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5 May 2015
Sailing on a sea of pink Cumbrian ballast at Balderton on 3 May, GBRf loco 66 750 (which previously saw service in Germany for 'Rush Rail') with diverted 6G55 - 10:38 Tuebrook Sidings to Ironbridge Power Station loaded biomass train; see out report below. Picture by Tim Rogers.
Ffestiniog 150, by train and bike - report by Alan Crawshaw
Rowan and I spent a cold wet but enjoyable day on the Ffestiniog Railway on Saturday 2 May for their Bank Holiday weekend event to mark 150 years since the start of passenger services on the railway. The Victorian stock was brought out for the occasion and it was so cold that we could see the condensation of our breath inside the unheated stock, emphasising the spartan conditions that faced early rail travellers. We began with the 08:40 from Porthmadog, comprising the vintage set hauled by Merddin Emrys, and bailed out at Tan-y-Bwlch (above)to board the early train returning to Porthmadog with some hardy travellers in the apron coach and with Palmerston in charge.
At Minffordd we swapped over for Prince to bring us back to Tan y Bwlch, shown here after being stabled. The café provided cake, coffee and warmth before our final unheated ride returning to Porthmadog behind Merddin Emrys for a quick changeover to the modern heated set hauled by Linda and Blanche.
We were in need of some extended warmth by now, so rode the same train all the way to Blaenau (photo) and back to Porthmadog.
Here, Prince was waiting to depart ...
... and one brave passenger wasn't allowing the cold to affect his plans, seated in the "Observation Car" for what must have been a very chilly ride.
A different mode of transport for me on Monday 4 May, a 51-mile bike ride to photograph the Ffestiniog 150 event. I paused at Beddgelert for ice cream then on to Penrhyn (above) ...
... to photograph Prince with the vintage train.
Then it was a slog uphill for pictures of Earl of Merioneth ...
... and more importantly, cake from the station café at Tan-y-Bwlch where I had a pleasant chat with a Scottish cyclist on a ride from Bala.
Returning through Beddgelert, I stopped to photograph Garratt 87 on the 13:20 Welsh Highland train from Caernarfon to Porthmadog.
Mind the doors
Eddie Knorn writes: ' I read your comment about Mark 3 loco hauled stock and the inability of
people to open the doors. Around ten years ago, there was a change in Railway Group Standards that would have required operators of HSTs (amongst others) to fit internal door handles and lock the droplights on the corner doors shut. At the time I was working with GNER and the collective HST railway objected to this proposal.
'On the Midland Main Line there are short platforms at Market Harborough and part of the safety argument was that by leaning out to open the door, passengers at the rear of the train would see the 20 foot drop onto the road below (as there was no platform). Also, having a handle would give passengers something extra to fiddle with and it was demonstrated that the increase in risk due to the passengers fiddling with the lock on a door where the central locking had failed outweighed the risk reduction of passengers jumping in and out of the droplights.
'Chiltern now have power doors on some Mark 3 sets. Time will tell whether any HSTs are retained following the introduction of the new Japanese trains, and whether they get some form of upgrade.'
Due to the closure for engineering work of both the Shrewsbury - Crewe and Stafford - Wolverhampton lines, biomass trains between Liverpool Bulk Terminal and Ironbridge were routed via Wrexham on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 May. Two trains of empties went through on Saturday: John Mathers photographed train 4F61, Ironbridge Liverpool Bulk Terminal, passing Broad Oak near Rossett on 2 May.
John Mathers braved the weather to capture the second Saturday train, 4F63, passing Vauxhall Crossing, Ruabon at 18:15. The consist of these trains is an impressive 22 bogie wagons of type IIA; biomass is a considerably lighter commodity than coal or stone, however.
On the Sunday, two loaded trains went south; 66 750 passing at 12:09 and 66 701 at 14:59, with and an empty return run later on. Above, 66 750 seen from Ruthin Road bridge, Wrexham (George Jones).
66 701 at Rossett, alongside the second track now under construction, for possible completion in November 2015 (Tim Rogers).
