Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

16 March 2015

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This site is dedicated to all our regular contributors and supporters, and especially the rail staff of North Wales.

Forthcoming events

This list may be out of date if you are reading an archived page. For the current list visit our Calendar.

March 2015

Wednesday 18 March Talking Trakz Cllr Phillip Evans. "Railway Reflections and other musings".  Maelgwyn pub in Osborne Terrace, Llandudno Junction, 19:30. Free admission.

Wednesday 25 March: Talking Trakz Cllr Terry James. "Social History of Llandudno Junction" Maelgwyn pub in Osborne Terrace, Llandudno Junction, 19:30. Free admission.

Thursday 26 March  Merseyside Railway History Group  AGM Members Slides

Friday 27 March  Great Western Society North West Branch Liverpool's Disused Tunnels, by Paul Wright.

April 2015

Wednesday 1 April: Talking Trakz Larry Davies. "Llandudno Junction—A Railway Town"Maelgwyn pub in Osborne Terrace, Llandudno Junction, 19:30. Free admission.

Wednesday 8 April: Talking Trakz Anne Jones. "A fast moving night train experience" Maelgwyn pub in Osborne Terrace, Llandudno Junction, 19:30. Free admission.

Thursday 9 April Llandudno and Conwy Valley Railway Society Railway enthusiasm - international: Phil Thomas    

Friday 10 April Clwyd Railway Circle The View From a Signalbox Window: Adrian Bodlander

Friday 10 April  Altrincham Electric Railway Society   Alvin Barker "A Selection of British Transport Films from the Steam Era". Digital presentation.    

Saturday 11 April. Excursion. The Great Western Express from Hooton to Worcester and Oxford The railtour is jointly promoted by the Chester Model Railway Club and Ffestiniog Railway Society Dee & Mersey Group. Full details can be found at the Chester Model Railway Club website.

Saturday 11 April Excursion Compass Tours by West Coast. The Wight & Sussex Express to
Portsmouth & Chichester with optional tour of Sussex and Hampshire.  Hooton, Bache, Wrexham, Gobowen, Shrewsbury, Wellington, Telford, Wolverhampton, Rowley Regis, Stourbridge, Kidderminster and Worcester SH.

Monday 13 April  Wrexham Railway Society: Back to the ‘60s :Geoff Coward

Monday 13 April Excursion Compass Tours by West Coast The North York Moors & Heartbeat Explorer. To Whitby, From Chester, Frodsham, Warrington (BQ), Wigan, Leyland, Blackburn, Accrington, Burnley, Hebden Bridge, Sowerby Bridge and Brighouse.

Wednesday 15 April Excursion from North Wales Compass Tours by West Coast The Royal Windsor Express. With an option of a longer break in London (alighting Kensington station)
From Holyhead, Llanfairpwll, Bangor, Llandudno Junction, Colwyn Bay, Rhyl, Flint, Chester, Crewe, Stafford and Lichfield TV to Windsor.

Wednesday 15 April: Talking Trakz Cllr Vicky Macdonald. "The men who crossed the Conwy" Maelgwyn pub in Osborne Terrace, Llandudno Junction, 19:30. Free admission.

Monday 20 April RCTS Merseyside & North Wales: 21st Century Steam in China.  Geoff Coward. Geoff presents video and stills from his visit in 2002.

Friday 24 April  Great Western Society North West Branch Standard Gauge Railways of France and Germany, by Barry Rushton

Thursday 30 April    Merseyside Railway History Group  Geoff Coward  Quiz and informal evening

May 2015

Thursday 14 May    Llandudno and Conwy Valley Railway Society 6G locomen: personal reminiscences by A Guest Panel

Wednesday 20 May Excursion Compass Tours by West Coast The Cornish Explorer From Chester, Wrexham, Ruabon, Gobowen, Shrewsbury, Craven Arms, Ludlow, Leominster, Hereford & Bristol to Penzance. The train is routed via the scenic Welsh Marches line, South Wales, the Severn Tunnel, Bristol, Somerset, the Dawlish Sea Wall, Devon and rural Cornwall.

June 2015

July 2015

Friday 3 July Excursion Compass Tours by West Coast  The Conway Valley Explorer
Via the Scenic Conway line (with Ffestiniog Railway option). From Grantham, Peterborough, Stamford, Oakham, Melton Mowbray, Leicester, South Wigston, Hinckley, Nuneaton, Tamworth, Lichfield TV, Rugeley TV & Stafford to Betws-y-Coed & Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Saturday 4 July Excursion Compass Tours by West Coast  The Conway Valley Explorer From Lincoln, Newark NG, Grantham, Bottesford, Bingham, Radcliffe, Netherfield, Nottingham, Tutbury & Hatton, Uttoxeter, Blythe Bridge & Stoke to Betws-y-Coed & Blaenau Ffestiniog. (with Ffestiniog Railway option).

