Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

05 December 2011

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Forthcoming events

December 2011

Tuesday 6 December   North Wales Railway Circle  Mr Ted Jones of the Conwy Valley Railway Society and the Prestatyn Railway Society is to give a show in 2 parts: 1.  Cambrian Coast Express 2.  Swiss Railways

Thursday 8 December Llandudno and Conwy Valley Railway Society Members Night/Xmas Social

Thursday 8 December   Merseyside Railway History Group    Ted Lloyd  The Last Big Adventure – Social evening

Friday 9 December  Altrincham Electric Railway Preservation Society Change of programme due to illness: John Hilton will be showing his black and white pictures (in digital format) of steam at work in the Manchester and Stockport areas in the 1950s.

Saturday 10 December Rhyl and District Model Railway Exhibition, annual charity exhibition, to raise funds for Ty Gobaith Children's Hospice.  Held at Parish Hall, top of Central Car Park, Prestatyn, a short walk from the station.

Monday 12 December. Wrexham Railway Society AGM and Rail Review with members' material on show

Tuesday 13 December   North Wales Railway Circle  Christmas Buffet, Members Film and Photo Night

Tuesday 13 December 8E Railway Association  AGM followed by Steam Around Chester by Jon Penn
Monday 19 December RCTS Chester    Members Evening:30 slides or digital images of your choice. Please advise Alan Donaldson if you intend to make a presentation and to what format you will be using.

January 2012
Friday 6 January  Clwyd Railway Circle  Brian Roberts: Reflections of the 1990s,  Brian’s presentation will visit many different locations across the national network, with some emphasis on the Merseyside area, in an attempt to portray a decade of considerable change.  Passenger operating companies will be reviewed, largely via their ever changing liveries, and there will be glimpses of some of our preserved lines. The freight scene will be recalled, too, not least by showing images taken on freight only lines, at industrial plants and at several collieries prior to closure.

Monday 9 January. Wrexham Railway Society The Many Varied Railways of Australia . Geoff Morris will show the great variety of rail action Down Under.
Tuesday 10 January 8E Railway Association  Karl Jauncey & Dave Richards from PSOV present Mainline Steam 2011

Thursday 12 January Llandudno and Conwy Valley Railway Society Society Tribute - the late Bill Rear       

Friday 13 January  Altrincham Electric Railway Preservation Society "Steam Across Java in 1980" by John Sloane
Monday 16  January  RCTS Chester  Barry Shore: Terminus Part 3
Barry continues his Terminus series, this time off the Network, The Preservation Scene and offshore including the Isle of Man and Ireland.

Saturday 21 January    Stephenson Locomotive Society    Area A G M followed by:  Professor Colin Divall   - Down the American Road? Industrial Research on the LMS, 1923-1947 The Big Four are often criticised for an over-reliance on traditional forms of engineering. However by the late 1930s the LMS had developed a sizeable Research Department dealing with a wide range of technical problems. This talk examines the Department's origins and activities, and asks how successful it was.

Thursday 26 January     Merseyside Railway History Group            Allan Moore :  Lost Stations of St. Helens

February 2012

Friday 3 February  Clwyd Railway Circle  Geoff Morris: Australian Railways Today. A digital presentation of Geoff's visits to Australia in 2009 and 2010 featuring main line and preserved steam in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland and also a look at the some of the modern scene.

Thursday 9 February  Llandudno and Conwy Valley Railway Society Ron Watson Jones"Irish Mail Crash Penmaenmawr - Aug 50"/"A Ron Miscellany"   

Friday 10 February  Altrincham Electric Railway Preservation Society "Great Western Railway Lines in South and Mid-Wales" by Tony Icke

Monday 13 February. Wrexham Railway Society Sixties Steam on Steam - Barry Shore will give a digital presentation based on his b&w negatives from the 60s with shed visits around the UK and the final days of steam at Lostock Hall.

