Hysbysfwrdd Rheilffordd Arfordir Gogledd Cymru

175 101 at Llandudno Junction, 9 February (Stéphanie Durrant)

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22 February 2010

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Catch-up issue! The items on this page are from early February. For some later news, see the last update...

News from Compass Tours - by Kevin Melia
Compass Tours are running two excursions from Chester or North Wales in spring 2010:

Saturday 29 May: to Carlisle, Outwards via the Settle & Carlisle, returning via the Cumbrian Coast. Pick up stations - Hooton, Chester, Delamere, Northwich, Knutsford, Altrincham, Stockport, Denton, Manchester Victoria & Bolton. Standard Class fare £49,  First Class £79 Motive power: DB Schenker class 67.

Saturday 5 June: To Llandrindod and Cardiff: Outwards via the Heart of Wales, returning via the Marches.
Pickup stations - Holyhead, Llanfairpwll, Bangor, Llandudno Junction, Colwyn Bay, Rhyl, Flint, Chester, Crewe, Nantwich, Whitchurch, Wem & Shrewsbury. Standard Class fare £55,  First Class £85 (£6 reduction on all fares if boarding between Crewe & Shrewsbury).

Details of these tours and others are available at and can be booked by calling 0151 722 1147 (10am-6pm weekdays).

Other railtour highlights from the North West for rail enthusiasts feature top-and-tail DRS 47s working Crewe-Carlisle (via Liverpool pickups) on Wednesday 7 April (featuring runs over the S&C + Cumbrian Coast) and 40 145 working a Father's Day Special on Sunday 20 June from York to Edinburgh picking up via Huddersfield, Manchester and across Lancashire to Preston. On this circular tour the 40 hauls the train up the West Coast Mainline via Shap and Beattock, then returns via the East Coast to York before dropping everyone off home and finally terminating at Preston afterwards. All the other tours (mainly utilising modern diesels) are of course also posted on the website with a variety of other destinations being visited such as Dundee and Aberdeen, Fort William plus Troon and Ayr.

Measurement Train movements

9 February saw the Network Rail 'sprinter'-based measurement unit 950 001 running around our area. Above, A slideshow by the Durrant family of views around Llandudno Junction and Colwyn Bay.

950 001 is a one-off creation known as the Track Recording Unit: it was built in 1987 on the same production line as the Class 150 'sprinters' - but is not a conversion, it has always been like this. This is quite unusual as most of the 'yellow' stock you will see has been converted from something else. Its basic purpose is to monitor and record track geometry, that is to say check that the track is not uneven, buckled or kinked, with it does by means of various instruments. The cameras on the ends, which were not fitted until around 2003/4, make a visual record of the track to augment the instrumentation. Its role is more or less that of the HST-based New Measurement Trains (which include a 'Track Recording Car' in their formation) and it can usually found doing its job on the lighter branch lines and rural routes. Sometimes you will see a Track Recording car, usually Mk2 conversion ADB999550, sandwiched between two locos, doing basically the same work as the Class 950.

The working on 9 February was 2Q08, 06:36 Longsight Depot to Longsight Depot via Greenbank, Llandudno Junction, Hooton, Chester, Runcorn East, Ellesmere Port, Runcorn, and Greenbank. Above, it is seen near Helsby (Stavros Lainas)

Mark Barber's picture shows 950 001 crossing over while reversing at Norton signalbox next to Runcorn East station.

Light Rails for North Wales?
A company called 'TramPower' of Bootle, Merseyside, has been putting about (vague) proposals to create tram/light rail networks in various places in North Wales. Reopening the Caernarfon-Bangor line for light rail; restoring the Llandudno - Colwyn Bay tram, possibly continuing to Rhyl; a street network in Wrexham and continuing onto Deeside and possibly towards Mold.

