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melmerby

Walking Britain's Lost Railways

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I think the real myth that Beeching was based on was that there was a profitable railway lurking within BR if you could simply cut out all unprofitable bits. From all accounts the Beeching plan actually saved relatively little money.

Rather off topic!

One of the problems with the scope of the report was that main lines with large intermediate stations were often profitable, the branch lines that fed into were not.

Eliminate the branch lines - Simples! Problem is the loss of passengers that the branch lines fed into the system now made the main lines unprofitable!

The problem with public transport is that there will always be parts of the system, which although essential to the overall operation, are not profitabe. and need support not elimination.

 

You can see this with bus services where certain services on a route are never going to make money but if you eliminate them the whole service becomes "bitty" and people find it inconvenient so start using a car at those times, once that happens they stop using it at other times as well leading to further losses etc.

 

Keith

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I watched it.

 

Good lord, it IS bad.

 

Portillo travelogue without the "charisma".

 

By time I got to 30 minutes in, I'd given up the will to live and stopped watching.

 

"I can't find the junction"  points at OS map "Hey lets ask these Railway Ramblers!"

 

They explain the farmers have grubbed up the embankments (shot of accommodation bridge standing on its lonesome in a field)...

 

 

According to the programme guide, next Friday its "Sheffield".  God knows what travesties of presentation will come from that.

 

Perhaps:  "I can't find the old station!"  Local, turns to camera and points: "Its under that multistory car park"...

 

 

It was actually a Bartholomew`s  Map

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Hmmm, Portillo without any "proper" trains.  Interesting in that it covered a part of the country that I've never visited, but frequently lightweight (a few Wikipedia facts thrown in, only one reference to the Great North of Scotland Railway - and that near the end).  Stays (but only just) on the nice side of being patronising.  I'm neutral about the presenter - most TV "personalities" seem to lack that very quality. 

 

Watchable insofar as it resonates with anyone who's tried to trace the route of a former railway (which - hopefully - includes most of us here!).  

 

Will I watch the others?  Woodhead could be interesting.  After that I don't know - perhaps only if he goes someone more familiar to me.

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Fair point regarding Switzerland Pacific231G, but did they have the free-for-all of private companies building competing lines, some of which were completely unnecessary ? I am thinking of the Great Central's London extension here, not to mention absurdities such as the Lanarkshire & Ayrshire Railway, or the parallel routes between Paisley and Barrhead (although the demise of the latter two was pre-Beeching).

 

No, and there undoubtedly were a good number of lines in Britain that needed to be cut, or at least reduced to local branch or commuter lines, under any regime but there were many others that were serving a useful purpose and would certainly be well used now if they hadn't been cut.  Britain wasn't alone in this; France had a network planned to reach every decent sized community without unnecessary duplication or competition (though probably far too Paris centric) but farmed out to private companies as concessions. However, they also had a particularly influential road lobby and the current network is even more of a shadow of its former self than ours. In both countries many substantial towns have been cut off from the network that I suspect would still be well served in countries like Germany, Austria or Italy.  

 

This is only off-topic if you accept the closed lines available to be walked as a given.

Edited by Pacific231G

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It was actually a Bartholomew`s  Map

I stand corrected!  When he was flapping it about it looked like an old 1" OS, though I suppose the production team have a mandate to assuage local sensibilities.

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My frustration with this type of programme is that they are usually a triumph of style over substance. I enjoy walking old railways and the location and scenery in the first programme was enough to make me want to visit there next year. However, at no point did Mr Bell explain how much of the lines he explored was walkable - there were clearly parts that were, but I've no idea if you could do a decent walk along either of the routes. Instead we get several minutes about whisky making. Errrrr…...???

 

Graham

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Its a TV program based on a theme, no different to many others out there with diversions to items of interest in the opinion of the producer and commissioning editor and no doubt there are hours worth of filming that will never be seen.

 

What I find intriguing is how many decent programs C5 are churning out these days in comparison to ITV; indeed go back a few years one you could virtually swop the ITV and C5 scheduling.

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I`m surprised there aren`t more comments on this,i was dissappointed that the electric railway was never mentioned which was cutting edge technology at the time.Stupid decision to close it.

 

                          Ray.

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I`m surprised there aren`t more comments on this,i was dissappointed that the electric railway was never mentioned which was cutting edge technology at the time.Stupid decision to close it.

 

                          Ray.

Ray, I think that we’ve seen so many weakly researched and poorly presented television about railways that it would have raised comments if it had actually been any good.

