Page 1

Avocet Line Rail Users Group Newsletter 5 January 2009

Two unusual travel methods for the Exmouth traveller!

Diary Dates – our next meetings – all at 7.00 pm. Monday 19th January: Monday 16th February: Monday 16th March:

The Globe Hotel, Topsham The Manor Hotel, Exmouth The Swan Inn, Lympstone

© Authors and Publishers, Avocet Line Rail Users Group 2009 24

Keep up to date at 1

Contents Contents and Committee Editorial Chairman’s Compartment & Our Aims for 2009 Fares fair Timetable notes Where you travel to ‘Your train is cancelled’ - here’s why New tracks for old! SPECIAL FEATURE Community Rail and us Birds on the Exe Rolling Stock review 50 Years ago….. Dine on the Line - the new Exmouth Servery Membership details & forms Back page pictures + future meeting dates

Page 2 Page 3 Pages 4 & 5 Page 6 Pages 7 Page 9 Pages 10 & 11 Pages 11 -14 Pages 15 -16 Page 17 Page 18 Pages 19-20 Page 21 Pages 22 & 23 Page 24

Committee 2008-2009 Chairman: Tony Day 01395 268653

Vice Chair Noel Harrison

Correspondence Secretary: Roma Patten Minutes and Newsletter:Richard Giles 01395 263930 E-mail: Treasurer: Tony Jackson; Webmaster: Don Mildenhall Noticeboards: Sarah Ward Timetable Secretary:Tony Jackson Membership Secretary: Gerry Hurfurt 01395 221388 Other Committee Members: David Atkins, John Cottrell, Elizabeth Hubbick Tom Reardon . Front Cover: Laying the continuous welded new track at Lympstone 4th January 2009 - the view from Tony Day’s bedroom window !

Membership Form - for renewals too! Encourage friends and family to join the Avocet Line Rail Users Group. We welcome applications from individuals and from organisations. Please use block capitals. Any membership questions contact Gerry or any committee member. Name Address Postcode Phone number E-mail address Which two stations on the Avocet Line do you use most often? ………………...................................and........................................……. The objectives of the Avocet Line Rail Users Group are to: • Represent the interests of users and potential users of rail services on and connecting with, the Avocet Line from Exmouth to Exeter St Davids; • Act as a non-party-political and non-commercial forum for the exchange of information relating to the needs and interests of this area’s rail users; • Bring to the notice of authorities concerned, the needs and interests of Avocet Line rail users, and press for action where it is required; • Act as a consultative body on behalf of Avocet Line rail users with the aforementioned authorities. I support the above objectives and enclose a cheque for £5 payable to Avocet Line Rail Users Group (or fill out the standing order form on the reverse of this form). Signature ......................................……..............Date...........................

Opinions expressed within this newsletter do not necessarily represent those of the editor or of ALRUG. Completed articles (max. 700 words + pictures) or suggestions for future articles are always gratefully received, preferably by e-mail - Microsoft Word documents preferred in Arial size 12 font please. Send to Richard Giles (see above for contact details). 2

Please send to: Gerry Hurfurt, ALRUG Membership Secretary, Brookside, The Strand, Lympstone, EX8 5EU Your personal details will be used only to keep you informed of matters relevant to Avocet Line Rail Users Group business and will not be divulged to any third party.



Richard Giles

Pic of Richard

A new year – a new editor! Many thanks to my predecessor Sarah for handing on such an easy task. Not only has she left me a high standard but also both material and guidelines which will prove invaluable. I do have to make one apology, however; as you see, the photograph of the new editor which graces this page is much less photogenic than that of his predecessor! Thanks are also due to the committee contributors, notably the Chairman and Webmaster, who have worked hard to help produce what the Two Ronnies used to call an ‘action-packed’ edition. I will not steal the Chairman’s thunder (see overleaf) by listing our issues and aims for 2009. I will however remind members that this is your Newsletter. Please tell us about any travel problems or observations you may have, and we’ll try to find space to give them an airing. Letters, emails or articles welcome! We will try to keep you up to date with progress we are making on issues raised, both on a day-to-day level, and on the strategy for the future of the line. ALRUG has a crucial part to play in gathering information about the place of the line in the local transport network, and in using this to present a valid case to those who have the power - and access to finance - to improve the service. Our relatively modest needs can easily get forgotten amidst multibillion schemes for London commuters and travellers to the Olympics, but ALRUG must see that those who matter, in the worlds of both transport and politics, understand that this million passengers a year route is no country branch line, and gets the investment it both needs and deserves. Richard Giles lives in Lympstone, 100m from the station. He has used the line since the 1940’s, and his wife Pat remembers the effect of railway smoke on the washing in steam days! Now retired, he commuted to Taunton daily for 8 years, and prefers train travel—evidence of a lifelong interest! 22


