NORTH WALES COAST RAILWAY:NOTICE
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23 June 2014
Two charters in Llandudno Junction at the same time, 21 June: see report below. Picture by Larry Davies.
Contributions galore this week: many thanks to all. We'll include some reports here, and (yet again) a second epistle later in the week will be needed. Don't miss last week's extra issue dated 19 June- Charlie
Two specials and a fiasco - 21 June
At 07:30 on Saturday 21 June, a power failure damaged Chester station's signalling. The lines from the east were available again after a short time, and the Merseyrail line by about 09:45, but the sections of the Wrexham and North Wales Coast lines with signalling controlled from Chester were out of action for the rest of the morning. The first train allowed to proceed from Chester towards North Wales was excursion 1Z30, 05:29 Snowdonia Statesman from Bristol to Blaenau Ffestiniog, which had arrived at Chester half an hour late at 11:00 and eventually departed 78 minutes late at 12:04. Fortunately it was not delayed further by pathing problems on the Conwy Valley branch, as sometimes happens, but the passengers missed their change of a ride on the Ffestiniog Railway.
A second excursion the same day, a Compass Tours train from Glenrothes to Holyhead, was not due at Chester until 12:41 and departed soon afterwards, missing all the disruption.
Chris Morrison's picture (above) shows Chester station at 11:15 on 21 June. 57 313 waits on the centre road with the 'Statesman' charter. A pair of Class 221 voyagers on the 09:10 Euston to Holyhead has just terminated at platform 3, while 507 002 leaves on the 11:15 for Liverpool Central.
Large numbers outside Chester station waiting for coaches after the arrival of the 09:10 train from Euston. There were plenty of staff on on hand guiding people to replacement coaches to Rhyl and Wrexham although, perhaps understandably, some passengers were letting their frustrations show (Chris Morrison).
Trains from Holyhead and Llandudno were terminating at Rhyl, involving some communication between drivers and the Abergele signaller (Roly High).
With the line finally re-opened, 175 103, which had been detached from another unit, headed out of Rhyl to Chester (Roly High).
We'll follow each of the two Special trains separately: above, 57 313 at the head of the 'Snowdonia Statesman' makes its belated way past Rhyl (Roly High).
Abergele (Tim Rogers).
The Up Loop at Llandudno Junction was blocked in order to hold two Voyagers, 221 101 / 108 ...
... and 221 107 was held in the station all morning (Larry Davies).
221 107 passes Rhyl, making its way to Chester after its long wait at Llandudno Junction (Roly High).
The ''Statesman' arrives at Betws-y-Coed (Greg Mape).
Perhaps when the passengers discovered that they would miss the Ffestiniog train, more of them than expected decided to visit Betws-y-Coed instead, and perhaps few would blame them. A bonus for the Conwy Valley Railway Museum and local café operators (Greg Mape).
Blaenau Ffestiniog, after the train has been shunted to the loop. The buffers had been painted since the previous week's run (Ken Robinson).
Moving out of the loop before returning to the platform (Ken Robinson).
After only 1 hour 48 minutes in Blaenau Ffestiniog, the return charter to Bristol departed on time at 16:10, and passed Glan Conwy (above) with 57 313 leading...
... and 57 316 on the rear (Chris Morrison).
Llandudno Junction (Peter Lloyd).
57 316 heads the train at Beeches Farm on the approach to Chester (Bob Greenhalgh).
Next: the 'Chester and North Wales Explorer.' We pick it up passing Rhyl westbound (Roly High).
Chris Morrison writes: 'After the 'Statesman' had departed I caught the first service train down the coast at 12:21 from Chester formed of two well-filled 158s. After stopping at a couple of red signals and passing a lot of engineers on the trackside at Saltney Junction, the journey was uneventful. I got off at Abergele, joining three other photographers waiting for the Glenrothes - Holyhead charter which passed at 13:35 with 47 854 Diamond Jubilee heading the Scottish Railway Preservation Society Mk 1 stock with 47 804 on the rear.
Framed by Abergele's signals, 47 804 on the rear of the train (Tim Rogers).
Llanfair PG (Rowan Crawshaw).
Outbound on Anglesey at Llanfaelog (Mark Youdan).
Following the excursion was 67 001 returning from Bangor on a training trip (Mark Youdan).
