Ghost trains?

I was wondering if any readers had any info on ghost trains? By which I mean ‘Parly trains’; those services which companies are forced to run because it’s cheaper to run them than to go to all the bother of closing them down. The most famous example is the weekly Stockport to Stalybridge service; but do you know of any other good ones I could visit (for radiophonic purposes?) Or any stations that only get a handful of passengers?

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~ by Ian Marchant on March 11, 2010.

17 Responses to “Ghost trains?”

  1. I seem to remember Hatton was very quiet (inbetween Solihull and Warwick) – fairly near an old asylum. Or did you visit that one for Parallel Lines?

  2. I had not heard of this term before, but a quick surf revealed a ghost station not far from me; Bordesley Green in Birmingham. Only one train a week, except when Birmingham City play at home and other trains stop for the fans. Compare this to Coventry City’s stadium where there should be a station but there isn’t, despite it being built right next to the railway line. When planning permission was granted for the stadium, part of the proposal was for provision of a railway station. Once permission was granted and building started it was ‘discovered’ that it was going to be too expensive to build the station, despite the fact that changes to the road infastructure and car parking provision for the stadium were based on having the rail link.
    I guess this is getting off the topic, so apologies for my rant. Good luck with the project, I look forward to hearing more about it.

  3. I want to go to Bordesley Green; and Pilning, in Bristol, which also only has one train a week.

  4. Ah, trains. You know the local services around here Ian. It’s not entirely relevant to your request or maybe it is, but reading this reminded me of Southease Halt on the way to Lewes. But it isn’t really a halt on most services, is it? It’s more of a reluctant slight slowing down to acknowledge the fact that there’s a platform beside the line, where maybe once a month some confused rustic will attempt to stumble out and across the fields to the killing grounds.
    And I do believe that the hand painted ‘STOP THE WAR’ slogan is still there on the concrete. Yes, it’s about time Nixon got the boys out of the ‘Nam, don’t you think? Happy travels.

  5. Newhaven Marine is one of the great ghost stations, of course.

  6. True, quite true. Newhaven Harbour as was. And I just remembered, Southease has ‘BONGVILLE’ as its Graffiti. The footbridge overlooking the Poo Farm on the path from Railway Road to Eastside and Tidemills is where it says STOP THE WAR. So many iconisc landmarks, so much natural beauty, so easy to get confused and lose your bearings. Bishopstone’s another lovely local station that wouldn’t be easy to confuse with somewhere that’s home to a seething mass of humanity. See yer mate.

  7. No my friend, no. Newhaven Marine different from Newhaven Harbour. And Bongville is the abandoned station at Tidemills. (Apologies to non-Newhaven readers)

  8. Ian. I bow to your superior knowledge. I paint with a very broad brush. The details tend to escape me. I sometimes sit on the pan & forget why I went into the lav in the first place. Syrah.

  9. Slight tangent, but a possible source of a ghost station or two: I recently watched Michael Portillo using an antiquarian Bradshaw to explore old favoured routes on the railways. He travelled from Buxton to St. Pancras, and being so inspired by his journey, I resolved to travel the first part myself (Buxton to Matlock). Much googling, however, has failed to reveal the exact route that Mr Portillo followed. How annoying. The only thing that comes close is the High Peak railway, that goes from Rowsley South to Matlock Riverside a few times a week (on a Sunday you can go for a cream tea jaunt). It’s such a lovely part of the country that it could be worth a little trip anyway 🙂

  10. Thank you for this!

  11. Berney Arms in Norfolk receives only a handful of trains a week and has claims to being England’s most remote station. It only exists due to a legal quirk and the hassle of overcoming this.

    In a similar area Shippea Hill near Ely receives only one train a week (at something like 6.30am on a Saturday), whilst Manea Station (also near Ely) gets only a handful more. Any of these would be well worth a visit if you like that kind of thing!

