Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

01 November 2010

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Forthcoming events

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 Steve Morris: Brake Trials on the Railway

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 Paul Hardy: Wait and See (a secret location?)

Monday 22 November. Shrewsbury-Chester Rail Users Association Public meeting at St Mary's Catholic Club, Regent St, Wrexham starting at 7.30pm. The speaker will be Ben Davies, ATW's Stakeholder Manager North, with the subject as "Railways in Wales - Going Forward", giving a positive message.Followed by a question & answer session. Visitors are welcome.

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

December 2010

Friday 3 December   Clwyd Railway Circle   'Xmas Celebration' - Video review of steam on the main line in 2010 with an interlude of festive goodies.       

Monday 6 December RCTS Port Sunlight  MEMBERS SHOW. 30 slides or digital images of your choice.  

Tuesday 7  December  North Wales Railway Circle : Pete Hanahoe & Brain Bollington: Railways of Latvia and other countries.

Thursday 9 December Merseyside Railway History Group Adrian Bodlander: Garratt Steam Safari (to Victoria Falls and beyond!) – Social evening

Friday 10 December Altrincham Electric Railway Preservation Society
STEAM ACROSS THE ROCKIES a DVD presentation of a steam-hauled special train from Calgary to Vancouver and back by Tony Harrison

Saturday 11 December Rhyl Model Railway Club Charity Model Railway Exhibition in Prestatyn, Parish Hall & guide HQ, 10:30 - 16:00.

Tuesday 14  December. 8E Association AGM followed by Jon Penn: Chester Black & White Part 2.

Tuesday 14 December  North Wales Railway Circle Christmas 'Do':   Members Photos etc.

See the Calendar page for more details.

Penmaenmawr, 1 November (Darren Durrant)

North Wales Railway Circle meeting change

Steve Morris will be giving a talk on 'Railway Brake Testing' to the North Wales Railway Circle on Tuesday 2 November. This replaces the one scheduled by Paul Hardy who now hopes to give his talk on 16 November The venue is the Railway Institute, Euston Road, Bangor starting at 19:30 as usual.

Picture round-up

The flask train passes Llanfair PG on 27 October behind 37 601 and 37 038 (Richard Fleckney). 37 601 was named Class 37 "Fifty" (with red-backed British Rail-style nameplates) at a recent Mid-Norfolk Railway gala, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the class.

25 October's Penmaenmawr to Guide Bridge stone train, 6Z40 passes Llandudno Junction at 13:45 (Darren Durrant) ...

... and Beeches Farm near Hawarden at 14:51 with 66 953 in charge (Stavros Lainas)

66 101 heads the Rail Head Treatment Train through Flint, 66 105 on the rear, 29 October (Darren Durrant)

The same pair water-cannoning away at Llandulas, 1 November (Darren Durrant).

Saturday 30 October: 57 313 takes the Holyhead-bound Pendolino through Llanfair PG....

 ... 57 314 takes the return trip (Richard Fleckney). These blue locos seem to appear quite often on the Virgin train, although the following tale of a recent occasion comes our way: 'The loco for the Saturday drag comes from Preston, where the loco is kept on standby. One Friday, when the loco was moved from Longsight to Preston the wrong loco was taken, 57 313 instead of 303. On Saturday morning, when the driver diagrammed to take the loco from Preston to Crewe booked on, he was directed to take it to Manchester Longsight depot and change it for 303 as 313 was the wrong colour. Apparently someone put their oar in to ensure the loco was the right colour.'

57 314 calls at Llanfairfechan - report by Paul Williams

I had a trip to Cardiff and back by the loco-hauled express on Monday 25 October. It was a fairly interesting journey home! At 16:10 we were at Cardiff waiting for the 16:15 to turn up when an announcement was made that it was being delayed due to a failed freight train in the Cwmbran area (I'm afraid I haven't found any details about this only that it was rescued by 66 111). 57 314 eventually rolled in with 1W91 and departed at approximately 16:53, absolutely packed with passengers  wanting to travel towards London as their train terminated (and would begin) at Newport as well as the normal amount of passengers for stations to Holyhead. So we were running late, not too unusual!