 

What I cannot understand is why so much time was wasted looking at a tank loading ramp next to a housing estate when there are so many really television friendly stories about Woodhead: the cholera outbreak at the Navies camp, the tunnellers blowing themselves up because they were given cheaper steel tools instead of copper ones to save the builders money, the terrible conditions in the tunnel for steam crews on freight trains lying on the cab floor gasping for air, the attempts to rectify the smoke in the tunnels by building a massive water smoke cleaning plant between the two original tunnels, passengers falling off Dinting viaduct because they mistakenly thought the train had stopped at the platform, the electrification and all the optimism around it, that Beeching recommended that the line stay open.....

 

Any of these would have given Rob Bell ample opportunity to pull that sanctimonious expression so beloved of documentary presenters.

 

Ah well, rant over, one day somebody will do it justice and I just hope they don’t involve the “Woodhead expert” they used on this show.

 

//Simon

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I`m surprised there aren`t more comments on this,i was dissappointed that the electric railway was never mentioned which was cutting edge technology at the time.Stupid decision to close it.

 

                          Ray.

Perhaps because after the first episode most people lost the will to view......

 

I'm letting a PVR watch it just in case someone notices something interesting.

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Yes, I must admit that i gave up the first one. I watched the second in the hope of something interesting but was sorely disappointed.

 

Ray.

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Its a TV program based on a theme, no different to many others out there with diversions to items of interest in the opinion of the producer and commissioning editor and no doubt there are hours worth of filming that will never be seen.

 

What I find intriguing is how many decent programs C5 are churning out these days in comparison to ITV; indeed go back a few years one you could virtually swop the ITV and C5 scheduling.

When did ITV produce Interesting (?) documentaries, that's usually Beeb 2 or 4

Corrie, Emmerdale, Jeremy Kyle - That's ITV's main fayre, yawn.

 

Keith

Edited by melmerby

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Yesterday's episode regarding the LSWR route between Bere Alston and Okehampton was somewhat weird.

Mr Bell seems to have a problem navigating - perhaps if he used a selection of old and new 1inch/1:50000 OS maps rather than an ancient 2miles:1inch Bartholomew's cycling map he would get a better idea of how to get to wherever he needed to be.

Secondly, he completely overlooked the elephant in the room when he considered the reopening of the line - Whilst there are undoubtedly local reasons for reopening [parts of] the route, its role as a diversionary route when inevitably the Dawlish route gets washed away sometime in the future was completely overlooked. I would suggest that that was a more important point that needed to be brought out in the program. 

I find it surprising in the extreme that the local expert [from the Dartmoor Railway] on the train in the final part of the film at Okehampton either didn't mention the diversionary element or got that bit edited out if he did mention it.

Edited by ted675

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I'd not heard of the "London and South West Railway" before (and he kept saying this...). Also, when at Okehampton, he got on the train, which appeared to be an 08 shunter, two coaches and a brake van, and he said that trains "just like this one" used to run on the railway years ago...

Just two of the little things that put me off (that is, when I wasn't dozing off...).     

Edited by Coppercap

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I quite enjoyed last night's episode, knowing the area quite well it was good to see some familiar sites. Ron's engineering background came out in the section about Meldon viaduct. It was quite sad to see Meldon quarry abandoned though. The visit to the Ambrosia factory was a bit off the route.

Saying that the service from Okehampton to Exeter has been reinstated is stretching the point a bit, it's only on summer Sundays at the moment.

The model of Bere Alston near the start was rather good I thought!

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Secondly, he completely overlooked the elephant in the room when he considered the reopening of the line - Whilst there are undoubtedly local reasons for reopening [parts of] the route, its role as a diversionary route when inevitably the Dawlish route gets washed away sometime in the future was completely overlooked. I would suggest that that was a more important point that needed to be brought out in the program. 

I find it surprising in the extreme that the local expert [from the Dartmoor Railway] on the train in the final part of the film at Okehampton either didn't mention the diversionary element or got that bit edited out if he did mention it.

I hadn't watched this before, and totally agree I sat there waiting for film of the Dawlish line crashing into the sea and how important a diversionery route had been lost. Especially as there was emphasis on how re-opening it would disrupt the life of at least one person now living on the line - and probably others. But....

 

I happened to have been on a walk near Coxdale yesterday organised by a local whom knows the area well. Like the presenter we didn't go along the railway line, but went up above for a better view. However, the lines, as at Coxdale, in the NYmoors are often now officially cleared and open for walking and I was suprised in an area where tourism is important that he had to plough his way through the undergrowth. On the other hand as a biologist I love to see how nature comes back so much in 50 years!

