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22 April 2013
The London - Holyhead 'Cathedrals Express' charter of 20 April passes near Puffin Roundabout, Penmaenmawr, 20 April, hauled by 60163 Tornado; Picture by M.Lloyd Davies.
Large number of pictures received this weekend! This page concentrates on the two special trains which served Holyhead on 20 April; I've tried to include as many people's pictures as I can. (If I've missed you it's probably a mistake!) Some other topics will follow in an extra issue later in the week, hopefully. Thanks to all for your support. - Charlie
Cathedrals Express ... comes to grief
Departing from Crewe, as seen from the Heritage Centre (Steve Morris). This was the first appearance of the newly-built pacific on the North Wales line.
Mold Junction (Bob Greenhalgh). No. 60163 has been running since last year in the British Railways express-loco blue that it might have worn had it been built in 1948-9 with the original fleet of Class A1 locomotives. British Railways abandoned this colour scheme, in favour of dark green, after a short time, supposedly because the blue paint did not weather well. The same livery recently appeared on Great Western Railway 'King' 4-6-0 No. 6023 King Edward II and is soon to adorn 4-6-0 Foxcote Manor at the Llangollen Railway.
Abergele station (Larry Goddard). 20 April was a sunny spring day, which brought out the photographers in considerable numbers. Several of our contributors were present, including some new ones and some we had not hear from for a while - our thanks to all of them.
Abergele station (Larry Goddard).
Abergele (Alan Roberts)
Llandudno Junction (Denis Oliver). The train, like other 'Cathedrals Express' charters, was organised by 'Steam Dreams', a firm which regularly makes use of Tornado - not surprisingly since Graeme Bunker, Managing Director of Bryherley Ltd , trading as Steam Dreams, is also the Operations Director of the owners of the loco, the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, and was one of the first to drive it. Readers may also remember him as Managing Director of Arriva Trains Wales from 2004 to 2006.
Departing Llandudno Junction with the line to Llandudno in the foreground (Greg Mape).
Crossing Conwy Cob (Chris Taylor).
One man concentrates on his bowls while everyone else admires the train passing Conwy Castle (Chris Morrison).
The view from the hill of Conwy Castle (Garry Stroud).
Picture by Chris Taylor. See also Chris's Flickr site.
Conwy station (Darren Durrant)
From the train, near Penmaenmawr. Picture by Thomas Peacock, who writes: 'I joined the tour at Chester, where it arrived on time, to find a sea of photographers and the like trying to get a glimpse of this famous locomotive. Tornado departed Chester 'bang-on' 12:08 and travelled on time and without incident all the way to Holyhead. The views and the weather were fantastic from start to finish.'
Maelltraeth (Digitally edited image by Jack Bowley).
Holyhead (Ken Robinson). Thomas's report continues: 'Once we had arrived at Holyhead, the support crew wasted no time in uncoupling Tornado from the stock and having her sent off to Valley for turning and re-fuelling, briefly pausing for a few photographs.'
'Arriva Trains Wales loco 67 002 was on hand to shunt the stock in and out of the station.' Picture by Jack Bowley.
Tornado backs on to the train for the return journey (Stavros Lainas).
Rhosneigr (Jack Bowley).
Rhosneigr (Chris Morrison).
Pont Myfyrian, near Gaerwen (Ken Robinson).
'Once re-fuelled and the stock had been put shunted back into the station, we departed Holyhead on time at 17:02 and proceeded through the Anglesey countryside to the Britannia Tubular Bridge and into Bangor five minutes early (17:38). Again, departing on time we had a good run back to Conwy, passing Penmaenmawr at some speed. Crossing the Conwy Tubular Bridge, we continued our early streak by passing Llandudno Junction at 18:04, again 3 minutes early. From this point on, things went drastically downhill.'
Pensarn (Darren Durrant).
Tom continues: 'As we approached Abergele & Pensarn, we came to an almost complete stop just outside the station, even though the home signal was 'clear'. At this point, a chap stood next to me at the window pointed out that he hadn't heard the compressors (which make a distinctive 'chuffing' sound and provide air pressure to brakes on the locomotive and carriages) working for some time. It quickly became apparent that the crew on the footplate were deeply concerned about this and we crawled into Rhyl station at a walking pace, coming to a stand with the front of the train just beyond the platform.
Setting back into Rhyl station, safety valves blowing (Thomas Peacock).
'Almost immediately, the support team and footplate crew declared Tornado a failure (at 18:26) and asked for assistance from Crewe. The locomotive was able to push the stock into the platform completely to allow all passengers and staff to disembark and stretch their legs. The management team were incredibly helpful and assisted in any way possible.'
Waiting for assistance (Thomas Peacock).
Passengers 'stretch their legs' at Rhyl (Thomas Peacock).
Gathering gloom (Nick Gurney).
'Two and a half and half hours later (21:00) loco 67 002 arrived from Holyhead, joined the front of the tour and hauled Tornado and the stock, along with some very tired passengers, back to Crewe, where it arrived at 22:31, A whole 179 minutes late.'
The eventual rescue operation, in darkness, was recorded on Video by YouTube member Video47.
