News Archive Page
V4.3 updated 1/8/20
with news to 30/6/20
Newly archived sections are placed at the top of this page.
No.130 progress 30/6/20
This Dinas Works view (30/6/20) shows No.130 now mounted on its front power unit. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Paul Lewin (F&WHR) and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
Welsh Pony steaming event 27/6/20
This westerly view (27/6/20) shows Welsh Pony carrying No.5 on its nameplate in Boston Lodge Yard, shortly after moving under its own steam for the first time. 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.
The launch ceremony for Welsh Pony took place in bad weather on Saturday 27/6/20 at Boston Lodge and the loco was run round the yard a few times before venturing out for a short trip along the main line to Boston Lodge Halt. The regulator was quite stiff as the loco needs running in. It is of the older original type.
The Welsh Pony mugs sold out and a fresh batch to a new design also sold out but the limited edition print is still available. See F&WHR webshop.
Three videos have been made available on line for those that missed Saturday's live streamed event.
Click here for Video One 50 minutes 54 seconds
Click here for Video Two 34 minutes 55 seconds
Click here for Video Three 21 minutes 25 seconds
Pickering Brake 26/6/20
Boston Lodge restarted work on several jobs during June, whilst socially distancing, one of which was the contract replica Pickering brake coach for the WHHR.
This easterly view (27/6/20) shows the replica Pickering brake coach for the WHHR in Boston Lodge Yard where it was to go over the pit for electric work to start. The frame and internal cladding is complete but the coach is on temporary bogies while design work for permanent bogies is underway. 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.
F&WHR opening plans
F&WHR Co. Announcement 25/6/20
'While a Summer of sun is hardly guaranteed here in North Wales, June normally heralds the arrival of peak season and excited visitors galore at the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways. However, this summer is now very different to the usual, owing to the pandemic that has caused significant difficulties on a global scale. Whilst our peak season will undoubtedly be different to previous years, recent announcements have brought renewed hope that we can offer an experience that will be both safe and enjoyable in these challenging times. Throughout the lockdown months, we have monitored and diligently adhered to Welsh Government advice. Whilst the situation in Wales remains different to that of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, recent announcements from the Welsh Government have signalled that the Tourism industry should prepare to reopen.
We have plans in place for a limited service that works within the requirements for social distancing outlined by the government. We are now working through the fine detail of this plan and hope to make an announcement about our plans for services in 2020 before mid-July. We would hope to further extend our services as and when restrictions are eased further. The health and wellbeing of all who visit and work at the Railway is of prime importance and services will only resume when we are confident about their safety. While plans remain in the preliminary stages, like many businesses we will offer streamlined services, reduced capacities, online booking only, deep cleaning of carriages and safety screens installed between seating sections. We will also consider carefully the flow of visitors around our railway stations. Further details will follow as the plans develop and we will revisit operating procedures when new government guidelines are issued. For the time being, we ask that you adhere to government guidelines and wait a little longer to visit the Railway. A warm welcome awaits when we open once more.'
Welsh Pony YouTube Live event 27/6/20
Welsh Pony will be steamed for the first time in eighty years on Saturday 27/6/20, and the F&WHR will broadcast the action live (presumably on Facebook) so that the public can witness this momentous and long-awaited occasion.
The F&WHR are planning three broadcasts to cover the web event:
10:00 - The lighting-up.
13:00 - The first whistle.
16:00 - Welsh Pony will hopefully move under her own steam.
Full details of how to watch will be posted later when live streams have been set up.
A spectacular painting by Rebecca Kitchin BA has been specially commissioned for the occasion, and will be auctioned with all proceeds going to the Welsh Pony Fund. Limited edition prints are also available for purchase from the F&WHR shop.
Limited edition Welsh Pony mugs (100 only produced at £20 each) can also be bought to help support the F&WHR railway.
Welsh Pony's history can be followed on the F&WHR Insider Facebook page.
No.130 progress 24/6/20
By 24/6/20 the small bore lubrication pipework was complete and the power bogies can go under the boiler cradle for the final time.
This Dinas shed view (18/6/20) shows No.130 with much of the boiler cladding in place in undercoat. Even the first washout plug brass shield is in place. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Paul Lewin (F&WHR) and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
By 16/6/20 attention was focussed on the second hand ex-SAR ejector. It was overhauled several years ago, however the exhaust steel pipe needed machining up and the threaded end was completed in the Dinas machine shops.
At the end of June work was focussed on the big exhaust pipe and ball joint for the front unit. The second image shows further new steam pipes ready for assembly and the final image shows the blower union on the LHS of the smokebox.
Welsh Pony progress 23/6/20
On 20/6/20 the ejector and blower were tested on compressed air producing the first wind up the chimney for 80 years.
On 22/6/20 the Boston Lodge team have been careful to collect all original parts and label them for their new use. A great effort over the weekend from the staff resolved an issue with the boiler clack valve flange. After some time on the milling machine, this 120-year-old component has now been fitted to create a steam-tight seal.
By 23/6/20 the steam chest cover between the cylinders has been removed and the valves and valve spindles inspected prior to the final valve-setting process. This ensures the correct timing of inlet and exhaust steam in and out of the cylinders.
By 18/6/20 the final large diameter steam pipes were being fitted.
Wales to open for tourists on 6/7/20
With WAG slowly easing the lockdown it will be welcome news for the tourist industry that Wales will permit holiday traffic in July 6th. The F&WHR must be planning how it can accept traffic again. However the General Manager has stated he will not run trains at a loss so it may not be until the school summer holidays from mid/end of July that traffic on offer returns in volumes that will justify running trains again. Outdoor venues like Spooners outdoor area might be the first areas to open. Counters might have Perspex sneeze guards and markings on the floor might suggest an appropriate spacing in queues. It is currently unknown if the Government's requirement that a face covering is essential on public transport will be necessary on F&WHR trains. It might also be difficult for footplate staff to adhere to the current 2m rule for social distancing while operating a steam loco though diesels with one man operation would be no problem.
Meanwhile works trains run at irregular intervals to maintain the railways in a state ready to start again at a moment's notice.
This southerly view (18/6/20) shows Criccieth Castle with a rake of various ex-SAR wagons collected from various sidings approaching Minffordd station. The wagons are to be stored in Minffordd Yard. This might remind trespassers that even during lockdown trains can run at any time. 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.
Upnor Castle was also involved in the collection of wagons.
