Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

23 May 2016

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June 2016

Sunday 5 June Steam Dreams THE CAMBRIAN COAST EXPRESS (Day 1 of 4)  London Paddington - Pwllheli (WCRC) Steam loco 60103  Flying Scotsman: Paddington - Leamington - Shrewsbury

Monday 6 June Steam Dreams THE CAMBRIAN COAST EXPRESS (Day 2 of 4)

Tuesday 7 June Steam Dreams THE CAMBRIAN COAST EXPRESS (Day 3 of 4)

Wednesday 8 June Steam Dreams THE CAMBRIAN COAST EXPRESS (Day 4 of 4) Bangor - Paddington. Steam loco 60103  Flying Scotsman:   Chester - Wrexham - Hereford - Bristol Parkway - Paddington

Wednesday 15 June Steam Dreams THE EMERALD ISLE EXPLORER (Day 1 of 9)  London Euston-Holyhead Steam loco 60103 Flying Scotsman: Euston-Holyhead.

July 2016

Sunday 24 July Railway Touring Company THE NORTH WALES COAST EXPRESS  Liverpool-Holyhead (WCRC) Steam loco 45690 or 46100: Liverpool - Chester - Holyhead and return

Tuesday 26 July  Railway Touring Company THE WELSH MOUNTAINEER Preston - Blaenau Ffestiniog . Steam loco 45305 or 48151: Preston - Chester - Blaenau Ffestiniog and return

August 2016

Sunday 21 August  Railway Touring Company THE NORTH WALES COAST EXPRESS  Crewe - Manchester - Holyhead (WCRC) Steam loco 45690 or 46115: Manchester - Chester - Holyhead and return

September 2016

Sunday 4 September Railway Touring Company THE NORTH WALES COAST EXPRESS  Crewe - Manchester - Holyhead (WCRC) Steam loco 45690 or 46115: Manchester - Chester - Holyhead and return

57 003 and 57 310 pass Bangor with the 6K41 Valley to Crewe flasks on 20 April 2016. Picture by Rowan Crawshaw.

Cambrian events

The Cambrian lines have seen more locomotives than usual in the week covered by this update, and our contributors have braved the weather to bring us pictures. On 17 May, Inspection Saloon 'Caroline' was taken from Derby to Pwllheli. Kate Jones photographed the train approaching Barmouth Bride, led - as is the requirement - by one of Network Rail's four locomotives fitted with the ERTMS signalling now in use on the Cambrian - in this case 97 303 which was attached at Coleham west of Shrewsbury ...

... and on the rear, an old favourite of this site : 37 425 Concrete Bob / Sir Robert McAlpine which brought the train from Derby and stayed with 'Caroline' as the 97/3 class are not equipped to provide heat and light power to a train (Ian Wright). This was shown on Real Time Trains as a class 5 'empty stock' train, suggesting nobody was aboard the coach for the outward journey, although close inspection reaveals at least two.

The train returned the next morning, 18 May, apparently visiting Aberystwyth on the way back to Derby, with the 97/3 re-marshalled at the front. Ken Robinson captured the train running in to Porthmadog ...

... and pausing at Porthmadog station to cross the 06:43 Machynlleth - Pwllheli passenger train.

Aberystwyth on Friday 20 May.  57 313 stabled with the stock for the following day's Statesman Rail excursion to Carlisle (Jim Ikin).

At the other end, 97 303 (note the little Welsh Dragon under the cab window) which led the train and would pilot it to Shrewsbury the next day (Jim Ikin)...

... and train engine 57 601 which would also be working hard to get the train up the hill to Talerddig. Two West Coast Railways Class 37s were being fitted with Hitachi ERTMS signalling equipment to allow them to be used on this line, and one of them 37 668,  made test runs - see our 18 September 2015 issue, but nothing has been heard since. As far as we can tell, the other loco, 37 669, is still at Barrow Hill where the installation was being undertaken.

Statesman Rail's Kitchen Car 1659. This vehicle started life as one of a batch of Restaurant-Buffet card built by the Pressed Steel company for British Railways between 1959 and 1961. It has been with its present owner, Railfilms, since 2005.

Jim Ikin took a trip on the Vale of Rheidol line from Aberystwyth on 21 May,  unfortunately a wet day.  By the time Devil's Bridge (above) was reached it was 'absolutely lashing it down'. 2-6-2T no. 8, in Great Western livery without nameplates which were only carried after nationalisation,  is seen running round the train.

