Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

21 March 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

March 2011

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 TORNADO - A STEAM LOCOMOTIVE FOR THE 21ST Century illustrated presentation by Graham Nicholas (A1 Steam Locomotive Trust)

Thursday 14 April   Llandudno and Conwy Valley Railway Society 
"We built the Railway" An interesting talk by Dafydd Thomas and a colleague on the engineering
tasks that were required to complete the Welsh Highland Railway through the
Aberglaslyn Pass and into Porthmadog.

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

May 2011

Thursday 12 May    Llandudno and Conwy Valley Railway Society   
A presentation by Paul Lewin, General Manager, FR/WHR on the current
operations of these two fascinating railways.

Thursday 12 May   Steam at Chester  'The Cathedrals Explorer' Steam Dreams Oxenholme - Carmarthen via Chester - Shrewsbury - Llandrindod.

Friday 13 May Excursion 'The North Wales Scotsman' Compass Tours Holyhead, Llanfairpwll, Bangor, Llandudno Junction, Colwyn Bay, Rhyl, Flint & Chester to Dundee via the Forth & Tay Bridges.

June 2011
Sunday 19 June  Steam on the Coast:   Northern Belle Father's Day Special. Crewe-Holyhead and return with 46201 Princess Elizabeth.

See the Calendar page for more details and later dates.

57 315 with the 14:36 Holyhead - London on 19 March, as seen from Conwy Castle. Picture by Garry Stroud.

Cambrian News

As expected (although not clearly advertised on the Arriva website until very recently), the Cambrian lines from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth and Pwllheli are closed to passengers from 19 to 27 March inclusive, while the signalling is transferred to the new ERTMS system which has been in use for a while on the Harlech - Pwllheli section. Let's hope the change goes smoothly. We understand that the old Radio Electronic Token Block equipment is to be 'put to sleep' for twelve months after the changeover, in case it becomes necessary to revert.

The change does make it possible to bring into use the additional double-track section west of Welshpool and the passing loop at Dyfi Junction which have been laid, paving the way for an hourly service on the Shrewsbury - Aberystwyth line. Hopefully, at some time in the future it might be possible to organise better connections at Dyfi Junction to encourage residents and visitors from the Pwllheli line to visit the attractions of Aberystwyth.

Welsh Highland action

Saturday 19 March saw a very interesting charter, organised by UK Railtours, travel from London to North Wales hauled by a pair of Class 67 Diesels, photographed by signalman Alan Roberts passing Rhyl on the outward journey.

In the words of the organisers:

We have brought you quite a number of notable 'firsts' over the years, but nothing quite as exciting as this, to travel from London to North Wales then steam-hauled all the way from Caernarfon via Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog or vice versa! Our train will run via Crewe, then along the North Wales Coast to both Llandudno Junction and Bangor. From Llandudno Junction we use coaches for the scenic trip up the Conwy Valley to Blaenau where the greatest narrow gauge journey of all begins, right the way through via Porthmadog to Caernarfon, where coaches will be waiting for the short hop to Bangor where our main line train is rejoined. Half our passengers will do the 'circuit' in the opposite direction.

Not surprisingly tickets were sold out, and a second run planned for Saturday 26 March is sold out as well.

The picture above, by Dave Sallery, shows Merddin Emrys leaving Porthmadog on the first Blaenau to Caernarfon through train. Note: a normal public service of two trains per day on the Welsh Highland between Caernarfon and Porthmadog begins on Sunday 27 March, and the Ffestiniog is back in service between Porthmadog and Blaenau Ffestiniog from 23 March, following completion of the new Porthmadog by-pass bridge.

The train from Caernarfon, hauled by Garratt 138, arrives at Pont Croesor (Dave Sallery).

Locomotives were changed at Pont Croesor (Dave Sallery). This picture graphically illustrates the difference in size between the structure gauge of the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland railways.

The train from London was very much a supporting actor: it travelled to Holyhead for servicing, and is seen above (picture by Richard Fleckney) on the way back to Bangor in the evening sunshine to collect the passengers.