This easterly view (21/6/20) shows Upnor Castle running through the run round loop at Harbour Station after collecting wagons to be stored in Minffordd Yard. This might remind trespassers that even during lockdown trains can run at any time. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Alasdair Stewart and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
No.130 update 13/6/20
The remaining parts of the cladding have been undercoated and are likely to be fitted soon with their insulation. The gloss finish will only be started once the loco is complete. See FR Insider Facebook page for images.
Welsh Pony to steam on line soon 12/6/20
Volunteers have been working in a socially distanced way to complete Welsh Pony at Boston Lodge. The F&WHR is to rebook the aborted steam test, which was cancelled by the lockdown, and show it on line. Some suggestions were that it could occur around 27/6/20 but the actual date will appear on F&WHR Insider page and limited edition prints will be made available to buy on line to raise funds for the F&WHR Appeal to help the railway get through the pandemic. The loco will not carry its nameplates until an official naming ceremony later in the year.
This Boston Lodge view (12/6/20) shows Welsh Pony with newly machined whistles to the original FR patterns fitted. 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.
Conwy Valley line closed until September (NR 11/6/20)
Having been closed after winter floods for two years on the run NR are investing in a £2.2 million resilience fund to protect the Conwy Valley line from floods. The rock armour will be added between Tal-y-cafn and Llanwrst. Track has recently been restored to Llanwrst and the auto-ballaster has reached that point. Some 20,000 tonnes of rock are to be added to a 1 mile section north of Llanwrst as was added to a section south of Llanwrst last year, curing the problem in that vicinity. Although this will take an additional 10 weeks the cost and delay is necessary to ensure the resilience of the line given the increased flooding risk from climate change associated with global warming. The continued closure will impact on passengers using the train to come to the FR which might reopen sometime in July for the summer peak school holiday traffic. The train service remains bustituted until the line is reopened.
See NR report.
North Wales main line 11/6/20
After berthing overnight at Llanwrst North Colas Class 56s Nos.56094/113 headed back to Basford Hall on 11/6/20 having completed the first stage of re-ballasting the storm damaged Conwy Valley Line.
North Wales Trains news 8/6/20
The Q train passed along the Borderlands Line on 8/6/20 with 9701 propelled by 37254. Class 56 Nos.56094/113 were heading along the North Wales Coast on the same day with the auto-ballaster believed to be for the refurbishment of the Conwy Valley Line. It is good to see NR finally getting to grips with the repair of the line that was closed early this year after yet another incidence of flood damage. There were more Class 70s in action over the first weekend in June on PW trains west of Rhyl.
On 3/6/20 Nos.37401/407 hauled a single empty flask to Valley and back to refresh route knowledge.
On 2/6/20 Nos.70802/12 worked onto the Conwy Valley line to remove debris and spent ballast caused by the flooding earlier this year, which has left the line out of action for over 3 months now. Work is concentrated north of Llanrwst.
Labour's WAG Transport Minister Ken Skates has released a wish list of new stations and reopened lines, reopening the Gaerwen-Amlwch branch and re-emphasising the Bangor-Caernarfon link as well as the Aberystwyth-Carmarthen (but bear in mind it is election year next year). New stations he is seeking funding under the New Stations 3 Fund are listed for Deeside Parkway (just north of Hawarden Bridge) on the Borderlands Line and Carno on the Cambrian Coast line (west of Caersws). See Daily Post report.
The Pen-y-ffordd cement trains to Avonmouth have become very regular, almost daily.
This southerly archive view (26/5/20@1825) shows GBRf's No.66765 on the Pen-y-ffordd to Avonmouth growling up the steep incline from Hawarden to Buckley summit with a heavy rake of loaded cement tanks. This train pulls out of the Padeswood Cement factory and runs north to Dee Marsh sidings to run round before heading south again. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Melvyn Hughes and was taken on a phone camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
No.130 progress 6/6/20
A few volunteers have been working whilst socially distancing at Dinas to complete Garratt No.130. By early June all the main boiler cladding was complete and undercoated leaving just the cylinder cladding to complete. In late May work was underway bending the large bore copper pipework to shape. Progress was also being made on the rear mechanical lubricator box. It is hoped the loco might be released to traffic before the end of the year.
Weed killing Train 4/6/20
This southerly view (4/6/20) shows the FR's PW loco Harlech Castle with the weed killing train heading back to Minffordd after a journey to Caernarfon. The train is near the 'teletubby' bridges at Portreuddyn with the Porthmadog Bypass Afon Glaslyn viaduct in the background. 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.
North Wales trains news 24/5/20
Five Class 70s were noted in use on the North Wales Coast between Rhyl and Bangor on Sunday 24/5/20, Nos. 70802/803/805/816/817 bringing welcome variety to the motive power scene in the absence of the TfW loco hauled expresses. Bustitution was provided between Holyhead and Rhyl.
F&WHR loco update 23/5/20
Palmerston is behind Welsh Pony in Boston Lodge's priority list. It hasn't run since 2019 Vintage Weekend and needs some work to the axleboxes to eliminate a knock. Welsh Pony needs drawgear, spark arrestor and plumbing completed but will not carry its nameplates until a ceremony at a launch event once the F&WHR reopens. Taliesin is currently out of ticket but the F&WHR has benefitted from a legacy aimed at getting it back into traffic. It needs boiler work and bogie work. New Fairlie James Spooner's boiler needs a hydraulic test and is likely to see traffic in 2021.
Double Fairlies Merddin Emrys and David Lloyd George will both be available after a steam test although the latter needs some work on its valve settings. Lyd was withdrawn for its 10 year overhaul in May and a new cylinder is available for the troublesome cylinder as detailed previously. It will need new boiler tubes. Diesel loco Moelwyn needs a new drive shaft. Linda and Blanche are both available for traffic.
No.87 was released in its new SAR black livery briefly in February before the lockdown which pleased its benefactor who always wanted it in black. The other sponsored Garratt No.130 still requires a few months work but must be completed for 2021 as No.143 reaches the end of its 10 year boiler ticket then. NG15 No.134 needs more work on axleboxes before it is wheeled. Some funding is available and the boiler is at David Wright's Loughborough works receiving attention.
No.138 has travelled 100,000 miles over its last 10 year boiler ticket which has now expired and is due to be fitted with the new boiler ex-Puffing Billy Railway No.129. A benefactor paid for the boiler to be imported from Australia and David Wright's Loughborough works has refurbished the boiler. The loco will be outshopped in red again with a refitted cowcatcher. No.138 should be in traffic sometime in 2021 but No.143 boiler's certificate expires Spring 2021 so it is essential that privately sponsored locos No.87/130 are in traffic.
