Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

11 July 2011

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Forthcoming events

July 2011      

Tuesday 26 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.

Sunday 14 August Excursion Compass Tours - Holyhead (dep. 07:30) to Bath or Salisbury, 'Western Cathedrals Express'

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.

Colas Rail's latest loco 66 850 works the log train through Wrexham General on 8 July. Picture by George Jones.

Train of Hope auction latest

Readers might like to know that the 'Train of Hope' team of Virgin Trains drivers, raising money for the Clic Sargent children's cancer care charity, will be placing the following for auction on eBay from 13 July:

Manchester Piccadilly Signal Box Tour: A Charity Auction Unique Tour For four people of Manchester Piccadilly signalling centre;
Day With First Capital Connect: A Cab Ride and Train Driver simulation: Unique Opportunity For two People;
Neville Hill Depot Leeds Exclusive Tour. Unique Tour For four People - A One-off Railway Opportunity;
Virgin Trains Exclusive Pendolino Driver Simulator Day Includes First Class Travel & Hotel Accommodation For two.

Watch the Train of Hope eBay link for the chance to bid.

Tour of Britain reaches North Wales

The Royal Scotsman 'Grand Tour of Britain' is a remarkable seven-night experience visiting Scotland, Wales and England in the luxurious rolling stock which spends most of its time touring Scotland. This year days three and four, 10 and 11 August, featured the delights of North Wales. The train arrived from Scotland via Warrington; we pick it up on the approach to Helsby, above, hauled by West Coast Railways machine 37 685 Loch Arkaig.  Picture by Andrew Vinten.

On the rear, recent acquisition to the West Coast fleet, 57 001, as the train takes the curve towards Chester (Andrew Vinten).

Passing Mickle Trafford at 14:20 (Stavros Lainas). The signalbox, which can be seen in the distance, was built in 1969 when Chester Northgate station closed, and its trains were diverted to share the line into Chester General by creating an additional track connection. Freight trains to Dee Marsh also travelled this way. Northgate station site has been built on, but most of the old line, from a point a couple of kilometres west of Mickle Trafford, is now an excellent cycleway.

The train paused at Chester and was stabled in the sidings while the passengers explored the city. Picture by Stavros Lainas.

From Chester the train headed for Blaenau Ffestiniog and a ride on the Ffestiniog Railway for the passengers. Above, 37 685 brings it into Llandudno Junction (Jack Bowley). The American-style 'Observation Lounge Car', which like several of the other vehicles was converted from a Pullman Car built in 1960 for East Coast Main Line trains, loses some of its point when in a 'top and tailed' train. (Some may perhaps recall the role played by such a carriage in the classic 1944 film 'Double Indemnity.')

The train reversed at Llandudno Junction, 57 001 taking over the haulage up the Conwy Valley. Jack Bowley's picture was taken at the automatic level crossing in Llandudno Junction Business Park.

The next day, 11 July, found the train at Llandudno: Jack Bowley's picture shows 37685 in platform 1 whilst a Class 175 makes a hasty retreat for Llandudno Junction from platform 2.

57 001 photographed from the platform at Llandudno (Jack Bowley). The gloss finish to the loco's paintwork is evident.

The train left Wales in the evening of 11 July as 1Z28 19:50 Llandudno - Hereford, seen above passing Llanddulas (Darren Durrant) ...

... and  Rhyl (Ivor Bufton).

Cambrian tribulations

The view across the Mawddach 7 July, a class 97/3 makes a tiny splash of yellow as it crosses Barmouth bridge on its way to collect a track machine; all such vehicles, not being fitted with the new ERTMS signalling, have to be accompanied by a Class 97/s for travel on the Cambrian system (Ian Macer-Wright)

Public information about the problems of the ERTMS system on the Cambrian has not been much in evidence. However the slides from a presentation given by Peter Leppard, Operations and Safety Director of Arriva Trains Wales, to an international conference at the end of March 2011 have become available on the web, and give us a view of what has been going on. We read that train performance has been 'quite poor so far – we expect 95% of trains to be less than 5 minutes late, but ERTMS faults mean we are achieving only 62%' and that there have been 'five Category ‘A’ SPADs [incidents in which drivers have passed 'signals' at danger] in the first five months.'

