Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

07 June 2010

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Forthcoming events

June 2010

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.

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, 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.

Sunday 30 May, and 150 252 heads over the rarely photographed Afon Llugwy bridge near Betws-y-Coed with the 16:15 Llandudno Junction - Blaenau Ffestiniog. Picture by Route19.

Note: Next week's issue will cover the various special excursions which ran on 5 June.

Welsh Highland open to Pont Croesor - pictures by David Parry

Welsh Highland Railway trains are now running through from Caernarfon to the newly-opened station at Pont Croesor, adjacent to the RSPB Osprey centre, and a few minutes walk from Prenteg village which is served by Porthmadog - Beddgelert bus services (Snowdon Sherpa X97 timetable), making it possible to experience the 'Aberglaslyn Pass' without making a return trip. From 17 July to 31 August, the no. 197 Open top bus (Timetable) will run three times each way on Mondays to Saturdays from Porthmadog (Ffestiniog station, town centre and Arriva Trains Wales / West Highland Heritage Railway station) to Pont Croesor.

We understand that the temporary terminus at Hafod y Llyn, which did not have passenger access, will now be closed. The above view is a general view of the new station with Beyer-Garratt loco 138 waiting to depart with the 14:45 to Caernarfon on 30 May.


Above is 138 departing, over the new river bridge which has been built alongside the road bridge, with the 14:45.  138 – the first to run on the railway when it opened between Caernarfon and Dinas in 1997, returned to traffic on 28 May – two years after it last ran on the railway as its boiler inspection certificate expired. The loco has undergone a comprehensive rebuild and has been painted in a new crimson lake livery.


The splendid scene from the road bridge as coal-fired Beyer-Garratt 87 arrives with the 14:40 from Caernarfon.  For timetables and information visit the Welsh Highland Railway website.

From the Bird Reserve

Sunday 23 May at the RSPB Conwy Bird Reserve, as 150 236 brings the 15:03 Blaenau Ffestiniog - Llandudno Junction along the glistening banks of the River Conwy. (Route19)

The Conwy reserve, which was created on land reclaimed using spoil excavated  when creating the A55 road tunnel under the estuary, also provides a fine view of Stephenson's tubular bridge and trains crossing Conwy Cob, such as this Voyager captured on 30 May by Gary Thomas.

Gary writes: We had walked there hoping to be able to get to Glan Conwy to then take a train up to Betws-y-Coed. Sadly the path is circular with no exit even though you get very close to Glan Conwy station. Hopefully this will get resolved in due course.  ['When funding becomes available', we are told.]

The bird reserve itself is also well worth a visit birds and the recently-opened coffee shop. See the RSPB website for more information. Cyclists on the North Wales Coast Cycleway can reach the reserve by the newly-built branch with its new bridge over the railway at Llandudno Junction.

Llandudno Junction views - by Peter Lloyd

Train 6D22, empty stone wagons from Crewe Basford Hall to Penmaenmawr, hauled by 66 610, passes Llandudno Junction at 11:25 on 1 June, bound for loading at Penmaenmawr Quarry.

Another stone train ran on 3 June comprising 66 529 and 22 empties, seen crawling into Llandudno Junction at 11:23.

Can anyone tell us the current status of the quarry, which appears to be putiing out stone trains quite often, even though officially 'mothballed'?

Network Rail MPV (Multi-purpose vehicle) 98912 + 98962, equipped for weed-killing (sorry, vegetation control) arrived at Llandudno Junction  at 12:25 on 1 June, running as 6Z30.  The sidings to the right, in which the wagons - left there some time ago by DB Schenker to establish their sole use of the yard - can just be glimpsed, will need more than a vegetation control spray is they are to be used again.

A driver-training run for DB Schenker drivers, instead of running to Holyhead it terminated in the little-used quay siding (above) at Llandudno Junction, before returning to Warrington around 13:00 as 6Z31.

Logs from Chirk - report by George Jones

In a curious turn of events on 28 May, the return train from Chirk to Carlisle headed back north still loaded with timber, which the trains normally bring from the forests in the Scottish borders to be used above shows 66 434 awaiting the 'road' having run round - the KFA wagon behind the loco is empty, otherwise the rest of the wagons are loaded.