Chairman’s compartment Tony Day AGM - since our last newsletter the first ALRUG Annual General Meeting has taken place. It was an upbeat affair, for we have enjoyed a remarkably good first year – and we were addressed by Mark Hopwood, who has since been appointed Managing Director of First Great Western.

Fancy a cuppa? At last! Refreshment before the journey! The prospect at Exmouth station is much brightened by the opening of the Snack Bar Servery, the brainchild of North Devon RUG member Mike Day. Mike has used experience gained from his successful venture at Barnstaple to provide a valuable addition to the facilities at our southern terminus. Installation was no minor matter, as it involved transfer of the Ticket machine outside the building (already planned by FGW to make it available when the station is unstaffed) and renewal of the water supply. Now all that is needed is a steady flow of customers—so it’s up to you, dear members, to make it a success!

Two of our officers, Secretary Don Mildenhall and Publicity Officer Sarah Ward, have had to step down from those roles, but Don will continue to look after the website and Sarah our notice boards. Richard Giles has stepped in as Newsletter Editor and Press Officer and the four of us will work together as a publicity group. We have been unable to recruit a replacement Secretary – but we are still looking if anyone wants to offer. Richard Giles (minutes) and Roma Patten (correspondence) have stepped into the breach for the time being, for which they deserve medals! We welcome Gerry Hurfurt of Lympstone to the Committee as our new Membership Secretary. The new committee has set ALRUG some targets for the year (see panel opposite), as well as which we are working on a number of ongoing issues – revenue protection and Exmouth station staffing, to name but two. On the stations front some overdue progress is now being made. The ticket vending machines at Exmouth and Topsham have at last been moved to better positions and that at Digby & Sowton has its long promised hood. At Exmouth plans to improve the station car park and formalise the taxi rank have been agreed (watch that space) – and of course, the Servery is open! One outstanding issue continues to make me very cross. As I write this, the new lifts at Exeter Central lifts are still not in operation, despite being ready for use at the end of October last year. A passenger reports being told by staff at the station that this is because there is a dispute over pay.

Opening times: Monday to Saturday: 0730-1400 or 1500 (winter schedule)



Mike hopes to display ALRUG material for us, including application forms, so now you have no excuse!

50 years ago…..member Stephen Derek photographed the 1.25pm Exeter Central –Topsham, hauled by no.82023, at Polsloe Bridge on 25th September 1959.

Whatever the reason, it is unforgivable that elderly people with heavy luggage, those with mobility problems, and mums with pushchairs continue to struggle up the stairs unnecessarily. First Great Western says it cares about customers – the message does not seem to have reached Exeter yet!

ALRUG’s 2009 Campaigns 

Rolling stock improvements to meet current and future needs

 Sunday services: • the first two trains to run all year round • more afternoon trains in high summer  Adequate opportunities to buy tickets (including ticket vending machines at Lympstone Village and Topsham down platform).

