Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

24 May 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.

Forthcoming events
29 May. Llangollen Railway Celebrating Thomas the Tank Engine's 65th anniversary.

Saturday 29 May Excursion Compass Tours  'The Cumbrian Fellsman'    Hooton, Chester, Delamere, Northwich, Knutsford, Altrincham, Stockport, Denton, Manchester Victoria & Bolton to Carlisle via Settle Carlisle Railway outward and returning via the Cumbrian Coast Railway line.  Class 67 Diesel to feature throughout. [tickets sold out.]

June 2010
Saturday 5 June Excursion  Compass Tours 'The Heart Of Wales Scenic Rambler' Holyhead, LlanfairPG, Bangor, Llandudno Junction, Colwyn Bay, Rhyl, Flint, Chester, Crewe, Nantwich, Whitchurch, Wem & Shrewsbury to Cardiff via the Heart of Wales scenic railway.  Class 66 Diesel to feature throughout.  [sold out]

Saturday 12 June. Steam to Chester. Railway Touring Company. Cleethorpes to Chester with 44871.

26-27 June.  Llangollen Railway Heritage Railcar Gala. An intensive service with the resident railcars and a special visitor plus the steam autotrain.

July 2010      

Friday 16 July Excursion Compass Tours to EDINBURGH (via WCML) Picks up: Hereford, Leominster, Ludlow, Craven Arms, Shrewsbury, Gobowen, Wrexham General, Chester, Frodsham & Warrington Bank Quay Expected to be hauled by class 67s.

24-25 July. Llangollen Railway Ivor the Engine weekend with a return visit from the Welsh engine for a fun weekend. Includes Ivor the Engine in Concert on Saturday evening.

26-30 July: Cambrian Steam: 44871 Machynlleth - Porthmadog or Pwllheli and return.

Wednesday 28 July Conwy Valley Steam: Railway Touring Company. The Welsh Mountaineer Preston - Blaenau Ffestiniog.

31 July-1 August. Llangollen Railway 1960s weekend. Intensive service with a mix of steam, diesel and railcars with opportunity to appear in period dress.

August 2010

2-30 August, Mondays - Fridays only: Cambrian Steam: 44871 Machynlleth - Porthmadog or Pwllheli and return.

7-15 August. Llangollen Railway Day out with Thomas (again) the summer time visit by No.1 and friends.

Sunday 8 August Excursion Compass Tours to SKIPTON & KEIGHLEY (out via Bentham, return S&C + Shap) Picks up: Holyhead, Llanfairpwll, Bangor, Llandundo Junction, Colwyn Bay, Rhyl, Flint, Chester, Frodsham & Warrington Bank Quay. Expected to to be hauled by a class 67.

Sunday 8 August Steam on the Coast. Railway Touring Company. The North Wales Coast Express. Liverpool - Holyhead

Wednesday 11 August Conwy Valley Steam: Railway Touring Company. The Welsh Mountaineer Preston - Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Wednesday 18 August Conwy Valley Steam: Railway Touring Company. The Welsh Mountaineer Preston - Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Sunday 22 August Steam on the Coast. Railway Touring Company. The North Wales Coast Express. Liverpool - Holyhead

Wednesday 25 August Conwy Valley Steam: Railway Touring Company. The Welsh Mountaineer Preston - Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Monday 30 August Excursion Compass Tours to DURHAM + optional add-on tour via Hartlepool to Newcastle (routes covered include Cumbrian Coast, Tyne Valley, ECML, Aire Valley & Hellifield to Carnforth) Picks up: Crewe, Hooton (after runnning round), Ellesmere Port, Frodsham, Warrington Bank Quay, Wigan North Western, Preston, Lancaster & Carnforth This train is booked to feature D1015 Western Champion throughout.

See the Calendar page for more details.

Can you spot 150 235 working 2D17 14:52 Blaenau Ffestiniog to Llandudno approaching Roman Bridge station in this view taken from the summit of Moel Siabod (872 m /  2,861 ft above sea level ) on 17 May? Answer at the bottom of the page (Peter Lloyd)

Ten Years After - the Farewell Specials

Ten years ago, on 20 and 21 May 2000, First North Western, thanks to encouragement by this website and our friends from the railway press, ran two special trains to mark the end of Class 37 locomotive haulage, with the advent of the new Class 175 units. (Although as things turned out, it was to be the start of the next year before the very last 37-hauled service train ran in North Wales.)

