Didcot Parkway Railway Station

P1020863

In September 2018, I visited Didcot Parkway Railway Station, on the Great Western Main Line.  A two fold visit actually, as I also visited Didcot Railway Centre on the same day.  I had wanted to come to this Station for a while, as I had seen on videos that the views were fantastic, and I must say I was not disappointed.

Opened in 1844, just named Didcot, the station was a major hub for the Great Western, with connections available to Oxford (the main reason for the station at time of opening).  There was also a line from here to Newbury and Southampton, however this was closed fully in 1967, passenger services being withdrawn some 5 years earlier.  The oxford line (known as “The Cherwell Valley Line”) still operates, and is accessed by the station as well as the “East loop” for through trains.

The imposing Didcot Power Station is seen looking to the west.  A loop for coal trains used to be in regular use, however after the closure of Didcot A, these ceased in 2013.  Much of the track for this loop has now been lifted, to facilitate construction of new warehouses.

The station was given a new station building in 1985, as well as a 600 space car park.  The station was renamed “Didcot Parkway” at this time.

A major redevelopment occurred in 2012, giving better access for disabled passengers, new CCTV and lighting plus better drainage on site.

Facilities here are the usual toilets, as well as lifts and a small “Pumpkin” Café which although well stocked, lacks a big seating area.

IMG_20180911_170133233

Services are plentiful.  Trains “down” to the West country stop on Platform 1, whilst fast services “up” to Paddington leave from Platform 2. Platform 3 carries primarily trains to Oxford, and Platform 4 carries the trains from Oxford to London Paddington, on a stopping service.  Platform 5 is used if Platform 4 is blocked for any reason, or for terminating trains from Paddington.

To the East of the station, extensive views can be had.  The “East Junction” is also visible here.

P1020853

A view to the west from platform 4 shows the covered area housing the café on platform 2-3.  The construction work here is to lengthen the station platforms to accommodate the longer class 800 trains, which are replacing the HST’s on the routes to the west.  Didcot Power Station is seen to the right in the distance.

P1020854

Passenger traffic is served by the new Class 800 “IET”, HST, 387’s and 165’s.  Vintage locos may also be seen leaving and entering Didcot Railway Centre , although these will most probably not be timetabled movements.

 

Freight is a regular sight at Didcot Parkway.  Intermodal services run regularly through the station, as well as other freight heading to and from Oxford using the “east” Junction.  These operations are mainly class 66, although the occasional class 70 or even 59 may be seen.  Some freight may pass though or be temporarily stabled at Foxhall Junction.

P1020865P1020875

All in all it was a great visit.  Lots of different traction, the only downside was the weather, which was overcast, windy and eventually drizzly.  However, the station is a fantastic place for photography and videography. I will return within the next couple of years, hopefully this time in the sunshine.  Below is a video taken on the day.

 


Please visit Rainham Rail Enthusiast on YouTube

Please visit Rainham Rail Enthusiast on Facebook

Please visit Rainham Rail Enthusiast on Instagram


Many thanks for reading, I’ll Blog again soon.

Didcot Railway Centre

In September 2018, I visitied the Didcot Railway Centre, located adjacent to Didcot Parkway Railway Station.  Access is via the railway station, just tell the barrier personnel if you are visiting the centre and they will let you through.  A wristband will be provided by the museum enabling you to get out.  However if you arrive by train, you can just walk down the stairs from the platform, turn right and the entrance is at the end of the passageway.

IMG_20180911_131053611

There is a very reasonably priced entrance fee (£6.50 per adult on a non running day, rising to £11 – £15 on running days (September 2018)), which has a family ticket option as well as the usual reductions for senior citizens. One thing of note that on non running days, admission is paid inside the museum.

didcot railway centre

The walk down to the first set of buildings takes you past an old coal stage, an impressive sight at track level.  Then you arrive at a collection of buildings, comprising a shop, cafe and a G Gauge model railway.  Next to the cafe is a museum, this contains many GWR artifacts, and although it seems small, quite a lot is packed in here.  Here are a few photos on some of the items on display.  Note that this is just a fraction of what is here, it is quite an impressive collection.

Next to here is the new signalling centre exhibit.  Its main attraction is the Swindon Panel, and was still being worked on when I visited.  It was still fascinating to see the exhibits in here, and nice to see preservation of a different kind for a change, not just with locomovtives and rolling stock.

Moving further up towards the Carriage display, views of the mainline to Oxford can be seen on the right.  There is also a running track which is used on running days, with two stations at either end.  A picnic area and play park is also here.  The carriage display is very comprehensive, and includes a Traverser.

