Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

29 November 2016

Holyhead run-round

With much help from Rowan Crawshaw, at the time we produced handy railfan's loco-hauled timetables. Here are some examples:

Summer 02 Mon-Fri
Summer 02 Sat
Summer 02 Sun
Summer 03 Mon-Fri
Summer 03 Sat
Summer 03 Sun

Contributions and comments are encouraged: see the Contributions Page

Forthcoming events

This list may be out of date if you are reading an archived issue. For full information visit our Calendar page.

December 2016

Friday 2 December Clwyd Railway Circle Members' Night & Christmas Celebration

Tuesday 6 December  North Wales Railway Circle Christmas Bash. A free buffet is provided this evening and members are invited to bring their own slides/digital pictures and videos to entertain

Thursday 8 December Llandudno & Conwy Valley Railway Society Christmas Social / An evening with Norman Kneale        

Wednesday 7 December RCTS Liverpool Paul Wright: The 8D Association. Paul is Editor of the Association’s Journal.

Friday 9 December  Altrincham Electric Railway Preservation Society Lecture Steam in colour on the Somerset & Dorset Railway and the Great Central main line. A colour slide presentation by Alf Storey

Wednesday 14 December Welsh Highland Railway North Wales Group Julian Birley - Double Bill - The Bala Lake Railway Extension + The Repatriation of Penrhyn Quarry Loco ‘Winifred’

Monday 19 December RCTS Chester John Hobbs:  North Wales in Black & White.John lives in Warrington and is well known for his presentations covering the final years of steam in North Wales and around the north west. He is a member of the Branch and is actively involved in railway preservation.

January 2017

Tuesday 3 January  North Wales Railway Circle Secretary’s Evening. North Wales Railway Circle Secretary, Peter Hanahoe, presents a selection of his vast catalogue of photographs he has taken on the international railway scene.

Friday 6 January Clwyd Railway Circle The Ffestiniog Railway. A short history featuring FR steam locomotives and a trip up the line using photographs from the 60's onwards. By Geoff Coward

Wednesday 11 January Welsh Highland Railway North Wales Group Dr. Dafydd Gwyn - The First 80 Steam Locomotives.

Friday 13 January Altrincham Electric Railway Preservation Society Lecture Steam in the North West of England and Scotland in 1965 (Part 2). A digital presentation in black and white by Noel Coates

Thursday 12 January Llandudno & Conwy Valley Railway Society My favourite memories of preserved steam on the Coast by Ron Watson Jones

Monday 16 January RCTS Chester AGM.  Followed by John Cashen with a slide presentation Non-members are welcome after 20.15 hours for John’s presentation which will cover his reminiscences during the 1960s.
Friday 27 January Great Western Society North West Branch. North of Preston Barrie Rushton

February 2017

Wednesday 1 February  RCTS Liverpool  Mark Youdan. North West Railway Photography, 1995-2015. Mark, a Branch member, is a Driver/Trainer for Arriva Rail North and held the same position with Northern Trains.

Friday 3 February Clwyd Railway Circle BR Steam - The Splendid Years (1959-65 in B&W) Steam around the regions in the early 60’s by John Sloane.

Tuesday 7 February     North Wales Railway Circle Birkenhead to The Coast. North Wales Railway Circle life member Ken Owen entertains us with a selection of pictures starting in Birkenhead, visiting his home town of Wrexham and travelling via his present home Redhill to Eastbourne and Margate on the South Coast.

Wednesday 8 February Welsh Highland Railway North Wales Group Gareth Haulfryn Williams - The Vale of Rheidol Railway.

Thursday 9 February Llandudno & Conwy Valley Railway Society Snowdon Mountain Railway, by Mike Robertshaw

Friday 10 February  Altrincham Electric Railway Preservation Society Lecture The Splendid Years of BR Steam 1959-1963. A digital presentation by John Sloane

Monday 20 February RCTS Chester Fred Kirk: Leicester Area Steam Days. Fred, from Leicester, spent a lot of his time bicycling around with his camera at the ready to various locations on all the main lines within reasonable reach of his home.

Friday 24 February Great Western Society North West Branch. Group AGM

March 2017

Friday 3 March  Clwyd Railway Circle Amlwch Branch Line and Annual General Meeting Chairman of the Lein Amlwch - Central Anglesey Railway Company, Walter Glyn Davies  will give a presentation on the progress of the lines revival. The talk will be followed by the Annual General Meeting.

Tuesday 7 March   North Wales Railway Circle The Abergele Accident. Tony Griffiths gives a talk on the accident that occurred on 20th August 1868 at Abergele involving the Irish Mail and a part of a goods train that was being shunted.

