Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

23 May 2011

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This site is dedicated to all our regular contributors and supporters, and especially the rail staff of North Wales.

There have been several extra issues this month: below is a summary of their contents in case you have missed any:

 20 May 2011
 Pony Express
 The Cathedrals Explorer
 Train of Hope auction news
 Railbus on bus route
 Aberaeron Centenary - report by Dennis Bates
 Second 'WAG' express starts
 Conwy Valley Belle

16 May 2011
 Royal correction
 Happy Friday 13th for the Conwy Valley - by Paul Varley
 Train of Hope update
 North Wales to Scotland with Compass Tours
 Inspecting the line
 Just a spark - report by Roger Carvell

 09 May 2011
 Fire Train on the Ffestiniog - report by Ken Robinson
 Cambrian Coast jottings
 Northern Belle to Bangor
 Learning on the Rhyl Railway
 Freight Trains
 Bersham Tip prospects
 On your Bike
 Conwy Valley in the Press (twice)
 Pendolino events
 Busy Time at Wrexham - report by George Jones

 06 May 2011
 The Llandudno Victorian Statesman
 More Hall and Castle scenes

Forthcoming events

May 2011

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.

June 2011
Sunday 19 June  Steam on the Coast:   Northern Belle Father's Day Special to Holyhead. Note: this will not now be steam-hauled.

July 2011      

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.

August 2011

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.

DRS locomotive 66 421 deputised for the usual Colas Class 66 on 18-19 May, hauling 6J37 Carlisle - Chirk timber train. On May 18, the train passes Rossett on the single line between Saltney Junction and Wrexham Picture by Mark Riley.

No Steam for Father

The Northern Belle organisation Father's Day Special Sunday 19 June was advertised as a 'steam lunch' from Crewe and Chester to Holyhead and return with 6201 Princess Elizabeth. However, this will now be worked by a pair of DRS Class 47s like other Northern Belle trains.  DRS  have declined to use the loco for what the owners of 6201 refer to 'operational issues.'  When this was realised is not clear. Either way, it seems likely that some passengers will be disappointed that they can't 'indulge your Dad with a delicious five-course meal ... and see the big kid in him come out at the sight of the powerful steam locomotive' as promised by the Northern Belle website. 6201 will, apparently, be making appearances this summer on Crewe - Scarborough (22 July, 5 August) and Crewe - Carlisle (30 July) trains for the Railway Touring Company, whose trains are worked by the West Coast Railway Company.

Rhyl Miniature Railway centenary

A reminder and some more details of the Rhyl Miniature Railway's centenary events over the Bank Holiday weekend, 28-30 May. After an Official Opening by the Mayor of Rhyl at 11am on Saturday 28th, the event will then run until 5pm on each day. A free bus will operate from the Promenade Arena, leaving regularly from 10am. (Picture above by courtesy of the RMR.)

A frequent service of Steam Train Rides will operate from 10am on each day. with discounted Gala Rover tickets available.  All six locomotives built in Rhyl, seen together for the first and only time, will be lined up for photo opportunities.

There will be family attractions aplenty, including a Victorian Dress Competition: On Saturday only, come dressed in Victorian costume to qualify at the ticket office for half-price train rides. There will be a prize for the best costume, results will be announced at 3pm. Other attractions:

  • Funfair Rides: A selection of juvenile rides will operate on each day.
  • The Formby Entertainers: Regular performances of the great George Formby's popular songs, on all three days.
  • Classic Car Rally: Free admission to the rally organised by Clwyd Practical Classics, located opposite to Marine Lake at Quay Street car park, on all three days (weather permitting).
  • Rhyl Create Craft Stalls: A selection of local craft products for sale, on all three days.
  • New Nature & Heritage Trail: Will be open, for visitors to explore the unique natural features of Marine Lake. Follow the Rubbings Trail; collect a leaflet from the train station. Find the new interactive features and sculptures at the learning stations around the Lake.
  • Face Painting and Balloon Sculpting: on all three days.
  • Model Boat Display: on Saturday only.
  • Water Sport Displays: On Saturday by members of Ocean Beach Water Ski Club, on Sunday by Rhyl Yacht Club, on Monday by Rhyl Water Ski Club
  • See the Circus Performers: on Sunday and Monday only.
  • Stage Event: Free Variety Entertainment, on Monday only
An event well worth a visit, we say: The RMR is a historic treasure.

