The Branch Line Society


The Vossloh Voyager
Saturday 14th January 2017

Report by Geoff Noakes

This was probably one of the most local tours of my life having been born only a few yards from the start and lived and worked at various locations less than a mile from its route since. However some of the locations visited covered track I had never expected to be able to ride over as a passenger! (The tour itinerary and map were made available as attachments to BLN 1275.)


Preparations for the tour itself started a few days earlier, the stock was specially cleaned and the previous day the two units were coupled and run together with a short diagram from their Wimbledon Park home depot. Journeying to join the tour the ECS and my service train managed to pass each other five times in the six miles between the depot and Waterloo!

Waterloo, the ECS (455732 & 455870) arriving in P19 from Wimbledon.
[Geoff Plumb]

214 people joined the tour, units (45)5870 and (45)5732 at Waterloo. Initially all were accommodated in the front 4 coaches to allow maximum coverage of Clapham Yard, for ticket checking and raffle ticket sales (the connection between the units was out of bounds). Promptly at 08.40 the train departed P19 via two crossovers to the left to run over the Down Windsor line to West Crossings, a complicated area of crossovers with a large number of slip points allowing moves between most of the lines. Anyone not paying close attention could easily slip up on their coverage; we crossed to the left again to the Down Main Fast. Leaving Waterloo the extensive new track layout (to improve flexibility and capacity) being installed in the throat of the former International P20-24 could be seen to the right.

Approaching Strawberry Hill Depot from the south, Shacklegate Jn is behind the photographer, the Shepperton branch is off to the left and the line
ahead to Strawberry Hill and Twickenham was 'possessed' by the Civil Engineer. Interestingly this resulted in 4tph running to/from Shepperton.
[Geoff Plumb]

On our route down through Vauxhall and Nine Elms the rapid redevelopment of much of the area and construction of the Underground Battersea Northern Line extension was seen. Alongside and underneath the now redundant Nine Elms flyover built for Eurostar traffic the tour took the series of crossovers right to use the Up Windsor Line in the Down direction through Queenstown Road P2. After passing under the Brighton lines we crossed back to the Down Windsor Slow Line noting newly installed pointwork (right) to increase flexibility in the area for the forthcoming changes at Waterloo.

1Q79, the 10.30 NR Test Train from Tonbridge West Yard to Derby RTC, via half of Kent and eventually the Midland Main Line (topped & tailed by
73962 'Dick Mabbutt' and 73964 'Jeanette'). Our tour is reversing at Clapham Junction. For details see (and more pictures).
[Geoff Plumb]

On our right here were the blocks of flats where in my very early years I apparently spent many hours on the balcony watching trains on the Victoria and Waterloo lines. I do not remember any of this but perhaps my brain was indoctrinated with railways from this time.

Our EMUs diverged left to enter Clapham Yard and proceed along No3 West London Siding through the carriage washer (not activated!). Approaching Clapham Junction station the tour crossed to the right hand side of the yard and entered No49 Siding next to the Down Windsor Slow line then reversed back to No6 West London Siding to await our booked departure time. Many participants who had travelled long distances and therefore were in unusual territory recorded the unit numbers of the numerous passing trains in many colours on both sides. [ has more pictures.]

Kingston Bay, not a Caribbean holiday resort, although you might wonder from the passenger information display, but the lengthy bay P1
(which did take 8-cars!). BLS Stewards (all of whom paid the full fare as normal as did the organiser, Kev Adlam), SWT staff. On the far right is
Jason Tetley, Chief Executive of the Railway Benefit Fund who rolled his sleeves up all day and mucked in with everyone else. He started the trip
asking us what we do and why (explain that!) and ended up becoming our newest Society member. Welcome to the Branch Line Society, Jason!
[Geoff Plumb]

On time we departed via P6 to Point Pleasant Jn and the East Putney line to Wimbledon, a PSUL route normally only used by a handful of SWT services at rather unsocial hours or during engineering works. Passing Wimbledon memories came back of the former Divisional Manager's Offices in Worple Road where I started my railway career many years ago. In fact the last shift worked in the control office there included a run in Class 508 stock to Waterloo over the East Putney line and the now removed Up flyover, transferring the office to Waterloo General Offices. [Clue: the line was taken OOU 4 Apr 1987 - Ed.] A non-stop run then took us to Hampton Court P2 but on the way the highly unusual moves of the Down Slow to Down Fast crossover at New Malden and back from Down Fast to the Down Hampton Court line at Surbiton beyond that station took place. A short break was taken at Hampton Court enabling participants to spread out through all eight coaches.