Wednesday 8 March  Welsh Highland Railway North Wales Group Speaker to be confirmed

Thursday 9 March  Llandudno & Conwy Valley Railway Society    ... And we run trains too! Clare Britton (Ffestiniog Railway)

Friday 10 March  Altrincham Electric Railway Preservation Society Lecture Eric Lomax, Railwayman of War and Peace. Images of steam in the UK before and after the Second World War with a few taken in India during the war; featured locos are a mixture of industrial and main line, mostly in Scotland A digital presentation of black and white images by Dr Michael Bailey

Monday 20 March  RCTS Chester    Paul Chancellor. A Colour-Rail Presentation. Paul, from Bromsgrove, is owner of Colour-Rail and will highlight the work of many fine railway photographers covering the better part of 70 years. He is also the RO Editor for the ‘Preservation and Other Railways’ section.

Friday 31 March  Great Western Society North West Branch.  Birkenhead Joint Railway.  Paul Wright.

April 2017

Tuesday 4 April    North Wales Railway Circle Bangor to Hong Kong by Rail. Adam Fetherstonhaugh gives an account of his epic journey by rail from Bangor to Hong Kong via Beijing and then on to Vietnam and Cambodia.

Wednesday 5 April RCTS Liverpool David Rapson. Railways - The Digital Effect David, who lives in Connah's Quay, has worked on the railways for many years spending a lot of his life in Control positions and now works for West Coast Railway Company. He is also a Branch member and for those who read Rail Express will be aware of his contributions.

Friday 7 April Clwyd Railway Circle Railways of North Cheshire in Early BR Days Being a Manchester lad, Russell Hatt was able to capture the busy scenes around his home area.

Friday 7 April  (note: first Friday  of the month) Altrincham Electric Railway Preservation Society Lecture The Last Years of British Trolleybuses A colour slide presentation by Brian Yates  

Wednesday 12 April Welsh Highland Railway North Wales Group Norman Kneale, Renowned railway photographer.

Thursday 13 April Llandudno & Conwy Valley Railway Society Barry Wynne's Steam Odyssey.

Monday 24 April   RCTS Chester   George Jones : Onwards to Corwen.George lives in Wrexham and for many years has been an important publicist for the Llangollen Railway and certain of its locomotives. He will cover the railway’s reinvigoration of the line to Corwen and look at its future prospects.       

Friday 28 April Great Western Society North West Branch. The L&Y in BR days.  Noel Coates.

May 2017

Tuesday 2 May   North Wales Railway Circle AGM and Annual Photographic Competition.  The Annual General Meeting of The North Wales Railway Circle will be followed by the annual photographic competition.  Members are invited to submit their work in three categories, prints, slides and video.  Video to be kept reasonably short, approx. 5 mins.  In line with Circle rules all work should have been taken in the last 12 months.

Wednesday 10 May  Welsh Highland Railway North Wales Group Group’s AGM + John Ellis Williams - The Continuing Story.

Thursday 11 May   Llandudno & Conwy Valley Railway Society   A tribute to the late David Jones, by John Myers 

Train from Holyhead at Llandudno Junction, 21 June 2003. Locomotive 47 737 Resurgent. All pictures on this page are by Charlie Hulme.

Model Railway Shows upcoming: Prestatyn, 3 December. Manchester, 3-4 December.

Looking back: The First North Western Class 47 era - by Charlie Hulme

It is a quiet time for contributions, and we are preparing this page in advance due to holidays, so this is a special historical issue.  Recently I have been cataloguing some of my older digital pictures, and was reminded of a very interesting period in the fairly-recent history of the Coast line, which coincided with my acquisition of a new generation of digital camera capable of rendering pictures at the size we use on the site today.

The story is complex, and I have glossed over some details, but please write if you find any factual errors - there are sure to be some.

The Class 37 era from 1993 to January 2001 has often been recalled here, but the period from 2002 to 2004 with its of Class 47 diesel haulage also provided much interest for enthusiasts. Virgin Trains had been using Class 47s (as well as HSTs) on some of their London trains for some time, taking over from electric haulage at Crewe, but theoretically all First North Western's Coast line workings should have featured the new Class 175 since 2001. However, the new units - which also at that time worked on the Manchester to Barrow and Windermere lines as well as North Wales - suffered from many problems, chronicled in our pages, including overheating battery chargers, problems with brake pads, and other ailments.