Picture two, above, shows the loaded section about to reverse into the down platform having cleared the points to the loop after the loco ran round and attached.

Picture three shows a pallet and I make the count of the logs around 40 - previous counts have averaged 100 plus (13 KFAs load 52 pallets so a train consist is approaching 6000 logs) which seems to suggest the logs are of greater section than usual; some really bigger logs are evident in this load.  

We hear this was a trial 'back-load' of timber originating from the local area.

Kronospan under threat?

On the subject of the Chirk factory, recent press reports suggest that 'hundreds of of jobs could be lost' if plans to cut carbon emissions by setting up biomass power plants, such as that proposed for the Anglesey Aluminium site, go ahead unchecked.

Director of sawmilling in Chirk, Gavin Adkins, told the Daily Post: 'We've been lobbying politicians about the unintended consequences of the renewable energy programme. It will mean using 30 million tonnes of timber [per year] and the UK produces just 10 million tonnes. So we're seeing a heavily subsidised industry stepping in displacing what's already there.

'In North Wales it could mean more than 1,000 job losses overall when you take into account all the people connected to Kronospan. What it's trying to achieve is low carbon emissions but you increase emissions by 1,500kg per tonne of timber through burning.'

Mr Isherwood also wants a ban on landfill for waste timber so that this, rather than virgin timber on which the wood panel industry relies, can be used for energy production.

More 'aerial views' - by Peter Lloyd

Looking down from  Bryn Eiryn, above Rhos-on-Sea on 1 June:  Train 1D30,
15:50 Manchester Piccadilly to Llandudno is 175 113 running 7 minutes late, leaving Colwyn Bay (above).

The controversy around Colwyn Bay pier, seen in the picture, has readered its head again with claims that parts of the rusting iron framework have been falling on to the beach. Trustees Royce Peeling Green have not invested in the pier or done any maintenance work since former owner Steve Hunt (who still lives on the structure) was bankrupted in June 2008 over unpaid Council bills to and Conwy County Council stepped in to carry out an 'urgent' safety assessment. Fifteen weeks ago Conwy County Council’s acting chief executive, Ken Finch, who was then corporate director, said the survey was expected to be complete by mid-March, but it appears that nothing has been done. It would seem that the pier faces a bleak future.

175 113 passes Mochdre, where the line runs some distance from the coast, heading for its next stop at Llandudno Junction. A small wooden station, named Mochdre & Pabo, existed from 1889 until 1931 near the location of the present bridge in the centre of this picture, but no trace of it will be found today as the railway, which was once four-track along this section, was re-located sideways in 1982-3 to make room for the new road. (see the excellent  Disused stations website.)

LNWR Society in Chester - report by Roger Carvell

The London and North Western Railway Society held their Annual General Meeting in Chester on 22 May in the plush surroundings of the Queen Hotel, just outside the station. The event  coincided with the Chester Races and the arrival of 60163 Tornado, so there was a lot going on. Your correspondent, having had a swift journey up to Kings Cross and then down from Euston, was beginning to fidget during 'any other business' as the clock ticked ever nearer the time of Tornado's booked arrival just after 13:00.

Of great interest was a proposal to the floor about the possibility of building a LNWR 4-4-0 replica, inspired by a member who in his formative years saw one on the Chester -Denbigh line. With the meeting a success and formally declared closed (sometime after 13.00), LNWRS members took their places on a splendid 1964 Leyland Leopard single-decker, one of only four that had belonged to Birkenhead Corporation (above).

Now in the care of the Wirral Transport Museum, the vehicle took participants on a tour of major surviving LNWR buildings in the area. First stop was the long closed motive power depot (as the LMS called them) at Mold Junction. The shed is used by Dobbins of Chester, a scrap processor. The view above shows the building from the main road bridge.The chimney was once the sand drier.

According to Tony Robinson, whose father was the depot's last shedmaster, the building's roof has suffered badly from last winter's frosts. How long can it remain standing? On a more positive note the associated railway housing is in much better condition, as is the former railwaymens' hostel (or 'barracks.')

On return to Chester, and managing to avoid, this time, the heavy race traffic, a call was made at the large LNWR goods building opposite the station, now part of the Chester Enterprise scheme, which encourages small businesses. Although it was closed on Saturday afternoon, peering through the windows revealed the original large wooden roof supports, still as good as the day there were installed, over 100 years ago. One or two rails embedded in the concrete were also found. This is a building which deserves a secure future.

