NORTH WALES COAST RAILWAY:NOTICE
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15 September 2014
Blaenau Ffestiniog on 13 September: 150 259, 57 314 and David Lloyd George. Picture by Ken Robinson.
Club 55 clarification
Regarding our earlier question, we can unfortunately confirm that it is not permitted to make the trip all the way from North Wales to Cardiff on the 'Premier Express' using the Arriva Trains Wales 'Club 55' offer. The earliest train that can be used on Mondays - Fridays is the 07:15 Holyhead - Birmingham New Street (Bangor 08:02), although there is no mention of this fact on Arriva's publicity. One can, however, travel on the 17:21 from Cardiff return train.
Thanks to Stephen Hughes for help with this question.
West Coast 57s at work
The four Class 57 locos which were once allocated to Arriva Trains Wales services, and are now owned by West Coast Railways, were all in use on excursions on 13 September. A 'Snowdonian Statesman' (1Z28) from Hull to Blaenau Ffestiniog was entrusted to 'top-and-tail' 57 314 and 57 316, pictured above by John Mathers passing Shotton Low Level station.
Colwyn Bay (Darren Durrant). The train arrived in North Wales over an hour late due to Network Rail problems in the Yorkshire area.
57 314 on arrival at Llandudno Junction. For some reason West Coast Railways are very economical with their application of numbers to their locos, with none on the ends and only on one on each side.
Departing Llandudno Junction for Blaenau Ffestiniog with 57 316 leading (Ken Robinson).
Blaenau Ffestiniog (Ken Robinson). The train arrived at 13:55 instead of 13:04, thereby missing the 13:30 Ffestiniog Railway departure which would have allowed a trip to Tan-y-Bwlch and back before the 16:10 departure from Blaenau back to Hull. There were some complaints from passengers about the lack of information about what was happening.
Rhyl (Roly High). 57 316 is the only one of the quartet still to be repainted from Blue to West Coast Railways maroon.
Broughton (Stavros Lainas).
The other two locos were engaged on a trip from Stevenage to Ludlow where there was a Food Festival. The train travelled outwards via Doncaster, and back via Shrewsbury. Above, 57 315 (on the front) and 57 313 power away from Gobowen with the return run (John Mathers).
In the countryside near Gobowen (Stavros Lainas).
News about other Class 57/3 locos is that the six locos which were transferred from Virgin Trains to Network Rail, and painted yellow, have now passed to DRS and are in process of gaining that firm's blue livery, although they will still carry out Network Rail duties, for which some have been equipped for coupling to electric trains south of the Thames in times of emergency. The DRS Class 57 fleet now comprises 57 301 - 312 as well as non electric train heating-fitted 57 002 - 57 004 / 007- 012.
Charlie goes to Llandudno
We don't actually get 'down the coast' very often these days, but the stage finish of the 'Tour of Britain' cycle race in the town on 8 September was a good opportunity for a day out. The race was due to arrive at 15:20 so we chose the 10:50 train from Manchester Piccadilly, a 3-car Class 175 which now goes to Bangor, so the last leg of our journey was on 150 208, seen on arrival at Llandudno. The connection time at The Junction is just five minutes, and we were two minutes late and had to cross the footbridge, but we made it comfortably. The trains were crowded, but there was no sign of the great hosts of people seen at the Tour de France even though Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish were among the riders.
The car park behind the train is the site of former platforms 4 and 5. The new glass concourse area with its useful facilities is very nice, but why, on a weekday with a major sporting event in one of Britain's premier seaside resorts, was it locked shut when we returned at 16:45, with just three security staff on hand, who rued the lack toilet facilities just as much as the passengers? Much money has been spent on this, but passengers are apparently denied the use of it after 14:30.
At least is possible to admire the London and North Western Railway crest on the blue plaque, and the English bond brickwork of the station wall.
The release crossover between Platforms 1 and 2. with its associated ground frame has been removed recently and been replaced by plan line, although the relaying did not extend to the buffer stops, resulting in this interesting welded joint between flat-bottom and bull-head rail, and a cocktail of grey Penmaenmawr and pink Cumbrian ballast.
On the promenade, someone has take a cue from the yellow bikes which appeared around the route of the Tour de France in Yorkshire. Cycling is now officially allowed on the promenade after some years of controversy...
... subject to these hard-to-spot signs on the end of the shelters.
To meet the race, we walked a little way up the Marine Drive, itself a significant piece of Victorian engineering. Other riders can be seen making their way round the Great Orme in the distance; the field was so drawn out that some spectators had started cycling back down to the town before the last of the competitors and the 'broom wagon' passed.
