News Archive Page
V4.3 updated 1/7/20
with news to 31/3/20
Newly archived sections are placed at the top of this page.
No.130 March update
With work ceasing for the 'lock down' the final status of NG16 No.130 is that Boston Lodge at the end of March was varnishing the wood for the cab roof. The boiler will have hydraulic testing again before the start of service in order to reset its 10 year boiler ticket.
'Journey into the Past' specials August 2020
It is still intended to run JITP heritage trains over 5 August Sundays from 2-30/8/20 with the usual trip from Caernarfon to Rhyd Ddu and stop at Tryfan Junction and Waunfawr. Last year's offering was extended for additional Sundays in September until 22/9/19 due to demand.
Dinas (FR) branch progress March 2020
The original FR extended to a station at the foot of the inclines nearer the NR Blaenau Tunnel portal to a station called Dinas. This became a freight only line later in the railway's history when the LNWR Exchange station , GWR Exchange station and Duffws Terminus were constructed. When the FR reopened to Blaenau Ffestiniog thought was given to linking to the Rhiwbrifdyr Incline and the tourist attractions developing in the area. The original alignment was covered over by Oakley Quarries tip expansion but recovered during land reclamation works with material tipped in the LNWR station area and others.
Now a project group has been formed to examine the possibility of reopening the route. Volunteers have undertaken an initial survey of the missing bridges. There are four, five or six bridges depending on which are reinstated. The investigation was very much a preliminary look at what might be needed. There is also the question of what type of bridge is needed and what sort of train will they need to support? The report, although preliminary, contains much valuable information, particularly with regard to any grant application that might be made.
The second development is that on 13/2/20 project leaders visited the Rail and Research Department at the University of Birmingham, which leads the way on Hydrogen powered train technology. In partnership with Porterbrook Leasing, they have produced HydroFlex, the UK’s first Hydrogen train. A researcher had visited line in January 2020 and was particularly interested in the potential of the branch and the hydroelectric power station. Researchers from Birmingham University were enthusiastic about the prospect of the FR procuring a narrow gauge hydrogen engine for the Dinas branch. Steam engines are also wanted but an entirely green clean train will be of interest to many. The research team has a narrow gauge hydrogen locomotive, Hydrogen Hero, which they had intended to bring to the now cancelled Fairlie Eventful Festiniog Railway Locomotive trials in June 2020. It was the intension to have Hydrogen Hero running in the new Carriage Shed at Boston Lodge.
The next Dinas working party was planned take place on 21-22/3/20 but the pandemic closure has prevented that. It had been the intention to clear one of the bridge sites and hope to gain access to what is known as the ‘island’ site.
Click on the YouTube window to watch 1 mins 25 seconds of video covering Hydrogen Hero. This YouTube was published on 11/6/19. It is best watched in HD in Google Chrome browser as only 720p HD available on Windows. Alternatively click on YouTube link.
Moelwyn Tunnel south portal work almost complete late March
A start was made on the new portal at the south end of the Moelwyn Tunnel in early November following closure of the FR for the WMWP. It was planned to complete the work in time for the new 2020 Season on 28/3/20. By 6/12/19 work had been completed on the footings building upwards towards the arch.
This northerly view (23-31/3/20) shows the completed south portal of Moelwyn Tunnel on the FR with Criccieth Castle emerging on the works train. Work has been taking place as part of the WMWP during the FR closure to complete the south portal following completion of the north portal last year. With the railway closed and virus restrictions coming into force, the decision was taken to remove the scaffolding for HSAW reasons although a small amounting of pointing is required to the lower part of the face to finish the job. The indent space to the left of the portal is for a plaque to celebrate the completion. Your webmaster had a small part in building this tunnel, driving a mines loco with loaded skips to muck out the tunnel during its original construction in the late 1970s. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Ian Hartill (Moelwyn Tunnel Project Manager F&WHR) and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
Baldwin No.608 test run March
Baldwin No.608, which failed during the photoshoot last November, has received attention at Boston Lodge and was allowed a trial run to Beddgelert recently. The loco was accompanied by Upnor Castle for insurance. There are still issues to deal with but progress has been made and the loco might be seen in traffic later this year when the railway reopens after the government eases the restrictions necessitated by the pandemic. The loco is similar to Baldwin No.590 which ran on the WHR from 1923 until scrapped in 1942 when the WHR was scrapped for the war effort. The WHHR also has a Baldwin nearing completion at the VoR. The Imperial War museum's No.794 will carry the identity No.590 to reprise many historical tableaux along the route now that the F&WHR and WHHR have an improving working relationship.
Heritage Group donation 28/3/20
As the WHR Heritage Group is unlikely to be doing anything with Glan-yr-Afon weighbridge project this year or indeed any other projects on the WHR – they have instead sent £2,500 for the FR/WHR Covid-19 appeal. While the Company may eventually get some help from the various Government Covid-19 schemes it seems pretty clear that the FR/WHR will need substantial donations to help make up for the loss of revenue from the trains, cafes and retail activities that would otherwise be about to come on stream at Easter.
