Didcot Parkway Railway Station

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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was also a line from here to Newbury and Southampton, however this was closed fully in 1967, passenger services being withdrawn some 5 years earlier.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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 


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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 :

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 (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.


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Medway Stations 4 – Cuxton

Continuing my look at stations in the Medway area, this time I shall look at a small station on the Medway Valley line – Cuxton.

Cuxton Station was opened in 1856, and from the outset had two lines.  Two platforms served by an level crossing at the south end of the station allowed passengers to travel to Maidstone to the south, and Strood to the North.  In 1862, a signal box was erected adjacent to this level crossing, and is still there today (2018)

In 1931 a small siding was opened to the south of the station, trailing off the “down” line, which served a national business (Besto Co.) making fruit baskets. This was followed in 1939 with a goods loop installed to the north of the station.  Unfortunately, none of these sidings survive today, both having been removed by the end of 1990.

A footbridge was installed at the south end of the station in 1961, adjacent to the level crossing and the Signal box.  A note about the level crossing, as it is still manually closed  by the signalman at the time of this Blog (2018).  A really rare sight, and (unfortunately) I will assume this will become automated at some time in the future.

Two views from Cuxton in 2016 follow.  The first shows a light engine class 66, travelling on the “down” line towards Maidstone.  This view is to the north, and the bridges across the M2 can be seen, the nearest one being the HS1 line.

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The second view is to the south, showing the signal box, overbridge and level crossing, as well as a stone train travelling on the “up” towards Strood.

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Currently at Cuxton, there is only a PERTIS (permit to travel) machine installed here, the majority of the station buildings being disused for many years.  The station is served at this time by Southeastern, with 2 trains per hour (northbound “up” to Strood, southbound “down” to Maidstone (1 Tph continues to Paddock Wood, the other to Tonbridge). (correct as of June 2018)

A few freight trains run though the day, to or via Hoo Junction (to the north) or to the south, some of which come from or go to ARC sidings just outside Allington in Maidstone.  Freight is mainly hauled by class 66 locomotives, although some class 70’s have also been seen on the line.


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Banbury – Gateway To Almost Everywhere!

In the June of 2017, I visited Banbury Railway station, with a short trip to Heyford.  I had seen many videos from the station with its varied traction, but mainly wanted to see the Chiltern Railway services from London Marylebone to Birmingham,  some of which are class 68 / 67 hauled.  The day certainly didn’t disappoint.

Firstly a little history.  Banbury Railway Station opened in 1850 as Banbury Bridge Street Station, for the GWR.  At first it was just a single line station, but due to popularity was increased to double track a few years after opening.  Goods loops were also installed around the station, notably adjacent to the “up” line.  This also provided access to the LNWR route via another Station, Banbury Merton Street.  Further terminating bays and goods loops followed, cementing Banbury’s importance in the rail network.  In 1948 during nationalisation, the station was renamed Banbury General.

Banbury Merton Street closed in 1960, and with that Banbury General was renamed Banbury.  Some, but not all, of the goods loops around the station have subsequently been removed, and the station now has 4 lines, served by three platforms.

Many freight services pass through Banbury, mainly intermodal workings from/to Southampton.  Below are two images of Freightliner 66 501s working on the “Up” line from Southampton docks towards London.

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The main current (2018) passenger services are as follows :

Chiltern Railways:

3 tph to London Marylebone 
2 tph to Birmingham Moor Street, 1 of which carries on to Birmingham Snow Hill

Cross Country:

Services to Bournemouth, Manchester, Reading and Newcastle

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Cherwell Valley line services to Reading and Didcot Parkway

As you can see, it really is a gateway across a good part of the country!  The two pictures below are of Class 68 locomotives, on loan from DRS, on services to London Marylebone (top) and Birmingham New Street (bottom) for Chiltern Railways.

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And here are a couple of Cross Country Voyagers, en route to Manchester and London respectively.

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I have also posted a video to my YouTube channel, and this can be seen below:

The station staff are friendly and are ok with photography / video work, obviously with the rules of the railway always being adhered to.  I really enjoyed my visit here, so much going on with all different types of traction, and hope to visit again in the future.