From the top of the fire escape a good view of 60163 and its train
was to be had. Satisfaction at last for this writer! The tour rounded off with a detour via the road bridge that led to Chester's LNWR steam depot, the site now, alas, under housing. At least one darkened brick pillar of the old entrance was still extant. It was here, in 1966, that your correspondent stood for a moment, summoning up the courage to 'bunk' the shed, for there was a B1 4-6-0 in there!

I finished up back at Euston at 21:30. 60163 was already there (above) after its Chester outing, awaiting the 'RA' and out up Camden Bank to Willesden for servicing and disposal. There was no restriction on platform
photography, I am pleased to say. It is sad to relate that Tornado has since
failed on an outing to Canterbury, although the exact reason why remains unclear. The engine (and support coach) was later allowed to return
to London under its own steam.

A good day out, and this correspondent went home pleased, for I was
surprised how much journey times have come down since the West Coast Main Line modernisation and the introduction of Pendolinos. Hitchin, via King's Cross, to Chester now takes only three and a half hours - including a 30 minute wait at Euston outbound. Train punctuality was very good.

Car Gwyllt (Wild Car) rides the tracks once more - by Huw Jenkins

I boarded Saturday 29 May’s second train out of Blaenau Ffestiniog down to Llandudno – a 'car gwyllt' or 'wild car' beside my briefcase. Travelling as a guest of Arriva en route to a book signing at Waterstones, my role was to chat with passengers and bring to life some of our great local stories.  Larry Davies, the Community Rail Officer, was there to greet me and recommended we wait until the end of the tunnel – the longest in Wales, the longest single track tunnel in Britain! I never knew that before.

Edging down the carriage, careful not to bash anyone with the heavy contraption, I began my first chat. 'Have you seen this before? Would you like to guess what it is?' Whether people knew or not they were fascinated with the story of the car gwyllt – the 'Victorian skateboard' used by quarrymen to commute down the mountain at breakneck, sometimes quite literally, speeds.

It was really good to see so much interest from young and not so young, from locals and people from as far away as Canada. Finding enough space to demonstrate riding the car Gwyllt on an imaginary incline was a bit of a challenge, but we managed.  The story of the car gwyllt, as told to me by the late Emrys Evans, is one of the stories in my book titled Not Just a Pretty Place: Survival in Snowdonia which is published in Llanrwst by Carreg Gwalch.

Alighting at Llandudno I carried the car gwyllt to Waterstones and took up position in the busy bookshop. As customers turned at the top of the stairs it was hard for them not to notice this obscure piece of equipment and many would have a guess as to its possible use. A few were familiar with and added to the story but most were blown away with the dare devil exploits of the Craig Ddu quarrymen and the cavalier approach to health and safety. It’s a great way of gaining attention and breaking the ice then going on to say ' ...and this is one of 30 stories in this book .....'

Back on the train, jam-packed with visitors for the bank holiday weekend, the story was told a few more times and then again on the Ffestiniog Railway, down as far as Campbell’s Platform  - my home and the subject of another story in the book.

I'm very grateful to the railway for giving me this opportunity to promote my book and hope the passengers enjoyed it, it seems a good way of bringing the area to life. If people won’t come to the book, the book must go to the people. The Conwy Valley Line: Not Just a Pretty Railway - now that would make a good title.

(Huw Jenkins is a local author and community reporter for BBC Radio Wales.)


A Pendolino, hauled by 57 316 passes a 158 at Glan-y-Don on 26 May (Darren Durrant)

Thanks to those who wrote to confirm that Michael Portillo was indeed engaged in making a new series of 'Great British Railway Journeys' when spotted on a a North Wales Train as reported last issue. He was also noted at Chirk Castle. We look forward to seeing the result.

This from Gary Thomas: ' I wonder of others have noticed Arriva Trains Wales' bizarre rolling stock diagrams. All bank-holiday weekend a 100 mph 2-car 175 enjoyed a relaxing time between Llandudno Junction and Llandudno, while 90 mph 158s desperately in need of a refurbishment make the trip from Holyhead to Cardiff and beyond.'

