WHR

News Archive Page

2020

October-December

V4.2 updated 1/1/21

with news to 30/11/20

 

Newly archived sections are placed at the top of this page.

Welsh lockdown Version 3 (30/11/20)

The Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford announced new restrictions that apply across Wales on 30/11/20 as there has been a sudden rise in new COVID infections over the last few weeks following the end of the 'Firebreak Lockdown' on 9/11/20. It has taken just 3 weeks for restrictions to be re-imposed after it seems under 25s in particular relaxed their behaviour too much and have spread COVID infections to their families! The rapid rise has seen cases doubling in a week in some parts of South Wales. This is particularly unfortunate for Gwynedd which has seen hardly any change with less than 50 cases per 100,000.

The new restrictions make it very unlikely that F&WHR will be able to open Spooners anytime soon but leave the question of services over the Festive season open. However the F&WHR may benefit from WAG grants being offered to support the business sector. The current travel restrictions prevent anyone from outside Wales visiting for holidays, however the WAG will look at travel restrictions later this week after the end of the English lockdown from 3/12/20 to decide if any change is justifiable.

See Welsh Press Conference.

From Friday 4/12/20 the new restrictions are as follows and will be reviewed on 17/12/20.

In a cheap political jibe Tory Michael Gove said Wales is now suffering from lifting the country's COVID restrictions too soon whilst forgetting the English Lockdown was applied two weeks after the Welsh lockdown, late as usual.

 

F&WHR 30/11/20

A rake of 5 coaches was visible in the WHR loop line on 30/11/20 from 11:30 with possibly Van No.10 on the rear and possibly NWNGR coach No.24   near the east end. It was a rainy day at Porthmadog and increasingly cold wintry weather forecast from Wednesday with snowfall likely on Snowdon every day from then on until the limit of the forecast on Sunday.

Vale of Ffestiniog came over from Boston Lodge and coupled up at 15:30 and the rake had gone to Boston Lodge a few minutes later as the Funkey was noted on shed by 15:40. Again it is not certain what the purpose of this working is other than staff training

 

This easterly view (30/11/20) shows a rake of several coaches waiting in the WHR loop just before midday waiting for Vale of Ffestiniog to collect them at about 13:35. 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 webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

North Wales Main line 30/11/20

Nos.56096/302 top and tailed the Rail Head Treatment Train to Holyhead on 1/12/20. On some days this has been single headed with a need for run round at the terminus. 

A TfW livery Class 67 ran an ECS working from Holyhead to Crewe on 30/11/20. Driver training has also been taking place between Chester and Cardiff. Currently no loco hauled trains are in service due to the lower demand, but Cardiff and Manchester workings are due next year and there is hope a Birmingham International service might also be reinstated.

 

New Welsh stations and rail routes proposed

Mr Skates (WAG Transport Minister) said Deeside Parkway and Ely Mill would be "key components" of their respective Metro developments with "major contributions to improved urban connectivity, employment/economic growth and reduced car use". New stations at Carno and St Clears - to replace those which closed in the 1960s - would be seen as supporting "strong employment and sustainable economic growth through improved regional connectivity". The minister also suggested longer-term discussions on new stations for Greenfield in Flintshire and Magor in Monmouthshire, as well as reopening passenger services between Gaerwen and Amlwch on Anglesey. He also called for talks on restoring the line which served Abertillery in Blaenau Gwent, as well as the Aberystwyth-Carmarthen and Bangor-Caernarfon routes.

Plans to open a new station at Bow Street, near Aberystwyth, and at Cardiff Parkway station on the eastern outskirts of the city are already in progress.

The spokesman for the UK government's Department for Transport said investing in rail infrastructure was crucial to restarting the economy. We look forward to receiving several bids from Wales in the latest round of the New Stations Fund to connect communities across the country, Each will be independently assessed in order that we fund the schemes which are most beneficial to passengers and communities.

See BBC story.

In a BBC story on 19/11/20 WAG confirmed that they had commissioned TfW to 'undertake a feasibility study on innovative ways to operate a rail service along the west coast - including the link between Bangor to Porthmadog." Due to development at Chwilog, a few miles of new line would be required taking the line to a new Pwllheli facing junction between Pen-y-chain and Abererch and requiring reversal at Pwllheli for any through services to the Cambrian Coast.

