Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

22 July 2013

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Forthcoming events

This list may be out of date if you are reading an archived page. For the current list visit our Calendar.

July 2013

27-28 July Llangollen Railway July 1960s weekend

Sunday 28 July Steam on the Coast Railway Touring Company 'North Wales Coast Express' Liverpool - Holyhead - Liverpool. Loco 45305, 46233, 60009 or 70013. Timings: Outward | Return

Tuesday 30 July Steam on the Coast Railway Touring Company 'The Welsh Mountaineer'  Preston - Frodsham - Llandudno Jc - Blaenau Ffestiniog and return. Loco 45305 or 61994. Timings: Outward | Return

August 2013

3-4 August Llangollen Railway  Day Out With Thomas

Sunday 4 August Steam on the Coast Railway Touring Company 'North Wales Coast Express' Crewe - Holyhead, steam-hauled Manchester Piccadilly - Altrincham - Chester - Holyhead and return by 45305/70013 Timings: Outward | Return

8-11 August  Llangollen Railway Day Out With Thomas

Friday/Saturday 9 - 10 August Talyllyn Railway beer festival

Saturday 17 August Vintage Trains 'The Welsh Dragon' Tyseley - Llandudno Junction and return. Loco 5043

Sunday 18 August Steam on the Coast Railway Touring Company 'North Wales Coast Express' Liverpool - Holyhead - Liverpool. Loco 45305, 46233, 60009 or 70013.

Tuesday 20 August Steam on the Coast Railway Touring Company 'The Welsh Mountaineer' 
Preston-Frodsham-Llandudno Jc -Blaenau Ffestiniog and return. Loco 45305 or 61994.

Thursday 22 August Talyllyn Railway Children's 'Duncan' Day

Saturday 24 August Wirral 0 Gauge Group Open Day,  Unit 7, The Odyssey Centre, Corporation Road,
Birkenhead  CH41 1HB American model trains running 13:00 to 17:00.  Admission £2 - ample free parking. Nearest Station Birkenhead Park. Contact 0151 653 0637or j.elliott37[at] for more information. 

30-31 August and 1 September  Llangollen Railway Steam gala

September 2013

Sunday 1 September Steam on the Coast Railway Touring Company 'North Wales Coast Express' Crewe - Holyhead, steam-hauled Manchester Piccadilly - Altrincham - Chester - Holyhead and return by 45305/70013.

Tuesday 3 September Steam on the Coast Railway Touring Company 'The Welsh Mountaineer' 
Preston-Frodsham-Llandudno Jc -Blaenau Ffestiniog and return. Loco 45305 or 61994.

Sunday 8 September Steam on the Coast Railway Touring Company 'North Wales Coast Express' Crewe - Holyhead, steam-hauled Manchester Piccadilly - Altrincham - Chester - Holyhead and return by 45305/70013.

October 2013

Saturday 5 October Steam at Chester West Coast Railway Company 'Welsh Borders Steam Special.' Cleethorpes - Shrewsbury and return. Steam-hauled Crewe - Chester - Shrewsbury - Whitchurch - Crewe by 44932, 45699, 46115, or 48151.

12 October Llangollen Railway Real Ale Train evening

Saturday 19 October Steam at Chester West Coast Railway Company 'The Cheshireman' Cleethorpes - Chester. Steam-hauled by 70013: Cleethorpes - Doncaster - Sheffield - Altrincham - Chester - Doncaster.

19-20 October Llangollen Railway Days Out with Thomas

26-27 October  Llangollen Railway Days Out with Thomas

31 Oct  Llangollen Railway Ghost Train evening

November 2013

Saturday 2 November  Llangollen Railway Murder Mystery evening

Saturday 2 November  Wirral '0 Gauge' Group Open Day,  Unit 7, The Odyssey Centre, Corporation Road, Birkenhead  CH41 1HB British model trains running 13:00 to 17:00. Admission £2 - ample free parking. Nearest Station Birkenhead Park. Contact 0151 653 0637 or j.elliott37[at] for more information. 

Sunday 3 November Llangollen Railway Ride the Rocket evening

9-10 November Llangollen Railway Remembrance Weekend

30 November Llangollen Railway Santa Specials

December 2013

1 December Llangollen Railway Santa Specials

7-8 December Llangollen Railway Santa Specials

14-15 December Llangollen Railway Santa Specials

20-24 December Llangollen Railway Santa Specials

7 December Llangollen Railway Real Ale Train evening

26-31 December  Llangollen Railway Mince Pie Specials.

Merseyrail units 507 016 and 507 001 wait to depart from Chester with the 18:15 service to Liverpool on 18 July. Picture by Martin Evans.

Big issue, sir? Yes, quite a lot of items this week from several points of the compass....

