Hysbysfwrdd Rheilffordd Arfordir Gogledd Cymru

150 260 approaches Hope with a Bidston - Wrexham train, 22 January (Stavros Lainas)

This site is dedicated to all our regular contributors and supporters, and especially the rail staff of North Wales.

28 January 2010

North Wales Coast home page : Previous Noticeboard : Permanent link to this page

WSMR on WCML - report by George Jones

With Leamington - Banbury closed for engineering work on 24 January the option was for Wrexham to run up the West Coast Main Line and go around the houses from Willesden to reach London Marylebone. The opportunity arose for some fast running and some rare track was not to be missed, even if it meant a likely extended journey time.

I joined the 11:23 ex Wrexham General with 67 013 Dyfrbont Pontcysyllte on a four-coach silver set, due into Marylebone at 15:36. We were through to Tame Bridge Parkway on time for 13:01, passing Coventry at 13:39 and at Rugby (above) at 13:50 where we waited for a path.

Photographers were out in force at Rugby (above). Note sticking heads out of windows on fast lines is not advisable, but our trains was stationary at this stage! The timings for the run were produced by some knowledgeable track-bashers which allowed for progress to be recorded, but first the northbound W&S with 67 012 A Shropshire Lad came past at 13:59. Speed was clocked at 110mph between mile posts 46 - 45. Milton Keynes was passed at 14:15 (due 14:13) and Watford Junction at 14:37 (due 14:34) followed by a five-minute stop at South Kenton before Wembley Central at 14:52 (due 14:41).

At Wembley yard the diversion took the line under the WCML to Acton Branch Junction and then the single line to come out at Acton Canal Wharf and on to Acton Wells Junction with speeds down to 15mph in places.
Acton Main Line at 15:06 (due 14:58) then up through Drayton Green to Greenford to reach South Ruislip where we were held for six minute for late a running Chiltern train to pass, and out to the crossover for reversal at 15:41, now 20 minutes down. Via Northolt Junction on the usual route we crossed over the WCML and passed Wembley Stadium at 15:49. It had taken one hour to complete the circle between both Wembley stations having gone from heading east to Euston to turn south, head west and then north to go north-west and turn back heading east - approximate orientations - take a look at the track atlas!

Marylebone was reached at 16:01 with the delay blamed on signals and late running other services; nevertheless an interesting routing and via parts I had never before visited.

Just one hour to while away before the return train which had to go out to Wembley depot for servicing and fuel. I made a brief visit to Paddington and back to find in platform 4 67 015 David J. Lloyd and a buffet/first coach which it had worked down from the Axiom Rail works near Stole-on-Trent where the refurbishment work is taking place (above.)

Then, amazingly,  67 013 was back at 17:00 and we were away right time at 17:05 to repeat the diversion performance, albeit a bit quicker and by now in darkness which hid some of the interest. We came out onto the WCML at 18:05 and proceeded along the slow lines' the conductor advised we lost five minutes at signals. Speed didn't build up until north of Bletchley, but we ran fast through Rugby (19:16) to Coventry (19:23).

Due at Tame Bridge Parkway at 19:43, we made it for 19:53 and kept the lost 10 minutes all the way round to Wolverhampton. A prolonged platform stop then lost 5 minutes at Wellington awaiting a failed freight to clear at Shrewsbury. In platform 3 at Shrewsbury, we waited time and again at Gobowen for the preceding Arriva Holyhead train to clear the sections, so reached Wrexham (below) at 21:50 - due 21:26.

The train then went empty to Crewe. A good trip out in the comfort of the refurbished standard stock with attentive buffet staff and an informative conductor who appreciated the interest of all the rail fans on board. Well done! Goodness only knows what the normal passengers made of it.

Preparations for this journey has seen WSMR staff undertaking route learning using the Chiltern Class 121 'bubblecar' railcar on the WCML which would have made an interesting and unusual sight. Apparently forthcoming weekends will see diversions of one sort or another through until December - expect routing via Chester & Crewe then the WCML via Stafford at some stage; also via Trent Valley. The idea of going into Euston has been mooted but now cancelled due to congestion - they may have to terminate at Wembley. There will also be several days of mid-week blockades at various times so additional options may abound including routing into Paddington, a less 'around-the-houses' option..

So if you missed this interesting journey the option may come round again - keep an eye on W&S weekend timings and be ready to make a late decision to travel. This train and the earlier one, as well as northbound trains, attracted numbers of enthusiasts of all ages and the journey was voted as good as any organised rail tour.