To commemorate the tenth anniversary, Ian Bowland (who took the above picture on a wet 20 May at Blaenau Ffestiniog, has refurbished his web pages chronicling these trains, with larger photographs to view. Follow this link to view the reports.

The specials, and indeed various other railfan-friendly occasions happened thanks (along with the approval of enlightened Managing Director David Franks) to the efforts of Tim Brawn of First North Western, seen in our picture with his FNW colleague Iain Aldred (right) today a marketing manager with Northern Rail, and railway journalist Tony Miles (centre.) When FNW vanished in a Franchise reorganisation, Tim transferred to Trans Pennine Express where he is now a Duty Control Manager based in Manchester. He is currently involved with the organisation of the Three Peaks Challenge fund-raising event for the Railway Children charity, and there are plans to run a fund-raising charter train later this year, possibly using a locomotive from ETL. Later this year Tim will be undertaking a sponsored walk to the summit of Kilimanjaro, also for the Railway Children charity - should you with to sponsor him you can do so online at the JustGiving site.

Tornado reaches Chester

Saturday 22 May saw the newly-built steam locomotive 60163 Tornado make its first appearance in Chester, working 1Z62 08:06 London Euston - Chester (arr.13:02) and 1Z63 16:30 Chester - London, the 'Cathedrals Express' charter. No loco changes at Crewe - the steam engine worked the whole itinerary, replenished with water at Nuneaton (northbound) and Atherstone (southbound) as well as during the layover at Chester. Here are some pictures of the train, others are in individual articles down the page. Above, the train at Chorlton near Crewe (Andrew Vinten)

Above, a classic portrait by Stavros Lainas of the train passing Beeston between Crewe and Chester. It does seem a shame that such a mixed bag of coach liveries now features on many of these charters, but no doubt funds are short.

Above, the train arrives at Chester. Picture by Tim Fenton, who writes: 'The charter coincided with Race Day at Chester racecourse (and the warm weather), so Chester was very busy. Arriva put two units on the Crewe - Chester shuttle, Northern added a second unit to some services on the CLC Mid Cheshire Line, and Merseyrail ran double length trains into Chester; all very much needed and no doubt appreciated. Unfortunately, there no extra buses on the station - city centre shuttle service, so these were full and standing, with many punters disappointed.

Picture by Stéphanie Durrant. Note the crowd of observers on Platform 4, even before the crowd was swelled by passengers from the train. Did they all have platform tickets?

After unloading,  the loco  shunted the train to the carriage sidings, (picture by Darren Durrant) before turning round on the triangle west of the station.

This view by Stephen T is from on of the apartments that have been built in the old goods yard.

After Tornado was turned  and watered, it drew the stock forward on to the Crewe line and then set it back into Platform 4.  However, loco and train only just fitted. So that nobody wanting a picture was disappointed, the British Transport Police Officers and Community Support Officers supervised those wanting to get a photo, allowing folks down the platform ramps. This meant being able to get a shot of Tornado that included the front of the loco. Above, the train is seen ready for departure, pictured by Tim Fenton. Tim writes: I've put more photos of 60163, along with some of 6233 from earlier in the day, on my Fotopic site.

The return train passes Waverton (Stavros Lainas)

Sun glare delays new train system

So read the headline on a BBC news report on 17 May concerning the latest trials and tribulations of the new ERTMS system being prepared for use on the Cambrian lines. Says the report: 'A hi-tech computer signalling system on a Gwynedd railway line has been postponed - because sun glare means train drivers cannot see the screens ... It was supposed to go live around now on part of the Cambrian Coast line from Harlech to Pwllheli, but Network Rail said the launch had been postponed. A long-term solution is being sought.'

The problem relates to the computer screen being installed in the cabs of Arriva Trains Wales Class 158 railcars, as the interface with the system, including a 'virtual' speedometer dial replacing the old-style hardware version. On units with the system already installed, drivers have been required to start using this screen as speedometer, while still relying on the existing signalling system. The sun problems have arisen because of the cramped design of the cab, which occupies only the left-hand side of the carriage front thanks to the corridor connection. It hasn't been possible to recess the screen to avoid glare and reflections. The picture above, one of several which have come our way, shows the effect: the driver sees his own spectral reflection. At least one driver has been trialling his own cardboard anti-glare screens, and an idea apparently considered is to issue the drivers with dark shirts!

This view shows the new screen in its context on the driver's desk.

