The Branch Line Society


Channel Islands Long Weekend
Friday 8th to Sunday 10th May 2015

On Thursday 7 May, 34 members and friends descended on Jersey for the start of our Channel Islands Tracker which coincided with the special 70th Liberation Day celebrations (a very big annual event for the Islands). Having booked into the Merton Hotel in St. Helier with a Group Booking arranged by our Fixtures Secretary, the day/evening was free for everyone to do their own thing before the tour started the following morning. After an early breakfast, participants walked to Liberation Square where the remains of the St. Helier Weighbridge Terminus of the 7½ mile Jersey Railway were viewed before boarding a special charter of the road train hauled by 'Peirson' largely along the old trackbed (now roads/footpaths) to Millbrook Station. Morning coffee was taken and the station building inspected. Commentary all day was kindly provided by our Jersey resident member; more comments about this later! The road train then took the group to St. Aubin where the former station hotel is now the Parish Hall of St. Brelade. The sites of the former terminal platforms and that of the extension to Corbiere were viewed before the group ventured across the road to the site of the temporary station, which was in use for a few months before the gauge change (standard to 3' 6") was completed on the original St. Helier line. Permission had been obtained to visit the normally inaccessible tunnel (built in 1898 to avoid some tight curves) where there are plenty of German Occupation remains from when it was a wartime munitions store; such as 60 and 100cm tracks still laid in the main tunnels and 60cm lines in the extensive German side tunnels.

JR&T is 'Jersey Railway and Tramways' (never 'Western'). JER is Jersey Eastern Railway.

The original trackbed of the Jersey Railway between St. Aubin and Corbiere is now a 4 mile public footpath/cycleway and our group then set off up the hill of just over two miles (with gradients of up to 1:30) to Les Quennevais. En route the sites of Greenville station, an early closure, the junction at Pont Marquet between the original and German lines and the station at Don Bridge were all inspected. The summit of the line at Les Quennevais is now the middle of Jersey's second town; when the line was built there was only a racecourse here! The party walked past Blanches Banques and La Moie to 'the Temporary' (station) which was built for the quarrymen when the line was extended away from the quarry to the new Corbiere station and, despite its name, stayed open but was unadvertised! We then had a look at the remains of the quarry; the reason for building the line and which now houses Jersey's desalination plant, only used if essential due to its very high running costs. Hidden alongside the quarry is the 'Dynamite Railway', a short cable worked line (possibly 2 ft gauge) descending steeply to the sea. Incredibly, this had obviously been very recently relaid, with brand new track and metal sleepers certainly since your reporter had last visited to check the route of the tour a few months before.[See picture, left, by Kev Adlam] What is it used for now? There is a small building at sea level, thought to be the dynamite store when the quarry was active but its current use is unknown. This railway was used to haul the daily dynamite requirement up to the quarry, the rest being left separate and safe in the store.

We returned to the former junction at 'The Temporary' and continued the track bed walk to the Corbiere terminus. This station has recently been 'got at' in a Grand Designs manner. Hopefully the residents do not walk about in their glass lounge as God intended or indeed throw stones!

From Corbiere our FS had hired a semi-open top vintage charabanc; Bristol LH J46655 (ex LT 'BL91' OJD 91R) - and we proceeded to visit various German railway remains en route to Pallot's Steam Museum. Firstly the 'Clos de la Gare' estate was noted next to La Moie station and then we proceeded to Bethesda Chapel where the only remaining German overbridge is to be found. From the car park, the route of the German line, which some sources say never opened, could be seen along the valley side and is now a public footpath. The journey continued across the Island and the route of the German line that terminated at Sorel Point was seen. At Pallot's Steam Museum 5 laps each of 22ch were enjoyed on the standard gauge circuit, which normally operates Thursdays only in the season. Steam loco P2129 hauled two lovely North London Railway leather upholstered non-corridor coaches converted to rigid 8-wheelers and very authentically Victorian they were! Four laps were completed on the inner 2ft gauge circuit that only runs on 'Liberation Day' (one day per year) with MR Simplex 11143. Neither line has any points. There was much of interest in the museum and refreshments were kindly provided.

The group re-joined the coach to Gorey Pier where our visits to the stations of the 6¾ mile always standard gauge Jersey Eastern Railway commenced. It is rather strange that a railway closed in 1929 has far more physical remains, such as buildings, as opposed to the Jersey Railway that closed in 1936. Nothing remains at Gorey Pier station but the route of the railway is easily seen as it is now a flower bed rather than a trackbed most of the way to Gorey Village. This second station building has been extended and converted into two flats and even the watertower has been converted into a dwelling. Grouville is still in its original condition and a few lucky members were invited into the garden by the friendly owner and were able to view the remains of the Down platform; there used to be a loop and second platform. She confirmed that the booking office window is still in place in the bathroom! Fauvic, formerly Les Marais, has been extended and turned into a guest house but there is a short length of the trackbed which was duly walked by a few! Nothing remains at La Rocque but the site of a few houses here is still called 'Place de la Gare'. Similarly at Le Bourg where it is possible to go off on the wrong track as there is a house called 'The Railway' which has nothing to do with the line! The site of the level crossing is evident and the route now moves towards the shore. Pontac station building has been demolished but a bungalow, 'La Vieille Gare', occupies the spot. Here the route is clearly marked by a short length of trackbed where the fence posts are lengths of old rail (more likely to be Germanic than original Jersey). The coach stopped on the coast road at Le Hocq and a short walk was necessary to find the station at the end of a private road.

Next came Pontorson Lane Halt where a bungalow called 'The Halt' was actually the crossing keeper's cottage; the halt itself was on the other side of the level crossing but no trace of the platform remains. The trackbed hereabouts is a public footpath. Participants then walked to Samares, (the coach unable to make this part of the journey due to narrow roads) still in its original state but with other buildings very close to it. A visit was then made to the site of one of the island's now derelict former massive tomato greenhouse complexes built across the trackbed, allowing sight of the remains of a platelayer's hut and, most unexpectedly, 4 standard gauge ex-BR TEA tanker bodies (3 identifiable) formerly used to store LPG used for heating/hydroponic services. They were not previously known even to our local expert and had been found by chance the previous day by two members out exploring! The final station visited was Grève d'Azette. Parking in the public sports field car park we bowled out across two cricket pitches to find the station site and saw its platform edge, the only remains. Our Chairman enjoyed a brief innings behind the wheel of the charabanc in the car park before he had to bail out!

The next item on the first day's extensive (in classical KA style) itinerary was the Chateau Clairval Miniature Railway Julian Clyde-Smith's 7¼ inch private railway round his garden. Julian met us on arrival and basically said 'there's the railway, enjoy yourselves.' (We did!). Everyone covered the line, which was smaller than when the Society last visited in that two sidings had been removed, and the branch that used to run to the house, formerly used for putting out and bringing in the dustbins, was reduced to just a few feet.

Returning to the hotel we all enjoyed a magnificent buffet dinner followed by a fiendishly difficult quiz set by your local member to round off the excellent 12 hour day of non-stop action. If only everyone had listened to [and remembered - Ed!] the commentary during the day they would have been able to answer a lot more questions than they did! Congratulations to the winning team who scored 33/59 but did have a very well read and knowledgeable member from Newport (Wales)!

Saturday 9 May was Liberation Day in Jersey and Guernsey (the 70th) with much celebration in both islands. Due to problems with inter-island transport, the day started remarkably late for the BLS at 10.00 with the 'Saturday stroll'. This was a two-hour conducted walk around the eastern side of St. Helier, completing the route of the Jersey Eastern Railway (JER) from the Friday as well as further investigation of the former German railway lines. A short walk from the hotel brought us to the site of St. Luke's station where the level crossing over Beach Road was discernible from the difference in the style of the buildings. Nothing remains of the station and so we ambled along the trackbed, with a deviation for an inconsiderate tree! Arriving at the site of Georgetown station, it was noted that a new building had been erected on the site. The line from the JER Snow Hill terminus to Georgetown was not rebuilt by the Occupying Forces as they wanted to reach the harbour instead. The party returned towards town bearing in mind that the Germans probably laid their track in the middle of the road. Photography was banned during the Occupation so evidence of where the railways went is virtually non-existent. At Harve des Pas the line moved off the road and along the coastal footpath that nowadays goes to the modern oil fired power station (although most electricity is imported from France). Here the railway route is now under the present buildings so a detour was in order. Coming round the other side of the power station, a suitable grassy mound allowed everyone to have a look at the eastern end of the German tunnel that is now used for transmission cables by the Jersey Electricity Company. Once on the harbour side, the western end of the tunnel was obvious, even down to showing the marks of the planks which were used as moulds for the wet concrete. From here the line could be traced across the French and English Harbours and the site of the wooden trestle bridge across the English Harbour could be seen.

Our ever resourceful FS increased his Channel Islands' motive power haul
by trying his hand making a splash with a small rowing boat in the harbour
specifically marked for public use so did not end up in hot water for this.
[© Al Sheppard 2015]

Following the line to the head of the harbour and deviating across the former bus station at the Weighbridge took the party back into town. The first building of interest was the Lovin' Spoonful, formerly the Jersey Eastern Railway Terminus Hotel. By now, our FS was in dire need of refreshment (caffeinated!) but everything was closed for Liberation day, an extra 'Bank Holiday'.

Next was the former Snow Hill station, the St. Helier terminus of the Jersey Eastern Railway, now a car park (but the wall supports of the former platform canopy are easily seen) the pillars of the front of the canopy are at Pallot's Museum serving a similar purpose. The line here was cut out of solid rock making a very deep and steep walled cutting with a steeply graded railway. Walking through the car park the bridge (still in use) carrying Regent Road over the railway was viewed from rail and road level.

An original Jersey Eastern Railway overbridge between St. Hellier Snow Hill and (approaching) Green Street stations.
Jenny Williamson who took the shot is adamant she did not tell them to wave!
[© Jenny Williamson 2015]

The same bridge from the other side, the grassy traffic island ahead was the site of the former Green Street station both taken Saturday 9 May 2015.
[© Jenny Williamson 2015]

Since the railway closed there has been much alteration of the roads and levels in this part of town but the site of the temporary Green Street station (open until the line was extended further into town at Snow Hill) was noted, now in the middle of the roundabout beyond which the route eastward could be seen. It formerly ran on a walled embankment; bridge abutments at Roseville Street and Cleveland Road were noted, and finally the site of the level crossing over St. Clément's Road was seen. The group returned to the hotel for refreshment. This concluded the Jersey rail related activities but the bus enthusiasts were in for a treat as the Airport buses were not leaving from the Bus Station and so a rare piece of road was traversed en route!

Guernsey, 9th May: Departing from Jersey on two separate flights due to size of the party, the afternoon of Saturday 9th May saw the intrepid group relocate to Guernsey. Public service buses were used to make the short journey from the airport to Sausmarez Manor, the home of a 7¼" gauge miniature railway. This is now the only railway on the island, a 350yd circuit with a single depot spur. Traction was provided by Terry Leigh built 4-4wPH (1989) 'Remus', hauling two sit-astride trucks. Everyone enjoyed at least two clockwise circuits from Manor Station waving Guernsey flags (as you do), before the depot spur was completed to the shed door, using hand propulsion. Afterwards, the party spent time talking with the owner who had kindly provided wine, soft drinks and sandwiches. Our journey into St. Peter Port was then completed, again by bus, in time to enjoy the 70th anniversary Liberation Celebrations and a grand harbour firework display.

The second group, the tiny headboard is especially for flying!

Sunday 10th May, Alderney: The party split into three groups to make their way from Guernsey on the Sunday morning. Some flew whilst two charter boats took 24 participants on a very pleasant 90-minute sea crossing. The latter groups were able to ride on both 'Bumblebee'(pictured right, leaving Guernsey first thing in the morning) and 'Access Challenger' as they swapped for the return journey. Shortly after arrival, the 2-mile (standard gauge) Alderney Railway ECS arrived at Braye Road formed from ex-London Underground tube stock and two locomotives. RH425481 4wDM (1958) 'Molly 2' and VF D100 0-4-0DM (1949) 'Elizabeth' worked our private charter to Mannez Quarry where we alighted to view rolling stock and enjoy light refreshments. A photo stop at the intermediate Eclipse Halt was part of a sequence to ensure that everyone had a cab ride. Wickham trolley trips covered depot roads 2 and 3, but short of the points onto the main. A full line trip was then made to Braye Road with just one loco at the helm; the return covering the connection off the main into the depot and then reversing before running up to the shed doors on road 1 for completeness! The opportunity was taken to study the former Alderney miniature railway near the inland quarry terminus where track was found in situ but heavily overgrown. The locomotive and riding truck were discovered in a locked shed.

Our party finally returned to Braye Road. One member managed to participate in an Irish railtour on the Friday, Charity Railtours' Four Triangles tour on the Saturday then fly (from Southampton) to Alderney for this trip on the Sunday - very impressive indeed, Ian! Many of the group walked up to the town to see another Wickham trolley, resting safely in the garage at the NatWest Bank branch. Afterwards, the disused and blocked railway to (and along) the harbour breakwater was visited on foot. The original purpose of the line (OG 1847) was to bring stone down from the quarry to build and maintain it and the Victorian forts. Only one previous BLS visit is known to have traversed the breakwater line.

The Breakwater Line on a Society visit of 3 July 1984, which trip traversed to the start of the breakwater.
It was a day trip by boat from Torquay organised by John and Jenny Williamson. A man in a cage can just be seen hanging down
from the crane to carry out some of the maintenance on the breakwater but, more importantly, did he do the very rare track?)
[© Ian Mortimer 1984]

To complete the Channel Islands long weekend, our two charter boats exhilaratingly raced each other back to Guernsey, much to everyone's enjoyment – the FS's boat won! The Fixtures Secretary wants to take this opportunity to thank our Jersey member Chris Totty for all his considerable help in delivering an excellent and very enjoyable three-day programme of multi-island offshore events in our very special year, with a great social element. Many members enjoyed extra days there before and/or afterwards.

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