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The Railways of Orkney – Part 3

This is my final post about the railways of Orkney, I think. ……………

Since returning from the Orkneys, I have received a copy of Wilfred F. Simms book, “The Railways of Orkney.” It was published in 1996 and appears to be out-of-print. This copy came via an on-line sales site that we all know.

Simms’ book is a short A5-sized book and simply typeset. It is a mine of information on the railways of Orkney. Before we look as some of the historic built railways it is worth noting that Orkney had its own plans for a public railway as early as 1876 – The Kirkwall to Stromness Railway. John Buchanan assessed the feasibility of the line and advised that 3’0″ gauge should be adopted, “as in the Isle of Man, and that the ‘proposed line would commence at Kirkwall at or near The Ayre on the Peeries Sea and follow the course of the highway by Finstown and Stenness and terminate at or near the present Steamboat Quay at Stromness’. Route length would have been 14.5 miles and the line would present ‘no engineering difficulty’, intermediate stations would have been at Finstown and Stenness. Total cost of the line was estimated at £50,000.” [1: p28] it did not get built!

More recently, in 1977 a local businessman, Ronald Spiers imported a standard gauge steam loco from Scotland intending to create a tourist line near Kirkwall. Various difficul;ties arose and after time spent languishing in a field  near Kirkwall the loco was returned to Scotland. {1: p28]

A. Industrial Railways

Simms focusses first, in his book, on the industrial railways of Orkney which include a Herring Railway, lighthouse railways, shipbreaking railways and quarry railways

Herring Railways

Herring were, for a period of time, very significant to the economy of Orkney. ” Railways were often associated with the herring fishing and curing industry in both Shetland and Scandinavia: but only one such system is definitely recorded for Orkney. It is possible that narrow gauge railways were used in other Orkney fishing stations but only at Papa Steinway do actual relics remain to this day in the form of piers, sheds, railway track and trucks.” [1:p4]

The largest centre of the industry was Stromness. It became so by 1898 but was abandoned by the fleet within ten years. It may have used narrow gauge track during that time but rails were often used solely as guideways along which to roll herring barrels rather than as a railway with trucks. This practice occurred on Papa Stronsay as can be seen in one of the three sepia images below.

“Stronsay and Papa Stronsay had extensive gutting and curing sheds and new piers were  constructedto allow larger boats to berth: these ports remained the most important of the Orkney centre right up into the 1930s when the introduction of factory techniques, larger boats, depletion of stocks, and ultimately the Second World War stopped North Sea fishing.” [1:p4]

On Papa Stronsay the original stone “Bountifur pier with its wooden extension was laid with 1’8″ gauge track and a number of small four-wheel wood-framed hand-propelled trucks used to transport the fish from the moored boats to the curing sheds. A further three lightweight metal piers were constructed on the south shore to the east of the stone pier using a mixture oMf old rails and girders: these linked with a second area of curing and gutting sheds.” [1:p4]The herring fleet at Papa Stronsay! [2]The pier at Papa Stronsay, notice the stacks of Herring Barrels. [2] Workers roll barrels of salted herring down the pier to a waiting ship. [2]The rails on the quay leading to the pier, note the people at work preparing the herring and the stacks of barrels again. [2]Later in the history of the industry a calmer image from the 1930s! [3]

Lighthouse Railways

It is interesting to note that there were a number of short railways associated with the work of the Northern Lighthouse Commissioners.

Stromness Service Depot built it’s own gasworks in 1904 and installed 2’6″ gauge track of a length of 70 yards to facilitate the movement of coal by small hand-worked trucks into its store on the west side of the pier. Later, it installed a 25 yard section of standard gauge track to assist in moving large buoys on a single flat four-wheeled truck. [1: p5]The narrow gauge track at Stromness referred to above. [4]

Sule Skerry is one of a pair of small islands which lie 30 miles to the west of Orkney mainland. A lighthouse was built, commencing in 1892 and in 1894 a 2’6″ gauge inclined railway was installed between the lighthouse and the two possible landing places on the rock. A small haulage engine was installed close to the lighthouse tower so that a cable could be used to operate the two sections of the railway. Usage was dependent on prevailing weather and tides. Simms says that, “a single four-wheeled truck was used to transport heavy stores. … The railway appears to have continued in intermittent use until the 1970s. The tower has since been converted to an automatic light and all deliveries of materials are made by helicopter. The derelict railway remains in-situ slowly corroding away in the salt spray.” [1: p5]A landing at Sule Skerry, the railway track and wagon are visible in the image. [5]

Copinsay is a small island east of the Orkney mainland. Construction of a light house on this island started in 1914. Construction materials were brought by steamers and unloaded via a pier built for the purpose at the west end of the island. A railway of about three-quarters of a mile in length was installed which took supplies from the low western shores to the high cliff-top location of the lighthouse on the eastern cliffs. Steam winches were used to haul flat trucks from the pier to the construction site.The line is now long-gone and the island is a bird sanctuary. However, the course of the old railway can still be picked out as a grassy track running up the spine of the island. [1: p6] This image shows the route of the railway up from the low western area of the island in 2009, (c) Richard Evans. [6]

The Mail Boat Railway North Ronaldsay

North Ronaldsay pier is the only pier which was served by a permanent standard gauge railway. A 100 yard line linked the pier to the boat storage yard and was in use until sometime in the 1960s. [1: p6]North Ronaldsay Pier in 2007. The railway can be seen set into the pier surface. [7]

The Shipbreaking Industry

In 1924, Cox and Danks, Lyness, Hoy purchased  28 of the German naval vessels which were part of the scuttled German High Seas Fleet. The raising of these vessels would at the time been one of the worlds greatest salvage feats. In the winter of 1924, a fully equipped breakers yard was established.The Hindenburg heeling over to starboard on the first attempt at raising her in 1926. She appears to be alongside a pier and a railway is visible in the foreground. [8]The sheer scale of this operation is unimaginable without the photographic evidence! [9]

Simms says: “Little is known of the railway system in use at this time: although sections of both 2’0″ and 4’8.5″ gauge remained in-situ at the former naval base. What is clear is that at least one steam locomotive was in use on the 4’8.5″ gauge lines throughout Cox and Ranks tenure of the base.” [1: p7] When the battle cruiser Moltke was being dismantled alongside the pier, the existing standard gauge railway on the pier was “diverted by piles onto the ships hull and laid along its length. A steam locomotive hauled a small crane onto the hull and openings were cut through which heavy machinery was removed. This system was then applied in the case of the ships, Bremse, Seydlitz and Kaiser.” [1: p7]

In 1931, the Allow Company, later known as Metal Industries, Lyness, bought out Cox and Danksand continued operating from the old naval base. “It is known that the steam locomotive was still in operation in 1937 when the Friedrich der Grosse was towed south for scrap.” [1: p7] In 1939 ship-raising was abandoned as the naval base became operational once again.

Stone Quarries

Many of the stone quarries in Orkney were used for road stone and had short lengths of narrow gauge track installed to assist with moving materials from the working face to the crushing plant.

Orkney County Council Quarry Lines were generally worked on an ad-hoc basis with track and equipment being moved as required. “At all sites lightweight 2’0” gauge ‘Jubilee’ type was used with wagon turntables rather than points. Track was moved along the working dace as work progressed, and the loaded trucks pushed to the foot of a cable-operated incline leading to the crushing plant. … By the mid-1960s this system still operated in Cursiter Quarry on  Mainland, and Lythes Quarry on South Walls (Hoy).” [1: p8] Records indicate that this system was also used in the past at a number of different quarries on Mainland (Chinglebraes,Harray, Orpjir, St. Ola, Springfield and Work well) and at North School Quarry on Stronsay.

Private Quarry Lines were established at Quoys Quarry near Linkness at the northern end of Hoy and at the Witter Quarry west of The Ayre (connecting South Walls with the rest of Hoy).

B. Contractor’s Railways

Lyness Naval Base, Hoy  had been recognised as strategically important well before the outbreak of the first world war but it was not until late 1914 that work was commenced at the site. The contractor was Baldry, Yerbergh & Hutchinson. One of their sub-contractors, the Glasgow firm, Kinnear & Moodie, installed a railway to transport stone from a quarry to the main wharf construction site. This is likely to be the first locomotive-worked rail system in Orkney. It operated from 1914 to around 1920 when work on the base was suspended.

