Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

19 August 2019

Contributions and comments are encouraged: see the Contributions Page

Forthcoming events

September 2019

6 September Clwyd Railway Circle meeting.

October 2019

Saturday 5 October Stephenson Locomotive Society. Manchester Centre. Bob Gwynne, Associate Curator, National Railway Museum ‘Snow White to Stephenson’. This is a story about the search for strategic minerals, climate change, religious conflict, immigration, integration and innovation. Overall a very modern story, although this one starts over 400 years ago and from it emerges the technology we call railways.

November 2019

Saturday 2 November Stephenson Locomotive Society. Manchester Centre. Geoff Stocker
‘Rebuilding the Welsh Highland Railway’ An illustrated presentation of the stage-wise re-construction of the WHR (closed 1936) on the abandoned trackbed, from 1995 to completion in 2010 & subsequent developments - including locos and rolling stock.

December 2019

Saturday 7 December Stephenson Locomotive Society. Manchester Centre. At Sale United Reformed Church lounge, Montague Road, Sale M33 3BU Including seasonal refreshments!
Owen Russell ‘Memories of the Woodhead Line’ The Woodhead line linked Lancashire, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and London. As there were shorter routes to London, express trains often comprised only 5 or 6 coaches. The line was a good place to see a variety of GC and, later, LNER engines, which had to work hard on the notorious gradients. Like many steam routes, Woodhead was a line of contrasts.

January 2020

Saturday 25 January Stephenson Locomotive Society. Manchester Centre. Centre AGM (brief) followed by: Christian Wyatt ‘21st Century signalling Control Centre – The Manchester Rail Operations Centre’ Christian Wyatt, a career railwayman with 38 years’ service, started as a signal box lad at Manchester Victoria and is now Project Operations Interface Manager for the London North Western route. One of his key responsibilities is the development of the Manchester Rail Operations Centre. Christian will describe the MROC from its build in 2012 to its present operational status.

February 2020

Saturday 22 February Stephenson Locomotive Society. Manchester Centre. Tony Wright
‘Aspects of the Origins & Development of Monorails including Behr, Lartigue and the Manchester to Liverpool Lightning Express Railway’ You may remember Tony’s excellent presentation on Mayfield Station. Don’t miss this intriguing meeting.

Tuesday, 25 February  18:30 Stephenson Locomotive Society. Manchester Centre. Joint meeting with the Newcomen Society, Location to be confirmed. Bob Gwynne, Associate Curator, National Railway Museum ‘Sticking with steam – an examination of why Britain’s railways stuck with steam into the space age’ This talk examines some of the complex history behind moving on from the steam age on Britain’s railways and attempts an answer as to why the UK’s love affair with the steam hasn’t ended.

March 2020

Saturday 21 March  Stephenson Locomotive Society. Manchester Centre.  Melvyn Roberts
‘Indian Summer of the Somerset & Dorset Railway’ The S & D was (and still is) many enthusiasts’ favourite cross-country railway. We will hear about its unusual history, but the main feature will be a slide show of its operations in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

April 2020

Saturday 18 April Stephenson Locomotive Society. Manchester Centre.  Tim Owen ‘The activities of the Furness Railway Trust’ The Furness Railway Trust has a collection of six steam locomotives, including Furness Railway No. 20, plus historic carriages. The illustrated talk will cover the work of the Trust over the past 30 years..

67 010 propelling the 1H89 Holyhead - Manchester Piccadilly on 14 August, between Llanddulas and Pensarn. Picture by Alan Martin.

Wanted: items for the 'forthcoming events' list.

North Wales Miscellany - by Gary Thomas

I popped back "home" to see family over the weekend and I was lucky to find 57 601 Windsor Castle and 57314 topping-and-tailing the return 17.45 Llandudno Junction to Dumfries 'Northern Belle' railtour on Friday 16 August before departure. 

Around £360 per person for a day trip is a good business!

The weather for most of the day was disappointing, though later on it improved into what became a reasonably pleasant weekend, as evidenced by 150 284 in the old platform 1A (now 2) at Llandudno Junction. I was planning to take the the evening class 67-hauled service for a return trip to Llandudno. I was disappointed when a 3-car 175 arrived, but as I had bought my ticket already I decided to make the trip and stay a little longer in Llandudno. My revised return trip was cancelled leading to just over a 30 minute delay, so I can't wait for my 82p "delay repay"!

On my way back south on the Sunday I popped into the Oswestry Station for a quick trip on part of the remains of the Cambrian Railway. Andrew Barclay industrial 0-4-0ST Fife Flyer No 6 (no. 2261 of 1949) was in operation.

I also visited the adjacent Railway Museum, which is full of interesting artefacts.

In the bay platform were a selection of shunters, including operational "Telemon" and "Scottie".  {What's that blue one?]

