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Heart of Wessex mileposts

Q&A relating to the SRS RailRef system, Engineers' Line References, and Milepost Mileages

Heart of Wessex mileposts

Unread postby Peter125 » Tue Sep 25, 2012 1:56 pm

Can anybody explain why the mileposts north of Dorchester West differ by 14 miles from my gradient profile?

On my Western Region BR profile, Dorchester West for example is shown as 147 3/4 (From Paddington I believe). Today the milepost reads 161 3/4 and so on up the line.

I understand that the original line ran via Thingley Junction and since 1906 via the Berks and Hants. However, I would have expected the MPs therefore to have got less not more. There is some thought that they are currently measured from Swansea but why would this be?

Any answers much appreciated.
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Re: Heart of Wessex mileposts

Unread postby edwin_m » Tue Sep 25, 2012 5:11 pm

The Quail map confirms that mileage north of Dorchester West is from Paddington via Swindon.

If it's the Ian Allan book then the Table 2 mileage shown starts from 115ish at Castle Cary, which is the mileage of Castle Cary from Paddington via the Berks and Hants in Table 1. There is no annotation of whether the mileage conforms with the mileposts or not.

Table 1 (Paddington-Westbury-Penzance) is annotated "Route and MP Mileage" but disagrees with the Quail and MP mileage west of Cogload - the Quail confirms the mileposts run via Box and Bristol.

I think all we can conclude is that the mileages on the Western gradient profiles in that particular book don't necessarily line up with the mileposts. Which doesn't seem particularly helpful if you are trying to work out where you are!

Revision of posted mileages is rare - think of the confusion in engineering records etc! - though the Midland "re-miled" its entire network around 1907.
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Re: Heart of Wessex mileposts

Unread postby Danny252 » Tue Sep 25, 2012 5:33 pm

Having checked on Google Earth, 147 3/4 is about in agreement with what I measured over the Berks and Hants, whilst 161 3/4 corresponds with the Swindon route.

However, to Swansea via Bath and Bristol is a bit over 160 miles too, so I can't really rule it out for you!
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Re: Heart of Wessex mileposts

Unread postby Peter125 » Wed Sep 26, 2012 8:33 am

Interesting, thanks. The reason that I mentioned Swansea is that in my 1994 BR timetable (possible the last before privatisation) it shows the mileage down the Heart of Wessex FROM Swansea and it nearly matches the current mileposts. Fortunately, there is one place at least where the old MP has not been removed and stands side by side with the new one. They both tally with the same reading, so we can conclude that the longer measurements have been in place for many years.
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Re: Heart of Wessex mileposts

Unread postby Peter125 » Wed Sep 26, 2012 8:55 am

Further to previous, they are indeed measured vid Thingley Junction. It is 96 miles to Westbury from Paddington via the Berks and Hants. It is 96 from Pad' to Thingley Jct. Western Region profile W15 from Thingley Jct to Westbury is the missing link and low and behold it is exactly 14 miles, the difference between the two that I originally referred to. So at some point, the Western Region has measured the Heart of Wessex via the Berks and Hants but whether or not the MPs were ever changed is another matter. I HAVE been referring to the Ian Allan book and have done for years but this is the first time in over 50 routes that I have ever found a difference. I cannot believe that the book is at fault. So the question now is not WHERE the MPs are measured from but when did the gradient profile mileages change and why?

Just to finish on the subject, am I right in thinking that in some places, two sets of different mileposts were found on some routes reflecting different termini or railway companies?
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Re: Heart of Wessex mileposts

Unread postby John Webb » Wed Sep 26, 2012 11:00 am

I have a 1947 edition of the gradient maps when they were published by the "Railway Publishing Company" who were the "Railway Magazine" publishers at that time. The milages you quote are identical to the ones marked on my gradient profile, so they've been that way for a long time!
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Re: Heart of Wessex mileposts

Unread postby edwin_m » Wed Sep 26, 2012 11:34 am

John Webb wrote:I have a 1947 edition of the gradient maps when they were published by the "Railway Publishing Company" who were the "Railway Magazine" publishers at that time. The milages you quote are identical to the ones marked on my gradient profile, so they've been that way for a long time!