The railway was 2’0″ gauge and used two or three small German-built tank locos rated at 20hp. They brought a series of small skip wagons from the quarry.

In 1917, a standard gauge railway was installed “to assist in construction of both the main wharf and RN Fuel Depot facility by either another of the contractors … or … by the Admiralty itself. … Evidence shows large wooden-bodied side-tipping wagons in use at the base.” [1: p9]

Two standard gauge steam locomotives were operating on the site until 1920 when the operation was scaled back and abandoned. The two track gauges were probably used by Cox & Danks and definitely during WW2.

The Underground Oil Storage Tanks, Wee Fea, Hoy were situated above and behind the naval base. The need for these tanks was recognised in 1926 but construction did not start until 1938. It was September 1942 before the first storage tank was completed and August 1943 before all six were finished. [1: p10] The images below show the surface evidence of the tanks.The first image above  highlights how well disguised the oil tanks in the hillside at Wee Fea were. [10]

The second image (adjacent) shows a ventilation shaft. [10]

The third image, below, shows the main entrance route into the tunnels and tanks as it appears in the 21st century. [10]

Further below are some internal images, more of which can be seen on the Canmore (National Record of the Historic Envionment) website. [10]Spoil was removed using a 2’6″ gauge railway. Good quality rock was transported by road to assist in the construction of the Golden Wharf in Lyness. Substandard spoil was disposed of on the hillside. Two diesel locomotives were recorded as working in the project.”Eventually the railway exceeded a mile in length, and ran partway round the hillside (virtually on the 400′ contour) by means of a substantial embankment: connecting the two main adits and quarrying sites.” [1: p10] The following images show some of the interior of the underground site.

The Burray-Hunda Causeway strengthened and enlarged the natural causeway between Burry and Hunda. Initially it had been intended to use clay to undertake this work. Storms proved how inadequate this would be and as a result a 2’0″ railway was constructed from the site of the causeway to a suitable quarry on Burray. This railway was lengthened as required during the work. “‘Jubilee’ type side-tipping trucks were filled at the quarry by a Ruston-Bucyrus digger and hauled to site by small diesel locomotives, of which two were recorded in use at this location.” [1: p11]This causeway became part of an inner submarine defence stretching from Flotta via the Calf of Flotta and Hunda to Burray. A removable boom linked the Calf of Flotta to Hunda. This was perceived as necessary after the sinking of HMS Royal Oak in 1939.The Hunda Causeway seen from Burray. [11]

The Churchill Barriers were the considered long-term response to the sinking of HMS Royal Oak in 1939. The blocking ships clearly failed to prevent the access by the U-47 submarine and better defences were required.  11th May 1940 saw the start of work on the barriers when an advance party of men and equipment arrived and were conveyed by barges to Lamb Holm and Glimps Holm to set up temporary camps and construct piers. Mobilisation took time and it was not until August 1941 that construction of Barriers 1,2 and 3 (as shown on the adjacent satellite image) commenced.

Simms says:

“The magnitude of the project is not so easy to appreciate today as we now live in an era where gigantic machines can gouge out undersea tunnels: but at its time the building of the barriers was an enormous (and somewhat unproven) project. Much of the initial work was carried out using fairly simple equipments and an enormous amount of muscle power.

Wartime restrictions and the deployment of many of the contractor’s men on other projects left them very short of able-bodied men and the decision was taken to send Italian prisoners of war to the islands to assist in building the barriers – which from then on became known as causeways so as not to breach the Geneva convention. Most of the Italians had been captured in North Africa and the climatic change must have been quite a shock. … At the height of the construction period in mid-1943 about 200 contractors and 550 Italians were employed on the four causeways. The prisoners finally left the islands in Spring 1945.

Records show that the construction of the barriers used 24 cranes, 58 locomotives of 2’0″ and 3’0″ gauges, 260 wagons and 10 miles of railways. The number of locomotives quoted seems excessive and subject to some doubt when one considers that at their maximum the railways only extended to slightly over four route miles. Extensive research by railway societies and others has only resulted in about fifteen locomotives being positively identified. Many of the steam locomotives came from reservoir construction projects in the United Kingdom, some of the diesels (after overhaul and conversion from metre gauge) from the Balfour Beatty Kut Barrage contract in Iraq.

The construction method chosen was to lay barriers of stone rubble or stone in wire mesh baskets (bolsters) until water level was reached and then cement blocks were placed along either side of the rock barrier to prevent the tide from sweeping over the causeway itself. The primary construction phase was carried out by end or side tipping from railway trucks, end tipping by lorries and dumper trucks, or by use of the aerial cableways constructed across each barrier which could accurately place both rock and blocks. The barrier foundations used more than a quarter of a million tons of rock and stone, and the causeways on top used over 50000 blocks of concrete. Total length of the barriers constructed is about 11/2 miles, in places over water 59 feet deep.” [1: p12]

2’0″ gauge railways were used to remove overburden and waste at the quarries. 3’0″ gauge was used for the ‘mainlines’ which transported rock and concrete blocks. Standard or broad gauge was used for the cranes in the block yards and on the causeways.

Causeway No. 1 was completed by April 1943. Work started at the northern end. Lorries were used for delivery of quarried stone. Rail was used, both standard gauge and 3ft gauge, to link the blockyard to the West of the causeway to the causeway work site. The standard gauge was used by the stream cranes. The 3ft gauge lines were used both to bring material to the block making area and to transport completed blocks to the causeway. The block yard on the mainland closed in June 1944. [1: p13] On Lamb Holm, materials were landed at the new pier and a large quarry was excavated to the East. The quarry made use of 2ft gauge lines and a 3ft gauge line ran from the quarry “in a westerly direction past the head of Barrier No. 2 and around the island edge (past the contractor’s power station) to the south end of No. 1 barrier, it’s cableway and blockyard.” [1: p14]

Lamb Holm blockyard was established in March 1943, standard gauge track was used for the steam cranes and 3’0″ gauge served the whole complex. The yard closed after 15 months of use.

Causeway No. 2 linked Lamb Holm with Glimps Holm. It was just over 2000ft long. As elsewhere, 2’0″ gauge lines were used to remove quarry overburden with tracks being moved as required. A 3’0″ gauge line linked the new pier (constructed in 1940) with first the quarry and then the base of the cableway. Later the line was extended onto the causeway to allow wagons to be end-tipped. Earthworks for the line are still visible.Glimps Holm: a view West along the railway track bed towards the quarry, taken in 1987. [1: p16]

Simms says that ” owing to the island’s isolation, it is highly probable that diesel rather than steam locomotives were used. The railway operated from mid-1940 until October 1942.” [1: p14] By October 1942, the quality of the rock from the quarry had deteriorated and it was decided to source stone for the barrier from Lamb Holm.

Causeway No. 3 linked Glimps Holm with Burray, a distance of around 1400ft. It was effectively complete in May 1943. The most extensive railway network was to be found on Burray.

A new pier was constructed near Ward Point and a large quarry opened close to it. A blockyard was established below a workers camp at Warebanks in September 1942. A 3’0″ gauge railway was installed from the pier to Warebanks and onto barrier No. 3. The railway was then extended towards Northfield at North Links to obtain sand for the blockyard.

Simms commented in 1996: “Substantial relics of the line’s earthworks remain, including a deep cutting near Ward Point quarry … and the base of a locomotive shed just west of the A961.” [1: p23]The north of Burray. Ward Point quarry is to the left of the image on the coast. As far as I can tell, the red line shown on the satellite image below is the approximate line of the 3’0″ railway on the north coast of Burray.There was a further Causeway on south side of Burray, linking it with South Ronaldsay.Sketch plans of the railways on Burray and Lamb Holm. [18]

Causeway No. 4 – work on this causeway did not start until July 1942 and it was built by May 1943. It was about 2000ft long. Work started at the north end on Burray where the contractor’s power station and blockyard were situated. A 3’0″ guage railway was laid from Burray Village Pier via a reversal to the blockyard which sat above Sea Taing and Housebreck quarry (where 2’0″ gauge lines were in use). Standard gauge tracks were used for the steam cranes. The blockyard closed in June 1944.

