NEWTON ABBOT to PLYMOUTH NORTH ROAD, distance 31¾ miles 

Now for the toughest challenge on the Great Way West since departing Paddington.
On leaving Newton Abbot, there is a one-mile stretch of level track as far as Aller Junction Signal Box, just before MP215¼, where 'the branch' to Torquay and Kingswear diverges from the main line, however our journey west to Plymouth is a much tougher task for engine crews, starting with a 3-mile climb of Dainton Bank, the steepest of the South Devon banks.
Immediately after Aller Junction there is a down loop where the 'rules' require all westbound loose-coupled goods trains of over 34 wagons to be assisted by a banker buffering-up to the rear.
Dainton Bank starts proper at Stoneycombe, near MP217 where a loop is provided on the down side in case of emergencies; our climb begins with a ruling gradient of 1 in 46 for the first 2½ miles followed by a stretch of 1 in 36 at its steepest on the final ½ mile to the summit just beyond the 291-yard Dainton tunnel.
Many books describe the challenge of the climb from Aller Junct to Dainton Summit; indeed it would be very unfortunate if an engine crew were to find themselves stopped on the climb. Even a mighty Class 8P 'King' was not allowed to attempt the climb unaided when hauling a train weighing more than 360 tons (consisting of ten or eleven bogies), therefore all down passenger trains of any length and weight took on a pilot loco at Newton Abbot, or earlier, while up trains took on a pilot at Plymouth North Road, or at Laira Junction as far as Newton Abbot.
The pilots were usually shown as AE (Assisting Engines) in lists and tabulations of locomotives used in reports where trains were noted along with the engines that hauled them.
After reaching the summit our train passes MP218 at Dainton Tunnel Signal Box (previously named Dainton Sidings) on the down side, behind which are refuge sidings used for storing crippled wagons requiring attention. The eagle-eyed might spot a large mirror used by the signalmen to check the progress of 'up' trains through the tunnel (the mirror is seen in the photo below) while the steepness of our descent to Totnes is clearly accentuated by the level siding on the up side used by banking engines awaiting a clear path back to Newton Abbot.
The next five miless into the Dart Valley near MP222¾ is equally precipitous as the climb from Aller Junction. Totnes station has platform loops and branch lines serving Ashburton in the north and Totnes Quay in the south. There is a small engine shed here for both branch locos and bankers which provided rear-end assistance for westbound trains now facing their second fearsome incline, the nine mile-long Rattery Bank.
Leaving Totnes, engine crews immediately face a rigorous 4¼ mile climb of between 1 in 45 and 1 in 70 before easing to 1 in 90 and then increasing to 1 in 65 to reach the summit at Wrangaton. During the climb we pass Tigley Signal Box near MP225½, followed by Rattery Signal Box near MP227¼, the 869 yard-long Marley Tunnel, and then just before MP229¾ we arrive at the junction station at Brent, where the 12½ mile branch from Kingsbridge joins the main line from the south.
After Brent there is another 2¼ miles uphill climb to the summit at Wrangaton almost at MP231¾, and our gruelling climb is over. From here there is a 7½ mile stretch through wonderful Devon countryside passing Bittaford Platform, Ivybridge and Cornwood, plus we cross five lofty masonry viaducts; Glaze, Bittaford, Ivybridge, Blatchford and Slade - all built in 1893 to replace Brunel's original timber spans mounted on slender stone piers.
On reaching Hemerdon Sidings Signal Box at MP239¼, there are passing loops marking the summit of Hemerdon Bank, and the line suddenly sweeps downhill at a falling gradient of 1 in 42 for the next three miles (torturous for engine crews on up trains) but our engine has a relatively easy downhill run down to Plympton, just before MP242, however high speed running is not permitted owing to the sharp curvature of the line.
After Plympton we pass through Tavistock Junction where the SR branch from Launceston sweeps in from the north, and we are very soon running alongside the River Plym estuary, past Ocean Siding and to Laira Junction Signal Box at MP244. Here the line crosses the defunct but still plainly visible 4 foot 6 inch gauge horse-worked Lee Moor (Plymouth & Dartmoor) Tramway.
On the left is Laira depot, 'The lair of Kings', with its large engine shed, coaling stage, goods yard and numerous sidings. The depot is home to about fifty 4-6-0s including ten 'Kings', plus a further 50 or 60 tender and tank engines.
During the final two miles from Laira Junction to Plymouth we pass Mannamead Signal Box between the site of stations at Lipson and Mutley, and then Mutley tunnel before arrival at Plymouth North Road at MP225¾.

(Below) Grange' class No 6841 Marlas Grange and Diesel Hydraulic A1A-A1A No D601 Ark Royal of Old Oak Common pass Dainton Tunnel Signal Box at the summit of the 5 mile climb from Totnes. This is the Up Cornish Riviera on Saturday 20 September 1958 during the first week of the Winter 1958 timetable. No 6841 was a St Philips Marsh (82B) engine, not commonly used as an assisting engine on this train, although a frequent visitor to Devon on holiday extras and freight trains. The aim of the D6xx 'Warship' class was to haul the main West Country expresses, but they proved unreliable and the WR soon relegated them to less prestigious duties.

The photo above shows a lot of interest, including the large mirror above the first coach. The mirror enabled the signalman to confirm the continuity of up trains entering the tunnel by checking the presence of tail lamps which might otherwise be obscured by steam or by a standing freight train on the down main (while brakes were being pinned down). It also shows the wicked gradient profile as the down sidings and the single up siding were level while the main line dropped away very steeply towards Totnes. The sidings were used for storing cripple wagons and for bankers awaiting a path back to either Totnes or Aller.
On the 'BR Western Region - 2' page (P22) Andrew Fiderkiewicz has penned an interesting article called 'Dainton Memories' in which he writes - 'There was one significant working which we spotters would look out for and that was a relief for the down 'Riviera'. Normally the main train had a 'King' from Paddington and it would stop at Newton for a two 2-cylinder loco (either a Hall or Grange) to take the train on non-stop into Cornwall ('Kings' being banned from crossing the Royal Albert bridge). The 'King' would then await the arrival of the relief, which did stop at Plymouth and it would act as pilot to that train. Of course, that too could have a 'King' at the front and so we were sometimes given a show of strength as the train would leave Newton for Plymouth double-headed by two 'Kings'...happy days!'