We were then slowed on the approach to Shrewsbury and before Crewe. We later found out that this was due to another failed freight service, which delayed us even further. We had planned to get the loco-hauled as far as Llandudno Junction in order to catch the following local service to Llanfairfechan (our destination) but couldn't as we had missed it by a long shot. We jumped off at Llandudno Junction to catch the hour-later service from what we planned to catch (which wasn't booked to call at Llanfair). At Junction whist taking a few photos, we were told by station staff to hop back on board after some rapid thinking between them and the traincrew. 1W91 would be calling at Llanfairfechan, and did so at roughly 20:58.

So I would just like to say my thanks to the people involved for helping us get back home after such a farce... and for the rarity of catching a loco-hauled train direct from Cardiff Central to Llanfairfechan!

Vintage Ffestiniog

Highlight of the Ffestiniog Railway's 'Vintage weekend' on 9 -10 October was the visit of TV presenter Julia Bradbury - see picture in left column' - who launched her new book on the Saturday morning and then led a "Railway walk" to Boston Lodge. Above, 'superpower' -  Fairlies meet at Porthmadog (Larry Davies).

It was  weekend of glorious weather with a superb turnout of vintage rolling stock and three Double Fairlies in action, not to mention, the Gravity Train, see above at at Penrhyn (Ian Pilkington).

Earl of Merioneth at Penrhyn on the 10:10  Porthmadog - Blaenau (on 10/10/10) (Ian Pilkington)

David Lloyd George at Cei Mawr with the 12:25 Blaenau Ffestiniog - Porthmadog on 10 October (Ian Pilkington)

Newly built loco Lyd pilots Blanche at Cei Mawr on the 13:30 Porthmadog - Blaenau, 10 October (Ian Pilkington).

Merddin Emrys at Cei Mawr on 14:20 Blaenau  - Porthmadog. (Ian Pilkington)

Lyd and Blanche run round their train on 10 October (Larry Davies). Lyd is a newly-built engine, a close replica of Lew, one of the Manning Wardle 2-6-2Ts of the legendary Lynton & Barnstaple Railway in Devon (closed 1935). First conceived in the 1990s, and initially worked on elsewhere, in recent years the loco has taken shape at the FR's Boston Lodge Works. It will eventually appear in classic Southern Railway green livery.

Meet the stakeholder manager

The next public meeting of the Shrewsbury-Chester Rail Users Association will be on Monday, 22 November at St Mary's Catholic Club, Regent St, Wrexham starting at 7.30pm. The speaker will be Ben Davies, ATW's Stakeholder Manager North, with the subject as "Railways in Wales - Going Forward", giving a positive message. Followed by a question & answer session. Visitors are welcome to join SCRUA members at this meeting.

Metrolink Matters

Interesting developments are in progress on Manchester's Metrolink tram system. The new short branch from the Eccles line to the new MediaCityUK broadcasting complex opened on 20 September, and closed again on 22 September after a minor mishap at the junction. It opened again a week later: above, on 23 October car 3008 stands in the new station, with the new buildings looming behind. The station also serves The Lowry arts and entertainment centre: it was originally planned for the branch to terminate outside The Lowry, and the junctions for the branch were laid in at the time the Eccles line were being built, but in the event the terminus has been slightly relocated.

3008 heads back up the branch before turning left for Broadway and the street-running towards Eccles. At present the branch is served in the daytime only, by Piccadilly - Eccles services doing a 'double run' with the help of the triangular junction. At the time of our visit it appeared that 'pilotman' working was being used on the single-line branch, with a member of staff travelling on each trip to act as 'token.' A ride from Manchester to MediaCityUK, though the Salford Quays area, is full of interest, and is recommended. There are some shops, and the Imperial War Museum North is a little further on past the Lowry across the ship canal footbridge. A tip: if arriving from North Wales at Manchester Piccadilly, the quickest way to the tram station is to take the lift up to the lounge where in the corner behind the 'Costa' stall is a lift which will take you down to the taxi area on Fairfield Street. This has a doorway direct to the Metrolink departure platform.

