Hysbysfwrdd Rheilffordd Arfordir Gogledd Cymru

Class 60 still clinging to life: 60 049 hauls the Oakleigh - Tunstead empties through Plumley, 9 January (Andrew Vinten)

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13 January 2010

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Thanks for all the superb pictures received: as many more as we can fit in will appear in the next update. - Charlie

Two locos, one coach

This spectacular view from Ian Macer-Wright's viewpoint high on the hills above Fairbourne at 08:45 shows a rather unusual train, with a light on the side, making its way across Barmouth Viaduct.

About 12:00 the train returned south, and it could be seen that it comprised two Class 31 diesels sandwiching one yellow Network Rail vehicle. (Ian Macer-Wright)

On the next day, 7 January, the train north as 2Q08 06:42 Shrewsbury - Manchester Longsight via Bidston, Wrexham Central and Mouldsworth. Mark Riley was surprised while on a shopping expedition to see 31 106 -and 31 602 Driver Dave Green top-and tailing test coach DB999508 at Wrexham. Mark's first picture is of the train running up to Croes Newydd, with a cloud of choking exhaust emanating from 31 602. A short time earlier, the train had paid a flying visit to Wrexham Central.

Next, train leaves Croes Newydd with 31 602 leading and still "clagging" away looking more like a steam loco, with Track Inspection Coach DB999508 sandwiched between the two 31s. This vehicle is one of a batch of inspection saloons built in the 1960s for the Western Region Civil Engineer's Department of BR. It was converted to a track inspection vehicle in the 1980s; part of the conversion involved installing the side cutaways. In 2003 it was overhauled and fitted with new track recording equipment. Today, according to the excellent website it 'operates whenever the Track Recording Unit 950 001 (primarily) or The Track Recording Car 999550 is in dock. It has no planned programmes but is held as a spare recording vehicle. Generally it goes out with make-up vehicles to suit and either a pair of DRS 37s or Rail Vehicle Engineering 31s.'

31 106 in BR Blue at the rear as the train leaves for Bidston. Mark Riley writes: 'It was a change for me to photograph something other than a unit or the Wrexham and Shropshire workings!'

David Rapson photographed the train heading through Shotton High Level station at 09:36.

Two interesting forthcoming events
Engineer, author and publisher Steve Morris will be giving a talk to the North Wales Railway Circle on Tuesday 19 January. The subject is 'Cardiff Canton Diesel Depot' and covers the history of the depot in Diesel days along with some memories of Steve's time working there in the mid 80's. The presentation will be available on DVD for purchase at £5 a copy with all the proceeds going to the NWRC. Location is the Railway Institute Euston Road Bangor, starting 19.30 - all welcome!

The LCGB North West Branch Meeting, at 19:30 on Thursday 21 January at The Parkside Room, St. David's
Social Centre, 249 Wargrave Road, Earlestown, Newton-le-Willows (non-members welcome) will be a slide show by Ian Pilkington entitled 'The North Wales Coast Railway since 1989.' The show features steam and diesel traction between Bagillt and Holyhead over the past 20 years, first shown at the RCTS Lancashire & North West Branch at Preston last year.

Wrexham & Shropshire Pictorial - by Mark Riley

67 012 A Shropshire Lad departs from Wrexham in low winter sun and freezing weather with train 1P13 on 4 January. Trains have been strengthened to four coaches, a sensible idea to cope with current passenger numbers. Cargo-D Mark 3as are in use here until the delivery of the third set of newly-refurbished coaches.

An unidentified DVT and 67 cross Cefn Viaduct in the low winter sun later in the afternoon of 4 January with 1J82 11:20 Marylebone-Wrexham General. For almost a year this train was terminating at Shrewsbury, but now runs through to Wrexham General as it originally did in 2008.  The silver coaches are highly reflective and combined with the very low late afternoon sun has meant some loss in detail, partly recovered in camera RAW and a little selective burning thereafter.

Wrexham finally succumbed to the arctic weather with significant snowfall on 5 January. After several hours of snow, I walked down to Wrexham General to see what was happening there. Unusually 175 007 was out of service in platform 3 (above) at 19:30. Normally one would expect a Class 150 waiting to work a later service, but on this occasion, the unit was to eventually work the 21:02 service to Chester. There was no 20:49 Wrexham to Shrewsbury service which was presumably cancelled.

