NORTH WALES COAST RAILWAY:NOTICE
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16 December 2013
Still in 'EW & S' livery, 60 049 passes Gobowen with the empty steel wagons from Shotton steelworks. Picture by Andrew Vinten.
Re-openings ... and not
The North Wales main line re-opened to passenger traffic on 16 December following repairs to the storm damage in the Mostyn area, and by 15 December the damage to the Conwy Valley branch was also repaired, allowing 150 282, which had been stranded at Llanrwst, to return to the network, as pictured by Peter Lloyd on arrival at Llandudno Junction as empty stock working 5T82. We understand that during the closure, consideration was given to using the unit to run a Llanrwst - Blaenau Ffestiniog shuttle, but it was in need of 'fitter's attention.'
Sadly, as the display at Porthmadog on 16 December shows, the Briwet bridge on the Cambrian line, damaged some time before the storm, possibly as an 'unwanted consequence' of the building of the new bridge alongside, is still not passable. This damage was described back on 6 November as a 'slight movement.' At present there is no date given for when train services will re-start.
News in pictures
From the 8 December timetable change, Manchester Airport - Scotland trains run via the newly-electrified Chat Moss line to Parkside and then follow the West Coast Main line northward, calling at Wigan North Western. instead of Bolton. Electric Class 350 trains are expected soon, but for the moment TransPennine Express Class 185 diesels are used. David Peacock's picture shows 185 126 in Virgin territory at Wigan North Western on the 13:00 from Manchester Airport. This change has not been welcomed by Bolton passengers, who often find their trains 'full and standing' even outside the traditional peak periods.
66 206, hired by Colas from DB Schenker, makes an unusual sight on 6J37 Kingmoor-Chirk logs, leaving Carlisle nearly two hours late on Friday 13 December (Ian Plikington). The previous day the Colas-hauled Baglan Bay - Chirk train had failed in the Abergavenny area and caused considerable disruption to other services; we understand that Colas have ordered some Class 70 locos to join the one they have recently procured.
Stabled at Warrington Bank Quay on 14 December, Electric Traction Ltd's 87 002 Royal Sovereign (Darren Durrant). This is the only working Class 87 left in the UK, although several of the class have been exported to eastern Europe for further use. It is based here for the winter as 'Ice Maiden' - overnight runs to keep the overhead wires clear of ice - and is, we believe, be operated by GB Railfreight drivers. The locomotive has been fitted with GSM-R radio and a Vacuum Circuit Breaker to allow it be operated on all sections of the 25kV electrified network. Following the end of this contract in February, ETL intend to withdraw their locos from Network Rail usage.
Looking at this picture by Darren Durrant of 66 013 at Acton Bridge on 14 December, it's not hard to guess from the brown 'weathering' that it has spend the autumn on one end of a Rail Head Treatment Train - based at Doncaster in this instance. The RHTT season is now over for this year.
Thanks to the gales of the previous days, most of the leaves have fallen at Mobberley as the RHTT passes with DR 98902 making one its last runs for the year (Vince Chadwick).
The 'Northern Belle' luxury train working train 1Z39 Coventry to Coventry via Wrexham and Chester on a Christmas luncheon special on 6 December passed a very murky Ruabon. The locos in use were 47 501 leading and 47 832 on the rear (Martin Evans).
North Wales Railway Circle
The North Wales Railway Circle have sent us their programme of talks for the first part of 2014, which we have included in the 'Forthcoming events' section; speakers include two of the regular supporters of our website. Visitors and new members are welcome at the monthly meetings which take place on the first Tuesday evening of the month at the Railway Insititute near Bangor station.
Dwarfed by the scenery, 37 611 and 37 688 head for Crewe through Penmaenmawr on 13 December with flask train 6K41 (Peter Basterfield).
The train thunders through Llandudno Junction at 14:57, upsetting the seagulls again. This is currently the only freight train to be seen west of Saltney Junction, and only runs when required. Wylfa power station will cease generating in 2014, and all the fuel will be removed by 2016, so even this train has a limited life. There are some ideas for other freights, including refuse disposal, but nothing has materialised since Penmaenmawr quarry's contract for Manchester Metrolink ended.
