NORTH WALES COAST RAILWAY:NOTICE BOARD
Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd
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13 November 2017
A Bredbury-Runcorn 'Binliner' passing 156 448 on a Chester-Man Piccadilly service at Baguley, 1 November. Picture by Greg Mape.
Conwy Valley re-opens (Network Rail press release)
The Conwy Valley line reopened to passengers on Monday 13 November, after Network Rail engineers carried out extensive repairs following recent storm damage. The line closed on Friday 20 October following damage reported in the Blaenau Ffestiniog tunnel, the longest of its kind [single-track tunnel, 2 miles 333 yards] in the UK. This October saw more than average rainfall in Blaenau Ffestiniog, causing more water to enter the tunnel than usual and damaging a structural pillar inside.
Due to the extremely hard rock, natural features and natural watercourses through the tunnel walls, Network Rail tunnel and mining specialists were drafted in for the repair work. Network Rail engineers and contract partners AMCO installed scaffolding within the tunnel to hold an estimated 28 tonnes of rock whilst the damaged pillar was dismantled and rebuilt.
Essential repair work was also necessary on other parts of the line, near Glan Conwy and the [short] Bertheos and Roman Bridge Tunnels either side of Roman Bridge station.
On Wednesday 8 November (above) 56 096 and 56 113 approach Belmont Tunnel, with the road and rail bridges behind (Peter Basterfield).
A long lens captures a Virgin Class 221 crossing the rail bridge (Peter Basterfield). Telford's suspension bridge in the foreground, part of his Holyhead Road, and since 2005 a Unesco Heritage Site, was completed in 1826. It has been strengthened and refurbished several times in its history, without changing the overall appearance; the original wrought-iron suspension chains were replaced by steel ones in 1938-41 by Dorman Long. (An interesting page on its history.)
Friday 10 November saw a change in traction for the RHTT: 97 303 and 97 304 John Tiley emerge from Bangor Tunnel heading east past a Network Rail staff access point from the Maesgierchan estate. Peter Basterfield's viewpoint is close to the junction of the Bethesda branch, closed to passengers in 1951 and completely in 1963. Part of the route can now be walked and cycled.
97 304 on the rear (Peter Basterfield).
Beeches Farm (Bob Greenhalgh). The North Wales Rail Heat Treatment train operates out of the depot where the 97/3s are maintained,
Prestatyn signals - report by Dave Sallery
97 303 on the Railhead Treatment Train passes a new signal for bi-directional running near Prestatyn on 10 November, covered with the regulation 'X' until brought into use when control is transferred to a centre in Cardiff. Rhyl down distant signal is also visible in the distance.
97 304 on the rear of the train passing another new signals being installed as part of the project to centralise control between Chester and Llandudno Junction, also on 10 November. This will replace the impressive LMS semaphore distant signal in the background. Prestatyn Down Starter, seen in the distance, will also be removed.
Chester 1981 - looking back with Barrie Hughes
Staying for weekend with my parents in North Wales I ventured out to a new location on 4 July 1981: the north-west corner of Chester City walls. When the North Wales Mineral Railway opened from Wrexham to Chester on 4 November 1846, cutting through the corner of the walls close to Bonewaldesthorne's Tower near the Shropshire Union Canal basin, two bridges were built to carry the picturesque sandstone ‘walled walk’ over the railway and allow access to the corner tower. In parallel with the Shrewsbury & Chester who had taken over the NWMR before opening, work had started on the Chester and Holyhead Railway in 1845 and by 1 May 1848 trains were running from Chester to Bangor.
Above: 40 095 rounds the curve under both of the walled bridges on the Up Fast with a spotter hanging out using eye protection. This was most likely a Manchester working. Raymond Street still offers a good view of the train crossing the canal bridge in the foreground.
A Swindon-built Class 120 DMU heads towards Chester. These units were mostly used on Shrewsbury - Chester services and the Marches route to South Wales. This point was the end of the four track section in 1981 and the 'shunt limit indicators' visible allow a decent train length to shunt reverse at Chester using the triangle when the West Coast Main Line was closed between Crewe and Warrington. In 1981, trains were still using the original more northerly alignment over the Roodee Viaduct and the Dee bridges. This view is from the more westerly of the two walled bridges.
