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Swavesey - St Ives - March

British signalling of the past (UK, excepting Northern Ireland)

Swavesey - St Ives - March

Unread postby Richard Pike » Wed Dec 28, 2016 9:32 pm

When was the line between St Ives & Swavesey singled? We are pretty sure it was done in connection with the condition of bridge 2272 but was the line still a through route to March? We have this box diagram and i've seen enough evidence to believe the layout was altered to match this diagram though i still can't account for the right hand being the way it is.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/pwayowen/10998090674/
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Re: Swavesey - St Ives - March

Unread postby BHornsey » Wed Dec 28, 2016 9:45 pm

Hmm. I can't give a date but I remember a friend of mine buying the final signalbox diagram for Chatteris in the mid-70s and I remember being surprised to see it was a single line, signalled in one direction only. (Can't remember which way though - probably towards March as per your St. Ives diagram)

Anyone have any railway history books for this area?
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Re: Swavesey - St Ives - March

Unread postby davidwoodcock » Wed Dec 28, 2016 11:07 pm

St.Ives to March South Junction was closed to all traffic wef 6 March 1967 and, IIRC, had already been converted to a "basic" (but definitely two-way) Pay Train railway which presumably had been singled. I travelled over it in August 1965 but can't remember it's exact status, however every possible economy was being made in the general area, even to the extent of routing trains over two sides of a triangle with a reversal to avoid the cost of manning a signal box. I believe freight traffic had already disappeared between St.Ives and March although there remained aggregate traffic between Cambridge and Fen Drayton which was presumably why the layout at St.Ives still included sidings and loops. There was still a more frequent passenger service between Cambridge and St.Ives which used the bay at St.Ives, although even that went in 1970.

There are some real oddities in Richard's diagram including a distant under one of the homes it presumably acts as distant for. (Since both distants are worked by the same lever I wouldn't call it an inner distant.)

lthough it wouldn't totally surprise me to learn that there could have been some residual seasonal beet traffic even though I have seen no references to it.
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Re: Swavesey - St Ives - March

Unread postby John Hinson » Thu Dec 29, 2016 10:01 am

Richard Pike wrote:When was the line between St Ives & Swavesey singled? We are pretty sure it was done in connection with the condition of bridge 2272 but was the line still a through route to March? We have this box diagram and i've seen enough evidence to believe the layout was altered to match this diagram though i still can't account for the right hand being the way it is.

Swavesey-St Ives was singled on 18/12/66 from what I have here so yes, it was still a through route.

According to records I have the Up line from the March direction at St Ives was removed 16/6/67 and the Down line 23/9/69. But other boxes through to March show quite different dates so the change and reason are a bit of a mystery. Some of the intermediate boxes are shown as lasting until 1972 but at March South the Down line became a wagon storage siding accessed through a ground frame from 7/6/68 and that itself was soon removed (20/12/68) owing to the speed with which the wagon journals vanished. It looks as if the line just gently faded away without any consistent plan.

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Re: Swavesey - St Ives - March

Unread postby John Webb » Thu Dec 29, 2016 10:12 am

There's quite a bit of information about the lines around St Ives at http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/s/st.ives/index.shtml, with links to the various other stations on these lines.
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Re: Swavesey - St Ives - March

Unread postby Richard Pike » Thu Dec 29, 2016 10:31 am

Every scrap of paperwork i have for St Ives - March shows the up line to be removed.

Wimblington..

https://www.flickr.com/photos/32297024@N08/31582047240/

Chatteris..

https://www.flickr.com/photos/32297024@N08/31807637212/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/32297024@N08/31146064123/

Somersham Junction

https://www.flickr.com/photos/32297024@N08/31918300996/

and March South Junction..

https://www.flickr.com/photos/32297024@N08/31918291666/

I do have more but i can't find it at the moment.
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Re: Swavesey - St Ives - March

Unread postby davidwoodcock » Thu Dec 29, 2016 12:43 pm

The March South Junction diagram is particularly interesting in showing that there was no direct access to the St.Ives line southbound. When I travelled over the line in August 1965, I did so southbound and there was definitely no need to reverse over a trailing crossover to access the line and so, at least at that end and probably throughout, it was still double track. I couldn't remember whether it was single or double but would definitely remembered a back shunt at the junction.