In the autumn of 2001 we heard rumours that drivers were being canvassed about their locomotive experience, and there were thoughts that Class 37/4 locos might return.  By the spring of 2002 things were becoming critical: for example we reported that on 12 April 2002 only ten of the 26 175s in the fleet were available, and on some days there were even less. Behind the scenes discussions with sister company First Great Western (FGW), the Strategic Rail Authority (remember them?) and the EWS freight company, were taking place and on 14 May 2002 it was officially announced that one daily diagram for an EWS Class 47/7 loco and FGW air-conditioned Mk2 Coaches would begin on 2 June.

Mondays - Saturdays
06.30 Holyhead - Birmingham New Street
10.07 Birmingham New Street - Holyhead
14.02 Holyhead - Birmingham New Street
17.34 Birmingham New Street - Holyhead
Trains used the Aston line between Wolverhampton and Birmingham in one direction to reverse the train without a run-round. On Saturdays from 20 July 2002 this was not possible due to engineering work, so these trains ran between Holyhead and Crewe only.

16.56 Holyhead - Crewe
22.15 Crewe - Holyhead
The coaches were from a batch of air-conditioned Mk2 vehicles which had been refurbished for FGW as a standby to supplement their fleet of HSTs and to cover for the unreliablity of their Class 180 units, the faster cousins of the 175.  The locos were from the 'Rail Express Systems'  parcels and mail operation which had been merged in the EWS who bought new Class 67 locos to replace them - only for the Royal Mail contract to be lost a couple of years later.

29 May 2002 at Chester. 47 757 Restitution in the sidings with FGW coaches.

Nine coaches formed empty-stock train 5Z12 Old  Oak Common - Wembley - Chester on 27 May. The train dropped off five coaches at Crewe and brought the remaining four forward to Chester. The loco left with the stock for training in the yard was 47 757 Restitution. The stock "lent" to FNW is : Mk2E First opens 3261 & 3520; Mk2D Standard Opens 6200, 6202, 6206, 6221 & Brake Standard Open 9480. Mk2E BSO 9501.

A non-public test run was planned for Thursday afternoon 30 May 2002, Chester to Holyhead and back, and another on Friday 31 May from Chester to Holyhead and then back to Crewe.

The first public train was 1D70 22:15 Crewe - Holyhead on Sunday 2 June 2002, which ran according to plan with 47 757 Restitution (an apt name, perhaps, although Restored might have been better) and coaches 9501 + 6221 + 6200 + 3520.  It was reported by a poetically minded insider that the passenger complement included '25 Yanks and about the same amount of Cranks.'

Chester, Monday 3 June 2002. 47 757 Restitution

The first full day, 'Jubilee' Bank Holiday Monday 3 June 2002, was running well enough until the afternoon when 'signalling problems' in the Crewe are brought everything to a stand, and the 14:02 Holyhead - Birmingham was terminated at Chester.

Colwyn Bay, 3 June 2002.

In general, however, the service proceeded as planned, during what became summer of bitter industrial unrest: 47 757  was followed by a variety of other EWS Class 47/7s with their exotic names. These could also to be seen on the Holyhead - Crewe legVirgin's London services, but later, some of Virgin's own Class 47s, displaced by 'Voyager' units from Virgin cross-country services, would become common on the London trains. Some these featured 'heritage' liveries such as 'large logo blue' and 'XP64 blue' to add to the variety of colours to be seen; class 47 haulage of Cross-Country trains ceased, with suitable ceremony, in August 2002.

On the coast line loco failures caused some problems: 47 770 managed to fail twice on consecutive days in June, and it has to be said that problems with these 1960s locos were to be not uncommon. By the end of June we were hearing that FNW were discussing with FGW the hire of more coaches to enable a second Coast line diagram to begin, and that two drivers at a time were undergoing '37 to 47 conversion courses' which take place four times a week by riding in the cab of the morning workings.

In late August 2002, the EWS 'Royal' 47s found themselves in service on the Coast. Thursday 29 August 2002 was notable in that two consecutive afternoon trains out of Holyhead were worked by the two Royal Train-liveried Class 47s. The 13:35 Virgin train to London was worked by 47 798 Prince William,  and was followed by 47 799 Prince Henry with the 14:02 First North Western service to Birmingham.

Disappointingly for loco-haulage enthusiasts, however, despite continuing poor availability of class 175 units, the idea of an extra loco-hauled set running on FNW took a severe blow following Railtrack's decision to refuse paths via Bescot and Aston into Birmingham New Street from the start of the winter 2002-2003 timetable. With Virgin Cross Country's Voyager 'Operation Princess' services needing almost twice as many paths and the Birmingham Cross-City line service stepping up to a 10-minute frequency, paths were at a premium around Birmingham and only direct paths from Wolverhampton were available. Running a loco round a train in Birmingham was out of the question,  so a re-think was needed.