158 828 was working from Holyhead-Shrewsbury, though having arrived at Wrexham on time, and waited at platform 1 for 20 minutes.  It terminated at Wrexham, and shortly afterwards was seen heading back towards Chester. I do not know the precise reason why it was terminated at Wrexham. Note the protection for the coupler and the snow briefly gaining in intensity!

Wrexham and Shropshire DVT 82304 in the bay with the empty stock from 1J83, with 67 013 Dyfrbont Pontcysyllte at the rear, having arrived a few minutes late. There was no sign of the Euston - Wrexham Voyager which should have arrived at 20:44.

Having run round to platform 2, 175 007 awaits departure with the 21:02 service to Chester. A commuter told me that buses had been cancelled since 16:30 due to the appalling weather, so it was fortunate that there was minimum disruption to local rail services.

66 185 with 6V80, the Dee Marsh - Llanwern empty steel train was held at platform 3 for a considerable time, with more than enough time to take several pictures. I didn't wait to see it's departure as I had had enough of the cold!

Seen at 01:00 on 6 January are Driving Van Trailers 82305, left, and 82304 with the coaches from 1J84 and 1J83 respectively. A cold night for staff servicing the coaches in readiness for morning services.

Despite the continuing freezing weather, the Wrexham and Shropshire trains appear to be coping well! I was determined to get a sunny shot, in the snow, with one of the new sets of coaches and I finally achieved this on January 8. 67 015 David J Lloyd departs from Wrexham General with 1P13 11:27 Wrexham-Marylebone, running approximately 12 minutes late. The train was given right of way over the Arriva Holyhead - Birmingham International which was held at platform 1.

New freight terminal for Holyhead?
The Daily Post reports on 8 January:

A Freight express linking Northern Europe and Ireland could see the building of a multi-million pound rail freight terminal in Holyhead – creating jobs and taking lorries off the A55. European, UK and Irish operators are said to be interested in creating the fast-track ‘land-bridge’ from France to Ireland as pressure grows for greener  and cheaper freight travel. The proposed service would go through Britain’s most advanced rail freight terminal at Daventry in the West Midlands before linking on to Holyhead for the short ferry hop to the Irish Republic.

This would require the building of a modern rail freight terminal and storage facilities in Holyhead and the creation of a significant number of jobs. The terminal could cost between £40m and £70m, depending on the land chosen. Transport consortium Taith has placed the proposal top of its priority list for the Rail Transport Plan and held discussions with the Welsh Assembly Government. International consultants AECOM have already identified demand from British Isles and continental freight firms. They are also investigating the creation of a 'load consolidation centre' at Shotton for industrial operators in Deeside to switch transport from road to rail.

An Anglesey County Council spokesman confirmed: 'Taith are working with the AECOM consultancy on developing further the Land Bridge concept for rail freight through the port of Holyhead and the potential for a load consolidation centre at Deeside.' He said the consultants would now prepare business cases for the two projects, which are expected to be completed by March 2010.

WAG Transport minister Ieuan Wyn Jones said the Welsh Assembly Government was committed to getting freight off the road and on rail. He said grant facilities were available to assist this. He added: 'We are doing what we can to move freight onto rail. This project could be very important in doing that and in terms of jobs for Holyhead.

Wyn Parry, port manager at the Stena Line managed Holyhead Port, said: 'There is no doubt a rail freight terminal would be a benefit to the port. This something that is being discussed with us.' Rail freight operations had previously existed in Holyhead until the 1980s. The proposed terminal could link with plans to build storage facilities at Parc Cybi in Holyhead.

John Chorlton, chairman of the Holyhead Transport and Environmental Package, said: 'This has huge potential and would have to be a plus for Holyhead. It would give it an edge over other ports. 'We are now looking at possible locations for such a plan.  This would create new work for Holyhead.'

What an honour to be the chairman of a package! Perhaps he is in charge of ensuring the Secretary posts it.

The old Freightliner terminal, which closed in the 1980s because the trains were losing money (although the service was initially transferred to tun to Seaforth near Liverpool), was located where the car park is now opposite Platform 3. Some redundant sidings exist on the opposite side of the station, but these are not really in the right place for transferring freight to ships. We await with interest the consultants' report - it won't be the first time such a report has been prepared or suggestions made, but unless something is done to equalise the costs of rail and road one can't help thinking that the foreign lorries with their cheap fuel will carry on rolling down the A55.

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