As I headed ever-closer to London I decided to divert off the M40 to visit the Cholsey and Wallingford Railway. I hadn't checked they were running, being a summer weekend I foolishly assumed they would be. I found the railway closed, but the friendly volunteers invited me to take a look around. I saw three operational class 08 shunters, 08 022, 08 060 Lion  (above) and 08 123, the first two having once seen service at the Guinness Brewery at Park Royal, West London. Operating days are sadly, but understandably limited due to a lack of volunteer resource; see the railway's website.

West Coast Partnership announced

It seems that 221 101 101 Squadron, photographed by George Jones working  the 08:52 Edinburgh to Euston at  Crewe on 15 August, will remain the only example of this Voyager version of the 'new' Virgin livery with its easy-to-see number on the cab side. After  much delay, legal cases, vast sums wasted on franchised bids and temporary extensions,  it has been announced that the Virgin Trains, the only (?) company to have retained a franchise since privatisation in 197 (although 49% was sold to Stagecoach after the first year), will be handing over to a consortium of First Group and Trenitalia, the Italian state operator.  The brand name to be used will be announced later.

The franchise includes the operation of 'HS2' when built. Their website explains their promises, but of particular interest to North Wales passenger is '... we’re replacing outdated diesel Voyager trains with 23 new [bi-mode] trains to our fleet on the existing West Coast Mainline.' 

Leaving aside the 'outdated' tag - Voyagers date from 2002 - the new trains will be welcome, but will they have the 'tilt' feature that's required to run at 125 mph on the West Coast Main Line? There's no such train to UK specification on the market at present. We also read that 'We will serve new direct services to destinations including Liverpool South Parkway, Walsall and Gobowen (for Oswestry), and offer more stops at stations including Rugby, Llandudno Junction and Motherwell.'

The Pendolino units will be refurbished, hopefully losing the 'talking toilet' feature. All this from December 2022. Meanwhile Virgin are making noises about setting up a service under 'open access' rules.  Interesting times.

Also noticeable is the replacement of the nameplates of Pendolinos by vinyl versions. Look out for the originals at an auction near you...


Someone at TransPennine Express is a Class 87 fan, to judge by the names being applied to some of the DRS locos allocated to the (soon to start?) loco-hauled services between Liverpool, Manchester and the North East. George Jones captured 68 030 Black Douglas on a test run at Crewe on 15 August. 87 030 Black Douglas, built in 1974, was withdrawn in 2010 and, unlike some of its sisters, escapes exile to eastern Europe, being scrapped in 2011. James 'the black' Douglas, 'The Most Feared Knight in Scottish History' died in 1330. The 'Black' nickname seems to have been only used by the English; in Scotland he was a hero.

57 314 passes Rhyl  on 16 August with the 'Northern Belle' from Dumfries. Picture  by Roly High.

Stephen Hughes writes:  This quite took me by surprise, as I was enjoying (not) a 50-minute wait courtesy of a slow Virgin Sunday morning service from Euston with a poor connection. The sudden growl of the 37's caught my attention as they entered the station, I had noticed a few people standing with cameras at the end of the platform but I thought that they were just everyday spotters or photters.

'Helpfully the station display indicator mentioned the Branch Line Society "Tri County Tractor" special, so I checked when I arrived home it seemed that seats were offered at £25 from Crewe to Lancaster as the stock of the previous days tour returned home. the first two carriages seemed pretty full although the rest of the stock was empty. Rather a bargain, I thought! The sound as they left platform 12 for the North was quite something (even for a steam enthusiast like myself!)'

The locos were 37 518, 37 706, and 37 669. Over the two days, more than £10,000 was raised for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

Seen at Hargrave, 12 August - by Tim Rogers

158 825
, 1D60 16:23 Crewe to Chester.

221 142 Bombardier Voyager, 1A53 16:35 Chester to London Euston.

158 825 returns, as 1K62 16:55 Chester to Crewe; Beeston Castle on its hill defines the location.

221 102 John Cabot on 1D89 15:10 London Euston to Chester.

68 004 Rapid and  68 001 Evolution with 11 70 9229 039-6,  11 70 9229 023-0 and  11 70 9229 021-4, 6K41 14:57 Valley Nuclear Electric to Crewe Coal Sidings (DRS)

Conwy Quest revisited - pictures by Barrie Hughes

Some images which arrived just too late for our original report on the 'Conwy Quest' special of 3 August which celebrated the re-opening of the Conwy valley line after storm repairs.  Above, the train arrives at Llandudno Junction from Chester,  the locos running tender first in order to be running chimney-first up the gradients of the branch.

The train was double-headed by 'Jubilee' class 4-6-0 45690 Leander and 2-8-0 freight loco 48151,  the 9-coach train being longer than the usual 'Welsh Mountaineer' steam excursions that have climbed to Blaenau Ffestiniog in recent years.

The locos, both from the West Coast Railways fleet, ran round the train in Platform 1. The  sidings to the left, still officially part of Network Rail,  have virtually disappeared from view.

After some whistling, while waiting for a later-running service train to pass, the train departed from The Junction ...

... negotiating the crossovers to reach the branch line junction.

