NORTH WALES COAST RAILWAY:NOTICE BOARD
Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd
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30 April 2018
The Welsh Borders Explorer seen from Chirk aqueduct, 19 April. More views below (Robert Meredith).
Class 67 loco change
A newcomer on the Manchester - North Wales loco diagram; 67 008 passes Beeches Farm on 24 April with the 09:50 Manchester - Holyhead. Picture by Bob Greenhalgh.
The previous incumbent, 67 015, was in the bay siding at Warrington Bank Quay as the 13:07 Holyhead - Manchester called, with 67 008 propelling (Eurwyn McMahon).
Steam's Finest Hours
Chris Magner, prolific author and self-publisher, has issued the latest in his series of railway books: Steam's Finest Hours: Birkenhead Woodside to Shrewsbury 1965-67. Chris subtitles his 100-page A4 comb-bound book as 'a history with digressions and with additional information' - and here at nwrail.org.uk we do enjoy a good digression.
Here, along with collected memories of other enthusiasts from the time, are Chris's own recollections of that brief era when the Great Western motive power on the Birkenhead trains had been replaced by ex-LMS steam, before succumbing to diesels for a while until Chester - Birkenhead line ceased to be used by expresses and Birkenhead Woodside station was closed.
As usual with Chris's books, this is not a 'glossy' sort of publication, especially since some of the photographs are included principally for their great historical value, but it is well-written and compiled, and includes interesting tales from that distant time time when footplate crews were encouraged - sometimes financially - by dedicated 'train timers' to go for fast runs, and groups of enthusiasts (some of whom had travelled long distances) would - entirely unofficially - visit loco sheds to clean the locos to engender pride in the crews. As Chris writes: 'One realises now, with the benefit of hindsight, that no enthusiast had any right to urge and cajole men from another industry, particularly the firemen, to work harder, and push their engines ... to the maximum extent.' But it happened.
At the heart of the book is a diary of the steam workings in the period, including every day in the days leading to the end of steam on the line in spring 1967. The various railtours over the line are also covered. An interesting read and a valuable historical record. Steam's Finest Hours is available direct from Chris Magner at 21 Dunval Road, Bridgnorth, Shropshire WV16 4NA - price £12 including postage. Enquiries to chrismagner45[at]yahoo.co.uk.
Yet another rail report
Yet another document was launched in February hoping the revolutionise our rail system: the West and Wales (yes, that way round) Strategic Rail Prospectus. Thankfully, this one is only 28 pages, including an amusing sound-bite by Ashley Rogers, Chair of North Wales and Mersey Dee Business Council:
Many of our train journeys today, go no faster than a horse. Who thinks this is acceptable in the 21st century?The authors compare journey times by train and car (no horse times are offered) such as Llandudno to Manchester Airport, 165 minutes by train, 88 minutes by car. The prospectus proposes 'Faster journey times through line speed improvements' and 'New direct services and increased frequencies'. Various other routes are discussed, including Manchester - Stoke - Stafford which seems to be neither West nor Wales. Much emphasis is placed on HS2 to unlock faster journeys.
Mr Rogers, in a interview printed in Rail magazine, states that 'only 1% of commuters between north Wales and northwest England currently travel by and that has to change.' It's not clear whether he means commuters in the strict sense of season ticket holders, or just all passengers, as the term is often used by newspapers; but if the figure is really so small, it would seem to need a 100% increase in the attractiveness of rail to make the tiniest improvement.
Passenger numbers on Coast trains are very low at present, partly because of the high fares as well as the relatively slow timings. The 175s are not popular with everyone, but from what we read about new trains introduced elsewhere recently and their 'ironing-board' seats, be careful what you wish for. What else can be done without vast expense and upheaval? Faster running would be of limited use if every town is to be served. The Welsh Government seems unwilling to subsidise passengers to England. Any ideas?
Welsh Borders Explorer
The second 'Saphos Trains' excursion, on 29 April, was a journey from Crewe via Chester to Shrewsbury, and back via Stafford, hauled by 34052 Lord Dowding. A trial run around the route was made on 24 April; Bob Greenhalgh captured it at Green lane crossing, Saltney.
John Cowlishaw noticed this on the Real Time Trains site, and headed to Rossett where he was pleased to find he was the only photographer present.
