NORTH WALES COAST
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09 May 2011
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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.
28-30 May Rhyl Miniature Railway Centenary Gala. The line's biggest Gala ever, with a host of family attractions. Full details on the RMR website.
Sunday 19 June Steam on the Coast: Northern Belle Father's Day Special. Crewe-Holyhead and return with 46201 Princess Elizabeth.
2 & 3 July – Welsh Highland Heritage Railway, Porthmadog – Steam in the Sheds. 'Over a hundred very small steam engines will be on display and working in the Engine Sheds.
Tuesday 9 July Conwy Valley Steam: Railway Touring Company, 'The Welsh Mountaineer' Preston - Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Note: The Railway Touring Company tours in August can also be booked together as a week's package which also includes steam trips on the 'Cumbrian Mountain Express' and 'The Cambrian'.
Sunday 7 August Steam on the Coast: 'The North Wales Coast Express' Railway Touring Company Liverpool and Chester to Colwyn Bay, Llandudno, Bangor and Holyhead. Hauled throughout, by one of 6100 Royal Scot, 6201 Princess Elizabeth, or 60019 Bittern.
Tuesday 9 August Conwy Valley Steam: Railway Touring Company, 'The Welsh Mountaineer' Preston - Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Sunday 14 August Steam on the Coast: 'The North Wales Coast Express' Railway Touring Company Liverpool and Chester to Colwyn Bay, Llandudno, Bangor and Holyhead. Hauled throughout, by one of 6100 Royal Scot, 6201 Princess Elizabeth, or 60019 Bittern.
Saturday 20 August Steam on the Coast: Vintage Trains Tyseley - Llandudno and return with 5043.
Sunday 21 August Steam on the Coast: 'The North Wales Coast Express' Railway Touring Company Liverpool and Chester to Colwyn Bay, Llandudno, Bangor and Holyhead. Hauled throughout, by one of 6100 Royal Scot, 6201 Princess Elizabeth, or 60019 Bittern.
Tuesday 23 August Conwy Valley Steam: Railway Touring Company, 'The Welsh Mountaineer' Preston - Blaenau Ffestiniog.
27, 28 & 29 August –August Bank Holiday Weekend Welsh Highland Heritage Railway, Porthmadog – Fun Whatever The Weather!
'Who cares if it rains over the Bank Holiday? We’ve organised a special fun weekend, including chance to win a prize if you find the Welsh Dragons hiding in the Engine Sheds.'
See the Calendar page for more details and later dates.
Tim Fenton took this picture at Crewe on 23 April, as enthusiasts and passengers gathered round 5029 Nunney Castle working the 'Great Britain IV' national steam tour. Lurking behind are one of the new electric trains being built at Derby for the Stansted Express, which have making test runs in the area, and DRS diesel 20 308.
Fire Train on the Ffestiniog - report by Ken Robinson
Further to earlier that lineside fires are a problem in this dry weather, here is a shot of the Ffestiniog Railway's 'Fire Train' which had go up the line on Sunday 1 May to deal with a fire between Tan-y-Bwlch and Dduallt - trains were terminated at Tan-y-bwlch (where this photo was taken) and there were some delays. Road fire engines find it difficult to access many parts of the upper reaches of the FR.
Cambrian Coast jottings
Cambrian Coast trains take a (slightly) different route from 9 May, as a short section of line near Minffordd has been relocated over the weekend to allow for the Porthmadog by-pass road.
Following on from the detached brake disk on a Class 158, mentioned in an earlier issue, we hear that four other 158's have been found with fractures in the lugs of the discs; it is said that all four had been serviced at Arriva's LNWR Crewe facility.
Will the Cambrian Coast steam trains run this summer? Nobody is exactly saying 'no' in public, although an item in Railway Magazine suggest that the service is 'hanging by a thread' as the long-proposed fitting of the ERTMS signalling system to a coach is now not taking place; elsewhere we read that it has been costed at £5 million. Apparently it there is an idea that a special arrangement could be made to allow the train to run without ERTMS, and risk assessments, etc. are being done. Meanwhile the operator's website still goes with 'coming soon.' It's all rather last-minute for anyone looking to book a holiday.
How about some Llandudno - Blaenau Ffestiniog shuttles as a substitute?
Northern Belle to Bangor
Saturday 7 May saw a 'Northern Belle' luxury excursion run from York via Manchester Victoria to Bangor (where the participants were to be treated to a tour around Penrhyn Castle in the rain) and back. The pictures from our contributors include some particularly fine views.
Approaching Llandudno Junction (Garry Stroud). Traction was provided by DRS, as is normal since they recently won the contract previously held by EWS/DB Schenker. The locomotives were 47 712 Pride of Carlisle and 47 832 Solway Princess which double-headed the train on the westbound journey.
Penmaenmawr station (Stéphanie Durrant).
