Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

03 January 2011

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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.

30 December 2000: Train 1D71 arrives at Bangor behind 37 429 Eisteddfod Genedlaethol, with 'Dave Trains' at the controls, as 'Hippo' 175 011 waits departure of the 15:15 to Llandudno. Picture by Rowan Crawshaw.

The Last Thrash: a memory of ten years ago - by 'Dave Trains'

30 December 2010 marked The tenth anniversary of the end of regular Class 37 passenger working in North Wales. I was the driver who worked 1D71 from Chester to Holyhead on that sad day and this is my account of the final trip.

30 December 2000 was a cold day with a blanket of snow, To me and many other railfans it was to be a sad day on the North Wales Coast as the last official run of a class 37 working a regular passenger service.  I happened to be rostered for Holyhead turn 1104 (08:24-15:37),work 1A38 the 09:19 Virgin service Holyhead to Crewe, then passenger to Chester to work 1D71, the 13:39, back to Holyhead, my last 81 miles of class 37 driving.

Well, arrangements were made to borrow the 'Irish Mail' headboard from Holyhead shunter Garnedd Jones. A quick call to control at Manchester - "Hey, Dave Trains here,  last 37 down the coast today. OK to put the Irish mail headboard on it?". Well we all knew the answer. 1A38 was cancelled so it was passenger to Chester to await 1D71's arrival.

In she came, 37 429 Eisteddfod Genedlaethol with Chester driver Shaun Jordan. "Last one, Dave  - load 6 - might have guessed you be on it" he said as we exchanged keys.  I sat down, got settled, got the tip from the guard then said "Hey girl here we go for the last time, 81 miles and counting down."

Off we went into the setting western sun - got her up to 75 miles an hour (good girl keep going) shut off and carried out a running brake test, then opened her up again just a normal run down The Coast but it was the very last one.

First stop Prestatyn 14:31, jumped out on to the old down platform and took my pictures, got the tip, opened her up to see if I could hit 65 mph before the down distant signal at Rhyl, rolled into Rhyl at 14.38, another photo stop -  by now people were getting off the train and forming a line by me to get their shots.

Off we go again: the sun sets even further into the west and I look back to 21 March 1997, when I passed out on 37 408 as a driver, seems like five minutes ago, we stop at the Bay then the Junction for more photo stops. Well, 39 miles to go, let's enjoy it, through the Conway tube I sound the horn continuously for the last time and scatter the seagulls.

Bangor at 15:16 - another photo stop, we take our time as the Chargeman  blows his whistle and the guard frantically paces up and down shutting doors. "We are late" he says, my reply "time does not count when history is being made". Off we go with the cab window open, one final growl through Belmont tunnel over the bridge, off the 40 mph speed restriction, I open her up, Gaerwen distant is off, shut off for the 60mph at Tai Line, open her up again for the last thrash down Llangaffo bank, up through Bodorgan tunnel, over the top by Ty Croes, then ease her down for the run to Holyhead. We roll into Holyhead number 3 platform, meet many friends and get my picture taken.

Run her round for 1K73 back to Crewe, get relieved by Holyhead driver Bob Higgins and it's all over, no more ringing control to find out what's working today, no more maybe a 37/0, 37/5, 37/7, today. Part of my daily life for the past three-an-a-half years has come to an end, its like losing someone you love, never to be replaced.

Ten Years Ago - from the Archives

To mark the anniversary, we reproduce below our report from the 31 December 2000 Notice Board:

Saturday 30 December 2000: 37 429 + 6 Riviera Trains coaches

[engine and empty stock Crewe - Holyhead previous night]
02.09 Holyhead to Birmingham NS   1G76
05.31 Birmingham NS to Holyhead   1D57
08.53 Holyhead to Birmingham NS   1G96
12.07 Birmingham NS to Holyhead   1D71
15.58 Holyhead to Crewe           1K73

Our first picture, by John Humphries, shows 37 429 Eisteddfod Genedlaethol departing from Rhyl with the 08:53 Holyhead - Birmingham; some of the passengers had started with the 02:09 and were on their second eastbound trip by now.

John Skipsey captures 429 entering Chester with the 08:53 from Holyhead, running 40 minutes late at this stage, probably due to the freezing cold weather. It was pleasing that 429, the last loco in service in Regional Railways livery, was available for use, following a request on behalf of our readers; not having worked since 23 December there was some doubt as to whether it would start on the day. Thanks to First North Western and EWS for arranging this.

On arrival at Wolverhampton (picture Rob Morel) it was decided to cancel the rest of the run to Birmingham and run round for the return to Holyhead to get back on time. The train started back from here at 12:54 compared to its booked Wolverhampton time of 12:29. By this time a nicely-made 'Farewell 37's North Wales' headboard had been attached....

... and at Chester on 1G96 'The Irish Mail' headboard owned by one of the rail staff at Holyhead was also added. The picture by John Humphries shows the train arriving at Rhyl, still 40 late.

