Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

25 February 2019


Contributions and comments are encouraged: see the Contributions Page

Forthcoming events

March 2019

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

Tuesday 5 March North Wales Railway Circle 'Next Train's Gone!'..Humph Davies with an illustrated historical survey of the route of the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railway & Successors, Part 1. Caernarfon -Rhyd Ddu.

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.

The first Class 158 to receive the new Transport for Wales colours, 158 826, was pressed into service without any brandings. Sean Thomas photographed the unit on 22 February at Porthmadog working the 08:52 Machynlleth - Pwllheli.

On the Bridge - with Peter Basterfield

One of only two places along the Coast line where the railway crosses the A55 expressway is at Old Colwyn; photographs are possible from either side. Above, new-liveried 175 003 crosses on 22 February, working train 1D31, 06:30 Manchester Piccadilly - Llandudno Junction.

Shortly afterwards,  68 034 (not yet carrying its supposedly allocated name Victorious) and 68 018 Vigilant passes with the Crewe - Valley flasks.

The view from near the 'rainbow' footbridge in the afternoon as the locos return with another load of fuel elements.


68 028, one of the Trans-Pennine liveried DRS locos has been named Lord President, a name once carried by electric loco 87 028. Start of a new theme? Picture by Martin Evans.

37 521 on an infrastructure monitoring train at Penyffordd, working a return trip from Shrewsbury to Bidston (Bob Greenhalgh).

Rail Operations Group 37 884 Cepheus waits to move forward  to Crewe Electric depot on 25 February (Martin Evans).

Acton Bridge steam - Pictures by Phil Clarke

18 February saw two steam loco movements along the West Coast Main Line. They were timed to pass each other within three minutes at Acton Bridge, but in the end one was 42 minutes late.
On time at 16:40 (above) was A4 pacific  60009 Union of South Africa as train 5Z60, 10:19 from West Coast Railways' base at Southall, west London to the East Lancashire Railway,  after working an excursion from London Paddington on 16 February.

The ELR is staging its Spring Steam Gala on 8 - 10 March, although 60009 is not listed as a participant on the ELR website.

Running late was 'Black 5'   45231 with its support coach forming 5Z45 10:20 Locomotive Services Ltd (LSL) train from Glasgow Mossend to Crewe, having worked one of LSL's 'Private Charters' on the  West Highland line on 16 - 17 February.

Both views are taken from the footbridge at Acton Bridge, a station has quite a spare passenger service, but has been a 'mecca' for enthusiasts for many years as it sees  main line trains between London and Liverpool as well as Scotland, and also freights to and from Manchester and beyond which use the link from the Mid-Cheshire line at Hartford Junction.

Conwy Valley troubles

On 22 February 150 240 was declared a failure at Blaenau Ffestiniog (above) after arrival with the 16:20 from Llandudno, resulting in the cancellation of the 17:36 return service.

Fortunately,  another unit, 150 251,  was available to  run from Chester work the 19:05 from Llandudno from Llandudno Junction....

... and couple to the ailing unit in time to work the 20:34 to Llandudno which ran just six minutes late. Pictures by Sean Thomas.

The following day, Saturday 23 February, the branch had no trains at all, replaced by buses on the grounds that every available unit was needed in South Wales to handle the crowds attending a rugby match in Cardiff ... although the National Rail misleadingly stated that 'more trains that usual needing repairs.'  In this situation the Transport for Wales website proved to be for less useful than the Arriva version which would certainly have had an explanation and details of the bus times. The Borderlands branch was also affected, with half the service cancelled.  This unfair behaviour is scheduled to be repeated on 16 March. (The two loco-hauled sets were also on rugby duty on the day.)

Meanwhile, TfW have appointed a Development Director for North Wales, Lee Robinson, formerly Director of Economy and Place at Wrexham County Borough Council. You can read about him and see his picture on the TfW website.

New trains - an improvement?

The artist's impression above shows the planned appearance of the 'Civity' trains to be built for Transport for Wales to replace the Class 175 and 158 units on longer-distance services.  Spanish manufacturer CAF announced on 21 February that design work has commenced. The new trains will be built at a new factory in Newport, South Wales.

But if built in the form shown, will they actually be an improvement on the current stock?  The doors at one-third and two-thirds positions gives fast loading, but  in the past it has not been seen as the best environment for a long journey such as Manchester to Tenby. 158s and 175s have the traditional layout with the doors and toilets in end vestibules.

Mr T.J. Wheeler of Pembrokeshire raises the matter in a letter which he has sent to rail user groups, and which we quote below:
The current long-distance fleet (of class 158 and class 175 DMUs) is clearly insufficient. However the new franchise proposes suburban trains (with double-width doors opening directly into the passenger saloon). These would be inappropriate for the 'regional express' (inter-urban) services they are intended to work. The reduced dwell times the franchise is seeking are simply not as important as a top-quality passenger environment for services where stations are either relatively widely spaced or request stops. Narrower doors should free up space for passenger amenities; perhaps additional legroom, bike spaces and/or a toilet in the centre vehicle of the planned 3-car sets. Locating the exterior doors (along with the toilets) in separate vestibules towards the vehicle ends would also avoid toilet doors that open directly into the passenger saloon. Putting the toilets and bicycle spaces beyond the external doors (such as on class 158s) would slightly reduce dwell times compared to a class 175, where the doors are right at the carriage ends.

