Many “off duty” scoutings are not intended to produce stories and photos but often do yield subjects of railway or transport interest.
There are some days, though, when a purpose is intended but the unusual opportunities that prompt the scout to rummage in his saddlebag for the railway’s Cybershot seldom arise.
An example of the latter was a long day spent in Dorset in July, 2018, starting with the 04.28 departure of the railway’s utilicon from Christow and followed by a series of train journeys.
- Exeter (St. David’s) to Yeovil Junction
- Thornford Halt to Dorchester (West)
- Dorchester (South) to Moreton
- Wool to Wareham
- Holton Heath to Hamworthy Junction
- Bournemouth (Central) to Branksome
- Parkstone to Weymouth (Town)
- Weymouth (Town) to Castle Cary
- Castle Cary to Exeter (St. David’s)
Breakfast was taken in the delightful refreshment room at Yeovil Junction, which handily opens at six, before the scout rode the quiet lanes to Thornford.
There was time to look around Dorchester and Wool. Coffee and a bun were bought from a trailer on the trading estate that now occupies part of the vast World War I Royal Naval Cordite Factory at Holton Heath.
The line from Hamworthy Junction to Hamworthy was followed and then the scout crossed to Poole, rode part of the superb waterfront to Sandbanks and obeyed the instruction by walking, not riding, the near three-mile promenade to Bournemouth Pier. Then he rode to Boscombe Pier and back before making his way through the town he had last visited when there were trolleybuses (withdrawn in 1969) to find the station.
At Branksome, he chatted to two traincrew coming from the Bournemouth T. & R.S. Maintenance Depot, which occupies the former carriage sidings on the line towards Bournemouth West. Their mention of “9Fs” showed there was some regard for the old S. & D. They directed the scout towards the site of the old terminus.
Soon he found himself hurtling along the A338 Wessex Way and unknowingly passed over the site of some of the platforms and the goods shed, before cursing the madness of fast-motor roads and flinging his bike over the central barrier and a fence to escape the dual carriageway. Myopic motorists honked their horns, perhaps narked by the scout’s freedom.
The shell of Bath (Green Park) has been restored but there is nothing left of the southern terminus but a nondescript coach and car park. Even the Midland Hotel had closed six years earlier and was now the Midland Heights apartment block.
The scout then rode along busy streets to find Parkstone Station for the train to Weymouth, where there was time for a wander along the front and a bite to eat.
In 2017, the scout had looked forward to returning on the 17.28, the Saturdays-only Weymouth Wizard, because it was formed by an H.S.T. with bookable bike spaces and opening windows, but this year the crush of a lousy three-car D.M.U. about to labour on Upwey bank held no appeal.
The E. & T.V.R. utilicon arrived back at Christow at 20.45. Despite the scout riding 43 miles, covering 211 rail miles on nine trains and calling at 18 open or closed stations (excluding Poole Quay), with nine of them new to him, he took only one photograph.