 

I was also pleased we didn't have too much of the actual walking which could have been boring. The Ambrosia story was well worth relating, if off course. I had no idea that it was an immediately pre-war invention that was so important as sustenance during WW2 and is still produced in a similar way at the same place - and not how would be expected either. The rabbit story didn't have an adequate railway conclusion either - the GWR (at least) had Siphons dedicated to this traffic running on a daily basis to some large connurbations.

 

I'll keep an eye out for it following the modelling programme next week.

 

Paul

 

Paul

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Mr Bell seems to have a problem navigating - perhaps if he used a selection of old and new 1inch/1:50000 OS maps rather than an ancient 2miles:1inch Bartholomew's cycling map he would get a better idea of how to get to wherever he needed to be.

I would go for 1:25000 "Pathfinder" maps or the later, larger incarnation the "Outdoor Leisure/Explorer"

As the earlier title suggests, better for walking.

 

Keith

Edited by melmerby

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Ray, I think that we’ve seen so many weakly researched and poorly presented television about railways that it would have raised comments if it had actually been any good.

What I cannot understand is why so much time was wasted looking at a tank loading ramp next to a housing estate when there are so many really television friendly stories about Woodhead: the cholera outbreak at the Navies camp, the tunnellers blowing themselves up because they were given cheaper steel tools instead of copper ones to save the builders money, the terrible conditions in the tunnel for steam crews on freight trains lying on the cab floor gasping for air, the attempts to rectify the smoke in the tunnels by building a massive water smoke cleaning plant between the two original tunnels, passengers falling off Dinting viaduct because they mistakenly thought the train had stopped at the platform, the electrification and all the optimism around it, that Beeching recommended that the line stay open.....

Any of these would have given Rob Bell ample opportunity to pull that sanctimonious expression so beloved of documentary presenters.

Ah well, rant over, one day somebody will do it justice and I just hope they don’t involve the “Woodhead expert” they used on this show.

//Simon

There was one mention of electrification, but nothing about the new woodhead tunnel only being built in the 50s or about it being one of the biggest post war civil engineering projects to be abandoned.

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I've clocked what this show is.  I was hoping for something along the lines of a walking guide to lost railways with pointers of things to look out for that tell you you're on an abandoned railway.  Instead we've got Metroland without the trains, the charismatic presenter, the charm or the appeal.  I watched the Woodhead episode hoping for some insight into the Woodhead Route.  Instead we get the 'local characters'- or more accurately some 'look at the oddballs'. 

 

Overall I'm pretty disappointed and won't be watching the rest.

Edited by James Harrison

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I only saw the LSWR route one and only then as it followed the model railway programme (which I enjoyed).  His persistent error in the name of the owning company was irritating as were several other errors and the inclusion of Lifton was never properly explained as it was a station on the GWR branch to Launceston (and the only way a LSWR train could have got to it without reversal would be all the way from Plymouth over the GWR route).  I also got the impression that he avoided some of the obviously walkable parts of the route (maybe because they are private land?) and completely ignored the fact that the route is now totally non-existent in Plymouth itself.  And his choice of map also struck me as rather odd, perhaps an element of whimsy on his part

 

I was fascinated by the chap he interviewed at Okehampton who, if he really had regularly driven trains over the route, must be at least in his very late 70s and probably his 80s as it it 50 years since the line closed between Bere Alston and Meldon Viaduct, maybe there were some very young Drivers on the SR in that part of the world although photos suggest otherwise.  It was odd that the diversionary route element didn't come up but as it is something of a hot potato with some seriously divided opinions that might be why.  It was  even more peculiar that reopening from Bere Alston to Tavistock wasn't mentioned in view of the fact that it has been seriously proposed, with numerous costings prepared, over the past quarter of a century and more - did I miss it?

 

Overall I was not impressed and Mrs Stationmaster, who comes from that part of the world, was even less impressed than me with his presentation and thought it odd that the Tamar Valley strawberry traffic didn't get a mention. 

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Nice coverage of Bruce Hunt's model of Bere Alston, even if the film crew did insist on wrong line working and a rather odd train formation - they could have just bought him a Sprinter...

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Yesterday's episode regarding the LSWR route between Bere Alston and Okehampton was somewhat weird.

