The Anonymous Widower

A Modern Branch Line For Leigh

There is a group called the Lowton East Neighbourhood Development Forum or LENDF, who are proposing to reinstate part of the Bolton and Leigh Railway, to create a branch line to from a reopened Kenyon Junction station on the electrified Liverpool and Manchester Railway to a reopened Leigh station.

This Google Map shows the Southern part of the route, where it connects to the Liverpool and Manchester Railway at the former Kenyon Junction station.



  • The scar of the Bolton and Leigh Railway is clearly visible in line with the A579, which was built alongside the railway North of the A580.
  • The Kenyon Junction station site can also be spotted and was recently used as a work site for the electrification of the line.

There is certainly enough space on the former station site to create a two platform station, with perhaps a bay platform to handle a shuttle train to Leigh.

This Google Map shows, where the line goes at the Northern end.


I would think that Amberleigh Way follows the route of the Bolton and Leigh Railway.

One major factor defines how far the line could go.

It would probably be prudent to restrict the length, so that the chosen train could do a round trip in under thirty minutes, thus giving a two trains per hour (tph) service with just one train and no passing loops or complicated operation.

Four tph would probably require two trains, a passing loop and some clever train scheduling.

And then you mustn’t blow the budget!

Building The Line

I would build the line as simply as possible.

  • Single-track.
  • Single-platform tram-style stations with no footbridges, as at say Galashiels station.
  • Step-free access to the train.
  • No electrification.
  • No passing loop, as not needed with one train and 2 tph.
  • One set of points to connect the branch to the main line for rolling stock transfer.

Kenyon Junction station would be more complicated, as it would need.

  • Two long platforms for Liverpool and Manchester trains.
  • A bay platform for the Leigh branch.
  • A footbridge and other necessary facilities.
  • Appropriate car parking.

Kenyon Junction station would be the most expensive part of the project.

Train Operation

Train operation would be under rules called One Train Working, bur probably also applying the sort of rules under which trams work.

  • Lower speed.
  • Warning systems
  • Very visible trains
  • Driver keeping a good look-out.

This picture shows a two-car diesel multiple unit working under similar rules at its terminus in the centre of the German town of Zwickau.

Arrival At Zwickau Zentrum Tram/Train Stop

Note these points about the train and the infrastructure in the Zwickau Zentrum terminus of the Vogtlandbahn

  • The train is more-or-less standard.
  • The good driver visibility.
  • The orange warning lights.
  • The track laid like a tram track into the street.
  • No electrification.
  • The tram-style stop, designed to fit the trains using it.
  • Pedestrians and cyclists cross the track  in designated places after a good visual check for a train.

As this train goes about a hundred kilometres from this terminus, it still has visible couplings and other railway paraphernalia. These could probably be faired-in for safety and only exposed for recovery of a failed train.

Wikipedia calls this type of operation the Zwickau model, but I prefer to think of it as train-tram, as the train works as a train and then reverts to tram operation on the streets or perhaps through somewhere like parkland or moorland.

Note that in Zwickau, although the trains and the local trams have different gauges, they share tracks, using a unique three-rail track.

As there are no trams in Leigh and if they were, they would be the same gauge as the train, this is not a problem in Lancashire.

The Train

Any suitable and available self-powered train could be used.

  • A diesel multiple unit like a Class 172 train.
  • A fully developed Class 230 train
  • A simple bi-mode train like a Class 319 Flex train.
  • A train with onboard storage, perhaps charging using electrification in the bay platform at Kenyou Junction.
  • One of Merseyrail’s new Stadler trains fitted with a pantograph and onboard energy storage.

I always think, that the train should be a quality unit to attract passengers.

Whatever train is chosen, the bay platform at Kenyon Junction station and all the other platforms on the branch must be sized to fit the train to ensure level access.


It is certainly possible to create a 2 tph service for this new branch line at an affordable cost using a standard train, working to the same rules as the Vogtlandbahn in Zwickau.



February 6, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Riding The Vogtlandbahn

The Vogtlandbahn is one of the more unusual railways I have ridden. This is a basic description from Wikipedia.

The Vogtlandbahn is a private railway company in Germany, which runs diesel trains on regional lines in the states of Saxony, Thuringia, Bavaria, Brandenburg, and Berlin and as well as routes into the Czech Republic.

And this paragraph describes its origins.

After German Reunification in 1990, there was a sharp drop in passenger numbers on the rail network in all the new Bundesländer. Saxony, and thus Vogtland was no exception. The railways had old locomotives rolling stock and couldn’t compete with the rapidly improving roads. The Saxony government invested in an attempt to improve the attractiveness of the Zwickau–Falkenstein–Klingenthal line and the Herlasgrün–Falkenstein–Adorf (Kursbuchstrecke 539). The track was relaid to an 80 km/h standard, disabled access was facilitated at all stations and new stations opened. Maintenance and tracks were rationalised. Some platforms were removed, some stations such as Schöneck were restyled as simple halts.

It is a properly engineered system,which uses standard trains, as these pictures show.

