NORTH WALES COAST
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23 February 2015
Meeting on the approaches to Abergele & Pensarn station on 18 February, 175 116 (left) and 175 101, numerically the last and first of the 16 members of the 175/1 three-car sub-class. Picture by Tim Rogers.
Club 55 ending (for now)
An email from Arriva Trains Wales reminds us that 'It's the last week of Arriva Club 55! You can still buy tickets up until 28 February 2015 and make you return journeys up to 8 days after this date. If you haven’t travelled with this offer before, Arriva Club 55 is an off-peak travel offer for everyone aged 55 or over. From only £23 return, you can travel anywhere on the Arriva Trains Wales network and other selected stations.'
PLPR in service
A 'Plain Line Pattern Recognition' train operated on 18 February from Derby to Crewe via Holyhead. These trains check the track for faults, and are intended to replace the traditional method of inspection by 'walking the line.'
Beeches Farm (Bob Greenhalgh).
Westbound at Sandycroft (John Mathers).
Sandycroft (John Mathers). On the rear, 67 012 A Shropshire Lad.
Rhyl (Roly High).
Rhyl (Tim Rogers).
Network Rail brake force runner, former Mk2f coach, 9523 (Tim Rogers).
Vehicle 5981 is Plain Line Pattern Recognition vehicle PLPR2 (Tim Rogers). Some of the complex equipment under the coach can be seen. To quote from an interesting article on the Rail Engineer website:
Four lasers, seven linescan and a number of thermal imaging cameras are mounted on the underside of the train. These high-speed cameras are synchronised and capable of taking photographs at the phenomenal rate of 70,000 pictures per second. At 125mph, this gives a picture of the rail every 0.8mm.
Network Rail Generator van 6263, formerly brake guard's vehicle 81231, later 92961 (Tim Rogers).
Llanfairfechan (Peter Lloyd).
In failing light, the return working passing Valley at 16:21 (Peter Lloyd).
Last week's flasks
In the week beginning 16 February the North Wales line saw two flask trains, with Class 37/20 combinations in both cases. Above, on 17 February 37 611 and 20 308 reverse the train out of the Valley transfer siding preparatory to the return journey to Crewe. Picture by Peter Basterfield.
Departure from Valley (Peter Basterfield).
Eastbound through Talacre (Tim Rogers).
The next day, Wednesday 18 February, and a different duo, 37 602 and 20 305 - with a combined age of well over 100 years - pass Llanfairfechan with a load of three wagons (Peter Lloyd).
Abergele (Tim Rogers). Is there any logic behind DRS's loco allocation, we wonder ... These two locos together generate roughly the same power as a single Class 57, yet on other days we'll see two 57s on just one wagon. These nuclear fuel trains do always have two locomotives, presumably in case one breaks down; this policy seems to have started in the late years of British Rail, when a pair of 'coal sector' 31s would be the usual traction.
The view from Beeches Farm bridge (Bob Greenhalgh). The farmhouse, seen in the background, appears to be suffering from structural problems.
With the 'D.f.T'
18 February was certainly a busy day for locomotives on the Coast line. As well as the flask and measurement trains recorded above, there were the morning and evening runs of the 'WAG Express' between Holyhead and Cardiff (still running in darkness across most of North Wales) and the newly-introduces second loco diagram, apparently known as 'the DfT' by rail staff as it is sponsored by the Department for Transport. Above, regular loco 67 001 arrives at Llandudno Junction with train 1D34, 09:50 Manchester - Holyhead. Picture by Peter Lloyd.
67 001 propels the return train into Rhyl station; Driving Van Trailer 82308 was leading (Tim Rogers).
Arriving at Rhyl station (Roly High). The 'listed' Rhyl No.2 signalbox is an increasingly sad sight. Will a new use ever be devised? It's hard to see how it can be brought into to any public use such as a café, as providing disabled access would we problematic.
Monday 23 February saw a locomotive other that 67 001 make an appearance on this duty for the first time: Jim Coates photographed EWS-liveried 67 020 arriving at Prestatyn.
Rhyl (Dave Sallery).
The return, 13:01 Holyhead - Manchester Piccadilly, passes the site of Bagillt station, with 82308 leading...
... and 67 020 on the rear (Tim Rogers).
The afternoon of Thursday 19 February at Manchester Piccadilly was an embarrassing mess. A cable fault at Ordsall Lane junction was severely delaying trains from that direction towards the airport via Platform 13 as a number of signals could not be cleared and drivers had to be specially authorised to pass them. TransPennine Express decided to terminate their Airport-bound trains at Piccadilly to recover time, and passengers for the Airport were compelled to transfer to Airport services from the main terminal part of the station. Many people had heavy luggage, and unfortunately on alighting at platform 13 they discovered that both the lift and escalator were out of order.
