11 May 2015
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Tuesday 12 May North Wales
Railway Circle. AGM followed by photographic competition.
Wednesday 13 May Welsh Highland
Railway North Wales Group. AGM (usually a short affair) which will
be followed by an illustrated talk on New Zealand railways by Mr.Alf
Thursday 14 May Llandudno
Valley Railway Society 6G locomen: personal reminiscences
by A Guest Panel
15-17 May Welsh Highland Railway Rail
Festival including live music.
Wednesday 20 May Excursion Compass
Coast The Cornish Explorer From Chester, Wrexham,
Ruabon, Gobowen, Shrewsbury, Craven Arms, Ludlow, Leominster, Hereford
& Bristol tp 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.
Sat/Sun 21 June Llangollen
Railway Railcar Gala
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
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
Wednesday 9 September Excursion Compass
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 Excursion Compass
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.
Saturday 10 October Excursion Compass Tours by West Coast The
Conway Valley Explorer
Via the Scenic Conway line (with Ffestiniog Railway option) Hereford to
Departs – From Hereford, Ledbury, Gt Malvern, Worcester FS, Droitwich,
Barnt Green, Walsall & Wolverhampton.
Recent tree-felling has opened up the classic view of Bangor station
from Convent Lane, above Belmont Tunnel. The train is the morning Crewe
- Valley flasks on 7 May. Notice how the stabling sidings have been
shortened to allow pedestrian access to the new car park. Picture by Peter
A Colas triple-header -report by Chris Scott
On the evening of Thursday 7 May a Chirk-bound log train failed just
short of the Kronospan siding, while being hauled by 60
076. Rescue was effected on the morning of Friday 8 May by 56
078 and 56 105 which backed the train into Kronospan in
order that it could be unloaded. The entire cavalcade left Kronospan at
14:15 on the same day, to Hereford where it was anticipated
that one 56 would be removed.
A visit to North Wales- with Ian Pilkington
Six images from another visit to North Wales, primarily for
the Ffestiniog Railway's '150 Years of Passenger Trains' event. Above, Merddin
heads the 14:10 Porthmadog-Beddgelert 1920s Vintage Train through the
Aberglaslyn Pass on Saturday, 2 May.
The 15:45 Beddgelert-Porthmadog crosses Pont Croesor behind Merddin
Emrys, Saturday 2 May. The 2260-foot peak of Cnicht - 'The Welsh
Matterhorn' - looms out of the mist.
Prince and Linda double-head the 10:30 Porthmadog
- Tan-y-Bwlch away from Minffordd on Sunday, 3 May. The train was
conveying passengers to a memorial service for Allan Garraway,
preservation pioneer and Ffestiniog Railway General Manager from 1958
to 1983, who died last year aged 88. The train is crossing the
2011-built bridge over the Porthmadog by-pass.
Former Welsh Highland Railway Hunslet-built Russell has
recently returned to service at the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway and
is seen at their Porthmadog Station on Sunday, 3 May.
Abererch, a little used request stop east of Pwllheli, surprisingly
enjoys an information screen and public address system. 158 832
passed by with the 17:45 Pwllheli-Machynlleth on Monday, 4 May.
The 14:05 Porthmadog-Caernarfon eases away from Rhyd Ddu with Garratt 87
in charge on Tuesday, 5 May.
On 7 May, 37 610 T.S.(Ted) Cassady and 37 606
with solitary FNA wagon 550034 are seen inside the loading/unloading
Valley, just prior to moving out. All pictures from Valley (taken from
public places) are by Jim Johnson.
Propelling through the now-opened gate. Red pullovers are definitely
not DRS safety-wear!
Moving along the triangle.
37 610's large nameplate.
As the train crew await permission to exit the triangle, they relax on
public foot crossing, enjoying the occasional burst of sunshine, while
09:21 Cardiff Central - Holyhead, worked by 175 109,
passes, and while double-Voyager 1A48 13:58 Holyhead - Euston clears
the section to Gaerwen.
Being a 3-car unit stopping at Valley, 175 109 had to stand foul of the
level crossing, much to the irritation of the waiting road users.
Even a low-flying fighter jet from nearby RAF Valley failed to drown
out the 37s' volcanic departure at 14:22.
Llanfairfechan is one of the places where the North Wales Coast Line
lives up to its name. Dwarfed by the scenery, 37 610 and 37
606 pass by on the sunny afternoon. Picture by Peter
Passing Mostyn (Tim Rogers).