Identical to which of the several sets of mileages quoted by various people?

The Quail map actually states that the [current] mileage is measured via Swindon, hence Thingley Junction, which I think removes all doubt about that. I can imagine they might have thought about re-doing the mileposts to go via a later and shorter route but less likely they would have changed them to reflect an older and longer one!

In my previous post I identified a definite case in WR gradient profile 1 when the mileage given matches route mileage by the shortest route but posted mileage is by an older and longer route (via Bristol) despite what the caption on the profile says. Hence I think we can conclude that the WR gradient profiles either reflect an intended "re-mileing" which never happened, or whoever put them together was just concerned with route mileage not mileposts.

I've just had a look at some of the London Midland profiles for comparison. The ex-Midland ones stick to posted mileage and say so, but the Great Central starts at zero at Marylebone whereas the GC mileposts go the other way. So probably down to the practice of whoever first drew them up.
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Re: Heart of Wessex mileposts

Unread postby John Webb » Wed Sep 26, 2012 5:14 pm

Sorry, I meant the distances cited by Peter125 in his original post.
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Re: Heart of Wessex mileposts

Unread postby Pete2320 » Sun Sep 30, 2012 12:09 pm

Peter125 wrote:Interesting, thanks. The reason that I mentioned Swansea is that in my 1994 BR timetable (possible the last before privatisation) it shows the mileage down the Heart of Wessex FROM Swansea and it nearly matches the current mileposts.


The mileages shown in the public timetables were for, amongst other things, calculating season ticket prices and as such I wouldn't really expect/rely on them reflecting milepost mileages. IIRC they will be shown in reverse order for trains in the opposite direction. Ithink it is just luck if the mileages coincide- I bet they don't at the Swansea end.

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Re: Heart of Wessex mileposts

Unread postby SRS Webmaster » Sun May 26, 2013 11:59 am

There are some notes about mileages on the Signalling Record Society web site.

Mileages in timetables are there as a guide to distances travelled, they are not the same thing as milepost mileages and have no close or direct link to milepost mileages.

Mileages on Gradient profiles may, or may not, relate to milepost mileages. They may be a mix in the same book. Figures quoted need to be checked against other sources. The 1947 edition of the gradient profiles was the third edition, the two previous were in 1936 and included some lines omitted in 1947. The profiles had previously been published in Railway Magazine (same publishing house) and have more recently been re-published by Ian Allan. Examples exist of gradient profiles seemingly showing milepost mileages that cannot be corroborated from any other source - and that includes some profiles issued by the railway's engineer as well.

The only thing that mile post mileages at Swansea and Weymouth have in common is a point of origin at Paddington. They have no relationship otherwise. Just to confuse matters at Dorchester, the Southern Railway re-miled from Northam Junction to Dorchester Junction c1943-1944 via the curve at Northam in place of the previous counting via Southampton Terminus. However, it did cure the hotchpotch of milepost mileages that had existed along the main line in the Bournemouth area (but not on the branches).

Many milepost mileages date back to the 19th century, but by no means all do so. And in the 19th century some lines were 're-miled' more than once. And milepost mileages have no correlation between 'up' and 'down'. They can run either way. There are examples of distance books containing mileages that probably got no further than the proposal stage, or in one instance, the Lymington Branch, was implemented some 50 years later. Unfortunately, at least one author fell into the trap and quoted milepost mileages along a line from a proposal that all other evidence says were never implemented.