The desk before ERTMS installation, showing how many changes are needed to squeeze in the new screen.

The right-hand side of the cab before ERTMS (left) and after (right). Radios, destination display keyboard, headlight switches. The metal plate is where the RETB unit for the current radio-based system is attached when the train is in use on Cambrian line services.

Unit 158 838 has been chosen as a test bed for possible solutions to the problem: these pictures show the slats that have been fitted, and the darkened glass in the side window, in closed and open positions.

In truth these are not the only problems that have come to light, with various other 'glitches' reported in testing, not excluding the various quirks which always arise when touch-screen interfaces are used. Arriva management have assured the drivers that the system will not be fully implemented until everything is sorted out.

Over to Network Rail Spokeswoman Ms Choong: 'The company does not compromise on safety. It is paramount that we achieve an optimum level of reliability before launching the system for safe passenger use. We are now working with our manufacturer to explore a long-term solution ... One of the challenges too is fitting the system into existing trains, which were not originally designed and built with ERTMS in mind ['too bloody old' - says a driver]  ... our investment on the Cambrian line plays an instrumental role in paving and informing the way for ERTMS to be implemented in the rest of Britain and we're determined to get this right.'

Meanwhile, the cost of the project looks like being well over the £60 million originally quoted.

The Virgin 57 at Wrexham, and other points

Thanks as ever to the insiders who have written with the explanation for the Class 57 seen apparently involved in making a video at Wrexham, reported in our last issue.

When the early morning Voyager, which runs empty from Crewe to Wrexham as train 5J25, is waiting for platform access, it stands in Croes Newydd loop from 05:18 to 06:31, before forming 1J25 to London Euston. The engines have to be kept idling, as shutting them down would require the set to be put through the 'mobilising' procedure again. This requires the driver to walk alongside the train, which is not allowed, as the loop is alongside an unprotected main line open main line). Voyagers, with their large diesel engines under each coach, are not the quietest of trains, and there have been some comments from local residents about the early morning disturbance.

What has been suggested is that the train is driven up to the road bridge by the industrial units so a 'route video' was set up for training purposes should it be necessary to exit the loop at Shrewsbury end in order to reverse back to the station.

Other Wrexham notes: The afternoon W&S train on Monday 17 May was delayed due to signals failure at Shifnal and terminated at Gobowen. The  train used the crossover at Gobowen, and departed south on time at 15:43 with passengers brought down from Wrexham by taxi.

The Virgin train from London, formed of 221 108, arrived at Wrexham on 19 May with at least two people on board expecting to arrive at Holyhead. They were in the wrong section of the train which divides at Chester, and evidently oblivious to any instruction to get into the right portion.

Chirk Timber, and other passing trains - report by Geoff Morris

In recent times, 66 843 has been an almost-permanent fixture on the evening timber train to Chirk.  However, in the week up to 21 May it was used, if at all, on the morning departure from Chirk.  Consequently there has been some variety on the evening service, which has continued to run every weekday.  On Monday & Tuesday (17 & 18 May) DRS's 66 418 was in charge of the train.  The Tuesday train is seen above passing Chester Locks.

I was not able to view it for the next two nights but Friday 21 May saw 66 434, still carrying its Fastline livery, applied not long before that company folded, in charge.  The train is seen above passing Chester racecourse.

Both nights the train appeared at its booked time (circa 18:35 from Chester) but had been reported passing Carnforth much earlier in the afternoon and so I had gone out early in case it turned up an hour early.  I got an indirect reward for this on Friday.  The northbound Birmingham International - Holyhead class 158 was running late and so the (on-time) southbound service was held in Curzon Park cutting while the northbound cleared the single line section.  I was able to take a photo of the trains (158 819 and 158 836) passing one another - note the slick operation by Chester signallers who have already given the southbound train 'the road' despite the junction being less than a quarter of a mile away.

Once the southbound 158 had cleared the short section to Green Lane crossing a yellow signal was given for the Wrexham line.  I assumed that this would be for the early-running timber and so was very surprised when 67 012 A Shropshire Lad appeared light-engine - presumably on its way to Wrexham.  I photographed it crossing the Roodee viaduct (above) and turned to watch it heading through Curzon Park cutting. 

I noticed a headlight approaching from the Coast direction, which turned out to be 37 682 and  37259 on the late-running flasks from Valley to Crewe, and  I just had time to grab a photo of those two passing.

