Sorry – I took a day off from blogging yesterday as I was too busy travelling and wanted to savour the time I had exploring railway byways to enjoy the sights and concentrate on the photography rather than trying to type a commentary at the same time. There was also the added complication that I didn’t really have much idea where I was going to go at first!
As is usually the case at weekend various railway lines were closed for engineering work. In this case it was the South-Western main line around Weybridge which meant many services were being diverted via Guildford, including those from this neck of the woods. Despite the appalling weather forecast and heavy rain we’d suffered all morning I decided to venture out anyway. Dee gave me a lift to Farnham and I tootled off to Guildford on a very quiet train, then thought about where to go. A plan formed in my mind and I decided to head East towards London, stopping off on the way to grab shots in locations I’d not visited for quite some time – or not at all. My route was via Effingham Junction where I managed shots of diverted Weymouth services. It’s not a place where you’d normally find the 5-car Siemens Class 444s thundering through, so that was a bonus to add to pictures of the elderly suburban sets that normally ply the route between Waterloo and Guildford, These 1980s built Class 455s are living on borrowed time as they’re being replaced, but the new trains are late. Very late…
Having secured the shots I wanted and being fed up of the heavy showers I moved Eastwards, having decided to visit one line I’d always missed off travelling on. En-route I passed through several stations which would be worth exploring at a later date as they still retain many of their old buildings and character, Leatherhead a good example. My next stop was Epsom where I switched from Southwestern Railways to Southern for a trip to Sutton on the edge of London. On the way I passed through Cheam (a name made famous by comedian Tony Hancock) where the station once boasted two fast lines running through the centre which were provided in the the days when freight was an important part of the railway. Nowadays it’s a rarity as the old Southern is overwhelmingly a passenger railway. I left the train at Sutton. It’s a busy junction served by both Southern and Thameslink services (via the Sutton loop). Although substantial, the four platform station’s looking a bit run-down nowadays, despite a series of refurbishments through the 2000s. The problem with it became obvious when I arrived in the middle of a torrential downpour. The roof leaks like a sieve! The platforms were awash with water and the covered footbridge between the four platforms wasn’t much better although to be fair, contractors are on site refurbishing the whole structure at the moment, which means there’s lots of scaffolding poles that need to be negotiated as well as puddles.
I was here to catch a train on the 6km line to Epsom Downs. Despite living in London for 25 years I’d never made it down the branch for one reason or another, so today seemed like a good time to put that right. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the old Class 455s I was expecting to find had been replaced with dual-voltage, 100mph class 377s – not that either of these features would be needed on this route!
The Epsom Downs line is an oddity. For the first Kilometer it’s double track, after that it’s a single-track branch line – essentially it’s a long siding. It has two single platform intermediate stations at Belmont and Banstead before reaching Epsom Downs, another basic station. But it wasn’t always like this. In its heyday it was a double-track railway and Epsom Downs was a station with nine platforms, most of which were only used on race days! Here’s a great article and old pictures taken over the years on the ‘disused stations’ website (link). Having been reduced in size over decades the old station finally closed in 1989 and this is what’s replaced it.
Time and the light ran out before I could explore more, so I had to retrace my steps home, stopping to get a few more shots on the way. You can find them in these different galleries on my website, one dedicated to the Southern franchise, this one to SWR and this one to Thameslink.
Tomorrow we head home to Yorkshire once more. Weather permitting we’ll be taking a slight detour to have a look at some more of the High-Speed 2 railway construction work in Northamptonshire so keep an eye out for a rolling blog…
I’ve a favour to ask…
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