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Stations Near Me – 1 – Sittingbourne

As a companion to my ongoing series of potted station histories in the Medway area, this blog subsection will concentrate on other stations near to where I live in Rainham (Kent). The first is Sittingbourne.

Sittingbourne station opened on the 25th January 1858, as part of the East Kent Railway (later to be merged with the South Eastern railway to form the South East and Chatham Railway). At this time, trains would terminate at Chatham and a horse and cart would transfer passengers to Strood, where they would join passengers on the South Eastern Railway.

The large and impressive station building is situated on the “up” line, with 2 platforms, the “down” side connected by a subway. Goods sidings at this time were adjacent to the “up” line, to the east of the main station building. In 1860, services to Sheerness-on-Sea commenced via a new line next to the existing down platform, making this platform an island type.

In 1899, a new footbridge linked the two platforms, complementing the existing subway. It was around this time that the station was also re-named “Sittingbourne & Milton Regis”, a name it was to retain until changed back to “Sittingbourne” in 1970.

The Southern Railway took over in 1923, The goods sidings on the “up” line were removed around this time. In its place, a small goods yard was installed to the side of the “down” platform. Serving primarily the paper mills, it also provided stabling for chemical trains going to Sheerness Steel in the late 20th Century.

Electrification at Sittingbourne came quite late in 1958 (the lines further west through Gillingham had been electrified since the late 1930’s). With electrification, the old semaphore signals were removed, with full electric light signals put in their place.

In recent history, a new bridge to the east of the station building was opened in April 2012. This included a lift for passengers. This was a great improvement on the situation before that, which required passengers who needed assistance to be taken across the tracks via a walkway with a member of station staff. A full refurbishment to the toilets and station building was also undertaken at this time, as well as new platform shelters. The subway was blocked in the early 2000s.

The station building is the oldest piece of railway architecture surviving in the area, and can be seen below, the top picture from the “down” platform, the other from the road:

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(c) David Glasspool

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Sittingbourne railway station
cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Stacey Harris

Incidents:

Three major incidents have occurred either in or near the station:

1861 : A derailment just outside the station causing 1 death.

1878 : A collision within the station as a passenger train ran into static goods vans. The fault for this was attributed to the goods shunter. 5 People died.

1966 : 18 vans of a freight train de-railed just past western junction on the “Down” approach to the station. This caused extensive damage to the infrastructure and closure of the entire line for two days. Thankfully there were no casualties.


Some information contained is this blog was obtained from the KentRail Sittingbourne Page .

Photographs (c) David Glasspool and Stacey Harris


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Medway Stations 2 – Gillingham

Continuing the potted series on my local stations, the next one on the ‘up’ line from Rainham is Gillingham.

The station was originally opened as ‘New Brompton’ in January 1858, the main station building being situated on the ‘Down’ platform, being similar in structure to the one at Rainham.  This was demolished in 1973 and replaced by prefabricated buildings, housing staff accommodation.

A goods yard was provided on the ‘down’ side, to the east of the station. This had two eastward-facing sidings, one which ended behind the ‘Down’ platform. The second passed through a 45ft long goods shed.  In 1877, after an act of parliament the previous year, a branch line to the north was provided to gain access to Chatham Dockyard.  This passed through a cutting and over a bridge, terminating at the Dockyard.  It was around this time that a substantial goods shed with 3 lines was placed adjacent to the ‘up’ line to the east of the station.

In 1912, the name changed to “Gillingham”, and a year later the first of many re-models started.  Firstly the addition of a third set of rails next to the “up” platform, creating the now familiar island configuration of the ‘up’ platform.  Below is shown the “A” signal box, next to the up platform.  This remained in operation until the early 1970’s.

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The Gillingham “B” signal box is below, next to the level crossing.  Also at this time the footbridge from which this photo was taken was built.  The spur to Chatham Dockyard can be seen on the right.