Holywell Junction (Tim Rogers).
'Mind the Gap' at Bonwm - report by George Jones
Thanks to all the hard work by the Llangollen Railway's 'Corwen extensionists' on Saturday 14 December, the gap between rail lengths at Bonwm gates is reduced to 67 feet - one and a bit panels. With a bit more effort next weekend the gap can be filled and a 2-mile rail extension west of Carrog will have been achieved. The picture above shows the gap between railheads - the length from Plas Bonwm has come round by a further two panels to meet the eastward extension from Bridge 28A.
The view from the gate at Bonwm, for so long an entry to an abandoned trackbed and now witness to the achievement of returning the rails to the site and very obvious to road users. The picture in the left column shows the view westward from the site of Bonwm halt - the first time rails have been in place here for 45 years ... and an impressive length heading for over bridge 28A in the distance. What is needed now is the resource to complete the last half mile of track.
A track viewing occasion: With so much track now in place thoughts turn to offering an escorted walk from Carrog to Corwen on New Years Day. The route would need to be via the A5 pavement but would allow for sight of the track in place, the work undertaken on over bridge 28A and the final half mile into Corwen with views of the flood relief scheme as it currently continues to impact on the station site for Dwyrain Corwen East. Suggested departure time from Carrog station 11.45 am - distance is 2.5 miles with the likely need to walk back in the absence of public transport. Some, fleet of foot, could be back at Carrog in time for the 2pm departure back to Llangollen.
The occasion is weather dependent of course, but expressions of interest in joining the walk would be appreciated - one way to celebrate the new year when the train will arrive in Corwen. Contact George Jones at georgeinrecsam[at]btinternet.com.
Past Times with John Hobbs - Duchess Delight
At the timetable change from Winter to Summer in 1964 the grapevine (no internet!), divulged that the 'Princess Coronation' Pacifics would be withdrawn at the timetable change on 15 June 1964. This proved to be wrong; they lasted until the end of summer workings, on 9 September, so a little more opportunity was allowed to take some photographs of them at work but I did not know this at the time.
On the last day of the Winter Timetable, with no Duchesses expected on a Sunday, 46245 City of London worked the 9.20 am Crewe to Holyhead, seen above leaving Prestatyn on 13 June 1964, interestingly conveying a Sleeping Car as the first vehicle.
The loco would return on the 2.50pm Holyhead to Crewe, instead of the usual English Electric Type 4 diesel. I therefore decided to purchase a very expensive colour film to record what I thought was the last chance to see a red 'Duchess' at work. The opportunity was taken to ride with it to Chester where I took the above picture. Before the introduction of the EE Type 4s it was unheard for steam locomotives to have such a short layover at Holyhead. The 'Duchess' kept to the diesel diagram and proved that such out-and-home workings were feasible with steam. [Note the trolleys loaded with mailbags in the background.]
I had a surprise at Chester: 46237 City of Bristol is seen, also on 13 June 1964, on an empty stock working to Holyhead, the train was conveying sleeping cars and was carrying coach boards "The Night Limited" (a London to Glasgow service) so perhaps it was to be used on a relief train that night from Holyhead to Euston.
46237 leaves Chester for Holyhead.
Plethora of replacement buses - report by Simon Yeomans
I was the Rail Replacement bus co-ordinator at Rhyl on Friday - Monday 6 -9 December, called in for emergency work to provide a service between Rhyl and Chester after storm damage blocked the railway. I thought you might like to see some of the photographs I managed to get during four extremely busy days. Some interesting buses from among the fleet which was put together are illustrated here. Above, Howards Travel Volvo B10M M201 LHP.
Routemaster buses of Crewe provided Volvo Olympian N327 NPN ...
... and Leyland National 2 WBW 735X.
Volvo B10B M543 WHF was my standby vehicle at Rhyl.