(Below) The British Transport Commission's (BTC's) 1955 Modernisation Plan for British Railways led to the purchase a number of pilot-scheme diesel-electric and diesel-hydraulic locomotives. In 1958, the Western Region took delivery of the first of three 'lightweight' Type 4 B-B diesel-hydraulic 'Warship' class locomotives Nos D800-2, which were based on German engineering and built under licence at Swindon Works. This created a very useful power unit that led to the BTC ordering two additional batches of similar Swindon-built locomotives, along with a further order placed with the North British Locomotive Company (NBL). The WR's Type 4 'Warships' were divided into two classes: the BR Swindon-built locomotives D800-D832 and D866-D870, later designated Class 42 in BR's Total Operations Processing System (TOPS) while the remaining thirty three locomotives built by the North British Locomotive Company were numbered D833-D865, and became TOPS Class 43. The initial production cost of the first three locomotives (D800-2) was £143,000, but this was reduced to around £120,000 for each of the remainder. Nevertheless it was still a high figure compared to the manufacturing costs of the steam engines being built simultaneously in the same Workshops. The early days of the WR's Type 4 fleet were dogged by running defects, a situation only to be expected in view of the huge learning-curve required by crews and maintenance staff during the changeover from steam to more modern traction. However the fleet amassed high mileages in their formative years, showing good potential, although certain problems occurred; many related to the cooling groups due to a lack of maintenance and failure of thermostatic controls; this led to engines overheating, cracked cylinder heads and inevitable long periods out of service. Another major issue was their propensity for very rough riding at speeds above 80mph, this being attributed to the lack of lateral movement within the bogie design all of which required major rectification to eradicate the problem fully. The locomotives powered by Maybach engines were more reliable than those fitted with the MAN type, the latter being prone to exhaust manifold cracking and frequent engine failures due to malfunctioning big-end bearing locking-plates; again this resulted in majorly expensive crankshaft damage and time-consuming work to effect repairs. Here, the doyen of the 'Warship' fleet, No D800 Sir Brian Robertson, named after the then Chairman of the BTC, awaits departure from Newton Abbot with a midday Penzance to Manchester express in 1960.

(Above-Below) 00-0-a-rs-greenwood-GE2-9-7-61c Newton Abbott's original steam depot was replaced in 1893 by a new eight-road standard GWR pattern shed and allocated the code NA. The depot was designated the major shed for the region and included a heavy engineering repair shop for the maintainance and repair of all types of GWR locomotives. The last British Rail steam engine to be overhauled in the workshops was ex-GWR 4500 Class No 4566, which was outshopped on 15 July 1966. Adjacent to the workshop was a six-road carriage and wagon works, suitable for the maintenance and repair of all types of rolling stock. Cleaning was carried out on tracks between the station and the locomotive sheds. Rail Cameraman, RS Greenwood MBE, took this fine grandstand view of the shed yard showing no fewer than eight locomotives, though this being Sunday some engines are out of steam until the morning when they are stirred from their slumbers. 'Grange' class No 6859 Hewell Grange is positioned in the centre, parked in front of the mobile crane; while Mogul No 7316 moves forward with some coaching stock. Seeds of change are much in evidence with the diesel maintenance depot taking shape in the background. The depot had four roads with servicing pits and cab level platforms, providing facilities to repair eight locomotives at the same time. Also a daily servicing and fuelling point was built beside the old steam shed, while diesel multiple units were serviced in another open ended shed next to the carriage cleaning tracks. The diesel repair shed was closed in 1970, albeit the locomotive and coach servicing and fueling facility remained until 1981 when servicing was transferred to Laira Traction Maintenance Depot. (Below) 00-0-a-GE 5 GWR 7316 Newton Abbot Station 9 July 1961c copy. Splendid view of '4300' class 2-6-0 No 7316 awaiting departure from Newton Abbot's down relief platform with a semi-fast from Exeter on Sunday 9th July 1961. The Mogul was in its 40th year of service, firstly from Carmarthen in South Wales, then moving to (83C) Exeter in April 1946. Introduced in 1911 by George Jackson Churchward, these 'maids of all work' were equally at home on passenger or freight; as were the 'Grange' class locomotives which were built in 1936 under the direction of CME CB Collett using many parts from the withdrawn '4300' class engines. Photo R S Greenwood MBE Ref GE5.

(Above-Below) 00-0-a-rs-greenwood-6839-b A different view of Newton Abbot looking towards Forde Road on Sunday 9th July 1961; the photo encompassing so much of interest; outbuildings and railway infrastructure, wagons and signals, all serving to frame 'Grange' class No 6839 Hewell Grange which was allocated to (83B) Taunton depot at this time. Only a short spell was spent working from (83B) followed by a move to (84C) Banbury, but almost all of the engine's service was completed in the Wolverhampton Division at (84B) Oxley. This very useful class of eighty locomotives was derived using many parts from withdrawn '4300' class engines and negligible changes were perceived during their long careers. Photo RS Greenwood MBE.

(Above-Below) This is a fine shot of the rarely photographed train 666, the 3.35pm Friday Only Plymouth-Bristol Stapleton Road, sometimes extended to Cardiff; the ensemble is awaiting departure from Newton Abbot on Friday 27 May 1958. Train 665 used to be the number for the 12 noon from Penzance to Crewe, with carriages for Glasgow, but this was changed to 205 in 1953; its relief, 666, remained unchanged for the Plymouth-Bristol section of 130 miles. The 'Hall' class is No 4980 Wrottesley Hall of Bristol St Philip's Marsh shed, while the 0-6-0PT No 3606 in the bay platform is on a Teign Valley line train to Exeter.

(Below) WR10-271 46237 On Friday 20 May 1955, 'Princess Coronation' class Pacific No 46237 City of Bristol heads the up Cornish Riviera out of Newton Abbot en route to Paddington, with a dynamometer carriage behind the tender. The engine was on loan from the London Midland Region, to assist the Swindon Factory with regard to the benefits of double chimney and other draughting improvements, with a view to the findings being applied to the 'King' class of locomotives. The tests with this engine were successful and led to the whole class of 30 'Kings' acquiring double chimneys and other advancements, between December 1955 and April 1958. (Editor's note: the irony of the situation was not lost on the operating staff, for Sir William Stanier FRS was indeed trained at Swindon before making such an impact on the LMS). Photo CHS Owen.

(Above) WR10-272 7034 'Castle' class No 7034 Ince Castle heads towards Aller Junction from Newton Abbot with the down 'Cornishman'. The photo is undated, but the alloy headboard and lion and wheel emblem on the tender suggest 1955. No 7034 went to Bristol Bath Road from new in August 1950, and this remained its home shed throughout the Fifties. It acquired a Collett tender in June 1952 and stayed with the same design until withdrawal at the end of December 1963. I suspect this is the true Cornish portion of the down Cornishman, which did not call here, but on leaving Exeter St. David's at 2.05pm it passed non-stop through Newton Abbot at 2.30pm, due at its next stop, Plymouth North Road, 52 miles from Exeter, at 3.20pm. (Editor' note: the engine was modified with a double chimney in December 1959, but soon gained a bad reputation, just refusing to produce steam. Richard Woodley quotes in his excellent book entitled 'The Day of The Holiday Express' that on July 9 1960 the engine was replaced by the Reading station pilot on a Paddington to Kingswear service). Photo BKB Green, Initial Photographics.

(Below) WR10-275 6942 Seen leaving Newton Abbot is a Swindon Works excursion destined for Paignton and hauled by very recently overhauled member of the 'Hall' class No 6942 Eshton Hall of 81A Old Oak Common, dated Saturday 7 July 1962. The resplendent engine was enjoying its fifth year allocated to (81A), but had moved around four different MPD Divisions, varyingly from (84K) Chester to (83E) St. Blazey, spending more quota at Wolverhampton Oxley (OXY and 84B). REAL Photograph Ref R8135.

