Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

11 May 2015

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Forthcoming events

This list may be out of date if you are reading an archived page.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

May 2015

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 Williams.

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

15-17 May Welsh Highland Railway Rail Ale Festival including live music.

Wednesday 20 May Excursion Compass Tours by West 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.

June 2015

Sat/Sun 21 June Llangollen Railway Railcar Gala

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  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  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.

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 Basterfield.

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 Emrys 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 has just 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.

Flask scenes

On 7 May, 37 610 T.S.(Ted) Cassady and 37 606 with solitary FNA wagon 550034 are seen inside the loading/unloading compound at 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 the public foot crossing, enjoying the occasional burst of sunshine, while 1W92 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 Basterfield.

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 document 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 William, and 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 locomotive. 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 our 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 High).

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 track recording 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). These 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 this another?

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 that day.

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 Basterfield) 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 for pictures.

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 improvement on 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 closure plan':
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.

'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.'
As ever, plans and schedules change.

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 Coaches 'DeeBee' bus came along on route DB1, the 11:57 from Blacon to Mold via Chester and Kinnerton.

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 re-fettled.

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 damage.

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 recently, 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 the atmosphere.

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 Transport Museum, almost entirely comprising trams with token representation of a bus, a locomotive and a Metro car and well worth a visit (above).

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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