News Wrap

New starting signals at Porthmadog.
Round-up of events
Published Wed, 2015-05-20 11:03

The May Day Bank Holiday is one of the weekends when many of the preserved railways hold special events and this year proved to be no exception.

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New starting signals at Porthmadog. © National Railway Heritage Awards

The May Day Bank Holiday is one of the weekends when many of the preserved railways hold special events and this year proved to be no exception.

The Ffestiniog Railway marked the 150th anniversary of the first scheduled passenger trains over the line with a four-day event that featured a different era on each day. Friday 1 May recalled the early days of Ffestiniog Railway passenger services; Saturday 2 May featured the heyday of passengers services, recreating the scenes from before World War 2 and the era of Colonel Stephens; Sunday 3 May took visitors back to the early preservation era; and, Monday 4 May brought the story of the Ffestiniog from the 1980s through to the modern age.

Another Welsh narrow-gauge railway to hold a special event over the weekend was the Talyllyn. The Quarryman Experience was one of a number of events planned to mark the railway’s 150th anniversary and was a celebration of the links between the line and the slate-quarrying industry. The event featured morning and evening photo-specials including original passenger and mixed trains.

The Pontypool & Blaenavon Railway in South Wales travelled back more than four decades as the railway sought to recreate the ambience of the 1960s. Alongside the steam operation on the railway itself there were a number of classic cars and motorbikes from the period — an age when virtually all the vehicles on the road — both four- and two-wheel — were built in British factories. Also celebrating the 1960s on the Sunday and Monday was the East Anglian Railway Museum at Chappel & Wakes Colne station in Essex.

Going back a couple of decades to the dark days of World War 2 the Kent & East Sussex celebrated the vital role played by railways during the war at an event which also featured re-enactments, a home front display and a recreated air-raid shelter as well as the characteristic music of the era. The heroic efforts involved in transporting thousands of troops through Kent following the evacuation of Dunkirk 75 years ago were also commemorated. It was planned that an intensive train service would operate with four or more locomotives in steam each day. In addition Holocaust survivor Zdenka Fantlová was present at the railway on Sunday 3 May signing copies of her book on her experiences at six Nazi death camps, including Auschwitz and Belsen. Another railway marking the wartime years was the Mid-Suffolk Light Railway at Brockford, a line that is celebrating being named as Suffolk’s Museum of the Year for 2014. Event organiser Justyn Keeble was quoted as saying of the Mid-Suffolk event: ‘While the weather tried to dampen things on Sunday the public displayed the typical 1940s Blitz spirit and refused to be put off from coming along. This event now attracts some wonderful re-enactors who freely give their time to this event. It’s always a privilege to work with such great people, without whom we simply couldn’t stage Middy in the War Years.’

Also marking an anniversary — this time the 50th anniversary of the shed’s closure — the Great Western Society at Didcot held a weekend gala that featured a number of visiting ex-GWR locomotives. These included two from the Severn Valley Railway — No 1501, the only surviving example of the 10 outside cylinder 0-6-0PTs delivered in 1949, and No 1450, one of the four surviving examples of the 0-4-2Ts supplied in the early 1930s.

The Embsay & Bolton Abbey Railway operated a branch-line weekend with a 30-minute frequency service over the three days and featured a variety of locomotives and rolling stock.

The Midland Railway at Butterley held the first of two Vintage train Events — the second is due over the weekend of 29-31 August — at which visitors were shown many of the line’s collection of coaches and other items of rolling stock from the 19th century.

In addition to these a number of railways held more child-oriented events with the Epping-Ongar Railway transferring Paddington from the Western to Eastern Region, the Keighley & Worth Valley celebrating its role in the production of the film The Railway Children and others held a variety of Thomas events.

Other news was the discover of the remains of a long-lost London railway station. Network Rail says Thameslink Programme engineers have uncovered the remains of a south London station closed a century ago. Remnants of the old station were found during construction of the Bermondsey dive-under, which will see two Victorian viaducts partially demolished and rebuilt to allow Charing Cross trains from south east London and Kent to descend almost to street level, going under a new route carrying Thameslink services from Croydon, and back up again.

Southwark Park station, perched on a viaduct above Rotherhithe New Road, only served passengers between 1902 and 1915 before it closed permanently. Now Thameslink Programme engineers have rediscovered the former ticket hall and platforms.

Project Manager Greg Thornett said: ‘We uncovered the footings for the former platforms while we were preparing the top of the viaduct for new track and we are now working up in the roof space of the former ticket hall to fill in the old skylights, ready to carry the final track alignment. Much of the existing stretch of viaduct will be replaced by the ramps into and out of the new dive-under, but the arch that used to house the old booking hall will remain.’

Southwark Park station was one of several in the area, including Spa Road, closed as a result of competition from trams and buses and the coming of World War 1. The Bermondsey dive-under is situated where the former Bricklayers Arms branch left the main line and a new access road follows the former trackbed under the remaining viaducts. The site offices sit on the stub end of the trackbed leading towards the former locomotive shed.