Mr Bell seems to have a problem navigating - perhaps if he used a selection of old and new 1inch/1:50000 OS maps rather than an ancient 2miles:1inch Bartholomew's cycling map he would get a better idea of how to get to wherever he needed to be.

Secondly, he completely overlooked the elephant in the room when he considered the reopening of the line - Whilst there are undoubtedly local reasons for reopening [parts of] the route, its role as a diversionary route when inevitably the Dawlish route gets washed away sometime in the future was completely overlooked. I would suggest that that was a more important point that needed to be brought out in the program. 

I find it surprising in the extreme that the local expert [from the Dartmoor Railway] on the train in the final part of the film at Okehampton either didn't mention the diversionary element or got that bit edited out if he did mention it.

I actually enjoyed the Okehampton episode-far more than I had the Scottish one- I did travel its full length just once as a change from the GW route while at College in Plymouth and also used it a couple of times to get to Tavistock so I have a bit of a soft spot for it.

 

What I really enjoyed though was being reminded of some of my own experiences of walking long closed railways and I don't think he had any more problem navigating than I've often experienced.  Even if you know where a line ran and have a reasonably decent map, it's often quite difficult to find a long abandoned railway's actual position on the ground without doing what almost amounts to a site survey. You can easily be a few metres from the line of a railway and not know it's there. Often you can be walking on a footpath  that might or might not actually be on the old trackbed and be unable to know for sure. Field boundaries may have changed and sometimes the detailed topography of a small area can be completely changed by farming- try to find the line of the Watlington branch between Chinnor and the M40. Sometimes it's fairly obvious but in other places it is very far from that.

 

Even when a railway has been abandoned but never dismantled so the rails are still in place (something I've come across in France a few times)  It's amazing how rapidly fast encoaching vegetation can totally hide a railway.

 

I wasn't too bothered about the lack of references to the diversionary route idea. The programme wasn't about looking in depth at the arguments for reopening lines, it just noted that in this case there is a move to do so.

Edited by Pacific231G
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the inclusion of Lifton was never properly explained as it was a station on the GWR branch to Launceston (and the only way a LSWR train could have got to it without reversal would be all the way from Plymouth over the GWR route).

I watched this one a couple of days ago, Mike, and I do recall him mentioning the fact that Lifton was on a different route.

 

 

completely ignored the fact that the route is now totally non-existent in Plymouth itself.  

Agreed. When the programme started, I wondered if he was walking in search of Devonport Junction, but then realised that the location he was walking in, was too hilly.

 

 

I was fascinated by the chap he interviewed at Okehampton who, if he really had regularly driven trains over the route, must be at least in his very late 70s and probably his 80s as it it 50 years since the line closed between Bere Alston and Meldon Viaduct, maybe there were some very young Drivers on the SR in that part of the world although photos suggest otherwise.

I knew Richard Westlake when I was at work and my take on this is that he would have been a regular driver on the Meldon stone trains, especially in BR days, before he went into the higher driving links. I agree that there is clearly no way that he could have driven all the way through to Plymouth, perhaps that is just a bit of 'producer's licence?'

 

 

It was odd that the diversionary route element didn't come up but as it is something of a hot potato with some seriously divided opinions that might be why.  It was  even more peculiar that reopening from Bere Alston to Tavistock wasn't mentioned in view of the fact that it has been seriously proposed, with numerous costings prepared, over the past quarter of a century and more - did I miss it?

 

No, you didn't miss any such reference. I think they missed a trick there.

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I watched this one a couple of days ago, Mike, and I do recall him mentioning the fact that Lifton was on a different route.

 

 

Agreed. When the programme started, I wondered if he was walking in search of Devonport Junction, but then realised that the location he was walking in, was too hilly.

 

 

I knew Richard Westlake when I was at work and my take on this is that he would have been a regular driver on the Meldon stone trains, especially in BR days, before he went into the higher driving links. I agree that there is clearly no way that he could have driven all the way through to Plymouth, perhaps that is just a bit of 'producer's licence?'

 

 

No, you didn't miss any such reference. I think they missed a trick there.

 

It wouldn't have made any difference, Capt'n, this topic has been going on for years now and will probably go on for years to come. :drag:

 

Brian.

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Just goes to prove that you can't please all of the people all of the time!

 

For me. who at 72 still has lots to learn about railways, I found lots of points of interest.  I also find that Mr Bell's presentation style is good but of course we have to remember that Producers and directors have a significant say in the finished product.

 

Much as I like cookery, houses and antiques, it is good to see ch5 venturing into railways, bridges and ships etc.

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