(Above) WR10-276 6967 5976 A busy scene is portrayed on Saturday 26 May 1951, as 'Modified Hall' No 6967 Willesley Hall of 84B Wolverhampton Oxley pilots Exeter shed's 'Hall' class No 5976 Ashwicke Hall at the head of the Penzance portion of the down 'Cornishman'. Meanwhile local 2-6-2 tank No 5150 waits to back down to couple onto the detached rear portion and head for Paignton and Kingswear, due there just before 4pm. The main train to Penzance will take somewhat longer, its scheduled arrival being 6pm. At this date, the portions were separated at Newton Abbot, as were the two up portions combined before these manoeuvres were performed at Exeter. Photo CHS Owen.

(Below) WR10-277 4708 On Maundy Thursday 29 March 1956, Churchward-designed 47XX class No 4708 of (81A) Old Oak Common hauls a relief train, numbered 145, otherwise spare, 11.40am ex Paddington-Plymouth, and has a clear signal to go forward at Aller Junction. These 2-8-0 locomotives were always held in high esteem by the railwaymen and by GWR enthusiasts, and though mainly used for fast fitted freights their power resources proved most useful on Summer Saturdays; helping out with many expresses to the west. Using 145 makes sense as 144 is the 11.30am to Penzance and 146 is the 12.00pm Torbay Express. I only make the point because gaps are not always left for extra trains to be logically inserted in numerical sequence. Between those two departures from Paddington was the 11.45am Hereford. (Editor's note: suprisingly No 4708 began its BR career working from (84B) Wolverhampton Oxley depot and did not move to (81A) until late 1952. Also of note is the small goods loop signal arm, tucked very neatly between the two main line signals). Photo CHS Owen.

(Above) WR10-279 46210 This remarkable photograph is dated Friday 10 February 1956 when all the 'King' class engines had been withdrawn, and the LM Region made four Pacifics available to help out; 'Princess Royal' class Nos 46207 & 46210 followed on from two* engines being loaned the previous week. Also eight** BR Standard Class 5MT locos came from the London Midland, and Southern Regions. Crewe North's 'Princess Royal' class 8P No 46210 Lady Patricia approaches Aller Junction with the down Cornish Riviera. The train number is being carried, but, unusually, and it is a pity in the circumstances, the titled train headboard is not on show, maybe due to the plate having only WR fitments. It seems the four loaned Pacific engines were much admired by the WR crews and that they performed very well. (*Editor's note: 'Princess Coronation' class Nos 46254 City of Stoke-on-Trent & 46257 City of Salford, both from 1B Camden were made available in addition to No 46210 & No 46207 Princess Arthur of Connaught, of 8A Liverpool Edge Hill depot. **Also LMR kindly allowed Nos 73001, 73010, 73045 to be used; while the SR sanctioned Nos 73085, 73088, 73110, 73114 & 73117, all brand new, to help the WR cause). Photo copyright CHS Owen.

(Below) WR10-280 5919 During its seven year stint at (82A) Bristol Bath Road, 'Hall' class No 5919 Worsley Hall moves on to the up line from Plymouth at Aller Junction, with the returning City of Bristol Holiday Express on Friday 10 August 1956, having brought people down to Paignton for a day out by the sea. On several weekdays in July and August, cities such as Birmingham, Bristol, Gloucester and Plymouth laid on day excursions to an attractive resort in the West Country, or such, and would usually utilise the same engine and crewmen for the duration of the week. Photo CHS Owen.

(Above) WR10-281 5055 On Saturday 2 July 1960, 'Castle' class No 5055 Earl of Eldon heads train A63, the 11.30am SO Torquay - Paddington, seen just after Aller Junction and before Newton Abbot where No 5055 is based. From new the 'Castle' was one of a large stud of express engines allocated to Old Oak Common (PDN), giving good service for over 21 years. Unfortunately, just over 2 years from the above date, the engine was resigned to storage and used sparingly for a further couple of years until condemnation. The fascinating book 'Operation Torbay' by WS Becket, Xpress publishing tells us that this train 'was intended as a non-stop relief to the Torbay Express which followed half an hour later and would almost certainly be full upon leaving Paignton. The stock of 11 vehicles first ran light from Newton Abbot to Torquay, running straight to the up platform so that the engine could run-round and set off without delay.' It is due at Paddington at 3.48pm.

(Below) WR10-282 6027 'King' class No 6027 King Richard I of (83D) Laira hauls the 8.30am Plymouth-Paddington 'Mayflower' on the up relief line between Aller Junction and Newton Abbot on 23 May 1958, the Friday of the Whitsun weekend. So far the train has eight carriages, but another five will be added at Newton Abbot from the 8.35am from Paignton that is due to arrive at Newton Abbot at 9.12am. After stops at Exeter, Taunton and Westbury, arrival time at Paddington is due to be 1.25pm. This King will be the sole haulage from Plymouth for the 5-hour run to the capital, unless at Reading, one of Laira's Halls is added as pilot, intended for hauling a down extra back to Plymouth later in the day on this bank holiday weekend. Photo CHS Owen.

(Above) WR10-283 6977 6397 On the approach to Aller Junction from Newton Abbot is train 435, the 7.43am SO Nottingham-Plymouth on Saturday 2 August 1958. The lead engine, 'Modified Hall' No 6977 Grundisburgh Hall of 82B St. Philips Marsh took this train over at Bristol Temple Meads from a London Midland loco and brought it to Newton Abbot. It then uncoupled to allow 43XX class Mogul No 6397 of 83E St. Blazey shed to be coupled to the train, with No 6977 repositioning itself as the front engine. I assume this was 'laid down in the rule book', even though it would take up several minutes on a busy Saturday. (Editor's note: the onus of responsibility was with the crew of the lead engine, as they would be watching for signals and operating the brakes as required, but maybe of more importance was the fact that the 'Hall' had the leading bogie which gave far more stability when dealing with a heavily loaded train). Photo is by WJ Probert.

(Below) WR10-284 7018 82A Bristol Bath Road's 'Castle' class No 7018 Drysllwyn Castle is being used by the WR for test purposes, is on its first day of trials with its recently fitted experimental, fabricated double chimney on its debut on the down 'Torbay Express' on Tuesday 24 July 1956. After reaching Kingswear, and using the turntable there, No 7018 is now used, with no change at the front of the engine, to bring the dynamometer car and the Goodrington Sands-Newton Abbot goods the nine miles back to Newton Abbot. Photo REAL Ref R8134.