At the South end of the causeway, Balfour beatty sublet the work to Willian Tawse & Co., a Perth based firm. Rock from the quarry on Eastside proved unsatisfactory and a new quarry was opened up at Hoxa to the West of St. Margaret’s Hope. Road vehicles brought the stone to a loading point at Carra Point. “A twin track 3’0″ gauge railway was extended forwards onto the causeway in the direction of Burray as work progressed: rapid progress was made.” [1: p23] Diesel locomotives were employed here. No relics remain at this site. Interestingly sand has built up so much on the eastern side of the barrier that it is impossible to believe that there was ever open water there. The amount involved is actually staggering! As can be seen below.The view of the newly developed sand dunes from Google Streetview, taken from the south end of the causeway!The view from the North end in 2014.

C. Military Railways

The Army was very limited in its use of railways in Orkney. Use was limited to 2’0″ lines linking storage huts at Muckle Rysa Camp on Hoy and at Houton and Stromness Camps on Mainland. There was also an inclined railway at Scad Head Battery on Hoy. [1: p24] This was “a self-acting incline about 900 yards long to serve a gun battery at Scad Head half way along the totally unpopulated section of the north-east coast of Hoy. The line ran from a camp set on top of a hill to the emplacement on the clifftop below, but it has been removed so effectively that even its gauge is now in doubt.” [18]WW2 Army building Muckle Rysa. [12]WW2 Engine House, Muckle Rysa. [13] Two images from Houton Battery on Mainland. [14]Stromness Army Camp during WW2. [15]

The Royal Airforce deployed balloons during World War 1 for observation purposes around Scapa Flow. During World War 2, unmanned barrage balloons were introduced to force enemy planes to fly higher or to damage and bring down aircraft. [1:p24]

“To defend the naval anchorage at Scapa, a special Squadron was created. The advance party arrived in Orkney in January 1940 and headquarters set up on Ore Hill above Lyness. Balloons were flown from sites on Hoy, Flotta, Fara and from trawlers moored in the Flow. [16] A second Squadron was formed in summer 1940.” [1: p24]

Ore Hill Balloon Depot, Hoy had a 40″ gauge man-powered railway to assist with moving gas cylinders which made use of a home-built wood-bodied flat wagon.

Rinningill Hydrogen Gas Factory, had a 2’0″ gauge railway installed on a newly constructed steel pier on Ore Bay which ran to an inland storage area reached by a steep incline. Eventually this small network included the factory and reach about 250 yards in extent. Simms says that in 1991, parts of the line were still visible . The pier was, by that time, in a dangerous state.

Fara Balloon Sites – Fara provided a natural protection to Lyness and was ideal for the deployment of barrage balloons. There were 6 balloon site on the island and a 2’0″ gauge railway was installed around a lot of the coastland of the island to service those sites. Gas was shipped from the Rinnigill Factory to Fara Pier and moved round the island on small flat four-wheeled trucks by a 20hp Ruston &Hornsby diesel locomotive.

Flotta Balloon Sites – at the advent of the war, Flotta was heavily fortified and used as a huge camp with an adjacent storage and supply base. A 2’0″ gauge railway was installed on the island which linked the older stone fishing pier to the new concrete ferry pier and to the base storage areas. The length was probably no more than 150yds. “By 1990, only a few corroded rails along the shore and an upturned metal truck chassis complete with wheels and axle-boxes remained, just below the high-tide mark Southwest of the fishing pier.” [1: p26] There are a few images below which show a narrow gauge line on the old pier at Flotta. [17]Loading cattle onto the Hoy Head, (c) K Desmond. [17]In this family photo, a car is being loaded from the pier onto the Hoy Head. The tracks remain visible in the pier surface. [17]Railway tracks are prominent in this picture. [17]Protective railings have now appeared on the pier. The railway is still prominent. [17]

The Royal Navy – feverishly mounted preparations in WW1 to protect Scapa Flow from enemy attack as soon as the decision had been made to make Scapa Flow the Grand Fleet Base. However, supply problems and other issues left the fleet waiting to move into their new base until April 1919 which was months after the signing of the Armistice in November 1918. This meant that almost as soon as the fleet had finally moved into its base, it went to a peace-time footing and much of the infrastructure was sold off or removed.

Lyness Naval Base – the first section of the base to become operational was the refueling facility which was completed in 1917. The remainder remained in contractor’s hands through beyond the end of the War.

” in 1936 a start was made on extensively modernising the base, new wharves were built and William Arrol & Co. constructed underground tanks on Wea Fea whilst Balfour Beatty had the contract for the surface tanks located behind the pump house. … At the start of the Second World War only 400ft of the part completed quay was ready for use and this was taken over by the Boom Defence Depot. During the War the Flow became the main base for the British Home Fleet. The quay, locally known as Golden Wharf on account of both the high cost and the lengthy period of construction was not completed until Spring 1944″. [1: p26-27]

The standard gauge railway system was deemed to have lain derelict since the Great War. In fact it had been used by Cox and Danks and later by Metal Industries. It was relaid and extended for use by the travelling cranes required for laying and recovering anti-submarine booms. Much of the track still existing at Lyness in the 1990s was from this period and the date 1937 could be seen stamped on some of the pointwork. [1: p27]

Four steam cranes were used during the War. In 1945, the base was ‘moth-balled’ and finally closed in 1956.

Lyness Torpedo Depot was established on the North side of Ore Bay in the late 1930s. Some 2’0″ gauge track was pressed into service to serve the assembly factory and later extended to the storage areas on the West. Much of the track remains but there is no record of what locomotives were used on the system [1: p27]2’0″ gauge track in evidence at Lyness on the North side of Ore Bay.Standard gauge track in evidence at the Scapa Flow Visitor Centre.

And finally. …

D. Scapa Flow Visitor Centre

The visitor centre was closed when we visited in May 2019. Pictures in my earlier posts show a little of what exists at the site (see previous posts in this series:; and

A short 100 metre length of metre-gauge track was constructed at the Visitor Centre in 1992. The gauge was chosen for the locomotive owned by the Centre rather for historical accuracy.

There are a number of railway exhibits at the Visitor Centre which is awaiting major works funded by Heritage Scotland. These include: [1: p29-31]

  1. A Ruston and Hornsby Diesel Mechanical Locomotive, originally owned by the Royal Navy. 30hp, 1000mm gauge and weight 4 tons.
  2. A Ruston and Hornsby Diesel Mechanical Locomotive, originally owned by the War Department. 20hp, 2’0″ gauge and weight 3 tons.
  3. A Wingrove & Rogers Battery-Electric Locomotive, originally owned by the Royal Navy. 2’6″ gauge and weight 7 tons.
  4. A Cowans Sheldon Steam Crane, originally owned by the Royal Navy. Standard gauge (a bogie steam travelling crane).
  5. 2 no. Harrison & Cammell Flat Trucks
  6. 4 No. miscellaneous railway trucks – three at 2’0″ gauge and one at standard gauge.


  1. Wilfred F. Simms; The Railways of Orkney; Self-published, printed by Gadds, Worthing, 1996.
  2., accessed on 14th May 2019.
  3., accessed on 14th May 2019.
  4., accessed on 1st May 2019.
  5., accessed on 14th May 2019.
  6., accessed on 14th May 2019.
  7., accessed on 14th May 2019.
  8., accessed on 14th May 2019.
  9., accessed on 14th May 2019.
  10., accessed on 14th May 2019.
  11., accessed on 14th May 2019.
  12., accessed on 18th May 2019.
  13., accessed on 18th May 2019.
  14., accessed on 18th May 2019.
  15., accessed on 18th May 2019.
  16., accessed on 18th May 2019.
  17., accessed on 18th May 2019.
  18., accessed on 25th April 2019.





Bouches-du-Rhone and its Railways – Part 2 – Orgon to Barbentane

Réseau des Bouches du Rhône (BDR)

The line between Orgon, Chateaurenard and Barbentane is shown on the sketch-map below. The North-point is at about 11 o’clock.

