Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru

29 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.

Coming events:

Tuesday  6 April    North Wales Railway Circle   Photographic Competition

Friday 9 April   Clwyd Railway Circle   Have Pass Will Travel. A slide show by Andy Lawton containing Steam, Diesels and Electrics from late 1950s, 1960s and 1970s showing the development of his hobby and subsequent career.

Friday 9 April  Altrincham Electric Railway Preservation Society FROM THE ADRIATIC TO THE DANUBE Illustrated presentation of the current scene by John Myddelton

See the Calendar page for more details

Last chance for a cabride: Our charity auction, courtesy of Virgin Trains,  of a ride with the driver of the Saturday 'Pendolino drag' closes at 18:00 on 31 March. Note that the offer now includes free first-class travel by Virgin train from any Virgin-served station. Visit our Cabride page for details. Thanks to  Tony Miles for the picture.

'WAG-Air' grounded

Directors of Inverness-based Highland Airways called in administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) on 24 March. Their message is: 'Unfortunately, the Joint Administrators have been unable to continue trading the companies and therefore all flights operated by Highland Airways Limited have been cancelled and the aircraft grounded.' Rumours in the Scottish press suggest that this final collapse was precipitated by the actions of HM Revenue and Customs.

The airline ran flights linking some of the Inner and Outer Hebrides to the mainland via Oban and Inverness as well as the Cardiff to Anglesey route, which was heavily subsidised by the Welsh Assembly Government. How much taxpayer's money has gone down this drain remains to be seen.

The company employs around 100 people but said it was too early to say how many redundancies there would be. Loganair have stepped in to take over one of the Scottish routes, but so far nobody seems to be queuing up to run the Welsh route.

The Thames Valley Express, 24 April

The Chester Model Railway Club and Ffestiniog Railway Dee & Mersey Group excursion train to Windsor on 24th April has been re-routed owing to late-notice engineering work. The London area drop off station is now Harrow & Wealdstone instead of Kensington Olympia. The route through West London is from Willesden to Acton Canal Wharf, Acton Wells Jn, South Acton Jn, Kew East Jn, Old Kew Jn to Brentford and then on to Windsor & Eton Riverside. Rare track for the Class 67 top and tailed train! Passengers should have 4¾ hours at Windsor and 7 hours for those alighting at Harrow & Wealdstone where the Bakerloo Line has 5 departures an hour. For more information and to book (online booking is available )visit   

Prestatyn footbridge - report by Dave Sallery

The  footbridge at Prestatyn station was dismantled and removed on Sunday 21 March and the temporary replacement on the north side, adjacent to the road bridge, brought into use. Here are two views of the action.

The original Chester and Holyhead Railway station building can be seen in the background. Work will now start on a new bridge which will give easier access to the station and between the shopping streets on each side, especially for the disabled. The works, and other refurbishments at the station, are expected to last until the end of 2010.

Conwy Valley views

Clearance work for the A470 road widening north of Llanwrst has taken place where the road will run alongside the railway for about a mile.

These two views (above) by Peter Lloyd from 25 March show 153 323 passing the scene as train 2D14 10:20 Llandudno to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

153 323 again, also on 25 March, forming the 11:52 Conwy Valley service from Blaenau Ffestiniog draws to journey's end at the buffer stops at Llandudno Station.  On the former platforms 4 and 5 stand the remains of the former overall roof, pending the re-use in the new station complex ... on which we expect an announcement before too long. (Larry Davies)

A welcome sight at Blaenau Ffestiniog on Saturday 27 March: an engineers train supports Ffestiniog Railway volunteers painting the station in readiness for Easter.  Some of us remember when things like that used to happen on BR! Motive Power is FR Baguley Drewry Diesel Castell Harlech. 150 237 has just arrived with the 10:20 from Llandudno Junction and will form the 11:52 back (Larry Davies).

Logs galore

During the week of March 21-27, Colas Rail were operating two trains each day from Carlisle to Chirk, so we were again been able to see the trains returning empty in daylight hours. However, this time the daytime trains (6J37) arriving at Chirk in the early evening, were worked by Colas-liveried 66 843, whereas the overnight trains arriving at Chirk in the early hours, and returning empty at mid-day, have seen DRS 57 002 in use.

The photo shows DRS 57002 on 6C19 1206 Carlisle-Chirk, drawing the empty KFA wagons out of the sidings at the rear of the Kronospan plant on March 24. Again, these trains were travelling south to Gobowen to run round before returning north via Wrexham and Chester. Loadings are still thirteen KFA wagons. (Mark Riley)

Stavros Lainas tells of his adventures photographing this train on 23 March (above, at Chirk). 'For some reason the road where A483 and A5 merge was closed. All the traffic was diverted through Chirk. Quite a large tailback ... I was heading for Gobowen station but the queue was so long and slow going that it took 20+ minutes to get to Chirk from the roundabout, so I decided to shoot the train at Chirk. I arrived at 11:35 and just saw the Wrexham - Marylebone service arrive/depart. Soon afterwards, around 11:45, despite the noise from the factory I could just hear the rumblings of 57 002 being fired up. At around 12:05 I could see a man in full orange suit and hard hat wave in a circular motion to signal the train to proceed. A horn sounded, and plumes of blue-grey exhaust could be seen rising.