(Above) WR10-285 92245 Constructed in November 1958, class 9F No 92245 of (81A) Old Oak Common heads a (so far) quite short 12.20pm Penzance-London milk tanks train as it approaches Newton Abbot on Saturday 30 July 1960. Even though there was much extra holiday traffic today, the running of milk trains needed to continue as usual. During its journey to the capital, the train will collect more tanks at Exeter, Tiverton Junction, Wellington, Taunton, Castle Cary, Frome and Westbury, and then it will proceed via Lavington and the Berks & Hants line, and the West Ealing Loop, probably after an engine change, to Wood Lane depot in North Kensington arriving soon after 1.30am. To the casual observer, these tanks were believed to be oil containers, such was their external condition in most instances. The V69 chalked on the front of No 92245 is a mystery to me; as far as I can tell, V69 was assigned to a Newcastle-Cardiff service. (Editor's note: this particular engine remained at WR depots; Cardiff Canton, Oxford and Southall in the main, but it became an early candidate for withdrawal after just 6 years in service). Photo CHS Owen.

(Below) WR10-286 75026 6018 A slightly strange-looking combination on the face of it, as a new BR Standard Class 4 No 75026 (allocated to 83D Laira in May 1954) pilots 26-year old 'King' class No 6018 King Henry VI of (81A) Old Oak Common at Aller Junction on Tuesday 13 July 1954. The train is the 12 noon ex-Penzance to Crewe West to North Mail consisting of a typical load of a TPO coach followed by six passenger carriages and a few vans. No 75026 will come off at Newton Abbot and the 'King' will continue on to Bristol. It appears that no cleaning of any description has been attempted to the BR engine, but Swindon have been busy with some refinements; the exhaust ejector has gained a control valve (see Britannia Pacifics page 90) and some added equipment there; also Automatic Train Control fitments are in place, in addition to raised sandbox lids, brought into the building programme at Swindon Works. Nos 75025 to 75029 inclusive were delivered new to (83D) Plymouth Laira, from Swindon Works during early 1954, in answer to a request by the Western Region for engines that could work over longer distances. Photo CHS Owen.

(Above) WR8-21 5997 48431 From 1948 the Western Region had 62 ex-LMS Stanier class '8F' 2-8-0's working throughout their system, of which exactly 50% were built at Swindon Works, who managed to construct 80 engines of the class (12%), from May 1943 until July 1945; these being numbered (4)8400 to (4)8479. The remainder came from other Locomotive Builders such as Vulcan; Crewe and Beyer Peacock. William Stanier-designed '8F' class No 48431 is a (82B) Bristol St. Philips Marsh loco, and is the train engine behind 'Hall' class No 5997 Sparkford Hall of 82C Swindon depot. The train is the 4.25pm Plymouth Millbay to Paddington parcels passing Aller Junction before Newton Abbot on Wednesday 17 June 1959. This train always produced an interesting pair of locos and a mixture of vans, siphons, full brakes etc., and a modeller's dream. (Editor's note: the history of the Stanier '8F' is complex, but briefly there were 852 constructed; 663 ran on BR lines; 182 remained abroad, while 7 were lost at sea in two shipping accidents). Photo, CHS Owen.

(Below) WR10-287 75026 5350 BR Standard class 4 No 75026, of 83D Laira, pilots Mogul class 4MT No 5350 of 82C Swindon shed on the 4.25pm Plymouth Millbay to Paddington perishables passing Aller Junction; 2 Cordon gas wagons lead the usual varied set of stock. No 75026 is about to be transferred to 82C Swindon to join its far older partner which dated from 1918 and remained in useful service for 41 years; a testament to George Jackson Churchward, its creator. Note a County Class loco is passing light engine on the down line before the Torquay branch. The date is Friday 18 May 1956, the day before the Whitsun weekend. Photo, CHS Owen.

(Above) WR10-289 7916 92206 (10.289) 'Modified Hall' class No 7916 Mobberley Hall of (83A) Newton Abbot and BR Standard Class 9F No 92206 of (82B) St. Philips Marsh look to have plenty in reserve at the head of the 4.25pm Plymouth Millbay to Paddington parcels on Wednesday 24 June 1959, as seen from the road bridge at Aller Junction. This powerful combination should be on schedule as it was a weekday working and No 92206 was barely one month old and probably quite able to manage the train independently. The uncertain nature of the loading meant that two locos were rostered for the duty, irrespective. The BR-built 'Hall' remained in the Newton Abbot Division from its first duties until June 1964; whereas the '9F' assumed nomadic proportions and saw service at Westbury (82D), Eastleigh (71A) for 2.5 years; York (50A) for more than 3 years, then ending its short career at Wakefield (56A). Photo, REAL photographs, Ref R8177.

(Below) WR10-290 75000 5058 BR class 4 No 75000 of 82C Swindon pilots 'Castle' class No 5058 Earl of Clancarty on train 649 the 1.20pm SO Penzance to Paddington express as they come past Aller Junction on Saturday 23 August 1958. No 5058 is now at Laira, having 2 weeks earlier been put back in traffic after a Heavy Intermediate overhaul at Swindon Works. The BR Standard will come off at Newton Abbot, one mile ahead, leaving the 'Castle' to continue without assistance. As this is during the peak holiday period, it may prove difficult to get to Paddington by the due arrival time of 9.05pm. Photo by REAL photos, Ref R8189.

(Above) WR10-291 6008 5196 The uncommon sight of a 'King' in front of a 2-6-2 tank engine, captured at Aller Junction. The up Cornish Riviera Limited is hauled by class No 6008 King James II of (83D) Laira depot plus Newton Abbot's '5101' class 2-6-2 tank engine No 5196, on Saturday 17 August 1957. The up Riviera doesn't call at Newton Abbot unless a pilot engine is to be taken off. Today the 2-6-2T emgine has to be removed from the train before departure for London. I understand the rule is that if a train is piloted from Plymouth or Laira by a tank engine or Mogul, the pilot would be 2nd loco, but if the pilot is a 4-6-0, then that would be the lead engine. But if the pilot is not added at Plymouth or Laira, but at Totnes, the tank engine or Mogul would lead. (Editor's note: my understanding of the situation is that a pilot engine having a pony truck bogie would not be allowed to take the lead; the risks were too great).

(Below) WR10-293 5153 34075 Adding to the loco variety, a SR loco and crew hauled trains between Exeter and Plymouth four time a day. In this 1959 instance, '5100' class 2-6-2T No 5153 pilots SR Light Pacific No 34075 264 Squadron on the 5.30 SX Exeter St David's-Plymouth North Road stopper, seen here approaching Aller Junction. The purpose of these duties was to maintain familiarity on this WR route to SR crews, in case mishaps caused a blockage on the SR route. Two such trains ran each weekday in both directions on each route, making a total of eight such trains operating. As well as this train running, the other down train was the 11.25am SX from Exeter. The two up trains were departures from North Road at 2.15pm and 4.32pm. Photograph is in the REAL collection Ref R8182.

