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31 May 2010
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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. Note: runs from Stockport to Chester (arr. 12:30, dep 16:15) via Northwich.
26-27 June. Llangollen Railway Heritage Railcar Gala. An intensive service with the resident railcars and a special visitor plus the steam autotrain.
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.
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, Llandudno 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.
Spitfire Railtours' 'The Prisoner' charter from Preston to Pwllheli approaches Barmouth Bridge on 29 May with 37 218 and 37 069. Picture by Kate Jones. This train was originally advertised to be hauled from Shrewsbury by a pair of Network Rail Class 97/3 locos, but 'due to 11th hour Network Rail issues with Train Planning' the four yellow 97/3s stayed in their depot at Shrewsbury, and the two DRS 37s took over the train at Crewe and the train went round the curve to avoid the reversal at Shrewsbury station.
Portillo down the CoastShaun Stanley writes: 'Travelling on 28 May aboard the 12:50 Manchester - Llandudno was Michael Portillo and a TV crew filming, maybe he was making another programme for his series Great British Railway Journeys.'
Arriva Trains Wales news and plansA recent meeting for Arriva Trains Wales (ATW) Station Adopters held at Chester, some interesting information was on offer about ATW's operations and current plans. Here are some extracts for general interest relating to our area.
ATW has 2,050 staff, and operates 950 services per day. 26.4 million passenger journeys, covering 640 million passenger miles, are made each year. The fleet comprises 125 trains, average age 18 years, and the company manages 244 stations, of which only 51 are staffed, most of those on the morning shift only.
Plans for the fleet include giving the Class 175s an interior refresh (seat covers, panels, toilets, and carpet) with work planned to start in
October 2010, as is Welsh Assembly Government-funded major refurbishment of the Class 158 (seats, carpets, Passenger Information System, lighting, panels, toilets, luggage racks) - the proposal for the 158s is illustrated above.
Refurbishment of the Class 153 single-car units has commenced, with the first example, 153 367 now in service, as pictured above.
Among the plethora of statistics presented, we notice that 'Helpfulness of station staff is up 9% (no ATOC mystery shopper failures).' Plans for stations include Shotton Station booking office redevelopment, Bangor station additional car parking (and possibly ticket gates).
Plans have been prepared for building improvements at Llandudno (above), Rhyl (within the existing building) ...
... and the frontage of Aberystwyth.
The station name will appear in large letters within the glass frontage, viewed from inside the station as shown here; from the outside it will be seen from behind.
Work at Chester is proceeding. These drawings show the intended final appearance of the new buildings Platforms 4-7, as seen from either side.
The National Stations Improvement Plan, funded by the Government to improve accessibility of stations, also covers work at Machynlleth, Welshpool and Shrewsbury (first phase) as well as Bangor and Colwyn Bay (second phase)
Regarding train services, there will be hourly daytime train services from Aberystwyth by 2011, and there are plans to introduce additional services on the ‘Heart of Wales' line. It is intended to enhance the capacity of the line between Shrewsbury and Chester, with faster line speeds and perhaps more frequencies by 2012.
'Challenges This Year' for ATW are seen to include the introduction of ERTMS on the Cambrian; the Economy – still uncertain economic times; Continue to improve Customer Service and reduce complaints – focus on staff and innovation; Continue to grow the award-winning North / South premium service; Improved communication to passengers during disruption; Develop further commercial services to Manchester Airport and re-look at Aberystwyth to London; Passenger growth v. capacity.
Maintenance issues include the Weed killing train - this operates during the Spring/Summer every year, applying weedkiller to operational routes. The programmed started on Started 6 April in the North West, with North Wales completed 26-28 April (it takes up to 8 weeks for visible effect). Station hand-spraying – planned 2-5 June (North Wales) for sidings and non-through lines at stations.
Volunteer station adopters have improved the appearance of many stations with flowers, etc. - Frodsham is seen above ...
... and here is alternative way to involve local people, seen at Neston. Blaenau Ffestiniog and Llanrwst stations are, we are told, 'looking for adoptees.' [adopters, surely?]
66 434 at Rossett on 26 May working 6C19 1206 Chirk to Carlisle Yard timber empties (Mark Barber)
67 017 at Heswall on 26 May, working 5X68 08:06 Warrington Arpley to Birkenhead North with 508 137 returning from overhaul. (Mark Barber)
Rounding the curve at Bidston (Andrew Vinten)
67 017 returned later in the same day with 5X75 12:53 Birkenhead North depot to Doncaster West Yard. comprising 507 032 seen at Cefn-y-Bedd (Mark Barber)
15:30 on 21 May, and a timber train with Colas-liveried 66 843 passes Warrington Bank Quay station. (Darren Durrant)
Flask train 6K41 passes Llandudno Junction at 16.37 on 21 May with 37 682 and 37 259. (Peter Lloyd)
17 May's flask train had 66 427 and 66423, seem above at Bagillt (Tim J. Rogers)
A stone train from Penmaenmawr ran on 17 May, hauled by 66 609, seen above at the quarry sidings (Stéphanie Durrant)...
... passing Rhyl Marine Lake at 15:45 (Darren Durrant)
Thomas gets a cake - report by George Jones
A 'brill' day was had by all at Llangollen on Saturday 29 May: the pre-booked tickets for the Thomas 65th anniversary even were a sell-out. Despite the rain the crowd had a great day and they celebrated in style. Thomas had a coal cake and there was also a confectionery cake, seen above before the great division into 500 pieces (or thereabouts).