Steam train worries

The hot, dry weather recently has prompted worries about lineside fires caused by sparks from steam trains, with a couple of charters postponed, and others, following discussions between West Coast Railways operations manager James Shuttleworth and Network Rail, are to operate as advertised, but with a diesel loco behind the the steam locomotive, which we assume will supply power and reduce the blast from the chimney  of the steam loco.  Whether this will affect the start of the North Wales steam season on 28 July remains to be seen.

However, this prompts in our mind a question: since the driver of the steam loco does not have full control of the train in these circumstances, could a steam train venture on to the Cambrian lines (weather permitting) with an ERTS-fitted diesel coupled behind the loco?

Additional loco-hauled trains

Arriva Trains Wales are bringing out their loco-hauled set to handle the Summer holiday Saturday traffic, with kind permission of the Welsh Government. This year, however, there is just one return train from Holyhead to Crewe. This operated on 20 July with loco 67 002, photographed at Llandudno Junction by Larry Davies (above) and at Prestatyn by Dave Sallery (below) and will run again, we understand, on Saturdays through the school holidays. The diagram is:

1K52 09:56 Holyhead - Crewe 12:04
1D74 14:40 Crewe - Holyhead 16:52

Stops are being made at Chester, Prestatyn, Rhyl, Colwyn Bay, Llandudno Junction and Bangor. Enjoy!

Also planned for 27 July is a private charter in the shape of a GB Railfreight 'staff outing' from Cardiff to Llandudno via Shrewsbury (10:04) and Crewe (10:41-11:12) calling also at Colwyn Bay 12:24, Llandudno Junction 12:25 and arriving Llandudno 12:48. We understand that while the passengers enjoy the seaside, the train will then run as a 13:25 Llandudno to Holyhead (arr 14:35 dep 15:44) and back (arr 16:50) with seats available to the public on a 'pay on the day' basis with a flat fare £25 return. The planned traction is pairs of Class 20 diesels: a rare opportunity. The return train to Cardiff, again restricted to GBRf staff, leaves Llandudno at 16:57 and is not booked to call at Llandudno Junction.

Trans Pennine Trip - with Alan Crawshaw

Rowan and I were again up early on Monday 15 July to catch the 06:01 from Bangor, seen here arriving on platform 1. We had a slightly different breakfast experience from our previous trip (see last issue), this crew told us that the chef boards at Rhyl, which we knew, and that they may not be able to serve us breakfast in time, and asked up to check with them when we got to Rhyl. We did, and were asked to return in 15 minutes to collect, so we didn't go hungry.

We didn't make the very tight unadvertised connection onto the 07:12 Chester to Manchester Piccadilly so we photographed 67 001 about to lead the Arriva service onward...

... and cyclists boarding the following Virgin Voyager. I'd be more impressed with their 'green' boasts if Virgin provided more bike space and their staff refrained from using it as a storage area and advising passengers to put their large suitcases there.

We stayed overnight in Hull as we were unfamiliar with the city and spent Monday afternoon exploring. We took the train to York on Tuesday morning and photographed the Scarborough Spa Express before ducking into the National Railway Museum for the 'Mallard 75' exhibition, which was packed - half an hour after opening on a Tuesday outside the school holidays! We didn't stay long and it was impossible to get a clean picture, but good to see all six surviving A4s together.

Integrated future?

North Wales media is reporting comment about the latest report calling for improved transport for North Wales. The 'North East Wales Integrated Transport Task Force Report to Edwina Hart AM OStJ MBE Minister for Economy, Science and Transport' can be found in PDF format on the TAITH website where we read that:

The rail modernisation business case should consider how frequencies of service and journey times within North Wales and to/from key destinations in the North West can be improved. We would encourage the provision of new stations and additional services that specifically serve major employment areas and help to tackle poverty. The Task Force strongly supports the need to improve frequency and line speeds on the North Wales Coast Main Line and the Borderlands Line. We have also identified the need for new / enhanced stations including at Hawarden Bridge, serving Deeside Industrial Park and at North Wrexham, connecting residents with training and employment opportunities. There is also strong support for the delivery of the Halton Curve to enable direct services to Liverpool South / Liverpool from the study area.

It is depressing that much is the medium term - i.e. ten years hence ... but it is worth reading if you can face the writing style found in such documents, and comments are sought.

On a related topic, in an 18 July written statement on rail priorities by Ms Hart for the Welsh Government we read:

In developing this agenda for rail, as I said in my 10 July Statement, I am seeking to maximise value for money and the impact from our investment in public transport. In that regard, I shall be reviewing the processes and decision making behind the rail infrastructure project to reduce North - South journey times and redouble the railway between Wrexham and Saltney. The Welsh Government committed to this project in 2008 and contracted Network Rail to deliver it, but the project has been significantly delayed.

