Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

26 July 2010

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Forthcoming events

July 2010      

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.

Deganwy, 17 July. Picture by Darren Durrant.

 - There will be an extra steam-filled update on 28 July -

Re-living the sixties

Above, an insider's view of 37 240 at Llangollen in the process of turning BR blue, with original number D6940, in readiness for a roll-out on 26 July for the Llangollen Railway's 60s weekend.  Groovy press release follows:

Llangollen and the Dee Valley will be taken back in time to the swinging Sixties on Saturday 31 July and Sunday 1 August, when the Llangollen Railway holds its 'From the Beatles to Beeching 1960s weekend. The two-day event sets out to recreate the sights and sounds of this legendary decade, which saw great social, cultural and technological change in the World.

The Llangollen Railway will be recreating this fascinating period by running an intensive service of steam, diesel and railcar trains over the weekend. The axe of Dr Beeching will also be present in the form of three 1960s buses, which will be operating a 'rail replacement' bus service between Llangollen, Carrog and also Corwen ... Three live bands will take part in 'Llanstock, a small music festival at Llangollen station including beer festival and BBQ. This culminates on Sunday evening with Rhyl-based four piece tribute band 'Cavern performing hits from the famous sixties 'Beat' groups, including the Beatles. There will also be a vintage vehicle rally next to Glyndyfrdwy station on Saturday and Sunday.

The event has been organised by Iain Ross and Tez Pickthall, both volunteers on the line who were born way after the 1960s!  Tez tells us, 'Our 1964-built English Electric Class 37 diesel-electric locomotive has been specially overhauled into original condition and repainted into the famous BR blue livery with the 'double arrow' logo that we still see used on railway stations today. Although many folk associate this livery with the 1970’s and 80’s, it was actually created in the 60s as part of the British Railways modernisation plan.'

Entry to Llangollen station costs £5 over the weekend, including entry to 'Llanstock' and the beer festival. Entry is free to those who travel on the railway with tickets costing £13 for adults, £11 for Seniors and £9 for children. Family tickets are available for £35, under 3's travel free. Visitors are encouraged to enter into the spirit of the 60’s and dress up in the clothes of the decade. Why not check the back of the wardrobe, dig out your miniskirt, kaftan or Harrington jacket and join in the fun?

More information about the event, including advanced booking details for both train travel and 'Llanstock' are available on the railway’s website or by telephoning 01978 860979.

The organisers have kindly sent us the timetables for the two days of the event in PDF format: download Saturday and Sunday times here.

Briwet Bridge to be rebuilt

Pont Briwet (Briwet Bridge), across the Afon Dwyryd, on the Cambrian Coast line between Penrhyndeudraeth and Llandecwyn stations, is an original Cambrian Railways wooden structure, with a carriageway for light vehicles, drivers of which must pay privately-collected toll (40p for cars) to cross, alongside the railway, and avoid a eight-mile detour via Maentwrog for travellers between the Harlech and Porthmadog areas.

The local press is reporting that a replacement bridge, suitable for heavier traffic, is to be constructed. Work on the new crossing will, we are told, start in autumn 2011 [or 2012 in other reports]. The joint project between Network Rail, Gwynedd Council, Snowdonia National Park and Countryside Council for Wales will, it is said, take two years to complete.

In one press article, it Gwynedd Council’s transport engineer Dafydd Wyn Williams was reported as saying: 'During the building, the road will have to be closed to vehicles for 12-18 months and the rail service replaced with a bus service from Harlech for around a week. The old bridge will be kept as a footpath.' However. some confusion seems to have arisen, as the same Mr Williams is quoted the following day as saying 'To set the record straight, provisions for pedestrians will be included in the new bridge. It is proposed that the new bridge will follow the line of the old bridge and listed building consent will now be sought to demolish the existing structure.'

So it seems that the granting of permission to demolish the bridge, listed Grade II as a structure of historic importance, is being taken for granted., even though it has apparently yet to be designed. Presumably Gwynedd Council will apply to Gwynedd Council to grant permission to demolish it. Also strange is the statement that the road will be closed for 12-18 months but the railway for only 'around a week.' The new bridge will no doubt be welcomed by many, although from the point of view of the railway it is likely to lead to diversion of some passenger traffic away from the trains when buses can make the shorter crossing. At least (let us hope) Barmouth Bridge is too long to replace.

