The Branch Line Society



Passenger Train Services over Unusual Lines

listing regular passenger trains over obscure rail routes in the British Isles

Compiled by Richard Maund

This page was updated on 3 January 2021


This publication's long established title is, perhaps, something of a misnomer - hence the addition of the subtitle. The objective is to tabulate the passenger trains using obscure rail lines in the British Isles. The lines included here are those scheduled to be used reasonably regularly - albeit not necessarily frequently - by passenger trains that may not readily be evident from the official publicly-available rail timetable for Great Britain, its accompanying map (when published) or the equivalent publications of other railways. The categorisation adopted by other, unofficial publications has no bearing on the selection of lines for inclusion in PSUL.

The facility is offered partly to those wishing to travel over such "unusual" lines but also as a data source for those interested in the history of such obscure services. With the latter in mind, the aspiration is to make available, on this website, information in respect of earlier years too.

Many may know the title as a small pamphlet, originally issued through the auspices of The Stephenson Locomotive Society, but latterly by the Branch Line Society, who still issue a printed booklet version of the data from this website.

If you have visited this site seeking current train service timetable information you should consult the on-line journey planners of National Rail (for Great Britain), NI Rail (for Northern Ireland) or Iarnród Éireann (for the Republic of Ireland).

Some services may be shown in abridged form rather than by full listing of all trains. In editions from 1993 onwards, lines which had service in the previous timetable period but have no service this time are endorsed either "Service ceased", where a regular service has been withdrawn, or "No service", where only temporary engineering diversions had previously operated. Lines which did not have service in the previous timetable period, but which now see use, are specifically endorsed.

A review of lines which fall in the indeterminate area at the edges of the criteria for inclusion/exclusion resulted in adding - from the 2013 edition - four existing routes. While neither "rare" nor obscure to most users (the routes are clearly shown on the Network Rail system map accompanying the national timetable), these may be helpful for less experienced users: Stoke Works Junction - Abbotswood Junction; Weston super Mare avoiding line; Colwich Junction - Stone Junction; Morecambe - Heysham Port. Excursions which are expected to be using "obscure" routes on more than a once-off basis are also now included (although no attempt has been made to include multi-day "land-cruise" trains); it should not be assumed that these trains run every week - consult operator's publicity.

Advertised times are used (although the occasional working time - which may vary by a minute or two - may have inadvertently crept in). Be particularly aware that, in some areas, a leaf-fall timetable is introduced in October which may result in some trains running slightly earlier than the rest of the year. The National Rail Timetable and its printed derivatives omit some trains or parts of their routes which are advertised in train operating companies' own timetables; a note is included below in relevant cases that have come to notice.

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There is no pay-wall for this facility - but if you use it, and find it helpful, you are urged to donate generously to a railway related charity: we suggest RBF - The Railway Benefit Fund is worthy of your consideration for donations - or a charity of your choice.

Explanation of references

M = Mondays

W = Wednesdays

F = Fridays

Su = Sundays

T = Tuesdays

Th = Thursdays

S = Saturdays

plus O = only or X = excepted

D = restricted dates of operation, for which refer to relevant public timetable (this note is used only until the 2011 edition, and only when dates are not quoted in the text)
N = not advertised in public timetable (subject to cancellation at short notice)
/ = (in train title) train runs throughout the period but title varies
§ = (until 1996) revised timings applicable during period (September/October) when BST and CET coincide (hence schedules of trains connecting with shipping services had to be amended by an hour); (at other periods the symbol may have been used for other explanations)
"between X and Y" = in either or both directions (including trains running beyond X and/or Y, where the context permits)
"from X to Y" = only in the direction indicated (including trains running beyond X and/or Y, where the context permits)

Unless otherwise shown in the edition concerned, until the Winter 1999/2000 edition, trains were presumed to run Mondays to Saturdays ("Each Weekday" or EWD, in railway parlance) unless otherwise endorsed; trains running on Sundays were endorsed SUN. For the editions from 2000 until 2013, Sundays were regarded as part of a "seven day week". From the 2014 edition, weekday and weekend services are generally segregated in the listings.

Where appropriate, trains are grouped by direction under each route heading.

Where a specific platform is shown below as being critical to routing, the planned platform for a train can be found through the National Rail Enquiries journey planner or the OpenTrainTimes and Realtime Trains websites.

Engineering diversions

Some diversions are pre-planned in the working timetable and these are listed herein, prefaced by the days/dates of operation (in CAPITALS in some editions, with the symbols ¶ or <+> in some editions). Some train companies' websites give outline information of forthcoming engineering work, as does the National Rail website. Late information may be available through the Gensheet Yahoo! Group.

Other service changes

From 2012, Network Rail has published the current Sectional Appendices and working timetables on its website. Transport for London have followed suit, so current London Underground working timetables are online. Working timetables for Docklands Light Railway, Manchester Metrolink and Tyne & Wear (Nexus) Metro are accessible through responses to Freedom of Information requests through the What Do They Know website (use their search facility).

OpenTrainTimes and Realtime Trains websites enable checking for any amendments or short term variations to working timetable details for specific train schedules.

