Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

20 December 2010

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Contributions and comments are encouraged: see the Contributions Page

This site is dedicated to all our regular contributors and supporters, and especially the all rail staff of North Wales.

Forthcoming events

January 2011

Friday 7 January   Clwyd Railway Circle  Tony Harrison: Trains Around the World. - Since retiring in 2000, Tony has travelled extensively around the world in pursuit of steam. This is his first visit and his presentations have received impressive reviews from other railway societies. 

Friday 14 January Altrincham Electric Railway Preservation Society
50 YEARS OF THE CRICH TRAMWAY MUSEUM a colour slide presentation by Mike Crabtree
Monday 17 January  RCTS Chester Tony Icke: WESTERN & WESSEX WANDERINGS. A slide show mainly from the 1960’s from 
Crewe to the Isle of Wight via western  routes, Swindon and the S&D.

Thursday 27 January  Merseyside Railway History Group Geoff Pickard: Railways around Saltney

See the Calendar page for more details.

New A1 Pacific 60163 Tornado worked a 'Cathedrals Express' excursion to Chester on 11 December. Above, the outbound train passes Wardle, going well and on time with a 13-coach load (John Beresford).

Season's Greetings

This will be the last update before another Christmas is upon us: very best wishes to all our readers and contributors, and of course all the railway staff of North Wales. - Charlie

Ieuan Air Grounded

The passenger flights between Anglesey Airport and Cardiff were suspended on 17 December. The airport shares its runway with RAF  Valley which is used to train fast jet pilots for the Air Force and two training schools, advanced jets and weapons training. This operation has shut down for the Christmas period. Fire cover and air traffic services have been downgraded as a result, so for safety reasons passenger flights cannot use the facilities.
The twice-weekday flights will resume on January 4.

Winter scenes

The Penmaenmawr - Guide Bridge stone train has not run very often in recent weeks -  maybe the Metrolink people had a backlog of ballast - but it did run on 15 December, as pictured above soon after leaving Penmaenmawr with 66 561 (Darren Durrant)

Winter sunshine on 17 December as 67 006 (67 008 on the rear) with the 'Northern Belle' circular service from Liverpool passes a chilly Frodsham at 12:18 (Stavros Lainas).

142 048 heading for Stockport and Manchester from Chester via Altrincham on a snowy Saturday afternoon 18 December. Taken by Greg Mape from Southmoor Road bridge, Baguley, Manchester.

Snow on the Cambrian: two delayed trains passing in Barmouth
station around 08:30 on 18 December in unfamiliar snow at such a low-altitude location.

On the same morning, Dave Sallery captured this image from Welsh Highland Heritage Railway's webcam showing to be the 07:25 Pwllheli to Birmingham International, which was started at Porthmadog at 08:48, passing alongside the WHHR's station.

Things were not going too well on the North Wales Coast line on the morning of 18 December: the 06:55 Holyhead - London, formed of 221 142, came to a stand within sight of the passengers waiting at Flint station, as pictured above by Shaun Stanley.

It was stranded for over 90 minutes, blocking all eastbound train services. Passengers at Flint were told that a fitter was travelling from Crewe to repair the train, as Shaun Stanley made his way along the woodland footpath for a closer look.

The engine was running, staff were on the line, and the cab door was open (Shaun Stanley)

On the Chester Wheel - with Geoff Morris

As part of its Christmas festivities, a large wheel (like the London Eye) has been erected in the Castle Grounds at Chester . A couple of shots of it are attached. The daytime one (above) was taken from the racecourse. The large round building alongside houses an hotel, apartments and Cheshire West Council Offices. It was built on the site of the old Cheshire Police Headquarters.

The wheel is visible from the railway line as it crosses the Roodee viaduct and so, I reasoned, must be a potential photographic vantage point. Unfortunately when you ride it you cannot guarantee getting a train passing when your cabin is high enough to see the railway above the trees & the hotel complex. So if you take a ride to try to get train photos you can only go at an appropriate time and take a chance. The Voyager is on the 09:10 Euston - Holyhead.

The 158s are on services between Holyhead & Birmingham International. My first ride on the wheel a couple of weeks ago was totally unsuccessful - trains did pass but my cabin was too low to get any photos. I tried again last Friday with much better luck, as seen here.

