NORTH WALES COAST RAILWAY:NOTICE
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13 May 2013
On 6 May, as part of the 'Ffestiniog 150' event, a 1930s Welsh Highland Railway train was recreated, hauled by Ffestiniog Railway loco Palmerston which had been specially turned to face north. Ian Pilkington's picture shows the train leaving the middle tunnel in the Aberglaslyn Pass on a Porthmadog - Beddgelert working. More reports and pictures below.
The Summer timetable comes in to force from Sunday 19 May. There are few significant changes to Arriva Trains Wales services in our area. According to the National Rail site, the following trains will be slightly re-timed: 05:20 (Mon to Fri) Shrewsbury to Birmingham International; 09:20 (Mon to Fri) Crewe to Shrewsbury; 19:08 (Mon to Fri) Birmingham International to Chester; 20:08 (Mon to Fri) Birmingham International to Aberystwyth; 21:08 (Mon to Thurs) Birmingham International to Warrington Bank Quay; 21:08 (Friday only) Birmingham International to Manchester Piccadilly. This 21:08 (Friday) Birmingham International to Manchester train via Shrewsbury, Wrexham, and Chester, arriving at Manchester Piccadilly 00:23, train 1H98, is an interesting oddity. The fact that it is advertised as a through train means that a ticket from Birmingham to Manchester must be valid on it.
Virgin Trains have redone their Saturday North Wales timetable. The current 08:50 London Euston to Holyhead and return 14:38 Holyhead to London Euston (the former 'Pendolino drag', now operated by a pair of Voyagers) will now operate at the same times as Monday - Friday (09:10 Euston - Holyhead, 13:58 Holyhead - Euston), and the northbound working loses its Watford Junction call. Weirdly, on 1 June, the southbound train runs to it's old timings for some reason (14:38 from Holyhead). Interestingly, there is also a new 11:55 Holyhead to London Euston, formed from an empty stock movement at 08:00 from Crewe, running via Middlewich (08:23 - 08:35) and Delamere. This is probably done to retain drivers' route knowledge over the Middlewich line in case of diversions. (Thanks to Adam Barnard for help with this item.)
Looking ahead: from Monday 9 September, 'due to the completion of the electrification work between Earlestown & Manchester Piccadilly', late night train services will be re-introduced on Mondays to Fridays on the Chester to Manchester Piccadilly via Warrington Bank Quay route. The following trains will all call at Helsby, Frodsham, Runcorn East, Earlestown, Newton-le-Willows and Manchester Oxford Road: 21:52 Chester to Manchester Piccadilly; 22:12 Manchester Piccadilly to Chester; 23:14 Manchester Piccadilly to Chester; 23:22 Chester to Manchester Piccadilly.
The Cathedrals Explorer
The 'Cathedrals Explorer Moors and Mountains' was a eight-day tour round England and Wales organised by the Steam Dreams company. On Saturday 11 May, day 3, the tour visited the Cambrian Coast line taking passengers to Porthmadog for a ride on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland railways. The train was hauled by two class 97 diesels (needed on the Cambrian lines because of the special signalling) 97 303 and 97 304 John Tiley. Above, the Porthmadog-bound train is seen approaching the unique flat crossing with the Welsh Highland line near Porthmadog as 1Z40, in a rain shower. Most, but not all, passengers had been deposited at Minffordd for the Ffestiniog Railway connection. Picture by Ken Robinson.
The two locos running round their train at Porthmadog (Ken Robinson).
The train, having been shunted, now faces Shrewsbury with 97 304 up front, ready to return from Porthmadog (Ken Robinson).
More rain on Minffordd bank with both locos working hard (Ken Robinson). It's pleasing to see a loco-hauled train on the Cambrian Coast line: let us hope for more in the future.
Stavros Lainas photographed the empty train from Porthmadog at Whitchurch heading for Crewe.