In 1900, about 60,000 passenger tickets were sold. It took 1hr 23min to go from Barbentane to Orgon-Gare and 1hr 30min in reverse. The passenger service was terminated on April 10, 1937, this was surprising as at the time alternative road services were not available. In 1941 the service was, it seems, provisionally restored but in 1946 the line was permanently closed to passengers. [1]

The freight traffic was significant. In 1900, 24,500 tonnes of fertilizers, cereals and other goods were transported on slow speed trains and 20,000 tonnes of vegetables which required rapid delivery.The line from Orgon to Barbentane. [1]Trains to Barbentane and Tarascon followed the same route out of Orgon until just beyond the station at Plan d’Orgon. The route of the line to Tarscon is sown in pick on this 1930s Michelin Map and is covered elsewhere. [2]

The present station at Orgon served the PLM line. The secondary branch line to Barbentane was served by a smaller structure close to the PLM station. The PLM line had travelled North alongside the N7 before turning to the East and crossing the Durance River. The station buildings were of a more substantial nature than those on the secondary lines. The image below comes from Google Streetview and shows the station building in the early 21st century.The view above shows the station at Orgon. The picture is taken from the North-east.

The adjacent satellite image is taken from Google Earth. The station building is clearly substantial. The waiting shelter on the opposite platform also of some substance. There were a series of sidings at the station of which a number were still in use in the early 21st Century.

The station at Orgon sat on a piece of land between the Vallat Meyrol and the Canal Septentrional des Alpines and the Durance River. Just to the North of the station the PLM line crossed the Vallat Meyrol. That bridge can be seen at the top of the adjacent image.

The station for the secondary line to Barbentane sat, as shown below, close to the PLM station. It sat alongside the shelter on the platform across from the station building.The BdR railway station is on the right side of the above image. [1]

The adjacent image shows the location of the BdR station building and shows the approximate route of the line in green. [3]

From the station the BdR swung round the North side of Orgon alongside the Canal Septentrional des Alpines. The next two aerial images show the that alignment. [3]

The postcard image which follows that shows the line from the North with the town and castle behind.The old railway runs across the centre of this image. [4]

Before heading away from Orgon it is worth a look at contemporary images of the PLM bridge across the Durance River. The next few images give a good impression of the structure.The four images immediately above show the bridge between Orgon and Cheval Blanc across the Durance River. [5]Leaving Orgon it appears the the line first followed the south bank of the Canal Septentrional des Alpines for just a short distance, but when that turned away to the Northwest the line continued in a westerly direction. The route to Plan d’Orgon is shown on the following excerpts from 1955 aerial images from the IGN site. [6]

The aerial images show the old railway line deviating away from the D7N as it approaches Plan d’Orgon.

The Station at Pland’Organ was on the north side of the town and was still in use as a railway goods yard until 2006. The station building was demolished in 1979.

Railway tracks still remain at the site of the station in the early 21st century. Details of the station are provided in another of my posts. [2]

Plan d’Orgon station site seen from the Southeast. [7]

Plan d’Orgon was a junction station. We have already covered the line which served Tarascon, leaving the Barbentane Line just to the Northwest of the station. It is shown as a red line on the staellite image below. We continue along the green line.After crossing Route de Cavaillon at level, the line continued in a Northwesterly direction. This Google Streetview image is taken from Route de Cavaillon looking Northwest. The aerial image below shows the route of the two lines in 1955. [3]Travelling Northwest, trains followed the D7N. The line ran around 30 metres to the Northeast of the road for some distance. Modern maps still show the line which closed relatively recently. [6]Looking back along the line from the D74C (Route de Saint Jean).The image above is taken looking Northwest along the line from the same location.

The adjacent map shows the route of the line through the village of St.-Andiol. [6]

St.-Andiol Station still has its tracks in place and part of the station building as well. The tracks are overgrown on the approach to the station from the Southeast but they are still in place as the picture from Avenue de 19 Mars shows below.Looking North from Avenue du 19 Mars in Saint-Andiol.Looking South from the D24C (Route des Agasses/Avenue des ANC Combattants) in Saint Andiol.Looking North through the Saint-Andiol Station site from approximately the same location in the early 21st Century. [8]Saint-Andiol Railway Station in the early 20th Century. [9]The view from Chemin des Muscadelles North of Saint-Andiol Station, looking back South along the line.The image above looks North from a side street close by in 2012.

The adjacent image shows the D24 and the railway, North of Saint-Andiol, travelling North in very close proximity. The route of the line then follows the Chemin Vieux de Saint-Andiol through Saint-Michel and the southwestern suburbs of Cabannes. As the road bears Northeast towards the town centre, the railway turns Northwest and runs into what was the Railway Station site. The IGN map below shows Station. [6]

Once again the tracks remained in place in 2012 when the pictures were taken from  Chemin de Barrie and from the end of Avenue de Verdun. These modern pictures are supplemented by 4 early postcard photographs of the Station.

Northwest of Cabannes, the railway followed a straight course alongside the meandering D26 (Route de Noves) before the road and railway ran parallel to each other for just under a kilometre, as can be seen below. The line then ran cross-country away from the route of roads until reaching Noves. On the way it crossed the D26 and the D7N.

Looking Northwest towards the site of Cabannes Station from Chemin de Barrie.The view of the station site from the end of the tarmac on Avenue de Verdun. Two very early images of Cabannes Railway Station. [11]Two early 20th century pictures of Cabannes railway station. [11]The D26, Route de Noves and the BdR Railway run parallel to each other for around a kilometre. The picture is from Google Streetview and was taken in 2012.Looking towards Noves from the D7N, another Google Streetview image.The railway approaches Noves from the Southeast along the line of trees visible in the bottom right of this image and which crosses the D7N road running up the right side of the satellite image.The railway line still passes North of the Noves Stadium and then curves towards the Northwest, entering the station site .The tracks can still be glimpsed through the bushes at the edge of the Stadium car park.Two photographs of the Station at Noves in the early 20th Century. [10]Noves Station. Noves Station from Avenue Agricol Viala. This Google Streetview image looks back towards Cabannes.The railway left (and still, in the early 21st century, leaves) Noves in  Northwesterly direction alongside the Cd28 (Route de Chateaurenard). This picture comes from Google Streetview and was taken in 2012. By the time the D28 has been reached the railway is travelling in a Westerly direction. The IGN map below shows the route as it approaches the outskirts of Chateaurenard. [12]This image is a second map from IGN of Chateaurenard and shows the railway running across the North side of the modern town. [12] This image covers the same area as the map immediately above. It is a 1955 aerial photograph of Chateaurenard. [12]

The Station at Chateaurenard was one of the significant stations on the route to Barbentane. The building was commensurate with that status. Unlike many of the other stations/halts on the line, the station building was a two-storey structure.

The four images above show Chateaurenard Station near the beginning of the 20th Century. [13].

These two images show engines and rolling stock on the Station site. [13]Google Earth satellite image of Chateaurenard Railway Station in the early 21st century.Map of the Station site provided on line by IGN. [12]Looking back from Chateaurenard Station towards Noves. The photographer is standing on Avenue Leo Lagrange.Looking forward through the station site from the East. The photographer has turned through 180 degrees from the last picture. The water-tank is on the right. The two-storey station building can just be seen beyond the canopy left of centre.The two-storey station building, taken from Rue de la Gare to the South.The Station building from the North. [1]Looking back across the station site from Chemin du Mas de Quentin.Looking West from Rue Paul Aubert at the Western end of the Station site.The present railway line follows the route shown here through Rognonas to join up with the main line which heads Southwest to Tarascon from Avignon, just to the North of Mas de Corne. This is alos the route of the old railway, as can be seen on the aerial photograph below. 

There was a small Halt at Rognonas on the BdR line of which there appears to be no evidence on aerial photographs from 1955 or more modern maps.

On the route of the PLM line from Tarascon to Avignon there was a station for the two villages of Barbentane and Rognonas. It is marked ‘Gare de fret’ on the map from IGN below.The same area is shown on this 1955 aerial image.

Barbentane-Rognonas Station Buildings.

The picture above shows Barbentane-Rognonas Station on the PLM line. The old BdR station building is behind the photographer over his left shoulder. [14]

The adjacent IGN map shows both station buildings and illustrates their relative positions. [12]

The pictures below show the BdR building today.The BdR Station Building in the 21st century. The picture is taken from the south at the end of the Impasse de la Gare.The same building taken from the West. [1]The picture above is taken from the bridge over the main-line which sits just to the North of the BdR Station building. The old PLM building can be seen in the right-background. This is a Google Streetview image.