Dave Sallery took the pictures, from the 'Cambrian Coast Express' hauled by 76079, in 2006.

Touring the Great Little Trains - report by Tim Fenton

Recently I spent four days exploring with a North and Mid Wales Flexi Rover ticket. This doesn't allow travel before 09:15 on weekdays, which is a bit of a constraint if you're starting and finishing each day at Crewe, although using both weekend days allows for earlier starts. Being able to use the local bus services means there is no problem getting to places like Caernarfon.

Even with a start from Crewe as late as 09:49, I arrived at at Caernarfon in time to see the 12:10 Welsh Highland Railway (WHR) departure - at present booked for Garratt 138 - leaving for Pont Croesor.The pictures above shows 138 just after leaving the station.

The WHR Garratts are impressive machines. Booked to haul both 10:00 and 14:40 departures recently has been South African Railways 87, seen here just after taking water.

Making an earlier start on Saturday meant it was no problem stopping off at Welshpool on the way to Aberystwyth. The Welshpool and Llanfair Railway terminus is no more than a mile across the town from the National Rail station, and easily walkable.

On duty that day was The Earl, a really photogenic little loco. Disappointingly, there were just three return trips that day and the one I saw had just two coaches (these were ex-Hungarian Railways).

I arrived at Aberystwyth just in time to see Prince of Wales, one of the Vale of Rheidol Railway locos that were the only steam traction to carry the BR double arrow symbol, arrive from Devil's Bridge. Here it is running round before going for coal and water.

The 14:00 departure was well filled, but was the second of just two services running on a Summer Saturday. On Sundays in June there is no service at all!

Another earlier start on Sunday meant being able to fit in a return trip on the Ffestiniog Railway (FR) and have some time in Porthmadog.

The diagram for the Arriva Trains Wales services that morning was interesting: from Crewe, the 08:27 departure was two 150/2, which were split at Llandudno Junction. After the lead unit had departed for Holyhead, the second set formed the 10:00 to Llandudno and then the 10:22 to Blaenau Ffestiniog - so a through Crewe to Blaenau working.

The branch train was well filled from Llandudno, as there was an organised tour on board. Waiting at Blaenau were FR locos Blanche and Taliesin, which led down the gradient to Porthmadog. Here are the pair getting the "green flag" as they run round at the Harbour station.

Also on duty on the FR  was Double Fairlie Earl of Merioneth, seen here by the water tower at Porthmadog Harbour.

The trip back up to Blaenau was less well filled - the organised tour had returned behind Blanche and Taliesin - and I was the only passenger making the connection at Blaenau with the last Arriva train of the day, which at 17:30 is a bit previous for July. The WHR services also had lots of tour groups on their services: the 12:10 from Caernarfon was full on the two occasions I saw it.

Tuesday, and last day of the four, was Circular Tour time, from Crewe to Bangor by train, then by bus to Caernarfon and then Porthmadog, and rail to Tywyn and Shrewsbury before returning to Crewe.

Unfortunately, the weather broke not long after I arrived at Tywyn - I was looking round the excellent little museum at Wharf station when the heavens opened. Above, just after arriving at 16:15, is Talyllyn Railway Number 1 Talyllyn.

Although the timetable suggests otherwise, on the next Arriva service from Tywyn, the unit worked through to Shrewsbury. Fortunately the rain had stopped by the time I got back to Crewe. Verdict: the Rover ticket was very good value at £53. Trains and buses all turned up, and most ran on time. More pictures are on my Fotopic site.

Editor's notes: For full details of the ticket used by Tim, Arriva Trains Wales have a PDF leaflet for 2010 available to download. Beware of other details found by web searching as some of the documents found are out of date and/or incorrect. That the ticket if issued for eight days, and includes travel by rail (including the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland (Caernarfon) railways) on four days of your choice out of eight, and bus travel on all eight days. There are also discounts available on other heritage railways and some other attractions including Portmeirion as well as Cadw and National Trust sites.

