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Thread: The Great Britain II - 2: Totnes - Plymouth (50 p.)

  1. #1

    Default The Great Britain II - 2: Totnes - Plymouth (50 p.)


    Our itinerary for this part:
    GWR = First Great Western
    XC = CrossCountry
    Dawlish dep 7:20 GWR 156 -> Penzance
    Totnes arr 7:45
    Totnes Railway Station, Station Road, Totnes ~9:43 Stagecoach Devon Bus 88 -> Newton Abbot
    Staverton Turn arr ~9:50
    Staverton Turn dep ~11:23 Stagecoach Devon Bus 88 -> Paignton
    Totnes Railway Station, Ashburton Road, Swallowfields arr ~11:30
    Totnes dep 12:23 XC 43 HST -> Plymouth
    Plymouth arr 12:56
    Plymouth dep ~13:20 Plymouth Citybus 1a
    Saltash arr ~13:35
    St. Budeaux dep ~16:40  Plymouth Citybus 1a
    Plymouth arr ~16:50
    Plymouth dep 17:21 XC 43 HST -> Leeds
    Birmingham New Street arr 20:56
    Birmingham New Street dep 21:24 Arriva Wales 158 -> Chester
    Shrewsbury arr 22:19
    The videos for this part:

    Subsequent to a scenic ride by class 156 local train to Totnes, during which we could admire the first rainbow of the journey, I had already researched the next treat: The first British breakfast at a Totnes café. Not just any café, but one inside the former Totnes signalbox. The big breakfast cost about 5 Pounds (British, in Totnes is also circulating a "Totnes Pound" to strengthen local businesses) and constituted a welcome increase of blood sugar after the short night.

    What's more convenient than just having to shortly stand up from your breakfast to shoot the 7:50 CrossCountry Voyager to Edinburgh?

    Half an hour later the second HST of the day from Penzance stopped at Totnes, we had encountered the first one during the trainride

    View towards our breakfast paradise a.k.a. ex-signalbox

    The actual reason why we chose Totnes were the weeklong 40 year anniversary celebrations of the South Devon museum railway Buckfastleigh - Totnes. Therefore we had a dense timetable, even on a Tuesday, starting with a photo freight due to arrive soon.


    In good spirits we followed the footpath to the museum terminal Totnes Littlehempston up to a private footbridge across the River Dart, right next to the mainline bridge. In the middle of the bridge stood a giant gate - of course closed at this time of day! By chance we were spotted after only 2-3 minutes by the station mum (or similar) and were let inside. Of course nothing was open officially, no ticket counter. No surprise, since the first regular passenger train was only to supposed leave in two hours. To what extent it made sense to run a photo freight at that time of day is anyone's guess. In any case we were immediately charmed by the beautifully restored station.

    Even 15 minutes early, at 8:32, 6695 - GWR Class 5600 0-6-2T (Armstrong Witworth & Co. No. 983, built 1928) rolled into the station and soon started a private shunting orgy just for our benefit. It was unclear if anyone else had taken a picture of this train, at the lineside 1 1/2 hours later I could spot a couple of photographers.

    The token is being carried around

    No, I didn't step on the rails in England, how could that be (without high visibility vest and lineside pass)?
    One of the friendly engine drivers offered to take a photo from this side, how can you say no to that - even if it's just a "sun in your back"-picture, the scene is lovely!

    In such historic environment it is hard to resist the urge to produce a few "old photos", a class 20 diesel was also posing nicely

    Let the shunting commence!

    Older and newer British Railways logo together in a reflection

    First the guard's van was conveyed to the end of the train

    Of course the line was a branch line fully connected to the mainline in earlier days, this is the rebuilt signal box for the junction which was later replaced by the central one where we nowadays had our breakfast

    At the water crane

    The rest of the train is following

    After 20 minutes of almost Croatian obsession with shunting (those of you who have already been shunted around at Zagreb during the night get the reference ) the departure signal was given, again 15 minutes before the timetable, at 8:55. At least the first other two railfans showed up at the platform, although no hardcore photographers.

