NORTH WALES COAST RAILWAY:NOTICE
|Home | Notice Board | Travel
Info | Calendar | History
| Route Guide | The
Trains | For Railfans | Links | Contact
27 January 2014
On 22 January at 15:54, seen from the window of the 'upper lounge', 175 106 arrives at Manchester Piccadilly Platform 13 with the 13:31 from Bangor. The station is carried over Fairfield Street on an impressive concrete bridge built in the late 1950s; the white bus below, operated by Bullock's has just departed on route 147 to the Oxford Road universities and hospitals. In the distance, the tail-lights of the 175 on the 15:50 Manchester to Llandudno train. Picture by Charlie Hulme.
Last Days of 'The Hoppers'
Above, 60 079 on the Oakleigh - Tunstead empty limestone hoppers passes Plumley on 14 January Picture by Andrew Vinten.
In 1873 Ludwig Mond and John Tomlinson Brunner purchased the estate of Winnington Hall near Northwich and established a works to produce Soda Ash (Sodium Carbonate) using the Solvay process which uses as raw materials the salt (Sodium Chloride), which has been mined for centuries in that part of Cheshire, and limestone (Calcium Carbonate) available from quarries in the Peak District of Derbyshire from which it could be brought by train. A siding connection, latterly known as Oakleigh Sidings, was established with the Cheshire Lines railway near Northwich The company bought its own wagons to carry the stone from the quarries operated by Buxton Lime Firms, a company of which Brunner Mond purchased a controlling interest in 1918 to safeguard their supply.
Peak Forest on 27 May 1982: 25 195 on hoppers, 25 152 banking in rear. Picture by J.W. Sutherland.
In the 1920s, Brunner Mond merged with other chemical firms to form the famous company ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries). ICI developed the new workings at Tunstead, near Great Rocks Junction, which have grown to cover an large area over the years, and are still worked today. Increased traffic required more efficient rolling stock than the small wooden-bodied wagons, and in 1935 the first of the all-steel bogie hopper wagons known to staff and railfans alike as the 'ICI Hoppers' or just 'The Hoppers.' These same vehicles, later augmented by similar wagons obtained second-hand from Shotton steelworks, shuttled between Tunstead and Northwich for over 60 years before their low capacity (by modern standards) and obsolete vacuum brakes, not compatible with the new Class 60 locos. In their time they had been hauled by '8F' 2-8-0s, followed by diesels of classes 25, 20 (in pairs), 37 and 60 among others. Until the class 60s became available in the 1990s, most loaded trains were 'banked' from the rear over the first mile from Tunstead to Peak Forest station. By this time, the ICI company has been broken up, and the Soda Ash operation reverted to the name Brunner Mond.
Second-hand four-wheel air-braked hoppers, their rattling while in motion annoying the residents near the line in south Stockport, took over the traffic until newly-built modern bogie hoppers (coded JEA) took over in 2000. The standard train in recent years, worked by DB Schenker, has been 24 of these wagons, a nominal load for the locomotive of 2400 tonnes, 1800 tonnes of which is the limestone load. These new wagons require fewer trains than the old ones, with just one set of wagons in use shuttling between Tunstead and Oakleigh, with loaded trains running once or twice per day. Above, on Sunday 26 January, 60 007 The Spirit of Tom Kendell brings a loaded train through Baguley between Hazel Grove and Altrincham.
In 2006 Brunner Mond was acquired by Indian conglomerate Tata, and the train service continued as before, but in late 2013 it was announced that the Soda Ash plant would close due to the rising cost of energy. The 04:03 Tunstead to Oakleigh and 10:00 return ran as normal on 27 January, but the the afternoon loaded train has been cancelled. We are being told that the last train of all will run on Sunday 2 February; if so this will truly mark the end of a railway era, as well as a loss of a living wage for many workers.
(Historical information is from to the excellent book An Illustrated History of the ICI hopper wagon by Paul Harrison and Peter Midwinter, published by Cheona Publications in 2002.)
Former North Wales coast loco 37 421, once named The Kingsman, which was purchased for preservation at the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway, and has been repainted there into Regional Railways livery, has unexpectedly been sold by its owner to Colas Rail, and moved to their Rugby depot. Our picture by Alan Crawshaw shows it arriving in Bangor in 1999.
Sister loco 37 413, which is at the Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway, is said to for sale. It too worked on the North Wales line, as our mid-90s picture from Chester reveals. Who remembers Transrail now?
Much-awaited brand new loco 68 002 for DRS has arrived Britain on 18 January from the Spanish manufacturers. It came by sea to Southampton, and travelled to Carlisle on a road trailer, covered in a sheet to frustrate any photographers who might be on the lookout. No doubt there will be an official unveiling soon.
The daily round - pictures by Tim Rogers
Some views by Tim Rogers of everyday passenger services on the North Wales line. Above, two-car 175 007 is seen leaving Rhyl as train 1W92, 09:21 Cardiff - Holyhead on 16 January.
