I visited the East Kent Railway at Shepherdswell in Kent on the 1st August 2020. It was their first running day since the lockdown due to Covid-19. I aim to showcase some of the things on offer at this fantastic heritage railway in this short blog.
Firstly, the railway is home to a couple of MK2 carriages in BR Blue as well as a VEP DTC coach from 3545. These give a comfortable ride along the route, and for those who remeber travelling in these, a great feeling of nostalgia. They are usually hauled by diesel shunters or a steam locomotive.
Taking of which, the diesels used comprise of either a Vanguard, or class 08 shunters. All are very well kept / restored and suit the line perfectly.
Hopefully soon, a very exiting new addition will run. The railway has acquired a pacer unit! This will fit the line perfectly, and with the availability of parts, hopefully be easy to maintain. I look forward to riding it soon.
The heritage line is complemented with two miniature railways (one is only in operation at time of writing, the woodland one). These give an entirely different experience, but one which is fun and well suited to the young visitors (or young at heart!!)
There are also two carriages which host a few model railway layouts, all of which are well run and modelled. There is always something interesting to see going round the layouts, and the operators are very enthusiastic about their work.
Add to all this, some really good woodland walks, being able to get up close to some of the stock, and of course a fantastic cafe which serves great food and drinks (milkshakes are fantastic).
I had looked at this railway before but never had been. I liked the rolling stock they have as it reminds me of my childhood. Even before this first visit, I had become a member, in order to help in a small way to keep this railway running through a difficault economic period. Visiting only confirmed that I had made the right choice, and I plan more visits in the future.
Below are a few photographs, plus a Vlog which I created detailing this visit. If you can, please visit this small but very well run railway, you won’t be disappointed.
Many thanks for reading. If you enjoyed, please search for Rainham Rail Enthusiast on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram – Thank You.
Well, all my best laid plans are in tatters, as least for now!! But on a serious note we should all as rail enthusiasts be observing the nations ‘lockdown’ and not going out enjoying our hobby. It will pass, and we will soon be able to once again photograph and video to our hearts content.
In the meantime, two things. Firstly, I am working on my London Transport Museum video. I shot this in November last year, but wasn’t happy with it and was going to re shoot. This however is now not possible at the mo, and so I will do an edit with the best footage I got. The reason for wanting a reshoot? Well basically I have a new camera, which enables me to get cleaner, less jerky footage. But I will put this together for now and hopefully later in the year update it with new video.
Secondly, and more importantly, as railway enthusiasts we all like the modern, but many value the past as well. Many of us visit our heritage railways during the year and sort of take them for granted. But this situation we find ourselves in couldn’t happen at a worst time of year for these attractions. Many would have been working towards a profitable Easter and summer period, but now just lie dormant, with only a handful of volunteers able to tend to and maintain both stock and building infrastructure.
This is where we can still help. If you are able, why not donate a small amount to your local or favourite (or both) heritage railway. It doesn’t need to be much, but if we can all pull together, we can help save rolling stock and these attractions for others to enjoy in the years to come. I myself have applied to become a member of the East Kent Railway Trust, where unique rolling stock is situated. It may only be a small line, but it’s importance in keeping the memeories of the Kent coalfields alive is invaluable. I am sure there are many more heritage railways around the country with similar ties to long gone industry which now more than ever need our help.
So please if you can, give a little to help keep these running. Lets hope that by at least mid summer we can get out and about again, and hopefully get back to video and photography.
Many thanks for reading.
If you wish please visit my YouTube, Facebook and Instagram pages, just search for Rainhamrailenthusiast in the relevant apps search bar.
Once one of the busiest stations in London, Liverpool street has a very ornate interior much overlooked by its passengers. Having undergone many refurbishments in the years, the concourse now fills with natural light from the vast roof which spans it. Although now not as busy, the soon addition of the Elizabeth line may make this station a true hive of activity again.
A Brief History
London Liverpool Street was built to be the London terminus of the Eastern Counties Railway. Opened in 1874 with 10 platforms, two of which extended under the station forming a junction with the Metropolitan Railway.
Originally the buildings were 90ft high, with a spired clock tower. A hotel named “The Great Eastern” was built down the entire length of the new frontage. Many expansions came in the early years, which unfortunately created a myriad of entrance and exits. As well as this, the bridge used across the station was not wide enough and on two levels, which caused congestion and confusion for passengers wondering which part of the bridge they should be on.