In a press release responding to the recent Welsh Assembly Committee report, they tell us:

The support for Light Rail in Cardiff, Newport and Swansea in the Committee’s report has been welcomed by TramPower Ltd, producers of affordable Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs), LR55 rail and Overhead (OHL). Commercial and Public Affairs Director Neil Anderson said, 'The report is tremendous news for the Light Rail industry in the UK and we congratulate the Committee for recognising the contribution that Light Rail would make towards sustainability, improving urban accessibility, decongesting traffic and improving air quality in our cities'.

He repeated TramPower’s offers made last week to provide Light Rail networks at virtually no cost to public finances to Cardiff/Newport and Swansea. Mr Anderson said the Company had recently received Letters of Intent for the supply of 17 LRVs and track for their most mature project, in Galway, Ireland.  The project, with an embedded renewable energy supply, has an Internal Rate of Return (IRR) exceeding 13%, will be wholly privately financed.

'We can offer privately-financed routes wherever they prove to be commercial.  This may well apply in other places, like Wrexham and Deeside.  Even Aberystwyth and Bangor might justify a single LR route' he said. 'Our products are about half the cost of our global competitors, and the LRVs use about one-quarter of the energy.  We can offer rail vehicles to tram-train specifications as well as street trams.  Our low-cost and rapidly installed Overhead would make the electrification of the Valley Lines and other branch lines in Wales, also supported by the Committee, very affordable'.

Mr Anderson, who made extensive submissions to the Committee on both Light Rail and High Speed Rail, supports the sale of Light Rail bonds to the public – 'the sort of thing you might buy for your grandchildren' – as well as shares.  'Such a community-based enterprise would have additional and very positive benefits for our people' he said.

Readers may recall their prototype tram which ran in Blackpool for a while, and in Birkenhead (above) in 2005.

Clearly, much persistence is needed to make headway in innovative light rail systems. Meanwhile, Blackpool has ordered 16 new low-floor continental-style 'Flexity 2' trams from Bombardier, to begin delivery later this year.

Cambrian ERTMS update

Thanks to everyone who has written with information about the Cambrian ERTMS situation. The picture above is by Richard W. Jones and shows Harlech station on the night of 24 January, with 97 304 John Tiley on the Radio survey train, as the King Edward I's thirteenth-century castle looks on.

Regarding the summer steam service, it is reported in Railway Magazine that '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. This engine was bought by Ian Riley in 2006, and has been overhauled at Bury and fitted with the various items of equipment needed these days for for main line running, working its first trains in this form at the end of 2009. It has a place in history, being one of the locos used on the famous 'fifteen-guinea special' on 11 August 1968 which marked the end of main line steam on British Rail.

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.

Another fine picture by Richard W. Jones: 97 303 sits on with 15 MHA wagons, loaded with stone to make a 750 ton load, at Newtown on 3 February. It has run round the train and waits for 97 304 to couple up in front of it prior to the train returning to Shrewsbury Coton Hill. The pair had run to Newtown on the 6Z97 from Coton Hill as part of the ERTMS trials. For large versions of these pictures and more, visit Richard's fotopic website.

158 823 at Aberystwyth, 2 February (Larry Davies)

The snows of '82 (continued) - by Ted Thomas
The pictures by Aled Rees of the snow at Cemmaes Road (24 January issue), and the subsequent story of the trapped loco and train at Tonfanau, brought back vivid memories. At that time, I worked as an Assistant Engineer on highway maintenance, based at the Dolgellau office. The storm, as I recall, started mid morning on the Friday, with the snow coming in from the sea, fine snow and strong winds to start with, but by late afternoon, nearly every route in the Meirionnydd area became impassable.

Indeed it was a situation that lasted over a week in the Dolgellau/Tywyn area, with the A.493 completely blocked by snowdrifts. By the following Tuesday, the 'Drotts and JCBs' had reached just beyond Llwyngwril, working south, and I well remember walking along the railway line near Llangelynin, and climbing into the cab of the abandoned 25 which was stuck in snowdrifts, yards from the Cardigan Bay shoreline. A remarkable sight indeed.

