December 2022. Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.
The humble, yet vital, siding hit the Huddersfield headlines when engineers working on the Transpennine Route Upgrade unearthed a set at Hillhouse, near Alder Street. The sidings are thought to date from 1850, while the wider site also encompassed train sheds and two turntables. It was used to store trains and materials when the line formed part of the Manchester & Huddersfield Railway. Network Rail has been carefully uncovering the historic site and survey work was carried out with support from the Archaeological Services WYAS. The results confirmed that the foundations of the old sidings were buried just below the surface, spurring the specialists to bring the area back to how it would have looked over 172 years ago. Hannah Lomas, Principal Programme Sponsor at Network Rail said: “This is an amazing insight into what the siding would have looked like over a century ago. Working closely with WYAS has allowed us to carefully excavate the site at a much faster speed while also providing useful information about the origin of the materials used and how the sidings helped transport goods around the UK.” (Network Rail)
December 2022. Devil’s Gulch, Elan Valley, Radnorshire.
Following assessment by specialist engineers, Devil’s Gulch rock cutting is to be repaired and reopened to Elan Valley Trail walkers/cyclists after all! The work was scheduled to begin on 9 Jan 2023 and will involve descaling the rock formation, anchoring and bolting the rock and adding rock netting. It will be carried out by a specialist Porthmadog-based contractor. Although the start date has slipped and assuming no more rock does, completion is still expected in the spring. (Chris Parker)
November 2022. Portishead, Somerset.
The news many of us thought would never come…as the Secretary of State for Transport finally signed off the reopening of the Portishead to Bristol line and preparatory work can now begin. There will be an hourly service into Bristol Temple Meads, with trains stopping at a new station at Pill. Trains will then join the Exeter to Bristol line at Parson Street Station in the south of the city. Rail users lobby group Railfuture Severnside said it was “delighted” with the news and praised the contributions made by local MPs and councillors. (BBC)
November 2022. Lydd, Kent.
Lydd Town station building was gutted by fire, presumably arson, in November and a local heritage group has been launched with the aim of restoring it. Pictures from Network Rail show the damage goes well beyond the loss of the roof. As disheartening as this latest development is, it has to be said that the building had lain derelict for decades with the extensive site remaining undeveloped. The goods shed survives while the line is open for the removal of nuclear waste from Dungeness Power Station. (Network Rail; RR)
November 2022. Tavistock, Devon.
Devon County Council has announced that its Strategic Outline Business Case has been submitted to the Government’s Restoring Your Railway programme, and that it sets out the rationale for reopening the line between Bere Alston and Tavistock. The scheme would reinstate approximately five miles of track and deliver a new single platform station at Tavistock. An hourly Tavistock-Plymouth service would stop at Bere Alston, Bere Ferrers and the west Plymouth stations, while maintaining the existing two-hourly service between Plymouth and Gunnislake. The annual passenger demand at the station is forecast to be 394,000 passengers a year, which is comparable to Barnstaple. Around 86,000 rail passengers a year are expected to come from new housing developments in Tavistock, with the new train service estimated to generate an additional 32,000 rail passengers a year at existing stations. The new line will increase frequency of local rail services to St Budeaux, Keyham and Devonport. The reinstatement of the railway line to Tavistock is identified in the 20-year plan of the Peninsula Rail Task Force. The County Council has received letters of support for the scheme from six local MPs (4 in Devon, 2 in Cornwall). Through its latest submission, the County Council is seeking £3 million to develop the next stage of the business case. (Devon County Council; Steven Hills)
November 2022. Bridges.
Two more bridges that have been infilled by National Highways may yet go the way of Great Musgrave, with local councils requiring the infill to be removed so as to open up the trackbeds for leisure routes. The dismantled railway under Congham Road bridge near King’s Lynn was one of several identified in Norfolk County Council’s Walking and Cycling Strategy as having the potential for reuse as part of a network of active travel paths, but National Highways blocked the route by infilling the structure during March and April 2021 at a cost of £127K, claiming that it presented “an ongoing and increasing risk to public safety”. A cycle path has already been laid along a section of the former Wetherby-Tadcaster railway in West Yorkshire and an ambition to complete a link between the two towns is still being pursued. However, £133K was spent infilling Rudgate Road bridge – close to the current end of the path – in the spring of 2021. Selby District Council has now appointed an enforcement officer to consider the Rudgate Road infill. (HRE Group)
October 2022. Smardale Gill Viaduct, Westmorland (now Cumbria).
‘Following a full professional inspection of the Grade II* Listed Smardale Gill Viaduct, we commenced a series of works in four phases to preserve the integrity and ensure the long-term security of this iconic structure. Phase 1, the installation of stainless steel mesh panels on the existing railings to meet current safety standards, was completed in 2020 with the help of very kind and generous grants and donations from a number of sources including Railway Ramblers, for which we are most grateful. Phase 2 is the resurfacing and waterproofing of the deck, on which we are currently focusing our attention, to be followed by Phases 3 and 4, removal of vegetation and repairs to the stonework in a number of piers – this latter will be a major and very costly operation. For the deck works, we are working with structural engineers and will shortly be seeking tenders from a number of contractors with a view to work being undertaken in Q3 2023.
This work will be the catalyst for the establishment and development of digital assets to engage a wider and more diverse community in the natural heritage of Upper Eden. With the benefit of an estimate of costs and with the backing of renowned mountaineer Alan Hinkes OBE, we have undertaken a media campaign on local TV/radio, successfully sought grants and established a crowdfunding campaign at justgiving.com (look for Smardale Gill Viaduct). We are currently in the process of formalising a grant application to the Heritage Fund. The effects of inflation generally and the increased costs of construction materials specifically mean that when we receive firm quotes we will have a funding gap and thus need to continue our fundraising. Further information is available on our website www.edenviaducts.org.uk’
(Hugh Eadon, Secretary, Northern Viaduct Trust Ltd)
October 2022. Itchen Abbas, Hampshire.