Tuesday 14 February 8E Railway Association  Colin White from B&R Video presents Archive Cine Film from 50's & 60's

Saturday 18 February    Stephenson Locomotive Society   Bob Barnard  The Lynton & Barnstaple Railway – Then & Now. From 1898 this well-equipped 2 foot gauge line climbed into the foothills of Exmoor, initially independent but later under the Southern Railway, until its sudden closure in 1935.  Since 2004, trains have run on a section again.  Bob Barnard, a local L&B enthusiast and North West group organiser, will tell the line's story in pictures old and new.
Monday 20  February RCTS Chester  Stephen Gay: Walking the line, discovering lost railways. Stephen travels from Sheffield with a slide 
show on walking old railways with his faithful  German Shepherd dog Wrawby. The show includes the S&D, Scarborough to Whitby, rambling in Scotland to glorious Devon plus a very varied local selection

Thursday 23 February   Merseyside Railway History Group     Graham Briggs:   Steaming Through Britain

390 054, the first of the new batch of four Pendolino trains, visited North Wales on 3 December with the Saturday working from London, hauled by 57 311 Parker (Picture by Darren Durrant). The second, 390 055, was delivered to Edge Hill depot on 16 November, and will, like 054, run initially as a 9-car formation to match the rest of the fleet although all 11 coaches have been delivered. Note the simplified livery and lack of Virgin branding.

Final week of the RHTT

As the Rail Head Treatment Train enters its final week for this year, we present a selection of recent pictures, here and in the left margin. here's 97 304 leading the train through Chester on 28 November (Rowan Crawshaw).

Abergele, 26 November (Larry Goddard).

97 302 and 304 through Colwyn Bay on the 3S71 back to Crewe, 26 November (Jack Bowley)

Holyhead, 28 November (M. Lloyd Davies)

Flashback to 9 December 2004: 37 689 heads the water cannon train through Abergele at 13:31 with an unidentified EWS 37 on the rear  (Larry Goddard).

Whither the WAG Express?

On 30 November, the Northbound Cardiff - Holyhead loco-hauled express was most unusually worked by a Virgin-liveried loco, 57 311 Parker, photographed by Mark Youdan at Crewe (above) and Chester (below).

Various rumours are still going around about what will happen to this train from 12 December's timetable change, fuelled by the appearance of a Class 175 on the diagram on 29 November's northbound and the following day's southbound train, which in fact was simply due to a problem - reportedly wheel-flats - with the normal rolling stock. However, our information is that the loco-hauled train will continue as usual, still hauled by Class 57/3 locos.

The intention remains to use the blue-liveried Class 67s, and we can expect to see a driver-training train to put in appearances from mid-December in various spurts between Holyhead and Shrewsbury, with the 67s taking over the public service in March, or possibly February.  It does not appear that Driving Van Trailers are to be used, at least initially, or that the other express which runs via Wrexham will be converted to loco haulage.

Incidentally since May 2011 the Welsh Assembly Government now wants to be called the Welsh Government, so the maybe the train should be called the 'WG Express' ... but are we bothered? Seemingly not. 'WAG Express' isn't its official name anyway.

Santa at Llangollen

The Santa Special season is under way at the Llangollen Railway - the pictures by George Jones from 27 November show 7822 Foxcote Manor at Llangollen (left) and Berwyn (right). Note the restrained headboard which will be appreciated by photographers, who we hope will respond by purchasing some presents or refreshments from the railway.

For details of running days and times see the Llangollen Railway website. Santa tells us: 'Each boy and girl will receive a special gift from me and my elves and of course I must not forget about the adults who have brought you on this special trip, they will be given a mince pie and some mulled wine by my special helpers.' Advance booking is essential: some days are already fully booked.

And: Don't forget BBC Two Wales Tuesday Night 6 December,  7:30 to 8pm - 'Welsh Railways: 'Beating Beeching', a good deal of which was filmed on Llangollen Railway. For those outside Wales, BBC Wales is on Sky channel 991 and Freesat channel 971 or the iPlayer.

Saturday Ruggex

Saturday 3 December saw Arriva run a 'Ruggex' (Holyhead - Cardiff special for a Rugby match) top-n-tailed by 57 314 and 57 316, (above) seen leaving Shrewsbury at Meole Brace, with Network Rail's security fencing much in evidence. (This picture by Stavros Lainas).