£250,000 cheque supports F&WHR 23/5/20
Click on the YouTube window to watch 23 mins 16 seconds of video covering the latest update from the General Manager. This YouTube was published on 23/5/20 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.
Cambrian Heritage Railways Sprinters 22/5/20
Cambrian Heritage Railways took delivery of two Pacers, Nos.144006/7 on 22/5/20. The pair worked under their own power from storage at the K&WVR to Gobowen arriving a few minutes early at 1426. They then shunted back into the Civil Engineers siding and across the boundary onto Cambrian tracks in Gobowen station being handed over at 1547. The Cambrian Heritage Railways intend to run a shuttle service between Gobowen and Oswestry in the future though permission must be obtained to cross the A5 Oswestry Bypass where there is an operating AHB level crossing. The Oswestry-Gobowen line has been cleared many times by volunteers and is probably passable with care. It is uncertain if a special working can be arranged or the units will remain stabled at Gobowen for the foreseeable future where the CHR owns the bay and run round. The units have been donated courtesy of Porterbrook and the Community Rail Partnership. See CHR website.
The CHR is completing its line from Oswestry to Weston Wharf (for Stonehouse Brewery) where a run round loop is being installed just north of the A483 level crossing. A similar issue about 'new' level crossings to that on the A5 north of Oswestry restricts further development to the isolated sections of the CHR at Llynclys North/Blodwel routes even though the track is all in place and has been cleared in recent years!
This southerly archive view (22/5/97) shows two Class 144s (No.144006 nearest) now stabled on the CHR at Gobowen along with the one item of rolling stock that declared the CHR's presence. Maybe the units will acquire the Brown/Cream GWR Skipper livery reminiscent of GWR colours as the CHR was eventually a GWR route. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is courtesy CHR and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
See CHR Press Release for full details and further images.
'Yesterday Cambrian Heritage Railways took delivery of two class 144 passenger trains. These trains were built in 1987 have recently been retired from front line passenger work and have been rail delivered to us, another first for CHR. The intention is for these trains to provide modern stock with which to operate the Oswestry to Gobowen Community Rail service we are promoting with others. This is another exciting step forward with this project which now means CHR has control of the railway, Parliamentary Powers and stock to run the service. The acquisition was organised following discussions between the Community Rail Partnership and Porterbrook CEO Mary Grant. CHR Chairman Roger Date said "We are immensely grateful to Porterbrook for all their help. It is ironic that these trains were built in part as a cost effective way to provide new stock for routes that would otherwise have shut, in their retirement they will once again provide cost effective modern stock to the travelling public".'
Serco Track Recording Train visits Holyhead 21/5/20
Class 67s Nos.67023/27 top and tailed the Serco Track Recording train on a run from Crewe to Holyhead on 21/5/97 bringing a welcome return of the class to the line after months with no TfW Holyhead/Llandudno-Cardiff/Manchester loco hauled expresses.
Waiting for the Tide to Turn
F&WHR statement: 'We are at a low point in our history with train services being suspended over the whole railway for the first time in the preservation era. However, in a similar fashion to the natural rhythm of the tides, we will return and trains will once more steam across the Cob and into the mountains. The F&WHR's priority now is to ensure the railway is ready to reopen to visitors once the current restrictions are lifted. The company has followed government advice and closed down the majority of their operations with most permanent staff being sent home under furlough arrangements. A skeleton staff are still at work handling essential planning and financial matters, as well as maintaining the social media, enquiries and online retail activities. However, there are still a number of fixed costs that have to be covered whether running trains or not.
The company has been examining every possible way of obtaining funds to secure the survival of the business - and are extremely grateful for the assistance they have received from supporting societies, as well as from individuals. The appeal fund is still open and the company will be very happy to receive donations, large or small, so that it can keep the railways in as near an operable position as possible, enabling a swift return to running trains again at the appropriate time.
Click here for more Appeal details.
Of course, the web shop remains ‘open for business’ selling a wide range of items to suit all tastes. Visit www.festshop.co.uk to see what is available - any money spent here also helps the railway. Purchasers are asked if they would kindly top up the sale to a whole number of pounds as your webmaster found out when buying replacement F&WHR cups for the treasured one his wife broke!
With various businesses being allowed to reopen, no date has been suggested for the Heritage Railways as the Government's much criticised easing strategy is very dependent on any second wave of the virus.
Colas PW on Central Wales this week
Class 37s Nos.97302/303 are booked to run from Crewe to Llandrindod Wells on Tuesday and Wednesday 26-27/5/20 and return from Llandovery Thursday 28/5/20 in connection with a major PW scheme on the Central Wales Line.
North Wales misses out
The general improvement in train services across the UK from 18/5/20 does not seem to have reached North Wales as all the Holyhead-Cardiff/Manchester loco hauled express services remain sidelined. However NR's Class 37s Nos. 97302/3 worked from Crewe to Pant-y-ffynnon during the evening 19/5/20 and will return during the morning of 20/5/20 bringing the rare sight of a loco to the Central Wales Line.
Gwili sees NR visit
A report in Heritage Railways states that Network Rail senior managers and engineers have visited the preserved Gwili Railway, near Carmarthen, to advise about some of the challenges faced by the heritage railway if it expands from Bridge 10 north towards Llanpumsaint. The Gwili Railway started in 1975 following closure of the remaining parts of the Aberystwyth-Carmarthen route by BR in 1973. This is intriguing in light of the Aberystwyth-Carmarthen Feasibility Study and the Government's 'Reverse Beeching' strategy...if that survives the current BREXIT/PANDEMIC recession. It may have a bearing on restoring rail access to North Wales and the WHR from South Wales, a difficult journey at the best of times. Gwili Chairman Matthew Bowen states that the railway has never had any communication about the proposed scheme which is surely unfair as it suggests using the Gwili trackbed.
The GR operates the line from Dan-y-coed to Abergwili Junction just outside Carmarthen based on Bronwydd Arms station. The recent Feasibility Study suggested the Aberystwyth-Carmarthen route could be reopened along the existing Gwili Railway as there was space along the west side of the Carmarthen Bypass to restore the 2 km route between Abergwili Junction and Carmarthen but needing a new 100m skew bridge across the Afon Tywi, just north of Carmarthen Station. It also included a sum for moving the Gwili Railway to another local branch line such as e.g. the 15km Pencader to Newcastle Emlyn route or Lampeter to Aberaeron as the report suggests an operating a mix of preserved and modern trains on the same route was not thought acceptable.