West Coast Railways update
Following some changes to the management of the company following the
recent enforced suspension of operations, on 8 May West Coast Railways
were given the go-ahead by Network Rail (full
on NR website) for a phased re-start of their programme of
trains, but not before several trains had been
cancelled. However, the Fort William - Mallaig
'Jacobite' service has recommenced for the season on 11 May as planned.
Two of Ian Riley's 'Black 5' locos were reported on the way to Fort
two Class 37s brought the empty stock from Carnforth (although
one reportedly failed en route). 'Black 5' 45407 worked the
first day's trains.
It's becoming clear that the alleged action of the train crew in the
incident on 7 March that led to all this trouble - disabling the
steam locomotive's safety systems - was too easy to do on a steam
One does wonder if it has been done on other occasions, and gone
un-noticed by the authorities because the train did not subsequently
pass a red signal into a dangerous position. Although trains
might be running again, we certainly have not heard the last of this
situation. Hopefully, however, the West Coast Compass Tours listed in
Forthcoming Events column will now go ahead.
There is a article on the Business section of
the BBC website which gives a good summary of what happened,
complete with a picture if J.K. Rowling.
Class 67 miscellany
67 001 (above) departs from Rhyl with the 09:50 Manchester
- Holyhead on 7 May (Roly High). The ground signal seen in the
picture provides for trains which might need to shunt back into either
the Down (through) main line or the Down Passenger Loop (platform 2 or
the engineers' sidings beyond).
82306 on the rear as the train heads west with 'fighter escort.' (Roly
More wildlife in the shape of Mr Fox (Roly High).
67 001 propels the 13:01 Holyhead - Manchester past a
fragment of the former station at Bagillt on 6 May (Tim Rogers).
Also active on 6 May was 67 012 A Shropshire Lad with a
train comprising Driving Van Trailer 82145, Electrification Measurement
Vehicle 977983, and Plain Line Pattern Recognition vehicle 'PLPR1'
72631, seen passing Shotton station with loco propelling (Tim Rogers).
locos are being displaced from their passenger duties on Chiltern
services by new Class 68 diesels.
Reported by Ian Wright is that 67 014 Thomas Telford
is now missing the Wrexham & Shropshire-applied nameplate on at
least one side. 67 013 has already been de-named following a theft, is
DB Schenker provided motive power for some charters that were to have
been operated by West Coast Railways during their suspension. For
example, a Penzance to Leeds run of 'The Statesman', which Richard
Putley photographed on 19 April at Ledbury, was hauled by Royal Train
loco 67 006 Royal Sovereign.
Cambrian Coast corner
When we recently deplored the lack of excursion trains on the Cambrian
coast, we hadn't realised that Pathfinder Tours had hoped to run
a special to Pwllheli on Saturday 9 May - 'The Snowdonian' from
Nottingham - but it was cancelled. It seems that the need for
ERTMS-fitted locos is not the only obstacle to such trains: Network
Rail were unable to provide a timetable path, despite the
fact that this one had been deliberately planned to run before the 17
May timetable change when hourly services between Shrewsbury and
Aberystwyth commence. Any future charters from England will, we are
told, have to run on Sundays.
As a reminder of better times, here's a photo by Ken Robinson
of Kingfisher Railtours' charter from High Wycombe to Pwllheli crossing
Barmouth Bridge on Saturday 29 October 2005 ... not the best of weather
And then there were the summer steam trains - on 8 August 2010 44871
was photographed by Peter Basterfield at Merllyn Crossing on
the approach to Criccieth.
These trains ran between Machynlleth and Pwllheli, so presumably could
return if (a big 'if') the signalling issues were resolved.
Merllyn level crossing, seen in the picture above (by Peter
was one of the last on the line to be controlled by a member of staff,
based in the portable building and not in the original
crossing-keeper's cottage which had long been a private residence.
Since then, despite the concerns of local residents, the crossing has
been converted to remote control, aided by CCTV, from the control
centre at Machynlleth . The red levers operated the semaphore
signals protecting the crossing; the brown one next to them unlocked
the gate, and could not be unlocked unless the signals were at danger.
The brown lever to the right unlocked a 'wicket gate' for pedestrians,
which had been disused for some years. See our 8 November 2010 issue
A unique feature of the Cambrian Coast line is the flat crossing of the
Welsh Highland narrow-gauge line in Porthmadog, seen in 2010 with 44871
crossing (Peter Basterfield).