On the way again the tour returned by the reversible Down line normally only used in the mode for a branch shuttle service to Surbiton Down Loop. Approaching Surbiton our train took all four crossovers to reach the Up Slow line, a move normally extremely difficult to achieve with the density of traffic but fortunately there were engineering works between Woking and Farnborough meaning fewer trains were operating [the tour date was not coincidental!]. In fact at the time we performed this movement there were no trains, other than us, visible on a website diagram between Raynes Park and Hersham.

The railtour ran through Wimbledon Park Depot.
[Keith Usher of SWT]

Crossing back to the Up Fast line at Berrylands Jn enabled The Vossloh Voyager to return back to the Up Slow line approaching New Malden via another rarely used crossover. The first minor deviation from booked pathway in the whole day's operation saw us stopped briefly before this last move as the Kingston Loop service booked to follow had been allowed in front of us in error. Full credit to the timing team for managing to path us over various London area routes with such dense traffic.

At Wimbledon the next highlight was to diverge left through Wimbledon Park depot. This was via No1 Siding and the carriage washer, again not operating, via Transfer Road 1 where a visiting unit 159009 was stabled alongside us having been to the wheel lathe. Continuing behind the small Staff Halt platform we passed under Durnsford Road bridge, which separates the two halves of the depot, and along No1 New Siding. Leaving by the Earlsfield exit it was onto the Up Fast line to Clapham Junction Up Main Loop, entering the yard by the connection at the London end of the loop. The route along the yard lines was via No1 West London Siding, through the carriage washer and back to West London Jn to re-join the Up Main Fast line. Only a short section of this line was then traversed before crossing left to the Up Windsor line at Queenstown Road passing through P2 in the opposite direction from a few hours earlier. A further set of points took us left again to travel on the single track Windsor Reversible line north of the Nine Elms Flyover then back to Waterloo for a short lunch-time break.

The stationary train awaits departure from Wimbledon Depot to the Up Fast .
[Stuart Hicks]

Relieved and refreshed participants returned and a similar route was taken to the West Crossings but this time diverging left to the Down Main Fast past Clapham Junction and Wimbledon. The train crossed to the Slow line, on the way to New Malden to turn left onto the Kingston Loop line. Passing under the main lines and Malden Crossing, where I started my trainspotting career, it continued via Kingston and Teddington to Fulwell. A faster than expected run was made because the Shepperton branch service we had been booked to follow was cancelled after an earlier signalling failure in the Barnes area caused major disruption. This enabled a more leisurely reversal to be made crossing back to the Up line to Shacklegate Jn where another reversal was made into Strawberry Hill Depot No1 Siding. Unfortunately the full length of the siding was not available as a unit was berthed at the far end. Engineering works past the depot to Twickenham required fewer trains to be in service and also resulted in four trains per hour all day running to/from Shepperton instead of the normal two.

Leaving Strawberry Hill depot via Shacklegate Jn it was off to Kingston Down bay P1 (which took 8 coaches, TRACKmaps suggested 6); a longer break allowed participants to visit the busy shopping centre. Before departure group photographs of the stewards, RBF staff and train crew were taken.