(Above) WR10-294 6009 6021 Contrary to appearances this is not the down 'Cornish Riviera', it is the 10.35am SO Paddington-Penzance (Train Reporting Number 133) which departed Paddington a few minutes after the Saturday Riviera, closely shadowing it throughout its journey with a scheduled 5.40pm arrival at Penzance just fifteen minutes behind the main train. What has happened here is that 'King' class No 6009 King Charles II had earlier brought the 10.30am Paddington-Penzance 'Cornish Riviera' into Newton Abbot where it handed over to a pair of 4-6-0s for the remainder of the journey to Cornwall. Meanwhile 'King' class No 6021 King Richard II arrived at Newton Abbot with the 10.35am SO Paddington-Penzance and No 6009 (still retaining the headboard and 130 reporting number) coupled up to the front and departed a few minutes after the actual 'Riviera'. This was standard Saturday practice during the summer timetable, although the majestic sight of a train double-headed by a pair of 'Kings' is unlikely to be seen again in 1955 as it is the last weekend of the summer timetable. Both locomotives at the time were part of the Old Oak Common's top-link stud. Photographer CFH Oldham captured the pair at the start of the climb to Dainton summit on Saturday 17 September 1955.

(Below) WR10-279A After a lengthy wait for a convenient path, Collett 2-8-2T '72XX' class No 7220 of (83A) Newton Abbot depot makes headway out of the down loop at Aller curve. The use of a banker engine was a regulation instruction for any goods train of more than 35 wagons, with the second locomotive buffering-up to the rear-end enabling it to drop away when the difficult climb to Dainton summit had been completed. These 2-8-2T engines were rebuilds of random Churchward 2-8-0T '42XX' class engines as overseen by Collett, to give far greater range of working area. Real Photographs, Ref T8421

(Above) WR5.17 This unusual combination was captured by CHS Owen at Aller Junction on Saturday 27 May 1961; it shows '5100' class 2-6-2T No 5153 has been switched from banking duties at Totnes to rescue 'Castle' class No 5014 Goodrich Castle of (81A) Old Oak Common, which has failed on the 'up' 'Mayflower' near Totnes. Having left Plymouth at 8.30am, but now running late by half an hour or more, not only has the 'Mayflower' lost its path at important points along the route, passengers aboard the 8.35am ex-Kingswear portion which connects with the 'Mayflower' at Newton Abbot are faced with a long delay after their 9.22am arrival. 'Our man at Totnes' will have telephoned ahead to forewarn control at Newton Abbot, and the operating department will be frantically locating a suitable replacement loco to cover this setback, only then will the train be able to continue to London, albeit its arrival at Paddington will be much later than its intended 1.40pm. These are just some of the operating decisions to be taken in such circumstances, in addition to which a replacement banker had to found at Totnes to provide assistance on Rattery Bank. Postscript: did passengers on the 8.35am ex-Kingswear - plus any other passengers planning to catch the 'Mayflower' at its scheduled stops at Exeter, Taunton and Westbury - have to await its late arrival, or perhaps a spare locomotive and coaching stock was provided at Newton, thus honouring the rail travellers' expectations of the timetable? Photo CHS Owen, REAL Ref R8100

(Below) WR10-291 The uncommon sight of a 'King' in front of a 2-6-2 tank engine is captured at Aller Junction on Saturday 17 August 1957. Here the up 'Cornish Riviera Limited' is hauled by No 6008 King James II of (83D) Laira depot plus Newton Abbot's '5101' class 2-6-2 tank engine No 5196. The up Riviera didn't call at Newton Abbot unless a pilot engine was to be taken off. Today the 2-6-2T will be removed from the train before departure for London. I understand the rule is that if a train is piloted from Plymouth or Laira by a tank engine or a Mogul, the pilot would be the 2nd loco, but if the pilot is a 4-6-0, then this would become the lead engine. But if the pilot is not added at Plymouth or Laira, but at Totnes, the tank engine or Mogul would lead. (Editor's note: my understanding of the situation is that a pilot engine with a pony truck bogie would not be allowed to take the lead; the risks were too great). Photo CHS Owen.

(Above) WR10-295 BR Class 7MT 'Britannia' Pacific No 70017 Arrow of (81A) Old Oak Common comes round Aller curve with a short westbound express from Paddington for Plymouth, a comfortable task for engine and crew. The Pacifics were considered 'alien' by some crews on the WR and generally disliked, but they did find favour with Cardiff Canton crews who put them to good use. This engine shows five visible differences from new; details can be gleaned on page 91. Photo REAL Ref R8212.

(Below) WR10-296 In the final month before its transfer to 82C Swindon shed, BR Standard Class 4 No 75026 of (83D) Laira pilots 'County' class No 1018 County of Leicester of 83G Penzance shed on Aller curve with a return Saltash excursion at the start of the Whitsun weekend on Friday 18 May 1956. With ten coaches this seems a well supported excursion, and I suspect the photographer will see a great deal more than the usual amount of traffic on this day. Photo CHS Owen.

(Above) WR4.42) Preparing to attack the 3-mile climb of Dainton bank, the steepest section being a fierce 1 in 36, 'King' class No 6015 King Richard III plus GWR '3700' class No 3440 City of Truro head the 5.30am Paddington - Penzance express on Thursday 12 September 1957. The 'King' came on at Bristol, while No 3440 came on at Didcot. 3440 was being worked to Plymouth for a Sunday excursion to Penzance. It is interesting that 6015 was assigned new in June 1928 to PDN, which was then Old Oak Common's abbreviated code until late 1948 when it was re-coded 81A. The 'King' had no other home shed for thirty four years until June 1962, when for the last three months of its life it was assigned to 84A Wolverhampton Stafford Road depot. Official documentation purporting to show it was allocated to Aylesbury in May 1947 was actually a typing error (the document should have read 6105). No 3440 went back to Swindon on Monday 16 September on the 3.55pm Plymouth - Swindon parcels led by 'Hall' class No 6902 Butler's Hall. Photo CHS Owen.

(Below) WR10-297 6806) On Thursday 31 July 1958, 'Grange' class No 6806 Blackwell Grange from faraway 84B Wolverhampton Oxley (assuming the date to be correct, because it would almost certainly revert to its 83G Penzance allocation), has been waiting patiently for a break in the westbound traffic to exit the loop at Aller curve, and proceed with a Class H goods train loaded with supplies of coke. At the rear, one of Newton Abbot's 2-6-2 tank engines provides rear end assistance to Dainton summit. It is rarely recognised that instructions stated that banking engines from Aller to Dainton were not to be coupled to the guard's van, but merely buffered-up thereby allowing them to 'drop away' at the summit without stopping the banked train. Photo RW Hinton.

(Above) WR10-298 1014 5183 Here's an interesting and rare sight…'County' class No 1014 County of Glamorgan of 82A Bristol Bath Road and '5101' class 2-6-2T No 5183, each in reverse, bring the empty coaching stock of an excursion towards Langford Bridge on Friday 13 June 1958. My assumption is that 1014 had brought a train load of passengers to Totnes, for a trip on the River Dart to Kingswear. This train will now travel empty to Newton Abbot and then work to Kingswear to collect the passengers following their river trip. No 1014 was a Bristol Bath Road shed from new in February 1946, and withdrawal came in April 1964 after a mileage of 756,762. Newton Abbot shed had about ten of the 2-6-2T engines, perhaps No 5183 was hitching a lift back after completing its branch and banking duties at Totnes? Photo GW Sharpe.