The train, re-united with its passengers, was diesel-hauled on Monday 13 May by 66 221 to Crewe where steam loco 60009 Union of South Africa was to take over for the run to Carlisle and Hexham. Garry Stroud photographed the train passing Llandudno Junction.
Passing the disused Rhyl No.2 signalbox which is slowly disappearing under foliage (Roly High). The train was timed for a maximum of 75 mph, the limit for a Class 66.
There is no obvious sign of a generator vehicle for the train heating, even though neither 97/3 or 66 locos have train heating supply (Roly High).
60009 had hauled the 'Cathedrals Explorer' earlier in its itinerary, from Bristol Temple Meads to Cardiff, and then on to Shrewsbury on 10 May. Richard Putley photographed it climbing Filton Bank between Bristol Temple Meads and Filton Abbey Wood, near the site of Horfield station.
Ffestiniog Steam 150 – report by David Parry
From the four-day 'Festiniog 150' extravaganza at the Ffestiniog Railway ran over the May Day Bank Holiday weekend, I chose to make my visit on the Saturday. Three of the four days were themed to trace the evolution of narrow gauge railways under steam and the Saturday programme celebrated 'Horses to England Engines' – the latter being built 1863-67 by George England & Co. of Hatcham Iron Works, New Cross, in south London, represented by the survivors Prince, Princess, Palmerston and Welsh Pony.
Unfortunately, my 09:30-ish arrival at Porthmadog missed the horse-drawn era, which included re-enactment of the road delivery of Princess, but fortunately (picture above) she was still on her transporter, by now on the 'two-foot', and being shunted at Harbour Station by sister England loco Palmerston under the supervision of a bowler-hatted inspector.
The England engines had been originally purchased to replace horse traction for the back-hauling of empty slate wagons to the quarries around Blaenau Ffestiniog. This was re-enacted with a 10:40 'empties' departure from Harbour station behind Prince, pictured above approaching Minffordd.
Later that day, I had a fleeting opportunity to photograph the return working, crossing my train at Tan-y-Grisiau - an unplanned shot that provides a closer view of the slate wagons.
Among the other locos active during the day was the recently restored National Trust ex-Penrhyn quarry loco Hugh Napier, which was offering short footplate rides at Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Another non-England loco performing was the new-build Lynton and Barnstaple prairie tank Lyd, which I captured leaving Tan-y-Bwlch with an up train to Blaenau.
Returning to Porthmadog, at Boston Lodge I took another chance shot of 'the ladies in waiting', ex-Penrhyn locos Blanche and Linda, due to double-head over the Welsh Highland Railway on Sunday.
By the time I returned to Porthmadog Harbour, anticipation was mounting for the high-spot of the day, the quartet of England locos – the operational Prince and Palmerston, with non-operational Princess and Welsh Pony in tow. Here they cross the Cob from Boston Lodge / Pen Cob with their train of 40 slate wagons in late afternoon sunshine.
Perhaps the climax of the day – certainly the vast numbers of photographers thought so – the England Quartet leaving Porthmadog Harbour, hauling the slate empties back over to Pen Cob. What a spectacle! Overall, a great day with some imaginative spectacles, which attracted large numbers and was fortunately blessed with good weather.
Sources: Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways (2013) Steam 150: A Narrow Gauge Odyssey. Event Programme. Festipedia (2013) England Engines. Thomas, C. (2004) Quarry Hunslets of North Wales. Usk: The Oakwood Press.
Ffestiniog 150: Additional views by Ian Pilkington
Saturday 4 May: Prince hauls Porthmadog – Blaenau slate empties through Penrhyndeudraeth.
Cosmetically restored Princess receives some last-minute polishing at Boston Lodge.
The chimney of Welsh Pony is being prepared to emit 'fake' smoke. The locomotive was cosmetically restored in green to match Linda’s tender.
Palmerston, Princess, Welsh Pony and Prince head slate empties away from Porthmadog over the Cob to Boston Lodge. Power provided by Palmerston and Prince.