I now wonder whether the line was retained northbound for a period purely to facilitate the orderly removal of one of the running lines. In the earlier BR period it had been used regularly for ECML diversions (with a reversal at St.Ives) so good quality track would have been laid and, given the paucity of the regular service, it would still have been in reasonable, and certainly reusable, condition.
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Re: Swavesey - St Ives - March

Unread postby John Hinson » Thu Dec 29, 2016 3:18 pm

davidwoodcock wrote:The March South Junction diagram is particularly interesting in showing that there was no direct access to the St.Ives line southbound. When I travelled over the line in August 1965, I did so southbound and there was definitely no need to reverse over a trailing crossover to access the line and so, at least at that end and probably throughout, it was still double track. I couldn't remember whether it was single or double but would definitely remembered a back shunt at the junction.

That plan is dated 1967 for the abolition of the Up line. As I explained, the "single" line was Down direction only. Shunting of up trains would never have taken place.

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Re: Swavesey - St Ives - March

Unread postby davidwoodcock » Thu Dec 29, 2016 7:52 pm

John Hinson wrote:That plan is dated 1967 for the abolition of the Up line. As I explained, the "single" line was Down direction only. Shunting of up trains would never have taken place.


Yes, John I realise that, although the 1967 date for abolition of the up line was useful in confirming that the line still remained double track in 1965 when I travelled over it as I just couldn't remember.

The interesting point, to me anyway, is that, according to my records, the route closed to passenger traffic wef 06/03/1967 and that freight traffic had already ceased by that date (although I don't have an actual date), which effectively meant that the route was closed to all traffic. Yet the whole series of plans, with various dates later in 1967, show alterations following the abolition of the up line, making the route, seemingly closed to all traffic, unidirectional northbound (i.e. down).

I have seen examples of notices authorising traffic over officially closed lines, always issued under the personal authority of the Regional CCE and always specifying the precise movements authorised, none of them involved signalling alterations even though pw alterations were sometimes required. The only exception, other than this example, that I can think of is the special case of the recently closed Canterbury-Whitstable goods line which was briefly reopened to traffic following the devastation of Kent Coast line by the January 1953 floods - clearly an emergency situation. (The various permanent reopenings of previously closed lines are, of course, totally different, before anyone starts trying to list them.)
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Re: Swavesey - St Ives - March

Unread postby Richard Pike » Sat Dec 31, 2016 1:09 pm

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Re: Swavesey - St Ives - March

Unread postby John Hinson » Sun Jan 1, 2017 10:14 am

I have a theory about the retention of a one-directional line between St Ives and March and I don't believe it was retained for residual freight traffic as close study of Richard's plans and my own records show no sidings at all on that section. The only possibility there could have been to facilitate traffic from Chivers' at Histon until it could be re-arranged to run via Cambridge. Nor do I think it was to facilitate track lifting as the signalling (and the level crossing interlocking) would have been nothing but a hindrance.

My theory (totally unsupported but making practical sense) is that engineering work on the Down line of the route via Ely cropped up which affected the Down Line at night. Shunting loose-coupled freights for single-line working is time-consuming and cumbersome (been there, done that) and traffic running via Ely after the Joint line closed would have been intense.

So I think that a scheme to use the old route, probably only at night, was hatched to allow the engineers to get on with lifting the Up line. Staffing would have been tricky, given the number of level crossings, but no worse than, say, the days when the Bedford-Bletchley was opened on Sundays for diversions (I got rostered there from Broad Street!). SLW could have been implemented over the Up line on the Ely route with the Up freights not needing to shunt of course.