67 021 leads 67 017 Arrow (named after 'Britannia' class steam loco 70017)  out of Bangor (Rowan Crawshaw)

Penmaenmawr at 17:48, passing a new signal installed three weeks earlier - one of the new LED types with only one lens able to display all three aspects (Darren Durrant)

Eryri Venturer - observation car both ends

The London Group of the Ffestiniog Railway Society have sent us the times for the train they have chartered for Friday 25 March, which will cover both the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways in one long day. Photographers are encouraged to record this train.

Porthmadog Harbour dep 09:30, Minffordd 09:45, Tan-y-Bwlch (water stop) 10:10, Blaenau Ffestiniog arr 10:45 (run round)

Blaenau Ffestiniog dep 11:00, Tan-y-Bwlch 11:40. Minffordd 12:00, Porthmadog Harbour arr 12.15 (Change Locomotives).

Porthmadog dep 12:45 (set back on the Cob with station pilot loco) Pont Croesor 13:25, Beddgelert (water stop) 13:50, Rhyd Ddu (water stop) 14:20, Waunfawr 14:40, Dinas 15:00, Caernarfon arr 15:10 (run round)

Caernarfon  dep  15.30, Dinas 15:40, Waunfawr 16:00 (water stop)
Rhyd Ddu 16:35 (Water Stop) Beddgelert 17:05  Pont Croesor 17:30, Porthmadog Harbour arr 18:00.

Return of the Flasks

After a rather long break, a flask train from Valley ran on 15 March. It is seen above passing Bagillt, with 37 611 and 20 308 (Tim Rogers)

Rover ticket changes

It was only a matter of time before the Ffestiniog Railway management realised that they were offering far too good a deal by allowing free travel on their lines to users of the regional rail rover tickets. The latest re-launch of these products, now to be know as 'Explore Wales' tickets, offers just a 50% reduction in fares on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland lines. The North and Mid Wales Eight Day Explorer gives 'four days [main line] train and eight days bus travel within an eight day period'  and costs £57. Reductions of 'approximately' one third are available to Holders of Young Persons, Senior and Disabled Persons railcards. Children 5 to 15 years pay half price. Under 5s travel free.  Rail validity covers the Cambrian and North Wales lines, including all of Wrexham - Bidston and Chester - Crewe - Shrewsbury.

Eight-day All-Wales (£84) and South Wales (£57) versions are also available; these also limit rail travel to any four days. Discounts for holders are also available on many other local railways and attractions.  Download the leaflet in PDF form, or visit (except that is doesn't yet exist.) 

Battle of Britain at Crewe - pictures by John Beresford

After two false starts, 'Battle of Britain' pacific 34067 Tangmere  has finally moved south from attention at the Crewe Heritage Centre, for further railtour duty. These views show it at Crewe station on 18 March.

The nameplates have, no doubt, been left back at the loco's base for security. This is one of series of locos given Battle of Britain-related names; Tangmere airfield in Sussex is now a museum.

All being well it should be on the Railway Touring Company's Cleethorpes -  Chester -  'Cheshireman' on Saturday 2 April. Note that the route of this train has been altered from what was originally announced. It will now run between Manchester Victoria and Chester (arr.12:25, dep 16:18) in each direction via Earlestown and not via Altrincham. Times are on

Fotopic disaster

Many hundreds of rail enthusiasts, including several contributors to this site, have in recent years developed their own very successful pictorial websites, some of them very comprehensive and scholarly, using the Fotopic service (, only to find that on 9 March their whole site disappeared from the Web and at the time of writing (21 March) has still not re-appeared, all addresses report 'not found.'

Fotopic was started some years ago by a Yorkshire-based couple, who had developed it originally for their own use and then decided to offer it to the public as a free basic service with the option to pay for more disk space and other added features. In 2008, without much publicity at the time, they sold it to a rather faceless company called 'Snappy Designs' who, we understand, recently moved the servers from Yorkshire to the London area.

Since the loss of the service, nobody has been able to make any kind of contact with the operators, and no announcement was made about what has happened. Has the machine been struck by hackers, or stolen, or has the company failed, or what? Very strange and worrying, especially since there are user contact details stored on the server. There is a Facebook page which seems to be the place to find discussion about the situation.

