Hysbysfwrdd Rheilffordd Arfordir Gogledd Cymru

The Royal Train departs from Hooton on 19 February (Dave Skipsey)

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04 March 2010

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North Cheshire Rail Users’ Group events
North Cheshire Rail Users’ Group are celebrating 20 years of campaigning for better rail services and taking care of Frodsham, Helsby & Runcorn East Stations, and cordially invite you to join them on an Awayday Rail Journey to  Liverpool and Birkenhead on Saturday 13 March (using a Cheshire Day Ranger Ticket) to visit the ‘Grasshopper’ type pump at Shore Road Pumping Station, the ‘U-Boat’ Exhibition at Woodside Ferry, a ride on the Birkenhead Tramway (Hong Kong tram) to the Transport Museum, and including a short cruise on the world famous Mersey Ferry.

Starting points are Chester (08:52), Helsby (09:01), Frodsham (09:05) & Warrington BQ (09:22) Return via Manchester Piccadilly and the Mid-Cheshire Line to Chester arriving (17:51) or a shortened itinerary via Warrington Central to catch the 16.26 from Warrington Bank Quay to Frodsham & Helsby.

Cost:-  Cheshire Day Ranger £18.00 with concessions £11.90, Mersey Ferry & U-Boat Exhibition £9.00
Shore Road Pumping Station, Tram and Transport Museum are free. For further details and to book your place please contact John Hobbs on 01925 818791.
There will also be an Open Meeting on Tuesday 16 March, with Guest speakers Jim Barclay,   Director of Resources, Merseytravel,  Julie Warburton, Passenger Link Manager, Passenger Focus, Ben Davies,   Stakeholder Liaison Manager,  Arriva Trains Wales. There will be a small exhibition showing some of the highlights of the last 20 years, a Birthday cake, light refreshments and the opportunity to hear about our future plans.

The meeting is at The  Golden  Lion,  (upstairs meeting room),  Main Street,  Frodsham Commencing at  7.30pm  For further details please email Cedric Green at[at]

Wrexham and Shropshire journeys and diversions

The Shrewsbury - Wolverhampton direct line (via Wellington) was closed due to engineering work on 20 February, so Wrexham & Shropshire services were diverted to run from Shrewsbury via Crewe to Wolverhampton. Above, Driving Van Trailer 82305 leads 67 014 Thomas Telford heading for Wrexham via Chester, passing Beeston at 12:43 (Stavros Lainas)

Two pictures by Geoff Morris from Saturday evening 20 February.   Additionally, services from the Cambrian were diverted to terminate at Crewe. 67 015 David J. Lloyd and 82301 are reversing in platform 6 at Crewe with the 17:23 from Wrexham to Marylebone.

Next to it in bay platform 7 is 158 822 on the 18:52 from Crewe to Aberystwyth.

At the southern end of the route on Sunday, all Wrexham & Shropshire and Chiltern trains were being diverted into Paddington, over the normally little-used line from Old Oak Common to Northolt Junction. Richard Putley reports:

This line was the former GWR’s Northern Line but since the 1970’s it has only been used by one passenger train a day. Not only would this provide an opportunity to travel over this line  but also to shoot W & S trains passing the GW semaphores at Greenford –one of only a handful of locations in London  where semaphores can still be found. So I took the 10:12 from Chippenham to Paddington and then the 12:09 Chiltern service from there that was bound for Birmingham Snow Hill.  This departed from Platform 13 but luckily on this occasion this did not prove to be an unlucky number! In the opposite platform, stood a London Underground battery electric loco, L26, the Hammersmith and City line, like Marylebone station, was closed for engineering work that day.


But I alighted at West Ruislip and then took the Central Underground back to Northolt. Here I walked for about 10 minutes to a footbridge over the line where the signals at Greenford could be seen in the distance. Having filmed a couple of Chiltern DMUs from this bridge (above, 165 022) I then returned to West Ruislip.

On the way back my tube train overtook an engineers' train hauled by 66 009, so I alighted at Ruislip Gardens to film it going through.

