Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

17 September 2018

Contributions and comments are encouraged: see the Contributions Page

Forthcoming events

September 2018

22 September Steam on the Coast Pathfinder Tours Ynys Mon Express from Bristol. 60103 Flying Scotsman Crewe - Holyhead - Crewe

22-23 September East Lancashire Railway Diesel gala

Saturday 29 September Llangollen Railway Diesel gala

Saturday 29 September  Steam on the Coast  UK Railtours Leicester to Holyhead with 60163 Tornado

October 2018

Wednesday 3 October RCTS Liverpool "Liverpool Exchange Station" Paul Wright

Friday 5 October Clwyd Railway Circle “Snowdon Mountain Railway”A presentation given by Mike Robertshaw  Msc IEng MIED, Senior Engineering Manager of the railway. Mike Robertshaw

Tuesday 2 October North Wales Railway Circle   John Cashen with North West and North Wales
Reminisences of the 1960s.

Friday 12 October  Altrincham Electric Railway Society Steam archive around Chester General from 1950 onwards. A digital presentation by Jon Penn.

12-14 October Llangollen Railway Autumn Steam gala

Monday 15 October RCTS Chester "Rails to Bala" Dave Southern
Friday 19 October Steam on the Coast Golden Eagle Luxury Tour (Day 5 of 12) (Provisional)  Chester - Blaenau Ffestiniog 46100: Llandudno Juncion - Blaenau Ffestiniog, Holyhead - Crewe

November 2018

Friday 2 November Clwyd Railway Circle “The Development of Railways in the UK”A look at rail development from Trevithick through to the 23,000 miles of railway in the UK by 1921.  Mike Blackburn

Tuesday 6 November North Wales Railway Circle Illustrious local photographer Barry Wynne assisted by Steve Morris.

Friday 9 November  Altrincham Electric Railway Society. Steam through Skelton Junction and Timperley Junction 1955-1968. A digital presentation by Tony Martin.

Monday 19 November RCTS Chester "Through Kirton Tunnel" Stephen Gay

December 2018

Tuesday 4 December North Wales Railway Circle Christmas Social & Members' Evening.

Wednesday 5 December RCTS Liverpool "BR in the North West" Tom Heavyside

Friday 7 December Clwyd Railway Circle “Members Night & Christmas Celebrations”Members are invited to give a 15 minute presentation of their choice (any format). FREE tea/coffee & festive treats during the interval. Contact David Jones 01244 537440 to book a slot.

Friday 14 December  Altrincham Electric Railway Society. People & Places 3. images of railway staff, enthusiasts, the general public and the steam railway. A digital presentation by Paul Shackcloth.

Monday 17 December RCTS Chester "The Fate of The Irish Mail" Tony Griffiths (A film which relates the story of the Abergele disaster in 1868)

January 2019

Friday 4 January Clwyd Railway Circle “West Country Memories” An illustrated talk which includes all the branch lines of Devon and Cornwall. Dave Southern

Tuesday 8 January North Wales Railway Circle (Speaker to be announced) The Bala Lake Railway

Friday 11 January Altrincham Electric Railway Society. Journeys through Wales during the 1960s including narrow gauge railways A colour slide presentation by Bill Chapman.

Monday 21 January RCTS Chester AGM, followed by "A Photographic Tribute to Edgar Richards"(  Non-members are invited to attend from 20.00 hours)

February 2019

Friday 1 February Clwyd Railway Circle “The Glorious Steam Railways of India” The images were taken when it was a fully steam worked system, with a variety of steam across four different gauges. John Sloane

Tuesday 5 February North Wales Railway Circle [To be announced]

Friday 8 February  Altrincham Electric Railway Society Steam and Diesel in the Northern Fells 2010-2016. A digital presentation by Ian Pilkington.

Wednesday 6 February RCTS Liverpool "North West & North Wales Reminiscences of the 1960s" John Cashen

Monday 18 February RCTS Chester "A Taste of Japan" Gordon Davies

March 2019

Tuesday 5 March North Wales Railway Circle Humph Davies with mostly narrow-gauge archive material.