The station is probably most famous for its role in welcoming children of the “Kindertransport”, an operation started in 1938 to bring children from the ever expanding Nazi Germany. The first children arrived on December 2nd 1938, and by September of the following year, almost 10,000 children would arrive into Liverpool Street, many of which landed at Harwich.
After being damaged in the Second World War, the station remained in a poor state until the 1960’s, when British Rail rebuilt and refurbished the station, giving it a new clock tower.
It was therefore a surprise that in 1974, British Rail would earmark the Liverpool Street station building to be demolished, and an underground terminus put in it’s place. Many campaigns were launched by eminent figures of the day, including the comedian Spike Milligan, to stop the bulldozers from destroying such a beautiful example of a London Terminus. Eventually after a few years, the tireless campaigning worked and Liverpool Street was saved.
A full refurbishment was again undertaken in the 1980s, with the train shed roof being fully repaired and restored. The main roof would follow in 1987. At this time a link would be established to the Cambridge line, enabling trains to terminate at Liverpool Street instead of Broad street. The entire work was finished in 1991, and the station was officially re-opened by the Queen.
Since 2013, the site has had many excavations in preparation for the Elizabeth Line. During one of these, a mass grave was found on the site of the “Bedlam” burial ground, dating back to the 17th Century. This lead to a full excavation of the area, recovering what is believed to be 3,000 bodies.
A quick view of the station today
Due to its complex nature, you could start anywhere at Liverpool street and still get great views. Howver for the sake of this quick walkthrough, we will start at the entrance at Hope Square in Liverpool Street.
Going through the gates, you will be greeted by the ‘Kindertransport’ statue in front of the glass fronted entrance. Take time at this statue to read the plaques and appreciate this significant event in history.
If we now go through the entrance, you will gain the first look at the roof, with the concourse opening out below you. You are on the mezzanine level at this point, so take some time to look around you, admiring the columns which hold up the glass roof which is allowing natural light to flood in.
Looking left, you will see some arched windows, move toward these and then turn towards the concourse, so that you are looking straight down it. It is one of the best views of any London Terminus in my opinion, and a great photo if you can get it.
Move back along the mezzanine, a row of retail is ahead and to your right, but if you carry on down into a corridor, the exit to the bus station will eventally be on your left. Keep going down here for a very good view across the platforms.
Once, you have seen the the platforms, with the fantastic train shed above, head back to the mezzanine level and turn left, so that you can see the arrival and departure board ahead of you, hanging above the concourse.
Once you get to the board, turn right and go underneath it, good views can be had of the concourse left and right here. At the other side, turn right and then left, you should see a rather large marble mural which reaches up toward the roof. This great marble structure is one of the best dedications to those who lost their lives during the First World War at any railway station. Below it are dedications to Captain Charles Fryatt and Sir Henry Wilson, both of whom were decorated in the Great War. Many other dedications and wreaths are normally to be found under these.
Go back past the memorial and then past the departure board, and you should find on your right three brick reliefs. These depict a steam train, a ship and a scene involving coal being put into a firebox.
You will now see an exit which takes you out onto Bishopsgate. The former Great Eastern Hotel is to your left, and the original ballroom ceiling can be seen if you enter this building (which is now a major chain pub). Looking back towards the station you will see a glass canopy with escalators down to concourse level. This is framed with two brick columns, one with a clock tower. Also to be found here to your right is a very unusual metal totem with a London Underground roundel and the Liverpool Street name underneath.
Take the escalators down to the main concourse. Walk forward here and again admire the roof structure. Keep to your left here as you walk along. There are lots of places to sit here, and a set of escalators will take you down to the toilets. Go past these, keeping left until you almost reach the entrance to the Underground station.
You will then see another statue dedicated to the Kindertransport. This was the original one dedicated in 2003, and used to sit in Hope Square. When it was there it contained a glass box with actual artifacts from some of the children, with the standing girl only. When it was relocated however, a sitting boy was added and the glass box removed.
Moving past the Underground entrance, there is another exit ahead of you which takes you to an area with a low veiling and retail outlets. Eventually it leads to the Bus station.
