Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

06 September 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
September 2010

10-12 September. Llangollen Railway Autumn Steam gala celebrating 175th anniversary of GWR and 35 years of Llangollen Railway reopening with expected return of 7822 Foxcote Manor after ten year boiler overhaul.

Monday 13 September Wrexham Railway Society  Rocket 150: the Final Great Cavalcade of British Steam? Thirty years on from Rainhill 1980 a review of the celebrations of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway including a Super 8 colour film of the famous Cavalcade.

Tuesday 14 September. 8E Association Glynn Parry: Under, Up & Over. Merseyrail, Overhead & Snowdon – A Connection?

Saturday 18 September North Wales Coast Rail Users’ Group. Public Meeting. Flint Town Hall, starting at 2pm. An opportunity to ask questions about your local train services and to make suggestions for improvements. The speaker will be Ben Davies, Stakeholder Liaison Manager. Arriva Trains Wales.

Tuesday 21 September North Wales Railway Circle Garry Hughes: Wartime Locomotives, courtesy of B & R Videos.

Wednesday 22 September Compass Tours excursion: Burnley Manchester Road, Rose Grove, Accrington, Blackburn, Cherry Tree, Bamber Bridge to Blaenau Ffestiniog.  Class 47 Diesel throughout.  [This Tour is now fully booked.]

Thursday 30 September Merseyside Railway History Group Alisdair McDonald: Ramblings on Rail

October 2010

Friday 1 October   Clwyd Railway Circle    Edgar Richards: Freight in North Wales and the North West. A combined collection of slides taken by Dave Airey and our well respected speaker.

Friday 1 October Compass Tours excursion from Llandudno Jct, Colwyn Bay, Rhyl, Flint and Chester to Pitlochry and Aviemore.

Saturday 2 October Compass Tours 'The Snowdonian Explorer'   
Shrewsbury, Wellington, Telford Central, Codsall, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Cannock, Hednesford, Rugeley Town & Stafford to Betws-Y-Coed or Blaenau Ffestiniog with optional extra Steam Excursion.  Class 66 Diesel to feature throughout.

2-3 October. Llangollen Railway Diesel weekend. Intensive service by the mainline diesels supported by one of the railcars.

Sunday 3 October: The annual Tram and Bus show at Pacific Road Birkenhead

Monday 4 October:    RCTS Port Sunlight   Harry Madden: MERSEYSIDE TRANSPORT. A miscellany of trains, trams, buses and shipping from both sides of the River Mersey.

Tuesday 5 October North Wales Railway Circle David Lindsay: Statfold Barn Railway visit.

Friday 8 October Altrincham Electric Railway Preservation Society A TOUR OF SOUTH AFRICAN RAILWAYS IN THE EARLY 1970S (INDUSTRIAL AND MAIN LINE STEAM) a colour slide presentation by Alan Gilbert

Monday 11 October. Wrexham Railway Society Preserved Steam on Video - the 2010 mainline steam action with PSOV.

Tuesday 12 October. 8E Association Charles Roberts (RCTS): 80s and 90s Irish Railways.

Saturday 16 October Llangollen Railway: Growler Group Members' Day. 6940 (37 240) will be making six return trips between Llangollen & Carrog. Tickets are available for non-members of the Group.

Monday 18 October   RCTS Chester   Tony Keeley: 50 YEARS BEHIND THE LENS. Tony’s presentation covers his career working for Beyer Peacock in South America and Europe through to the present day.

Tuesday 19 October  North Wales Railway Circle Bill Rogerson :Sardinia Railways.

23-31 October. Llangollen Railway Day out with Thomas. the half term event featuring No.1.

Thursday 28 October Merseyside Railway History Group Keith Crabtree: Tornado, a steam locomotive for the 21st Century

29 - 31 October Merseyside Model Railway Society exhibition at the Pacific Road Arts Centre, Birkenhead. Trams will be in operation on the adjacent tramway.

November 2010

Monday 1 November  RCTS Port Sunlight   Steve Ollive:  PLANDAMPF 94 Featuring standard and narrow gauge in East Germany and organised trips around  Dresden and the  Thuringer Forest

Tuesday 2 November  North Wales Railway Circle Paul Hardy: Wait and See (a secret location?)

