Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

24 January 2011

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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

January 2011

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

February 2011

Friday 4 February   Clwyd Railway Circle    David Rapson: Reflections on a Railway Career.A reflection in pictures and anecdotes of a 35 year career on the railway based largely in the North West.

Monday 7 February    RCTS Port Sunlight: Peter Jackson: STEAM IN THE SNOW Slides of Peter’s visit to China in 2002, showing mainline and industrial steam.

Thursday 10 February  Llandudno and Conwy Valley Railway Society "Arriva Trains Wales 2011 - The Way Forward" - Ben Davies, ATW Stakeholder Manager.

Friday 11 February  Altrincham Electric Railway Preservation Society
RED SEA RAILWAY - THE RAILWAYS OF ERITREA a PowerPoint presentation by Jennie Street (author "Red Sea Railway")

Monday 21 February  RCTS Chester MEMBERS SHOW 30 slides or digital images of your choice.  

Thursday 24 February Merseyside Railway History Group Allan Lewis: Norfolk & Western

March 2011

Friday 4 March   Clwyd Railway Circle  AGM followed by Photo Competition and Members Night. Members are invited to give a 15 minute presentation of their choice, any format welcomed. Please book your slot no later than 18th February by contacting David Jones (see below for details).          

Monday 7 March  RCTS Port Sunlight   John Day will give a digital presentation on 21st Century Steam featuring steam in the UK, USA, China and the Ukraine.

10 March    Llandudno and Conwy Valley Railway Society   The last months of the Routemasters  with Dr John Willis and 'Society tribute to the late Bill Rear' by Bob Barnsdale and Larry Davies

Friday 11 March  Altrincham Electric Railway Preservation Society STEAM AROUND CHESTER FROM THE 1960s ONWARDS a colour slide presentation by John Feild

Monday 21 March   RCTS Chester Paul Chancellor FROM BLUE AND GREY TO BLACK AND GREEN. Paul from Colour-Rail presents slides illustrating the wide variety of liveries that have adorned British steam, diesel and electric locomotives over the past 60 years.

Thursday 31 March Merseyside Railway History Group AGM: Members Slides

April 2011

Friday 1 April   Clwyd Railway Circle    Geoff Morris: The Railways of South-West Wales over the last 30 years. A photographic journey looking at the railway scene in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and West Glamorgan, an area often neglected by the railway enthusiast.  We visit far-flung outposts of the passenger system (Fishguard Harbour, Milford Haven, Pembroke Dock, Central Wales line) and also meet some unusual diesels (cut-down classes 03 & 08) on the way.                 

Monday 4 April RCTS Port Sunlight   BRANCH AGM (Members Only) Followed by Members' Photographs. 

Friday 8 April  Altrincham Electric Railway Preservation Society
illustrated presentation by Graham Nicholas (A1 Steam Locomotive Trust)

Thursday 14 April   Llandudno and Conwy Valley Railway Society "Cardiff Canton Diesel Depot”  Steve Morris

Monday 18 April   RCTS Chester Geoff Morris: ANOTHER AUSTRALIAN ADVENTURE. A digital presentation of Geoff’s 2010 visit to Australia featuring main line & preserved steam in Victoria, New South Wales & Queensland plus views of the modern scene and the odd kangaroo!

Thursday 28 April Merseyside Railway History Group Richard Kells: Quiz and informal evening

See the Calendar page for more details and later dates.

57 311 Parker makes his way through Abergele, half an hour or so late, heading for Crewe with the ill-fated Virgin working on 22 January. See reports below. Picture by Stéphanie Durrant.

Club 55 is back

Not mentioned here before is that Arriva Trains Wales have brought back their 'Club 55' offer of bargain fares for people over 55, which will now run until 9 April apart from a few odd days and a few morning peak restrictions. A return ticket between any two stations on the ATW network - yes, even Holyhead to Fishguard - is £15, or £13 if you have a Senior Railcard. Online booking is now possible, too. See the Arriva website for the full details.