It is worth noting the goods loop at Somersham was retained, this would have conveniently dealt with traffic awaiting acceptance by Whitemoor in the same way the refuge sidings on the Ely line did for many years in the (then) future.

And it was a full-blown scheme as I have seen the simplified box diagram for Chatteris and it was a new print on cartridge paper with not an overlay or scratching-out to be seen.

I bet there are some train registers out there somewhere which tell the real story.

I still can't get the dates to tally:
St Ives end truncated 23/9/69
Somersham closed 5/6/67*
Chatteris closed 28/6/67*.
Wimblington closed 28/5/67*.
March South end made a siding accessed by ground frame 7/7/68, truncated 20/12/68.

* - the up line was removed in stages 5/67 so can these dates really be correct?

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Re: Swavesey - St Ives - March

Unread postby Richard Pike » Sun Jan 1, 2017 12:40 pm

The Cambridge to March line via St Ives was the subject of a goodly number of conversations with the late Andy Rush. I wish i could remember all the detail but one thing that did stick in my mind was the lines being reopened a week or two after closure to cover a blockage between Ely North Junction and March South Junction. This reopening may have lasted certainly two and maybe even three weeks. I have not found any evidence of this blockage. It must have involved something fairly big because plain line renewal wouldn't have taken that long. My main suspect would be the the bridges over the Old and New Bedford Rivers at Welney.

The sand traffic that kept the Cambridge - Fen Drayton section open until 1992 could have been a reason to leave some infrastructure intact towards Somersham. The extraction has stopped at Fen Drayton but is very active now around Somersham. It may be at the time of closure there was some indecision as to which site would get planning permission etc. The original extraction was accessed via Glossop's Siding at St Ives itself. Later the loading terminal was moved to the up goods loop. Once this source of sand/ballast was exhausted work moved east of the River Great Ouse to the facility at Fen Drayton. If planning permission for extraction had been granted to the Somersham site before fen Drayton we may well be talking a different story now.
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Re: Swavesey - St Ives - March

Unread postby davidwoodcock » Sun Jan 1, 2017 9:51 pm

The series of works implemented to retain the route on a uni-directional basis must have had some very real basis. There would inevitably have been costs involved which would have required sanction at at least GM level (and, given that the route was "closed", possibly at BRB level), given the pressure on costs in the mid-1960s, the sanction wouldn't have been given lightly.

I now wonder whether the clue lies in the state of the river Ouse bridge 2272 between Swavesey and St.Ives plus the fact that the sand traffic was still being handled at St.Ives itself and would therefore have had to cross the bridge. The axle loading of loaded sand wagons, particularly if the sand was wet, would have much heavier than the axle-loading of the same wagons empty (which would have been much of the same order as a dmu). Retaining the down line to March would have enabled the sand traffic to be worked on a circuit basis, crossing bridge 2272 empty, loading at St.Ives and then continuing loaded via March obviating the need to cross the bridge. The traffic was obviously considered valuable and retaining the down line to March in the short term would have probably been the lowest cost solution to the problems created by the state of the bridge. Retaining the two loops may well have been retained to facilitate handling wagons that became cripples, hot boxes being a common problem with sand traffic.
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Re: Swavesey - St Ives - March

Unread postby Richard Pike » Mon Jan 2, 2017 9:19 am

Bridge 2272 is the subject of much activity here. It was best described as two parallel structures sharing the same piers. The up line main span had easily twice the number of transoms compared to the down. Here is the down line (abandoned) long span..

https://www.flickr.com/photos/32297024@N08/31928508121/

I have uploaded several more pictures of Br2272 also.

In my non bridge engineer opinion the up (retained) line was the stronger structure.
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Re: Swavesey - St Ives - March

Unread postby scarpa » Tue Jan 3, 2017 12:42 am

I am pretty sure during this period the bridges at Welney were renewed I can t find where I read it yet and may have been a bankslip same area.
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