NORTH WALES COAST RAILWAY:NOTICE
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01 July 2013
Peter Lloyd took this picture on 24 June from Moel yr Hydd, 2126 feet above sea level. 150 229 is leaving Blaenau Ffestiniog station as train 2D19, 17:37 to Llandudno.
From this issue, the 'Forthcoming events' section in the left column will include real-time links to the timings of excursion trains whenever possible.
Drive the Pendolino Simulator
On 28 June, a team of rail staff will be cycling From Manchester to London, setting off at the same time as the first Pendolino from Manchester at 05:05, and travelling back 'in comfort, if a little saddle sore' on the 22:05 train from London to Manchester, in aid of the Christie Hospital charity fund. See www.pendocycle200.com for details and how to donate.
In support of the effort, Virgin Trains have kindly donated a session for two people on the Pendolino driver simulator at their Driver Training Centre in Crewe, to take place early in 2014 - at present the Centre is very busy training newly-recruited drivers. This opportunity is being auctioned via eBay - don't delay, as the auction ends at 18:18 on Tuesday 2 July.
Premier Express scenes
A classic view by Stavros Lainas on 25 June of the southbound morning Premier Express at Dorrington, Shropshire, scheduled passing time 08:18. The lower-quadrant bracket signal and the ground disc complete the scene; note the modern ladder safety hoops and higher handrails that now adorn this and many other surviving semaphore signals. Network Rail plans to abolish all these old signals and their associated signalboxes over the next few years, with all the lines in Wales and the Borders controlled from a centre in Cardiff. Efficient, but lacking in any 'character.'
Photographing the 18:21 express from Cardiff to Holyhead on the North Wales line can be a challenge, even close to the longest day. Above is 67 001 heading out of Chester passing Mold Junction. at 21:09 heading for Holyhead on 21 June (Bob Greenhalgh).
DVT 82306 leads the Holyhead-bound express over Green Lane crossing, Saltney heading for Chester on the single-line section of the Wrexham line at 20:57 on 24 June (Bob Greenhalgh).
Hooton to Helsby 150 - full details
Thanks to the North Cheshire Rail Users Group we have full details of the special service between Liverpool, Hooton and Helsby which will operate on Saturday 6 July to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the line. The timings are:
The shuttle services shown above between Helsby and Hooton will be supplemented by a Vintage bus and new Stagecoach bus between Helsby and Ellesmere Port in the afternoon from Helsby at 13.35; 14.05; 15.00; 16.30; and from Ellesmere Port at 13.00; 13.25; 14.15; 14.45 (times provisional). No fares will apply to the bus service but £5 donations, on the day, will be appreciated.
Here is a real-time link to all movements planned at Helsby on the day via Real Time Trains.
The buses will be a 1950 39-seat Crosville Bristol LL6B SLB178 (LFM 759), which was repainted beautifully by Howards of Moore, Warrington late last year, and a brand-new Stagecoach vehicle (39 seats, and hopefully just two weeks old). So, 62½ years between them. The owner of the Bristol bus is John Oates, chair of the Mid-Cheshire Rail Users Association, who writes: 'We'll be doing photo shoots of the buses around 12:30 at Ellesmere Port before the free bus shuttle to/from Helsby starts - see the MCRUA Chairman's blog.'
A special train ticket will be available for the occasion. The price is £10 adult / £5 child. (No Railcard Discounts.) The ticket is valid for travel on Saturday 6 July and Available to purchase from any Northern or Merseyrail staffed station from Monday 1 July 2013 – ask for a 'Helsby Hooton 150 Day Ranger'. Valid for travel on any Northern Rail service between Liverpool Lime Street and Liverpool South Parkway / Warrington Bank Quay including intermediate stations, plus the special trains shown above. On Merseyrail Electrics the ticket is valid on any service between Ellesmere Port / Hooton and Liverpool City Centre including intermediate stations; and any service between Liverpool City Centre stations and Liverpool South Parkway including intermediate stations.
A half-size narrow gauge steam engine will be on display at Helsby Station as part of the station open day when the acclaimed Prize Winning Gardens at Helsby Station will be open for viewing by kind permission of Arriva Trains Wales; the newly overhauled and refurbished station buildings at Helsby will be open to the public courtesy of Network Rail. There will be the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the occasion donated by Llechwedd Slate Quarry at Blaenau Ffestiniog who provided the slate for the original station roof. Also, a Raffle Draw, Birthday Cake and suitable celebrations to commemorate the event. At Ellesmere Port Station between 12 noon and 1pm the Mersey Morris Men will be performing.
