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26 August 2013
Saturday 24 August saw a long-distance excursion from Perth (dep. 05:32) in Scotland run to Holyhead (arr.14:29) and back by Compass Tours. Richard Fleckney photographed 47 826 leading the train through Llanfair PG on time at 13:56.
Don't miss our 'extra issue' from Thursday 22 August
By the waters of Ystradau - pictures by Ian Pilkington
On 20 August, Ffestiniog Railway double Fairlie 0-4-4-0T Earl of Merioneth passes Llyn Ystradau with the 13:40 Blaenau Ffestiniog - Porthmadog (Ian Pilkington).
In the opposite direction, Merddin Emrys heads the 13:35 Porthmadog - Blaenau. 'Merddin' entered FR service in 1879, exactly a century before 'Earl', both being built at the railway's Boston Lodge Works.
It's good to (go to a) talk
This week several lists of forthcoming meetings over the 2014/4 season have been received from our local railway clubs and societies, and been incorporated into our Events Calender (left column, or the Calendar page). Visitors will be welcome, in return for a small donation, at the talks listed. There are some interesting topics and well-known names, including some familiar from these pages, so if you live near one of the venues, why not go along and even join the club?
A visit to Ty Croes - pictures by Chris Morrison
Above, 57 601 heads the 16:10 Holyhead - Perth return Compass Tours charter, passing Ty Croes on 24 August.
67 002 heads the 14:41 Crewe - Holyhead summer Saturday service past the 1872-built Grade II listed signalbox at Ty Croes. This was built at the dawn of the method of railway signalling which has lasted for many years. Note the LMS-style nameboard, painted in British Railways (London Midland) maroon, preserved on the end of the box, not replaced by Network Rail's ugly typography. The windows, too, have been sensitively replaced with replicas. The platforms here are 'staggered' either side of the level crossing, an arrangement which ensures a train stopped in the station does not delay road traffic.
The signaller manually replaces the crossing gates after the passage of 67 002. Like Llanfair PG, this signabox is now a 'gate-box' only, not a 'block post.' No train can leave Gaerwen westbound until the previous one has passed Valley, a distance of abut 15 miles, and vice versa, which limits the capacity of the line across Anglesey. The building attached to the signalbox was originally the booking office and waiting room.
175 110 on the 16:50 Holyhead - Cardiff, which passes at 17:00 has just passed Ty Croes up home signal. The signal in the other direction has already been cleared for the arrival at 17:01 of ...
... the 13:08 Birmingham International - Holyhead, seen easing into Ty Croes - a request stop - to pick up the photographer.
Assorted notes and comments
Dave Sallery writes: 'The nearly completed cycle bridge over the Foryd harbour in Rhyl, known as Pont y Ddraig - Dragon Bridge. The bridge crosses the river Clwyd and means cyclists and pedestrians can avoid the narrow "blue bridge". Opening has been delayed due to cable theft! In the foreground are the remains of the three-masted City of Ottawa, built in Quebec in 1860 it was abandoned in Rhyl in 1906 after sustaining storm damage. It was supposed to be broken up, but part of the ship has survived.'
The Shrewsbury - Crewe resignalling scheme, with attendant closure of the signalboxes at intermediate points, was to be implemented some months ago, but was postponed, reportedly because of concerns about the automatic obstacle deflector equipment to be fitted at de-manned level crossings. We now hear that a date of 13/14 October has been set for the changeover, and Arriva Trains Wales and drivers currently being 're-briefed.' So get out with you cameras soon! (We said that before...) It is planned to run an Arriva train from Crewe early on 14 October to prove the signal system and routes. The September Rail Express magazine contains the second part of the article by Michael Rhodes about these signalboxes.
According to a correspondent, the brake van noted on 15 July on a road vehicle on the A55, reported recently, was indeed, as we surmised, destined to join the exhibits at the old railway station at Llannerchymedd on Anglesey, and is now in position. If anyone is passing the area, we'd be interested to see pictures of what is there.
Concerning the X94 bus from Wrexham to Barmouth, Charlie Williams writes: 'Whilst Arriva no longer go into Ruabon Rail Station, GHA still do on their route 5 Llangollen service. Also, evening X94 and Sunday (numbered T3 for some reason) services, sadly not shown in Arriva's timetable, are operated by GHA and also still go into Ruabon Rail station.' A Wrexham Council PDF file gives the full timetable, although it still shows Arriva serving the station. It's good to know that evening and Sunday buses to operate, as anyone from the Barmouth area requiring major hospital treatment may well find themselves in Wrexham; visitors to patients are regular users of the bus service.