Bad Day for Tin Tin

Virgin's trains between London and North Wales are currently formed of Class 221 'Voyager' diesel railcar sets, even though the Crewe - London section of the route is electrified. The exceptions are train 1D83, 08:50 London - Holyhead and its return 1A55 14:36 Holyhead - London, which are on Saturdays worked by a Class 390 electric 'Pendolino' set, which is hauled over the non-electrified section from Crewe to Holyhead and back by a Class 57/3 'Thunderbird' locomotive, an event known to North Wales railfans as the 'Pendo Drag.' These locomotives were created a decade or so ago from a collection of second-hand parts: the shell and bogies of a Class 47, a reconditioned diesel engine imported from America, and an alternator from a scrapped Class 56 locomotive. The original idea was principally to use them to rescue any failed trains, hence the naming scheme of Thunderbirds.

However, for political reasons they were belatedly fitted with retractable couplers which would allow them to haul Pendolinos in normal service, particularly in North Wales, to offer a full dining service on the morning business train. Daily operation in this format ceased some time ago, but Virgin decided to keep a weekly turn on Saturdays so the staff would be familiar with the system in case of a future need. A second driver is needed to ride in the Pendolino, as the driver in the 57/3 has no control over the train's computer system which controls the air conditioning, etc. 

The 57/3s have developed a reputation for unreliability, especially in the last couple of years, and the North Wales duty, with the engine working 'flat-out' much of the time as the diesel engine and alternator has to supply the 'hotel power' for  9-coach train as well as for the traction motors.

Anyway, the point of this story is that the 'Pendo Drag' failed to reach Holyhead on 22 January for the second Saturday running (or not.) And this was a day when three of our contributors decided it was a good day to take a loco-hauled ride. Their reports are below, interspersed with some more cheerful items, but the executive summary is that 57 308 Tin Tin suffered a failure (blown turbocharger, we understand) on the westbound train and came to a stand while pulling away from Rhyl station; the driver managed to stop the train while on the platform line, which allowed trains to pass it, albeit without access to a platform, on Rhyl's centre track, so other services could continue to run through.

The good people of the North Wales line, being experienced operators who care about their passengers, decided after an hour or so that rather than keep the passengers in the dead and unheated Pendolino for an unknown amount of time, decided to disembark them using the emergency ladder to walk the short distance to Rhyl station where a bus would be provided.

Eventually a driver was found for 57 316, stabled at Holyhead for the weekday 'All-Wales Express' and dragged the stricken train to Llandudno Junction where 57 311, which had arrived from Manchester Longsight depot, was coupled on and started back to Crewe as the scheduled  return working. Our picture above (by Stéphanie Durrant) shows the scene at Rhyl as 57 316 tows failed 57 308 and train out towards Llandudno Junction, while 57 311 waits in the station to follow as soon as the line is clear.

Above, arrival at Llandudno Junction (Peter Lloyd)

All in all, something out of the ordinary for the staff and railfans perhaps, and a chance for North Wales rail staff to shown their dedication, but not a great day for Virgin Trains or its passengers. Can it be much longer before these troublesome machines are retired?

Above, 57 311 arrives at Llandudno Junction to take charge of the train (Peter Lloyd)

Great Welsh Railway Journeys on TV

The railways of North Wales recently featured in the second series of BBC2's Great British Railway Journeys presented by Michael Portillo, who seen in the 'screen grab' above meeting Larry Davies, Community Rail Officer for the Conwy Valley line and regular contributor to our website. At the time of writing the series is still available for viewing, thanks to the 'Series Catch-up' feature of the BBC iPlayer, and very enjoyable it is too.

Railtours to enjoy

The 'English Rivera Express' organised by the Ffestiniog Railway (D&M Group) and Chester Model Railway Club will run on Saturday 16 April. Pick-up is at Hooton, Bache, Wrexham, Gobowen, and Shrewsbury for an excursion to Exeter St Davids, Torquay, Paignton and Kingswear (for Dartmouth). For rare-track enthusiasts the route includes the Chester avoiding line, Maindee curve and the National Rail / Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway connection at Paignton. Traction is Class 67 with Riviera Trains coaches. Prices from £59.00.  Information on the web or from Laurence Wheeler on 01244 678070.

The 'North Eastern Express' organised by the Mid-Cheshire Rail Users' Association will run on Saturday 7 May. You can board at Chester, Mouldsworth, Cuddington, Greenbank, Northwich, Plumley, Knutsford, Mobberley, Hale, Altrincham, Stockport, Reddish South (!) or Stalybridge  for the trip to Darlington, Durham and Newcastle. Full information on the MCRUA website.