The reason for the delay is not given, does anyone have any information? Increase of frequency on the Shrewsbury - Aberystwyth section also gets a mention, from which we gather than although Network Rail has completed the necessary infrastructure work at considerable expense, there is no money for the current franchise to run the actual trains. However, there seems a possibility that 'summer tourist trains' in some form will operate next year on the Cambrian and Heart of Wales lines.

'Stainless' Steel

Class 60s continue to work some of the steel trains between South Wales and the Shotton coating plant from time to time, and on 18 July, 60 062 Stainless Pioneer was running over 95 minutes late when photographed at Cefn-Y-Bedd with 6M76 Margam - Dee Marsh loaded steel. Picture by Mark Riley.

A slightly more risky and isolated location for Mark Riley's second picture, taken at the public crossing near Johnstown, as 60 062 hurries past at 11:05 with the return 6V75 Dee Marsh empty steel coil carriers.

Mark Riley writes: 'Whilst waiting at the crossing for 60 062 to pass, I noticed the writing on the warning sign which reads "In loving memory RIP Victoria Swift 16/3/92 - 15/01/07" a reminder that this young girl was struck and killed here by a Holyhead-Cardiff service. It was believed that she was playing with friends in the area at the time. A tragic loss of a young life.

'This area sadly has some notoriety for antisocial behaviour and trespass. As 175 113 rushes past on a Holyhead-Cardiff service, it's a reminder of the need for respect of the potential dangers personally, and to others, of trespass and vandalism. Also, as if to prove my point, soon after 175 113 had passed, I witnessed a rough, shaven headed man in his early 20s (so not just children!) strolling casually alongside the track for about 100 metres - with the steel train about to arrive. However, being alone at the time, I felt it unwise to challenge someone who appeared quite aggressive anyway. Perhaps a lesson learned that some areas are unsafe for anyone alone, and always to have the British Transport Police (BTP) telephone number - 0800 40 50 40 - to report such incidents.' [There is also a new service from BTP by which you can send a Text Message, perhaps more inconspicuous if being observed by a miscreant.]

On safer ground, Martin Evans photographed the same train (above) at Gobowen.

Chasing the Aberystwyth Charter - with Chris Morrison

I travelled from Birmingham to Dovey Junction and Borth on Saturday 20 July to see the London - Aberystwth Charter.  Things didn't start well when 08:23 from New Street to Aberystwyth and Pwllheli rolled in with two carriages instead of the usual four on one of the busiest Saturdays of the year. Predictably we were full and standing from Wolverhampton. The conductor announced that we would be terminating at Shrewsbury for a train with more capacity forward from there.  At Shrewsbury the incoming train from Aberystwyth to Birmingham was terminated to allow us to join its four coaches back to Aberystwyth and Pwllheli. The unfortunates from the Cambrian were shoe-horned into our two coach train back to Birmingham.
Returning on the 17:43 departure from Borth, the conductor said passengers travelling beyond Machynlleth would need to transfer to another train forward. At Machynlleth the two-coach train from Pwllheli was already well-loaded and by the time it departed there were people standing the full length of the train. Adding to the woes, the air conditioning in the unit wasn't functioning, resulting in sauna-like conditions until the conductor opened the windows after Caersws. The air conditioning seems no better than previously on these refurbished 158s. The staff on the Cambrian are great but the trains need improving.
Heading picture: Network Rail 97 303 and 97 304 John Tiley approaching Glandyfi with the 07:10 Euston - Aberystwyth UK Railtours First Class dining charter. It was running 102 minutes late after missing its path onto the single track Cambrian line at Shrewsbury.

Above, the pair head the return 16:00 Aberystwyth - Euston  past Borth. The passengers had arrived at the seaside resort 103 minutes late, giving them only an hour and a half to enjoy its attractions before returning to London. [No air-con in Mk1 coaches either.]

A view of the train passing Borth golf course. Nice to see a rake of all mk 1 stock in almost matching livery.

York discoveries - by Roger Carvell

I braved the heat like many others on 15 July, for an advance cheapie East Coast Trains trip to
the National Railway Museum in York to see The Great Gathering. It was frustrating for serious photography inside but the crowds enjoyed the spectacle of six A4s so one shouldn't complain. I understand another event is planned for later in the year with 60008 / 10 shipping back across the Atlantic in 2014.

There isn't much at the NRM in relation to Welsh railways, or indeed our dear North Wales Coast line, but imagine my surprise when I found the station nameboard for St Asaph in the public stores area. St Asaph closed on September 19, 1955, although trains continued to pass through until 1968. The nameboard would have long been removed by then. [The rather odd nameboard can be seen in place in a 1954 picture on the Disused Stations website.]

