Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

15 August 2011

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Forthcoming events

August 2011

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.' 

September 2011

9 - 11 September Llangollen Railway Autumn Steam Gala

Friday 9 September  Clwyd Railway Circle  Edgar Richards: Railways of the North East, 1965 onwards (part 1). After recovering from an injury sustained in 2010, our top link speaker is back. This time Edgar takes us on a journey from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Durham.
Saturday 10 September Steam to Chester The Cathedrals Express  London Euston - Chester. Steam Dreams 60163 Tornado: Euston-Chester and return

Saturday 10 September – Welsh Highland Heritage Railway, Porthmadog – Lace on the Train. 'It’s National Lace Making Day, and a team of master lacemakers will be travelling on the train demonstrating the art of making lace with pins and pillows.'

Saturday 17 September – Welsh Highland Heritage Railway, Porthmadog – Cob 200. 'The Great Embankment which allowed Porthmadog to be built was completed 200 years ago this weekend.  Two centuries on, The Cob is still there and still doing its job.  We’re planning a day of celebrations as part of the festivities going on in town, including a visit from the man who built The Cob – William Madocks himself.'

Monday 19 September RCTS Chester  Bob Casselden: Teenage Memories Of The Early 1960s. A digital presentation of some of Bob’s black and white pictures from the 1960s. Bob’s home town of Yeovil will feature as well as faraway places such as Carlisle and Sunderland. His presentation will cover steam, diesel and electric traction with some of his early photographs which were taken with his ‘Box Brownie’ camera and have now been scanned for this presentation.

Saturday 24 September - Welsh Highland Heritage Railway, Porthmadog – Railways on the Air. Railway enthusiasts get together with amateur radio enthusiasts to broadcast around the globe from our station at Pen-y-Mount, and celebrate the 200th birthday of the Cob. Listen out for call sign GOWHR.

October 2011

Wednesday 5 October  Excursion Compass Tours - from Holyhead (dep. 07:30) and stations to Crewe, to Bath or Salisbury, 'Western Cathedrals Express'

Friday 7 October  Clwyd Railway Circle  Larry Davies:  Railway Wanderings in North Wales. A collection of slides around North Wales presented by a great favourite with our members.

Monday 17 October RCTS Chester   Brian Stephenson: Great Railway Photographers. Brian visits us from Ashford to give a digital presentation from about 10 individual photographers of the last 90 years. The show will include the work of W.J.V. Anderson, O.J Morris, T.G. Hepburn, F.R. Hebron, P. F. Cooke, Kenneth Field and C.R.L.Coles.  Also included will be a selection of Brian’s own photographs from 50 years of railway photography.

The return 'Welsh Mountaineer' of 9 August, seen near Abergele (Darren Durrant). See report below.

Measurement trains on the Cambrian

A measurement train returned to the Cambrian Coast on Tuesday 2 August as 1Q09 0720 Machynlleth Carriage Sidings - Shrewsbury (via Pwllheli) with 97 304 and 97 303 topping-n-tailing measurement coach DB999508, which was running late at this point - Minffordd
Quarry (with much work continuing on the new by-pass behind). Picture by Ken Robinson.

On 4 August the train ran from Shrewsbury to Manchester Longsight via the Borderlands Line to Bidston where it is seen above arriving at 11:45 with 97 303 leading 97 304. Picture by Stavros Lainas.

Stavros also captured the train departing Bidston after a quick reversal, now with 97 304 leading.

On the single-line between Wrexham and Chester, at Green Lane Crossing (Bob Greenhalgh)

The Sprinter-style measurement unit, 950 001, which has recently been out of service, was also out and about on 2 August, when Network Rail ran it as the the 2Q08 Derby RTC - Derby RTC via the North Wales Coast line. Jack Bowley's picture above shows it passing Colwyn Bay on its way to Bangor.

'WAG2': a traveller's tale - by James Treloar

Regarding the comment (1 August issue)  about "enhanced" trolley
service on the recently-introduced second Holyhead - Cardiff express. On 3 August I travelled from Chester to Cardiff and noticed that the trolley had a microwave on it. I asked the girl "what goes?" and apparently she had various rolls which could be heated, she listed them and one was a "breakfast roll", can't recall the others as I didn't actually want one, I was just curious.  I assume if someone asks for one she has to wheel the trolley to the end of and plug in the microwave. 

