My sorrow - The disappeared lines...

Discussion in 'Railway History & Nostalgia' started by Jimbob_Notts, 10 Nov 2016.

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  1. Jimbob_Notts

    Jimbob_Notts Member

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    Hi Cowley, yes I agree.. I've seen a few of the old maps and you're right, the change is stark to say the least! Especially along what is now the ring road / Vernon Road area.

    You're right in inferring that Nottingham is not alone in losing a massive amount of it's railway infrastructure, for better or worse, as has been discussed already here.. But the nostalgia and allure of what was once there is fascinating :)

    Do any of your uncles stories stick out in your memory? care to share??
     
  2. Helvellyn

    Helvellyn Established Member

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    Of course before the rail network was the canal network, and it was the railways that did for them. It is interesting how many railway lines were built to closely follow the canals, where the obvious aim was to take the freight traffic. For various reasons a not insignificant number of canals remain although many were equally lost.

    Playing Devil's advocate there are many routes now closed that in 2016 have us scratching our head thinking why? But go back to the 1980s and things looked very different. Sprinterisation opened up opportunities on many regional routes, where shorter trains were offset by more frequency. Many of us now know how that one played out, and has happened again in the 1990s and 2000s - more, shorter trains that create growth higher than expected leading to overcrowding and railways running at capacity in many areas.

    And then through into mix the disaster that has been road planning over the last 50 years. In the 1950s and early 1960s the motorway network was to have been huge, and pretty much more joined up than today. The mess that is the M25 between the M3-M4-M40 around Heathrow should not have existed. There should have been the M31 linking the M4-M3 (and on to the M25) whilst the M25 in the West would have been Ringway 4, with Ringway 3 east of Heathrow. I'm not suggesting to resurrect those schemes now, but if they had been built in the 1960s/1970s it would be interesting to see how things looked around Berkshire/Surrey today!
     
  3. davetheguard

    davetheguard Member

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    Welcome to the forum Jimbob Notts.

    I'm no great fan of Beeching, but I think you're blaming the wrong person. The government of the day appointed him to do a job. Which he did. Part of the job was making recommendations to the Transport Minister on which lines should close. Note the word "recommendations", for that is all they were; it was the Transport Minister who made the decision, the Transport Minister who closed the lines (not Beeching).

    That minister was Ernest Marples, he is the real villain of the piece. He had shares in a company called Marples Ridgeway. Marples Ridgeway was a road construction firm. To get around the conflict of interest, he transferred these shares to his wife, but with the proviso that she had to later transfer them back to him. By closing down a large part of our railway network, there was a massive transfer of traffic to the road system, leading of course to the massive road construction and widening programme that still continues today.

    In short, many people claim that Marples was in fact a crook, who lined his own pockets at the Railways', and the country's expense. In fact he later fled to France to avoid the Taxman. Today, he probably would have ended up in gaol......
     
  4. coppercapped

    coppercapped Established Member

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    The history of the canals and early railways is quite intertwined, there were some canal companies that turned themselves into railways for example.

    But the main reason that many early railways followed canal routes was that the canals chose the route between any two places to have the smallest height difference possible. Locks were expensive and water supplies to the top pound could be difficult, especially in summer. To avoid the cost of locks many were built as contour canals, for example the Oxford Canal.

    The hill-climbing ability of early steam locomotives was very limited, so the railway builders also followed the path of least resistance and built along river valleys, in many cases tunnelling through the watersheds between river basins. Of course much early industry was also situated on or near rivers, both for transport and for power reasons (waterwheels and such) and in these cases the railway could of course offer a faster service.
     
  5. RichmondCommu

    RichmondCommu Established Member

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    In all fairness Network Rail are doing a lot of work to improve capacity between Bedford and Kettering.
     
  6. edwin_m

    edwin_m Established Member

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    I believe the plan is to reinstate quadruple track over this whole section, though the project seems to be in a state of flux so some may yet be "deferred".

    Extension of the Old Dalby test track back into Nottingham is nearly as much of a non-starter as restoring the Great Central in this area. Edwalton station is now a row of very expensive houses, then at Ludlow Hill Road it is built over with flats leaving only a narrow path. From Melton Road to Bridgford Road it is obliterated, then its crossing of the Trent is now a road bridge which would have to be replaced.

    There was talk a few years ago of a new link leaving either the GC or the Melton lines or both somewhere south of the built-up area then linking to the Grantham line possibly using part of the Cotgrave branch. However to be honest I think it's a solution in need of a problem.
     
