Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

11 June 2018

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Forthcoming events

June 2018

30 June Llangollen Railway Classic transport

July 2018

7-8 July North Wales N Gauge Model Railway Show, Conwy.  With 12+ layouts on show with trade support and second-hand sales. Refreshments available and full disabled access. Saturday 10:00 - 17:00, Sunday 10:00 - 16:00. Adults £4, Children £2. Ysgol Porth y Felin, Llanrwst Road, Conwy LL32 8FZ

Sunday 22 July Steam on the Coast Railway Touring Company North Wales Coast Express
Liverpool - Chester - Llandudno Junction - Holyhead and return. 45690

Tuesday 24 July Steam on the Coast Railway Touring Company Welsh Mountaineer Preston - Blaenau Ffestiniog. 45699 or 48151: Preston - Chester - Llandudno Junction - Blaenau and return

August 2018

Saturday 4 August. Steam on the Coast. Saphos Trains.  Bangor (07.00/22.15) Llandudno Jct (07.25/21.55) Colwyn Bay (07.35/21.45) Rhyl (07.50/21.30) Prestatyn (08.00/21.20) Flint (08.10/21.10) Chester (08.30/20.50) Crewe (09.30/20.00) Stafford to Stratford-on Avon. 46100, 34046 or 70000.

September 2018

Saturday 8 September Steam at Chester Railway Touring Company Norwich - Chester. 60009: Norwich -Peterborough - Nuneaton - Chester - Peterborough

29 September Llangollen Railway Diesel gala

October 2018

12-14 October Llangollen Railway Autumn Steam gala

Friday 19 October Steam on the Coast Golden Eagle Luxury Tour (Day 5 of 12) (Provisional)  Chester - Blaenau Ffestiniog 46100: Llandudno Junction - Blaenau Ffestiniog, Holyhead - Crewe

46100 Royal Scot approaching Wardleon 6 June, the second day of Locomotive Services crew training / test runs from Crewe- Telford - Crewe. Picture by Robert Meredith.

More franchise news

Following the announcement of the franchise reported last issue, more details of KeolisAmey's plans are emerging.  Many thanks to the many readers who have passed on thoughts, details and links. Politicians have rushed to assure us that North Wales will benefit greatly from the changes.  Ken Skates, AM for Clwyd South, has kindly provided in his 'newsletter' a list entitled 'What about the North?':
Investment of £4m at Shotton and £2.4m at Wrexham General to enable the acceleration of the North East Wales Metro.
Significant upgrades of Chirk and Ruabon stations as part of a £194m improvement and modernisation programme.
Increasing the frequency on the Wrexham - Bidston line to two trains per hour from Dec 2021 - with fully refurbished metro trains.
Introducing an hourly Liverpool to Llandudno/Shrewsbury service, a new Liverpool-Cardiff train stopping at Wrexham and new direct services between Manchester Airport and Bangor.
Walk-up and season fares to, from and within North Wales will be reduced by 10% to tackle disparities, and vending machines will be installed at more stations across North Wales.
Two new community rail partnerships on the North Wales Line and the Crewe-Hereford line.
Oddly, he doesn't mention that loco-hauled trains between Cardiff and North Wales will be increased from one to three workings each way, formed of some of the Mk4 coaches which are being replaced on the East Coast main line by new Hitachi stock. We haven't seen anything amid the flurry of information about the class of locomotive that will work these trains.

The idea of a community rail partnership is a good one; all attempt in recent years to created a user group for the line have foundered, perhaps the appointment of a Community Rail Office might be a catalyst for another try?

The mention of the 'North East Wales Metro' seems to take for granted that such a thing exists. Can anyone one remind us what it will include?

All over Wales, Over 95% of seats will have power supplies by 2020, with 100% roll-out by 2022, and mobile connectivity will be greatly improved.  Stations will be powered by renewable energy, at least 50% of which will be sourced in Wales - reflecting our commitment to the environment. Half-price concessionary fares will be extended to 16-18 year-olds; passengers will be refunded for delays over 15 minutes and the company will be penalised if passengers have to stand for longer than 20 minutes. 'Refunds for delays' over 15 minutes many turn out to require a great deal of administrative effort...

An interesting feature, aside from the total replacement of the fleet, is that an order has been placed for five Vivarail Class 230 diesel units, the official artist's impressions of which we reproduce here. Notice that the branding is 'Wales and Borders' - mention of the Borders is a requirement laid down by the Department of Transport.