Also found was the cab side sheet of 46229 Duchess of Hamilton, another North Wales favourite of recent memory. This was removed when the loco was re-engineered to its original streamlined form. The loco itself is absent in its whole form at the York museum; we understand may currently be at the museum's other site, 'Locomotion' in Shildon.


Colas variety

The log trains to Chirk are the stars of the moment as far as as our photographic contributors are concerned. With a  near-perfect reflection (above) in the canal at 07:05 on 10 July, as 56 302 crosses Chirk Viaduct with train 6Z51 Chirk (Kronospan) - Teigngrace empty KFA timber wagons. Picture by Mark Riley.

The train from Carlisle has reverted to the Settle- Carlisle route after a period of travelling via Shap: 6J37 Carlisle-Chirk logs at Hoghton, west of Blackburn, with 56 105 and 56 087 in charge, on 11 July (Ian Pilkington).

On 11 July the light was good enough for David Parry to get a decent view in Frodsham cutting with its remarkable tree growth. The Carlisle to Chirk logs is double-headed by 56 105 and (obscured by a band of shadow) 56 087.

During the period of 14-18 July, engineering work on the West Coast Main Line saw the Carlisle - Chirk trains re-routed via Manchester, Stockport and the Mid-Cheshire line, meaning some interesting photo opportunities.  Above, 56 105 and 56 087 make an usual sight near Mobberley on the Mid-Cheshire line with 15 July's loaded train. Picture by Andrew Vinten.

The same train on 15 July passing the 'Forest Rise' housing development under construction in the former goods yard at Mouldsworth station.  Picture by Bob Greenhalgh.

The same train again, accelerating through Wrexham General at 16:00, an hour later than the train would normally be seen (Mark Riley).

On 16 July, 56 105 and 56 087 worked 'light' from Chirk to Washwood Heath, and in the late afternoon, 66 849 Wylam Dilly was sent to work 6C37 empty KFAs back to Carlisle. Therefore on 17 July it was 66 849 working back from Carlisle to Chirk, still on the same diversionary route, that was seen passing Wrexham General at the same time of 16:00.

66 849 performed again on Thursday 18 July, photographed by Ian Pilkington at Grimeford between Adlington and Blackrod.

Mid-Cheshire specials

For one weekend only on Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 July 2013 you can visit the Mid-Cheshire Line Railway Weekend at the Weaver Hall Museum, Northwich. Learn more about the Mid-Cheshire Line and enjoy a six-layout Model Railway Exhibition along with an outdoor Miniature Railway.  Adult entry at £3, Concessions £2, Children £1.50, Family (2+2) £7. Further details on the Mid-Cheshire Rail Users' Association website.

The regular and popular Music Trains will operate over the summer months with 'Goat Ropers' on the evening music train to the Golden Pheasant at Plumley on Wednesday 14 August and an evening Music Train from Altrincham and Knutsford to Chester with Dmitri Quarteton and Jazz Jam at Alexanders on Wednesday 21 August,

The MCRUA Settle & Carlisle Express Scenic Railtour on Wednesday 11 September 2013 is the Association's  next Diesel hauled Excursion and is booking up fast. With an outward journey via the Settle & Carlisle Railway, a stopover in Carlisle and returning via the Cumbrian Coast line, this will be an exceptional day out. This year the train starts at Hooton, then picks up at Chester, most
stations on the Mid Cheshire Line, Stockport and Reddish South. As usual, there are reserved seats, a buffet car, trolley service and a MCRUA detailed route description.

Back to the 60s at Llangollen

27-28 July is 1960s weekend on the Llangollen Railway. 'Black 5' 44806 was to have been running in weathered 1960s condition, by kind permission of the owner, but unfortunately will no longer be available due to damage sustained in an 'incident' on 13 July. Classmate 45337, running as 45156 Ayrshire Yeomanry, will be running subject to repairs being completed.  This month's issue of Steam Railway magazine features an excellent article by Toby Jennings on how we weather a loco - it's well worth a look. The Black 5 will work an 1T57 [the so-called 15-guinea special of 1968] re-creation service, complete with headboard and a blue and grey coach in the train.

There will be an intensive timetable featuring some interesting stock. Also in traffic will be 7822 Foxcote Manor (above) and 2-8-0 3802. Diesels D5310, 6940 and a railcar will be in use - a real 60s mix as usual. The full timetable is to be confirmed very soon.

The popular vintage vehicle rally will take place at Glyndyfrdwy with a superb line up of cars, bikes and even the odd caravan or two. See MGs, Triumphs, Beetles (not with an 'a'!), Imps, a glorious E Type Jag and even an Alvis. Two superb vintage buses from the North West Museum of Transport will operate a free rail-replacement service between Llangollen and Carrog. These will be a Chester Guy Arab and an open-top Lancaster Leyland Titan PD2 - offering a spectacular view of the Valley and Railway from the A5. 