Both locos were clearly under power as the train passed Llanfairfechan. Picture by Stavros Lainas.
Arrival at Bangor (Rowan Crawshaw)
The train ran empty to Holyhead for servicing: it is seen above passing Llanfair PG (Richard Fleckney). The yellow line here is unusually far back from the platform edge, perhaps because of the non-railway tourists who tend to wander about here trying to say the long name - however, some of those photographers in the picture are a little further down the platform ramp than we'd like to see.
The train heads back to Bangor, seen passing Rhosneigr at 17:00. Only 47 712 is under power, with 47 832 'dead' on the rear. (Stavros Lainas).
47 832 is on the rear as the train departs from Bangor through the splendid 'Egyptian' portal of Bangor Tunnel, designed by Francis Thompson, who also designed the original station buildings on the line, including Bangor, and the towers of the Britannia Bridge. Picture by Rowan Crawshaw.
Llandudno Junction at 17:55 (Peter Lloyd)
Abergele, seen by telephoto from the path from Belgrano village to the beach (Stéphanie Durrant).
A wider shot from the same point (Darren Durrant). Diversion: How did Belgrano get its name? Its not Welsh: apparently the village was founded in 1930, in what was then an open field, by a retired seaman, Captain Robert Roberts. The original Belgrano village was just three streets, including the delightfully 1930s-named 'Sunray Avenue'. Does anyone know more about its history?
The captain must have known the port and naval base of Puerto Belgrano in Argentina, which itself had been given that name in 1926 in honour of the General of that name, whose name was also also given to a second warship bought by the Argentinian navy from the USA in 1951. What happened to the ship in 1982 is a matter of history.
Learning on the Rhyl Railway - report by Ken Robinson
I was one of the course leaders, on the 2011 Heritage Railways Course at Plas Tan-y-bwlch, the Snowdonia National Park study centre. We had a great week - good weather, and interesting trains as most railways had a gala of some sort! We enjoyed in particular (it was a first time for this course) the Rhyl Miniature Railway, whose operator Simon Townsend had been to talk to us the previous evening. The welcome we had was great, and we had a fantastic time - run-pasts, driver experience, and plenty of free tea! The pictyre shows one of several trips we had on this mile-long railway which took me back 45 years!
Note: the RMR opened in May 1911, and is thus celebrating its centenary this year. On 28-30 May 2011 there will be holding a Centenary Gala, the line's biggest Gala ever, with a host of family attractions. Full details on the RMR website.
Colas Rail locomotive 66 845 works timber train 6Z37 Ribblehead - Chirk, with 13 loaded KFA wagons, across the Roodee Viaduct by Chester racecourse on Bank Holiday Monday, 2 May (Mark Riley)
Tim Rogers captured the same train a little further on its journey, on the single-line section at Rossett between Saltney Junction and Wrexham. This train falls in the 'runs when required' category.
4 May on the 'top line', and 66 046 heads under Slack Lane, Hawarden, with 6M76 03:04 Llanwern - Dee Marsh, carrying steel coil to receive a protective coating at Shotton works (Tim Rogers).
Class 60s ('tugs') can also be found on these trains. Above, 60 096 is seen at Wrexham on 15 April (Andrew Vinten)
Class 60 locos continue to dominate the Tunstead - Northwich limestone trains. Andrew Vinten sends this view of 60 010 on train 6F05 taken at Mobberley in full sun on Saturday 30 April.
Bersham Tip prospects
The Wrexham Leader of 5 May reports:
One of the region’s most famous industrial landmarks could become home to a new community. The former Bersham Bank Colliery site in Rhostyllen, which closed in 1986 with the loss of 300 jobs, could eventually be replaced by homes and shops.
A new passenger line and station are also a possibility, created from rail sidings which would initially be used to transport equipment needed to carry out the multi-million pound development. West Midlands-based developers Bersham (Glenside) Ltd plan to remove the huge slag heap at the site, which has been designated as 'amenity land', and prepare it for development in the future.
The company is yet to begin work to remove six million tons of burned shale, which could take between seven and nine years, but is positive it is only a matter of time before operations begin. A spokesman says: 'We have to meet a number of 'pre-start' planning conditions and there are quite detailed surveys and contracts which have to be considered. We had hoped to start work in March, but approval in some areas such as ecology and landscaping are still outstanding. We still aim to begin work as soon as possible, hopefully before the end of the year.
BGL’s plans were initially challenged by Welsh historic monuments agency Cadw, which asked for the spoil heap to be preserved as one of the few remaining of its kind. Wrexham Council also blocked the move. Lawrence Isted, the council’s head of community wellbeing and development, said: 'Wrexham Council originally objected to this application because the loss of the tip would compromise the setting of the colliery buildings, which are listed, on the site. The Assembly Government overturned this decision on appeal, subject to a number of planning conditions and a legal agreement which requires a financial contribution for the repair of the winding gear engine house and towards a museum and part of its running costs. We are now working with the company to discharge those planning conditions. The company has renewed its pledge to abide by these conditions.'