F&WHR YouTube advert 26/3/20
Click on the YouTube window to watch 1 mins 43 seconds of video showing an advert for the F&WHR to keep the spirits up during the lock down. This YouTube was published on 26/3//20 and was taken by John Wooden (F&WHR) on a professional 4K camcorder. It is best watched in HD in Google Chrome browser as only 720p HD available on Windows. Alternatively click on YouTube link.
TfW reduces WalesRail services 23/3/20
With the Government recommending a 'stay at home' pandemic policy, TfW has reduced services to a Sunday service to reflect demand so the loco hauled train have disappeared. A bus service is operating on the Conwy Valley line which it is hoped will be restored and made more weatherproof before the Summer should holiday traffic return. See TfW website for latest service reductions.
Elsewhere on the North Wales railways the new cement service to Padeswood (near Buckley) has started recently and TfW has confirmed that the loco hauled Crewe/Manchester-Holyhead/Llandudno service will after all continue and additional Mk4 coaches have been purchased to cover this despite not being mentioned in the initial prospectus. Mk3 coaches continue to be used with an extended derogation until they arrive. The proposed new freight services from Penmaenmawr stone quarry and Llandudno Junction (household refuse) have not commenced yet. An attempt to use the Valley triangle for reversing a steam loco on a recent excursion could not be completed due to NR not maintaining the junction points in a useable condition despite guarantees to the promoters!
NG15 No.134 Group cancels working party 21-22/3/20
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the NG15 Group has cancelled the working party due 21-22/3/20 and is likely to cancel following months too until the Government advises that it is safe to have such meetings. It was anticipated that the loco would have be wheeled during the March working party. Some small home-working projects may continue but it is unlikely the permanent staff will make any further progress as the F&WHR has closed down completely except for skeleton staff who are maintaining safety and security of the railway and its workshops.
Statfold Barn cancels 21/3/20 Enthusiast Day due to virus concerns
StatfoldBarn has cancelled the Enthusiast Day planned for 21/3/20 following government advice which has seen all Heritage Railways closing. It had been hoped to showcase the restored K1 at the event but this will now be done later in the year when it becomes clear how long the virus lock down will last. See Statfold Barn website.
Welsh Pony progress 20/3/20
The brass front hand rail has been repaired and fitted. A new smokebox door of the original pattern has been produced. There has been good progress fitting out the cab with gauges and glasses and the boiler was tested to 170 psi (1.17 MPa) on 27/2/20.
This Boston Lodge view (20/2/20) shows good progress sitting all the gauges and glasses to Welsh Pony's backhead. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Ian Hartill (Moelwyn Tunnel Project Manager F&WHR) and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
Beddgelert station seats renewal 19-20/3/20
The WHR Seats team were hoping to renew the station platform seats at Beddgelert on 19-20/3/20 but this may now be affected by the epidemic.
NG 15 No.134 progress summary Spring 2020
Progress had been made by Huw Einion Jones of the permanent staff and the Tuesday Engineering Gang. One of jobs that has been done is to tidy up the front buffer beam, filling in some of the holes from the old coupling and safety chains then giving it a coat of paint. The gang also had a go at modifying the front cow catcher, however it's still likely that it will need further enhancement. The front drawgear has been completed and assembled and is now in place. After re-wheeling the loco, it can be moved around easily, clearing space and allowing use of the pit for assembly when it is available.
The NG15 group has been busy replacing the chequered plate on the locomotive. The old plate was a mix of chequered and diamond plate and had a lot of holes in places where parts were no longer fitted. New 6mm chequered plate was purchased and has made the loco look a lot better. The lubrication system for the KH truck has been completed with the guidance of the permanent staff. It was decided to use standard components where possible. The KH truck flexible pipes are standard NG 16 pipes, as well as the 4 way oil splitter.
The axleboxes had suffered from scoring due to there being insufficient oil feed to the bearings so it was decided to skim the bearing surface and modify the boxes to be the same as a NG16. The front buffer beam has been cleaned up by the Tuesday Engineering Group with any unnecessary holes filled in and any areas of corrosion were ground and built up with weld. It is now ready for re-fitting the new vacuum pipe. The original cow catcher was made to fit around the lowered coupling. It was found that the cow catcher was in very poor condition and it may need replacing. Options will be discussed at the next working party. The new drawgear has been assembled but the bolts need fully tightening when a suitable socket can be found.
Caernarfon Food Festival cancelled 18/3/20
The Caernarfon Food Festival planned for 9/5/20 has also understandably been cancelled for this year and the planned additional train on the F&WHR has been cancelled along with all train services until further notice. See Caernarfon Food Festival news website.
