Monday, 8 May 2017

Shortlands 1988


(All 9.8.1988 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

After many years of what seemed, at the time, a dull procession of blue and blue and grey, with little new on the scene, the end of the 80s saw big changes on the old Southern Region as it morphed into Network SouthEast.

Liveries began to change and new trains started to appear.

An hour or so at Shortlands in 1988 caught this process under way as Network SouthEast livery started appearing, along with class 319 units amongst the old slam door stock. In fact from these pics blue and grey may never have existed!

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Caterham 1973


All 11.8.1973 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

A surprisingly rural branch and station is Caterham in Surrey, the terminus of  a branch from Purley on the Brighton main line. My only visit was in August 1973 when I took these pictures. A nice feature was the small signalbox, which I doubt remains. Notice also the Southern Region signage still in place along the station building.


Caterham railway station and branch

The Caterham branch is a surprisingly rural branch line in suburban Surrey.

The first Caterham station was opened on 5 August 1856 and the second (existing) station on 1 January 1900. The line was electrified in March 1928.

The existing station has a single island platform and a carriage siding on the up side of the station. The site of the original station is now (2017) occupied by a supermarket and the station car park. Passenger figures in 2015-16 were 1.128 million, so the station is very well used, with four trains an hour at peak times, and two trains an hour on Sundays.

The intermediate stations between Purley and Caterham are Kenley, Whyteleafe and Whyteleafe South.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Eltham Well Hall station, 1985


The replacement Eltham station in the distance.

(All 13.2.1985 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

Eltham Well Hall station opened on 1 May 1895. 

Eltham Well Hall was one of two Eltham stations (the other being Eltham Park) which were both closed on 17 March 1985 when the new Eltham station opened, slightly to the east of Eltham Well Hall.

Eltham Well Hall opened on 1 May 1895. There are no traces of the station left.

I visited the station just five weeks before closure on a bitterly cold day with snow on the ground. Work on the new station had progressed well, the new station being immediately to the east of Well Hall. Unfortunately no trains passed through whilst I was there!

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Betchworth 1977


(All 20.5.1977 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

When I lived in Littlehampton we made regular trips to relatives in Battersea, by car of course. The route was reasonably scenic with a little rail interest - the closed station at Fittleworth (my dad for some reason always went via Fittleworth rather than the main A29), under the bridge at Deepdene with glimpses of the station at Dorking North and the line up to Boxhill on the left, and of course a good few lines as we approached London.

On one trip we were diverted around Dorking as the main road was shut for some reason. I have a very strong image of reaching an old style level crossing and seeing a quaint station on a non-electric line through the darkness. I was hoping the gates would close and a steam train would come through! I also clearly remember Gilbert O'Sullivan's 'Nothing Rhymed' as we crossed it, which dates this to October 1970 or just after, so the steam train was a forlorn hope, five years too late.

A few years later, well into railways and armed with a camera I sought out the mystery station. It was clearly Betchworth on the Reading to Tonbridge cross country line. Little had changed since my previous encounter. I managed to get the above three shots but sadly no trains came through whilst I was there. The line was diesel worked and had a slight air of dereliction. Of course now it's a major route but back then lines were still closing!

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Cooksbridge 1977


(All 4.7.1977 Copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

Back in 1977 I was often out on my motorbike visiting the more obscure parts of the railway network in Sussex, Hampshire and Dorset.

A strange little line (to me at least) is the line that runs from Keymer Junction down to Lewes, stopping at Cooksbridge and Plumpton. This was a line I simply wouldn't use living in Littlehampton. It gives a (sort of) direct route from Eastbourne to London (now the Cuckoo Line is closed), but seemed like a bit of a backwater with few trains stopping at the stations outside of rush hour.

This was Cooksbridge in 1977. It still had the old style target nameplates (I can't remember seeing this anywhere else), a signalbox and classic station buildings. I even managed to catch a train coming through whilst I was there ...

Friday, 14 October 2016

Littlehampton 1986


(All 21.6.1986 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

A succession of pictures taken on 21 June 1986 from the former footbridge at Littlehampton station. This was just before the NSE colours started appearing on trains, and this was just an everyday scene (repeated six times!) Much has now changed, 30 years on. The slam door trains of course have gone, the track layout has been changed and the footbridge has been removed, replaced by a far less photographer friendly one closer to the station.

These days I try to get a lot of atmosphere shots, in an attempt to set the trains within the context of the wider social scene. But I still take plenty of record shots as well. I find the more everyday and mundane the scene the more interesting they become as years pass. Far too many railway photographers take the same shots of steam specials, of the glamorous but slightly fake stuff. Or they pop along to a heritage line and take lots of 3/4 front view shots concentrating on the engine. All the time there are fantastic shots that never get taken!

I also hear a lot of complaints about 'railways not being as interesting as they used to be'. This has always been said, and probably always will be. It's true to an extent of course, but we are all affected by this feeling that we've just missed out. I did just miss out on everyday steam, at least for photos, but I did at least see real steam on action on the network - at Ryde, at Lyminster, at Waterloo. But I got to photograph the class 33s and 50s on passenger duties, the WR diesel-hydraulics on the sea wall at Dawlish, the Bridport branchSwanageOkehamptonKemp Town and a good few other lines that have closed or become heritage lines.

Just get out there and snap and don't complain! Future generations will be grateful that you did, and envy what YOU saw ...

Friday, 12 August 2016

Isle of Wight 2016

(All 7.8.2016 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

As part of my long weekend 60th birthday celebrations we took a trip to the Isle of Wight on Sunday and rather than use the steam railway we preferred (as we had three non railfans) to take a trip on the electric line from Ryde Esplanade down to Shanklin. It's been almost 40 years since I last travelled on the Isle of Wight trains and it was nice to see that not too much had changed! Still the old underground stock, although newer than the last time I was there, surprised to see the pier was single track (with the second track still in place) and nice to see two new stations since my last visit (Smallbrook Junction and Lake). The trains we used were both full, which was good to see. Shanklin was a far more interesting destination than Wootton would have been, with the seaside busy and some nice pubs and restaurants along the front.

A real treat was the hovercraft that took us over to the island. This is a wonderful service, quick and busy. It kept the 'real heritage' experience going, the 60s feel of the hovercraft and the earlier feel of the trains providing an experience of real history still doing the job it's supposed to. A highly recommended day out. My next WILL include the steam railway!