See BBC story.

There have also been calls recently for a Dolgellau rail link. The trackbed is currently part of the Cross Britain Way and your webmaster has cycled it. The final mile into Dolgellau and station site are occupied by the A494/A470 Trunk Road so any new station would have to be at Dolrhyd roundabout 1 mile from the town centre without major construction. The cost of restoring the route from Morfa Mawddach station are minimal and a shuttle service could operate to Barmouth linking with Cambrian Coast trains.

 

F&WHR activity 24-25/11/20

Vale of Ffestiniog was out and about again with the 9 coach rake performing the same ECS moves as the previous day on 24/11/20. It was noted departing Tan-y-bwlch at 12:30. At 13:12 it waited at Minffordd Yard crossing for the shunter to re-board after manually resetting the points and ran into the WHR loop at Porthmadog. The Funkey ran round promptly at 13:30 and, after waiting for the shunter to re-board, set off from the king point for Boston Lodge at 13:33. This ECS has now run on two consecutive days and it is not certain what the purpose of this working is other than staff training.

 

This easterly view (23/11/20) shows Vale of Ffestiniog arriving back at Porthmadog with the same rake as the previous day  at 13:30. This time the loco ran round via the WHR platform. 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 webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Work continued at Boston Lodge with an excavator replacing worn out points in front of the Loco Shed. One length of rail fell apart when it was lifted out as it was so badly cracked. The new curved point have been made by KG Price of Caerphilly which supplied other new points to the F&WHR in recent years. The sleepers appear to be the new plastic type.

 

This easterly view (24/11/20) shows Criccieth Castle in the Carriage Shed on the right. The new curved point that leads to the Loco Shed and the Heritage Carriage Shed/Carriage Sheds release road has been placed in position. The excavator is completing the trackbed to the Paint Shop.. 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 webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Smoke was rising from the Boston Lodge shed in the morning so it appeared steam was being raised. About 13:00 a steam loco left the area of the Carriage Shed and set off across The Cob but pausing by the trident signal for a while staff went to the signal box and operated the signals. The diesel crews had seems to drive straight into the station area during the previous two days. Linda eventually arrived in the yard light engine at 13:15.

 

This easterly view (23/11/20) shows Linda arriving at Porthmadog light engine at 13:14. 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 webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

After a delay, possibly for fuelling and watering, the loco emerged at 13:40 and set back into the FR platform to collect its rake. A party of junior school children visited the station at 2:30 and were rewarded by the sights and sounds of trains in action. The loco the reappeared at 14:35 hauling No.107, a Service Car and Observation Car No.152, with internal decorations and passengers, to Tan-y-bwlch. This was probably a hire working for a wedding as the loco was bedecked with white ribbon! After running round, the train departed Tan-y-bwlch at 15:34 pausing at Minffordd at 16:00 while the points were manually wound over and were left set 'wrong line'. The train paused at the trident signal before arriving back at Porthmadog at 16:25. After running round in the FR platform the rake was back at Boston Lodge by 16:45.

 

First snow Winter 2020!

Snowdon showed the first snow of the season on 19/11/20. Snow has become very scarce around the WHR during it operating season in recent years. Needless to say the F&WHR is selling festive Xmas cards. These are available from the F&WHR on line shop or over the counter as the shop is open again. The packs cost £5.50 and contain 5 bilingual cards of each type. Sales of these items will support the F&WHR through the difficult period when the pandemic has hit the F&WHR's income with only £1 million being earned in 2020 compared to an anticipated £6 million. The 2020 calendars have sold out but other railwayana is available.

 

This view (23/11/20) shows the F&WHR's Xmas cards for 2020. Snow is very rare at both these locations so paintings rather than photographs have become the order of the day! 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 webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Past snow reports about the F&WHR are shown in the Snow Scenes page which contains WHR snow images and video going back to 2000.

Although Heritage Railway reports in its 27/11/20 edition that the F&WHR will run no 'Festive Trains', other railways are doing so e.g. Tal-y-llyn which offers . 'Tinsel & Turkey' trains over three days  2,6,9/12/20, Santa Trains 23-4/12/20 and Festive Specials 26-28/12/20!! There is still a chance that compulsory booking trains might run as visitors return in numbers sufficient to make it economic especially if COVID vaccinations become available in December.

