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14th November 2015

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Published by membersonly, 2018-05-16 01:38:51


14th November 2015

Special supplement to e-BLN 1245 BLN Pictorial 14 November 2015

Our brief review of BLS activities in our first 60 years comes to an end with this issue. Your Sub-Ed, who has spent quite a few happy hours digging around in the
history surrounding some of the images, has been enjoying himself so doing, and hopes very much that the results have been of interest. In particular, he would
like to thank the contributors who have sent in some fascinating material from their collections and supported his assertion three AGMs ago that he was sure
there was a lot out there! It's also appropriate to mention Gary Thornton's 'Six Bells Junction' website which is an absolute mine of information about railtours
past and has been a great help in providing dates for those tours where information isn't readily to hand for your idle Sub-Ed. This valuable resource is probably
familiar to many members – but if you haven't been there already, a visit to is highly recommended.

Over the years BLS activities have tended in the main to focus on the UK and Irish mainlands, with occasional forays to 'offshore locations' like the Isle of Man
and the Channel Islands. However interest in railways in other countries, particularly but not exclusively European, has grown steadily, and we start this issue
over 20 years ago, when a BLS railtour was organised in Luxembourg. This is a small country whose regular passenger services can be covered in little more than
a day, but with an amount of freight lines and 'PSUL' which can
surprise a first time visitor. May 1993's 'Tour de Luxe' concentrated
in the usual BLS way on those freight and PSUL lines but inevitably
covered most of the passenger system as well. Those who, like your
Sub-Ed, were at the time new to foreign tours, suddenly found
themselves back in a world where a DMU trundled up to the end of
a branch and everyone could get out, take photos to their heart's
content, and have a good look round. This, although far from being
revolutionary, was certainly an eye-opener to at least this

Right : This very poor photo only merits inclusion because of the
first line on the destination indicator which reads : 8.14 Branche
(sic) Line Society Train Special. (Dave Cromarty)

Next page : on 2 May 1993, 'fabulous' 208, specially requested from
an obliging CFL by tour organiser Alan Welsh, waits at the end of the
headshunt at Steinfort, a short branch off the main passenger route to Brussels, just short of the border. The passenger line heads west from Luxembourg city,
crossing the border into Belgium just east of Arlon then heading north west towards Namur and Brussels. (Dave Cromarty)

Page Three : Tour de Luxe tour map (scalable, can be increased in size for easier reading). Original by Mike Searle.

Previous page : The last branch line done by the Tour de Luxe was Mertert Port. This serves an inland port east of Luxembourg city on the river Moselle, which
at this point forms the border between Luxembourg and Germany – as indeed it does throughout its course through Luxembourg, except for the last 800
metres south of Schengen (as in the 1985 Agreement which was signed nearby) where the right bank is in France. The CFL (Luxembourg Railways) crews got
well into the spirit of things and here, as at every location where it was practical, we were taken to within a metre of the buffers. (Dave Cromarty)

The Luxembourg 'bash' turned out to be an excellent day out and the following year BLS ran the Double Dutch Docker, which was a two-part tour on a Saturday
and Sunday. This was another excellent venture, covering too much ground to list in detail here but featuring a steam hauled tour of the Hoogovens steelworks
at Beverwijk, some interesting tram/heavy rail junctions and dock lines in and around Rotterdam. (All on this page : Dave Cromarty)

Right : 'Who do think you are – Max Verstappen?' Something of a Harry Enfield moment as our train conductor
discusses with the police what he's doing taking a trainload of British enthusiasts down one of the Waalhaven dock

Left : The NS (Dutch Railways) train crews were just as helpful as their CFL
counterparts and made every effort to get us as far as possible. This picture,
also on one of the Waalhaven dock branches (there are a lot of docks, each
with its own branch) shows just how hard they tried!

Left : After you, ma'am. The tour train waits
for a No9 tram to clear one of the tram/heavy
rail crossings at Pelgrimstraat, Rotterdam on
28 May 1995.

Next page : Hoogovens 0-8-0T No20 (built Esslingen, 1943) takes the tour train over one of the many road crossings in the steelworks area.

Previous page : There's broad gauge, and then there's broad gauge. The standard gauge of IE/IR and NIR is of course 5'3" (1600mm) but on 27 May 1990
participants on a BLS long weekend in Northern Ireland visited NIR's Belfast York Road works where they were able to view the traverser seen here, which adds
a whole new dimension! (Angus McDougall). The weekend consisted of two railtours, Ulster Enterprise I and II (the first BLS-organised railtours in Ireland) on

the Saturday and Sunday, and a coach trip to minor railways and railway locations
on the Monday. The first railtour visited Derry/Londonderry, where participants
were able to ride on the then recently re-opened, but short lived Foyle Valley
Railway (1989-July 2000 with Santa trains in December 2000 and a final charter
on 24 August 2001) and Portrush; the second concentrated on lines closer to
Belfast, including a visit to the RPSI headquarters at Whitehead and a ride
through the carriage washer at Belfast Central Services Depot.

