web analytics



In the Sixties, British Rail had a financial crisis (Google: “Beeching report) and shut down a third of the services and more than half of the train stations nationwide. This coincided with the wrapping up of the expensive-to-run steam trains.

Brits love them some trains, so this change cut a million British autists to the heart. There are all sorts of inspirational stories of engines rescued and, eventually, tiny parts of the closed lines restored by obsessive fans. These are the so-called Heritage railways which are dotted across the country.

The dream has always been to link heritage lines back up to the real network. Problem is, when they tore up the tracks, they sold those bits of land off to dozens — hundreds — of landowners. It seemed hopeless to buy enough of them back (in a contiguous line!) to connect with the real world.

Never bet against obsessives; they are finally managing it in places. The photo is from this article about the Bluebell Railway – “The first preserved standard gauge steam-operated passenger railway in the world to operate a public service, the society ran its first train on 7 August 1960, less than three years after the line from East Grinstead to Lewes had been closed by British Railways” (I stole that bit from Wikipedia). But it’s taken them until just now to link all the way back up to East Grinstead.

Linking up to the real world opens all kinds of possibilities, like commuters paying to go to work (at least partly) on steam trains. Which is doubly neat because we also have a handful of high-speed trains here. I can’t articulate why I think having both in service at once is so cool, it just is.

The Bluebell is one of the most-used railway lines in movies and TV, so do click over and have an explore.


Comment from Skandia Recluse
Time: April 20, 2017, 9:05 pm

What Britain needs is high speed steam trains.

Comment from Gromulin
Time: April 20, 2017, 9:27 pm

Oh, how the Warmists must shat themselves over the thought of coal powered trains.

Comment from Monty James
Time: April 21, 2017, 1:06 am

I watched the “Titfield Thunderbolt” a couple of months ago. I think something was lost when movie comedies went over almost completely to absurdity. The train was cool.

Comment from Niña
Time: April 21, 2017, 4:48 am

I think the steam-powered excursion trains in these parts burn oil…not sure, though.

But yeah, I like it, too,. I’d like to see all the old canals opened up again, too.

Comment from Nieta
Time: April 21, 2017, 5:31 am

I don’t mind the romance of trains, but the reality is much different. They’re just really expensive to take, although there is a steam train that comes in and out of Scarborough and one of these days Himself and I plan on getting on it. I think it goes into York and then back again.

It might be fun to take the steam train into York, spend the night there, then come back the following day on the steam train. It’s just too bad that it is so much more expensive than simply driving is.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: April 21, 2017, 11:03 am

The problem is, Nieta, that all rail travel is prohibitively expensive in this country. The so-called heritage steam lines just about survive, even at the prices they charge, due to having mostly volunteer labour, no one is making any money out of them.

I’m a self-confessed steam nut and have been known to shed the occasional tear when an old locomotive once a pile of rusting scrap is returned to steam. I have nothing but respect for the people who devote their lives to keeping these magnificent beasts running and reminding young visitors of what life was like before ‘progress’ ruined (almost) everything.

Comment from drew458
Time: April 21, 2017, 3:35 pm

That’s an interesting way to lay track. Looks like a larger version of snapping together track bits on a model railroad layout. Of course, having both rails end at the same point will make for a jarring ride, which I have heard is one of the hallmarks of British Rail.

Every couple of decades I run across the track machines working on the commercial tracks here. They are amazing to watch, and can lay or repair track nearly as fast as you can walk. Loud, smelly, but impressive to watch.

Comment from Ric Fan
Time: April 21, 2017, 4:52 pm

They have youtube videos of track laying machines. And yes, they are impressive.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: April 22, 2017, 8:34 pm

Actually Drew, rails here are welded together, which makes for a spookily smooth ride – well, spooky for those of us who enjoyed the rhythm of the old rails.

Write a comment

(as if I cared)

(yeah. I'm going to write)

(oooo! you have a website?)

Beware: more than one link in a comment is apt to earn you a trip to the spam filter, where you will remain -- cold, frightened and alone -- until I remember to clean the trap. But, hey, without Akismet, we'd be up to our asses in...well, ass porn, mostly.

<< carry me back to ol' virginny