Back at the footbridge again just in time to see 1P50, the 10:38 Wrexham General – Paddington which was formed of a uniform W & S rake, seen approaching Greenford. This came back as the 16:09 Paddington - Wrexham General, train 1J43.

Barrie Hughes took at trip on the diversions on 20 February:

Taking the train from Banbury to Wrexham would mean travel in an anticlockwise circle from Wolverhampton to Wrexham via Crewe and returning via Shrewsbury and Crewe due to the track work near Wellington. The outbound train was booked via Crewe so that the train could arrive at Wrexham in time to form the 17:23 departure.

It was a bad start with the 13:37 arriving 30 minutes late due to a failure of the previous set and a substitution. The rake was headed by a new Chiltern livery DVT and with 67015 on the rear. The train made good time to Leamington Spa and then slow progress on the single track link to Coventry where we passed a southbound Virgin Voyager. Given the increase in traffic and frequent delays on this short link it surely can't cost Network Rail that much to redouble this 10-mile section?

We passed through Coventry non-stop but then ended up, according to messages overheard between the driver and guard, behind a 'LMR stopper and a Pendo'. We overtook the stopper at Birmingham International via the slow lines! We were glad to get onto the Grand Junction cut off at Stechford after travelling signal to signal for half an hour. This was the third side of the triangle when the Grand Junction (Crewe-Birmingham) and London and Birmingham used to terminate at Curzon Street.

At Tame Bridge Parkway, many left the train to travel by coach to their destinations but others, including some for Gobowen, stayed on for the direct train. Bescot Yard seemed almost deserted although a line of Class 37s and 08s remain in store there. The train avoided Wolverhampton via the Bushbury Junction route though normally it is set to pick up there. We now ran non stop to Wrexham, though via the slow lines north of Stafford, passing a W&SR rake on the fast lines heading south, presumably the 14.18 ex Wrexham.

The Crewe-Chester line seemed badly maintained with some uncomfortable bumps and sways as the loco ran at line speed to make up time. We ran through Chester's main platform non stop but ran into problems near Saltney Junction as there was a problem with the Green Lane Automatic Half-Barrier level crossing south of there. It was a pleasure to hear jointed track again for the first time in the journey on the single track between Chester and Wrexham, but I couldn't help wondering how long before the 'dynamic loop' will be installed at Rossett. The newish green steel footbridge there has allowed for double track on the site of the former loops but of course the A483 has single track bridges both north and south of the site preventing the redoubling of the line throughout without great expense. How shortsighted of the Highways Agency!

The train arrived in platform 1 at Wrexham (above) and remained there rather than shunting into platform 3 as nothing else was due. We departed on time and ran to Shrewsbury as normal. However, there we reversed and travelled to Crewe. Speculation about travelling through Basford Hall Yard Crewe Independent lines was dashed when we continued on into Crewe passing Gresty Lane signalbox. The train reversed at Crewe, with 67 015 now leading, and used the fast lines to Stafford, returning to Banbury via Wolverhampton and the Stechford cut-off. The train was terminated at Banbury as planned, and passengers used Chiltern services onward to Marylebone.

As Chiltern (part owners of W & S) develops its Class 67 plus Mk 3 coach fleet in parallel with the W & S it will be interesting to see how the sharing of locos works out when problems occur in future, and whether any of the new modified plug-door Mk3s promised my Chiltern ever make it to Wrexham.

A pair of steamers

70013 Oliver Cromwell and 30777 Sir Lamiel, running about 35 minutes late through Acton Bridge on Monday 22 February, on their way from the East Lancashire Railway to Tyseley and then on to Southall. Picture David Jackson.

Another view of the pair and their support coach at Acton Bridge (Andrew Vinten)

Dave Bramley writes: 'I popped down Nantwich Road in Crewe for a walk with my son and noticed when passing the station that there was an above average number of people on the north end of platform 6; after a text message or or two I found out 70013 and 30777 were running as 5Z77 from Heywood ELR to Tyseley and would be due through soon so went down to watch them arrive and take water,

'A bonus for my son as he'd never seen a mainline size steam loco in full steam before.'