Dr Beeching's Bar will be open in the Robertson Suite all weekend, with seven real ales to try from the Stonehouse, Llangollen, Ludlow and Glaslyn Breweries as well as bottled lagers and wines. The Wrexham Lager microbrewery will also be in attendance on Saturday and Sunday, serving from a separate little bar at Glyndyfrdwy during the day and then at Llangollen on Saturday evening.

There will be trade stands at both Llangollen and Glyndyfrdwy selling everything from transport-related crafts to aromatherapy massage. And who could forget the live music? The railway is very lucky to have such talented musicians amongst its ranks and this year performances will all be from Llangollen Railway members and their friends. All performances will take place on Platform 1 at Llangollen and the atmosphere on Saturday evening, which starts at 7pm really is hard to beat.

A campers and residents train will run back from Llangollen to Carrog on Saturday evening at around 10:30pm after the concert finishes. Visitors are encouraged to dress up in 60's clothes to add to the atmosphere and join in the fun, but this is by no means essential. See the Llangollen Railway website for more information.

[The website editor wears 1960s-style clothes every day, based on a Nick Drake album cover picture...]

Trawsfynydd - another try?

A small item in the current Railway Magazine tells of a 'group calling itself TRAWS' which proposes that the mothballed Blaenau Ffestiniog - Trawsfynydd route should be turned into a heritage line. The idea is to run trains from Blaenau Ffestiniog 'where there is a spare platform face' - presumably the one on the narrow-gauge Ffestiniog line - and possibly on to Llandudno Junction. A phone number, 07449 324785, is mentioned for more details. Would anyone like to ring it and find out more for us? Readers may remember an earlier proposal, last heard of in 2010, involving a gentleman called Colin Dale, which we reported at the time (11 October 2010 issue) but the website mentioned there is now defunct.

More recently (2011) we heard of a 'Velorail' idea to use the line for human-powered vehicles. This was all set to happen by 2012, one vehicle was obtained and some undergrowth clearance was done. In May 2012, however, we read that the plan had 'hot the buffers' for want of £100,000 but it was hoped to start in September ...

Our picture, taken by Ian Bowland c. 1990, shows the line at Trawsfynydd in use for transfer of flasks to and from Trawsfynydd nuclear power station, the only UK station which took water from a lake for cooling, which ceased to generate in 1991. The last of the fuel was taken away in 1995, and the station is currently in the very slow process of cooling and decommissioning. By 2027 most of the structures will have been removed, but the reactor must remain in place until at least 2073.

Suffolk to North Wales - with Adam Barnard

After visiting my family in Suffolk, it was time to return to North Wales to start my new Job at Tesco in Porthmadog. I had booked to go a scenic route, via the 'Berks & Hants' route to Taunton then up to Newport before picking up the 'WAG express' and heading to Bangor. I departed Sudbury on the 07:59 service to Marks Tey on Tuesday 2 July, and got to Marks Tey without incident. Greater Anglia had provided one of their newly refurbished 156s for the journey, which are head and shoulders above the dreadful old National Express East Anglia refurbished examples. After some spotting at Marks Tey, of which my quarry included Class 321s (above), 360s, Class 90s on InterCity services ...

... and a very noisy NR test train worked by DRS Class 37/6s, I boarded the 0918 service to London Liverpool Street. I arrived in London and quickly travelled to Paddington aboard a very tatty C-stock train bound for Hammersmith.

After arriving at Paddington, I was met with the delightful announcement that they would be testing the Fire Alarm systems for the next half an hour so my wait for the 12:18 HST stopper to Taunton was met with alarms going off every five or so minutes. They announced that they would be testing the station evacuation alarm soon, and that there was no need to actually evacuate the station but when they tested it 60% of people still headed towards the main exit.

After this, Heathrow Express' only 360, 360 205 turned up working a Heathrow Connect service, which was good as I had never seen it before. I then boarded the 12:18 service, which was formed of a very mis-formed HST rake, with no Entertainment carriage and both 1st class vehicles (excluding the buffet) being labelled as quiet coaches. This latter issue was addressed by the train manager, informing us via the tannoy that only one of the coaches was in fact a quiet coach.  I had a very pleasant trip to Taunton, calling at most stations between Newbury and Taunton. En-route I noticed that FGW have removed the mid-coach bulkheads from their coaches during the last refurbishment. I wonder why.

At Taunton, I exited the train to wait for a miserable and nightmarishly slow FGW stopper to Newport, my ticket not being valid on CrossCountry services. I had a choice of either the 15:15 or 16:07 services, both of which called at almost all stations to Newport/Cardiff, and after seeing that the 15:15 service was formed of a single 150/1 with the old Central Trains 3+2 seating, I decided to wait for the later train.