Also on 16 January 'Voyager' 221 106 Willem Barents on 1A38 12:24 Bangor - London Euston passes Rhyl Marine Lake and the Rhyl Miniature Railway. All Virgin Trains 221s are now improved with the new improved front 'skirt'
Shotton on 21 January, with the remains of the former 'up slow' line platform visible as 1A48, 13:58 Holyhead - London Euston passes, comprising nameless 221 116 (which seems to have brushed its skirt against something) coupled to 221 107 Sir Martin Frobisher.
Rhyl on 22 January: 175 115 is 1H88 12:44 Llandudno - Manchester. It's noticeable that the Manchester service often gets the three-car units whilst trains to the Welsh capital only justify the shorter version.
One of the classic picture locations, the bridge (OS map SJ477615) carrying the un-metalled road from Hargrave village to Hatton Hall over the line, between Crewe and Chester. On 23 January, 150 280 formed the 1D58 14:23 Crewe - Chester shuttle. Behind, boats are moored on the Shropshire Union Canal, and Beeston Castle on its hill dominates the horizon.
The 12:44 from Llandudno again, this time on 24 January, and 175 110 passing Holywell Junction's rarely-used sidings (Tim Rogers).
Richard Putley writes: 'The other day at our home I found this picture of Conwy Castle, taken in the 1950s. If you look towards the top of the picture you can just see the plume of smoke from a train on the Llandudno Town branch. I have a vague memory that Dad said he stayed in in Conwy once in the 1950s. I thought the picture might be of interest to readers. It would be nice if someone was able to date it.'
Not much has changed in this historic area, perhaps, although towards the left0hand side of the picture wagons can be seen in Conway goods yard, which (we believe) closed in 1964.
The Network Rail Ultrasonic Test Train visited our area on 21-22 January. Bob Greenhalgh photographed it (above) at Buckley on the Borderlands line on 21 January, with loco 31 285 to the rear.
31 285 brings the train through Rhyl on 22 January. Picture by Tim Rogers.
The 'business' part of the train is carriage 62384, known as UTU 1, which was converted from a Southern Region motor coach, as the heavy-duty bogies suggest. Note the testing gear on the further bogie, which uses ultrasound to detect any flaws in the rails.
Driving trailer 9708 allows the train to reverse without shunting or the need for a second loco.
The train's itinerary covered the Blaenau Ffestiniog line, from which it returned to Llandudno Junction (above) later than scheduled, causing a 15-minute delay to passenger train 2D20, Llandudno to Blaenau Ffestiniog (glimpsed in Platform 1). Picture by Peter Lloyd.
Llangollen Railway news, and another walk - report by George Jones
Work on the site of the 'phase 1' station at Corwen was completed on scheduled by the contractor last week. The picture above shows the 66 concrete footings now in place on the embankment, seen from the site of the buffer stop looking east towards Carrog. Now awaited are the laying of base ballast and the track panels, after which it is expected that platform sections will be delivered by rail for erection on site.
Corwen Track Extension Viewing Walk - 1 Feb 2014
Although the weather forecast for 1/2 February weekend seems rather undecided, in the expectation there is no snow in the offering, although it might be damp, an escorted walk is being arranged for a party to view the track extension project progress as it nears the last half mile into what will be Dwyrain Corwen East. The party will get away from Carrog station at 11.45am on Saturday 1 February, following the arrival of the first train of the season a diesel railcar service from Llangollen.
The route will be via the riverside path to cross the railway and up onto the main A5 road, then along the pavement to Bonwm where the new track comes into view. Continuing along the A5, the track extension is visible as far as over bridge 28A, hence trackbed clearance activity through to the outskirts of Corwen. From here the site of the platform is now evident with the footings in place and the progress with the Flood relief scheme works. The walk will end at the car park from where a Route 5 bus ride back to Carrog is available at 8 minutes past the hour, allowing perhaps for refreshment in the town.
This is the option to see where the trains will run and terminate later in 2014. The distance is about 2.5 miles, duration with stops for viewing/information perhaps 100 minutes. Stout footwear and weatherproof outdoor clothing essential, and yellow hi-viz vests may be appropriate for some of the party to wear on the main road stretch where pavement is narrow and requires single file progress. Footpath conditions may be boggy in parts. Those interested in joining the party to advise attendance by email to : llangollen.railway[at]btinternet.com for a final confirmation to be sent.
Freight train views
Shotton on 21 January, and the Flask train from Valley passes, comprising 57 012 and 57 010 with two wagons (Tim Rogers).
24 January's eastbound flask train, which departed Valley at 12:12, seen approaching Bangor between Belmont Road. bridge and Belmont tunnel with the Straits, Normal College and Glyn Garth are just visible through the trees (Peter Basterfield). Locos are 37 423 Spirit of the Lakes and 37 609.
37 423 and 37 603 head away from the site of Brunditts Siding, Llanfairfechan at 15:35 on 27 January, taken by Peter Basterfield from the end of the very slippy promenade at 15:35 in the driving rain, what we do for pleasure!
The coal train to Penyffordd cement works operated on 24 January. Tim Rogers photographed the train, 07:04 from Warrington Arpley sidings, passing Hope behind 66 013.