158 at Llandudno - report by Route19

158 821 made a rare appearance by a Class 158 (175s, 153s and 150s are common) on the Llandudno branch on 27 February, arriving on the 11:26 from Junction and waiting time (above) for the 11:44 to Manchester. I made a mad and stupid sprint up to Maesdu footbridge for a film of it leaving, which can be seen on my Youtube channel, 'TheRoute19'.

Chester signboard controversy

Until the major resignalling and rationalisation project of 1979 - 1984, the Chester station area was controlled by several old-style signalboxes, including a rather curious example, known as 'Chester No.3', perched high on the brick wall opposite (what is now called) Platform 3 to operate the crossovers there. When this was removed, the British Rail Area Manager of the time arranged for the area, seen by passengers entering the station, to be tidied-up with a grassed area and, on the wall, a locally-made board showing the distances to London and Holyhead. Recently this board has been looking rather sad (picture above by George Jones) ...

... and at the end of February a new one appeared in its place, apparently organised by a body called 'Chester Renaissance' - picture by George Jones. The size, colour and letter forms of this are different from the old, which has led to some complaints from historically-minded people who believe the old sign should have been replicated (perhaps not necessarily with the fern growing on the top.)  But how old does something have to be to become a historic relic? Some might consider the poor state of the wall to be a more important matter...

Last of the snow? Report by Mark Riley

Yet more snow affected much of North Wales during the third week of February. Another 5cm fell in as many hours on Wrexham overnight on 21 February. Chiltern blue and white DVT 82302 looks a little whiter (above) as it stands in the bay at Wrexham General. The formation still comprises the blue/grey Buffet First 10257, with ex-Virgin Mark 3 Open Standards 12094, 12127 and 12054, and 67 010 providing power. Does anyone know if this will eventually be named Charles Darwin as was thought?

67 014 Thomas Telford awaits its first service of the day, train 1P50, 10:38 Sunday service to London Paddington (trains again diverted due to engineering work). This was an all-silver set consisting of Buffet First 10208, and Open Standards 12127, 12145 and 12117.  Of interest here is the EWS red drop light, which I am reliably informed was replaced last October. (I haven't seen much of this particular 67 since then) This was the only colour available at the time it was replaced, thus giving the 67 a unique characteristic.

As can be seen here, as 67 014 powers the 10:38 departure from the rear, the other drop lights match the grey/silver cab ends.

News from Ty Mawr publications

Steve Morris writes to let us know that he has set up a new website for publishing activity, Ty Mawr Publications. As well as details of the books, including several about North Wales subjects, he has on offer, there are pdf downloads of some interesting archive magazine articles by Steve.

New traction for the timber train - report by Mark Riley

Colas-liveried 66 843 had been used for driving training purposes recently on train 6J37 from Carlisle to Chirk, piloting a Class 57/0 as far as Warrington Bank Quay, where it was removed and the Class 57 continued on to Chirk. However. 23 February saw the end of Class 57/0 traction on these trains when 66 843 worked solo for the first time, and is seen arriving at the Kronospan plant in Chirk at 18:18, in a mix of sleet and snow.

Of course, the pictures would look better with the cab light on, but the crew only put it on for a few seconds, and sadly between exposures, not whilst I was taking the pictures!

Driving snow was blowing straight at the camera, so it took several attempts to get reasonable pictures. Above, 66 843 has drawn forward into the shadows to allow unloading to continue.

ATW in 00

George Jones sends this picture of the Bachmann 00 scale Class 158 and 150/2 railcars now available in Arriva Trains Wales colours.  Both make a good attempt at the livery and general appearance, although the 158 is now quite an old model, and the 150, although recently released, has come in for criticism in the model press for the large motor block and weight which prevents one of the cars having proper interior detailing. In an attempt to camouflage this, Bachmann have given the windows a dark tint, which is not authentic.

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