Friday 1 March Clwyd Railway Circle  “Annual General Meeting” followed by “Chairman’s Choice” A night of self indulgence from the retiring chairman, David Jones

Friday 8 March Altrincham Electric Railway Society. The Glorious Steam Railways of India. Steam across India from 1976 to the early 1980s. A digital presentation by John Sloane.

Monday 18 March RCTS Chester "55 Years of Railway Photography, Part 2" Les Nixon

April 2019

Tuesday 2 April North Wales Railway Circle Gareth Haulfryn Williams, archivist and author, on 'Rails to/from Bethesda.'

Wednesday 3 April RCTS Liverpool "Manchester to Liverpool by CLC" Ken Grainger

Friday 5 April Clwyd Railway Circle  "Scotland in the 1960s" The talk covers the whole of Scotland - going up the west side to Wick and Thurso and returning down the east side from/to Carlisle.
John Cashen

Friday 12 April  Altrincham Electric Railway Society Great Western and Southern Steam in the West Country. A colour slide presentation by Alf Storey.

Monday 15 April RCTS Chester "Steam on the North Wales Coast" (Video Presentation) Ron Watson Jones

May 2019

Tuesday 7 May North Wales Railway Circle AGM and Members' Photo. Competition.

67 013 brings the stock for the 16:50 to Llandudno into Manchester Piccadilly as 156 420 departs for Buxton, 13 September (Charlie Hulme).


Sunday 16 September saw both the normal routes between Northern England and North Wales blocked by engineering work, resulting in diversions and bus replacements. Above, a pair of Voyagers (221 106 is the rear unit) forming 1D83, the 09:51 Crewe - Holyhead, negotiate the lush vegetation beside the loop at the site of Middlewich station. Picture by Mark Watson. Arriva Trains Wales ran a bus service between Chester and Crewe.

Manchester trains ran via Altrincham: above, 175 110 at Northenden Junction working the 08:41 Chester - Manchester Piccadilly (Greg Mape).

Seen descending the curved link from Skelton Junction to Deansgate Junction, 175 110 returns with the 09:59 Manchester - Chester. Buses served all the normal stations (except Manchester Oxford Road) on the normal route via Newton-le-Willows (Greg Mape).

Near miss at Bagillt

A recent press release from the Rail Accident Investigation Board concerns an event on 17 August when the 09:50 Manchester - Holyhead loco-hauled train passed over the level crossing at Bagillt too closely for comfort after a heavy goods vehicle had crossed. The lorry driver, who was in possession of a key for the user-worked gates, had telephoned the signaller at the 'Rhyl Workstation' in Cardiff and been given permission to cross. The crossing is not protected by signals.

The crossing is the access to a scrapyard some way to the west, on the site of the former Bettisfield Colliery, which does have access by an underbridge, but it is too low for large vehicles which have to detour by this crossing. There is a footbridge for pedestrians.

Being at the site of the former station, there is a wide spacing between tracks because of the one-time island platform. The gates are 25 metres apart. The rules for these crossings require the driver to unlock and open both gates, then take the vehicle across, then return to close and lock both gates, then walk back again to continue the journey. The investigators will need to consider how much time before the expected arrival of a train in either direction the signaller needs to allow before giving permission, how this is managed, and whether the system was safer when the local Holywell Junction signaller was in charge of the crossing.

One can easily envisage scenarios in which, for example, the driver has problems starting the lorry and doesn't start promptly. Apparently there have been other near-misses in the past; it will be interesting to hear what conclusion is reached, as a financially-viable ideal solution is not obvious.

The Salopian Express - report by Robert Meredith

On 13 September West Coast Railways excursion  'The Salopian Express 2' from Dumfries to Shrewsbury was steam-hauled with LMS Jubilee 45699 Galatea from Carnforth to Shrewsbury and return. The excursion is seen (above) accelerating away from a signal check through Nantwich Station en route to Shrewsbury, with diesel 47 746 Chris Fudge 29-7-70 - 22-6-10 on the rear for operational duties.

At Crewe station on the return leg the locomotive had its tender replenished with water along with a change of driver; 45699 departs for Carnforth with West Coast driver Steve Chipperfield now at the controls.

