NORTH WALES COAST RAILWAY:NOTICE
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09 December 2013
10 December: North Wales Coast line Chester - Rhyl has re-opened. Conwy Valley still has a bus replacement.
Trial by Storm
The storms and high tide of Thursday 5 December had a dramatic effect on the section at Mostyn where the North Wales Main Line runs alongside the sea wall. As the picture above (courtesy of Arriva Trains Wales) shows, the waves broke down part of the upper wall, flooding the track ...
.... and scattering the large stock blocks around, as seen in the Network Rail picture above. The last train to run through the area, at about 12:00, was the 10:40 Holyhead - Cardiff, whilst the Rail Head Treatment Train had run earlier than timetabled and avoided being trapped. The 11:34 to Birmingham International was terminated at Llandudno Junction, and most of the rest of the day's trains were cancelled. Elsewhere, parts of Rhyl town were left waist-deep in water and several other coastal towns were affected.
Dave Sallery visited the scene after the waters had subsided, and sends this picture showing the breaches in the wall. The signals are 'off' because Mostyn signalbox is normally unstaffed and 'switched out.' The well-remembered, and more damaging, storm of February 1990, in which many people lost their homes, also breached this wall. British Rail repaired the breaks with concrete sections, which can be seen to have survived the latest onslaught. The broken sections are in the original London and North Western Railway walling. Dave's Penmorfa website has pictures of the 1990 damage.
A bus service was instituted between Chester and Rhyl, and is still running at the time of writing. Enough trains were available west of the blockage to run a Holyhead - Rhyl service and a Llandudno Junction - Llandudno shuttle by 6 December, with a bus link between Chester and Rhyl. Roly High took these pictures on 8 December with repair work under way.
Stone was being brought in to reinforce the sea defences.
The signalbox has not been refurbished with new windows like others on the line, and looks somewhat weathered. There have been no freight trains into the Mostyn Dock complex for some years now, and the shorter block sections it offers are not normally needed.
Several trains, including two Virgin Voyagers, became isolated west of the blockage. This is Holyhead on 8 December (Eryl Crump).
Also available for traffic was 150 258, also seen here at Holyhead (Eryl Crump). The Arriva website has a temporary Rhyl - Holyhead train timetable and a Chester - Rhyl bus timetable.
On the Conwy Valley line, the 11:46 Blaenau Ffestiniog - Llandudno ran (according to the Real Time Trains website) as as Tal-y-Cafn where it was terminated, as the line was washed out for some distance in the Glan Conwy area where it runs alongside the estuary. The branch train, 150 282, was moved to North Llanrwst for stabling, where Nick Gurney photographed it on 6 December. A bus service was instituted between Llandudno Junction and Blaenau Ffestiniog. One wonders why this train has not been put into service between Llanrwst and Blaenau, perhaps refuelled by road as was done some time ago on the Cambrian Coast line.
Speaking of the Cambrian Coast, the problem with Briwet bridge near Penrhyndeudraeth, which is not not due to any storm, still has not been resolved and the bus service from Harlech to Pwllheli now seems to be continuing 'until further notice.' (Timetable for bus service).
The Santa Specvial is now in full swing. Above, Holy War suitably decorated on the Bala Lake Railway (Bob Greenhalgh).
The Santa trains on the Llangollen Railway on 7/8 December have been hauled by the Standard tank 80072 and Black 5 44806 - replacing 2-8-0 3802 used the previous weekend. Above, the 11:00 departure ex Llangollen passing Berwyn with 80072 (George Jones).
Later 44806 is seen approaching Carrog (for Lapland) on the 11.55 from Llangollen (George Jones). All trains were well-loaded with passengers eager to get their photo taken with Santa under the 'Lapland' station sign (George Jones).
Arriva Trains Wales news
The winter timetable started on 8 December, and leaflets are available to download. A significant change is that the northbound 'Premier Express' will be departing Cardiff an hour earlier at 17:16. We understand that the express will be running between Cardiff and Chester during the current disruption.
Here is a cheery message from Arriva:
'December 2013 marks a special 10 year anniversary for Arriva Trains Wales. We are proud to have served you for 10 years and throughout that time, not only have we taken dramatic strides in improving punctuality and reliability, moving from 80% PPM (punctuality and reliability measure) back in 2003 to 94% today, but we have consistently out-performed the benchmarks set at the start of the franchise to become one of the top "right time" performing operators in the UK.
'Most importantly these improvements have been recognised by you, our customers, with overall satisfaction having risen over 9% from the start of the franchise to a record high of 88% today. Much of this has been made possible through close partnership working with the Welsh Government, Network Rail and our other important partners. We are grateful for the support of our customers over this period and to thank them have planned a number of special offers and activities throughout our anniversary year. You can find more information here.'
