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13 October 2014
The Margam to Dee Marsh steel train with 60 059 Swinden Dalesman climbing Hencote Bank on the afternoon of 12 October. Picture by Stavros Lainas.
Cambrian Railways history lecture in OswestryPeter Johnson is giving a lecture called 'The Cambrian Railways, a new history' in Oswestry next Saturday (October 18). He will be signing copies of his new book of the same title. Organised by Cambrian Heritage Railways (CHR), it will take place at the Memorial Hall (SY11 2EG) from 18:30. Tickets cost £3 or £1.50 for CHR members. Tea and biscuits will be provided.
Past Times with John Hobbs - Colwyn Bay: it's not like that now!
BR Standard Class 5 4-6-0 73006 arrives at Colwyn Bay on the up fast, with 1C66 the 10:14 Bangor to Manchester (Exchange) on 17 July 1965. There is a Western Region Collett-style coach on the front of the train. In the distance, another train recedes towards Llandudno Junction.
LMS class 5 4-6-0 44770 arrives at Colwyn Bay on the up slow, with what could be 2F70 (although the headcode would be incorrect); this train was booked slow line from Llandudno Junction to Colwyn Bay and stopped at all stations to Chester and probably all stations to Liverpool as well. It took two hours from Llandudno to Chester!
45205 leaves Colwyn Bay, on the down fast, with 1D09, probably a holiday relief train from somewhere in Lancashire; it was a Rose Grove engine at this time and would not have been a common sight in the area. It has eleven coaches in tow, three of which appear to be ex-works
All these views are from 17 July 1965. The whole scene in these photographs is dramatically different today, especially the last one as the A55 sweeps through here now, with the track bed realigned to the left. Black 5s and Standard 5s were in charge of most traffic in 1965, having staged a renaissance during the Summer, following dieselisation of most passenger services at the end of January that year.
News in pictures
The Tamper Siding at Llandudno Junction lived up to its name on 13 October with two arrivals within an hour: DR 73909 (above)...
... and sister machine DR 73910. Operated by Colas, these are Plasser Unimat 08-4x4/4S-RT switch and crossing tamping machines. Pictures by Peter Lloyd.
More orange and black: 66 749 heads train 6V38 13:09 Carlisle Kingmoor - Chirk logs south of Armathwaite on the Settle-Carlisle line, Saturday 11 October (Ian Pilkington). This working now carries a totally different reporting number on Saturdays (still 6J37 weekdays) despite running on the same route with similar timings.
It's autumn and the Rail Head Treatment Train is back. Train 3S71 passing Llandudno Junction at 09:25 on 13 October with 97 304 John Tiley leading and 97 302 on the rear (Peter Lloyd).
On 10 October 97 301 was out on its own, pictured by Stavros Lainas passing Upton on the Wirral at 12:02, having run from the depot at Coleham (Shrewsbury).
142 063 calls at Earlestown's platform 3 with a Warrington - Liverpool service on 10 October. Earlestown has platforms on all three sides of its triangle of lines (Greg Mape). The only other British example of this currently in service is Shipley, which had platforms on only two sides until 1979. Another Yorkshire example at Queensbury closed in the 1950s. Ambergate, north of Derby, once was traingular, but now has just one platform served by Derby - Matolock trains.
Sunday 12 October, and a 'Northern Belle' excursion passes Yorton, north of Shrewsbury, at 15:23 with 47 828 leading (Stavros Lainas).
66 529 brings the cement train past Battlefield, 12 October (Stavros Lainas).
At Winwick Junction on the West Coast Main Line on 10 October, empty 'Statesman' coaching stock from Carnforth to Gloucester with 57 316 leading and 57 315 on the rear meets 66 565 heading for Hunterston in Scotland with empty coal wagons from Fiddlers Ferry. (Greg Mape).
An unusual duty for 47 828 at Crewe on 9 October, a single FNA flask wagon, 550057. The loco ran round the wagon here.
Three Freightliner electric locos, 90 048 / 86 638 / 86 604, wait to return to Freightliner's Basford Hall depot after running into Platform 8 at Crewe, also on 9 October (Martin Evans).
Storm clouds gather over Deansgate station on 9 October as 66 102 works hard to keep the well-loaded 13:17 Trafford Park - London Gateway freight on the move (Charlie Hulme).
37 606 and 37 603 with 6K41 14:58 Valley Nuclear Electric to Crewe Coal Sidings flask train, approaching Chester 117 minutes early on 7 October (Tim Rogers).
