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Date: 03/27/17 23:53
The Marches Line
Author: 86235

I'm afraid you may see quite a few pictures in the coming months from my local mainline railway, the 95 mile long Newport (South Wales) to Shrewsbury (England) Marches Line. Before nationalisation the Shrewsbury to Hereford portion (51 miles) was jointly owned by the Great Western and LMS, from Hereford to Abergavenny (24 miles) the LMS had trackage rights to access their small South Wales network and from Abergavenny to Newport it was purely GWR.

It remains a bastion of Absolute Block working controlled by mechanical signal boxes and signalled (mostly) by semaphores. Re-signalling is on the cards but not for the current Network Rail control period. The downside is that the modern railfan applications, being able to follow trains in real time on real time maps for instance, isn't available. To get to the railway from our valley involves a 7 mile drive (or cycle) to Llanvihangel Crucorney, which is also the summit of the climb that northbound trains face as they leave the valley of the Usk and its associated tributaries and enter the catchment area of the rivers Wye and Monnow. Since moving in last Monday I've taken a few pictures either around Llanvihangel or Abergavenny, when out on domestic duties.

Traffic consists of an hourly passenger service connecting Manchester in NW England with West Wales, a distance of upwards 300 miles, and a two hourly North Wales to South Wales service. Both are operated by Arriva Trains Wales (ATW), mainly using their Alstom built class 175 DMUs. The 175s are unique to ATW, they were designed to fulfill the same role as Bombardier's class 170, and in many ways are rather better than the 170s. However reliability issues in their early days meant that Alstom only received a single order and subsequently closed their manufacturing facilities at Washwood Heath in Birmingham. I've travelled in them and they have comfy seats, big picture windows and end doors, rather than the more commuter-train door arrangements on the 170s. One of the Holyhead (North Wales) to Cardiff (South Wales) trains, the 05:34 ex-Holyhead and 17:16 ex-Cardiff is a loco hauled set with dining facilities which is subsidised over and above the franchised service by the Welsh Government.

Freight trains are not as numerous as they used to be, as a consequence of the slow contraction of the UK steel industry. Steel coil still moves on a daily basis from South Wales to Shotton in North Wales, there's an afternoon train Sunday through to Friday, the empties returning overnight. There are also a number of trains a week to the stone loading terminal to the north of Hereford at Moreton-on-Lugg and imported cars (autos) are moved by train from docks at Bristol to North West England. There is supposed to be a weekly train of timber from a loading point in West Wales (Baglan Bay) but that runs as and when timber is available to load, and the Kronospan board factory at Chirk, north of Shrewsbury, has been taking reduced amounts recently during a facility upgrade. Hopefully the Baglan Bay flow will recommence now that summer is here.

1: We moved on March 20th; the weather was appalling for the first couple of days, wet and cold. On Wednesday the rain ceased and it sorted of lightened so I went down to Llanvihangel when I saw that 60001 was on the afternoon loaded steel. But firstly one of the ATW 175s on the 10:40 Holyhead to Llanelli. This overbridge is at the summit, so trains in both directions are working.

2: A few minutes later, working hard and at a stately 15 mph 60001 on its train of loaded steel coil from Margam to Dee Marsh (Shotton). There's no animation from a 60 working hard, just a very deep base rumble. That grey 'thing' on the right is Abergavenny signal 38, an LED intermediate block signal installed a couple of years back to break up the Abergavenny to Pontrilas block, which limited capacity.

3: On Friday I was in and around Abergavenny doing some chores, taking stuff to the civic amenity site to dump, taking stuff to charity shops and buying food, coinciding with two trains! Firstly a very light Margam to Dee Marsh steel coil, the 66 was romping along with such a light load








Date: 03/27/17 23:56
Re: The Marches Line
Author: 86235

4: The steel, which was running late, was followed by empty stone hoppers from Wembley (London) to Moreton on Lugg

5: Rather backlit but another 60 shot, 60100 on Sunday's 6M30 climbing to Llanvihangel

6: And finally another ATW 175 passing Llanvihangel Crucorney village on a Manchester to Carmarthen train

It's all rather different to the Gospel Oak to Barking line in North London :-)








Date: 03/28/17 13:46
Re: The Marches Line
Author: DKay

Beautiful photos Nick.I do love the UK countryside.Is this location anywhere near the March loop where the RAF ,and USAF practice their low flying.?
Regards,DK



Date: 03/28/17 14:03
Re: The Marches Line
Author: 86235

Do you mean the Mach Loop? In which case, no that's further NW into Wales around Dolgellau. However I have seen low level RAF planes, such as this Airbus A400M Atlas, which flew over on Friday just as the Wembley to Moreton on Lugg empty stone train appeared.




Date: 03/28/17 14:21
Re: The Marches Line
Author: DKay

Thanks Nick.Wrong spelling on my part.
 