August 2015

September 2015

Wednesday 9 September Excursion Compass Tours by West Coast  The Conway Valley Explorer
Via the Scenic Conway line (with Ffestiniog Railway option) Sheffield to Betws-Y-Coed and Blaenau Ffestiniog. From Sheffield, Rotherham Central, Swinton, Moorthorpe, Normanton, Shipley, Keighley, Skipton, Hellifield, Carnforth & Lancaster.

12 September 2015 Excursion Compass Tours by West Coast  The Conway Valley Explorer Via the Scenic Conway line (with Ffestiniog Railway option) Scarborough to Betws-Y-Coed & Blaenau Ffestiniog.   – Saturday
From Scarborough, Seamer, Malton, York, Wakefield, Brighouse, Sowerby Bridge, Hebden Bridge, Todmorden & Rochdale.

October 2015

Saturday 10 October 2015 Excursion Compass Tours by West Coast  The Conway Valley Explorer
Via the Scenic Conway line (with Ffestiniog Railway option) Hereford to Betws-Y-Coed
Departs – From Hereford, Ledbury, Gt Malvern, Worcester FS, Droitwich, Barnt Green, Walsall & Wolverhampton.

67 001 brings the 09:50 Manchester Piccadilly - Holyhead into Flint on a rainy Friday 13 March. It is reported that DB Regio have obtained from storage further Mk3 coaches which were threatened with scrapping, and they may be used on further North Wales services. We await developments. Picture by Tim Rogers.

Northern Belle news

Saturday 14 March saw the 'Belmond Northern Belle' luxury dining train run a circular excursion from Crewe via Manchester Victoria, Chester, Shrewsbury, Birmingham, Stafford, Crewe, Warrington Bank Quay, Manchester Victoria, and back to Crewe. Bob Greenhalgh photographed the train, hauled by 57 305 Northern Princess, heading past Saltney Junction towards Wrexham. Note the new, as yet unused, second track at this point.

Chris Morrison captured the train passing 175 005 with the 11:21 Cardiff - Holyhead north of Gobowen. The up line has lower quadrant signals and the down has upper quadrants here.

57 312 Solway Princess brings up the rear,  passing Gobowen station (Chris Morrison).

The train was out again, from Chester, on Mother's Day, Sunday 15 March.  Paul Frost was a passenger, and has sent us some pictures. Above, the lavish interior of coach 3275 'Harlech', created from a Mk2e Open First class coach.

Rather pleasant ceiling decoration.

The neat route map issued to passengers.

Back at Chester, 57 312 (Paul Frost).

Snow Hill 1965 re-created

A few months ago, Geoff Poole, compiler of the 6G Llandudno Junction website, received an email from Alan Fisher, asking for contact details for John Hobbs regarding a picture which, it transpired, has actually appeared on our site (5 May 2013 issue). Alan explained that he had taken up painting in his retirement, and would like to use the picture as basis for a work. John was amenable, and we reproduce the result above. You may notice a couple of livery inaccuracies, which we know Alan is planning to correct.

Here's John's original picture, and the caption: 'The former Birmingham (Snow Hill); now reincarnated but no longer accessible for trains from the Chester to Shrewsbury line due to wilful destruction at the time of the West Coast Electrification. Here 2-6-2 tank 4178 brings in empty stock while 7827 (formerly Lydham Manor) rests after bringing in the 09:10 Barmouth to Snow Hill. This scene is from 21 August 1965.'

Lydham Manor still exists in preservation, which adds interest to the scene.  We asked if Alan was available for commissions, but he tells us that he isn't, but 'leaves that to the professionals.' To read more about Alan and more of his pictures, there is a page devoted to him on the 6G site.

Signal LJ68 - the full story

In the last update we mentioned and illustrated the 'wrong line' signal LJ68 west of Conwy station. On studying the picture (by Tim Rogers, repeated above) closely, our attention was caught by the fact that although the signal shows a permanent 'red' it has a second light fitting above suggesting it was capable of a second aspect. We asked North Wales signalling expert Alan Roberts for help. His informative reply follows.

As to LJ68 - yes, nowadays it only shows red as this is the end of the bi-directional running of the up main, and was initially put in for the short-lived Conwy shuttles which ran from Llandudno - Llandudno Junction - Conwy and back again after Conwy station was re-opened in the 1980s. With the construction of the A55 road in the late 1980s in the Conwy area, a new contractor's site opened at Conwy Morfa (near to the entrance of Penmaenbach tunnel) and sidings were laid down on the up side of the main line. Traffic for these sidings included sand, cement and steel for the bridges. To enable trains to get to the sidings the bi-directional line was extended beyond LJ68 at Conwy (involving an additional yellow aspect) as far as the Penmaenbach east tunnel portal where a fixed red signal was put in. That enabled trains from the yard at Llandudno Junction to travel over the bi-directional line as far as the sidings.