Let us hope the company is aware of the hurdlers to be overcome these days in the simple task of creating a 'new passenger line and station are also a possibility, created from rail sidings which would initially be used to transport equipment needed to carry out the multi-million pound development.' Curiously, they do not seem to say that rail will be used to move the six million tonnes of shale, which is really quite a large quantity. One train could move perhaps 1500 tonnes, meaning 4000 trains would be needed.
On your Bike
The North Wales Coast Cycleway offers a healthy way to observe trains along the Coast - Greg Mape took these Voyager pictures on Good Friday at Old Colwyn (above) and Llandudno Junction (below).
Conwy Valley in the Press (twice)
Separate feature articles about the Conwy Valley line appear in the June 2011 issues of two magazines The Railway Magazine (on sale now) and Todays Railways UK (published 9 May). It's good to see the line getting such publicity, on top of the sterling efforts of the line's Community Rail Officer Larry Davies. Our picture, by Gary Thomas: 150 241 at Betws-y-Coed with a Llandudno service on Good Friday, 22 April.
Out and about on test runs recently has been the first of the newly-built 11-car Pendolinos, 390 054, pictured above at Crewe by Mark Riley on one of several runs on 21 April.
It also made two stops at platform 12 (Mark Riley) Bright red trains can cause quirks in the JPEG image compression system we use to make the pictures load quickly...
Although the train is painted in Virgin's basic colours, it is not at present part of Virgin's fleet, these extra units were ordered from Alstom by the Department for Transport for use by whoever takes on the West Coast Main Line Franchise when it is re-let in 2012. Virgin have won the contract to do the testing, based at Edge Hill depot, Liverpool.
Short-listed bidders for the franchise are Abellio (trading name of Netherlands state railway NS), First Group, Keolis with French state Railway SNCF, and Virgin. Deutsche Bundesbahn (Arriva) wanted to bid but have not been short-listed.
Virgin Trains, supported by Alstom, are supporting British Athletes with funds enabling a number of sportsmen and women to attend training camps, key competitions and championships up and down the country in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics. Some athletes have been chosen to have their name on the front of Pendolinos; the first, at a launch on 24 March, is Alison Waters, the British National Squash Champion 2010 and ranked number five in the world. Darren Durrant took these pictures at Liverpool Lime Street.
The chosen train is 390 052, which some reports say has also retained its Virgin Knight nameplates. Can anyone confirm? Alison told the press 'I am so excited to be launching a train named after me! This normally happens to Royalty!' She might be surprised to hear that it is rather rare for a loco or train (other than preserved machines) to be directly named after a royal personage since the railways were privatised.
Pendolinos are normally only seen in North Wales on Saturdays, but most unusually, a 'pendo drag' ran on Sunday 1 May, featuring 57 304 Gordon Tracy and 390 017 Virgin Prince, seen above near Mostyn heading for London (Tim Rogers)
The Saturday train is often used, very sensibly, on the London service to change over the locomotive at Holyhead for the weekday Arriva Trains Wales Holyhead Cardiff train, despite reported objections from within the Virgin management to the use of a 'wrong-coloured' loco. Above, 57 315 passes Llanfair PG on 16 April (Richard Fleckney). Virgin-liveried locos on the Cardiff train are much rarer.
Bank Holiday weather as 57 304 Gordon Tracy heads east through Dwygyfylchi on Saturday 23 April (Gary Thomas)
Bangor, 7 May with 57 302 Virgil Tracy (Rowan Crawshaw)
Busy Time at Wrexham - report by George Jones
I called in at Wrexham General station just as the 18:38 Arriva train departed south, so decided to wait for the log train to appear.
The following sequence then occurred:
At 18:48 the Class 150 unit ran through platform 4 to reverse - normally it will run into the bay to wait until 20:49 - but it 'hid' around the corner on the Bidston line. At 18:50 66 025 appeared off the Bidston line with coal empties from Penyffordd (picture above) ...
...it 'got the road' and ran straight through and into the loop at Croes Newydd. I thought this would mean the logs wouldn't be running, but at 18:58 and the 19:02 Holyhead train was announced and the barriers went down at Watery Road level crossing. At 18:59 150 267 on the Bidston train was moved to platform 3.
At 19:00 (above) 66 845 appeared at the north end with the timber train ...
... and powered through under a yellow signal....
as 158 821 came in from the south.
At 19:02 the passenger train departed, with the newly-refurbished 158 840 on the back.
66025 would then run round and bring the empties out but I couldn't wait for this move. 'All go' for a few brief minutes when slick work by the signalman got things through on schedule. Would it was like that every hour.
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