B&FRHT AGM cancelled 18/3/20
In light of Government's advice and reports that some of members are self isolating the AGM of the Bala & Ffestiniog Railway Heritage Trust will not now be holding a physical face to face AGM on 28/3/20 in Blaenau Ffestiniog. The committee are still working through legal requirements and alternatives to try to provide some certainty to the members and the Trust moving forward. It is likely to involve proxy votes so members will be asked to submitted proxy vote forms.
In the meantime the Trust's Facebook page is showing images of the line as a quiz for people B&FRHT Facebook page.
F&WHR suspends services because of Corona virus 18/3/20
The F&WHR reacted promptly to Government advice and closed the railway on 18/3/20 just prior to the start of the Easter Season on 28/3/20, so a great loss of income is anticipated and an appeal has been made for financial aid to support the railway and retain key staff. This will ensure the railway can restart as soon as allowed by the Government when the Covid-19 virus crisis is over. The F&WHR shops and cafes are also closed down and staff furloughed, with a few safety critical staff retained for security of the railway and premises. Click here to see Appeal.
Click on the YouTube window to watch 3 mins 53 seconds of video covering the F&WHR's General manager appealing on behalf of the railway concerning the economic damage the shut down of the railway will do to its future. The video includes some archive footage. This YouTube was published on 26/3/20 and was taken by John Wooden on a professional 4K camcorder. It is best watched in HD in Google Chrome browser as only 720p HD available on Windows. Alternatively click on YouTube link.
Images of the final train on 14/3/20 were captured on the WHHR webcam apparently the Hafod-y-llyn service returning in the late afternoon with Linda or Blanche in charge.
Click on the YouTube window to watch 0 mins 47 seconds of video covering the F&WHR's final Hafod-y-llyn train before shutting down following government advice about Covid-19 measures. The video also shows Emma shunting Russell. This YouTube was published on 18/3/20 and was taken by the WHHR webcam courtesy Andrew Goodwin (WHHR). It is best watched in HD in Google Chrome browser as only 720p HD available on Windows. Alternatively click on YouTube link.
Stockport Dual Gauge show cancelled 16/3/20
The Stockport Dual Gauge show planned for 2/5/20 which was to raise funds for the Gowrie Project was cancelled in March because of the pandemic. A virtual show was being held instead on the Stockport Dual Gauge Show Facebook page.
K1 back in action 11/3/20!
This SBR view (11/3/20) shows K1 back in service after a rapid 3 month turn round at the Statfold Barn workshops. The loco appears to be in good condition following its overhaul with very little evidence of steam leaks. It had been was hoped to hold an enthusiast Day on 21/3/20. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Joey Evans courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
Welsh Pony progress 6/3/20
Rapid progress is being made on Welsh Pony with work underway on the smokebox door and a start on the cab plumbing. A launch event has been planned for 20-21/6/20 replacing the 'Fairlie Eventful' event planned for the same weekend but subject to government restrictions concerning the current epidemic.
Fourth Observation Car to be named 4/3/20
It is planned to name the FR's Pullman Observation Carriage No.152 ‘Eryri-Snowdonia’ (Welsh on one side and English on the other) when it is outshopped after re-varnishing later this year. This means that all four F&WHR Pullman Observation carriages will have local names. The FR Pullmans are named after the area through which the railway passes; Eryri after the local area and Gwynedd after the county (itself named after an ancient kingdom of North West Wales). The WHR Pullmans are named Glaslyn and Gwyrfai after rivers that flow through the area served by the railway.
Cabinet Office video 3/3/20
The Cabinet Office Press unit 'cab ride' (presumably taken 21/1/20) was finally published 3/3/20 and shows the WHR in atrocious rainy dark Winter weather with some of the line very wet e.g. Castell Cidwm bridge and The Traeth flooded. In places the video switches to a rear view camera as the front camera has raindrops on the lens. No action is shown at the terminals and there are unedited station stops. At Dinas, the brakevan and freight train are seen in the headshunt and PW diesel No.9 in the bay. At Rhyd Ddu, Upnor Castle in in the siding with a Mess Coach and some wagons. At Beddgelert there are two wagons in the siding possibly with loco ash, presumably for strengthening embankments in the Beddgelert Forest. At Porthmadog Vale of Ffestiniog is noted waiting in the run round loop with, possibly, No.143 presumably going to Dinas for refurbishment though for some reason the video blanks out for a second whilst passing the Garratt.
Click on the YouTube window to watch 2 hours 9 mins 24 seconds of video presumably taken on 21/1/20 in poor weather showing a buffer beam view from Caernarfon to Porthmadog. This YouTube was published on 3/3/20 and was taken by the Cabinet Office Press Unit courtesy of F&WHR on a professional 4K camcorder. It is best watched in HD in Google Chrome browser as only 720p HD available on Windows. Alternatively click on YouTube link.