Cambrian Curiosities

Spotted at Porthmadog on the afternoon of 21 July, a Radio Survey Train, formed of 97 301 (above) - 9481 -5981 - 977997 - 1256 ...

... and heritage-liveried 31 106. Radio Survey Coach No.3, a.k.a. 977997, started life as a Mk2F standard class coach, and later spent some time in a Gatwick Express rake before being taken over by Network Rail, who used it as a 'brake force runner' for a while before fitting it out with the radio survey equipment. 158 841 is on the 13:42 from Pwllheli.

158 825, seen above approaching Barmouth Bridge from the north, was one of the units which once featured all-over advertising for Ginsters food products. The logos on the roof were not removed when the vinyls were peeled from the sides, and could just about still be discerned in early July. (Ian Macer-Wright)

An aerial view from the hills above Fairbourne, two Class 97/3 locos stand out amid the picturesque surroundings of the Mawddach estuary (Ian Macer-Wright)

Moreton-on-Lugg accident: man arrested

A '40-year-old man' (as protocol required him to be described) has been arrested by British Transport Police, and released on Police Bail until September, on suspicion of Manslaughter in relation to the events on 16 January 2010 at Moreton-on-Lugg level crossing on the Shrewsbury-Hereford line, when a Class 175 train struck two cars, fatally injuring a lady passenger in one of them and injuring others. (Reported in our 19 January issue.)

No detailed report has yet been issued by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, but Network Rail has admitted responsibility, and it is understood within the rail industry that unlike most level crossing accidents, this was not the fault of the road users, as the barriers, controlled from the signalbox immediately adjacent, were raised by the signalman while a train was approaching.

The scenario appears to have been something like this: Trains were due to pass in both directions, so he lowered the barriers across the road as normal, and cleared the signals for the trains. He then became distracted by dealing with a telephone call from a user of another level crossing, some distance away, that is supervised from the box. One train passed by the box, and forgetting the one coming the other way, he raised the barriers while it was still approaching at full line speed, and was too close to stop even though, realising the error, he returned the protecting signal to danger and the driver made an emergency brake application.

Knowing the fail-safe mentality usually claimed for railway signalling installations, it is surprising that such a mistake was possible, but there was no interlocking of the barrier controls with track-circuit detection provided at Moreton-on-Lugg to prevent it.  It is quite possible to provide this, and we have heard that when the equipment there was being overhauled not long before, the offer was made to create such an interlocking, but Network Rail management rejected the idea. Let us hope that the intervention of the Police does not hinder the inquiry into this disturbing accident.

Class 57s in focus

It's a misty morning in Holyhead on 15 July as 57 314 climbs the bank out of the station with the 05:32 to Holyhead (John Lewis)

The Saturday Virgin Trains 'Pendolino Drag' is often worked by an 'Arriva blue' class 57/3 as a way to change over the loco used on the weekday Arriva train to Cardiff. Above, 57 315 passes Llanfair PG westbound with the 08:50 London - Holyhead at 12:31 on 17 July, 390 021 Virgin Dream in tow. Picture by Richard Fleckney.

The return train, 14:36 Holyhead - London, was headed by 57 314, the other Arriva branded loco (313 and 316 wear a blue livery, but without the light blue section and logos). Picture, near Valley airport, by Stavros Lainas.

By the time Darren Durrant took this picture at Holyhead on Friday evening, 23 July, another swap had taken place, and 57 316 brought in the train from Cardiff.

24 July's train from London broke the pattern of blue engines, being taken from Crewe by 57 309 Brains, photographed at Chester by Darren Durrant.

The nameplate of 57 309 - not an advertisement for a famous Cardiff brewery! (Darren Durrant)

To prove that such things do still exist, here is the platform ticket issued to Darren to operate the barriers at Chester. Why the date is for the previous Saturday we cannot say.

Problems arose later in the day on at Holyhead when difficulty was discovered in powering the heating and lighting supplies on 390 026 after running round the train with 57 309 for the return journey to Crewe. 57 316 was commandeered from the stabled Arriva train, but still 'no joy' so train 1A55 14.36 Holyhead to Euston was cancelled.  The Pendolino was later hauled empty as 1A55, 16:00 Holyhead - Crewe, seen above passing Llandudno Junction at 16:37. Picture by Peter Lloyd.

