Monday 11 November 2013

Blast From The Past 3

I feel that I could be guilty of false advertising as I have really only talked about my love for buses and not mentioned the trains. Being in Kent I grew up with Electric Multiple Units and little else, but even then there was astill a variety of rolling stock to grab a boy's interest. I lived on the Medway Valley Line, which runs from Strood to Paddock Wood and this post is dedicated to the vehicles I have seen over the years, including some I worked myself as a Conductor at the turn of the century.

Taken at Maidstone West in 1976 this was the staple fare on the line. heading towards Paddock Wood this 2 car ubniut has a 1st Class section at the rear
I loved train travel and by the age of 7 I could be found poring over timetables planning our days out including connections and fastest trains etc. When I went to college in West Kent in the early 80's I knew the entire line so well I could identify where we were with my eyes shut from the track noise or individual points!

Change of colours but similar stock, except this one has no 1st Class and the coaches have been opened up to allow conductors to walk through the entire coach, although still no coach to coach access. Taken in 1986 at Cuxton
In the early late 80's these non corridor units were gradually withdrawn to be eventually replaced by the new 465/6 Networkers on the suburban routes in 1992. This meant that main line stock was used  on the line for the first time on a regular basis.

I have chosen this pic of CEP 1501 as not only does it show Cuxton Station still staffed - a distant memory - but also the manual level crossing and signal box that remain to this day. The semaphore signals were replaced by aspect signals in the last ten years
Being a branch line adverse weather meant that it was not a priority for clearance, so it was not unknown for services to be suspended. However January 1987 was spectacular to say the least.

Going nowhere fast. Now THAT'S the wrong type of snow! CEP 1581 stranded at Maidstone West with a class 73 loco at the other end
Then in 1998 disaster. A refurbished batch of class 508 3-car units were acquired from Merseyrail by Connex and they proved very unreliable and unpopular. They were certainly the reason I changed depots and moved to do more mainline work. They were frequently overcrowded, had no toilets, and looked totally out of place.

508212 at Maidstone Barracks. These were not popular units with either passengers or crews
Since Southeastern finally gave up on the 508's there has been a mixture of 2-car class 466 Networkers and more recently class 375 Electrostars on the line, which are a vast improvement on the 508's

A pair of 2-car class 466 networkers pass each other at Snodland
3-car Electrostar at Cuxton in Feburary this year The line crossing the Valley line ahead is HS1
In 2011 something I would never have dreamed of as a boy happened to the Valley line. Through trains to London resumed after a 20 year absence, but not local trains. Oh no! It was decided to run class 395 Javelins at peak times to give Maidstone a fast link with London via HS1. Although these trains do not stop at the little stations it is a guarantee for the future of the line, which even 25 years ago was in some doubt.

395011 passes Maidstone Barracks - a far cry from the trains I used to ride as a boy
I hope you enjoyed this look at my boyhood local line - please let me know what you think and if you would like to see more posts like this. There are many more pics of the line in the favourites section of my Flickr page

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