Around other Rail User Groups - an occasional look at our fellow Rail User Groups At Ivybridge, another Plymouth commuter station, the RUG was very proactive in campaigning against the cuts in rail services announced by FGW in February 2006. These cuts affected many areas over the South and South West rail network. Many of these cuts were subsequently reinstated. Of real importance to Ivybridge residents are trains stopping at rush hour commuting times - for workers and especially students. They now have 8 trains a day, but the FGW website still shows some journeys as via Newton Abbot - which takes 80 minutes instead of 15! At Melksham in Wiltshire (population 24,000) there are just two trains a day each way on the Swindon to Westbury line - at 6.15am and 6.45pm. This has been the case since 2005 under the FGW franchise. Previously Wessex Trains had increased passenger numbers 9-fold in 4 years since 2001. No wonder the ‘Save the Train’ group has been so vocal (see but to date unsuccessful - the December 2008 timetable has no improvements. Two thoughts come to me in writing this - firstly that we’re pretty lucky to have 30 trains a day - and secondly in some ways it’s better to be on a busy branch than on a main line where the trains thunder through.

Other ongoing work

establish what are the infrastructure changes required for longer trains and/or more frequent trains

promote travel on the branch (especially off peak)

facilitate adoption of remaining stations on the line and consider a best kept station scheme.

monitor plans for station improvements, timetable changes and longer term developments

We have also set ourselves some “internal” objectives, including a membership of 200, more partnership work, development of our communications (through the newsletter, website, press and notice boards) and establishment of a resource library. *** Read future Newsletters to follow our progress ***

Don Mildenhall 20


Any more fares, please?

Part Three

At the recent ALRUG AGM the main issue raised by members was the non-collection of fares on the branch. Most people want to buy a ticket – and it makes them cross when they see others “getting away with it”. Only two intermediate stations on the line have ticket machines, so for many the only opportunity to buy a ticket is from staff on the train. Because of the short distance between stations on the line and often heavily loaded trains, it can be difficult for the conductor – whose first priorities are safety and punctuality – to get right through the train. Ticket examiners are employed, but not on every service. After a spate of complaints, the situation seems to have improved in recent weeks, but with growing passenger numbers are FGW fighting a losing battle? Exmouth station adds to the problem. Now the ticket machine is outside, tickets can be bought when the station is shut – but it is still closed far too often. Even when it is open and fully staffed, at peak times there are sometimes just too many people joining the train for everyone to get a ticket. ALRUG is of the view that there is an unacceptable amount of uncollected revenue, resulting in serious under-recording of the numbers of people travelling. This is especially a problem for intermediate stations, which depend on their “footfall” to qualify for facilities such as a ticket machine. Is the answer more staff or more machines? We think that there should be ticket machines at Lympstone Village and on the down platform at Topsham. Would re-pricing season tickets, introducing carnets of tickets, or finding other points of sale, help regular passengers (who may not be daily commuters)? There are still posters at some stations saying that a penalty fare scheme is in operation. This appears not to be the case – so what are the company’s intentions? First Great Western do not appear to have a clear strategy, but Regional Manager, Julian Crow, has promised a meeting of all interested parties to look at ways forward and we will welcome being a part of this. 6

Fifty Years Ago…

Don Mildenhall

At the ALRUG AGM I was lucky enough to buy a parcel of railway magazines from 1960 and 1963. The 1960 set are Trains Illustrated (more properly Trains Illustrated incorporating The Locomotive Railway Carriage and Wagon Review!). These include a fine 2-part article from R C Riley on ‘The coastal branches of South-East Devon’ which is well worth sharing. So, in parts over the next few issues of the Newsletter I will treat you to items from (almost) 50 years ago, from this article and elsewhere in 1960. Perhaps it will evoke memories for older readers; we can share those too. It was a time when steam was beginning to give way to diesel (the magazine covers reflect this well with Warships and diesel ‘Western Pullman’ units as well as Halls and Castles). And it was a time since when in some ways everything has changed, but in other ways some things are almost the same. “Between Axminster and Exeter Central four branch lines diverge from the Southern Region’s West of England main line to serve popular holiday resorts; a fifth branch connects two of these coastal towns. These lines cover the best of the beautiful country and a poet is needed to do justice to the charm of the scenery.” “Exmouth shed has an overnight allocation of four engines, although individually they are likely to vary from day to day. The allocation usually consists of two Class 3 2-6-2 tanks, one Class 2 2-6-2 tank and one M7 0-4-4 tank. There are no coaling facilities at Exmouth and diagrams are so arranged that each engine visits Exmouth Junction shed daily for that purpose.” “On May 31, 1908, the doubling of the track between Exmouth Junction and Topsham was completed, so enabling a more intensive service to be run (see photo on page 20). This brought about the introduction of an Exeter-Topsham rail-motor service, for which new halts were opened at Polsloe Bridge and Clyst St. Mary and Digby. The former … was enlarged by the Southern Railway and still handles a heavy traffic, but the latter was closed in 1948. Exeter still has what is in effect a steam suburban service, but this is virtually confined to the Exmouth branch and one or two Honiton trains during peak hours only.”