'I was in position as it left the factory. Thinking 'Great, that's it' as it slowly passed, suddenly there was a squeal of brakes and it stopped. I took this opportunity to walk ahead and take a few more shots. The man in orange then appeared and climbed into the cab. Another short horn blast then 'Rock 'n' Roll', more plumes of exhaust and the train quickly accelerated towards Gobowen at 12:11. I drove back to a bridge just before Cefn viaduct to await its return after the loco run-round at Gobowen and have a bite to eat. I was expecting her back around 13.25 to 13:30, as this was time 66 843 came back the previous week. In fact 57 002 passed earlier at 13:14 so must have left Gobowen around 13:05.

'Trundling home at a moderate speed I glimpsed the train to my right just after Junction 5 on the A483 where the road passes over the Wrexham-Bidston and Wrexham-Chester lines. She must have accelerated quickly, because before I knew it as I drove under the railway line the other side of Wrexham heading for Rossett I looked to my right and there she was passing me! I hurried up and I clocked her doing a steady 60-ish mph. I coasted alongside for as long as possible. Wonderful sight ... I drove to Guilden Sutton in the hope to see her pass which I did with minutes to spare - picture above.'

Class 57 miscellany

Class 57 locomotives, which are Class 47s rebuilt with a second-hand General Motors engine, appear on a variety of workings in our area. Above: Shortly after 08:00 on the 16 March,  57 315 is given the Right Away at Shrewsbury with the 05:32 Holyhead - Cardiff 'Y Gerallt Cymro' express - next stop Newport. (Larry Davies)

The twelve DRS 57/0s were the first batch of these locos, originally created for Freightliner who sold them in favour of new class 66s. Nine are now in the DRS fleet, while 57 001, which has not worked for some years, remains with Freightliner, and 57 005/6 which were sold to Advenza Freight which has ceased trading, appear to have been abandoned. 57 006 has been quietly rusting in a siding at Cardiff Central for some time.

Unlike the other sub-classes, 57/0 are not equipped with a heating supply for passenger trains.  They sometimes appear on the flask train to Valley, such as on 17 March when 57 008 and 57 009 head east towards Colwyn Bay on the new section of line built in the 1980s to make room for the A55 road. (Darren Durrant). 

The highest-profile 57s are the sixteen Class 57/3s built for Virgin Trains 'Thunderbird' duties, of which the first twelve retain their Virgin livery and names from TV's Thunderbirds. They are the regular performers on the Saturday 'Pendolino Drag' - above, on 27 March, 57 309 Brains is seen approaching Llandudno Junction with 390 036 City of Coventry in tow. (Darren Durrant)

Warrington - Chester scenes - by Geoff Morris

Afternoon at Helsby: There is now a regular Tuesday train conveying gypsum from Fiddlers Ferry power station to the British Gypsum site at Newbiggin on the Settle & Carlisle line.  It is operated by GBRf and has been running to Ellesmere Port yard where the loco runs around so that it can head north through Warrington Bank Quay. I believe that DB Schenker will not allow it to run around in Walton sidings, Warrington.  Last Tuesday (16 March) it was hauled by Metronet-liveried 66 719.  I photographed it first approaching Helsby (above) ...

 ...and then climbed to the top of Helsby Hill to photograph the return from Ellesmere Port. 

I then went to Helsby station to wait for 70 004 on the Fiddlers Ferry -Ellesmere Port coal empties and was lucky enough to get it waiting at the signals while 175 007 cleared the junction on a Llandudno - Piccadilly working (above).

Chasing class 70s (steam & diesel): On Friday 19 March I went to Winwick to photograph 70013 Oliver Cromwell working a charter from Crewe to Carlisle.  The picture above shows the train just after taking the main line at Winwick Junction  - note that I have digitally removed some power cables from the photo.

We then went to Daresbury to photograph 70 005 (unfortunately not another Britannia !) on the Ellesmere Port - Fiddlers Ferry coal.  It was going well here, bang on time, but when we then drove back to Warrington to photograph it after it had run around at Latchford, we saw the train stopped on the viaduct at Acton Grange.  To cut a long story short, it transpired that the loco had failed with the wagons fouling Acton Grange Junction.  This meant that the following Llandudno - Piccadilly class 175 was stuck behind it and freights from the West Coast Main Line into Arpley yard had to reverse at Bank Quay instead of running directly into the yard as normal.  A loco was dispatched from Arpley to drag the class 70 and its train clear of the junction (and down to Latchford): the rescue loco turned out to be 67 004, giving the very unusual sight of a DBS class 67 piloting a Freightliner class 70.

On the Welsh Highland - with Eifion Hughes

The remote station at Rhyd Ddu on the Welsh Highland Railway basks in the sun on 16 March, with locomotive Upnor Castle doing what I think was a Line Inspection.

This locomotive, powered by 180hp Gardner 6LXB diesel engine,  was built for the Royal Navy's Chattenden and Upnor Railway. It was sold to Welshpool and Llanfair Railway in 1962 and then to the Ffestiniog Railway in 1968 where it was re-gauged. It transferred to Dinas in August 1997 for use on reconstruction work.

Nostalgia spot

Back in 2000, there was a period when the evening 'Llandudno Club Train' from Manchester Piccadilly terminated at Llandudno, where the Class 37 locomotive ran round the train with the help of the Holyhead-based shunter who travelled to Llandudno in his van. On 21 June 2000 a group of website contributors took and ride on this train, along with other enthusiasts, behind 37 412 Driver John Elliott, seen at Llandudno in this picture unearthed by Ian Bowland. Your compiler recalls riding in an overheated compartment of a Mk1 brake-standard, and falling asleep on the soft seat...

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