Friday 5 November  Clwyd Railway Circle  Gordon Davies -  American Wanderings. - A selection of slides showing diesel, electric and steam trains in the USA working passenger and extremely long freight trains from the East to the West coast, photographed in the last 16 years.
Friday 12 November Altrincham Electric Railway Preservation Society
16MM CINÉ FILMS FROM THE 1970s a miscellany by Richard Greenwood

6-7 November. Llangollen Railway Poppy Train Service as part of the Remembrance festival - special guest engine possible.

Tuesday 9 November. 8E Association Chris Simon: ‘The Examination Quiz’.  

Monday 15 November RCTS Chester Keith Crabtree: 60163 Tornado.Keith is from the A1 Steam Trust and will be giving a Power-point presentation on the history, building and operation of Tornado.

Tuesday 16 November  North Wales Railway Circle Steve Morris: Brake Trials

Thursday 25 November Merseyside Railway History Group Geoff Morris: Steaming through the gauges in the 21st Century

See the Calendar page for more details.

During the August Bank Holiday weekend, engineering work on the line between Wrexham and Shrewsbury saw Wrexham & Shropshire services diverted via Chester and Crewe. On Sunday 29 August, 67 015 David J. Lloyd powers afternoon train 1P54 15:02 Wrexham General - London Marylebone service through Pulford, on the single line between Wrexham and Saltney Junction. (Mark Riley)

North Wales Coast Rail Users’ Group

The Group's next Public Meeting is at Flint Town Hall on Saturday 18 September, starting at 2pm. An opportunity to ask questions about your local train services and to make suggestions for improvements. The speaker will be Ben Davies, Stakeholder Liaison Manager. Arriva Trains Wales.

The public meeting will be followed by the Annual General Meeting of members of the North Wales Coast Rail Users’ Group. The Group exists to improve rail transport on the North Wales Coast, and needs more members to promote this cause. Interested? Contact: Richard Wilcock, Secretary: Sowerby01[at]


A good view of the Colas Rail livery as 66 841 passes Helsby with a later-running load of timber for Chirk on 27 August (Stavros Lainas)

Helsby again, this time on 31 August as 47 739 Robin of Templecombe passes with the empty wagons from the Ribblehead - Chirk timber train. (Andrew Vinten). Regarding suggestions made here that the first loaded run of this train, earlier in August, was the first appearance of a Class 47 at the Kronospan siding, Mark Hambly writes: 'In recent years, almost certainly yes, this is the first, but back in the days of OTA wagons and a  sectorised British Rail they were commonplace. Indeed,  a Kronospan Press Release of the time was accompanied by a photograph of the late Peter Walker MP (then Secretary of State for Wales) "cabbing" a 47 during a visit to the plant.'

Peter Walker was MP for Worcester from 1961 to 1992, and afterwards entered the House of Lords as a Life Peer. He was Secretary of State for Wales in the Thatcher government from 1987 to 1990. He died in June 2010, aged 78; his son, Robin, was elected as MP for Worcester in the 2010 election.

A train window view from 19 August showing the work going on at the Chirk plane to extend the unloading facility.

Quite a large area is being levelled. (George Jones) We understand that the timber trains will stop running for a period to allow the track to be laid.

GWR 175 at Llangollen

2010 is the 175th anniversary of the foundation of the Great Western Railway, and the Llangollen Railway, an ex-GWR line, is celebrating with a three-day gala from Friday 10 until Sunday 12 September.

Friday and Sunday will see 13 passenger departures plus a demonstration freight; 5 locos in steam - all Western engines. For something a little bit different Class 14 'Teddy Bear' diesel D9591 will make a limited appearance. There is a Real Ale Festival at Llangollen Station.

On Saturday there are 17 departures planned, with 7 locos in steam, including an evening service for which there is a special evening rover ticket valid for only £10 (valid from 5pm) which provides access to the Real Ale Festival plus travel on evening services including City of Truro departures, with licensed bar on board, at 18:00 and 20:45.

Visiting engines are GWR  4-4-0 City of Truro and 4-6-0 Pitchford Hall.
2-8-0 3802 will be back from the Severn Valley to add to 0-6-0PT 6430 and 0-6-2T 5643, plus Standard 2-6-4T 80072 and ' Black 5' 4-6-0 44806. Also on display in a parcels coach at Llangollen is a 35th anniversary exhibition for the start of the rebuilding of the line and a Corwen extension project display.

