton. (Ralph Rawlinson/Jeff Vinter)

July 2008. Sedbergh, Cumbria. Further to our report in December 2007, we have heard that the Grade II listed Waterside Viaduct north of Sedbergh will not be opened up as part of a walkway. Although BRB Residuary is to spend £600,000 on repairing the structure, it says that it cannot justify installing a walkway along the top of the main cast iron span. Installing a walkway would be a marginal cost, but no doubt money is tight at BRB Residuary. However, there will not be an opportunity like this to provide public access to the viaduct for decades to come, so it is now up to local agencies to do some serious lobbying if this is what they really want. (Ralph Rawlinson)

Above: On a bright day in late April, the northern portal of Mierystock Tunnel (grid reference SO 614417) looks out into its approach cutting – for the first time in decades. Soon, this short tunnel will provide the route for an underpass which will allow cyclists and walks to cross safely beneath the busy A4136. A passing car above the portal reveals the position of the road. For further details, see below. (Elliott Powick)

July 2008. Mierystock, Gloucestershire. In 2005, a group of Forest of Dean miners, moved by the plight of ramblers and walkers who needed to cross the main road above Mierystock Tunnel (a blind corner in a dip), took it upon themselves to dig out the north portal, which had been buried – together with its approach cutting – in colliery waste. Their intention was to provide an underpass for walkers and cyclists that would otherwise cost several million pounds to construct. Needless to say, the Forest of Dean District Council put a stop to it and we thought that was the end of the matter; but Ralph Rawlinson has now received some photographs taken by Elliot Powick, which show that the tunnel has been dug out after all; the miners received funding from ITV’s People’s Millions, and the results are impressive. We look forward to hearing what new railway path connections this will open up. (Ralph Rawlinson)

July 2008. Middleton, Derbyshire. In April this year, specialists completed restoration of Middleton Bottom Wheel Pit, a scheduled ancient monument on the former Cromford and High Peak Railway near Wirksworth. The wheel pit houses a giant cast iron wheel which used to drive the cables for pulling the trucks up the steep Middleton Incline. English Heritage provided a £50,000 grant to help restore the machinery whilst Derbyshire County Council spent £36,000 resurfacing the part of the High Peak Trail along which the monument lies. (Ralph Rawlinson)

July 2008. Dumfries, Dumfries & Galloway. The first scheme to be completed under Sustrans Connect 2 project is the opening to walkers and cyclists of the Category B listed Queen of the South Viaduct in Dumfries. This forms a missing link to the Maxwelltown Path (part of NCN7) along the initial part of the former ‘Port Road’, which linked Dumfries and Stranraer. The first three miles at the Dumfries end remained open until 1997 to serve the ICI Organics works at Maxwelltown and were only lifted in May 2006. To celebrate its opening, Dumfries Running Club organised an inaugural 5km ‘Fun Run’ on Saturday 5 July 2008. Further details and a photograph can be viewed by clicking the link here. (Ralph Rawlinson)

July 2008. Dumfries to Locharbriggs, Dumfries & Galloway. While researching the above story, it was found that 3½ miles of the former Caledonian Railway’s line from Dumfries to Lockerbie have been converted into a cycle trail between Dumfries station and the northern edge of Locharbriggs. (Jeff Vinter)

July 2008. Slapewath to Boosbeck, North Yorkshire. Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for the Environment, has recently upheld a claim by the Ramblers’ Association to have the old railway line between Slapewath (nr. Guisborough) and Boosbeck dedicated as a bridleway. The RA claims that the route has been used in this way, unchallenged, for 20 years, the minimum required for a right of way order to be granted, but there may may be a further inquiry into the case. (Jeff Vinter)

June 2008. Bristol to Emerson Green. In the latest edition of its national magazine, The Hub (i.e. not the local edition mentioned in the next report), Sustrans explains that plans to convert the western end of the popular Bristol to Bath railway path into a guided busway have been ‘shelved for the moment’ rather than scrapped. In response, the company has decided to improve the path still further in order to generate even more use than its existing 2.4 million walking and cycling journeys per year. It is also hoping to work with Bristol City Council with a view to putting the trail into a trust, which will preserve it in perpetuity and enable the company to continue expanding Britain’s safe cycling network, rather than fighting what are effectively ‘rearguard actions’. (Sustrans Ltd)

June 2008. Tenterden to Paddock Wood, Kent. The latest edition of The Hub – South East published by Sustrans includes this interesting short report: ‘A key section of the disused railway track on the old Kent & East Sussex Railway between Tenterden and St. Michaels has been purchased by Sustrans. Planning permission was granted at the end of March with Kent Highway Services providing detailed engineering drawings. We are in discussion with Homewood School, Tenterden, Kent’s largest secondary school, about a potential link into the school from the new path which will take students off a busy section of the A28. We were also commissioned by Kent Highway Services to produce a study on the rest of the old line from St. Michaels to Biddenden and on to Headcorn main line station. Thirty three landowners have been identified.’ (Sustrans Ltd)