Accompanying me that day, was Hugh Bowen Evans, whose brother-in-law Ronnie Thomas, who is probably to be seen in Aled's photograph, was one of last signalmen at Cemmaes Road signal box (the other signalman I believe was William Breeze).

Again from memory, milk, bread and all essentials came in by rail from Machynlleth to Aberdyfi and Tywyn, for several days after the storm, so I'm not sure that this section of line was actually closed. Perhaps someone else can verify that detail.

Seen on a bike ride - report by Peter Lloyd

Some pictures I took whilst out on my bicycle on 3 February. Above, a Bidston-bound 150 at Dee Marsh, passing vans and timber wagons stored in the sidings awaiting an upturn in traffic.

Mickle Trafford, with Northern Rail unit  150 211 on the Manchester - Chester via Northwich service.

Chester, and a Holyhead-bound 158 emerges from Northgate Tunnel.

My train home to Llandudno, 175 106, arriving at Chester, using the crossover to enter the west end of platform 3.

Steam celebrities - pictures by Tim Fenton

A doubly-unusual event on 4 February. The Royal Train, carrying Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall and their entourage, was hauled for the first time by newly-built Class A1 steam locomotive 60163 Tornado from Preston to Manchester. If that wasn't unusual enough, the train ran into the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) using the museum's connection with the Castlefield Junction - Orsdall Lane section of the main line. Here is a link to some pictures of the event by Vince Chadwick. Our picture above shows the train at Crewe later in the day.

This was, we believe, only the second passenger-carrying train to run over the museum connection since it was re-connected in the 1980s, controlled from the then-new Manchester Piccadilly signalling centre. Surely the heir to the throne is not a 'track-basher'? If the proposals in Network Rail's 'Manchester Hub Report' (read the full report as a PDF) a new section of line, the 'Ordsall Chord' - known when first proposed in 1978 as the Castlefield Curve - will be constructed to allow through runnning between Manchester Victoria and Piccadilly. This will cut across the museum line on the same level; the report makes no mention of how a connection could be retained, so unless new director Tony Hill (promoted from within the museum's senior management) encourages more usage, this train might have also been the last to carry passengers into the historic 1830 station.

The previous director of MOSI, Steve Davies, has been appointed the new director of the National Railway Museum in York, where Tim's second picture is taken, showing the current appearance of the pacific Duchess of Hamilton as mentioned in our 2 February issue. Tim notes: 'The car on the right is a Chrysler Airflow, also a 1930s "streamliner". The display has film of sister loco 6220 supposedly on its record run, and there is a photo of that loco emerging from Crewe Works.'

Llangollen Railway picture news - by George Jones

Saturday 16 January and the service was provided by the hybrid set of class 105 E56456 and 127 M51618 seen arriving from Carrog - into a still-icy Llangollen platform 2.

The GWR 2-8-0 No.2807 has the repaired boiler back in the frames at Llangollen but awaits the wheelsets to complete the job. The wheels are at South Devon Railway Buckfastleigh having new tyres fitted. When rewheeled the engine can be expected to do some running-in trips at Llangollen before heading off to the owners' base on the Gloucestershire/Warwickshire railway at the end of a notable long term restoration project which has seen the oldest of the Barry scrapyard inhabitants returned to steam. It was built at Swindon in 1905.

The BR Standard tank 80072 has receiving the finalised version of its lining out and numbering with BR transfers applied. Here is the glossy finish and numbers on the bunker - it won't stay like this for long!

Here is 'Jinty' 47298 back in one piece - almost. After running trials over the Christmas period it is now lined up for completion and readiness to resume its 'Thomas' role in this, his 65th anniversary year. A big party is being organised at Llangollen in May to celebrate - another 'coal cake' springs to mind.

Trains continue to run every weekend - view the Llangollen Railway timetable.

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