03 January 2011
comments are encouraged: see the Contributions
This site is dedicated to all our regular contributors and supporters,
and especially the all rail staff of North Wales.
Friday 7 January Clwyd Railway
Tony Harrison: Trains Around the World. - Since retiring in 2000,
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
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
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
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,
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:
December 2000: 37 429 + 6 Riviera Trains coaches
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
picture, by John Humphries, shows 37 429 Eisteddfod Genedlaethol departing
Rhyl with the 08:53 Holyhead - Birmingham; some of the passengers had
with the 02:09 and were on their second eastbound trip by now.
Skipsey captures 429 entering Chester with the 08:53 from
Holyhead, running 40 minutes late at this stage, probably due to the
cold weather. It was pleasing that 429, the last loco in service in
Railways livery, was available for use, following a request on behalf
our readers; not having worked since 23 December there was some doubt
to whether it would start on the day. Thanks to First North Western and
EWS for arranging this.
at Wolverhampton (picture Rob Morel) it was decided
to cancel the rest of the run to Birmingham and run round for the
to Holyhead to get back on time. The train started back from here at
compared to its booked Wolverhampton time of 12:29. By this time a
'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.
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
will continue for a while as some Virgin trains (if they ever reappear)
booked for Class 47 haulage.
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.
Holyhead - Crewe, the last scheduled Class 37/4 working for
First North Western, calls at Bangor as the light fades. Rowan
heads home after his last ride.
Hulme] boarded this train at Prestatyn for the ride into Crewe, to
of 'knobhead' from the drunken window-hangers who seem to have been
by these trains recently.
Bowland's picture captures the crowd scene on the final arrival
at Crewe. The sheer number of railfan travellers surprised everyone.
much flashing of lights, and heckling the driver to get him to make a
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
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 -
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
pressed into service on a London train, seen at Rhyl on 17 August
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 :
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
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
email@example.com to place your order. Payment can be made via
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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