Here are some useful resources to check if there is snow around the F&WHR. These include the A55 webcams. The Bangor webcam can be helpful though it is nearer sea level than the WHR. These views refresh every five minutes rather than every minute as in previous years, giving time for them to be shut off if an incident occurs.

Traffic Wales

The F&WHR webcams are useful and might show snowfall at Tan-y-bwlch at a similar height to the area north of Meillionen Halt above Beddgelert.

F&WHR Webcams

The WHHR webcams would show the rare sea level snow cover at Porthmadog.

WHHR webcams

The Meteorological Office provides a useful animated radar weather map covering the last 6 hours that shows the rain/snow coming into Britain and can be watched as an animation updated every 10 minutes.

Rainfall radar

The main Meteorological Office website also has a page where you can enter e.g. Beddgelert that shows the predicted weather for that area for the next seven  days.

Meteorological Office

 

F&WHR activity 23/11/20

There is still activity of the F&WHR with Moel Hebog on a BZ2004 (a low sided variant of the ex SAR B/DZ types) a single wagon lineside clearance train. This was present at Tan-y-bwlch on 23/11/20 at 13:40 and was passed by Vale of Ffestiniog with a 9 coach rake from Glan-y-pwll still labelled with compartment numbers, heading for Porthmadog. The Funkey departed at 14:04 and the PW train left for Glan-y-pwll at 14:13 after the loco had received some attention.

With the English lockdown finishing on 2/12/20 perhaps the F&WHR will chance operating a service again in December or over Xmas holidays. Santa trains are not currently envisaged. 

 

This westerly view (23/11/20) shows Moel Hebog on the PW train and Vale of Ffestiniog taking a rake towards Porthmadog at 13:55. 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 webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

The Funkey arrived at Porthmadog about 15:00, ran round using the WHR loop and hauled the rake into Boston Lodge. Brake No.113 was on the rear as the rake departed for the new Carriage shed at 15:26.

David Jaquis adds: I think Vale of Ffestiniog may have taken the same rake up the line earlier that morning passing Minffordd at 10:45. I’m pretty sure No.113  was the last car when it ran round  in Porthmadog. Looks like Upnor Castle escaped for a bit as well.
 

 

This easterly view (23/11/20) shows Vale of Ffestiniog running around the rake via the WHR loop at 15:15 before hauling it to the new Carriage Shed at Boston Lodge. 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 webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This easterly view (23/11/20) shows Upnor Castle in Porthmadog Station yard at 12:24. 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 webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

The Grand Shunt part Two 17/11/20

As the F&WHR 'packed away its toys' on 17/11/20, Vale of Ffestiniog was called upon to complete the sorting of the carriage stock at Harbour Station, begun the day before by Linda, and drag it back to Boston Lodge, With the new Carriage Shed tracklaying half completed, one and a half of the 3 new under cover sidings were available for protection of rolling stock until they are needed again, hopefully at Christmas.

Work was already underway at 10:25 when a green signal was noted and the Funkey hauled two saloon coaches across The Cob, returning light engine at 11:25 and shunting the yard. It emerged with 3 saloons and Brake No.113, which was propelled back into the WHR platform and left there at 11:44. The other three coaches were shunted to the WHR loop line at 11:46 before the Funkey returned to shunt the Sea Wall siding. Two bowsiders and brake No.10 were extracted and shunted back into the adjacent siding. The rake was shunted out of the yard with Nos.24/26/22 attached to the rear and at 12:12 propelled back onto No.113 in the WHR platform. The team then took lunch in the signal box.

 

This easterly view (17/11/20) shows Vale of Ffestiniog taking the first rake of the day over to Boston Lodge. 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 webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This easterly view (17/11/20) shows Vale of Ffestiniog had returned and was shunting the yard in Harbour Station preparing rakes into some order for taking to the new Boston Lodge Carriage Shed. 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 webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

At 13:00 work resumed with the rear seven saloons left in the WHR platform and the Funkey propelled the rest including Nos. 23/24 to collect more stock from the yard. An addition 4 coaches were extracted and Observation Car No.152 on the rear and these were shunted back into the FR platform at 13:13. Nos. 23/24 and the bowsider were then shunted to the WHR platform at 13:22 which now contained 7 bogies. The lead coach was shunted onto the rake stabled in the WHR loop and the remaining long rake drawn out at 13:30 and further shunting took place before the Funkey collected the 3 FR Opens Nos.37-39 at 13:44.