Date: 03/28/17 15:08
Re: The Marches Line
Author: krm152

Like all of your photos but I especially like #3 and #4.
ALLEN



Date: 03/28/17 15:53
Re: The Marches Line
Author: Hartington

I'm afraid I'm bored with the A400M.   There's at least one based at RAF Boscombe Down near Stonehenge and they seem to regularly pop over to RNAS Yeovilton (the cynic in me might say for lunch but I'm sure I'm being unfair because Boscombe is a test centre).   That takes them directly over home and I've given up rushing out to take photos.

You'll find low flying in various places around the UK.   We get it here in Somerset where I was "buzzed" by a pair of C130Ks on the A303 a few years ago.   Further north I watched a glider working a ridge for lift and a Canberra went below it.   Way up north of Inverness the railway crosses the Kyle of Sutherland on a pretty high bridge between Culrain and Invershin.   Some 40 years ago there was a footpath actually on the railway (I believe they've since added a separate piece for the footpath).   You looked at the timetable and hoped the trains were on time and headed out on the sleepers (ties).   We were about half way across when 2 Jaguars appeared heading south(ish) down the valley below the level of the bridge at speed.   The popped up over the bridge and then back down into the valley.   Spectacular!



Date: 03/28/17 18:38
Re: The Marches Line
Author: tq-07fan

It will take a lot to get me tired of seeing pictures of the Marches Line.

Back in 2014 on my second trip to the UK I only looked the Marches Line between Shrewsbury and Hereford. Got pictures of several freights. Took pictures of Leominster and Craven Arms and visited Morton-On-Lug signalboxes done mostly by riding the buses. In Hereford I missed the log train but saw and got on the loco hauled passenger train back to Shrewsbury and even ate dinner on the train. I was talking to a guy on the platform at Shrewsbury and missed getting a decent shot of the log train being pulled by a ColasRail Class 56. I had also missed a better shot of one of the Class 175s through Craven Arms as I was talking to a sheepherder when I came up to the big big radio transmitter array at Woofferton while walking from the bus to the signalbox along that windy narrow road. I looked at the pictures of that day the first time in quite some time, that was a really good day!

Jim



Date: 03/28/17 18:46
Re: The Marches Line
Author: DKay

  (the cynic in me might say for
> lunch but I'm sure I'm being unfair because
> Boscombe is a test centre).   

Reminds me of the old story about the well stocked PX store at on of the bigger USAF (Germany) stores.Lots of  NATO aircrew found an excuse to go visit(around christmas) without their back seater.Lots of stereo equipment and other goodies packed into the back seat for the return leg.
Regards,dK



Date: 03/29/17 06:43
Re: The Marches Line
Author: 55002

Great photos, Nik, but I can't enthuse about your move!!! How could you move away from London. For a few years now, your pics whilst cycling around London have really inspired me. I've taken the bike numerous time to The Smoke on VTEC and enjoyed visiting railway locations you've shown us!! Anyway, the air will be much healthier where you are now. All the best, Chris uk.



Date: 03/29/17 07:03
Re: The Marches Line
Author: spflow

Again, great pics! Thanks.

When did the "Marches line" acquire the name? Was it part of some marketing effort? I always thought it was called the North and West route. It certainly was in 1969 when I rode the Plymouth - Manchester train (pulled by a class 45 and complete with restaurant car which served high tea) between Exeter and Shrewsbury. I am not being churlish, but it's a comment on how times change!



Date: 03/29/17 07:31
Re: The Marches Line
Author: exhaustED

spflow Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Again, great pics! Thanks.
>
> When did the "Marches line" acquire the name? Was
> it part of some marketing effort? I always thought
> it was called the North and West route. It
> certainly was in 1969 when I rode the Plymouth -
> Manchester train (pulled by a class 45 and
> complete with restaurant car which served high
> tea) between Exeter and Shrewsbury. I am not being
> churlish, but it's a comment on how times change!

I've known enthusiasts and magazines refer to it as the Marches route for a long time...possibly because it goes though The Marches....and not the North. Just being slightly facetious there but i've not heard people call it the north and west route for a long time. I think it's just been a slow evolution because the Marches route is simply a better description.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/29/17 17:13 by exhaustED.



Date: 03/29/17 07:31
Re: The Marches Line
Author: Chooch

Every time I peruse postings from England I not only enjoy the beauty of the country but my memory takes me back to 1952 when i was a sailor in the US NAVY and my ship had visited the port of Dartmouth along the southwestern coast of England. Dartmouth was ( and I assume still is) the location of the Naval Academy of the British Navy. Our ship was there on a good will tour as at that time we were part of a NATO force raising cane with the Soviet Navy in the seas of the Atlantic Ocean. During our four day stay in Dartmouth our crew was given the opportunity to take a day trip to London to see the city. Being only eighteen at that time I was not really interested in sightseeing and so declined that opportunity. That was a mistake on my part as now I wish I had taken that tour. I feel a kinship to England and their people

The same opportunity presented itself on many other countries I visited while in the European area and I turned them down also. I favor the views that I see in the pictures our friends from England show on this site and long for the opportunity to go there again but now at age 84 I just dream about those opportunities.