I did some more spotting at Taunton, with most of the trains I saw being CrossCountry Voyagers or First Great Western (FGW) HSTs, including Hewlett Packard advertising-liveried power car 43 186. I had made the right choice waiting for the 16:07 service, as it was formed of a 153 and 150/2 with 2+2 seating. After an agonisingly slow journey to Newport I disembarked from the Sprinter and waited for the Express to Holyhead.

No announcement was made about the train having First class or a restaurant service, making me anxious that a 175 had been substituted for the loco-hauled rake, so I was relieved to see Driiving Van Trailer 82308 lead the train round into the platform. I got myself a table seat to fully enjoy the comfort of the train and the magnificent scenery of the route. After Abergavenny, I ventured to the restaurant car and ordered the chef's special, a bacon and tomato pasta bake. I had never used a restaurant car on a train before, and was blown away with the quality of it, and the fact it was no more expensive than a gastro-pub.

The staff were very friendly and helpful indeed, which made the journey all the more enjoyable and relaxing. Also, contrary to my previous assertions, I noticed that Arriva Mark 3 coaches and Class 158s do not actually have the same seats as FGW Mark 3s and East Midland Trains Class 158s, as the Arriva Trains Wales (ATW) examples have a much better and softer headrest with more stuffing. The journey was most pleasant, with reversal at Chester going as planned. Night had fallen by the time I had reached Bangor, but I managed to get a photo of 67 001 (above) without using flash as it was illuminated by the station lights of Bangor.

I never actually used Wrexham & Shropshire when they were operating, so I cannot make a fair comparison between the restaurant service (although I highly doubt anything can beat the superb ATW example), but I have been on one of Chiltern's silver trains, which are the same stock, and in my opinion the Welsh mark 3s are more comfortable than the silver mark 3s. It is mostly down to the seats, as the soft headrests easily beat the 'IC70' seats in the ex-Wrexham & Shropshire carriages, but I must say the decor in the W&S carriages is more tasteful and having curtains in standard is a nice touch.

There is something that worries me about this service though. Funding for it is only secured until 2015, and DB are looking to expand services out of Marylebone, so come 2015 I have a horrible feeling Wales will lose these lovely coaches, and they will be consumed by the irrepressible mark 3 lust of Chiltern. I implore everyone, do use this service while it still exists, as it may not be around for ever and needs to be experienced.

The Jolly Fisherman - report by Roly High

04:30 on a gloomy Saturday morning, 20 July, as DRS  loco 37 419 Carl Haviland draws 5Z20, the empty stock,and what should have been two Class 20s at the rear, into Hooton's long siding, to form train 1Z20, Compass Tours 'Jolly Fisherman' tour to Lincoln and Skegness,with the pair of Class 20s leading. However, despite the best efforts of DRS, only one Class 20 was deemed suitable. It was coupled to 37 608 to make the trip. When we arrived at Crewe, 37 608 had to be removed from the train due to oil pressure problems, and 37 419 was brought from the rear and coupled to the class 20.

As always,a Network Rail staff member was in attendance to oversee operational and safety issues.

Despite superb planning by Network Rail, DRS, and Compass Tours in navigating a path across the busy Midlands rail network, with a lot of the network undergoing engineering works,we had to come to a stand on a number of occasions to let service traffic pass.

Things got a little twisted at a stop outside Chesterfield ... it must have been the heat.

A three car 156 / 153 combination East Midlands Trains service at our second scheduled stop at Wainfleet. Quite a number of passengers got off the train here; I think the main attraction was the local brewery, Batemans.

The sole Class 20, 20 312 at journeys end in Skegness station.  Due to a combination of numerous pick-up points, engineering constraints,and waiting for service trains to pass, the travel time was over 8 hours in each direction. The grand tour left Hooton at 05.07 - Chester(pick up) - Crewe(pu) - Whitchurch(pu) - Wem(pu) - Shrewsbury(pu) - Wellington(pu)  -Telford(pu) - Wolverhampton(pu) - Walsall(pu) - Coleshill Parkway(pu) - Tamworth High Level(pu) - Burton-on-Trent - Derby - Belper - Chesterfield - Sheffield - Darnall - Worksop - Retford low level - Gainsborough Lea Road - Lincoln Central(first set down) - Sleaford - Boston - Wainfleet(second set down) - Skegness, arriving at 14:33.

The lead loco 37 419 complete with crossed spades headboard!

37 419's nameplate. Carl Haviland, who died in 2012, was a fitter with the Harry Needle company who worked on the refurbishment of the 37/3s for DRS.

This plaque about the famous 'Jolly Fisherman' poster ('Skegness is SO bracing')  is high up on the
wall of Skegness station.

Generator coach 17105 was converted from Mk 2 Brake / First vehicle 14105 in 1977 for use as a staff couchette and generator car for the Royal Train, numbered 2905, later renumbered 17105 and sold to Riviera Trains.