Arriva Trains Wales turned round their trains from Llandudno to Manchester at Warrington or Earlestown, leading to the cancellation of the 14:50, 15:50, 16:50, 17:50 and 18:50 trains from Manchester to North Wales. Staff were advising passengers to travel on Virgin Trains services via Crewe, while buses were organised for Newton-le-Willows and Earlestown passengers. No attempt was made to divert trains from Chester into Manchester via Northwich.
The freight trains out of Trafford Park were caught up in the troubles. The 14:18 Trafford Park - Felixstowe (pictured above) was brought to a stand at Manchester Oxford Road's platform signals, the full length of its train meaning that it was also occupying the platform at Deansgate and blocking any moves to or from Salford Crescent across Castlefield Junction. An hour later, in the heavy rain the driver of the 16:18 Trafford Park - Southampton took several minutes to get his train on the move again after being stopped on the viaduct between Oxford Rd and Piccadilly.
Normal service was not resumed until 22:00, although problems recurred to some extent the following day.
Anthony Robinson photographed 92 033 in the 'Salop bay' platform 8 at Crewe on 19 February, newly repainted in the base livery ready to receive the branding for Serco's operation of the London - Scotland sleeping car services, the contract for which passes from Scotrail to Serco on 1 April. GB Railfreight will be providing the motive power, the 92s working the trains from London to Glasgow/Edinburgh. The portions for Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William will need diesel power to their final destinations, and we believe that GBRf will be hiring Class 47s (from the Harry Needle company) until re-engineered Class 73 locos are ready. Now rolling stock is on order to replace the Mk3 sleeping cars currently used.
The wheel-scotches - necessary when a 'dead' loco is stabled - can be seen, and also the shoe-beams which carry the collector shoes when on lines with third-rail electrification. It seems a shame they didn't repaint the bogie frames.
A journey on this train, especially the Fort William portion (which calls at Crewe) is highly recommended, especially if combined with a stay at the Moor of Rannoch Hotel.
Ellesmere makes tracks
The old market town of Ellesmere, Shropshire, had a busy railway station on the Cambrian Railways main line from Whitchurch to Welshpool via Oswestry, was also served by a branch line which made an end-on junction at Wrexham Central station. The branch closed in 1962, and the main line in 1965,
An exhibition at Ellesmere Library in March will tell the history of how Ellesmere fought hard to have its own railway line, as well as displaying some really interesting old photographs. Find out about ‘The Loop’, the ‘Ellesmere Railway Accident’, the ‘Munitions Works’ plus much more. This will be a great preview for the Railway Day on Sunday 29 March, 10am - 4pm at the Town Hall where even more history will be on show.
The organisers are busy asking local people to jot down any memories they have of the Ellesmere station and trips made on the train – going to school, going on holiday etc. These personal memories conjure up a picture of life in Ellesmere when the railway played a central part. You are invited to 'pop into the library' for a memory sheet. If anyone is happy to be recorded, there will be a CD of memories as well.
For the children, there is a Train Colouring Competition. Local artist Peter Taylor (illustrator of A Red Lion Christmas Tale) has kindly drawn two superb engines for the children to colour in. There will be two age categories and the winners will receive train ride tickets on the Cambrian Railway at Oswestry and Llynclys, kindly donated by Cambrian Heritage Railways. The winning entries will also be on display at the Town Hall event. Entries to be in by 21 March.
The Library is open Tue 10-6, Fri 10-5, Sat 9.30-4 (closed Sat lunchtime 1-2). Bus service 501 runs hourly on Mondays-Saturdays from Shrewsbury bus station. Ellesmere is also served by Arriva bus 53 from Oswestry via Gobowen.
Past Times with John Hobbs - Renaissance of the Club Train
22 March 1965 saw steam back on the "Club Trains" - the 7.40am Llandudno to Manchester, 4.30pm SX Manchester (Exchange) to Llandudno and 5.35pm SO Manchester (Exchange) to Llandudno together with short workings of the stock on shuttles between Llandudno and Llandudno Junction before and after.
It seems those who paid for First Class season tickets from various North Wales stations to Manchester were not at all impressed with the First Class facilities provided by the BRCW DMUs (later Class104) ; the luggage racks were prone to rattle and if anything the seats in the centre trailer car, in the three car set, provided the best and quietest ride. They must have prevailed on the management to reintroduce steam-hauled trains with their more comfortable coaches; this would last until the end of December 1966. By this time the number of First Class season ticket holders to Manchester was much reduced and times were changing as financial markets moved into modern working practices and managers were expected to be at their desks before 10.30am and after 4pm! Lunch from noon until 2pm as well.
Heading, and above: On the first day of the "Return to steam", 22 March 1965, LMS Class 5 4-6-0 45285 leaves Prestatyn with the morning "Club" to Manchester (Exchange) The loco has been cleaned up for the occasion; I recently discovered that a young Larry Davies - today the Community Rail Officer for the Conwy Valley line and website contributor - was responsible for this initiative.