Re-double progress report - by George Jones
On Wednesday 29 April Gareth Thomas and I undertook a personal survey
of the project to record the current state of progress of the Rossett
to Saltney Junction line re-doubling project. Starting at the southern
end we looked at all the crossing points aimed at seeing a train in
section - the hourly service provides for a near half-hourly chance to
catch a train either way which limits the waits and is a big
the situation when I last attempted a whole line survey and the
two-hourly interval service applied.
The footbridge at Rossett (above) offers a good view of progress at the
south end of the section: the contractors' site and a collection of
road-rail vehicles at the site of the former Rossett station. The new
track is in situ but not operational yet.
Train 1G32 09:23 Holyhead to Birmingham International (11:30 from
Chester) passes Rossett formed of 158 835...
... seemingly working 'wrong line' with the second track in situ.
Broad Oak crossing, with a Class 158 passing in the Down direction with
1W92, the 09:21 Cardiff - Holyhead (12:02 from Wrexham).
A second picture of Broad Oak shows the former crossing cottage. This
and a house on the west side illustrate why an overbridge here is now
ruled out as an option and the crossing is being retained. At the
moment all are automatic half barrier crossings.
Extract from the Wrexham
Leader of 11 July 2014 'Burton residents fume over crossing
A spokesman for Network Rail said: 'At Broad Oak
level crossing we are faced with a number of challenges. As the railway
will be operating at a higher speed, for safety reasons we cannot
retain the crossing beyond our main commissioning date of spring 2015.
Network Rail is keen to eliminate level crossing risk entirely and, as
such, our preference is to remove Broad Oak crossing. This could
involve closing the road at each side of the railway line and
permanently diverting traffic to the nearest crossing.
As ever, plans and schedules change.
'However, we are also investigating the option of constructing a road
bridge over the railway. Should the option of a road bridge be taken
forward, the project will require a temporary closure of the road for
one year, likely to begin in August this year.'
Pulford crossing, with 175 011 approaching in the Up
direction, working 1V95 10:40 Holyhead to Llanelli (12:19 from
Chester). The double track appears to be complete in this area.
So to Balderton crossing where no trains were observed, but the GHA
came along on route DB1, the 11:57 from Blacon to Mold via Chester
The view towards Balderton tunnel with new track on the Up side in
place. Train running is on the down side here, with the old track to be
The Down side view towards the A55 overbridge. The state of the
old track is noticeable here when on the train: improvement is another
phase of the project once the new track is opened for traffic.
On to Green Lane crossing ...
... where the improved pedestrian access has opened up the setting of
the crossing in this urban environment.
New sleepers in position, awaiting rails which are being installed from
the Saltney direction.
Modern practice is
for sleepers to be delivered from the factory with the rail clips -
Pandrol 'Fastclips' - already attached. Once the rails are in place,
the clips are simply pushed into their final positions by the passage
of a small machine. Note the arrangements to protect a cable from
The footbridge near Saltney, with the view towards Saltney Junction and
new track on the right.
Here we waited for 1D13, 11:09 Birmingham International to Holyhead,
due to pass Saltney Junction at 13:16. Traffic crossing Green Lane can
be seen in the background.
On the West Highland - with Dave Sallery
Track recording 'Sprinter' 950 001 was seen in North Wales
but before that it was working on the West Highland lines. Above, the
unit stabled at Oban...
... where 156 450, wearing the now-obsolete First Scotrail
colours, was also present, the class being the usual allocation
for this line. At Crianlarich, a sister unit from Fort William would be
attached for the run to Glasgow.
The next day, and the yellow unit appeared at Fort William.
Waiting at Fort William on 29 April, the Caledonian Sleeper to London,
now operated by Serco as separate franchise from Scotrail. 67 004 has
been given a coat of 'midnight teal' and named Cairn Gorm.
A curious link with the North Wales lines is that Peter Strachan,
appointed as managing director, has twice in his career been in overall
charge of our area, initially as the first managing director of North
Western Trains at the time of privatisation, and some years later as
managing director of Arriva Trains Wales - in both cases for just a
short time. More recently he was at the Department for Transport at the
time of the West Coast Main Line re-franchising fiasco.
Caledonian at Euston - pictures by Richard Putley
The Fort William sleeper combines with the Inverness and Aberdeen
portions for the journey to London Euston behind an electric
locomotive, now provided by GB Railfreight. On 29 April, 92 033
has brought the empty stock into Euston station (Richard Putley).
Yet to receive the new livery is 92 044 Couperin, also
seen at Euston on 29 April. Until this new role came along, these locos
were more commonly seen working the Manchester Trafford Park -
Felixstowe intermodal freights.
