Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

15 November 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

November 2010

Tuesday 16 November North Wales Railway Circle Dafydd Jones: W.H.R, East German & Czech Republic railway footage
(Change of programme.)

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.

66 593 and train seen loading stone for Guide Bridge at Penmaenmawr quarry, 3 November. Image made by Eifion Hughes using High Dynamic Range techniques.

North Wales Railway Circle
The North Wales Railway Circle meeting on Tuesday 16 November has a change of speaker - see the left-hand column for details.

Trouble at 't Mill
Drivers working for Arriva Trains Wales are to stage a series of strikes later this month in a 'row over pay' as the Shropshire Star puts it. Aslef says its 470 members will strike on Friday November 19 (the day of a rugby march in Cardiff), then November 26 and 27, with other dates for action to be announced later. The Rail Maritime and Transport union announced it would ballot its driver members at the company for strikes.

There have already been problems on recent Sundays, with drivers deciding not to work these days, as is allowed by their contracts. We are told that 'talks are continuing' - let us hope they succeed.

Pendolino problems, 13 November

Observers will have noted that on Saturday 13 November the usual Saturday working by a Class 57 and Pendolino to Holyhead was replaced by a Class 221 Voyager. The sad tale behind this started when the 05:55 Manchester - London train, formed of a Class 390, failed a couple of miles into its journey, soon after passing the Alstom depot at Longsight where these units are maintained. It was decided to obtain a Class 57 diesel to attempt to move the stranded unit, but although such a machine was available at Longsight depot, there new no suitably-qualified drivers on hand, so the 57 which was on standby duty an hour away at Preston - which later in the day usually works the Holyhead service - was sent for as the passengers waited, some of them perhaps patiently.

Unfortunately, when the loco arrived, it was found that because the problem was related to the train's braking system, it still could not be moved.  Eventually, as other trains passed on the adjacent slow lines, some passengers took things into their own hands and used the emergency door controls to leave the train, and after (we understand) three hours, an official evacuation of the train was organised ... mean while repairs to the brake systems were carried out on site, and at around mid-day the train was finally moved.

In theory, it might have been possible to use another Pendolino to move the failed train, or even a Voyager, as tests of such moves have been carried out according to reports in the railway press. However, tests and real-life situations are not always quite the same ... since then, both 14 and 15 November have seen problems on the southern section of the West Coast Main Line, with trains running over an hour late.  Not a good week for Virgin Trains so far.

More flask variety

More ringing the changes by DRS on 15 November when 37 038 and 20 303 worked the Valley flask train, seen at Valley (above, by Nick Gurney) and approaching Llandudno Junction (below, by Gary Jones)

Porthmadog Flat Crossing

In your last update we asked if anybody knew how the crossing at Cae Pawb, where the Welsh Highland Railway crosses the Cambrian Coast line on the level, is worked within the new ERTMS system. Phil Brown,  Deputy Operating Manager of the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways, the one operating it during the Supporters Day trains of the WHR to Porthmadog, kindly send the following details:
The system is regarded as a ground frame (such as is used to access sidings at various stations) by Machynlleth Signalling Control Centre (SCC), and the Welsh Highland Railway operates over it just as any other train requiring to use a ground frame would.  A member of staff will arrive at the crossing about ten minutes in advance of the train arriving. They will then phone Machynlleth SCC to gain permission to open the panel providing there are no trains about.

When a WHR train approaches the crossing a siren sounds and the person at the crossing will ask the SCC if it is possible to use the crossing for about five minutes.  Providing this is agreed a "request" is made to the ERTMS system to gain a release of the ground frame.  Once this has been done, any National Rail service will automatically be held at the block markers either side of the crossing.  The appropriate switches for points and signals are then used for the train to pass over. Once the train is clear, the crossing is automatically "returned" to Machynlleth by the system and WHR staff phone the SCC to confirm.

Anglesey Aluminium goes by sea - report by 'Corrie'

Since closure of the smelting plant at Anglesey Aluminium in autumn 2009 the  facility has continued to re-melt aluminium, producing billets of the metal. Unfortunately, none of the finished product has left the plant by rail, being removed to customers by road and sea. Above, the Belgian-registered freighter MV Mariaburg (1372 gross tonnes) is seen in Holyhead Harbour being loaded on 19 October.

HSS Stena Explorer berthed opposite on the same day.

The following day saw the arrival of the MV Wilson Gijon. From local enquiries this ship had arrived from Iceland and rather than being loaded was being unloaded of its cargo of rolled ingot which was destined for the re-melt facility to manufacture billet.

31 October marked the first anniversary of the last train to and from Anglesey Aluminium, memorably hauled by 37 425 and 37 401, seen setting set out from Holyhead to the Aluminium Works on 31 October 2009.

End of season at Llangollen - report by George Jones

The public train service came to an end at Llangollen on 7 November, with BR 4MT 2-6-4T 80072 in steam. Above, the tank is seen running round at Llangollen prior to taking out the 3pm departure for Carrog as the last train of the summer season. The next trains will be Santa Specials starting on 27 November running through weekends to 18 December and ending Christmas Eve. Mince Pie Specials then run from Boxing Day through to  2 January as 11am, 1pm and 3pm departures. See the Llangollen Railway website for details.