    Another reason why we chose Totnes and didn't stay at the scenic spot Dawlish for the "Great Britain II": a complete historic scenery, even if the steamer had already left at this time.
    Of course we had previously chosen the exact spot, taken a photo of the shunting engine there and returned after the freight train had left. With almost no warning, but enough to turn on the video and take pictures, D1015 "Western Champion" - BR Class 52 Western C-C (Swindon, built 1963) thundered past a little early with the special to Penzance and completed the scene. The first Great Britain II photo was in the bag!

    As soon as it had passed the 9:22 HST Penzance - London Paddington came by

    As the first passenger train wouldn't leave Totnes Littlehempston before 10:45, we had no choice but to take a bus to a lineside spot along the museum railway.

    A nice reflection at the River Dart, returning from the museum station

    The bus ride took less than ten minutes because it cut a bend of the river and thus the railway short. Sadly, there was no bus stop right next to the stone bridge across the River Dart near Staverton which I had researched in the internet. So, we had no choice but to undertake the endeavour from hell, walking along a British country road, luckily just for a very short bit. The bigger roads are wide enough, not so the smaller ones with not much less traffic. There is no road shoulder, just the traffic lane and a few inches next to it starts the wall or fence of the adjoining property. Obviously, the compulsion to reshape the landscape had been so strong in the past that it had been impossible to look into the distant science fiction future when maybe there was more than an ox cart using that road...
    Hood Bridge at least only had alternating unidirectional traffic controlled by traffic lights. For cars there was more than enough space, but as a truck trailer only just scraped past us we also wanted to get away from the stone bridge as soon as possible. Thankfully, the first train approached right away:
    View from the bridge at the River Dart and 6695 pulling the 10:00 from Buckfastleigh

    With Bishop's Bridge home signal

    For the next train due after 45 minutes we took a more comfortable position near the river bank. 5542 - GWR Small Prairie Class 4575 2-6-2T (Swindon, built 1928) steamed by with a nice Great Western train

    And as final train we could catch 6695 again, framed by the bridge

    Now we had to get to the bus stop, but this time we chose the other direction to Staverton turn as there was more space along the road that way.

    Back at Totnes we still had a little time on our hands until our train to Plymouth would leave, so we chose to seek a spot for the Dart bridge because we had liked it there in the morning. The moods and reflections wouldn't disappoint, first the over-punctual 11:52 GWR HST to Plymouth passed the spot, in the background you can see the footbridge to the museum railway.

    Five minutes later the scene looked completely different for an eastbound Voyager

    A Voyager detail of another eastbound following only twenty minutes after the last one at the station

    The station fence was getting a springtime paint refreshing treatment

    Now we expected our 12:23 to Plymouth, it turned out to be a CrossCountry HST.
    After our arrival at Plymouth, the two current HST liveries running in the southwest

    Buffer repair at Plymouth, the biggest town of the region

    After a short refreshment stop at the well equipped small supermarket of the station we didn't want to wait for the next train to Saltash but chose a short city bus ride instead. On the way to the bus stop we had to pass the local 95-p-guy, which is pretty hefty (in Vienna near the university there was once a 3-Schilling-guy (about 20 Eurocents), after the introduction of the Euro he became the 50-cent-guy, so that's quite an inflation... ).
    After taking all hurdles, and our arrival at Cornwall across the Tamar Bridge, we treated ourselves to large portions of takeaway fish&chips, of course hardly possible to eat up. Recommended fish&chips shops had been previously scouted by me electronically. Afterwards we tried to get comfortable on the extremely windy bridge and replenish the last energy deficits of the night with fish-proteins and chip-carbohydrates.

    Why do you stand in constantly howling winds on a road bridge? To enjoy the view at one of the most famous railway bridges! Voilà, the 1854-59 built Royal Albert Bridge, including train we had planned to take here:

    The following should happen now, according to the timetable: first, 5029 "Nunney Castle" plus one coach should pass to Plymouth, where it was supposed to join the special, an hour later the main train should follow pulled by 70013 "Oliver Cromwell" and another half an hour after that D1015 should return from Penzance, also with one coach.
    Of course nothing came at the time of the first steamer, but some smoke was showing up behind the hill, so we thought: maybe something is back there!
    What was coming? The regular train towards Plymouth

    At Saltash the mainline tracks are joined to a single track across the bridge

    More waiting impressions from the Tamar River mouth

    England in a cockleshell

    Where is the steam train? Here it is!