The National Highways infill saga has moved from all-fill to no-fill, as bridges up and down the land learn their reprieve from the depredations of the concrete mixers. One such structure is the bridge which takes Stoke Road, Itchen Abbas, over the disused section of the ex-LSWR Alton to Winchester line. The furore at Great Musgrave has led to a national moratorium on NH infillings, and the Hampshire bridge is one of the beneficiaries. The Hampshire Chronicle quoted NH thus: ‘It is the responsibility of the local highways authority to have capacity assessments for bridges that carry roads. As Hampshire County Council did not have a capacity assessment for the Stoke Itchen bridge, we have conducted one to give us further information about the bridge’s condition. The bridge passed the assessment and we have no need to conduct major works on the bridge. We are in direct communication with the South Downs National Park Authority and the group seeking to deliver the Watercress Way active travel route, and have informed them of this. At a point in the future when plans for the Watercress Way are further progressed we will be happy to support those plans and consider, with DfT, the transferring of structures as appropriate.’ (Hampshire Chronicle)
October 2022. Bideford, Devon.
Barnstaple Town Council has unanimously backed calls to reinstate the town’s rail link with Bideford. The council voted to support the Tarka Rail Association (TRA) and the Atlantic Coast – Exeter Railway project, ACE Rail. The project aims to give Bideford a boost by extending the Tarka Line to the growing town’s 30,000 people and improve the existing line to add a second, limited-stop, hourly service to link Bideford with Exeter Central in 60 minutes. The nine-mile railway from Barnstaple to Bideford closed to regular scheduled passenger services in October 1965.
ACE Rail’s lead member, Tim Steer, told councillors last week: ‘The ACE Rail campaign is not just to get Bideford back to the branch line, but is also to get a faster service to Exeter on the Tarka Line. At the moment, the line takes roughly 80 minutes to get to Exeter Central, but with the ACE Rail campaign, we can figure out a fast rail link that can get there from Bideford to Exeter in 60 minutes. Bideford is a large urban community, and it’s been left behind. The local transport network around here is congested with no realistic prospect of capacity and growth, but reliably quick and predictable journeys can be made by train.’
The project to develop the case for an extension and upgrade of the Tarka Line has received a £6,500 grant from Great Western Railway, as well as support and advice from independent national rail development campaign Railfuture, which has also contributed financially. This has enabled the TRA to engage an independent specialist advisor to produce an Initial Business Case for the Atlantic Coast – Exeter Railway. GWR Business Development Director Tom Pierpoint said: ‘We’ve seen with the reopening of the Dartmoor Line to Okehampton how a local community can benefit from having rail services restored. We’re pleased to provide this funding, which can help towards further exploring the idea of extending the Tarka Line to Bideford.’ The popular Tarka Trail between Barnstaple and Bideford would be left intact. (Steven Hills; DevonLive)
October 2022. Gelli Tunnel, Cymmer, Glamorgan.
Nation.Cymru has reported that Gelli Houses Tunnel (usually known simply as ‘Gelli’) has been closed off for the forseeable future, following an inspection. The 166-yard horseshoe-shaped tunnel is located on the section of Rhondda & Swansea Bay Railway which closed in 1960 when a new connection opened allowing traffic to be diverted on to the parallel GWR line between Cymmer and Blaengwynfi. In February 2021, Neath Port Talbot Councill received a request for filming in the tunnel and it came to light that it had no records regarding the site. The inevitable ‘safety’ issues then surfaced. The inspection claimed that ‘sections of it had collapsed.’ However, the Club Editor visited the site last year and saw no sign of this. While the brickwork section to the northern end of the tunnel was said to be in good condition, the masonry span which accounts for the majority of the tunnel was in a poor condition and would have required substantial work. As a result of the findings, the application for filming was declined and an emergency closure was put in place to prevent access for public safety. A number of options were considered with regards to the future of the site, including the astonishing proposal to collapse the tunnel, or (better) to refurbish it for re-opening to the public. Following recommendations though, they went for the tried and trusted – and depressingly anti-environmental – palisade fencing at each end. The tunnel is not a listed structure but was, until this latest development, a pleasantly accessible ‘find’ just off the NCN route. (Nation.Cymru; Chris Parker; RR)
October 2022. Pontarddulais – Grovesend, Glamorgan.
The conversion of this 1-mile long section of former Central Wales line trackbed to a foot and cycle way has been completed. Pontarddulais is accessible by rail and future extensions to Swansea Bay are proposed. (Chris Parker)
September 2022. Somosierra, Madrid.
The direct line north from Madrid to Burgos may yet re-open to traffic, eleven years on from a tunnel collapse at Somosierra which left a tamping machine half-buried in the rubble. It was the excuse the Spanish railway authorities needed to close a line which they were already running down. The tamping machine, along with the stations and other infrastructure, was simply abandoned as retrieval was deemed uneconomic. The line includes several tunnels and viaducts and would make a wonderful addition to an already extensive greenway network, but the latest news suggests the line might be revived for the use of goods traffic. It lies in a region of sparse population, with the exception of the town of Aranda de Duero, while the new high-speed line has siphoned off the long-distance passenger traffic.
September 2022. Bassenthwaite Lake / Cockermouth, Cumbria.
Readers of this magazine will be aware of the restored station-cum-café at this ex-CKPR location. We had not reported a story involving the old Cockermouth Station benches which have been at the local bowling club since the station closed. When the Bassenthwaite Lake station owners were alerted to their departure and subsequent availability, within 48 hours they had been delivered to the station and are in the process of being restored, with the help of some volunteers, to the correct colours and condition to allow decades of future service. (Di Parums)
September 2022. Bennerley Viaduct, Derbys/Notts.
The Friends of Bennerley newsletter stated that ‘thanks to the generosity of Railway Ramblers we are about to buy and install two new amazing benches at the top of the ramp. We know our visitors sometimes need to rest after a steep climb. We use special stamped bricks as the base to show the industry that used to be under our feet.’ They also report that the public guided tours were a huge success this summer, with many selling out, so that they have decided to make them a regular part of their programme. (Friends of Bennerley)
September 2022. Wick St. Lawrence, Somerset.
The Weston, Clevedon & Portishead Railway Group report that they are working with North Somerset Council on a reconstruction of Wick St Lawrence station as part of the new shared-use path along the old trackbed. The project is fully funded. They also held a WC&P Railway Anniversary Exhibition in Portishead in early October. Related and very recent news is that the Transport Secretary has finally given the green light for the rebuilding of the Portishead branch. (Graham Briscoe)
August 2022. Pudsey, Lancashire.