The adjacent image is taken over private land from the East. This 1955 aerial image clearly shows the location of the station, its buildings and track work were still complete in 1955.

Finally a few notes about the whole line and the station at Barbentane.

On 24th July 24 1843 Messrs Talabot and Frères [15], of the Railway Company of Avignon in Marseilles , obtain the concession of the line Avignon to Marseilles. On 18th October 1847 the Barbentane- Saint-Chemas section of the PLM line opened and the Barbentane station was declared open. It was given the name “Barbentane-Rognonas,” although initially it had been thought to call it Rognonas Station. [14]

The secondary line from Barbentane to Orgon was developed as part of a series of secondary lines financed and built in the Departement of Bouche-du-Rhone by the Société de construction des Batignolles. [16]  In 1882, in Bouches-du-Rhone, the company changed its name to: , this company became the Société nouvelle des chemins de fer des Bouches-du-Rhône, then in 1886, Compagnie des chemins de fer régionaux des Bouches-du-Rhône. The company folded in 1913 and was taken over by the Departement. It became known as the Régie départementale des transports des Bouches-du-Rhône, better known under the acronym RdT13. [1]

This explains how the BdR station for the Barbentane-Orgon Line became known as the Batignolles station. The line was declared of public utility  by promulgation on 30th August 1884. Its purpose was to serve the rich agricultural plains located between the Rhône, Durance and Alpilles and promote the transport of the crops both to the Rhone valley via the station PLM Station at Barbentane, and to Marseilles and the Côte d’Azur via the Orgon PLM station. [1]

The work on the line began in November 1886> Temporary track was laid to access the River Durance where the gravel necessary for the embankments was extracted. Construction was complete in January 1888 and the line opened that spring, along with the line from Saint-Rémy to Plan-d’Orgon.

The line measured/measures 28 km.and was travelled in just over an hour. The track has/had very shallow gradients. The ruling grade was downhill from Plan-d’Orgon to Barbentane, which was the direction of travel of the most heavily loaded trains.


  1., accessed on 7th March 2019.
  3., accessed on 11th March 2019.
  4., accessed on 12th March 2019.
  5., accessed on 12th March 2019.
  6., accessed on 12th March 2019.
  7., accessed on 7th March 2019.
  8., accessed on 12th March 2019.
  9., accessed on 12th March 2019.
  10., accessed on 12th March 2019.
  11., accessed on 12th March 2019.
  12., accessed on 13th March 2019.
  13., accessed on 13th March 2019.
  14., accessed on 13th March 2019.
  15. Paulin François Talabot (1799-1885) was a polytechnic engineer, banker and French politician. In 1836 he created the Compagnie des mines de la Grand-Combe et des chemins de fer du Gard. He was principal shareholder of the Compagnie du chemin de fer d’Avignon à Marseille which eventually became part of the Compagnie du Chemin de fer Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée (PLM),  of which he became the general director (1862 -1882). He participated in the creation in 1863 Credit Lyonnais and, in 1864 with the help of the Rothschild family, he created the bank Societe Generale (of which he was the first director), to compete with the Crédit Mobilier of the Péreire brothers. In addition to being a very wealthy industrialist, Paulin Talabot was elected several times as a deputy of the government (supporting Napoleon III) and general adviser of the Gard. [14]
  16. Société de Construction des Batignolles [19] was a civil engineering company in France created in 1871 as a public limited company from the 1846 limited partnership of Ernest Gouin et Cie. Initially founded to construct locomotives, the company produced the first iron bridge in France, and moved away from mechanical to civil engineering projects in France, North Africa, Europe, and in East Asia and South America. Conversion to a public company, the Société de Construction des Batignolles (SCB), in 1872 allowed the company to raise capital. By 1880 over 5 million francs of shares had been issued. [17] The new company was to continue the work of Ernest Gouin et Cie.; shipbuilding, bridges and other civil engineering works, and machine and locomotive building. Ernest Goüin died in 1885, to be succeeded by his son Jules as chairman of the company. [17] With most mainline railways in Europe complete by the 1870s, the group’s search for contracts became increasingly international. By the 1880s civil engineering was becoming the core business.[6] The company undertook some large railway construction projects such as the construction of the line from Bône to Guelma in Algeria for the Compagnie des chemins de fer Bône-Guelma, and the line from Dakar to Saint-Louis, Senegal. These were operated as concessions by subsidiaries of the SCB. By 1913 the company had fourteen subsidiary companies located throughout the world running railways.[17] The company also constructed canals for irrigation, ports and harbours, and water and sewerage systems.[5][6] Profits from concessions in north Africa, in particular Tunisia, were high (over 25% in the 1890s), and allowed expansion without share issues or loans.[17]
  17. Rang-ri Park-Barjot, “The French Societe de Construction des Batignolles : From manufacture to public utilities”, Department of Economics and Business, Pompeu Fabra University; European Business History Association (EBHA), 2004 Conference.
  18., accessed on 13th March 2019.

Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2: 41-52 & 1 Samuel 2: 18-20, 26)

I’ve discovered that as I’ve got older it has become easier to forget where I’ve put things. It’s actually quite worring.

Keys – losing my house keys would be a nightmare. But some of you will know that I have left church keys in all sorts of places in the last few years, fortunately without dire consequences as yet.

Notes for my sermon – imagine getting to church just before the service and discovering you’ve left your notes at home. I have managed it at least once recently and had to adlib the sermon. Some might say, why, couldn’t we have just got on with the service without a sermon?

Jo – I do know my wife’s name, I promise you but I have caught myself calling her Gill on a number of occasions recently. Gill is my sister’s name.

I hope you can sympathise with me!

I wonder, have you ever searched for something only to find that it wasn’t really lost? You ransack the house looking for spectacles, only to find that they’re on your head. You turn out the drawer looking for the tin-opener, only to find that it was already on the work-top. You search down the sides of the cushions on the sofa for your car-keys, only to find them in your pocket.

Embarrassing, isn’t it! You want to hide! If you’re like me you’re tempted to make up a good story about how you found them, especially if you’ve involved other people in an unnecessary search!

Mary and Joseph search Jerusalem for three days thinking that Jesus is lost. When they finally track him down in the temple they find that he isn=t lost at all. Jesus says very calmly, “Why were you searching for me?”

Jesus has recognised his identity as God’s son: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Just like Samuel in the Old Testament reading above, Jesus was at home, most at home in God’s house. He was not lost at all.

This visit of Jesus to the temple at twelve years of age – perhaps his bar-mitzfer – is like a homecoming. He’s in his Father’s house. For him, a theological principle has become an intimate, personal experience. The Jews believed in the divine fatherhood of God. For Jesus this was not just theory, it was a lived out experience – time and again throughout the Gospels we are reminded that he knew God as his Father. In the Temple, Jesus was at home.

You might know this quotation from a prayer of St. Augustine: “Lord, you have made us and our hearts are restless until they find their resting place in you.”

Jesus experienced a homecoming in his visit to the temple. We can similarly experience a homecoming – finding our resting place in Christ. Jesus says: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Many people spend their lives searching for something – not sure exactly what it is they’re looking for. It is the Bible’s claim, not just St. Augustine’s, that we find ourselves when we find God – that our searching ceases when we find our rest in God.

For Christians that sense of belonging, of being at home, is embodied in the Eucharist. At God’s table, we are welcomed without condemnation, without question. As we take the bread and as we take the wine, we are at home, sharing in fellowship with the God who made us, is with us, and thinks the world of us. We’re not lost – we’re at home.

Uganda Railways – Part 29 – The Railway Magazine 1950 – April 1950

I have been looking through old railway magazines over the Christmas break this year (2018) and came  across articles in the 1950 editions of the Railway Magazine which relate to this series of posts. The first is in the April 1950 edition of the magazine. ……..