These are former London Underground (sub-surface lines) built with diesel-electric propulsion. It's not clear whether these will be two- or three-car units, but we are told they are to take over from Class 150 units on the Wrexham - Bidston, Conwy Valley and Chester - Crewe services from 2019. Given that Wrexham - Bidston is to be half-hourly, five units seems barely enough?

The Underground three-doors-per-side layout doesn't seem ideal; we understand that the 230s that have been ordered for the Bletchley - Bedford route will have some doors panelled over.  Hopefully the seats will be a little more comfortable that the picture suggests. As for the cycle/buggy space as illustrated, it's hopeless. The ghostly fellow would be holding on to his bike to stop it rolling away, even assuming that the space had not been taken up by buggies, mega-suitcases, etc.

This delightfully colourful graph tells us how and when the existing fleet is to be totally replaced. The Class 170 units will come from Greater Anglia which is also having all new trains. The Class 769 units are 30-year-old Class 319 EMUs fitted with  diesel generators; the first complete train is yet to emerge from the Brush works at Loughborough. The 'tri-mode' concept on the right of the diagram refers to power by diesel, electric or battery. Notice that the 158s are to disappear in 2023, so some or all of the new trains will need to be equipped for ERTMS signalling.

More information about the orders given to Stadler and CAF for new trains can be found in a useful article on the Railway Gazette website.

Diesel locos in action

Evening scenes at Flint on 8 June. Above, 67 010 (once a Wrexham and Shropshire-liveried loco) propelling the 17:16 Cardiff to Holyhead express ...

... and 67 022 on the rear of the 19:34 Llandudno to Crewe (Tim Rogers). This loco still wears what might be called a 'Heritage' livery: more-or-less unchanged from when the 67s entered service, still in full EWS livery with no DB markings.

On 5 June 67 022 leads the 09:50 Manchester - Holyhead near Llanfair PG (Richard Fleckney).

The 'Northern Belle' luxury came through our area on 10 June with a dining trip from Liverpool South Parkway (Lime Street is closed for engineering work at present) to Cosford for the Air Show based at RAF Museum. The train is now operated and part-owned by West Coast Railways, having been sold on by Belmond. Traction for the day, pictured at Rossett by Tim Rogers, was a pair of one-time 'WAG Express' locos, 57 313 (above) ...

... and 57 314.

Conwy Tubular Bridge

Network Rail have issued an edict that after any steam locomotive, on Up or Down line, passes through Stephenson's tubular bridge at Conwy, the bridge must immediately be patrolled to ensue that it is safe before normal traffic resumes. The reason for this is unknown to us at present: are they worried that a steam loco will start a fire such as wrecked its larger brother the Britannia bridge in 1970? Of course that was not causes by a steam locomotive, but by teenagers playing with fire.

Whatever the reason, it will increase the cost and inconvenience of steam working.

Welsh Borders Explorer

The Welsh Borders Explorer of 10 June was a leisurely Saphos Trains circular dining excursion from Crewe (11:05)  via Chester, Wrexham, Telford, Bushbury Junction and Stafford, hauled by 46100 Royal ScotPhil Clarke photographed the train at Beeston on the way to Chester.

Hargrave (Jeff Albiston).

Passing Rossett (Tim Rogers). Mk1 BSK M35451, Mk2f TSO M5991, Mk2f RFO M1203, Mk2f FO E3426, Mk2f FO E3330, Mk1 FO E3148, Mk1 'Club Car' 99993, D1944 Craftsman. Carriage 99993 was rebuillt from a Mk1 open second in 1994, and incorporates a kitchen, pantry and two dining saloons.

Arriving at Wrexham General for a short servicing stop (Jim Ikin)...

Including some attention with the oil can (Jim Ikin).

Approaching Crewe on the return (Phil Clarke). The short (by railtour standards) train was fully-booked, as people took advantage of Saphos's cheap introductory fares of £45 standard class (only one standard class coach was provided) up to a bargain £170 (normally £250) for premier dining on the four-hour trip.

Looking back: North Wales 1981 - with Barrie Hughes

This set of photos is unusual in that it was during a working week for me. I took a week off work to attend the Liberal Party Conference in Llandudno. It was a time of great political change with the new Social Democrats who had split from Labour, and the Liberal Party proposing to merge to form the Liberal Democrats. Staying with my parents at Buckley I ventured out by train every day and on the days when the debates were less interesting I ventured further afield.