Failed again, part 1 - report by Glen Cusack

I received a text message on the evening of 21 January saying that 57 308 Tin Tin was allocated to the 'Saturday Pendolino drag' of 22 January so decided to come over from Ireland and get a few miles haulage with it. After arriving at Holyhead, I undertook the obligatory walk around to platform 1 to view the WAG Express locomotive and stock stabled in the sidings at Holyhead for the weekend as usual. However, unbeknown to anyone at this stage it would ultimately be awoken from its slumber later that day.

Above, 158 831 arrived at Bangor having taken me there as on the 11:23 Holyhead - Birmingham International. I walked over the bridge to be greeted by "delayed" on the departure screens for anything heading towards Bangor. An announcement was made shortly afterwards that the Virgin service was at a stand at Rhyl and couldn't say when it would be on the move again. I assumed it was 57 308 that was the culprit but surely this train wouldn't be so unfortunate as to fail two weeks in a row? The next announcement was that it had then been cancelled, and that the following Arriva service would also be delayed 30 minutes as that had been caught up behind it.

I then has  a text to say that 57 316 was been prepared at Holyhead. and 57 311 was coming from Preston to assist. Resigned to the fact that I wouldn't be getting any 57 haulage today, and with no boat back to Dublin for a few hours, I decided to head on to Rhyl on the 12:38 Holyhead - Maesteg (175 116) to see what was going on. Above is the general scene at Rhyl when I arrived. The ladder would suggest that the train was evacuated and passengers walked back the short distance to the station, probably after quite sometime on-board while they figured out what to do. Westbound Arriva services were using the centre road, non-stop obviously [Passengers for Rhyl were being advised by the on-line systems to go to Colwyn Bay and catch a train back.]

Indeed, this passenger been pushed along the westbound platform by staff would suggest that they had only just finished getting everybody off.

57 316 arrived at Rhyl, having shadowed 175 116 from Holyhead.

I walked up to the road bridge, a short distance west of the station. The walls here are very high, so I just held my camera over the wall and hoped for the best. Luckily, 57 308 was stopped just short of the bridge itself and so I was able to get a photo. Above, 57 316 has just attached to the failed loco.

Where as 57 308 was positioned just short of the bridge, 57316 was right under it. Again, a hold the camera over the wall procedure ensued and this was the best I could do.

At this point I met a local enthusiast who told me about a footbridge a little further on and kindly drove me to it. This was the view from there, where quite a few others had gathered. It would have made for a good photo passing this point, but after some time I became conscious that the time to be heading back to Holyhead for the boat was approaching. Again the local enthusiast drove me back to the station, which was appreciated. It was then onto a replacement bus up to Colwyn Bay to pick up 175 108 home and the boat back to Dublin.

Son of 'WAG Express': the times - by Richard Billingsley

Regarding the query in the last issue about the planned second Holyhead - Cardiff express, the Track access application (PDF) can be found on the Network Rail website. Towards the end of page 2, you'll find the following:

1V34 07:50 Holyhead-Cardiff Central 12:24
1W94 18:17 Cardiff Central-Holyhead 22:35

The services will call at Bangor, Llandudno Junction, Chester, Crewe, Shrewsbury, Hereford and Newport in each direction. These services are specified and funded by Welsh Assembly Government as express north-south services, providing a faster (limited-stop) service from North Wales to South Wales in the morning and returning in the evening. The service will complement the current express service, which operates as a locomotive and coaches (Class 57 + 3 x Mk II coaches and 1 x Mk 3 buffet/First Class coach). It is not yet known what rolling stock will be used, but it will be either a loco and up to 4 coaches or a Class 175 diesel multiple unit. The trains have been timed using a loco +4 timing load.

It's going to be pretty controversial: even if you ignore the Wrexham situation which isn't going to be resolved any time soon unless you know someone who has 10 miles of track, a couple of sets of points and a signal or three, the lack of stops at Rhyl or Flint is going to cause trouble.

Looking at the paths, stopping the trains at both stations shouldn't cause any real problem as, the up service is behind a Holyhead-Birmingham International train by around 12 minutes at Llandudno Junction, so the stops would help it to avoid catching up with this train , and wouldn't interfere with the following 08:44 Llandudno  -Manchester. In the opposite direction, the preceding 17:20 Cardiff - Holyhead is a good half hour in front, with the 19:10 Euston-Holyhead around 20 minutes behind.