John Cowlishaw's picture above is of the former: 66 750 at the top of Gresford Bank at Rhosrobin with 6G53 10:38 Tuebrook Sidings to Ironbridge Power Station, having run via Warrington Bank Quay. Both the loaded trains slowed to 15-20 mph on the bank and were working hard, but sadly in these days, quite quietly. Biomass wagons are recognisable by their top cover to prevent tor wood getting wet.
Passenger trains were also diverted: Above, at Balderton, 150 245 and 150 208 provide basic accommodation as the 08:30 Cardiff Central to Manchester Piccadilly, which would normally run via Crewe (Tim Rogers).
175 115 formed 1V12 09:59 Manchester Oxford Road to Milford Haven via Chester and Shrewsbury, running 28 minutes late at Balderton. This train had been planned to start from Manchester Piccadilly, but the inbound train (08:48 from Crewe via Chester) was running 33 minutes late and was turned back at Oxford Road in an attempt to claw back some time (Tim Rogers). The Piccadilly - Oxford Road section was busier that usual, as Virgin's Pendolinos to Liverpool and the North were were being diverted that way, making use of the recently-completed electrification of the Liverpool - Manchester line. The West Coast Main Line was also closed north of Penrith.
158 840 passes Balderton working the 11:31 Chester to Shrewsbury shuttle service (Tim Rogers).
The Great Britain VIII tour
The Railway Touring Company's 'Great Britain VIII' nine-day tour of Britain by rail, marketed as including many miles of steam haulage, was greatly affected by the Suspension by Network Rail of West Coast Railways' licence to operate (reported here in earlier updates). Day three should have been Cardiff to Grange-over-Sands, steam-hauled from Cardiff to Bristol then diesel. In the event, the train ran from Bristol to Carnforth under DB Schenker auspices, with 66 030 for haulage, as pictured above by George Jones Watery Road level crossing adjacent to Croes Newydd North Fork signalbox.
Balderton (Tim Rogers).
Passing Frodsham on the way to Warrington Bank Quay (Barrie Davidson).
Sadly, the fortunes of the tour went from bad to worse. On 1 May the passengers should have enjoyed a steam-hauled run from Grange-over-Sands to Edinburgh over the famous inclines of the Cumbrian fells. What they got instead was DB Schenker diesel 67 018, which was clearly in bad condition and eventually gave up the ghost on the busy West Coast Main Line north of Oxenholme. A train of empty coal wagons, hauled by Freightliner loco 66 551, eventually pushed the stricken train into the loop at Grayrigg, but not before several other trains has been delayed or cancelled. 66 101 was sent from Carlisle and took the train to Edinburgh where it arrived over two hours late.
For the next three days in the Scottish Highlands, passengers were directed to travel on service trains or by coach between their hotels, followed by two more days of diesel-only haulage to get them back to London.
'Northern Belle' stars 57 305 Northern Princess and 57 312 Solway Princess with 6K41 Valley - Crewe flasks at Aber on 30 April (Peter Basterfield).
Appraching Mostyn (Tim Rogers).
Bagillt, 30 April (John Mathers)
Work-stained 66 849 Wylam Dilly on 6J37 Carlisle - Chirk logs passes Balderton Crossing on 30 April (John Mathers).
Unlike the Holyhead - Cardiff train, it seems that the 'DfT' loco-hauled diagram will operate on Bank Holidays. Above, 67 001 heads west through Abergele on Monday 4 May with the 1D34 09:50 Manchester - Holyhead 'Irish Mancunian' , while 1V95 10:40 Holyhead - Llanelli, worked by 175 108, passes on the Up line (Greg Mape).
66 006 approaching Wrexham with the 6M86 evening steel coils to Dee Marsh from Margam
on 28 April at 17:30 (Martin Evans).
97 303 passes Chester on road-learning duty, 28 April (John Rutter).
Glyn Valley Tramway Trust
John Rutter writes to tell us of the new Glyn Valley Tramway and Industrial Heritage Trust
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