Monthly Archives: Jun 2020

Railways in Iran – Part 10 – Motive Power

Early Iranian Locomotives

We have already noted in this series that Iran had a very limited railway network at the turn of the 20th century. Essentially just one railway line which was of a narrow gauge and was no more than 6 miles long. Glyn Williams says that the line, as built, … was approximately 5.5 miles in length and had two branch lines of 2.5 miles in length. [22]

Its roster of locomotives was limited to five in total. And details of these can be found on the manufacturer’s listings, as tabulated below. [21] The full article is in french. The locomotives were built in Belgium by La Tubize.

Tableau des locomotives Tubize livrées pour la Perse (Iran)
n°     Année   Voie     Essieux             Destinataire
662   1887     1000   Cn2t / 0-6-0T     CF et Tramways en Perse, Téhéran-Rey No. 1
663   1887     1000   Cn2t / 0-6-0T     CF et Tramways en Perse, Téhéran-Rey No. 2
664   1887     1000   Cn2t / 0-6-0T     CF et Tramways en Perse, Téhéran-Rey No. 3
665   1887     1000   Cn2t / 0-6-0T     CF et Tramways en Perse, Téhéran-Rey No. 4
1436 1905     1000   Cn2t / 0-6-0T     CF et Tramways en Perse, Téhéran-Rey No. 5
Source : liste établie par Sébastien Jarne
Cn2t = 3 essieux moteurs, vapeur saturée, 2 cylindres, tender (tank in UK terminology)

No. 3 in display in Mellat Park, Tehran. [24]

La Tubize Locomotive No. 665 – No. 4 on display in Rey, (c) Alireza Javaheri, used under a Creative Commons Licence. [25]

What is perhaps surprising, is that the oldest preserved La Tubize locomotives in the world are in Iran. These locomotives were ordered by Shah Abdul Azim for the Railways and Tramways in Persia. They were to serve on the Tehran-Rey line and carried the company’s numbers 1 to 5. All of them, it seems, were preserved. In Iran, they were called the “Mashin Doodi”, or smoking machines.

Luc Delporte, writing in French in 2017 comments that, “It is not easy to find recent and verifiable information on these locomotives. However, it is possible to glean some information on the web to locate and, in some cases, verify the location of the locomotives.” [17] He goes on to undertake an internet search for the locomotives which are preserved in a non-operational condition. ……..

Un-numbered La Tubize Locomotive in Mellat Park in Tehran, (c) João Amado (Google Maps).

Un-numbered La Tubize Locomotive in Kosar Park, Tehran, (c) Mahdi Sarkhani (Google Maps).

The fifth of the five locomotive, again unnumbered outside the PARS Wagon Works in Arak (c) Hamid Hajihusseini (CC BY 3.0). [72]

No. 664 – No. 3 – has been kept in Mellat Park in Northern Tehran.

No. 665 – No. 4 –  Is on display at the entrance to Shahr-e-Rey Metro.

There are three further static displays of locomotives which means that the full set of 5 were retained for display. The remaining three are not numbered. They are as follows:

An additional locomotive in Mellat Park In Tehran. Another has been in Kosar Park in Tehran, probably  since 1963. The third, and final, locomotive is on display in Arak at the PARS wagon factory.

Locomotives prior to World War Two

The Railway Gazette of 1945 informs us [18: p159] that, in the period before the British took control of the Iranian (Persian) network, the State Railways owned the following locomotives:

49 German 2-8-0s with double bogie tenders.

16 German 2-10-0s with double bogie tenders.

12 Swedish 2-8-2s with double bogie tenders.

4 Beyer-Garratt 4-8-2+2-8-4 articulated engines.

5 Beyer-Peacock 2-8-0s with double bogie tenders, and

20 (or so) shunting locomotives.

This list may not be comprehensive – the Beyer Peacock Locomotive Order List, Garratt Locomotives, Customer List V1 (PDF); suggests that the company supplied 10 No. Beyer Garratt Locomotives of the same class (Class 86) to Iran. [8]A Beyer-Garratt in Iran. [5]Iranian State Railway. 418 – 421 (BP 6787-6790/1936) later renumbered 86.01 – 86.04. [7]

Wikipedia tells us that German manufacturers supplied 65 steam locomotives for the opening of the line in 1938. [10][26: p112] As we have noted above, these were of two classes. “49 were 2-8-0 ‘Consolidations’: 24 from Krupp forming class 41.11; 16 from Henschel und Sohn forming class 41.35; and nine from Maschinenfabrik Esslingen forming class 41.51. The other 16 were Henschel 2-10-0 ‘Decapods’ forming class 51.01.” [10][26: p107]

Wikipedia continues: “The Trans-Iranian acquired 10 of the locomotives that Kampsax had used to build the line. [26: p107].” These are not in the list provided by the Railway Gazette above. They were: “Gölsdorf two-cylinder compound 0-10-0 freight locomotives built between 1909 and 1915 as Austrian State Railways class 80 by Wiener Neustädter Lokomotivfabrik, Lokomotivfabrik Floridsdorf and Lokomotivfabrik der StEG in Vienna and by BreitfeldDaněk in Bohemia.” [10][26: p107] Apparently, the Gölsdorf 0-10-0s kept their original Austrian numbers. [26: p107]

The revised roster with these alterations looks more like this:

24 German Krupp 2-8-0s with double bogie tenders.

16 German Henschel und Sohn 2-8-0s with double bogie tenders.

9 German Maschinenfabrik Esslingen 2-8-0s with double bogie tenders. (Ex-works images of these locos can be found on Flickr.) [27][30]

16 German Henschel und Sohn 2-10-0s with double bogie tenders. (An image of one of these locos can be found on Flickr.) [31]

12 Swedish 2-8-2s with double bogie tenders.

10 Austrian State Railways 0-10-0s with double bogie tenders.

10 Beyer-Garratt 4-8-2+2-8-4 articulated engines.

5 Beyer-Peacock 2-8-0s with double bogie tenders, and

20 (or so) shunting locomotives.

“All the 65 German engines needed immediate repairs, as their fireboxes, tubes, stays, motion, and rods were all in poor condition because of lack of maintenance. The 12 Swedish locomotives were all out of service, awaiting modifications necessitated by excessive slipping. The four Beyer-Garratts were also out of commission as they required new fireboxes, longitudinal cracks having developed across their tube-plates. The 2-8-0 Beyer-Peacock locomotives had been excellent engines, but needed overhaul.” [18: p111]

The ’20 or so’ shunting locomotives referred to in the Railway Gazette article of 1945 probably include some locomotives used in the oilfields. There were a number of tank locos and at least these tender locomotives, although I don’t know details. These tender locomotives were in use:

  • some  2-6-0 steam locomotives which left Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1932 and were probably in use in the Oilfields in the South of Iran – an example can be seen on Flickr. [28]
  • some 2-8-0 Beyer Peacock locomotives delivered in 1934 – an example can be seen on Flickr. [29]

The Second World War

Two distinct phases of operation occurred during the War. The first was British led, the second, in the south of Iran, was led by the USA.

1.  Iran’s Railways under British Control

After the arrival of the British Railway Engineers (Royal Engineers) a series of additional locomotives were ordered and received from abroad:

39 coal-burning “W.D.” (British) 2-8-0s. (A photographic example of these locos can be found on Flickr.) [32]

104 oil-burning “W.D.” 2-8-0s.

96 oil-burning U.S.A. 2-8-2s.

6 German 2-10-2s diverted from China.

3 Kitson-built 2-6-4 and 4-6-4 tank engines from the Kowloon-Canton Railway, and

22 0-4-0 diesel shunting engines from the U.S.A.

Coal for the first batch of 39 “W.D.” 2-8-0s also had to be shipped from the United Kingdom.

The Railway Gazette articles of February 1945 catalogue a whole series of difficulties which needed to be overcome by the British Engineers:

  1. Only senior railway men in Iran (Persia) were experienced in railway operation, and “their training in various European countries had been academic rather than practical. Though they were, individually, competent and clever, they were not capable, collectively, of producing a really good and simple organisation to insure the satisfactory working of a railway beset with such topographical and climatic difficulties, especially in view of the ignorance of their subordinates.” [18: p112]
  2. Initially, “subordinate staff understood no English and the British … knew no Persian.” [18: p112]
  3. As we have noted already, “there were in the country ample engines and stock for light traffic working, an incredible percentage of them [however, were] out of order and laid up awaiting repairs, or [were, unsuitable] for working on long continuous mountain grades. Repair facilities and spare parts were also inadequate. ” [18: p112]
  4. The British majority of the British troops were inexperienced and young and numbers were inadequate.
  5. The arid nature of the country traversed meant that water supplies could only possible support “eight double-headed trains daily between Ahwaz and Teheran.” [18: p112] Indeed, later in the War, it was this fact that most influenced the American Eningeers who took over the running of the line to import 65 No. 1,000-h.p. diesel-electric locomotives.
  6. “The intense heat, as well as causing constant trouble with injectors and. being responsible for excessive slipping due to oil leakage on to the track, became almost unbearable for the European staff on the lower sections of line.” [18: p112]
  7. All the locomotives and wagons supplied from the U.K. and U.S.A. “were, in many respects, completely unsuited to the abnormal requirements of Persia, especially in regard to brake equipment, super-heaters, sanding and draw gear, and chilled cast-steel wheels.” [18: p112]

So significant were these issues that the article in the Railway Gazette repeated them alongside other difficulties. The wider list included: inadequate repairs and stores; hot weather troubles; failure of water supplies; carriage and wagon chaos; faults in locomotive depots; and a low standard of general organisation. [18: p159-160]

2. American Control

In the last two years of the War, the roster of locomotives was dramatically changed on the Southern section of the Trans-Iranian Railway (from the coast to Tehran) which was controlled by the Americans. Diesel power meant that the levels of traffic required could be achieved and the Americans brought with them 13 ALCO diesel locomotives. [15] The locomotives, made in Schenectady, New York, by the American Locomotive Company, required prepping in Iran prior to use. [16]

These ALCO (RSD-1) locomotives were intended originally as what the Americans call a road switcher, designed to both haul freight in mainline service and shunt them in railroad yards. They were rated at 1,000 horsepower (750kW) and rode on two three-axle bogies. [17]

At this time a number of American Mikados (WD/USA series 1000-1199) had been leased to the British forces and “had just started working in Iran, although it was realised that the extreme temperatures in the southern plains and above all the scarcity of good water along the whole line made the operation of heavy trains by steam locomotives extremely difficult. Moreover, the 1000 ton “Aid-to-Russia” trains required double-heading over the mountain sections, where gradients of 1 in 67 were frequent and the fact that there were 144 tunnels in 165 miles meant that locomotive crews suffered considerable hardship from smoke and oil fumes.” [33]

Some of the 1000hp diesel-electric locomotives worked the more difficult sections of the Trans-Iranian Railway. The first batch of USA/TC RSD-1 locomotives, numbered 8000 to 8012 arrived in Iran in about March 1943. On relatively level lines with little gradient, they were used singly. This was primarily between Ahwaz and Bandar Shalpur, Khorramshahr, Tanuma and Andhimishk.

A second and larger tranche of these RSD-1 locomotives was delivered to Iran within a few months. These were number 8013 to 8056 and “were fitted for multiple-unit working so that two locomotives could be worked with only one engine crew. … They were stationed at Andhimishk and Arak, and normally worked in pairs hauling all the heavy northbound freight trains over the mountainous sections between these two places. On the return journey, as many as five were coupled together to work back to Andhimishk.” [33]

No. 8014 at the head of a train in the mountains, (c) R. Tourret Collection. [33]

In May 1943, numbers 8007, 8009, 8010, 8011, 8012, 8028, 8029, 8031 and 8034 to 8056 were still awaiting finishing. Numbers 8000, 8001, 8002, 8003, 8004, 8005, 8013, 8015, 8018 and 8030 were allocated to the Southern Division and 8006, 8008, 8014, 8016, 8017, 8019, 8020, 8021, 8022, 8023, 8024, 8025, 8026, 8027, 8028, 8029, 8032, and 8033 were allocated to Andhimishk/Arak.