(Below) WR10-299 5920 5087 A combination of 'Hall' class No 5920 Wycliffe Hall of (83A) Newton Abbot and scruffy 'Castle' class No 5087 Tintern Abbey of (81A) Old Oak Common, are approaching Aller Junction from the Plymouth direction with a London bound express in 1951. Note the tender of No 5920 is still displaying Great Western livery; also one has to admire the well laid and ballasted track, which is heavily used both day and night. Photo A G Ellis 28751, ML Boakes Collection.

(Above) WR10-300 5982) Another train approaching from the Plymouth direction is this Forces train 28F1, headed by 82B St Philips Marsh shed's 'Hall' class No 5982 Harrington Hall of on Tuesday 28 July 1953. I have never been able to interpret what the numbers of Forces trains mean, except the 28 here relates to the date of the train. The carriages look in very good condition, somewhat better than how some sets provided for such trains can look. It is something of a rarity to find an express without an assisting engine travelling over these Devon banks, but 5982 looks as if it is purring gently coming on the down gradient here of 1 in 57 then 1 in 98 before Langford Bridge and the approach to Aller Junction. Photo RE Toop Ref X8

PAGE STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION. Please note…this website is currently being archived by the British Library which gives us the chance to free-up space and make wholesale changes...there is a huge amount of material to be added. However, whilst websites usually go off-line when changes are being made, it was decided to remain online during construction of this page - after all, there's nothing to hide. I just hope the out-of-sequence pages do not spoil your viewing. Finally, the GWW pages will be reshuffled into their proper places just as soon as the British Library's version is published...To be continued…


My thanks to Rod Blencowe for his generous help in filling the gaps of my own collection. Over the years, Rod's negative archive has swelled to become one the most important collections in the country; not only is the archive regarded a valuable resource for publishers, railway enthusiasts and historians, his high quality images are readily available to all collectors. If anyone requires traditional photographic prints or any other photographic services. The email address is: Please note this is not a 'clickable' link via Outlook Express. You will have to email manually.

This page also features photographs supplied by Stewart Blencowe, who has a superb archive of black & white postcard-sized photographs of locomotives from both the pre-Grouping and 'Big Four' eras. Many pictures are from his own negative collection and can only be purchased direct from him, either by visiting his website HERE or via selected railway book fairs, auctions and Open Days…the venues are listed on his website. Stewart has more than forty years of successful trading in all manner of railway items from secondhand books, photos and timetables to ephemera and railway minutia, relics, tape recordings models and miscellania. Postcard size prints can be ordered at £1.50 each including packing and postage. Stewart's email address is Please note this is not a 'clickable' link via Outlook will have to email manually.

The Transport Treasury collection supply rail, bus, and tram photographs to publishers and enthusiasts. Many well known railway photographers have chosen Transport Treasury to care for their collections, familiar names such as: R C Riley, Dr Ian C Allen, Richard HN Hardy, Roy Vincent, John Robertson, David Idle, Alan Lathey, Mike Mitchell, Eric Sawford and W (Bill) A C Smith to name but a few. You can contact the Transport Treasury using any of the following: Telephone 01464 820717 - Mobile 07867 645410 Email or by post to: The Transport Treasury, Logie Shannoch, Drumossie, Insch, Aberdeenshire AB52 6LJ. Visit the Transport Treasury website HERE

The Great Western Trust (GWT) (Registered Charity 289008) was established by the Great Western Society (GWS) in 1984 to conserve and display artefacts and memorabilia of the GWR collection at Didcot Railway Centre. The vast majority of the collection has been donated by visitors or by GWS members and spans the period from 1833 (the First GWR Share Prospectus) to 1977 (withdrawal of the BR Western Region's Diesel Hydraulic locomotives). The Trust's photographic collection is vast and comprises images in both black and white and colour covering the Great Western and other British railway companies. Full details can be obtained from the Hon Photo Archivist c/o Didcot Railway Centre, DIDCOT, Oxfordshire England OX11 7NJ. Please enclose a stamped addressed envelope.

The Stephenson Locomotive Society (SLS) photograph collection is a marvellous archive of over 50,000 historic railway photographs along with more contemporary images. The SLS list was previously only available to SLS members, but from January 2016 the archive became accessible to everyone. Full contact details and price lists can be found via the links provided on the excellent SLS website HERE

The Locomotive Club of Great Britain's (LCGB's) Ken Nunn Collection has been transferred to the NRM, which will make pictures available to historians and enthusiasts in due course. The Ken Nunn collection of 35mm black and white and colour copy transparencies covers British railway history from the earliest years of the LSWR, GWR, South Eastern, NER, Midland, Southern and LNWR, with views of locomotives, carriages, wagons, road vehicles, workshops, stations, bridges, people, shipping and events.
Click HERE to visit the National Railway Museum's photographic collection.

Charles Clinker, a historian of the Great Western Railway, was so deeply disturbed by the destruction of collections of early railway photographs by FE Mackay and E Pouteau, that he set up the Locomotive and General Railway Photograph (LGRP) with the aim of preventing future collections being destroyed. In June 1939 he went into business with V Stewart Haram, who ran the sales section, and W Vaughan-Jenkins who managed the photographic side. Charles Clinker's role was to persuade early railway photographers to pass over their negatives to the care of the LGRP, which would provide prints for sale to enthusiasts. The original partnership came to an end in 1951 when Vaughan-Jenkins sold his share of the business. The archive then passed from owner to owner, including the publishers David & Charles, Real Photographs, Ian Allan Ltd, before finally taking up residence at the NRM which purchased the collection and its associated rights with the aid of the National Heritage Memorial Fund in 1992. Click HERE to visit a Guide to NRM's Photographic Collections. Details of the L&GRP can be found on page 117.

As mentioned earlier, Ed Chaplin was a frequent visitor to Lens of Sutton on Westmead Road, then a Mecca for serious students of British transport. Ed purchased many wonderful old photographs from John Smith, proprietor of this specialist transport book shop. As a teenager some years earlier, Ed had bought many second-hand 00 gauge items from John Smith's previous shop at 50 Carshalton Road in Sutton. Sadly John Smith passed away in 1999, and the Lens of Sutton Association was established in 2001 to help maintain the collection and keep the name of 'Lens of Sutton' alive. The objective the Association is to make available a number of photographs from their extensive collection at very competitive rates. Lists are available at this contact address postal only: The Lens of Sutton Association, 46 Edenhurst Road, Longbridge, Birmingham B31 4PQ, or click HERE to visit the excellent Warwickshire Railways website for further details.

The NRM's photos come from two main sources, the railway operating concerns and private enthusiasts. The official photographs produced by the railway companies passed into public ownership under British Railways in 1948. These images, together with those of BR's own photographers, were acquired by the Museum under the terms of the 1968 Transport Act, which made provision for the retention of historic objects of national importance HERE.