The Gwili Railway has used the advice given by NR to reconsider a northwards extension. The GR owns the 13km of trackbed northward from Abergwili Junction to Llanpumsaint but only operates the southern 7km leaving a possible extension to the north of 6km along the Afon Gwili valley. There are seven bridges over the Afon Gwili to restore north of Dan-y-coed. In the 1980's volunteers started laying a section south from Conwil station to Dan-y-coed but this was later ripped up to concentrate on the section south of Dan-y-coed. The Bronwydd Arms to Dan-y-coed Extension was reopened in 2001 and the Abergwili Junction section in 1/7/17. The GR wants to start clearing vegetation toward Llanpumsaint over the summer months and inspect bridges to see what restoration is required and prevent further damage. They are appealing for volunteers to help in the both the manual labour and the paperwork.
B&FRHT plan work parties
The Bala & Ffestiniog Railway Heritage Trust plan to resume work parties on 19-20/9/20 subject to Government pandemic advice. The location will not be on Network Rail land as the Trust is still working towards the necessary permissions from NR.
Class 70s on the Coast 17/5/97
There is bustitution west of Rhyl on the North Wales Coast line on 17/5/97 and Class 70s Nos.70805/816 made late night ballast runs from Basford Hall to Llandudno Junction the previous night in association with the project.
Concerns about Plas-y-nant bridge
The General Manager has expressed concerns about the state of Plas-y-nant bridge which cannot take double-headed Garratt locos and has speed limits. This bridge needs rebuilding or strengthening. When Phase 3 was opened the three bowstring bridges were treated differently, with the Betws Garmon replaced by an ex BR structure, the Salem bridge being removed and strengthened on site and the Plas-y-nant bridge having a cantilevered walkway added on the west side at the request of a local resident who was using the structure without permission. There is little evidence the walkway has been used. In fact there is a locked gate at the south end which suggests the resident claims the whole walkway is private property!
If the bridge had to be closed the railway could only operate a limited service between Caernarfon and Waunfawr and Porthmadog-Rhyd Ddu, cutting fares income considerably. There is the possibility of completing the loop at Plas-y-nant just south of the bridge as the formation was constructed with this in mind and a siding was present at the north end for a while. The point for the south end of the loop was dumped on the side of the line for a period before removal when the embankment started subsiding. This has since been stabilised by improved drainage though there is currently no plan to complete the loop.
Four more versions of Lyd planned
Lyd is to receive a new right hand cylinder casting to cure its ongoing problems in that area. It has been revealed that a further four sets of castings will be ordered from Cerdic Foundry for the L&B railway who intend to recreate their fleet of four Manning Wardle locos Yeo, Exe, Taw and the later Lew (with an updated design of cab). The first three were scrapped on closure of the railway in 1935 but Lew was delivered to South America and has become lost.
Frames for a new Yeo were cut by Winsons in 2000. The L&B is raising money for an initial two Manning Wardle loco as it plans to extend its line to Blackmoor Gate/Wistland Pound temporary terminus but has ordered the cylinder castings for all four. The first two pairs will go to Boston Lodge along with Lyd's new cylinder and will be prepared for assembly. Following this wheel casting and motion components will be forged as these have long lead times. For the same reason tyres will soon be ordered from South Africa. Lyd's design will be used for the new Manning Wardle locos but with improvements based on the 10 years of experience with Lyd. Each loco is estimated to cost £500,000.
The 762 Club which funded the building of Baldwin No.762 Lyn (the L&BR loco that appeared on the WHR last year) will be raising funds for the new L&B fleet and over £100,000 has currently been raised. It is hoped that when the pandemic is over, the committee can meet and kick start the process, encouraging more donations. If all four locos are constructed there could be many new visitors to the F&WHR and in return visits, up to an unprecedented 5 Manning Wardle locos on the L&B!
On the downside, Exmoor Associates who are acquiring sold off L&B trackbed and stations for the future extension of the L&B to Barnstaple were unsuccessful in a recent bid to win Bratton Fleming station on the section south of the temporary terminus at Wistland Pound. The purchasers must be unaware of the project to build a railway through their garden!!
No.134 progress 11/5/20
Laurence Armstrong has been making pony truck axlebox covers as a homework project for NG15 No.134. After making replacements for those beyond repair, Laurence has decided to go and make the full set at home. See NG15 No.134 Facebook page.
The Welsh Highland Heritage Railway is like the F&WHR in lockdown and nothing moves. Gelert, stabled at a very quiet Gelert's Farm, has become the proud owner of a bird's nest and a bunch of fledglings!
Welsh Pony progress 9/5/20
Click on the YouTube window to watch 1 mins 58 seconds of video covering the General Manager's update about Welsh Pony. This YouTube was published on 9/5/20 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.
Click on the YouTube window to watch 5 mins 2 seconds of video covering the best of the F&WHR from 2019. This YouTube was published on 9/5/20 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.
Gowrie project progress 9/5/20
With one side effect of the current pandemic being that all public events are cancelled, The Gowrie Locomotive Trust has lost a large number of fundraising opportunities at railway events it was due to attend. One of these would have been the Trust organised model railway show on the 2/5/20 at which it was hoped to raise a significant 4 figure sum. Despite the current circumstances the Trust hope to maintain momentum with the project and build on all recent progress. They have had a number of components cast recently with more due immediately after lock down is lifted. Funds permitting, the cutting of frame components and casting of the bogie pivot should follow shortly after.
A Fundraiser was launched on 1/5/20 and has so far raised £230 out of a hoped for £5000. This will cover the cost of an axlebox pattern. The fundraiser is open until the end of May. See Facebook Fundraiser.
Boston Lodge Project YouTube 9/5/20
Click on the YouTube window to watch 57 mins 47 seconds of video covering the latest update from the General Manager on the Boston Lodge Project. This YouTube was published on 9/5/20 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.
Class 70s on North Wales coast 9/5/20
Class 70 locos worked ballast duties from Basford Hall Yard to Llandudno Junction on 9/5/20. All Sunday trains on the North Wales Coast were bustituted until the normal timetable resumed on Monday 11/5/20 while the PW continued near Rhyl with Nos.70803/812/816 in attendance.
Ffestiniog Tunnel lit up 7/5/20
Network Rail lit up the south portal of Ffestiniog Tunnel on 7/5/20 to give thanks to the NHS. Although train services are not operating, the portal is visible from the A470 for those driving up the Crimea Pass towards Betws-y-coed. See NR story.