No. 8048  at Durud in Iran in June 1945. In Iran, the heat was so intense that the Alco diesels operated with the engine access doors removed, despite the increased risk of damage due to the ingress of sand (c) H.C. Hughes. [33]

“From September 1943, some of them worked as far north as Qum and by May 1944 some were working regularly through to Teheran. Between Arak and Teheran it became a common sight to see a diesel and a USA/TC steam 2-8-2 coupled together at the head of a train, and on at least one occasion two diesels and a 2-8-2 were used on a passenger train.” [33]

Following the war, these diesel locomotives were shipped back to the US where they continued to work either hauling freight on military installations, used for training, or were sold to railroad companies. [19] Steam power once again held sway in Iran and continued to do so until the late 1950s. [20]

Steam After the Second World War

As noted above, there were steam locomotives at work throughout Iran during the War. A good number of “American S200s operated in the Middle East, including Egypt, Palestine and Lebanon. One was destroyed by fire at El Arish in Egypt in 1942. 29 of this batch was later supplied to Turkey where they became the TCDD 46201 Class. In 1946 another 24 were transferred to TCDD which added them to the same number series 46201–46253. 51 S200s built in 1942 served on the Trans-Iranian Railway, where they became Iranian class 42.“[34][26: p125]

Turkish Railways USATC S200 Class Locomotive No. 46224 at TCDD Open Air Steam Locomotive Museum, Ankara, Turkey (c) Ex13(CC BY-SA 3.0). [34]

By the end of the Second World War, motive power on Iranian State Railways reverted to steam and a number of new purchases were made.

Iranian State Railways Steam Locomotives

Jonathan D.H. Smith provides the catalogue of Iranian Railways Steam Locomotives below. He maintains a database of a similar nature for most countries in the world. All dimensions metric: lengths in mm, areas in m2, weights in metric tons, pressures in atmospheres. There is no indication in the table of the dates that the locomotives were active. [2]

Class Axle arr-
Diameter x Stroke
B.P. Ad.
30.1 C 1270 435×610 10 33 33 1.4 82 none  
30.2 Ct 1100 380×550 13 34 34 1.3 65 none  
31.0 1’C 1350 490×600 14 44 57 2.6 168 total  
31.2 1’C 1170 405×560 12.3 34 41 1.6 94 none  
33.30 1’C2’t 1560 485×660 12.7 51 91 3.0 168 none KCR 3
34.60 2’C2’t 1560 560×710 12.7 60 106 3.2 229 none KCR 9
41.0 1’D 1220 510×660 12.3 57 67 3.2 167 30  
41.1 1’D 1450 560×720 15 68 75 3.9 185 65  
41.10 1’D 1435 470×710 15.8 64 73 2.7 153 23 LMS 8F coal
41.15 1’D 1435 470×710 15.8 64 73 2.7 153 23 LMS 8F oil
42.0 1’D1′ 1350 500×660(3) 12.5 64 86 4.2 165 51  
42.40 1’D1′ 1520 535×710 14 65 89 4.3 201 58 USATC S200
51.0 1’E 1450 630×720 15 89 99 4.5 213 78  
52.0 1’E1′ 1370 560×710 14.8 75 102 5.0 217 70 Ex 52.50
52.1 1’E1′ 1295 605×660 14 82 109 6.1 254 81  
80.1 E 1260 590(1)/850(1)x630 14 69 69 3.4 135 34 KköStB 80
86.0 2’D1′-1’D2’t 1350 490×660(4) 14 118 201 6.3 336 81 Garratt

The most dramatic of the locomotives purchased by Iranian State Railways after the War were 2-10-2 Locomotives. They supplemented what was left of the locomotives from Hencshel, Krupp, and Maschinenfabrik Esslingen.

A Vulcan supplied Iranian Railways 2-10-2! [6]A pre-war 2-10-0  locomotive (Henschel 24054/1938) was photographed in 2015 by Bernd Seiler on a Farrail trip. [12]The same plinthed locomotive (Henschel 24054/1938). This time the picture shows a full three-quarter view [13]

The Vulcan Foundry Co. was a British locomotive builder sited at Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire. The Company produced a series of large locomotives in the 1950s for locations around the world. [35] The Company’s own records show that 40 No. 2-10-2 locomotives were made for Iranian State Railways and delivered in 1952 and a further 24 No. were delivered in 1954. These were monsters! The Vulcan Magazine article about them (from Winter 1952/53 (Volume 2 Number 8) [3][4] can be found on the website, [35] along with the Vulcan/Iranian State Railways Brochure. [6][35]

Just a few limited facts about the Vulcan 2-10-2 locomotives:-

They were built entirely to metric dimensions and set up for oil-firing rather than coal. They had a tractive effort of 49,000 lb at 85% pressure and were provided with boilers with a total evaporative heating surface of over 2,730 sq. ft. [6]

The contract for these locomotives was negotiated in 1950, they were expected to cope with trains of 592 tons (600 tonnes) on a 1.5% grade and 296 tons (300 tonnes) on a ruling 2.8% grade where curves of 22 metre radius were the norm. [3][4]

Full details can be found by following the links [3][4] and [6] in the references section below.

Ex-Russian group E from the Djulfa broad gauge line, Tabriz, Iran 1973. [1]

There were still, in the 1970s, some 5ft 3 in gauge tracks rusting away in Iran which had been built by the Russians. The adjacent picture shows an ex-Russian Steam Locomotive on broad-gauge tracks near Tabriz. The main line was converted to standard-gauge in the late 1950s to coincide with the line being built between Tabriz and Tehran in standard-gauge.

Istanbul – Tehran, Iranian 90-510, Razi border station August 1973. [1]

The broad-gauge was also evident at the border as can be seen in the next image. Broad-gauge is most clearly in evidence on the right of the picture

“In 1945, before the Cold War started, the Soviet Union got the first modern diesel engines, Db series from Baldwin, employed Tuapse – Samtrediya and Gudermes – Ordzonikidse, decorated with the Soviet star.” [1]

Diesels After the Second World War

Electroputere Sulzer Diesel Locomotives

A pair of these locomotives were sent for testing in Iran in the late 1950s. It seems as though around 10 of these locomotives were purchased. [36][37]

Name Type Specifications and Notes Maximum speed Years built
Class 60 (DA) Diesel electric 2,100 hp (1,566 kW) Co-Co axle formula 100 km/h (62 mph) 1959–1981

One of three views of a pair of Co-Co Class 60 DAs led by 0518 that were sent for testing in Iran. All three pictures can be seen on the Derby Sulzer Website All three views were taken at the town of Arak. (c)  F Burdubus. The other two follow below. [23]

These were among the earliest in a long line of purchases of Diesel Locomotives by the Iranian State Railways. Details can be found on the link at reference [37] below. They included:

General Motors – EMD Locos (1950s)

Many of the early diesel purchases made in the late 1950s by Iranian State Railways were from General Motors (GM-EMD(USA)). A series of purchases began with a significant number of G12 Bo-Bo locomotives in 1957. A total of 137 of these locomotives were delivered. These were number 40.001- 40.137.A GM-EMD G12 Bo-Bo Locomotive. These locomotives had a long life having first seen service in 1957. This picture was taken in 2016, (c) blackthorn57 on Flickr (CC BY 2.0). [38]

By 1959, Iranian State Railways had also purchased 13 No. GM-EMD G8 Bo-Bo locos; and 20 No. GM-EMD G16 Co-Co locos from General Motors.A preserved G8 Locomotive in Australia, (c) Zzrbiker, English Wikipedia, (CC BY-SA 3.0). [39] A RENFE GM-EMD G16 Co-Co Locomotive in service in Spain. [40]

The G8s were of a lower power rating than the G12s, 643kW as opposed to 963kW. They were numbered 40.401- 40.413.

The G16s had two three axle bogies and a power rating of 1323kW, they were numbered 60.301-60.320.

General Motors – EMD Locos (1960s onwards)

Further purchases were made from General Motors (USA) over the years:

  • 2 No. GM-EMD G18W Bo-Bo Locomotives were purchased in 1968. Their power rating was 735kW. They were numbered 40.451-40.452. [37][45]
  • 193 No. GM-EMD GT26-CW Co-Co locomotives were bought in 1971. They had a power rating of 2205kW and were numbered 60.501-60.569, 60.801-60.914 and 60.975-984. [37][44]
  • 41 No. GM-EMD G22W Bo-Bo Locomotives were purchased and delivered in 1975 & 1982. Their power-rating was 1103kW. They were numbered 40.138-40.178. [37] Nos. 40.158-40.178 were constructed under licence by Đuro Đaković [42][43]
  • 70 No. GM-EMD GT26-CW2 Co-Co Locomotives  were purchased in 1984. Their power rating was 2205kW and they were numbered 60.915-60.974 and 60.985-60.994. All of these locomotives have three 48 inch fans instead of the standard two which is a necessary provision for hot climate of Iran. [37][41]

Locomotives from Japan (1970s)

A single contract was arranged with Hitachi for the delivery of HD10C Locomotives. It seems that these were delivered in 1971 and 1975. They had a lower power-rating (707kW)and were used for shunting. They were numbered 60.601-60.138.A Hitachi HD10C Bo-Bo at Tehran Loco depot.This picture was taken in 2016, (c) blackthorn57 on Flickr (CC BY 2.0). [38]

General Electric (Canada) (1990s)

In the 1990s Iran contracted with General Electric in Canada for the supply of further locomotives:

  • 21 No. U30C Co-Co Locomotives were purchased in 1992. They had a 2240kW power rating and carried the fleet numbers 60.2001-60.2021 [37][46][47]
  • 41 No. C30-7i Co-Co Locomotives bought in 1993 and delivered in 1993 and 1994 had a power rating of 2240kW and were numbered 60.2022-60.2062 [37][47][48]

A Union Pacific GE U30C Locomotive similar to those used in Iran. [46]A GE C30-7i in use in Estonia, (c) LHOON (CC BY-SA 2.0). [48]

Lugansk Locomotives from Ukraine (1997)

Iran bought 5 No. 2M62U Co-Co (x2) Locomotives from Lugansk in the Ukraine in 1997. They were rated at 2942kW and were used for heavy freight duties. Their wheel arrangement was unusual – Co-Co + Co-Co. They were effectively two large locomotives paired together which operated as one unit.LDz 2M62U Locomotive at Ziemeļblāzma Station, (c) Jindřich Běťák (GNU Free Documentation License). [49]

Newer Diesels (2000 onwards)

Recognise these? Pacers. Iran imported them from the UK but scrapped them long before the UK! They were exported to Iran in 2001/2 (Numbers 141001, 141004, 141006, 141008, 141010
and 141013-141019) [14][50]

Alstom Locomotives

In 2002, Alstom Locomotives were ordered by the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways (RAI). “Of the 100 units ordered by RAI, Alstom built the first 20 machines in its plant in Belfort, France, including 5 kits. The remainder was produced by Wagon Pars in Iran. For the 20 units built in France, Ruston supplied the engines (16 RK 215). The engines for the remaining 80 locomotives were built in Iran by DESA as agreed in a technology transfer agreement.” [51] The 100 locomotives were designated as follows:

  • 30 No. Alstom DE43CAC Co-Co Passenger Locomotives with a power rating of 2880kV and numbered 201-230. [37]
  • 70 No. Alstom DE43CAC Co-Co Freight Locomotives with a power rating of 2600kV and which were numbered 231-300. [37]

An Alstom Prima DE43 C AC. [51]

Ziyang Locomotive Co. Ltd GK1C Locomotive. [53]

CRRC Ziyang in China

Five modern diesel shunting Locomotive were purchased in 2008 from CRRC Ziyang in China. These are GK1C B-B Locomotives with a power rating of 990kW [37] although figures quoted elsewhere are higher than this [cf. 52]

