Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru

22 March 2010

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

Events this week:

Monday 15 March. RCTS Meeting in Chester at 19.45. Berwyn Stephens  'The Fall and Rise of BR Steam 1955-2009' Berwyn travels from Shropshire to show a selection of his slides of British steam.

Tuesday 16 March Change of programme  North Wales Railway Circle Showing of the D.V.D. Manchester to Lancaster Railway  (courtesy of B and R Videos)

See the Calendar page for more details

57 303 Alan Tracy, and 390 047 CLIC Sargent, on 1A55, 14:36, Holyhead - London Euston pass Beeches Farm on 13 March. CLIC Sargent, the children’s charity that aims to ease the burden of childhood cancer on children, young people and their families, are Virgin's chosen charity for this year.
Calling all Wrexham area photographers

We are asked to get some publicity for the W&S 2nd anniversary photo competition which is being organised by the manageress of the W&S café at Wrexham General. The rules:

1. Photographic prints of any train in the Wrexham area may be entered - colour or B&W.
2. Submissions should be made by 23 April 2010 to the café on platform 1 at Wrexham General station. The café is open Monday - Saturday normally 6am - 6pm.
3. The winners will be announced on 26 April. the second anniversary date of W&S commencing operations.
4. Prizes are : 1st. Ticket for the return journey to London Marylebone. 2nd. Return ticket for two on the Llangollen Railway.
5. Photos entered may be retained by W&S for display in the Wrexham station cafe.

Shipping news 1: the wing carrier 

The barge Afon Dyfrdwy (Welsh name for the River Dee) was built to carry the wings for the A380 Airbus airliner, from a wharf near the British Aerospace factory at Broughton, to Mostyn where they are transferred to an ocean-going ship.  Its design is determined by the clearance under the bridges over the river, and even then passage is only possible when the tidal level permits. The old bridge at Queensferry, seen in John Eyres' picture above, was built as a lifting bascule bridge, but even if it were still workable there would be no point as Hawarden railway bridge, a short distance downstream, although built as a swing bridge has long been fixed in position.

A close-up, also taken by John Eyres on 15 February, from the public path which is attached to the railway bridge, shows how the wing sits flat in the barge. The building on the bank was built in 1907 as the offices of the John Summers steelworks. Currently it stands empty behind anti-vandal fencing and faces an uncertain future. There public paths on both banks of the river here, and the cycleway on the old railway formation gives traffic-free access from Chester.

Above: passing Connahs Quay on the run of 15 March (Dave Sallery)

Out in the estuary off Greenfield on 15 March, with Heswall visible in the background. The wing was then taken to Paullic in France by the Ciudad de Cadiz (IMO 9383560) on 17 March.  For an account of the wings' remarkable journey and the story behind it, there is an interesting article in the Guardian archives for 2006. (Dave Sallery)

Oliver Cromwell in action

'Britannia' pacific 70013 Oliver Cromwell restarting from Crewe  with train 1Z22, 06:40 Leicester to Carlisle 'Cumbrian Mountain Express' via Shap and return via Settle & Carlisle on 19 March. Picture by Tim Fenton, who writes: 'For a "midweek" tour, there was a very high turnout of enthusiasts - perhaps better than some Saturdays. This could be because it's the first tour the loco has worked out of Crewe since its recent restoration. Having seen the size of the  gallery of photographers, I'm bracing myself for Tornado next month (that tour has been sold out for some weeks now).'

This picture was taken by Cliff Gallimore out on the main line just north of Crewe at Coppenhall Moss working hard on the down slow line. Cliff writes: my view was almost obliterated by the passing of train 6K32, Warrington Yard to Stoke Marcroft, formed of wagons for repair, hauled by 66 035 -  so a very much last second shot. I think this was a first time that a Britannia loco has hauled a passenger express over Shap since 1967.'

Arriva to go Deutsche?

News from the world of high finance is that the Arriva company has received a '£1.2bn takeover bid' from Deutsche Bahn. Apparently Arriva have told them it's not enough, and discussions continue.

As well as running most of the buses and trains in North Wales, Arriva also have operations elsewhere in the UK (including Cross Country Trains) as well as The Netherlands, Denmark and Germany. The LNWR maintenance operation in Crewe is also part of the empire.  DB are already the major shareholder in Wrexham & Shropshire, so the sale could have interesting results for integration of services.

The odd thing about this is that DB is not some multinational private company, it is the German nationalised railway. Netherlands Railways, also state-owned, operate Merseyrail and have a half-share in Northern Rail, so our railways are slowing undergoing a bizarre form of nationalisation in which all the profits from the UK Government subsidy go towards running trains in other countries. French Railways have shares in Trans Pennine Express too, through their subsidiary Keolis, which was also recently bidding for Arriva.

The company now known as Arriva was founded by T.S. Cowie in Sunderland in 1938 as a second hand motorcycle dealer trading as T.Cowie Limited. The firm later moved into car sales and contract hire, but those parts of the business were sold in 2003 and 2006, to concentrate on public transport. The name 'Arriva appeared on the scene in 1997 after the purchase of the British Bus group, and at the time of rail privatisation, although Arriva did not win any franchises until 2000, when Arriva Trains Merseyside and Arriva Trains Northern came into being when Arriva took over after the failure of the first operator. These franchises vanished in 2003-04 due to to re-organisations by the Department for Transport, and Arriva gained the new all-Wales company, as well as picking up Cross Country after it was dropped by Virgin.