The return Scottish train passes Valley triangle (Mark Youdan).
No pictures from Holyhead on this occasion: 47 804 departs from Llandudno Junction for the journey back to Scotland (Peter Lloyd).
Beeches Farm (Bob Greenhalgh).
Mod Junction (John Cowlishaw)
Chester (Darren Durrant).
Crossing Troubles - report by John Cowlishaw
I arrived at Balderton crossing, between Saltney Junction and Wrexham, at 10:10 on 21 June planning to photograph the single-track scene, only to be confronted with the barriers down and a large queue. After parking, I discovered that the barriers had been down for an hour, as had those at both Green Lane and Pulford making crossing the railway awkward to say the least for miles around.
Some drivers were taking the pragmatic option to weave around the barriers exercising much care, and having some concern over the situation with a train due I contacted the signaller who advised that there was a large power failure in Chester and that no trains were running. I gave up waiting for a train and took a shot (above) with some drivers turning round and some proceeding.
I returned after 17:00 as the trains had resumed, as shown by 158 833 on 1D15 15:09 Birmingham International - Holyhead, passing the excavator for the new ballast on the former up line.
101 685 at Llangollen
The visit of railcar set 101 685, or 'Daisy' as it is known to some, to the Llangollen Railway has been much appreciated. On 20 June Ivor Bufton participated in the Photographic Charter whose participants were given the opportunity, in return for a donation and under controlled conditions, to photograph the unit, while stationary, at various points on the line (above).
The various names available on the destination blind were explored during the event. The Manchester - Marple line was one of the routes plied by 685 in its last years until December 2003, but the original reason it was re-painted in 1950s green in 1994 was for service (In 3-car formation) on the Conwy Valley branch.
Also taken on a the 20 June photo charter, 'Daisy' is seen at the stop marker on the Corwen extension - although track now extends beyond Plas Bonwm farm all the way to the Corwen East station site, it has yet to be fully ballasted and tamped for operations (George Jones).
The Dee Bridge at the bottom of Berwyn Bank (George Jones).
After withdrawal at the end of 2003 101 685 was stored, with several its sister units, at Shoeburyness, and in March 2005 it was saved for preservation on the Elsecar Railway; the leasing company, Angel Trains, was happy to pass the units the preservation groups for a nominal sum. In November 2006 it was transferred at the Chasewater Railway, and in 2009 moved to Midland Railway Centre for overhaul.
Saturday 21 June, and 'Daisy' waits to depart from Carrog to Bonwm with the first public train of the DMU Gala weekend, coupled to the Llangollen-resident Wickham-built unit. Picture by Mark Riley.
Passing Berwyn whilst working the 13:30 Llangollen - Bonwm on 21 June (Mark Riley). centre trailer car 59539, which worked with these two power cars when the unit was the 'poster boy' for the Conwy Valley line, was also saved by preservationists and works on the North York Moors heritage line.
A montage tribute by Mark Riley. Notice that the owners have revived the old 50xxx numbers for the two vehicles, yet they had been changed to 53xxx (to avoid clashes between lower-numbered vehicles and Class 50 locos in the computer database) a well before they ran in this condition with radio aerials on the roof and new-style headlights. The older numbers would also have had a regional prefix letter. But as ever, let's allow the owners their choices and celebrate the fact that this old-timer (built in 1956) still exists.
In the first version of this page we asked if the destination 'Blaenau Ffestiniog' was displayed during the day. This picture of the 13:30 From Llangollen at Carrog by Brian Nicholls, kindly forwarded by Evan Green-Hughes of the Llangollen Railcar Group, proves that it did indeed.
On Sunday 22 June, 'Daisy' rests in GWR surroundings at Llangollen.
Chester-based years ago, Class 108 56223 at Carrog on 22 June (Larry Davies).
Daisy trails the lunchtime service to Bonwm on 22 June. Did 'Blaenau Ffestiniog' appear at any time during the weekend?
The 'Sheffield' destination recalls the unit's last days on the Hope Valley locals where it became as popular an attraction as it had in Wales. Despite the breakdown in 2001, 'Daisy' was repaired ...