Welsh Highland Superpower Weekend

On the Welsh Highland Railway near Dinas on 15 September, Ffestiniog double-Fairlie Merddyn Emrys (Alan Crawshaw).

At Dinas, 'Quarry Hunslet' Lilla was giving short rides (Alan Crawshaw).

Seen a Waunfawr, visiting new-build locomotive Lyn, a replica of a US Baldwin loco that was used on the Lynton and Barnstaple railway in Devon. Lyn normally runs on that line, which is a short re-creation of the original line which closed in the 1930s. Not to be confused with Lyd, a replica Manning Wardle loco which has also been seen on in North Wales (Alan Crawshaw).

At the other end of the shuttle train, unique single Fairlie Taliesin (George Jones). This is also a replica, built in 1999 in the Ffestiniog workshops, the original having been withdrawn in 1924.

Among the exhibits at Dinas was this peculiar machine, a 7¼ inch gauge loco described in the event programme as a two-truck Shay with three cylinders, the loco has been designed and built by Peter Merris.

The Shay concept, developed for American logging lines, has the cylinders mounted on one side driving all axles through a system of universal joints and bevel gears. The boiler is offset to maintain balance.

At Caernarfon, Garratt loco 87 takes water ...

...and gets some of the ash raked out from below the fire (Jim Ikin).

The interior of the new station building is currently in use as an art gallery ...

... while the frontage looks substantially complete (Jim Ikin).

Custodians of the Railway - Arriva press release

In 1964, Winston Churchill was still alive, Goldfinger was in all the cinemas, and the Beatles were dominating the charts. It was the year that three men would join the railway for a career which has spanned 162 years between them. Rodney Fitzgibbon,  Ron Jones, and Gerald Plant all joined British Rail in 1964 during a turbulent time with the Beeching axe falling on branch lines across the country. Incredibly all three are still going strong in their 70s now with Arriva Trains Wales.

Still going strong at Llandudno Junction is Rodney Fitzgibbon, 72. A railway enthusiast since his schooldays, Rodney and two of his friends all joined the railway as teenagers in North Wales. "The other two are both retired now but I just keep on turning up!" said Rodney. "I've made dozens of friends and every day I'm on the platforms I see someone I know. "I read in a magazine the other week about someone working at a London station who's 80 but I'm not sure if I'll quite beat that!"

Having begun his career as an engine cleaner, train driver Ron Jones moved on to being secondman on the last generation of steam trains before driving the very first diesel locomotives. Ron, from Sutton Weaver near Frodsham, started at Northwich engine shed as a steam locomotive cleaner progressing rapidly to Fireman and passed secondman prior to moving to Chester as a relief driver. He is believed to be one of the last active drivers in the UK who learnt his trade in the age of steam. "I’ve always enjoyed the variety of the routes, going to locations like Birmingham International, Manchester and along the North Wales coast," said Ron, who grew up in Cheshire and joined at the age of 15. "I’m proud to be based at Chester station, built by the world-famous railway engineer Thomas Brassey."

Gerald Plant, 69, has been working at Hereford Station since he was a teenager and incredibly has never taken a day off ill during all that time.  "I'd always found the railway very interesting and once I started I never really wanted to leave," said Gerald, who was also an RMT safety rep for more than 30 years. I joined at 15 in Hereford as a lad porter and back then there was a lot more freight so we had a goods end on the station and that's where I worked. I've been lucky with my health never to have had a day off ill and I've been fortunate to work with some really lovely people and I know a lot of the passengers coming through Hereford every day so I still really enjoy it. It's changed a lot and privatisation was the biggest thing really. Arriva have been a good company and a lot of the directors will say hello when they're passing through. There are a lot more passengers now too that's for sure."

More than 800 people have worked through the full 15 year Arriva Trains Wales franchise, many of whom have notched up 20, 30 and even 40 years of service on the railway.

The three have no plans to retire and say they are looking ahead to see what changes come in as the Wales and Borders franchise moves to Transport for Wales. Arriva Trains Wales HR Director Gareth Thomas said: "It's incredible to think that these guys are still working into their late 60s and early 70s and that shows just how much passion there is for the railway and what a fantastic place to work.