Borders safari - with Stavros Lainas

On 27 January I headed out to just past Penyffordd to shoot 6V45, the Dee Marsh - Margam steel train as I had heard it was running regularly during the week. It passed me at 09:54 with 66 061 hauling a 'looooong' train, with its assorted wagons, looking like a freight train of days gone by.

Shortly beforehand, a local service to Bidston passed heading in the opposite direction at 09:49.

I then headed back towards Buckley as I knew there was another  move of a Merseyrail electric set from overhaul at Doncaster works to Birkenhead depot. Within minutes of my arrival, I heard it approaching. 67 026 leading, with the adaptor vehicles and 507 021, passed me at 10:10.

A drive to Helsby was to follow, to see the Ellesmere Port - Fiddlers Ferry coal train. By this time the weather had deteriorated to driving rain. I got the shot as 66 617 approached Helsby at 12:29, passing the remains of West Cheshire Junction where the direct line to Mouldsworth, removed about ten years ago, branched off.

On the Castle Walls - pictures by Route19

Two views from Conwy Castle on 26 January. Above, 158 823 working the 09:09 Birmingham - Holyhead past the castle walls.

One of Virgin's small fleet of 4-car Class 221 Voyagers passes the site of the former Conwy goods yard on the 12:23 Bangor - London Euston.

Warrington impressions - pictures by 'Concrete Bob'

A series of recent views in the Warrington Bank Quay area. Above: 'Sunrise.'

'Snow scene.' The lines in the foreground are the low level route which passes underneath Bank Quay station.

87 002 The AC Locomotive Group is another privately-owned loco in regular main line use, hired to First GB Railfreight for mail trains, as seen here passing through Warrington. It shares with the recently-revived Deltic D9016 the distinction of once having carried Porterbrook Purple livery, in which is was one of the two locos which brought the official final Class 87-hauled Virgin Train into Manchester Piccadilly on 10 June 2005: see out 16 June 2005 Notebook for a picture.

A Class 70 crosses the bridge carrying the low-level line over the River Mersey on the truncated section to Latchford which is now used to reverse trains on the way to or from Fiddlers Ferry power station. The tower on the skyline, designed by C.W. & P.P. Pugin was added in 1906 to St Mary's Roman Catholic Church (designed by Edward Welby Pugin) in the town centre.

'Moonset' over the detergent works.

High Speed for Wales, and other ideas
The Welsh Assembly Government's Enterprise and Learning Committee has just issued a 52-page report snappily titled 'Future Railway Infrastructure in Wales' which is available for download from their website. It comprises 108 paragraphs describing evidence and submissions received from All and Sundry, followed by a summary of 21 recommendations. Here's a summary of their summary:
All good, and mostly obvious, stuff, but it does bring to mind a quote from Al Stewart's fine song 'League of Notions' about the Versailles Peace Conference:

Woodrow Wilson has his fourteen points
But Clemenceau turns to Lloyd George
And says "You know that
God himself had only ten"

The report itself includes links to all the evidence sessions, including the following interesting comment from Arriva Trains Wales: 'The Franchise Agreement does not commit Arriva Trains Wales to any obligations on major investment. The bid was accepted by the Strategic Rail Authority as a 'do nothing' Franchise and any service enhancements are therefore inevitably funded from external sources. Despite this, Arriva Trains Wales has invested over £20m in facilities to improve the service to its customers. Examples include the establishment of a new train maintenance depot at Machynlleth to improve fleet reliability and train presentation standards, providing improved customer information facilities, additional security at stations and on trains and the installation of ticket gates and ticket vending machines in stations.'

Appendix 3, re-openings, includes Bangor to Caernarfon, plus stations on the Cambrian line (Bow Street, Carno), the Shrewsbury to Chester line (Baschurch, Whittington, Weston Rhyn, Cefn, Johnstown, Rossett, Chester Business Park); and the North Wales Coast line (Queensferry, Connah’s Quay, Bagillt, Greenfield).

Welsh Highland Heritage at the Olympic Stadium

The Welsh Highland Heritage Railway's locomotive fleet includes two Hunslet Barclay 12-tonne, 84hp,  four-wheeled diesel locos of the type designed to use in mining operations. Kathy (works no. LD9350/94) and Emma (works no. LD9346/94) were among a batch built in 1994 for use on the Jubilee Line Extension project, London, operated by a consortium of Balfour Beatty and Amec, although owned by Hunslet Barclay. The picture above shows Emma at work on that project.