Quasi-regular excursions and land cruises

Brief mention was, until the Summer 2002 edition, made of some of these arrangements, where timings appeared in the working timetables or where the route was reasonably established. There was always debate about whether such trains warranted inclusion but when they appeared in the working timetables it seemed sensible to cover them. Subsequently, the degree to which many (even when still running) disappeared from the working timetables and transferred to short-notice advice, and the relative infrequency of some routes, led to inability to provide reliable total coverage, leading to inconsistency. For this reason, they were deleted with effect from the Winter 2002-3 edition, apart only from the VSOE "line service" between London, the Channel and Venezia until that ceased to use the Folkestone Harbour branch after 13 November 2008. For 2012, steam and other excursions which followed a regular schedule over a number of weeks (usually during the summer season) were again incorporated, while from 2013 abridged details are included for those excursions expected to be using "obscure" routes on more than a once-off basis. However, no attempt has been made to include multi-day "land-cruise" trains such as Royal Scotsman or similar offered by other operators.

Details of forthcoming railtours over non-passenger lines can be found at the Railway Herald website.

Grouping of lines

The listing is sub-divided, as follows:

  • England:
  • East Anglia EA - No entries
  • East Midlands EM
  • Greater London
  • North East NE
  • North West NW
  • South East (north) SE(N)
  • South East (south) SE(S)
  • South West SW
  • West Midlands WM
  • Yorkshire & Humberside Y&H
  • Ireland
  • Northern Ireland
  • Scotland
  • Wales
English counties - past or present - are allocated to regions as follows:
Avon SW
Bedfordshire SE(N)
Berkshire SE(S)
Buckinghamshire SE(N)
Cambridgeshire SE(N)
Cheshire NW
Cleveland NE
Cornwall SW
Cumberland NW
Cumbria NW
Derbyshire: High Peak District NW; remainder EM
Devon SW
Dorset SW
Durham NE
Essex SE(N)
Gloucestershire SW
Hampshire SE(S)
Hereford & Worcester WM
Herefordshire WM
Hertfordshire SE(N)
Humberside Y&H
Huntingdon SE(N)
Isle of Wight SE(S)
Kent SE(S)
Lancashire NW
Leicestershire EM
Lincolnshire (except south Humberside) EM
Manchester (Greater) NW
Merseyside NW
Middlesex Greater London
Norfolk EA
Northamptonshire EM
Northumberland NE
Nottinghamshire EM
Oxfordshire SE(N)
Rutland EM
Shropshire WM
Somerset SW
Staffordshire WM
Suffolk EA
Surrey SE(S)
Sussex SE(S)
Tyne &
Wear NE
Warwickshire WM
West Midlands WM
Westmorland NW
Wiltshire SW
Worcestershire WM
Yorkshire Y&H

Within each region, lines are listed generally from west to east, with more northerly lines before southerly ones.

For reference purposes, against each line some or all of the following may be shown (not applicable for all editions of PSUL):
  • in brackets [ ] the page(s) on which it appears in the relevant edition of Rail Atlas Great Britain & Ireland (OPC)
    (the categorisation of lines adopted by the atlas's compiler has no bearing on the selection of lines for inclusion in PSUL)
  • in parentheses ( ) the tables in which advertised services appear in the relevant edition of the National Rail Timetable (not available in printed version after December 2015), electronic National Rail Timetable, or NIRailways Timetable
  • the working timetable section in which services are found for the period in question (current Network Rail edition available by following the link from the Network Rail website).
  • To the lists themselves......

    To the current year's edition follow this link

    Past editions from 1963 to 1987-8 are presented in two parts which should be read in conjunction with each other - a facsimile scan of the original publication and a listing of amendments and corrections thereto.
    From 1988-9 onwards the entries are new editions, compiled from original sources but containing corrections and subsequent service amendments which may not have been not published contemporaneously.
    All are presented as PDF files.
    To the portfolio of past editions follow this link.

    Elsewhere in the world

    If you are interested in information about similar obscure lines in Europe, visit the Enthusiasts' Guide to Travelling the Railway of Europe; refer in particular to the "Lines with obscure or sparse passenger services" sections.

    For services over obscure lines elswhere in the world outside Europe visit the world beyond Europe page.

    There is no pay-wall for this facility - but if you use it, and find it helpful, you are urged to donate generously to a railway related charity: we suggest RBF - The Railway Benefit Fund is worthy of your consideration for donations - or a charity of your choice.

    If you have any information, comments on or updates to any of the documents, you can e-mail the compiler.

    And now the small print: Copyright and Disclaimer Notice:

    Any facsimile representations of documents reproduced in this website are with the agreement of the original publishers, who reserve their rights. Otherwise, copyright of this website in its entirety is reserved by the compiler. Copies of any part of the website must be for personal use only - use for commercial purposes will be regarded as breach of copyright. The information contained in the website is for general reference only. The formatting and content of the documents may only be altered to suit your own computer or printer.

    The right of Richard Maund to be identified as the compiler of this work in this format has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988. All rights, including copyright and publications rights, are reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without written permission of the copyright holder.

    Copyright © Richard Maund, 1963-2021