For full details of the weekend events see the Llangollen Railway website.

Upholstery news

Here's a look inside 175 008, which has been given the 'interior refresh' treatment. Spot the differences?

The new pattern of seat moquette. Better than purple, in our opinion.

Little change is evident from the outside. Chester, 30 August.

50 Years of the Class 37

An interesting (and free) event at the National Railway Museum in York on 16-17 October is a Class 37 diesel anniversary weekend celebrating 50 years since D6700, now preserved by the Museum, entered service.

2010 sees the 50th anniversary of the Class 37 Diesels, and what better way to celebrate than at the National Railway Museum. Climb on board and discover what made the Class 37s one of the country's best loved trains. There's also the chance to take a ride onboard one of our fabulous locomotives in the South Yard. There'll be plenty of delicious food and drink, and trade and display stands in Station Hall to commemorate this special occasion. So raise a glass and say many happy returns to the Class 37s.

We understand there will be visiting 37s as well as D6700, although the NRM website gives no clue to this.

Diesel assortment

'Deltic' 55 022 Royal Scots Grey is seen on 25 August with train 5Z45 Carnforth - Crewe at Acton Bridge. The locomotive was being used in traction training for DB Schenker staff, for forthcoming railtour duty. (Andrew Vinten)

The railtour in question was Compass Tour's 'East West' from Hooton to Newcastle on 30 August, which ran with several of our contributors aboard. It is seen seen above after arrival at Newcastle. (Andrew Vinten)

Old times at Newcastle as the Deltic, having run round  its train, prepares to couple up for a 'thrash' up the East Coast Main Line to York en route back to Hooton. (Roly High)

Returning to its home base at Bury on 31 August, 55 022 passes Acton Bridge (Andrew Vinten)

57 314 stands at Crewe in the morning on Wednesday 25 August whilst working 1V31 Holyhead - Cardiff express (Paul Williams)

The return train from Cardiff the same evening, 57 315 having taken over for the northbound run, seen in Platform 3 at Llandudno Junction (Paul Williams)

27 August, and 57 315 is still in charge, seen passing Rowton in the evening sunshine (Stavros Lainas)

Wrexham & Shropshire loco, 67 012 A Shropshire Lad at Wrexham General shortly before departing with train 1P13 to London Marylebone (Paul Williams).

On 28 August Wrexham & Shropshire trains were running via Chester, Crewe and the West Coast Main Line: above, 67 014 Thomas Telford  is seen at 08:07 passing Hargrave between Chester and Crewe (Stavros Lainas).

Later the same day, 67 015 David J. Lloyd passes the old station at Waverton (Stavros Lainas) These diversions continue for the next several weekends.

SCRUA news - by George Jones

The next meeting of Shrewsbury-Chester Rail Users' Association will be on Monday 27 September at Gobowen station when the speaker is Simon Pickering, Wales Passenger Link Manager for Passenger Focus, who will current Passenger Focus activities and concerns, with time for Q&A. This will be followed by update from the line's rail Officer Sheila Dee and an illustrated review of recent rail user activities - in the widest sense. Doors open at 19:30. Visitors are welcome - come by train!

Moving signalboxes

Thanks for all the comments about our recent Llanelltyd 'signalbox' item (20 August issue). We are confident that the structure alongside the A470 road bear Dolgellau was built new on that site as a summerhouse, although apparently a local legend has it that it was built as a chart room for the school next door which was a naval academy and that it is aligned exactly on the points of the compass.

There is another signalbox-like structure in an odd place to be seen in our area .... but it is a signalbox! The box from Talerddig on the Cambrian main line, which after closure when Radio signalling was implemented in 1988 was bought by a local resident and re-erected, with a different roof and windows, on his farm. Does anyone have a picture?

Signalboxes do move around: the little Barmouth South box, a Cambrian Railways structure which was once a well-known  landmark next to the busy level crossing in the town centre, now serves as a viewing area at Glyndyfrdwy on the Llangollen Railway. The signalling duties at Glyndyfrdwy are performed from a box which until 1987 stood at Leaton on the GWR Gobowen to Shrewsbury line. (The box at Carrog, also GWR-style, is 'scratchbuilt.') The box at Penmaenpool station, on the Cambrian branch to Dolgellau, which now serves as am RSPB bird observation post, was erected in that location in 1936 by the Great Western Railway; supposedly it had previously been part of the GWR's exhibit at the British Empire Exhibition in Wembley in 1925 ...