  12. Ian,

    Another term for Ghost Trains is Parliamentary Trains, and I’ve borrowed this from Wikipedia:

    “Some modern examples of lines served only by a Parliamentary train include:

    The Chester to Runcorn (Main Line) route has one service per week on Saturday mornings, (summer only) using the uni-directional Halton Curve.[5]
    The Ellesmere Port to Warrington Line.[1]
    The Stockport to Stalybridge Line where just one train per week runs in one direction.[1]
    The Cleethorpes to Sheffield Section of the Sheffield to Lincoln Line where three trains per week run, all of them on Saturdays.[1]
    It is interesting to note that one of the stations on this line, Gainsborough Central, posted in 2006 lower passenger figures than Watford West – a station that is actually closed.[6]
    Lancaster to Windermere, via Morecambe.[1]
    The Crewe to Derby Line is franchised to go to Nottingham. However the only train to Nottingham is the last train on Sundays. Trains usually terminate at Derby.
    Alternatively, an individual station may get a parliamentary service, because the operating company wishes them closed, but the line itself is still in regular use (i.e. most trains speed straight through). Example of such stations are:

    Tees-side Airport in Teeside.
    Coombe Junction Halt in Cornwall.
    Pilning in South Gloucestershire, near Bristol.[7]
    Barry Links and Golf Street both in Carnoustie, Scotland.
    Manea in Cambridgeshire (between Ely and March on the Ely to Peterborough Line).
    Shippea Hill in Cambridgeshire and Lakenheath in Suffolk (both between Ely and Brandon on the Breckland Line to Norwich).
    Bordesley, one train a week (on Saturday), except when Birmingham City Football Club are playing at home, in which case certain trains stop to coincide with the matches.
    In an interesting example, British Rail was forced to serve Smethwick West in the West Midlands for an extra 12 months in the mid-1990s after a legal blunder meant that the station had not been closed properly. This meant that one train per week each way still called at Smethwick West, even though it was only a few hundred yards down the line from its replacement Smethwick Galton Bridge.[8]

    A variant of the parliamentary train service is the ‘permanent’ replacement bus service, as employed on the Watford and Rickmansworth Railway. This railway line in Hertfordshire was ‘closed’ in 1996, but to avoid the legal complications and costs of actual closure train services were ‘suspended’ and a bus service now runs between the stations, thus maintaining the legal fiction of an open railway.[9] The track and station structures are still intact, but are now heavily overgrown and damaged by lack of maintenance. The ‘rail’ service still appears on the national rail ticket scheme and on the National Rail online timetables, with an accompanying note informing passengers of the replacement bus. The Croxley Rail Link plan would see this parliamentary service replaced with a full rail service.”

    Not listed here is the link between Wandsworth Road and Ealing Broadway, which lost a rail service when Cross Country Trains stopped running through to Brighton. They never stopped at eaither of these stations, but the relevant legislation relates to services along the line, so first of all a weekly bus (unadvertised) but now, I believe, a weekly rail service runs.

    There are many other examples of services that do run daily, but very infrequently such as the direct Sheffield-York stopping service via Ulleskelf with just 2 services each way per day

  13. Thank you for this Tim; really useful. We’re hoping to catch the Wandsworth Road/Ealing Broadway bus this time next month…

  14. ….and when you do the trip from Stockport via Reddish South to Stalybridge, I trust you’ll allow sufficient time to kick your heels whilst waiting for the Station Buffet to open.

  15. Southease: can’t qualify – I’ve ‘hiked’ down there from Rodmell after visiting Virginia Wolf’s place – so it must have a pretty regular irregular service.

    Three Oaks and Doleham as well as Winchelsea are now quite ghost served (on the Hastings to Ashford route across Romney Marsh) this was to facilitate the Brighton – Ashford Service – but it is being re-organised to grant Winchelsea a better service again.

    Berney Arms has several trains on Sundays – so it does not really count – a good spot for a walk too (try Portsmouth Arms to Berney Arms in the Rail Journey Planner for an amusing test)

    Sinfin Branch south of Derby was ghost train and operated by Taxi in later years – but they did go through the closure process in the 90s and that does not exist any more.

    The definitive text on the subject is the following:

    “Passenger Train Services over Unusual Lines – listing regular passenger trains over obscure rail routes in the British Isles ”

    Now available in full on the interweb:

    http://www.psul4all.free-online.co.uk/intro.htm

    Worthy of a link surely – I suspect it say all that needs to be said!

  16. On the basis that it is never too late to contribute further I can report back on some time spent delving into one of the UK’s greatest works of literature (non fiction) – The National Rail Timetable (Middleton Press – published 2x per year or download the 47Mb file from Network Rail).

    http://www.networkrail.co.uk/aspx/3828.aspx

    http://www.networkrail.co.uk/browse%20documents/eNRT/May10/List%20of%20Table%20Nos.%20and%20Routes.pdf

    Clearly one can categorise the topic (as all list makers must aim to do) into various sub headings. I think I’ll number them.