No.130 progress 2-16/3/20
Peter Best's Garratt No.130 has seen some progress during March though the corona virus pandemic will restrict progress for some months to come.
By 2/3/20 progress with trial fitting cladding had reached the smokebox.
By 7/3/20 the cladding bands had now been made, trial fitted and have had their first coat of rust prevention paint. The cladding is also complete except for the holes for the hand rail posts being cut. Painting will probably start as soon as the copper pipework is completed. The large steam pipes have been bent, trial fitted and flange connections added.
By 14/3/20 good progress was being made with the cladding, with holes cut for handrail posts, priming and undercoating in full swing. All of the cladding is now complete and will soon be fitted for the final time with the insulation.
By 16/3/20 the spark arrestor components were being fitted. All the component pieces are finished and the main steam pipes fitted with flanges.
Winter 2019-20 snowfall summary
Winter 2019/20 has been rather disappointing with no trains in the snow images to hand. There was a blanket of snow on Snowdon and the Carneddau on 8/11/19 which persisted until 9/11/19 and gave an alpine backdrop to the Hafod-y-llyn service which started that day. Snowfall was also forecast for Snowdon Summit on 14/11/19 and most days for the following week. However after this cold start December became milder. While the tops of the mountains often had a white dusting, the weather was mostly wild, wet and windy, which caused some disruption to the line. There were very few days that saw a frost and February seemed to be more like March weather with a series of storms and floods whereas February could usually be guaranteed to have some snowfall. The February Half Term train service from 15/2/20 was likely to be the last opportunity to travel on or photo trains in the snow but again the weather was mild and stormy but did see some days with a dusting on Snowdon, Cnicht and the Moelwyns.
Work on new Premier Inn to start in May (28/2/20)
The conversion of the former Inland Revenue Tax office Ty Mawr, opposite the WHR, to a Premier Inn is due to start in May following agreement for a £7.5 million conversion programme. The 80 bed hotel, to open in spring 2021 will feature bar, restaurant dining facilities and parking. Strangely, there are only 55 car parking spaces for 80 rooms so late arrivals will have to park at Llyn Bach or in town centre car parks, surely a mistake? See Cambrian News for full story.
Brown timetable begins 26/2/20
The Brown timetable MTFX Porthmadog-Hafod-y-llyn trains resume on 26/2/20 and continue until 26/3/20 when the new season Easter timetable begins. Trains leave Porthmadog at 1115 and 1415 for the half hour run across the Traeth to Hafod-y-llyn. Trains may be top and tailed by a small engine or a run round can occur there. A small engine can be used as the route stops just before the 1 in 40 Nantmor Incline so is largely level. It is recommended the trains be used for a round trip from Porthmadog due to limited access at Hafod-y-llyn. Blanche has been rostered for this service initially but Lyd also hauled some of the trains. The run round loop at Hafod-y-llyn was used rather than top and tailing with two locos. While trains do call at Pont Croesor for operational reasons, times are not quoted. See WHR Winter Timetable 2019/20.
ECS move 24/2/20
This northerly view (24/2/20) shows Nos.87/143 top and tailing an ECS working to Dinas, presumably returning coaches that had received maintenance in preparation for the new season. The rake is seen passing Hafod-y-llyn, a rarely used loop with a very short platform. One of the locos was probably being run in and the other there for insurance. No.87 had been in traffic since 15/2/20. Double headed Garratts are not allowed over the Plas-y-nant bridge which has not yet been strengthened. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
Local F&WHR discount card relaunched 23/2/20
The Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways' card for local residents has been updated with added benefits. ‘Y Cerdyn’ is a discount / loyalty card scheme offering cheap travel on F&WHR trains, as well as discounts in the railways gift shops and on food and drink from station catering outlets, to residents of Gwynedd, Conwy County, Anglesey, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham. Costing only £20.00 and valid for three years, the card will allow owners and their family to make the most of the F&WHR.
The card will also entitle holders to discounts on the railway’s special events, such as the Beer Festival and Santa trains. A regular newsletter keeps holders up-to-date with all the latest offers and discounts. It can be used as often as the holder likes - so it is perfect for when travelling on the train, food and drink in the café / bar or buying a gift from one of station shops.
Discount rates may vary at any time, but are currently 50% off Standard ticket fares, 10% off food / non-alcoholic drinks, 5% off alcohol drinks and shop purchases. Each card is for the use of one named person only. However, each adult can also take one child (3-15yrs) with them on the train for free. Additional children will need to have their own card.
Further details and an online application form can be found here.
NG15 No.134 progress 21-22/2/20
The NG15 Working Party was moved back a week as fewer volunteers were available on the original date. The full time staff had been having a comprehensive tidy-up in the shed and so team members were asked to have a good clear out around No.134, something achieved on the Saturday morning. Volunteers took the opportunity of getting rid of the old chequered plate, although the very original diamond chequer will hopefully be going to a good home to be used on Britomart.