Sunday 5 May: Hunslet-built locos Linda and Blanche were turned to face north to work a special Porthmadog-Caernarfon train over the Welsh Highland, seen passing through the Aberglaslyn Pass.
The 'Queens of the Hill' storm through the mist up the 1 in 40 towards Pitts Head Summit.
The pre-steam age on the Ffestiniog is recalled with a gravity slate train, seen near Coed y Bleddiau.
Monday 6 May: Palmerston and Prince head the 16:00 Porthmadog - Blaenau away from Dduallt. A perfect finish to a memorable weekend.
Ken Robinson photographed Hugh Napier and Britomart with the vintage train at Porthmadog on 6 May.
60 054 powering through Gobowen on the 6M86 steel coils for Shotton, Thursday 9 May (Martin Evans).
56 105 passing Hargrave with the Baglan Bay - Chirk loaded timber train at 17:54 on 11 May (Stavros Lainas).
On 7 May, the Oakleigh - Tunstead stone empties unusually produced a Class 66, 66 141, in place of the usual 60. Steve Morris photographed the train in the sunshine at Lostock Gralam.
Test train news - by Andrew Vinten
As seen in the last update, a Network Rail Test Train has been running around large parts of the area carrying out testing of the railway's new GSM-R phone system. It has run on most weekdays in the last two weeks. These pictures show the train at Liverpool Lime Street on 8 May. Above, 37 602 is at the head, prior to departure for Liverpool Bulk Terminal.
Originally formed of just the test coach and one other, the train had returned to Derby on Monday 6 May to attach another coach after complaints from the staff about the ingress of fumes from the locomotives. The contractors who were aboard are employed by Telent, the commissioning contractors, along with an individual from Network Rail.
Back at Liverpool Lime Street, 37 610 at the other end awaits the signal to return to Crewe.
[Speaking of yellow trains, the HST New Measurement Train is expected in North Wales on Thursday 16 May.]
Borth: mystery no more - by Charlie Hulme
A number of people wrote with the answer to the 'mystery' picture (from the J.W. Sutherland collection) in the last update, including interesting extra information and kind thoughts about this website which are much appreciated. The station is Borth, between Dovey Junction and Aberystwyth, the one surviving station on the Cambrian lines that I don't know well. The date is certainly the early 1950s, and the train hauled by 7802 Bradley Manor is the Aberystwyth portion of the 'Cambrian Coast Express' which would be combined at Dovey Junction with through coaches from Pwllheli to form a seven-coach train which would continue towards London, the heaviest train a 'Manor' could manage without assistance up the gradient to Talerddig. A larger locomotive would take over the train when it reversed at Shrewsbury. 7802 was allocated to Aberystwyth shed for most of its life.
Borth is an old fishing village that the railway company hoped would develop into a holiday resort, hence the large station building, which has survived to the present day, and now houses an excellent Museum created by local community volunteers. In the background are the boarding houses of Cambrian Terrace, built, along with a now-vanished hotel, by Thomas Savin, the contractor who built much of the railway system in mid-Wales. The wooden 'down' platform was added in 1912, and removed, along with the signalbox and footbridge, in the 1970s after Borth had ceased to have a crossing loop in 1970.
The line opened Borth before the line on to Aberystwyth was finished, and excursion trains began to run. C.P. Gasquoine in his 1922 book The Story of the Cambrian (available free as an eBook from Project Gutenberg) writes:
Very early on the day when the first train was to steam into and out of Borth, vehicles of all sorts crowded the road from Aberystwyth, the narrow street of Borth was rapidly thronged with an excited multitude who flowed over on the sands. At 8-30 a.m. the train left, with 100 excursionists. It was followed by another at 1 p.m., for which 530 took tickets. There was a great scramble for seats, and every one of the thirty coaches of which the train was composed, was packed to the doors. Those who failed to obtain a footing formed an avenue a mile long through which the train moved out amidst tumultuous applause. In the carriages the passengers shouted, talked, ate, drank and—sang hymns! The twelve miles to Machynlleth took about twenty-five minutes to accomplish, and, arrived there, the excursionists enjoyed themselves immensely, “as,” says a contemporary recorder, “Aberystwyth people generally manage to do when from home at any rate.”