175 overhaul continues

Here's an interesting picture taken for us by someone authorised to be inside Alstom's Manchester Traincare Centre at Longsight;  It can be seen clearly that the bogies have been removed from 175 110 and the unit is supported by jacks, so there's more going on than just changing the seat covers.

Failed again, Part 2 - report by Chris Morrison

57 308 failed in a cloud of smoke on departure from Rhyl at 11:43 on 22 January. It was announced on the train at around 12:00 that the loco was a failure (or a 'non-goer' as the train manager put it) and a replacement was being sent from Holyhead. I understand that the difficulty in getting traincrew at Holyhead to work the rescue loco meant the decision was taken after 13:00 to detrain the passengers via a ladder for the 100-yard walk back to the station platform and road coaches for Holyhead.

This took place between around 13:20 and 1:34. I'd like to commend the Arriva-jacketed member of staff carrying the case in the picture above. He was very helpful with getting people off the train.

Passengers make their was past the post marking 209 miles from Euston.

As the stricken train was in the platform loop, westbound Arriva trains could pass on the through line but were unable to call at Rhyl. This is 175 101.

The replacement 57 316 did eventually arrive at 14:00, but the train was not moved to Llandudno Junction till 15:16, shortly after the arrival of 57 311 at the rear of the train. This loco followed 57 316/308 to Llandudno Junction and took the Pendolino back east at around 15:50.

57 316 then ran round 57 308 at Llandudno Junction (above: this picture by Peter Lloyd) to take it back to Longsight.

Lein Amlwch - time for yet another 'study'

BBC News reports on 23 January:

A study on reopening a railway line that closed to passenger traffic more than 35 years ago is to begin on Anglesey. Network Rail is looking at restoring services on the disused Amlwch branch line. The line between Llangefni and Gaerwen shut in 1964 but remained in use for chemical freight until the early 1990s. The four-and-a-half miles (7.2km) of track have become overgrown with vegetation since it went out of use.

The feasibility study will see engineers looking at 31 bridge and culverts, as well as earthworks on the route. They will also examine the feasibility of refurbishing the Llangefni station building and its disused platform. Network Rail said a study of the natural environment aimed to identify any rare plants and species that would need to be protected if line was reopened. The study will look at the habitat which has grown up since the railway closed. The Welsh Assembly Government has commissioned the study to see if regular passenger services between Llangefni and Bangor are viable. The scheme's backers say, if reopened, it could encourage motorists commuting from Anglesey to the mainland, to switch to public transport.

Anglesey council leader Councillor Clive McGregor said: "We know that there are probably about 10,000 people that cross the island, and cross the bridges, to go and work on the mainland. If we can harness some of those to use public transport, and trains in particular, then we're in a win-win situation."

Mike Gallop, principal programme sponsor, Network Rail said: "The Amlwch branch line has been disused for nearly two decades and bringing it back to passenger use will be tough. For passenger trains to run on the line again, we may need to modernise the existing signalling system, repair and replace the disused track, bridges and culverts, which are no longer fit for purpose. The study will be vital to help us examine the feasibility and identify a cost-effective solution."

He doesn't mention the fact that Network Rail have disconnected the junction at Gaerwen. Is this the same feasibility study that was reportedly commissioned a year ago (Press report) or another one? As we understand it the ambition is to re-open the line as far as Llangefni, which although a rather small place is the County Town of Anglesey. Will the rest of the line be for preservationists, or cyclists. Comments welcome on this ever-confusing situation.

Eisteddfod Genedlaethol survivals

Thanks to those who have sent information about the nameplates of 37 429  Eisteddfod Genedlaethol, as mentioned in the last issue. A good excuse to print another picture: taken circa 1995 after yet another Llandudno Junction footbridge sprint!

The nameplate facts, as they stand now, are that when the loco was dragged off to Scotland after failing, the nameplates were sent from Cardiff Canton depot to EWS at Toton. One set was subsequently sold by them in a sealed bid tender sale during August 2005, so unless the owner choose to tell us they remain safe - but secret. The one from the other side has, we are told, never been sold publicly ...  so will have either been sold privately or will still be in the stores at Toton to be disposed of in due course.

And finally ... at least one other piece of 37 429 survives, at a reader's home on the Wirral.

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