 

This easterly view (17/11/20) shows Vale of Ffestiniog had formed up a couple of rakes on the WHR side of the station for taking to the new Boston Lodge Carriage Shed. 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 webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

By 14:09 an 11 coach rake had been assembled including the two WHR Opens Nos.2021/2022. At 14:15 the rake departed for Boston Lodge. The Funkey was back at 16:02 to haul the remaining 8 coach rake formed up in the WHR platform. At 16:10 this departed into the fog for Boston Lodge after picking the shunter at the king point.

 

This southerly view (17/11/20) shows a couple of rakes stabled inside the new Boston Lodge Carriage Shed. The track on the left road is half complete and coaches had to be shunted in from the Glan-y-mor headshunt. The right hand track is complete and entrance could be gained from the Pen Cob headshunt fan. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Glen Williams (F&WHR) and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

The Grand Shunt part One 16/11/20

Linda spent the afternoon shunting Porthmadog station yard in poor weather. The loco emerged first from Boston Lodge at about 10:30 and spent some time at the old Loco Shed before returning to shunt the Heritage Carriage shed around 11:30. At 12:17 Linda emerged from Pen Cob Junction yet again and came over The Cob with Observation Car No.152 Eryri Snowdonia in tow. The train arrived at the king point at 12:22 and the shunt team went for a well deserved lunch break in the signal box until 12:54. The weather grew increasingly poor during the afternoon and Linda's demountable cab back sheet offered some protection.

 

This easterly view (16/11/20) shows Linda detaching from No.152 and commencing the run round in the WHR platform as the FR side of the station was full of coaching stock. 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 webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This easterly view (16/11/20) shows Linda running round No.152 before propelling into the yard. 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 webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

At 13:56 the Observation Car was dropped in the WHR platform and Linda ran round. At 14:12 the train was back at the king point and the loco propelled No.152 into the yard. Running round in the WHR platform has been a regular occurrence recently with all tracks in Harbour Station Yard full of stock. At 14:22 the Observation Car was deposited and the loco proceeded to shunt the other rakes in the sidings into some order. Initially coaches Nos. 24/26/22, a bowsider and opens Nos.36/37 with brake No.107 were extracted before being shunted back to collect one more saloon and No.152. At 14:54 this long rake stopped at the queen point whilst the staff discussed strategy for several minutes before shunting into a different siding at 15:01.

 

This easterly view (16/11/20) shows Linda propelling No.152 into the yard before commencing the big shunt. 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 webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This easterly view (16/11/20) shows Linda commencing the big shunt by collecting and dragging a long rake of coaches out to be shunted into various sidings. 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 webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

At 15:07 Linda reappeared with the first four coaches and shunted into the Sea Wall siding to collect two green saloons No.10, four wheelers Nos.3/4/8 and Open No.39 at 15:20. These were shunted back and the rake reappeared truncated at No.10. At 15:40 further shunting saw the rake cut back further to the bowsider. At 15:49 Linda emerged light engine and shunted back into the yard to sort out the coaches.

At 16:14 in fading light Linda moved to a free siding and four wheelers Nos.3/4 followed by No.8 were hand shunted to the front of the loco. At 16:28 these were propelled to the signal box and the shunting team set the route for Boston Lodge before locking up the box for the night. The rake set off across The Cob as darkness fell at 16:30. There is likely to be further shunting on Tuesday as stock is stored in the recently completed 22 road in the new Carriage Shed.

 

Plas-y-nant bridge renewal 14/11/20

In wet and windy weather, on Saturday 14/11/20 members of the Black Hand Gang removed the rails from the bridge over the river at Plas-y-Nant in preparation for its removal and replacement with a new structure. This means that the WHR is split until completion of the bridge replacement project over Winter so stock at Dinas must be used to maintain the northern 10 km of the railway.