Our return train was the 17:05 to Manchester, worked as usual by a 2-car Class 158, but not overcrowded, which was just as well as our seat reservations were not labelled. According to the Public Timetable, this train (1D39, 14:50 from Manchester Piccadilly) terminates at Llandudno at 17:05, and departs for Manchester 0 minutes later (1H93 to Manchester) at 17:05. The railway's working timetable shows a 17:01 arrival, to why not tell the passengers? Presumably so it can be four minutes late and still be 'on time'. Even so, four minutes is not much time to discharge passengers and embark a new set, while the driver and guard change ends and there are no station staff to help any passengers with mobility difficulties.
Stuart Samuel comments:
This addition of "Charter minutes" is a common ploy by ATW, along with other TOCs. My particular favourite is the 20:23 from Blaenau Ffestiniog, which then forms the last 'up' train from Llandudno to Crewe, in order to get the Class 150 unit back to the LNWR works for servicing. According to the Public Timetable, the Blaenau train arrives Llandudno at 21:46, and the Crewe train departs at 21:45.
Aboard the train, which had its backup windows open, suggesting an air conditioning problem, the information display scrolls around continuously, irritatingly catching the eye with its spelling mistake of 'Pensar' instead of Pensarn. Why not fix this? You might think it had to be abbreviated to fit space in a database, but there seems to be room for 'Manchester Piccadilly' even with added 'Manceinion'.
158 818 on arrival at Manchester Piccadilly after two hours on a hard seat facing a grey tombstone-like seat back. The off-peak 'walk-on' return fare for the 87-mile journey is a rather eye-watering £39.10, an interesting comparison with a South Wales coast journey such as Cardiff - Milford Haven at £26.10 for 119 miles.
Log train scenes
The Colas Rail trains which bring logs from forest around the country to the Kronospan factory at Chirk are very popular with photographers. Above, 56 105 approaches Crosby Garrett on the Settle - Carlisle line with 6J37 Carlisle-Chirk logs on Saturday 6 September (Ian Pilkington). After its recent failures on the West Coast Main Line this locomotive sounded in fine fettle again.
Returning with the empty wagons on Sunday 7 September, 56 105 with 6V37 Chirk - Carlisle passes Walcot, Shropshire, at 11:20 (Stavros Lainas). This train reaches the West Coast Main Line via Shrewsbury, and the Bushbury curve outside Wolverhampton; longer that route via Chester but it avoids a reversal with the concomitant need to run the locomotive round its train.
56 105 again hauling 6J37 Carlisle - Chirk passing Helsby on 9 September (Andrew Vinten).
The same train on 9 September passing Rossett, with the sun no more than 15 degrees off the horizon,. Note the double track now in place (Stavros Lainas).
Camping Coach at Llanberis
Stephen Hughes writes:
Every so often I have a look at one of my father's old photographs and try to identify the loco / location / date etc. Recently, whilst looking at the above photo, I mused aloud, "I wonder where this was taken" . My partner, whose understanding of railway matters is, I can safely say in the clear knowledge that she will never visit this website, somewhat less than my own meagre knowledge, happened to glance over my shoulder and state, "Well, it's Llanberis, of course, isn't it!" ....and, as usual, she was correct.We always enjoy a little library work, so we have been finding out more about this vehicle. In the frugal 1930s the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) created many 'Caravans', as they called them until 1938 they fell in line with the name 'Camping Coach' used by other railways. They were converted from passenger coaches built by the old railways merged into the LMS in 1923. A popular choice for conversion was the London and North Western Railway third-class corridor coach, as shown (from the corridor side) at Llanberis in Mr Hughes' photograph. 244 of these (with slight variations between batches) were built by the LNWR between 1898 and 1903, and a significant proportion were converted to Caravans from 1934 onwards, re-numbered in a the 46xxx series, the Llanberis vehicle being 46149. Carriage experts have, it appears, proved unable to discover how many were done, or exact details of former numbers.
A photograph dated 1956 shows a different coach in use, a converted LMS-built coach. The camping coaches do not appear in every photograph, as they were generally hauled away for the winter months for storage and any necessary repairs. A list in our collection, dated 1963, shows the North Wales camping coach fleet reduced in size, with only Abergele (9 coaches), Betws-y-Coed (1), Glan Conwy (1), Llanfairfechan (1) and Rhuddlan (4) provided. By that time Rhuddlan was on a freight-only line, and campers had to make their way by Crosville bus from Rhyl.
The Llanberis campers may have arrived by bus, too, as the Llanberis branch was a very early victim of the economy 'axe'. The ordinary passenger service was withdrawn in 1930, although freight and excursion trains, some of them regular in summer months, almost until the final abandonment of the line in 1964.
All Change at Helsby Junction - report by Charles Allen
15 September was a historic day for Helsby railway station. It reopened as a staffed station after a lapse of 24 years. John Melia, manager at Compass Tours has taken out a three-year lease on the buildings.