    We only had 20 minutes left until the special was supposed to pass, which we wanted to take on the other side of the bridge. So off we went... what was turning around the corner right then: D1015!
    With the line speed on the bridge there was luckily enough time, so we managed to march from Cornwall to Devon ahead of the engine

    Two regular trains were following, one HST to Penzance and a local to Gunnislake, on a line which branches off the mainline before reaching St. Budeaux, the place on the devon side of the river.

    2x HST

    The bridge planned by Isambard Kingdom Brunel was finished shortly before his death, so the letters were added to both portals afterwards as a memorial

    Now the time of the special was reached

    But even 40 minutes later only a DMU came by

    After more than an hour delay we slowly moved towards the next bus stop, passing a few waiting photographers. Only we still had 5 hours travel to Shrewsbury ahead of us...

    Half an hour before the departure of our CrossCountry HST to Birmingham we returned to Plymouth station where the special was also expected by a small crowd. But chances to actually see the train were getting slimmer and slimmer for us.

    We changed to the platform where our HST was waiting, but decided to stay outside as long as possible.

    Then: a whistle in the distance and a steam cloud showed up over the roofs of Plymouth.
    What turned around the corner? The "Bulleid Pacific" nose of "Tangmere", already well known to me, which had hauled the train to Bristol the day before!

    34067 "Tangmere" - SR Battle of Britain Class 4-6-2 (Brighton, built 1947) and 70013 "Oliver Cromwell" - BR Britannia Class 7P 4-6-2 (Crewe, built 1951) with the "Great Britain II", 1:20h late, not in top-scenery, but it could have been much worse. And the good news in advance: this would stay the only noticably late train, both to photograph or ride on, of the whole trip.

    Now we could get comfortable on the HST for the long leg to Birmingham, of course there was enough space on the long train. But hold on a minute, that's no fish bowl on rails, the HST still has old doors with opening windows!

    First D1015 on one side, our departing train is just being meticulously recorded by a spotter. At least the fashion of more than 50% of British railfans fits the nostalgic trains...

    Thanks a lot for the HST photo spot, I don't necessarily want to be on that platform right now!

    Finally we could relax and reload... the batteries of course. In the meantime we coasted through lovely landscapes past waiting photographers, although most of them seemed to prefer platform photos. But it soon became more and more overcast and darker, which was confirmed afterwards, as I looked at a picture of the special at Dawlish.
    Over punctually, like many trains here, we reached Birmingham New Street, my well-tried base from earlier trips. However, this time we moved on to Shrewsbury, where we had booked a room in a small hotel. After a short walk through the hilly old centre of Shrewsbury we reached it quickly. Only bad news: we wouldn't get any breakfast next morning because we had to leave too early, other than they had stated in an e-mail a week earlier. But that was the only negative accomodation experience of this trip, the room itself was good. And we had to get some rest for the next long day...
    Last edited by ronik24; 04-27-2009 at 08:19 AM.

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  2. #2


    That first shot in the cafe is Awesome - great shadows!! The train is almost saying, "Peek-a-Boo."

    You do such an amazing job incorporating signs into your images. I often try and position myself to exclude signs from my images, but you keep showing me that I've got it all wrong.

    Your composition is always very good too. Do you typically use a tripod, or shoot hand held?
    - Rosco

    RailroadForums.com Moderator

    - Trackside-Photography.com -

    - My Railpictures.net -

  3. #3




    I almost never use a tripod, only for long exposures. Mostly I don't take long for a shot, sometimes the best moment is just happening in the fracture of a second...

    Up-to-date on Twitter: https://twitter.com/raildata_info @raildata_info
    Roni's trip reports and videos:


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