 

This southerly view (14/11/20) shows the North Wales Track Gang removing the track from Plas-y-nant bridge as part of the WMWP. 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 webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Beaver Bridges of Shrewsbury has won the order for the new Plas-y-nant bridge. The F&WHR has taken care to ensure they are happy to work alongside volunteers, a difference to some of the original stages of the WHR reconstruction. The contract is a Design, Build and Install type. The design replicates the appearance of the existing bridge with a cantilevered walkway on the west side. If the footpath is provided, let us hope the gate is fitted to the north end of the bridge and avoids the nearby landowner of Pen-y-gaer claiming ownership of the footpath over the bridge which appears never to have been used anyway.

The bridge is being replaced as it is life expired and cannot take the weight of a double headed NG16. The design will feature modern materials and construction techniques including a welded design rather the current riveted design. The waybeams will be curved. The bridge will be replaced during the WMWP with a handover date of 1/3/21 in time for the hoped for new season's spring timetable. Natural Resources Wales have already granted permission to work in and around the Afon Gwyrfai during the construction. The old beams will be disposed of directly from the site as part of the contract.

John Sreeves, the WHR's volunteer bridge engineer prepared an ‘indicative’ design upon which Beaver Bridges based their tender. The intention was that the bridge would replicate as closely as possible the dimensions and the appearance of the original, to retain heritage aspects in much the same way as was done for the three truss bridges in Phase 4. The main girders will retain the hog back shape but with the flange to web connections welded rather than joined by riveted angles. The cross beams will be bolted to the main girders at the web stiffener positions to ensure improved stiffness compared to the existing bridge. Track fixing details will be unchanged.

This is the second of the 3 bowstring bridges to be replaced. The one at Betws Garmon was replaced by an adapted BR structure. The one near the Pipe bridge at Salem was lifted out and reconstructed on site before being craned back onto rebuilt abutments. This will remain for the time being as the final example in use. The historic beams from Plas-y-nant are likely to be stored in Dinas South Yard along with those from Betws Garmon. There was discussion at one time about repurposing them for use as a turntable at Dinas so that NG15s could run boiler first.

 

Carriage shed ready for stock storage 13/11/20

Welcome news for the protection of carriages over winter has been the completion of one of the three roads in the new Glan-y-mor Carriage Shed. Work started 15 months ago and after a massive team effort made the more difficult by the pandemic one road in the carriage shed is now far enough advanced to permit carriages to be stored in the shed from next Tuesday 17/11/20. Work will continue over the winter on the other two roads and the fitting out works.

 

This easterly view (13/11/20) shows the fan of points leading to the new Carriage Shed with Vale of Ffestiniog standing the release  leading to Glan-y-mor headshunt and the Heritage Carriage shed. The track for the left hand roads, Nos.20/21, is in place but not yet complete. 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.

 

The three roads are numbered 20-22 with 22 road being closest to the sea. It is 22 road that has been completed first. A reinforced concrete base was formed about 90 cm wide and steel baseplates fixed by studs drilled and glued into the concrete roughly every metre. Now the rails were fixed down the excess studs will be removed with an angle grinder. The concrete bases for 20/21 roads appear to have been completed and some track laid on 20 road as well. Eventually the whole floor will be concrete up to the rail heads to make a level work area.

 

This southerly view (13/11/20) shows the fan of points at the southern end the new Carriage Shed with the release  leading to Glan-y-mor headshunt. The track for the left hand roads, Nos.20/21, is in place but not yet complete. 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 westerly view (13/11/20) shows the concrete base of 22 road and the fan of points at the western end the new Carriage Shed  leading to Pen Cob headshunt. The slight mismatch in the concrete base and access track has been compensated by having additional baseplates at the end of the concrete. 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 easterly view (13/11/20) shows the concrete bases of all three sidings in new Carriage Shed complete. Some track has been laid on the leftmost siding, 20 road, and a van is stabled on that siding probably with the track fixing tools. Baseplates appear to be fixed nearly a metre apart. 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.

