Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

22 August 2012

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

Recent issues

20 August 2012
The Welsh Dragon - 18 August

13 August 2012
60009 rides again, 12 August
 Four days of locomotive pictures - by Stavros Lainas
 Marine visitor
 Basingtoke to Buxton via Middlewich
 Driving Van Trailer Training
 Mystery structure identified
 Out on the 'Long Drag' - report by David Parry
 Manchester Jubilees
 Day Out with Thomas
 Consultation or imposition?
 Looking back: A weekend in Anglesey - with Mark Youdan

09 August 2012
On the Welshpool and Llanfair - pictures by Martin Evans
The Holyhead View - with M. Lloyd Davies
Penrhyn Railway news - report by Stephen Hughes
 Cambrian Coast in yellow

06 August 2012

Push-Pull training starts
Brush replaces Gresley - 5 August
Virgin on Anglesey - pictures by Steve Morris
The end of Virgin Trains?
The Welsh Mountaineer 31 July

02 August 2012

Prestatyn Progress - report by Dave Sallery
Compass Tours to Holyhead
175 002 repaired
60s Gala at Llangollen - report by Chris Jones-Bridger
On the Parliamentary - report by George Jones
Crewe 1995 - pictures by Peter Hanson
Four-car Voyager
Shrewsbury spruced up - report by George Jones
 Curzon Park Footbridge, Chester

Forthcoming events

This list may be out of date if you are reading an archived page. For the current list visit our Calendar.

August 2012

Tuesday 21 August  Steam in North Wales Railway Touring Company 'The Welsh Mountaineer' Preston, Warrington Frodsham, Chester to Llandudno Junction and Blaenau Ffestiniog (arr. 13:15 dep 16:10)

Sat / Sun 25 - 26 August  Llangollen Railway Classic Transport weekend

Sunday 26 August Steam in North Wales Railway Touring Company 'North Wales Coast Express' Liverpool Lime Street, Broad Green, Warrington Bank Quay, Frodsham and Chester to  Llandudno, Llandudno Junction, Bangor and Holyhead (arr 14:30 dep 16:30). Cancelled.

Saturday 31 August - 2 September  Llangollen Railway Autumn Steam Gala

September 2012

Sun / Mon 1 - 2 September  Llangollen Railway Autumn Steam Gala (continued)

Friday 7 September  Clwyd Railway Circle  Glyn Jones  “John Summers & Sons Ltd” A look at the Steelworks at Shotton from its opening in 1896 to the closure of the heavy end in 1980. The talk includes footage of the iron ore trains from Bidston.

Thursday 13 September Llandudno and Conwy Valley Railway Society Keith Jones with a double-barrelled show of 'The History of Penmaenmawr Quarry & its rail system' followed by 'Building and running miniature steam locomotives'

Monday 17 September RCTS Chester North Staffordshire from the mid 1960s to the Early 1990s By Max Birchenough.

Saturday 22 September Llangollen Railway Diesel Day

Thursday 27 September LCGB North West John Owen "Vintage US Steam in Cuba"

October 2012

Friday 5 October    Clwyd Railway Circle    Les Nixon “55 Years of Railway Photography (part 1)” The acclaimed railway photographer and entertaining speaker will treat us to an evening of nostalgia, including pre 1968 steam, foreign, modern traction and some preservation. The accent is on the unusual.

Thursday 11 October  Llandudno and Conwy Valley Railway Society John Barden Davies tells us “How railways made North Wales a Tourism destination”

Monday 15 October RCTS Chester Steam Classes that failed to make Preservation; Powerpoint presentation By John Cowlishaw Using Edgar Richards Photographs.

Thursday 25 October LCGB North West Tom Heavyside "B R in the North West"

November 2012

Friday 2 November    Clwyd Railway Circle  Dave Southern “Chester to Pwllheli” The slide show will follow a journey from Chester to Pwllheli via Oswestry. There will be slides of each of the lines we pass on the journey, based on the early 1960's.

Thursday 8 November  Llandudno and Conwy Valley Railway Society AGM followed a look at “The Llandudno Transport Festival over the Years” (Guest Speaker)

Monday 19 November RCTS Chester– Conway and Llandudno Junction in B.R Days by Larry Davies.