​I thank our friends from England for providing this site with the wonderful pictures that they provide us. Lets just say that whenever I see a posting on TO from England I am transported back sixty seven years to remember the opportunity I turned down. My mistake.

Jim
​Hatboro, PA



Date: 03/29/17 07:48
Re: The Marches Line
Author: PHall

86235 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Do you mean the Mach Loop? In which case, no
> that's further NW into Wales around Dolgellau.
> However I have seen low level RAF planes, such as
> this Airbus A400M Atlas, which flew over on Friday
> just as the Wembley to Moreton on Lugg empty stone
> train appeared.

Nothing like the fun of 250 knots at 250 feet in 150 tons of airplane!  (Lockheed C-141C, aka Starlifter C.3)



Date: 03/29/17 09:04
Re: The Marches Line
Author: exhaustED

Chooch Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Every time I peruse postings from England I not
> only enjoy the beauty of the country but my memory
> takes me back to 1952 when i was a sailor in the
> US NAVY and my ship had visited the port of
> Dartmouth along the southwestern coast of England.
> Dartmouth was ( and I assume still is) the
> location of the Naval Academy of the British Navy.
> Our ship was there on a good will tour as at that
> time we were part of a NATO force raising cane
> with the Soviet Navy in the seas of the Atlantic
> Ocean. During our four day stay in Dartmouth our
> crew was given the opportunity to take a day trip
> to London to see the city. Being only eighteen at
> that time I was not really interested in
> sightseeing and so declined that opportunity. That
> was a mistake on my part as now I wish I had
> taken that tour. I feel a kinship to England and
> their people
>
> The same opportunity presented itself on many
> other countries I visited while in the European
> area and I turned them down also. I favor the
> views that I see in the pictures our friends from
> England show on this site and long for the
> opportunity to go there again but now at age 84 I
> just dream about those opportunities.
>
> ​I thank our friends from England for providing
> this site with the wonderful pictures that they
> provide us. Lets just say that whenever I see a
> posting on TO from England I am transported back
> sixty seven years to remember the opportunity I
> turned down. My mistake.
>
> Jim
> ​Hatboro, PA

Well if you do ever find yourself over in the UK Jim, let us know and we'll make sure you're welcomed again!



Date: 03/29/17 14:38
Re: The Marches Line
Author: 86235

spflow Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Again, great pics! Thanks.
>
> When did the "Marches line" acquire the name? Was
> it part of some marketing effort? I always thought
> it was called the North and West route.

In GWR days the Newport to Chester route was known as the North and West, no idea why as it consisted of three separate railways all of which became either part of the Great Western or was run jointly by the GWR and LNWR. There was never a North and West Railway. Maybe that too was a marketing ploy? I use the description which is in general use today, North and West is so imprecise to be meaningless.



Date: 03/29/17 15:07
Re: The Marches Line
Author: spflow

86235 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> spflow Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > Again, great pics! Thanks.
> >
> > When did the "Marches line" acquire the name?
> Was
> > it part of some marketing effort? I always
> thought
> > it was called the North and West route.
>
> In GWR days the Newport to Chester route was known
> as the North and West, no idea why as it consisted
> of three separate railways all of which became
> either part of the Great Western or was run
> jointly by the GWR and LNWR. There was never a
> North and West Railway. Maybe that too was a
> marketing ploy? I use the description which is in
> general use today, North and West is so imprecise
> to be meaningless.

I agree the prseent name is much better, I was genuinely interested in how it came about.

 



Date: 03/29/17 15:29
Re: The Marches Line
Author: 86235

spflow Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I agree the prseent name is much better, I was
> genuinely interested in how it came about.

No idea I'm afraid.

Looking at my 1976 BR timetable there's no sign of any expresses of any kind, just a handful of long distance locals between Cardiff & Crewe plus a couple of summer SO services; Manchester to Paignton and Manchester to Penzance.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/29/17 15:59 by 86235.



Date: 03/30/17 02:22
Re: The Marches Line
Author: spflow

86235 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> Looking at my 1976 BR timetable there's no sign of
> any expresses of any kind, just a handful of long
> distance locals between Cardiff & Crewe plus a
> couple of summer SO services; Manchester to
> Paignton and Manchester to Penzance.

This is interesting, because if I recall correctly (no guarantee of that these days!) the route was very deliberately down graded in the early 1970s, with all the through trains from the GW area being routed via the Midland route and Lickey (a bit like what happened to the LSWR route to Exeter, or the S & D). It seems to have found a new lease on life since then.



Date: 03/30/17 03:46
Re: The Marches Line
Author: exhaustED

86235 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> spflow Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > I agree the prseent name is much better, I was
> > genuinely interested in how it came about.
>
> No idea I'm afraid.
>
> Looking at my 1976 BR timetable there's no sign of
> any expresses of any kind, just a handful of long
> distance locals between Cardiff & Crewe plus a
> couple of summer SO services; Manchester to
> Paignton and Manchester to Penzance.

Ah yes, services/patronage on the line have improved enormously thanks to privatisation...



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