Another change made at the same time as the opening of the new branch was that G-Mex station (named after the name given in the 1980s to the old Manchester Central station, now a conference centre) was renamed to Deansgate-Castlefield. Above, 3012 is seen departing for Piccadilly, with the old station's impressive roof visible in the left background. The exhibition and conference complex itself is now called ... Manchester Central.

Meanwhile, construction proceeds on another new section, to Chorlton-cum-Hardy and East Didsbury. Greg Mape was on the spot on 7 October to witness the entry into engineering service of Sentinel 0-4-0 diesel shunter Enterprise, brought by road from the Ribble Steam Railway at Preston Docks where it is one of a fleet of three normally employed hauling the trains of bitumen tanks from Lindsey Oil Refinery, taking over at the exchange sidings from a DB Schenker loco. The loco looks quite modern, but was in fact built 42 years ago.

It has been fitted with Metrolink-standard Scharfenberg-style couplers, to match Metrolink's other service vehicles.

Also in use on the relaying and ballasting work are road-rail vehicles hired from amusingly-named local firm Shovlin Plant Hire (Greg Mape)

This is the view towards the island-platform station, to be called 'Chorlton High' after a nearby school, being constructed at the St Werburghs Road bridge  This is to be the terminus of the first phase, although following the release of further funds track-laying is now continuing behind the camera towards East Didsbury. The 'Fallowfield Loop' cycle route crosses the line on the level just beyond the station and continues behind the trees on the formation of the line to Fairfield via Levenshulme South which branched off the main line at this point.

A wider-angle view of the same scene. The tramway is being built on the formation of what was once part of the Midland Railway's main line from London St Pancras to Manchester Central, a burrowing junction with the Altrincham line having been created at the point where that route passed under that route near Trafford Bar station. (Greg Mape)

Things don't always go according to plan on lines with street-running sections: on 30 October your editor was returning from the Rawtenstall Model Railway show aboard the 17:12 Bury - Manchester Piccadilly when, just after departing from Market Street station in Manchester city centre, we felt something of a 'crunch' followed by a sudden stop as the centre bogie of the articulated tram took a different path from the leading bogie. After a few minutes those who felt able were permitted to lower ourselves to ground level through an open pair of doors, as can be seen in the picture above.

The view from the other side, showing Market Street station and Debenhams' store. These facing junction points are powered; they change as required having picked up the destination from a transponder under the car, being timed to change just ahead of the arrival of the tram to avoid trapping any pedestrians.  The cause of the mishap is unknown, but maybe some obstruction in the flangeway caused the motion to be delayed until one bogie had passed through? Trams for Piccadilly can take either of these routes.

Birkenhead trams - report by Tim Fenton

This year's Wirral Bus and Tram event was held on Sunday 3 October, with the morning marred by heavy rain. Fortunately this cleared around lunchtime and there was even a little sunshine later on. The same quartet of trams as last year was running. Above, the museum's Hong Kong-built car is seen en route from Woodside, having had a "150 years of Birkenhead Tramways" advert added (and 15 years since the present tramway opened).

Here's Wallasey 78, carrying a side banner celebrating fifty years of the Merseyside Tramway Preservation Society (MTPS).

Doing the Round Robin - with Gary Thomas

In late August, myself and three friends decided we would attempt the "Ffestiniog Round Robin" before the close of the summer season. So after checking diaries we agreed on Saturday 16 October in the full knowledge that we would be taking a chance on the weather. Having got up at 4.45 and each driving at least 30 minutes to meet Watford Junction we boarded the 06:37 (06:20 from London Euston) to Birmingham New Street.

As the sun rose it was clear it would be a beautiful day. After arriving at
Birmingham New Street on time we had 40 minutes for a light breakfast before getting the 08:24 to Porthmadog which consisted of two Class 158 units. After reversing at Shrewsbury and passing a couple of the massively under used 97/3's at Coleham Depot we settled into our trip to Porthmadog.

Having originally been advised that we were in the correct unit for Pwllheli we were advised near Machynlleth that both units would be going through to Aberystwyth.

So most of the train got off at Machynlleth to change for a single 158 unit through to Pwllheli, leaving a practically empty train going to Aberystwyth. Typical Arriva Trains Wales logic! At least we had a few minutes to enjoy the fresh air and clear sky.

