The Branch Line Society

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Kennet Day Ranger Tracker
Wednesday 28th June 2017

Up to 19 members, most arriving by train, with the exact number varying throughout the day, took part in our latest informal day of rare track on service trains. The objective was to cover the bays and various routes into, and out of the west end of Reading with the bays, loop and crossovers further west, at Newbury, using the Kennet Day Ranger ticket. It was planned, researched and led by Tom Gilby (participants were very grateful to him). To our surprise the price of the Kennet Day Ranger had recently been reduced from £13.90 (railcard £9.15) to £12/£7.95! This good value ticket gives rail travel between Basingstoke, Reading and Bedwyn on GWR & Cross Country trains after 09.30 (all weekends and Bank Holidays).


     

Most travelled about 240 miles with it. Extras were available to the Southern area before and after at extra cost. Being summer it was mostly daylight and there was the usual great BLS friendly atmosphere all day. Earlier trips: 09.56 Reading P5 to Wokingham back to P4 for 10.42, while some attempted the scissors crossover out of P14 that didn't work. Later trips: 21.42 Reading P6 to Wokingham via the realigned Reading Southern Jn returning to P13a via the Eastern Underpass Line or Up Relief/Flyover and Festival Lines variations and/or 21.45‡ Reading to Birmingham PSUL reversing at Foxhall Jn.
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The intense adventure began with the 11.07 to Basingstoke and everything going to plan. In order Reading bays 2, 3 and 1 were done, along with Basingstoke bay P5 and it seemed as though everyone was 'baying' for more. The bidirectional Reading Feeder Relief was taken by the 11.49 ex-Basingstoke. During the day both crossovers were covered between Westbury Lane Jn and Oxford Road Jn. It was interesting to see the Network SouthEast 'Bramley Bunker' tour (1 May 1987) details that Tom Gilby kindly brought along. The only evidence from the train of the very extensive former MoD Bramley Ammunition Depot railway is two MoD underbridges beneath the main line. The Society had a comprehensive all day tour arranged by your Editor on perhaps the inappropriate date of 5 Nov 1980.

† This gave the facing and trailing crossovers before and after Newbury. It allowed a (connecting) Paddington to Exeter HST to call at P1 and a DBC stone train to Theale to pass on the Up ('middle') line.

*Some went to Reading (P11b) for an alternative grazing break via Oxford Rd Jn facing crossovers and the 'Feeder' Main, returning on the 19.21 train (from P12b!) that picked the rest up at Theale (19.29). The day was planned around the evening train that uses Newbury Racecourse P3 (booked 9½ minute wait) jockeying for places with the 19.03 Paddington to Plymouth train that took the line to Newbury.

Most had not been to Bedwyn on a terminating train before and our friendly driver was surprised that so many were particularly interested in the facing crossover and turnback siding. He received a round of applause! In Newbury Bay P3 the maximum '3 car stop' was reached despite being in a two car Class 165 DMU. In the afternoon an Up stone train was involved in a 'SPAD' approaching Reading on the Feeder Relief and its protracted stay meant the Feeder Main (theatre indication 'M' at Reading West Jn) had to be used by our three (!) further trips from Reading to Reading West. The rare Feeder Relief to Feeder Main crossover (36m 68ch = 0m 59ch on Reading West Curve) and Feeder Main connection to Reading P12 at Caversham Road Jn were unexpectedly done - twice as a result (every cloud has a silver lining)! ‡Unfortunately, due to a broken rear windscreen this train did not reverse at Foxhall Jn!

Up until the end of the Newbury 'supper break', one participant's movements were common to the rest of the party. When those he accompanied on the 18.53 from Newbury left it at Theale, to ensure catching the train doing the Newbury Racecourse loop (which he had done a year or so earlier behind 'Earl of Mount Edgecombe' which stopped for water on a dining excursion), he stayed on to do the Feeder Main, which was new to him, duly arriving at Reading P11. Following refreshment at the 'Three Guineas', he took the 20.04 to Wokingham and then caught the 20.22 back, to do the Reading Spur. He had, many years ago, travelled from a London end Reading bay platform onto the Southern line to Waterloo. He doubts that the alignment off the GWR main line has changed, so that did both routes.

Our member then rejoined the main party for the two return trips to Reading West, before taking the 21.42 to Wokingham again, with hope of doing the Reading Low Level line, about which there was some doubt, on analysis of 'Realtime Trains' data. At Wokingham he met another member with the same aim, but further doubts arose because for each of the first four minutes, the screens showed the expected arrival being delayed by another minute! However, the arrival was at the revised time, and they boarded. By this time it was, of course, too dark to be certain of where they turned off the Southern line, but when the train brushed past foliage, and they could then see a tunnel wall to their immediate right (neither of which happened while on the Down Reading Spur!), they were fairly sure they had succeeded! Confirmation came on emerging to see well lit office parking to the right; the train then duly proceeded into P13, concluding an excellent day, even to a normally non-microgricer!

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