Siemens “Safir” Locomotives

In In 2006 Siemens, MAPNA and the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways (RAI) agreed a contact for the supply of 150 four axle Bo-Bo Locomotives. The first locomotive was manufactured by Siemens in early 2010, a further 199 were eventually supplied – the first 30 were built in Germany. [37][54] The remainder were built/assembled in manufactured in Iran under a technology transfer agreement. The value of the contract for the first 150 was $450 million (€294 million). [55]

These are single-ended passenger ER24PC locos with a power rating of 1960kW. They are sometimes referred to as “IranRunners” or “Iran Safirs”. They are numbered 1501-1700. [54]A pair of Siemens ER24PC “IranRunners” of the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways at Tehran, (c) Kabelleger/David Gubler (CC BY-SA 4.0). [54]

MAPNA MLC Locomotives

MAPNA is an Iranian Industrial concern. “In 2016, a contract for production and sale of 25 MAP24 locomotives was signed between MAPNA Railway Operation Development & Maintenance Company as the clientو and MAPNA Locomotive Engineering & Manufacturing Company. The first unit of the 25-strong batch was delivered to MAPNA Railway Operation Development & Maintenance Company and started trial operation in March 2018 at Tehran depot.” [56]

The MAP24-S90 Co-Co Locomotives have a power-rating of 2238kW. [37]A MAPNA MAP24-S90 Co’Co’ Locomotive in Tehran. [56]

DMUs (Diesel Motive Power Units)

We have already noted the presence of Pacers in Iran. Other DMUs include:-

The French RTG DMU-5 Turbo Trainsets (Class T2000) which were delivered in the mid-1970s and power rated at 2020kW. four units were delivered in the mid 1970s [58]  and a further 5 were bought from SNCF in 2005. [37]French Turbotrain RTG DMU-5 (c) Bernd Seiler used with the kind permission of the photographer. [57]

20 No. DMUs from Seimens, Austria were delivered in 2004. These DH4 DMU-4 units had a 2352kW power rating. [37] They were intended, initially, for the 1000km route between Tehran and Mashhad. 5 units were built by Siemens, and Wagon Pars Co. in Iran built 15 of these units as a sub-contractor to Siemens. They were designed for a maximum operating speed on 160km/hour.DH4 DMU-4 Unit in Tehran. [59]

50 No. DMU-3 sets from Hyundai Rotem (Korea) were ordered in the early 2000s and delivered two batches in 2007 and 2016/2017, these were primarily built for suburban traffic. The delay in the delivery schedule can be accounted for by the imposition of international sanctions. [37]

A further 150 No. DMU-3 sets were the subject of negotiations between the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways (RAI) and Hyundai Rotem (Korea). A deal was struck in 2016 for the supply of 150 DMU cars for Raja Passenger Train Company. 50 No. of the trainsets were to be made by Hyundai Rotem and 100 no. by Iranian Rail Industries Development (IRICO). [37][60][61] Hyundai Rotem employs around 3,800 people and exports to 50 countries worldwide. [62] In 2020, the order was still being fulfilled. [37] the contract continues as a result of Hyundai-Rotem being able to recover frozen payments of US$74.7 million from Iran in 2016 which were stopped because of sanctions. [71]Hyundai-Rotem DMU-3 in Iran. [71]

Electric Locomotives

Iran has been pursuing a programme of electrification. As yet there is much to achieve in this respect. The line between Tabriz and Jolfa was electified in time to order eight Rc4, Bo-Bo 3440kW power rated locomotive from SJ (Sweden) in 1979. These locos were used for freight between Tabriz and Jolfa and, much later, for commuter trains between Tabriz-and Azarshahr. They were numbered 40-651 – 40-658.m [37][62][64]

These locomotives were known as the RAI 40-700 class. They were based on the Swedish Rc4 but with Rm-type bogies, sand-proof air filters and no round windows on the side. [63]This photo was taken in 2009 and shows a RAI 40-700 Class Electric Locomotive (c) Ghorbanalibeik [63]

New electrification projects were started with the completion in 2012 of a 46km length of line between Tabriz and Azarshahr to the south. The primary aim of electrifying the five-station single-track route at 25 kV 50 Hz wass to improve services for students travelling to the university at Azarshahr. No additional locomotives needed to be purchased to support this service. [65] 

Plans are afoot to electrify 2 lengths of railway. Negotiations started  in 2016 to make this happen. The two lengths involved are the line between Tehran and Tabriz and the line between Tehran and Mashhad. [66] Italy offered to undertake the work on the Tehran to Tabriz line. [67]

“Iran has been in talks with Germany’s Siemens as well as Chinese companies to electrify the Tehran-Mashhad Railroad. In October, Germany’s Siemens signed a contract to supply components for 50 diesel-electric locomotives, which will be used in the 926-km railroad, to Iran’s MAPNA Group. Another agreement was signed between the two companies to jointly manufacture 70 electric locomotives for the route.” [66][cf. 68]

Detailed studies for the line were completed in 2018 and construction was due to start later in that year. [69] At present, I cannot find details of the construction programme for the electrification nor of detailed plans for the manufacture of the planned 50 or 70 locomotives. Siemens withdrew from the project in 2018 after pressure from the USA. [70]


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28th June 2020 – A Cup of Cold Water – Matthew 10: 40-42

The interests of the wealthy Western world are often at odds with the interests of the majority of peoples on our planet. We have an unjust global trading system, we have nations so burdened by debt that it suffocates any chance of recovery, we have trade surpluses from wealthy countries dumped in the third world destroying the livelihoods of local producers. We have inefficient and ineffective aid arrangements and are still far from finding an acceptable global position on climate change. … The cards are stacked against the poor – the poor get poorer while the rich line their pockets.

And we are part of the system which makes this happen – we elect the leaders that make these decisions. I wonder what you might want to say to leaders of the most wealthy countries in the world, if you had the chance? If you=d been invited to speak at the latest G7 or G8 meeting what would you have said were the priorities for our world? What would Jesus want to say to them?

Perhaps it is there in our Gospel reading this morning:

“Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple – truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

This verse at the end of Matthew 10 points forward to a later story in the gospel of Matthew – in Matthew 25 – the story of the sheep and the goats.

In that story, Jesus welcomes the sheep into the kingdom and he says,

“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me.”

“When was that, Lord,” the righteous reply.  Jesus response: “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

When you gave money to Christian Aid to provide shelter, clean water and good food, you did it to me. When you gave money to Oxfam to help people begin to stand on their own two feet, you did it to me. When, at Harvest, you gave money for a water tank in Kisoro in Uganda, (as did the churches of the Parish of the Good Shepherd, a year or two back), you did it for me. When you welcomed the immigrant and the asylum seeker into the life of your church, you welcomed me, or even just the newcomer who did not know anyone. When you fought for the rights of the poor and the dispossessed, you fought for me. When you understood and acted on the pressing climate issues which faced the world, you did it for me.

Sadly, the story in Matthew 25 also tells of those who did not give and share, who did not welcome the stranger – and Jesus is just as clear that their failure to act for those who were marginalised, hungry, thirsty and hurting was a failure to serve him. And in the story they receive not a blessing but a curse.

So what can we do to fulfil our Lord’s commission to us?

The very least we can do is be welcoming to all who are new. In our churches, when we are able once again to attend, that will mean watching out for those who are new and taking time to be with them to welcome them over coffee at the end of the service. And in doing so, we will welcome the stranger in our midst – particularly the asylum seeker and the immigrant. We can choose to set aside our embarrassment, perhaps our fears and prejudices and commit ourselves to friendship and love.

We could write to our leaders, and to our MP, and tell them of our concern for the poor and the dispossessed and demand that they use our resources, our taxes, to bring about justice in our world.

We can begin to buy or continue to buy produce which has been fairly traded. This seems to me to be a no-brainer. … Wherever possible we can choose goods in our supermarkets that guarantee not to have been bought at unfairly low prices. We cannot continue to exploit others in our world just so that we can get our bananas, our coffee, our tea, our sugar, our chocolate a few pence cheaper. We are committed as churches in our parish, for all church functions, to only using fairly-traded coffee and tea (I wonder if we are sticking to that promise?) And we have promised that we will do everything we can to fight for justice for the whole world – even if that means a little extra expense for ourselves. And that is a big commitment: we have agreed to fight injustice in whatever form we encounter it, financial, racial, climate or ……… And we know that this is one of the Marks of Mission to which all Anglican Church assent.

Jesus doesn’t give us the option. The reward he mentions in our Gospel reading, the reward of the righteous, is not a reward given to pious and holy people who go to Church, it is a reward give to those who follow Jesus, who live according to his values, who give of themselves to others in just the same way as Jesus would have done.

It is enough, at least at first, to take just one small step in the right direction: just talking to the stranger in church on a Sunday morning; just setting up a standing order to Christian Aid, Oxfam or Tear Fund; even just giving a cup of water to someone in need, says Jesus is a start down the road. Just one small step, but it is a step down a route which places others needs on a par with our own. And it is the same road that Jesus travelled – a road which ultimately runs through the cross and on into resurrection.

“Just as you did it to one of the least of these,” says Jesus, “You did it to me.”

…. “Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones …….. truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

Co. Donegal Railways, Ireland – Part 2 – The Glenties Branch – Ballinamore to Glenties

This article covers the Western length of the Glenties Branch of the Co. Donegal Railways. The Eastern length of the branch is covered in the first article in this series about the Co. Donegal Railways which can be found at:

An extract from a larger picture (Scanned slide) (c) G Sludge (Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)). [2]

At the end of the first article we got off the train at Ballinamore station (which serves the village community of Bellanamore) and were surprised to see how spartan the accommodation in the passenger facilities was. We were even more surprised to discover that the main station building, such as it was, managed to survive into the 21st century.

We return to Ballinamore station to catch the next train looking forward to visiting the next station on the line at Fintown!

A photograph of the ‘lifting’ train at Ballinamore. After closure the line was ‘lifted’ and removed leaving in most places no more than the formation. [32]An extract from the GSGS Map from the early 1940s showing the route of the Glenties Branch from Ballinamore to Fintown. Ballinamore Station is in the second map sqaure form the right at the top of the image, to the southeast of the bridge over the River Finn. [1]

A larger scale view of the station location at Ballinamore. [1]

We can imagine hopping onto Railcar No. 6 heading for Fintown. … As we leave the ‘station’ behind we look to our left and see the station master’s house. Not large, but certainly bigger than the station facilities we have just enjoyed!

On the adjacent map extract the location of the station house can be picked out as a very slight bump on the side of the road just Northwest of the Station.

The Station House has survived and is now a holiday rental property which in 2020 has recently been refurbished.

The first picture below shows the Station House in 2020 with the old railway formation marked in red behind it. The second image is the Google Earth satellite image of the site.

The Station House at Ballinamore. [4]

Ballinamore Station House ( Google Maps).

The line continued Northwest across the road from the station to the R252 and Bellanamore Village. The image below shows that the crossing was at grade. Traffic flows were so small that it is very likely that this was an un-gated crossing.

The next satellite image shows the line heading way towards Fintown. It is followed by a Google Streetview image of the line leaving the level-crossing behind. Earthworks were minimal and its embankment was no more than a couple of feet above the surrounding land!Bellanamore Village from the South West looking across the line of the Glenties Branch which is marked in red (Google Streetview).The Glenties Branch heading Northwest from Ballinamore Station Halt (Google Maps).The line northwest of the level-crossing was on a very shallow embankment which lifted it above the boggy ground (Google Streetview). The trees in the distance mark the location of the Stranagoppoge River.

Road (R250), Rail (The Glenties Branch) and Lough Finn’s North shore rune roughly parallel (Google Streetview).