Thursday 22 November LCGB North West Norman Matthews "Steam in New Zealand"

December 2012

Friday 7 December    Clwyd Railway Circle   “Members Night & Christmas Celebration”  Members are invited to give a 15/20 minute presentation of their choice (any format). This will be interrupted by festive treats (all high calories).  Members must book their slot with David Jones no later than 20 November.

Thursday 13 December  Llandudno and Conwy Valley Railway Society Christmas Social helped along by members Alex Cowan confirming to us that “Trainspotting was an education” and Larry Davies taking us back to “1962 – a year of change”

Thursday 13 December  LCGB North West Les Nixon "55 Years of Railway Photography – Part Two"

Monday 17 December RCTS Chester Members Slide/Digital Images – 30 Slides or artefacts of your Choice

January 2013
Friday 4 January   Clwyd Railway Circle   Pete Gray “Welsh Highland Railway”  Our speaker for the night is the Safety & Development Manager of the WHR; previous to this, he was the Construction Manager from 2006-2010. Pete will be talking about his experiences during this time and the organization that is needed to keep the show on the road.

Thursday 10 January Llandudno and Conwy Valley Railway Society Speaker to be confirmed

Thursday 17 January LCGB North West Keith Naylor "Isle of Wight Railways"

Monday 21 January RCTS Chester Branch A.G.M. followed By British slides between 1983 & 2010 By Alan Donaldson.

February 2013

Friday 1 February   Clwyd Railway Circle   Gordon Davies “American Wanderings 2, the Great Plains Drifter” - Recollections of Gordon’s trip in 2008, covering the largest open cast mine in Wyoming plus the world’s largest marshalling yard.

Thursday 14 February Llandudno and Conwy Valley Railway Society Speaker to be confirmed

Monday 18 February RCTS Chester The Northern Hub. A Talk By Duncan Law, Senior Programme Development Manager, Network Rail.

Thursday 21 February LCGB North West Mike Taylor "Preston and North"

March 2013

Friday 1 March    Clwyd Railway Circle   The Committee & Larry Davies.  AGM followed by the talk “60 years ago – Diamond days” After the formality is over, we look forward to the talk by one of our favourite speakers.           

Thursday 14 March Llandudno and Conwy Valley Railway Society Speaker to be confirmed

Monday 18 March RCTS Chester B.R in the early 1980’s By Tom Heavyside.

Thursday 21 March LCGB North West Tony Harrison "The Dragon's Last Roar"

April 2013

Friday 5 April   Clwyd Railway Circle   Michael Murphy 'Liverpool Overhead Railway' To finish off the season, a highly recommended speaker known for his light-hearted style of presentation. The talk will be followed by film footage of the railway in its heyday.

Thursday 11 April Llandudno and Conwy Valley Railway Society Speaker to be confirmed

Monday 15 April RCTS Chester Even Further Down Under: New Zealand In 2011 & 2012 By Geoff Morris.

Thursday 18 April LCGB North West John Sloane 'Steam Sheds and Diesel Depots'

May 2013

Thursday 9 May Llandudno and Conwy Valley Railway Society Speaker to be confirmed

Thursday 16 May LCGB North West AGM and Members/Visitors Slides & Digital Photos.

On 11/12 August the Bala Lake Railway celebrated its 40th birthday. The picture by Bob Greenalgh from 11 August shows Maid Marian (left) with the Dinorwic Quarry yellow truck and Alice on a rake of slate wagons  in Llanuwchllyn station. Holy War was on the service train to Bala.

Coming soon - 'The Great Marquess.' First a catch-up on some other events.

Llangollen weekend programme - report by George Jones

At the Llangollen Railway on Saturday and Sunday, 25 and 27 August, classic road vehicles will gather for display in the field behind the station in Glyndyfrdwy. Working in conjunction with the St Helens-based North West Museum of Road Transport a selection of omnibuses from the former fleets of Widnes, Chester and Crosville are expected to be in attendance and will offer a free classic bus service running between Glyndyfrdwy and Corwen. (The pictures show scenes from last year's event.) Owners of other preserved classic commercial vehicles are invited to attend to swell the numbers on display.