The first job tackled was the simple task of reattaching the cylinder covers after they had been given another coat of paint last time. After this the team turned their attention to the Krauss-Helmholtz truck and the new chequered plate. It is hoped that the re-wheeling of the loco will happen very soon and so volunteers needed to finish off the lubrication on the front Krauss-Helmholtz truck. This was possible as they had now received all the new splitters required for the loco with one of these needed for the K-H truck. All that was left to do was to silver solder the joins and that will hopefully be done by the full time staff before re-wheeling.
The bulk of the work for the weekend was continuing fitting the new chequered plate for the footplate and running boards. This started with volunteers finishing off fitting the front left hand sheet into place by drilling, tapping and countersinking the various holes required. After this they moved to the front running plate. This is the curved section above the buffer beam that they had previously cut to size. The team first cut out a section above the front coupling as this is to provide an access hatch to make it easier the change the coupling. Once done they started drilling, tapping and countersinking the various holes needed to hold it in place. The hatch remains to be fitted.
At the same time as this was happening volunteers were also cutting the front right hand plate to shape around the various valves on top of the cylinder using the previously shaped right hand plate as a template for this. There was just time to start making the lubrication pipework for the slidebars before finishing on the Sunday. At the end of the weekend the team reviewed the last few jobs needed before re-wheeling. There are only a small number of outstanding jobs left that hopefully can be tackled very soon thus making the re-wheeling likely in March unless the growing threat of a virus epidemic intervenes.
Defibrillator launch 20/2/20
Nine defibrillators have been supplied to the F&WHR. There is one for each train in service and presumably spares at terminal stations.
Fairlie Eventful 19-21/6/20
The Fairlie Eventful event planned for June will no doubt feature a line up of the existing two locos, the hulk of Earl of Merioneth and the new James Spooner. There are also requests from enthusiasts to return Livingston Thompson from the NRM but this might be very expensive. However, as of 5/2/20, growing concerns about the worldwide virus epidemic might affect all Heritage Railways in Spring 2020 and lead to cancellation of events. The event would include
Moving Pictures No.41 18/2/20
Click on the YouTube window to watch 18 mins 52 seconds of video showing a cab ride in Harlech Castle to the Moelwyn Tunnel portal works and No.87 back in traffic on Half Term holiday trains in its new black SAR livery. This YouTube was published on 18/2/20 and was taken by John Wooden (F&WHR) on a professional 4K camcorder. It is best watched in HD in Google Chrome browser as only 720p HD available on Windows. Alternatively click on YouTube link.
WHR Construction images from 1996-7
All the construction images from 1996-7 to the opening of the WHR have now been scanned and will published along with the associated story over the next few weeks. Apologies for the delay but this has sometimes involved opening slide mounts and checking sprocket holes/exposure number positions to separate out mixed batches of slides, an onerous task as the slides were not catalogued at the time.
Help dating images is very welcome including 'before' or 'after' dates. So far, disappointingly, no communications have been received about any images that have been identified with a date with a question mark against it despite the slides being on line for over 6 months now since the series of archive views started. If readers of this website are self isolating or 'locked down' might an interesting few hours could be passed checking the images against your own records to see if any of the questionable dates can be confirmed or narrowed down?
Porthmadog Level Crossing renewal scheme 15-24/2/20
NR has advised that Porthmadog Station level crossing on the High Street will be closed for renewal over the Half Term holiday period 15-24/2/20 for improvement works. A signposted diversion operates from Tremadog roundabout for vehicles under 4m via the A498 and A497 Penamser road.
Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright NR. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
Half Term Holiday service 15-23/2/20
Trains will be running through the school February Half Term holiday though with the imminent arrival of storm Dennis, passengers are advised to check on the day as trees may be blown down and block the line. Trains depart Caernarfon at 1000 and 1420 for return journeys to Porthmadog and 1050 and 1415 from Porthmadog. While these times allow over an hour at the destination for lunch, partial journeys are possible by changing at Beddgelert or Rhyd Ddu. See F&WHR winter timetable 2019-20.
This northerly view (16/2/20) shows No.87 heading back to Caernarfon with a Half Term service train crossing Pont Croesor. Sadly there is no snow on the mountains and the weather has been mild, wet and windy, witness the flooding of the Afon Glaslyn Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
No.87 back in traffic 15/2/20
As predicted No.87 easily beat No.130 into traffic although the latter is in its final stages of assembly. No.87 was withdrawn in October 2018 so it has only taken less than 18 months to return the loco to service before No.138's withdrawal in the Spring in turn for its own 10 year boiler ticket renewal. It had been hoped the loco might be available for the Xmas services but instead No.138 was used. No.87 was used on 15/2/20 on the first day of the Half Term train service hauling the 1000 from Caernarfon to Porthmadog. The loco has emerged in a prototypical SAR gloss black livery with SAR lettering.