Just a short distance further along the line, trains crossed the Stranagoppoge River, a tributary of the River Finn is perhaps one of the lesser known of its tributaries and is part of the Cloghan Lodge Estate. I have been unable to ascertain what the structure of the bridge was like. The line then passed close to the South West shore of Lough Sluvnagh before beginning to turn towards the West, heading for Fintown.The Glenties Branch as it passed Lough Sluvnagh (Google Maps).Lough Sluvnagh and the route of the old railway (Google Streetview). This photograph is taken from the road South of the line.The view across Lough Sluvnagh from the R252 showing the line of the old railway (Google Streetview). I have shown the line of the railway using a very narrow red line.The location of the next road crossing to the West of Lough Sluvnagh (Google Streetview).The Glenties Line to the West of Lough Sluvnagh shown on the GSGS Map of the early 1940s. The crossing in the image above is shown just to the left of the grid line on the map. [5]Looking back along the old Glenties Branch towards Lough Sluvnagh from the road crossing (Google Streetview).Looking West along the line of the Branch. The shell of a building which was probably the crossing-keepers cottage is in the left foreground (Google Streetview).A satellite image of the approach to Fintown and its Lake (Google Maps).The road-crossing on the approach to Fintown. It appears at the extreme left of the satelite image above. This view is taken facing South across what was the old crossing (Google Streetview).The line ahead towards Fintown. This view looks from the road to the south of the crossing in a westerly direction (Google Streetview).A short distance further West the line approached Fintown and its station. This extract from the GSGS Maps of the early 1940s shows both the Lake and the town with the station sitting alongside the lake. [6]The Approach to Fintown Station. [25]The Fintown Railway. [7]Fintown Station (Google Maps).Fintown Railway Station House (c) Kenneth Allen (CC BY-SA 2.0). [13]The Eastern end of the preserved Fintown Railway in 2010 (c) Kenneth Allen (CC BY-SA 2.0) [8]The Water Tower at Fintown Station in 2010, a reminder that once the station was served by steam locomotive power (c) Kenneth Allen (CC BY-SA 2.0). [9]Fintown Station in 2007 (c) Kenneth Allen (CC BY-SA 2.0) [10]The old Goods shed and workshop at Fintown Station in 2010, viewed from the platform (c) Kenneth Allen (CC BY-SA 2.0). [11]Another view of the workshops at Fintown Station (c) Kenneth Allen (CC BY-SA 2.0). [12]Railcar No. 18 at Fintown Station Platform. [14]Fintown Railway’s Railcar approaches the station throat at Fintown Station, heading East into the station [14]The old line followed the Northern shore of the Lough along its full length. The preserved line follows the same route (Google Maps)The journey along the lakeside begins. [15]The ‘modern’ service runs between the road and Lough Finn along the full length of the Lough. This picture was taken in 2012 (c) Kenneth Allen (CC BY-SA 2.0). [16]A view of the line towards the Western end of Lough Finn taken from the R250. Just visible in this photograph is the style which appears in the following photograph (Google Streetview).Railcar No. 18 again in 2012 (c) Kenneth Allen (CC BY-SA 2.0). [17]Another view of the line from the R250. The style is now in the left foreground (Google Streetview).The R250 and the railway run parallel for quitea while alongside the Lough (Google Streetview).Road and Rail closely followed the Lough shore (Google Maps)Over halfway along the Lough now, also in 2012 (c) Kenneth Allen (CC BY-SA 2.0). [18]Another view of the line and the Lough from the R250 (Google Streetview).The end of the Lough approaches (Google Maps).With the West end of the Lough in view the R250, the railway and the Lough seem to get compressed together (Google Streetview).The Glenties Branch West-Southwest of Lough Finn (Google Maps).A larger scale extract from the above satellite image showing the end of the Lough and the approximate extent of the Fintown Railway in 2020 (Google Maps).This view is taken a little to the West of the end of the Lough and the end of the Fintown Railway. The side road visible here is the road to the right-hand side of the satellite image aboveOne the satellite image above. It is taken looking South from the R250 across the route of the old line towards a modern Multi-Use Games Area. The route of the line was in cutting and the parapets of a bridge remain into the 21st century. A couple of track panels have been stored here. (Google Streetview).

West of Lough Finn, the Glenties Branch continued in a Southwesterly direction to wards Shallogan. The route of the old line is shown on the next extract from the GSGS Maps of the early 1940s which is reproduced below. The whole of the Fintown to Sahallogan length of the line is shown on the first image below. The Glenties Branch between Fintown and Shallogan. [19]The second of the two map extracts above shows the length of the line from the West end of Lough Finn to Shallogan. [20] As can be seen the line remained on the South side of the R250 along this full length. Along the length from a point a few hundred metes West of Lough Finn to Shallogan the line was on a downward grade. As the next image shows, the line was raised on a very shallow embankment in places. At other places there were shallow cuttings. Both cutting and embankments were no more than a few feet in depth or height.. and ran close to the road for much of the distance.The Glenties Branch Southwest of Lough Finn (Google Streetview).The Glenties Branch a little further Southwest (Google Streetview).The length of the Glenties Branch covered in the pictures above (Google Maps).The Glenties Branch continues in a Southwesterly direction (Google Maps)In a very short distance the R250 rejoins the route of the old railway, running just to the North (Google Maps).The Glenties Branch ran on a shallow embankment as indicated by the red line above (Google Streetview).At times road and rail were immediately next to each other (Google Maps).The fence-posts delineating the line of the railway still remain in places (Google Streetview).The final approaches to the hamlet of Shallogan (Google Maps).The first property in Shallogan viewed from the R250 (Google Streetview).Shallogan: there was a halt here which was the last formal stop before Glenties. That did not mean that you could not wave down the railcar passing you and get one anywhere along the line (Google Maps).Railway Culvert at Shallogan (Googl;e Streetview).South West of Shallogan road and rail separated once again (Google Maps).Looking East back along the line of the branch at the point where the line began to diverge from the route of the R250 and where the line crossed the River Shallogan twice in very short succession (Google Streetview).Looking Southwest from the same location. The old line can be seen curving away to the Southwest while the R250 urn further to the West (Google Streetview).The GSGS Map of the length of the line between Shallogan and GlentiesThe route of the Glenties Branch continues Southwest and will soon be met once again by the R250 (Google Maps). Just above the wooded area the first of two remaining bridges over the River Shallogan can be seen on the satellite image.The second of these two bridges is visible in the top-right of this next satellite image (Google Maps).Looking back to the Northeast along the old railway line. At this locaTion the formation is most clearly visible with significant cutting and embankments (Google Streetview).The line continues towards Glenties (Google Maps). Along this length the formation of the old railway is hidden from the road by  bushes and scrubland.

We are now on the final approach to Glenties and the old railway was travelling South-Southwest alongside the R250. The adjacent satellite image shows its course cut by a farmyard and then a road. The road crossed the line of the railway on a bridge. The first image below shows the view Northeast from the bridge looking through the farmyard back towards Fintown and Shallogan.

The second image looks forward towards Glenties. It is less easy to establish the route of the railway in this image, but it runs to the  western edge of the copse of trees.

A view Northeast along the old railway formation from a road overbridge (Google Streetview).Looking towards Glenties (Google Streetview).

Flickr has two images of this bridge taken from the fields either side of the road. [28][29]

After this the old line began to curve round to the towards the Southwest again. It encountered another road which is crossed at ground level.Looking North by Northeast along the old line towards Shallogan (Google Streetview).Looking towards Glenties at the road-crossing. The crossing-keepers house is still standing (Google Streetview).On towards Glenties (Google Maps). The formation of the old line is lost in scrub land to the South side of the R250 and cannot easily be picked out on Google Streetview.The outskirts of Glenties (Google Maps).The final few hundred metres to the railway station are covered on this satellite image and the next (Google Maps).

Level crossing with the R250 on the approach to Glenties Station. This view looks Northeast along the line (Google Streetview).Glenties Station is just ahead beyond the tree-line. This view is taken at the level-crossing location on the R250.Glenties Railway Station Building viewed from the R250 (Google Streetview).

Glenties Railway Station in 1966, (c) Roger Joanes (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). [26]Glenties Railway Station looking towards the buffer-stops in 1966, (c) Roger Joanes (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). [27]Locomotive “Foyle” at Glenties Station with Engine Driver B. McMenamin and Fireman J. O’Donnell. Photograph “From the Wilds of Donegal”, used with permission from the Donegal Railway Heritage Centre and found on their Facebook page. [31]A very grainy image showing one of the Co. Donegal Railcars on shed at Glenties, with thanks to Kerry Doherty. [32]Co. Donegal Railways Railcar 6 at Glenties, with thanks to Kerry Doherty. [32]

The location of Glenties railway Station. The station building is a B&B in the 21st century (Google Maps).

The adjacent satellite image brings our journey along the Glenties Branch to an end.

There are a few pictures of the station to follow below and a note too about an attempt to take the line on the Ardara.

The Fintown Railway has ambitions to bring its preservation line along the old trackbed to Glenties. I imagine that the events of 2020 may well have made that a more remote possibility than it was.

Glenties Railway Station Building in the 21st century. The property is now a B&B. This view is from the track-side of the station building. [21]

Glenties Station Building in the 21st century. [22]

A view along the line of the platform in 2020. [22]

The extension of the Glenties Branch to Ardara

There was once a plan to extend the line. It was a sensible plan as it would have taken the line close to the coast and to a basic harbour. It might have given the line a new lease of life. But it failed to get off the ground. [23: p38-41][24]

Ardara was 6 miles West of Glenties and had a small population of around 500 people. There had been government funding for a number of railway extensions around the turn of the 20th century. These included extensions to Burtonport and to Cardonagh. The people of Ardara felt encouraged to try to gain their own railway extension.

A vpetition was sent to the directors of the railway in 1903, which was acknowledge but then left on a shelf. After the 1906 takeover of the Company, Ardara renewed their pressure for their own extension. The reaction was lukewarm. The directors did say that if funding could be found through Parliament they would consent to run the line. After some vacillation and some minor successes in seeking funding. A grand total of £2,000 was raised!

Henry Forbes reviewed the possible extension and suggested that it might be built for around £5,000 per mile – around £30,000 overall. This meant that the promoters would need to raise around £28,000 which was far beyond their means.

Glenties to Ardara on the GSGS Map of the early 1940s. []

Nonetheless the promoters continued to pursue their goal. Patterson et al. intimate that negotiations were reopened in 1919 and again in 1922, but to no avail. The matter was raised again in 1936 when there was a possibility of peat extraction taking place using the extension for transport. This also failed to materialise. And finally, amid the post war fuel crisis. an extension was once more considered but the imminent closure of the whole branch put paid to this and any further efforts to open an extension to Ardara. [23: p40-41]


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  23. Edward M Patterson (original author), Joe Begley & Steve Flanders (authors of additional material in the Revised Edition); The County Donegal Railways; Colourpoint Books, Newtownards, Co. Down 2014. As noted in my first article about the Co. Donegal Railways this was to have been my holiday reading while walking different parts of the network, but 2020 has been a strange year!
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  32. After completing the first version of this article I was offered three images by Kerry Doherty of Ballindrait, Co. Donegal.

21st June 2020 – Prayer is like sunbathing! – Matthew 10:27

My colleague, Revd. Ben Brady writes:

Have you said your prayers today?

What is prayer? … Is there a WRONG way to pray? … Why pray?

So what is prayer?

“It’s like sunbathing” according to Rowan Williams. [1]

He speaks of allowing ourselves to soak in the presence of God like sun rays. I like that, more importantly, I CAN do that. In Rowan’s description, prayer is opening ourselves to God’s presence, to allow ourselves feel and be shaped by God like a potter with clay. This image suggests a lovely relaxing experience and sometimes I do feel a deep sense of peace in prayer. However, often prayer also triggers different emotions, challenges and less comfortable feelings.

I find it is important to remember that prayer is an intentional act. We decide to be active participants and therefore can work through difficulties in prayer rather than simply passively accepting them.