    1) Remote stations – but with regular services. Southease must fit here – it actually has an hourly service both ways – every other Seaford Train stops here on a regular pattern. It can not be ghostly – although it may have ghost passengers I suppose. There must be lots of stations like this – some of them request stops – the route from Dovey Junction north to Pwllheli has many. I’d expect quite a few to be rarely used. Heart of Wales line must be similar.

    2) Then we have stations (often remote) with sparse, but regular services. Cooksbridge, Three Oaks, Doleham (all in Sussex) and Longcross – near Ascot fit here from the south east. Elsewhere in the country there are many more – Prev mentioned Manea, Shippea Hill, Spooner Row on the route across the fens and Breckland could be included perhaps. The wonderfully named Thorpe Culvert, Havenhouse and Elton & Orston fit here, on the way to Skegness too. For some of these it is hard to know why the stations were built – they are often near other stations, and serve little in the immediate vicinity (I thought this when looking at Havenhouse on the map) – there must have been a reason, and they have cheated Doctor Beeching for nearly 50 years. Outliving him by a significant margin!

    Regular services go past but very few stop – but they are probably blessed with at least one train a day in each direction. The service can be restricted to useful times (‘Peak Times only’) so you could perhaps commute to a nearby town (Peartree near Derby fits this – so long as you want to start work at 7.30am – also the 1st train of the day) – but more often the service is restricted to a useless time of day – eg the service is daily but only the first and last passing trains of the day actually stop. You’d have to be determined to use the station, but at least you’d have a choice of day if not time!

    3) I’ve had to insert a new category here – lines which don’t have many passenger trains at all, but still have a regular service, serving stations that remain open just for these services – eg once per day (rarely Sundays). We’re getting quite ghostly now. Prev mentioned Gainsborough Central, Kirton Lindsay and Brigg (all on the Sheffield – Cleethorpes via Retford route) – Saturdays only – no passenger trains any other days traverse this route. So that is more ghostly. Sheffield – York (via Pontefract Baghill – NRT table 33) is also sparsely served on a route not used by other passenger trains. Knottingley – Goole also has an infrequent weekday service (serving 4 intermediate stations – NRT table 32) – it’s the 17.16 from Leeds. Clues are on this map with the non coloured lines:

    http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/system/galleries/download/print_maps/NetworkRail_LiverpoolLeedsManchesterSheffieldmap.pdf

    Some of the few remaining ‘Boat Trains’ serve these sorts of stations. Heysham Port and Fishguard Harbour stations fit in to this category I feel.

    4) Irregular service irregular days: a slight variation on the above theme. Berney Arms for example – it has quite a few services, but most on Sundays (although 2 trains per day on weekdays might exclude it completely – calling this whole category into question!) – it has no road access and you must get there by foot or boat and foot (having a pub nearby this station is a useful destination).

    5) Then of course the genuine Ghost stations. Where the service is reduced to the minimum and one stop a week is all you get – maybe in one direction. Denton and Reddish South stations must fit this – on the famed Stockport to Stalybridge line. This ghost train being so well known I’d expect it to have a regular set of passengers, although the real test would be to actually seek to join it mid route at Denton. Denton looks like it could be handy park and ride site being as it is next to the M60 and M67 interchange. Transport policy in this country would prevent that sort of sensible thing ever happening though. Newhaven Marine would fit here if it was not for it’s ‘illegal’ closure of course.

    6) Then we have the ghost lines which have no stations on the route in question, but still get a service, often at obscure times of day. These are the services detailed on the Passenger Services over Unusual Lines (PSUL) website. That speaks (eloquently) for itself. To cover the sections of line concerned there actually seem to be quite a lot of these, and you can find yourself on a train going by an obscure route, possibly on a Sunday – and you don’t even realise it’s a ghost train.

    Mulling over the above I’d suggest Northern Trains is the main Ghost Train operator. They may even have enough ghost trains to employ someone to manage them?

  17. And lo – Berney Arms appears here in the Gruaniad…..

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jul/11/the-strangest-of-railway-stations

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