When the train arrived at the fixed red signal, the route was then set from LJ76 signal (first LJ signal after passing Penmaenmawr) to the sidings. When the train was ready to depart from the sidings, the route was set from the sidings to the fixed red signal, the route then normalised and the train proceeded over the up main to Llandudno Junction. When the sidings were dispensed with, the bi-directional was shortened back to Conwy again and the aspect on LJ68 blanked off leaving the fixed red as you see it today.

Alan offers this picture, showing 66 602 on 6K22 Penmaenmawr - Basford Hall stone train, taken on 22 June 2006.

Sidelight: This train ceased to run after Network Rail cancelled its contract with the quarry company in 2009 There was a revival of traffic when Manchester Metrolink ordered ballast from there, but the quarry connection is currently unused. There have been rumours of a possible new traffic, after it was noticed that work was being done on the sidings, but nothing has materialised so far.

Another Study to study

On 4 March 2015 the 'Welsh Route Study Draft for Consultation' was published. The full document can be read as a PDF on the Network Rail website; we've extracted some salient North Wales-related points below.

The document offers a list of possible choices (not in priority order) for funding in 'Control Period 6' which covers the years 2019-2024:

1. Provision of additional passenger capacity on Cardiff Valley Lines services during peak periods and associated platform lengthening;
2. Phased programme of further network enhancements on Cardiff Valley Lines and development of Cardiff Capital City Metro proposals for rail;
3. Line speed upgrade on Relief Lines between Severn Tunnel Junction and Cardiff;
4. Enhancement of Cardiff Central Station to create a station fit for a capital city;
5. Programme of level crossing closures in west Wales;
6.Continuation of additional peak services on Heart of Wales line;
7. Train lengthening on selected Marches Line services between Cardiff and Manchester;
8. Modernisation of the North Wales Coast Main Line between Crewe and Holyhead;
9. Improved line speeds on North Wales Coast Main Line;
10. Development of new interchange station at Shotton;
11. Further network capacity enhancements between Wrexham and Chester;
12. Improved line speeds between Wrexham and Bidston for connections to Liverpool;
13. Continuation of additional peak services on Cambrian line.

The authors offer estimates of passenger traffic growth into the distant future, based on the based on the 'Prospering in Global Stability scenario'. For example, demand between the North Wales Coast is predicted to rise by 27% by 2023, and by 2043, assuming the HS2 high-speed line is open, by 151%.

As an example of the content, the  interchange station at Shotton is discussed, along with the before and after diagrams reproduced above. Quoting the document:
The growth in demand for better connectivity between North East Wales and Merseyside provides an opportunity to think again about the purpose and functionality of Shotton ... and possible improvements ...  that [could] act as a step to accommodate future required improvements in connectivity including access to the Deeside Industrial Area that is not currently well served by rail. Interchange between the two stations is not easy as they are in different locations even though one line goes over the other. Figures 5.3 and 5.4 sets out the before and after scenarios.

Opportunities exist to improve the interchange potential at this location by creating one modern station that serves both lines albeit on two different levels and, also, through timing services so that interchanges can be optimised. More and better car parking facilities could also be provided. A transport planning study that considers all modes of travel is recommended as a next step to inform the feasibility, value for money and affordability of this potential scheme.
Once there were ideas floated for the building of one of more 'chords' to link the two lines at Shotton, but these seem to be no longer 'on the table' even for the 2040s.

This diagram suggests ways in which Chester station could be altered to cope with the vast increases in traffic expected by 2043. Note that the artist has forgotten the current project to double the Wrexham line at Saltney Junction which will hopefully be complete by 2019. Chester East Junction currently funnels all traffic, in both directions, over one of two points, labelled A and B in the upper diagram. This spartan track layout is, of course, largely due to the simplifications of the 1980s re-signalling scheme. The lines shown as option A are designed to remedy this. The new platform (option B) would be used by terminating Merseyrail trains, freeing Platform 7 for through traffic. It's quite surprising that this has not been done already.

There's much more: 109 pages more, in fact. The consultation process is open until 9 June 2015 and Network Rail would welcome views, ideas and other feedback on the strategy and choices presented in this Study.