  7. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    Indeed, and if thy follow the rest of my plan, we will have a supurb, robust railway with multiple tracks all the way to Clay Cross.
     
  8. Jimbob_Notts

    Jimbob_Notts Member

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    Just for reference... I'm aware that Beeching was just symptomatic of Marples and the gov't at the time, but when I created my profile here, Beeching was the only name I could think of! I hate them all ;)
     
  9. Railops

    Railops Member

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    I have been involved in the work in that area and 4 track quadrupling won't happen for many years.
     
  10. RichmondCommu

    RichmondCommu Established Member

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    Perhaps you could tell us all what work you have been involved in?
     
  11. coppercapped

    coppercapped Established Member

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    Welcome to the forum Jimbob_Notts! While I understand your nostalgia, I'm afraid that you are shooting the messenger, rather than understanding the message!

    While Marples was a very shady character the roads would have been built anyway. It may be difficult to understand for anyone born in the last twenty or thirty years how few cars were on the road after the war and how quickly the numbers grew:

    Year No. of cars registered
    1939 2,034,000
    1950 1,979,000
    1960 4,900,000
    1970 9,971,000

    In the 10 years from 1950 to 1960 the number of cars doubled and doubled again in the next 10 years. There are now some 30,000,000 cars on the road...

    ...so, from your point of view, the real villains of the piece are Karl Benz, Herbert Austin, William Morris, Henry Ford, Adam Opel, Louis Renault and others.

    Whether run by Richard Beeching or Fred Bloggs, the railways would have had to have adapted to the changes in circumstances.

    A pity - they did look nice!
     
  12. edwin_m

    edwin_m Established Member

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    I've quoted this graph before on here but I think it's important:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/489894/tsgb-2015.pdf (page 2).

    This shows that there was a huge increase in travel after WW2, nearly all of it accounted for by car, but passenger-km by rail stayed reasonably constant right up until the 1990s when it started to grow. Viewed from this perspective Beeching made very little difference.
     
  13. Shaw S Hunter

    Shaw S Hunter Established Member

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    That's actually a very useful resource. Of course statistics can be misused rather easily but nevertheless this a handy source of background for many a discussion on here. I would highly recommend it for bookmarking.

    Except of course by having those numbers carried on a much smaller network means a much more efficient use of that network. Or perhaps a reduction in the inefficient fringes, which is the most obvious part of the Beeching outcome. So maybe he was right?!
     
  14. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    Interesting that the number of passenger km stayed reasonably constant from 1954. Suggests that the political myth prevalent in the 60's and 70's that the railway was in decline was a fantasy put forward by the motor-centric establishment.

    In order to obtain a realistic view of the political situation regarding the contraction of the railways, I would advise the OP to read "Holding The Line: How Britain's Railways Were Saved" by Richard Faulkner and Chris Austin.
     
    Last edited: 20 Nov 2016
  15. Shaw S Hunter

    Shaw S Hunter Established Member

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    Also possible that gradually increasing affluence was allowing people to afford longer journeys and to make them more often but thanks to increasing car ownership there were fewer people actually choosing rail for those journeys. So one cancels the other in terms of passenger km.
     
  16. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    Possibly true, but given passengers (certainly in those days) tended to pay more for longer journeys than shorter ones, so in this respect income from the passenger sector would have been holding up. It certainly suggests to me that it was a mistake to concentrate on shrinking the passenger network in the way that occurred in the 1960's. Who knows, the steady rate of passenger km's might even have shown an increase, had a wider range of destinations still been available.

    It suggests to me that for all it's faults, the modernisation plan of dieselising local routes was a far more sensible strategy than the continual network shrinkage of the 1960's, and might have proved fruitful had the development of the basic railway occurred more quickly.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    In a way, it's hardly surprising that Beeching chose the slash and burn strategy for the passenger railway. Read any of his reports and two thirds of them are about freight with the passenger business as an afterthought.
     
  17. edwin_m

    edwin_m Established Member

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    Increased car ownership and useage would be a combination of increased affluence and the availability of reasonably reliable and comfortable cars at affordable prices. Also the car made a whole range of journeys possible that were never realistically achievable by train.
     