The picture above of a 158 was taken just before the cabin dropped below the tree line and illustrate the luck needed to get a clear shot.

The wheel looks even better at night.

The last 11:27 to Wrexham and 15:25 return

A victim of Wrexham & Shropshire's cutbacks, the final 11:27 London Marylebone to Wrexham prepares to leave Marylebone on 10 December behind 67 014 Thomas Telford (Picture by Gary Nightingale). There are now just three W&S trains each day in each direction in the timetable; in fact the company has decided that due to adverse weather conditions only two pairs of trains will be running from 20 to 24 December, the 05:10 and 07:23 from Wrexham and the 16:30 and 18:30 from London. See their website for full information.

Also abolished is the 15:25 from Wrexham: George Jones captured the last run, on 10 December, crossing Cefn Viaduct.

Shipping at Port Penrhyn - report by Eifion Hughes

Above, seen at Port Penrhyn is the dredger City of Cardiff,  built in 1997 by Appledore Shipbuilders which visits the quay two or three times a week unloading sand which is then taken away by lorries. Can anyone tell us more about this operation?

York Yuletide fiasco - report by David Hennessey

This year's 'York Yuletide Express' excursion from Liverpool Lime Street to York on 12 December, with LMS Black Five 44871, turned out to be a major 'farce.' At  the advertised departure time from LIverpool of 10:00, the empty train (44871, support coach and stock) was still sat at Crewe because the West Coast Railways 47 500 - required to bring the train into Liverpool and travel on the rear in case of problems -  had failed with brake problems. As a consequence, West Coast decided to call on the services of Virgin Trains: Arriva Trains Wales liveried, but un-branded 57 313 was at Edge Hill at the time (possibly resting there after the weekend Holyhead Pendolino drag), and was summoned to rescue the train. Above, it is seen rolling into platform 9 at Lime Street with the train of the West Coast Railway's Mk1/Mk2 stock (including one Pullman liveried Mk2 Kitchen car).

Above, 44871 standing underneath the signalbox finally ready to leave. Sadly, by the time the train arrived in Liverpool Lime Street and departed at around 13:00 in the afternoon (just about three hours late), the day had pretty much gone out of the window and a lengthy stop outside Dewsbury, due to a trespass incident, didn't help matters either. Arrival in York was around 17:30, and the train left again behind 57 313, as  44871 had to be left behind for operational reasons, at around 19:30.
More pictures (including night time shots in York) can be found on my website

Llangollen Santa Steam

Two views of the Llangollen Railway 'Santa Specials' of 12 December between Glyndyfwrdwy and Carrog. The day was one of frost, lifting mist, sunshine and long plumes of steam hanging in the still air.
2-8-0 3802 (above, picture by John Beresford) powered the 11am train.

2-6-4T 80072 hauled the 11:45; this train was running  late  and the crew were making an effort to catch a little time up as can be seen (Joy Beresford)

More strikes loom

Those Arriva Trains Wales drivers who are members of the RMT union have voted overwhelmingly for strike action in a dispute over pay and conditions. The Rail Maritime and Transport union said its members backed industrial action by 85%.

General secretary Bob Crow told the press: 'RMT has rejected a paltry offer from the company that would have left our members out of pocket and which was loaded with strings. Our members would have ended up with inferior working conditions for a de facto pay cut. Arriva Trains Wales have shown us in the clearest possible terms that they have no wish to properly reward the hard work and loyalty to the staff and are motivated solely by the drive for bigger profits to line the pockets of the shareholders, and that is why we have balloted for industrial action and why our members have delivered this overwhelming mandate.'

A spokeswoman for Arriva said: 'We are surprised and disappointed that the RMT has chosen to ballot for industrial action, based on a previous pay offer which has since been superseded by a significantly improved offer. 'ATW train drivers are represented by two trade unions which are Aslef and RMT. ASLEF has recommended the latest pay offer to its members for acceptance.'

The division of train drivers between two unions is somewhat anomalous, and it's odd to hear of Mr Crow talking about 'shareholders' in this context, as Arriva's shareholders since the takeover by Deutsche Bahn are in fact the entire population of Germany.