 

F&WHR news 12-14/11/20

Work seems to be underway on the footpath crossing from The cob to the end of the platform with orange plastic barriers in place across the WHR loop line visible on 14/11/20. It is possible they have been displaced by the wind or passengers by. There will be a large shunt on 17/11/20 as stock is taken to the newly completed undercover siding in the partially completed Glan-y-mor Carriage Shed. There is a single B wagon stabled close to Minffordd Station in the exchange yard adjacent to the Maenofferen shed presumably for spoil collection as this area is being tidied up.

 

This easterly view (13/11/20) shows the orange barriers across the WHR loop allowing works on the footpath crossing from The Cob path to the end of the platform. 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 webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

F&WHR news 11/11/20

After some shunting at Boston Lodge about 10:00 PW diesel shunter Moel Hebog emerged and hauled a coal delivery train  across The Cob before arriving at the king point at 10:21. The rake of two B wagons arrived in the WHR platform at 10:24 before shutting down for a while. At 11:07 the loco detached and ran round arriving at the king point at 11:11 and reversing onto the rake, coupling up at 11:13.

Moel Hebog dragged the coal train to the king point and set back into the yard at 11:15. After depositing the coal wagons the loco re-emerged at 11:20 and departed for Boston Lodge at 11:22 light engine, arriving there at 11:27 and doing some further shunting at the depot.

 

This easterly view (11/11/20) shows Moel Hebog running round two B wagons filled with coal in the WHR platform via the WHR loop. 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 webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This easterly view (11/11/20) shows Moel Hebog running round two B wagons filled with coal in the WHR platform via the WHR loop. 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 webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This easterly view (11/11/20) shows Moel Hebog propelling the two B wagons loaded with coal into the loco servicing point in Porthmadog yard. 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 webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

F&WHR news 10/11/20

For the first time in a long while Harbour Station appeared deserted though there are reputed to be a couple of rakes stored in the sidings out of sight of the webcam. There is no news of any potential restart of services which may have to wait until at least the end of the English lockdown on 3/12/20. Santa trains are unlikely this year on either railway.

 

This easterly view (10/11/20) shows a rare empty view of Porthmadog Harbour station. The railway really does look closed down though there are probably other rakes stored in the sidings. 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 webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Harbour Station shop reopens 11/11/20

Whilst the familiar sight of locomotives steaming through the Snowdonia Mountains is temporarily absent, there is still plenty of reason to be merry in the run up to Christmas at the F&WHR! The Harbour Station shop will reopen 11/11/20, with opening hours of 10:00 - 15:00, Wednesday - Saturday. The F&WHR shop is the perfect place for all your Christmas gifts this Winter!

There are hundreds of fantastic items available including Artwork, Books, Calendars, Clothing, DVDs and Miniature Railway Models. The F&WHR shop also have a range of new additions to the online shop this Winter, including a selection of themed Gift Sets. These range from a ‘Counting Sheep’ set to a ‘Welsh Dragon’ set, the perfect Christmas gift!

Orders are being accepted via the Online Shop, with a range of festive wrapping options available! All purchases will be a huge help towards the Railway, especially in times where the F&WHR is unable to operate regular services.

Visit our online shop here: https://www.festrail.co.uk/shop/

 

Six months of progress with KS4415

Kier Stuart KS4415 was he experimental diesel that ran on the F&WHR in 1928-29. initial work saw it handling the Bryngwyn branch freight and then, after fitting vacuum brakes, the WHR Winter Passenger service. In 1929 it operated as the FR's bottom end shunter before being returned to the manufacturers as  the FR's owner Colonel Stephens did not have the money to purchase it. After repatriation from Mauritius in 1971 restoration started at Boston Lodge in 2014.

6/5/20 Although the Ffestiniog Railway and Boston Lodge remain closed on this date, work on KS4415 is carrying on in the background. One of the team's volunteers is reassembling the donkey engine at home. A new collar has been made to marry the carburettor up to the inlet on the head, and new valve cotters to replace missing bits. The team is looking forward to getting back to normal and working on the loco again, but safety comes first.

6/6/20 Some merchandise in the form of a Warhol inspired T shirt £15.00+P&P are available to purchase to support the project on the FR Heritage website

or email sales@frheritage.org.uk.