45285 leaves Prestatyn on the 4.30pm Manchester (Exchange) to Llandudno on 29 March 1965 ...
... and runs into the sunset. The first vehicle is an ex-LMS Brake Second complete with roof boards proclaiming 'Manchester to Llandudno'. Now there were three steam trains on the coast and the short workings on the Llandudno branch plus the 'Londons' but time was running out for steam.
Heritage DMUs: the final years
Many readers will recall how a few Class 101 diesel railcars lingered on into the privatisation era in North Wales and in the Manchester area. Roger Marks has compiled a pictorial study of this era, covering all the 'Heritage' DMUs that survived to be operated by all the Train Operating Companies around Britain, including the diesel-electric units in the south of England, and the tiny number that remain today. The book, Heritage DMUs: the final years, has 96 pages in full colour with introductions and informative captions.
Most of the pictures are by Roger himself, with a few by Charlie Hulme and others. Published by Amberley Publishing at £14.99, and available from Amazon and other usual outlets.
The future of the 07:47 from Wrexham
For some weeks now, emails and other messages have been bouncing around, with copies to our inbox, regarding the fate of the 07:47 Wrexham - Birmingham train, which is used by a significant number of commuters, but seemed to be under threat of removal the timetable from May 2015 (along with the 07:00 Shrewsbury - Wrexham) in order to free up a Class 158 unit to enhance the service to Aberystwyth.
However, it now seems that plans have changed following all the pressure from users and local politicians. A letter from Edwina Hart, Minister for Economy Science & Transport, to Assembly members, dated 20 February, reads:
I am writing to update you on the Arriva Trains Wales (ATW) May 2015 timetable. Following a number of concerns raised by both Members and stakeholders about potential changes to the timetable, I asked my officials to work with ATW to ensure these were considered in arriving at the new timetable proposals. As a result I am pleased to inform you that the 07:00 Shrewsbury to Wrexham service and the 07:47 Wrexham to Birmingham International via Shrewsbury services are to be retained. This has been achieved without additional cost to the franchise.How ATW will now find the necessary rolling stock remains to be seen. Only Class 158s can work the Aberystwyth line, as they are fitted with the ERTMS cab-signalling equipment in use there. Currently-available drafts of the timetable show the 07:47 as far as Shrewsbury where it seems that it will be coupled to a Crewe - Birmingham International service in Platform 7.
Railcar round-up - with Tim Rogers
Near Hope station on the Borderlands line, 150 267 works 2F76 09:32 Wrexham Central to Bidston on 18 February.
Alongside Rhyl Marine Lake, 175 003 on 1V96 12:32 Holyhead to Bridgend on 18 February. This service was cancelled between Bridgend and Maesteg due to a points failure.
158 830 on 1D13 11:09 Birmingham International to Holyhead departing Rhyl, 18 February
Abergele with 221 118 and 221 101 Louis Bleriot as 1A48 13:58 Holyhead to London Euston, 18 February.
Ffestiniog Transformers - addendum by Martin Weeks
I enjoyed the video showing the transformer being delivered through Blaenau Ffestiniog in last week’s Notice Board. It was destined Ffestiniog pumped storage station [not Maentwrog as initial versions of out text suggested.-Ed.] the one alongside the Ffestiniog Railway's deviation. It was one of two identical generator transformers procured in 1960 by the Central Electricity Generating Board from Ferranti’s main transformer works at Hollinwood in Oldham. The works still exists,although only on a small scale. However, the transformers are not there any more. They were replaced in a grand scheme to upgrade the Power Station for a further 25 years operation, and were taken out in about 2008 and replaced by new ones, delivered by road.
The film shows the second transformer being delivered in the summer of 1962; however the first transformer had been delivered in a similar way on 19 February 1961. The power station was built in phases, which explains why over a year elapsed between the shipments. The train on that occasion is known to have been hauled by D8036 (apparently of Willesden shed) and I believe this was the first diesel locomotive up the branch (I can't confirm that). The consist was similar but not the same as in the second delivery shown in the film. There are various photos on the internet showing D8036 on the first trip – notably it proceeded up the branch bonnet-first whereas the second loco in 1962 was cab-first. I don’t know which locomotive was on the second train – I wonder if any readers can identify this second loco, as its number is too blurred in the film.
Transport Diversions Emporium
We hear that on-line book and video dealer Transport Diversions Emporium is closing down. By way of a closing-down sale, they are offering 50% off everything until 15 March. We have to agree with reader David Harrison, who writes: 'Speaking personally it has been a wonderful source of railway reading and viewing and there are bus, boat, plane, tram, military, modelling too. I am very sad to learn that it is closing.'
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