June 2008. ‘Along These Lines’. DVDs of the ongoing Meridian television series are now available. [Link removed as no longer working. Webmaster, October 2014.] We do not normally advertise commercial products on this website, but Along These Lines is rather different since a number of club members acted as consultants during the making of the series. The programmes are very well filmed, in the style of ‘Country Ways’, and have been received enthusiastically. The photography shows off rural southern England to good effect, while the commentary, interviews and archive materials give a flavour of eight lost railways in their heyday. (Jeff Vinter)

June 2008. Templecombe to Poole, Somerset/Dorset. At the club’s recent AGM, members voted to provide a grant of £2,500 towards land acquisition on the North Dorset Trailway, which is an evolving multi-use path based on the former Somerset & Dorset Railway. (Jeff Vinter)

June 2008. Watchet to Gupworthy, Somerset. Further to the entry in April about Comberow Incline (see below), we can report a little more about Exmoor National Park’s project to conserve and improve access to the remains of the West Somerset Mineral Railway. Full details are not yet available, but we can reveal that the old trackbed between Watchet and Washford is to be improved, and that several features are to be made safe for public access, including the incline at Comberow, the engine house at the top of the incline, and a number of buildings associated with the former mines on the ridge of the Brendon Hills. (Jeff Vinter)

June 2008. Sandford & Banwell, Somerset. We are pleased to report that, following the 2005 failure of Sandford Stone (which used this old station for many years as its retail outlet), the station and ticket office are to be preserved and converted into a museum open to the public. The rest of the site will be developed to accommodate a new care and nursing home run by a company called St. Monica’s. (Cheddar Valley Railway Walk Society).

Above and Left: Dorset Countryside’s new bridge over the River Stour at Fiddleford, about 1¼ miles south of Sturminster Newton, seen in March (above) and April 2007 (left) after its official opening in October 2006. This is the main – and most expensive – feature on the new section of the North Dorset Trailway that now links Sturminster with Gains Cross. The view above gives a proper sense of the size of the bridge and illustrates the flood arches on either bank, which were an essential feature of the original railway bridge. By contrast, the trackbed view to the left foreshortens the bridge and makes it look rather small. See below for details of the latest extension to this path. (Richard Lewis)

May 2008. Sturminster Newton to Gains Cross, Dorset. We are delighted to report that the North Dorset Trailway is now open between the site of Sturminster Newton station and the restored Shillingstone station, where the trackbed is already open to Gains Cross, about a mile short (i.e. west) of Stourpaine and Durweston Halt. There is a half mile diversion off the trackbed just before Shillingstone station, presumably where it was not possible to negotiate access to the old line. As diversions go, this is a very convenient one which is never more than a few hundred yards away from the old line; this will definitely not add miles to walkers’ or cyclists’ journeys. The total distance from Sturminster Newton to Gains Cross is 5 miles, making this the longest section of Trailway in the county to date. There was an official launch for this section on Sunday 1 June at 11:30 a.m., followed by a cycle ride and guided walk at 12 noon. (Giles Nicholson, Dorset Countryside)
Click for larger image Left: Alas, alas – it’s only a modern reproduction from the Shillingstone Station Project in Dorset, otherwise this platform ticket might form part of the Webmaster’s retirement portfolio! Unfortunately, this is as close as most of us will ever get to owning a Somerset & Dorset Railway ticket these days. The little heart shape in the bottom right indicates where the ticket was punched. (Jeff Vinter Collection)

April 2008. The long-awaited Meridian TV series ‘Along These Lines’ is now being broadcast in the south of England early on Sunday evenings, with the last programme due to go out on Sunday 15 June 2008. (Jeff Vinter)

April 2008. Tettenhall, West Midlands. Tettenhall station is being revamped at a cost of £600,000 provided by the European Regional Development Fund. The station building will become home to a new visitor hub for the popular Smestow Valley Nature Reserve, while the old booking office will be converted for use by the park rangers as a mess room and store. The Smestow Valley Nature Reserve occupies part of the old Kingswinford branch, which is open as a railway path from Aldersley to Pensnett. (Phil Mullarkey)

April 2008. Comberow Incline, Somerset. A £600,000 lottery grant will enable the Exmoor National Park Authority to carry out long awaited preservation work on Comberow Incline, which was the main engineering feature on the West Somerset Mineral Railway that linked Gupworthy (on the Brendon Hills) with Watchet Harbour. The long term intention is to open as much as possible of the old WSMR as a railway walk, but this is a long-term project that will involve extensive negotiations with landowners. (Ralph Rawlinson)