Polite notice: All text and photographs are protected by copyright and reproduction is prohibited without the prior consent of the © owners. If you wish to discuss using the contents of this page the email address is below. Please note - this is not a 'clickable' mail-to link via Outlook Express. You will have to email manually.


Standedge Moor tunnels between Marsden and Diggle are made up of three railway tunnels and one canal tunnel used by the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. The canal tunnel is the oldest of the tunnels (built 1811) and holds the record as the longest (3 miles 133 yards) and the highest (645ft) canal tunnel in Britain. The first single-bore 'Nicholson' railway tunnel was built in 1849, followed by the single-bore 'Nelson' tunnel in 1871. Twenty three years later, the LNWR built a new double-bore tunnel in 1894 to facilitate the increase in rail traffic, and this is still in use today. An oddity of the Standedge railway tunnels is that they provided the only level section of track where water troughs could be installed over the steeply-graded Trans-Pennine route. All four tunnels are linked by cross-tunnels at strategic locations underground. This enabled the speedy construction of the railway tunnels as 'waste spoil' could be removed by canal boat. Today, the canal tunnel and the 1894 double-bore rail tunnel are the only ones still in use, but the abandoned single-bore rail tunnels continue to be maintained and provide a road access to fire and ambulance services in case of emergencies.

(Above-Below) The Pennine region is renowned for the severity of its winter months when snow and ice can disrupt the M62 motorway for days on end, but despite the wintry conditions our railways seem to keep on rolling along. The 1962-63 winter was more than just a cold snap, temperatures plummeted to an average of 0.2 Celsius from Boxing Day until April, with blizzards and white-out conditions sweeping the country for months on end. It was dubbed the 'Big freeze' by the media, and only the hardiest steam railway photographer ventured out. Railwayman Jim Carter was rewarded with these evocative shots of snow clearing at Diggle.

(Above-Below) 'Rebuilt Patriot' No 45545 Planet heads a Liverpool-Newcastle train across Dobcross Viaduct spanning the small River Tame and doubtless frozen Huddersfield & Ashton Canal in January 1963. (Below) The Huddersfield Narrow Canal is a waterway of startling contrasts, from tranquil countryside to dramatic moorland scenery and dark satonic mills. Here we have contrasting views of the viaduct from the canal tow path running alongside the Brownhills Visitors Centre at Dobcross
The canal tunnel is the oldest of the tunnels (built

(Above-Below) The Huddersfield Narrow Canal runs for 20 miles between Huddersfield in West Yorkshire and Ashton under Lyne in Greater Manchester, and has a total of 74 locks. This is a view of Diggle Lock Flight looking towards Manchester. (Below) During the transition from steam to diesel traction on BR, the Swindon-built Trans-Pennine (TOPS Class 124) InterCity units were a stylish addition to the BR fleet. The service began on January 2nd 1961 between Hull and Liverpool, with 6 trains each way daily via the Standedge route. Their power/weight ratio made possible substantial acceleration of the Trans-Pennine service, though this Hull-bound set will struggle to keep to time having been held at signals due to snow clearing operations during the artic winter in January 1963. Photos © Phil Spencer and JR Carter.

(Above) First TransPennine Express (FTPE) is responsible for operating inter-city train services on three main routes across the North of England. The Standedge route between Manchester and Leeds accommodates four express trains per hour between the two cities. This is made up of an hourly Liverpool Lime Street-Scarborough service, an hourly Manchester Airport-Newcastle service, an hourly Manchester Airport-Middlesbrough service and an hourly Manchester Piccadilly-Hull service. The TransPennine franchise is operated with Class 185 and Class 170 diesel multiple units. The Class 185 units, constructed in Germany by Siemens, entered service in March 2006 and are based at Ardwick Depot in Manchester. Smaller depots at York and Cleethorpes provide facilities for the stabling and light maintenance of the fleet east of the Pennines.

(Above-Below) The extent of rationalization of track at Diggle can be clearly seen in these striking 'Before-After' shots taken from above the single-bore portals of Standedge Tunnel looking towards Manchester. Today the site of Diggle station (closed on 5th October 1968) is a rather remote spot with little sign of the extensive trackwork that once served this important Trans-Pennine rail route. In its heyday, the station had platforms serving all four lines but with the reduction of freight traffic and the elimination of many local train services in the 1960s, the 4-track section between Huddersfield and Stalybridge was reduced to two and this permitted the closure of the two single-bore railway tunnels at Standedge.  Now that nature has taken its course little trace remains of any railway infrastructure, though Diggle Junction box - just visible in the background - remains as a block post and controls the goods loop on the down (Leeds) side.

(Below) The 1960s saw something of a revolution on the Standedge route with the introduction of diesel-hauled services at hourly intervals between Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool. This included four through workings from Newcastle, hauled by EE Co Class 40 locomotives or one of Gateshead's Class 46 'Peaks'. At the same time, a new fleet of purpose-built 6-car express diesel multiple units began service on the route starting from Hull, while Metro-Cam dmus operated local services at 2-hourly intervals between Huddersfield and Manchester. During the 'Big Freeze' of 1963, fellow rail cameraman, Jim Carter, took this evocative shot of a Liverpool-Newcastle express headed by 'Peak' class No D157 (later Class 46 No 46038) eclipsing a Hull-Liverpool Trans-Pennine set at Diggle Junction. In the left background is Butterhouse Tunnel on the Micklehurst loop.

(Above) Fast-forward forty-odd years and the railway has changed considerably with closure of the Micklehurst loop and reduction of trackwork from four to two. When the First TransPennine Express franchise began operating a fleet of new Class 185 and Class 170 diesel multiple units on the route, I asked Phil if he could possibly get an up-to-date photo of the same spot, particularly as I was curious about the 'oversized' chimney pot (right background) in Jim's photo. In April 2009 Phil duly obliged with this shot of a 2-car Class 170 heading towards Manchester. At the same time, he put me right about the so-called chimney pot. It's an optical illusion, created by a factory chimney standing behind a water tower inside the Shaw Company's premises - see inset. 

(Above-Below) Westbound Trans-Pennine units at Diggle. On the right is the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, which runs for 20 miles between Huddersfield and Ashton-under-Lyne. Work began in 1794, though long delays were encountered in the construction of a tunnel through Standedge Moor between Diggle and Marsden. Upon completion in 1811, it became the longest canal tunnel in Britain (3 miles 133 yards) and the highest above sea level at 645 feet, but due to its narrow 9ft bore (devoid of a tow path) horses were prevented from entering, therefore the animals were detached and taken across Standedge Moor to Marsden on the Yorkshire side while the boats were propelled through the tunnel by 'leggers'. This was the nickname given to the men (lying on the deck) who manhandled the boats by means of walking on the roof and tunnel sides. Over the years the canal fell into gradual decline and closed in 1944, however in 1974 the enterprising Huddersfield Canal Society was formed with the praiseworthy aim of re-opening of the tunnel. It was an enormous undertaking, but the Society's grand scheme for the canal's restoration was supported by Kirklees, Oldham and Tameside Councils and by British Waterways. The Standedge Tunnel was reopened in May 2001. For the record, the narrowboats using the canal today are towed through the tunnel in convoy by British Waterways' electric-powered tugs.


