Monday, 12 October 2009

A Modern Day Branchline

For years many modellers have chosen branch lines as a subject for their layouts and modelling - British houses have never been particularly big on the whole and many would struggle to accommodate a main line style layout unless you are lucky enough to have a decently proportioned loft! So the branch line has been often promoted as the way ahead, despite King's Cross station actually taking up less space than many branchline termini! Cyril Freezer produced designs very early on for branchline which could fit in an average British house.

However, these were steam era designs and the 'modern' modeller is faced with the fact that the stereotypical branchline disappeared many, many years ago on the whole. However there is the odd exception I have found such a line on my way to and from the hustle and bustle of Scunthorpe Steelworks.

From the main line between Scunthorpe and Immingham there's a branch which winds its way to Barton on Humber. Previously the branch had been a key part of cross Humber traffic as ferries docked at New Holland Pier. When the bridge opened in the early eighties the need for the Pier station ceased. The connection on to the Pier can still be seen but it looks like it has been some time since it was used. Grain was transshipped on the Pier and even coal imported via it during the Miners Strike.

The station at New Holland is a simple affair - a single short platform suffices here. This isn't the original station but does show a good example of the rationalised railway. The semaphore signals really do add to the atmosphere of the location.

As you approach Barrow Haven station you are met with a rarity on the mainline, a level crossing with no barriers or even lights! The line speed is so low at the station that it's not really an issue!

The Class 153 is a typical train for the branch now; it seems to provide adequate capcity for the line's need for the most part. I saw one solitary passenger disembark from the train at Barrow Haven.

To the west of the station the line crosses a bridge which would make a lovely model; the area has, of course, provided inspiration for a couple of Hull MRS layouts, notably Barrowfleet. Despite large settlements being very close by (Hull is just over the river) the area has a very remote feel to it.

A final look at Barrow; the station is again a simple affair, built of sleepers. It really doesn't need much more than this! It has a wonderful atmosphere.

Finally the line reaches Barton - as you might expect the current station is a small and simple one! The line did continue beyond the station to a factory but now this is very much the end of the line.

If you're in the area the line is worth exploring - it has a timeless quality and you do wonder how on earth it manages to survive. Maybe we should be pleased that our railway has these little gems - from the enthusiast point of view they're wonderful but I suspect from the railway's point of view it represent a small millstone! Either way I think it is very satisfying searching out lines like this.


  1. One of the great things about Germany is hat we have literally hundreds of these still running, often with independent companies in charge. They tend to have interesting staions too, especially termini, because that's where the stock is maintained. For some reason they often have passing loops. The state system is pretty good interesting too- many lines have loco lauled passenger trains.

    One thing I miss though is wooden crossing gates like the ones in the picture. All we get is barriers: effective but not as picturesque.


  2. We've noticed a similar trend in France when we've been on holiday there, especially some of the lines in Northern France. THere it seems that once you leave their mainline and high speed network, things become very 'rural'!

    The interesting thing with many German and Austrian branches is the way they blend in - the lack of lineside fencing seems to do this.

  3. Fascinating article, James. It would make a good model and I enjoyed looking at your selection of photographs. The houses at the terminus are very characterful and modelogenic. I know it was at a low level with a long lens, but that wobbly track would be a challenge!

  4. Excellent little article James! I'm looking and modelling Rose Hill in Marple, as another (although a damn site shorter) remaining branchline.

  5. Spookily I sketched up an idea for a layout based on the New holland pier area myself a while ago and posted it over on my blog The area certainly is a good idea for a branchline model

  6. James, how easy would it be to explore the line if you don't drive?

  7. Ian, that captures it rather nicely! I actually wondered if the pier itself could make the basis for a small layout in the Rushby school of design and presentation? You'd just have to carefully conceal the exit...

    And Brandon, if you don't drive it's very easy to explore the line!

    Have a look at Northern Rail's website and download the correct timetable and you should have few problems. You'll just have to wait between trains that's all!

  8. I'll have a look at that thanks! Maybe wait for some better weather first mind!