This northerly view (15/2/20) shows No.87 crossing Britannia Bridge heading back to Caernarfon with Storm Dennis whipping up the waves in the harbour. This was the first return trip for the loco following its 18 month refurbishment. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Ian Hartill (Moelwyn Tunnel Project Manager F&WHR) and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
KS4415 progress 14/2/20
Some of the vacuum pipework was fitted to the loco linking the rear swan's neck around the back buffer beam.
HS2 will not benefit Wales 11/2/20
The route map for HS2 does not even show the Euston-Holyhead International Service. The Government confirmed that HS2 will go ahead on 11/2/20 and associated links to North East are shown on the HS2 map but not the key route along the North Wales coast so analysts suggest there will be little or no benefit to Wales. See BBC story.
The Chinese National Rail company that has built many high speed lines across China and even into neighbouring countries like Laos, has offered to build HS2 cheaper and faster than UK contractors but the Government has rebuffed the approach. See BBC story.
Work is also going ahead on the dead end Curzon Street HS2 terminus in Birmingham where the Grand Junction and London & Birmingham Railways had their short lived terminus which lasted just 16 years from 1838, later replaced by the through station at New Street in 1854. Unfortunately the Government has not learned the lessons of history as the Curzon Street remains on the fringes of the city and forms no connection with North East-South West services or services to the West Midlands/Shropshire/Cambrian Coast. This 1910 Railway Clearing House map shows the relationships between the Birmingham stations well and illustrates how awkward it will be for HS2 passengers to make a connection to the Cambrian Coast.
Excavations at Curzon Street have revealed L&BR engineer Robert Stephenson's original roundhouse of 1838. See BBC story.
Conwy Valley Line closed for 'foreseeable future' 11/2/20
Following storm Ciara, extensive floods closed the Conwy Valley Line for the second year in succession washing away ballast and destroying fences in places. Maybe some large diameter culverts are required at these locations? Network Rail closed the line from 11/2/20 and after inspection of the route a programme of work was being prepared tom restore the service, presumably by the summer holiday season. See ITV News.
KS4415 progress 9/2/20
There was further volunteer progress on KS4415 at Boston Lodge in early February. The fuel filter was taken off the MDB2 engine and offered up to the group's MDB4. It looks the same so volunteers can add that to the list of components to copy. The vacuum pipe upstands have been made wooden packers for the vacuum pipe clips have been produced. Volunteers also set the timing gear and the fuel pump cradle up on the engine block so they can take some measurements for the construction of the new fuel pump unit. Drawings have been made for the new fuel pump.
Storm Ciara batters railway 9/2/20
The usual storms of March seem to have come early to the F&WHR as yet another storm, this time named Storm Ciara by the Irish Met Office, batters the F&WHR area. Tress were brought down and high tides brought spray across The Cob. Several roads were flooded as well as NR at Penrhyndeudraeth. Another storm was predicted a week later to be named Storm Dennis.
This easterly view (9/2/20) shows spindrift overtopping The Cob. It is a good job the signalbox and relay cabin have good holding down bolts! Fortunately there were no train services due this day. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
RAIB report 6/2/20 on Beddgelert run through
The RAIB has released its report into Vale of Ffestiniog's run through at Beddgelert whilst running light engine from Dinas to Porthmadog on 16/4/19 driven by a senior manager. This was the only loco on the WHR at the time and the loco came to a stop when it reached a level section at Sheepfold Curve just south of Bryn-y-felin having travelled 1.7 km into the next section. The Funkey was being returned to Porthmadog before the start of passenger trains as it was to be paired with a smaller steam loco to replace a failed train engine (presumably a Garratt) and was the only train on the WHR.
During the journey the loco brakes were noted as underperforming on route and the senior manager did make a phone call at Rhyd Ddu to ask for fitter's attention when arriving in Porthmadog. The train was operated in Shunt mode which disabled the Deadman's Switch and the 40 second reminder that is only fitted to this loco. The loco was supposed to stop at Beddgelert but the brakes did not stop the train and it ran through a red signal. When it finally came to a stop on a level section, the driver reversed it to Beddgelert having no signal in the Aberglaslyn Pass and chocked the loco. Another manager then shunted it to the siding.
The report concludes that an alteration to the braking system in 2001 caused fouling of the brake cranks and prevented full application of the brakes. Diagrams and photos in the report make this clear. The F&WHR has altered the brakes on Vale of Ffestiniog so that the fouling of the linkages does not occur. The report recommends improvements to the F&WHR's systems of risk assessment of engineering changes to rolling stock and inspection of brakes. The RAIB also recommends a review of lone working arrangements and that the Deadman's Switch be used on light movements, where fitted.