Riding the Ruggex - report by Stephen Hughes

By a curious coincidence both my daughters have recently moved to areas covered by the 'add-on' fares available to people who are able to use ATW's 'Club 55' offer - having been to London (last issue) I thought that I should visit my other daughter in Bridgwater (on the Bristol - Taunton line), but a combination of factors led me to cancel the arrangements I had made.

However, the decision by Arriva Trains Wales to utilise the 57's on a special to Cardiff in connection with the Rugby at the Millennium Stadium was too good to miss and I therefore decided to travel to Newport On a 'Club 55' ticket and meet my daughter in Bristol for a quick lunch.

It was clear that ATW did very little to advertise the train, there was
nothing on ATW's website, nothing at Bangor station and it was only from Traveline Cymru that I found the departure time from Holyhead - which led me to turn up at Bangor for the 08:39 departure, with about ten others. 57 314 was leading, with 57316 at the rear of five coaches. It was a very leisurely journey along the coast, with a six minute wait at Llandudno Junction, the same at Rhyl and severe checks at Abergele and Holywell Junction.

Not surprisingly, loadings were very light for an unadvertised train. A number of enthusiasts boarded at Chester, but there were no Rugby fans to be seen. I looked forward to a pleasant run along the Marches in the December sunshine. All went well until we came to a sudden stop just south of Craven Arms, the guard informing us that we were behind a 'slow moving freight train' ... and having missed the opportunity to loop the freight at Craven Arms, we were informed that this would not be possible until Hereford! Still. it meant that we trundled past Stokesay Castle which is always pleasing to view. Passenger numbers were, I think, increased at Shrewsbury and subsequent stops at Ludlow, Leominster and Hereford by the cancellation of an earlier service train (but still no Rugby fans).

We passed the recalcitrant freight train at Hereford after a journey of many checks, by now about 25 minutes down and I realised that not only would I miss a Bristol train from Newport that I might have caught if everything was going for me, but also the next Bristol-bound train half an hour later.  At Abergavenny the first Rugby fans appeared, and by the time I left the train at Newport we had not lost any more time and the train was well loaded. I managed a couple of quick photographs as I ran over to platform 4 for the Bristol bound train, but I needn't have bothered as that was 20 minutes late.

For my return journey, I decided to forego the loco-hauled train as that was leaving Cardiff at 18:19 and not arriving in Bangor until after 23:00. Arriving back in Newport just before 17:00, I thought that I would catch the 17:09 to Manchester and change at Shrewsbury for the following Holyhead-bound train, my reasoning being that the latter would, by being 20 minutes later, be more full. I was wrong - as the three car 175 was standing room only but I managed to get a seat after Abergavenny.

All northbound trains seemed to be running 10 - 15 minutes late, so on arrival at Shrewsbury I just had time to dash into Pumpkin - which was getting ready to close - for a coffee ('We don't get paid after seven-thirty!') When the Holyhead arrived - again 20 minutes down - I saw that it consisted of a three- and two-car pair of 175s, and a premonition that the 3-car set might not go any further than Chester had me heading for the two-car 175 at the southern end of platform 4 where there were a few seats left.

At Chester it appeared that I had been correct, as the passengers on the  3-car set were walking past on the platform and attempting to clamber aboard, impossible as it was already full - confusion reigned, I saw a number of anxious looking passengers wondering up and down - then I suspect common sense prevailed and they were allowed back on the three-car 175 - and on we went! There were of course not just Rugby fans on the train by now but football fans and Saturday shoppers, certainly far more than a two-car 175 could carry.

As I left the train at Bangor - still about 20 minutes late - the uncoupling process was being repeated, presumably successful this time.

Some reflections on the day:
The idea of a 'RuggEx' is surely a good idea ( and of course uses the stock that sits in Holyhead for the weekend) but it needs to be advertised and attractive to North Wales fans. People I know who travel to Cardiff for Rugby matches arrange their travel plans long in advance. Due to the late running from Craven Arms onwards I think that it picked up passengers who were waiting for the regular service train.
- There is clearly some difficulty in pathing extra trains on the Marches route because of the extensive service.
- I do wonder what the loading was like on the returning special - clearly many fans would have planned to catch the service trains as they wouldn't have known about the special!
- Whilst I understand the need to have stock in the right place for the following day, if my supposition regarding the events at Chester on the return journey was correct it surely was not good practice to create the confusion that occurred.
Club 55 bargains for the over-55 are available until 14 December.