This northerly view (7/5/20) shows the south portal of Ffestiniog Tunnel lit up by Network Rail to express public thanks the NHS for their hard work in dealing with the current pandemic. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is courtesy Network Rail and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
Aerial views of F&WHR 7/5/20
Click on the YouTube window to watch 1 mins 27 seconds of video covering the F&WHR. This YouTube was published on 7/5/20 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.
Network Rail increasing lockdown services from 18/5/20
NR is proposing to ramp up services to 70% of normal by Monday 18/5/20 after running a Sunday service through the pandemic lockdown. Most of these additional services are likely to be commuter trains rather than long distance services. The Conwy Valley line is still closed and there is only one Euston-Holyhead train.
'Ready to Resume' train run to Dinas 5/5/20
As part of the 'Ready to Resume' plan, an ECS ran from Porthmadog Harbour to Dinas on 5/5/20 taking stock that was cut off in Harbour Station to Dinas Carriage Shed for safe storage. The train was hauled by Vale of Ffestiniog and checked all the signalling and pointwork operated correctly as well as checking for debris on the line and plant growth that might scratch the carriages. The four carriages were stored in the Dinas Carriage Shed and there were no problems on the route except for the occasional sheep that had found their way onto the line.
Click on the YouTube window to watch 24 mins 02 seconds of video covering the ECS/Inspection train from Porthmadog to Dinas. This YouTube was published on 9/5/20 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.
This westerly view (5/5/20) shows Vale of Ffestiniog heading north on a stock transfer/inspection train from Porthmadog Harbour to Dinas as it crossed Britannia Bridge. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This southerly view (5/5/20) shows Vale of Ffestiniog arrived at Dinas with the inspection train/ECS. The four coaches were shunted into the Carriage Shed for safe storage. It is strange to see the bay platform and even the release road empty of stock. No doubt stock is in safe storage against any metal thieves who might be tempted to take advantage of the lockdown. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
A line inspection train also operated on the FR on 4/5/20. See YouTube.
Second attempt at 'Behind the Scenes' F&WHR Facebook Event 6/5/20
There will be a Facebook Premiere event at 11:00 this Saturday, 9/5/20 for a little ‘Bank Holiday’ entertainment, in which the F&WHR will be streaming a video presentation on the F&WHR Insider Facebook page featuring ‘Behind the Scenes’ topics from around the F&WHR. The Premiere will launch with a look back at some of the best F&WHR footage from years gone by, before giving an update on the progress of Welsh Pony. The film will run for 1 hour, and will be repeated at 14:00 on Sunday 10/5/20. Facebook Premiere presentations ‘stream’ automatically at a preset time - so all watchers have to do is go to the ‘F&WHR Insider’ page a couple of minutes before show time and wait for the video to start. If you cannot watch it at that time, the video will be available to watch at a later date or time that suits individuals.
Network Rail celebrates F&WHR link 5/5/20
Network Rail has published a web page emphasising its strong links to the F&WHR and is featured in the new series The Architecture the Railways Built (airing 5/5/20 at 8pm on the Yesterday Channel and repeated Saturday at 11pm. See NR website.
TrainSim F&WHR 2020
The new 2020 edition of TrainSim for the F&WHR route is packed full of new content. Phase 1 includes a fully detailed FR and basic detail on WHR. Phase 2, to come, will include improved detail on WHR. Purchasers of Phase 1 will be a discount on Phase 2 when it is released. All proceeds from sales will go to the F&WHR Trust. The product features realistic terrain from digital terrain data, accurate track layout and gradients. Rolling stock has 90% photorealistic textures, opening doors, interior passengers views as well as loco steam and sound effects. As well as the FR stock and steam locos (including Welsh Pony), the three existing WHR Garratts are included but there are no diesel locos and no freight stock other than the FR's Gravity train. The price is £5.99 but you also have to have purchased a copy of TrainSim 2020 and certain other routes from which content is borrowed.
FR Society virtual AGM video 2-3/5/20 cancelled?
With social distancing continuing the FR Society Virtual AGM will feature a video presentation which will illustrate progress with Welsh Pony. This video is 1 hour 15 mins long and will be shown on both Saturday and Sunday on line. News of these events strangely disappeared from the F&WHR sources shortly after publication on 1/5/20.
Welsh Pony launch event cancelled 30/5/20
The Welsh Pony launch event planned for 20-21/6/20 has been cancelled because of the pandemic. There maybe an opportunity to launch Welsh Pony at the FR's Victorian Weekend that might also see some events on the WHR, especially if the WHR SuperPower event is also cancelled.
Journey into the Past cancelled 30/4/20
This year's season of 'Journey into the Past' special heritage trains on five Sundays from 2/8/20-30/8/20 have been cancelled due to concerns about the pandemic. It is planned to reintroduce the service next year.
This southerly view (22/9/19) shows Prince waiting at Dinas whilst passengers were given a talk in the Goods Shed. WHHG staff accompanied each coach giving a commentary about points of interest. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This westerly view (22/9/19) shows Prince making a run past under tracksafe supervision at Journey to the Past of 2019. It seems passengers will have to wait until 2021 for another such working. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This northerly view (23/9/19) shows Prince approaching Pont Croesor at 1104 with the ECS Journey into the Past heritage rake returning to Porthmadog at the end of the season in fine weather. Little did your webmaster realise it would be two years before this special train operated again. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
Cambrian ballast 30/4/20
Yellow liveried NR Class 37s Nos. 97302/3 seemed to be heading off for a Cambrian ballast duty today. A 1246 Severn Tunnel Junction to Machynlleth (arrive 1753) is shown on RealTime Trains.
YouTube Messages from the General Manager 27/4/97
Click on the YouTube window to watch 2 mins 7 seconds of video from Paul Lewin, the General Manager on Blanche thanking supporters for their help keeping the F&WHR afloat. This YouTube was published on 27/4/20 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.
Click on the YouTube window to watch 0 mins 47 seconds of video from Paul Lewin, the General Manager on Lyd thanking supporters from the L&BR. This YouTube was published on 27/4/20 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.
A message from the F&WHR Directors 25/4/20
The Directors of the F&WHR have addressed the following message to supporters of the railway.