She came up and down the train a few times, I assume she was
there from Holyhead but can't be sure.  There was plenty of room on it that morning,  but I went from Chester to Shrewsbury on it on Tuesday of the previous week and it was very full, some standing.  I don't know what could have been the difference between the two days.  Only a two-car 175 was used, I would have thought that some re-arranging could be done so that they had a 3-car.

[According to a senior Arriva manager replying to a question at a recent transport forum, the WAG are paying £625,000 for their use of 2-car train from May to December; a 3-car set woould have been nearer to a million. As for the cutbacks to North-South services now being considered, readers have reminded us that Ieuan Wyn Jones, Minister responsible for transport in the Welsh Government defeated in the last election, was, in how own words, 'Not only ... the first Plaid Cymru Minister in history, but  a member of a pretty rare species, a minister representing a North Wales constituency.']

The Welsh Mountaineer, 9 August

The Railway Touring Company's 'Welsh Mountaineer' of 9 August was a steam-hauled excursion from Preston to Blaenau Ffestiniog and back. Our contributors have sent a particularly fine collection of views, following the train and its connecting service on the Ffestiniog Railway. We pick up the train at its water stop at Frodsham, portrayed above by Dave Jackson.

Time for a chat with the driver (Neil Kennedy)

The locomotive, Stanier-designed 8F 2-8-0 48151, has been named after the Gauge '0' Guild, a society founded in 1956 for railway modellers in '0' scale. Unfortunately, the layout of the nameplate with its oversize letters seems to allude to some oddly-named Irishman. Picture by Neil Kennedy.

The train headboard, in contrast, faithfully reproduces the Gill Sans typeface and style used by British Railways for named trains, although BR never used this actual name.

John Beresford ascended the escarpment behind Frodsham for this view. The train is shorter than most charter trips, due to the sharp curves and steep gradients of the Conwy Valley line which have caused longer trains to slip and stall in the past. The standard-class fare of £79 seems quite reasonable under the circumstances.

The train arrives at Chester at 09:25 (Bob Greenalgh).

Approaching Mold Junction, the train passes eastbound 175 002 (Bob Greenalgh)

The locomotive had been turned on the triangle of lines at Chester so as to be facing uphill on the Conwy Valley line, so had to work tender-first from there to Llandudno Junction (Bob Greenalgh).


In the Conwy Valley, north of Tal-y-Cafn  (Ian Pilkington).

South of Pont-y-Pant (Ian Pilkington).

Roman Bridge station (Ken Robinson)

Emerging from the 2 mile, 206 yard Ffestiniog Tunnel (the longest single-track tunnel on the Network Rail system) at Blaenau Ffestiniog amid the town's unique scenery of heaps of waste slate (Ian Pilkington).

Rounding the reverse curves on the approach to Blaenau Ffestiniog (Ken Robinson).

Ian Pilkington followed the Ffestiniog Railway from Blaenau Ffestiniog into the hills. Double Fairlie Earl of Merioneth is on on the 13:35 Porthmadog - Blaenau, south of Tan-y-Grisiau, with the original FR trackbed in the background.

Double Fairlie Merddin Emrys on the 14:25 Blaenau - Porthmadog passing Tan-y-Grisiau Reservoir (Ian Pilkington).

Back at Blaenau, 48151 heads home past the remains of The Welsh Slate Company Viaduct, approaching Ffestiniog Tunnel entrance (Ian Pilkington).

Crossing the Afon Conwy north of Betws-y-Coed (Ian Pilkington).

North of Tal-y-Cafn (Ian Pilkington).

Storming through Abergele & Pensarn (Ian Pilkington).

Approaching Frodsham (John Beresford)

Arrival at Frodsham (Neil Kennedy)

Departure from Frodsham (Dave Jackson)

Crossing the Weaver (John Beresford).

'Blowing off' from the safety valves on departure from Chester (Martin Evans).