Adventures of the yellow HST

Above, a view of the Network Rail New Measurement Train trickling out of Platform 12 at Crewe heading for the North Wales coast on Thursday 19 May. Picture by Andrew Royle, who wonders: 'Will they ever do something with the half empty trackbed on the left of this view? The idea to relocate the station to Basford Hall seemed crazy to me; with a bit of thought I’m sure they could re-align the through tracks for higher speed running and make better use of the closed platform areas. Have they ever thought of having a platform on the 'Independent lines'  [which pass below the station area] so that there are fewer conflicting moves off the Manchester line?'

Passing Llanddulas (Stéphanie Durrant).

Llanfair PG (Richard Fleckney)

Holyhead, with loco 43 013 nearest the camera (Mark Barber).

43 014 waits to lead the train back to Crewe (Mark Barber).

Approaching Colwyn Bay on the return run (Stéphanie Durrant).

Last 175 being refurbished

Tom Daly took this interesting picture while on an Institution of Railway Operators visit to Alstom's Longsight depot on 12 May.  175 113 is the last 175 to go through the refurbishment programme which, as the picture illustrates, involves work on the bogies as well as the coach interior.

Holyhead Shipping report - by Nick Gurney

The picture above shows cruise liner Grand Princess, owned and operated by Princess Cruises, at Holyhead on Wednesday 18 May. The Holyhead cruise program is very busy this year with the following ships booked to call: Europa (11 July), Silver Cloud (16 July), Deutschland (18 July), Marina (26 July), Saga Ruby (1 August), Grand Princess (8 August), Balmoral (11 August), Seven Seas Voyager (15 August), Le Diamant (27 August), Azamara Journey (29 August), and Prisendam (4 September).

It seems Holyhead is now favoured over Liverpool: maybe it's cheaper to berth at Holyhead. It all makes welcome tourist revenue for North Wales.

8F in transit - report by Bob Greenalgh

Friday 20 May, 12:20 at Acton Bridge saw 8F 48151 and support coach pass en route to Crewe and Shrewsbury for railtour duty on Saturday 21 May. Running about 30 minutes ahead of time it looked and sounded great. It wasn't hanging around either!

Another shot of 48151, this time drifting through Chester station on its way to Carnforth at 14:40 on Sunday 22 May.

Chiltern Railways expands loco haulage

Above: the stabling sidings outside Birmingham Moor Street, seen from Moat Street car park. Picture by Ian Macer-Wright.

From 23 May, the following Monday - Friday Chiltern Railways services are operated by locomotive-powered trains, to be formed of Class 67 locomotives working push-pull with 'de-branded' coaches from the erstwhile Wrexham & Shropshire fleet:

05:43 Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone (as previously)
06:53 Banbury to London Marylebone (as previously)
06:14 Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone
10:55 Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone
15:55 Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone

0820 London Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street
1320 London Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street
1630 London Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street (as previously)
1806 London Marylebone to Banbury (as previously)
1830 London Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street 

Moor Street station is a short walk from New Street. Any pictures or travel reports on these trains will be welcomed.

The reason why Driving Van Trailer 82304 was hauled to Doncaster works (as reported here) after the Wrexham & Shropshire service finished is now clear: it has been fitted with a diesel-generator set which can power the train's heating systems when the locomotive is shut down in termini.

Thanks to Chris Morrison for help with this item.