A popular practice is called “The Examen”. This is when you think through your day, addressing what you are thankful for, sorry about and where you experienced a sense of the Divine; a holy moment. This approach to prayer allows the positives and negatives to coexist. We don’t have to ignore our anger or sadness in favour of gratitude. We can be with God in both our frustration and joy.

Over time, I’ve reflected on who I am and how my interests impact my prayer life. I’m always trying to be aware of how I’m feeling and how I can be in that same headspace with God in prayer. I’m a musician and so sometimes listen to music, but sometimes I simply sit in silence. I can be fidgeting, so I hold something (holding cross, prayer rope, rosary). Sometimes I close my eyes, sometimes I look at an Icon or look out the window. I have times when I use the daily offices set by the Church of England. Sometimes I use The Book of Common Prayer but at other times I can’t be bothered with “Thee’s, Thou’s and “Sundry places”. What I find matters most is that I’m willing to adapt my approach to prayer to ensure that I don’t just avoid spending time with God because ‘I’m just not in the mood’.

A little while ago, Rev. Liz Devall and I hosted sessions on different forms of prayer called “Pick & Mix Prayer”. This was an opportunity for people to gather and try out different or new forms of meeting with God. I really like this idea of having a “Pick & Mix Prayer” approach. A famous saying is that it takes longer to prepare to pray, than the actual praying. I believe there is wisdom in that.

St. Ignatius suggests standing just next to where you will be praying, say the Lord’s Prayer and then sitting down. This gives yourself time to enter into a prayerful space. A friend of mine said that he loves Morning and Evening Daily Office prayers, because once he has said the words, read the Psalms, the set readings and the Gospel Canticle, he feels more focused on who he is praying to.

I’ll be honest, despite my best intentions I sometimes slip into a superstitious way of thinking about prayer. I’ll hear myself think “well I didn’t pray properly today so it’ll probably be a crap day”. This is not true, we do not believe in a petty God who deliberately trips us up throughout the day due to missing/forgetting/not feeling it on a particular day. The Gospel has a very different description of prayer. I love the verse from Matthew 10:27:

“What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.”

God may whisper life changing news to us in the smallest of quiet prayerful moments. We might sunbathe in prayer and feel replenished, altered and enlivened. We may just receive enough strength to face the next day.

Rev. Ben


  1. For a parallel but different reflection, see what Revd. Giles Fraser has to say picking up Rown Williams theme:, accessed on 20th June 2020.

14th June 2020 – Sheep without a Shepherd (Matthew 9: 35ff)

Psalm 100 is one of the Psalms set for services during the day today (14th June 2020). The first 3 verses say:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

The gospel reading from Matthew says this of Jesus:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

As the readings for today are taken from the lectionary, used by churches around the world, as Anglicans we’ve heard these readings every three years for a number of years. Indeed, having been ordained for twenty-one years, this is the seventh time round for me, listening to these readings as part of Sunday worship and then preaching and writing about them as a member of the clergy.

The imagery of sheep and shepherd is very appropriate for churches that are members of the Parish of the Good Shepherd, here in Ashton-under-Lyne. But it is a well-loved and important analogy for the Christian life wherever it is experienced.  The use of the word ‘harrassed’, translated elsewhere as ‘confused’ to describe those who do not know Jesus could as easily be applied to our generation as it was to Jesus’ own times.

At this point in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is still at a relatively early stage in his ministry. People will have encountered or heard of John the Baptist; they might have heard the rumours of what happened at Jesus’ baptism when a voice from heaven proclaimed him to be God’s Son; they might have heard Jesus teaching in the synagogue; some will know that a few have been chosen to live alongside Jesus; most of them will have heard his challenging teaching on the mountain. There have been healings, a storm has been calmed, demons have been cast out, a girl has been raised from the dead. But still people haven’t had enough time to understand who this man, Jesus, really is.

Is he just a really good teacher? … Where does his power come from? … Why is he saying such different things to the established religious leaders? People are confused – they hear Jesus’ voice, they hear the voices of their priests. Who should they listen to? Who is really helping them to know God?

Society today has many conflicting voices speaking about what people should believe and how they should behave. Some say God exists and some say he doesn’t. Some say that we must maintain the Christian heritage of our nation, and others say that any mention of God and religion in public life is wrong. There are those who say that there is an absolute set of morals while others say that they are free to do anything they want to. Some people let their lives be governed by the voices of astrologers and clairvoyants – claiming to see into the future. Some people follow the voices of those who say that happiness comes through possessions not relationship and friendship.

And there is a perpetual stream of voices saying that if we buy this car, or that face cream, or this floor cleaner our lives will be instantly so much better.

Each of us has our own struggles, I guess, with working out how to live our lives in a complicated world. Working out which voices to listen to can be so complicated – and for some people it is simply overwhelming. The confusion is just too great. We feel harassed. …

To block out the voices, some turn to alcohol or drugs to bring respite from the need to make decisions. When voices that urge people to focus solely on their own needs become too strong, relationships can suffer and breakdown, or people can get into debt or a life of crime. Overwhelmed by voices that undermine self-confidence, mental health problems can emerge. These social problems are apparent in many areas of our cities, towns and in our neighbourhoods.

It is perhaps good, at least occasionally, for me to remind myself what priests are told as part of accepting their role. This is called the Bishop’s Charge and is read out in ordination services. This is the charge that the Bishop gave to my wife and I when we were ordained as priests:

Priests are called to be servants and shepherds among the people to whom they are sent. With their Bishop and fellow ministers, they are to proclaim the word of the Lord and to watch for the signs of God’s new creation. They are to be messengers, watchmen and stewards of the Lord; they are to teach and to admonish, to feed and provide for his family, to search for his children in the wilderness of this world’s temptations, and to guide them through its confusions, that they may be saved through Christ for ever.

Priests are called to be servants and shepherds among the people to whom they are sent … and to guide them through the world’s confusions. ….

A daunting task! Only possible with God’s Spirit at work in us! But this is not a task for priests on their own. It is a charge that was given, as our Gospel tells us, by Jesus to his disciples.

Filled with compassion at the confusion of the people around him, Jesus empowered his disciples to minister to them – to bring wholeness and healing to damaged lives. This task was on such a large scale that Jesus chose not to limit it to significant religious leaders, but to also use ordinary people, like you and me, to fulfil it. As people who follow Jesus, you share with your priests the task of reaching out to all in our parishes, and in our local communities wherever we live and work, who are confused, who feel harassed and worried, and whose lives are damaged.

Together, we all embody the Good Shepherd who seeks the lost and places them once again in God’s company – so that they may be whole, secure, safe and free from confusion and fear.

Co. Donegal Railways, Ireland – Part 3 – Petrol Railmotors

The Co. Donegal Railways were early adopters of modern technology, First, in the early 1900s, it was petrol railmotors with which they flirted. Later, they were the quickest narrow-gauge lines in the British Isles to adopt diesel railcars. This post looks at the Co. Donegal’s use of petrol railmotors! I have generally called the petrol-powered vehicles ‘railmotors’ and when I get round to looking at the later vehicles starting with No. 7, I will call them ‘railcars’!

When W.R. Lawson retired in 1910, Henry Forbes was appointed as Secretary and Traffic Manager. Forbes was an innovator. He realised very quickly that an increase in the number of stopping places would result in increased usage of the network. He introduced a number of new halts. He also introduced a number of improvements in many of the more established stations. And in a very short time he started to allow the railmotors and railcars he bought to stop anywhere on the network, not just at stations and halts. [1: p61-62]

A few years prior to his appointment, a tiny 4-wheeled railmotor had been purchased. It was just 6ft high and originally had a 10hp petrol engine. Its capacity was only 10 passengers. Because of its diminutive size, it was only infrequently used to cover passenger duties. Its main functions were the carriage of post and serving as a maintenance vehicle. [1: p60] There is an excellent study of this railmotor sitting in Stranorlar Station which was taken by H.C. Casserley. Peterson et al reproduce it in their book. [1: p114]

The Donegal Railway Heritage Centre posted a picture of the railmotor on Facebook,a long with the description beneath. [3]

”Even if this original … Railmotor … was used spasmodically, it had yielded valuable experience. In 1926, with the balance sheet insisting on lowered operating costs, Forbes decided that the time was ripe to show that his railway could give as flexible a service as the road omnibuses and a faster one withal.” [1: p60, cf. p114] It was preserved in its final version and is now housed at the Ulster Transport Museum. [4]Co. Donegal Railways Railmotor No. 1, (c) Ulster Transport Museum, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International. [5] The YouTube video below shows pictures of this railmotor in the museum at Cultra and a computer simulation of the railmotor in action on the Trainz simulation software produced by ‘ing4trainz’. [21]

Railmotors Nos. 2 & 3 which came from the DVLR. [22]

Railmotor No. 1 – A simulation by ING4Trainz. [22]

Given his experiences with the diminutive Railmotor No. 1, Forbes took a chance on a pair of Ford petrol-engined railcars. They came from the standard-gauge Derwent Valley Light Railway (DVLR) near York. They had been purchased by the DVLR in May 1924 at a total cost of £1070 with the intention of keeping the costs of transporting passengers to a minimum. “Each was built on a Ford 1‑ton truck chassis with bodywork by C.H. Roe Ltd of Leeds. Rated at 22hp, they weighed 2 tons 7 cwts, and were fitted with 17 seats.” [2] They were not popular with passengers on DVLR and were soon up for sale. Forbes bought them in June 1926 for a total of £480. By August 1926 the pair of railmotors were in Londonderry being converted to 3ft-gauge! [2]

There were a number of these railmotors, from a number of different manufacturers, in use on Light Railways around England at the time. A review of their use on the Colonel Stephens’ family of Light Railways can be found on the following link:

It is worth noting that Colonel Stephens took an interest in the two DVLR railmotors when they were put on the market. It seems likely that his expressed interest prevented Forbes negotiating a lower price for the vehicles. [1: p115]

These railmotors were usually used in pairs, back-to-back, but on the Co. Donegal Lines they were often used singly. (Although initially on the DVLR, they had been used as a pair, small turntables were installed at Layerthorpe and Skipwith in order to allow the units to be used singly.) Once available on the Co. Donegal Railways, these vehicles were “reasonably successful and lasted until 1934 when they were withdrawn from service.” [2]

Patterson et al. comment: “On the DVLR they had run in tandem, … but on the Donegal lines they were run separately. From the start, they operated regular passenger services: by modern standards they were noisy and subjected the passengers to considerable vibration, but their ability to stop anywhere was deservedly popular in a country of small farms and isolated cottages. Futhermore, the operating costs were only a fraction of those of orthodox steam trains:” [1: p60]  3.25d per mile rather than 11.25d per mile. It appears that Patterson et al were unaware of the use of small turntables on the DVLR.

I have managed to find one old photograph of this par of railmotors while in use on the DVLR at York – Layerthorpe Station. They look to be in as new condition. It has beenn impossible to establish the provenance of this photograph. [6]DVLR Railmotors in use at Layertorpe Sation near York. [6] These railmotors became Railmotors No. 2 and 3 on the County  Donegal railways.It is interesting that this photograph of one of the two railmotors (No. 2) after conversion for the Co. Donegal Railways is shown on the IRS website in an article from 1973 and it is credited to Dr. E.M. Patterson, [2] but the picture does not appear in the Book about the Co. Donegal Railways from Patterson et al. [1] … The changes are self-evident. The re-gauging to 3ft-gauge would have left the centre of gravity of the vehicle too high and as a result the body was lowered on the chassis which created a very different look. The rear wheels were almost hidden inside the bodywork.

Petrol Railmotors No. 2 and 3 were a success. Not an unqualified one, but nonetheless they resulted in a significant change of direction for the management of the Co. Donegal Railways. The future would be in the use of railcars rather than in the continued development of steam traction.