April 2008. Canterbury West to Whitstable Harbour, Kent. The Crab & Winkle Line Trust has made the whole of this line a conservation area and plans to negotiate the purchase of further stretches of trackbed from landowners. It is also working with English Heritage to gain listed status for Tyler Hill Tunnel, which it hopes eventually to re-open. (Ralph Rawlinson)

April 2008. Gosport, Hampshire. For over half a century, William Tite’s fine classically styled station at Gosport has been sliding into decay, but at last a rescue is in prospect. Planning permission has recently been obtained to incorporate the remains of the Grade II listed structure into a £5 million high-density housing development. Work on the two-year project is expected to begin in autumn this year. (Ralph Rawlinson)

April 2008. Boscarne Junction to Wadebridge, Cornwall. In February, North Cornwall District Council voted to support the Bodmin & Wenford Railway’s scheme to extend its line from Boscarne to Wadebridge using one half of the former alignment that is currently occupied by the immensely popular Camel Trail. [Webmaster’s Note: How can such a railway occupy ‘one half’ of the trackbed? This was always a single track branch line with single track bridges.] (Ralph Rawlinson)

March 2008. Aberaeron to Lampeter, Ceredigion. The very short railway walk at Aberaeron has now been extended in a south-easterly direction to Llanaeron Estate, thereby creating a continuous railway path of just over two miles. Walkers and cyclists using the trail can obtain discounted access to the National Trust mansion and estate at Llanerchaeron. It’s certainly good to see the NT offering positive encouragement to visitors who choose not to drive. (Bob Morgan)

March 2008. Aberystwyth to Tregaron, Ceredigion. The club has known for some time that this route was proposed for conversion into a railway path, but it is now open between Aberystwyth and Ystrad Meurig, where a diversion of several miles via the main road leads on to Tregaron. We understand that Ceredigion CC has obtained compulsory purchase powers to recover the Ystrad Meurig to Tregaron section so that more of the trail can be made off-road. When complete, this will form a new railway path of 34 kilometres or about 23 miles. (Bob Morgan)

Left: ‘Something ghostly this way comes.’ A rock cutting near Tregaron on the former GWR branch line from Aberystwyth to Carmarthen, which is now being converted into a railway path between Aberystwyth and Tregaron. This section is known as the Ystwyth Trail, which will form part of NCN81 (Aberystwyth-Shrewsbury) and NCN82 (Aberystwyth-Fishguard, also known as Lôn Teifi). Tregaron is a bustling market town, and was one of the few places of any size on this remote cross-country railway. Freight services were withdrawn from the line in 1964, with passenger services following on 22nd February 1965, although floods finished off the section from Strata Florida to Aberystwyth on 14th December the previous year. (Bob Morgan)

February 2008. Bristol to Emersons Green. Hot on the heels of the news – and controversy – regarding the conversion of the former railway line from Cambridge to St. Ives into a guided busway, we are sorry to report that the West of England Partnership in Bristol has announced plans to convert the western end of the Bath to Bristol Cycle Trail into another guided busway. This route is the UK’s busiest railway path and, when last surveyed, was generating approximately 2.4 million walking and cycling journeys per year. Sustrans is campaigning against the proposals and has pointed out that, while it is desirable to improve public transport in Bristol, this is the wrong place for such a scheme. (Sustrans Ltd)

January 2008. Darlington, County Durham. One of the earliest locomotive sheds in the world survives at Darlington, just east of the junction between the East Coast Main Line and the branch to Bishop Auckland. The shed is a substantial two-road structure and was built by the Great North of England Railway in 1841. Although it has survived into the 21st century, there are now plans to demolish it to make way for 65 new homes, prompting Darlington Civic Trust to appeal to English Heritage to have the building listed. While it remains, it is clearly visible on the Google Earth website – the grid reference is NZ 297153. Update: The Secretary of State for Culture has now given the shed Grade 2 listed building status, following a recommendation by English Heritage which described it as ‘a rare surviving and largely unaltered example of a first generation engine shed and a highly significant early stage in the evolution of railway design’. (Ralph Rawlinson).