The route I took started at Zwickau Hauptbahnhof, which is shown in this Google Map.

Zwickau Station

Zwickau Station

Note how there are two sets of platforms.

  • The Northern set are numbered 5-8 and handle the main trains to Leipzig and Dresden.
  • The southern set are numbered 1-4 and handle the Vogtlandbahn trains, which continue South-Eastwards to Zwickau Zentrum tram stop.

The two sets of lines join to the West of the station and share tracks to the Leipzig-Hof Line, where trains can go either North and South.

I had chosen a train from Platform 4 at Zwickau that passed through Netzcschkau station, which is where I got off, waited half-an-hour and caught the train back to Zwickau.

The line is no semi-derelict line, but a rather charming line in some ways reminiscent of something like Calder Valley Line. It is fairly level, but it runs across the top of hills with high viaducts everywhere.

These stations and features are in the same order as the pictures.

  • From Zwickau my train travelled West.
  • The train was a modern two-car diesel-multiple-unit, as you see all over Germany. It’s a German equivalent of a Class 170/171172 train.
  • There is a large freight line to the North of the line at Zwickau.
  • There are high-viaducts looking over tidy villages. Think Marks Tey Station And The Sudbury Branch.
  • We passed through Lichtentanne and Steinpleiß stations.
  • The line to Leipzig goes North and we took the Southern route towards Hof, that eventually goes to Munich.
  • We passed through Neumark.
  • We passed through Reichenbach, which looks like a station to visit.
  • We then passed over the Göltzsch Viaduct, which the largest brick-built bridge in the world. It is 574 metres long and 78 metres high, which means it is a lot bigger than the Digswell Viaduct at 475 metres long and 30 metres high.
  • I then reversed by journey at Netschkau station.
  • The train didn’t go the same way back to Zwickau, but after the viaduct, Reichenbach and Neumark, it went a few kiometres towards Leipzig before reversing at Werdau station and coming back to the starting point via Steinpleiß and Lichtentanne stations.
  • Lichtentanne station appears to have platform roofs built like medieval barns in serious timber.
  • The train said it was going to Zwickau Zentrum and after passing through the Vogtlandbahn platform at Zwickau HBf station, the train descended into the City on a tree-lined line.
  • After a stop at Zwickau Stadthalle, the train rolled into the centre of the town at Zwickau Zentrum.

This Google Map shows the Centre of Zwickau.

Zwickau Town Centre

Zwickau Town Centre

The Town Square with the Rathaus (Town Hall) is at the top and Zwickau Zentrum train/tram stop is South of the square and just North of the maion road through the area. This Google Mwickau Stadthalle train/tram stop, shows the intricacy of what has been done.


The trains of the Vogtlandbahn use the two platforms to the North-West. Note that some tracks in the area ,have three rails for the two different gauges. This Google Map of just North of Stadthalle station, shows the lines clearly.

Tracks North of Zwickau Stadthalle Station

Tracks North of Zwickau Stadthalle Station

Note the level crossing in the bottom left corner. I said in the pictures, that I saw another tram stop. This Google Map shows it.

An Unnamed Tram Stop In Zwickau

An Unnamed Tram Stop In Zwickau

You can clearly see the three rail track in this map.

Approaching Zwickau Zentrum train-station/tram stop, the tracks have to cross a dual-carriageway. This Google Map shows the crossing.

Trams And Trains Crossing A Dual Carriageway In Zwickau

Trams And Trains Crossing A Dual Carriageway In Zwickau

Note how the trains use a single track without electrification at the left and the trams use the other two tracks. Judging by the full version of this map, it would appear that road traffic is controlled by traffic lights.

To complete the route, this Google Map shows Zwickau Zentrum train station/tram trop.

Zwickau Zentrum Station

Zwickau Zentrum Station

There would appear to be a train in the station.

Unfortunately, I got my usual luck with the weather, otherwise I would have explored the area more on foot. The pictures would hopefully have been better too.

The link into Zwickau Zentrum is an interesting concept, where trains and trams share a common corridor through an urban area to a convenient station.

In Zwickau almost standard diesel trains are used, which might be slightly narrower than standard to fit the tram tracks.

As they are independently powered there is none of the problems of dual voltage operation, but they do have the problem of different gauges, which is solved by using three rails.

I think though, that on the shared line, trams and trains both run according to the same rules.

After my visit to Zwickau, I feel even stronger about what I wrote in When Is A Train Not A Train?

I believe that on separated track, trains can run through urban landscape under tram rules.

As our trams generally run on standard gauge track in the UK, I believe track could be shared between trams and trains, provided the following.

  • A compatible rail profile was used.
  • The line would be electrified for trams.
  • Signalling and warning lights would be appropriate.
  • The train has some form of independent power; diesel or on-board storage.

So say if somewhere in South London, the Tramlink and the trains needed to use the same stretch of line, a modern train like a Class 377 train with onboard energy storage would just raise its contact shoes and go.

There would be no complicated dual-voltage tram-trains.



July 22, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , | 5 Comments