Network Rail Multi-Purpose Vehicle DR 98003 (with DR 98010 leading) passes Abergele on 7 October (Roly High).
This unit is apparently used for overhead line installation on electrified lines, so what was it doing in North Wales?
At Crewe on 6 October, former North Wales Coast line loco 37 419 now, named Carl Haviland awaiting the 'road' in platform 8 (John Murray).
The soon-to-be-redoubled section at Rossett on 3 October: 158 828 on train 1D12 09:09 Birmingham International to Holyhead ...
... and 47 790 Galloway Princess leading 1Z85 06:47 Lincoln – Chester, Northern Belle (Tim Rogers).
RCTS news - by Richard Neale
The Railway Correspondence & Travel Society (RCTS) holds its next meeting at the Town Crier opposite Chester railway station on Monday 20 October at 7.30 p.m. The topic is ‘Railways in a Yorkshire Landscape’ with Stephen Gay from Sheffield. His rambles around the railway landscape with his dog Wrawby make for interesting presentations to anyone interested in railways and in industrial archaeology.
Visitors will be most welcome to attend on donating £2 to help defray meeting expenses and further details can be obtained by telephoning 0151-608 4296.
Virgin Trains are planning a 'Route Proving Run' with a Class 221 Voyager on Saturday 18 October in advance of the start of through service between London and Shrewsbury. Train 1Q62, Wolverhampton dep 10:32, Shrewsbury arr 11:32. 1Q63 Shrewsbury dep 13:15, Wolverhampton 13:46-13:49, continues to Barton-under-Needwood depot 14:54. It would be interesting to see a picture of this at Shrewsbury.
Large Prairie at Llangollen - report by George Jones
For inspection by members of the 5199 Project attending their annual general meeting at Llangollen today, the Great Western Railway 'large prairie' 2-6-2T 5199 was posed in the yard enjoying the autumnal sunshine.
As seen the locomotive was without its new chimney, smokebox ring and door allowing sight of the smokebox innards. The new components are to hand and are due to be fitted. Conclusion of the overhaul is due soon and 5199 is expected to be operational in time for the 2014 'Santa' Trains.
With costs having exceeded funds, the Project will welcome donations to help with the funding of the overhaul. For further details see the Project's website.
BR Standard 4 tank 80072 is 'on shed' at Llangollen being prepared for a boiler lift to allow for the firebox to be re-stayed - another costly and unexpected job within the life of the overhauled boiler's certificate.
Summer 'Out and About' special
Isle of Man Festival - report by David Hennessey
Every year on the back end of July (and sometimes into the start of August), the Isle of Man Railways hold a five-day festival on the Island's main rail and tram systems. The Isle of Man Steam Railway, the Manx Electric Railway, the Snaefell Mountain Railway, the Groudle Glen Railway, the Great Laxey Mines Railway and the Douglas Horse tramway hold a series of special events to cater for both tourists and enthusiasts alike, with special attractions on the side. I've been visiting this festival since 2011, and the 2014 show was no exception. What follows here is a day-by-day account of what went on.
Monday 28 July: This was my day of arrival on the island (following my sailing from Liverpool aboard the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company's Manannan), so it was pretty much a quiet afternoon and evening spent getting settled in prior to the long week ahead. A walk up to the hillside above the harbour on such a gloriously sunny evening produced a good view of the Douglas Promenade and the surrounding countryside. A bed of poppies was also spotted nearby, along with a camera obscura, a lighthouse and a breakwater. Soon, I descended back down into the town centre to head to the Rover's Return (but not the one in a certain TV soap!), for a couple of pints of Bushy's ale. Beautiful stuff!
Tuesday 29 July: This was technically the day before the festival started, but something else was in order. In 2013, I did a walk from Port Soderick to Douglas, via the Marine Drive coastal road which traced along the route of the Douglas Southern Electric tramway (the Island's only standard-gauge line which existed between 1896 and 1939). In order to do this, a short hop to Port Soderick on the Isle of Man Steam Railway was required, with Beyer Peacock 2-4-0 tank No.10 G.H Wood doing the honours on the first run of the day to Port Erin.
From Port Soderick, the walk took a few hours to complete. The view out across the Irish Sea was fairly pleasant, with cloud and some light drizzle only coming in from the mainland. The route pretty much hugs the clifftops, littered with a few sheer drops into coves below. The only remaining feature of the Southern Electric Tramway is the castellated toll-gate entrance just outside Douglas. Following a picnic on the hillside where I was the night before, I descended down to the sea terminal, and caught a horse tram to Derby Castle.