'The events of the last month have been incredibly challenging for everyone - and our railways are no exception. No effort is being spared to ensure that our railways survive this crisis, so that we can all go on to enjoy them again in the years to come. We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to the Ffestiniog Railway Society, the Welsh Highland Railway Society and the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways Trust. These organisations have worked together to give every support to the Company. Whilst there remains much uncertainty and much work to do, their immediate and significant help is of tremendous value. The response to our appeal to members has seen an outpouring of support, reminding us of just how much our railways mean to so many people. We will be sharing details of the appeal with members in more detail in forthcoming publications, but an amount well in excess of a hundred thousand pounds has been received. These donations are incredibly important at a time when our ability to earn money through running trains is seemingly many months away. Thank you again to each and every one of our supporters.'
Click on the image to see enlarged. Image courtesy F&WHR.
Corris Extension underway in April
The Corris Railway is seeking to extend south along the Dulas Valley from Corris towards Machynlleth. Construction work started on a new section this Spring which will double the length of the railway to a run round loop at Pont Evans. The eventual aim is to extend to the popular tourist spot at the Centre for Alternative Technology, near Pantperthog via a station already in the care of the railway at Esgairgeiliog. See Corris Extension website.
The original passenger terminus is still visible in Machynlleth station yard, however sections of the trackbed near the Dyfi Bridge may be destroyed in the upcoming works for the new A487 Dyfi bridge due to be started this summer. This will improve access to the F&WHR from the popular tourist area around Aberystwyth and mid Wales. For the foreseeable future the Corris Railway has no intention of extending along the roadside trackbed the remaining 2.5 miles to Machynlleth which would require a new bridge over the Afon Dyfi. See TfW website.
Mainline News 23/4/20
Class 37 No.97307 worked from Shrewsbury Coleham CE depot to Porthmadog on 23/4/20, arriving at 1239. This was probably a PW working. Class 67 workings on the North Wales coast are currently rare due to the reduced Sunday service given low levels of traffic after the pandemic and limited to testing Mk4 rakes. The cement workings from Hanson's Padeswood cement works are now regular. There are rumours of the service ramping up to a Saturday+ service in mid-May as NR apparently makes preparations for an anticipated Government relaxation of social distancing rules.
NR are still maintaining tracks on the Cambrian with a Class 97/3 (ERTMS fitted Class 37) and a stoneblower present on 23/4/20 at Porthmadog.
The Best of The Snowdonian YouTube 17/4/20
The Snowdonian special train was due to operate on 18/4/20 with a variety of traction, possibly including the near complete No.130 and the recently returned to traffic No.87 on the WHR and a pair of England engines, Prince and Palmerston on the FR or Welsh Pony (if completed in time) on the FR. The F&WHR has produced a compilation YouTube of the best of the last 4 years of The Snowdonian. The next Snowdonian is now scheduled for 17/4/21, though it is hoped to run a Snowdonian Limited on 12/9/20 during SuperPower weekend.
Click on the YouTube window to watch 42 mins 36 seconds of video compilation from 1996-9 showing The Snowdonian in various locations. This YouTube was published on 17/4/20 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.
The Snowdonian Limited postponed to 12/9/20
Assuming the virus crisis recedes sufficiently, The Snowdonian Limited will run on Saturday 12/9/20 during SuperPower. The annual 80 mile round trip through the Snowdonia National Park will cover the full length of both the Welsh Highland and Ffestiniog Railways in one day. To add more interest to this scenic journey, The Snowdonian Limited will be hauled by a variety of motive power, details yet to be confirmed. Passengers are advised to reserve their seats early as this is a popular event and places may be even more limited than usual if social distancing measures continue. Some possibilities of loco haulage include the newly restored K1 from Statfold Barn, No.130 (if finished in time), No.87 (recently released for traffic) and, on the FR, new Fairlie James Spooner and Welsh Pony (if both completed in time). These trains are being run to raise funds for The Diamond Jubilee Appeal. For further details, general enquiries and bookings call 01766 515835 or Email: email@example.com.
F&WHR marketing initiative 15/4/20
The following message was sent by the F&WHR to supporters on 15/4/20:
'Following the recent restrictions on public movement, put in place by the UK Government in response to the COVID-19 emergency, we would like to take this moment to say a sincere thank you to all of you who have chosen to visit and enjoy the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways over the years. In line with Government direction, we have, with much sadness, had to close the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways to all visitors and we will remain closed until the Government advises us that it is safe to re-open. We spent the winter working hard to prepare our railways for you and were looking forward to seeing our visitors over the Easter break. We are so disappointed that we are closed and our staff and volunteers are staying at home; but we do strongly ask that you too adhere to government guidelines and spend your Easter holidays at home. Please do not come to Wales. Shops, attractions, beaches and mountain areas are all closed. The more we can do to help stem the spread of this virus now, the sooner you will be able to visit us again.
To those of you that have already booked to travel on the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways and perhaps booked an Afternoon Tea in one of our Pullman Carriages, we would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused by the closure of the Railway and reassure you that our Booking Office team are working flat out to reschedule your booking for later in the year, when we hope the Railway will have re-opened. Once we are ‘up and running’ again we would love you to come along and enjoy all the wonderful things that the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways have to offer.
Please sign up on our website for our ‘News from the Line’ newsletters so we can keep in touch and let you know our plans for later in the year and when we reopen for bookings. To help you look forward to that time, may we guide you to our brand new website where you can climb aboard a virtual journey on the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways and enjoy the sumptuous interiors of our Pullman Carriages as well as the glorious Snowdonia National Park countryside our trains pass through. The website also enables you to discover a whole assortment of other services, opportunities, events and activities offered by the Railway. There is even an online shop where you can by guidebooks, model railways, Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways branded clothing, presents and souvenirs in readiness for your visit! You can also discover the assortment of possibilities for your future visit via the new ‘A Journey for All’ page, which provides an overview of accessibility options, accompanying hobbies and external activities, allowing everyone to make the very most of their journey along the Railway.
Please do let us know what you think about our new website by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and if you would like to contact us about visiting the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways later in the year, First Class bookings, or anything else relating to the Railway, please email email@example.com.'
Short F&WHR YouTubes
A series of short videos to entertain supporters during the social distancing will be featured here.
YouTube drone view of No.143 crossing Glan-yr-afon Viaduct (12/4/20)
Click on the YouTube window to watch 1 mins 21 seconds of video taken in bright sunshine showing a Caernarfon to Porthmadog hauled by No.143 crossing Glan-yr-afon viaduct. This YouTube was published on 12/4/20 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.
'On this Day'
Since 25/3/20 the F&WHR's Facebook page has on most days been featuring an attractive image dated that day in a previous year or a short YouTube to illustrate the rich history of the railway including modern scenes from the F&WHR. Both steam, diesel and visiting traction feature so it is always worth a look whilst the social distancing keeps many supporters indoors.