At Blaenau Ffestiniog, the Ffestiniog Railway also produced a double-header: unique single Fairlie Taliesin and  ex-Penrhyn Railway loco Linda.

The short length of the headshunt at Blaenau meat that the locos had to run-round the train individually,  48151 passing 45690 which just inches to spare.

The two locos posed for the 'gallery' . Although quite similar when seen from a  distance, especially now both are in black livery, the two have many detail differences when viewed at closer quarters,  due to the fact that the 'Jubilee' class, designed for express passenger work, has larger wheels (6' 9" nominal diameter) that the 8F (4' 8½").  But also noticeable are different 'top-feeds'  - where water is added to the boiler - and the chimney. Also, 45690 is a three-cylinder loco - one each side and one inside the frames, requiring covers below the smokebox. Both have allocation plates for 10A - Carnforth - but only 45690 carries an added 'SC' which indicates a so-called self-cleaning smokebox, which has an attachment inside designed to  cause the ash that tends to collect there to be blown out of the chimney .

Return through Fynnongroyw.

Cambrian Scenes - by Greg Mape

On 12 August, Welsh Highland Garratt 138 takes its train across the Cambrian line by the flat crossing.

The 13:38 to Birmingham International leaves Pwllheli, formed of 158 818.  The '7'  on the end of Class 158 vehicles is an immediate visual indication for station staff of which of the two coaches is leading on an approaching train.  The carriage numbers of 158s are in the 528xx  and 578xx series;  the 57xxx vehicle, 57818 in this case,  carries the '7'. The other end has no digit.  (The open hoppers on the windows, only openable  by the conductor,  tell us that a new livery does not necessarily indicate reliable air-conditioning.)

The signalbox (now downgraded to Pwllheli west frame as it only works the points) could use a coat of paint; it must be one of the last remaining Cambrian Railways boxes. Unlike the station building, it doesn't seem to be 'listed.'

Riding the Class 230 - with Richard Putley

As the Class 230s are coming to North Wales, on the 17 August  I thought I would have a ride on one of those already in service with London Northwestern Railway. A few months ago I met some of the volunteers who man the heritage centre and cafe at Ridgmont station, on the Bletchley – Bedford line. So I decided to drive over there and have a ride on a Class 230 to Bedford.

On display at Ridgmont station are a selection of railway relics. These including some signalbox diagrams from some of the stations on the line. A number of books and other items are on sale.

I caught the 11:19 service from Ridgmont to Bedford and returned on the 16:40 from Bedford. I was favourably impressed with the Class 230. For a diesel train the noise levels were reasonable. The interiors have been completely gutted and include a toilet in one coach. There's a variety of seating layouts: bus, groups of 4 around tables and some London Overground style inward facing seats. I for one don't particularly care for those, but each to their own. You wouldn't think that these trains began their careers on London's District Line  in 1980.

At Bedford I spent several hours watching the trains.   I saw several HSTs. Including one with Power Cars - including  43 050, seen above - bearing  the legend “Eleven Years of East Midlands Trains”.  17 August was the very last  day before the franchise was taken over by the new East Midlands Railway, owned by Abellio, an arm of the Netherlands state railway.

There were also three Northbound freight trains. Firstly 66 088 on a DB Cargo Elstow Redland Siding to Mountsorrel Sidings service.

Then about an hour later 66 614 Poppy on Luton Crescent Road to Tunstead stone empties, the first two wagons in Freightliner's new 'Genessee and Wyoming' colours.

This loco commemorates the Royal British Legion's annual Poppy Appeal.

EMR  have inherited a memorial train, Meridian 222 011 Sheffield City Battalion 1914 -1918. I saw it departing from Platform 3 for London St Pancras.  A simple re-branding by removing the word 'trains' is evident, although elsewhere, at least one Class 158 unit was seen with the branding EMR Regional (one of the new company's three divisions) several days before the handover.

Finally just before I left, 66 712 Peterborough Power Signal Box on a Wembley to Wellingborough service. In the distance is  a Thameslink Class 700 unit.

Monorail News - by Greg Mape

The monorail that goes around some of the Chester Zoo grounds is being scrapped
(After 28 years) at the end of  the summer 2019; here are a few pictures taken on 8 August.

The Queen travelled on the Monorail on her visit in 2012, but the zoo has expanded so it no longer serves the whole area.

Nor surprisingly, the system has been suffering from technical problems recently, and it's likely that spare parts are hard to find,  but even when officially opened by the Duchess of Kent in 1991 it broke down on its first ever trip with the Duchess still on it.

From a press release: It's replacement,  'Grasslands'  will hold a centrepiece consisting of a large, open African savannah habitat, home to multiple rare species including giraffes and zebras, as well as a restaurant offering spectacular balcony views across the savannah. visitors will even be able to sleep near the animals, as planning proposals also include the potential for the zoo to develop overnight accommodation in the form of 42 room-lodges including lodges overlooking the savannah so guests can wake up to sunrise views over Grasslands.

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