At the Shrewsbury - Chester Rail Users Association Annual General Meeting, held in Gobowen on Tuesday 18 May, the post of chairman was taken by John Mattocks from Weston Rhyn. He will combine the post with that of Secretary which remains vacant. Gareth Thomas remains as Treasurer, Chris Jenkins as membership secretary and George Jones as Communications Officer, including editor of Severn Dee News and Minutes Secretary. The post of deputy chairman remains vacant.
Outgoing chairman Martin Evans remains as a committee member representing Trevor and Ruabon. Steve Boulding came on board as representative for Baschurch.
10 May: A day in Shrewsbury - report by Richard Putley
A few weeks ago I read in one of the leading rail magazines that if you should be lucky enough to find yourself on Shrewsbury station on a weekday morning at 8am, you would be treated to the spectacle of two loco-hauled passenger trains departing within three minutes. Firstly the 08:07 to London Marylebone departs from Platform 7, behind a W & S class 67, then at 08:10 the southbound Holyhead - Cardiff Express departs from Platform 4. This platform is mainly used by northbound trains so this also provided the chance to film a train from the Crewe direction arriving on Platform 4.
So having managed to get up at 6am on Monday 10 May, I managed to get myself to Shrewsbury station for 8am. I was not disappointed. Firstly the Marylebone train arrived behind 67 013 Dyfrbont Pontcysyllte (top picture), then the 'WAG Express' came in hauled by 57 313 (above).
The two '13s' together in the station.
I then went for a walk round the town before filming 67 014 Thomas Telford arrive at 10:40 arrival ex Marylebone from the vantage point of the castle. Realising that this loco would working the 12:07 to Marylebone I returned to the station to film its arrival (above) from the public footbridge which spans the station.
No sooner had I got there than a Freightliner 66 arrived from the Hereford direction, with what appeared to be a coal train bound for Rugeley Power station. This I just managed to photograph as it made its way round the Abbey Foregate curve.
But in addition a Virgin 57/3 arrived light from the Hereford direction. Once the 12:07 had cleared Crewe Junction, the 57/3 then continued light to Crewe. I decided to head home on the 13:39 to Milford Haven but just before it was due, 57 305 John Tracy came in light from Crewe and headed down the Hereford line.
So, all in all, an enjoyable day in Shrewsbury.
North and South - with Charlie Hulme
Recent journeys have taken me on two of the regular passenger workings of the DB Schenker Class 67 diesels. Above, on 28 April, 67 007 stands at Fort William awaiting its southbound journey on the Caledonian Sleeper to London. Note the Scottish flag symbol on the cab front.
Two days earlier, at Rannoch station at 21:00, 67 007 on the southbound train meets a 156 on a northbound train from Glasgow. The train drivers and guards swap trains here. A journey on the 'sleeper' is recommended, although don't expect any facilities Crewe station if you catch the northbound train there at 23:30 - a far cry from the days when the place was busy with postal workers. And why, oh, why is there nothing on the platform or display to tell passengers which portion of the very long train, with its Inverness, Aberdeen and Fort William portions, will be at which part of the platform?
A few weeks later, I fund myself at London Marylebone, walking from Regents' Park to catch the 16:30 Wrexham & Shropshire train to Wrexham as far as Shrewsbury, where there is a very handy connection for stations to Manchester. A short diversion took us to the road bridge which crosses the station, with steps down to the platforms which are not allowed to be used by passengers. I thought an interesting picture might be feasible, but the walls of the bridge are so high that (even) I had to hold the camera above my head, and the train was standing in one of the shorter platforms which, with the four-coach + driving trailer formations now used by W&S, leaves the Driving Van Trailer under the bridge - indeed the driver's cab door is off the end of the platform.
An interesting feature of the concourse at Marylebone is the information booth which has in its back wall a repeat of the signal centre's track occupation display. If the booth is not manned, it makes quite an interesting attraction.
The train was very very well-filled, even in first class, with the conductor resorting to announcements about taking bags off seats. Perhaps because of this, it has to be said that the meal service in first class (very good value now that fares have been reduced) was rather long-drawn-out, with people's main courses appearing an hour after their starters. And something I have also noticed on previous journeys, on this train and the ATW Cardiff express, is that unlike in a normal restaurant there is a reluctance to ask customers if they would like to buy wine or a dessert in addition to the two-course meal included in the ticket.
Departing from Shrewsbury after an on-time arrival, with 67 013 Dyfrbont Pontcysyllte propelling. The train was formed of one of the newly-refurbished restaurant-firsts, then three standard class blue-and-grey vehicles presumably hired from Cargo-D, two of which were de-classified first class. The new first-class accommodation is very pleasant indeed, and includes a large 'disabled' toilet similar to those in Virgin Pendolinos and Voyagers. Apart from the archaic and awkward hand-worked doors, and perhaps the characteristic Mk3 rattle of the windows as another train passes, you would think you were in a completely new coach.
More ATW improvements
More from the adopters' conference. This is a small-type information display which fixes on a wall and is being considered for use at small stations.
Workers install the new fibreglass 'hump' at Valley station. Do these really cost £70,000 each?
The new disabled toilet at Llandudno Junction.
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