“Throughout the summer months and during peak hours all year round most Exmouth trains consist of five coaches but at other times three or four coaches are sufficient. … At times of peak summer loading, seven coaches are the maximum permitted” In the next newsletter “my footplate journey on the 08:50 from Exeter” 19

The FGW Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) Fleet – Part Three

The December 2008 timetable Tony Jackson The Avocet line On December 12th, the pattern of our services changed significantly. The daytime Monday to Friday ‘All Stations’ service now leaves Exmouth at 23 minutes past the hour (previously 50) and the ‘Limited Stop’ trains leave at 53 (previously 20) - sequentially reversed. Towards Exeter, the xx23 (previously 20) ‘AS’ trains go to Paignton and the xx53 ‘LS’ to Barnstaple. Trains to Exmouth will be ‘LS’ from St. Davids at 48 minutes past the hour and ‘AS’ at 18 minutes past.

In this, the third article on the fleet currently operated by FGW, we take a look at Class 143, examples of which have hitherto only made occasional visits to the seaside at Exmouth. Externally, they look similar to the 142 but there are variations. To start with the cab ends are quite different, with the 143s looking somewhat more modern and streamlined than the 142s. There are no heating pods on the roofs. Internally the units have 2 x 2 seating as distinct from the 2 x 3 installed on the 142s. The seats are quite different— much higher than those in the 142s—and of course, in view of the 2x2 arrangement they are fewer in number, with a total of only 104 per 2 car set. The seats are mainly unidirectional. 25 two car units, were built between 1985 & 1986, but only 23 survive after two unit fires. Of these, FGW have just 8, the remainder will be found wandering the Welsh Valleys for Arriva. The heating system in the 143s differs from the 142s as the 143 uses conventional box type radiators and fans under the passenger seats. It is generally accepted this is a better arrangement than the 142 roof mounted pods. Like the 142s, the 143s have just three doors on each side. FGW’s 143s are being refurbished at Eastleigh, a process that will last into 2009. In the meantime the un-refurbished ones are looking decidedly scruffy. From December 2008 all FGW’s 143s will be serviced at Exeter but some units will return to Bristol each day to work three service diagrams in that area. The remainder will operate in Devon.

Tony Jackson 18

The first two trains towards Exmouth run roughly 10 minutes later and return to Exeter 12 and 6 minutes later. The revision of the 06:05 from Exmouth to 06:17 makes it tighter for those due in Exeter at 07:00.The pattern of services after 19:00 changes and we gain an additional train in each direction. Far more services now work to and from stations beyond Exeter. Towards Exeter (Mondays to Fridays) just 4 will terminate at Exeter and in the opposite direction only 6 start there. The previous figures were 11 in each direction. Will this adversely affect punctuality? We shall see! We at last lose the through train to Penzance. After twelve months’ painstaking study of inter-stop timings, and dwell times, I am pleased to see that the new times are much more realistic, although there are still some areas of discontent! As ALRUG suggested, Saturday times now line up much more closely with the Monday to Friday schedules, and will include a request stop at Lympstone Commando on all services while a gap of an hour and three quarters between the last two Avocet Line trains on Saturday evenings has been filled at our request. Full marks to FGW! The winter Sunday service again begins with a first train from Exmouth as late as 11:05. ALRUG continues to fight for the two earlier summer services to operate in the winter months. Several services are retimed slightly in the new timetable.