Picture miscellany, 6 November

66 101 leads the Rail Head Treatment Train as it water-jets past RAF Valley on 6 November (Corrie)

66 105, seen at Holyhead, is coated in grime thrown up by the water jets - highlighted by the Autumn sunlight (Corrie).

66 105 is on the rear, passing Penmaenmawr station eastbound on 6 November (Darren Durrant)

57 307 Lady Penelope departs Llandudno Junction with the Saturday afternoon train to London, 6 November, formed of 390 030 (Darren Durrant)

The whole train in view as it heads under Queens Road bridge (Stéphanie Durrant). When running forwards from London to Crewe with the flap over the coupler raised, as they do, do these trains present the regulation amount of yellow front end?

Approaching Valley (Corrie).

Four men go to Fishguard - report by George Jones

Four of us old 'uns decided to maximise use of our Club 55 tickets and head to the end of the line at Fishguard. For me it started at Wrexham on the 07:23 WSMR service which was formed with their reserve set of coaches propelled by the DB Schenker celebrity 67 018 Keith Heller seen (above) at the north end.

82304 was leading, with the buffet coach in silver livery.

At Shrewsbury the 'WAG Express' made a convenient connection to meet up with the rest of the party coming round in style from Chester. 57 315 is seen arriving in platform 4 whilst the WSMR train departed from platform 7.

57 315 had us into Cardiff on time - rather wet and windy for a while but cheered up to provide a blue sky day in South Wales.

had an hour to wait here for the train to Fishguard Harbour and took in the diverse train scene - not all Arriva Trains Wales. Above First Great Western three-car 158 950 to Portsmouth Harbour waits empty in platform 2.

66 144 comes through light-engine with one of many Class 150 movements alongside.

The boat train, 10:54 to Fishguard, was formed by a 150 unit which arrived as a twosome. The west end set formed the 10:51 to Treherbert and the rear set for Fishguard was kept locked out until the former was due to depart. With a good crowd of travellers heading for Southern Ireland we watched the conductor slap reservations on many seats and a last-minute opening of doors led to a scramble to secure seats - our desired set of four at a table was already reserved so we had to split up, but all got window seats at least.

Departing Cardiff 4 minutes down, I caught 66 162 heading west with coal hoppers as we left.

The boat train ran fast using the Swansea District line beyond Briton Ferry and the friendly ATW trolley lady explained some of the rail complications in this district, as well as dispensing drinks, a nice input. There is a stop a Llanelli and then a further fast run around the low-lying Carmarthen Bay, taking the avoiding line as part of the triangle to reach Whitland and then a token was taken at Clarbeston Road as we took the single-line section for Fishguard. This was new territory for me, and the route is through rolling countryside but the views are restricted by rampant lineside growth, so not as interesting as it might have been have there been a better view.

With little left of the former local stations and branch line options to identify progress we suddenly emerged into a wide landscape with Fishguard bay dominating and the end of the line at Fishguard harbour.

We were into Fishguard Harbour early which allowed a little more time that the scheduled 15 mins for a quick look around. 150 284 is seen here alongside the single platform with passengers gathered off the ferry.

Seen from further back, the 150 looks lonesome in the large station which once saw direct boat train services from Paddington. The station has an overall roof,  but the seaward side has lost its track in favour of the harbourside passenger facilities.

The ferry alongside was Stena Europe.

In a glass case was a model of an earlier ferry, the St David which dated from 1947 - I bet some unpleasant crossings were endured in this un-stabilised vessel!

The ferry was busy loading but the bulk of the traffic was road-borne. both cars and lorries.  with the train providing a small minority of the passenger load. The blue notice guards the level crossing - I believe the harbour station is not part of the Network Rail network, retaining its ownership by the ferry operator. Beyond the level crossing there was once an extensive fan of sidings. but all the space now lost to the road.

Our return run left at 13:27 and included a run in to Carmarthen station for a 6-minute stopover, then fast to Llanelli and on to Cardiff. The Corus Tinplate works at Llanelli had at least one train of coils lined up but also a lot of redundant wagons and vans lost in the vegetation of the sidings. Port Talbot and Margam steelworks revealed a fleet of class 09s and an occasional 66 hiding amongst the vast yards but not much movement.

At Cardiff Canton D444 was on shed,  with a Network Rail class 121 single car unit. Here we saw the 'WAG Express' proceeding empty into the station from the depot but we ran alongside and were into the station in ample time to make a cross-platform connection. Seats on the train had a heavy dose of reservations but there was no problem in gaining a table on the Mark 2 stock. Departure was at 16:16 and the train was well-loaded but after a stop at Newport the load dispersed a little at Cwmbran and Abergavenny before a fast non-stop run  to Shrewsbury where I left the train.

The 18:35 ATW class 158 had me home on time at 19:02 after seeing the Colas 66 power the logs south to Chirk. Noted at Kronospan was a start on tracklaying in the new siding space. Good trip when all trains ran to time and the £13 fare (it would be £15 without a senior railcard) proved to be excellent value! Pembroke Dock next, perhaps.

'Club 55' cheap return tickets for people ages 55 and over continue until 11 December: see the Arriva Trains Wales website for details.

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