The Railway will operate an intensive train service between Llangollen and Carrog in support of the event with steam, diesel and railcars. At Carrog a railcar shuttle service is expected to offer trips down the line of the new extension towards Plas Bonwm to show what has been achieved so far. In Corwen town car park an exhibition featuring the exciting Rail Extension project will provide information about progress and future plans for the Corwen terminus.

On Bank Holiday Monday 27 August the Railway operates its Peak timetable with a supplementary railcar service to enhance hourly steam departures from Llangollen to Carrog. Further details at

Farewell Virgin, Hello First

So - The Department of Transport has ruled that the contract to operate the West Coast Main Line network from 9 December 2012 until the year 2026 is to be granted to a newly-formed subsidiary of FirstGroup, a combine which has its origin in 1989 when the council-owned Aberdeen city municipal bus operator Grampian Regional Transport was sold to its employees in a deal led by general manager Moir Lockhead, and proceeded to absorb and merge with other bus companies, and, when rail franchising appeared on the scene, rail franchises too, after changing name in 1998 from FirstBus to FirstGroup. One of their former managers later rose to be Head of Railways for the Department of Transport, although he has since retired.

We have seen the 'Flying f' logo and 'Barbie' indigo and pink livery in North Wales before, of course - First North Western ran the services now provided by Arriva Trains Wales from 1998 until 2003, the period which saw the problematical entry into service of the Class 175 trains (ordered by their predecessor).

Recently, some of the First companies have gained a reputation for poor service, with much use of the unfortunate rhyme of 'First' with 'Worst', and Sir Richard Branson is, predictably, trying to stir up trouble by supporting a 'save Virgin Trains' online petition which is apparently supported by celebrities including Sir Alan Sugar and Eddie Izzard. Now there's an odd couple for you!  It seems the actual signing of the contract is planned for 28 August. Desperate Virgin fans can sign an online petition, which appears to be 'trending on Twitter', 'going viral' and all that sort of thing, zooming past the 100,000 signature mark by the time you read this.

But does it all really make much difference, when the trains and the staff will largely be the same? Meanwhile, FirstGroup has been explaining how it is going to raise the billions of pounds it has to pay the Government over the period while continuing to offer the same service. Their website tell us how they plan to do this, and their is also a Question and Answer page and a PDF Presentation to Investors which gives more detail. although with few dates against the items, and the usual talk of 'investment' in things which in truth will be leased. A surprise is the commitment to procure '11 new 125mph six-car electric trains' by 2016 which will work the Birmingham - Glasgow service which is currently largely in the hands of diesel Voyagers even though it runs entirely on electrified lines. This will release the Voyager fleet for more capacity for North Wales and - praise be - a service between London and Shrewsbury. We understand that the London - Wrexham service via Chester, which was started by Virgin on their own initiative - was included in the 'Invitation to Tender' and therefore will continue.

The pictures by Roger Carvell of the evening Wrexham / Holyhead train on the departure boards at London Euston record this train for posterity. Has there ever previously been a Wrexham train from Euston rather than Paddington, you might ask? Yes - in 1985, for example, there was Monday - Friday 06:25 train from Chester to Euston and an 17:40 return; called at all stations between Wrexham and Shrewsbury.

Virgin will, we would guess, remove the remaining Voyager nameplates and sell them off before handing over the trains to First. Notice that the coaches no longer have labels showing the coach letter, as this changes when two are coupled together. Voyager pictures at Chester by Roly High.

Some things, like the future of the 'Pendolino Drag' and your editor's favourite vegetarian breakfast - remain to be seen, as does the trading name they will be using for the operation. And they are a British company - until Scotland gains independence, at least.

Number 9's last run (for this year)

It was 60009 Union of South Africa again that hauled what has turned out to be the final run for this year of the 'North Wales Coast Express'. 19 August's route being the Liverpool - Holyhead version. From the train-watcher's point of view it s a shame that this loco, historically an alien to the area, has been on every train, with no sign of the magnificent LMS Pacific Duchess of Sutherland. But we who haven't paid for tickets have no right to grumble.
Anyway, here is a random selection of the pictures received; sorry if you are left out but we're rather swamped. Above, the outbound train at Lea Green. Picture by David Hennessey (see also video version).

Entering Llandudno on what was yet another wet day (Larry Davies).

Held at the signal on the rising gradient over the Cob at Conwy.  With just one slip a masterful piece of driving saw No 9 get its heavy train on the move at a difficult spot and on very wet rails (Larry Davies).