Mileages used for ticket price calculations can vary from actual mileages, sometimes quite widely when 'chargeable' mileages come into play to manipulate fares. This was especially noticeable where the shortest mileage was used to make the same fare available over alternative routes and the longer route had 'sub-standard' mileages applied to ensure that the fares were the same and that fares to intermediate points were the same or lower than those to the further point. Examples from Southern Railway - BR-SR days are London to Portsmouth and Hastings.

The basis of calculation for single and return journeys and season tickets differed with season tickets using a shorter mileage where 'double back' over a section of line was involved. An example, again from the Southern, is Brighton to Hastings. Single/return mileage calculated as Brighton to Eastbourne plus Eastbourne to Hastings; season as Brighton to Eastbourne plus Willingdon Junction to Hastings.

Charging based on chargeable mileages alone has now largely disappeared, replaced by 'what the traffic can bear' methods.
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Re: Heart of Wessex mileposts

Unread postby JG Morgan » Wed May 29, 2013 7:12 am

Peter's other questions have been answered, but in response to:
Peter125 wrote:Just to finish on the subject, am I right in thinking that in some places, two sets of different mileposts were found on some routes reflecting different termini or railway companies?

The only current example I know of is on the viaduct east of London Bridge. On the north side, the mileposts are South Eastern Railway from zero at Charing Cross; on the south side London Brighton & South Coast Railway from zero at London Bridge. But you're doing well if you can see both, due to ingrained brake dust making the mileposts the same colour as the brickwork and the likely presence of one or more trains between your train and the wall either side.
Another possible location is between Gloucester and Standish Junction: GWR from zero at Paddington via Swindon increasing towards Gloucester. Midland from Derby, decreasing towards Gloucester. As I recall, the distances are equal somewhere near the Gloucester end.

Just had another thought ... have a look on the ECML just south of York. I think the mileposts increase from zero at York towards Leeds (on the west side); there may also be 1980s BR mileposts from King's Cross increasing towards York on the east side, dating from the opening of the Selby diversion. (The latter may be miles or kilometers on the overhead electrification masts, rather than real mileposts.)
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Re: Heart of Wessex mileposts

Unread postby SRS Webmaster » Thu May 30, 2013 9:47 am

Lewes to Southerham Junction is dual miled from London Bridge and from Brighton. Both include a 'change of mileage' at the site of Lewes East Junction because the mileages beyond there to Bo-peep Junction and Seaford still follow the original route at Lewes (The Quail entry is misleading and can be attributed to Railtrack's error when doing a fresh survey in the 1990s).

Birmingham New Street is also multiple-miled. You can take your choice as to whether to call it dual or triple! LNWR side has mileages from London Euston which then restart with zero mid station (and run to Stafford), whereas the MR side has mileages from Derby London Road Junction. No mileposts - or at least I've not seen any in the last 23 years - but miles and chains are 'painted' on the walls bounding the railway - LNW on north side, MR on south.
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Re: Heart of Wessex mileposts

Unread postby Chris Osment » Fri Nov 14, 2014 7:23 pm

My attention has been drawn to a photo of the junction at Castle Cary c.1980 where there are two mileposts - one (on the main line is 115 1/2 m, the other (on the Weymouth line) is 129 3/4m. The first clearly is via the Berks & Hants, would I be right to assume that the second is via the WS&W from Thingley Junction (it has been suggested that it was via Newbury, Devizes and Trowbridge, but that seems a bit convoluted!)?
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Re: Heart of Wessex mileposts

Unread postby John Webb » Fri Nov 14, 2014 9:50 pm

This may not be the photo of Castle Cary to which Chris Osment is referring, but two mile posts are just visible, although not readable at this distance. (Click on picture to go to the larger original.)
The junction at Castle Cary, 1984
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© Copyright Ben Brooksbank and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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Re: Heart of Wessex mileposts

Unread postby Stuart Johnson » Fri Nov 14, 2014 10:03 pm

Tracing the mileposts through the pages of Quail, the 129 3/4 mileage is continuous via Swindon, Thingley Jn, Westbury and Frome.
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