The April 1950 edition of The Railway Magazine [1] contains the first of these articles written by Thomas H. Cobb. The next three images are scans of the relevant pages of The Railway MagazineThe text is reproduced below:

At 10 a.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays the down Uganda Mail starts from Kampala on its 884-mile journey to the coast at Mombasa. In its course it crosses the Nile within a mile of its source, the highest railway summit in the British Empire, the equator three times, and diagonally the Eastern Rift Valley and up the eastern wall of it. From Nairobi it drops over 5,000 ft. to the sea in little more than 300 miles, and the whole journey takes just under 48 hours.

The Uganda Railway was begun on December 11, 1895, with construction on a few miles on Mombasa island and on the adjacent mainland. There was con¬siderable skepticism as to whether the line would pay, but its avowed intention was to put an end to the slave trade. The work was done at high speed and survey parties were always busy on the next section ahead of the construction. By 1899 the railhead had reached the further edge of the Athi Plain at mile 315, and halted while the survey parties went ahead, and a supply base was established at the foot of the hills. This spot has become Nairobi. Indians were imported to build the line to the metre-gauge (which it still remains). object of the builders was to push on to Uganda as quickly as possible; one result was that Kenya was ‘discovered’ on the way.

After Nairobi the line climbed into the Kikuyu Hills and dropped down the escarpment into the Eastern Rift Valley. Such was the hurry to get the line open that the word ‘dropped’ is almost literal; a temporary line was laid to overcome this descent of 1,552ft on gradients varying from 1 in 7 to 1 in 1.75. This section was worked by ropes and for the steeper two parts a carrier was used for the trucks, as at Hownes Gill on the Stanhope & Tyne Railway in County Durham. The permanent line was brought into use in 1901, and the ‘lift’ remains only a scar on the hil-face. North-west along and across the bottom of the valley construction was easy, but at Nakuru the line had to begin to surmount the Mau Plateau over which it passes,with asummit of 8,322 ft. There are 27 steel trestle viaducts on this section, and the temporary line climbed down one side of the ravines on a gradient of 1 in 30, reversed and climbed out the other side on the same grade. From the summit the descent to the Lake is steeper, about 4,500 ft. in 80 miles. The first loco¬motive reached Port Florence (Kisumu) on Lake Victoria on December 20, 1901. Kisumu is 179 miles by water from Port Bell, which is 6 miles by rail from Kampala, the commercial capital of Uganda.

This land and water route remained the route to Uganda till the first half of the 1920s, when the all-rail route was completed, branching northwards from. the Kisumu line at Nakuru and sur- mounting the Uasin Gishu Plateau near Timboroa, over the record summit of 9,136 ft. The line then descended into Uganda and joined the Busoga Railway, which was already in existence from Jinja to Namasagali, circumventing the rapids of the Nile. The junction, at Mbulamuti, about 30 miles north of Jinja, was reached in 1928. In 1931 the last section of the main line was opened, from Jinja to Kampala. The main engineering feature of this section is the single-span rail and road bridge over the Nile at Jinja, just below the Ripon Falls, where the Nile starts its 3,000-mile journey to the Mediterranean.

The Uganda Railway reached Tororo, the first station in Uganda, in 1927; just before it reached the objective that its name implied, it was renamed the Kenya & Uganda Railway, which it remained till May 1, 1948, when all the railway and steamship services in Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika amalgamated to form the East African Railways & Harbours. These lines have always been state railways, though they are administered as a separate department.

A journey from Mombasa to Kampala is by no means dull. The mail train consists of about 13 carriages, three first, three second, three or four third, a restaurant car and two or three old first class non-corridor carriages used as seconds. This comes to about 400 tons tare. In addition, there are two vans for crew and three or four covered freight trucks. From Mombasa the train is worked by a Mikado, built in 1927 by Robert Stephenson, Darlington, originally intended for shunting, but now used on most passenger trains between Mombasa and Nairobi, where the lines are 80lb to the yard, laid in 40 ft. lengths. The ruling grade from Mombasa to Nairobi is 1.18 per cent. in the up direction and 1.05 per cent. in the down, apart from the first few miles, where it is 2 per cent. to get clear of the coast. Up means up¬country. All gradient posts are marked in percentages.

The line is single throughout, with passing loops at most of the stations, and water at intervals of some 20 miles. Signals guard the entrance to each loop, one above the other on the one post, the top indicating the left-hand loop, and the bottom the right. There is a daily service from Mombasa to Nairobi, and twice a week the trains run right through to Kampala. The train leaves Mombasa at 4.30 p.m. and reaches Nairobi (315 miles) at 8.52 the next morning. First and second class carriages have side corridors, and the seats form sleeping berths at night, four to a compartment as the racks let down to form the upper berths.

There is practically no difference between first and second class, except that the former have a fan and bed-reading lamps, and are slightly less crowded. Third class carriages have wooden seats and centre corridors; they are always crammed to bursting point. Hire of bedding, and food in the restaurant cars is cheap, and passengers are officially encouraged not to tip company servants – but they do. Speed is never high; the up mail train covers the first 30 miles out of Mombasa in 100 min., including two stops. All trains stop at all stations, with the exception of a few ‘local’ stations neat Mombasa and an odd flag stop or two usually missed by the mails. The Uganda Mail heading for Lake Victoria in the Kikuyu Hills, banked by 4-8-0 Locomotive No. 69. [2][4]

Before it gets dark you can see the whole of Mombasa Island and Kilindini Harbour as the line clears the coconut groves and negotiates the first spiral into the hills. The first thing that strikes a stranger is the sharpness of the curves on the metre-gauge; it is not unusual for a long train to be travelling in three directions at once, and the engine is frequently in full view of he windows of the ninth or tenth carriage. After dark the train is a lighted snake, as, even when the passengers’ lights are out, each carriage has a side-light in the middle just under the eaves. The engine pierces a tunnel in the darkness with its search-light. In the night are passed, Mackinnon Road, the new military headquarters of growing importance; Voi, junction for Moshi on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, and the Tanga line (the only physical connection with the railways of Tanganyika); and Tsavo, famous for its man-eater lions which made havoc of the construction gangs.[3]

You wake up next morning on what looks like Salisbury Plain, only here you climb up the side of every combe, round the end and out the other side. When I later saw this country from the air it looked quite flat and the railway seemed to be making an absurd fuss. At Nairobi the mail waits an hour-and-¬a-half. The station has three long platforms, mostly covered with awnings. the island connected with the main platform (which is used by the mails in both directions) by a subway. There is a complete set of signals, and it is the only station on the line which has the air of a station such as we know it in England. As at Marylebone, with luck one might see a train at any hour of the day. The mail endures some mar¬shalling, and some coaches are added for the longer stage on to Kampala.

When I came up we started from Nairobi with thirteen large coaches and several smaller ones, vans and trucks on the back, a tare weight of 470 tons. We were headed by a 4-8-2 + 2-8-4 Beyer Garratt, and were banked by one of the shapely 4-8-0 tender engines which are the maids of all work. The line turns a sharp right-angle to the north to circumvent the town, and then plunges straight into the 1 in 50, which lasts for nearly 20 miles with few intermissions, and some pitches of 1 in 40. The scenery changes to woods of eucalyptus and intensive cultivation.

At lunch time, after a morning of heavy slogging, the train reaches Uplands, and suddenly, the Rift Valley is spread at your feet. Here a new alignment, the third in 50 years, was brought into use at the beginning of 1948, and the trees have not had time to grow high enough to obscure the view. The valley stretches as far as you can see, blue in the midday haze, and in the middle you look down into the crater of the extinct volcano Longonot. The railway winds down the face of the escarpment on a steady grade of 1.05 per cent., which is considerably better than the old route, up which trains took 2 hr. to struggle 15 miles, with two stops. In the floor of the valley the line passes hills of fantastic shape, like sleeping camels and inverted washbasins, and you can see the beautiful lakes Naivasha and Elementeita; at Eburru jets of steam spurt out of the ground. There are all kinds of game in the valley, and you are unlucky it you do not see a giraffe or an ostrich, or at least a herd of buck. In the evening the train arrives at Nakuru; 120 miles in just under 8 hr.

After Nakuru the light remains only long enough to see the Lake Nakuru, away to the south, with its fringe of pink flamingos, and as the darkness falls the old main line to Kisumu branches to the left. The line to Uganda goes up the side of a slope in a series of S-bends, and as the telegraph wires follow the line, from below they look like a forest as they thread backwards and forwards about six times. To see the next 125 miles to Eldoret, in some ways the most interesting of all, it is necessary to travel in a goods train which starts at dawn and arrives at dusk, taking just 12 hr. on the journey. The mail trains traverse this section in the night in both directions.