New bridge at Barmouth

The bridge carrying the Cambrian Coast line over the street leading to Barmouth harbour was replaced by a new steel span over the weekend of 13-14 February using a crane hired from the Mammoet company. Our picture by Kate Jones was taken early on the Sunday morning as the crane crew were starting to prepare their crane for travel. The new bridge is in the background.

Pendolino Pictures

A three-week selection of views of the Saturdays-only Class 57 / Pendolino working on the Coast Line starts with this one from 6 March by Larry Davies, taken from the new cycleway bridge as the westbound train, 08:50 London - Holyhead , negotiates the reverse curve towards the Conwy tubular bridge. 57 303 heads 390 025.

13 March, and 57 303 and 390 047 heading west, as seen from Conwy Castle. ('Shame it's not a Royal Scot', muses Larry.)  The crane survives from the days when there was a small railway goods yard here.

The same train approaching Waen Crossing, Conwy,  on time at 12:10. (Darren Durrant)

A week later, 20 March, and we see 57 310 and 390 007 heading for Holyhead passing through the arch designed by Robert Stephenson to get the line through Conwy town walls. (Darren Durrant)

Llanfair PG with its curious phonetic nameboard (Richard Fleckney)

57 310 is working hard as it hauls the eastbound train out of Colwyn Bay station (Darren Durrant.) The constant power requirement for the Pendolino's air-conditioning, etc. means that the engine is working quite hard even when standing still.

You could ride in the loco cab of this train, and support a good cause: click here!

A trip to Pwllheli - with Gareth Marston

I too a train ride to the end of the Cambrian Coast line on Tuesday 2 March; high spring tide, sunshine and snow on the peaks, the Cambrian Coast at its best. All the pictures are taken at Pwllheli. Above, 158 829, just arrived with the 09:03 from Machynlleth, waits to form the 11:42 to Birmingham International.

158 827 just arrived with 10:59 from Machynlleth.

Signboards for the new signalling system awaiting uncovering. Pwllheli West Signal Box, now a shunting frame,  in the background, still awaiting that coat of paint.

The luggage-space-hogging equipment box for the new system, seen replacing half the luggage rack in 158 827.

158 827 in need of some TLC to go with the new gadgetry?

Shipping news 2 - off Holyhead

Two view from 3 March by Eifion Hughes of the Irish Sea ferries. Above is Irish Ferries Ulysses turning into her berth at Holyhead.

South Stack, three miles outside Holyhead, is a clifftop location well worth visiting: there are guided tours of lighthouse (if you are happy to descend 400 steps and climb back up afterwards!), there are many seabirds to be watched, and the general view is marvellous. The view above shows Stena Adventurer passing by. A bus runs from Holyhead in summer: see the Trinity House website for visitor information.

Cambrian Cinematography - by Gerwyn Jones

Two great pieces of train cinematography were premiered at an event in Newtown Railway Station when the station's ticket office was converted to a cinema for one night. Shown to an invited audience on the evening of 12 March, the 'Cambrian Country' and 'Coast Gazer' films brought a touch of train tinsel-town to mid Wales. The films showcase and promote the wonderful views from the train window on the fantastic and contrasting Cambrian rail network with the intention of motivating viewers to then sample the train attraction for real!

Featuring their own original musical soundtrack the films have been produced by local company Dimension Studio, who are film-maker Charlotte Durie and composer Dexter Jones. At the premiere Charlotte commented 'It was a real pleasure working on these projects. We have some of the best coastal scenery in the Kingdom and Dexter's music reflects the emotion of it beautifully.'

The short promotional films, produced for the Cambrian Railways Partnership (CRP), show highlights of the views on the Cambrian Main Line between Shrewsbury and Aberystwyth and the Cambrian Coast Line between Machynlleth and Pwllheli. 

According to Lembit Öpik, Member of Parliament for Montgomeryshire, 'Train travel has always held the hint of romance and enigma. These films bring out both in a most evocative style ... Anyone who sees these films will want to visit Wales - and by train.'

Following the premiere the films have gone on general release and are available to view at

As well as the films, the CRP have recently launched MP3-downloadable audio guides which tell people what they're seeing out of the train window as they travel. These were produced by well-known broadcaster Tim Richards and are already proving very popular and are also available for free to download from the website.

The premiere was kindly hosted by Mr Peter Compton, the proprietor of Newtown Station Travel, who says 'It's great to be able to arrange a fun social event like this which links the railway with the community it serves as well as promoting train travel of course!'

In producing the films and audio guides the CRP received support from Tourism Partnership Mid Wales - the launch of the films was timed to coincide with the build up to Wales Tourism Week which started on 15 March 2010.

What is it?

This curious object on display at the Inigo Jones Slate Works near Caernarfon is a 2'3" gauge Logan battery locomotive once used on Aberllefenni slate quarry system, which connected with the Corris Railway. (Picture by Eifion Hughes.) A typical slate wagon is also preserved. Saved when the quarry was abandoned in 1983, it escaped the fate of an earlier Aberllefenni loco which fell into some flooded underground workings in 1971, and is still there...

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