On the Gravity Train - with Eryl Crump

The Ffestiniog Railway was constructed between 1833 and 1836 to transport slate from the quarries of Blaenau Ffestiniog to  Porthmadog where it was loaded onto ships.  The railway was graded so that loaded wagons could be run by gravity downhill all the way from Blaenau Ffestiniog to the port. The empty wagons were hauled back up by horses, which travelled down in special dandy wagons. To achieve this continuous grade (about 1 in 80 for much of the way), the line followed natural contours and employed cuttings and stone or slate block embankments.  Up to six trains were operated daily in each direction by this method.  Although steam locos were introduced in October 1863 down trains continued to run entirely by gravity until the end of passenger services in 1939.

Slate trains eventually became very long - trains of less than eighty slate wagons carried two brakesmen, but over eighty wagons (and this became common) required three brakesmen. About one wagon in every six was equipped with a brake, the others were unbraked.  Wagons were dumped all over the line and in various other places. Many were abandoned in the old sidings at Diffwys in Blaenau Ffestiniog. This is now a car park and the former station building a public convenience but when the author was a young lad it was an adventure playground.

We would clamber aboard the wagons and push them around the yard, switching tracks by changing the points. We learned the finer points of physics by pushing some as fast as we could into other wagons and seeing the end wagon move away from the rest - if it was uncoupled of course.
 Enough wagons were rescued and later restored to allow gravity trains to be re-introduced onto the Ffestiniog in 1986 and they have run regularly ever since - the only railway in the UK to do so.

They normally run before the start of timetabled services or during special gala events. Thus it was your author got up especially early on August 7 to sample and enjoy this unique experience. After a safety briefing from head brakesman Ian Wilkinson in the Boston Lodge mess room the assembled guests joined the train as it was propelled onto the Cob by Blanche. Ian explained the train was stabled over an inspection pit and getting in was difficult enough without the prospect of a fall.

The train ran to 37 wagons - one of the longest trains run by the Ffestiniog as more wagons are being restored. Hopefully a 50-wagon train will be available in the near future.  I chose wagon 976 (above) for no apparent reason than it was available. A three ton wagon there was a bit more space to move around. The cushion was welcome and the black bin liner useful to keep it dry. Oh didn't I mention the weather? It was hardly summer and the rain teemed down as we were pulled uphill by Blanche. The puffs of steam into the overhanging branches simply caused more "liquid sunshine" to fall on the train. After a stop at Minffordd to check for hot axles and a water stop at Tanybwlch the train reached Dduallt shortly after 8.30am.

Another axle check and final preparations and a toot on Ian's horn and we were off.  Well it took a while. Some persuasion needed to be given for the heavier wagons at the front to move by pushing on their sides and then as it moved off so did the other wagons in tow. There was quite a slack between each wagon increasing its length by probably another 40 feet.  Soon we were racing down hill. The occasional application of brake - signalled by Ian by shouting out the number of brakes to be applied - caused a jerking motion throughout the train and I found myself slipping forward on the cushion. Listening out to the clang of wagon on wagon taught me to recognise the likelihood of this and slips were rare.

Taking photographs was difficult. The poor weather and the jerking train caused many exposures to be blurred. Tweaking the ISO to 1250 solved these problems. Moving though Garnedd tunnel was interesting as the up journey caused spectacles and camera lenses to mist up. No such problems on the way down.  The brakesmen were all seated sideways holding onto their handbrake in their left hands. This was possible because of the narrower width of the wagons compared to the carriages. The narrower gauge was very apparent during the up journey.

Ian did not expect the train to stall because of the wet conditions although both water and sand was carried on board to help if required. At Rhiw Goch (above) loop the Ffestiniog's larger water carrier was spotted on standby to react to any lineside fires. We passed the empty loop on the right as all FR trains do. After Penrhyn crossing the train slowed right down for a speed restriction and more people were by the lineside watching the train go by.