The traditional ritual of the locomotive run-round at Holyhead, one of just a handful of places in the UK where this still goes on, and indeed will continue for a while as some Virgin trains (if they ever reappear) are booked for Class 47 haulage. (Rowan Crawshaw)

429 proceeds along the loop at Holyhead before coupling back to the coaches and departing as the 15:58 to Crewe, now nearly back on time. (Rowan Crawshaw)

The 15:58 Holyhead - Crewe, the last scheduled Class 37/4 working for First North Western, calls at Bangor as the light fades. Rowan Crawshaw heads home after his last ride.

I [Charlie Hulme] boarded this train at Prestatyn for the ride into Crewe, to cries of 'knobhead' from the drunken window-hangers who seem to have been attracted by these trains recently.

Ian Bowland's picture captures the crowd scene on the final arrival at Crewe. The sheer number of railfan travellers surprised everyone. After much flashing of lights, and heckling the driver to get him to make a noisy start, the empty train ran to the end of the platform and then away to the Carriage Sidings.

As we approached Crewe, the guard announced over the PA - 'For all those of you who like Class 37s, I'll be back!' Well, we'll see... certainly First North Western have arranged to retain these coaches and one EWS locomotive as a standby to cover for any Class 175 shortages until March.

And indeed events took a hand, Virgin Trains continued to cancel all their North Wales Trains and a 37/4 'standby diagram' was reinstated to handle the Irish ferry passenger traffic and cover for any shortage of the new 175s. This standby train was used for the last time on 20 January, again with 37 429. Virgin re-started their London trains from 22 January, and early in February First North Western cancelled their contract with Riviera Trains to supply coaches.  37/4 haulage continued in South Wales, and on the Fort William portion of the Caledonian Sleeper - the latter for several years.

This website was created to celebrate the 37-hauled trains on The Coast, and I had every intention of closing it down when the last 37 ran ... but somehow it never happened! Thanks as always to everyone who has supported us over the years, especially the rail staff among our readers and contributors.

Portillo is back

Michael Portillo starts a new series of his Great British Railway Journeys on 3 January, Mondays - Fridays 18:30 - 19:00 on BBC2 TV for five weeks starting in Brighton. The main interest for North Wales readers is in the second week: Monday 10 January - Ledbury to Shrewsbury, Tuesday 11 - Telford to Wrexham, Wednesday 12 - Chester to Conwy, Thursday 13 - Llanrwst - Porthmadog, Friday 14 - Llanberis - Holyhead.

The first series of programmes came in for some criticism from the railfan world, for not enough train scenes and so-called 'continuity errors in which, for example, the train seen from the helicopter was not the same class as the one MP in which was seen travelling, but these programmes are for the general public, and to always get the same type of train in shot would clearly need a much greater budget than is available for a programme of this sort.

That 'unusually high passenger flow'  - report by Leslie Fletcher

I travelled on 21 December from East Didsbury via Crewe and Llandudno Junction to Dolwyddelan. Arriving at Crewe on time at 10.46, I was not expecting to catch the Virgin train to Holyhead which should have departed Crewe at 10:49 but it was reported about 20 minutes
late.  A 10-coach Voyager combo arrived about 11.15 packed to the doors, seemingly with many disappointed air travellers to Ireland and their - in some cases voluminous - luggage.  With some difficulty I squeezed into the rear, first class, coach and stood in the vestibule to Llandudno Junction, along with others who had been standing since Euston.  According to the conductor in the rear set, the train was scheduled to split at Chester but, in view of the far greater than expected passenger numbers, a last-minute decision had been made that both units would continue to Holyhead and he had agreed to do the extra hours required. 

This, or similarly motivated changes of plan, may explain your correspondent's observations of an unusual 10-car eastbound train the following morning and of a train scheduled to terminate at Bangor continuing to Holyhead.  I think the Virgin staff concerned should be commended for their flexibility and quick thinking, especially when 'They definitely need more ... coaches' is often heard.  [This of course also explains the 'train cancelled due to too many passengers' report, as the unit detached at Chester usually works a service back to London. - Ed.]

Before setting out I had checked the National Rail website trains and so
expected that up the Conwy Valley were cancelled, which staff at Llandudno Junction confirmed. It seems that the last train the previous day had failed and been abandoned at North Llanrwst; a rescue train, another DMU I think, had left the Junction earlier on the Tuesday morning and had not yet returned.  Before setting out I had also checked with Express Motors that the X1 bus was running normally so was able to get to Dolwyddelan that way.  The last half mile or so to my final destination was the most arduous part of the journey, being along a snow-bound back lane which was still impassable by car a week later! 

Class 158 refurbishment starts

The long-awaited, and somewhat controversial, refurbishment programme for Arriva Trains Wales Class 158 railcars has now begun, with 158 840 being the first unit to enter the Arriva-owned LNWR works at Crewe for work expected to last eight weeks.

The work, funded by the Welsh Assembly Government, involves a complete internal refurbishment of the passenger saloons including new seating to give more legroom (Grammer type as featured in the East Midlands Trains units), new toilet facilities and the opening up of the horrible bike storage 'cupboard'  to give more space in the vestibule.