20 312, now the lead loco at an operational stop at Derby on the return leg. Due to essential engineering works which we could not bypass, passengers for Chester and Hooton had to board rail replacement coaches for the rest of the journey home. The passengers left on the train who were going to Crewe, Manchester, etc. were taken to Nantwich where the train terminated, and then they were bussed onwards.The empty train then went to Riviera trains depot at Crewe.

Brake van on the road

Nick Gurney photographed this brake van on a low loader parked in a layby on the westbound carrigeway of the A55 near Llanfairfechan on 15 July. It looks very much like the BR-built LMS style van which spent many years abandoned at Holyhead and was reported as sold to the Cambrian Railways people at Llynclys, but we may be wrong. Can anyone tell us where it's from and where it was going to?

A trip to Aviemore - with Richard Putley

While staying Edinburgh for the Festival,  on 13 July I travelled to the Strathspey Railway at
Aviemore, on which I used to be a volunteer on back in the 1990s. While waiting for the 10:36 from Edinburgh, I saw 91 110 Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (above) propel the 09:30 to London King's Cross. Stabled in one of the bays was DB Red 90 018, with 67 008 for company.

My train was formed of 158 786 which was joined by a class mate, 741, from Glasgow Queen Street,  at Perth. Arrival at Aviemore (above) was on time.

The Strathspey Railway's train also arrived punctually at 14:05, hauled by Ivatt 2MT 2-6-0 46512, pictured above at Aviemore. This loco spent most of its working life allocated to Brecon working the lines - all axed in 1962 - that used to radiate from there to Merthyr, Neath, Hereford and Llanidloes. It was rescued from Barry scrapyard by the Strathspey Railway in the 1970s and restored for use on their line.

But a lineside fire resulted in a 20 minute delay to our departure. 170 422 headed through Aviemore with another service for Inverness. Once underway, I saw Class 27 D5394 (above) outside Aviemore shed and Class 31 31 325 at Boat of Garten. Also there were a number of DMUs and a pair of Class 26s in need of attention.

The train continued to Broomhill, used as "Glenbogle" in the TV series "Monarch of the Glen", where the line ends at present. But plans are afoot to extend it a further 3 miles to Grantown-on-Spey. I saw the girders at Aviemore which will be used for a replacement bridge over the River Dulnain a mile north of Broomhill. On the return journey a further fire between Boat of Garten and Aviemore caused more delay to the Strathspey train. As a result I missed the 16:35 from Aviemore to Edinburgh.

The next train south was the 18:14 to Glasgow Queen Street. I caught this train as far as Stirling. This enabled me to photograph the soon to be replaced semaphore signals there.

While waiting for the 20:36 to Edinburgh, I saw 66 160 bring a coal train off the Alloa line. It was allowed out on the main line in front of the Edinburgh local. The Edinburgh train arrived on time and whisked me back there in what seemed like a lot less than the booked hour-long journey time.

The hostel where I stayed was in the centre of Edinburgh. So most mornings I'd pop round to Waverley station. Thursday morning I saw a sleeper train headed by 90 036 ...

... and one of the Fife loco-hauled commuter trains headed by 67 004.

Irish Adventure - by Charlie Hulme

Last week's issue was prepared in advance, as on Thursday 11 July we set off for Ireland, where I had been invited to participate in an event commemorating John Cassidy, a sculptor born in Sale, Co. Meath who practiced in Manchester. Eschewing air travel as usual, we headed for Holyhead where we would spend the night before boarding the Stena Nordica for the crossing to Dublin. Few trains from Manchester go direct to Holyhead so a change was required at Llandudno Junction on to a Birmingham - Holyhead train formed of 175 110 (above).

Arrival in Platform 2 at Holyhead: thankfully the air-conditioning in 175s does usually work well. We stayed at the Travelodge near the station, which is ideal for the purpose and has decent rooms at very reasonable cost. Next morning we headed back to the station and with a dozen or so others, boarded the bus for the ferry. It's good that Stena Line seem to have adopted a more friendly attitude towards foot passengers - the procedure here is that the bus drives on to the ferry, reversing up the ramp,  which requires some skill on the part of the driver, and parks alongside the staircase leading to the passenger deck. One small drawback of all this is that it is impossible to get a photograph of the ship. We enjoyed a vegetarian cooked breakfast and relaxed on the open deck area for the pleasant journey (fine weather!) to Dublin Port.

The bus appears to stay on board for the journey across to Dublin, and on arrival takes you to the terminal there, whence we found a taxi to take us to Dublin Connolly station for the Belfast-bound 'Enterprise' intertantional train which we took as far as its first stop, Drogheda, whence we could get a bus to Slane.

