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Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd
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25 December 2017
This Christmas Day issue (prepared in advance!) is a chance to thank everyone who continues to read and contribute to this page, and of course all the rail staff who make our hobby possible in these troubled times. Happy Christmas and New Year to you all. - Charlie
Driving Home for Christmas - report by Ian Bowland
There were very few people at Crewe on the afternoon of 23 December to see Stanier class
5 45212 en route to Castleton from Southall. This time of year generally yields locomotives travelling back North for Christmas: in fact you could almost hear Chris Rea singing. As usual
the engine was embellished with Christmas ephemera (heading picture). 45212, then at the
Worth Valley line, was the locomotive that was wallpapered in 1969 for a Solvite TV advertisement.
A Winter's Tale - by Charlie Hulme
This year Joanna and I chose Cardiff as the destination for our annual Christmas Market trip, an idea that had extra appeal to me because there are railways there on which I have never travelled, so I hoped to travel a couple of them. So after a journey from Manchester by Arriva class 175 (more about this journey at the bottom of the page) we headed for the Holiday Inn Express, Cardiff Bay, where we had stayed before, and would again, as it is a comfortable place in a quiet area handy for the restaurants in the Bay area. Our room overlooked the now-calm waters of the Bute East Dock.
The next day, we headed by means of the Cardiff Bay shuttle to Queen Street station for a journey to Caerphilly aboard 143 616 (above).
Suffering users of Arriva Northern Railway's 'Pacers' would no doubt be amazed by the ambiance inside these Arriva Trains Wales versions, with their 2+2 seating layout.
After lunch in the shape of a Caerphilly Cheese toastie at the 'Grazing Ground' café we headed for the castle, which claims the title of the largest castle in Wales, and a town that leans further than the one in Pisa (!) Assorted artworks, including these dragons, have been installed in the grounds The castle itself seemed to us to be lacking interpretation; one past the gatehouse where there is a video and an over-clever computer screen with some history, most of the rooms and areas a quite bare. Surprisingly, there are no 'audio-tour' devices available. No tea-room on site, perhaps understandable give its location in the town centre, although there is a coffee machine in the shop.
The castle overlooks the market square, which features a statue of a famous Caerphilly native - see the picture in the left column. The wooden replicas of siege engines seem to have seen better days.
From Caerphilly we continued up the line aboard 150 213 to the present terminus at Rhymney where winter had shown itself. The line climbs steadily; Rhymney station is about 300 metres above sea level, about the same as that of Buxton, my birthplace, which claims the title of the highest market town in England; the whole line is indeed reminiscent in some was of the Buxton branch.
The following day, a seaside trip to Barry Island (above) was on the agenda. 142 074 took us there. Interestingly, the last part of the line, now single-track, runs alongside the network of lines which is the Barry Tourist Railway, seen on the right. All was quiet there, but the following weekend, some Santa Trains were promised.
We didn't know what to expect at Barry Island, and the abandoned funfair and derelict toilet block opposite the station didn't promise much. However once down on the sea front the view improved dramatically, with many signs of investment in the promenade area. There are fine walks on to the headlands on each side of the bay, too. And it didn't rain all the time!
This is the fascinating 'Typographic Traversing Wall' and beyond the colourful beach huts and the shelter, which reminded us vaguely of something in the Cinque Terre.
150 250 was our return train, which would carry on beyond Cardiff to Merthyr Tydfil, a line to be explored on another visit.
On the last day, 15 December, we explored Cardiff, starting on the Aquabus service from Cardiff Bay, seen above stating its return journey from the Castle area. We were the only passengers on the 11:30 journey.
To return home, we had purchased advance first class tickets for the 17:16 Cardiff - Holyhead on 15 December, as far as Shrewsbury, which cost us £33 each with our Two-Together Railcard, including the meal. To our pleasant surprise, not only was the carriage decorated for Christmas, but a special Christmas Menu was on offer, with meat fish and vegetarian choices. We enjoyed some tasty butternut squash soup, a slide of nut roast with 'all the trimmings' and a well-filled cheese board, all served efficiently by the friendly staff. Service began at Newport, and there was plenty of time for the full meal before arrival at Shrewsbury. A highlight of the holiday: well done Arriva.
At Shrewsbury, I had some hope of photographing the loco (67 016), but there so many people on the platform waiting for other trains, plus a huge crowd from a train which emerged from a train from Birmingham, that a going-away shot' was all I could manage.
The train left for Holyhead, and as we waited the 45 minutes for a Manchester train we witnessed the usual chaos as a pair of 158s arrived in Platform 4 from Birmingham, to divide into Chester and Aberystwyth portions - people getting on and off on realising they were in the wrong half, and so on. The displays and announcements for this move are quite inadequate; we personally escorted a bemused passenger for Newtown on to the right train.
In platform 5 was the local train from Birmingham, now operated by West Midlands Trains in the endless roundabout of Franchise changes; note that all the former London Midland branding has been removed. To confuse matters further, the single franchise 'West Midland Trains' has decided to operate under two different brands: 'West Midlands Railway' for local West Midlands services and 'London Northwestern Railway' for long distance services.
Saphos Trains excursions announced
Mr Hosking's Saphos Trains organisation (see last issue) has now uploaded to its website some details of the twelve steam-hauled specials it has planned for 2018, all of which will start from Crewe, including North Wales Coast trains on 7 April and 21 June. Web and telephone bookings open on 3 January, and there are cheap introductory offers available. The prices for the 7 April train are as follows:
Standard Class: £95 per person. 2018 introductory price – £45The standard-class introductory price is actually less than a walk-on off-peak return from Crewe to Holyhead; the normal Premier Dining price, on the other hand, will seem beyond the pockets of many people, especially if they don't live in Crewe and have to travel there by train. The train will pick up at Crewe (c.09:30) and Chester (c.10:00) and call at Llandudno Junction, where passengers for Llandudno will need to buy an ATW ticket), Bangor and Holyhead. Arrival back at Crewe is around 18:00.