Patterson et al. comment that the alterations to the railmotors before they saw service on the Co. Donegal Railways took place at Dundalk rather than in the Northwest. They were ready for use in the Autumn of 1926. They did have some axle problems and during their lifetime saw their axles strengthened to be more in line with usual railway practice. [1: p117] But they served well until 1933 when they were beginning to be rather tired.Railcar/Railmotor No. 4 with the loco shed, water tower and carriage shed in Donegal Town, 1931. This picture was found on the Facebook group associated with the Donegal Railway Heritage Centre. (c) Sam Carse and held in the collection of the Donegal Railway Heritage Centre. [20]

Railmotor/Railcar No. 4 – a simulation produced by ING4Trainz. [22]

County Donegal Railcar/Railmotor No. 4, 16mm scale model for use on 45mm-gauge track, recently for sale on an internet-based sales platform. [18]

Co. Donegal Railmotor No. 4 – Model of the body shell which was for sale relatively recently on a internet-based sales platform. [15]

In 1928 they were joined by Railcar/Railmotor No. 4 which was also fueled by petrol. It was a significantly larger beast, based on a 30-cwt Ford chassis. Its size meant that it could not operate with a rigid chassis if it was to negotiate the tight curves on the network. It was therefore given a pony truck for the from axle. The vehicle was fully assembled by October 1928. Apart from some problems with its axles, the vehicle was again a success and lasted in service throughout the Second World War only being scrapped in 1947 after 19 years service. [1: p118]. There is a small scale drawing of this railmotor in Appendix 11 E.M. Patterson et al. [1: p173]

Appendix 8 of ‘The County Donegal Railways’ tells us that the petrol powered railmotors gradually gave way to diesel powered units but petrol continued to be a power source until the late 1940s. [1: p165]

We have already noted that Railmotor No. 1 was not scrapped but was eventually preserved at Cultra. Railmotors No. 2 and 3 were scrapped in 1934. They were replaced by two other units which were given the same designation. The new No. 2 was of a similar power to the one’s scrapped and arrived in 1934. It had a 22-hp engine but carried 30 rather than 17 people. It  came second-hand from the Castlederg & Victoria Bridge Tramway and remained in service until 1944 when it was converted to a trailer. It was not sold until 1961 when it was removed to Mountcharles in the South of Co. Donegal. The new No. 2 was a 24-seat railcar with a Fordson paraffin engine built in 1925 at Castlederg and referred to in the Wikipedia article about that line. [7] Although basic in design, that vehicle was capable of being driven from either end and the driver also sold the tickets.

I have not been able to find the drawings for the new No. 2, although I believe that they are included in E.M. Patterson’s book about the Castlederg and Victoria Bridge Tramway (C&VBT). [8] ING4Trainz do not appear to have produced a simulation for this railcar/railmotor either in its C&VBT guise or its CDR livery days. There is however a model of the railcar running on a layout which depicts the Castlederg terminus of the old Tramway which closed in 1933. It is a kit-built model from a Worsley Works kit, built by  Andy Cundick. [9],[10] The scale is OOn3.

Railmotor/Railcar No. 3 (new) which came from the D&BST – a simulation by ING4Trainz [22]

The new No. 3 came from the Dublin & Blessington Steam Tramway (D&BST) in 1934. It was also a larger vehicle than the old No. 3 with a passenger capacity of 40 and a 35-hp engine. The vehicle was built by the Drewry Car Co. Ltd. It arrived on the Dublin and Blessington Steam Tramway in 1926. It had two driving axles and two pony axles, and could be driven from either end. On that tramway it ran on a track gauge of 5ft 3in and so had to be converted to 3ft gauge. It operated successful on the Co. Donegal until 19….. when it was converted into a trailer and continued in active use until 19…….. “It is now the sole surviving vehicle from the old Dublin & Blessington Steam Tramway, residing at the transport museum at Cultra.” [11]

Shapways 3D-printed model of Drewry Railcar No. 3 [12]

A number of other pictures are available across the internet. There is an excellent study at [13] Some discussion about detailing of models of this vehicle can be found on the Irish Railway Modellers Forum. [14]

Railcar/Railmotor Trailer No. 5 ( and No. 2). A simulation by ING4Trainz. [22]

No. 5 in the series is a slight anomaly. The designation was given to the railmotor/railcar trailer which was purpose-built for that role. it had a 9ft wheelbase and was designed by the drawing office in Dundalk. A software simulation of the trailer has been produced by ING4Trainz. [22] The chassis was constructed by Knutsford Motors Ltd and the body by O’Doherty at Strabane. It weighed 3 ton 4.5-cwt and had sufficient room for 28 passengers. E.M. Patterson et al. say that the “trailer survived until the end of service on the CDR and was sold at auction in 1961 to Donegal Town football club, where its body was used as a cash-office. It was subsequently photographed in use as a holiday chalet in Rossnowlagh in 1965.” [1: p118] After an interesting ‘life’ out in the country it was brought down to Donegal Town Station and restored during the mid 1990s as part of exhibits at the Donegal Railway Heritage Centre. It was discovered by the local photographer, the late Conor Sinclair at Doochary, near Fintown. [16]

Trailer No. 5 in the garden of the Donegal Railway Heritage Centre. [17]

It was originally believed that Trailer No. 5 had been scrapped in the mid seventies but it had actually been towed to Doochary for use as a holiday home. It received a full body restoration at the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland premises in Whitehead, Antrim. This included new roof timbers and felting to make it watertight. The doors have been remade using the original patterns. The restoration effort was financed with the help of an Interreg IIIA European cross-border grant. [17]Trailer No. 5 in the process of being prepared to travel through the streets of Donegal on the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 2019. [19]

Railmotor/Railcar no. 6. [23]

No. 6 was also a petrol railmotor, although exactly which vehicles were railmotors and which were railcars is difficult to determine as often all of them were referred to as railcars. No. 6 was built  by Great Northern and O’Doherty and came into use in 1930. It had a 32hp petrol engine and weighed 5-ton 11-cwt.  It cost £900 when new and carried a maximum of 32 seated passengers. It was rebuilt as a 4-wheeled trailer in 1945 and then sold into private owenrship in 1958 and removed to Inver. [1: p165]

Patterson et al., say that “it ran on a front radial truck, arranged for side-play of 4.5 in. to take the worst curves on the system and on a rear driving bogie. … It mainly served on the Glenties and Ballyshannon lines.” [1: p119]

Railmotors/Railcars No. 9 and 10. [23]

No. 6 was the last purpose built petrol-powered railmotor/ railcar. After it, only two further petrol powered vehicles were commissioned for the network. They were No. 9 and No.10, both were converted road vehicles. They had seen service for 3 years on the demanding roads of West Donegal and were converted at Stranolarto run on the 3ft rails of the Co. Donegal railways. They were similar in appearance to No. 4 and were powered by 36hp  Ford petrol engines. Both had a seating capacity of 20. [1: p121] No. p lasted 16 years in service and was scrapped in 1949. No. 10 was destroyed in a fire at Ballshannon shed in 1939. [1: p165] They were distinguished from No.4 by having a short body panel in front of the access doors. This can be seen on the ING4Trainz simulation above and in the picture immediately below.Railcar No 9 in the shops at Stranorlar. In 1930 the CDR acquired four Reo buses second hand from the GNR. A few years on the Donegal’s poor roads reduced them to wreaks but Henry Forbes had the two in the best condition converted to Railcars. They had 20-seat bodies and were powered by 36hp petrol engines. No.10 was destroyed in an accidental fire in 1939 but No. 9 seen here lasted until 1949. This picture was found on the Facebook group associated with the Donegal Railway Heritage Centre. (c) Sam Carse and held in the collection of the Donegal Railway Heritage Centre. [24]


  1. Edward M Patterson (original author), Joe Begley & Steve Flanders (authors of additional material in the Revised Edition); The County Donegal Railways; Colourpoint Books, Newtownards, Co. Down 2014. As noted in my first article about the Co. Donegal Railways this was to have been my holiday reading while walking different parts of the network, but 2020 has been a strange year!
  2. R.R. Darsley; The Derwent Valley Railway 60 Years On; The Industrial Railway Record No. 51, p129-146;  https//, accessed on 28th May 2020.
  3., accessed on 29th May 2020.
  4., accessed on 29th May 2020.
  5.,_Cultra,_County_Donega_Railways_Joint_Committee_Railcar_No_1_(03).jpg, accessd on 29th May 2020.
  6., accessed on 1st June 2020. I have tied to establish copyright ownership of the image but have not be successful. The source of the image on the forum is Peter Kable, Kiama, Australia. He is no longer active on the forum. The image was posted on 26th January 2011.
  7., accessed on 2nd June 2020.
  8. E.M. Patterson; The Castlederg and Victoria Bridge Tramway;  Colourpoint, 1998.
  9., accessed on 2nd June 2020.
  10., accessed on 2nd June 2020.
  11., accessed on 3rd June 2020.
  13., accessed on 3rd June 2020.
  14., accessed on 3rd June 2020.
  15., 3rd June 2020.
  16., accessed on 4th June 2020.
  17., accessed on 4th June 2020.
  18., accessed on 4th June 2020.
  19., accessed on 4th June 2020.
  20., accessed on 5th June 2020. cf.
  21., accessed on 12th June 2020.
  22., accessed on 5th June 2020.


Gloucester Docks and Railways – Part 3 – Over Junction, the Llanthony Branch and Railways to the West Side of the Docks

We start our journey at Over. ……

Incidentally, local knowledge indicates that there was a station at Over Junction for a very short time in the 1990s. It might be one of the shortest-lived stations on the British railway network. Roger Smith says: “Over Junction Station was erected in 1998 I think when the River Severn was in flood and the was concern about the stability of the railway bridge. A temporary station was erected with a Park and Ride operating from there into Gloucester.” He sent me a photograph of the station to prove its existence. The platform was constructed in scaffolding. [56]

Over Junction on the GWR South Wales Main Line sat to the west of the West Channel of the River Severn, the Docks Branch Junction was immediately to the East of the West Channel. The two images immediately below show the old railway alignment prior to the reconstruction of the river crossing (the first is the small picture below). The next, modern, image shows the railway on it newer alignment just a very short distance south of the old line. The Railway Gazette of 4th May 1951 reported on the work to replace the old railway bridge which had been built by Brunel. which improved the alignment of tracks and eliminated a permanent 30 m.p.h. speed restriction on the main lines.

From the Railway Gazette of 4th May 1951, a copy of which is held in the Stephen Mourton collection, (c) Stephen Mourton. The Docks Branch is just leaving the GWR Mainline in the foreground. [2]

The Brunel designed and built bridge was built in 1850 and strengthened in 1880. It was built with wrought iron main girders which had circular (balloon-shaped) compression flanges and these were retained when the bridge was strengthened in the 1880s.