Mr Leppard confirms what we already know, that installing the equipment in 20-year-old Class 158 units has been problematical, with very little space available in the cab to position the driver's screen which can be '‘washed out’ by sunlight, but too bright at night.' Also 'Some icons ... are too small/too similar' - bear in mind that the system uses 'touch screen' technology in which the control buttons are simply pictures on the screen, as is the speedometer.

There have also been problems with the extra equipment now required on and around the track: 'balises', axles counters, powered point motors ... and there are various things which can 'confuse' the software in the central control room, including 'two trains in the same platform both seeking Movement Authorities' which is common at Machynlleth where Pwllheli and Aberystwyth trains join and divide, and units move to and from the depot. The reception on the 'GSM-R' transmission between the trains and the control computer has not always been good, and drivers dislike having to deal with km/h speeds on the Cambrian part of the journey and mph between Shrewsbury and Birmingham. So it goes on.

In conclusion, Mr Leppard told his audience of the benefits of the trial experience, which include 'Realisation that a single-line railway was perhaps not the best place to conduct a trial' and 'Our very simple railway has been converted to something much more complex (and expensive!)'  It's interesting that Arriva have insisted on fitting all their Class 158s with the equipment, when the original plan had been to only fit enough to work the Cambrian services. We can't help wondering who is going to find the greater maintenance costs of the system once the trial is deemed to be complete.

It's well worth having a look at the full PDF document; no doubt some of the issues have been dealt with by now. Let's hope they continue to resolve the problems which, from what we hear, have included on (at least?) one occasion a train leaving Shrewsbury and having to return from Sutton Bridge Junction and be replaced by a bus because the system could not be persuaded to give the driver a 'movement authority' to enter the Cambrian system. And, of course, the Cambrian Coast summer steam service has been cancelled for this year (at least) due to the designers' inability to produce an ERTMS solution for visiting locomotives for less than £5 million.

New Manchester tram line

For those visiting Manchester, a new section of the Metrolink tram network opened to passengers on 7 July, from Trafford Bar through Firswood and Chorlton to St Werburgh's Road, using a section of the trackbed of the one-time Midland Railway's main line from London to Manchester Central. However, although such trains serve Deansgate-Castlefield station, which is on the site of Manchester Central, they do not follow the original route out of the city, which has been blocked by buildings, but instead follow part of the Altrincham line as far as Trafford Bar before descending on to the old trackbed. Above, tram 3001 of the new Austrian-built order is standing at the terminus, which is an island platform located at what was once called Chorlton Junction, where the 'loop' through Fallowfield to Gorton, now a cycleway, left the main line towards Derby and London. Picture by Richard Boyd.

Looking from the platform towards the end of the line. In a year or so, a further section, also on the ex-main line trackbed continuing to East Didsbury will open. Beyond there, the cuttings which carried the line on towards Stockport have been filled in and the trackbed lost. The planned future line to the Airport will branch to the right somewhere in the foreground, and climb steeply on a curve to the right to join the road which crosses the bridge (Charlie Hulme).

A view by Greg Mape looking at St Werburgh's Road station from the bridge over the present end of line, with a tram negotiating the crossover to return to Manchester. Note the point indicator, the neat ballast and the white cones on the overhead wire poles.

This is Chorlton station, which is on the site of the former Chorlton-cum-Hardy station and immediately adjacent to a Morrison superstore which was built some years ago (for Safeway) on the station goods yard. Unlike some other places - Rhyl, for example  - there is easy access from the station to the store. Travellers should note that the route serves Victoria, not Piccadilly, so travellers from North Wales will need to either walk from Oxford Road to St Peters Square station or catch an Altrincham, Eccles or MediaCityUK tram from Piccadilly and change.

Looking back ... to a fire in 1976 - with Roger Carvell

My travel experiences of 30 April (16 May Notice Board) when some Great Westernry left its mark by setting fire to grass at Abergele and Rhyl, set me thinking about lineside fire pictures I had taken years ago of that very dry summer of 1976. It took time to find, but here (above) is photo of a fire near Pentre Crossing, Flint, looking east from one of the several minor road overbridges that precede Flint station.