Climbing out of Holyhead with the return train (M.Lloyd Davies).

DRS Open Day 18 August - pictures by Richard Fleckney

Some views from the Open Day held at the Direct Rail Services depot, Crewe Gresty Bridge, on 18 August, with a good selection of the company's 'classic traction' on view. In the centre of the general view above is 47 853 Rail Express, one of several locomotives named by Virgin Trains after magazines and given 'heritage' liveries. It retained its XP64 Blue after sale to Riviera Trains; DRS have repainted it in their livery but have kept the name, to the delight of the staff of the magazine in question.

Inside the depot building, 57 309, formerly Brains in the Virgin Trains 'Thunderbird' series...

... and now Pride of Crewe. There was talk of a naming ceremony for an unspecified loco during the day. does anyone know if this took place?

In the siding at Crewe station, one the three 'Thunderbirds' still retaining the TV puppet-themed name, 57 308 Tin Tin, stands waiting to haul its assigned Pendolino to Holyhead.

Freight views

Flask trains along the Coast are becoming rare, especially with Class 20 traction. On 21 August Nick Gurney captured 20 305 and 20 308 in the loading area at Valley.

Heading for Crewe at Llandudno Junction (Peter Lloyd).

66 041 powering through Gobowen with the 6V75 Dee Marsh - Margam steel empties on 21 August. This train was running two hours late due to a late start from South Wales with the loaded steel for Shotton (Martin Evans).

On 16 August the New Measurement train made a run down the Coast to Holyhead and back. Above, 43 062 John Armitt heads the train west through Abergele (John Myers).

Prestatyn (Dave Sallery).

The return train passes Beeches Farm bridge west of Chester with 43 013 leading (Bob Greenhalgh).

Working Timetables online

In a burst of openness, Network Rail has uploaded all of its Working Timetables - what the Americans would call Employee Timetables - both passenger and freight, to their website. This link goes to the contents page, but it is not easy to navigate as it lists only codes. CY14 is Crewe and Wrexham to Wolverhampton freight, and the North Wales Coast freight is CZ11. Users should realise, though, that inclusion in these timetables is no guarantee that the trains shown will run, wither to the times shown or at all.

Timetable troubles

Arriva Trains Wales have uploaded their timetable booklets to their website for the period 15 September to 8 December, using that irritating type of link which forces you to save a copy on your computer before you can open the file. The version of Timetable 2 (including the Shrewsbury - Chester line) that you see there now is a revised version. The original was taken down after users pointed out an array of errors. There were also a lot of complaints, reflected in press stories, about the lack of consultation, which prompted ATW to start consultation, rather belatedly one might think at the beginning of August.

The Chairman of the Shrewsbury - Chester Rail Users Association (SCRUA) has written to Arriva Trains Wales, from which we take the liberty of reproducing an extract here:
In principle, SCRUA supports the re-routing of the North-South express service (1V31) through Wrexham, Mondays-Fridays. However, it is disappointing that the morning southbound service (dep Wrexham 07.32) does not stop at least at Gobowen when the evening northbound service is timetabled to do so at 20.27.  However, the following (stopping) service to Birmingham International is of significantly greater importance to rail        users carrying a large number of commuters.  The indicated intention to couple the unit leaving Wrexham at 07.47 (2J93) to the re-routed service 05.15 ex-Holyhead (1G93) at Shrewsbury, departing at 08.31 (as now) is most welcome, although we are concerned that the 3 minutes timetabled for this operation may prove tight and could result in late running.  We shall be  monitoring that situation carefully.  It would be helpful if the  extra unit northbound (2D93) could run earlier to Wrexham in order to provide a connection to the Bidston service.
We are surprised that the timetable still shows the service (1V34) leaving Gobowen at 10:01 as a Cardiff service when we are aware that the Welsh Government has withdrawn support.  You will  be aware that prior to the introduction of the "WAG2" service there had, for many years, been a Birmingham bound service at around that time, as there still is on Saturdays.  However, the Cardiff service provides a 10 minute connection at Shrewsbury for Birmingham, which is satisfactory, and provides rail users with a wider choice of destinations.  Nevertheless, the Association would not support - indeed might oppose - any further move to reduce direct services to or from Birmingham.     
We feel sure that if there an equally active User Group for the Coast line it would have something to say about the changes being made there too. See the 23 July issue for details.

