Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

03 September 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

30 August 2012
Picture Assortment
 Two more years for Wylfa
 Llangollen Railway Classic Transport 25/26 August
 Moorgate to Carrog - report by George Jones
 Bank Quay Scenes - report by Martin Evans
 Prestatyn renewed - pictures by Dave Sallery
 The Mersey Moorlander - report by Stephen Hughes
 Timetable Twaddle

27 August 2012
The Great Marquess and the Welsh Mountaineer

22 August 2012
Llangollen weekend programme - report by George Jones
Farewell Virgin, Hello First
Number 9's last run (for this year)
DRS Open Day 18 August - pictures by Richard Fleckney
Freight views
Working Timetables online
Timetable troubles
North Wales Jubilees
Chasing the A4, 12 August - with John Myers
Thomas gets Gold

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This list may be out of date if you are reading an archived page.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.

September 2012

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

Wednesday Sept 26 September. Ffestiniog Railway Society Cambrian Heritage Railways. H.Gallagher & R.Williams.

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

Thursday 27 September Merseyside Railway History Group Tom Heavyside: Narrow Gauge Tracks

Saturday 29 September, Railway Ramblers club. Guided Walk from Tryfan Junction to Talysarn via Rhostryfan, Bryngwyn, Y Fron and Nantlle on or adjacent to the Welsh Highland and Nantlle railway trackbeds. For further details by post a reply to Chris Parker's message of 23/06/12 on the messages board of

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”

Friday 12 October Altrincham Electric Railway Society "From Roade to York" colour slides of steam and modern traction at home and overseas from 1963 to the present day by Robin Patrick.

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

Thursday 18 October Merseyside Railway History Group Gordon Davies:   American Wanderings (note, not the last Thursday due, to redecoration of the hall)

Wednesday 24 October Ffestiniog Railway Society    Railways and Tramways around Blaenau Ffestiniog.   D.Southern. (Note: not the last Wednesday this month.)

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)

Friday 9 November  Altrincham Electric Railway Society "30 Years of Steam Photography" a colour slide presentation by Phil Taylor.

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"

Wednesday 28 November  Ffestiniog Railway Society My life with trains. B.Bushell.

Thursday 29 November Merseyside Railway History Group Andrew Scott:  Around the world with 80 trains.

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 Merseyside Railway History Group Angus Tilston:  Film & Social evening

Friday 14 December  Altrincham Electric Railway Society "Steam Saved from the Scrapyard" a colour slide presentation by Tom Heavyside.

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

Friday 11 January  Altrincham Electric Railway Society "Transport around Manchester from 1750" a colour slide presentation by Chris Makepeace.

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.

Thursday 31 January Merseyside Railway History Group Geoff Coward:  Northeast China Steam 2002
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.

Friday 8 February  Altrincham Electric Railway Society "The Lynton & Barnstaple Railway" a digital presentation by Bob Barnard.

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"

Thursday 28 February Merseyside Railway History Group Dave Southern:  Rails to Blaenau Ffestiniog

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.           

Friday 8 March  Altrincham Electric Railway Society "The ICI Hopper Trains" a colour slide presentation by Brian Arnold.

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"

Thursday 28 March Merseyside Railway History Group AGM:  Members Slides

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

Friday 12 April  Altrincham Electric Railway Society "Current Developments on Metrolink" a digital presentation by Tony Williams, Manchester Area Officer, Light Rail Transit Association.

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'

Thursday 25 April Merseyside Railway History Group Richard Kells : Quiz and informal evening

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.

Welsh Highland Railway Beyer-Garratt 143 rumbles over the Glaslyn at Pont Croesor with the last train of the day to Porthmadog, Friday 10 August. Picture by Ben Bucki.

Heritage Weekend: Chester Station

As part of this year's national Heritage Weekend, Chester station is plating its part: 'Guided tours and updates on this historic station, where the foundation stone was laid on 1st August 1847. Will include a fascinating historic time-line stretching from its original builder Thomas Brassey right up to the present day, with large investments which have been required to make it a key transport interchange for Chester and the surrounding area.'

The tours on Saturday 8 September are organised by Chester Civic Trust, and booking is essential. See the Heritage weekend website for information or ring Sue Foster on 01244 405635.  We suspect the tours will be very well supported: it would be interesting to receive a report from anyone who manages to attend.

Change looms for the WAG Express

Friday 14 September will be the last day of operation in its current form of the locomotive Holyhead - Cardiff (and return) Monday - Friday express, pictured above by Peter Lloyd with 67 003 and coaches 9539, 5965, 5976 and 10259 waiting to depart Llandudno Junction on 30 August at 06:21. From Monday 17 September it will run via Wrexham, reversing at Chester, and the evening train will run two hours later in the evening making it very difficult to photograph, as well as rendering it useless for connections to points in Northwest England at Shrewsbury. The Mark 2 coaches are also to be replaced by Mark 3 ones, and the train run as 'push-pull with a driving van trailer. Officially these ex-Virgin Trains vehicles which are being refurbished by Pullman Rail in Cardiff will be ready in time...