Chester at dawn
Two pictures taken by Mark Youdan on Thursday morning 5 December while waiting for the loco hauled train to Cardiff. 150 278 was stabled in the parcels bay wearing the new Arriva livery.
Over on platform 7, 158 837 & 158 828 were waiting to leave with the 07:12 to Manchester Piccadilly via Warrington and 142 009 waits on platform 6 with the 07:35 to Stockport. This is one of two peak-hour trains on the Mid-Cheshire line via Northwich which terminate at Stockport as there is allegedly no capacity for them on the Stockport - Manchester section since the increase in frequency of Virgin trains services.
News from the Vale of Rheidol line - press release
The Vale of Rheidol Railway’s efforts to repaint an entire seven-carriage train in full 1920s Great Western Railway Livery are nearing completion. Summer car No.9, originally GWR No.4151, is one of the second batch of open-sided summer carriages built for the VoR by Swindon Works in 1938. No.4151 is the sixth carriage to receive the full GWR treatment from the VoR’s dedicated staff in Aberystwyth, each repaint taking on average 400 hours. The attention to detail has even included returning the communication cord flags to their traditional white from the red inherited from British Railways. Other work has included replacing door frames, end bulkheads, flooring and side panels as well as attention being given to the unusual reversible tramway-style benches.
The VoR will have an entire GWR train set available for the 2014 season, complete with three summer cars, two closed carriages and a first class observation carriage (No.4995, pictured above), so if the Great Western, or Welsh narrow gauge railways are something that interest you, and you're in mid-Wales, make sure to pay the VoR a visit.
Meanwhile the Vale of Rheidol Railway’s ambitious project to restore its historic stations to their former glory is rapidly progressing. Many of the stations are being restored with replica buildings and traditional fencing to give visitors a flavour of how the local railway appeared in the 1920s. New raised platforms and an enlarged picnic area at Aberystwyth Station will also improve the railway experience for its passengers. The picture above shows Capel Bangor as restored.
The project is being funded through the Rural Development Plan for Wales 2007-2013. The railway is on the look out for any local donations of Vale of Rheidol, Great Western or British Railways railwayana from the public to adorn the newly restored stations. Much of the work, from construction to gardening, is being undertaken by volunteers from a mix of backgrounds, so it’s a great chance to get involved if you’re interested in doing something different! Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 01970 625 819.
The Railway Correspondence & Travel Society (RCTS) meets at the Town Crier opposite Chester railway station on Monday 16 December at 7.30 p.m.
The meeting has Nantwich resident David Maidment O.B.E. talking about his early days in different aspects of railway management having started out as a Western Region traffic apprentice in 1961 and later having been Chief Operating Manager of the London Midland Region from 1982 – 86. He was also rewarded for his work for the Railway Children charity by having his name placed on the side of Colas Rail diesel locomotive 66 850. This will be another opportunity for members and visitors to see scenes of 1960s railway operations.
Visitors will be most welcome to attend on donating £2 to help defray meeting expenses.
Holyhead signal ....and TPO - report by Jim Johnson
Further to the item (last issue) about the LNWR signal post at Holyhead, here are three shots I took of it in action on 6 February 1979. Above, 47 537 departs with the 12:48 to London Euston.
The signal is lowered for 47 529 on the 13:20 to Euston. The narrow clearance between tracks requiring the short arm is clearly seen.
A few seconds later, and a Travelling Post Office (TPO) carriage come into view on the left.
Three days later, on the bitterly cold and very windy night of Friday 9 February, 1979, the Bangor - Crewe and Crewe - Bangor TPO made its last ever run. The 'up' train is seen above about to depart Bangor with 47 529 in charge, and the two Post Office Sorting vans behind the loco being loaded. Post Office staff travelled in them, sorting the main en route. At Crewe, bags of sorted mail would then be transferred to other mail trains as appropriate.
Above, an envelope I posted to myself into the letterbox on the side of the train with relevant postmark applied by the on-board sorters.
Ediitor's notes: Specially printed 'covers' were also posted on the train and sold: an example appears on the TPO page of the 2D53 website. The train continued to run for some time after this date, carrying passengers, and parcels consigned by the railway. an in the 1990s, a TPO was re-instated, running until May 1994 - see the Penmorfa website for more about this later train.
Steam meeting at Chester
Saturday 30 November brought the unusual sight of two steam trains at Chester station. The 'Cathedrals Express' ran from London Euston via Crewe, hauled by 44 871 & 45 407 replacing 70000 Britannia which was 'unavailable' and was to stable in Chester from 13:01 to 16:40. The 'Christmas Chesterman' from Bristol via Hereford and Wrexham was to call at Chester (12:58 - 13:05) before continuing to Crewe, calling at Chester again for water on the way back, and featured 70013 Oliver Cromwell. As to be expected, there were a lot of photographers about.
Rossett (John Myers).
Chester (Alan Haydock).