What is perhaps surprising is that they did not consider fitting a trap point/sand drag at Beddgelert given the long 1 in 40 gradient into the station from Rhyd Ddu, which would have avoided the overrun into the next section, albeit at the cost of possibly derailing the loco. The is the third time in recent years the F&WHR's safety critical engineering standards and operations have come under scrutiny by the RAIB. The previous occasions were the potentially serious derailment that occurred on the WHR at Clogwyn-y-gwin on 10/6/18 and the run through at Penrhyndeudraeth Level Crossing on 10/6/19.
See RAIB report.
Pen Cob Junction crossover in use 6/2/20
Upnor Castle was the first loco to use the new crossover on 6/2/20. The loco had been on the lineside improvement train on the WHR for the whole of January and was returning to Boston Lodge for a 30 day exam. The materials had been laid out in Minffordd Yard during August in true NR style after problems with tight curves earlier in the season. See video link.
Fairlie Eventful plans 5/2/20
Planning has stepped up for the Fairlie Eventful Spring Gala featuring a recreation of the original Fairlie Trials of 1870. Click here for video.
Corwen-Denbigh scheme proposed 4/2/20
A local councillor is proposing reopening Corwen-Denbigh as a tourist route and local Tory MP is asking for the Vale of Clwyd line to be reopened connecting to the main North Wales Coast route at Rhyl. The Llangollen Railway recently excavated the embankment of the Corwen-Denbigh line at Corwen station to create their own Corwen island platform station site next to the central car park.
Analysts suggest the £500 million 'to reverse Beeching' is a drop in the ocean compared to the cost of reopening a substantial part of the formerly extensive network and none of the money appears to have been allocated to Wales.
Various North Wales schemes have been proposed over the years, including
See BBC story.
No.130 progress 3-29/2/20
Good progress is being made with Peter Best's Garratt No.130 destined to run on the WHR. No.130 will be finished before No.138 although the latter's boiler was nearing completion at Locomotive Maintenance Services in Loughborough in January.
On 3/2/20 the grate was being fitted. As the firebox is slightly different shape to the others, a little thinning down has been necessary to get the grate outer edges to fit.
On 4/2/20 work was progressing on the backhead cladding. This should be completed in a few days. The main internal steam pipe is complete except the drain valve which needs to be welded on.
By 6/2/20 the pipework for the front power bogie was nearing completion and should be complete by mid February. The new cover box for the mechanical lubricator has been trial fitted but it still needs a lid.
By 9/2/20 the backhead cladding was complete and fitted with insulation with all the cut-outs for gauge glasses and controls. It has been finished in black.
By 10/2/20 the two main steam pipes inside the smokebox were made and bend to shape. It was expected that both sides would be complete and welded in within a few days.
By 12/2/19 the grate was nearing completion. Both the grate and its rocking mechanism are now in place. The ash pans are also ready to fit so essentially the grate is finished.
By 29/2/20 a start had been made bending the large bore copper tubes, the cladding was being made and trial fitted around the firebox working forward towards the smokebox.
Historic 1961 FR film published on YouTube 3/2/20
Click on the YouTube window to watch 10 mins 29 seconds of video covering cabless Merddin Emrys on a journey from Porthmadog to Tan-y-bwlch in the green and ivory coach livery days.. This YouTube was published on 1/4/20 and was taken by John Wooden (F&WHR) on a professional 4K camcorder. It is best watched in HD in Google Chrome browser as only 720p HD available on Windows. Alternatively click on YouTube link.
K1 to appear at WHR this year 30/1/20
Work has already started on the ten-year overhaul of K1 but it is not yet possible to forecast the date of first event that will feature the loco. The intention is for K1 to appear at Statfold Barn first and then transfer to the WHR for a visit in the late Autumn, possibly for SuperPower 11-13/9/20.
Reopening of Trawsfynydd? 29/1/20
The Cambrian News reports news of further developments in returning nuclear power station development work to Trawsfynydd which might see the restoration of the branch line.
No.87 Cabinet Office press run 27/1/20
The Cabinet Office Media department filmed a run of No.87 hauling a train through the Aberglaslyn Pass on 27/1/20. This must have been one of the loco's first runs after being released for traffic.
Moving Pictures No.40 23/1/20
Click on the YouTube window to watch 15 mins 39 seconds of video covering Glaslyn's visit to Manchester and the completion of Pen Cob Junction crossover. This YouTube was published on 1/4/20 and was taken by John Wooden (F&WHR) on a professional 4K camcorder. It is best watched in HD in Google Chrome browser as only 720p HD available on Windows. Alternatively click on YouTube link.