Before 1880, the bridge was supported on timber piles, and there were approach spans which were built entirely of timber. When it was strengthened, cast-iron piles and columns were employed, The original bridge had three river spans of approximately 73 ft. in length but bolted together to create a continuous series of beams which increased the load-capacity of the structure. The original bridge is shown in the small photograph above and is marked on the first map below. [2] 

An extract from the 4th Edition of the 25″ OS Map showing the two junctions on the South Wales Main Line – Over Junction and the Docks Branch Junction. [3]The same area in the 2020s. The old road bridge over the River Severn West Channel still shows up in between the railway and the modern A40, but the road over-bridge which crossed the GWR mainline between the West Channel and the flood relief bridge has disappeared completely. The Docks Branch has gone, as have the sidings either side of the Mainline to the West of the river channel. The branch to the North which served  Ledbury has also disappeared. Also gone by the 21st century is the truss bridge which appears on the first map and in the image below. [9]Up Parcels train from South Wales crossing the River Severn at Over Junction. By this date the railway had been realigned over the new bridge. The view looks westward, towards Chepstow, Severn Tunnel Junction, Newport etc. along the ex-GWR Gloucester – South Wales main line. On the left the line from Docks Branch Sidings and Gloucester Docks is joining, while beside Over Junction Box just across the river the branch to Ledbury (closed to passengers 13/7/59, goods 1/6/64) diverges right. In the distance an Up freight waits in Over Sidings. The locomotive on the Parcels is 4-6-0 No. 4956 ‘Plowden Hall’ (built 9/29, withdrawn 7/63). The scene is from the old A48 bridge over the railway at its junction with the A417 and just before crossing the river, (c) Ben Brooksbank. (Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0). The picture was taken in 1959. [4]

Photograph taken in 2012 and shows the Severn Bore passing under the railway bridge which carries the main Gloucester – Cardiff railway line. This was taken from the former road bridge built by Thomas Telford and now used only by pedestrians, (c) John Winder (Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0). [5]

Thomas Telford’s ‘Over Bridge seen from beneath the modern A40. It was built by Telford in the 1820s, and was, until the 1960s, the lowest bridging point on the Severn (actually only across its western arm). Now traffic-free, it was in use as a road until 1975., (c) Derek Harper (Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0). [6]

The Docks Branch and it’s sidings feature in Neil Parkhouse’s book, British Railway History in Colour Volume 1: West Gloucester & Wye Valley Lines which is now in its 2nd Edition. I have the 1st Edition and the later supplement which covers the additional material in the 2nd Edition. [1] In the first edition, the Llanthony Docks Branch features from page 33 onwards. In the supplement (p7) there is a superb image of a pannier tank leaving the GWR mainline and heading onto the Llanthony Docks Branch.

As we have noted the Llanthony Docks Branch left the GWR Mainline just to the East of the West Channel of the River Severn. it curved round to the South alongside what was the route of the A40. It ran through what is now Alney Island Nature Reserve. It’s route is shown on the plan immediately below by red dotted lines at each end and by the green-lined main footpath which predominantly follows the line of the old railway. The first half of the route is shown approximately in red on the satellite image below.The approximate route of the old railway branch (Google Maps) runs through what is now the Alney Island Nature reserve. The northerly end of the Over sidings on the Llanthony branch. The picture was taken looking to the Northwest soon after closure in the 1980s, (c) M.R. Phelan (CC BY-SA 2.0) [26]The former GWR Llanthony (Gloucester Docks) branch line at the western end of Over Sidings, shortly after closure when the track was still in-situ. 19th September 1989, (c) Roger Marks. [16]The northerly end of the Over sidings on the Llanthony branch. The picture was taken looking Southeast soon after closure in the 1980s, (c) M.R. Phelan (CC BY-SA 2.0) [27]

Two extracts from the 4th Edition of the 25″ OS Map showing the sidings immediately to the South of the South Wales Main Line on the Llanthony Docks Branch on Alney Island. [3]The BR map of the ex-GWR Gloucester Docks Branch Sidings Yard amended to November 1969. This is an amended drawing from the Stephen Mourton Collection. [15]

The remains of Over sidings on the ex-GWR Gloucester Docks branch. 19th September 1989, (c) Roger Marks. [18]

BR Pannier 0-6-0T active in Over Sidings in 1959. Notice the shunter’s truck behind the loco. The view looks SE from near Over Bridge, towards Gloucester Docks on the Over Branch, ex-GWR. Gloucester Docks was served by this branch from Over and also by an ex-Midland branch to the south at High Orchard and from Tuffley. ‘Modern’ ‘1600’ class 0-6-0T No. 1616 (built 12/49, withdrawn 10/59) has a spark-arrestor because of all the timber traffic dealt with at the Docks, (c) Ben Brooksbank (CC BY-SA 2.0) [7]

This YouTube video follows the route of the line in the early 21st century: [29]

Looking back Northwest along the route of the old railway from approximately the location of the junction with the Power Station sub-branch. [28]

From the sidings, the Branch continued South by Southeast towards a junction with a sub-branch which served Castle Meads Power Station.EAW021182 – Britain From Above. Castle Meads Power Station and environs, Gloucester, from the east, 1949. The Llanthony Docks Branch runs across the top of the image with the marshalling sidings just off the right side of the image. [8]This enlarged detail shows the Llanthony Branch heading towards the sub-branch which served the power station [8]An extract from the 25″ OS Map from the 1950s. The siding serving Castle Meads Power Station can be seen curving away from the docks branch at the bottom of the extract. [3] The Llanthony Branch – the disused former GWR branch from Over Junction to Llanthony Yard in Gloucester Docks. Seen here on 19th September 1989, it had closed a few years previously but the track had not yet been lifted, (c) Roger Marks. [14]Llanthony Branch – the former GWR Llanthony (Gloucester Docks) branch line shortly after closure when the track was still in-situ. 19th September 1989, (c) Roger Marks. [19]The junction where the spur that served Castle Meads power station diverged from the former GWR Gloucester Docks branch. 19th September 1989, (c) Roger Marks. [17]EAW021187 – Britian From Above. Castle Meads Power Station and environs, Gloucester, 1949. This superb panorama shows the full extent of the sub-branch or spur which served Castle Meads Power Sation and shows the Llanthony branch running into the docks sidings. [20]EAW021186 – Britain From Above. Castle Meads Power Station and environs, Gloucester, 1949. This photograph is taken looking North across the Power Station and again provdes a fullview of the sub-branch/spur. This time the Llanthony Sidings are fully visible. [25]

Wikipedia tells us that “Castle Meads Power Station was opened in December 1942. [22] It was built to replace the electricity supply from Gloucester Corporation’s works on Commercial Road. Castle Meads was one of two ‘war emergency’ stations intended to spread the risk due to war damage. [23] The other station was at Earley near Reading. … Coal was brought to the station by rail on the Great Western Railway’s Docks branch from Over, and by barge. [22][24] Once at the station, coal was transported toward the boilers by a fireless locomotive, one of only 162 ever built in Britain. It was built by Andrew Barclays of Kilmarnock in 1942, carrying the works number 2126. After the closure of the power station, the locomotive was preserved at the National Waterways Museum in Gloucester.” [21][24]

As we have noted, the power station was served by a fireless locomotive. There are a few photographs of this locomotive in its place of work in both monochrome and colour on flickr. Please follow these links:;;; [31]

After becoming redundant Andrew Barclay No. 2126 found its way into the collection of the National Waterways Museum at Gloucester Docks.Fireless 0-4-0 locomotive built by Barclay in 1942 (No.2126) for the Castle Meads Emergency Power Station, Gloucester in the livery of the CEGB. Withdrawn 1962. At the National Waterways Museum, Gloucester Docks in September 2009, (c) Hugh Llwelyn (Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0). [33]Another view of fireless 0-4-0 locomotive built by Barclay in 1942 (No.2126) for the Castle Meads Emergency Power Station, Gloucester in the livery of the CEGB. Withdrawn 1962. At the National Waterways Museum, Gloucester Docks in September 2009, (c) Andrew Bone (Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0). [34]

The sub-branch which served the power station extended beyond the coal loading facilities to a wharf on the bank of the River Severn. On the way it crossed a bridge which allowed flood drainage off the island. Tne YouTube video ( [29]) shows both the bridge below in its refurbished condition, and the wharf as it is in the early 21st century.The bridge on the short branch that served Castle Meads Power Station. The branch opened in 1943. It closed in 1970 and this section now forms a pathway linking a car park on the power station site to Gloucester Docks. 29th March 2009, (c) Roger Marks. [32] The bridge location is flagged on aerial image EAW021187 above.

The Docks branch continued Southeast from the junction with the spur to the power station and then crossed the river by means of a swing girder bridge.

The approximate route of the branch line as it approaches the docks sidings (Google Earth).

Looking back to the Northwest along the Branch line from the point marked ‘X’ on the satellite image immediately above. At this point the path for the nature reserve and the old railway route diverge, (c) John Winder (Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0). [30] This point can been picked out in the YouTube Video ( which then shows the area beyond the turn of the footpath going towards the bridge over the river. [29]).An extract from EPW024157 – Britain from Above. The River Severn Lock and the approaches to the Llanthony Bridge over the Eastern branch of the River Severn. [38] The sign in the colour photograph above is positioned just of the top left corner of this image.3D aerial image of the Lock in the 21st Century (Google Earth).An extract from EPW037837 – Britain From Above. This shows the embankment and approach spans to the Llanthony Swing Bridge which gave access across the River Severn  into Llanthony sidings. [37]Another extract from EPW037837 – Britain From Above. The Llanthony swing bridge over the branch of the River Severn and the footbridge which formed the gateway to the Llanthony Sidings. [37]A small extract from EAW012210 – Britain From Above. [36] This image shows the footbridge at Llanthony Road level-crossing and the first point at the throat of the sidings for the Docks in Gloucester.

Llanthony Swing Bridge from the North This bridge only ever carried single track. One thing not apparent in this view is that the track is still in place on the bridge, despite it being 25 years or so (at least) since the last train crossed, (c) John Winder (Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0) [42]

Llanthony Swing Bridge is, in the 21st Century, in a poor state of repair. The YouTube video we have been referring to already ( [29]), gives an overview of its condition. Roger Marks took the picture below in 2006.A track level view of Llanthony swing bridge, Gloucester. It carried the GWR Over Junction to Gloucester Docks branch over the eastern channel of the River Severn, (c) Roger Marks. 25th March 2006. [39]3D Image of Llanthony Swing Bridge in the early 21st century (Google Earth).2D satellite image of the swing bridge in the 21st century (Google Earth).Looking East under the Swing Bridge (c) John Winder (Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0) [40]

The swing bridge again. This photograph shows the former footbridge
Shot from directly underneath, this shows the parlous state of the old footbridge. Hidden by the steel bridge pier to the left of centre is the remains of the swinging mechanism, last operated in 1922, (c) John Winder (Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0) [41]

The original bridge was designed by Brunel. It had a span of 103ft which could be rotated to allow the passage of river traffic. Brunel’s design mirrored his design over the Western Channel of the River Severn which carried the GWR South Wales Mainline and which appears in a single image near the head of this article.

Hugh Conway-Jonest says that, “each girder was fabricated from iron plates riveted together, the upper flange being in the shape of a balloon and the lower flange triangular. The pivot was off-centre, so that two-thirds of the span’s length crossed the river passage and the shorter tail section carried more than enough additional weights to provide a counter balance, the excess being supported by two wheels running on a section of circular track. The main pivot was supported on a central group of six 14in square piles, and two side-wheels ran on a 6ft radius circular track supported by 14in and 12in piles.” [43: p19]

To facilitate the operation of the bridge, an hydraulic press was used to carry much of the weight of the swinging span, so reducing the load on the roller shells and permitting the bridge to turn easily. [43: p19]

Hugh Conway-Jones continues: “The importance of this design is that it is believed to be the first railway swing bridge to use hydraulic power. … By using an hydraulic press to lift the span, the load on the wheels was much reduced, making turning much easier.” [43: p20]

In 1890 and 1891 a 5 month closure of the bridge was required to replace the timber pier supporting the pivot of the bridge with cast iron cylindrical columns. By 1899 it was necessary to replace the swinging section of the bridge with a riveted steel span, Possibly due to a failure of the hydraulic system. It seems as though it was necessary to employ horses to turn the bridge span. Hugh Conway-Jones says: “Because of the length of time this could take, the foreman in charge of the railway yard frequently refused to open the bridge because it formed part of the railway shunting yard.” [43: p21]

The 1899 structure remains in place in the 21st century. Rails are still in place but the structure appears not to be in the best of conditions.