'Brit' to Chester

70000 Britannia on the Euston - Chester 'Cathedrals Express' of Saturday 3 December at Hargrave, near Waverton. Thankfully this fine locomotive is soon to be repainted from its current dismal unlined black to BR Green livery with nameplates restored (Ian Pilkington).

Arrival at Chester (George Jones).

The wreck of the Swanland

It was 02:03 on 27 November, when a  'mayday' call was sent out from the cargo ship Swanland 20 miles north-west of the Llyn peninsula after the hull cracked. At around 02:20, the ship sank.  The lifeboats from Pwllheli and Porthdinllaen were launched, while The tanker Bro Gazelle, which was very close to the Swanland helped provide shelter and light before the helicopters and lifeboats arrived. Another vessel, the Monsoon, spent the night searching for survivors.

Two lifeboats from Pwllheli and Porthdinllaen were launched, and two of the eight crew members were rescued by an air-sea rescue helicopter team from Valley, which included Flt-Lt William Wales, but tragically the other six men were lost. Our thoughts must go out to the crew and their families, after another yet reminder of how powerful the Irish Sea can be.

This ship was a regular visitor to Raynes Pier at Llanddulas to collect stone from the quarry there, and was on such a voyage, loaded with stone for Cowes, Isle of Wight when she was lost.  Ian Bowland photographed the ship off Llanddulas on 21 July 2010.

Registered in the Cook Islands, crewed by Russians, and operated by a company based in Grimsby, the Swanland had been in the national news before. In August 2010 she came close to running aground off the Lizard peninsula, Cornwall, when her engines failed, and she had to be towed into Falmouth.

Royal track-bashing - report by Frank Thomas

On Thursday 1 December HM the Queen visited Liverpool using the Royal Train. Having spent most of the night stabled at Hooton the train then used the Ellesmere Port - Helsby line arriving at Platform 4 at Helsby soon after 09.00 hours. It then stopped at Helsby for around 20 minutes before using the Halton Curve to reach Liverpool.

Did any readers record this historic stop?

Northern Belle visits Wrexham

The 'Northern Belle' luxury train ran southbound from Liverpool on a circular tour via Chester on Friday 2 December. George Jones found it at Wrexham General (above) awaiting time at 12 noon with DRS loco 47 802 Pride of Cumbria on the front. The train had no free seating availability, which must mean plenty of 'punters' able to enjoy Christmas lunch at £210 a head

Northern Belle liveried 47 790 Galloway Princess was on the rear, as the train pulled away (George Jones). Behind is a Holyhead-bound train formed of with 175 005.

Above, the train passing a freshly-overhauled footpath crossing at Rednal, Shropshire (Stavros Lainas).

Freight news

Passing Cadnant cutting, Conwy on 23 November, 66 622 creates a haze of exhaust as it powers the 6D44 ballast empties from Guide Bridge to Penmaenmawr.

Colwyn Bay station looks neat and tidy on 2 December as 66 559 passes with another load of stone from Penmaenmawr quarry (Darren Durrant).

Andrew Vinten was at Acton Bridge on 1 December to catch 60 091, recently released from Toton Depot after an overhaul and repaint in DB Schenker colours, hauling a train from Liverpool to Ratcliffe Power Station. The picture shows it slowing to take the 'up' loop at Acton Bridge. 

On the same day,  66 615, standing in for the usual class 70 on
the Ellesmere Port coal service; the picture was taken at Fiddlers Ferry (Andrew Vinten).

Freight futures

There are some hints around of possible new sources of freight traffic in North Wales. The North Wales Residual Waste Treatment Project website includes a six page summary report by AECOM on the movement of  residual waste by rail. It is suggested that refuse from North Wales towns could be taken by rail to an Energy from Waste Plant (EfW) - Incinerator, in other words - in Deeside Industrial Park. One idea involves the use of the Dutch system seen in the picture above in which a lorry can carry a container which is side-loaded direct to a rail wagon. The author of the report envisages one possible scenario in which a train calls at various sidings along the Coast line to collect containers.