The excursion itself on 29 April, seen near Bunbury on the Chester - Crewe section (Ian Pilkington).
Beeston (Phil Clarke).
Entering the single-track section at Rossett, photographed from the right side of the fence at Rossett foot crossing (Charles Allen).
On the single track section from Rossett to Wrexham General, 34052 prepares to storm Gresford Bank (David Andrews).
Heading out of Shrewsbury on the Birmingham line (Ian Pilkington). The notional destination was Telford Central, but after a half hour stop there the train continued towards Wolverhampton, taking the chord line (not normally used by passenger trains) from Oxley Junction to Bushbury Junction, then heading north on the West Coast Main Line to Stafford and Crewe, thus avoiding the need for any reversals.
Returning to to Crewe on the West Coast Main Line Down Slow line, north of Norton Bridge (Ian Pilkington).
Approaching Crewe (Phil Clarke).
At Crewe D1935, Roger Hosking MA which has been trailing on the rear, is started up
with a resulting spectacular (or polluting, depending on your outlook) display of 'clag'.
Note: we plan to quote the numbers actually carried by these privately-owned locos, as it's tedious to check and explain that these might not be their 'real' numbers.
Bridges of Llanddulas - pictures by Greg Mape
Above, a Class 175 crosses Llanddulas viaduct on 28 April. The original bridge here collapsed in a storm in 1879, and the brick piers date from that time, whilst the current bridge deck dates from 1974 - see our 19 April 2016 issue.
A curious controversy concerns the original 1879 bridge. It has been claimed that the four cast-iron eagles which now adorn various locations in Crewe - the Eagle Bridge heath centre, the Heritage Centre and the electric depot - were originally mounted on this viaduct at Llandulas. Others say they were on a bridge at Conwy, or possibly on the Dee bridge in Chester that collapsed in 1847. It's said that they can be seen on an engraving from the time of the accident, although looking at the engraving reproduced in the book Disaster on the Dee by Peter R. Lewis we can't see any eagles.
A picture from the 1930s published in the book Crewe through time by Peter Ollerhead (available on Google books) shows them mounted on the bridge in Crewe that carried an internal railway, connecting parts of Crewe works, over the Crewe - Chester line, and Mr Ollerhead states that they were rescued by LNWR chief mechanical engineer F.W. Webb from a load of scrap which arrived for re-melting at Crewe Steel Works from an unknown source, and mounted on that bridge.
More recently, a stylised eagle was adopted by the electric depot for its Railfreight 'depot plaque.'
Further west is a bridge (or viaduct?) - seen here with a passing 158 - built in the 1980s to carry the line over the A55 'expressway' road. In the foreground is the North Wales Coast cycleway following the shoreline.
Great Britain XI
Day 7 of the 'Great Britain' multi-day tour on 25 April was from Grange-over-Sands to Cardiff underwent various changes of motive power. It was advertised as double-headed 'Jubilees' from Grange-over-Sands to Shrewsbury and 8F 48151 on to Cardiff, but on the day it was 35018 from Carnforth to Crewe and 'Black 5' 45212 from Crewe - Cardiff. Phil Clarke ventured into the Crewe Heritage Centre to photograph 45212 prepared to take over the train. On the right, undergoing restoration, is 37 108.
Ready to go ...
... and setting back, with its support coach, on to the Chester line and towards the station. Phil has uploaded some video of the above events to Youtube.
The train arrived at Crewe two hours late, thanks to signalling failures in the Acton Bridge area.
The tour continued, with 45212 at the head; Robert Meredith photographed it, safely from next to a foot crossing near Nantwich. The route included a journey over the Central Wales line via Llandrindod, finally arriving in Cardiff at 21:27 after leaving Grange at 08:34; a long day for crews and passengers.
100 objects - report by George Jones
A Llangollen Railway headboard is on display in Wrexham Museum as one of the collected 100 Objects illustrating the history of North East Wales. The headboard was carried by Foxcote Manor at the re-opening of Glyndyfrdwy station and is the representative item for railways in the region.
The exhibition runs to 30 June and includes a piece of Wellington bomber and a slice of Airbus wing along with assorted other 'bits and pieces' from across the years. The Museum is Regent St, Wrexham; visitor information is on their website.
Colwyn Bay Pier - pictures by Greg Mape