Stephenson’s original Dee Bridge collapsed under a Shrewsbury-Chester train on 24 May 1847, killing six people and was replaced. Originally only the northerly two tracks existed across the Roodee Racecourse area and the Dee bridge but growth in traffic led to quadrification of most of the North Wales Coast line between Chester and Llandudno junction in 1904. The GWR paid for the building of the southerly two tracks between Saltney Junction and Chester including the new Dee bridge.
With the reduction in both freight and passenger traffic the line was 'de-quadrified' and the GWR bridge left idle but when examined it was found to be in better condition and both tracks were slewed over onto the southern spans. These 1981 views show the layout in the short period of time that the double track used the original northern bridge.
An unidentified 47 on air-conditioned stock heads a Holyhead-London train. Upon 'quadrification' Crane Street signal box was provided at this location to split the long section to Saltney Junction, acting as an intermediate block post to increase line capacity. It has long gone. Below the line stood Crosville’s Crane Street bus depot. Further rationalisation has seen the layout reduced to three useable tracks as the Down slow appears to be Out of Use over the last few years.
An unidentified failed Class 25, assisted into Chester by a Class 40 on the rear of the train, passes Roodee Junction.
A Class 104 DMU heads into Chester bound for Stockport, if we can believe the destination blind! Stopping services on the North Wales Coast were mostly provided by DMUs but Class 25s on Mk1 rakes sometimes provided these duties, even calling at the new Shotton Low Level (opened 1972).
An unidentified Class 47 heads into Chester on an air-conditioned con rake, possibly another London train, seen this time passing under the more westerly of the walled bridges taken from the more easterly of the pair.
2732 An unidentified Class 40 hauls an Up working of Mk1 stock past Roodee Junction. Bonewaldesthorne's Tower is to the right where the two walls meet. A spur wall extends to the well preserved Water Tower that protected the harbour before the Roodee area silted up.
Turning to get the going away shot revealed a 'Down' Class 47-hauled train passing the Class 40, heading for North Wales. Both locos are crossing the Shropshire Union Canal bridge. The steep flight of locks is visible to the right as is the viewpoint on the left of the first photo in this sequence.
When the Chester Canal was first built in the 1770s, it connected with the River Dee through a tidal section—including a basin, leading to five locks going up in a staircase to just below the Chester City Walls. In 1795, when the Chester Canal joined up with the Wirral Line of the Ellesmere Canal, the bottom two of the locks were taken out and replaced by two new locks on the Dee Branch of the canal from a new basin next to Telford’s Warehouse. This explains the right angle bend in the canal as it passes under the railway. The three remaining locks seen to the right raise the canal over six metres to the main line which runs in a cutting between Chester Northgate and the City wall.
Here's an interesting point raised by a reader who has been given a replica British Railways totem (a.k.a sausage sign) for Holyhead station. The question is, did the real thing exist? a Look at the internet has so far failed to find photographic evidence, and a website about these totems says that Holyhead is a very rare one.
Photographs of the open parts of the platforms show those fluorescent light on poles with the station name on them, but were there perhaps any totems inside the overall roof area?
Deltics at Vulcan 1968
A popular source topic in our inbox last week has been the question of whether Tony Robinson would have seen Deltics in the English Electric Vulcan Works in 1968. It was certainly not a new Deltic as construction finished in 1962. Thanks to everyone who has written. A popular suggestion is that DP2. the prototype for the Class 50, but built with a spare Deltic body, was in the works following its severe damage in the 1967 Thirsk accident - it never worked again and was dismantled in 1970 - and this was what was seen. Alternatively, was it normal for Deltics to visit Vulcan for rectification work?
Ken Robinson writes: 'I visited Pensarn (Cambrian Coast line) on 12 November to see the finished work on the viaduct. Recently Network Rail spent £1.4m on replacing the timbers underneath the rails, using Iroko (similar to teak) hardwood from West Africa. The contractors were Griffiths Construction from Abergavenny. Apparently it will be a test-bed for similar work which will be carried out on Barmouth Viaduct in the future ('Griffiths Construction' are believed to be putting in a bid in for the work).The train service was suspended and a bus replacement service operated from 28 October until 5 November. The speed limit over the repaired bridge will be 55 km/h.