London Liverpool Street is not the largest London Terminus, but this and Marylebone do keep the charm of the old railway, and although I have detailed a few hidden gems, but there are more (but that’s for another time…)
You can see a short video of the trains at Liverpool Street on my YouTube channel below:
London Bridge is the oldest of the Termini in London, and one of the combined termini where terminating platforms are alongside through services. Often derided in the past as gloomy and difficult to navigate, a 21st Century makeover was completed in 2018. It is now a sleek modern building, its angled lines smoothed out with a curvy façade on one side. London’s tallest building, The Shard, towers above it, literally pinpointing the stations position.
A brief history
In 1831 a railway was proposed between Greenwich and Tooley Street. Because it would run through very congested streets, it was agreed that the best course of action was to build a viaduct. This would become a huge 878 arch bridge, made from 60 million bricks which were made in Sittingbourne, Kent. Initially the viaduct had a walkway which people could use for the sum of 1 pence, enabling elevated views of the city. However this was closed during the expansion of 1840.
Partly opened in 1836 as far as Spar Road, the full line to London Bridge was opened in December 1836. The station at this time was very basic, steps or ramps up to the platforms which were totally open to the elements having no sheltering roof or trainshed whatsoever.
Expansion came very quickly, with the London and Croydon Railway Company and The South Eastern Railway company taking routes North and South respectively between 1839 and 1842. The increased traffic gave the station a new building in 1844, the first of many rebuilds London Bridge would have.
The most significant of these was in 1850, where the station was divided in two, the South Eastern taking control of the North side, and the newly formed London, Brighton and South Coast railway company the South side. A huge wall was erected, with both sides having differing rules and regulations, causing services such as horse drawn taxis to pay differing charges as they traversed the station.
This remined in place until 1923, when all the southern rail companies were amalgamated into the Southern Railway Company. A footbridge was built to link the two stations in 1928.
The arches under the station were used in the Second World War as air raid shelters, although conditions were very grim. Inspections declared they were unfit for use and demanded improvements to make them both safer and hygienic. Unfortunately, before any real improvements were made, a bomb hit London Bridge in February 1941, killing 68 and injuring a further 175.
A Major rebuild of the infrastructure and station occurred in the 1970’s. This included new signalling and rerouting of the lines in and out of London Bridge. The building was given a modern design, but people would still complain that it was cramped and uninviting.
It wasn’t until the early 2000’s that another rebuild would take place. The most radical and expensive so far, this time they seem to have got it right , as I shall explain in the rest of the blog.
A quick view of the current station
Although I label this as a quick view, the station is so vast that being quick here is not something i’d recommend if you wish to appreciate this new station.
Entering from the underground station, after going up the escalators you enter a passageway which is Joiner Street. Move into Joiner Street and you should soon see on your left the entrance to the Western Arches.
Moving into here, the old pillars that are holding up the railway above you, go down this corridor in a pleasant symmetrical fashion. Shops are placed at the side, and the feel of this section is fantastic.
At the end of the passageway is another intersection, this time with Stanier street. Of note here is the plaques along the wall detailing the history of the station layout, well worth a look if you have the time.
Moving back to the end of the Western arches, and head of you is the main concourse – a sleeper in on one of the walls just as you are about to enter the concourse is dedicated to the opening in 2018.
Turning right here will take you down past more shops on your right, and the main ticket office on your left. Carry on down to the exit and you will see on your left a memorial to the railway workers who died in the first world war. This exit would take you into St Thomas’ street, next to St Thomas’ hospital, should you go through it.
Turning back into the main concourse, head all the way back to the Western Arches and carry on. You will see various gateline entrances to your right, as well as a big escalator and stairs in the middle which will take you up to the upper concourse and the bus station. Lets go up and take a quick look.
Up the escalator ahead of you is the glass frontage of what used to be known as the main entrance to the station. If you were to exit there, the Shard would be immediately to your right, with the bus station immediately in from of you. It is worth going out here just to marvel not only at the Shard, but the impressive all glass frontage to the station here (see the opening picture of this blog post).
Moving around the upper concourse the sense of natural light and space is very evident. Moving to the left you will find gatelines for Platforms 10-15. If you gain access to these platforms, try to take a moment to stand at the end of the terminating platforms, and you will be greeted by a very pleasant sight as the canopy structure over the platforms snakes away from you, yet another good photo opportunity.