Soon after Minffordd the Cob came into view and discussion centred on how far across we'd go with the longer train providing more inertia. It was believed the train would need to take the right hand curve at Boston Lodge at more than 25mph to achieve the crossing - 10mph higher than the permitted speed - so it was a relief to see Merddin Emrys ready to slip out of the yard to propel the train into Porthmadog.  We came to a halt about half way along.
Porthmadog Harbour was quite a busy scene with the first up train of the day already in the platform. After depositing the gravity train in one of the sidings Merddin Emrys coupled up to the carriages to form the 10.15 departure.

Criccieth Castle then brought another set into the station and Blanche, having arrived light engine, coupled onto it to take a party of American tourists to Blaenau. Some of our transatlantic friends were bemused as to why we had endured the uncomfortable ride in a slate wagon.
 And these people regularly pay huge sums of money to get into rollercoasters. For me the Ffestiniog Railway is the best rollercoaster ride of all.

The next running of the gravity train is during the Heritage Weekend - 8 to 10 October - but to see it you'll have to get up early! 

Colwyn Bay visions - from the Daily Post 27 August

The former owner of Colwyn Bay pier has pleaded with the council not to demolish its historic art deco pavilion. Concept drawings presented by consultants DPP Shape to councillors last week as part of a masterplan for Colwyn Bay and its waterfront showed a large ferris wheel on the Victoria Pier in place of the pavilion. The drawings, unveiled at a scrutiny committee meeting, have been branded as ridiculous by Steve Hunt, who owned the pier until it passed into the hands of administrators. But the council says the images are not plans and are only being used for illustration purposes.

In its 1930s heyday, the pavilion’s ballroom featured a stained glass ceiling and polished maple floors. Mr Hunt said: 'The front building needs pulling down but the pavilion and the pier is a listed building and needs special planning consent for demolition. It is an important art deco building that should be saved. I’ve been to Blackpool and the big wheel there has a massive amount of engineering just to secure the thing, more than the actual pier itself.'

Mr Hunt is currently locked in a legal stalemate with Conwy over business rates. He has been bankrupted and the derelict pier lies in the hands of trustees Royce Peeling Green. Cllr Brian Cossey, who chaired the meeting, said: 'The masterplan isn’t a blueprint, it gives ideas, aspirations and concepts. The images are included to show that there needs to be a focal point on the waterfront.'

Colwyn Bay’s infrastructure could be transformed under the proposals with a new town centre, a multi-sports village and a revamped railway station. Station Square would be pedestrianised, with Princes Drive re-routed around the station, leaving a flat open square which it is hoped will create a cafe type culture. A pedestrianised walkway around the town and a new “iconic” building on the square would encourage shoppers. Cllr Chris Hughes said: 'Now we’ve brought this project to the table there is a real sense of optimism and it is important that everybody embraces it. It's important to do this so that at the end we have a vibrant town to be proud of.'

[See also the Colwyn Bay Civic Society's positive view of the plans.]

Crewe Heritage in the Rain - report by Mark Riley

As part of the 'Giants of Steam' event over the weekend of 30 July - 1 August, Crewe Heritage Centre opened for photography on the evening of 30 July. Just a handful of people turned up, not helped by the dismal weather, as it poured with rain most of the time! On view was 6201 Princess Elizabeth, being prepared for the Cumbrian Mountain Fellsman railtour the following morning.

Above: the tender is loaded with coal. One can appreciate the unglamorous work that goes on behind the scenes in preparation for such railtours.

Also on show, getting a good soaking, were 87 035 Robert Burns and DRS 37 683.

I think this picture sums up how wet it was! 37 683 reflected in one of many puddles. A big thanks to all the staff for opening the centre and giving up their time on what must have been an unpleasant evening for them and everyone else!

Something completely different

John Owen writes: 'An SD70-2 of Norfolk Southern held at a red light outside the Station Inn, Cresson, Pennsylvania on the night of 21 August. It was pulling an eastbound double-stack intermodal train. This location and the proprietor Tom Davis, are well known to many Welsh railfans who have stayed there when they need a fix of real freight trains. During my stay there, over 70 trains a day passed by, intermodals, autoracks, coal, manifest and twice daily Amtrak passenger train the 'Pennsylvanian', which every day of my five days, was on time.'

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