WAG Express and Waverley - report by Neil Worthington
I had an interesting trip on Wednesday 19 June. Some chums of mine from 'Darn Sarf' invited me
to join them on a cruise across the Bristol Channel, on board the Paddle Steamer Waverley. It sounded like an interesting trip, and I thought it would be a good idea to combine it with a rolling breakfast on board the Premier Service ('WAG Express' or 'Gerald' as it is known to some), the 05:33 Holyhead - Cardiff Central.
It no longer runs via Crewe, so I had to be at Chester by 07:15. This meant catching the 05:50 Manchester Piccadilly - Llandudno, which in turn meant an early morning cycle ride from my home into Manchester - no great hardship at this time of year as it was broad daylight and there was little road traffic about. I didn't bother photographing the outside of the train, which performed faultlessly, and didn't even notice the loco number. Instead I recorded the interior and the views through the windows.
Tea was served on departure from Chester, followed soon after by porridge (other cereals were available).
I then partook of the full Great British Breakfast. This used to be parodied in Private Eye as the "InterCity Sizzler: contents 1 rasher bacon, 1 sausage, 1 egg, 1 tomato, 1 mushroom, 1 baked bean" but as the photo shows it's rather more substantial on Arriva Trains Wales. I declined the black pudding and seemed to get extra bacon instead. Eggs can be cooked in various ways: mine was poached.
All this was freshly cooked in the kitchen adjoining the buffet counter.
The views, of course, make the journey, though photographing them was a distinct challenge. Patronage was poor, with never more than three passengers in First and about 53 in Standard (south of Hereford), but it was mid-week. The stewardess told me that Mondays and Fridays are the busiest days for meals, and at this time of year they also serve a lot of American tourists.
The train reverses at Chester of course; it was propelled in and hauled out. The First Class and Catering vehicle is marshalled immediately behind the locomotive. I'm not sure how these vehicles are designated these days - RFB, Restaurant First Buffet?
I wandered along to the DVT at the end of the train and was intrigued to see that it is locked off from passengers - but it has a 'doorbell' marked 'Press for Conductor' (inset). An early arrival at Cardiff Central gave me time to travel over to Cardiff Queen Street and thence to Cardiff Bay on the shuttle, worked by 153 353. I was struck by the quality of all the Arriva Wales rolling stock that I used: the trains may be old but they all seem to have been rather well refurbished.
But the main reason for the trip was to board P. S. Waverley at Penarth. I walked from Penarth station down through the Gardens and caught sight of her steaming across from Clevedon in brilliant sunshine, a wonderful sight that my compact camera is quite incapable of recording adequately. Here she is alongside the pier head. The pier is still under renovation but ice cream, Welsh cakes and other souvenirs were available.
The workings of the ship are simple: a 2100 HP steam engine drives these pistons, which turn the two paddle wheels.
A two hour trip across very smooth waters in glorious sunshine brought us to Minehead harbour (above, and see also heading picture). The ship's shallow draught allows her to reach many small ports, and her ability to turn in her own length, by rotating the paddle wheels in opposite directions, makes her very manoeuvrable. There's more information on the Waverley website at http://www.waverleyexcursions.co.uk/.
At Minehead we joined a West Somerset Railway steam train for a leisurely ride through the Quantock Hills to Bishops Lydeard. The line itself is linked to the national network but only for special trains. We caught a bus from the station yard to Taunton station, where I boarded a CrossCountry Voyager to return to Manchester.
The Carlisle - Chirk log train is a favourite photograph subject of our contributors. Above, on 24 June, the re-timed train with Colas loco 66 850 passing Frodsham at 14:27. The earlier path at 10:12 from Carlisle appears to be common at present, although as we write on 1 July, a look at www.realtimetrains.co.uk suggests that there must have been a long wait for the driver, as after apparently departing from Eden Valley Goods Loop at 11:35, it was 96 minutes later that it passed Tebay, on the other side of Shap Summit, normally a 20-minute run, and did not reach Chirk until 16:30 instead of 15:28. Access to real-time information is a dream come true for freight train fans - but bear in mind that a train listed may not actually run, even after being listed as 'Activated' it can still be cancelled. Some freight trains in the timetable database never run at all, and may represent a hope for a future flow.
25 June, and Stavros Lainas was at Dorrington, Shropshire to photograph another Chirk service, returning empty for another load of logs from Teigngrace, Devon. The second wagon is one of the newly-converted Cargowaggon vehicles recently brought over from The Netherlands which turned out not to have enough side-stakes to hold the required load, and had extra ones - shorter, and not painted blue - fitted in Britain before they could be used.