Later in the evening  57 309 returned from Holyhead as 0Z57 at 19:30
to Edge Hill, seen passing Llandudno Junction at  20:31 (Peter Lloyd). The next day, Sunday 25 July, 57 316 was sent back light-engine from Crewe to Holyhead as 0D31 at 09:00 ready for Monday's Cardiff train.


The flask train continues to serve Valley a couple of times a week: above, 37 603 and 37 087 head west past Old Colwyn on Friday 16 July (Stéphanie Durrant)

37 087 and 37 229 pass Llanfair PG on the return journey, with three wagons, Friday 23 July (Richard Fleckney). Wylfa power station will cease to generate electricity at the end of 2010, according to current plans, although there are talks of a further two-year extension to help bridge the gap until a new 'Wylfa B' station can be built. In any case, trains will run for up to two years to remove all the fuel from the reactor.

Current plans are for the site to be 'completely cleared of all buildings and structures, the site area excavated to 1 metre below ground level and back-filled and the entire site re-graded and planted to match the surrounding area.' The timetable for decommissioning, according to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is:

2010      End of generation
2012      Completion of defuelling
2025      Enter care and maintenance
2116      Start of final site clearance
2125      Final site clearance and closure

In the year twenty-one-twenty-five! Try to imagine what life will be like then.

Airport news

Readers may recall that Highland Airways, the operator of the subsidised air service between Valley and Cardiff, went 'bust' earlier this year. Not previously recorded here is that Isle of Man-based company Manx2 were persuaded to take over until a new four-year contract could be awarded; although the small print on the Manx2 website says: 'Our flights are operated by VanAir Europe AS, FLM Aviation, Flightlinebcn & Jetstream Executive.'

The Welsh Assembly Government has announced it is inviting operators to tender for for the route, and is exploring adding an additional midday return journey on Mondays and Fridays. But passenger figures obtained by the Western Mail newspaper suggest the Assembly is now subsidising the route with £2  for every £1 paid in fares. Passenger numbers have fallen, it is reported, with only half the seats filled during June, compared with about 80% during the year after North-South flights began in 2007. In May 2008, 88% of seats were filled on the North-South flights, but load factors declined after WAG launched its express train from Holyhead and Bangor to Cardiff in December 2008.

Manx2 began the service – two return flights per working weekday
between Cardiff Airport and RAF Valley – on May 10. The service
carried about 450 passengers in May, increasing to 828 in June.  Manx2 say the relatively low load factor partly down to passengers having to find their way to a different website to book tickets, and the fact that when the service restarted, the lowest fare was £39. When the
Highland Airways service ended, it was £19. Manx2 now offers £29 one-way tickets on selected off-peak flights from September (fares are £39 or £49 on all flights we can find in August.)

The Welsh Assembly Government has refused to disclose its subsidy for
Manx2 – even to the National Assembly’s finance committee. If current subsidy is the same as when Highland Airways operated the service, June’s subsidy per passenger journey would equate to £121 –
more than twice the maximum fare. Finance committee chair Angela Burns is using Freedom of Information legislation to try to obtain details of the air subsidy, after Transport Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones told her the financial arrangements 'are commercial in confidence.' The subsidy for the flights includes £400,000 a year for Anglesey council to operate Anglesey Airport, the civilian terminal at RAF Valley.

From August 6 to September 6, Manx2 are planning to offer flights between Anglesey and the Isle of Man on Fridays and Mondays. Fares supposedly start at £39 single, but a quick look at their website shows the only fares available in August as £59.50 single.

North Wales railwayana under the hammer - by Roger Carvell

I went to the Great Central Railwayana Auction at the Royal Showground, Stoneleigh Park just outside Coventry on Saturday, 17/7/10. An oddly quiet 'campus' for all things farming, now that the Royal Welsh Show is the show elsewhere. Saturday's catalogue featured 500 lots which included nameplates, smokebox plates, works plates, shedplates, posters and anything else to do with railways that you could get in the back of your car or light van!