We would encourage readers to travel on and/or photograph this train while you can, especially from viewpoints not commonly seen, including the interior, and send us your pictures and notes.

Class 47s in the Conwy Valley

West Coast Railway Company locomotive 47 826 (with 47 804 out of sight on the rear) stands in the loop at Blaenau Ffestiniog with the stock of the 16:10 return Compass Tours charter from Ayr. 150 260, in the platform, forms the 14:57 to Llandudno, as a Ffestiniog Railway train awaits the run-round of its locomotive (Chris Morrison).

The Compass Tours excursion returning from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Ayr on 1 September, led through Betws-y-Coed (above) by 47 826 (Andrew Vinten).

47 804 on the rear at Betws-y-Coed (Rowan Crawshaw).

The tide is high as the train approaches Glan Conwy (Chris Morrison).

Virgin strikes back
As we mentioned briefly last time, Virgin Trains, led by Richard Branson, have decided to bring in 'our learned friends' to force the Government to reverse its decision to award the fifteen-year Inter City West Coast operating franchise from December 2012 to rival FirstGroup. Everything went quiet, but on 3 September in a written ministerial statement, Transport Minister Theresa Villiers stated: 'As a result of a legal challenge, which the government intends to defend robustly, we have not yet signed the contract with First West Coast, and consequently the competition remains live.'

In support of their case, Virgin have released details of what was proposed in their bid: the full statement can be read on the web; here are some of the more interesting sections, with our comments:
New Services: our bid [like that of FirstGroup] proposes new direct services to Telford / Shrewsbury / Blackpool / Bolton but they would start a year earlier ... We would also double the frequency to Preston and increase calls to North Wales / Nuneaton / Milton Keynes and speed up journey times between Euston and Glasgow.

In addition we would create new services to Stirling, Motherwell, Hartford, Liverpool South Parkway, and further enhance services for Gobowen / Chirk / Ruabon / Wrexham, increase journey opportunities between Milton Keynes / Rugby / Stafford to the North West and increase calls at Tamworth / Lichfield.
Rather a strange list, as as it mixes what are simply additional stops on current services (Liverpool South Parkway, Motherwell, Hartford) with extensions on to lines not currently served by Virgin at at all (Stirling, Wrexham via Shrewsbury, Bolton, Blackpool).
Trains: we would replace all of the Voyager trains with 21 6-car 'Baby Pendolinos' which would mean no diesel operation over electrified lines, delivering the best environmental solution and an all Pendolino fleet providing the best passenger environment. FG appears to be retaining all of the Voyager fleet but it is not clear whether this is a firm commitment to do so or that they have the option to redeploy them to other routes. Assuming they do retain all of the Voyagers, First Group would be providing 4% more seats than we would on a daily basis. The investment in fleet would be £385m, but no contract is in place for FG.
This one is truly remarkable, because it immediately raises the question of how they would serve Shrewsbury, Wrexham and North Wales with electric Pendolinos. According to messages on Twitter from Virgin Trains sources, the answer is that new diesel locos, would be acquired  perhaps a version, capable of quick and simple attaching and detaching, and fully-interactive working with the 'Baby Pendolinos', of the new 'Eurolight' design from Vossloh that DRS have already ordered. This can't happen immediately as the Franchise specification commits bidders to retain the Voyagers for several years. If it did happen, it would vindicate those who have suggested this idea to the Department for Transport as an alternative to the 'Bi-Mode Intercity Express' they are insisting on ordering to allow Great Western and East Coast franchise to run through trains from London to places 'beyond the wires.'
Track:  to deliver the improved journey times working with Network Rail we would undertake a number of infrastructure upgrades including enhancement to allow the Pendolino to reach a top speed of 135mph in order to improve a number of journey times. This Virgin investment would be £125m, but there is no firm commitment in FG statements.
On the face of it, this seems very unlikely to occur if the new high-speed line duplicating the West Coast line goes ahead, although eventually the line will perhaps be equipped with ERTMS signalling, removing the need for drivers to react to coloured lights on signal posts.
Stations:  As with FG we would install ticket gates and undertake a number of station improvement projects....
Certainly many of the stations managed by Virgin are in a scruffy state: Crewe in particular comes to mind. But ticket gates are more controversial, although insisted upon by the Department for Transport. Virgin have avoided them up to now, and even removed the ones which were installed at Coventry.

Speaking of Virgin and Twitter, we noticed the following exchange recently:
[Customer] I live in Ellesmere Port - Would you @VirginTrains recommend travelling from Chester or Liverpool to Euston?
[Virgin Tweeter] If you don't mind driving, then Chester is much closer.
A look at the Journey planner website reveals that even if you do mind driving, even with the extra change of trains at Hooton, the rail route via Chester is a mostly a little quicker, and also avoids the subterranean world of Lime Street Low Level.

Saturday on the Coast - with Roly High

175 001 speeds through Abergele on Saturday 1 September, the 07:21 service from Cardiff to Holyhead.