Even after the rain had eased a little, visibility wasn’t great (Jim Ikin).

Approaching Aberffrwd (Jim Ikin).

97 303 (again), having run light-engine from Coleham depot (Shrewsbury)  pilots the Network Rail 'Stoneblower' off Barnouth bridge at 17:00 on 22 May (Kate Jones).

Taking water at Bangor

Our recent items about relics at Bangor station inspired John Donohoe to send this historic photo taken by his brother, Paul Donohoe, of 40 015 taking on water whilst waiting to depart with train 1J53, 15:38 to Manchester Victoria on 4 April 1983. The water was for the train-heating boiler; clearly the connection to the former water column was retained to service this low-level device.  When built, these locos were fitted with scoops to collect water on the move from the between-the-rails water troughs which were provided for steam locos, but of course the troughs were all removed once steam had passed away.

Arriva's Airport letter

As reported last time, from the 15 May timetable many weekday services from the Llandudno line have been extended beyond Manchester Piccadilly to serve Manchester Airport. This despite several known objections from other rail organisations and no apparent authority from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) to start operating.

It transpires that a letter authorising the commencement of services does exist, dated 13 May, just three days before services began, and is now in PDF format on the ORR website for us all to read. A fascinating document it is too. All the objection are detailed, and then over-ridden by a decision to allow the trains to run until December 2017 when a major timetable change will occur with the opening of the Ordsall Chord line. Messages of support from various bodies on behalf of passengers are also listed.

The comments by First TransPennine (as it was called before 15 May) are of interest:
First TransPennine Express said that ATW's proposals were fundamentally
abstractive in nature and it stood to lose £254,000 annually from them, with total industry revenue being degraded by £25,000. It also expressed concerns about performance between Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport, disagreed with ATW's assertion that unused capacity was currently available and stressed the risk of incorporating additional paths into arguably the busiest section of an already congested network. It also questioned whether the industry should be seeking to prioritise connectivity between North Wales/Chester and Manchester Airport over and above connectivity from other settlements in the North of England.
Presumably the supposed financial loss will come from the system which shares out fares revenue among the operators on a section of line based on how many services they operate on that route, in which case the new TransPennine will also lose out by the transfer of Manchester Airport - Blackpool service to Northern.

So far there seem to have been few congestion problems. A look at Friday 20 May's data for Manchester Airport shows a handful of trains delayed by two or three minutes, and several arrivals a minute or two early.  Observing at Manchester Piccadilly on 19 May, we noted a train from Llandudno arriving and departing 13 minutes late due to unspecified delays on the Coast line. Yet the return working arrived at Manchester on-time, so there is clearly some 'slack' in the timings. On 21 May we noted that the Mayfield loop line just south of Piccadilly was used by TransPennine to turn round late-running Airport-bound trains from the North, which would not have been possible had the Arriva train been 'laying over' in there as normal before 15 May.

Thanks as always to Mike Stone for his expertise in navigating Government websites.

Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Circular - report by Dave Sallery

On May 18th we travelled the circular route from Llandudno Junction to Blaenau Ffestiniog, Porthmadog, Caernarfon and then along the north coast back to The Junction. (The picture above of Earl of Merioneth at Blaenau is from a different occasion: see below for the reason).

Llandudno Junction  dep 10.28
Blaenau Ffestiniog arr 11.30, dep 11.35
Porthmadog  arr 12.45 , dep 14.05
Caernarfon arr  16.20
Caernarfon bus station   dep 17.00  (route 5C)
Bangor bus station arr  17.32  dep 17.34    (route 5)
Llandudno junction arr  18.21

A note of caution:  get off the bus at the stop after the flyover in Llandudno Junction as route 5 doesn't call at the station, although curiously it does in the other direction.

150 240 formed the well filled 10.28 to Blaenau.  On arrival the connection is a bit tight to purchase tickets so they are best bought on the Ffestiniog train.  'Earl of Merioneth' worked the 9 coach 11.35 departure, which was very busy with at least three coachloads of Shearing's coach customers.

The 1 hour 20 minute break at Porthmadog allows plenty of time to visit the High Street for lunch, etc. The maroon Garratt 138 was on the front from Porthmadog (above) to Caernarfon.   It was a day of sunshine and scattered heavy showers which caused the loco to 'lose its footing' a couple of times.