Flint Fire Brigade are on the scene on 30 August 1976 as a Class 47 passes by with a return excursion to the Eastern Region. No 'scene of crime' tape, jobsworths on mobile phones, police and - significantly - no sign of all trains stopped. Just firemen doing their professional best. We all just got on with it in those days.

The excursion set of Mk1 coaches was a weekday set of Peterborough to King's Cross commuter stock,  let out at weekends to go elsewhere. Can anyone tell us the number of the locomotive?

Saturday Pendolino, 9 July

The weekly visit of a Class 390 'Pendolino' to North Wales featured a 'celebrity' on 9 July in the shape of 390 004 in its special Alstom livery, seen above passing Abergele (Darren Durrant).

Haulage west of Crewe was by 57 308 Tin Tin, seen above at Llanfairfechan (Stavros Lainas).

The afternoon return working for London passes Valley (Stavros Lainas.) The colour scheme chosen for 390 004 is bizarre, with its wider black sections along just part of each coach.

Llanfair PG (Richard Fleckney).

The other end of the Pendolino (Richard Fleckney). The covers over the couplers are left open all day when on this duty. Incidentally, 390 004 should not be confused with the newly-built set, 390 054, which also carries some special markings. This was built as an 11-car train for use by whoever takes over the West Coast Main Line franchise, but has now been re-configured as 9-car so it can be used by Virgin in passenger service for the time being, and is likely to be seen at Crewe on test runs.

Near Abergele (Darren Durrant). The towers of the Georgian mansion  Gwrych Castle can be seen in the background. The place seems, like the Duke of Lancaster and Colwyn Bay pier, to be fated to lead its owners into problems. The derelict fantasy castle was sold in 2006 to Clayton Hotels, who planned to convert it to a luxury hotel, but 'went bust' shortly afterwards.  According to the Gwrych Castle Trust website: 'During Easter 2010, Gwrych was purchased by Edwards Property Management who, with the help of the Trust, is continuing the vision for conversion into a five star hotel.  One hopes that it will be restored back to its former glory so that one can walk through its marbled halls once again as Winifred, Countess of Dundonald once did.'

Wrexham Interlude - report by Geoff Morris

I went to Wrexham on Thursday 7 July because it was sunny and both the Chirk-bound  log train and the Penyffordd cement works coal empties were due there around 19:00.  I caught the train from Chester and arrived at Wrexham around 18:40.  Unfortunately the coal empties were already in the loop at Croes Newydd with the loco already at the north end - they must have been running about an hour early but the limitations of the single line section to Saltney Junction meant that they would have to wait until 19:45 before they could head north. Before the logs arrived there was time for 150 236 (above), which had been working the Bidston service, to run empty through platform 3 to stable in one of the bay platforms and wait to form the Shrewsbury connection out of the Voyager service from Euston.

It transpired that the logs were being hauled by  66 850 (formerly 66 577) on what was its first revenue-earning run for Colas.  The loco has been repainted into Colas livery but (unlike their earlier acquisitions) it has "Colas Rail Freight" on the body side and the large safety helmet logo has disappeared (the smaller ones remain on the cabside).

Colas have continued to put small loco numbers on the cabside with nothing on the front.  

Once the 19:02 to Holyhead had headed north, the coal (hauled by 66 182) left the loop and ran down to the signal at the start of the single line section where it had to wait for circa 40 minutes before it could take up its booked path.  The photo is taken looking down the footpath to the former Exchange platform.  Work is going on here to put in a new footbridge and lift tower to link that platform to the rest of the station and allow wheelchair users (and others) to interchange without having to go via the Mold Road bridge.

Conwy Valley Explorer

The 'Conwy Valley Explorer' was an excursion from Lincoln to Blaenau Ffestiniog on Thursday 7 July. 67 028 and 66 031 were the power, seen on arrival at Llandudno Junction (Peter Lloyd).

Flask scene

On 6 July, the flask train (of one wagon) from Valley, hauled by 37 218 and 37 602 passes Llanfair PG and its busy James Pringle clothing shop (Richard Fleckney).

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