An RR walk in May tracing the former line from Laisterdyke to Pudsey Lowtown revealed that for most of its course – from Dick Lane in Laisterdyke to the site of Tyersal Junction (and from there and Cutlers Junction towards Dudley Hill) – is filled-in cuttings with just bridge parapets visible as ground level walls, but left as grassed areas through where new housing is now being built. East from Tyersal Jn a section of embankment is inaccessible within private farmland, but then from a missing bridge over Tyersal Lane at Black Hey Farm (GF SE207325) to the west portal of Greenside Tunnel (SE213326) is walkable on a high embankment. Posters on this section reveal that there is a Greenside Greenway Group actively campaigning to retain the de facto path as a public right of way, but also that the formation is part of open land now put up for sale by the Ogden Group, so access is likely to be closed off by any new owner. The Greenway group is seeking to convince Leeds Council of the established use of the present pedestrian route along the embankment, and also of the case for retention, with potential as a footpath and cycleway if Greenside Tunnel were used. This is technically possible as it is still intact and only gated at each end. This in turn would lead into the existing walkable route through the built-up area of Pudsey to Lowtown. Members may wish to support the campaign via email@example.com. (Gas Hill)
August 2022. Bowling, Dunbartonshire.
A route which opened last year at Bowling Harbour and uses a section of the ex-Lanarkshire & Dunbartonshire Railway has won the Master Planning/Landscaping: Public Realm/Landscaping Award at the Scottish Design awards. The route is shown on current OS mapping as starting at the east end of Bowling Harbour, but in fact begins at NS 45171 73489, where an accessible ramp leads up to a formerly disused viaduct across the harbour. The trail, which is substantially on an old railway formation including several bridges/viaducts, ends between Dumbarton Central and Dumbarton East stations in the west. Part of NCN7, it links the towpath of the Forth & Clyde Canal with the wider National Cycle Network. It is being marketed as Scotland’s answer to the New York Highline because this was an elevated railway which ran over multiple bridges and viaducts. There are several local businesses ‘underneath the arches’ which all appear to be thriving. (Sustrans)
August 2022. Isle of Wight.
The Isle of Wight’s railways were decimated by the Beeching cuts (and earlier closures), leaving only the line from Ryde Pier Head to Shanklin. Since then, the IoW Steam Railway has reopened the section from Smallbrook Junction on the Ryde line to Wootton, and in May 2020, the Island Council received up to £50,000 from the Restoring Your Railways programme to prepare a feasibility study for restoring rail links between Newport and Ryde, and from Ventnor to Shanklin. Surprisingly though, the former of these two routes is not via Haven Street, where the heritage line is based, but along the trackbed of the old Newport – Sandown line, via Blackwater. Much of this is currently a cycleway and footpath. This facility would be retained next to the reopened line. Buildings on the trackbed at Wroxall make the Ventnor option highly unlikely. The Isle of Wight’s MP, Bob Seely, admitted that ‘there are also some substantial issues which would need to be resolved to enable the return of railway services to Ventnor, but these are not insurmountable.’ The business case looks at the potential impact improved rail links could have, given that the only easy access to the mainland is via Ryde, whereas the economic hub of the island is Newport, which is not rail-connected. The Council has plans to develop Newport Harbour and sees the railway as an integral part of that. Meanwhile, Ventnor could be opened up to greater business and tourist use if the line from Shanklin was reopened to the town. Lowering carbon emissions yet at the same time improving transport links makes rail a very attractive option once more. (Tim Stannard, RR)
August 2022. Chequerbent Embankment, Lancashire.
In Spring 2022 the above structure was given Ancient Monument Status, which puts it into an exclusive club with Stonehenge etc. This means that the landowner’s plans for the area around the embankment will need to be revised as a hole was going to be punctured through it presumably for road access. The embankment is important as it is one of the last pieces of the Bolton and Leigh Railway of 1828, the first public railway in Lancashire. It was engineered by George Stephenson. It arrived at the dawn of the railway age and is significant as a result, in line with the Stockton & Darlington and Canterbury & Whitstable railways. (Phillip Earnshaw)
August 2022. Hundred End to nr. Banks (Gorsey Lane), Lancashire.
Part of the L&YR’s former line from Preston to Southport, this short walk comprises a public footpath at the east end (Hundred End) followed by a short stretch of unclassified road. Examination of aerial photographs suggests that the trackbed may be walkable for another ¼m from SD 403212 to Square House Lane at SD 400210. The station at Hundred End was at SD 418221 but has been demolished. (Keith Holliday)
August 2022. Not so saintly. Cornwall.
Sad news from Cornwall where sections of the proposed Saints Trails keep being dropped in a kind of rail-trail ‘decanonisation’. Despite Cornwall Council being able to claw back £1m from National Highways for over-running, this still leaves £18m which has gone into an ever-shrinking project. The original plan was to open paths between Truro and St Agnes, Trispen and Idless, St Newlyn East and Carland Cross, and finally one from Perranporth to Newquay. The Trispen and Newlyn trails have fallen by the wayside, and now the Perranporth trail is being curtailed at Goonhavern, as the Council has been unable to obtain the land needed to reach Newquay. The Council says this is to comply with funding time limits – any unspent money becomes unavailable after March next year – and the project is well behind schedule. Others have pointed out that it is also way over budget, to the tune of £6m according to some estimates. The Truro path will link with the Langarth Garden Village development at Threemilestone, before crossing the A30 via a bridge at Chiverton Cross, where the junction will be revamped. (Cornwall Live)
August 2022. Watford, Hertfordshire.
A proposal to reopen the disused Watford – Croxley Green line ‘in some sustainable travel capacity’ is being pursued by a team of transport consultancies led by Atkins. The 3.5 mile stretch of track has been disused since 1996 and has suffered from a number of false starts as an extension to the Metropolitan Line and a connection to the Overground. Work began but soon faltered in 2017 due to a funding shortfall. TfL and DfT could not agree and the project has remained dormant ever since. Now Hertfordshire County Council, Watford Borough Council, Three Rivers District Council and Network Rail have partnered with Atkins, Systra UK and Wood Group to explore options for what can be done with the line that would provide innovative solutions to improve connectivity in the area. Watford Council say that ‘at the very least’ the plans will align with the national movement towards active travel and will encourage more people to walk and cycle. Concept designs from Atkins, Systra and Wood Group will be submitted in spring 2023 and a strategic outline business case will be developed to support future funding bids to deliver the project. (New Civil Engineer)
August 2022. Hassendean and Saughtree, Roxburghshire.
