Rheilffordd arfordir gogledd Cymru: Hysbysfwrdd

30 July 2019


Contributions and comments are encouraged: see the Contributions Page

Forthcoming events

August 2019

Saturday 3  August TfW/Network Rail 'The Conwy Quest' steam special Chester - Blaenau Ffestiniog. Information from TfW.

September 2019

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..

66 085, in the new DB livery, powers through Gobowen at 10:20 on 24 July with the Dee Marsh to Margam steel empties.  Picture by Martin Evans.

Don't miss our 26 July extra issue.

Eisteddfod Genedlaethol at Llanrwst

Sadly, 37 429 will not be present, but this year's National Eisteddfors takes place at Blaenau Ffestiniog from 3 to 10 August: details of the events can be found at the Eisteddfod website.  Happily, Network Rail have managed to get the line repaired in time, and a bus shuttle service to the venue will run from Llanrwst North station.  TfW's website suggests that extra trains will run, but we have no information about timings at present.  Transport for Wales, who are sponsoring the events,  and Network Rail will have a joint stall at the Eisteddfod staffed by Welsh speakers and learners.

And of course there will be the steam special on Saturday 3 August.

Sutton Tunnel works

In addition to the major works on the main line near Warrington, during the current 'blockade' of the line, Network Rail are also engage in renewing 4000 metres of  track and making 2000 metres of drainage improvements through Sutton Tunnel, north of Frodsham Junction part of a £9million investment in the line.

GBRf  have been providing  materials transport for the work; driver Jim Scott has kindly sent on these photographs taken on 26 July of his train (08:35 Frodsham Junction to Crewe Basford Hall via Chester) which had carried rails to the site, top-and-tailed by 66 783 (ex-DB 66 058) The Flying Dustman  and 66 706  Nene Valley. Above, waiting to leave the works site ...

... and at Chester station ready to depart for Crewe.

Some historical notes on the Sutton Tunnel area

The building of the Birkenhead, Lancashire and Cheshire Junction Railway's line from Warrington to Chester in the 1840s involved some significant engineering works, including viaducts over the Weaver and Weaver Navigation,  and the Frodsham and Sutton tunnels. The Sutton tunnel, 1 mile 154 yards long takes the line below an area of relatively high ground, which at the time was farmland and woods near to the village of Sutton Weaver. Over the years, however, the area has seen house building, and two major transport arteries, the main line from Crewe to Liverpool and the A533 dual carriageway road. Also crossing the area is the 'Runcorn Busway', a bus-only road  created in the 1970s as part of the Runcorn New Town development.

Unfortunately, not long after opening, Sutton Tunnel was the site of an accident in 1851 which  reveals the lack of any reliable safety systems on early railways. The line was busy with special trains returning from Chester races.  One train came to a stand when the locomotive stalled, and a second train was allowed into the tunnel  to propel the first,  but part way through the tunnel this too became unable to move, and  was run into by a third train which had been allowed to proceed into the tunnel, according to the 'time interval' system which was the only procedure in use.   A curious feature of the incident, in which only nine people were fatally injured, was that the second train had on the rear, as was common in those days,  a flat 'carriage truck' which was carrying the private (road) carriage of a Mrs Ridgway, who was riding in the train with her sister. Their footman and coachman were travelling in the carriage. The Sutton Weaver website has a full report on this incident.

The section of line between the viaduct and the tunnel once boasted a station, initially called Runcorn and later Halton, which closed to passengers in 1952.  Its name survives in that of Halton Station Road, and the station building remains as part of a private house.  A private goods branch line once ran from this station to a small basin connected to the Weaver Navigation, passing under the line now known as the Halton Curve (recently opened to regular traffic) and bridging over a road leading to the dock and the adjacent Runcorn Bone Works which supplied farmers with 'raw bones, ground very fine, boiled bones, bone shavings, and turnings, all of first rate quality'.