07:47 Wrexham - Birmingham: the last word

Now that Arriva Trains Wales have officially 'saved' the morning commuter train from Wrexham to Birmingham, following protests by users and local politicians about his planned removal from May 2015, the question arises why it was to be removed and what's been done to re-instate it.  The answers are: (a) an extra Class 158 unit was needed to provide the promised hourly service between Shrewsbury and Aberystwyth and make use of the infrastructure improvements completed a few years ago; and (b) freeing up a unit by reducing the time allowed for scheduled maintenance at Machynlleth depot. It remains to be seen how this will affect the reliability of services.

Picture news

On Saturday 14 March, the 'WAG Express' train worked a Holyhead - Cardiff extra for the Rugby match at the Millennium Stadium. In charge was 67 029 Royal Diamond, seen passing the site of Mold Junction marshalling yard. The remains of the Up Goods line remain in place among the birch trees behind the train. Picture by Bob Greenhalgh.

158 828, working a Birmingham - Holyhead train, approaches Saltney Junction on 14 March, passing the current 'end of rail' of the new second track (Bob Greenalgh).

20 308 leads 20 305 with one flask from Valley, runs through Flint on 13 March (Tim Rogers). The reactor at Wylfa power station was shut down on 7 March, possibly for up to four weeks, while a technical problem with the removal of one the fuel elements is investigated.

Looking work-stained,  the pair pass Beeches Farm bridge (Bob Greenhalgh).

On 11 March, 57 008 and 57 011 headed east with three flasks, seen at Saltney Ferry (Tim Rogers).

The second Class 92 to appear in the 'Midnight Teal' colour for the Serco Caledonian Sleeper franchise which begins on 1 April, 92 018 stands in Crewe station looking very shiny on 10 March (Martin Evans). Sister loco 92 033, previously pictured here in the new blue, has recently been accumulating mileage on the Trafford Park - Felixstowe intermodal trains.

The Tunstead to Lostock Works stone train, with 60 092 in charge, rumbling through Altrincham about 3.20pm on Sunday afternoon, 15 March (Greg Mape).

185 113, working in from Cleethorpes, waits for a platform at Manchester Airport as the Emirates Airbus A380 from Dubai - wings made in North Wales - comes in to land (Greg Mape). There are now two daily visit by these aircraft to Manchester. Flights EK 17/18 arrives 11:20, and departs 13:20. Flights EK19/20  arrive 18:35, and depart 20:25.  Also of  interest on the same route is flight EK21/22 arriving at 07:00, departing at 08:45, which is worked by a Boeing 777-300. For more information, use the airborne equivalent of Realtime Trains:

Cambrian Crossings

The Welsh Government has  allocated £3 million to Network Rail towards a scheme to close eight Cambrian railway level crossings around Talerddig, between Newtown and Machynlleth. The total estimated cost of the scheme is £7.5 million and Network Rail's £4.5 million contribution is a significant allocation of the ring-fenced funding for crossing closures across England and Wales.
Powys County Council is Network Rail’s delivery agent and the majority of the works are on the highway. The project comprises two kilometres of new highways works, two road-over-rail bridges and one new river bridge.

The intention is improve safety and train performance and punctuality, make the performance of the May 2015 improved timetable more robust and more able to recover from delays. The closure of the crossings will, it is said,  provide an improvement in local safety and will also assist local farmers in moving livestock across the railway.

Steel, Steam and Stars (Part 2)

As promised, one picture per contributor of the second weekend of the 'Steel, Steam and Stars' steam gala on the Llangollen Railway, 13-15 March. Sadly, bad weather seems to have deterred some visitors, or maybe their mothers opted for different Mother's Day treats?  Above, 0-4-2T 1450 arrived at Corwen East on Friday 13 March. Picture by Rowan Crawshaw.

92214 heading the 11:40 Llangollen-Corwen working on Saturday 14 March; the two eight-coupled ex GWR locos, 4270 and 3802, were on the rear, thus making for a very powerful combination!  John Myers chose to view this train passing alongside the site of the former platform at Bonwm Halt, where several traces of its whereabouts still remain, half a century after closure.

5199 departs Llangollen with a demonstration freight train to Carrog on 14 March at a 12.40pm; this train carried passengers who paid extra for a brake van ride (Martin Evans)

3205 departing Glyndyfyrdwy with a rake of Suburban Mk1 coaches on Saturday (Lee Davies).

34092 Wells on the goods train at Berwyn, 15 March (Peter Dickinson).

1450 at Llangollen, Sunday (Ian Wright).

John Myers comments about the event: 'Sadly, we weren't blessed by the bright and sunny weather that featured during weekend one but nevertheless, most trains were full of passengers and doing well to keep to time on what was a very busy weekend for all concerned with the operational side.  Therefore, I do hope that the entire Gala will result in a successful outcome for the organisers and that the newly-opened extension into Corwen has begun to help the various local businesses to appreciate the line's restored presence, too.'

I think we can all second that thought. Our thanks go to all involved.

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