The (different) owners of two of the best restored stations in the region – Hassendean on the Waverley Line, and Saughtree on the Border Counties Railway – have put them up for sale. Hassendean comes with two holiday lets as well as a virtually complete railway station and a section of trackbed, while Saughtree boasts a few hundred yards of track, a diesel shunter and some rolling stock, along with a functioning B&B. The owner of Saughtree is particularly interested in hearing from anyone who would like to keep the railway project going. Now if each RR member contributed fifty pounds… (RR)
August 2022. Truro, Cornwall.
A major revamp of the Newham Trail in Truro has begun as part of a series of upgrades under the banner of the Truro Loops Project, aimed at improving “car-free connections” in and around the city. The path uses part of the ex-GWR Newham Branch (originally a section of the West Cornwall Railway), which left the Falmouth branch at Penwithers Junction south of the city, and ran in a loop around to Newham on the Truro River. For a few years in the mid-19th century, Newham was the terminus station for Truro, before the Cornwall Railway arrived with its more direct through route from Plymouth. Newham was then ‘relegated’ to a goods station, and thus remained until closure in 1971. Photos show that an embankment was built from the main line to the Newham branch from the north, but track was never laid, meaning that the branch connected to the Falmouth line just south of that branch’s own junction with the main line to Penzance.
The trail runs from Treyew Road, Highertown, around the south of the city and the Calenick Valley, to the Truro River opposite Malpas. It will be resurfaced, with new trees planted along the line between Newham and New County Hall, and include what are being rather grandly named ‘rest areas’. Is that a posh term for a bench?! The work is due to be complete by the end of the year, while the company undertaking the improvements has promised that the work will cause ‘low level inconvenience’ to residents and trail users, which conjures up all sorts of misdemeanours, but does at least have the merit of sounding a little like ‘railspeak’. (Cornwall Live; Jeff Vinter; RR)
August 2022. Filey Holiday Camp Station, North Yorkshire.
It has been reported that the above station is being/has been demolished in 2022 and the site returned to agriculture. I met the landowner when I visited in 2004 with his permission. At that stage he was looking for future uses for the site so this does not come as a real surprise. I did manage to organise a walk to the old station for the Club, but the holiday camp which it served had been demolished by 2004. I have vague recollections looking at old photographs of Butlins, Filey as this was the destination of my first holiday in the early 1970s, although we did regrettably travel by coach so I did not manage to traverse the branch. I have had to satisfy myself walking the route instead, including both curves to the
Scarborough-Hull line. (Phillip Earnshaw)
August 2022. Rugby to Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.
Sustrans’ muchheralded ‘Lias Line Greenway’ between these two towns has opened, but it should be pointed out that, so far, it only uses three short sections of disused railway: the long existing Offchurch Greenway at its southern end, a brief trackbed visit near Long Itchington, and a section between Birdingbury and Draycote. (Further sections are walkable, though.) There are more phases to come, of course, including the route past Stockton Reservoir, and a bridge (being built by HS2) over the Fosse Way which will give a traffic-free connection to the Offchurch Greenway to the south. It remains to be seen whether the route will connect north to the Cawston Greenway, which also uses part of the Rugby – Leamington line. NCN 41 avoids this and takes a most circuitous route to get into Rugby. (RR)
July 2022. Castlefield Viaduct, Manchester.
Technically this qualifies as a (tiny) piece of reopened disused railway. Lovers of plants, flowers and modern ‘art’ may be happy, but the preview video put out by the Manchester Evening News didn’t show much of a nod to the viaduct’s heritage, while the Daily Mail’s hyperbolic ‘stunning new look’ considerably over-eggs things. One also wonders how it cost £1.8 million to create this 350-yard National Trust outpost. However, the structure is open – albeit on a 12-month trial and through a booking system which limits visitor numbers to just 100 a day (do they enter one at a time?!) – and it might just be possible to do some train spotting on the open and parallel viaduct through the lattice work! It would be interesting to hear from any members who do pay the site a visit. (RR)
July 2022. Whitrope Tunnel, Roxburghshire.
The Campaign for Borders Rail (CBR) Newsletter 65 reported a collapse in Whitrope Tunnel on the former Waverley Line between Hawick and Newcastleton. ‘Following heavy rain in March a large rockfall took place close to the southern end of Whitrope Tunnel in the location where a section of the tunnel lining had previously given way. The tunnel is now completely blocked with debris at this point and the ground above the tunnel has fallen through leaving a large hole.’ CBR warn the public to keep away from the tunnel for their own safety. (CBR; Richard A Bain)
July 2022. Coventry, Warwickshire.
A £200,000 ‘greenway’ is being built in Coventry to link Gosford Park School with the Binley Road cycleway at Gosford Green, part of which will use the southern section of the Coventry Loop Line which was opened in 1914 to enable freight to avoid the main station, but closed in 1981. Much of it, which ran from Three Spires Junction on the Nuneaton line to Humber Road Junction on the Coventry to Rugby line, has since been converted into a dual carriageway. (Forgotten Relics)
July 2022. Waverley Viaduct, Carlisle, Cumbria.
A group of Northumbria University students, all from India, have launched a survey to boost public awareness of plans to reopen the Waverley Viaduct and offer their support to The Carlisle Waverley Viaduct Trust. The Trust has spent more than a decade campaigning for the Viaduct to be reopened as a footpath and eventually a cycle path. It would provide a link between the Cumberland Infirmary, and Etterby and Stainton across the River Eden. The volunteers have high hopes for the area and really want to introduce some new and younger people into the team to help secure its future. Chairperson for the Trust, Julie Bowman, commented: ‘We hope the students will be able to help us find the money to fund the work we need to do. They will be able to offer a different perspective.’ The team are hoping to be able to secure more than £250,000 in funding to help get the viaduct open. (News & Star with Cumberland News; RR)
July 2022. Hawes, North Yorkshire.