Acclaimed railway artist Nick Harling was approached at the beginning of the year by North Cheshire Rail User Group (NCRUG) publicity officer Ian Whitley for a special commission to celebrate the opening of the station buildings and new facilities at the station.
The painting is called 'Between Showers 1960' and a limited edition run of just 25 prints which sold out within days of going on sale. The print comes with an information sheet about how funds were raised for the painting and why the artist was chosen. There is also a story to the scene including the Jack Russell on platform two which may be familiar. On Friday 12 September, Nick hand-delivered it to the station and it now takes pride of place on the wall in the new waiting room.
On Monday 15 September the formal opening took place with Chester Station Manager Margaret Benson cutting the ribbon.
Stakeholder Manager Ben Davies gave a brief speech and members of NCRUG discussed their efforts. Rail users are already praising the new facilities which include a new waiting room and coffee shop selling snacks, cold drinks and newspapers. The new facilities also have free Wifi.
The 'Helsby Hub' as it will be called is now open and also has its own Facebook page and Twitter feed (@helsbyrailhub).
Colwyn Bay 'Platform 3' railway
An interesting email from Mike Clement, commenting on our paragraph in the 2011 archives mentioning the short-lived 'Platform 3' attraction at Colwyn Bay station:
The short miniature railway was run on 10¼" Triang Minic track. The engine was a stretched E3000 Honda-driven Minic engine pulling a Pullman-style coach and a sit-astride coach. It was originally built by myself and 'sold' to the developer of Platform 3 who I believe ran a night club in Manchester. Regretfully this 'developer' reneged on his payment schedule and I was forced after taking legal advice to seize back the loco and carriages, but leaving the track behind. Does anyone know what happened to the track?Replies to Mike's questions, and pictures of the train actually in service at the Platform 3 site, will be very welcome. It's an odd fact that the history of 20 years ago can often be more difficult to research that 100 years ago. The track ran alongside the full-size industrial tank engine Firefly an and Mk 1 Coach which were inside the building, and emerged into the open at the east end for a short distance, as we recall. The locomotive and coach were placed there in 1988; there's a fascinating picture by Alan Roberts on the 6G site showing the coach, which like the tank loco was apparently bought from Carnforth, being lifed by crane from the promenade; we understand it was scrapped on site in about 2000. The locomotive Firefly, built by Hudswell Clarke in 1952, works number 1864, was noted, out of service, at the Dartmoor Railway in 2013.
The whole operation closed to the public in 1993 but the loco was still there when Alan Crawshaw recorded it in 1998. It seems our memories of drinking Stone's bitter there between Class 37-hauled trains in 1995-6 are a little inaccurate; it must have only just survived into the Class 37 era.
There is an interesting picture on the Colwyn Bay Past and Present Facebook site showing the miniature track in place during Platform 3's brief heyday.
This week's news from Colwyn Bay is that the Victoria Pier, which has degenerated into a dangerous eyesore despite the efforts of a enthusiasts in recent years, and its Grade II listing, is about to be demolished by contractors working for Conwy Council. Sad but inevitable, perhaps.... or perhaps not?
Vale of Rheidol news
The Ffestiniog Railway locomotive Palmerston is visiting the Vale of Rheidol at present. The picture above Denis Bates shows it in action with a special photo charter train on 10 September. It will be working trains between Aberystwyth and Devil's Bridge on the weekends of 20-21 and 27-28 September. See the VoR website for details.
Progress at Corwen East station - report by George Jones
Progress at Corwen East station site continues with attention turned to the decking for the access ramp now that the platform surface is finished and the midway ramp landing has been decked. This entails cutting a lot of timbers to a precise length to ensure a tight fit between the edging timbers.
These pictures from Saturday 13 September show the work completed and underway. I hope these illustrate the magnitude of the task to construct the temporary platform which needs fitting out.
Above left: the platform decking as seen from the east (Carrog) end, all 100 metres of it. Above right, the elevated platform end view of the access ramp looking down towards the entry point which will come in through the trees.
The alternative platform view from the west (Corwen) end at the ramp entrance - amongst the spare timbers is a supply of fencing palings to be fitted, and the top section of the ramp with decking in progress, as seen from the midway landing. All the cross members will have to be bolted into the edging timbers.
The length of the platform as seen from the ramp landing looking east. The complexity of the construction might be appreciated when the scaffolding content is calculated on the basis of 18 lengths of piping to each of the 50 box sections, plus fittings, as erected on the concrete footings. The contractor is in the process of calculating the total length of the poles installed for the finished product, including the ramp.
The recent run of good weather has helped with this work and, if it continues, the decking should be completed next week when fitting out can begin.
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