It was decided that from the start of the winter timetable a single locomotive-hauled set would run a simple diagram from Bangor to Manchester in the morning, returning in the evening to Holyhead, on Mondays to Fridays only, for the benefit of commuters. The timings were:

06.33 Bangor - Manchester Piccadilly
17.19 Manchester Piccadilly - Holyhead (instead of  Llandudno previously served)

From Manchester the train was to run empty-stock to Crewe for servicing, returning empty in the afternoon. At least Manchester-based enthusiasts had a chance to see the train, although mostly in difficult lighting conditions. Remarkably, by then these were the only loco-hauled passenger trains to serve Manchester Piccadilly.

The first day of the new 'Irish Mancunian' was not without trouble. There were signalling problems, and 47 761 suffered engine trouble and 47 781 Isle of Iona took over for the evening run.

On Saturday 28 September 2002, the last day of the Summer timetable, the line between Stafford and Wolverhampton re-opened to traffic after engineering works, allowing the FNW loco-hauled diagram to run the full weekday route from Holyhead to Birmingham New Street and back. In anticipation of railfans looking for a last 47-hauled ride to Birmingham, it was hoped to strengthen the set to six coaches on Friday 27 and Saturday 28 September. Most unfortunately, the 'last' run to Birmingham never happened, as FNW drivers were engaged on one of several weekend strikes, which also affected Virgin trains as FNW drivers worked them along the Coast. 47 761 and its coaches spent the weekend at Holyhead before forming the 06:20 Bangor - Manchester service on 30 September 2002.

I set off from Manchester to Holyhead via Chester on 25 September 2002, planning to enjoy what might be a last ride on the 47-hauled services. Unfortunately, my chosen day happened to coincide with a Class 47 on a Serco Test train catching fire mid-morning and causing a blockage of the line between Stafford and Crewe. To their credit, Virgin turned back the 09:19 Holyhead - London at Crewe and sent it back as an improvised service to Holyhead to replace their train from London, so just to get some loco haulage I travelled on that, an hour later than planned, behind 47 818 Strathclyde to Holyhead. Needless to say, however, passengers for the Irish ferry all missed the boat.

Rumours on board this train said that the FNW 10:07 Birmingham - Holyhead was still running and was going to stop only at Bangor after Chester to make up time. Unfortunately, an all-stations Class 175 was sent out in front of it from Llandudno Junction causing all the time to be lost again. At Holyhead we were told that the 14:02 to Birmingham would be departing from Platform 3, and apologies for the late running. Eventually, it arrived (above) with 47 733 Eastern Star in charge, ran round, people boarded, and then we were told it was cancelled, and that everyone should get on the 175 instead!

The next  'twist in the plot' was not long coming: with 175 availability still poor, FNW applied for, and got, authority to reinstate the Birmingham loco-hauled diagram in addition to the Manchester one from the beginning of November 2002. Four ex-Virgin Trains coaches, still in Virgin livery, were hired from Riviera Trains: Mk 2E Brake standard 9503 and Mk 2F open standards 5976, 6067 & 6064.  The Birmingham working only lasted a few weeks, however, before fading away at the beginning of December 2002.

From our issue of 22 December 2002: 'According to an industry source, Alstom has confirmed that the class 175 sets will need to go through a further modification programme in the New Year, requiring more to be out of service than at present. Discussions have been started with traction providers with a view to operating three daily diagrams. The bidders will need to be able to provide back up locomotives to cover for failures and maintenance etc. so a pool of up to six class 47 locos will be required. If the SRA approves the move then all three rakes of coaches are likely to be spare First Great Western Mk2 sets. If the go-ahead is received, the new diagrams could start at some time during January, possibly at the timetable change date on the 11th.'

Snowy 5 February 2003, Manchester Piccadilly. 47 744 Royal Mail Cheltenham in EWS livery

It was the last day of March when the new arrangements came into force, with four locos in use every weekday:
1H44 06:33 Bangor - Manchester Piccadilly.

1G95 06:48 Holyhead - Birmingham New Street
1D67 10:21 Birmingham New Street - Holyhead
1G11 14:00 Holyhead - Birmingham New Street
1D82 17:21 Birmingham New Street - Holyhead

1G76 01:40 Holyhead - Birmingham New Street
1D57 05:22 Birmingham New Street - Holyhead
1G96 08:52 Holyhead - Birmingham New Street
1D71 12:21 Birmingham New Street - Holyhead
1K73 15:49 Holyhead - Crewe
1D81 18:18 Crewe - Chester

1D45 17:19 Manchester Piccadilly - Holyhead.