Following on from the news item in the last magazine, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) has conducted a survey which, it claims, shows there is strong public support for developing a multi-user route along the six-mile stretch of former railway in Wensleydale, between Hawes and Garsdale. Nearly four out of five members of the public have backed a proposal for a new family-friendly, wheelchair-accessible route on the old trackbed. The YDNPA said 2,261 individual responses were received, with a minority of respondents – 19% – against the proposal on the grounds that they would prefer the former trackbed to be protected from any development. Currently there is no public access along the former branch line between Hawes and Garsdale. At a subsequent meeting of the YDNPA, members backed the proposal for a trail. The railway closed more than 60 years ago and Neil Heseltine, YDNPA chair, said: ‘Members of the Authority made the point that it was no longer responsible to keep waiting in vain for railway reinstatement and that the route should be used by today’s generation of walkers, horse riders and cyclists.’ (Cycling UK; YDNPA; RR)
July 2022. Tyelaw Burn, Northumberland.
Here is a disused railway path not shown as such on OS maps nor is it listed in Railway Rights of Way or Vinter’s Gazetteer and has never been reported in Railway Ramblings. Promoted on the letsgoforawalk.uk website as the ‘Tyelaw Burn Railway’, this is in fact the former standard gauge mineral line which ran from Shilbottle Colliery to the East Coast Main Line near High Buston, approx 1.25 miles south of Alnmouth Station. The ‘path alongside the railway’ referred to in the dog walk description is part of the trackbed so would need to be included by the purist, though the direct field path goes northwards to High Buston Farm. The total distance is 2 miles and the grid references are NU 217081 (west) to NU 239092 (east). There is a small parking area at each end. The 1957 6″ OS map shows the line, while the 1926 edition shows it as under construction. Shilbottle Colliery closed in 1982 but was linked underground to the neighbouring Whittle Colliery in 1978. Branch Line News (BLN) 363 of 7th Feb 1979 states that the main line connection had been taken out at least a month before. Six years earlier (BLN 218) the rails were already ‘slightly rusty’ but a steam engine was noted at the colliery. The footpath is clear, well surfaced and appears well maintained. The waymarkers are well weathered wooden finger posts so the path ‘conversion’ clearly isn’t recent. The 1984 Landranger OS map shows the Shilbottle line as lifted but the Whittle Colliery line as in situ. BLN has an official closure date for it of 27 August 1983 although the colliery itself lasted until 9 January 1987, evidently using road transport. From Google Earth photography the Whittle line is now used as farm access, with Private and No Entry signs displayed. Rural Branch Lines of Northumberland says the latter-day colliery opened in 1921 and was steam operated till February 1973. (Chris Parker; Geoff Blyth)
(Two other walks in the area also use short sections of disused line, on the old Alnwick – Coldstream branch: the Lemmington Woods walk near Edlingham, and the Rugley Burn walk on the southern outskirts of Alnwick.)
July 2022. Holbeck Viaduct, Leeds, West Yorkshire.
Plans continue to convert around a mile of ex-LNWR track into a highline walkway, or – as the flowery rhetoric of the Holbeck Viaduct Project Group’s vision document puts it – ‘a distinguished linear public space.’ Which is more than can be said for the rather depressing industrial landscape through which the 92-arch structure and associated embankment runs. However, it would be wonderful to see this Victorian landmark restored and serving the city and its community once more. The HVPG has now become a Community Interest Company and is hoping to have at least part of the viaduct open in time for the Leeds 2023 International Cultural Festival. (HVPG; RR)
June 2022. Ardingly, East Sussex.
The Bluebell Railway have cleared the disused trackbed west of Lywood Tunnel on the Ardingly branch line towards a missing farm access bridge, with a view to reinstating the bridge. This was done somewhat controversially during nesting season, but it’s nice to see the trackbed clear for the first time in many years. (Chris Bedford)
June 2022. Kettleness to Runswick Bank Top, North Yorkshire.
A new path has come to our attention between these two locations, though the route has not yet been inspected. It is apparently open to cyclists and walkers, and is shown as a permissive bridleway on the latest OS mapping: 2½m, NZ 831155 – NZ 803156. Part of the scenic North Eastern Railway line from Whitby to Staithes, access is at NZ 832155. The former Kettleness station survives as a private residence near the start of the trail (NZ 831155). (Keith Holliday; Jeff Vinter)
June 2022. Heathfield, Devon.
The Heath Rail Link is a public interest group formed with the intention of purchasing and reopening the line from Newton
Abbot to Heathfield in Devon, initially as a commuter link, and later as a heritage line. Their plans include restoring Platforms 9 and 10 at Newton Abbot and relaying track in the latter, in readiness for a train service. As reported in the recent Walk Reports Supplement, the track along the branch remains in situ as far as Heathfield, and the last freight train ran as recently as 2015. (Ivor Sutton)
June 2022. Bennerley Viaduct, Derbys/Notts.
Jeff Vinter writes: ‘On Monday 20 June 2022, I signed, as Chairman of Railway Paths Ltd (RPL), the 99year lease of Bennerley Viaduct to The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct, who will now promote and develop it as a local landmark and tourist attraction. With the generous help of supporters such as the Railway Heritage Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund, RPL raised just under £2m to repair this structure’.
At 12 noon on Sunday 7 August, Sir John Peace, the Lord-Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, and Mrs Elizabeth Fothergill CBE, the Lord-Lieutenant of Derbyshire, were joined by Uniform Groups from Greasley and Ilkeston, volunteers and trustees of the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct, and crowds of local people to officially celebrate the opening of the viaduct. The Lords-Lieutenants cut ribbons at both ends, one in each county, and the crowds processed to the middle to see their symbolic handshake at the county boundary. Shirland Brass Band played, and the media turned out to capture the moment. Mrs Fothergill said: “It is my pleasure and privilege to be part of the official opening of the Bennerley Viaduct… I know it will be enjoyed by residents and visitors for years to come. I would like to pay tribute to the passion, hard work and commitment of all those who had the vision to bring this incredible piece of transport history back into use and to those who funded and supported the project, you should all be justifiably proud.” Over 750 people came to the event, and there was ample coverage on the local and regional news. (Friends of Bennerley Viaduct)
June 2022. Torrington, Devon.