CrossCountry Connections: patterns change Nationally, CrossCountry services saw a massive upheaval in terms of destinations served, thanks to the DfT, but generally our arrival and departures times from St Davids are similar to the previous timetable. However, there will be far fewer services to Manchester and far more to the North East and Scotland, with the latter all routed via the East Coast. We have, as at present, no services to the North West of England (Preston, Lake District, Carlisle etc.) as, thanks again to the DfT, this route was removed from the CrossCountry franchise. 7

All trains to the North East are routed via Wakefield and Leeds, not Doncaster (except for Sunday engineering reasons). This adds around 25 minutes to journeys to York and beyond. I hope this will be reversed soon. Two services run through to Dundee, with three in the reverse direction. One Dundee service each way is in fact to/from Aberdeen and in the Exeter bound direction the service continues to Penzance, reinstating the longest possible through Inter-City journey. By the way if you fancy a First Class return between these two extremities it will set you back a cool £739! Two of the ten services to and from Edinburgh will start / finish at Glasgow but this route to the largest city in Scotland is very much slower than that via the West Coast mainline. Some good news will be found in the re-instatement of HST services on three trains each way to and from the North East. These trains will have far greater seating capacity than the ‘Voyagers’ and thankfully the seats themselves will not be the visibility impairing type found on First Great Western’s trains. It is understood that the comfortable coaches will be on the following services: 0600 Leeds - Plymouth 0632 York - Plymouth 0608 Edinburgh - Plymouth 0632 Dundee - Plymouth

1221 Plymouth - Glasgow 1321 Plymouth - Edinburgh 1521 Plymouth -York 1721 Plymouth - Leeds

The local connection pattern for CrossCountry services has changed significantly. Outbound, the Exmouth service at 53 minutes now misses the 23 minutes past the hour CrossCountry services, but the xx:23 ‘all stations’ trains from Exmouth will make comfortable connections.

London & Plymouth services Connections from Paddington do not change significantly but outwards, four trains which previously had good London connections lose these in the new timetable. These are the 09:23 (previously 09:20), 10:23 (10:20), 13:23 (13:20), and 17:25 (17:20) from Exmout;h. Several of our late evening services now have significantly better Plymouth connections. This contributes to a reduction in the average wait from 23 to 19 minutes. Services from Plymouth suffer slightly with the average wait increasing from 23 to 24 minutes, due to lengthy waits from two late evening services. South West Trains have made no significant changes in their services.

Where to Watch Wild Birds on the Exe The Exe estuary is of international importance as a winter destination to some wild birds. It attracts thousands of birdwatchers, year round – and most of the best places to watch wild birds on the estuary are easily accessible from the Avocet line. That is why ALRUG has teamed up with the RSPB to produce a leaflet encouraging people to use our line to watch birds. It is aimed not so much at those whose first hobby is birdwatching, but at people who might find a day out by train with a pair of binoculars appealing. The leaflet includes a picture and brief description of some of the birds likely to be seen. It also explains how to get from the nearest station to places like Topsham’s Bowling Green Marsh and Mudbank Lane at Exmouth – not to mention Exton station itself. Other information includes the train service and tickets available, possible river/rail excursions and relevant web addresses. We have secured funding for 15,000 copies of the leaflet from First Great Western, Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership and Exmouth Town Council – so apart from the time involved it is cost neutral to ALRUG. We have worked closely with the RSPB Exeter office on the design and text of the leaflet and they have arranged the printing. Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership have offered to store and distribute “Where to watch wild birds on the Exe”, principally to tourist information centres and staffed railway stations. The RSPB will promote it through their outlets – and are buying extra copies for use on their Avocet cruises. This has been an excellent example of partnership working by diverse organisations with overlapping interests! Our interest, of course, is to promote off peak travel on the branch – and birdwatching is a year round market. Look out for a launch of the leaflet in early February. Tony Day



The Partnership links to and energises all the ‘stakeholders’ and works to seek additional funding. This may vary from just a few hundred pounds to the tens of thousands needed for significant promotional campaigns. Both County Councils are very proactive in support of rail. Cornwall has recently been successful in securing the millions needed for the passing loop at Penryn on the Falmouth line which the EU are funding (and the County is investing several millions itself.). Devon is investing in its Stations Strategy and is part funding the improved Tarka Line service. .The Partnership’s manager, Richard Burningham, hosted a very successful conference in Plymouth in September for all the stakeholders in the South West.