Seen from Hoole Lane bridge, 56 094 approaches Chester with the logs from Carlisle for Chirk on 29 June. Picture by Bob Greenhalgh. The few Class 56 locos which survived the cull by their new American owners after privatisation have considerable curiosity value. Regarding our comment in an earlier article that they were rare on the northern part of the West Coast Main Line, Simon Pilkington writes: 'A Cardiff-based 56 was booked on the Margam - Hardendale Quarry and 6V70 return [loaded with lime for the steel industry] for a few years around 1995, as when heading for nights at Crewe Control I often met a friend who was a driver at Hereford. He would travel by passenger train to Warrington to work 6V70 and then gave a noisy display as he traversed the Crewe Independent lines past Salop Goods Junction signalbox! It is fair to say they were not common overall but did have booked work, albeit nocturnal.'
The lime train still runs three times a week in 2013, but with Class 66 haulage: here is a link to a picture. The lime is now carried in containers in place of the covered hoppers used in the 90s, and after unloading the empty containers at the Quarry in the early hours it continues to Carlisle for the loco to run round the train, and stables for the day before returning the following evening for the loaded containers and heading back south to Margam.
Gwynt y Mor ships - report by George Jones
The Friends of the Mersey Ferries River Cruise on 22 June into the north Liverpool dock system allowed for close photography of two offshore supply vessels which frequent the wind farm installation at Gwynt Y Mor off the North Wales coast. Above, the Normand Tonjer which sports a helicopter landing platform in the forward position
The Polar Prince which has heavy lifting gear on the stern. Both are Norwegian owned and operated and came into Liverpool docks for servicing. It would be interesting to know if the helicopter landing facility on Normand Tonjer has been used at the scene of current operations.
As can be seen on the Ship AIS website, the Gwynt y Môr wind farm installation is attracting a lot of shipping in support of the development which brings unusual activity to both Mostyn on the Dee and various facilities on the Mersey.
Past Times with John Hobbs - Tranquillity in Cheshire
Have you ever wondered what all those Ivatt 2-6-2T at Crewe North depot did? Here is one answer. You can feel the tranquillity as 41212 waits for the road at Calverley on Sunday afternoon, 27 September 1964 with three six-wheel milk tanks and a brake van forming 3.45pm Calverley to Crewe milk train which served the creamery that once existed here; the tanks would have been combined with loads from other creameries and found their way to London.
Earlier in the day 'Royal Scot' 46148 The Manchester Regiment had passed Calverley but is seen here near Gresty Lane, Crewe with train 4A19, the 9.00am Holyhead to Willesden containerised meat train. Unbeknown to me this was to be the last time I was to see 46148 working.
Further my recent item featuring water troughs, I have written a detailed article on the subject on the 6G Llandudno Junction site.
The new North Wales coast railway - report by Keith Jones
I am a member of the North Wales Model Engineering Society, which had a permanent raised track at a school in Llandudno, but have had to relocate. We are now building a new track and club house at West Shore Llandudno; this again is a raised track of 3½-inch and 5-inch gauge, as you can see track is going down. We hope to have 400 feet laid in a few weeks; the picture (above) shows new track that was laid over the weekend of 15-16 June. Now we need to lay the flag stones at the station area then we can make a start on public running on a small scale for now just up and down.
Once we have 400 feet we can start to run 'up and down' while we build and lay track around the site. We also plan to put the turntable and steaming bays in by the end of this year; we will then complete the inner section and join up two outer curves to give us 1800 feet of track. If any of your readers is interested and Would like more information then the web site is www.nwmes.org.uk.
Coast Class 50
This picture, from the 'Ingy the Wingy' Flickr site and reproduced here by permission, was taken by an unknown photographer (if it was you or you know who it was, please get in touch ) and shows 50 029 (yet to receive its warship name Renown) entering the Up Loop at Abergele and Pensarn station heading east. According to the caption, the photograph was taken after the 2 March 1974 when D429 was renumbered 50 029, and probably before February 1976 when the locomotive was transferred from Crewe Diesel Traction Maintenance Depot to Bristol Bath Road Traction Maintenance Depot.
Class 50s have never been very common on the North Wales Coast, but between May 1974 and the summer of 1976 they did make some appearances on both passenger and Freightliner services. According to the book North Wales Diesels by Steve Morris they were most common on the 10:15 from London (from Crewe) and 00:55 return from Holyhead, which would have passed in darkness. However, they did appear sometimes on other trains deputising for Class 47s. A Summer 1976 Working timetable on www.2d53.co.uk shows that the headcode 1D73 shown by the loco was the 15:53 (Saturdays only) Llandudno - London Euston, which did call at Abergele and was air-braked and booked for a Class 47. However this was a summer-only train. Does anyone have a timetable for Summer 1974 or Summer 1975 and/or a record of what day this loco worked?
50 029 still exists in preservation, owned along with 50 030 by the Renown Repulse Restoration Group based on the Matlock - Rowsley Peak Rail line. The current group saved the locos from scrapping in 2002, and 029 has been cosmetically restored but returning it to working order is a long-term project.
Grant funding for Dwyrain Corwen East - report by George Jones