Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

11 May 2021



Forthcoming events

(see also our Calendar page for venues)

Note:  we have removed all entries relating to meetings as the events are cancelled.


The full-route  test run of the loco-hauled service from Cardiff to Holyhead approaching Gobowen with 67 015 on the front, 6 May. Picture by Roger Thomas.

Don't miss our 8 May extra issue. Back to normal Monday night update next week.- Charlie

Loco-hauled in September

It appears that it will some months before we can regain the luxury of loco-hauled travel; this Covid period has actually been the only significant period when there has not been at least one such service of some description 'Down the Coast' (Counting HST Class 43 as locos).

We said in the last issue that details were not yet available, but we just hadn't looked far enough ahead into the Real Time Trains data. It appears that 13 September 2021 is the start date for the new improved service.

The proposed two diagrams (Monday - Friday only) can be summarised as follows:

05:33 1V91 Holyhead - Cardiff 09:58
11:34 1W93 Cardiff - Holyhead 16:19
16:51 1V98  Holyhead - Cardiff 21:28

06:45 1W91 Cardiff - Holyhead 11:17
11:33 1V96 Holyhead - Cardiff 16:15
17:16 1W96 Cardiff - Holyhead 21:38
(on Fridays runs empty from Holyhead to Crewe for maintenance,  returning empty at 04:10 from Crewe on Saturday morning.)

Stopping patterns vary; most of the Coast towns except Shotton have at least some calls. The details are on Real Time Trains.

There's also a provision for using the train on special events.

Gobowen station, 6 May (Roger Thomas).

We incorrectly stated in the last issue that there are no through trains  between Cardiff and Holyhead at the moment. In fact, on Sundays only there are  one Holyhead - Cardiff and two Cardiff - Holyhead through services.

Class 230 at Chester - report by Geoff Morris

Above is a shot that I took when returning from an exercise walk on 24 Feb this year. We live close to the old Mickle Trafford – Dee Marsh line and use it for many walks. As we crossed the bridge at Brook Lane we found a pair of class 230s on the Alstom depot (I’d no idea that this was happening – it was just lucky timing). 230007/8 had arrived as a pair and were then separated to use the fuel road (No 6) individually . In the photo 230 007 is entering the fuel road while 230 008 waits in one of the stabling lines to follow it.

This photo was taken on 10 May and shows another pair of class 230 units at Chester Northgate en route from Birkenhead North EMU depot to Chester station. I assume that they were eventually going to go on to the Alstom depot for fuelling (as per the other photo) but the weather meant that I wasn’t going to hang around to find out. It had been sunny when I left the house but the weather took a turn for the worse and I got soaked taking this shot.

Looking back: Bala Lake Railway Part 2 - by David Pool

This selection includes many of the locomotives which are or have been on the Bala Lake Railway.  On 14 July 1984 (above) Holy War was entering the passing loop at Llangower, giving me the opportunity to add the interest of signals in the shot.  I don’t know whether the signals came from a standard gauge line or they were “home made”, but they certainly seem right for this location. 

Another of Bala’s regular locomotives is Alice, another Dinorwic Hunslet, which appeared at Dinas on the Welsh Highland Railway in the company of Palmerston from the Ffestiniog at the Enthusiasts’ Weekend on   20 September 1998.

Winifred is one of the oldest Hunslets, dating from 1885.  On 17 September 2016 it was visiting the Penrhyn Quarry Railway at Bethesda, for what turned out to be the last of their infrequent public events. 

Unfortunately, circumstances changed, and the Penrhyn Quarry Railway was forced to vacate the site and dispose of the rolling stock.  The public open days had been well attended, but cost of arranging visiting locomotives was barely covered by the takings.  The Penrhyn Quarry Railway website has not been updated, so anyone considering a visit to Bethesda needs to know that the 'Zip Wire' is thriving, but the PQR is no more.

The Hunslet 125 Celebrations on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways not surprisingly included several Bala locomotives.  George B was being displayed at Minffordd on 22 June 2018.

Lilla, which worked at Bala in the early days of preservation, is now resident  at Boston Lodge on the Ffestiniog Railway, and on the same day was paired with Britomart, another Ffestiniog Hunslet, working a shuttle service between Pont Croesor and Porthmadog, with Alice on the rear of the train.

I was most surprised to see this diesel at Llanuwchllyn on 27 February 2019.  It transpired that it was a Schöma locomotive which had been acquired in 2001 for a National Grid tunnelling project and used by Murphy Construction.  At the end of the project an approach was made to Murphy Construction, who very generously agreed to donate LM 30 to the Bala Lake Railway. It has now received the name Murphy.

The sun was already low in the sky on that day, and I headed for the end of the line at Pen y Bont, Bala, to see the arrival of Alice, which was working the last train of the day.  Near the footbridge at the Llanuwchllyn end of the platform there was just enough sun through the trees to give me the shot I wanted.  I hope I can return to Bala someday to see the trains working into the proposed new station in the town.