The Enterprise trains are worked by the impressive EMD locos and some very comfortable coaches in push-pull mode: unfortunately for the photographer they are a close fit into Drogheda's platform. This is Northern Ireland Railways-owned 8208 River Lagan. Although related to the Class 66 family, from the sound they make it seems the Irish 201 Class don't have modern silencers.

As is often the case at Drogheda, there was a freight train stabled, part of the fleet which serves the Tara mines near Navan. For some reason Irish Rail have adopted the full UIC numbering system as used on the Continent, even though the track gauge and the lack of a train ferry makes it unlikely that they will wander far. This is 92 60 0117071-7, or in ordinary parlance, 071, also a North American product dating from 1976.

Drogheda station has an interesting display of railway relics.

After departing Drogheda, trains for Belfast cross the River Boyne on this bridge, 30 metres above the river, a very early example of its type, designed Sir John MacNeill and completed in 1855, although the wrought iron spans were replaced by steel to the same basic design in the 1930s. Currently the spans are encased in scaffolding during refurbishment work.

After a busy and fruitful time in Slane, Sunday 14 July found us back at Drogheda (above) to catch the Enterprise back to Dublin, as we had tickets for a concert by brilliant singer / songwriter Tom Russell. Driving trailer 9004 was at the head of the train as it arrived at Drogheda.

On arrival at Connolly, loco 233 River Clare  had been detached from the train before I could reach it, and headed off promptly for servicing.

We stayed in a hotel off St Stephen's Green, but unfortunately the 'Luas' tram line outside the hotel (above) is on a line which is currently not connected to the tram line which serves Connolly station, although there are signs of work in progress to remedy this, although a change of tram will be needed to reach Connolly.

Monday 15 July, and we travelled by Enterprise again, this time in First Class, to Belfast Central, where 227 River Suir is seen after arrival.  First class is not cheap, but very comfortable, and there are refreshments available, although even tea and coffee have to be paid for. Wi-fi connection is free in both classes.

From Belfast, we pressed on immediately to the seaside resort Portrush aboard modern railcar set 4014, built by CAF of Spain. There are 20 of these 4000-series 3-car sets, delivered in 2011-2012, and very comfortable, with air-conditioning and free wi-fi. It is perhaps worth noting, however, that neither Northern Ireland Railways nor Irish Rail have on-line ticket sales, except for the Enterprise service.

A marked contrast to the new trains: the 'somersault' semaphore signals at Portrush station dating back to the days of the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway. These were famously used by the Great Northern Railway in England after an accident blamed on a lower-quadrant signals being weighed down by heavy snow and ice to display a false 'clear', but I had no idea they existed in Northern Ireland.

Portrush also has a superb old station building, designed by the Chief Engineer of the BNCR, Berkeley Deane Wise, and dating back to tourism boom of the 1890s. The day we arrived was one day of the two-public holiday the people of Northern Ireland enjoy at this time of year, so the place was very busy.

Joanna had expressed a wish to see the Giant's Causeway, so next day we caught the open-top bus service from Portrush, worked by Ulsterbus 2000 (CXI 6200) an ex-Dublin bus Leyland Olympian.

In addition to the famous stones, there is railway interest at the Causeway in the form of the Giant's Causeway and Bushmills Railway, re-laid in recent years on part of the trackbed of the electric tramway, one of the first in the world, which from 1883 to 1949 ran from Portrush to the Causway Hotel. They do have a steam loco, but the everyday travel is by a diesel loco and coaches designed to resemble the original trams. The power unit is furthest from the camera in our picture above.

After three nights in Portrush and some fine coast walking we returned to Belfast by the 06:05 train to get a taxi to Belfast Port for the 10:30 Stena Ferry to Birkenhead. While waiting for departure, we noted the Stena Superfast VII (above) arriving from Cairnryan in Scotland.

Our ship was the Stena Mersey, and during the 8-hour crossing we passes sister ship Stana Lagan on its way from Birkenhead to Belfast. Since they were built in 2005, these ships and their route have had several owners, but on taking over the route from DFDS in 2010 both has a full refurbishment and look very new and again offer good food including cooked breakfasts. Again, foot passengers are welcome and there are very cheap fares, although the transit to Liverpool on arrival requires a bus from ship to terminal where we were asked for photo ID despite this being a purely UK route, then another bus to Hamilton Square which none of the other foot passengers bothered with, then a train to James Street where thanks to engineering work we had to catch a replacement bus to Lime Street station.

From the ship we were able to view some of the sights found in the Irish Sea these days...

... including many wind turbines and many more under construction. A train home from Liverpool concluded what had been a fascinating journey, well away from the riots which were occurring in the Belfast suburbs. Indeed everyone we met in Northern Ireland was very very friendly, and keen to list the tourist sites we should visit, including the Coleraine to Londonderry railway which will surely justify another visit.

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