Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Moorlands and City Railway

On Saturday Sencan and I went on a little train trip in the Peak District. This was the first day of operation (as part of a gala) of the old Leek to Cauldon Low railway line. Regular passenger services last ran along this route in 1935, and freight operation ended in the early 1990s.

The track was left in place, but by earlier this year it was a mess, with young trees growing between the rails, and the track itself was invisible through the vegetation. The Cauldon Low quarry is at the northern end of the quarry, and the twenty miles of line between Stoke and Cauldon Low were bought by a new company called Moorlands and City Railway. Their website has some pictures of the work in progress.

The gradients on the newly-reopened lines are severe, and an indication of the late construction of this line - it opened in 1902, when locomotives could cope with these gradients, even with long trains. The trains on Saturday had a banking locomotive in the form of a diesel-electric Class 33. What is more, I got to see 'my' 8F steam locomotive, 48624, running for the first time (I am a very small shareholder in the 8F).

It was an interesting day, and their plans look interesting but expensive. If you had told me last year that this route would be reopen by now then I would not have believed you - a great deal of monry must have been thrown at this project. The train was absolutely packed, with standing room only, but the fantastic scenery more than made up for the crush.

They have future plans to extend their lines north into Leek, and south towards Alton, the latter of which will connect Alton Towers with the national rail network for the first time. The next work will connect their lines with Network Rail at Stoke next year, after that stretch of overgrown track has been renovated.

It is interesting work, but poses one obvious question: where are they getting all the money for all of this work?

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