So back on the train and the weather just got better and better, as the two views above, taken from the Barmouth Bridge show. It was the first time (after many attempts) I've been on the bridge in sunshine!

We arrived at Porthmadog on time at 12:47 and strolled over to the Ffestiniog Railway's Harbour station, via the "famous" Allports Fish and Chip shop.This is a take-away only, but fortunately we were able to sit down and eat our lunch on the 13:35 Ffestiniog Railway service to Blaenau Ffestiniog. By this time it had started to cloud over, but our trip with Earl of Merioneth was still enjoyable and it was good to see the train full, though what would they do without all the pre-arranged coach-loads of holiday makers?

At Tan-Y-Bwlch (above) we passed 1879-built Merddin Emrys on the
13.40 from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog.

We arrived at Blaenau Ffestiniog in time for the 14.57 to Llandudno. We got on the single car Class 153 and at first thought we would have plenty of room to  stretch out. How wrong we were. The unit was full on leaving Blaenau with one of coach groups who had just travelled the Ffestiniog Railway. It got worse at  Betws-Y-Coed, as the pictures show. Almost all the people who got on at Betws-y-Coed were elderly, no doubt taking advantage of free Senior Citizen travel. We gave our seats up; we were the only people to do so and those even younger than ourselves who didn't should be ashamed of themselves! The coach party got off at Llandudno Junction and back to the luxury of their air-conditioned coach. I never thought I'd say this, but it did look quite appealing at this stage, though coach companies might want to consider arranging the trips during the week. We arrived at Llandudno on time at 16:09.

As someone who was born in Bangor and brought up near Llandudno (above) it always saddens me when I arrive at the station. Although it was sunny I couldn't bring myself to take a photo of the station. Much is written about how bleak Wakefield Kirkgate is, but in my view Llandudno is one of the worse stations in the whole country. Walls are part fallen-down and old ironwork from the original train shed is left to rot on the floor. Llandudno is one of the premier resorts in the UK and Conwy County  Borough Council (CCBC) and Network Rail simply don't recognise (or care?) what an appalling first impression this makes. While I'm ranting, CCBC still don't seem to want to employ street cleaners at weekends, bins along Mostyn Street were overflowing despite the enormous bins! As a native I felt personally responsible for the negative comments my friends made.

Llandudno was hosting a stage of the Cambrian Rally - an old Saab was about to leave as we walked up the promenade.

After 90 minutes at Llandudno (above) we left on a 3-coach Class 175 for Warrington Bank Quay for a five-minute connection for a Pendolino back to Watford Junction. I got home at 21:45, some 17 hours after I first got up that morning. Beyond the mostly excellent weather, other positives included the timekeeping which was immaculate all day, though Virgin Trains should stop putting in so much recovery time on their trains. Our service was scheduled to take 90 minutes to travel from Glasgow Central to Carlisle and 2 hours 15 from Warrington Bank Quay to London Euston with stops at Milton Keynes at Watford Junction. This is 30 minutes more than the non-stop service takes during the week. Another positive was the price - £7 from Watford Junction to Birmingham New Street, £31 for the Ffestiniog Round Robin ticket (which we used through to Chester) and £12 for Chester to Watford Junction via Warrington Bank Quay.

Apart from Llandudno station the state of the Arriva's stock really concerns me - the 158's are beyond tired (especially the toilets with standard damp floors) and our 175 wasn't much better. I was recently in South Wales and the stock is similar there. This is in stark contrast to other operators - clearly this isn't a priority for Arriva or the Welsh Assembly Government. [Something is to happen to the 158s soon. - Ed.] Despite the niggles a great day was had by all and I hope it has inspired others to make the trip, though to repeat our marathon you'll now have to wait until next year!

Back to Nature

The sidings behind Platform 4 at Llandudno Junction are claimed by DB Schenker as their exclusive domain, and to prove it a rake of wagons was left there a some years ago under the EWS régime and has not moved since, as nature slowly encroaches. Apparently local rail staff, having observed a fox, rabbits and other wildlife, have declared it a nature reserve...

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