Immediately East of the swing bridge a footbridge was installed to allow pedestrians to pass when the level-crossing at Hempsted Lane had to be closed to permit shunting movements.Llanthony Road level crossing and its distinctive Tubewright footbridge. The crossing took the road across the former GWR branch from Over Junction to Llanthony Quay in Gloucester Docks. The line closed in the mid 1980s. This part of Llanthony Road has now become the A430 and instead of curving to the right it now carries straight on, crossing the river and joining the A417 at Over Causeway. (c) Roger Marks, 19th September 1989. [35]Looking North early in the 21st century, the footbridge is a distant memory. It sat approximately in front of the grey panelling. The old road curved round to the right at this point (Google Streetview).An extract from EPW037837 – Britain From Above. Llanthony Dock Sidings in 1932 view from the West. the footbridge frames the entrance to the Yard. [37]

As can be seen in the aerial image above, the single line which crossed the River Severn branched out into extensive sidings that terminated just short of the Western quay wall of the canal/docks. Branching away to the left of the above photograph is a branch which ran between the River Severn and the docks, eventually crossing the northern locks which provided access from the docks to the river and linking with the sidings on the East side of the docks. To the right of the picture, running behind the buildings which can be seen on the right of the image, another siding served the southern quayside of the docks and ran further down the canal.Llanthony Railway Yard as shown on the 1st Edition of the 25″ Ordnance Survey Maps. This extract shows the Yard at a relatively early stage in its development in broad-gauge days. Later editions show some changes. The lines running North were mixed gauge as the GWR and MR shared them. Crossing Lanthony Bridge to the right of the extract was a line crossing the bridge connecting the two sides of the dock basin.[44]Llanthony Railway Yard as shown on the 4th Edition of the 25″ Ordnance Survey Maps. This map extract better reflects what can be seen on the aerial photograph of the Yard above. Immediately to the North of Llanthony Priory the buildings to the right of the aerial image can be seen, these were sheet works used for the repair and conditioning of the tarpaulins used to cover open wagons. [43: p21] The large building at the centre-bottom of this extract (and the top-right of the following extract) is a transit shed which according to Conway-Jones, “provided space for temporary storage and customs inspection of goods being transferred from ships to railway wagons. It was particularly used for handling cargoes (principally sugar) imported by the regular steamers of the Bristol Steam Navigation Company.” [43: p21] In addition to these changes, a link curves from the North side of the Yard to the quayside where the sidings have been developed to improve access and to serve the transit shed. To the North of Llanthony Road the arrangements are much as they were on the 1st Edition Map. By this time all of the track shown on the map extract would have been standard-gauge. [44]By the time of this later map series, this extract for the OS Map shows that the railway company had extended their lines to the south of Llanthony Yard to serve premises around the new Monk Meadow Dock. [44]Looking South from Llanthony Railway Yard along the Canal Quay with the ex-GWR transit shed on the right, (c) Roger Marks. [45]A few steps further South looking South along the side of the Transit Shed again, (c) Roger Marks. [46]Looking North along the transit shed on the GWR’s Llanthony Quay in Gloucester Docks. 16th April 1991. The site is now part of the campus of Gloucestershire College of Art and Technology, (c) Roger Marks. [47]An extract from EAW012211 – Britain From Above. This image provides a view of the GWR transit shed in 1947 across the Llanthony Secunda Priory site. [48]

Looking South along Llanthony Quay in 2020 (Google Earth) The large building(s) on the site of Llanthony Railway Yard make up the campus of Gloucestershire College of Art and Technology. Llanthony Road is at the bottom of the image and the new St. Ann Way at the top. Llanthony Quay extends beyone the top of the image by some hundreds of yards to Monk Meadow Dock.

Llanthony Quay extended south along the canal to Monk Meadow Dock which was opened in 1892 to provide additional quay-space for the timber trade, and it was later used for receiving petroleum products. To the south of the dock, Monk Meadow Quay was built beside the canal in 1965 for the discharge of timber from motor coasters. [49]

Monk Meadow Dock is shown on the aerial images below The first is taken looking West across the Gloucester and Berkeley Canal in 1928.

The second looks North across Monks Meadow Dock right along the Llanthony Quay to the Llanthony Railway Yard. It was taken in 1932 and is an excellent study of the use of these sidings and the Yard.

The transit shed at Monk Meadow can be seen on the first image looking bright and new to the right-hand side of the Dock. It is centre-left on the North side of the Dock in the second image.An extract from EPW024167 – Britain From Above. This image shows Monk Meadow Dock in 1928. [50]An extract from EPW037836 – Britain From Above. Looking North towards the Main Basin of the Docks with Monk Meadow Dock visible in the foreground and Llanthony Railway Yard towards the top of the extract. [51]A view looking East through the canopy of the transit shed at the West end of the North side of Monk Meadow Dock in 1992. The dock is now a marina, (c) Roger Marks. [54]A view of the transit shed on the south side of Monk Meadow Dock. It was taken in the 1950s and is included here by kind permission of Paul Barnett of the Friends of Purton. Paul is the author of  ‘Fore and Aft… Lost Ships of the Severn Sea.’ [52][53] The presence of the oil storage tanks on the horizon point towards this being the shed on the south side of the Dock.

As well as the quayside rails, a branch from Llanthony Yard ran south behind the transit shed on Llanthony Quay and then crossed Abbey Road to serve an number of oil storage depots and provide good access to Monk Meadow Docks sidings as shown on the map extract below. The sinuous curve of these lines is well illustrated on the map extract and on the Aerial image next below.

An extract from EAW012196 – Britain from Above. The extract shows the route of the branch running on the West side of the Industrial Area and serving Monk Meadow Dock. The photograph was taken in 1947. [55]

An extract from the 4th Edition 25″ OS Map. [44]

This next map extract shows the area around the timber holding pond which was created to prevent imported timber drying out before onward shipment. Railway lines ran both quayside to the East of the pond and on the West. On the extract below we have our first look at the New Docks

An extract from the 4th Edition 25″ OS Map. [44]

The length of the canal south of Gloucestershire College of Art and Technology is shown as it is in the early 21st century on these satellite images from Google Maps.


Branch on this side of the canal. Installed by the LMS to gain access to the sidings on the West of the Canal. We followed the route of this line on the East side of the Canal to the point where it crossed to the Hempsted side of the Canal.

The quayside lines and the New Docks Branch continue South along the West side of the Canal for only a short distance with the New Docks Branch (or the Hempsted Branch turning to cross the Canal as shown on this next map extract.

The New docks branch and the bridge over the canal are long-gone. The area has been extensively developed as housing. The first satellite image extends from the College in the North, across St. Ann Way, past Monk Meadow Dock which is now a marina and further along the canal-side. Domestic dwellings on The West side of the canal sit within a stone’s throw of significant industrial premises to the East.

The new road has been built along the line of the ancient New Docks Branch. The approximate alignment of the old railway is shown on the second of the two images at the point where it curved towards the canal , crossing it on a swing bridge which was removed in the middle of the 20th century.

This brings us to the end of our study of the railways associated with Gloucester Docks. There is more to consider further to the South at Sharpness Docks but those docks and their railways need to be left for another occasion. We have literally only looked at a very short length of the Canal. There is so much more to explore along its length and in the areas either side of its route.

A useful point to start an exploration on line is on the website owned by Hugh Conway-Jones who is an acknowledged expert on the history of the docks and the canal. The link to that website is:





  1. Neil Parkhouse; British Railway History in Colour Volume 1: West Gloucester & Wye Valley Lines; Lightmoor Press Ltd, Lydney, Gloucestershire. cf., accessed on 1st June 2020.
  2. New Bridge at Over Junction, Western Region; in The Railway Gazette 4th May 1951, p565, found at which also carries additional information and a parallel article which was first published in the BR ‘Western Region News.’ The latter article covers the construction of the newer bridge. Gloucester Railway Memories us a site complied by the author Stephen Mourton. He comments: “This website is completely non-commercial and compiled purely as a hobby, I hope that readers will find it of interest. All articles are copyright of the author and may not be reproduced without permission. … I don’t mind others using my copyright pictures on another website provided that it is non-commercial use.”
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Trinity Sunday – 7th June 2020

Think of the smallest child you know. It might be one of your own, or a grandchild, a nephew, a niece or a neighbour’s child.

Almost inevitably, the clothes they wear are endearing.

We have a neo-natal knitting group in our Parish which meets at Holy Trinity Church and Community Centre on a Wednesday. You can find out more about them at the bottom of this reflection. They make some of the most wonderful, the most amazing small things which contribute to keeping delicate little ones alive and well. Their work is much appreciated by the hospitals they work for.

Little clothes suit tiny people! You and I need something a little bigger to wear. And during this time of crisis, I am finding that some of the things I normally wear are getting gradually tighter.

Nevertheless, if I was to ask you to put on a small child’s jumper, you’d look at me as though I was being daft. I guess you would probably tell me that you were too large, or that the jumper or cardigan was too small.

It is Trinity Sunday this weekend. It is the patronal festival for Holy Trinity Church, one of the five churches in our Parish of the Good Shepherd, Ashton-under-Lyne. This is often a Sunday when clergy struggle to help us understand what God is like. It is as though, if we try once again, we might just this year be able to explain the Trinity. We come up with a whole range of different images which are helpful to some extent but which never quite work. I guess we wind up proving something very important – that our minds are too small to comprehend fully what God is like!

We all do it. We often expect God to be able to fit into our human-sized minds. So, when we think about God we come up with all sorts of questions, like: How can God possibly be able to hear us all praying at once?

What we mean when we ask such questions, is that we know a human being could not do that, so it must be impossible for God as well.

Or perhaps we say something like – everything has to begin somewhere, everything has a beginning, so God too must have had a beginning!

It is so hard to understand God. So often, when we ask these kinds of questions, it is the same as holding out a child’s jumper; holding out our small human shape (or jumper) and expecting God to climb into it. And, of course, God does not fit, because God is so much bigger and deeper and wider and higher than any human being can comprehend.

God is so different. God is always going to be full of wonderful mystery for us. However much we learn about God, however clever we are, however much we think about God, we will always struggle to understand God. We will never be able to hold God’s nature in our minds and understand God, no more than a child’s sweater can hold someone like me.

So, does that mean that we cannot know God? Not at all! We are not at the moment able to make physical contact with other people outside our own household. But just imagine if we could walk across a room and shake hands with another person. Imagine talking with someone you don’t know, finding out things about them.

You might ask questions like these:  How old are you? What do you do during the week? How many people are in your family? What is your favourite colour? What music do you like listening to?

We don’t need to completely understand someone before we can become friends. Indeed, being friends is partly about discovering new things about each other and about sharing together in discovering things around us.

Just because God is God and I am a human being – it does not mean that we cannot be friends. There are people in our church communities who talk with God everyday! Did you know that? It is called praying. And if you ask them, they might well tell you that God is the person that they love and trust best in their lives!

We’ve been given a lifetime to get to know God really well and to live as his friends. Sometimes we waste that time,at other times we realise that nothing else matters as much as knowing God and how much God loves us.

Sometimes we can’t be bothered to talk about God, or sometimes we let our behaviour suggest that God isn’t worth knowing, sometimes we are unkind of difficult or rude or selfish. But at other times we feel such love for God that we cannot wait to tell other people. And sometimes our loving behaviour speaks of God too.

God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is wonderful and all-knowing. God is the maker of the universe and of each one of us. God is the one who came as Jesus to die to love and save us. God is present in and with his people, living in us as the Holy Spirit. We cannot possibly expect to fully understand a God as amazing as that!

The fact that God is great and full of holy mystery should make us excited not frustrated. It should encourage us to get to know God more. But, ultimately, if I could get a hold on God, if I could fit God into my small mind then God wouldn’t be God.

I wonder how big a jumper we’d need for God to fit in it?

Neonatal Knitters are a community group who knit, crochet and sew items for the Neonatal units of Tameside, St Mary’s and Royal Oldham hospitals.  We meet every Wednesday 10.30 – 1.00 at Holy Trinity Church and Community Centre.  We are a very friendly bunch and welcome new members from our community.  Unfortunately, we cannot include children in our group for safety reasons and we do not have the capacity to teach people to knit or crochet.  For more information please drop into the group any week, check out our Facebook page (Neonatal Knitters) or email us on