The Puffing Billy Café, located in the old station building at Torrington, Devon on what is now the popular Tarka Trail, has new owners who say they are committed to retaining it as a community hub. The building itself is owned by a charity, Tarka Valley Railway, and retains a number of items dating back to the time when it was a working railway station. Judging by a recent photo in the local press, the coach standing at the platform could do with a lick of paint once other renovations are completed, yet hanging baskets are planned for the front of the café in ode to the last station master to work at the station. Passenger services ended in the 1960s but the last freight train ran in 1983. (Steven Hills; RR)
June 2022. Brislington, Somerset.
Temporary permission has been granted to extend, in effect, the Sustrans-built Whitchurch to Brislington trail further in towards Bristol city centre. The approval permits the old railway to be used as an active travel route for a period of 3 years, at the end of which the Council will have the option to proceed with their preference to turn it into a road. The grid references for the current trail are ST 615676 (Staunton Lane, Whitchurch) to ST 615705 (Tesco Extra, Callington Road, Brislington, Bristol, BS4 5AY), a distance of just over 1¾ miles long from end to end, although there are some diversions off the trackbed. The extension will run from the Tesco Extra store to Sandy Park Road at ST 614715 and add another 1¼ miles to the route overall. This route includes a significant section of old railway, in a cutting, which has been used informally for many years; the cutting also includes two overline bridges on what was part of the Bristol & North Somerset line to Radstock. If the trail proves popular, however, it might deter the Council from their link road plans. (James Winstanley)
May 2022. South West England.
Work on the Pier to Pier Way is proceeding which incorporates a section of the former Weston, Clevedon & Portishead Railway route between Weston Super Mare and Clevedon known as the Tutshill Greenway and this is due to open in the summer. The complete length of the Pier to Pier Way may well be open by the end of the year.
The Strawberry Line Dulcote Link opened on 4 March with further extensions to the route between Cheddar and Wells and between Wells and Shepton Mallet as part of the planned Somerset Circle. A working party is planned for Saturday 10 September to Saturday 17 September based at Dulcote Quarry now the home of the Charlie Bigham food factory. I understand accommodation can be provided at the quarry in yurts! Any members interested in taking part please contact Malcolm Broad, South West Area Co-ordinator, contact details in the back of the magazine.
Another project that will soon be underway is the ‘Tramway’, an extension of the existing Whitchurch to Brislington railway path that follows the route of the former GWR Bristol & North Somerset line into Bristol from Frome. A planning committee meeting on 16 March granted permission for the temporary threeyear active travel route from Brislington to Sandy Park Road in the vicinity of Bristol Temple Meads Station despite opposition from City Council transport officers who had the route earmarked for a road scheme (see news item above).
In Cornwall the first section of the troubled Saints Way scheme has opened between Perranporth and Goonhavern, a feature of which is the 89-yard Cox Viaduct. Another section of this scheme which utilises much of the former GWR Chacewater to Newquay line, closed in 1963, will run from St Agnes to Truro and is due to open in late 2023 but the Goonhavern to Newquay section is currently suspended due to problems securing the land. (Malcolm Broad; John Grimshaw)
May 2022. Tavistock, Devon.
The Tavistock Herald has reported Devon County Council’s plans to re-open the line from Tavistock to Bere Alston, and provide an hourly service from Tavistock to Plymouth. A recent engineering survey found the trackbed almost completely unobstructed, and the structures (bridges, tunnels and viaducts) in sound condition. Devon CC has now submitted a funding bid to secure a grant from the Ideas Fund of the ‘Restoring Your Railway’ programme. If successful, the grant will be used to produce a Strategic Outline Business Case and update the previous extensive surveying work undertaken on the line. Particularly encouraging was this part of the report, quoting from Debo Sellis, councillor for Tavistock: ‘Listening to many young residents it is clear they want their future to have less reliance on the motor car, however it may be powered.’ The Tavistock-Plymouth link is seen as Phase 2 of the wider project to re-open the entire ‘Dartmoor Line’ from Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton.
Reading other remarks from officials and councillors about the re-opening, I was reminded of the discussions that members had in the very early days of RR, when railways – especially long-surviving freight lines such as BodminWenfordbridge and Barnstaple-Meeth – were still being shut down; it was a déjà-vu experience. What a pity that it has taken the rest of society nearly 50 years to catch up with what we were saying then. (Steven Hills; Jeff Vinter)
May 2022. The Lias Line, Warwickshire
(named after the Blue Lias cement works at Long Itchington, which kept the branch open to goods traffic until 1985). In October last year, work began to extend the Offchurch Greenway to Marton Junction, and thence along the Weedon Junction branch to the Grand Union Canal (SP 410645) near Long Itchington. The extension will add an extra 3¼ miles to the Greenway along infrastructure owned largely by Railway Paths Ltd to create what will become Warwickshire’s longest railway path and off-road active travel route. When finance allows, Sustrans plans to extend the path north from Marton Junction towards Rugby, on the line from Leamington Spa. The first step on that section will be to remove the bridge over the A423 by Marton station, which is the most expensive in the Railway Paths portfolio, due to regular lorry strikes. The abutments will be retained as supports for a replacement with a higher arc in due course. (James Winstanley)
April 2022. Great Musgrave, Cumbria.
Regular readers will be aware that last year National Highways (NH) ‘temporarily infilled’ a bridge in the village which lies between two heritage railways that hope, eventually, to join up. Graeme Bickerdike, a member of The HRE Group which is trying to halt a nationwide infilling and demolition programme of legacy rail structures, said: ‘National Highways contrived an alternative reality at Great Musgrave whereby a bridge that was in good condition became a threat to public safety. But the claim that it might fail and collapse was not supported by any evidence.’ RR Chairman, Mark Jones, has lodged an objection to the infilling of the bridge on behalf of the Club. Although NH have made a public commitment to remove the infill if it is the last obstruction to the railways’ reconnection, campaigners are wary of trusting such a promise given that the company infilled the bridge without informing anyone in the first place. It also needs to be said that there is little realistic prospect of the two railways linking up for many decades to come. (HRE, RR)
April 2022. King’s Cliffe, Northamptonshire.