Sizes are for guidance only as they are an AVERAGE measurement of  'LAY FLAT' & ' TO FIT CHEST SIZE'

Small - 32" - 34"

Medium 38" - 40"

Large - 41 - 43"

XL - 44 - 46"

XXL - 47"-49"

12/6/20 The team had the cam for the vacuum pump back from Newman Cams. They have made a new double lobed cam and welded it onto the original gear. The team is looking forward to testing the vacuum pump when they can get back to Boston Lodge, and seeing what a difference this has made as it will now suck on two of the four strokes.

16/6/20 Work continues on the donkey (starter) engine in Lancashire. One of the team has made a steel insert for the worn bearing recess in the crankcase, and fitted the bearing, including making some countersunk screws with oversized heads to retain the bearing. Progress is now being made with new fittings for lubrication pipework, including the banjo pipe end.

20/6/20 There were only a few promotional T Shirts left on that date.

22/10/20 The newly cast MDB4 rocker covers for the replacement engine loaned by Armley Mills Museum of Leeds have been delivered. Because team members still can't get to Boston Lodge (or even Wales at the moment!) they are going to be machined by one of the team volunteers in his workshop at home. Also back from the foundry are the plates for the engine and radiator, one spelled MACLAREN for the radiator and one spelled McLAREN-BENZ for the engine.

 

F&WHR not reopening 9/11/20

Despite it being the end of the Welsh 'firebreak' lockdown today (Monday 9/11/20) the F&WHR is not reopening. This is because most passengers come from England as day trippers or holidaymakers and it is thought it would be uneconomic to run a service as both English and Welsh restrictions do not permit crossing the border for holiday/leisure activities. The situation may be looked at again at the end of the English lockdown on 3/12/20. Click here for WAG pandemic advice from 9/11/20.

F&WHR statement 9/11/20

This update follows the culmination of the ‘Firebreak Lockdown’ period here in Wales. Following an in depth review and evaluation of the Railway’s current situation, we have decided that train services will not recommence at the present moment. Our catering outlets at Spooner’s, Porthmadog Station, Tea Room at Tan-Y-Bwlch Station and Café De Winton at Caernarfon Station will remain closed. Our retail outlets at Porthmadog Station and Caernarfon Station will remain closed.

Please note, the commercial side of the railway will continue to operate and therefore orders can be placed via the online shop. Our Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways Online Shop is the perfect place for all your Christmas gifts this Winter! We have hundreds of fantastic items available on our Online Shop including Artwork, Books, Calendars, Clothing, DVDs and Miniature Railway Models. All purchases will be a huge help towards the Railway, especially in times where we are unable to operate our regular services.

The developing situation will be kept under constant review, with further announcements being made via our website and social media pages in due course. We would like to thank you all for your support.

* IMPORTANT NOTICE - All ongoing operations will be subject to any further changes in Welsh Government policy in response to the Covid-19 situation.

 

F&WHR news 7-9/11/20

On 7/11/20 a freight train was noted Minffordd hauled by Britomart and Lilla which were taking water ready to go towards Blaenau Ffestiniog. The train consisted of several wagons loaded with loco ash, a bug box and brake van. This may have been the rake taken to Minffordd Yard on 5/11/20. The train returned quite late the same day in the dark.

During the morning of 9/11/20 the signalbox was manned and the two FR coaches that had been shunted into the FR platform on 2/11/20 were extracted from the FR platform at 09:47 by Vale of Ffestiniog after some difficulty, probably with the brakes. The FR coaches had been formed up into a rake of 6 coaches with others stored in the station since the initial two had been shunted into the platform. The four coaches in the WHR loop were also removed by late afternoon on 9/11/20, again probably by Vale of Ffestiniog.

 

This easterly view (9/11/20) shows Vale of Ffestiniog in the FR platform removing two the FR coaches for storage at 09:47. At this time the four coaches in the WHR loop were still present but had been removed by late afternoon. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image was provided by Bob Guinness, courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This easterly view (9/11/20) shows Vale of Ffestiniog departing the FR platform removing a six coach rake for storage, presumably at Boston Lodge, at 09:54. At this time the four coaches in the WHR loop were still present but had been removed by late afternoon probably by the same loco. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image was provided by Bob Guinness, courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

No sign of restart 6-7/11/20

There has been no announcement from the F&WHR and there is nothing on the F&WHR websites to suggest there will be any service or even the reopening of Spooners from the end of the Welsh 'firebreak' lockdown on Monday 9/11/20. There was no visible change at Porthmadog with the 4 saloons stabled in the WHR loop and 2 FR coaches in the FR platform on both Friday and Saturday 5-7/11/20 and two other rakes stabled.