"People like Rodney, Gerald and Ron are the backbone of the railway in Britain and over the years they will have passed on their knowledge and skills to the next generation. The fact that more than 800 of our colleagues have worked throughout the full 15 years of Arriva and more really does indicate that the railway is a great place to work."

The three have no plans to retire and say they are looking ahead to see what changes come in as the Wales and Borders franchise moves to Transport for Wales.

New trains on test

At present there are a large number of new trains being built, and some of them are engaged in 'mileage accumulation' testing on the West Coast Main Line. Class 345 units for London's Crossrail / Elizabeth Line can be seen at Crewe, and since 14 September the first new Northern Class 195 diesel unit 195 103 has been making scheduled test runs between Edge Hill depot, Liverpool, Crewe (station passing time 09:18 Mon-Fri), Warrington Bank Quay (09:46-09:57, 12:36 -12:42, 15:13-15:36)  and Carnforth.

Looking back - Regional Railways 1992

In the early 1990s, in addition to the well-remembered Class 37/4s, the fleet of Regional Railways North West also included a number of Class 31 locos, of the 31/4 sub-class which had been fitted with provision for electrical train heating. These entered North West and North Wales passenger service a little before the 37/4s were obtained from the freight sector. In Dave Sallery's picture
31 410 and 31 439 are seen leaving Prestatyn for Manchester on 17 July 1992.  The train is newly repainted in Regional Railways livery.

We have published this image before, but at the time did not research the story behind it. Before the train departed Manchester Victoria in the morning, 31 410 had been named
Granada Telethon by TV star Paul Nicholas. 'Telethons' were an American idea, a long continuous programme dedicated to raising money for charity. This one the third and last to be run by ITV, ran across the weekend of 18-19 July 1992, compèred by Michael Aspel, and Regional Railways joined in the fun with special fund-raising train workings which stopped at many stations to collect money.  Images on the web from 19 July (Google 'Granada Telethon Pullman') show the same two locos hauling the 'Statesman' rake of former Manchester Pullman Mk2 vehicles.  Was this a VIP special connected with the event, or just a service train?

As for the Telethon itself, the 1992 event was the last one run by ITV.  A report in The Independent tells us that:

Michael Aspel and his colleagues will run the gauntlet on 18 July when they arrive at the headquarters of London Weekend Television to broadcast ITV's Telethon '92. They will be met by placard-waving demonstrators whose aim is to keep them and the 28-hour marathon fund-raiser off the air.

The protest is being organised by Block Telethon, a group of disabled people who argue that, well-intentioned though the show may be, it does more harm than good for disabled people by reinforcing negative stereotypes.

The BBC Children in Need was also picketed by the group, but with no commercial backers to worry about seems to have weathered the storm and continued to the present day. The loco retained its nameplates until it was withdrawn in 1998 after being damaged in a derailment in 1997.  It was  stored in sidings at Carnforth until rescued by preservationists in 2004 and taken to the Stainmore Railway at Kirkby Stephen, from where it was sent for scrap in 2014, a fate which has been shared by a number of other 'preserved' 31s.

31 439 was named North Yorkshire Moors Railway in September 1992, and survived on the national until 2010, followed by scrapping. This interesting picture from the Manchester Locomotive Society collection was taken at Llandudno Junction by the late Peter Hutchinson and shows how flasks were handled in the 1990s. The date is, we think, 1995 - can anyone date it exactly?

Switzerland on Snowdon

As seen in the railway press,  during the month of September loco 2 from the Brienz Rothorn Bahn (BRB) and one of the original coaches have been brought over (at great expense) by Switzerland Tourism to visit the Snowdon Mountain Railway. The train is accompanied by its own support crew and members of the public can have free rides; everyone gets a ‘goody’ bag including Gruyere cheese! Jim Ikin visited on 15 September.

The original idea was for a journey up to Waterfall halt but this has now been cut back to just beyond the Snowdon shed for operational reasons. There was never any hope that the summit could be attained, as the Snowdon line has an additional  'braking rail' on its upper section which would foul some equipment on the BRB loco.

