The Anonymous Widower

Dartmoor Rail Service Reopens This Year In Reversal Of Beeching Cuts

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on The Times.

This is the introductory paragraph.

A largely redundant Victorian railway line will be reopened this year as part of plans to resurrect routes closed in the infamous Beeching cuts.

This line was always likely to be one of the first to reopen, as there is a terminal station at Okehampton, with a bus interchange and other facilities, that has been hosting a service from Exeter on summer Sundays for some years.

The BBC have a reporter there this morning and the station looks in better condition, than some I could name.

This paragraph from The Times describes works to be done.

Network Rail said engineers would start a range of works including improvements to drainage, fencing by the trackside, rebuilding embankments and upgrading Okehampton station. Some 11 miles of track will also be replaced. It is envisaged that test trains will run later this year before it fully reopens to passengers.

Some of the BBC footage, showed a great pile of new track by the station, so it looks like Network Rail are starting to relay the track.

It is hoped to run a one train per two hour service by the end of the year, which could go hourly next year.

In Okehampton Railway Return ‘Clear Reality’ After £40m Commitment In Budget, I said more about this reopening project and I speculated that both Okehampton and Barnstaple services will terminate at Exmouth Junction, as the Barnstaple services do now.

Barnstaple has roughly an hourly service from Exeter and to run two hourly services between Exeter and Coleford Junction, where the two routes divide, may need extra work to be done, so that trains can pass each other at convenient points.

This extra work probably explains, why the service won’t be hourly until next year.

I do wonder, if this reopening also enables other improvement and possibilities.

Meldon Quarry

Meldon Quarry used to be an important source of track ballast for British Rail and it is situated a few miles past Okehampton.

This Google Map shows Meldon Quarry and Okehampton.

Note.

  1. Meldon Quarry is in the South-West corner of the map marked by a red marker.
  2. To its West is Meldon Viaduct, which is part of the old railway line between Okehampton and Plymouth, which is now a walking and cycling route.
  3. The town of Okehampton is in the North-East of the map.
  4. Okehampton station is in the South-East of the town close to the A 30.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find, that Network Rail are upgrading the line to Okehampton, so that if they need to obtain quality track ballast from Meldon Quarry, it would not require upgrades to the track East of Okehampton.

Okehampton Camp

Note Okehampton Camp to the South of Okehampton.

Many Army bases like this one need heavy vehicles to be transported to and from the base.

Have Network Rail future-proofed the design of the route to Okehampton, so that heavy vehicles can be transported to the area?

A Railhead For North Devon And North Cornwall

There are two main roads between Exeter and Cornwall.

  • The A30 goes to the North of Dartmoor and via Launceston
  • The A38 goes to the South of Dartmoor and then via Plymouth

In the past, I’ve always driven to and from Cornwall via the Northern route and I describe one journey in Dancing with Hippopotami.

This Google Map shows the A30, as it passes Okehampton.

Note that although the station and the A30 are physically close, there would be a few minutes to drive between the two.

But I do feel there is scope to create an appropriate transport interchange between.

  • Trains to and from Exeter.
  • Buses and coaches to North Cornwall and North Devon.
  • Cars on the A30.

It could effectively become a parkway station.

An Alternative Route In Case Of Trouble Or Engineering Works At Dawlish

Bodmin Parkway and Okehampton stations are about 43 miles apart and I suspect a coach could do the journey in around fifty minutes.

Would this be a sensible alternative route in times of disruption?

  • It is dual-carriageway all the way.
  • Okehampton station can certainly handle a five-car Class 802 train and could probably be improved to handle a nine- or even ten-car train.
  • Trains from London could get to Okehampton with a reverse at Exeter St. Davids.

I don’t know the area well, but it must be a possibility.

Could Okehampton Have A London Service?

As I said in the previous section, it looks like Okehampton station can handle five-, nine- and possibly ten-car Class 802 trains and there are many pictures of Great Western Railway’s InterCity 125s or HSTs at Okehampton station in years gone by.

I think it would be feasible to run a small number of services between Okehampton and London.

  • The service would have to reverse at Exeter St. Davids station.
  • As one service every two hours runs between London Paddington and Exeter St. Davids stations, a service to Okehampton could be run as an extension to the current Exeter service.
  • It could also stop at Crediton station.

