NORTH WALES COAST RAILWAY:NOTICE
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02 December 2013
97 304 leads the Rail Head Treatment Train past some of the reasons why the Rail Head needs Treatment, near Bagillt on 23 November. Picture by Matthew Travis.
This issue was prepared in advance as we have been away for a few days. More recent events will appear next time. - Charlie
26 Years ago at Holyhead
Christian van der Veen took this picture in Summer 1988 on the last day of his Britrail pass. 47 534, seen awaiting departure from Platform 2, wears the classic large-logo blue livery. Allocated to Crewe diesel depot at the time, it was scrapped in 1995. Of note is the short-arm signal, which until earlier that year carried a rare survival in the form of a short lower-quadrant LNWR arm, due to the restricted space between the tracks. It was replaced by the short upper-quadrant version after the LNWR one fell apart, but the wooden post was retained. In the background are the two former 'Palbrick' brick-carrying wagons which had been modified to allow the movement of individual Freightliner wagons which normally ran in permanently-coupled rakes. Some years ago they were removed to the Cambrian Heritage Railways at Nantmawr for preservation.
Conwy Valley failure
Friday 22 November saw the Conwy Valley line's class 150 unit declared a failure on arrival at Llanrwst at 08:10, while working the 07:39 train from Llandudno Junction to Blaenau Ffestiniog, followed by a spate of cancellations. A replacement bus was procured for the 11:46 from Blaenau Ffestiniog which kept right time to through to Llandudno. Eventually, at about 11:50, the aling train was moved to Llandudno Junction and later ran to Chester.
At 12:49, the standby 150/2 - 150 259 - was dispatched from Chester and arrivied at Llandudno Junction 13:29. Normal service re-commenced with the 13:30 from Llandudno Junction to Blaenau Ffestiniog which should have started at 13:08 from Llandudno but a bus was provided for that section.
Ken Robinson's picture shows 150 259, in rapidly failing light, ready to depart with the 16:20 from Llandudno.
Patriot at the NEC
As promised, the partly-built new 'Patriot' 4-6-0 45551 The Unknown Warrior travelled to the Model Railway Exhibition at the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre on 21-22 November, which has a tradition of including full-size locos among the exhibits as seen above. Picture by George Jones.
The cab sides have been painted, not long before the exhibition: the signwriter's guide marks can still be seen around the number which reproduces the stylish letter style used by the LMS railway in the 1930s period. 'Shading' to the numbers still has to be added.
The front 'face' of the loco represents the British Railways period (Roly High). The headboard is in the style of the nameplates fitted in 1937 to No. 45500 Patriot which had been built in 1930 as 5901 Croxteth. The type thereafter became known as the 'Patriot' class.
An interesting new book by Keith Langston, British Steam - Patriots covers the class in fascinating detail, from their inception right up to the currend new-build project, with a useful section about steam locomotive building in general. In addition to normal paper format, it is also available as a very reasonably priced Kindle eBook.
The other side of the cab wears British Railways green (Roly High). The wheels have been made new, but majot challenges remain, including the boiler and firebox. For more information see the Project website.
Past Times with John Hobbs - GWR Locos on Parcels trains
In 1965 it was becoming harder to ride behind ex-Great Western Railway locomotives, in and out of Chester; there was however a Parcels train into Chester, from Southall, in the morning which often produced an GWR locomotive. The locomotive usually returned on the 17.20 Parcels from Chester the train could be photographed but it left from the Mold Bay Platform 1, which was difficult, and by this time the idea was to ride behind locomotives and if possible make a tape recording of the locomotive in action. My friend Chris Magner was at this time in charge of a tea trolley, earning money as a student, he was supposed to sell tea to passengers on the 16.25 Birkenhead to Paddington. This train however took a little time to reverse in Chester and change motive power; if he went through the train quickly he could take his tea trolley off and go round to the Mold Bay and put his trolley on the Parcels Train, the Guard got a cup of tea and my friend got a ride with a GWR locomotive. I was fortunate to join him on such an escape on 4 August 1965 when 6831 (formerly Bearley Grange) worked out of Chester. The view above was taken form the passenger brake van as it rounded the curve towards Wrexham.
The same train departing from Wrexham General.
Working the same service at Wrexham General on 5 August 1965, 6833 (formerly Calcot Grange) shunts across to the Down side of the station, while the face of change, in the form of D1670 on a Down freight passes under clear signals.
6833 draws some empty passenger coaches forward from the Down loop platform on to the Up line.
Finally 6833 departs with the now complete and reformed train. The locomotives look in dire condition, stripped of name and number plates; quite a depressing sight but the distinctive GWR exhaust beat, brake ejectors and vacuum pump could all still stir the heart.