Is Community Rail successful? After 10 years the answer must be yes. The threat of closure has been lifted from the six Community Rail lines in Devon & Cornwall. But the ambitions of the Rail Partnership are much more than just avoiding the negative. For example, on the Tarka Line an hourly service has been a long held aspiration of all Community Rail stakeholders. Now, rising passenger numbers, strong support from all parties, a lot of lobbying by the Rail Users’ Group, marketing by the Partnership and the added push (with money) of the County Council plus, vitally, First Great Western’s own positive, proactive attitude and approach have all been key in turning the aspiration to reality - from the December 2008 timetable. Probably the most visible activity of the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership’ has been continuing marketing activity and working with FGW on special offers. This includes brochures on scenic routes, wildlife, rail ale trails - and offers including the Winter Sale promotion on the branch lines. On Saturdays and Sundays in January and February, there has been a cheap fare offer on each of the branch lines. On some lines carnets of tickets are available from local shops - we think this would be good at Lympstone Village too.

Where do people travel to from the Avocet Line ? First Great Western have supplied ALRUG with recent information indicating the number of journeys made from each station on the Exmouth branch, and the numbers travelling to various destinations from each station. These are outward journeys - in most cases there is an equivalent return. Most people join the train at Exmouth, with Topsham and Digby & Sowton being next busiest stations. The second chart confirms that Exeter Central is the main destination for Avocet passengers, but it is where those travelling beyond Exeter are going which is of particular interest to us The chart shows, significantly, that far more journeys are made to stations towards Paignton than on the Barnstaple branch, with which our line has long been associated. Of journeys made from Avocet stations onto the Barnstaple branch, three in four people go through to Barnstaple; on the Paignton line, over a fifth go only to Exeter St Thomas, with Paignton, Dawlish, Newton Abbot and Teignmouth also being popular. This is of relevance in the discussions we will be having about the future pattern of local services – and there is much more of interest to be gleaned from the figures.


Destinations beyond Exeter

Rest of former NSE London

What does this mean for the Avocet Line? The Avocet Line isn’t a Community Rail line - and with over one million passengers a year never will be. But as a Devon branch line, we already form an effective alliance with the Partnership. They help us with publicfriendly timetable leaflets and the forthcoming birdwatching leaflet; we in return endorse some Community Rail marketing campaigns. Knowing what other branches have done helps us in lobbying FGW and Devon County Council, and helps in identifying funding too.

Tiverton - Bristol & Bath Cornwall Totnes / Plymouth Torquay line stations Barnstaple branch

Don Mildenhall 16


Cancellations and their causes

Community Rail in the SW - Questions and Answers

ALRUG receives regular performance data for the branch from FGW, including a list of cancellations and their causes. We also receive useful reports from members when they experience serious disruption.

What is Community Rail? (and what is a Community Rail Partnership’?)

A study of cancellations during the period since data has been received (20 July to 6 December) shows that only a small proportion are the avoidable fault of First Great Western. Door problems on the pacers apart, even the fleet has stood up reasonably well for its age – equating to about one train failure a fortnight.

‘Community Rail’ is a term applied to less-used rural branch lines in need of specific action and subsidy to remain open. In Devon & Cornwall there are six such lines - to St Ives, Falmouth, Newquay, Looe, Gunnislake and the Tarka Line to Barnstaple.

When unexpected incidents occur, services usually seem to recover quickly, in terms of cancellations – there may still be a lot of very late running. Often trains for Exmouth that are affected before reaching Exeter are replaced by a unit started up at St David’s, and it is rare for more than one train not to make it down the branch. When an incident occurs on our branch, recovery can be more difficult and serious disruption has occurred on two or three days during the period examined. ALRUG will ask about the standing arrangements for alternative road transport in such circumstances, and how quickly this kicks in? The causes Of 12 infrastructure failures (causing 23 cancellations) only half actually occurred on the branch. Problems between Topsham and Exmouth Junction caused five cancellations on Monday 27 October, with two more the following day. Of the 17 cancellations caused by train failures, nine were recorded as caused by door problems on the class 142 units – one of the two most susceptible trains having since returned to Manchester. 14 cancellations were no fault of the railway - the biggest incident, with five trains cancelled, involving a trespasser at Polsloe Bridge in September. Specific causes were: Train failures: 17 Track circuit / block failures 14 Bridge strikes 5 Points & signal failures 5 Trespasser 5 Staff absent 4