A newly extended path has been opened on the trackbed of the exLNWR Market Harborough to
Peterborough line at King’s Cliffe. A local information leaflet says the ‘disused railway’ path was fully opened in 2019, providing a 1.5 mile route across the north of the village, connecting Fineshade Woods to Apethorpe and Old Sulehay. It crosses numerous habitats and provides viewpoints over the surrounding fields. (Roger Knight)
April 2022. Wye Valley Greenway, Gloucestershire/Monmouthshire.
In April last year, Tidenham Tunnel was opened as the finishing stage of a multi-use trail from Tintern to Sedbury (east of the River Wye from Chepstow), which uses the trackbed of the former Wye Valley Railway (WVR). During the autumn and winter period (1st October to 31st March), when the tunnel is closed to protect its bat population, engineers from Balfour Beatty carried out an ‘inspection’ during which they brought down masonry from the tunnel roof in several places. The engineers were working for National Highways and its Historical Railways Estate subsidiary, which has raised questions (as yet unanswered) about how and why this damage was caused. At the Tintern end of the Greenway, trail users leave the old WVR and take to the ‘Wireworks branch’ to reach the village; this section provides a good view of Tintern Abbey and includes a bridge over the River Wye at grid reference SO 530003. Refurbishment of this bridge is due to start at the end of June this year and will take about 9 months to complete. While the bridge is closed, users of the Greenway will be able to reach Tintern using public footpaths and bridleways via the village of Brockweir, which is upstream from Tintern, but the diversion will add over two miles to their journey, and may not be suitable for cyclists. (James Winstanley)
April 2022. Shepton Viaducts Trail, Somerset.
This summer, John Grimshaw’s charity ‘Greenways and Cycleroutes Ltd’ will be running a number of workcamps in order to construct a new railway path from the A37 on the east side of Shepton Mallet (ST 626437) to the north end of Ham Woods Viaduct (ST 609454), where a connection will be made with footpaths that lead to the east and west. This new route may be only 1½ miles long, but will include Bath Road Viaduct, Winsor Hill Tunnel (the original, northbound bore) and Ham Woods Viaduct. RR members who wish to join the workcamps should keep an eye on the volunteer-dates-and-locations page of the charity’s website. (James Winstanley)
April 2022. Wells to Dulcote, Somerset.
There has been a railway path from Wells to west of Dulcote for some years, although it had become very overgrown before members of the Strawberry Line Society took it in hand a few years back. On 4th March this year, Annie Maw (Lord Lieutenant of Somerset) opened the ‘Dulcote Link’, a new section of the Strawberry Line which extends the original route right through to Dulcote Quarry and Charlie Bigham’s Quarry Kitchen. Charlie has established his new food factory in the old quarry, which until the early 1970s sent aggregate along the old East Somerset Railway to Shepton Mallet and Witham Friary, on the main line between Westbury and Bruton. Charlie chose the quarry as the site for the factory because it provides ample space for the business to expand – and the cycle trail must be a godsend for any employees who live in Wells. The next development of the Strawberry Line in this area will be along the trackbed to Shepton Mallet, where an end-on connection should be possible with Shepton’s Millennium Way, which heads east along the trackbed from the site of Shepton Mallet High Street station, now occupied by the local Tesco store. When all this is complete and connected, Wells to the east end of Millennium Way will provide a continuous rail trail of about 6 miles. (James Winstanley)
March 2022. Garsdale – Hawes, North Yorkshire/Cumbria.
The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has announced its proposal to create a multi-user route or bridleway on the railway trackbed, thus precluding reinstatement of the railway for the foreseeable future. The Upper Wensleydale Railway (UWR) said in response that while it ‘has been aware for some time of the interest in a bridleway from Garsdale to Hawes, it has always been evident that co-existence with a reinstated railway on what was a single-track formation is not achievable. It is clear that, whilst a number of similarly attractive routes for a bridleway are feasible, the railway can only follow its original alignment. We are therefore concerned that the loss of opportunity to realise the wide-ranging benefits of bringing back the railway is not properly considered in the proposal.’ However, two funding bids by the UWR were both rejected, prompting the decision by the Park Authority to proceed to gauge public opinion on converting the trackbed into a bridleway. (Stuart de Boer, Jane Ellis) (see Editorial)
March 2022. Fawley, Hampshire.
Network Rail has said it will continue to work on the scheme to reopen the former Fawley branch line, but only as far as Hythe, where a new station would need to be built. The original plan was to open a park-and-ride station at Hardley, just outside Fawley Oil Refinery, but the cost of the extra two miles seems to have put NR off. At Hythe, although the original station building remains and is now the Waterside Heritage Centre, its location is not ideal for the town, and a new station is proposed behind the town’s library. Annamarie Compton, Head of Consents and Environmental Planning for Network Rail’s Southern Region, told Rail magazine: ‘We are looking to restore regular passenger services to the Waterside Line. Over the next several months, we will be building our proposals to submit a full business case to the Department for Transport at the end of the year, with a prospect of getting a decision to go by early 2024.’ Campaigners, on the other hand, hope that Hythe is just the start. Nick Farthing of the Three Rivers Rail Partnership, which has led efforts to revive the line, told the BBC it was a ‘disappointment’ not to have it fully reopened as far as Fawley, yet ‘The main thing is the railway is coming. If we can get it as far as Hythe to start with, then I’m confident we can get it as far as where a park and ride is planned at the refinery gates.’ (BBC; Rail Magazine)
March 2022 The magnificent seven?
Is it time for some cautious optimism regarding the Restoring your Railway Fund (RRF) and whether it really can kickstart some serious rail reopenings? The recent Okehampton reopening shows that it can be done, albeit – in that case – involving the upgrade of an existing freight line. So, what next? New Civil Engineer magazine (NCE) claims that no fewer than seven lines are, erm, in line to reopen. Elsewhere in this section, there is a report on the Levenmouth Link in Fife, which is set to follow the Dartmoor line as the second RRF success. Meanwhile, some work has been reported in Newsham, Northumberland, allegedly in preparation for the reintroduction of passenger services between Ashington and Newcastle. The other five proposals, however, range from the hopeful to the downright unrealistic.
