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10 February 2014
97 301 at Llandudno Junction, 7 February; see report below. Picture by Jack Bowley.
Class 68 - a new face on the line
The big news of the week is undoubtedly the appearance on the rails of new diesel loco 68 002, the first to arrive of 15 locos ordered by DRS from Vossloh España in Valencia. (68 001 is at the Velim test track in the Czech Republic.) Martin Evans photographed the newcomer at Crewe on 4 February, being hauled, with a rake of coaches, by 90 020 Collingwood from Carlisle to the DRS Gresty Bridge depot at Crewe.
This type, known as the 'Eurolight', is the diesel-electric locomotive with the best weight-power ration in Europe, less than 20 tons per axle for 2800 kW (3755 HP) power and has a maximum speed of 160 km/h making it suitable for passenger charters as well as freight service. Vossloh have re-configured the standard Eurolight design to fit the British structure gauge.
Mark Barber's picture taken at Acton Bridge on 6 February 2014 show the loco and its test train being dragged back to Carlisle by a class 47. It already carries the name Intrepid - a new 'warship' class?
The front end is something of an acquired taste ... it is a very curvaceous version of the Class 67 locos, which were built at the same factory, to allow for the short 'nose' now considered necessary to absorb energy in a collision and protect the driver. That's not a steam-era shed-code on the front, by the way, it's Vossloh's trademark symbol.
RCTS Meeting in Chester on Monday 17 February
The Railway Correspondence & Travel Society (RCTS) meets at the Town Crier opposite Chester railway station on Monday 17 February at 7.30 p.m. The meeting has Prenton member Barry Shore presenting a nostalgic colour slide show highlighting the railway freight operations on British Rail from 1967 to 1979. Visitors will be most welcome to attend on donating £2 to help defray meeting expenses.
All-yellow Radio Survey
On Friday 7 January Network Rail's Radio Survey Train ventured down the Coast, as the 07:52 Derby - Llandudno, visiting the Llandudno and Conwy Valley branches. The train operated in push-pull mode, with clean-looking Network Rail loco 97 301 at the eastern end, as photographed by Tim Rogers propelling the train through Rhyl (above).
A look at the Radio Survey coach, 977868 (Tim Rogers).
Passing Deganwy in the sunshine on the way back from Llandudno. It arrived late at Llandudno but departed at 13:30 due to lack of platform space there at the moment.
On return from Llandudno, the train 'took a break' in Llandudno Junction's bay platform (Peter Lloyd). Driving Trailer vehicle 9701 is in view. These vehicles are now in the fourth phase of the lives: built as ordinary loco-hauled coaches, they were fitted with driving controls for use with Class 47/7 locos on the Edinburgh - Glasgow service, and later worked on the London - Norwich line, where they were eventually replaced by ex-Virgin Trains Mk3 Driving van trailers. Five have since been taken on by Network Rail for use on trains such as this one which previously used a loco each end, as the ventilation grille in the side reveals, they have been fitted with diesel generators to supply electric power to the coaches, allowing use with locos (such as 97 301) not fitted with such a facility.
175 103, forming the the 11:50 Manchester Piccadilly - Llandudno train, departs at two minutes late at 13:52 (Ken Robinson).
Departing Llandudno Junction for Blaenau Ffestiniog at 15:01 (Peter Lloyd). Llandudno Junction - Holyhead was not included on this occasion.
The points are set for the crossover enabling the train to reach the Conwy Valley branch (Ken Robinson). The purpose of the Radio Survey train is to test the signal strength of the railway's radio systems at all points, to ensure that train drivers will be able to contact these base, and vice versa, as necessary.
On return from Blaenau Ffestiniog, the train awaits the signal at Llandudno Junction to head back to Crewe (Jack Bowley). Departing 7 minutes early, the train was later delayed by 20 minutes at Prestatyn while the police removed a trespasser from the line.
A 175 approaches Llandudno Junction on 10 February (Roly High)
A 10 car Virgin Super Voyager eases across Conwy cob with the 13:58 Holyhead to London Euston on 10 February (Roly High).
"Britannia" Class 4-6-2 70054 (formerly Dornoch Firth), in what looked like ex-works condition headed the 4.10 pm Holyhead to York cattle train at Rhyl on 17 July 1965. with so much passenger traffic on a Saturday a couple of freights followed the Boat Trains out of Holyhead, this was the second one, on Saturday 17th July 1965. 70054 gets the road and sets off to chase the Standard 5 on 1C91; I did not expect to see it again.
Above, Fairburn 2-6-4T 42236 waits in the Bay at Rhyl with the 18.30 Rhyl to Chester all stations, which was steam worked and operated from 21 June to 3 September. It produced a wide variety of Chester tanks, usually of the "Fairburn" variety. The loco had been turned on Rhyl turntable, which remained available for use. In the background a Standard Class 5 4-6-0 73130 heads 1C91 the 16.37 Holyhead to Manchester (Exchange), traffic can be seen transferring to the stopper. It looks like the tank has been through Cowlairs Works, as the illegible shed allocation name can just be seen through the grime on the buffer beam; it had been a Scottish engine but some how came to be transferred to Chester. The bay continued in use well into the 1990s although its later use was confined to Bank Holiday Mondays when a Class 150/156 relief often ran, to Birmingham/Stourbridge I think. It's gone now of course.