January 2008. Cheddar to Wells, Somerset. Plans for a multi-user path linking Cheddar with Wells moved a step closer recently when Michael Woods Associates delivered their ecological survey of the route, which will re-use parts of the former East Somerset Railway. The survey concluded that, although there is a lot of wildlife activity along the planned route, construction should be used as an opportunity to protect and enhance habitats. (Cheddar Valley Railway Walk Society)

January 2008. Tralee to Limerick, County Kerry and County Limerick. This old line, now being developed as ‘The Great Southern Trail’ (Ireland’s longest railway path), was featured on RTE1 television at 5.25 p.m. on Sunday 27th January 2008. The programme ‘Pobal’ presented an item on the old railway viaduct at Garryduff, Monagea, near Newcastle West, Co. Limerick. The projected opening of this viaduct to pedestrians – and presumably cyclists – will add a vital link to the developing cycle/walkway along the route of the old Limerick-Tralee railway line. Already 13 miles in Co. Limerick have been resurfaced, with the Heritage Council assisting in the works on the approaches to the viaduct. (Liam O’Mahony)

January 2008. Digitally enhanced reprints of old Ordnance Survey maps – perfect guides for the amateur industrial archaeologist! Cassini Publishing Ltd has published the Old Series (1804-1874), the Revised New Series (1805-1874) and the Popular Edition (1919-26). These maps cover England and Wales, and are of pretty good quality. The company’s site is at, where you can call up the map of your choice, together with a sample for that period. They cost between £6.49 and £6.99 per sheet, but in our opinion are worth it. The really helpful feature of these maps is that the publisher has combined, re-projected and enlarged them to match the scale and coverage of the present-day OS 1:50,000 (1¼”) Landranger series. The name and reference number is in each case also the same as the corresponding Landranger map. Tracing old lines and canals between the past and the present should be much easier with these maps. No more excuses for wrongly identifying the site of an old railway station or vanished lock! (Ralph Rawlinson)

Click for larger image Left: One of the four lines that radiated out from Halwill Junction (see below) took the North Cornwall line west to Wadebridge and Padstow. This ticket is from the last day on which passenger trains ran to Wadebridge. Two 3-car DMU workings ran from Plymouth to Wadebridge and back, in order to give the people of this Cornish town a last opportunity for a day trip by train from their local station. Click on the ticket for a larger view. (Jeff Vinter Collection)
January 2008. Halwill Junction to Cookworthy, Devon. A new cycle trail of 2½ miles has been established along part of the old Bude branch, starting at Halwill Junction and continuing as far as Cookworthy Forest Centre (grid reference SS 414014). This is one of the new ‘Ruby Trails’ in west Devon, named after the distinctive local red cattle, and designed to encourage green tourism in the area. The long term aim is to create a traffic free walking and cycling route which will link Holsworthy and Hatherleigh to the Tarka Trail. Access to the new route is at SS 443004 from Beeching Close in Halwill Junction, the village being named after the former railway station. (Peter Richards/Jeff Vinter)

Feature Articles


The editorial and letters pages of virtually all railway magazines have been filled for some time with complaints about the heavy-handed treatment meted out by petty officials to people attempting to take photographs on railway premises, or even from public roads or footpaths. British Transport Police and senior railway managers all agree that there are no restrictions, but the message never seems to percolate down to some horribly rude and aggressive front line staff. The problem seems to be that staff at station level are simply unaware that photography is not a prohibited or illegal activity.

The following is part of a letter sent by the Chief Constable of the British Transport Police to the editor of Rail. This makes it absolutely clear that railway photography is not against the law.

Report by Ralph Rawlinson


We have recently received updated details regarding the Clydach Gorge route, i.e. from Llanfoist (near Abergavenny) to Brynmawr, which once formed part of the LNWR’s scenic Heads of the Valleys line. It now forms an 8 mile walking and cycling route.

The upper section is now complete from Brynmawr to SO 235135 and then from SO 242139 to Llanfoist (SO 285133). The surface is excellent tarmac except for the section just down from the upper tunnels (where it remains grassy ballast) and, for the most part, the line followed is the later railway rather than the original tramway. The tunnels are bypassed using the line of the tramway, some of which has been taken over by shared access to houses and a short stretch of public highway; the tramway gets around the upper tunnels by climbing dramatically high up a wooded cliff. One of the upper tunnels can be walked through but it is unsurfaced, unlit and pitch black in the middle due to the curve. No amount of waiting for your eyes to acclimatise to the dark will allow you to see where you are putting your feet, so bring a torch. Both lower tunnels are blocked.

The missing section between SO 235135 and SO 242139 is apparently still under negotiation for access, although the lanes used to bridge the gap are quiet and only add a short ‘dog leg’ to the overall distance.

The route climbs about 1000′ in 8 miles through protected beech woodlands, a lot of the time high up on the side of the gorge with long drops and very good views. This must be one of the most dramatic paths available to railway ramblers, as well as being historic in its origins. The top end of this route at Brynmawr is very close to the Darren Disgwylfa Tramroad which leads to the Llangattock Quarries on the other side of the valley; the DDT (an unfortunate acronym for those who are old enough to remember the lethal pesticide!) is itself now a public right of way.

Report by Tim Hewett