There must also be the possibility of running a pair of five car trains from Paddington, that split at Exeter St. Davids, with one service going to Okehampton and the second one to Paignton.

  • Exeter St. Davids and Paignton are 26.3 miles apart and a fast train takes 34 minutes
  • Exeter St. Davids and Okehampton are probably a slightly shorter distance.

I suspect that a sensible  timetable could be devised.

The specification of the Hitachi InterCity Tri-Mode Train is given in this Hitachi infographic.

Note.

  1. It is intended to run these trains to Exeter, Plymouth and Penzance.
  2. The range of the train on batteries is not given.

These trains could use a mixture of diesel and battery power to travel to and from Okehampton and Paignton.

But I also believe that as Hitachi develop this train and batteries have an increased capacity, that it will be possible for the trin to do a round trip from Exeter to  Okehampton or Paignton without using diesel, provided the train can leave Exeter with a full battery.

According to Hitachi’s infographic, the train will take 10-15 minutes to fully charge at a station like Exeter. But that would add up to fifteen minutes to the timetable.

I feel if the roughly thirty-five miles of track between Exeter St Davids station  and Cogload Junction, which is to the North of Taunton, were to be electrified, then this would mean.

  • Trains would be fully charged for their excursions round Devon.
  • Trains would be fully charged for onward travel to Plymouth and Penzance.
  • Trains going to London would leave Taunton with full batteries to help them on their way on the ninety mile stretch without electrification to Newbury.
  • Trains going between Exeter and Bristol could take advantage of the electrification.

Eventually, this section of electrification might even help to enable trains to run between London and Exeter without using diesel.

As the railway runs alongside the M5 Motorway, this might ease planning for the electrification.

The gap in the electrification between Cogload Junction and Newbury could be difficult to bridge without using diesel.

  • Cogload Junction and Newbury are 85 miles apart.
  • I’ve never seen so many bridges over a railway.
  • I actually counted twenty-one bridges on the twenty miles between Westbury and Pewsey stations.
  • I suspect some will object, if some of the bridges are replaced with modern ones.
  • There would be a lot of disruption and expense, if a large proportion of these bridges were to be replaced.
  • Currently, Great Western Railway run expresses to Exeter, Plymouth and Penzance via Taunton and Newbury.

I think, there needs to be some very radical thinking and low cunning to solve the problem.

  • Battery technology and the best efforts of engineers from Hitachi and Hyperdrive Innovation may stretch the battery range sufficiently.
  • It might be possible to extend the electrification at the Newbury end to perhaps Bedwyn, as there are only a few bridges. This would shorten the distance by up to thirteen miles.
  • It may also be possible to extend the electrification at the Taunton end.
  • I would expect some bridges could be dealt with using discontinuous electrification techniques.

But I believe that full electrification between Newbury and Cogload junction might be an extremely challenging project.

There must also be the possibility of using lightweight overhead line structures, where challenges are made about inappropriate overhead gantries.

There is also a video.

Note.

  1. Electrification doesn’t have to be ugly and out-of-character with the surroundings.
  2. The main overhead structure of this gantry is laminated wood.

These gantries would surely be very suitable for the following.

  • Electrifying secondary routes and especially scenic ones.
  • Electrifying single lines and sidings.
  • Electrifying a bay platform, so that battery electric trains could be charged.

Innovative design could be one of the keys to more electrification.

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 19, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Beeching Reversal – Reinstatement Of The Bodmin-Wadebridge Railway

This is one of the Beeching Reversal projects that the Government and Network Rail are proposing to reverse some of the Beeching cuts.

The basic outline of this Beeching Reversal project is described in the section called RailTrail Project in the Wikipedia entry for the Bodmin and Wenford Railway, where this is a simplified version of what is said.

The railway company is currently planning to extend beyond its western terminus at Boscarne Junction towards Wadebridge alongside the Camel Trail. Known as the RailTrail project, phase one would see the railway extended to Nanstallon Halt, phase two to Grogley Halt and phase three to Wadebridge Guineaport.

In areas where the width of the trackbed does not allow both a railway and a footpath side-by-side, short diversions are proposed. For example, at Grogley, the Camel Trail could be re-routed along a former “headshunt”, which was part of the original railway before it was replaced by a later deviation.

