was dreamt up long, long ago, in the earlier days of the Internet.
Back in 2001, broadband was a bit of a rarity, and the website
reflected this with size (15 pages), length of page (about 200-300
words) and picture quality (8-bit GIF). Ok, that was all partly
prompted by the fact that it was overseen by an 11-year-old.
then proved to be remarkably adept at learning how to put a webpage
together, just to show that monkeys can achieve things if taught,
and soon reached a vaguely acceptable standard for a webpage
read by people from all over the world. The website has continued
to be assembled with the same software (Adobe PageMill 3.0) and
techniques ever since.
time things began to emerge as possible subjects to write about.
The Wye Valley Railway was one, and that section has done very
well - particularly with the knowledge that hardly anyone else
writes about this topic and so it would have a bit of a monopoly
on the three people per year who type "Wye Valley Railway"
into their search engine. As a rule it comes below Urban75 and
As the site
has developed further research has taken place on various topics
and so the section has grown. This has led to certain issues
emerging. One of these is when the line was last used by a revenue-earning
train. This is an important occasion and, if it was yet to occur,
we would probably try to be out there with cameras and a headboard
for the final working. Unfortunately the route was taken out
of use several years ago; the date of this event has disappeared
into the mists of time.
the main author on the subject, gave an impression in his 1988
volume that the route was still open to Tintern Quarry. In fact,
it had been abandoned for 7 years and by 1988 the line north
of Bishton Bridge, between Tidenham and Netherhope, was overgrown
and unusable. This was corrected for his 1998 volume, which stated
that the last train through Tidenham Tunnel was in 1981. This
is generally agreed by most sources, including the fact that
the trees growing between Bishton Bridge and Netherhope are just
under 30 years old, and so can be taken as a reasonable date.
this up with the statement that the last train to Tidenham station,
and therefore the last to use the branch, was in September 1992.
Any source primarily based on Handley agrees with this; reasonably,
as the book is otherwise entirely reliable and agrees with most
other sources most of the time. However, for this event the also
almost entirely reliable R.A. Cooke states that the line was
taken out of use in March 1990, and a slim volume on line closures
up to 1994 agrees with this date - as does Vic Mitchell in Branch
Lines to Monmouth (although Mitchell also states that the
line from Tidenham to Tintern Quarry closed in 1986, which nobody
else currently agrees with). After some thought, it was decided
to use 1990 throughout this site, on the basis that this is the
date from the people who study line closures. Overgrowth on the
line either consists of brambles or is routinely hacked back
and so cannot be used for dating closure with any degree of accuracy,
although "early 1990s" looks about right.
it is possible that they are both right. It would not be unreasonable
for another train to use the line, even two years after it was
abandoned, for whatever reason. At some point someone nicked
half of a set of points at the northern end of Tidenham station.
Handley merely defines it as the "Last train to Dayhouse
Quarry". It certainly doesn't detract from the fact that,
overall, the book is a very good read. But it is a good example
of how what should be a simple date can be hard to pin down.
Once the historic
facts have been sorted out and the silly ideas for re-opening
schemes dreamt up during long lie-ins, it's time to match them
with some pictures. This requires a trip out to the Wye Valley
for some photography. As a rule, this is either done by following
a length of five-ten miles of line in one direction or doing
up to five miles of trackbed as part of a circular walk. Either
way, company is generally useful to provide sanity and keep things
upbeat. Dead railways can be depressing and the variety of interesting
structures along the way are conducive to stupid activities.
Having company means that there is either someone to discourage
the stupidity or arrange assistance when the stupidity goes wrong.
Once the route
has been drawn up and company has been arranged, the trip can
take place. It always helps to remember the camera. Things will
often change before you do the trip again, so there is sometimes
only one chance to take a set of photos. Traditionally this would
be a camera containing a film, which would impose a financial
limit on how many photos can be taken. Nowadays a digital camera
allows up to 600 photos to be taken on a trip, although the record
so far is 221. On the first trip to each section around 20 images
were taken, of which only 2 or 3 would be of any use; such a
trip tended to involve identifying locations and thinking afterwards
that a picture of such-and-such would be useful. Nowadays, trips
tend to involve going out and photographing everything in sight.
Tidenham, Netherhope, Tintern Quarry and Brockweir are all too
overgrown for decent photos; Tintern is too big to get everything
in; St Briavels is on private land surrounded by trees. Photographing
everything tends to produce two or three usable images of most
locations, however, and a couple of these will end up online.
The rest go into the archive. Rarely will an image not used immediately
find a purpose, but the odd one does get picked out and recycled
when its age does not matter. These is still an element of thinking
afterwards that a picture of such-and-such would be useful, and
so another trip is arranged at a subsequent moment. One of the
benefits of a website is that an adequate image can be used for
now and swapped for a better one later.
is the task of keeping it all up to date. Ideas evolve over time,
but the website structure tends to be set in stone until sheer
irritation with maintaining it all prompts a refurbishment. Keeping
the text up to date is harder still. It has to be repeatedly
re-read and bits modified to suit prevailing moods and to stay
ahead of new information. There is little enough in terms of
new history these days, but altering thoughts about how to re-open
the line requires four or five pages to be altered in several
places. Therefore recently the entire "How would we re-open
it" section was restructured at the same time as we attempted
to write some history pages on the neighbouring lines and the
operator who was formerly an 11-year-old has had occasional problems
working out which page numbers went where.
this, maintaining the website is fun and it is interesting to
see where quotes from it end up (credited and uncredited). It
is also interesting that we tend to only come across such things
after they cease to be of immediate importance. As the second
Google result for "Wye Valley Railway" and the most
regularly updated one we are always ready to hear from people
with useful information regarding their own ideas and events
concerning the railway. We may even advertise them and can be
quite willing to attend talks and film showings without demanding
that our travel costs be met. (The next person to make such an
offer will be the first.)