Arrival at Caernarfon was on time.  It was then a 10 minute walk to the bus station for our bus to Bangor and a quick connection from there to arrive back in Llandudno Junction after very nearly eight hours. It's quite a long day out but one which should be on everybody's 'to do' list.

Fares: Llandudno Junction to Blaenau is £8.60 single. The 'Snowdonia Single' ticket from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Caernarfon is £30.  I cannot find out the cost of the bus journey but I think a day saver for £5.50 would be the cheapest.  The above fares are only a guide and can be considerably reduced if you have a Wales bus pass, which also gives free travel on the Conwy valley line.

Berwick to Holyhead Railtour, 25 June

Bill Miller of North East Railtours writes to let us know of their excursion on Saturday 25 June from Berwick-upon-Tweed, Alnmouth, Morpeth, Cramlington, Newcastle upon Tyne, Hexham and Haltwhistle to Chester, Llandudno Junction, Bangor and Holyhead.  The train will be top-and-tailed by West Coast Railways diesels, and formed of the the Scottish Railway Preservation Society rake of Mk1 Coaches, including buffet and meals service. Bill adds 'If anyone should be interested in loco hauled Mk 1s I could offer some seats from Chester onwards to Holyhead. Proposed times are Chester dep 11:30, Holyhead arr 13:15 dep 14:45,  Chester arr 16:30, although Network Rail may change this.'

Contact details are on the SRPS website.

Bananas on the Coast (etc)

Network Rail trains in North Wales: You may have thought that Class 31s would not be seen again on the main line, but 31 233 still soldiers on, perhaps because of the lighting equipment fitted on the cab front. Bob Greenhalgh's pictures from 17 May show it at Green Lane crossing ...

And at Penyffordd - or Pen-y-ffordd has the platform sign has it. Is that the Welsh spelling? Attempting to check this on the National Rail website reveals a surprisingly large station.

On 18 May, train 3Q01, 09:30 Derby RTC - Longsight  via Llandudno, Blaenau Ffestiniog and Bangor, with Driving trailer 9702 leading and 37 601 Class 37 Fifty pushing, seen arriving at Bangor ...

 ... at 18:06, crossing 158838 on 1J70 17:30 Holyhead-Shrewsbury ... 

... and into Belmont Tunnel ...

... before moving to the the up loop, to be held at the up loop starter for a few minutes, then disappearing into Bangor Tunnel at 18:17, after 1J70 had cleared the section. Pictures by Jim Johnson.

Thursday 19 May saw the New Measurement Train head west , forming the 10:53 Derby  - Crewe, via Holyhead.  Bob Greenhalgh photographed it passing the site of Mold Junction locomotive depot.

Power was provided by 43 014 The Railway Observer (above) ...

 ... and  43 062 John Armitt. Pictures at Abergele by Roly High.

 Bangor (Jim Johnson).

Arriva Trains Wales and the evening peak

Arriva Trains Wales (ATW) introduced from 15 May what they describe as 'big savings if you travel off-peak.'  However, along with this comes a definition of 'peak' as introduced by Northern Rail in 2014: On Monday - Friday these off-peak return fares on 'selected' services will not be available for journeys before 09:30 or between 16:00 and 18:29.

As Northern passengers have discovered, evening peak restrictions lead to all sorts of complications, especially if your journey involves a change of trains. ATW's flyer, and even their website, make no attempt to explain any of this, expecting you to just use their online booking system and see what you get.

Fortunately, a third-party site called gives access to the data in the Fares Manual which includes details of restrictions and of which company sets the fares, so we can explore the situation a little (ignoring various irrelevant entries which seem to be included.) For example, we have:

Llandudno to Chester: Unrestricted return (still classed by National Rail as Off-Peak!) £21.30
Llandudno to Chester: Off-peak Day Return with restrictions: £19.40.

The earliest train available for the £19.40 ticket is the 09:45 which arrives at 10:50. You can return at 15:55, then 18:55 onwards.  Not a vast saving, and comes with an irritation: if it's really sunny down by the river you might decide on the spur of the monent to stay in Chester longer but still be home in time for an evening meal. Can you pay the difference at Chester booking office? Who knows.