Arriva used S290 JUA on the Friday, pictured with a luggage trolley.
There were also some very 'posh' Coaches on the service like this New Adventure Travel of South Wales Scania, YT61 GRK ...
... and a coach I often come across on Rail Replacement duties, Howards / Springfield JH03 HOW, a Van Hool DAF ex-Westbus London WE52 BUS and is very posh inside, the first 8 seats recline right back.
Rhyl as terminus - pictures by Roly High
A look at rail operations at Rhyl during the Mostyn blockage, as seen on 9 December. Above, 158 837, having de-trained its passengers from stations from Holyhead at Rhyl's platform 1 now crosses over towards the down main line at below the prescribed 25 mph limit.
Having reversed on the down main line, the train heads back to the down platform to collect westbound passengers. The people coming of the buses might have preferred the train to depart westwards from Up platform 1 next to the station entrance, but the 'rationalised' track layout at Rhyl has no crossover west of the station to permit such a move.
A Virgin Class 221 Voyager engages in the same movement.
Network Rail staff in attendance at the crossover which does not see use on a normal day.
The running surfaces of the Up line east of the station rusted over after a few days of disuse.
Wrexham re-double reduced
Over the last few months many communications by, to and from local politicians and activists about the planned double-tracking of the Saltney Junction - Wrexham line have come our way. A letter sent to representatives on 16 December by our regular contributor Martin Evans sums up the position, and we include it here with Martin's permission.
Subject: Infrastructure proposal on Chester – Shrewsbury line
Date: Mon, 16 Dec 2013
Ladies and Gentlemen - I refer to the above proposal released recently by the Welsh Assembly Government.
The proposal funded by the Welsh Government to carry out infrastructure works and redouble a section of track between Saltney Junction and Wrexham General is welcomed, however, this revised plan commissioned now shows that the redoubling is of 5.5 miles of track and not the 7.5 miles in the original Network Rail scheme in 2011. It is accepted that this lesser scheme will still deliver the WG aspirations for journey timeenhancements from Holyhead to Cardiff but I would question the cost effectiveness of curtailing the redoubling which may have allowed further paths for passenger and freight trains in the future on this line.
Since this redoubling scheme was first announced the results of the North East Wales Integrated Transport study highlighted the need for better connections to theNorth West and particular the airports at Liverpool and Manchester. I believe that the Welsh Assembly is to work with Merseytravel to develop plans for the development of the Halton Curve which will involve a demand study and initiate the development of a 'GRIP 4' [Guide to Railway Investment Projects] infrastructure study. Whilst the initial aspiration of better journey times north – south Wales is being met by this work, the question arises as to whether the costs of further enhancing capacity now would be significantly lower than if undertaken at a later date.
With demands for rail in this region being clearly identified by the Task Force as being cross-border towards the North West the Welsh Government should immediately re-examine and publicise the costs of increasing the capacity on thissection of track to ensure that future passenger needs are met. This issue increases in significance if one considers the following issues in respect of Wrexham and N. E. Wales:-
1. The proposed development of a prison on the Wrexham Industrial Estate will no doubt lead to greater demand and pressure on rail services to Wrexham.
2. The devastating blow to jobs in the area as a result of today's Sharp Electronics statement [on ceasing solar panel production at its Wrexham factory] throws sharply in to focus the need for schemes such as the above to improve the economic regeneration of the area and it's hinterland and increase job prospects for the labour force in the Wrexham area and in the long term.
3. When one considers the cost of such rail schemes as Crossrail, HS2 and the ongoing electrification schemes for the North of England, South Wales and the Valleys the cost of the above improvement on the present proposed scheme pales into insignificance.
At this time of peace and goodwill I would ask you all to put aside your political differences and work together for the good of Wrexham and N. E. Wales in achieving an improvement on the present proposed scheme. In particular one would expect the AM and MP for the Wrexham constituency to be at the forefront of this drive in order to ensure that Wrexham and N E Wales is not forgotten by Cardiff or London. I look forward to receiving hopefully your positive views on this important issue.
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