Leaves on line Cow on line Fatality Line side fire Tractor stuck on crossing 10

3 1 1 1 1

The hope is that local ‘stakeholder’ groups such as county councils and rail users groups will work together - in partnership - with the rail industry to develop services, facilities and hence passenger numbers on each Community Rail branch. Funds are available from central and local government to help such developments. Although active in the South West since 1988, it’s only since 2004 that there has been a national strategy for Community Rail. The national approach has clarified the government’s stance - concern about value for money, but support for local and rural rail.

How is Community Rail run in the South West? The main focus is the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership which has operated since 1991. This is a partnership between both County Councils, First Great Western, Plymouth City Council and Plymouth University, where it is based. 15

Smoothing your journey See Photo centre spread

Door problems on the pacers apart, even the fleet has stood up

As this newsletter goes to print the Avocet Line is closing for two weekends plus a third Sunday, for track relaying between Parsonage Style (just north of Lympstone Village) and Courtlands (between Lympstone and Exmouth). We have worked with FGW managers to further improve the replacement bus service, with clearer bus calling points and better signage all round. Again, there was good advance notice and we have produced a bus timetable sheet with FGW’s assistance. This year marks an end to the week-long closure for February half term of previous years. Network Rail plan to carry out the remaining modernisation work on the branch - replacing old jointed track with continuous welded rail on steel sleepers - during weekend closures.

Next, a good helping of ballast. This train has just discharged its load of 800 tons of ballast on the move, and is now ready to return empty to Westbury for a refill. There is another locomotive on the other end. After this comes the tamper , which automatically packs in the ballast and ensures that the track is level. Section of line

Year of renewal

Exmouth Junction to Hill Barton


Hill Barton to M5


five cancelled, involving a trespasser at Not Polsloe M5 totrains Topsham plannedBridge in Topsham Station


Topsham to Clyst River


Clyst River to Exton


Exton to Parsonage Stile


Parsonage Stile to Courtlands

January 2009

Courtlands to Exmouth

2010 14

At our November branch meeting Network Rail engineer Nick Millington, who is Development Manager for track renewals in the Western Region, gave us an interesting illustrated talk about the work involved. The weekend closures for actual track relaying are only a part of the sequence: overnight possessions are required beforehand for survey work and delivering materials and afterwards for follow-up (tamping, stressing etc) and scrap removal. The 1900 metres of track currently being relaid will require 19 x 216m lengths of continuously welded rail, almost 3,000 new sleepers, 2,500 tons of ballast and 40 or 50 track welds. There will be over 2,600 scrap sleepers and 200 scrap 60ft rails to remove afterwards. The estimated cost of the work is £615,000. Although maintained regularly and still safe to use, some of the track on our branch had been in place a very long time. As the table on page 14 shows, by next year we will have an almost continuous modern, low maintenance, railway – with track that will outlast all of us! With the capacity for 60mph running and longer or heavier trains, the branch is – as Nick told us – in good shape. 11

Your Picture Guide: How to rebuild a Railway In two days (or: Scenes from the Chairman’s Bedroom)

1.Cut up the old track (above) into 10 metre lengths. 2. Use a specially adapted lifter (right) to load it up onto wagons to take it to a convenient place out of the way. This machine can run on both rail and road, and uses a swinging hydraulic arm and grab to transfer the load.

3. (Below left). After removing the track, roll in the remaining ballast to compact it and make it more even. 4. (above) Then rough the trackbed up again with a scraper to make quite sure that all the hollows where the sleepers were have been levelled out..

5 (left). The new sleepers are then laid by a special machine that locates them exactly 650mm apart. The hydraulic arms then return to lift the lengths of rail into place.



ALRUG Newsletter 5  
ALRUG Newsletter 5  

Avocet Line Newsletter number 5