Of course, these are 'walk-up' fares. 'Advance' fares are another matter, although for this journey only Virgin offers them: you are allowed to use ATW from Llandudno to Llandudno Junction.

Many journeys, such as Llandudno to Manchester still seem to have off-peak day tickets with no restriction at all. If we consider Llandudno to Wrexham, there is an 'Anytime Day Return' at £20.70 with no restrictions, cheaper than the Chester one, so buy that, save 60p and get off at Chester!

In the case of Manchester to Chester, the cheap 'restricted' fares apply, but the number of options gets out of hand. The cheapest ticket by some way is The 'Virgin Trains Only' one - changing trains at Chester - but note that you have to use Virgin trains for both parts of the journey. Time available is too short to explore this subject further this week: any comments or experiences from readers are welcome.


The Liverpool - Drax biomass trains are an impressive sight: above, 66 742 Port of Immingham Centenary 1912-2012 crosses Stockport Viaduct at 15:06 with a rake of empties (Charlie Hulme). The empty and loaded trains normally pass here within a few minutes.

Mobberley on the following day, 19 May, and a look at the 12:20 Tuebrook sidings to Drax loaded train, powered again by 66 742.

Sporadic replacements, due to staffing difficulties, of the Manchester loco-hauled set by railcars continue to frustrate enthusiasts: on 19 May, 175 114 passes Deansgate with the 16:50 Manchester Piccadilly - Llandudno. The same afternoon, a Class 150 was noted on the 14:50 train which is booked for a Class 158.

The LNWR lives on at Heaton Norris goods (Charlie Hulme).

Having found the barriers open at London Kings Cross station on 10 May, Richard Putley walked to the far end of the platform to see which 67 was on East Coast 'Thunderbird' duty, to find was Arriva Trains Wales-liveried 67 003 It had a West Coast Railways class 33 (33 207?) for company.

Twilight of Banbury's  lower quads - report by David Parry

After hearing that the remaining semaphores at Banbury are due to be replaced this summer, I decided to make a photographic visit before their demise.    Having grown up in ex-GWR territory, lower quadrant signals were “normal” to me, so this late-in-the-day opportunity was especially compelling.     However, as the main running lines had already been re-signalled with colour light signals some time ago, the photographic opportunities were somewhat limited.  The south end of the station was particularly interesting with four starting signals still semaphore, as shown in the  picture (above) of a Cross Country Voyager arriving with the 11:45 Reading to Newcastle.   The typically-GWR Banbury South signal box is in the background. 

Remodelling work was evident throughout the station area, not least through the “orange army”, who are seen as Chiltern unit 168325 Banbury runs into Platform 1 with the 1143 London Marylebone.

On the opposite side of the station, DB loco 66 120 had been put onto the up goods line briefly to allow a Cross Country Voyager to overtake. A Western Region goods line signal controls access back to the main line.  These signals have shorter boards than main running line signals and replaced ex-GWR signals that had plain red boards with overhanging white circles from the mid-1960s.  New lineside equipment is being installed in the cabinets on a raised platform.

The frequent service between Banbury and Marylebone makes use of another of the starting signals, as seen with 165 025 departing with the 13:44 Banbury – London Marylebone.

As well as the signalling, there were other interesting moments to photograph, such as the open end of a returning automotive train to Jaguar’s Halewood plant from Southampton, which shows the influence of the curve through Banbury station.     All the main elements in the picture follow the curve – apart from the over-bridge!

Banbury is not exclusively served by lower quadrant signals as there is also a pair of upper quadrant home / distant signals on the Up side, north of the station, one of which I believe serves the Up goods line.  This is shown in the following photo of 168 216 arriving with the 13:12 Birmingham Snow Hill to London Marylebone.

Finally: I had seen plastic buckets with long reach brushes on the platform during my visit, but it wasn’t until 68 010 called with the 13:10 London Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street that I discovered their purpose.

Croagh Patrick Railtour - report by Stephen Hughes

I travelled to Ireland for the Irish Railway Preservation Society event, The Croagh Patrick Railtour (named after the holy mountain in Co. Mayo). Above, On 14 May Diesel  071 brought in the empty stock for the tour at Dublin Connolly. (It was also used on the Diesel tour to Waterford and Limerick the previous day.) To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the General Motors-built class, 071 was repainted by Irish Rail in its original livery.