There was plenty of North Wales and Mid-Wales railwayana interest on offer.  An early lot was a Bangor loco shedplate, 6H, which at the hammer, made £220. A good price considering later offerings, such as Oswestry, 89D, made a measly £60. BR 'hot dog' totems arouse great passion and in lot order and selling price came Bangor (£440), Machynlleth (£1050), Prestatyn (£400) and Caernarvon (£400)  All these totems were in excellent condition (perhaps the ones that were hung under the station canopy, away from vagaries of the weather- and teenagers with air rifles!). As a benchmark on totem prices, Chapel-en-le-Frith Central made £1750. Perhaps the buyers like hyphens. There was nothing ordinary about Alderley Edge either, a buyer stumping up a £1000, but then the name reflects a wealthy area.

As a former graphic designer, railway posters exert a magical pull for me. A BR Claude Buckle poster of Chester (the one with the
solid-looking couple, he with pipe, standing in Eastgate Street, with the clock) went for £110. My favourite was a later lot, a poster of Colwyn
Bay, BR period, with stylized figures,beach, cars and locomotive. That went for a sunny £230.

A market that shows plenty of vigour with cash or the credit card is for single-line key tokens. A token for Talerddig - Llanbrynmair, in
excellent condition, went for £230 while a Railway Signal Company
miniature train staff for the Felin Heli - Caernarvon section brought the
hammer down at £440.

Locomotive nameplates seem to be having a quiet time as vendors tread
water waiting to see how the UK economy is going to go. A L&NWR
nameplate off 'Experiment' 4-6-0 No. 978, City of London, and
beautifully mounted on oak, went under the hammer at £15,300, the reserve being £9000. I am sure that engine graced the North Wales Coast many times.

The high-bidders crowded the hall for the sale of Battle of Britain
Pacific 34073 249 Squadron nameplate and squadron badge. The engine
resides unrestored at Bury on the East Lancashire Railway, awaiting a buyer or under sale negotiations. You could hear a pin drop as the bidding reached a stratospheric £40,500. Now there is an engine that didn't race down the coast!

Near the end of the auction, which took over six hours, a locomotive
headboard was shown. 'Lein Amlwch Venturer' was used on a special train from Crewe to Holyhead in 1999  with 'King' class loco 6024 to support the re-opening of the Amlwch branch. An attractive item, made of cast aluminium, the hammer closed the sale at £100.

There we have it, An enjoyable day at one of the UK's premier auctions-
and I have only scratched the surface.

Great Central Railwayana Ltd is at

East Lancashire diesel gala - report by Alan Crawshaw

Rowan and I visited the East Lancashire Railway diesel gala on 3 July, travelling on the 07:02 from Bangor. The view above shows our Voyager passing West Coast's 47 804 and 47 826 as it heads south from Crewe. We caught a Pendolino to Manchester and then the tram to Bury for a most enjoyable bash up and down the line.

There were at least three locomotives with North Wales connections, the most recent being 37 901 (above) formerly based at Llangollen.

The excellent Sulzerpower website reports that the last working of 47 765 (above) for the national network was on Saturday 11 September 1999 when it took 1A38 08:52 Holyhead-Euston as far as Crewe. It looks untouched since that date but it certainly goes well.

To complete the trio, 37 109 is seen backing onto its stock at Bury Bolton Street ...

... almost ten years since 25 July 2000 when it called at Bangor with a North Wales Coast service.

We returned after a weekend in York, timing it to catch the 'WAG Express' from Crewe hauled by 57 314.

Ivor the Engine at Llangollen - report by George Jones

The cheeky little Welsh Engine was performing at Llangollen on 24-25 July. The attached picture makes a comparison with the size of the passing GWR 0-6-2T No.5643 at the west end of Llangollen station during the series of demonstration rides for Ivor fans.
Not many steam engines get to perform with musical accompaniment and the singing of Ivor's favourite Hymn. You have to be of a certain age to appreciate Ivor's TV performances and he may be lost on modern day children, but Idris the Dragon was upstairs ready to re-tell the stories of Ivor's adventures on his railway in the top left hand corner of Wales.

An arrangement was made with Jones the Steam (Mike Pearce) for Ivor to accompany the Llangollen Silver Band and the Bala Players. After a bit of experimenting, it was surprising how many noises Ivor could make ... (John Rutter)

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