Left : The former station at Ballynahinch, visited on the Monday coach tour. This
was the terminus of a 6 mile branch OA 10 September 1858, CA 16 January 1950,
from Ballynahinch Junction on the Belfast-Newcastle line of the Belfast & County
Down Railway. (Angus McDougall)

Right : This unusual location is at the end of a very short branch (disconnected
by December 2002 with rails removed) off the Belfast to Bangor line at Cultra,
between Holywood and Bangor. (Angus McDougall) The branch was visited by
Ulster Enterprise II on 27 May 1990. The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum,
which it was intended to serve, was not then started, leaving the branch and
its turntable isolated. There is now a substantial 'multi-mode' transport
museum, which has a working 7¼" gauge line 370 yards long, with rides
available (BLN 1077 MR208). There was also a short lived 2' gauge line which
was never used for public service; a correspondent quoted in BLN 479 was told
this was due to the condition of the then recently-laid track.

Next page : The Ulster Enterprise I visited Derry/Londonderry after being
detached from a service train at Coleraine. Participants were taken by bus to
the former Foyle Road station of the Londonderry & Enniskillen Railway, (OA
18 April 1850, CG 4 January 1965, CP 15 February 1965). At the time of the
tour 1 km of the line towards the border was being operated using a former
County Donegal diesel railcar. The railcar, also used by the BLS party, is seen at the platform in the photo. (Angus McDougall) The museum outlived the railway
but was closed by Derry City Council on 27 March 2015 and now faces an uncertain future.

Previous page : Although no longer available on the national network, brake van trips are alive and well on a variety of minor railways well into the 21st century.
Here, on 26 October 2014, a BLS brake van train is seen on the new triangle at Norton Fitzwarren on the West Somerset Railway. The haulage is go-faster ex-BR
shunter 09019, seen here in Mainline livery though now restored to BR green. (Mike Yardley)

Minor railways, so ably documented by our member Peter Scott in his annual Minor Railways publication, his regular updates in BLN and on his web site at, have featured prominently in BLS activities in recent years. One visited recently is the Lynton & Barnstaple, who have been quietly
working away at a very long term project to
restore as much of this 1'11½" gauge ex-
Southern Railway line as they can. The
currently operational stretch from Woody
Bay towards Barnstaple as far as Killington
Lane was ROP in two stages, from Woody
Bay to Bridge 67 in 2004 and on to
Killington Lane in 2006. Currently the
railway is trying to raise funds to purchase
the Old Station Inn, which as its name
suggests is a former station – Blackmoor,
some 4 miles from Woody Bay.

The BLS visit on 25 October 2014 was
typically comprehensive, covering virtually
all the available track.

Right : with the BLS party divided into
brakevan-capacity groups, 0-6-0T 'Axe'
propels one group towards the end of one
of the sidings at Killington Lane. (Dave

Next page : The whole party had travelled
from Woody Bay in the immaculate stock
used for the passenger service, here seen
waiting at Killington Lane for the return
journey. (Dave Cromarty)

Previous page : The effort which is made by minor railways operators, and the warmth of the welcome BLS parties get from them, is matched only by the
variety of stock and haulage which they are able to provide! A visit to the Chasewater Railway on 8 March 2015 found a BLS group aboard a former NCB
underground train which, once again, reached some parts that others do not reach – in this case a stop block beyond the platform. (Dave Cromarty)

Miniature railways have also figured quite
prominently in recent BLS activities, and one
recent visit was to the Cleethorpes Coast Light
Railway on 19 September 2015 where once
again the railway staff went way beyond the call
of duty to give us a memorable trip.

This railway was originally built as a visitor
attraction by Cleethorpes Borough Council in
1948, and operated by them from 1959-1990. It
was regauged in the 1970s from its original 14½"
gauge to 15" and now hosts quite a variety of
locomotives and rolling stock including a
collection, acquired with Lottery help, from the
former Sutton Miniature Railway in Sutton
Coldfield. These include the locos 'Mighty Atom'
and 'Sutton Belle' – pictures of these on the SMR
can be found at

Right : A postcard, believed to date from
between 1907 and 1914, of the Sutton Miniature
Railway in its early days. The loco looks
considerably more sophisticated than the rolling
stock! (Public domain, via Wikimedia)

Next page : The BLS has a miniature headboard for its miniature railway visits. Here it is proudly displayed on the Society's tour train at Cleethorpes Kingsway,
the western terminus of the Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway. (Dave Cromarty)

Previous page : To finish, we return to the early days of the BLS and the North London Railtour on 12 March 1961. The picture shows the tour at Rickmansworth
Church Street (believed to be the last train from there), with Midland designed, LMS built 4-4-0 40657 in charge of what seems to be a well filled 5 coach train.
We are indebted to Les Mead, Vice Chairman of Three Rivers Museum Trust, for the use of this image from their archives, and the images below showing the
train and its BLS headboard.

Right : another picture of 40657 and the North London
Railtour at Rickmansworth Church Street on 12 March
1961. The tour had previously visited St Pancras Sidings
and continued via Watford and the former GNR branch
from St. Albans Abbey to Hatfield, OA 1 September
1865, CP 28 September 1951. St Albans to Hill End
(where the railtour made a photo stop) CG 19 May
1965 and Hill End to Hatfield CG 1 January 1969.

Below : an enlargement from the same picture showing
the Branch Line Society headboard.

Signal box visits, walking old lines, tramways, railway
museums – these and many more activities make up
the BLS 'portfolio' in addition to those we've looked at,
and we'll try to maintain the variety in future issues of BLN Pictorial. We hope you've enjoyed this look back at sixty successful years – meanwhile let's look
forward to 2055 and the Society's centenary.

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