Hysbysfwrdd Rheilffordd Arfordir Gogledd Cymru

The Rugby Special prepares to leave Holyhead, 13 February;full story below. Picture by Corrie.

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16 February 2010

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Editor's note: a lot more items are on hand - thanks everyone! As many of these as possible will appear soon, but I thought you'd like to see these particularly topical stories. - Charlie

Rugby special weekend 13-14 February

The Wales vs. Scotland rugby match in Cardiff on Saturday 13 February inspired Arriva Trains Wales to make innovative use of the locomotives and coaches which are normally only used on Mondays - Fridays. Three additional standard class coaches (not in use) were attached to the Friday evening express from Cardiff to Holyhead, where a six-coach train was made up, the first class / restaurant vehicle being left in the Holyhead carriage sidings. Above, the train awaits departure from Holyhead on the Saturday morning. Picture by Corrie.

The restaurant car can be glimpsed in the background of this picture of the 07:55 Virgin Voyager to London in Platform 1 (Corrie).

The train left Holyhead at 08:08 calling only at Bangor, Llandudno Junction, Rhyl, and Chester and arriving at Crewe 10:05, whence depart it took over the path of the usual 175-operated train 1V77, 09:30 Manchester to Cardiff, the 175 being used to strengthen the next train from Manchester. Above, the special is seen passing Valley. (Corrie)

Arriving at Llandudno Junction (Stéphanie Durrant)

Passing Rhyl Marine Lake (John Myers)

Mark Youdan was in position at Mold Junction to photograph the rugby special; ahead of it was  221 115  on the 07:55 Holyhead - Euston ...

... and westbound 158 837 on the 07:09 Birmingham International - Holyhead. All the land either side of the line here was once covered by busy railway installations.

57 314 passes Mold Junction with the special to Cardiff. (Picture by Mark Youdan.) Roger Carvell's excellent book published in 2009, The Chester to Denbigh Railway, has a fascinating chapter of railwaymen's reminiscences of this site. (Buy on line from the Transport Diversions Emporium)

Near Bayston Hill, Shrewsbury (Stavros Lainas)

Back on the Coast line, 158 832, working the morning Shrewsbury - Holyhead train, seen at Llandudno Junction by Stéphanie Durrant, was strengthened with 153 312 ...

... a measure which reduced the maximum allowed speed of the train from 90 to 75 mph because of the lower speed of the 153, although it seems to have little effect on running times.

Performing as usual on 13 February the diesel-hauled Pendolino on the Saturday train from London, train 1D83 08:50 London Euston - Crewe (add loco 10:35-10:50) arriving Holyhead 12:56, 1A55 14:36 Holyhead - Crewe (detach loco 16:43-16:57) - arrives London Euston 18:36. Above, the 'down' train. passes the quay siding at Llandudno Junction (Stéphanie Durrant)

The train consist was 57 312 The Hood + 390 024 Virgin Venturer - above, approaching Llanfair PG (Richard Fleckney)

Passing Ty Croes (Corrie)

The Arriva train returned to Holyhead after the match (which Wales won 31 - 24 thanks to a 'dramatic last-gasp try by Shane Williams' ) as the 16:51 from Cardiff in the path of a Manchester train as far as Crewe - above, it stands in the carriage sidings at Holyhead, awaiting re-marshalling.

Locomotive 57 314 seemed to have suffered from its exertions - note the engine room door open suggesting that fitter's attention is under way.

Engineering work on Sunday 13 February meant that trains were running between Holyhead and Rhyl only. 175 108 (above) awaits its next duty the 13:21 departure to Rhyl. (Corrie)

An unusual sight in Holyhead servicing point on 14 February was 153 367 (Corrie)

As things transpired, it was 'Game Over' for 57 314 and it failed to make the Monday morning service to Cardiff. The scene above at Holyhead just after 08:00 on 15 February saw 57 308 Tin Tin and 57 314 awaiting the return trip to Longsight; 57 308 had arrived in the very early hours with 57 313 which took over the Cardiff working. Picture by Corrie.

Changes at Prestatyn - pictures by Bob Greenhalgh

The engineering work of 14 February included the start of work on the improvements at Prestatyn station. Originally there was a level crossing on the site of the footbridge, and the station itself was on the eastern side of this, neared to Chester; the original Chester & Holyhead Railway building can still be seen. The current road bridge, seen in the pictures, was built, involving diversion of the road, around 1897 as part of the project to rebuild the station for four tracks. At this time the London and North Western Railway footbridge was provided which carried the right-of-way on the old alignment as well as serving the four platforms. In the later days of British Rail, the line became double track again, and the outer platforms were abandoned leaving just the island platform with a track either side. The present footbridge with its ramps replaced the old steps-only one.