Our sympathies go to those whose work has gone missing - some of our own small collections are among them. A number of the links on our pages will no longer work, but we'll leave them there for the time being,  just in case.

Y Gerallt Gymro emerges from the darkness

It's now becoming possible to get pictures of the Holyhead - Cardiff expresses as the days get longer.  Here (above) is the morning train at Flint. 57 315 is in charge, with the two extra standard class coaches used for the rugby special two days earlier, and also 57 313 tagged on the the rear.

And again at a frosty-looking Waverton (Chester - Crewe line) on 14 March. Picture by Stavros Lainas.

Note that the loco-hauled special from Holyhead to Cardiff will run again on Saturday 26 March, this time for a football match. This time it has even had some publicity in the local papers.

The European Championship qualifier between Wales and England is being played at the Millennium Stadium on March 26. The game will kick-off at 3pm and around 72,500 fans are expected at the stadium. Train services are expected to be very busy. An Arriva Trains Wales spokeswoman said a six-carriage train will run from Holyhead to Cardiff on the morning of the match. The carriages will be the ones normally used on the North-South express train and it will run at 7.30am in order to accommodate as many passengers as possible.

Will it actually be six coaches, or five? Last week's train ran with five: the usual rake less its restaurant car, plus two additional standard class vehicles. Unfortunately, we managed to describe it as a 'six-coach train' until very quickly corrected by a sharp-eyed reader. 

Stavros returned later to Chester and captured the late-running evening return train from Cardiff, with 57 315 and the normal four-coach formation. After the clocks are advanced by an hour, this train will  begin to appear in the daylight in our area.

More on Sealand

Following on from our items about Sealand and its RAF base, Alan Roberts has kindly re-created for us the signalbox diagram, as it was in 1970 after the station closed. The sidings at the Dee Marsh Junction end were controlled from the box, whilst the link to the other depot had its own ground frame, which was released from the box for use by train staff when needed.

The excellent Disused Stations site has a picture of the place around that time, as well as some modern view of the cycleway which has replaced the line.

Strike news (or not)

On the industrial relations front, Aslef have reportedly issued a statement confirming that all industrial action (strikes and the overtime ban) have been suspended as Arriva have made an improved pay offer, which will be put to the members with ASLEF's recommendation that it be accepted. The improved pay offer also apparently includes a commitment to work Sundays; it remains to be seen whether it is accepted. Wales is not the only place where DB are having problems: drivers strikes and threats of have been occurring in Germany as well.

Arriva Trains Wales to Clitheroe

Northern Rail are very short of operational rolling stock at the moment. Of their three Class 180 units, Only 180 106 in service; one was involved in a collision in Newton Heath depot, whilst the other has 'serious mechanical problems.' What with the Class 158 that was damaged in a derailment, a Class 144 damaged in a level crossing incident, and a Class 150/1 suffering severe corrosion, they have clearly been asking other companies for help, as Arriva Trains Wales unit 150 285 has been working on the Manchester - Clitheroe service, as seen above at Manchester Victoria on 13 March coupled to a Northern 153 (Elgan Thomas).

Class 47s on the line

Two scenes from the Acton Bridge area recorded by Andrew Vinten on 11 March. Above, West Coast Railways 47 804 on 5Z47 empty stock movement from Carnforth - to West Coast's southern base at Southall.

Another empty stock train, this time with DRS traction: 47 802 Pride of Cumbria leading 47 712 Pride of Carlisle on 5Z74 from Perth to the Riviera Trains depot at Crewe.

Pendolino Pics

Saturday 19 March saw the weekly Virgin Trains North Wales Pendolino, 08:50 London - Holyhead and 14:36 return, hauled by a blue loco each way, 57 316 from Crewe and 57 315 back. Perhaps the Virgin controller who allegedly insists on a Virgin-liveried loco was on holiday. Above. 57 316 leads the Holyhead-bound train, 1D83, into Rhyl (Alan Roberts)

Signalman's view of 390 009 Treaty of Union as the train rolls into Rhyl station (Alan Roberts)

Above, the westbound train near Conwy (Garry Stroud).