The branch line seems to have survived until around 1960, although perhaps with little or no traffic.  The area has since been much altered to accommodate an industrial estate and the M56 motorway, but the bridge carrying the Halton Curve survives, seen in the background of this Google Streetmap image. The only other relic is one abutment of the bridge over Clifton Road, seen on the right of the image. The Disused Stations website has much more about Halton station and the branch.  Sutton Dock itself is still there, a haven for pleasure boats.

Comments on this piece are welcome.

Busy Sunday - pictures by Bob Greenhalgh

Sunday 28 July saw the GBRf locos in action again on engineers' trains. 66 706, see above, is passing Balderton on the Chester - Wrexham line with the 13:30 Frodsham Junction to Bescot Engineers' sidings near Birmingham.

A second train on the same routing departed Frodsham Junction at 15:34 with 66 728 Institution of Railway Operators in charge, photographed passing Green Lane crossing.

The Merseyrail route was used for trains to Crewe via Chester, a reversal at Hooton, then back through Chester to Crewe. The Flying Dustman is seen passing Bache for the second time at 13:02 with a load of what looks like replaced track. The trip to Hooton to run round the train was necessary because the train was too long to run round at Chester - 1386 feet long compared to 1290 feet for the up main loop. [Incidentally, what happened to the second train of wagons from Bridgend?]

508 128 calls at Bache station.  These 1970s-built trains are nearing the end of their careers, expected to be replaced by new 'state-of-the art' trains in 2020. A Merseyrail press release tells us that 'Built and maintained by Swiss manufacturer, Stadler, the trains will be modern, safe, fast and comfortable. The new trains will be able to carry more people, more quickly, helping support the growth of the City Region and with the potential to run on an extended network to places like Wrexham, Skelmersdale and Warrington.'

Manchester diversions

The two-week closure of the West Coast Main line at Acton Grange Junction has resulted the diversion of Virgin's London - Glasgow service through Manchester, which has been achieved by projecting one of the three hourly Manchester - London services through to Glasgow, running via Eccles, Manchester Piccadilly and Stockport.  Greg Mape's pictures were taken on rainy Sunday 28 July. Above,  390 121  Virgin Dream passes Manchester Oxford Road with a the 12:50 from Glasgow which will form the 15:55 Manchester - London.

390 114 City of Manchester passes Oxford Road en route to Glasgow.

The view from the footbridge connecting Deansgate station with Deansgate-Castlefield  Metrolink (Greg Mape).

Eccles station at 15:04 on 30 July: Alan Lewin photographed the 12:40 Euston - Glasgow  from the bridge passing two minutes early.

The Conwy Crusader - follow-up by Chris Jones-Bridger

Regarding Barrie Hughes' article about the 'Conway Crusader' railtour of 1984 (Last issue), I  may be able to shed some light on why 40 047 was provided as an extra loco at Blaenau. I recall the repeat tour where 50 007 was involved. It had not long been repainted GWR green and renamed in connection with the then planned GWR anniversary the following  year.

If the first tour followed the pattern of the repeat it would have been double headed between Llandudno Junction and Blaenau. Two locos would have been provided to facilitate the run round at Blaenau due to the train exceeding 10 coaches, the maximum that can be run round using the loop in the station. On arrival the lead loco was detached into the run round loop. The second loco drew the train forward to enable the first loco to be released from the loop and  placed at the Junction end of the train. A double shuffle then enabled the second loco to be released to the loop and  having run round become the lead loco for the return trip from Blaenau.

As the points at Blaenau are ground frames released using the single line token for the section from Llanrwst, the movements inspector accompanying the train spent a lot of time walking between the south and north end ground frames unlocking and locking them between each move.

There was no blanket top-and-tail working in those days as today. When it occurred it was specially authorised.

Coast scenes

Greg Mape was up and about early on 26 July to capture the 06:55 Holyhead - London, passing a lone camper van on the beach.

Seen through the gates at the end of the station car park, 150 278 arrives at Llandudno from Blaenau Ffestiniog on 27 July (Greg Mape).

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