The most likely of these is the Varsity Line, from Oxford to Cambridge. East West Rail is pushing ahead to Bletchley and the talk is of continuing on to Bedford, and eventually Cambridge. Time will tell. The Okehampton success might also just nudge the Bere Alston to Tavistock project over the line. But two lines mentioned by the NCE are in the pie-in-the-sky category: Stratford-on-Avon to Honeybourne, and York to Beverley. The former has a road on part of the alignment, while the second has to negotiate housing estates in Market Weighton. The seventh and final line should have been the easiest of the lot, yet has become the longest non-starter of all such projects: Portishead. And now there’s talk of a busway… (New Civil Engineer; RR)
March 2022. Leven, Fife.
News arrived this month that the first rails have gone down on the five-mile Levenmouth Link, a branch which will connect Leven with the Fife Circle Line at Thornton North Junction. As well as the terminus at Leven, a station will be opened at Cameron Bridge, where the platforms and four tracks survive, though seriously overgrown. The track has been removed to the east of the station, as well as from about half a mile west. Time is running out, therefore, to walk whatever sections of the line remain accessible. Some interesting river bridges remain in situ. When it reaches Leven, the reinstated line will run alongside the Fife Heritage Railway, which occupies a few hundred yards of the trackbed on the outskirts of the town. The Levenmouth Link will run just to the north of the River Leven, through an area currently covered by a maze of sidings slumbering in the long grass, and then pick up the trackbed of the old dock branch to a new terminus behind the modern Leisure Centre.
The original North British route went north-east at this point, but is now built over. In the midst of new housing, a rather run-down ‘Station Hotel’ hangs on (now a bar), but that’s about it until you reach the western edge of the town, where a short footpath occupies the trackbed until it disappears beneath the links of the local golf club. However, a short distance west brings you to the beautiful Lower Largo Viaduct, best viewed from the harbour. Sadly, the viaduct itself is firmly fenced off. From here, the Fife Coastal Path uses the old trackbed until just before Kilconquhar Station. (RR)
March 2022. Queensbury Tunnel, West Yorkshire.
The New Civil Engineer reported that ‘National Highways’ long-running battle with disgruntled campaigners in West Yorkshire has boiled over, with the police called in to investigate an alleged case of trespass.’ Photos taken by three ‘urban explorers’ of the ‘work’ carried out in the tunnel by NH engineers, were released by campaigners who are fighting to get the structure reopened as a cycle path and walking route. NH have informed the police, who are now investigating. Whether NH’s concern is really the trespass, or the unwanted exposure of their costly and damaging infilling, is another matter. The photographs show the tunnel blocked in two places, the first where NH tipped hundreds of tons of stone down one of the tunnel’s shafts, the other where steel baskets have been used to support another shaft that was described in earlier engineering reports as being in ‘fair condition’. The Queensbury Tunnel Society complains that millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money have been wasted on the project, not least paying a company more than £3,000 a day to provide ‘round-the clock security’ at the site over Christmas 2020. The group’s leader, Norah McWilliam, said that the photos ‘capture a missed opportunity’. (New Civil Engineer, RR)
January 2022. Smardale Gill Viaduct, Cumbria.
The ‘Cinderella’ of the three structures owned by the Northern Viaducts Trust (NVT), Smardale Gill Viaduct, on the ex-NER Barnard Castle & South Durham line between Tebay and Kirkby Stephen, is the intended recipient of funds raised by the 14 Peaks for 14 Arches Challenge. This is asking people to walk 90 miles in 14 phases, a challenge backed by renowned mountaineer, Alan Hinkes OBE, who was the first Briton to reach the summits of the 14 mountains in the world over 8,000 metres. The headline way of covering 90 miles includes climbing such local hills as Wild Boar Fell, Smardale Fell, Crosby Garrett Fell, Murton Pike and High Seat on Mallerstang, yet people are welcome to do it any way they feel able (such as up and down Kirkby Stephen High Street – which is quite long, by the way). Engineers have advised that Smardale Gill needs new drainage facilities installed and the deck waterproofed, and the challenge aims to raise £90,000 towards this. Neil Cleeveley, Chairman of NVT, says ‘Everyone taking part in the 14 Peaks for 14 Arches Challenge will receive a special T-shirt bearing an image of the Viaduct and Challenge logo’. Planning permission for deck resurfacing and waterproofing has been granted and the cost of the work is estimated at £230,000, of which a commitment of £100,000 has been made by the Railway Heritage Trust. Once this work is completed, fundraising efforts will turn to the necessary repairs to the stonework.(NVT; Richard Bain; News & Star, with The Cumberland News)
January 2022. Nottingham.
The city of Nottingham lost its famous Victoria station in 1967 – and a significant amount of railway heritage has been obliterated from the city since then. However, Thurland Street
Tunnel, which brought the Great Central Railway into the station, remains intact. A local history group, Nottingham’s Railways Remembered, arranged three visits to the tunnel in 2018 but recently the Council have stopped any further visits and told the group’s leader, Janine Tanner, to stop contacting them with requests. The Council say the tunnel is unsafe and that it would take up too much staff time to supervise any visits – two reasons which sound somewhat contradictory. The group has set up a petition at change.org (type in ‘Reinstate Nottingham’s Railways and it will appear, while the full link is on the Railway Ramblers website) to request that Nottingham City Council reverse this decision. (Alan Green; BBC – photo unattributed)
January 2022. Ashbury, Devon.
The Pegasus Way is a 15-mile route between Meldon and Cookworthy, much of which uses the former railway line from Meldon Junction to Bude (via Halwill Junction). It will eventually link the Granite Way (Okehampton – Lydford) with the Ruby Way (Hatherleigh – Bude). The rail-related sections run from East Bowerland, near Meldon, to Venn Down Gates and on almost as far as Ashbury station, and from just north of Halwill Junction to Cookworthy respectively. The recently extended Ashbury section comes off the trackbed 250 yards before reaching the station site, which can be viewed from the nearby bridge. An unusual survivor is the flight of steps leading to the up platform, which continue to provide access. The goods shed is also extant, and was advertised for sale recently along with ‘a hundred yards of track’. Among a plethora of scattered vehicles at the property was a London double-decker Routemaster bus. (James Winstanley; RR)