This northerly archive view (4/4/10) shows the two Funkeys Vale of Ffestiniog and Castell Caernarfon hauling a train through the Aberglaslyn Pass. It has been several years now since Castell Caernarfon was in service. There have been calls for a diesel gala when it returns. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
While services have been suspended a limited number of PW inspection trains may operate on the F&WHR keeping it safe. Locals have been warned not to walk on the track as clearance is very limited in places.
Three chairmen appeal for F&WHR support
John Prideaux FR Co. chairman, Howard Wilson FR Society chairman and Dafydd Thomas WHR Society chairman have signed a joint letter appealing for funds to help the railway through these difficult times. The F&WHR has a £6.5m turnover and a £2.5m wage bill and train services, shops and restaurants are all closed. Only the internet shop is open. Staff essential for running the railway when it reopens could be lost. The Trust and the Societies have agreed to make loans in the short term to ensure the railway remains solvent. While they recognise that some government help may eventually come donations can help in the meantime. It is important to keep the railway in a condition it can make a swift return to service as soon as the restrictions are lifted. It seems likely that restrictions will not be eased until the end of May at the earliest, missing all the Spring/Easter traffic.
F&WHR internet shop still open
The F&WHR on line shop is still active and selling books, DVDs, BluRays etc. about a variety of railways. Purchasing some items from the shop could help the railway through its current economic crisis. Those who are socially distancing like your webmaster could find something to watch to pass the time. Click here for the F&WHR on-line shop.
iBasephoto analysis continues
The iBase photo analysis campaign continues with four new photos every day. Some very interesting images appear here and the comments reveal the great depth of knowledge about the F&WHR amongst supporters, often providing new information about photos. Details of dates and locations and viewpoints are requested. Your webmaster hopes that the campaign has more luck than the requests made on this website for help with uncertain dates for images of construction of the WHR Phase 1 which has yet to generate a single reply.
Starting Upnor Castle YouTube 10/4/20
This is the first of a series of short Easter treat YouTube videos for F&WHR supporters.
Click on the YouTube window to watch 4 mins 0 seconds of video showing Upnor Castle being started up in Harbour Station to charge the batteries on 9/4/20. This YouTube was published on 10/4/20 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.
Clearance of the Dinas (FR) branch (10/4/20)
An article in Heritage Railways 10/4/20 edition reports progress by a group of volunteers promoting the restoration of the 2 km Dinas (FR) branch. Before being locked down by the pandemic, the group had succeeded in clearing the trackbed at the far end of the line where it passes under the A470 near NR's Ffestiniog Tunnel portal. Funds are also available for clearing rhododendron growth on the Llechwedd Incline and it is possible trains might operate on the incline to the tourist attractions at Llechwedd Quarries, such as Quarry Tours, Zip World, Bounce Below etc. There were plans in the 1980s to reopen the branch following clearance of the Oakley Quarries tip over the original Dinas alignment and in fact the triangular formation of the junction at Glan-y-pwll was restored with this in mind.
Dinas (FR) was opened in 1836, the original FR opening date, for slate and the passenger station followed in 1865 but did not last long as it was far from the town centre. The extension of the line to serve the Maenofferen Quarry incline allowed a new more central station to be built known as Duffws. This opened in January 1866 and so Dinas (FR) closed to passenger traffic in 1870 though remained very busy with slate traffic until the closure of the FR. With an application in to declare the Blaenau Ffestiniog area a World Heritage Status site, funds may become available to develop the branch.
It is possible trains might operate from the FR's current terminus up the branch using Quarrymen's coaches hauled by steam or hydrogen powered locos. It might be possible to have a 'green' powered train if the latter was used. Trains could stop at the historically significant Pant-y-afon hydroelectric power station and incline car could carry passengers up the short incline to the Llechwedd Quarry. This might require the long disused second platform face at the FR's Blaenau Ffestiniog station to come back into regular use.
The expansion of the Oakley Quarries tip covered the original route from Glan-y-pwll to Dinas in 1899 and a deviation was constructed from Glan-y-pwll shed and the BR tracks to Dinas along the banks of the diverted Afon Barlwyd. Rather than reversing at Glan-y-pwll and using the test track built in 1997 for the WHR Garratts, it is more likely the scheme will use the original 1836 route and the triangular junction at Glan-y-pwll that operated between 1880 and 1899. The new shed at Glan-y-pwll, once used to assemble and test Garratts could be used to store the stock for the railway. For further details and volunteer opportunities contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This easterly archive view (1/10/96) shows the headshunt of the Glan-y-pwll test track alongside NR tracks near the former Dinas (FR) station which is the viewpoint as the bridge in the foreground is one of several missing on the former Dinas (FR) branch. This track might be reused as part of the new Dinas reopening plan. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This easterly archive view (1/10/96) shows the new shed at Glan-y-pwll, which might become the shed for the new Dinas (FR) Project, and the Garratt test track extending towards Glan-y-pwll junction. This section of line was built as a diversion in 1899 when the Oakley Quarry tip was built over the original 1836 Dinas formation that may be reopened as part of the Dinas (FR) Project. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This southerly archive view (1/10/96) shows the test track at Glan-y-pwll Junction. Some redundant bridge beams had been used to shore up the disused and dilapidated FR formation at this point. This route was in use until 1946 and saw slate trains shunt at Glan-y-pwll to gain access to the LNWR/GWR exchange yards. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
TrawsLink cancels Caernarfon meeting 9/4/20
A new group has been set up as a northern branch of TrawsLink to push for Bangor-Caernarfon-Afonwen restoration under the Government's 'Reversing Beeching' strategy, see TrawsLink announcement. The existing TrawsLink branch based in the Cardiganshire area has successfully lobbied and obtained a TfW funded Feasibility Study into reopening the Carmarthen-Aberyswyth line. However, due to the current pandemic, the inaugural meeting for the Bangor-Afonwen Group planned for Y Galeri, Caernarfon, on 17/04/2020 to gather support for this final section of the West Wales Coast link has been cancelled. Organisers will rearrange the meeting once the current pandemic alert has passed.