Downgrading almost the entire franchise to suburban rolling stock would be a betrayal of passenger expectations given the claims of a 'step change' and the general 'hype' of new train introduction. We need a truly high quality regional express fleet, that retains all the best features of the class 158 and class 175 units.

The franchise needs to put passenger comfort first and redesign the trains accordingly. This should be achievable, since CAF's Civity family also includes the Intercity-spec class 397 for TransPennine Express. Of course our area needs shorter trains than TPE, with gangway connections on the ends for running in multiple, and diesel engines. However the doors on the TPE units are more suitable for Wales & Borders than those currently proposed here. Are you aware of a campaign that aims to bring about this change; if so I would like to offer my support.

A new diesel train is for 30 years, not just for 'Christmas'; we need to ensure that the new franchise gets this right.
It's true that North Wales is also promised more loco-hauled Cardiff services using ex-East Coast Mk4 coaches, but the new units will be the sole power on Manchester - Cardiff and West Wales services. What do readers think?

Here's a view, taken by Ken Robinson from the level crossing at Porthmadog on 21 February, of the repainted 158 826.

Dave Sallery's archive spot

A look back at the 1990s. Above, on 31 August 1993 37 418 Pectinidae departs from Prestatyn for Manchester or Crewe. This was the first summer of the legendary intensive 37-hauled passenger service along the Coast, and the loco still wears the colours of its previous operator the 'Railfreight Petroleum' sector of British Rail.  The 37s worked trains for the Shell company, which suggested the seashell names - the company's famous symbol is a scallop of family Pectinidae.  The Mk2 coaches came from Network South East, and Regional Railways applied a quick customisation by repainting the red lower bodyside stripe in blue.  Loco and coaches soon received the full Regional Railways livery, and 37 418 was re-named East Lancashire Railway;  after privatisation it was the first 37/4 to receive the English Welsh and Scottish Railway livery,

In the new century it worked on the Cardiff - Rhymney services and the Fort William sleepers. Sold to a private owner in 2007, it worked on the East Lancashire Railway for a while but suffered mechanical problems and ran there for the last time in 2016. Since then it has been overhauled at Barrow Hill and (like sister loco 37 421) and now works for Colas on Network Rail infrastructure monitoring trains, wearing a version of the classic 'large logo blue' livery.

In the days of daily track-ballast trains from Penmaenmawr quarry, on 21 March 1995 37 503 and 31 229 haul a loaded train past Gwrych Castle near Abergele.

Looking back: Chester 1991 - with Barrie Hughes

I visited Buckley over the weekend of 27 - 29 September 1991, and sometime that weekend recorded these shots at Chester, mostly likely on Saturday 28th  rather than returning to Northampton by train on Sunday 29th.  Can readers help with the date and the train working details?

This view is from the Dock Road in the Goods Yard off Hoole Road. 31 405 Mappa Mundi is seen departing Chester on a North Wales train. The loco is in 'Intercity Mainline' livery, one of the few Class 31s locos to bear this livery which differed from Intercity livery in the roof colour and lack of InterCity branding.  It certainly has attracted a collection of enthusiastic admirers!

31 405 had only recently been named Mappa Mundi at Hereford Rail Day on 5/5/91 and carried the name for six years. The loco was withdrawn 15/6/99 and cut up by EMR at Doncaster Carr MPD in March 2000. (Mappa Mundi is the largest Medieval World map in existence and is on display in Hereford Cathedral.)

Llangollen scenes - by Martin Evans

GWR 2-8-0 loco 3802 sets back into Llangollen station on 23 February, ready to take the 10:40 service to Carrog. However, the service was running late due to problems with 3802's braking system.

The service eventually departed 30 minutes late.

3802, after arriving at Carrog runs around the service before departing with the 12pm return service to Llangollen.

Shipping News - by Jim Johnson

More slate waste for decorative use was loaded at Port Penrhyn, Bangor, on Thursday, 21 February, when MV Amadeus Gold arrived on the morning tide, having sailed from Greenore.   Above, the ship proceeding up the Menai Straits, between Beaumaris and Bangor, Port Penrhyn 'beacon' in the foreground.

Turning into the channel for the port. The houses of the exclusive Glyn Garth area of Anglesey are  in the background.

Swinging through 180 degrees, to facilitate berthing stern-first. Bangor's Victorian pier in the background.

Heading in stern-first.

Berthing manoeuvre nearly complete.

Most of the slate is 'Bangor Blue' colour...

... But a small portion of green was there as well. Previous consignments have been sent to Rye in Sussex, I'm unsure about this one.

Beluga has landed - report by Chris Coxon

The Airbus Beluga XL (Airbus A330-743L) seen having landed, following its maiden flight to Hawarden Airport, on Thursday, 14th February, 2019, and taxied to the entrance to the Wing Loading facility, opening it's main freight door.

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