Birmingham New Street, 7 April 2003. 47 773 The Queen Mother

Birmingham trains also ran at weekends, on a different schedule, with just one return trip on Sundays. EWS had been carrying out reliability improvements on some of the 47/7 locos, and they were appearing in shiny EWS livery in place of the shabby 'Res' scheme.

The 01:40 from Holyhead and its subsequent journeys  reverted to railcar operation from 18 May 2003. The remaining Loco-hauled turns were to last beyond the transfer of the North Wales lines to Arriva Trains Wales in September 2003.

47 799 Prince Henry catches the sun at Manchester Oxford Road on 28 November 2003.

Above: 47 760 Ribblehead Viaduct and its train in the sidings at Chester on 6 February 2004, the loco having suffered a seized wheelset while working the  Bangor - Manchester service the previous morning. The loco was later taken to Crewe and withdrawn from service.

On 9 February 2004 it was reported that EWS had 'pulled out of the contract' to provide locos for these services; by then the number of serviceable EWS 47s was down to single figures, and loco failures were becoming all too common.

47 776 Respected at Manchester Oxford Road on the 17:19 to Holyhead, 25 February 2004.

The end (we thought) came at the end of March 2004. The FGW coaches had been stood down at Crewe after working the Manchester turn on 29 and 30 March.  On Tuesday 30 March 2004 Virgin-liveried 47 750 Atlas worked 1D65 10:30 Crewe - Holyhead,  1K67 12:48 Holyhead - Crewe, 1D75 15:27 Crewe - Holyhead, 1G79 18:22 Holyhead - Birmingham New Street and 1D99 22:54 Birmingham New Street to Holyhead; on the first three runs, a headboard BRUSH FAREWELL CREWE - HOLYHEAD was carried. The day was chronicled in pictures by Ian Bowland on his website.

47 750 Atlas made the last  run of all on the morning Bangor to Manchester service of Wednesday 31 March 2004, and on the way to work  I boarded at Manchester Oxford Road to take the short ride to Manchester Piccadilly.

At Manchester Piccadilly a small crowd gathered to watch the departure.

The empty train headed off to empty to Crewe for the last time ...  or so we  thought!

Locomotive working on the Coast remained, however, as the Virgin services continued, latterly in the shape of a Class 390 Pendolino electric train 'dragged' by a Class 57/3 'Thunderbird' loco - which is another story.

And yes - making more comebacks that Frank Sinatra, in September 2004 Arriva found themselves compelled to re-instate North Wales Coast loco haulage. With EWS locos no longer available, the power was provided by ex-Virgin Trains 47s which had been sold to Crewe-based company Riviera Trains, and the coaches came from the same source.  Just one locomotive worked each day until December 2004:

Mondays - Saturdays
1K57 07:41 Holyhead - Crewe
1D65 10:17 Crewe - Holyhead
1K67 12:31 Holyhead - Crewe
1D75 15:17 Crewe - Holyhead
1K78 17:35 Holyhead - Crewe
1D84 2017 Crewe - Holyhead (20:20 depart Crewe on Saturday)

1K53 10:00 Holyhead-Crewe
1D67 20:35 Crewe-Holyhead

From January 2005 the loco was switched to a Manchester-based itinerary:
1H43 07:27 Chester - Manchester Piccadilly
1D37 10:03 Manchester Piccadilly - Holyhead
1H52 13:35 Holyhead - Manchester Piccadilly
1D46 17:41 Manchester Piccadilly - Chester

The last Arriva Trains Wales North Wales Coast Class 47 passenger working, give or take the odd extra, was by 'large loco blue'-liveried celebrity 47 847 Railway World Magazine on 1D46 on 19 February 2005. I and many others were present for a 'send-off' at Manchester Piccadilly with the empty-stock to Crewe.

This was not the last ATW loco-hauled era - the Manchester diagram returned for a period in 2006, with haulage by Virgin Class 57/3 locos (watch this space...) Some years later, of course, loco haulage returned in the form of the 'Premier Express' and then the 'DfT service'  - but that's another story.

Thanks are due to all our stalwart correspondents from those days, especially the First North Western train crews who coped with temperamental locos, and the managers who helped with information and had the courage to persevere with locomotive haulage. A special mention to Shaun C., whose marvellous long-lived Class 47 list / Sulzerpower website has online detailed records from the period.

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