During the last winter, the warning horns on Virgin's Class 221 Voyagers units, located underneath the cab nose, suffered from problems caused by the ice and snow. To attempt to remedy this, a trial is under way on set 221 102 John Cabot, whose horns have been moved to a new position alongside the coupler, as fitted from new to the Class 222 'Meridians' in the East Midlands Trains fleet.

This Merseyrail train was unusually 'parked up' overnight on Wednesday 2 June at the end of Chester platform 7a. It was 507 025 which had suffered a seized axle, it as recovered, with the defective axle on a wheel-skate, to Rock Ferry over the night of 2 June, and then went to Birkenhead North the next night for repairs. Thanks to Dave Skipsey for the explanation. Merseyrail services continued to use the same platform, with the 6 car services getting quite close to it due to the platform work that is continuing at Chester. Picture by Stephen T.

Here's the entire record of a recent written question to the Welsh Assembly Government Minister for the Environment and Transport:

Mark Isherwood [Conservative, North Wales]: Did the North-South Airlink and the Holyhead to Cardiff Premier Rail Service ever go through the WeITAG evaluation process for the costings and overall benefit to the public? (WAQ 56007)

Ieuan Wyn Jones: Yes.

Llangollen from Merseyside promotion

Readers may like to know of an example of joint line promotion which has been concluded with Merseytravel to encourage use of rail/bus connections. A page has been included in the inside cover of the current batch of Merseyrail timetable brochures effective 23 May - 11 December 2010. It shows how to get to the Llangollen Railway from Merseyside using the Merseyrail Electric network to either Bidston or Chester for onward ATW services to Wrexham or Ruabon with bus link for the final stage.
Now that a bus/rail interchange is operational at Ruabon, with a 15 minute bus route 5 bus service to Llangollen, the journey is more convenient than might be imaged and justifies promotion to encourage use. The promotion acknowledges the wide support the Llangollen Railway receives from the Merseyside / Deeside / Chester regions. It also promotes use of both the Borderlands Line and the Shrewsbury-Chester route and highlights Wrexham as a travel hub within North East Wales, so there are multiple benefits from this initiative.
The design originated from the idea for a poster promotion on Merseyrail Stations last autumn and has been taken forward this year to be included in the new timetables covering the Wirral, Northern and City lines.

Mr Urdd Goes Green - by Gerwyn Jones

Mr. Urdd has reinforced his ‘green’ principles by helping the Cambrian Railways Partnership (CRP) launch new linear walking guides that are easily accessible by train and bus in Mid and North Wales. The launch of the Cambrian Railways Seaside Strolls and TrawsCambrian Trailways took place at the Urdd Eisteddfod in Llanerchaeron on 1 June when Mr. Urdd commented 'After a busy week at the ’Steddfod this is a fantastic way to keep fit and healthy while enjoying some of the best scenery in Wales without having to use the car.' Launching the new leaflets are (left to right) Mr. Urdd, Heather Millard (Traveline Cymru), Ben Davies (Arriva Trains Wales), Gerwyn Jones (CRP) and Arfon Lewis (Arriva Bus)

The Cambrian Railways Seaside Strolls promote travel by train to the best beaches on the Cambrian Coast Line and in particular three linear walks along the shoreline between railway stations:

1.      Aberdyfi – Tywyn
2.      Llanaber – Talybont
3.      Abererch – Pwllheli

Working with the Welsh Assembly Government and the TrawsCambria network the CRP have developed the TrawsCambrian Trailways to promote travel by bus and train to two of the area’s best known walking routes – The Mawddach Trail between Dolgellau and Barmouth and a section of the Ceredigion Coastal Path between Blaenplwyf and Aberystwyth.

Included on the leaflets is a map of each route, produced by well known author Laurence Main, along with sources of public transport information and details of other initiatives developed by the CRP to promote public transport use and links to local attractions and activities. The new leaflets, including the existing Cambrian Trailways, are available for free download from  and from local Tourist Information Centres and Staffed Railway Stations.

The Urdd is a movement established in 1922 to give children and young people the chance to learn and socialise through the medium of Welsh. Sixteen development officers  work all over Wales to ensure that the Urdd offers a full programme of activties for children and young people.

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