Steam train fares - a personal view by Bob Fleming

I've been a traveller on the yearly pilgrimage to Holyhead upon the steam hauled 'North Wales Coast Express' for many a year now. Living along the North Wales coast provides a plentiful supply of narrow gauge steam, however mainline steam from the Welsh port is a rarity, therefore the only option is to join a tour along the Coast to Holyhead.
The Railway Touring Company (RTC) provides this fix through the North Wales Coast express which travels from Liverpool to Holyhead and back in the summer months. The family and I have had many a jolly trip to Holyhead on this train; joining at Llandudno Junction we enjoy a near one-hour ride each way hauled by a steam locomotive, reminiscing of times of old and appreciating the engineering excellence which the loco provides.
I recently visited the RTC website to look at booking again this year for a trip to Holyhead; to my disbelief the standard class fare from Llandudno Junction to Holyhead is £39 return for an adult and £24 for a child.  Joining at Liverpool costs £65 for an adult and £35 for a child, fairly reasonable for the distance covered, which triggered my shock at the Llandudno Junction - Holyhead price.
I'm fully aware that fuel costs have increased - aren't we all! - however the price of nearly £40 Llandudno Junction to Holyhead is totally unjust in my opinion. Surely, there must be the empty seats of the passengers who had alighted along the Coast; attracting additional travellers onto these seats provides some extra income. However, having seen the latest price - there are at least five people who have been put off.

[Editor's note: we emailed RTC on 6 May for any comment they might have on this, but as yet they have not seen fit to reply. The same issue arose some years ago with respect to another charter company, and their attitude was that a cheap fare was encouraging people to drive long distances to Llandudno Junction to join the train and save money, reducing the viability of the train. Maybe RTC feel the same, who knows? Unlike some other companies, they never contact us with any information.]

Coaches for modellers

For anyone who likes the idea of modelling the 1990s 'Class 37' era in North Wales in 00 scale, Model Rail magazine now has available two limited edition (500 only)  packs of two Mk 2 coaches in the Regional Railways livery of the time. One pack (39-000H) contains two standard open coaches, numbered 5316 and 5341, and the other (39-000M) one standard open (numbered 5385) and one brake compartment standard numbered 35510. Each pack costs £56.50: the links above will take you to the on-line ordering page. The two packs together would make a feasible North Wales train, although it was much more common, except in the very early days, to find one older Mk1 coach in the four-coach consist. If you need two trains for your layout, it might be better to buy two of the packs including a brake coach, and only one of the other, and match them with two Mk1 coaches from elsewhere, such as Bachmann 39-056.

The numbers on the coaches are certainly authentic, but unfortunately those actual vehicles did not operate in North Wales according to our record: we think they were based at Bristol for use on Weymouth trains. However, if this worries you, you probably have the skill to re-number them. The brake vehicles were used as first-class accommodation, at least in theory, on the North Wales line, and at least one of the 355xx vehicles had a yellow line above its compartments to indicate this.

For interest, we have revived from the archives our detailed history of the coaches in use with the Class 37s in that period, compiled in 2000.

A visit to Welshpool - with Glyn Jones

I visited Welshpool over the weekend of 7/8 May.  'Dead' in the mainline station siding on 7 May was former Class 37 No. 37 170, now Network Rail 97 302...

... And newly repainted Colas Rail Plasser & Theurer tamper No.
73919. [All track machines moving under their own power on the Cambrian lines now have to be accompanied by a Class 97/3 to operate the ERTMS signalling system. We understand that the loco and/or the tamper had been abandoned here after failing on the way to a work site north of Barmouth. More information welcome.]

I decided to make a return journey on the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway.  Only The Earl was in steam, seen above on arrival at Llanfair Caereinion, ready for the service siding.

Catching one of the many empty buckets after coaling!

Drewry 0-6-0 diesel-mechanical No.7 was in the yard, presumably serving movements to and from the maintenance shed.

The next day, In addition to The Earl, sister engine Countess was in use for crew training and was used on the 16:45 arrival at Welshpool, seen being serviced by the crew.

With permission, I photographed the driver and fireman  enjoying the customary well-earned mug of tea prior to departure to Llanfair with the final train of the day.

The Welshpool and Llanfair Railway website has full details of the line's timetables: trains run daily, except Mondays and Fridays, from 28 May.

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