Chris Morrison writes: 'Preserved Class 52 diesel Hydraulic D1015 Western Champion returned to the main line with a loaded test train from Tyseley to Leicester and back on 22 August after three years out of service. It is seen arriving at Coleshill Parkway with 47 733 coupled inside.' All being well, D1015 will haul Pathfinder Tours' 'Western Wessexman' on 7 September.
A new version of the superb Realtime Trains website has been released, with a nunber of changes including a better mobile phone version of the simple interface and use of monochrome highlights on the instead of colours of text to show short-term planning and cancelled trains - a boon to users with colour-vision deficiencies. Most importantly from our point of view at the website, it is now possible in the detailed search to look up historic data about trains - freight included - which as long as a week ago, without knowing the URL of the train's page. Well done, we say: the site is one of the best resources rail enthusiasts have seen in years. One thing worth noting: excursions run by West Coast Railway Company are coded WR, but those hauled by freight company locos, such as DRS and DB Schenker, are coded with the 'anonymised' FRGT.
No more flying banana in North Wales?
According to the current schedule, Network Rail's HST-based made another ‘last’ run over the North Wales Coast and Marches routes in mid-August. It remains to be seen whether different traction appears in October.
The pictures by Andrew Royle show 1Q20 07:48 Crewe (LNWR) – Derby RTC via Newport led by 43 013 (top) with 43 014 (with red buffer beam) trailing, passing Shrewsbury northbound on the centre road on Friday 16 August. Strangely, these machines no longer carry any external brandings.
The Welsh Mountaineer, 20 August
61994 The Great Marquess, having received a clear signal, enters Chester station with the 'Welsh Mountaineer' excursion from Preston to Blaenau Ffestiniog on 20 August (Bob Greenhalgh)
Near Mold Junction (Bob Greenhalgh). The loco has been turned on the triangle of lines at Chester to as to run boiler-first up the steep gradients of the Conwy Valley branch after the necessary reversal at Llandudno Junction.
The driver looks out on the approach to the road overbridge at Flint Station – track maintenance men were walking the line some 100 yards ahead (Glyn Jones).
Llanrwst North: the fireman prepares to collect the single-line token for the section towards Blaenau Ffestiniog. The train crossed the 11:46 Blaenau - Llandudno passenger train here, as usual on these occasions (Ken Robinson).
Away again towards North Llanrwst station (Ken Robinson).
North Llanrwst station (Darren Durrant).
Dolwyddelan (Ian Pilkington). The train was slowing for a short 'breather' at the station to build up steam pressure.
On its way again, 61994 storms through Roman Bridge (Ian Pilkington).
Arrived at Blaenau Ffestiniog, with a Ffestiniog Railway train alongside (Eryl Crump)
A aristocratic scene as Earl of Merioneth meets The Great Marquess (Eryl Crump). Marquess, in current usage, is a male title, the second rank of the hereditary peerage in Britain, below Duke but above Earl, although someone can have more than one title: the current Earl of Merioneth is also Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Enough of that ...
Back at Llandudno Junction, the loco runs round its train using Platform 3 (Peter Lloyd).
After a refill of water, the 'Welsh Mountaineer' is ready at Llandudno Junction for the departure at 18:06 to Preston (Peter Lloyd).
Passing Colwyn Bay station (Darren Durrant).
Speeding downhill from Llanddulas (Larry Goddard).
Departing Rhyl as the signaller and Roly High take pictures of each other...
Passing the disused station at Talacre east of Prestatyn (Ian Pilkington).At just six vehicles including the support coach and a Pullman, the train is shorter than most excursions. This has its effect on fare levels, but is necessary to to ensure that Blaenau Ffestiniog is reached without problems.
Opened in 1903, with platforms on the outer 'slow lines' on what was then a four-track line, Talacre station was intended to service the camping grounds and beaches nearby, and the platform is still in place. Like other minor stations on the Coast line, it closed in 1966 but the platforms remain. The line adjacent to the 'up' platform is still in place; a short section was retained as part of the access to nearby Point of Ayr Colliery, which in the 1950s employed over 700 men. It closed in 1996, and today this little-used siding, controlled from the adjacent Talacre signalbox, is all that remains to show that it a coal mine ever existed.
With a short crow on the whistle, the crew acknowledge the parents and children on the footbridge who turned out to see 61194 pass through Flint on its return journey (Glyn Jones).
At Beeches Farm, Sandycroft on the way to Chester and Preston (Bob Greenhalgh).
Perth - Holyhead Pictures
Looking typically dull in dull weather, 47 826 brings the Perth - Holyhead excursion into Llandudno Junction on 24 August.
57 601 on the rear at Llanfair PG (Richard Fleckney)
On the return journey, 57 601 takes the curves through Colwyn Bay station (Darren Durrant).
57 601 leads the return train through Rhyl (Roly High).