Above: 67 002 dragging Tornado into Chester at 22:03. Picture by Chris Morrison, who writes: 'I thought I'd enjoy a first day up the Coast this year photographing Tornado. All was going pretty well I thought, as I sat on on the Arriva train home (17:30 from Holyhead) until we ground to a halt next to the signalbox at Abergele station at about 18:40. The driver explained that the steam train in front of us had failed and "we might be here for a while." He released the doors so people could get off. Eventually we learned that the rescue loco was being summoned from Holyhead but this might take 90 minutes. At around 20:50 we were de-trained and led by the train crew (who were very good throughout the delay) to a road coach which took us direct to Chester.
'Arrival in Chester was at 21:38. I wanted to get back to the south of Birmingham but had been told the West Coast Main Line was shut after 22:00, so went to the supervisor's office. "22:28 to Wolverhampton (arr 00:15) and taxi home from there" she said. "Great" I said. Meanwhile the errant special rolled in at 22:03 with 67 002 on the front. From Wolverhampton I shared the minicab with other passengers from the 17:30, two chaps for London and one for Milton Keynes. I arrived home bleary eyed at 01:35, just under eight hours after leaving Rhosneigr. I was lucky as my companions in the taxi faced another couple of hours of travel at least.'
We understand that, despite some suggestions that a Class 92 electric would haul it to London the steam special was terminated at Crewe, presumably since the engineering work to the south had already begun and the line was blocked. What happened to all the London passengers? It would seem that they all travelled by taxi, which would have been a bonanza for the taxi companies of Crewe.
Why did it take so long to rescue the train? A DRS 'Thunderbird' locomotive, in this case 57 302 Chad Varah, was in position at Crewe station with a Virgin Trains driver on standby, specifically for the purpose of rescuing any failed trains. This could have reached Rhyl in less than an hour. However, it seems to have transpired that rescuing steam trains with this loco was not authorised in the appropriate 'safety case.'
It was then decided to send for 67 002 from Holyhead, and a spare Arriva Trains Wales driver was summmoned to bring it from Holyhead to Rhyl, which involved Network Rail in arranging 'wrong line working' to get past passenger trains which were held at signals behind the failed excursion. On arrival at Rhyl, 67 002 traversed the crossover just west of the platforms and coupled to the front of the excursion which it 'dragged' to Crewe, where the train was cancelled and the Arriva driver brought 'his' loco back home to Holyhead.
Clearly there are lot of questions to be asked about this fiasco involving what is a modern locomotive, having been built just a few years ago. Tornado is equipped, between the frames,with two Westinghouse air pumps of the type fitted to steam locos since Victorian times; apparently it is normal for these to be imported from eastern Europe. There have been several incidents of this kind over the last few years affecting other main line steam locos; no doubt the designers of Tornado had this in mind and installed two. Why did both fail? The owners' explanation:
After departing on time, and collecting further passengers at Bangor Tornado ran well as far as Abergele. It was noticed here that the brake pressure was not being maintained and the air pump had stopped running. Attempts were made to restart the pump but were unsuccessful so the train was stopped at Rhyl to enable an examination. Various attempts to resolve the problem were not successful and the train had to be rescued by a diesel locomotive and ran around three hours late. Passengers went forward from Crewe via road transport as the railway was closed for engineering work further south. Although Tornado normally runs with two air pumps, on this occasion the second pump was defective and awaiting a programmed repair at Crewe.
We are very sorry for the disruption caused to passengers and 'Steam Dreams' are also grateful to the many rail industry colleagues from various companies who supported the operation. Tornado is now at Crewe Heritage Centre where full repairs will be carried out in the coming weeks. This will return Tornado to full health with both air pumps working normally.
Some steam trains which run down the coast have a diesel loco on the rear which provides some insurance in case of problems; even the owners of the very reliable Duchess of Sutherland invariably take this option. Who decides whether it is necessary?
Incidentally, one might also wonder why, when the former four-track line was 'rationalised' in the 1970s and 1980s, extra tracks for overtaking purposes were retained on the westbound line at Abergele and Rhyl, but on the eastbound 'up' line between Llandudno Junction and Chester there is only Holywell Junction, a bad place to be stranded as there is no station there. The current improvement plans for the line include provision of additional lines (but no extra platforms) at Rhyl in both directions, and removal of the 'loops' at Abergele and Holywell Junction.
Cumbrian Coast and Mountains Statesman
Another special in North Wales on 20 April was the 'Cumbrian Coast and Mountains Statesman', operated by Statesman Rail, for the benefit of passengers from Holyhead, Ty Croes (something of a 'first'?), Llanfairpwll, Bangor, Penmaenmawr, Llandudno Jct, Colwyn Bay, Rhyl, Prestatyn, Flint, Shotton, Chester, Frodsham, Warrington Bank Quay, and Wigan North Western who responded by buying all the tickets for the run over the Cumbrian Coast and Settle - Carlisle lines. An essential preliminary was the empty working from the West Coast Railway Company (WCRC) depot at Carnforth to Holyhead the previous day, 19 April, pictured above at Llandudno Junction by Peter Lloyd. Leading was former Arriva Trains Wales regular 57 316, now owned by WCRC.
On the rear, 57 601, passing Llandudno Junction (Larry Davies).
On Anglesey at Tywyn Trewan Common (M.Lloyd Davies).
On the day, the 1Z67 05:45 Holyhead - Carlisle railtour passing Mochdre with 57 601 leading and 57 316 on the rear (Jack Bowley).
Helsby (Stavros Lainas). Note the predominance of Pullman-liveried coaches in this train.
Running through Conwy town walls, 57 316 leads the empty stock returning to Carnforth on 21 April (Garry Stroud).
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