The lack of a west-to-north curve at Shotton means that the train would have to reverse at Chester and Wrexham; the train would include a Driving Van Trailer allowing it to reverse without shunting movements. An interesting idea, but with a number of hurdles to clear, not least the local opposition to the building of the Deeside plant.

Much closer to realisation is a flow of timber from a loading point on the Heathfield branch in Devon to Chirk.  Indeed, as we write this on 5 December, a train of empty wagons is on the way to Heathfield hauled by Colas loco 66 847.

New bridge on the Bethesda branch - report by Tom Bowen

A new bridge has appeared on the former London and North Western Railway Bangor - Bethesda branch, closed to passengers in 1951 and to all traffic in 1963. Contractors have recently erected a bridge over the A4244 at Felin Hên on the Lôn Las Ogwen cycleway. This photograph, taken on 21 November, shows finishing touches taking place. The southern abutment of the former LNWR bridge is seen on the left.

Corwen events - report by George Jones

Residents of Corwen and the Dee Valley had an opportunity to attend a public meeting to hear about the progress with the extension of the Llangollen Railway towards Corwen  at an evening meeting on Thursday, 17 November 2011.  Mr Jim Ritchie, chairman, Llangollen Railway Trust, presented an illustrated talk with details of the work undertaken so far and the plans to conclude Phase 1 of the project. The implications for Phase 2 full terminal facility were also discussed and the need for contractors to be employed to undertake what will be heavy construction job. The requirements for the terminal station were appreciated and the necessary support for this final phase of the project recognised by those present.

Unveiled for public display was a recreation of the former Corwen station sign which has been constructed by a team of volunteers led by Mr Martin Christie of Carrog station. The running-in board has been made to Great Western Railway traditional standards and measures 10ft x 2ft and is a notable item of joinery.  It is due to be sited near the bus interchange in Corwen as a statement that the trains are to be expected to return to the town when the railway extension phase 1 is completed by December 2012.

As a follow-up an open day at the Sports Pavilion on Saturday, 19 November allowed for the display of information about the project to be viewed by interested members of the public between 10.00 am and 4.00 pm. Amongst the items on display was a Phase 1 route map with illustrations of structures and fittings between Carrog and Corwen. The pictures show this board viewed from east and west ends of the 8-foot panel. The panel is now on display in the 'One Stop Shop' council facility in Corwen to allow for an extended period of inspection.

Additional to the two public events, a private session accommodated the visit of the Welsh Assembly Member for South Wales West, Byron Davies, the Shadow Minister for Transport and Regeneration who was accompanied by local Assembly Member Mark Isherwood. 

Clearing the Jungle - report by Peter Lloyd

Vegetation clearance too place in mid-November at Llandudno Junction around the wagons that were dumped there some years ago by EWS, down to the disused freight depot. The only siding down there that is clear is the old oil depot siding, so we are guessing that they will move the wagons from the (jungle) disused yard to that siding ... we shall see.

Here's a picture from 5 November by way of comparison.

Holiday snaps

As some may have guessed, last weekend we were away for a few days and prepared the page in advance. Here's some view of where we were, in another part of the DB empire, staying at Koblenz. The Inter-City train seen above in Koblenz station is headed for Innsbruck, with 101 020.

A regional express from Koblenz via Cologne to Emmerich, with six double-deck coaches and lots of bike space, worked push-pull by 146 031, a passenger version of the Bombardier 'Traxx' design. Few German locos exhibit the garish pink look seen on the class 60 in the article above.

Koblenz is at the meeting of the Rhine and Mosel rivers, as seen in this picture taken from the Ehrenbreitstein castle above the city. We returned home on 29 November, blissfully unaware of the situation which led just a few days later to the city centre being evacuated while an unexploded 'blockbuster' bomb from World War II, found in the river somewhere between the passing freight barge and the railway in this view, was defused.

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