Lets go back downstairs to the main concourse, and turn right towards the exit for Tooley Street. Various gatelines will be on your right, as well as an information centre. Exiting into Tooly Street will give you a look at the new sweeping façade at this entrance. This mixes well with the original arches, which can be seen meandering away towards Greenwich. The view as you enter the station again is below.
Moving into the station, we go through a gateline into the inner concourse. Impressive concrete pillars, looking like huge egg timers, are dotted around, with seating around their circumfrence. The space here is very welcoming due to the high ceiling. Various lifts are in the centre too, and ahead of you are the huge escalators which take you to platforms 1-15.
Departure boards are placed around the lifts and on the side walls, really the wealth of information about arriving and departing train services is comprehensive.
I visited during rush hour, and yes it was busy, but the station layout as it is now didn’t seem to have any major congestion points. The station and surrounding structure is still being worked on, but all the major components are open, and it seems that at last London Bridge is able to cope with the passenger numbers it receives.
The video below shows London Bridge platforms at evening rush hour.
Well, as 2018 comes to a close, just a quick blog on where I see myself going next year.
My main project, which may span over into 2020, is a comprehensive overview of all London Termini. As you can imagine, this will be a major undertaking as I need to fit it in with other personal and work life, but I am willing to put in the effort to make this overview as good as possible. My First two should be St Pancras International and Kings Cross. This series will also be covered via platform videos on my YouTube Channel
Other blogs to include more on the SouthEastern rolling stock history, and more in the series of stations I have visited – both local and far. Plus Mistydale model railway is getting a new section!
I also aim to blog at least twice month, and will set up schedules to try to meet these deadlines more accurately.
I may blog before the end of the year, but if not, expect a new post around 1st Jan 2019.
The advent of High Speed 1 to link London with the Channel Tunnel would not only mean faster services for the Eurostar, but also could enable the population of Kent to enjoy a new faster way of travel. As early as 2003, formal approval was given to allow domestic High Speed services on High Speed 1. The award in 2006 of the 2012 Olympics to London further enhanced the need for such a service to exist.
Hitachi won the right to supply the new High Speed stock to SouthEastern Railway, their first rail contract in Britain. In total 29 were built. The service to be provided meant that the trains had to be “duel electric”, to accommodate both 750 DC third rail and 25 kV AC overhead lines. The third rail extends from Ashford to Folkestone, then onwards through the Medway Towns and finally Ebbsfleet International, where the 3rd Rail shoe is retracted and the Pantograph raised (or visa-versa).
The train is based on the 400 series “Mini Shinkansen”, and comprises of 6 carriages, which can be driven from either end. The front nose of the train can be retracted to allow automatic coupling to another 6 car unit. Power is through the middle four cars, powered by pantographs/shoes on the outer two cars. Each 6 car train has 340 seats and two toilets, one of which is disabled accessible.
Additional training had to be given to train crews, to enable them to understand the TVM 430 signalling display system which was in use on the High Speed portion of the line. This is a lot different from the UK rail signalling, mostly as it is “In Cab”.
Services started fully in December 2009. During the 2012 Olympic Games, many services were run in 12 car formations, and a regular shuttle service was established from Ebbsfleet International to Stratford International, the home of the Olympic Park. In 2015, a circular route from St Pancras to St Pancras was introduced.
The trains are designed to travel at 140 mph on the High Speed section, but are limited to 70-90 mph on the old mainline from Ashford through Margate, Medway then to Ebbsfleet. They are exceptionally comfortable, and have benefitted from being fitted with dampers to reduce the effect of excessive wobble in the High Speed tunnel sections.
The train was given the designation of class 395, but due to the Olympics quickly gathered the nickname of Javelin, which was then established across the fleet. Initially, 11 of the Javelins were named after British Olympic medalists by public vote. This increased to 23 after the 2012 Olympics, with some named after Paralympians. Other noted named Javelins were 395014 “The Victoria Cross” (later 015) and 395016 “Somme 100”.
In 2018 to commemorate the 100 anniversary of the end of World War One, 395018 had special vinyl’s applied. These can be seen below on 11/11/18, a day after a special railtour had taken place through the south and east of the UK.
As of 2018, they continue to be the flagship of the SouthEastern railway network, and are very heavily used, even if they have a small premium applied to the ticket price.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 :
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.
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 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 have 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.