There is some controversy, over the reduction in width of the Camel Trail.

This Google Map shows the River Camel through Wadebridge, where the extension appears to be proposed to finish.

Note.

  1. The Guineaport area of Wadebridge is marked by a red arrow-dot.
  2. The Future Plans section of the Wikipedia entry for Wadebridge station, says that the new station will be beyond Guineaport.
  3. The Camel Trail is marked on Google Maps as a dotted line and it can be followed to where it meets the Bodmin and Wenford Railway at Boscarne Junction station.

This Google Map shows Boscarne Junction station.

Looking from my helicopter, I am fairly sure that the RailTrail can be squeezed in with a footpath.

What Sort Of Railway Would It Be?

These are my thoughts.

Will It Be Double Or Single-Track?

It will be single-track, as there is not enough space for two.

I would suspect, they could use similar construction to these tram tracks in Blackpool.

Effectively, the RailTrail could be a high-strength road, with a rail track set to one side, and appropriate markings, rails and safety signage.

How Long Will The New Track Be?

Google gives these distances.

  • Padstow and Boscarne – 14.4 miles
  • Padstow and Bodmin – 16 miles
  • Wadebridge and Boscarne – 6 miles
  • Wadebridge and Bodmin – 7.4 miles

I have added Padstow, as this town on the sea, used to be the rail terminus.

Should The Route Go To Padstow?

This Google Map shows the Padstow end of the Camel Trail.

But there could be a major problem.

At the bottom of the map is the Little Petherick Creek Bridge.

  • It’s probably OK for a cycle trail, but would it be strong enough for heavy rail use.
  • On the other hand, is it past its replace date and Cornwall County Council might like to pass the responsibility to Network Rail?

There is also more land to build a station at Padstow.

It could even be built on the East side of the bridge, so that the heaviest thing it would carry would be pedestrians.

Would A Shared RailTrail Work?

One of the most interesting train systems, that I have seen is in Zwickau in the former East Germany, where instead of buying more trams to connect to other towns and cities, they devised a train-tram system using standard diesel multiple units.

The Zwickau system is more complicated than it would need to be in the UK, as the trains have to share tram-tracks of a different size, so there are  three-railed tracks; two for the metre gauge trams and an extra one for the standard gauge trains.

I have never seen anywhere else, where rail vehicles of different gauges share rails.

The trains run under virtually the same rules as street running trams do in Birmingham, Blackpool, Croydon, Edinburgh, Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield.

  • You can cross the road all round them.
  • Trains are limited to slow speeds.
  • The trains are independently powered.
  • The trains cross level crossings.
  • There is no electric power for the trains.
  • The trains are double-manned and the crew keep a good look out!

Note, in the pictures, that the trains have flashing orange warning lights.

Could a GWR Class 800 train run along the RailTrail?

  • The train would be a five-car unit.
  • The train would be fitted with environmentally-friendly battery power, so it would be emission-free and almost silent.
  • There would be a charging facility in the platform at Bodmin General station to top up the battery, before the train ran on the RailTrail.
  • As in Zwickau, the track would be buried in the ground. so it could be safely used by trains and not be a hazard to pedestrians.
  • The train would have a slow speed crawling mode, so it could proceed along the RailTrail with extreme care.

With the right timetable, the modern trains could share with the Bodmin and Wenford’s heritage trains.

Could Wadebridge Get A Direct Service To London Paddington?

Why not?

Places like Bradford, Harrogate, Huddersfield and Skipton appear to be being added to LNER’s network, by joining and splitting Class 800 trains at Leeds.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a five-car Class 800 train with a battery capability running  from Wadebridge to Plymouth, where is joined with another train from Newquay, Penzance or Plymouth, before running as a ten-car train to London Paddington.

Conclusion

I like this scheme and it could be a prototype for other similar ones.

July 26, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Beeching Reversal – Increased Service Provision Bodmin General-Bodmin Parkway

This is one of the Beeching Reversal projects that the Government and Network Rail are proposing to reverse some of the Beeching cuts.

This Google Map shows the relationship of the two Bodmin General and Bodmin Parkway stations.

