Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

06 April 2011

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Forthcoming events

April 2011

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.

On a beautiful spring morning, the 11.02 train awaits departure from Betws-y-coed for Blaenau Ffestiniog.  The station is being given a facelift with new glass roof. (Picture by John Roobottom.) For a guide to a circular trip including this line, read Dave Sallery's newly-updated Cambrian Rail Cruise website.

Note: this is an extra issue: don't miss the 4 April episode for a full report on the loco-hauled events of 26 March.

The Train of Hope

The 'Train of Hope' fund-raising appeal is being organised by five Virgin Train drivers based at Manchester. The beneficiary charity, Clic Sargent, the adopted charity by Virgin Trains, is a children’s cancer charity, who offers many types of care and support to children with cancer and and their families.

The main focus of the appeal will be a rail tour, to run on 1 October 2011, hired from West Coast Railway Company, a company who specialise in supplying trains for rail tours. It will be formed of Mk 1 first class coaches, and hauled by 6115 Scots Guardsman. The train crew have offered their earnings to the appeal. The train will run from Crewe (c. 08:00), Warrington, Wigan and Preston to Carlisle over the Cumbrian fells and return on the scenic Settle and Carlisle line.  Catering on the rail tour will be provided by Gravy Train Catering, whose employees have many years working in the rail catering sector. Passengers will be able to enjoy a full breakfast on the outward journey and a five course dinner on the return.

A very special item, exclusive to the appeal, is a commissioned painting by John Cowley, member of the Guild of Railway Artists. The scene will be set in the 2nd World War, depicting children being evacuated waiting to board their train at Crewe station. Both the original oil painting and a series of signed, limited edition prints will be sold to raise funds for the appeal.

While the rail tour is the headline event, the organising team are running a raffle and auctioning items on eBay. The raffle prizes and auction items have been donated by many generous sponsors. Auction items will be available on eBay from mid-April. Exclusive items offered by the railway industry give the winners opportunity to experience a day on highly realistic driver simulators belonging to Virgin Trains, First Capital Connect and Trans Pennine Express. Raffle prizes include two standard flight tickets to New York, two 1st class dining tickets for UK Orient Express Tours and an overnight stay for 2 at Lucknam Park Spa and Hotel in Bath. The raffle will be drawn by one of the children supported by Clic Sargent in September in Manchester.

Full details of the rail tour, the painting, the auction items and the raffle are available at the appeal website

The flask train scene

6K41 Valley to Crewe flasks were worked by a pair of veteran class 20s on  23 March. Above, 20 309 and 20 308 are seen at the Valley loading point (Nick Gurney)

The Class 20s and their one wagon pass Bangor (Rowan Crawshaw)

Llandudno Junction at 14.58, heading for Crewe (Garry Stroud). 20 309 was built as D8075, one of the first phase of Class 20s, and first entered service from the Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns works of the English Electric company 50 years ago.

In sunshine at Beeches Farm. Picture by Bob Greenalgh with thanks to the North Wales Trains News Yahoo group.

29 March saw a mixed combo of 20 303 and 37 688 Kingmoor TMD on the duty, pictured by Stéphanie Durrant heading through Conwy town wall.

Wrexham Railway Society news

The speaker at the Wrexham Railway Society on 11 April is well-known photographer Dr Les Nixon with slides to illustrate his talk: 'How to take better Railway Photos.' Get a new angle on the subject, perhaps. The subject choice was decided by popular vote at the AGM in December. The talk starts at 1945 in the Catholic Social club of St Mary's, Regent St, Wrexham. Prior to that a final round up of digital news and views on the railways, and a super raffle as always. This is the final meeting of the 2010/11 season.

London Service and franchises

The Shropshire Star of 23 March reports::

A delegation of MPs from Shropshire and Mid Wales will hold crunch talks with rail giant Virgin tomorrow in a bid to secure a new direct rail link to London, it was revealed today. All five Shropshire MPs, plus Glyn Davies, MP for Montgomeryshire, and Wrexham MP Ian Lucas, met with Transport Minister Theresa Villiers yesterday to discuss the possibility of a restored link following the loss of the Wrexham & Shropshire service.

And following a 'positive' meeting with the minister, Mark Pritchard, MP for the Wrekin, has organised a meeting with bosses at Virgin Trains tomorrow morning in Parliament. It comes as the MPs today said they were considering launching a public campaign to build support.

We will see ... meanwhile the Department of Transport has announced four preferred bidders for the re-letting of the West Coast Main Line Franchise (currently operated by Virgin).  They are: Abellio InterCity West Coast Limited (NV Nederlandse Spoorwegen); First West Coast Limited (FirstGroup plc); Keolis / SNCF West Coast Limited (Keolis SA and SNCF French National Railways); Virgin Trains Limited (Virgin Group Holdings Limited). Deutsche Bundesbahn, in the guise of Arriva, expressed interest, as did Trenitalia, the Italian state railway, but they have  'lost out' on preferred bidder status. The actual Invitation to Tender which will be issued in May, following a consultation which ends on 21 April. What the other three bidders think about serving Shropshire and Wrexham remains to be seen. The winner takes over on 1 April 2012 to operate the Pendolinos and North Wales Coast - London services for 14 years (expiring in March 2026) with an option to extend for a further year.

How bizarre that we 'privatise' our railways but are always happy for them to be handed over to foreign government-owned railways ... but in this case it's surely hard to find fault with Virgin's operation, given the existing rolling stock,  which (whatever we might think of it) will have to be used by any successor.