Some goods trains have a third class carriage at the back, and as the whole train is continuous-braked, travelling is not uncomfortable. Speed between stops is not much slower than the passenger trains, but crossing places may entail waits of over an hour, so heavily occupied is this section with goods trains during the day time. Soon the climbing starts in earnest, and the line is much on a shelf in wooded ravines, crossing side valleys on horseshoe embankments. From Maji Mazuri to Equator Station is over 20 miles, dreaded by enginemen for fear the water will run out; this stretch is over an hour’s collar work.

Below Equator station the line rises clear of the trees and the country is grassy and open, the scenery Alpine without the mountains or snow. An S-bend, and the lower of the two spirals is encountered. In the station the ‘line’ runs through the platform, at an altitude of 8,716 ft., 1,050 ft. above Maji Mazuri. The equator is crossed again, the second spiral is threaded, and the equator is crossed for the third and last time. An EC3 at the spiral close to Timboroa Station. [2]

Before the summit, the line ploughs into wonderful cuttings and woods, and the absolute top is reached at 9,136 ft.The Summit, the highest altitude reached by any British colonial railway. [5]

Timboroa station, 9,001 ft., is just beyond the Summit. Because of these altitudes it was considered that the vacuum brake would not hold, so the Westinghouse is fitted.

The descent to Eldoret is quite different in scenery. First come bamboo forests, and a steel trestle over a ravine, then open country not unlike the moors between Riccarton Junction and Whitrope summit on the Waverley route. At times you might think you were coming down Shap to the south, or crossing the blasted heath between Penruddock and Troutbeck. The kindlier country begins at Eldoret, where you are down to 6,000ft again. Eldoret, a thriving centre of Kenya settlers, has the unfortunate distinction of having its two passenger trains a week in each direction in the station between 1 and 1.30 a.m. From Eldoret to Tororo I have not travelled by daylight, even in a goods train.

At Tororo the line enters Uganda. It is hotter and greener than Kenya, but, apart from the rocks of Tororo, reputed scene of Conan Doyle’s Lost World, the scenery as far as Jinja is dull. The line runs up and down small slopes, between elephant grass, sometimes as tall as 20 ft., bananas, coffee and cassava. At one place the Mpologoma swamp is crossed, an oasis of bright green papyrus, on a 2-mile embankment which gives continual trouble to the maintenance department. Near Jinja, extensive sugar estates are passed. The wealthy Kampala dwellers cut this last bit out by having their cars to meet them at Nsinze, whence it takes about 3 hr. by road to get home; the train, winding northwards through Busoga, and wandering back south with a touch of east, spends 7 hr. After Jinja, which is reached after lunch, the line twists and plunges down to cross the Nile. This is one of the highlights of the journey.

The bridge is in sight of the Ripon and the Owen Falls, and the line swings round and climbs till it passes just above the former. The clear blue of Lake Victoria and the broken white of the falls are not only a relief to the eye of the hot and dusty traveller, but here at your feet is the answer to the age-old riddle of where the Nile comes from; this is its very source. One wonders if the
Baganda and Basoga, who lived in mutual enmity on either side of it, ever used to ask themselves where the river went to. Opposite is the golf-course on which hippopotami form natural bunkers; and are the rub of the green.

Buganda, entered on crossing the Nile, is a country of hills all same-height with flat tops, divided by swamps. The line was built more cheaply here, and there are many short stretches of 2 per cent. uncompensated on the curves. The line rises and falls to cross almost every anthill. The downhill stretches lead to swamps which are crossed on embankments with right-angle bends, and as speed gathers you wonder what will happen at the bottom as you see the Beyer-Garratt swing round in full view of your window. About 10 years ago there was a terrible accident, and a crowded train plunged into a swamp. Over 20 passengers from the teeming third class carriages were pinned into the ooze and drowned.

Kampala, reached almost exactly 48 hr. after leaving Mombasa, is a single-platform station with a short bay at the eastern end. It is built at the top of a single line ramp of 2 per cent., and the yards are in the lower ground below. There is no turntable, but a triangle is laid. out among the eucalyptus trees. The platform is covered most of its length, and the offices and station building are the best in the town. There are plans to extend the railway 200 -miles farther west to Toro, on the slopes of Ruwenzori, which divides Uganda from the Belgian Congo. There are vast copper deposits there, but the proposed railway may be abandoned in favour of a canal, which will involve the deepening of a river whose flow is so sluggish that it is marked on maps as flowing both ways.

Some curiosities to end with: from Mbulamuti to Jinja the east-west main line runs distinctly eastwards for about 20 miles. The curves on the line have the inner edge of the outer rail oiled by hand twice a week. The two summits of 8,322 and 9,136 ft. on the Kisumu and Kampala lines respectively are only 20 miles apart, but on quite separate lines, yet they have each pursued an independent course of over 60 miles from their divergence at Nakuru. The main line from Nairobi to Uplands is being re-aligned, which will entail a completely new course for about 20 miles, and the complete abandonment of one station; at one point a tunnel is being cut, which will rob the tunnel on the Kisumu line of its uniqueness in East Africa. The only racial discrimination on the railway is against Europeans, as they are not issued with tickets below second class, even for trains which consist of third class carriages only.


  1. Thomas H. Cobb; The Kenya-Uganda Railway; in The Railway Magazine No. 588 Vol. 96 April 1950, p262-267.
  2. The Railway Magazine April 1950, p250.
  3. The Railway Magazine April 1950, p265.
  4. The Railway Magazine April 1950, p264.
  5. The Railway Magazine April 1950, p251.

New Year – New Beginnings


As the New Year arrives I often find myself looking back – pondering what has happened over the last 12 months – and looking forward, wondering what is ahead.

The past year has included for me, most recently, the death of my mother. In the past 18 months I have lost both of my parents. They both had good long lives and strong faith and they were both looking forward to being at home with their Lord in heaven. Some of Dad’s last words to Mum were, “I go to a better, better place.” We reflected on the truth of that hope as part of Dad’s funeral. More recently at Mums’ funeral, we again reminded ourselves of the depth of love with which we are surrounded as followers of Jesus. We can let go of our loved ones confident that ‘they rest in him, our shield and our defender’, that they are surrounded and held in the loving arms of our Father God.

Jo, my wife, has been appointed Chair of the House of Clergy for Diocesan Synod and as result is now, for three years, one of the senior women priests in our Diocese. She holds this new role in tandem with her other roles in Parish life and as Ecumenical Officer for Manchester Diocese. Jo thrives in these roles and we look forward for God’s guidance for her for the future.

This has been a year when I have become more aware of both my gifts/strengths and of my weaknesses. It was hard to let go of the role of Area Dean for the Deanery of Ashton and a delight to be asked to be Borough Dean of Tameside, a role to which I was licenced in February 2018. This role recognises the work that I have been doing over many years to create space in the public sphere in Tameside for faith communities and some of the roles that I have played in more recent years in the wider charitable sector in Tameside.

Our personal circumstances are not the only things to reflect on. The war in Yemen, the ongoing saga of Brexit, the continuing sense that we have of being ‘at risk’ in a world where terrorism is a serious threat, all crowd in on our thinking. The uncertainty in national politics and the reducing value of the pound suggest that change in coming months is not going to be easy, whatever political negotiations bring about. Many things can leave us leave us with a real sense of worry and concern.

What was 2018 like for you? What were the ‘highlights’ and the ‘lowlights’? What seemed to leave you in the dark? What seemed to leave you basking in the light, in the sunshine of God’s love? What things excite you or worry you about the year ahead?

Things of the past as well as our present experiences and our anticipation of what the future holds, make us into the people that we are today. Each of our experiences over the past year are like ‘holy ground’, they are places where God was present, even if we couldn’t feel him there. They may have been places where faith was tested, sometimes to the limit, or even beyond. They may have been places of illumination where God’s grace and love for us became almost tangible. They may have felt mundane and ordinary. There may well be things which it is impossible to make sense of at the moment, storms which will not die down, emotions and fears which overwhelm us. All of these are ‘holy ground’.