Whilst having a pint at the Terminus Tavern (a good establishment to sample Okells beer), I recorded MER 'Tunnel' Car 6 in the station, and 'Unvestibuled' Saloon Car 1 at Derby Castle Car Sheds. Cars 1 & 2 are listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest working tramcars in the world, both built for the line in 1893.
Soon, it was time to board 'Crossbench' Car 33 for a trip up to Ramsey and back, passing through the recently revamped Laxey station (the track layout in the station was revised between November 2013 and April 2014). The changes at Laxey weren't too bad, but many felt that the atmosphere of watching the cars running round ready to return to Douglas, had been lost, with the running round procedures now taking place outside the station...
A good day in the can, and a warm up for the festival which would kick off in 24 hours...
Wednesday 30 July: The day when the festival got going, and quite a few interesting events to start off with In the morning, another trip to Port Soderick on the Steam Railway was made, to snap a private photo charter which followed the first service of the day to Port Erin. This charter featured the railway's brand new diesel loco 21. The American-built machine, constructed by the Motive Power & Equipment Solutions of Greenville, South Carolina, and delivered to the island in late 2013, was undertaking one of it's first outings following various tests to iron out a few minor niggles (rather unfortunate, considering the rather hefty £25,000 or thereabouts price tag). The double-cab loco had 1998-built replica I.O.M open wagon M.78 and two passenger carriages in tow. Following a few snaps of this impressive machine, I returned to Douglas behind Beyer Peacock tank 4 Loch.
In the afternoon, another trip to Laxey was made. I took the Snaefell Mountain Railway (Car 1 doing the honours) to the top of the Island's only mountain, via Bungalow which is a key location on the famous TT race course. The weather wasn't too bad; bright, but windy and cloudy, and not quite clear enough to see the 'seven kingdoms' (Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England etc).
Above: Snaefell Mountain Railway Car 6 approaches Summit Station.
As I was heading down again, something unfortunate had happened. Outside Laxey station on the main road, the rear bogie of Car 4 had jumped the point work, and blocked the Snaefell's entrance as a result. The MER line remained unaffected, but trams proceeded cautiously past the scene of the incident. The Snaefell service was suspended for the afternoon (it was due to finish round about this time anyway, with exception of the evening 'Summit Dining' specials which did operate later), and it took some time before the errant bogie of Car 4 was finally put back on the rails.
A short hop to Groudle on the Electric Railway and a lovely walk down the glen, found me at my next railway on the list. The 2ft gauge Groudle Glen Railway, the line that goes uphill to the sea, was operating it's usual Summer Wednesday evening service, and the veteran Bagnall 2-4-0 tank engine Sea Lion of 1896 (above) was providing the service. After the journey through the woods and out onto the cliffs aboard one of the Victorian four-wheeled carriages, I had a few brief hours at Sea Lion Rocks, where the remains of the former sea lion and polar bear zoo could be discovered. The evening weather was fair compared to what it was earlier; bright with a calm breeze over the Irish Sea.
Another brief trip to Laxey (to record Car 1 running as long-lost Car 3), I went back to Douglas aboard Winter Saloon Car 21, and the first day of the festival was concluded.
Thursday 31 July: Day Two of the festival, and it was onto the Electric Railway again. The day kicked off with an out-and-back trip to Laxey; the outward leg producing Tunnel Car 5, open wagon 10 and mail van 4.
Then it was back to Derby Castle, for a tour of the Car Sheds and Workshops. The hour and a half long guided tour featured a look at various vehicles; some in service, some stored and some undergoing maintenance. We first had a glimpse into the Car Sheds where most of the cars and trailers were kept. They were a mix of current runners and long stored vehicles; one of the latter, ratchet Car 18 had been turned out as immaculately as possible for display in the yard. Crossbench Car 33 and Winter Saloon Car 22 were inside, along with Mariah (the MER's diesel-generated engineering car) and various other pieces.
The workshops also got our attention. Green-coloured Crossbench Car 16 was inside having one of it's motors seen to and re-fitted. It later went out for a test spin, prior to working the 'Power Trip' tour in 24 hours time...
The tour concluded in the MER's recently opened museum, with a display of artefacts and pictures on public view.
In the evening, a trip to Port Erin on the steam railway was in order. The corridor-stock was hauled all the way by former Manx Northern Railway Dubs 0-6-0 tank No.4 (I.O.M 15) Caledonia. The dark-maroon tank engine put on a superb performance on this regular Summer Thursday evening special, which had on-board catering and a bar vehicle. At Port Erin, the sunset over the bay was observed, before a few pints of Bushy's ale at the Bay Hotel were heartily consumed! A late arrival back at Douglas brought the second day of the festival to a close.