The current project, partially funded by the disability authorities and Denbighshire council, involves the construction of a temporary footbridge against the road bridge, which passengers will reach by walking along the remains of the old platforms. The pictures from 14 February show work under way on preparing for the temporary bridge. The exiting footbridge will then be removed and replaced by a new one which, we believe, will have more gentle ramps, and a lift down to the platform. And 'the improvements will include artwork to be funded by Denbighshire’s Area Regeneration department.' We look forward to seeing that.

Cambrian ERTMS - something happens

Here's a press release dated 14 February, hot off the Network Rail website, complete with pictures: above, familiarisation in the cab of a Class 97/3.

A major Network Rail scheme to improve the Cambrian line with one of the world’s most advanced signalling technologies moves a step closer to completion today.  For the first time, the new European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) will be fully tested on a live railway between Pwllheli and Harlech on 13 – 17 February using Arriva Trains Wales' ERTMS-fitted class 158 passenger train fleet.

The Cambrian line in mid-Wales is the testbed for ERTMS in Britain and once the scheme is completed, it will become the first railway in the country to benefit from this new technology. The test run is vital to determine the readiness of this new system before it is introduced in phases on the Cambrian line and subsequently across Britain to bring a more reliable railway, as well as the prospect of more trains to passengers.

In addition, the success of the exercise will see seven Arriva Trains Wales drivers become the first in the country qualified to operate ERTMS-equipped passenger trains.  Three signallers from Network Rail with their new skills in ERTMS will also be pioneering the use of the new system to manage train movements from the new signalling centre at Machynlleth.

Rob Carr, senior programme manager, Network Rail said: 'ERTMS is the next frontier for Britain's railway; it will significantly improve reliability and capacity on the network.  We have carried out a series of tests on the separate elements of the system but this exercise is the "full-dress rehearsal" and a vital milestone for this programme.  The test-drive will give this system a thorough and stringent health-check before we launch it in stages on the Cambrian line and we hope to commission the first phase on Pwllheli – Harlech by Spring this year.'

Left to right, with their trainer certificates: left to right, Steven Beaven, Ron Bailes, Kyle Taylor, Kenneth MacKenzie, and Dave Avery. Behind them you can see the projection screen of the simulator which has been created to train drivers in the operation of the system.

Here's what the cab of the simulator looks like, with the ERTMS display screen in the centre of the desk. The controls on the desk are (from left to right) brake, windscreen wiper, horn, AWS acknowledge button, engine throttle, and forward-reverse switch. This layout is common to all the Class 15x trains; on the old first-generation units, as we recall, the throttle was to the laft and the brake to the right.

Here's what one of the control centre workstations looks like, with its array of what looks like Dell computer equipment and the level crossing CCTV screens above.

This view, kindly supplied by one of our driver friends, shows what the driver's screen shows when operating as 'level 0' - when away from the ERTMS-fitted section, such as between Sutton Bridge, Shrewsbury and Birmingham. The screen simply acts as a speedometer. Apparently the indications will change to km/h once on the ERTMS-fitted line: the system will then have additional elements to indicate to the driver the appropriate speed to be maintained.

Above, Network Rail's depot outside Shrewsbury, with 97 302, one of its four ERTMS-project locos which are intended to haul all other trains other than Class 158s which venture on to the Cambrian lines.

Something of a mystery hangs over the 2010 season of 'The Cambrian' summer steam service which has been operated in recent times by West Coast Railways (WCRC). It has been stated that the service will run in 2010, although their website at the time of writing says 'Timetable and route for 2010 still to be confirmed.' 76079, the locomotive used in previous years, has been sold to the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, but according to Railway Magazine, another Ian Riley loco, 'Black 5' 4-6-0 44871, is to be fitted with ERTMS equipment. It will be certainly interesting to see how this is achieved, given the amount of equipment that is required; perhaps there is room under the tender for the doppler radar equipment, etc.
We hear that the loco is considered overweight for the Barmouth bridge, due too much weight being on the tender leading axle, so it is proposed to put a steel former in the coal space to reduce the coal load.  These locos are not ideal for running tender-first, as the there is not much of a view over the tender, but the type has been used on other lines with no turning facility, such as Fort William - Mallaig, so it must considered acceptable.

Presumably one of the Class 97/3 locos will be used as a rescue loco in case of problems - a role fulfilled by a West Coast Railways Class 33 in the past.

For more about how ERTMS works, see our 13 November 2009 issue.

Changes at Criccieth - Pictures by Paul Lacey

Merllyn Crossing in Criccieth has been one of the three remaining staffed level crossings, protected by signals, on the Cambrian line. (See our 4 April 2009 issue.) The other manned crossings are the ones at Caersws and Llanidloes Road near Caersws. In preparation for the new ERTMS signalling system these are being replaced by full-barrier crossings supervised by closed-circuit TV and operated from the control centre at Machynlleth.

The pictures show the work in progress on 13 February, with the road and railway closed during the ERTMS tests (see above). The floodlights and camera masts are in position.

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