Near Beeston Castle on the way to Crewe (Ian Pilkington).
Another view of 70013 near Beeston Castle (David Rapson).
The 'Cathedrals Express' passes Stafford (Chris Morrison).
The two 'Black 5s' pass Beeston Castle (David Rapson). David writes: 'I was on duty with West Coast Railway Company until midday and found myself embroiled with the problems caused by a fatality at Stapleton Road, Bristol which resulted in delay to Oliver Cromwell's charter. Many passengers from the Bristol area could only board the train at Ludlow, having had their connections to Temple Meads cancelled. Arriva Trains Wales were very helpful in allowing passengers who ended up at Newport to travel on their services to Ludlow where the steam train made a special stop. A couple of hectic hours ensued but I think everyone managed to board the charter somewhere!'
Arriving at Chester (Roly High).
Kitchen Car (Roly High).
The two Black 5s shunting the stock at Chester (Chris Morrison).
The busy scene at Chester as 175 105 passes Chester Junction with the 12:38 Holyhead - Maesteg, Merseyrail 508 112 departs with the 14:15 Chester-Liverpool Central and the two Black 5s engage in the usual turning manoeuvre using the triangle of lines here (Chris Morrison).
Turned, and waiting in the sidings at Chester (Peter Basterfield).
70013 crossing Cafn Mawr viaduct (Peter Basterfield).
Oliver Cromwell arrives at Chester an hour late with the 'Christmas Cheshireman' (Chris Morrison).
The two trains seen from the car park, and some people in view who are where they should not be (Alan Haydock).
37 516 Loch Laidon on the rear of Oliver Cromwell's train (Roly High).
56 105 trundles through Chester running 133 minutes early with the 1208 Carlisle-Chirk logs (Chris Morrison).
The Black 5s run into platform 6 at Crewe with the return 'Cathedrals Express' to Euston (Chris Morrison).
44871 and 45407 drift through Stafford about 10 minutes early on the return from Chester- Euston.
Mad Chester - a view by Mark Riley
I send this picture to illustrate how sometimes you wish you had stayed away from all the madness and hadn't wasted precious free time. It was a bad decision to go to Chester to see the railtours on 30 November. There were almost chaotic scenes at the station and some irritable staff herding people like sheep through the barriers. The photo, taken legally from the car park, shows the mayhem on the station as 70013 departs for Crewe. I say legally, because from my viewpoint you can see the number of people with blatant disregard for bye-laws and their own safety. At least 60 people here are not just down the ramps but almost on the tracks -and the train is moving. There's a fine line between enthusiasm and recklessness which some have crossed here.
There was a marked lack of British Transport Police presence and it showed! And in addition, despite part of the car park being fenced off, some 'photographers' moved the fences to access the area to get a better view. To top it all, people were obviously walking across the tracks as an angry station announcer stated that offenders would be ejected from the station. But, in defence of the younger generation, it is the adults who are setting a bad example.
Unfortunately, behaviour like this could damage the reputation of those of us who are law-abiding enthusiasts (or law abiding anyway!) Personally speaking I won't be going anywhere near Chester for any more steam photography because of this. It is too stressful and not enjoyable. Next time, a nice, quiet, lineside view, even if it means a 45-minute drive and costs more.
I saw this train at night at Chirk, but there I was foiled for photographs by an arrogant videographer who wanted me out of the way. Enough said about him. Chirk is such a small station that tripods should be banned as antisocial.
Past and Present - with John Hobbs
Above, 'Britannia' Class 4-6-2 70051 Firth of Forth arrives in Chester (General) and runs into the through 'up' passenger line, on the 29th February 1964, with train 3A34, the 12 noon Holyhead to Willesden empty van train; this locomotive is fitted with a type BR1D tender, as were the locomotives which worked the 'Irish Mail' etc, but these locomotives had been transferred away by this time. The larger tender had the effect of making the whole locomotive look larger.
In a new environment Britannia Class 4-6-2 70013 Oliver Cromwell arrives at Chester on Saturday 30 November 2013 with the 'Christmas Cheshireman' excursion from Bristol. The smaller tender is evident but many preserved locomotive tenders have been subtly altered to increase water capacity.
'Black 5' 4-6-0 45072 trundles slowly into Chester's Goods Yard with a freight, containing some fine Brake Vans on 25 March 1964. The whole scene would be tidied up over the intervening years as seen in the next view.
Ian Riley's 'Black 5s' 45407 and 44871 move through the modern scene to take water in the former Chester Goods Yard on 30 November 2013 having arrived earlier with the 'Cathedrals Express' from London Euston.
Old and New Buffers
Aftermath of the recent mishap at Chester (see 25 November issue). Left, a relic of the buffers which failed to withstand a slow-speed contact by a class 221 Voyager, and on the right, the replacement in place. Picture by Peter Basterfield.
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