Gerald gets stuck
The 05:33 Holyhead - Cardiff premier express, powered by 67 016, ran into problems on Tuesday 19 December, becoming immobilised while approaching Wrexham, reportedly by an 'air leak'. The train was short of the platform, so it was decided to evacuate them using the emergency ladder and walk them - including the First Class passengers who hopefully had finished their breakfast - along the track-side to the station. What happened next to the passengers we are not sure.
The other loco-hauled train, which started its day as normal as the 07:11 Crewe to Chester, was held at Chester, a Class 175 being summoned to continue its diagram as 07:38 Chester - Manchester and 09:50 Manchester - Holyhead. The whole of that train, powered by 67 015, was then sent to Wrexham to rescue the stricken train, which departed empty at 11:06 as 5V91 to Cardiff, with the two locomotives coupled together in the centre of the train. There are some pictures of the cavalcade at Wrexham on the RMWeb forum.
After a 90-minute break at Hereford, the combo reached Cardiff Central at 15:34, and headed for Canton Depot. It appears that the evening train, 17:16 Cardiff - Holyhead, ran with the loco and coaches as normal, although half an hour late; the 'Manchester' set followed it as an empty stock working to Crewe to be ready for its work the next day.
A day's views by Tim Rogers, 18 December
Tim's First viewpoint on sunny 18 December was the footbridge at Ffynnongroyw, west of Mostyn, with Voyager 221 112 Ferdinand Magellan, working 1A43 12:52 Holyhead to London Euston. The gantry carried a colour-light signal - Mostyn's Up Distant, but Mostyn signalbox is now closed. New signalling, controlled from Cardiff, will need to be installed in the area to control the new loop trackwork and connection to Mostyn Dock, so maybe it will be used again.
175 006 1D37 12:36 Manchester Airport to Llandudno. The stone structure forms the shore-side stairs of the footbridge.
Driving Van Trailer 82308 leads 1H89 13:07 Holyhead to Manchester Piccadilly ...
... propelled by 67 015, showing off its giant DB logo and slogan 'Leading the next generation of rail freight'. This rather cryptic message refers to DB Cargo's participation in the Government's 'Trailblazer' apprenticeship scheme.
Tim then ventured westward down the Shore road to Lower Gronant, east of Prestatyn (milepost 203¾, where there is an overbridge. Above, 158 833 passes with 1G50 13:24 Holyhead to Birmingham International.
221 114 and 221 143 formed 1A48 13:58 Holyhead to London Euston. The Wales Coast Path runs along the area to the right of the train.
175 106 is 1H90 14:40 Llandudno to Manchester Piccadilly.
175 114 1D38 13:36 Manchester Airport to Llandudno.
68 032 and 68 017 Hornet with FNA wagons 550053 and 550054 made up 6K41 14:58 Valley to Crewe flasks - 48 minutes early, as is so often the case.
Close-up of 68 032. The areas of different colour seem to suggest suggest that the modifications for passenger use involve the can door in some way. Can anyone clarify?
Reservations - an un-seasonal whinge
We booked our tickets on-line for the trip related at the top of the page, and what an irritating experience it turned out to be. We wanted to travel from Stockport to Cardiff, and naturally wanted to reserve seats as we know those trains can be busy. Advance tickets were on offer via the website at lower prices, so naturally I chose that option, only to find that the compulsory 'reservation' was just a restriction to travel on that service only, and no seat reservation allowed. If I chose an 'anytime' ticket, at nearly double the price, I could reserve a seat in the same train.
I took to Twitter to ask for help. The answer came:
Hi, you can still reserve a seat with an advance ticket - unfortunately it cannot be done online, but you can still book the ticket and reserve a seat afterwards. You would need to contact us on 0870 900 0773, or visit your local station to make a seat reservation.So I went to my local station, where the helpful clerk tried, but the best he could do was reservation tickets with ** in the carriage and seat positions. He told me he'd had the same problem before, and he thought there might be a part of the carriage reserved for reservation holders.
I tried again, and another ATW tweeter told me that
I'm a little confused as to what has happened here as reservations can be made at a station. Our contact team can make a reservation for you and email you a copy of your reservation which will indicate a coach and seat number - 03333211202So I tried the phone, and the person who eventually answered (whose accent - not Welsh! - I found hard to understand) put me through to someone else, who checked my ticket details online and told me (also in a difficult accent) that the train was not reservable.
So we decided we would travel first to Manchester, where the Cardiff train starts, in the hope that we could 'bag' a couple of seats, which we did. I queried the situation with the conductor, who was haughtily dismissive of anything to do with the Internet, and insisted that it was not possible to make any reservations at all online! An attempt was made to charge us extra for the Manchester - Stockport journey, but after protesting we were 'let off.' Several reservation labels were noted on the train seats.
An irritating experience, and one that I have also heard of from others. Anyone who has used Virgin trains knows that Advance tickets automatically come with reservations, so why are Arriva trying to enforce the opposite? Other people have told me of similar experiences, so what's going on? Whatever it is, apparently it hasn't been explained to the staff. Do I really have to pay double to reserve a seat?
Remarkably, there are 30 possible fare options for Manchester to Cardiff listed on brfares.com.
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