London-bound 1A55 departs Holyhead (Darren Durrant)...

... calls at Bangor (Rowan Crawshaw) ...

... and  Llandudno Junction (Peter Lloyd).

Approaching Mostyn (Tim Rogers)

Express Motors has a strop

From the Daily Post, 8 March:

A family-owned  bus firm estimates it is losing £27,000 a year because taxpayers are funding free trips on a rural railway.  In 2007, the Welsh Assembly Government gave pensioners and disabled people living in Conwy and Gwynedd unlimited free travel on the Conwy Valley line, from Llandudno to Blaenau Ffestiniog via Betws-y-Coed.

The scheme, also running on three other Welsh railways, was designed to allow holders of free bus passes to get around in remote areas where there are few or no buses.  But Penygroes-based Express Motors started a bus service between Llandudno, Betws-y-Coed and Blaenau Ffestiniog in 2005 – two years before free rail travel began.

Proprietor Eric Jones said the bus service received no operating subsidy, while the rail service was subsidised through WAG’s funding for the Arriva Trains Wales franchise.  'Why should the train service be further supported through the free travel scheme when there is an adequate, commercially operated bus service?' he said.  'It could be argued it is throwing good money after bad, given how expensive it must be to keep the railway line running, especially after the recent floods.'

In 2009-10, passengers made about 48,700 free journeys on the Conwy Valley line. Researchers for the WAG found 27% of them would have 'gone to the same place by bus' had the train not been free. That could equate to about £30,000 of lost revenue for bus operators, who are reimbursed from WAG funds for each pass holder they carry. Arriva runs buses between Llanrwst and Llandudno but mostly serving communities on the opposite side of the valley from the railway.

Express Motors believes without losing an estimated £27,000 a year to the rail scheme, it might have been able to run extra bus services – linking the key tourist towns of Llandudno and Betws-y-Coed each hour.

WAG is paying Arriva Trains Wales 19.7p per mile for each free Conwy Valley passenger. It pays Express Motors just 7p per mile for each passenger conveyed free between Llandudno and Blaenau Ffestiniog, and 10.7p per mile between Llandudno and Betws-y-Coed.

A WAG spokesman said: 'Since 2007, the Welsh Assembly Government has supported Concessionary Fares Rail Schemes on rural railway services. We have completed a series of evaluations of the schemes in order to assess how well they have met their intended outcomes. The evaluations have demonstrated the schemes have successfully met the objectives.  We will continue to evaluate the scheme. An independent review will be commissioned later this year.'

We'll refrain from offering an opinion on this, except to say that the law allows Express Motors to withdraw a commercial service with six weeks' notice (more than Wrexham & Shropshire gave, admittedly) whereas the rail service is hopefully a much more permanent link. It's interesting, though, to see the figures for the costs of the over-60s free travel scheme brought out into the open. Llandudno to Blaenau by train is about 30 miles, and the adult train train fare is £7.20 for a day return, which most local pensioners will be making. This works out at 12p per mile over the 60 miles, or indeed only £4.80 (8p per mile) if the passenger concerned happens to have invested in a Senior Railcard. Perhaps the rail payment of 19.7p per mile has been calculated on the basis that everyone will buy a single ticket, which at £7.10 is almost as much as the return?

Verkerhrsrot at Hooton - pictures by Andrew Vinten

Here's 60 011, so far the only Class 60 in Deutsche Bundesbahn livery, at Hooton on 6 March with a train of engineer's materials, probbably used ballast.

Another look at Hooton's new footbridge. The train was 6L41 Acton Grange - Crewe Basford Hall; the wagons are some of the earliest air-braked wagons built for the general BR service, around 1970, the survivors being mainly used in engineers' trains like this one.

At the other end of the train was 66 170, seen leading near Capenhurst.

60 011 on the rear, amid the rural setting of Capenhurst station. Is this version of 'traffic red' correct? It looks rather more 'pink' than the German version.

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