Heading out of Chester for Warrington and Preston (Martin Evans)

In the Business Zone

Since our previous item about the new Chiltern Railways 'Mainline' service from Birmingham to London featuring ex-Wrexham & Shropshire trains, starting in September, the company has issued a press release about the use of the erstwhile First Class accommodation in the buffet car. It reads:

In the Business Zone we have created the ideal working environment. You can enjoy larger tables and seats that are not only wider, but also have more legroom than any other train service between Birmingham and London. Passengers in the Business Zone are also attended to by a dedicated train host who can provide an at-seat catering service that includes freshly cooked bacon rolls.

All trains with a Business Zone will offer free Wi-Fi., and passengers
will be able to reserve specific seats. Business Zone access can be
purchased with your ticket or dependant on availability passengers can upgrade onboard. A £20 supplement is required per journey to travel in the Business Zone. Business Zone is not first class, and any standard class ticket is valid with a Business Zone supplement, which can be purchased with your ticket (if booking at a station) or simply upgraded onboard.

On the 08:37 train from London to Birmingham and the 15:55 service from Birmingham to London, the Business Zone supplement will be just £10.'

This raises a number of questions in our minds, which will no doubt be resolved in due course. We are informed that holders of 'anytime any permitted' First Class return tickets from Birmingham to London will be able to travel without further supplement. Whether this also applies to First Class all-line rovers, and similar tickets, our source does not say. And will MPs, who are not now allowed to claim first class fares as expenses, be allowed to claim the Business Zone supplement?

Bangor to Holyhead with Middleton - report by George Jones

The latest in the series of books by Middleton Press is now available with the title Bangor to Holyhead. It has the usual format of 120 black and white pictures showing the route across Anglesey with the Branches to Amlwch and Red Wharf Bay, plus OS Map sections for the routes.

Photos are mostly BR steam era, plus earlier vintage views and more recent shots of the diesel era with 37s, 47s and DMUs into the Sprinter age but, strangely, no up to date views by contrast of Virgin Pendolinos or Arriva 175s on Anglesey. The most up-to-date picture is of a 66 leaving the Aluminium works in 2009.

Only one colour picture on the rear cover is of a 37 at Holyhead contrasted, with an LNWR tank at Amlwch in black and white. Once again they have managed to transposed the captions of these. One might have thought a colour picture could have been found to grace the front cover rather than a monochrome of a class 31 at Holyhead, redolent though it might be of a bygone age.

Class 323 renewal - report by John Oates

I was invited along with a number of others to join the test run of the first of the seventeen Northern Rail class 323 electric trains (223 - 239) to be refurbished since they came into service in 1992.  It had been in Longsight Electric Train Depot, where Alstom are doing the work, for four months.

Improvements include completely refurbished bogies, replacement driver's doors (they get a lot of complaints from drivers who find these very noisy at speed, something I can now confirm!), new seat squabs and coverings throughout which are vastly more comfortable that the old ones ... and much more. When I arrived 234 was being moved up and down the sidings (above) coupled to another unit just to make sure everything seemed to be working OK.

It was declared fit by the fitters and uncoupled from the other 323. Note one of the other changes, the retro-fitting of roller blinds as they can't get replacement parts for the old electronic indicators.

Above, a view of the cab before departing for our not quite uneventful test run.

The revised passenger compartment.  Much the same look, but with the standard Northern Rail seat covering. However the seats are far more comfortable. Note the adverts for Stockport Grammar School, which are currently found in most (if not all) Northern 323s.

The plan was to leave through the washing plant, maximum speed 4 mph, then await the signal at the south end of the depot before following the 12:55 Manchester Piccadilly - London Euston (via Wilmslow) Virgin Pendolino.  We had door tests to do on each side.

And then out to await the passing of the 1255 Pendo on the Up Fast,
except ... the Piccadilly signallers sent us out in front of it.  But the
driver wasn't worried, saying they'd send us 'up Slow' from Slade Lane .... but they sent us 'Up Fast' .... "Hmmm, better get a move on.  The Pendo's only 4 minutes behind us ...."

Also aboard was professional photographer Paul Bigland on assignment from RAIL Magazine who took loads of pictures on his fancy camera. 

