Rob Bell revisits lines decommissioned in the 1960s and celebrates the new life that has been created from their remains.
Part 1: Scotland
He begins his quest in Scotland, journeying along the old route from Elgin to Portsoy, a line that served the fishing and whisky industries. Rob wonders at the formidable Elgin station, which still stands strong, before tracking the line along the coast. Lossiemouth once saw sherry barrels aplenty and vast quantities of fish along its route, and the picturesque docks still betray the presence of steel track right up to the water’s edge.
Part 2: Sheffield
Rob Bell starts his journey in the steel town of Sheffield, where across the road from the old Royal Victoria Station, the Station Hotel once served as a temporary home to millions of train passengers. He takes a short ride on a freight train out of Sheffield towards Wortley, where he is thrilled by a miniature railway run by local engineering enthusiasts. Over the Pennines, Rob traces the route of the Woodhead Tunnel, once the longest of its kind, before joining a still-working stretch of the line at Hadfield, heading into his final destination – the industrial powerhouse of Manchester.
Part 3: Dartmoor
Rob Bell meets a man who has meticulously recreated the beginning of the Plymouth-to-Exeter line in miniature. He then charts this closed line through Dartmoor. In Tavistock, Rob samples the famous local rabbit pie and at the Ambrosia rice pudding factory, learns that the line was largely responsible for the UK-wide success of the business. After joining the Granite Way, which has now become a much-loved cycle route, Rob arrives in Okehampton before linking on to Exeter. This service exists now thanks to local campaigners – a small victory for lost lines and the communities they used to serve.
Part 4: Lake District
Rob Bell revisits decommissioned railway lines in the Lake District, where he looks for elusive signs of a route that begins over a busy motorway near Penrith. As he traces the route, he learns the tragic tale of engineer Thomas Bouch, whose reputation was ruined by a disaster, and discovers how a lost line near Keswick once supported the whole region by transporting minerals and ore from the mines.
Part 5: Somerset and Dorset
Rob Bell revisits the decommissioned Somerset-and-Dorset line, which transformed the fortunes of local seaside towns, but proved costly to build and maintain. Rob discovers why the boggy Somerset Levels presented such challenge to lay track upon, and the expense of construction becomes even more apparent as he treks into the unforgivingly rocky Mendip Hills, where several grand viaducts had to be built. Heading through the final, most expensive and tragic part of the line, Rob explores the hastily constructed Coombe Down Tunnel.
Part 6: Wales
Rob Bell visits Wales to examine the story of a lost line between Ruabon and Barmouth. The route represented a sea-change in how ordinary Victorian working families were granted affordable access to the landscape and language of the Welsh heartlands. He takes a trip across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – the oldest and longest navigable aqueduct in Great Britain and the highest in the world – and goes canoeing in Lake Bala. In Dolgellau, Rob meets a local harpist and hears the sounds that became intrinsically tied to the image of Wales.