Frodsham Class 70 forays - with David Parry

Over the last month, I have made a number of trips over to Frodsham to photograph the class 70-hauled 6F02 1207 Ellesmere Port-Fiddlers Ferry Freightliner coal working. Above, on 1 April, 70 004 The Coal Industry Society, negotiating the reverse curves ... 

... on the approach to Frodsham station.

70 004 passing through the station on 7 March.

70 007 crossing the Weaver Viaduct on 24 March, disturbing pigeons, while grain barge Panary is moored at the wharf.

Costa Copper - report by Tim Chugg

It seems it's not just cable theft that's a problem in our area at the moment. This picture. taken on Monday 14 March, shows a large portion of the copper cladding at the rear of Costa Coffee at Chester station, had been stripped and pinched overnight. No one heard or saw a thing, and British Transport Police are currently investigating.

A Helsby viewpoint - report by Gareth Dyson

Here are some pictures taken on 31 March from a recently-replaced farm access and public footpath bridge (Grid ref. SJ 490760) over the line between Helsby and Frodsham. This offers a great view of the straight track towards Frodsham; I don't think I've seen any photos taken from here on the website.

70 004 on the 12:09 coal train from Ellesmere Port to Fiddlers Ferry was running slightly late.

175 115 was on the 11:50 from Manchester to Llandudno.

Beluga - report by Nick Gurney

On 21 March Airbus Industrie A300-608ST Super Transporter Beluga 3 registration F-GSTC prepares to take off from Hawarden airfield, adjacent to the North Wales Coast line, to Toulouse with Airbus wings from the Broughton factory.  Pictures by Nick Gurney.

Stone trains in view

Train 6D44 09:10 Guide Bridge to Penmaenmawr quarry, and the loaded return 6H45 14:55 Penmaenmawr to Guide Bridge, carrying ballast for Manchester Metrolink, continues to run as required. Above, on 21 March, 66 605 passes under the new cycleway bridge and crosses the Cob towards Conwy with the empties. Picture by Garry Stroud.

24 March, and loading is in progress the quarry siding, with 66 618 in attendance (Nick Gurney). The current loading installation dates from the building of the A55 expressway road.

Most unusually, 27 March saw the train operate on a Sunday.The picture above was taken by signalman Alan Roberts from Penmaenmawr signalbox as 6D44, hauled by 66 621, wound its way over the crossover and into the sidings.

Alan's second view shows 66 621 running round its train in the siding,  watched by the Freightliner shunter who supervises all movement in the yard while the train is there.

North Wales and the User Committee

North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood is concerned that there is no North Wales representation on the Welsh Government’s Public Transport  Users’  Committee for Wales, and has called for a statement on the situation. Mr Isherwood was alerted to the fact there is no North Wales representation when he sat on the question and answer panel at the recent North Wales Coast Railway Users’ Group public meeting in Flint.

Addressing the Minister for Business and Budget, Jane Hutt, Mr Isherwood, who regularly raises rail issues affecting North Wales in the Assembly, said: 'Concern was raised that the Welsh Government’s public transport users' committee, which advises Welsh Ministers on strategic matters applying to public transport in Wales, has no North Wales representation whatsoever.

'We know that many rail issues have dominated the agenda in North Wales in recent times, particularly in north-east Wales with regard to the coastal stations and trains coming to and passing through Wrexham and neighbouring stations. We need a statement to answer the concerns raised as to why there is no representation from North Wales, whether there were any North Wales applicants and, if so, why the decision was taken to exclude them from representation on a committee that clearly does not represent the whole of Wales.'

The Minister told Mr Isherwood: 'I am sure that the Minister for the Economy and Transport will respond to the concerns.'

[That's all right then.- Ed.]

Non-passenger miscellany

Stavros Lainas writes: This picture was taken at Craven Arms at 15:52 on 26 March, during my visit to see the 'football special' (see last issue.) I had noticed during the week that the afternoon Llanwern steel train had been running so decided to hang around. The loco is 66 012.

60 099, in its special Tata Steel livery, shakes the dust out of some new ballast at Plumley with the empty limestone hoppers to Tunstead on 23 March (Andrew Vinten).

Acton Bridge, on the west coast main line, on 28 March. 37 059 and 37 069 top-and-tail Test Coach Mentor running as train 1Q18 from Derby to Carlisle. The purpose of this vehicle - Mobile Electrical Network Testing, Observation and Recording - is to carry out measurements and test on the overhead lines. Notice that it is fitted with a pantograph, and lights to illuminate its operation. It was converted in 1973 from Mk 1 Brake Corridor Second 34616, built in 1955. Picture by Andrew Vinten; thanks as always for vehicle details to

A couple of hours later 67 028 headed south on 6D01 from Warrington to Derby. The assorted freight wagons are in fact 'barrier' or 'adaptor' wagons;  the trip was to collect one of the new Class 379 electric trains being built at Derby for the Stansted Express service from Derby and haul it to Crewe, prior to testing. 

The Fotopic saga

A reporter from Amateur Photographer magazine recently managed to track down Stephen Dyer, of 'Snappy Designs', owner of the Fotopic website (see earlier issues) which ceased to exist in early March without any warning. As many expected, the company has ceased trading, and 'has appointed Jeremy Bleazard of XL Business Solutions, based in Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire as liquidator.'

We are told that the customers, many of them rail enthusiasts who have used Fotopic to create extensive websites, may be able to access their work again 'if the liquidator succeeds in selling the business.' We understand that the site itself sits on a commercial web host rather than a dedicated server machine as it once did, but who will buy the business?

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