P1020812

Various wagons and a signal box are at this location too, all very well cared for.  Further up still is a section which has some broad gauge engines, an unusual sight.

I decided to end my day at the engine shed, which is opposide the cafe.  I good array of Great Western steam locomotives are found in here, and I would imagine would be a great sight on a running day.  A quick trip into the shop and then I left.

 

Overall I was very impressed and will try to get back here on a running day.  I spent a good 2 and a half hours here, which included a very nice lunch in the cafe!  I highly recommend a visit, especially if you are an enthusiast who plans to stay a while at the main station, which I did (more on that in a later blog).

I have made a short video of the centre, uploaded to my YouTube channel, which you can view below :


 

Please visit Rainham Rail Enthusiast on YouTube

Please visit Rainham Rail Enthusiast on Facebook

Please visit MIstydale Model Railway on Facebook


Thats all for now, thanks for reading, I’ll Blog again very soon.

Crossrail (Elizabeth Line) – Delayed – my view

On 31st August 2018, the announcement was made by TFL (Transport For London) that the long awaited “Elizabeth Line” (aka Crossrail) would now not be opening through London in December.  The new date has been pencilled in as “summer/autumn” 2019.  This has been rumoured for the last few months, as stations really didn’t look that ready during the summer “open” days.

Most business’ in London affected by the building work were hoping for the December 2018 opening, in order for them to reap the benefits of the new line to their Christmas trade.  Many are understandably upset, this news coming only 3 months away.  Moreover, TFL themselves were hoping for the cash injection which the new line would bring, and the loss of revenue here may affect their profit projection, although actual figures are very hard to track down.  The widely reported £600 million overspend on the project is unfortunate, but Crossrail is certainly not the first major construction project to be over budget.

It is regrettable that there is to be a delay in opening the core part of the line.  As well as the obvious cosmetic delays at the stations, signalling is also being highlighted as a problem area.  It is also quite possible that the problems encountered by Thameslink and Northern in May of this year have ‘spooked’ the rail industry so much, that another potential embarrassing moment was to be keenly avoided.

I do have a lot of sympathy with the businesses, particularly the small ones, along the route which will be affected by this decision.  Hopefully they will be able to continue trading until the line fully opens next year, when they should begin to see the benefits of a world class transit system.

Crossrail (Elizabeth line) is a necessary line for London and the surrounding areas.  The current underground system, although significantly upgraded, will not be able to expand to the levels required by an ever expanding London.  Speedy, direct trains from Heathrow to the Canary Wharf district via major inner London destinations will be crucial to allow London to continue to be a draw for major investors.

So in conclusion, as annoying and disruptive as this is, the Crossrail project is going to be late.  It is coming with an overspend, and possible financial hardship along its route.  But when it does eventually open, London will have a transit system fit for the 21st century, and hopefully London residents and business’ (big and small) will reap the benefits from it.


Please visit Rainham Rail Enthusiast on YouTube.
Please visit Rainham Rail Enthusiast on Instagram.
Please visit Rainham Rail Enthusiast on Facebook.


That’s all for now, thanks for reading and I’ll blog again soon.

Class 33 – ‘ Crompton ‘ – The Southern Diesel

As far as freight operations go in the South of England, there was only really one workhorse during the 1960’s 70’s and 80’s – the Class 33 “Crompton”.  The nickname came from the electrical equipment manufacturer used in the loco – “Crompton Parkinson”.  Very similar in looks to the class 26, the only difference being the inclusion of a 2 digit headcode indicator between the cab windows.

Originally for sole use in the South East of the region, Kent and Sussex, they rapidly became used throughout the southern region.  They were even used as passenger locos, most memorably on the Weymouth Harbour line.

These passenger services to Weymouth would be in a “push pull” configuration, starting at Bournemouth going down to Weymouth through the streets to the harbour, an example of this is seen below:

33119 - weymouth hbr - aug 1981

(c) Max Batten – Click Here for more.

The Class 33 has a top speed of 85 Mph, and frequently would work in pairs as “Double Headers” to facilitate longer freight trains.  In Kent, its speciality was primarily hauling freight, although it occasionally rescued failed passenger units.  Because of this, a few were stationed at some locations in the region.  Indeed, when the siding was still at Rainham (Kent), a ’33 could be seen stabled there during the 1970’s.  The loco’s would also provide freight runs further afield, notably cement trains from Cliffe in North Kent, up to Lanarkshire.

