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03 June 2013
The classic scene at Llandudno on Sunday 20 May, with 175 010. Picture by John Young.
On the Cambrian Coast Express - with Richard Putley
This was a special tour for the Pathfinder Tours company; to mark their 40th anniversary, a repeat of their very first tour back in 1973 which was from Bristol to Pwllheli. I joined the tour at Bristol Parkway. Whilst waiting there I saw 70 018 (above) hauling a westbound Freightliner train.
The tour arrived behind 67 020 which hauled it as far as Bescot. A points failure at the top of the Lickey Incline nearly resulted in us being diverted via Kidderminster. Happily it had been fixed so did not delay us. At Bromsgrove we overtook a freight waiting to go up the Lickey. It had an DB Schenker 66 at each end.
At Bescot, 67 020 gave way to 97 303 and 97 304. Both locos hauled the tour all the way to Pwllheli. (I noticed from a recent update that another tour earlier in the month was double headed all the way to Porthmadog).
We left Bescot slightly early and avoided Shrewsbury station by turn left at Abbey Foregate Junction and taking the curve to English Bridge Junction (above). At Coleham depot, near Sutton Bridge Junction, depot sister loco 97 302 was seen basking in the sun outside.
The Cambrian Coast line itself begins with the beautiful shoreline section between Dovey Junction and Aberdyfi. The chocolate-and-cream Riviera Trains coaches are the same type, and have the same livery, as those used by British Railways Western Region for a while around 1960.
Between Llwyngwril and Fairbourne the railway builders took the line high onto the Friog cliffs to find a secure foundation. The shelter, seen ahead of the train, was built to protect the line from rock falls.
Two lineside views by Ken Robinson as the train progresses over Barmouth bridge ...
...at the regulation slow speed.
From the train approaching Barmouth (Richard Putley).
Before Penrhydeudraeth the train crosses the Briwet timber bridge, soon to be replaced by a new bridge on which construction recently began. The tour continued to run to time on the Cambrian. Indeed after leaving Machynlleth early we managed an early arrival at Minffordd, which helped those alighting to ride on the Ffestiniog Railway.
I stayed on the train to Porthmadog. Frustratingly we were held outside the station for several minutes until a late running DMU from Pwllheli had entered the crossing loop. The stop board for the new ERTMS signalling is about a mile before the station; this seems a bit over cautious. Even with the 'old' RETB system trains would pull up to the stop board for the level crossing. On the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway which runs alongside the main line into Porthmadog station we saw Gelert with its train.
Porthmadog, with 158 841 (Ken Robinson). There had been fears that things wouldn't go to plan on the day as this was the first railtour through to Pwllheli since the new signalling system was introduced. However, things did go more or less as intended with only 'some' disruption to normal services. The train headboard reads '40th Anniversary / F&W / PATHFINDER TOURS', F & W being the original name of the Pathfinder Tours company.
On the 'other' Welsh Highland Railway I saw the green Garratt 143 arrive with the 15:20 from Caernarfon (above) ...
... ... and depart at 15:40, seen above on the street-running section across the bridge at the end of Porthmadog High Street.
I then caught the 16:00 from Porthmadog Harbour to Minffordd, hauled by Earl of Merioneth. It met its elder sibling Myrddin Emrys there ...
... and I rejoined the tour for the return leg.
Crossing the famed Bont y Bermo, Barmouth Bridge, on the return run. The weather was excellent so it was an awesome day out.
Northern Rail, in conjunction with Cheshire West and Cheshire Council (CWAC) and the North Cheshire Rail Users Group (NCRUG) will be operating a special train on Saturday 6 July 2013 from Liverpool Lime Street (dep. 09:42) to Hooton (arr 11:09) with a return train pair to Helsby (dep. Hooton 11:37), returning from Hooton (dep. 13.07) via Helsby and the Halton Curve to Liverpool Lime Street, arriving at 14.07. Fares will be in the region of £10 for the day; we understand they will be on sale on the train.
A vintage bus service will also operate between Helsby and Ellesmere Port in the afternoon, for which donations will be sought. Travel on the special will give chance to traverse some 'rare' track A miniature steam engine will be on display at Helsby and suitable celebrations to celebrate 150 years of operation at various stations along the line. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information. Normal booked services on the Halton Curve (one train a week!) and Helsby to Ellesmere Port, such as they are, will also run on this day.
A day out with the Merseyrail Saveaway - report by Jack Bowley
On 1 June, Geraint and myself decided to have a day trip out to Merseyside to see what we can find. After purchasing our Merseyrail Saveaway rover for £4.80 from Chester’s ticket office, we boarded the 08:31 Merseyrail service formed of 580 131. Despite the power failure this side of Hooton causing delays, our train managed to run on time. Our train took us to Moorfields where we alighted and changed onto the Northern line where a rather shabby looking 508 125 greeted us to take us to Southport. The aim for the day was to clear as many Merseyrail lines as possible on top of seeing the booked freight trains such as the Fiddlers Ferry coals. A few photos later and the uniquely-liveried 508 111 pulled into platform 1 with The 'Beatles Story' livery as seen above in full sun.
