The Digital Railway

Last week (10th May 2018) , the British Government in association with Network Rail announced that it would be investing in a digital railway, but what is that?

Basically, for well over a hundred years, railway signalling in the UK is a “block” based system. That is, a pre defined area of railway ‘blocks’ divide up the network, and no two trains can occupy the same block at the same time. In recent years, if a train moves past a red signal in to an occupied block, the onboard safety system (TPWS) will apply the emergency brake. This system albeit very safe, is very inefficient. A better way would be to allow the trains to report their position, speed etc. This would allow trains to run safely at closer distances, and would increase the capacity on the network.

The cost would be high, but as many of the signalling systems in the UK are nearing an upgrade, the spend would not necessarily be in addition to works which have been already identified by Network Rail.

To better explain this, the following video from Network Rail shows the current system of signalling, and how the new digital systems would improve the UK rail network.


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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

GWR

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:

station building

(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


Videos I have taken can be found on the RainhamRailEnthusiast YouTube Page.

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and Twitter : @RainhamRail


Many thanks for reading this Blog instalment – goodbye and I’ll Blog soon.

Shameless YouTube promotion!!

Well, it doesn’t hurt!!  Here is the YouTube channel for Rainham Rail Enthusiast.  Showcasing my love of trains, both modern and heritage, plus a section for my model railway, Mistydale. Thanks for watching.

Mistydale Model Railway – an overview

Mistydale model railway is a fictitious static model railway, with heritage and modern traction.  At the heart of the model has always been ‘Mistydale station’, a Heritage line connected to the mainline.  153 DMUs service the railway from the mainline via Foxburrow Junction Station in the nearby town of Foxburrow.

Below is a picture across to Mistydale Station, with a 153 DMU in Platform 1 and the station vehicle park featuring vintage vehicles, play area with tea room.

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Another view below shows the station at night.

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After trains leave Mistydale, they enter the heritage line passing through Merlin Halt

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The train then either returns back through the countryside back to Mistydale, or can access the mainline via Mistydale North Junction to the mainline loop.  Here Barleycorn Depot can be found

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After a small countryside journey, trains can access the line through to Foxburrow Junction Station, which will eventually have adjacent to it Foxburrow Yard, which is due for construction in January 2019.  Below is two pictures of Foxburrow Junction station in January 2018, when the branch to Mistydale was fully restored.

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I will occasionally Blog about Mistydale, but for the latest information, pictures and video, please visit Mistydale Model Railway

Mistydale model railway is also featured on the Rainham Rail Enthusiast YouTube page.

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

 

WW2 – Upchurch railway disaster

A short re-telling of a local story.

On August 16th 1944, a V-1 ‘doodlebug’ rocket was chased by a Spitfire pilot from Dover.  After many unsuccessful attempts to shoot it down, he eventually managed to tip it with his wing, but unfortunately instead of landing in an empty field, the missile landed under the bridge of the railway line at Oak Lane, Upchurch.

It was found that a railway worker sheltering under the bridge was killed instantly.  The bridge was totally demolished in the explosion, and unfortunately the 1535 Victoria to Ramsgate was speeding towards it, having just left Rainham.  Despite the best efforts of the driver, the train encountered the now demolished bridge.  Amazingly the main cab jumped the gap but the tender fell into it and the first few carriages were heavily damaged.  In fact the 4th coach ended up straddling the gap completely.

In total 7 passengers lost their lives, they came mainly from the from the front two carriages.  Many were severely injured, and were taken to several nearby hospitals.  Miraculously the driver and fireman survived.

Being as this was the mainline through to the coast and up to London, after the investigations and clear up were completed,  a new bridge was constructed in November 1944 at a cost of £3,800.

Four pictures follow, the first from the Daily Mirror (Dated September 14th 1944) the second which has come from Rainham History website . The third and fourth are (c) Bob Ogley, and show the locomotive being transferred back to the tracks, and the bridge as it is today (picture c.1990)

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Please also visit My YouTube channel for railway related videos, including Mistydale Model Railway .

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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.

Gillingham_A_Box_1972

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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1200px-New_Gillingham_Station_Front

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.