(Above-Below) Prior to the opening of the Standedge canal tunnel in 1811, the cargo from the canal boats was loaded onto packhorses and wagon horses for transfer across the hills between Lancashire and Yorkshire. Today the tunnel is one of Yorkshire's finest examples of industrial archaeology thatcelebrated its 200th anniversary on April 4th 2011. The opening of the Standedge Canal Tunnel was a remarkable achievement and a special Bicentenary event was organised in tribute to this extraordinary feat of engineering. Construction of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal was sanctioned by an Act of Parliament in 1794 and opened after 16 years of hard labour; the work was completed under the supervision of some of the finest engineers of the Industrial Revolution including Benjamin Outram, John Rooth and Thomas Telford. When the tunnel was officially opened to navigation on April 4th 1811, it became the third Trans-Pennine waterway after the Leeds-Liverpool and Rochdale canals, and is considered one of the 'Seven Wonders of the Waterways'. To keep the costs down, the tunnel beneath Standedge Moor was built without a towpath, therefore the horses crossed over the hill, while the boat crew had to 'leg' the boat through the tunnel. This was done either by lying on boards across the boat and walking along the walls or by lying on the cabin to walk against the roof of the tunnel; the journey took up to four hours from one end to the other. To mark the 200th anniversary on April 4th 2011, an expectant crowd gathered at Diggle to see a 'legged' boat entering at the Diggle portal to voyage through the tunnel to Marsden.

(Above-Inset Left-Below) Boathorse Bilbo and Sharon O'Sullivan, on the trail over the moors from Diggle to Marsden. You don't have to go too far out of your way to discover why Britain's inland waterways have become popular places for leisure activities; an unhurried stroll along a canal tow path not only provides a welcome respite from  our hectic lifestyles it gives us a glimpse of our long forgotten  industrial heritage; many tow paths now have narrow gaps created by safety railings, barriers and gates to allow for public access, all of which makes good sense, particularly where children are concerned, but narrowing the width of a tow path does not take horse passage into consideration. This problem is exacerbated by the resurfacing of tow paths beneath the arches of bridges to allow for safer access to walkers, joggers, cyclists and families with prams, but lowering the height of some bridges forces a horse to walk very close to the water's edge, hence the handler's carry axes (seen here attached to Sharon's belt) which can be used to sever the tow rope in the event of a horse falling into the on photo once, then a second time to enlarge the photo. As part of the 200th anniversary celebrations in April 2011, the Horseboating Society took part in the landmark opening day. The Horseboating Society exists to promote horseboating and to preserve the heritage and skills of this once common form of transport. Journeys are carried out over the national network but especially in the north-west. Click here to visit the Horseboating Society's excellent web site

Above-Below) Wearing traditional period costume a triumphant Sue Day, who founded the Horseboating Society (HBS) in 2001, raises her arms wide in a celebratory fashion at Tunnel End Marsden. Sue Day became aware of the Huddersfield Canal Society's campaign for the restoration of the canal in 1979. Sue already had experience of working with harness horses and decided to develop her horseboating skills in readiness for the day when the Huddersfield Narrow Canal could take horse-drawn boats. The fascinating story of the Horseboating Society can be found on the HBS's excellent here. The campaign to restore the Huddersfield Narrow Canal began in 1974 with the formation of the Huddersfield Canal Society which set about the task of reopening the abandoned tunnel. It was an extraordinary undertaking since whole sections of the canal had been filled in and  several places actually concreted over; indeed the Society's praiseworthy scheme was dubbed the 'impossible restoration'. But the Society members never gave up and by the late 1990s they had successfully restored almost two thirds of the canal. The remaining works were major civil engineering projects and thanks to a partnership between British Waterways and the Huddersfield Canal Society, together with Kirklees, Oldham and Tameside Councils and grants of £15million from the Millennium Commission and £12million from English Partnerships, the dreams were turned into reality and the navigation was fully reopened in 2001. A crowd has gathered at Tunnel End Marsden to watch the 'legging' boat emerging triumphantly from the 3¼ mile-long tunnel during the 200th Anniversary celebrations. Having achieved its aim of the restoration of the canal, the Huddersfield Canal Society intends to take an active role in the canal's future, assisting British Waterways with operational and development initiatives. Click here to visit the Society's excellent website.

(Above-Below) The advent of the railways saw the demise of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, which fell into slow decline and was eventually closed in 1944. Here Class 45 'Peak' No 45111 Grenadier Guardsman emerges from Standedge Tunnel with the 12.05 Liverpool-Scarborough in May 1983. (Below) On the same day an unidentified Class 47 heads a Liverpool-Newcastle train. On the right is the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, less than 7ft wide, which enters the hillside through a 5,456 yard long bore at a lower level beneath the railway. The bridge carries overspill water from a local reservoir.

(Above-Below) An unidentified Class 56 approached Standedge Tunnel with a heavy MGR train from the Yorkshire coalfied to Fiddlers Ferry Power Station. (Below) In the opposite direction, a 'Peak' heads a Liverpool-Newcastle Trans-Pennine express downhill to Huddesfield.

(Above) On 23rd July 2010, the Railway Touring Company's 'Scarborough Flyer' began running from Crewe, Wilmslow and Stockport to York and Scarborough. The service was scheduled to run every Friday until 10th September, leaving Crewe at 07:30am, Wilmslow at 08:00am, Stockport at 08:20am, and on the return, arriving at Stockport at 20:55, Wilmslow at 21:05 and Crewe at 21:35. Here, Stanier Pacific No 6201 Princess Elizabeth gets to grips with wet rails on the climb to Standedge Tunnel on 20th August 2010. Today the importance of Diggle as a railway centre is scarcely apparent. After the station closed in October 1968, much of the track layout passed into history and the abandoned trackbed is gradually vanishing in the undergrowth, however one item of past-present identification is common in both photos - the old-red telephone box which seems to have stood the test of time very well!

(Below) Phil captures the scene at Marsden looking down from above the tunnel, as 6201 Princess Elizabeth heads the return leg of the Railway Touring Co's 'Scarborough Flyer' on 20th August 2010. Phil adds: What a wet, miserable night! Several photographers called it a day. The light faded so fast that I ended up taking this shot in virtual darkness at 8.35pm on a Nikon D3 using a 70-200mm Nikkor lens at 3200 iso - the exposure was 1/125 sec at f5. The train had been put into the Marsden Loop for some 25 minutes before getting up steam for the climb through Standedge Tunnel  to Diggle


Polite notice: All text and photographs are protected by copyright and reproduction is prohibited without the prior consent of the © owners. If you wish to discuss using the contents of this page the email address is below. Please note - this is not a 'clickable' mail-to link via Outlook Express. You will have to email manually.