Elsewhere, a 'row' between RMT members on Northern Rail's conductors and their management over which days over Christmas should qualify for extra pay has resulted in a strike being announced for 27 and 28 December.  The RMT said the rail company should pay double time for the days as they are replacement holidays for Christmas Day and Boxing Day, which fall this weekend. However, Northern Rail say that previous negotiations had led to an agreement in which staff waived such holiday pay in return for other benefits.

It seems to be the case recently on our local railways that strikes are announced, and then cancelled again once the publicity has scared off a few prospective customers. We'll have to see what happens this time.

158 refurbishment dispute rolls on
From the Daily Post, 6 December:

Rail watchdogs have described the refurbishment of trains on a mid-Wales line as “not fit for purpose”. Arriva Trains Wales (ATW) operates two carriage Class 158 diesel trains on the Cambrian Coast line from Pwllheli to Machynlleth and onwards towards Shrewsbury – one of the most scenic routes in Britain. But concerned travellers believe the Welsh Assembly-funded refurbishment will lead to half the table seats obstructed by the window pillars.

The plans also involve rearranging airline-style seats to reduce legroom and make space for new signalling equipment, plus an extra wheelchair space, for the same seating capacity. Gareth Marston, chairman of the Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth Rail Passenger Association (SARPA), said: 'Tellingly it appears there was no passenger consultation over the plans. Passenger Focus, the official passenger body, was not formally consulted and had no direct input into the plans. Similarly it is understood ATW train crew themselves were not consulted. Despite representations, the plan to make changes that will damage the travelling experience on these trains is set to plough ahead. Small traders, who benefit from visitors to the mid Wales coast attracted by the scenic train ride, are shocked a plan that will be off- putting for visitors to the region has even been contemplated.'

SARPA and other rail users are now calling for the plans to be halted and for Arriva Trains Wales to constructively look at other examples of Class 158 refurbishment, especially that carried out by ScotRail for the scenic lines in the Scottish Highlands. It's common sense – if you add extra space taking features into an existing design, and then try and keep the same number of seats, something has to give.We would rather see a small number of seats sacrificed rather than overall passenger comfort. The journey time between Aberystwyth and Birmingham is nearly three hours. It's a long distance to be crushed up with no view out the window.'

An ATW spokesman said: 'One of the priorities for the 158 refurbishment project has been to optimise seating capacity and comfort, while also delivering improvements in terms of disabled access. To comply with Disability Accessibility Legislation the refurbished units will have two wheelchair spaces available, as well as 16 new priority seats providing additional legroom for those with reduced mobility.'

Berwyn Memories - review by George Jones

Here is the cover of Berwyn Memories the latest compilation by Paul Lawton covering stations on the Llangollen Railway. Soft-backed, with 48 pages it covers not just the immediate area of Berwyn station but also the nearby locations of Llantysilio, Chain Bridge Hotel and the Oernant Tramway at Pentrefelin. A well-researched and written social history of the area involving the railway, river Dee, Llangollen canal and A5 road with a useful collection of archive photos and supplementary illustrations of maps, timetables and tickets etc relative to this attractive area in the Dee Valley.

Available at £4.50, and a good stocking filler for the guy who has most things. This is the fourth and final volume of a planned series, the others being: Carrog - A Welsh Country Station; Glyndyfrdwy & Its Railways; Llangollen Stations - A History. Available from Llangollen Railway shops.

Tornado at Chester

A selection of pictures from our Chester correspondents on the occasion of Tornado's visit on 11 December. Above, arrival at Chester (Glyn Jones)

Follwing the fire in the Enterprise Centre which affected the area normally used for steam loco servicing, Alstom voluntereered the use of their Class 175 depot for the purpose (Glyn Jones).

Coaling, with spectators in attendance! (Glyn Jones)

The locomotive carries the LNER appled Green with British Railways lettering, as it would have had it entered service shortly after nationalisation in 1948. Picture by Neil Kennedy.

The crew confer (Neil Kennedy)

The plaque below the nameplate commemorates the naming ceremony carried out by the Prince of Wales.

A good word must be put in for the ATW station staff who tolerated the enthusiast invasion, and especially the station announcer Andy whose commentary entered into the spirit of the occasion! Much appreciated by those present. (Picture by Neil Kennedy)

And finally: the 'Booking Office Belle' (Neil Kennedy)

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