The two stations are clearly visible.

The aim of this Beeching Reversal project would appear to set up a more regular service between Bodmin Parkway station on the Cornish Main Line and Bodmin General station in the town.

This video shows some of the current trains run by the Bodmin and Wenford railway, between the two stations.

This article on Cornwall Live is entitled Plan To Link Heritage Railway At Bodmin To Mainline Train Services, gives a few scant details.

  • There will be a second platform at Bodmin General station.
  • This will allow extra services.

Looking at the space around Bodmin Parkway station, it should be possible to have a very comprehensive track layout, that connects the Bodmin branch to the main line.

It also appears that the platform is fully-funded from Great Western Railway (GWR) and Cornwall County Council.

Could A Shuttle Be Run Using Vivarail’s Pop-up Metro Concept?

Using Vivarail’s Pop-up Metro between the two stations is surely a possibility, with charging at either station.

What Do GWR Want In Return For Their Funding?

I think that GWR could have a couple of uses for a platform at Bodmin General station.

Reorganising The Services Between London Paddington and the South-West

Currently, there are three services on this route.

  • London Paddington and Exeter St. Davids via Reading, Newbury, Pewsey, Westbury, Castle Cary, Taunton, Tiverton Parkway.
  • London Paddington and Plymouth via Reading, Taunton, Tiverton Parkway, Exeter St Davids, Newton Abbot, Totnes.
  • London Paddington and Penzance via Reading, Taunton, Tiverton Parkway, Exeter St Davids, Newton Abbot, Totnes, Plymouth, Liskeard, Bodmin Parkway, Lostwithiel, Par, St Austell, Truro, Redruth, Camborne, St Erth.

All services have a frequency of one train per two hours (tp2h)

Perhaps by reorganising the train paths, GWR could run another 1 tp2h service between London Paddington and Bodmin or Newquay station after the Transformation Of The Newquay Line.

Joining And Splitting Between London Paddington And The South-West

GWR’s Hitachi Class 80x trains have the ability to run in pairs, that are split and joined at convenient places en route.

This YouTube video, shows them doing it in Plymouth station.

As a means of evening out passenger loadings on pairs of trains running to the South-West, the two large stations of Exeter St. Davids and Plymouth would surely be possibilities for the manoeuvre.

I also think that Bodmin Parkway station could be used to split and join two trains from Cornwall.

  • One train would come from Penzance and the West.
  • The other could come from either Newquay or Bodmin General stations.
  • In the future the second train, might come from a new Wadebridge station.

Bodmin Parkway station might need some small modifications, but it should be remembered that the closely-related Class 395 trains, do the deed and quickly disappear at Ashford International station.

Creating A Bodmin-Wadebridge Railway

There are also plans in the Beeching Reversal projects for the Reinstatement of the Bodmin-Wadebridge Railway

For trains to travel between Bodmin Parkway and Wadebridge stations, trains will need to reverse in the new platform at Bodmin General station.

Local Services From Exeter And Plymouth

From what I have read on the Internet, the Bodmin and Wenford Railway is an important tourist attraction and is one of several around Bodmin including the beaches and the Camel Trail.

So perhaps, a connection between Bodmin and Exeter and/or Plymouth in a vintage InterCity 125 could be a nice little earner for GWR and an appropriate way to arrive at the steam railway.

Steam Local Services From Exeter And Plymouth

Why not?

The new platform at Bodmin General station could probably take a locomotive and four coaches and all the facilities to handle steam engines are in the vicinity of the station.

Could The New Platform Be Used For High Speed Freight Shuttles?

Why not?

Rail Operations Group is looking at the possibility of running Class 769 trains as freight shuttles.

Bodmin could make an ideal Cornish terminal, as it’s the right side of county and has the main A38 close by.

Could The Platform Be Used To Charge Battery Electric Trains?

I feel that First Group are starting to embrace battery trains.

In Hitachi Trains For Avanti, I talked about how a fellow First Group company were reporting, that they might have battery trains.

If Great Western Railway were running extra trains into Cornwall, would a new platform at Bodmin General station, be an ideal place to charge a train?

Conclusion

A second platform at Bodmin General station could open up a lot of possibilities for train operating companies.

 

July 25, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments