Yoshi’s Castleton Adventure

Yoshi pauses during a walk along the River Stour in Blandford. The two arches behind our boy are all that remain of the original structure that took the Somerset and Dorset Railway across Langton Meadows. The railway closed in 1966 and the Blandford Railway Arches Trust Limited, in partnership with Blandford Town Council are working to conserve the arches – 08/04/2024

April 1st 2024 to April 13th 2024

Yoshi visits the Dolphin Centre in Poole – 02/04/2024

Yoshi was recently quite perturbed on finding out Barclays Bank have been closing branches across Dorset, with both Weymouth and Poole getting the axe. To replace their High Street presence in Poole, the bank have opened a pod within the town’s Dolphin Shopping Centre. The decline of bank branches in the UK has been attributed to banking consumers’ changing habits and technological changes. Yoshi waited patiently in the ever growing queue at the pod when he wanted to transact business ensuring he had enough pocket money in his account to keep him in Beef & Poultry flavour Mini Tasty treats.

Yoshi supports Basil Brush and his fund raising for the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) – 02/04/2024

Our first railway themed adventure in April 2024 took place during an overnight trip to the Greater Manchester area. The purpose of our trip was to visit friends, but me being me, I was unable to resist the lure of checking out Real Time Trains and seeing what might be seen on the local tracks. I immediately noticed that regular Class 60 hauled freight trains were scheduled to pass through Rochdale, Lancashire where we were staying the night.

As we drove along the A664, Edinburgh Way, on the outskirts of Rochdale towards our hotel, we passed under a blue railway bridge with a sign welcoming us to “Rochdale – birthplace of co-operation”. The metropolitan borough in north-west England has long boasted of its association with the 28 mill workers, known as the “Rochdale Pioneers”, who opened their Co-Operative shop in the town on Toad Lane in 1844, devising the “principles” which became the model for cooperatives worldwide.

It conveniently transpired that our hotel was located a few minutes walk from the railway line running through Rochdale and while out walking Yoshi prior to our heading to bed, we took a stroll just in time to see a Class 60 pass over the A664 blue railway bridge with a Drax Power Station to Liverpool Biomass Terminal train of empty wagons.

The trains supplying Drax use distinctive state of the art biomass wagons – the largest on UK railways – designed specifically to transport and unload wood pellets.

The UK Central Electricity Generating Board began building Drax in 1967 to utilise coal from the Selby coalfield, and in 1974 it begins generating electricity for the first time. The power station is officially opened in 1975, with three generators and a total electrical capacity of just under 2 gigawatts (GW). It had the capability to power around two million homes but by 1986, Drax had doubled in size and capacity to just under 4 GW, becoming the largest power station in the UK.

In 1990, Drax Power Station comes under the ownership of National Power, one of three power generation companies created as part of the privatisation of the electricity industry in England and Wales. Nine years later, the power station is acquired by the US-based AES corporation for £1.87 billion but part ways in 2003 after one of the power station’s major customers goes into administration. As creditors, various financial institutions take control of Drax Power Station. 2005 saw the power station undergoing refinancing and Drax Group plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

In 2012, Drax committed to transforming the business into a mainly biomass-fuelled generator using compressed wood pellets in place of coal by upgrading the three generating units that came online in the early 1970’s to run on 100% sustainable biomass, with no use of coal. The first upgraded generating unit came online in 2013 and ten years later in April 2023 Drax announced the official end of coal-fired generation at Drax Power Station.

As I previously noted above, there are numerous daily paths to and from Drax which pass through Rochdale. So, in order to catch a view of these workings, I elected to get up early on the Thursday morning and drove the five minute journey to Castleton railway station. On arrival at 0530, in good time to witness 6E36 0205 Liverpool Biomass Tml to Drax AES (GBRf) pass through, the station was in darkness. Luckily for me, the lights flickered into life prior to Class 60 No. 60076 ‘Dunbar’ rumbling through the unstaffed station.

Screenshot of GBRf Class 60 No. 60076 ‘Dunbar’ running through Castleton working 6E36 0205 Liverpool Biomass Tml to Drax AES (GBRf) – 04/04/2024
Northern Trains Class 150 No.’s 150120 and 150110 stop at Castleton railway station working 2B89 0551 Rochdale to Blackburn – 04/04/2024

Stopping train services at Castleton are currently provided by Northern Trains utilising Class 195 and Class 150 diesel multiple units. TransPennine Express train services also pass through the station.

GBRf Class 60 No. 60096 ‘Impetus’ on the approach to Castleton working 6M34 0545 Drax AES (GBRf) to Tuebrook Sidings (GBRf) – 04/04/2024

The first station to be opened in Castleton was in 1839, situated on the western side of the Rochdale to Manchester Road bridge and was originally called “Blue Pits for Heywood”. The existing station opened on 1st November 1875, on the eastern side of the road bridge. The Liverpool and Bury Railway from Bolton once joined the main line at a triangular junction just south of the station. This was previously a busy passenger and freight route utilised by trains avoiding Manchester, but was closed to passengers on 5th October 1970. Castleton station was formerly part of the Oldham Loop Line which provided through services to Oldham via Rochdale. This route was closed in 2009 and converted for light rail use by Manchester Metrolink.

The western portion of this line was retained for freight traffic after passenger trains ceased serving the coal depot at Rawtenstall until 1980, and subsequently to the Powell Duffryn wagon works. It now forms the link with the East Lancashire Railway (ELR) at Heywood. Subject to permission being granted by Network Rail (NR, in the future, the heritage line plans to extend its services along and towards a possible new bay platform – given the proposed name “Castleton Village” – which would be adjacent to the main Castleton station. Passengers could then alight from their ELR train and change station sides directly to Northern Rail services on the national network.

Video from Castleton – April 2024

We arrived back in Dorset on Thursday evening in time to see Colas operated Ultrasonic Test Unit (UTU) head towards Weymouth propelled by Class 37 No. 37254 ‘Cardiff Canton’ with DBSO No. 9714 leading on the outward leg of 3Q45 2103 Woking Up Yard Reception to Reading Triangle Sidings.

Screenshot of Class 37 No. 37254 ‘Cardiff Canton at the rear of Ultrasonic Test Unit (UTU) passing Hamworthy reporting as 3Q45 2103 Woking Up Yard Reception to Reading Triangle Sidings – 05/04/2024
Video of UTU 3Q45 2103 Woking Up Yard Reception to Reading Triangle Sidings – 05/04/2024

The following day, Friday 5th April 2024, and we were back at Hamworthy station as Swanage resident Class 33 No. 33012 (D6515) ‘Lt Jenny Lewis RN’ escaped the heritage railway and ventured out onto the mainline as she headed off to Eastleigh to collect preserved Class 50 No. 50026 ‘Indomitable’. The two locomotives returned later in the day. The Class 50 is visiting the Swanage Railway to undertake power testing to ensure it is fit and ready to earn a mainline running certificate. More news on this is expected from the locomotives owners in the next few weeks.

Class 33 No. 33012 (D6515) ‘Lt Jenny Lewis RN’ runs light engine into Hamworthy as 0Z33 1130 Swanage to Eastleigh Arlington (Zg) – 05/04/2024
Class 33 No. 33012 (D6515) ‘Lt Jenny Lewis RN’ running light engine passing Hamworthy as 0Z33 1130 Swanage to Eastleigh Arlington (Zg) – 05/04/2024
Class 33 No. 33012 (D6515) ‘Lt Jenny Lewis RN’ hauling Class 50 No. 50026 ‘Indomitable’ approaching Hamworthy reporting as 0Z50 1430 Eastleigh Arlington (Zg) to Swanage – 05/04/2024 – 05/04/2024
Class 50 No. 50026 ‘Indomitable’ being hauled by Swanage resident Class 33 No. 33012 (D6515) ‘Lt Jenny Lewis RN’ at Hamworthy – 05/04/2024
Video of D6515 & 50026 passing Hamworthy – 05/04/2024
Yoshi after his date with the groomer. We celebrated by popping into the boys’ favourite pub – 05/04/2024

Hamworthy Branch update

The new electrical cabinet at Hamworthy Park crossing on Ashmore Avenue has been installed and the old one removed.

New cabinet at Hamworthy Park level crossing – 05/04/2024

For The Record

The New Measurement Train (NMT) visited North Dorset on Thursday April 4th top and tailed by former High Speed Train (HST) Class 43 power cars No.’s 43274 and 43257 which formed 1Q23 0555 Reading to Salisbury via Exeter.

Saturday 6th April 2024 and North Dorset witnessed the sight of preserved Hasting’s Unit operating “The Cogload Climber” rail tour run by Hastings Diesels Limited. The train passed through Sherborne and Gillingham on its return leg working as 1Z15 1440 Exeter Central to Hastings. Unfortunately, although I had planned to photograph and video the train as it made its way to and from Devon, this just wasn’t meant to be.

However, good friend of this blog, @smithy.377 has very kindly allowed us to share the following images and video of the tour in Exeter.

Diesel-Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) No. 1001 led by Class 202/6L Power Car 60118 ‘Tunbridge Wells’ at Exeter St Davids prior to departure up to Exeter Central working the “Cogload Climber” railtour reporting as 1Z14 0630 Hastings to Exeter Central – 06/04/2024 (Ashley Smith, @smithy.377)

No. 1001 is a Diesel-Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) which once worked on the London Charing Cross to Hastings route in British Rail days between 1957 and 1986. Following withdrawal, the train was subsequently preserved by Hastings Diesels Limited (HDL), restored to its former glory and  returned to main-line operation ten years later, in 1996.

Unit No. 1001 at Exeter Central having arrived with “The Cogload Climber” 1Z14 0630 Hastings to Exeter Central – 06/04/2024 (Ashley Smith/ @smithy.377)
Unit No. 1001 at Exeter Central having arrived with “The Cogload Climber” 1Z14 0630 Hastings to Exeter Central – 06/04/2024 (Ashley Smith/ @smithy.377)
Unit No. 1001 Class 202/6L Power Car No. 60116
‘Mount­field’ in the bay platform at Exeter Central having arrived with “The Cogload Climber” 1Z14 0630 Hastings to Exeter Central – 06/04/2024 (Ashley Smith/ @smithy.377)
Unit No. 1001 at Exeter Central working “The Cogload Climber” 1Z14 0630 Hastings to Exeter Central – 06/04/2024 (Ashley Smith/ @smithy.377)
Unit No. 1001 at Exeter Central forming “The Cogload Climber” railtour. The train departed reporting as 1Z15 1440 Exeter Central to Hastings – 06/04/2024 (Ashley Smith/ @smithy.377)
“The Cogload Climber” railtour at Exeter – 06/04/2024. Video courtesy of Ashley Smith / @smithy.377

In other news, Network Rail (NR), who are responsible for UK railway infrastructure, is to spend approximately £2.8billion on protecting railways from extreme weather events over the next 5 years. The government owned organisation will fund measures such as making embankments more resilient, recruiting almost 400 extra drainage engineers, training operational staff to better interpret weather forecasts and installing CCTV at sites with known flood risks.

Collapsing embankments are causing major disruption to train services, including those which serve Dorset, and measures to prevent these occurring are required in the face of higher than average rainfall. The spending is part of NR’s £45.4billion investment plan for the next five years.

Weymouth railway station on 8th April when ASLEF industrial action meant no SWR trains were running. Class 444 EMU’s No.’s 444003 and 444005 stand at platform out of use while GWR Class 165 Turbo DMU No. 165101 forms the 2V60 0930 Weymouth to Gloucester service – 08/04/2024

The train drivers union, ASLEF, launched a new round of industrial action on Friday 5th April 2024 with the commencement of rolling one day strikes across 14 rail companies. In addition, five days of overtime bans caused further cancellations. The dispute has now entered its 22nd month.

SWR Class 444 No.’s 444036 and 444045 at Weymouth on the ASLEF strike which meant very few SWR services ran – 08/04/2024

Yoshi and I visited Blandford on the morning of 8th April and took a walk along the River Stour so we could view the “Blandford Railway Arches”, the only physical remaining evidence the Somerset and Dorset Railway once traversed over the river. You can read more about the rise and demise of Blandford’s railway history here.

A bridge to nowhere… the decision to close the Somerset and Dorset Railway connecting Bath and Bournemouth is one of the great tragedies of the Beeching Era. Yoshi pauses on a walk along the River Stour – 08/04/2024
For over 100 years the flood arches on Langton Meadows carried the Somerset and Dorset railway over the biodiversity rich Stour flood plain. When the railway closed, most of the infrastructure was demolished, but the arches were left standing, an unlisted but much-loved asset and memorial to the town’s Victorian industrial heritage. When North Dorset District Council considered demolishing them, public opinion in opposition resulted in Blandford Forum Town Council (BFTC) seeking a long-term lease for the structure so that it could be preserved – 08/04/2024

That brings us to the end of another blog entry. Thank you for reading, your comments and corrections, which are always welcome. Be seeing you!

End Piece:

The British Rail Class 165 Networker Turbo is a fleet of suburban Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) passenger trains, originally specified by and built for the British Rail Thames and Chiltern Division of Network South East (NSE). They were built by British Rail Engineering Limited (BREL) York Works between 1990 and 1992. GWR Class 165 No. 165101 forming 2V60 0930 Weymouth to Gloucester – 08/04/2024
The British Rail Class 166 Networker Turbo Express is a fleet of DMU passenger trains, built by ABB Transportation in York between 1992 and 1993. The trains were designed as a faster, air-conditioned variant of the Class 165 Turbo, intended for longer-distance services, and, like the 165’s, belong to the Networker family. GWR Class 166 No.166216 at Weymouth forming 2V72 1528 Weymouth to Gloucester – 11/04/2024


  1. Fab photos, as always. And wondrous adventures for all.

    The young master looking very much on point.

    (Surprised to see Basil Brush still around. Do kids know who he is? Wrinklies do I suppose. 🙂

    1. Ta very much! Basil was been re-invented for a new generation a few years ago (new puppet), so I assume some may have seen him on the telly box!?

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