They were some of the last locos to be built at the Jack Lane works before closure, and were obtained by the WHHR when sold off at the end of the work. Kathy has been fitted with a cab and is seen above hauling a WHHR passenger train.

Emma was missing some parts when received, so when asked if a loco could be loaned to a new project in London, the railway saw its chance to get the her put pack into working order.

WHHR spokesman James Hewett says: 'The loco was part of a project called the Lower Lea Valley Cable Tunnels (Olympics). It was a contract for NGT National Grid and EDF Local Electricity Board. Two tunnels were built, each around four miles long to accommodate electricity supply cables to the Olympic stadium.  No one from the WHHR was involved in the contract; we simply put the loco on a low loader and watched it disappear towards the English border. However, the contractor has told us that Emma performed very well and was extremely reliable. We're very pleased that our Welsh railway has had a small part in putting together the Olympic stadium for 2012. It shows narrow gauge railways, a technology pioneered in North Wales over 150 years ago, can still be of use in the most unusual places.'

Freight miscellany

66 731 passing Ince & Elton station on 26 January 2010, working 4C77 from Fiddlers Ferry power station to Newbiggin which runs via Ellesmere Port to run round. This train carries gypsum (Calcium Sulphate) produced from Limestone (Calcium Carbonate) by the flue gas de-sulphurisation plant at the power station, which is used to manufacture plasterboard at the Kirby Thore works of British Gypsum.

The same train passes Frodsham on the way back from Ellesmere Port (Mark Barber)

A fairly reliable picture subject (Mon - Fri) is train 4O10, Trafford Park to Southampton, which passes through Manchester in the allocated freight path just before 13:00. It is pictured here passing Manchester Oxford Road on 27 January: the clock under the canopy is three minutes fast and has been so for several weeks. The loco is 92 031 The Institute of Logistics and Transport, which will take the train as far as Wembley Yard. At one time EWS trains here were all for the Channel Tunnel, but DB Schenker are no, very much in the maritime container business, and has a fleet of 'well wagons'  to carry 9ft 6in-high containers. Picture by Charlie Hulme.

On 29 January Ex-National Power loco 59 201 Vale of York hauled 6F10, 12:43 (MWFO) Warrington Arpley - Gladstone Steel Terminal (Liverpool Docks), pictured above by Andrew Vinten passing Roby station. This loco  arrived at Warrington Arpley earlier in the week on train 6X77 from Wembley as a replacement for 59 204 which has gone back south for repair.

Quite a contrast to the long steel train shown earlier! See our last update for some wagon info: nearest the camera is one of the wagons converted from an iron ore tippler, and next to the loco is a Thrall-built BYA. ()

Bring Back British Rail?
The following comes our way from the 'Bring Back British Rail' campaign:

We hope that this will be the year that our politicians finally begin to admit that the current franchise system is failing the people of Britain and that  something urgently needs to be done to improve the state of our country's railways. In the run up to the General Election, the campaign aims to force this issue onto the political agenda by becoming the unified voice of the millions of disillusioned and dissatisfied train passengers around the country.

Our efforts are centring on an online petition, which is due to end on 2 May 2010. If you support the campaign's aims, please do add your signature today!

We are relying on our supporters to spread the word and help us get as many signatures as possible on the petition before the General Election takes place. Please forward the details to all your friends and colleagues, join our Facebook page and see below for some more great ways of showing your support...

T-Shirts: Bring Back British Rail campaign t-shirts are now available to order for just  £12 each including delivery in the UK. The first batch of t-shirts sold out in less than a week before Christmas and we  are now taking orders for the second batch. All t-shirts are plain white cotton, with a screen-printed logo on the front and back (shown above). Available in small, medium, large and x-large. Order now

Membership Scheme:

We are very pleased to announce the launch of our new annual membership scheme. For just £10 members will receive an exclusive Bring Back British Rail enamel lapel badge (shown above), which is unavailable to purchase anywhere else. All members will be acknowledged on the 'Support Us' page of our website and will be kept up-to-date with campaign activities via the mailing list. Money raised from the membership scheme will be used to fund campaign materials and activities. Join Now

Before getting too enthusiastic, and/or rushing to point out that the BR logo is a mirror image, readers might wish to bear in mind that the website appears to have been been created by Ellie Harrison, a conceptual artist, whose amusing list of past projects includes a 'spoof website.'

To the North Wales Coast home page : 2010 ArchiveTo the previous Noticeboard