... and survived to take part in the memorable Farewell Tour on 21 December 2003, organised by First North Western, as seen above at Heysham Port station. The 'Daisy' vinyl was designed and made by Manchester-based magazine columnist Tony Miles and attached shortly before this event. 'Daisy' was of, course, the name of the railcar in a certain series of railway stories, but care was taken not to use any imagery which might offend the copyright holders.
Sadly, it was not feasible for the Farewell Tour to visit its old haunts in North Wales, as by 2003 it was no longer part of the First North Western empire. Your editor wrote the text for a leaflet handed out to participants, a web version of which survives online along with our report on the day.
On the Cambrian Coast
With the train service between Pwllhei and Harlech still suspended due to the problems with the Pont Briwet bridge construction, the line is looking very much disused. Above, the timetables at Pen-y-Chain, formerly known as (and still sometimes referred to as) Butlin's Penychain. Picture by Nick Gurney.
A view from the bridge over the line at Pen-y-Chain. Butlin's Pwllheli Holiday camp, for which this station was built, opened to the public in 1947 after a period of use for naval training, and was famous in its day for the range of attractions available to visitors. It even featured in a novel, The Toff at Butlin's (1954) written by John Creasey at the request of Billy Butlin himself. Trains would arrive from north-west England via the sadly-missed Bangor to Afon Wen line.
Today, under the name Hafan-y-Môr (Haven by the sea) it is still in business and, we read: 'Hafan y Môr will be getting a refurbished Live Lounge entertainment venue for 2014, so you will be able to enjoy all your favourite entertainment in fantastic new surroundings. Also, new for 2014 is an adventure trail and a new Aerial Adventure ropes course.' No mention of redcoats, though. The station is a now a request stop, or would be if there were any trains.
Nature fights back: west of Criccieth (Nigel Emery)
The line disappearing into the undergrowth at Criccieth, seen from Maes level crossing (Nick Gurney).
Porthmadog station from the level crossing, looking rather sad (Nick Gurney).
Looking south from Porthmadog level crossing, with the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway station in view (Nick Gurney).
However, the line is not completely disused: on 18 June customers at the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway café were treated to the sight of a passing road-rail crane and attached trolley. Picture above by George Jones.
A.P. Webb's RAIL 068 is a JCB 'JS Hydrid' Road-Rail Excavator Crane. Apparently the access point north of Porthmadog station is in use as a transshipment point for materials related to the Briwet bridge replacement work.
Transfer can be seen in progress in this view by George Jones. It goes to show the need for awareness on any railway for the unexpected train movement even when a line is closed for whatever reason.
Further south, on the section which does have a train service, things have been happening. In the Morfa Mawddach area, removal of lineside trees has been progressing. Above, the work under way on 21 May (Ian Wright).
Looking down from the hillside on 10 June, with a 158 passing (Ian Wright).
The same train makes its way across Barmouth Bridge (Ian Wright).
At Fairbourne, the open crossing, scene of several contretemps involving road users, now has barriers fitted; the picture shows work in progress. We understand these are of a new 'affordable' type which have already been fitted at some crossings in Scotland. The sheet in the background was rail protection for the workers! Picture by Ian Wright, who adds for the benefit of the cyclist among our readers: 'The gates on the Mawddach trail have all been made much easier for cyclists to get through, and the path along the flood defences from Morfa Mawddach to Fairbourne golf club no longer goes from the station platform but crosses the railway from the path to the bridge and can be cycled.'
Three Peaks by Rail
It's that time of year when a lot of railway staff charge up the highest mountains in Wales, England and Scotland to raise money for the Railway Children charity. As usual, the event began with a train from London to Bangor, followed by a night climb of Snowdon. DRS provided the traction again this year, in the shape of 37 605 and 37 602, photographed by Stavros Lainas at Hargrave on the Crewe - Chester line.
Departing Bangor for servicing at Holyhead (Tim Rogers).
The real last Manchester loco
If we make a claim in one of these effusions that something is the first, last, biggest, smallest, etc. the chances are that someone will immediately email to prove us wrong. Such is the case with our suggestions in the 16 June issue concerning Beyer Peacock locomotives being the last to be built in Manchester. Vince Chadwick, a volunteer worker on the Museum of Scence and Industry, sends the above picture of Planet, a working replica of a Liverpool and Manchester loco, which was built in the Museum's Manchester workshop and completed in 1992, many years after the demise of Beyer Peacock.
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