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An extension to the electric section of railway, from the already electrified section as far as Swanley, was agreed in 1935.  This would bring third rail operations as far as Gillingham, and the works were completed in 1939.  As previously talked about in the Rainham section, it would be almost 25 years until the rest of the south and south-eastern network would be electrified.  An EMU (Electric Multiple Unit) depot to the east of the level crossing was established, and EMU stabling commenced shortly after, something it continues to do today.

The 2nd station building, situated on the bridge over the railway is seen below.  It remained like this until a major reconstruction in 2011, when a new glass façade was built.

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In the early 1990s, a scheme centered around the “Networker” program meant a new building was built to the west of the level crossing signal box on the ‘Up’ side.  This building was meant to contain a new signalling centre, however after its completion in 1994, the building remained empty, only to house a railtrack archive centre.  Eventually though, due to the start of the ‘East Kent Re-Signalling Scheme’ in 2012, the building was fitted out with equipment.  It is now the main signalling hub for the North Kent area, with only a few signal boxes on the fringes of the area operational (including Folkestone and Minster).  It is known as the ‘North Kent Operations Centre’.

Pictures used here are not my own, but are from the following site, and owned by David Glasspool : (except the new Gillingham Station façade, (c) Wikipedia

Kent Rail – Gillingham

Videos of the rail network can be seen on my YouTube Channel

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

Medway Stations 1 – Rainham

A small potted history of the Railway stations in my home area, Medway, Kent.  I will start with my “Home” Station, Rainham.

The station was opened on 25th January 1858, as “Rainham & Newington”.  It formed part of the London to Dover route of the “East Kent Railway”.  The Station comprised of two platforms and two sidings adjacent to the “up” line platform (for those new to railway terminology, the “up” line is towards London, and the “down” away from London).  The station was re-named “Rainham” in1862 when Newington station was built to the east.  A further 400 yard siding was introduced beside the “down” platform in 1897, and a signal box was also added at this time, enabling the removal of the manual point system.

Ownership by the Southern Railway commenced in 1923.  This was to bring a few cosmetic changes to the station furniture, as well as a footbridge next to the level crossing to the east.

The next major change would not come about until 1957. The “Kent Electrification Scheme” was initiated in the area throughout what was now known as the “Chatham Main Line”. This comprised on a 750V third rail system, with line speeds up to 75mph initially, although this was raised to 90mph around 1962.rainham%20Station%201958.jpgThe advent of British Rail meant changes for Rainham, many not very good.  The major change was the demolition of the original station building, which was replaced by a one story prefab :

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New automated level crossing gates were  installed in December 1972.  At sometime in the early 1980’s the remaining siding was removed from behind the “down” platform.

When “Network South East” took over in 1986, the station was revamped in the familiar red and white chevrons, and in 1990 a new station building was opened.  This one was a modern brick structure with a glazed arched roof, and was a vast improvement on the 1970’s prefab :

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As part of the 2014-2017 “East Kent Re-Signalling Project”, it was decided that Rainham would have a bay platform added adjacent to platform one on the “up” side.  This involved lengthening platform one considerably to accommodate 12 car trains in this new bay, which was given a designation of “Platform 0”.  New pointwork to the west of the station was installed to service the platform, and new SPAD (Signal Passed At Danger) signal was placed at the eastern end of platform 1.  The new platform arrangements are seen below, facing to the west with the new platform 0 to the left of the picture :

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The future of Rainham Station is bright.  Since 2009, “Javelin” 395 units have stopped here, giving access to high speed services to St Pancras International.  In 2018/19, a Thameslink service is scheduled to start from the bay platform to Luton via Abbey Wood and St Pancras.  This will enable passengers to access the new Crossrail “Elizabeth Line” via Abbey Wood.

Pictures used in this piece are not my own, but can be found (as well as many others of the Station) in the following locations :

Rainham History – Rainham Station through the years

Rainham History – Rainham Station

A video I have taken of  37 800 travelling through Rainham Station can be found on my YouTube channel, just click the link below :

37 800 passes through Rainham Station

Thanks for reading, I’ll blog again soon.