Interesting flower-box...

47 826 rushes the Compass Tours excursion from Ayr to Blaenau Ffestiniog through Abergele with 47 804 at the rear. At the other platform, 175 106 stops with the 11:12 service from Llandudno
to Manchester Piccadilly.

On the slow line through Abergele station. an unusual example of bullhead and flat-bottomed rail welded together.

175 105 takes the platform line with the Manchester Piccadilly to Llandudno service at 11:35.

Not far behind the Llandudno train, 57 311 Parker storms through with the Saturday Pendolino from London to Holyhead.

Doing the Round Robin - report by Greg Mape

I managed to do the 'Cambrian Rail Cruise' circuit with my family using a 'Ffestiniog Round Robin' ticket  on a very wet Friday, 14 August.  When I booked it at Colwyn Bay,  the booking clerk spent ages finding the correct ticket on his computer. It seems a rare thing to buy! At Shrewsbury, we noted 153 367 (above) going on the long and slow Heart of Wales run to Swansea.

150 229 waits at Blaenau Ffestiniog for departure to Llandudno.

At Chester I managed to get a picture of the late-running Cardiff - Holyhead express hauled by 67 003, using the crossover to overtake a Class 221.

Welsh Holiday - with Ben Bucki

The last Arriva Trains Wales class 158 in the older livery, 158 819,  heads for Criccieth with a train from Birmingham, past the beach on the morning of Tuesday 7 August.

An Arriva Trains Wales class 158 heads for Criccieth past the beach, on the afternoon of Tuesday 7 August.

Double Fairlie Earl of Merioneth heads over the Cei Mawr embankment with a train to Porthmadog, Sunday 12 August 2012.

Earl of Merioneth heads out of Tanybwlch towards Porthmadog on the Ffestiniog Railway, Friday 10 August.

The new-build Lynton and Barnstaple replica "Lyd" runs round its train at Porthmadog Harbour on the Ffestiniog Railway, whilst shunter "Criccieth Castle" waits as station pilot locomotive, Monday 13 August 2012.

An entry for the station garden competition from Barmouth.

The Bill Rear legacy

William G. ('Bill') Rear, bus driver, railwayman, teacher, author, and supporter of our website, died in 2009. Among his many writing credits was a series of pictorial books, some jointly with others, on the railways of North Wales, which were published under the 'Foxline' imprint by Gregory Fox, who died in 2010. Both authors are sadly missed. Due to an unfortunate situation which had arisen, Bill's 'Foxline' books had been unavailable for some time before his death.

However, now that the rights to Foxline series have passed to Book Law Publications of Nottingham, it has been possible to re-issue them; it was pleasant to see a display of them in the Ian Allan bookshop in Manchester recently. Copies cam be bough online from Book Law Publications or from your favourite bookseller. The titles are: Anglesey Branch LinesCaernarvon & The Lines From Afonwen & Llanberis; Corwen to Rhyl; Bangor; The Conwy Valley Line; Denbigh to Mold; and The Llangollen Line which is a new edition with additional material by Derek Lowe.

Bill had amassed a great deal of original research material in his career, and this collection has happily been preserved, and is available for consultation, at the Conwy Archives Service in Llandudno. Described as a 'Collection of railway material including documents, photographs and plans 1890-1990' the relevant reference numbers are CP384, CX387, C Maps & Plans 79.  It would be good if someone was to use the collection for research in the future; there is surely more to be said about the history of North Wales railways.

A day on the Isle of Man Railway - with David Parry

I had the opportunity to spend a few days on the Isle of Man in July during which I was able to explore the various historic rail transport systems on the Island.  On 23 July, we decided to travel on the steam railway, a fortunate choice as an enthusiasts' charter meant there were three engines in steam, with some interesting operating practice.

We arrived at Douglas station while no 4 Loch (Beyer Peacock, 1874) was receiving final preparations for taking the 0950 Douglas to Port Erin. Here it is (picture above) just before departure with former Jubilee Line contractor’s diesel loco no 18 Ailsa (1994) in an adjacent siding .

Now for the unusual operating.  The charter had been assembled in the adjacent platform behind no 8 Fenella (Beyer Peacock, 1894) and eased onto the back of the 09:50 outside the station.   Following this manoeuvre, the whole cavalcade proceeded to Port Soderick, where the charter train was decoupled and made its own way down the line.

Around 12:43, the 11:50 Douglas - Port Erin arrived at Castletown behind no 10 G H Wood (Beyer Peacock, 1905), following which we retired to an adjacent hostelry for lunch.

As we were finishing we heard a whistle and rumbling from Castletown station and I returned to find Fenella had arrived with the charter train, giving me an opportunity to photograph this beautiful product of Victorian engineering without the time pressures of a service schedule.

We returned on the 14:12 to Douglas with no 10 on its return trip on the 13:50 from Port Erin, following which I was able to photograph its steamy departure from Douglas at 15:50.

An enjoyable day on a slightly broader narrow gauge railway that the Welsh ones (3 ft), with many relics of the Victorian era.  

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