Before heading back to Moorfields, we decided to 'clear' the line to Kirkby as well. Although not the most interesting line, it allowed us to get photos of the units parked up in Kirkdale depot. Our next destination was Liverpool South Parkway whence we changed at Moorfields to get onto a train heading to Hunts Cross. Alighting at platform 5, we made our way up to the main platforms at South Parkway station, passing the rather space-age toilet that Geraint soon found out started to talk to him… First up through the station was Freightliner’s 70 016 with the 6Y05 Huyton – Crewe Basford Hall engineers' train.
Despite the engineers' train running early into Edge Hill, we were able to catch DB Schenker’s 60 074 Teenage Spirit passing through platform 1 at Liverpool South Parkway with the late running 6F74 Liverpool Bulk Terminal – Fiddlers Ferry coal working.
Before heading off to Lime Street, we managed to capture the 6F78 Fiddlers Ferry – Liverpol Bulk Terminal empty coal wagons running late through platform 4 at South Parkway.
Next up on the agenda was Huyton where we’d photograph the originally-cancelled 4Z96 GBRf Doncaster – Liverpool Bulk Terminal empty biomass working, the first ever GBRf train to work the Ince Moss to Huyton line and with the unique-liveried 66 720 on the working, we were determined to get to our location there in time. A quick 'thrash' to Lime Street with 158 868 and a hop onto 156 427 to Huyton ensured we were in position for the GBRf. And not long after we arrived, 66 720 (above) passed through.
The Chirk logs were fast approaching and so we boarded the next train to Liverpool Lime Street. Due to the Low Level platforms at Lime Street being closed for refurbishment, we had to walk to Liverpool Central to catch our train back to Chester. With time to kill, we called in at Rock Ferry to photograph a few units such as 507 015, see above.
However, it was a move we now regret. Upon arrival into Hooton, we were informed there was yet another power failure to Chester and so were 'sitting ducks.' Once the power was on and the next train came in, we realised that the Chirk logs had gone straight through Chester. Although that was a big let down, the day was thoroughly enjoyable and I'd like to thank Geraint for the company throughout the day and Mark joining us at South Parkway.
Black 5 mystery: a solution
Another look at last issue's mystery picture, sent in by Peter Dickinson showing Black 5 44680 on an SLS railtours somewhere around Chester on 5 March 1967. At the time, we wondered if the pylons in the background would offer a clue, and sure enough, along comes an email from Andy Hyde, who works for the National Grid.
Andy writes: 'I am fairly sure that this photo was taken near Mollington on the down run for the Special. The sun is right for a early March morning, in the background is a 275/400kV electricity pylon which can only be the Deeside - Daines (near Carrington) circuit of the then CEGB. Looking at a current OS map the trees give a clear location, taken from near to Lea Manor Farm, in a slight cutting.'
Past Times with John Hobbs - Great Western Tanks at Chester
Former GWR 2-6-2T 4148 is under repair at Chester (Midland) shed (6A) on 9 August 1964. By this time these locomotives were a rarity in Chester. The Depot at Chester(West) - 6E - once had an allocation and they regularly worked Chester to Birkenhead trains, and other local duties, as well as locals out to Shrewsbury up to the late 1950s when they were replaced by BR Standard types. However in 1964 they were still allocated to ex-GWR sheds in the Birmingham area. But what did it work into Chester on at this very late date? The locomotive worked on after this, so perhaps it came in on the Leamington to Birkenhead service which was often a 'Hall' or a 'Grange' at the time and due to a failure remained at Chester for repairs?
Former GWR '56XX' 0-6-2 6611 shunts at Chester's Platform 1 [now numbered 2], the former Mold Bay. In the Summer of 1964 one of these engines spent all day on Pilot Duty at the west end of Chester (General) Station; the picture is dated 15 August 1964.
The Ynys Mon Express, Southport to Holyhead
The 'Ynys Mon Express' on 29 May was an excursion run by Compass Tours from Southport to Holyhead. Originally advertised as steam-hauled - reportedly by newly-overhauled 45699 Galatea - but a few weeks before the day it was decided that this could not be guaranteed, and it was converted to a diesel-hauled train, with refunds offered to people who complained.
We pick up the train (above) at Bagillt, with 47 580 County of Essex leading. Picture by Jack Bowley.
Abergele (Roly High).
47 760 on the rear (Roly High).
Colwyn Bay (Darren Durrant).
Bangor (Rowan Crawshaw).
Passing Bryn Tawel farm, just west of Belmont Tunnel, Bangor, in bright sunshine (Jim Johnson). The Union Jack colour scheme, based on that applied to some Class 47s at Stratford depot for the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977, also worked well for the Diamond Jubilee in 2002, and indeed suits the 60th anniversary of the Coronation in 2013.
Passengers who balked at the idea of an afternoon in Holyhead had been offered a coach trip to Beaumaris. Above, the return, in pouring rain, passing Gipsy Corner, between Bangor and Abergwyngregyn, with West Coast Railways 47 760 leading.