This year's destination was Westport, a pretty town on Ireland's west coast. This was new territory for me, and with No. 4 returning to service after overhaul some decent running was promised after some under performance in recent years by the 2-6-0 No.461. As in the UK, slowish steam locos do not sit happily with the modern railway and it was hoped that the sturdy and powerful No 4. looking clean but work-stained, would put in a good performance - and be able to keep to the timetable. Single line working between Kildare and Portarlington did lead to some delays to service trains which impacted on ours, and so the late arrival in Westport was expected and reasonable.

One of the features of the Irish Railtour is that water stops and stops for crossing service trains are invariably at stations, which gives the opportunity for a stretch of the legs, a chat with fellow passengers, the chance for a photograph or two and walking back from the bar along the platform with a beer. (none of this can happen at Carnforth U&DGL!)

Thus stops were made at Portarlington (above, taking water) and Athlone (water) and Roscommon, Castlrea and Claremorris (crossing, pathing).

An attempt was made at Claremorris to turn No. 4 on the turntable, but despite the attention of 17 orange jackets she wouldn't balance.  Above, No. 4 reverses off the turntable. It had successfully turned a GM 071 loco the previous day, apparently.

Sunday 15 May was a trip up the branch to Ballina, which although the station has only a short platform (we weren't allowed to detrain here) it is also a major freight hub for Irish rail with trains to the ports at Dublin and Waterford. To release No. 4 the train was hauled back to Claremorris by GM 075. Operational difficulties on the Westport single line led to a delay in No. 4 returning light engine and a round trip to Ballyhaunis was cancelled. Thus more than two hours was spent in Claremorris in the very warm weather. We were due to return to Westport at 17:38, but about 10 minutes beforehand, frantic whistles sounded and we were all hurried back on to the train and No. 4 made a swift departure, we were then informed over the excellent tannoy system that if we had not left so suddenly in a pathing 'window' we could have been there for another couple of hours, which might have stretched the good humour somewhat.

No. 4 reverses the stock out of the platform at Westport to make way for a service train. 

IR diesel unit 22/204 has just arrived from Dublin Heuston and is alongside No'4 and GM 078 at Westport on 16 May.

On the following day (Monday 16 May) our train left Westport just after 09:00 with No. 4 bunker first, again in beautiful sunshine. Water was taken on at Ballyhaunis, Athlone and Portarlington  and brief stops were also made at Castlerea and Tullamore to cross service trains. There was some good running by  No. 4, a locomotive that I'm sure the IRPS is pleased to have back in service. All seemed set fair for a mid-afternoon arrival at Connolly until the events at Hazelhatch.I had tentative plans to visit one of the places in Dublin that commemorate the 1916 uprising as the evening departure was not until 19:00 (after the departure of commuter trains), but our late arrival scuppered those plans and instead a leisurely pint and meal at the Brew Dock opposite Connolly station was had.

Our train was brought into the platform a few minutes before 7pm by GM 071 with No. 85 'Merlin' looking resplendent as usual at the business end. Although we followed a 'Dart' and were held a couple of times, the water stop at Dundalk was achieved on time with some steady running in the low 60's A quick splash from the water column still extant at Lisburn after an excellent climb up Wellington bank and we arrived at Belfast Central just about on time, having also made set-down stops at Portadown and Botanic.

On the return to Dublin on 16 May No.4 waits at Tullamore to cross a Dublin - Westport train.

The unbelievably sunny and warm conditions in Ireland over the weekend of the annual tour caused the return run to come to a sudden halt at Hazelhatch, about 15 miles from Dublin Connolly after the Derby-built 2-6-4 tank No. 4 caused a series of lineside fires which led to a suspension of services between Dublin and Kildare. (No. 4 was also guilty the previous day but there were no sanctions, luckily for the tour.)

The Irish Rail Regulator refused to let the train continue but reacted swiftly to summon a railcar unit to whisk passengers back to Connolly. (It was, apparently, a Heuston  - Portlaoise local which was terminated at Hazelhatch and returned to Connolly). There were rumours that the evening return to Belfast and Whitehead behind 4-4-0 No. 85 'Merlin' might also be cancelled but happily the train was allowed to run (see picture in left column.)

As ever, thanks to the volunteers on the train from the IRPS and those people from Irish Rail and NIR who make an effort to contribute to the success of the tour. If they can only arrange such good weather next year...

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