Class 455 driver's controls.
[Stuart Hicks]

Then it was to Shacklegate Jn for the fifth time just turning onto the curve towards Fulwell to reverse and take the very rare Shacklegate Jn trailing crossover to gain the Up line and return to Wimbledon. Again we managed to fit in between the intensive District Line service via East Putney and Point Pleasant Jn to reverse at Clapham Junction. This was on the London side of the station with a good viewpoint of passing trains. The most interesting was one of the Plain Line Pattern Recognition test trains en route from Tonbridge to Derby being worked top and tail by 73962 and 73964. We were booked to follow it towards Barnes which we duly did. Pausing very briefly at Clapham Junction P5 the driver called Wimbledon box querying whether it might be possible to use some crossovers at Barnes that had been requested but could not be timed to be used because of other booked movements.

Our tour made its way slowly forward amongst other traffic and approaching Barnes the signal showed a crossing move left to the Slow Line through P4 where we then crossed right to the Hounslow Loop line (success!). The train crew in the front cab was able to obtain a good view of the tail lamp of the test train in the distance and Barnes River bridge (normally seen from the river view in the University Boat Race); there were indeed rowers on the Thames.

Although the cheque shows £14,530.88, a final excellent total of £14,646.69 was raised for the Railway Benefit Fund.

Passing through the many stations on the line the tour then curved round at Feltham Jn to join the line from Twickenham and past the former marshalling yard now becoming more of a nature reserve. Before Feltham station was Feltham Area Signalling Centre visited by the Society on 30 Apr 2016, and the former Area Managers Office adjacent, another of my work places in the past. At Staines the right hand route was taken to Windsor & Eton Riverside for another short break at this magnificent station.

Returning to Staines the tour ran through the station to reverse on the Up Main next to the stabling sidings. By now darkness had fallen and for the shunt moves the lights were kindly extinguished on the train giving a better view of the moves. It was then back on to the Windsor branch for the trailing crossover formerly from the Staines West branch (at 19m 48ch and still used by ECS workings) to switch to the Up line. Mars and Venus were readily visible (with the lights off!) two of the brightest objects in the sky. Back at Staines it was in to the Up Loop for our final reversal of the tour. It had been hoped to be able to run into the berthing sidings but unfortunately they were unstaffed due to illness.

London Waterloo P19Clapham Yard Siding 49 (to Sig CY43)3m 67ch
Clapham Yard Siding 49 (Sig CY43)Clapham Yard Siding 6 (clear of Sig CY19)0m 22ch
Clapham Yard Siding 6 (clear of Sig CY19)Hampton Court P212m 42ch
Hampton Court P2London Waterloo P1914m 62ch
London Waterloo P19Fulwell P214m 62ch
Fulwell P2Shacklegate Jn Up Line (clear of Sig F413)0m 52ch
Shacklegate Jn Up Line (clear of Sig F413)Strawberry Hill Depot Road No10m 18ch
Strawberry Hill Depot Road No1Kingston Bay P12m 27ch
Kingston Bay P1Shacklegate Jn Down Shep'ton (clear Sig F414)2m 30ch
Shacklegate Jn Down Shep'ton (clear Sig F414)Clapham Junction Up Windsor Fast Line12m 01ch
Clapham Junction Up Windsor Fast LineWindsor & Eton Riverside P122m 74ch
Windsor & Eton Riverside P1Staines Up Main Line (clear of Sig F467)6m 66ch
Staines Up Main Line (clear of Sig F467)Staines West Jn, Down Windsor (clear Sig F478)1m 05ch
Staines West Jn, Down Windsor (clear Sig F478)Staines Up Loop1m 07ch
Staines Up LoopLondon Waterloo P1229m 15ch

Passing through Staines again this time it was left on to the Reading line to Virginia Water then left again to Weybridge and over the little used connection to the Bournemouth Main line. After the station the fast line was taken. The AC traction motored units were then able to show their power and acceleration, the maximum permitted speed for them of 75mph was quickly reached and held steadily until approaching Clapham Junction. Before Waterloo the Up Main Relief line was taken to arrive at P12, the station where I finished my railway employment and this tour was also to finish.

As one passenger remarked after the tour it did exactly what it said on the tin so full credit to Kev Adlam, SWT, NR, the RBF and all involved. Surprisingly 124m 70ch were covered (thanks to Jim Sellens for the calculations and the table above) raising an excellent total of £14,646.69 for the Railway Benefit Fund.