In this photo, taken by RMWeb member “eastwestdivide”, two 33’s are seen approaching Strood from the south with a Rake of empty stone carriers from ARC at Allington :

post-6971-0-00774900-1415733865

 (c) eastwestdivide – link Here

These locomotives, along with the British Rail 411 Unit (4 Cep) and variants “Slam Door” were the first trains I saw as a youngster, and the sight of a Class 33 would be extra special.  The noise and smell of these locomotives would fuel my passion for the railway, and as such I have a great fondness for them. They were superseded by the Class 66 in the late 1990’s.

Currently a few remain at Heritage centres around England, and three are owned by the West Coast Railway Company , who provide railtours in the UK.


Please visit Rainham Rail Enthusiast on YouTube.
Please visit Rainham Rail Enthusiast on Instagram.
Please visit Mistydale Model Railway on Facebook.


That’s all for now, thanks for reading and I’ll blog again soon.

British Rail 411 Unit (4 Cep) and variants “Slam Door”

I make no apologies for this blog.  These are the trains from my area of the country (North Kent) when I was growing up in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  The familiar sound of these “Slam Door” trains were the soundtrack to the rush hour, with the sound of said doors ringing through the major London Termini of Charing Cross and Victoria.  So here is a short history of these workhorses of the North Kent and Chatham Main Line.

The 411 unit, also known as the 4Cep, were built for British Rail between 1956 and 1963, mainly ran on the Chatham/North Kent lines.  A total of 133 units were made, mainly just passenger based, although around 22 had buffet cars installed, these were re-categorised as 4 Bep units.  The 4 referred to the 4 car formation, two driving cars which also had standard seating, the middle two cars having a mix of 1st class corridor and standard class corridor coaches.  They had a maximum speed of 90 Mph.

Each area of seating contained a door, which was inherently dangerous as it could be opened at any time.  This lead to many doors being opened way before the stopping, and people would literally jump from a moving train onto the platform.  You really had to stand away from the platform edge when a slam door was coming in, otherwise you may had had a door in the head!

If you had ever ridden in one, or heard one you would not forget it.  They were dangerous, accidents such as the Clapham Rail Crash of 1988 with Vep and Rep variants would prove to be catastrophic.  Replacements such as the Networker and Electrostar would follow, with their automatic doors and safer designs.  But they never quite recaptured the feel and seating comfort of these trains.

A sample of these trains are below, with credit to the photograph takers.  I will look at other rolling stock and locomotives of the Kent region in further blogs.

1280px-1586_at_London_Victoria

In Network Southeast livery (By Image by Phil Scott (Our Phellap) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=441072)

600px-1602_at_Dover_Priory

In Connex livery (https://kids.kiddle.co/British_Rail_Class_411)

39402257412_a18e13b070_z

As a 4 Rep, in British Rail Blue (https://www.flickr.com/photos/frinton/39402257412)


Please visit Rainham Rail Enthusiast on YouTube.

Please visit Rainham Rail Enthusiast on Instagram.

Please visit Mistydale Model Railway on Facebook.


That’s all for now, thanks for reading and I’ll blog again soon.

Railway Stations Near Me – 2 – Higham

In the second of this series, I look at Higham Railway Station on the North Kent Line.  The station was 28 miles Down from its previous terminus at Charing Cross, however the Thameslink service no longer goes to Charing Cross, instead stopping at London Bridge before going though the London Core on its way to the its new end at Luton.

The first thing of note here is Higham Tunnel, at 1531 yards in length.  It originally was constructed in 1801 to serve the Thames and Medway canal, which acted as a passage for military traffic from Woolwich through Gravesend and Higham to the dockside at Chatham.  When traffic on the canal didn’t reach expected levels, the newly formed Gravesend and Rochester railway company acquired the canal and tunnel, putting a single track rail line alongside the canal.  This lead to the opening of Higham Station in 1845.

There are actually 2 tunnels, separated by what is locally known as ” the bomb hole”.  This was an area for the barges to cross.  The second tunnel is the “Strood” tunnel and at 2329 yards in length is the longest of the two.  The tunnels received extensive refurbishment in 2004 due to rock falls, and are now strengthened by steel and concrete.

A year later, the Gravesend and Rochester railway company was itself absorbed into the South Eastern Railway.  It is at this point the canal was drained fully, and a second rail line put in.  At this time the railway did not divert to the Medway towns, instead carrying on to Maidstone via the Medway Valley.  It was not until 1939 that a spur from Strood would carry trains onto the Chatham Main Line to Gillingham.

Higham would have a couple of sidings, both on the Up and Down lines, although both had been removed by the mid 1960s.  The most unusual piece freight unloaded by the station was a Swiss chalet in 1864 as a gift for Charles Dickens, who lived at nearby Gad’s Hill.