'The photo shows 2G21, the 13:48 Pwllheli-Birmingham International, formed of 158 828, crossing the River Artro Viaduct (Network Rail name) on 12 November.'
Colas Plasser & Theurer 08-4x4/C80-RT Tamper/Liners DR 73920 and DR 73921 prepare to leave Rhyl's Engineers sidings for Liverpool Edge Hill on 13 November (Roly High).
175 004 being shunted in the sidings at Chester on 10 November, with signs of engine fire damage in the engine area (Jim Coates).
Book review by Charlie Hulme: Cambrian Lines Steam Finale
Chris Magner has been well known as a supporter of the Cambrian Lines for many years. I bought his first book on the subject in 1982, and his latest self-published work Cambrian Lines Steam Finale 1959-1967, 1982-2017 returns to the subject in the year of the lines' 150th anniversary celebrations. In over 90 A4 comb-bound pages, Chris has collected much detail of the steam workings in those periods, based on his own notes and research, and those of a number of railway staff and enthusiasts. A thread running through the book is 'Danny's Bull' - which is explained at the beginning.
A 'labour of love' indeed, full of details about locomotive and train crew workings as well as interesting inside stories, including tales of his time as an on-train tea-trolley operator. Some photographs are included, some by regular contributors to our site, although the method of reproduction used has not been too kind to them. There are also items about the lost Ruabon - Barmouth route, and the progress of the Cambrian Heritage Railways operations in the Oswestry area.
The Cambrian Lines have been a fascination of mine for over 50 years, since I caught a glimpse of 7812 Erlestoke Manor in its last days on BR. If you share my enthusiasm, especially if steam is your 'thing', and maybe there are events that you recall but didn't record, buy this book. Chris tells us that the price of £15 (including postage) is just to cover production and postal costs, not to make a profit. Send cheques to Christopher Magner. 21 Dunval Road, Bridgnorth, Shropshire WV16 4NA.
William Misses his Train
On 5 November, The Duke of Cambridge and his family arrived at Chester station, accompanied by a Royal Protection Officer, planning to catch the 14:33 train to London; probably they had been visiting the Duke of Westminster at Eaton Hall. Unfortunately (if reports are correct) they missed the train, even though it departed several minutes late.
It seems that after some discussion, they were allowed to travel on Arriva's 14:51 empty stock working to Crewe, which ran on time. However, at Crewe things were in state of turmoil when they arrived, due to yet another 'emergency services attending an incident' situation, apparently near Milton Keynes. The next connection from Crewe to London, 1A46 from Liverpool, which should have left Crewe at 15:23, stood in the station for an hour, finally departing at 16:30, the train stood at Stafford for another 55 minutes, finally arriving at Euston at 19:22, 138 minutes late. Whether the Royals stayed the course or were rescued by car, we cannot say, but either way it must have been an ordeal for the pregnant Duchess - and of course the rest of the passengers.
The 14:33 train which they had missed was also heavily delayed. The reliability of the railway network seems to be suffering increasingly from events outside its control, including weather events, and actions by members of the public, to which there are few solutions. But what many readers might want to know is - who do you have to be to be allowed to travel on an empty stock working?
Remembrance Day at Llangollen
GWR Pannier tank 6430 awaits departure from Llangollen with the 10.40 am service to Corwen East on 11 November. As it was Armistice Day the engine displayed a poppy wreath on the smokebox. Picture by Martin Evans.
GWR Pannier tank 6430 runs around at Llangollen before departing on the 1pm service to Corwen East (Martin Evans).
The last train of the day, and the last train until the start of the 'Santa' season, departs from Corwen East (George Jones). George has supplied information about future plans: 'The decision has been taken that, additional to Santa Specials, Festive Season trains 26 December to 1 January 2018 will terminate at Carrog, including the two-day Winter Warmer event 30/31 December.
The next trains at Corwen East will be on 10 February. For 2018, the temporary platform at Dwyrain Corwen East will remain in use until October when it will be closed and dismantled to allow for an opening to Corwen Central in 2019.'
This view by Ian Henderson shows the Corwen Central development from the overspill car park with the length of platform 2 evident along the top of the embankment. To the left the former mobile classroom now in situ will provide initial station accommodation when Corwen Central opens. The tree, centre left, partly obscures the subway access at platform level. To the right, preparations are on hand to build the base for the water tower.
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