HDL Ludgershall Legionnaire railtour

Saturday 14 September 2019

This article was opened on 18 September 2019

[PHOTO: Trains in station: 77kB]

Above: The Ludgershall Legionnaire awaits departure from Andover’s Up platform following its visit to MoD Ludgershall, while a Class 159 departs from the Down platform with the 15:24 South Western Railway service to Exeter St Davids.

Hastings Diesels Limited’s 79th public railtour was to Salisbury, and to the Ministry of Defence site at Ludgershall on the Hampshire/Wiltshire border.

This railtour began at Hastings, served the usual stations to Tonbridge then Redhill and Guildford. It ran in a large circular route via Reading, the Berks & Hants Line to Westbury, and via Warminster to Salisbury; in the evening it returned to Guildford and thence Hastings by way of Romsey, Chandler’s Ford, Eastleigh, Botley, Fareham, Havant, and the Portsmouth Direct line through Petersfield.

After our lunchtime arrival at Salisbury, however, we went on a 49-mile side-trip up the West of England Line towards Basingstoke, as far as Andover. There we changed direction and headed up a line which closed to passengers on 9 September 1961: the Midland & South Western Junction Railway (M&SWJR) line between Andover and Swindon. This 7-mile stub to MoD Ludgershall has remained open for non-passenger traffic ever since. Our train was the first passenger-carrying train to visit MoD Ludgershall for some time — indeed, the first railtour to enter MoD land since at least 2013. A description of our visit to the facility was kindly written for our passengers beforehand.

Over 40 passengers joined the train at Salisbury on purpose to take in this visit, after which we again reversed at Andover and returned to Salisbury.

The weather was sunny and warm without being unbearably hot: a perfect September day.

Our train ran faultlessly, and the railtour was free of incident and largely to time throughout. A check at signal T2805 on the Reading Feeder Relief road while a freight train crossed over ahead lost us 6 minutes, some which we clawed back while also climbing over Savernake Summit — where, incidentally, the disused M&SWJR line to Swindon crossed above us. We again lost some time at signal checks on the homeward run, including 10 minutes sat at signal E32 approaching Eastleigh, and again at signal E827 awaiting the single-line section through the Funtley Tunnels between Botley and Fareham; these were because of serious disruption to the SWR network because of a trespass incident in the Surbiton area. Recovery-time in the timetable, and a quick turnaround at Guildford facilitated by a change of driver, meant that we were back on time by Dorking Deepdene.

Historical data

The train was formed thus: 60118-60501-69337-70262-60529-60116, with motor coach 60116 Mountfield leading upon departure from Hastings; thanks to the circular route and additional reversal at Guildford on the return leg, the train returned to Hastings in the same orientation.

The publicity leaflet and timings remain available, as does the geographic sketch map of our route which was produced for this outing. The actual running times have also been saved.

To further illustrate the detail of our route, annotated extracts from Network Rail’s Sectional Appendix have been produced for the outward and return legs of this outing (updated 14 August). We are aware that our precise actual route (i.e. which track we traversed on certain complex areas of layout) might be at variance with the pre-guessed route shown here in a few places; these will be corrected in due course as the cab video footage is prepared.

Cab video footage

We mounted unattended unmonitored forward-facing cameras in both cabs of the train, and recorded the forward view from Hastings to Tonbridge; from Redhill via Reading, Westbury and Salisbury to Andover; from Andover to Ludgershall and back (but specifically excluding the MoD site on which photography was not permitted); Andover to Salisbury; and Salisbury to Guildford via Chandler’s Ford and Botley (it was getting dark by about Havant).

For parts of the journey there was more than one member of staff in the cab (a route-conductor) making the leading-cab soundtrack unusable for our purposes, so we have also recorded audio from the rear cab which will be precisely synchronised and combined with the video footage where necessary.

We haven’t prepared the footage yet (see our YouTube channel for other such footage); we will get to it in due course, once the backlog of previous material has been worked through. It will then be linked from this page as well as freely searchable via our YouTube channel.


Various photographers have taken video-footage depicting this railtour and have uploaded it to YouTube; the following are links to some starting-points but do not represent a definitive collection:


Photos on this page were taken by Richard Griffin unless otherwise stated.

[PHOTO: Train in depot: 46kB]

Above: The Hastings DEMU sees the early-morning sunshine at 7am as the shutters are opened at St. Leonards Depot.

[PHOTO: Train approaching: 60kB]

Above: Martin Green was at High Brooms to capture the sight of our train passing at 9am.

[PHOTO: View through train window at Pullman: 45kB]

Above: From the Club Class saloon of our train at Redhill, Alex Dasi-Sutton framed a car of the Belmond Pullman Victoria to Chichester special alongside us.

[PHOTO: Trains in station: 57kB]

Above: Our first reversal was at Redhill: motor coach 60116 Mountfield is seen here at the north end of our train, having just led from Hastings; it will now trail all the way to Andover via Westbury.

[PHOTO: Train on embankment: 50kB]

Above: Our ascent of Savernake bank on the Berks & Hants line took us past Crofton Lock and the camera of Robert Stewart; a short distance later we would pass the remains of the M&SWJR line from Andover to Swindon, along whose stub to Ludgershall we would subsequently travel.

[PHOTO: Train passing station: 59kB]

Above & below: Robert Stewart then made his way to Grateley, west of Andover, to capture our passage en route to Andover and Ludgershall.

[PHOTO: Train in sunshine: 66kB]

[PHOTO: Train approaching: 94kB]

Above & below: These two similar views by Tony Bartlett show our train arriving in the Up direction at Andover. The first is when arriving from Salisbury, while the second is as we returned from our visit to MoD Ludgershall.

As photography was not permitted on the MoD site, there are no photographs from that section of the trip.

[PHOTO: Train approaching: 100kB]

[PHOTO: Side of train carriage: 40kB]

Above: Lineside foliage on the 7-mile Ludgershall branch had been cut back (anecdotal evidence suggested it had been virtually impassable a couple of months earlier) but some of the foliage still dragged along the side of our train, leaving it with (thankfully) relatively superficial damage.

[PHOTO: Train in station: 48kB]

Above: We were booked to wait some 15 minutes at Andover for our reversal; as it was a warm afternoon the decision was made to allow our passengers to alight if they wished, so it became an impromptu photo-stop.

[PHOTO: Train leaving station: 102kB]

Above: We duly departed for Salisbury, immediately crossing over from Up to Down roads. The original LSWR platform canopies with their distinctive shape are seen to advantage in this photo by Tony Bartlett.

[PHOTO: Train in station: 58kB]

Above: Upon (second!) arrival at Salisbury, our train is seen in front of the disused signal box.

[PHOTO: Train in station: 45kB]

Above: The DEMU was then shunted into bay platform 5 to be stabled clear of the main line during the break, before being shunted out again prior to departure at 18:10. Photo by Alex Dasi-Sutton.