158 826 hurries through Abergele with the 09:09 service from Birmingham International to Holyhead, 14 August (Roly High).

Another oddity which has been pointed out to us and to ATW by several readers is that the new version of the evening loco-hauled Cardiff - Holyhead express, despite having a restaurant car which is advertised for the southbound service, is shown as having only a trolley service in the evening. We have commented before on the long hours apparently expected of the catering staff in the new timings: could it be that this is not an error, but the true situation? Arriva's own Customer Services staff seem to think so.

Looking at the downloaded timetables, it seems that an effort has been made to make them work on the small screens of 'smartphones' etc, but looking at Timetable 4, the North Wales Coast, one is struck by the sheer number of pages involved in producing a timetable valid for just a few weeks. Monday - Friday trains are pages 9 - 18 and 29-38,  Saturdays 19-28 and 39-48, then the various permutations of Sunday services take up pages 49-74 (and still they tell you to ring and check for engineering works), with the branch lines at the end making up a total if 88 pages. Why are Sundays all in one block while the rest of the week is split by direction?

But good news is that 'Club 55' cheap tickets for the Over 55 crowd are back from 3 September, this year featuring a cheaper fare for online purchase. We'd tell you more but their website is such a mess we can't be bothered trying to find the information.

North Wales Jubilees

[In our item about Paul Shackcloth's new book Manchester Jubilees, we quoted a caption from the book suggesting that the 'Jubilee' 4-6-0s were never common in North Wales. This prompted the following notes, and two interesting pictures, from John Hobbs.]

I cannot agree that 'Jubilees' were not common in North Wales, I managed to see 90% of them without leaving Prestatyn in the fifties and sixties, from depots at Farnley Junction, Crewe North, Newton Heath, Aston,  Shrewsbury etc. Crewe Works also supplied a constant stream of ex-works (newly overhauled) locos from depots almost anywhere; they worked to Rhyl/Llandudno on evening all-stations turns on a Saturday. Above: 45697 Achillies is leaving Prestatyn and passing over the water troughs with the 4.30 pm Chester to Llandudno Junction which sometimes produced ex-works locomotives; the date is 16 July 1964.

45699 Galatea leaving Prestatyn with the 11.50 (Saturdays Only) SO Llandudno to Manchester on 25 April 1964. In the mid-sixties Llandudno Junction even had its own allocation. On the other hand, 9F 2-10-0s were rare except on Summer Saturdays when Leicester often sent one or two down the coast.  'Flying Pigs' aka Ivatt Class 4 2-6-0's were almost unheard of!

Chasing the A4, 12 August - with John Myers

After taking a renewed interest in the coastal path and its various crossing points between Rhyl and Abergele, on 12 August I decided to stand at the side of a foot crossing at Belgrano, a little to the west of Knightly's amusement park to photograph 60009 Union of South Africa (above) on the 'North Wales Coast Express.' Although a gradient post indicates the summit of a slight climb at this location, there was little exhaust coming from the chimney on this occasion. However, with some lateness to recover, the train was approaching Abergele at quite a pace and with copious use of the whistle.

During the water-stop, I chose the approach to Penmaenmawr for a second shot. By this time, the train had resumed right-time running but as can be seen, the locomotive's cylinder drain cocks were open.

This situation was unchanged when I watched the return working pass the disused station platforms of Talacre; again, the train was travelling on time and it is to be hoped that those aboard enjoyed themselves as much as many of us did when watching proceedings for the lineside.

[Those aboard had a less enjoyable experience later in the evening when the line at Warrington was closed due to a man threatening to jump from a bridge in Warrington with his young daughter. The decision was taken to divert the train direct from Chester to Crewe instead of the planned run via Manchester. The man was finally arrested by Police at around 23:00.]

Thomas gets Gold

Thomas the Tank Engine was most unhappy that we mentioned his weekend without reporting his medial-winning exploits, so here he is. He raced in Llangollen station with Diesel and in the final heat of Sunday afternoon (12 August) he won by a short head to gain a gold medal, this time displayed with a Union flag just like the real thing. For Roger on the Diesel it was a second place Silver presentation - all of which went down well with the fans.

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