Above, 60 024 brings the 6V75 steel empties for Margam through Gobowen on 27 January. These workings have brought number of 60s up from South Wales lately (Martin Evans)
Past Times with John Hobbs - Rhyl Chaos, Prestatyn Complications
On Sunday 4 April 1965, following some re-laying work at Rhyl Sands, there was an unfortunate incident on the 'Down Slow' line while the ballast train was being returned to Rhyl which resulted in damage to the points and wagons, brake van etc. being derailed. I took this this view (above) from a DMU on the "Down Fast" after we heard, at Prestatyn, there had been an incident.
I went to Llandudno Junction on this train to photograph the derailment and to see the GWR 2251 Class 0-6-0 3208 which was still there after winter snowplough duties but was now dumped out of use. Returning later little progress had been made and the breakdown crane from Chester had to be called.
On the "Down Fast" LMS Class 5 4-6-0 45303 arrives in Prestatyn with the Crane from Chester. Note the headcode 1Z99 reserved for 'breakdown train going to clear the line' and 'express' headlights.
45303 having set back on to the 'Up Slow', then drawn forward on the 'Up Fast', due to the layout of the points there was no slip on to the 'Up Fast' and heads for Rhyl 'Down the 'Up Fast'.
Later 45303 had to return from Rhyl, to Prestatyn with the crane consist...
... run around in the yard of the Dyserth Branch and set off again on the 'Down Slow' propelling to Rhyl to undertake further lifting operations.
Traffic continued to pass on the 'Up Slow' - a lot less traffic in those days of course, especially on a Sunday. Here 45184 takes the evening container train to London (Broad Street).
Cheshire Best Kept Stations
Plumley station was named Cheshire’s Best Kept Station with 17 other stations picking up other awards at an event held at the Grange Theatre, Hartford, on 14 January. This is the 11th year of the Competition, and Cheshire still remains the only county to have its own competition. Over 140 guests attended the evening including the Chair of Chester West and Chester Council, Deputy Mayor of Cheshire East, the High Sheriff of Cheshire and other local Mayors.
Announcing the Awards, John Hulme [no relation.- Ed.], Organiser of Cheshire Best Kept Stations, said: 'Plumley Station overwhelmingly deserves to win this top Award. The gardens in spring and summer are always welcoming thanks to their local community Station Makeover Team. My judges considered it to be tidiest station they had inspected but what made it extra special was the Waiting Shelter Art Gallery with paintings by local children from Lower Peover Primary School. Plumley’s success also comes from the support given by their Parish Council and their local garden centre.'
Other winning stations included: Little Sutton (Cheshire West and Chester Award); Handforth (Cheshire East Award); Runcorn East (Halton Award); Knutsford (Best Staffed Station Award);
Northwich (Customer Care Award); Chelford (ACoRP Award); Poynton (Best Kept Gardens Award);
Nantwich (In Bloom Award), Stockport (Community Award); Helsby (Roberts Bakery Special Award); Alsager (Youth Challenge Award); Sandbach (Most Improved Station Award); Ellesmere Port (Creative Partnership Award); Frodsham (Cheshire Celebrates Award); Crewe (Marketing Cheshire Award); Hale (Old Cheshire Award); Rose Hill (Joan Moss Primary School Award).
Congratulations to all the winners, especially those on the Arriva Trains Wales network; Frodsham, Helsby, Runcorn East, Nantwich, Stockport and Crewe.
Another look at the ELR event - by Richard Putley
In addition to the ex-BR steam locos depicted on the last Notice Board this week, the East Lancashire Railway event on 19 January also had two industrial locos, War Department J94 0-6-0ST 132 and a tiny Peckett 0-4-0ST top-and-tailing a short train that ran up and down the yard at Bury...
... in and out of every platform, as these pictures show.
Class 5 45407 dwarfs the little loco, May (Peckett 1370 of 1915) which once shunted at the Yates Duxbury paper mill near Bury.
An interesting item of rolling stock in use was the 6-wheeled 'Stove R' passenger brake van, 32978, seen behind May.
Trackside views - by Paddy F
More views taken by a railway worker for us. Above, from the line near Conwy Castle.
The view of the castle as it might have been seen by 13th-century Welsh rebels.
Courier to Aberystwyth?
A courier service on a proposed hourly rail service between Shrewsbury and Aberystwyth could boost trade in mid Wales, a local business leader says. Steve Kaye, chair of Powys Federation of Small Businesses (PFSB), says trains could carry parcels between towns along the Cambrian routes.Report about a report following a report ... One gets the impression that Mr Robinson does not think the courier service a very good idea, although his point is not helped by the media's irritating habit of using the word 'commuter' to mean any railway passenger. Why not wait until the report is actually published. We'd have thought that Arriva are going to have enough trouble finding rolling stock for the hourly service without adding a parcels van (something like this?) to the train as well.
Meanwhile, it seems that some staff on the Cambrian, perhaps having seen a draft timetable, have been telling passengers that the hourly service will definitely start in December 2014.
North Wales Coast home page | Archive | Previous Notice Board