  18. Dr Hoo

    Dr Hoo Member

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    Taking the initial premise from the thread, namely that a lot of investment was 'lost', in fact Beeching and others both before and afterwards realised that a great deal of it was in fact at the end of its useful life.
    Whilst some earthworks and structures may seem as if they will 'last for ever' in fact most of the railway consists of track, signalling, rolling stock, etc. that very definitely wears out and has to be replaced periodically. Especially after the economic problems of the 1930s and the Second World War much of the equipment was definitely worn out.
    Despite the 1955 Modernisation Plan it soon became evident that there wasn't enough capital to restore the whole of a large system, let alone genuinely modernise it. Hence the fact that in the early 1960s most rural and minor routes still had joined track, manual signalling, steam traction and so forth.
    Since the development of bus transport and the convenience of lorries, especially in rural areas, ever since the 1930s, around one third of the network only conveyed a tiny proportion of the traffic and generated a negligible amount of revenue. Hence its closure made little difference to the traffic figures.
    It is interesting to compare with Britain's tramway systems, many of which began in the 1890s as cutting edge, profitable enterprises. However, by the 1920s they had become worn out and, especially outside major cities, failed to justify re-investment. The original investment hadn't been lost or wasted, it had done its job but all things have to come to an end if circumstances change.
     
  19. simonw

    simonw Member

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    It is easy to forget the amount of revenue generated by freight in those days.


    Also the number of passengers virtually halved between 1957 and 1982, so those that remained were travelling further. Branch lines and seasonal traffic could not pay their way.
     
    Last edited: 20 Nov 2016
  20. coppercapped

    coppercapped Established Member

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    The railway has been struggling from the end of the Second World War (and in reality for some years before that) to get its costs and income into some sort of balance.

    BR's income from freight was severely affected by the loss of more highly rated freight traffic to the ever more capable lorry - not helped by the 17 day long 1955 ASLEF strike which essentially wiped out 'sundries' and 'perishables' traffic. The working out of inland sources of suitable iron ore and coal for steel making resulted in the furnaces being relocated to coastal sites and the demand for household coal fell steadily with the spreading of the areas covered by smoke control regulations. Freight traffic fell dramatically.

    Plotting passenger traffic, both absolute numbers of passengers and passenger-miles, on a graph with more suitable scales, that is with the 'x' axis as the zero line for both passengers and passenger-miles, shows that there was a falling trend (in the mathematical sense) from 1948 (after the immediate post-war 'de-mob' boom) to 1994/95. In that period passenger-miles fell from 20 billion to some 17 billion, a fall of some 15%. In the same period there was a short-lived peak at the time of the Suez crisis and petrol rationing and a deeper short-lived trough in 1982 as well as some other more minor wrinkles.

    One could argue that the railways did well to more-or-less maintain their business - but as personal mobility had exploded in the same period in fact BR was disastrously incompetent in winning even a fraction of this new market. Trains were perceived to be, and often were, old-fashioned and dirty. Many people's memories were still coloured by horrendous journeys during the war years and they decided never to use the train again if they were not forced. And they told their friends. Steam traction got smuts in passengers' eyes. Many coaches were pre-war and frequently taps didn't work or the sliding windows jammed. The upholstery was often caked in dust and dirt. Stations were grimy places - some of them hadn't seen a paint brush since, ooh, 1938. Even the new diesel locomotives were covered in dirt and oil after a few weeks use and scarcely seemed a good advertisement for the Modernisation Plan. They also kept breaking down - including one embarrassing time on the Royal Train.

    The bigger problem than the loss of passenger traffic was that BR had totally failed to manage its costs. The last year it covered all its costs was 1952 and from 1955 onwards its income failed to even cover the costs of running trains.

    Beeching was all about getting costs under control. As I have written before BR was still running a 1939 railway in 1960 - it was still building steam engines for <insert name of deity>'s sake. :cry: It couldn't get staff at pre-war pay rates to work un-social hours shovelling ash out of smokeboxes and wages were rising sharply because there was essentially full employment in the 1950s and 1960s. The only effective way to reduce costs was to reduce the number of people employed as staff costs were the bulk of the railways' outgoings, but staff reductions came too late on many lines largely because it was easier to close a line and declare the staff redundant than to take on the unions to reduce staff numbers. Remind me - how long did it take to get single manning accepted generally? Even HSTs had to have two crew in the cab - and that was 1976 already.

    Beeching was a symptom of the closure of these romantic lines - not the underlying cause.
     
    Last edited: 20 Nov 2016
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