Friday 1 August: Day Three, and this one was devoted to the steam railway for the most part, to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the Port Erin line.
A morning trip to Port Erin behind Caledonia was in order, aboard the Manx Northern Railway carriage 17 which was also doubling as a travelling post office on the 09:50 service. Above, Caledonia takes on water at Port Erin, before returning to Douglas. Following a spirited run in rather wet conditions, a brief visit to the railway museum was made. This was home to a collection of artefacts, wagons, carriages and two of the veteran Beyer Peacock 2-4-0 tank engines; No.6 Peveril and No.16 Mannin.
A return run to Castletown station behind Beyer Peacock tank No.12 Hutchinson was made. I bailed out there, because there was a special service due to pass. This special had the diesel loco 21 (built to replace the life-expired German Schoma diesel loco No.17 Viking) haul a flat-bed wagon of a motley collection of P50 cars on a lunchtime service to Port Erin. Beyer Peacock tank No.4 Loch also got in on the act, banking the train all the way!
After a quick pint of Bushy's and a bus journey back to Douglas, an evening trip on the Electric Railway was made. The tour (organised by the admin team of manxelectricrailway.co.uk) had Crossbench Car 16 and trailer 60 turned out for a journey taking in the MER's power spots (existing and non-existing) along the route, including Laxey, Ballaglass, Ballagorra and Belle Vue, plus the water tower of South Cape and the site of the test house at Minorca. A quick turnaround at Ramsey and a late return to Douglas concluded the third day of the festival.
Saturday 2 August: Day Four, and the day of the second tour to be organised by manxelectricrailway.co.uk; the 'Crossbench Crossover'. Well, not quite to begin with...
Appauling wet weather was around the island in the morning, and a decision had been made to substitute open 'Crossbench' Car 32 (which was the main choice for the tour), for enclosed 'Unvestibuled' Saloon Car 2. Still, it was better than nothing at all! This tour took in nearly every cross-over point over the route. To save any boredom, I won't go into great detail as to how many crossovers Car 2 did, but there were a few surprises on the way; a rare trip to the Laxey and Ramsey Car Sheds, a photo-stop in spectacular conditions at Bulgham, and the rare use of the Ramsey 'Shed' siding in the station!
The weather had well improved as the day went on, and upon the return to Douglas Derby Castle car sheds, one more surprise was pulled out of the hat. Car 32 was drawn out, finally given a chance to shine. After dropping off Car 2, we boarded 32 for a spin to Onchan Head. However, there was another twist. A group of ordinary passengers were wanting to make the short trip to Majestic (a few yards up the line from Onchan Head), so that's where 32 ended up. After dropping the passengers off, 32 rolled back to Onchan Head for a short photo stop. As this was going on, Tunnel Car 5 and mail van 4 trundled by on it's return to Douglas, having been out on an 'ultimate driving experience' course.
The trip concluded back at Derby Castle, and what a tour it had been; brilliantly planned and executed, and well patronized by enthusiasts eager to support the cause of raising funds for the Laxey and Lonan Heritage Trust Wagon Appeal (a respectable amount being made for good measure).
Sunday 3 August: The fifth and final day of the festival was mostly spent, yet again, on the electric railway, but the Great Laxey Mines Railway also got a brief look-in as well... The day began at Derby Castle, aboard Crossbench Car 16 hauling wagon 10 (on one of it's first public journeys after restoration) and mail van 4 to Ramsey. I rode on this as far as Laxey where I 'bailed'.
A chance was taken to take a ride on the 18 inch gauge Great Laxey Mines Railway, with replica Lewin 0-4-0 loco Ant in traffic (fellow loco Bee and battery loco Wasp were also turned out to be photographed.) In the picture, Ant propells it's single carriage towards the island's only railway tunnel, as she heads off towards the former mine entrances near the Laxey Wheel. A short ride out to the mine entrances (via the island's only railway tunnel) later, I took a walk up the path, to pay a visit to the Isle of Man's most iconic landmark.
Lady Isabella (commonly known as the Laxey wheel) was there for all to see, in her usual splendour. Built in 1854 to pump water out of the lead, zinc, copper and mineral mines, she is an impressive piece of engineering which serves as a very popular and not to be missed tourist attraction on Manx shores. Getting a few photos from both ground level, and from the top, I spent a short period of time there before getting the Great Laxey Mines Railway train back to Laxey.