We passed Heaton Norris Junction allowing for the 50mph Permanent Speed Restriction over the junction, then through Stockport station with green signals. We had to do a door test on the nearside, so now being around five minutes ahead of the Pendolino and catching the preceding Alderley Edge stopping service, we stopped at Cheadle Hulme to check the doors.  All worked fine. Then we were off again off in a hurry to keep out of the way of the Pendo.

Passing through Wilmslow with many passengers waiting for the Euston,
there were track workers on the nearside in the sidings.  The horn was
blown, we received acknowledging waves back and then ... the emergency brakes came on and we stopped.  A quick reset and off we went with the senior fitter discussing the likely causes with the driver.

Then through Alderley Edge (above) where the preceding stopper was now inside the Down loop.  More track workers, another blow on the horn, more waves and the emergency brakes came on again.  Oh dear!  A quick call to Manchester South signallers box requesting we be put "inside" Chelford Up Loop. And then it dawned on us.  Every time the driver blew the horn, the brakes came on!  It turned out one of the other parts renewed in the refurbishment  was the brake valves and the fitters were sure it would be their settings.

Once inside the loop, the driver blew his horn again and sure enough the
brakes came on, the air pressure dropping to 4.7 (the emergency brakes
on a 323 come on at 5.2). The Pendolino went past, we'd only cost it 2 minutes, and a quick call to the 'box saw us let out again and continuing on to Crewe.

It wasn't quite this bumpy - not a good photo but we're nicely on the
92mph top speed for which the class 323s are governed. I'm told that when the London Midland Region applied to the BR Board for the 323s, the Board rejected their 92mph top speed, stating 75mph would be acceptable as was then normal for local trains.  Local Birmingham Regional management appealed, pointing out the fast acceleration and top speed was required to keep the local trains ahead of the Euston-Birmingham-Wolverhampton services.  The BRB acceded.

We waited for the local back to Manchester via the Airport to leave
platform 1 at Crewe before going in. A quick change of ends and off we went, just in time to avoid delaying the next local into platform 1. Before Sandbach we blew the horn, and all was well.  The valves at this end were correctly set.  A quick stop at Sandbach saw the doors tested all well.

Here's Jodrell Bank's radio telescope staring through the clouds. Apparently, this is a favourite spot for promotional photos.

An Arriva Trains Wales Class 175 zooms past heading for South Wales.

Then an uneventful run to outside Longsight and a quick change of ends
before following 323 224 into the depot loop.  Whilst we waited for 224 to move, a TPE 185 went past on the Up Slow, preceded by a 142 on the far side heading for the Up Fast and the Mid-Cheshire Line.

Before leaving the unit, I changed the destination to Chester .... ready for the first electrified test run down the Mid-Cheshire Line. It could be a bit of a wait! The next unit to be refurbished will be 323 238, based on highest mileage.

Many thanks to Northern Rail and Alstom for inviting me as part of a small
team to review the improvements.  I'm sure travellers will be very
appreciative, especially of the much-improved seating.

[John is Chairman of the Mid-Cheshire Rail Users' Association.]

Train Stay Save

Following last year’s launch of Train Stay Save in conjunction with Mid Wales Tourism (MWT), the Cambrian Railways Partnership (CRP) are encouraging more accommodation providers to sign up to this free service to encourage visitors to mid Wales to use the train and benefit from a 10% discount on their accommodation costs. The scheme, which has been in operation since November 2010, has proved to be very well received.

'By taking part, accommodation providers will benefit from free promotion on the Visit Mid Wales website, along with all the additional promotion that the scheme gets along the Cambrian Lines. People are unfortunately facing tough financial times at the moment, and any  saving to the cost of an annual holiday or short break means a lot. In addition, more and more people are coming for their breaks to the area by rail, and, along with all the other low cost pastimes that the CRP are encouraging people to take advantage of whilst in Mid Wales, we’re hoping that we can attract more families to Mid Wales and use the train to get from place to place during their stay here.'

For further information on the TRAIN STAY SAVE initiative or to discuss the scheme please contact Rhydian Mason on 07795 644 412 or email, or For further information and
a list of all participating accommodation providers visit:

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