A Colas Rail tamper seen stabled in the 'tamper siding' at Llandudno Junction (above) on 19 August between work sessions on the work on the Conwy Valley branch. the siding has had a bit of attention recently with 30+ new sleepers, some new ballast, and a reflective board on the stop block. Picture by Peter Lloyd. The ballast appears to be grey Penmaenmawr-style ballast, rather than the pink Cumbrian material currently used for new work. Could it be recycled material previously used on a main line somewhere?
The machine returned east on 20 August, as pictured by Darren Durrant at Colwyn Bay. The September 2013 issue of Rail Express magazine has a very informative article on Plasser and Theurer tampers, which we recommend to anyone interested in such things. DR 79395 is a Passer & Theurer '08' series tamper, of a type delivered after privatisation to replace the older '07' series machines used by British Rail. This one is a 08-4x4-4S-RT machine, equipped to work on switches and crossings (or points in model railway speak) as well as plain track. It articulated, running on three bogies. Also to be found is a smaller 'Compact' version which runs on just two bogies; the running numbers of the two types are intermingled within the same 739xx series.
A tamper is a machine which uses hydraulic spade-like 'tines' to pack the ballast stones under the sleepers to ensure the rails are fixed in place at the right height for smooth running. In the past, track gangs would do this work by manual labour.
Roman Bridge for sale
The station house at Roman Bridge is for sale - for £450,000. Built in 1879, it has three bedrooms, three reception rooms and stunning views across the mountains and valleys. Outside there are ten acres of meadows and a lake stocked with salmon and trout. The owner, Roger Latham, bought it in 1997 but has known the area for 60 years. He tells the press: 'I was raised in Macclesfield but started coming here on fishing holidays with my father in the 1950s. I had known Flo Williams, the daughter of the last stationmaster, who bought the house from British Rail. As she grew older she became more anxious about things and in 1997 decided to move. She found a buyer for the house, but at the last minute they changed their minds, which caused Flo terrible anxiety, so I bought it for the asking price.'
He paid £59,000, but Roger has since spent tens of thousands renovating it and adding a garden room with splendid views of the 17th Century clapper bridge. This was [it is said] built to replace the original Roman bridge, from which the station takes its name. 'The Romans came here to mine copper and lead and had a garrison nearby,’ says Roger who has been letting it to tourists. 'It’s occupied for about 85 per cent of the year. The area is very popular with walkers, artists and anglers, he says. The house comes with more than a mile of double-bank fishing on the River Lledr. It is wonderful in late summer and early autumn when the migrant birds are still here and the Atlantic salmon return from west Greenland to the streams to spawn.'
The stationmaster of 1879 could never have imagined that his house would one day have a bathroom including a bidet ... More information at the Strutt & Parker website. It's certainly getting free publicity, as various national papers and the BBC have picked it up. 'It’s the dream property for anyone who had a model railway while growing up' says the Estate Agent. At that price, it is more likely to be the 'dream property' for a retired Network Rail executive.
The ponds shown in the map are what your geography teacher would call an 'ox-bow lake' probably artificially encouraged by railway builders in this case. One wonders why the London and North Western Railway felt the need to built a staffed station at this remote, albeit dramatic, location. It had a siding until the 1950s, possibly used by the odd wagon of domestic coal. A pair of houses, named on old maps as 'Roman Terrace' was built nearby; maybe it was planned to develop a larger settlement, or passengers from angling fraternity were expected to flood to the area. Many slate miners lived and worked in the area, but did they commute by train?
We reported in an earlier issue that the improvement work taking place on Virgin's Class 221 'Voyagers' - recognisable by their numbers in a revised place, as in Roly High's picture above - include a toilet which 'talks' to users.
Not only are users audibly reminded to lock the door, they are also treated to an audio version of the message carried by the toilet-seat lid, photographed for us by Chris Morrison. We have also obtained an mp3 file of the hilarious message - downloadable by a right-click from this link. Amaze your friends, use it on your phone... but how funny will it be the 20th time you hear it? Perhaps they will change the forbidden items occasionally?
Here's what Virgin Trains have to say: 'Let’s be honest… going to the loo on a train is never the nicest of experiences, but luckily Virgin Trains are doing what they can to make the toilet a bit more, well, friendly. The newly refurbished toilets chat to you. No, we haven’t completely lost the plot, these loos actually talk. While they may not (yet) be capable of holding a full conversation, they DO remind you to lock the door, and we hear they are great listeners. Giving them a voice isn’t the only new feature to Virgin Trains' toilets. They have also been renovated with some snazzy décor, so you can forget you are in the loo and instead feel as if you are in the middle of a beautiful meadow watching a Virgin Balloon on its descent.'
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