In a previous We Are Railfans article, we looked at how a small platform at Bescot in the English West Midlands could provide a good vantage point for railfanning near the large freight yard there. Elsewhere in the country, other such opportunities exist and in this feature we look at the variety of trains that can be seen in just a couple of hours in the Wiltshire town of Westbury.
The Station, located close to the border of Wiltshire and Somerset, has origins in 1848 before becoming a large junction of numerous railways following a rebuild in 1900. Trains from London Paddington, Cornwall, South Wales and locally from Wiltshire, Dorset and Somerset Stations all converged and passed through Westbury on their way to their destinations and many of these services still run the same routes through Westbury today. A yard to the northwest of the station hosts rows of wagons and provides space for stabled locomotives and empty multiple units. As a result, a variety of trains and rolling stock can be seen from the busy platforms making the station a great place for interesting and engaging railfanning.
The following photographs were taken over a two-hour period. All photographs by Joe Rogers.
What initially seems mundane can turn out to be quite interesting. First to arrive at platform 1 is GWR Class 158 no.158951 running from Great Malvern to Worthing. Typically the Class 158 comes as a 2-car DMU, but this hybrid 158/9 subclass is formed of 3-cars. The cabs of all three units can be seen in yellow.
The day to day job of railway staff is always of interest to a railfan and here a crew member waits to board Class 66 no.66053, it having travelled light engine from Didcot Terminal Complex. Though operated by DB Cargo, the locomotive still holds onto to its popular EWS livery.
With an avoiding line to the south, sometimes trains can 'miss' Westbury entirely despite being scheduled to run through on various train tracking websites. Equally, trains not scheduled to run through can unexpectedly be diverted through the station, as was the case with this Colas Railway Tamper (thought to be DR 75011 'Andrew Smith').
GWR run most of the passenger services in this part of the UK, from local services serving Wiltshire Stations and the cities of Bristol and Bath, to longer distance services from London. This Class 800 IET is on its way to Exeter St Davids having started at London Paddington.
A South Western Railway 3-car Class 159 DMU (not to be confused with the earlier 3-car Class 158) pulls alongside a GWR Class 166 DMU. SWR run services from Exeter St Davids to London Waterloo along their own line via Honiton and Yeovil. This service with no.159015 has come from Yeovil Junction before it departs for London via Warminster. no.166205 is off to Cardiff, having come from Portsmouth.
Shunting duties were, up until a few years ago, performed by a Class 08 unit like at some other freight yards in the country. On this day, DB Class 66 no.66117 continually shunts stock between sidings, each time avoiding the stabled Colas Class 70s (70812 & 70813) on the adjacent track.
Two Freightliner Class 66s (66534 'OOCL Express' & 66594 'NYK Spirit of Kyoto') pass Westbury on their way from Stoke Gifford to Eastleigh using the Down Relief line south of Platform 1. The avoiding line mentioned earlier runs separately from the station altogether. As a result, non-passenger movements have a number of options when needing to avoid running through platforms.
Class 59s are an uncommon sight across the UK network, with Westbury, Frome and the lines to Reading and London being arguably some of best places to see them. They resemble the Class 66 and both locomotives were made in the USA by EMD, with the 66 being a development of the 59. Class 59s were initially under private ownership and therefore have hosted some seldom-seen liveries. This example no.59202 was painted in Genesee and Wyoming livery as recently as March 2021.
During a normal summer and into the autumn, steam railtours on the mainline can be seen regularly across the UK. On this day, both 45596 'Bahamas' and 61306 'Mayflower' double-head a Steam Dreams tour from London Victoria to Penzance. This photo shows them on the return leg, stopping at Westbury briefly - a welcome suprise for bystanders. A row of stabled Colas Class 66s can be seen in the background.
Joining the railtour, before travelling behind as light engine, were Class 33 no.33207 'Jim Martin' and Class 37 no.37706 in West Coast Railways livery. For about 20 minutes, Westbury looked more like a heritage railway station with two steam locomotives in platform 2 and two ageing diesels at platform 3. Though not an everyday scene here, it demonstrates the healthy variety of locomotives on this part of the network and the joy of railfanning at locations such as Westbury.
130 years ago, on 21st May 1892, Brunel's Broad Gauge was abolished. Thankfully, its legacy remains and a number of railway museums continue to teach us about its use.
Allen Jackson takes an overview of the LSWR from a signalling and traffic perspective, illustrated with contemporary photographs.