Later, a trip to Ramsey was made aboard 'Crossbench' Car 33, and back out again to Cornaa. At the latter location (seern above), I caught 'Unvestibuled' Saloon Car 1 and trailer 51 back to Ramsey, and did another short hop to Belle Vue and return (with 'Crossbench' Car 32 on the outward run, and 'Winter' Saloon Car 22 back).
'Crossbench' Car 16 was in the Ramsey area, giving motorman taster sessions to Lewaigue and back. Naturally, your author couldn't resist such a good opportunity! This was something I'd done in 2013, and was certainly keen to give it another go, albeit on a different vehicle. I managed to drive 16 from Lewaigue to Ramsey, with flying colours.
In the late afternoon, Car 16 was en route back to Douglas with wagon 10 and mail van 4, but unfortunately ran into difficulties with a bearing fault at Ballagora, and had to stay where it was. After an hour or so, I gave up the ghost and went to catch a bus back to Douglas. Despite this hiccup, it had been another good day, and the festival had concluded satisfactorily.
Monday 4 August: The day after the festival was over, and the day when I had to depart Manx shores once more. But I wasn't leaving without getting at least one last ride to Groudle on the Electric Railway ('Tunnel' Car 6 on the outward run and 'Tunnel' Car 9 returning), a ride on the Douglas Horse Tramway, and a quick look at the Isle of Man Steam Railway's headquarters at Douglas station, with Beyer Peacock tank No.10 G.H Wood on the 11:50 to Port Erin. Above, Charles and Car 43 stand near the Douglas Sea Terminal, before setting off along the promenade to Douglas Derby Castle.
All too soon, it was time to board the Manannan for my crossing back over the Irish Sea to Liverpool, with the events of 2014 well in the can. Another year, another festival. And one of the best ones I've attended since I first started going in 2011. The two main highlights for me were the MER's Crossbench Crossover tour, and the motorman taster on Car 16, but it had been quite a good time on the other rail systems as well. Would I be making another visit? Time will tell...
See also my Flickr snaps and YouTube playlist.
A visit to the Epping - Ongar Railway - with Richard Putley
I took a day off work on 20 August to visit this railway as I'd read a lot about it and wanted to see it for myself. I took the Central Line to Epping from where a vintage bus runs every half hour to the Epping - Ongar Railway's Headquarters at North Weald station. From the rural nature of the terrain which the railway runs through it is hard to imagine that it was once electrified and part of the London Underground network. But it was always operated as a separate branch which is perhaps why it was ultimately closed as Epping Station boasts a sizeable car park.
On the day of my visit the EOR were operating a two train service. This consisted of a loco hauled
train with GWR Large Prairie 4141 doing the honours running between North Weald and Ongar, and
a BR Southern Region class DEMU 205 205 running to the stop board just east of Epping Tube station and the other end of the line at Ongar. Although the EOR is still connected to the London Underground, LU need both platforms at Epping. The EOR plan to build a new station close by.
Meanwhile their vintage buses also provide a link to other tourist attractions in the area. These include North Weald Airfield, which the railway runs past - a popular venue for airshows which
celebrates its centernary in 2016. During World War 2 a Czech Squadron was stationed there and served with distinction in the Battle of Britain. Indeed it was the first non-English speaking squadron to gain operational status in in the war.
Besides the stock in operation, the EOR have a DMU similar to a class that used to operate on the line until the early 1970s. Before being taken over by LU in the 1950s the EOR had been part of British Railways. Even after the takeover BR ran trains for shift workers in the middle of the night between Epping and Stratford (London) and also freight trains which were hauled variously by classes 15, 16 and 31. The EOR have a 31 and 03 shunters, one of which, 03 119 (above), is one of those with reduced-height cabs for the Burry Port and Gwendraeth valley line in South Wales.
Other diesels present include examples of classes 31, 37 and 47, also a Class 117 DMU and a Southern Region 3-CIG EMU.
Currently 4141 is the only operational steam loco the EOR posses. A GWR Hall 4-6-0, 4953 Pitchford Hall, was purchased in 2011 and has run but is currently away for overhaul. Some years ago they bought a load of Finnish steam locos, not realising they are the wrong gauge! Having been part of Imperial Russia before WW1, Finnish Railways are built to 5' gauge.
Most of them have now been re-homed but two, a large 2-8-2 tender engine and a 4-6-2 tender
engine are still stored at Ongar. They look impressive so I hope they find homes too.
I think if I won the lottery I'd be tempted to see if they could be re-gauged to 5' 3" and if
I could find somewhere to run them in Ireland!
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