North Wales to Vienna - with Alan Crawshaw
My late mother-in-law came from Vienna, a city I'd never visited, so a
family trip was long overdue. Our daughter lives in Spain and flew over
to join Christine, Rowan and I to see relatives and tour the city. We
opted to travel there by rail as more environmentally sound and
allowing us to call in on other cities en route and for a view out of
the window. We flew back to Gatwick for a quicker return. The train
fare was only about Ł35 each more expensive than the flight, you have
to factor in the increased accommodation cost but it allows unlimited
breaks of journey.
We caught a Llanberis to Bangor service 85 bus on 29 March, its last
day of Sunday operation by Arriva, as Express Motors are now running it
as a commercial service, i.e. without council subsidy. This connected
well with the 12:17 Virgin departure to London which was already very
busy with passengers from the ferry boarding at Holyhead so it was
standing room only before we'd progressed far along the coast. I sat
next to a man with a large rucksack squeezed on his lap at a panel
seat, boxed in for the usual squalid Virgin experience. A second set
should have joined ours at Chester but this had failed, so the train
manager recommended that those standing should alight at Crewe and
await the next southbound train - no use for anyone with an advance
purchase ticket of course.
After two nights in London seeing old friends and visiting the
excellent Inventing Impressionism exhibition at the National Gallery,
it was time to move on to Paris. Our last Eurostar ride had been from
Waterloo so we were interested to try the St Pancras experience. It's
more like flying now, having to wait in a terminal hall and having our
luggage and bodies scanned. The booking computer had allocated us panel
seats so the view was no better than from a plane, I soon tired of
craning for a glimpse out of the window in front and settled down for a
read. We spent another two nights in the French capital seeing
Christine's aunt and looking at the Magnum Paris exhibition which
featured photographs taken in the city between the photographic
agency's inception and the present.
With an early train to catch on Thursday, we stayed overnight close to
Gare du Lyon station (above) ...
... which allowed us a visit to the "Train Bleu"
station restaurant There are some more mundane examples, including a
Costa, but it's worth paying a bit more for a drink here to experience
We were up early for the 07:21 to Zurich but at departure time it was
announced that the train would be delayed because of a "personnel
issue" so I was glad we had the cushion of an hour for our connection
in Switzerland. The TGV Lyria booking computer had been kind to us,
allocating table seats and we were away twenty minutes late, 28 late
into Zurich. We saw little of railway interest until we reached
Switzerland when we enjoyed brief sightings of stabled elderly
locomotives and also a diesel railcar on a narrow gauge line.
It was raining heavily at Zurich where Christine bought lunch
provisions while Rowan and I photographed Re 420 class locomotive no 11181
and passing trams from the shelter of the station.
The ÖBB Railjet for Salzburg arrived punctually and I bought a can of
beer which was cheaper than the same volume of Zurich station water;
Switzerland really is expensive. The train took us up to 4000 feet
amidst a bleakly beautiful landscape of snow and mist. We alighted at
Salzburg in sleet, thunder and lightning but the following day was
sunny albeit cold for an enjoyable tour of the city sights.
We could have caught a double-deck train to Vienna by open access
operator Westbahn (photo) but had opted for an ÖBB InterCity service,
which alternates with Railjets on this route. Our train was hauled by a
1116 class locomotive but the stock was interesting, a mix of saloon
and compartment with an old fashioned wobbly section between coaches as
experienced long ago in Britain. It was a very comfortable ride and the
railway interest along the route compensated for the less captivating
scenery. I must have seen more locomotives on this journey than my
combined British sightings since 2000.
Above, our train after arriving at Wien Westbahnhof.
The first couple of trams we saw in Vienna were of the modern type
similar to those seen in Britain so we were pleased when we spotted an
earlier design, this one (photo) is from a series built between 1966
and 1976 and I think is more in keeping with the character of the city.
For older trams we visited the Remise
Museum, almost entirely comprising trams with token
representation of a bus, a locomotive and a Metro car and well worth a
Vienna has a new central station, Hauptbahnhof
opened in October last year to have a look. A day trip to Bratislava
had been an option for our week long stay in the city but there was
more than enough to see ...
... so we settled for a photo of a 2016 class diesel at the head
of the 16:21 to the Slovakian capital.
The Metro system is also of interest and the design of some of the
stations led me to appreciate the work of their architect, Otto Wagner,
and to seek out some of his other buildings in the city. Another week
in Vienna is called for to see some of what we missed and to see
Christine's relatives again.
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