In a beautiful passage in Isaiah, God speaks to his people:

“Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through rivers they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.” (Isaiah 43:1-3. NRSV)

A New Year brings opportunities for new beginnings, a chance to start over. It can be a time when we take a significant step forward in faith, or in our life circumstances. It can be a time when we hear again God’s promises to us, when hope is renewed, when we determine again to commit ourselves to serve others. A New Year can be a time when we break with the past, when we leave behind the old and move on to the new. A time to ‘wipe the slate clean’. And rightly so!

However, let me encourage you to remember that we are not just people who look forward to the future with hope. We are people who live in the present, and whose identities are shaped by the past. We are who we are because we have our own story to tell. We belong to a particular community and share in its joys and sorrows; we have a specific family background which has shaped who we are; we went to a particular school or schools; we have lived alone or with a partner; we have had children, or we have not had children, either by choice or because of force of circumstance. We have each faced the reality of loss in our own way. We have been able to delight in good news, and have shared in the joys of others. And we can all be encouraged by the words of St. Paul in Romans:

“I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39, NRSV)

God does want to break into our lives, if we let him, to bring healing and hope, just as he burst into the world on that first Christmas morning. Healing and hope for our past, for our present and for our future.

This New Year, like every New Year, brings the promise of new hope, new chances, new life. God also wants to build on the foundations of the past, helping us to become the people we long to be. People who are confident of God’s love through all the experiences of our lives. People whose faith is built on strong foundations, people who have found security in his love, even in the most difficult of times. People whose relationship with God is real. People whose lives, past, present and future, can be, and are being, redeemed by God’s love.

We don’t just have hope for the future. God is at work in all of us, none of us is the finished article. God is redeeming each of us, our past, our present and our future.

Peace Babies

Jelly Babies and Peace in the World!

In August 2014, I wrote a post about the history of Jelly Babies and their first being produced at the end of the 1st World War in 1918. This is the link. …

Recently, Maynard Bassett’s have produced a special edition pack of Jelly Babies which have them renamed as “Peace Babies.”

This gives another really good excuse to buy and eat Jelly Babies which while high in sugar content are fat-free!

“In celebration of the end of the First World War in 1918, George Bassett & Co. produced Peace Babies – what would later become the confectionery classic we all know as Jelly Babies.

Now, to commemorate the centenary of the end of World War One, Maynards Bassetts has designed a special limited-edition pack of Peace Babies available at Tesco. Aiming to raise over £25,000 for Help for Heroes*, the money raised will help us support those who put their lives on the line for us to have a second chance at life for them and their families.

Archivists at Mondelez trawled through records and found a rare surviving copy of an export list mentioning the sweet treat. Thought to be from the 1920s or 30s, this shows a ‘hundred-weight’ (100lb or 45kg) of Peace Babies listed for sale in ‘4lb wood boxes’, for the grand total of 68 shillings. This would be the equivalent of £139.60 in today’s money!

It is thought that these were on sale until a shortage of raw materials put a stop to production during World War Two. In 1953, they were relaunched as Jelly Babies – the rest, as they say, is history!

(Available at selected Tesco stores and while stocks last ….. A A5p donation from the sale of each product sold in Tesco and between 05/09/2018 and 06/11/2018 will go to Help for Heroes Trading Ltd, which gifts all its taxable profits to Help for Heroes (a charity registered in England and Wales , number 1120920 , and in Scotland SCO44984).”

It seems as though the jelly baby first appeared by mistake! Legend has it that it was an Australian immigrant in 1864 that made the first Jelly Baby, although he chose to call them “unclaimed babies.” He was meant to create a mould for jelly bears, however, (for reasons which may be forever lost in time) it seems the jelly baby was born instead – pun wholly intended. [2]

And thus, jelly babies became a firm favourite in the UK.

After a short hiatus, classic sweet manufacturer Basset’s took up the style of the rather darker original name ‘unclaimed babies’ and rebranded them ‘Peace Babies’ to mark the end of World War I. These new sweets had a more realistic baby look , closer to the sweets we know today.[2]







Christ the King – Sunday 25th November 2018

This is the Sunday before the start of the Church Year. Advent Sunday and a period of waiting for the coming of the King precede the celebration of Christmas. Christians wait in the dark, for the coming of the light. ……

The Church has set three readings for the principle service on the Festival of Christ the King:

Daniel 7: 9-10, 13-14; Revelation 1:4-8; John 18:33-37

The world can be a very dark place.

It is difficult to avoid the darkness without pretending it does not exist. Some people close the curtains and put on the fire, others make their escape to warmer climes – Jo and I are just back from a week in the South of France. Increasingly people spend the summer in the UK and the winter in Spain. The shops throw themselves wholeheartedly into Christmas no more than weeks after the summer holidays are over. We don’t cope well with waiting, we don’t cope well with the darkness.

How do you cope – do you try to hide, try to escape, rush through the darkness looking for light and hope? How do you cope with the world as it is?

So many of us look for ways to avoid the bleakness of our world. And it is almost as though the readings for the festival of ‘Christ the King’ collude with our desire to escape the realities of our world, the darkness which sometimes seems as though it will overwhelm us. …….

Have you heard these before: “Pie in the sky when you die.” “Your faith is no earthly use, it does not affect the world in which we live, just a safety net when you die.” ….. And on “Christ the King” we listen to readings which are about that future – Christ in glory – and even Jesus in the Gospel reading says, “My kingdom is not from this world.”

For me, personally, at this time, having so recently lost my mother, these promises have substance. … Yes, I am sure of Mum’s place at home with her Lord. … And despite the tears, when she asked me earlier in November to pray that she would be able to go home soon to be with her heavenly father, I prayed that prayer with confidence and hope. We were both crying, but we both knew that it was right. She was on her final journey and she was going home. For her, the journey was taking longer than she hoped, but her faith was firm.

The question of how we cope with the realities of our world has exercised the minds of people down through the centuries. Some people have retreated from the world, retreated into closed communities refusing to partake in the life of the world – people like the Hamish, like some very closed monastic orders. Others have given up on their faith altogether, becoming fatalistic – “How can God care,” they say, “when we see all this going on?”

The literature of Daniel and Revelation (and some other books of the bible) was one of the ways that people of Bible times were helped to cope with the realities of their world. They are books which still today mean a great deal to church communities facing persecution for their faith. In their difficult language they grapple with the reality of the world as it was when they were written, pointing to the signs of hope in the world of the day and on into the future to a time when God will put all things right.

Our churches are increasingly welcoming people from other parts of the world who have faced persecution, who are looking to escape the darkness, who long to live in the light of the Gospel. These are people we have come to love, who while their asylum applications are being considered still live in fear of the darkness. We pray with them in hope.

We live in difficult times. Times when the darkness feels like it might overwhelm us. ‘In-between times’ – times between Christ’s first coming and a day when he will return – times when we glimpse God at work in our world but when we also see things which make us wonder where on earth he is. More often than not our media and, in we are honest, we ourselves focus on the negative, we see the darkness rather than the light.

There are good things going on in our world. We could call them “signs of the Kingdom.”  But, in the end, we are still waiting for the fullness of God’s kingdom to come – the time when we will see for real, the whole of history enfolded in the arms of the God who created and sustains our world.

The readings for ‘Christ the King’ encourage us to believe, in the midst of darkness, that God is still Lord of History, that in the words of Baldrick off Black Adder, God still has a cunning plan, a plan which he will bring to fulfilment in due time.

Christ will one-day reign with obvious authority.

But these readings also encourage us to believe that God’s Kingdom is not just something for the future, that it is a reality now, and that it is something that we can work to bring to greater reality in our world.

How? … Through our faithfulness to the promise in the midst of darkness. We are called to faithfulness, to living God’s way, to being the people and the place where hope can be re-born in our towns and communities.

Ultimately, as Christians, we cannot flee the darkness or hide away from it or pretend it doesn’t exist.  We’re intended, by God, to be the one’s who are able, with the eye of faith, to see Christ, the Crucified King, in all his Kingly Glory and who can help those around us to sense the light and warmth of God in their lives. People who see things from God’s perspective and help others to do the same. Not people who escape the world, but people who enter the world with hope, bringing light into darkness and despair.