[Editor's note: At the time, these locos were based at Oxley, the GWR / Western Region's Wolverhampton depot which had been transferred to the London Midland region in 1963 complete with its ex-GW locos. Both 6831 and 6833 were taken out of traffic a few weeks later and scrapped in early 1966.]
Onwards to Corwen - report by George Jones
Progress with the extension of the Llangollen railway during 2013 has become apparent to the users of the A5 road approaching Corwen. Since the end of October tracklaying has been observed as the project to extend the railway has taken off again. and as of late November a very respectable length of track now exists on the straight which parallels the road to the west of Bonwm (above).
After many months of frustration through the winter of 2012/13 and into this year’s summer, track laying actually resumed in September when the full time staff undertook to extend the rail head from Plas Bonwm Farm towards the gated access near the former Bonwm halt site. This was possible after deliveries of ballast had resumed, lorried in from Crewe where recovered ballast is recycled and providing a cost effective source of material. This supply provided the base for the trackbed and over 1000 tonnes has been required for the current work to proceed.
The renewed availability of the Road Railer machine has also provided for the work to go ahead after the need for repairs and competence training of operatives, but, the meantime, a hired-in JCB Load-all machine allowed for the stockpile of concrete sleepers and rail to be distributed down the length of the trackbed to the Corwen phase one station site.
One item of infrastructure requiring specialist attention is the over bridge 28A, a farm occupation access, which needed attention to the brick and stone work once an ivy coating was removed. In the spring contractors water-proofed the top and provided a hard core surface in lieu of the previous earth and this has allowed the structure to dry out. Another contractor is now at work repairing the brick under arch and the stone abutments and scaffolding is in situ for this task.
With the passage west blocked here, the decision was taken in October to press on with relaying track from the eastern side of the bridge heading back towards Bonwm. Teams of volunteers working in conjunction with a contractor laying the ballast base have made good progress over the past 4 – 5 weeks.
Using the Road Railer to set out 24 sleepers and to pull in rail to form a 60 ft panel, the task has been eased with four or five panels a day being possible during two sessions a week. As of late November over 24 panels had been laid and the section is half way back to the rail head at Bonwm with the prospects of linking up by Christmas. The resultant length of straight track is most impressive as seen from the road and offers a taste for the view with the future running of trains.
It is likely that, subject to bridge 28A work being finished, track laying towards Corwen can resume in the New Year. However the station site there presently has the Corwen flood relief scheme contractors occupying the access and they have laid outfall pipes into the River Dee through what was bridge 30 on the railway embankment.
The same site as above, seen from the side on a muddy day. The station site is on the rightr, behind the pipes. The building of the platform on the station site (now announced as being known by the bi-lingual name of 'Dwyrain Corwen East') must await their pleasure, but the future need is to bring ballast in at this end of the line and to begin laying foundations for the 5-coach platform in the New Year.
Around at the Corwen car park at least one positive development has occurred with landscape contractors setting out the footpath which will provide direct access to the railway station for those coming by car or bus and make an attractive route for those arriving by train to visit the town. The site of the station is behind the clump of trees in the centre of the photograph.
A target date for the first train in Corwen has been set for 1 March 2014, St David's Day, a symbolic occasion perhaps, but the whole new length of track back to Plas Bonwm Farm will need to be ballasted and tamped and many items of infrastructure must be completed before public trains can run. Whilst the operation of trains to Corwen is included in the 2014 timetable, the date from which they will operate has yet to be announced.
The need to acquire further finance to secure the completion of the project remains a priority and those wanting to take the train to or from Corwen can assist the Llangollen Railway Trust in its aim by making a donation – the going rate for a sleeper and fittings is £20 which gives some indication of the costs involved in match funding the initial Welsh Government grant which kick-started the project.
Updated details of the project can be viewed on the Llangollen Railway’s website within the Enthusiasts’ section at: www.llangollen-railway.org.uk/corwenpage.html.
There is also a Corwen Extension Project route map on display in the Llangollen station building for those visiting the railway during the winter.
Bangor, 23 November (Darren Durrant).
Bagillt, 21 November (Tim Rogers).
Babcock's busy day at the Bache - with Roly High
On 24 November, relaying was in progress on the Merseyrail line outside Chester station.
The gang are in the swing of things.
New sleepers being lifted from wagons and put in place ...
... as the old wooden ones are removed
A wagon with new sleepers.
The wagons are underneath the bridge that carried the line from Chester Northgate to Manchester Central; the trackbed is now a walkway and cycle track.
Attendant loco 66 553 draws the ballast wagons forward.
One of the road/rail machines trundles past. On this sharply-curved section of track, with its pointwork and third rail, 'autoballasters' and other night-tech equipment are eschewed in favour of traditional methods with some mechanical assistance.
A 6-car 175 rake pulls out of the Alstom depot into the former goods yard.
Another shot of 66 553 with the stop boards protecting against any movements across the junction with the North Wales coast line.
Even the pigeons had a day off!
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