So different from the Class 158s of our own times...
Hale 150 - pictures by Greg Mape
Hale station on the Mid-Cheshire Line opened as 'Bowdon Peel Causeway' in 1862 as part of the first phase of the Cheshire Midland Railway′s line from Altrincham to Knutsford. The Cheshire Midland Railway became part of the Cheshire Lines Committee system in 1865, and 1899 the Bowdon part of the name was dropped. In 1902 it gained its present name. The buildings and the signalbox are 'listed' as historic buildings. The signalbox looks in good condition, although it ceased to operate as a signalbox in 1991.
On 12 May 2013 the local Civic Society organised a 150th anniversary event with street displays, stalls and competitions on a stage in an articulated trailer. There was an preserved bus on display, and a fire engine; the local MP was spotted mingling with the crowd.
As it happened, Manchester - North Wales were being diverted by this route due to engineering works on the Warrington route, so visitors saw more trains than the normal two-hourly Northern Rail trains to and from Southport via Manchester. Above, 175 109 heads for Llandudno. The level crossing is now supervised by CCTV and operated from Deansgate Junction signalbox, where the staff also have to deal with two other crossings, one outside their box and another at Navigation Road station. Both are on the parallel single lines of Network Rail and Metrolink, so have to be operated around 20 times per hour.
Another attraction was the passage of the daily limestone train from Tunstead (Derbyshire) to Oakleigh Sidings (Northwich) which is timed to pass Hale at 15:36 on Sundays (bit is often early) and is usually hauled by a Class 60 loco. This is 60 065 Spirit of Jaguar, one of the few in active service not yet painted in DB Schenker pink. These trains are allowed to load up to 2400 tonnes gross weight, which is why British-built Class 60s are preferred over the more common Class 66.
Curzon Park saga drags on
Since the new footbridge/cycleway, owned and maintained by Cheshire West and Chester Council but attached to Network Rail's bridge carrying the North Wales route across the River Dee has been replaced, the embankment at the Curzon Park end has suffered from a landslip making the approach path to the bridge unsafe. After several months, the access to the bridge is still closed.
The Council has agreed with Network Rail that while they install piling to support the railway embankment, working from a closed railway, they will also install a piled foundation to support the Curzon Park end of the Council’s footbridge/cycleway. Having installed this new supporting structure, the Council will then carry out the replacement of the section affected by the land slip.
Network Rail have now engaged a specialist contractor to prepare a programme for the work, but unfortunately, this is going to take some time and therefore the Council now say the path, and therefore the footbridge/cycleway, will not be safe to re-open until the end of Summer 2013.
A morning at Rhyl on 13 May- with Roly High
Virgin Super Voyager 221 104 Sir John Franklin departs from Rhyl's platform 1 (above) with the 08:55 from Holyhead to London Euston.
175 106 arrives at Rhyl with the 09:45 from Llandudno to Manchester Piccadilly.
After splitting into two 2-car units at Chester, 158 839 speeds through Rhyl on the down fast line on the way to Holyhead with the first part of the 08:50 from Manchester Piccadilly.
158 832, having been the rear portion of the train at Chester, now forms the stopping service to Llandudno arriving in Rhyl at 10:37.
The running numbers match the unit number.
158 829 enters Rhyl at 10:31 with a service from Holyhead to Birmingham International.
Virgin Super Voyager 221 115 Polmadie Depot, recognisable by its special 'Bombardier' livery departs from platform 2 with 08:10 London Euston to Bangor.