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The delights of running this section

Introduction bits
Welcome to the Wye Valley Railway
Full History
Abridged History
Location Maps
How would we re-open it?
Main Scheme
Part 1: Wye Valley Junction to Netherhope
Part 2: Tidenham Tunnel
Part 3: Tintern Quarry to Tintern
Part 4: Tintern Station
Part 5: Brockweir to St Briavels
Part 6: St Briavels to Redbrook
Part 7: Wyesham to Monmouth
Part 8: Signalling
Part 9: Rolling Stock
Part 10: Imagine the Journey
Local Entertainment
Does that picture really show that?
From Rags to Power
Other pages on this topic
Of Roads, Railways and Cycleways
Frequently Asked Questions
The Railway
Interesting snippets of history
The originally proposed alignment
Getting money off ex-directors
Completing the Railway
Social and economic effect of building culverts
Later Wye Valley Railtours
Remains of the route
It really is 50 years ago...
The Abandoned Wye Valley Railways
The Area
Wye Valley Journey
Brockweir Bridge: Dibden v Skirrow
Order of the Bed Home

This website 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.

This 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.

After some 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 above Sustrans.

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.

Brian Handley, 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.

He follows 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.

Of course, 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.

Then there 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.

Despite all 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.)

Last modified 16/03/11

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