Although initially accessed by a foot crossing, platforms are reached via a lattice footbridge, a common sight throughout the Southern Region in the 20th Century.  The station building still survives, and was still heated by the original fireplace as late at the 1980’s.

The ticket office is open for only part of the day, at other times a permit to travel ticket must be purchased from a PERTIS machine, located by the bridge on the Up side. The station was served by SouthEastern until May 2018, when the new Thameslink Class 700 service to Luton/Rainham commenced and took over the 2 tph (each way) Stopping service.  Class 395 SouthEastern “Javelin” trains pass though, as well as various freight though the day, some heading for the nearby “Hoo Junction” Yard, around 2 miles further on the Up line.

Two pictures follow.  The first by me, shows a Class 66 hauling stone wagons exiting the Higham Tunnel on the Up line.  A train can also be seen passing through “The Bomb Hole” on the Down line heading towards Gillingham.

P1000393

The second is a view towards the station building, taken from the Down platform.  This photo by Nigel Thompson (credit under photo)

3614705_28c3986d

Higham railway station, Kent
cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Nigel Thompson – geograph.org.uk/p/3614705


Please visit Rainham Rail Enthusiast on YouTube.

Please visit Rainham Rail Enthusiast on Instagram.

Please visit Mistydale Model Railway on Facebook.


That’s all for now, thanks for reading and I’ll blog again soon.

Railway Acronyms, Words and Sayings

Many acronyms words and sayings are used on the railway, they provide ease of communication when passing important messages, or just as a concise non cluttered way of getting across a meaning without ambiguity.  I use some of these in my blog, and provide this list (though not exhaustive) in a way to explain some of these terminologies.  Some do not require much explanation, some a little more so!

  • 3rd Rail – Electrification of the railway by means of a 3rd rail, usually beside one of the running rails.  Common in the UK in the South East of the country
  • AHBC – Automatic Half Barrier Crossing – a crossing which doesn’t go the full length of the roadway.
  • AOCL – Automatic Open Crossing – a crossing with no barrier, which is controlled by the train crew before they proceed.
  • AWS – Automatic Warning System – An in cab warning system for use in Block Signalling operations.  A disc inside the cab either shows black, which means the signal approaching is green, or is yellow/black (in the style of a sunflower) which indicates the next signal is at caution (yellow/double yellow) or stop (red).  A horn will sound inside the cab to indicate the next signal is not green, and the diver will have to push  an acknowledgement button within 2.75 seconds, otherwise emergency brakes will be applied. The indicator will then change from black to “sunflower”, and remain like this until a green signal is approached, where it will change to black again.
  • Catenary –  Overhead wires which power a train, via a Pantograph on the train.
  • DEMU – Diesel Electric Multiple Unit – a train which can use both diesel and electric power.  An example of which is the British Rail class 205 unit which worked in the South East of the UK between 1957 and 2004, and which were part of the British Rail “slam-door” stock.
  • DLR – Docklands Light Railway – a railway system in London which uses driverless trains.
  • DMU – Diesel Multiple Unit – a diesel only train, many in use today such as the 153 unit seen on many rural lines in the UK.
  • DOWN – Typically the railway line moving away from London.
  • DSD – Drivers Safety Device – a switch on the floor which the driver must keep depressed in order to enable the train to move.  Think of it as a dead mans switch, if it is not depressed then the train cannot take power.
  • EMU – Electric Multiple Unit – a train solely powered by electricity.
  • ERTMS – Part of The Digital Railway , Signalling within the cab, not trackside.
  • ETCS – Again, part of  The Digital Railway , a European signalling system.
  • HS (1,2 etc) – UK High speed lines.
  • Pantograph – Located on the roof of a train or locomotive, connects to a Catenary to provide power.
  • PERTIS – Permit to travel – usually in relation to machines at unmanned stations, these PERTIS machines would give you a ticket to enable you to start your journey.  You would then show this on the train to the guard to obtain a real ticket.  These are being superseded by self service ticket machines.
  • RAKE –  more than 1 coach or wagon coupled together will form what is known as a RAKE.
  • SPAD –  Signal Passed At Danger. When a train or locomotive passes a red signal, emergency brakes will be applied.  This generates a SPAD, which is reported to the relevant authorities.
  • TPWS – Train Protection and Warning System, advance system of the AWS.
  • UP – typically the railway line moving Towards London.

As previously said, this list is not exhaustive, I will update this blog page as and when new acronyms are used in my blog.


Please Visit Rainham Rail Enthusiast On YouTube.

Please Visit Rainham Rail Enthusiast On Instagram.

Please Visit Mistydale Model Railway On Facebook.


Many thanks for reading, I’ll blog again soon.