No.138's new boiler passes test 22/1/20
Kettel (boiler) No.7111 has been steam tested. This boiler was previously fitted to NG/G16 No.129 last steamed in Africa. The boiler went with the loco to the Puffing Billy Railway in Australia, before being given to the F&WHR and shipped back to the UK. Following two years work - and an immense investment - the safety valves lifted for the first time at 17:00 on 22/1/20, at Locomotive Maintenance Services in Loughborough. The refurbished boiler is now destined for use on Beyer-Garratt No.138, whose current boiler ticket is just about to expire. With the boiler being ready for fitting, No.138 will return to service a lot faster than normal Dinas 10 year exams.
KS4415 progress 21/1/20
Further progress has been made with KS4415, the WHR's experimental diesel loco from the late 1920s. The stand for the Blackburne petrol donkey engine used as a starter motor for the McLaren diesel unit has had liners for the injectors pressed into the heads. A pattern has been made for the McLaren-Benz makers plate for the engine. The rocker cover patterns and maker's plate were subsequently sent to the foundry.
Cafe De Winton 21/1/20
The Cafe De Winton in Caernarfon station and the station shop are open from 9am until 4pm every day selling snacks and railway related items, even when no trains are running. They have received good reviews locally with the 'best toilets in Caernarfon'.
NG15 No.134 progress 19/1/20
The main tasks undertaken by the NG 15 team this weekend were those of fitting the new running plates, a task they had been working on part time for a number of working parties. However this time most of the volunteers where involved for a good proportion of the time with one group cutting and shaping the chequered plate and another fixing in place the plates already cut to size. The team is using the same technique as recently adopted for the NGG16s where the fastening bolts are countersunk into the plate for a neater appearance. Volunteers were doing our best to maintain the alignment of the chequer pattern along the running plate, however all the sheets they have been using have turned out to have different pitches for the chequered pattern, and different in the X and the Y direction as well!
The team continued with lubrication pipework, this time that associated with the lubricator for the Krauss-Helmholtz truck and that for the steam oil lubrication for the cylinders and slide bars. As always there was a bit of painting to do as well. This time a second coat was added to the cylinder covers as the damp humidity was starting to get the better of the single coat already applied. All told it was a very productive and satisfying weekend in which a new volunteer was welcomed to the team. Finally it should be added that the date of the February working party has moved back by one week from that first published at the 2019. It is now the 22-23/2/20.
Pen Cob crossover eased 17/1/20
The final stage of renewal of Pen Cob Junction took place over several days of mixed weather in mid January under the WMWP. The ROWG made a contribution despite the sometimes atrocious conditions on 17/1/20. During this time Boston Lodge was cut off. Last year the crossover and fan of sidings that will serve the new Carriage Shed was laid over the previous WMWP. However the curves of that crossover proved too tight. Work involved removing and easing the curves of the new crossover laid last year, craning in the track with each point mounted on the new plastic sleepers in two parts. Finally it was necessary to connect up the main line, new headshunt and yard, ballast and tamp all the track and complete S&T work such as point rodding.
This easterly view (23/1/20) shows the eased curves at Pen Cob Junction. The curves on the new crossover laid last year had proved a little too tight. At this stage the headshunt on the right needed connecting up and still shows the new points are closer than the previous crossover. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
New longer points arrive for Pen Cob Junction crossover 14/1/20
This westerly view (14/1/20) shows the new longer points being delivered for Pen Cob Junction crossover. The curves on the new crossover laid last year had proved a little too tight and these longer points should cure the problem. Criccieth Castle propels the flat wagons past Boston Lodge. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
Gwyrfai goes to Manchester 10/1/20
On 10/1/20 ex Shotton Steelworks shunter Bill was used at Dinas to shunt Pullman Observation car Gwyrfai No.2152 onto a low loader for transport to Manchester Event City where it was to be displayed at the Caravan and Motorhome Show from 16-19/1/20. The carriage was expected back a few days after the event in plenty of time for rakes to be made up for the February Half Term services.
Click on the YouTube window to watch 3 mins 15 seconds of video being covering the moving of Observation Car Gwyrfai to the Caravan and Mobile Home Show Manchester. This YouTube was published on 13/1/20 and was taken by John Wooden (F&WHR) on a professional 4K camcorder. It is best watched in HD in Google Chrome browser as only 720p HD available on Windows. Alternatively click on YouTube link.
No.130 progress 9-21/1/20
By 9/1/20 the steam supply valve for the ashpan was ready to be fitted to the manifold. The main manifold and all of its valves were finished several years ago but the WHR has developed a method of providing a small supply of steam to the grate whereby it creates an even draft to the fire.
By 21/1/20 a start had been made constructing the back head cladding. As it has an awkward shape compared to the boiler cladding with many cut outs this is a fiddly and time consuming job. The main steam pipe has now been bent and the flanges are ready to weld together onto the smokebox. The main exhaust casting is ready to fit. Most of the components of the spark arrestor are now ready for assembly, but first the internal main steam pipes to the superheater header have to be welded to the flanges and fitted. However, the main exhaust casting and blast pipe together with the base plate for the spark arrestor are in.
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