However, 42236 left shortly afterwards and soon caught up with the heavy cattle train, here we see the view from the stopper around about Rhyl Sands Signalbox; this was not however the end of the story.
The "Britannia" was short of water and was checked by the proceeding 1C91, which was itself following another freight train; this prevented taking water on the troughs, and as a consequence a stop at the Prestatyn water column was required.
Eventually 70054 pulls away from Prestatyn having taken water, a young Paul Madgwick watches the departure notebook in hand, awe is not often inspired at Prestatyn Station nowadays.
On 6 February Network Rail Class 37 97 304 John Tiley (looking slightly less 'kempt' that 97 301) was photographed by Martin Evans at Gobowen at 11:03 waiting for the road to Chester. It was running light engine, and returned at 12:17 running back to the base of these locos, Coleham depot, Shrewsbury whence it had originated.
The North Wales - Manchester service is generally the province of Class 175 trains, but the diagram including the 08:50 Manchester - Llandudno which divides at Chester, requires corridor connections at the unit ends to allow the train crew to pass through the whole train. 158s are the booked traction, but in recent days, no doubt due to stock shortages, Class 150s have appeared, as exemplified by the 10:44 Llandudno - Manchester photographed by Mark Barber arriving at Helsby on 6 February.
Alongside is Freightliner loco 70 002, which failed at Helsby when working the Ellesmere Port to Fiddlers Ferry coal train on 25 January and was 'dumped' in the siding.
It was rescued by 70 003 and taken to Crewe on 7 February: Darren Durrant filmed the pair passing Acton Bridge.
Soon after sunrise on 8 February, 142 055 and 150 142 await departure from Chester as the 08:04 to Manchester Piccadilly via Northwich. Picture by Peter Dickinson.
In platform 7 at Chester, also on the morning of 8 February, Merseyrail electric 508 112 prepares to depart for Liverpool where it will run round the underground loop and head back to Chester, creating confusion to users of real-time information systems which will show its destination as 'Chester' on both outward and return journeys (Peter Dickinson).
175 110 departs from Rhyl on 7 February, working 09:50 Manchester - Llandudno. (Tim Rogers)...
... The centre car appears to be sagging in the middle, but it's just the vinyl branding which has slipped.
Saturday 15 February sees steam on the Chester - Shrewsbury route, on a charter from St Neots to Shrewsbury, with the steam loco taking over at Crewe. Details are available on the West Coast Railways website.
Available now from the Railway Touring Company are details of their planned steam trains in North Wales for the coming summer.
Frodsham to Halton Junction - some thoughts by 'Concrete Bob'
The picture of Frodsham Junction (last issue) and associated story of the 'Halton Curve' keeps the story alive. However, references to the removal of the crossover and signalling at each end of the line imply that it had such facilities after it was singled - this was never the case, as the picture above should make clear.
The line was a conventional double line with old style double junctions at each end. There were trailing crossovers at both Frodsham Junction and Halton Junction placed in such a way as to preclude bi-directional working over the remaining Down line. There was little traffic over the line after the Chester - Runcorn service ceased, save for some freight to Ellesmere Port and a flow of caustic soda tanks to Holywell Junction, which ceased around 1985 or so - I have a picture of the last train somewhere.
To adapt the line for by directional working would mean either re-instating double junctions and extra points after to merge them into a single line, or appropriate facing and trailing crossovers plus a fair amount of re-signalling work - for instance, the protecting home signals and associated distant signal would have to be moved a fair way back, the latter to the other side of Frodsham Tunnel. (This would also mean the loss of one of the few remaining semaphore distant signals left in the North West.) Then there would be a need to equip the line itself with full track circuiting or axle counters and treadles with some nifty electrical interlocking to sort out in what are very old buildings; that sixteen million pounds quoted by Network Rail starts to look justified. The picture is one of many I took as a survey during my early years on the railway, back in the eighties.
This is a picture taken from a train on the curve looking across towards Frodsham Junction, with an unidentified class 25 and short freight train; the view has changed somewhat, but clearly
visible is the trackbed and overbridge below the junction of the line that sloped down from Halton Station, to the works on the banks of the river Weaver.
47 207 on the now-lifted line waiting to come off the curve at Frodsham Junction in 1984.
Editor's note: the above extract (with thanks to the Signalling Record Society) shows the layout at Halton Junction at the time of conversion to colour-light signalling back in 1960. It shows that the crossover is in the wrong orientation for trains running from the Up main to the Down line of the Chester branch which would have to reverse twice, even if the points were fitted with the necessary locking for use by passenger trains.
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