Chasing the Tornado - by Mark Riley

After travelling from Wrexham to Chester on a hopelessly and dangerously overcrowded Class 158 (a measly two-car unit absolutely packed with race goers for the Chester Races) I opted for the less-manic far end of platform 3 to picture the train arriving. We were able to get clear pictures before hundreds of people swarmed around the loco a few minutes after this picture.

I opted for some late afternoon pictures at Beeston Castle, being unable to reach there earlier in the day. About 15 minutes before Tornado's passing, 57 316 drags 390 044 towards Crewe with 1A55 Holyhead-London Euston.

It was nice to be free of the madness of overcrowded trains and platforms. Besides, the views are great from Beeston Castle. The sun is perhaps just a little overhead, West-East for perfect lighting, but still was OK as Tornado passed by heading for Crewe on its return journey. Surprisingly, none of the visitors to the castle seemed aware of its passing, so this was a unique picture from this location at this time!

The Wild Car on the Blaenau Train - report by Larry Davies

I am pleased to advise that Arriva Trains Wales and the Conwy Valley Rail Initiative are to host an unique experience for our passengers on the 08:46 train from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Llandudno and the 16:20 return service on Saturday 29 May. Local historian and journalist Huw Jenkins will be travelling on the train with an example of 'Car Gwyllt' - the 'Wild Car' - a railway vehicle long associated with the quarrymen and quarries of Blaenau Ffestiniog and its rich history.

Huw is the marketing manager for Natur Cymru, the magazine that flies the flag for the wildlife and environment of Wales, and lives at Campbell's Cottage, which famously has its own private halt on the Ffestiniog Railway. He will be delivering an interesting overview on the train of his first book Not Just a Pretty Place which he launches that day at Waterstones, Mostyn Street, Llandudno. This really is a first for the Conwy Valley Line and we invite you to join us on the trains.

A week of steam - report by John Beresford

The week ending 22 May was quite an interesting week for mainline steam  fans. On Thursday 20 May the Hogwarts Express empty stock ran Carnforth-Southall behind its dedication red 'Hall' class loco 5972 Hogwarts Castle (ex-Olton Hall) seen above at Acton Bridge.

On Friday 44871 ran light from Bury to Southall and then on Saturday we had 6233 Duchess of Sutherland hauling the 'Royal Scot' charter from Crewe to Carlisle and return. This train is seen above passing Hartford...

... and of course Tornado's  first visit to Chester, seen above passing Beeston on the return journey. Apart from 6233's return, which was delayed by a track circuit failure, all these workings ran on time.

Pendolino Pics

The Saturday loco-hauled Pendolino was worked westbound from Crewe on 22 May by 57 315, seen above passing what little is left of the station at Bagillt, closed in 1966 (Darren Durrant). Once there were four tracks here, and a central island platform which has been removed to be replaced by grass and scrub. The station's goods shed still exists, and can be glimpsed above the cab of the Pendolino.

Westbound through Llanfair PG (Richard Fleckney)

This working was, as is now often the case, used to change over the loco for the Monday-Friday Holyhead - Cardiff express with a fresh one from Manchester Longsight depot. On this occasion both were blue examples, but 57 316 (above, at Glan-y-Don near Holywell) like 313, does not have the full Arriva treatment, which is only found on 314 and 315. Picture by Stéphanie Durrant.

Passing Hargrave between Chester and Crewe (Andrew Vinten)

A day at Chester and Crewe - with Larry Davies

22 May was a glorious day and I escaped from my duties as Community Rail Officer for the Conwy Valley line - my rest day became a busman's holiday in Crewe and Chester. Above, an unusual shunt move as 60163 Tornado reverses out of Chester station with the empty coaches of the Cathedrals Express, watched with interest by the driver of a Virgin Voyager.

A 'stranger in a familiar setting' for those of us of a certain age, the old footbridge off Platform 12 (once No 1) at Crewe holds fond memories of an escape route from 'bunked' visits to Crewe North shed with its 'Semis' and 'Scots.'  Who would have thought that history would have given us an Eastern Pacific alongside.

56 312 and 66 148 head into Crewe with a charter for Carlisle as 40 145 East Lancashire Railway rests alongside the Crewe Diesel Depot.

The 08:50 Euston - Holyhead leaves Crewe with 57 315 'dragging' 390 044 Virgin Lionheart.

'Spot the train' answer

An extreme blow-up of Peter's picture reveals the Class 150 passing in front of the farm buildings in the centre of the view.

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