Bala Lake Postscript - by Mark Hambly

To answer David Pool's query (4 May issue) about the Ruston loco at the Bala Lake Railway, having referred to the Industrial Railway Society's North Wales Handbook I think that David is correct in assuming RH 432652 of 1959. The IRS recorded that this arrived at Llanuwchllyn from Oakley Slate Quarry in either 1971 or 1972 and departing on 23rd November 1976. The April 1973 issue (No. 82) of the Narrow Gauge Railway Society's Narrow Gauge News refers to 432652 being resident at Llanuwchllyn.

Cambrian and Conwy memories - images by Trefor Thompson
Captions by Charlie Hulme

A Central Trains liveried 158 at Ynys Las, (in English, blue island) between Dovey Junction and Borth on ther Aberystwyth line, May 2003. Despite the attractions of the sandy beach, nature reserve and caravan sites in the area, the station here closed on 1965 along with a number of others on the Cambrian main line.

Seen between Harlech and Llandanwg in  August 1996, this unit had an interesting career. It was built as 50015 and 56015, one of the class 114 long-bodied 'Derby Heavyweight' units  (not to be confused with the much more common 108s which have shorter bodies.  They were later re-numbered 55929 and 54904 to avoid confusion in the computer system with Class 50 and 56 locos, and modifed for use in parcels traffic. A further conversion gave them the livery seen in the pictures, as  an 'Automatic Train Protection Test Unit, becoming ADB 977775 and ADB 977776'.  When no longer needed for that project,  the unit was used by EWS as ' route learning and inspection vehicles. 'The pair still exists, currently in store at the Midland Railway, Butterley. See also item below.

Regional Railways, and Central Trains for a while, deployed the single-car Class 153s on some Cambrian services as seen October 1998 between Llandanwg and Harlech. Although convenient for the small stations with short platforms, there capacity left something to be desired. Class 156 2-car units also appeared, but the conversion of the route to the ERTMS signalling meant that only Class 158s can work the regular services today - to be replaced, perhaps in 2022, by new Class 197s.

Ty Gwyn (or Ty Gwyn) halt in November 1997.  Serving a small community, this station was threatened with closure in the 1990s, but has remained open, with 1,052 'entries and exits'  officially recorded in the year from March 2019.  The figures for 2020-21 will be around zero as the station, like other request halts on the Cambrian Coast, not been served due to the 'social distancing rules' which cannot be followed when the guard stands at one of the train doors to open it. By 2013, a new shelter had been installed, but by 2019 the wooden platform was in a dangerous condition; it was refurbished during a three-week closure in that year.

Geoff Poole in his essential Llandudno Junction 6G shed website refers to the 1950s and 1960s when steam traction was still abudant as 'The Glorious Years' on the North Wales line, but others, including your editor, might apply the term to the mid-1990s when Class 37/4 hauled passenger trains and Class 101 railcars rode the rails, as seen in Trefor's classic view at Llandudno Junction on 8 November 1996 starring 37 429 Eisteddfod Genedlaethol on (we think) the 10:17 Crewe - Bangor and 101 679 on Conwy Valley duty.

By the 1990s all nearly all surviving Class 101 units were in two-car formation, but two were provided with a centre coach, intended for use on the Conwy Valley service which at the time was being heavily promoted as a link to the Ffestiniog Railway. One of them, 101 685, was restored to British Railway green livery in 1994 and featured on posters and leaflets; the other, seen as a 'back-up'  was 101 683, seen on its intended duty at Blaenau Ffestiniog in April 1997.

101 683 in two-car format calls at Dolwyddelen station, its earlier layout as a passing loop with isand platform clearly evident, in April 1998.  The intention had been to use the centre cars just for the summer services, but they were removed permanently after Summer 1997.   When displaced from North Wales by newer stock, both 101s continued on Manchester area service for several  years more,  gaining an enthusiast following, culminating in a memorable 'farewell tour' on 21 December 2003.

An unidentified 37/4 on an unusual job: a stone train from Penmaenmawr below Conwy Castle, July 1998.  Today, such trains are soon to re-appear, although Class 37 haulage is not foreseen.

Thanks as always to and for assisting our memories.

From Dave Sallery's archive

By coincidence, this week Dave sent us another picture of the unit in Trefor Thompson's collection.  Seen in Shrewsbury on 30 July 1996, it was engaged in testing the Radio Electronic Token Block signalling system which had been implemented in 1988 on the Cambrian system - a forerunner of the more sophisticated system in use today.

A close-up of freight sector 31 144 on passenger duty at Prestatyn on 9 August 1990. This loco falls into the 'Preserved then scrapped' category, having been kept at the Weardale Railway for a while; both cans still exist in a South Wales collection.

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