The press release reads:
It was discovered that the locomotive currently operating on the Brienz Rothorn Bahn (BRB) in Switzerland, was built in the same factory as the locomotives operating on the SMR, making the two trains ‘sisters’.
Not much of a discovery, you might think, as the fact is obvious to anyone who knows anything about the subject. Schweizerische Lokomotiv- und Maschinenfabrik (SLM) made a speciality of rack-fitted locos, and the  original SMR and BRB locos are quite similar in appearance.  The press release also promised that the public could ride on the locomotive, by which they meant 'train' ...

Some pictures by Alan Crawshaw taken on 13 September.  Above, a comparison with SMR loco 6 which lacks the side panels protecting the motion, and appears to have less inclination of the boiler, presumably because the BRB has steeper gradients; 25% compared to the SMR's 18.2% maximum.

SMR loco 5 and diesel 11 at Llanberis.

SMR 6 climbs the mountain.

Looking back with Barrie Hughes - the blue era

Above, 25 903 and 25 904 double-heading a Permanent Way train eastbound at Chester on 23 December 1986 during a Christmas visit to my family at Buckley. 25 903 was formerly 25 276 and renumbered on 2 January 1986. 25 904 was formerly 25 283 and renumbered on 12 November 1985.

Twelve Class 25/3s were reinstated in late 1985/early 86 for minerals traffic that included salt for road gritting from the ICI mine at Winsford. The locos were expected to have three more years of service before the engines would reach their maintenance limit. They were allocated to Carlisle Kingmoor depot but were sometimes seen in North Wales. However, the traffic they were designated for was not captured and in due course the sub-class were withdrawn along with the rest of Class 25 in 1987. 25 903 was withdrawn just three months after this photo on 18 March 1987 and scrapped at Vic Berry’s Leicester scrapyard on 1 June 1987. 25 904 was withdrawn on 1 March 1987 but escaped the cutter’s torch to be preserved at the Dean Forest railway where it is currently stored out of use in two-tone green livery.

This is 25 279 on an eastbound Tunnel Cement working, possibly from Padeswood Works, which was stabled in Chester yard awaiting its path after the 25/9s had left. In the background is the new Chester Powerbox that had led to the demise of the several Chester signal boxes in the early 1980s. Space was left within the box for panels to control the whole of the North Wales network but this project was abandoned and this year the section from Shotton to Colwyn Bay was resignalled and transferred to Network Rail Welsh Regional Control Centre at Cardiff.

25 279 was withdrawn on 18 March 1987 and rescued from Vic Berry’s for the Llangollen Railway. The loco has led a chequered life in preservation. After ten years at Llangollen 25 279 was loaned to the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway, then to the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway, before finally ending-up at the Northampton & Lamport Railway in 1999. The Llangollen Steam Railway management decided to strictly limit the number of diesel locomotives based there after plans by their diesel group for a diesel depot at Corwen were rejected. The Class 25 was not allowed to return to Llangollen and was offered for sale. It has eventually settled at the East Lancashire Railway and is operational. The loco has its own Facebook page and will soon be repainted in BR blue complete, many hope, with a TOPS number!

On the Rothorn

We thought you might like to see some pictures of the Brienz-Rothorn line, so we have solicited some from our friends Dave HowsamDavid Gartside and Mark Barber of the Swiss Railways Society Manchester Branch. (If you are interested in Swiss Railways, we meet on the first Wednesday of each Month in Manchester, and visitors are very welcome - see our website.)

The BRB starts from adjacent to Brienz station on the Luzern - Interlaken metre-gauge line, which also includes stretches of rack-and-pinion working. As is usual on such lines, the loco is always at the lower end of the train. The train winds its way between ridges to a summit 2,244 metres above sea level, the fourth highest railway in the country. The lake below is Lake Brienz.

Unlike every other mountain railway (indeed almost every other railway) in Switzerland it is not electrified, and relies mostly on steam traction.

The rack gauge is 800 mm (as is the SMR) and the rack system is the Abt design, which has a rack two lines of teeth, staggered so that a more constant traction is possible.

Walks are available from the summit. Like the Snowdon line, it's an expensive train ride: an adult return journey will cost you 92 Swiss Francs - around £72 - although if you have a 'Swiss Pass' for the whole country it's half fare.

Like the SMR, the BRB does now have some diesels.

North Wales Coast home page | Archive | Previous Notice Board