The return journey included a return trip from Llandudno Junction to Blaenau Ffestiniog, added (we assume) to the itinerary as compensation for the lack of a steam locomotive. The weather wasn't too good up in Blaenau Ffestiniog (what's new?) but Ken Robinson couldn't resist going up to see a special train in an unusual 'slot'. Ken's first view shows 1Z38 'Ynys Môn Express' entering Blaenau Ffestiniog just as the rain was starting.
The second view, a few minutes later, shows a more colourful 47 580 at the other end ready to depart. There was a stop of only around ten minutes here, but as the train was top-and-tailed it was no problem.
Flask trains from Valley ran on both 28 and 31 May. Above, on 28 May, 20 302 and 20 304 are seen at the loading point awaiting their load (Nick Gurney).
A wider view showing the loading gantry (Nick Gurney).
Heading for the mainland. Picture by Peter Basterfield who writes: 'You can just see the signal box at Llanfair PG in the background of the left-hand view and in the second the start of the single track for the Britannia bridge. Taken from the bridge that leads to the 'HMS Indefatigable' Training Centre, which I was advised is Ministry of Defence property, although no signs show that. I was granted permission to take the photos; security tightened after recent events, I assume.'
Eastbound through leafy Bangor (Rowan Crawshaw).
Beeches Farm west of Chester (Bob Greenhalgh).
Ty Croes Station on 31 May, three flasks with the locos working hard but not much 'clag' effect (Peter Basterfield). The old loading bay is still visible under the ivy, perhaps it would have been quite busy when the Ty Croes Trials Establishment Guided Weapons Royal Artillery base was operating. set up originally in 1942 as a school for heavy anti-aircraft (AA) gunnery, the site was later used for the testing of surface-to-air missiles. The converted windmills are an interesting feature of the area.
The 31 May train passes Bangor: locos that day were 20 309 and 20 305. Picture by Rowan Crawshaw.
Colwyn Bay (Darren Durrant).
Beeches Farm (Bob Greenhalgh).
Several engineers trains ran to Crewe via Chester on 25 May. Above, at Chester, 66 415 (left) heading for Crewe as 66 107, in the distance, heads for Chester with the sand for Ellesmere Port (Bob Greenhalgh).
The Mersey was busy in the week ending 17 May, with four cruise ships arriving and departing. The Queen Mary 2 (above) called on 17 May as part of cruise from Southampton to Hamburg, Greenock, Dublin, Liverpool, Invergordon, Stravanger(Norway), Hamburg and back to Southampton. Picture by George Jones, who writes: The size of the ship, with 13 decks, is such that it should have been visible off the North Wales Coast! I saw it depart around 17:00 from a vantage point at New Brighton. It is claimed as the world's largest ocean-going liner, being capable of Transatlantic journeys between Southampton and New York as well as cruising which it does in the winter season.'
Former Arriva Trains Wales loco 57 315 passes Dunham-on-the-Hill with a diverted Worcester to Carlisle charter, 27 May (Stavros Lainas).
60009 Union of South Africa and support coach approach Acton Bridge at about 11:20 on Saturday 1 June running early on a engine movement from Carnforth to Bristol (Eric Scott)
This intriguing picture taken by Darren Durrant at Derby on 30 May shows two elderly English Electric-built locomotives still in service. 20 905, on the left, now owned by GB Railfreight, has has several owners, including DRS, since its days with British Rail as 20 225. It was built 1968 to a design dating back to 1957. 31 190, formerly D5613, is now owned by British American Railway Services and is used mostly on Network Rail measurement trains; at some time it has re-gained its livery style, and is actually the older of the two, dating from 1959.
56 094 with empty log wagons near Gobowen at 07:14, 27 May. Picture by Stavros Lainas.
60 017 on the Dee Marsh to Margam empty steel working pictured by Martin Evans on 29 May at Ruabon; the 60s are becoming more popular on this working with at least one turning up every week.
A loaded log train at Dunham-on-the-Hill with Colas 56 302 in charge, at 17:10 on 2 June (Stavros Lainas)
Llangollen in the 1990s - pictures by Andrew Wallbank
Heritage lines can have their own 'scenes from the past' - these pictures were taken at Llangollen in the early 1990s by Andrew Wallbank, one of the original members of the Flint and Deeside Railway Preservation Society which began to restore Llangollen station and trackbed in 1975, and later worked on the Llangollen Railway as a senior fitter. Above, seen in 1993, '4F' 0-6-0 44422, a loco which has worked on many railways in the preservation era.
60009 Union of South Africa at Llangollen station in 1993.
Famous (or notorious in some people's minds) 4472 Flying Scotsman in Llangollen yard. Andrew tells the story of one day when he was engaged in his 'day job' at Mostyn and received a phone call saying that 4472 had just blown a gasket on her middle cylinder and that she was needed for a steam gala that very weekend. Realising the importance of getting her up and running, he dropped everything in work and headed over to Llangollen shed within the hour. Dedication at it's best!
60009 and 4472.
Rather more appropriate for the line, perhaps, Great Western pannier tank 7754 seen at Llangollen in 1994. This engine remains a resident member of the Llangollen Railway fleet.
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