I was travelling from Shotton Low Level every day to Llandudno and on the first day, 15 September 1981, while I was descending the steps to the Shotton Low Level platforms an unidentified Class 47 passed through on an Merry-Go-Round from Point of Ayr undersea colliery, presumably to Fiddlers Ferry power station. The coal trains also served Connah’s Quay Power Station, visible in the background, up to its closure in 1984. Both the Point of Ayr colliery (closed 23 August 1996) and Connah’s Quay power station site have been redeveloped for Irish Sea gas which comes ashore at Point of Ayr. This does not need rail as a 27 km underground pipeline links Point of Ayr processing plant to the new Deeside Power Station, which is gas fired and situated about 1 km north of the Connah’s Quay site.

Two unidentified Class 25s are recessed at Llandudno Junction Yard in the days when this was a busy location. The train is probably the Holyhead - Llandudno Junction air-braked 'Speedlink' trip. The first two wagons are loaded with Aluminium ingots, and probably also the VTG ferry van behind. Another freight with sheeted loads - the Mostyn Dock to Amlwch train of imported sulphur - stands alongside. The steps and boarded crossing leading to the yard across the site of the former down loop will be familiar to many a spotter. In fact I used them myself on my first shed visit in August 1967 when the shed was full of Class 40s 'Cunarders' with impressive nameplates!

An unidentified Class 40 heads the Amlwch Chlorine tanks into the yard at Llandudno Junction. The plant had sulphur deliveries by rail until 1988 and Chlorine output by rail until 1993 after which 'safer' road delivery was used. The plant closed in 2003. See the History of Octel Bromine Works website. In the background a rake of coaches is stabled on the embankment siding. As a child of about 8-9, staying at Conway Morfa Caravan site, I was told off by my mother for ‘making things up’ when I said I saw a coach destination board proclaiming the rake was ‘North Wales Radio Land Cruise’ but felt vindicated more recently when I found out that this named train did run in 1959!

I travelled as far as Holyhead where an unidentified Class 47 was waiting to depart for London on a boat train. The long rake of MkIId air-conditioned coaches ('aircons') was typical for this period. A small section of the original station building was still extant to the right of the loco, although the large new ferry terminal dominates the area. The carriage sidings were full of MkI rakes.

On the way back 47 438 passed us at Bangor on a boat train of Mk IId aircons from London emerging from the Egyptian style tunnel portal of Bangor Tunnel.

Cambrian Corner - with Ken Robinson

A couple of photos from Porthmadog station on 10 June 2018. Above, 158 823 having just arrived as the 11:30 from Pwllheli to Machynlleth.

Normal service trains don't pass at Porthmadog very often these days - just before midday on Sundays (summer timetable) is one such an occasion, and here we see consecutively numbered 158s pass at Porthmadog - 158 822 on the 10:10 Machynlleth - Pwllheli, left, and the aforementioned 158 823 on the right.

Llangollen Railway notes - by George Jones

After its starring role as the restoration challenge in Part 1 of 'Great Rail Restorations', as screened on Channel 4 TV, the restored Gresley coach has gone on static display at Carrog whilst a safety issue is sorted out. The teak bodied brake composite dating from 1912 is now fitted out as a first-class open saloon and three third-class compartments. The TV programme received wide acclaim for the challenge the restoration represented, as well as the filming of trains and stations in the Dee Valley. Llangollen Railway will be featured again in Part 4 when all four restored coaches are brought together to form a special train for filming purposes. The picture  shows the coach in situ behind the signal box at Carrog.

Arriva have revised the times for the Llangollen - Wrexham bus route 5. As of 17 June the bus again calls in at Ruabon railway station and runs half-hourly - an improvement on every 40 mins.
Towards Llangollen it is due to call in at 10 and 40 minutes past the hours, and from Llangollen it is due to call in at Ruabon at 23 and 53 past the hour. However, with trains due at Ruabon for xx.55 to Chester and to Shrewsbury in the xx.40 - xx.58 period, connecting with the bus remains tight in the going-home phase of a day out. Buses will depart Llangollen at 05 and 35 past the hour.
On Sunday the service is every two hours and might not serve the railway station except from the stop in Bridge Street.

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