Apparently the trains will carry a blue livery similar to the 'WAG express' coaches with added 'Welsh dragons to reflect the WAG funding.' Have they been inspired by Scotland where Scotrail have been made by the Scottish Government to adopt a ;'national' livery which can be passed on to the next franchisee?

Mince Pie Specials and other Llangollen News

The Llangollen Railway's season of 'Mince Pie Specials' came to an end on 2 January. 0-6-0 Saddle Tank Jessie was employed on the trains for the last few days as can be seen seen in the attached selection of pictures. The mild weather post-Christmas saw the rapid clearance of the snow which made Boxing Day a delightful experience - but has eased the lot of the operating crews.

Whilst the Llangollen Railway's  Brochure for 2011 has yet to be published the provisional timetable for 2011 is now displayed on the railway's website. During remaining weekends in January train services will be limited to Sundays only when a heritage diesel railcar (DMU) will operate. In February weekends 5/6, 12/13 will see services by DMU on Saturdays and steam on Sundays.

The 'Days with Thomas' event at half term sees a change to previous arrangements. Thomas and friends will be active in the weekend 19/20 February then normal steam service operates Mon, Tues, Wed 21-23 and Thomas resumes Thursday-Sunday 24 - 27th. This reduces the demand on volunteer input to an event which is manpower-hungry. Weekend services continue through March with Saturday 26 March listed for a Diesel gala.

The Spring steam gala will be held Friday-Sunday 8-10 April when 7812 Erlestoke Manor is the expected guest engine, to work alongside Foxcote Manor returned to service from its 10 year overhaul. More details later.

It is to the great credit of the LR that the locos used on these specials don't carry any 'seasonal' decorations which would deter photographers, just a traditional British Railways-style headboard as seen above on 44806. This being twelfth year of service, the plywood Mince Pie headboard is due retirement after this season and perhaps an honoured place in the exhibition coach (George Jones)

This picture by Ian Henderson illustrates well the conditions on 26 December as 44806 takes the 13:00 departure away and towards the Dee Bridge in the winter wonderland that was the Dee valley.

More nineties nostalgia - pictures by Dave Sallery

Many of the coaches used with the Class 37/4s on North Wales from Summer 1993 had previously seen service with Network South East and were initially used in NSE livery, later with the red stripe painted over in blue. Above, 37 425 Concrete Bob / Sir Robert McAlpine, still in Railfreight Construction colours, stands Llandudno with NSE stock on 10 June 1993.

A freight 37 with no electric train supply facility to work the air-conditioning, 37 212,  was pressed into service on a London train, seen at Rhyl on 17 August 1998.

Freight 37s also appeared on First North Western trains from time to time: above,  37 379 Ipswich WRD is seen leaving Rhyl  on 21 June 1999 standing in for  failed 37 429.

Many more Class 37 pictures can be enjoyed on the Penmorfas Flickr site.

Wrexham and Shropshire topics

Since 13 December the re-opened terminal platforms 3 and 4 at Birmingham Moor Street station  have been hosting Wrexham & Shropshire sets on Chiltern services. Diagrams are the 05:46 (M-F) Moor St - Marylebone and 16:33 Marylebone - Moor St. Pictured at Moor Street on 23 December is a six-coach Wrexham & Shropshire set headed by DVT 82305 with 67 029 on the rear on standby duties for Chiltern. The Selfridges building and Rotunda are in the background. Picture and notes by Chris Morrison.

Our contributor Derick Norman, who took the above picture at Wellington station on 3 December, has created an 'Unofficial Wrexham & Shropshire Calendar' and writes to tell us that he still has a few left for sale.

Wrexham & Shropshire unofficial calendars: Wall  calendar : £14.99, 
Desk  calendar (white background) : £10.99, Desk  calendar (black background) : £10.99.

Set of three ( 1 wall, 1 white and 1 black desk calendar) £30 Special
offer – save £7!  (well, £6.97) Printed on high quality glossy photo card, not thinner paper  like some other calendars. All post free within mainland UK.  Please  e-mail to place your order.  Payment can be made via Paypal.

Snow story - by Martin Cleverley

Here are some scenes from my ill-fated trip from Wrexham to Liverpool on 20 December courtesy of the Borderlands line. The 09:32 arrived at 09:56 (above, 150 256) to meet a group of confused passengers who had been told by one passenger that  the trains had, by another that the train been cancelled, by an Arriva employee clearing snow from the platform 'no idea about the services running', by the Internet that trains were running late, and by the Internet that trains were cancelled.

The unit stopped outside Buckley with the driver stating that the diesel was freezing. Arrival at Shotton we were told that it was as far as the train was going.

A coach link to Bidston was on offer, the coach was waiting for the train. A Merseyrail train took me into Liverpool.

The return journey was great to Bidston, where we were informed that there were no rail services to Wrexham Central but there was a coach, hooray! Bad news, no one knew what time the coach was coming. There
followed an unreal frozen wait with a coach eventually turning up. l did not record all the times as l was frozen.

This was made worse by the noticeboard on the station at Bidston telling us that the train was on schedule even when it did not arrive. l complained to Arriva and obviously got no reply as l asked what had happened to a 'can do' approach.

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