In 2015 TrawsLink Cymru was successful in lobbying for a Scoping Study to be published on 18/9/15 for the reopening of Aberystwyth-Carmarthen section of the West Welsh Coast route (Bangor-Carmarthen). This showed that the scheme was possible with a diversion to avoid the preserved Gwili Railway which owns the trackbed from Abergwili Junction just north of Carmarthen to Llanpumpsaint. This in turn led to a full Feasibility Study presented to the Welsh Government 19/9/18 that suggested a new route into an expanded Aberystwyth terminus and crossing the Vale of Rheidol on the level (as with the WHR) at an estimated cost of £500m (£776m including optimism bias). Costs include a new tunnelled approach to Aberystwyth, displacing the Gwili Railway to a nearby branch e.g. Newcastle Emlyn, several new stations and two passing loops plus measures to deal with stability and environmental concerns crossing Cors Caron bog Nature Reserve SSSI approaching Strata Florida station. The service was suggested as an extension of the Manchester-Carmarthen service which did not meet local approval as this is often turned back early leading to reduced services on Carmarthen and its branches. Overall the report was negative about the cost benefit /analysis but did not seem to take into account the through route traffic from North Wales or even the Cambrian Coast!
Fortunately the Carnarvonshire Railway bought land for double track and so the Lon Eifion can be accommodated as far Bryncir where it ends. If the route restoration goes ahead on the old trackbed it might mean reuse of the little used road tunnel under Y Maes and interleaved track with some interesting signalling between Caernarfon and Dinas for the F&WHR with hourly TfW DMUs and the odd excursion/PW train passing over the WHR. Track would need to be lowered under St Helens Road bridge to allow standard gauge trains to pass through. WHR dwell times in Caernarfon station might have to be reduced. At Dinas the F&WHR might be asked to move over onto its original alignment east of the station building to allow a single standard gauge track to pass through where the WHR loop currently is situated but offering cross platform interface and a benefit to the WHR in terms of passengers arriving by NR as a joint station at Caernarfon is impossible given platform levels.
WHR engineers requested passive provision for standard gauge clearances where the new Caernarfon Bypass bridges the WHR just north of Bontnewydd. A diversion will be necessary at the A487/A499 roundabout at Llanwnda. At Groeslon a 1 km diversion to the west would be necessary to avoid two expensive road bridges as level crossings are disapproved of by the current planning rules. At Pen-y-groes there would probably be a station and passing loop but the A487 bypass occupies the site so a further diversion is necessary. A road bridge over the A487 Llanllyfni bypass/Lon Eifion also appears to have inadequate clearance for both reinstated railway and the Lon Eifion. The trackbed south of there is largely undeveloped and would connect to NR's existing Cambrian Coast Line at Afonwen. However the approaches to Afonwen at Chwilog are built over so a new curve from just north of Chwilog to the west of Penychain Halt (ex Butlins Pwllheli) would allow running into Pwllheli where it is possible trains could reverse and run along the Cambrian Coast Line.
Train services might possibly run Bangor to Pwllheli (reverse)/Porthmadog/Barmouth. Signalling is an issue as NR would not want to extend the recently discredited ERTMS scheme based at the Machynlleth powerbox after the system failed dangerously on 20/10/17 and did not correctly identify temporary speed restrictions to drivers. This was subject to an expensive analysis by the RAIB which reported that there were still concerns about the system (see below). Maybe it is time to remove the system and operate modern LED colour lights as recently installed on the North Wales Coast. This would allow excursions and steam specials on the Cambrian again which were lost, with all the income to heritage railways that they used to bring, due to NR's failure to keep their promise to provide a mobile receiver for visiting traction and the lack of availability of the dedicated Class 97/3 (ex Class 37s) from Shrewsbury.
See Daily Post story.
NR appeal for essential staff 7/4/20
The F&WHR has received an appeal for help from Network Rail. As they try to ensure that essential services continue they are struggling to find sufficient staff as staff go off ill. In particular, they have appealed for retired or former signallers to return in the short term. Other Heritage railways have responded to this for which NR has been most grateful. The need for help is growing and will likely continue to grow in the coming weeks with help needed in operations and infrastructure too. The F&WHR is happy to release staff laid off while the railway is closed. See NR Appeal.
Passing the social distancing time 6/4/20
With the Sunday timetable reducing news for the North Wales Coast website, the webmaster Charles Hulme is publishing images from the past with updates now more than weekly. It is well worth a look and some of your webmaster's main line contributions can been seen.
Railways of North Wales is a private group on Facebook that you must seek permission to join but has some nice images.
Moving Pictures No.42 3/4/20
The final edition of Moving Pictures until the pandemic is over and government restrictions are lifted is dated 31/3/20. The General Manager reminds passengers and volunteers they should not travel to the F&WHR as it is not open.
Click on the YouTube window to watch 18 mins 52 seconds of video showing a promotional trip with No.87 in the Aberglaslyn Pass, views of Lyd and Blanche on the Hafod-y-Llyn service including some drone views and a drone view of Baldwin No.608 on a test run to Beddgelert with Upnor Castle for insurance. This YouTube was published on 3/4/20 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.
Welsh Pony progress 1/4/20
Trial fitting of the open cab side sheets took place earlier in the year. It is hoped to make adjustments to fitting so that the loco cab can be removed and within 24 hours an older cabless profile of the loco can appear at galas.
One of the Brown timetable trains was stopped specially at Pont Croesor to allow Welsh TV presenter Sian Lloyd to pose flagging down the train. This was part of the Snowdonia 360 promotional tour which covered many of the tourist attractions in North Wales. Lotus Cars had sponsored the road trip and it covers a 360 mile road tour of North Wales visiting the Heritage Railways etc. For full details of the Snowdonia 360 campaign click here.
Good news for the F&WHR closure appeal
A generous benefactor has agreed to add 5% extra to any funds raised by the F&WHR Covid-19 Closure Appeal. See General Manager's Appeal video.
General Manager appeals for help with photo archive 1/4/20
Here is an activity F&WHR members can help with whilst 'locked down' at home, using their railway knowledge to expand captions on old photos of the two railways and identify locations. Images from iBase resource will be pasted on F&WHR Insider Facebook page for consideration and comments collated. If needed, you can zoom into the photograph further on the website, as they can be viewed in greater detail via the archive zoom. Simply visit F&WHR iBase resource, enter the iBase reference number into the search box, then click on the photo until you reach the level of magnification you require. There are also instructions as to how to give a 3 word location code that defines a 3m square location box.
Your webmaster hopes there is a better response than the appeal for help with archive images from 1996-7 featured on these pages to tie down dates/locations which generated nil response.
Click on the YouTube window to watch 6 mins 35 seconds of video covering the appeal for image analysis. This YouTube was published on 1/4/20 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.
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