 

Mountaineer replica progress

There has been further progress with the Mountaineer Project in its attempt to recreate the original pannier tank style England engine of 1863. The loco was No.3 in the FR fleet after Princess and Prince but was actually the first loco to arrive at Boston Lodge and was withdrawn after just 16 years in 1879 and subsequently scrapped and used for spares for the other three small England locos. It never received the saddle tank that the other five England engines received.

The FR archive had the original drawings which have been redrawn into 3D. Boston Lodge still has casting patterns suitable for the loco along with several other original parts. North Bay Engineering of Darlington is in charge of the project which is costed at £250,000. The all welded boiler is being constructed by Israel Newton. The backhead and throatplate have already been formed using the formers used for Welsh Pony's new boiler. The boiler was completed and hydraulically tested in January 2020. All the boiler fittings are still required, gauges, injectors, firebars, ashpans, Salters' safety valve and the firebox door.

A Facebook campaign raised £8,000 for two complete wheel and axle sets which are currently being machined. Cylinders and valve chests have also been cast and machined following the loan of the pattern from the F&WHR. Peak Pattern Foundry of Sheffield has won the quote with £5000 plus VAT will buy the castings but machining costs of £7000 plus VAT must be added from NBR with a total cost £14,000. A supporter has started the fund with £5,000. A share issue is planned at £1 each and a prospectus is being prepared. The loco will visit the F&WHR when invited and other 2' gauge heritage lines.

For further information or to donate see The Mountaineer 1863 Project website.

 

F&WHR news 5/11/20

On Thursday 5/11/20 a rake of 4 modern bogie saloons was standing in the WHR platform at Porthmadog with PW Van No.51 at the west end at about 10:40. The two FR coaches were still present in the FR platform from the previous day. Lilla emerged from the yard at about 10:44 with an FR Observation Car and worked to Boston Lodge arriving at 10:50. At 11:07 the coach was shunted to the Heritage Carriage shed and some further shunting occurred there. At 11:25 Vale of Ffestiniog was noted shunting within Boston Lodge and Lilla emerged at 11:28 reversing at Pen Cob Junction and entering the Old Loco shed sidings a few minutes later where some shunting occurred.

At 11:47 Lilla returned to Pen Cob Junction and shunted into Boston Lodge at 11:49. At 11:50 Vale of Ffestiniog shunted and coupled to the front of Lilla and the pair came over The Cob to shunt Porthmadog station. The Funkey detached at the king point and ran into the WHR loop while Lilla ran into the WHR platform to couple to the rake stabled there. There seemed to be some problem with the coaching stock as the underframes were subject to examination before Lilla hauled them out onto The Cob at 12:18 and then propelled them back into the WHR loop.

At 12:22 Lilla departed to Boston Lodge light engine while the Funkey shut down for a short lunch break. The Funkey had left by 13:05 and Van No.51 had also gone so it was probably needed for inspection work somewhere on the WHR. The four coaches originally in the WHR platform were left in the WHR loop.

 

This easterly view (5/11/20) shows Vale of Ffestiniog in the WHR loop with Lilla about to shunt a rake onto the rear of the Funkey. 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 webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

The Funkey returned with the van at about 14:30 probably from an inspection trip to Hafod-y-llyn/Beddgelert, and after a stop in the WHR platform departed towards Pen Cob Junction at 14:55 before pausing just past there. At 15:30 Moel Hebog, the PW shunter, emerged from Boston Lodge at Pen Cob Junction and shunted wagons onto the rear of the van. The ensemble departed for Minffordd with the shunter attached to the rear at 15:37. At Minffordd the train stopped to reset the points to right hand running to ease the reversal into Minffordd Yard at 15:45. The train consisted of the WHR ballast wagon and two B wagons which will be needed for the WMWP and reversed into the yard at 15:50. The train consisted of Van No.51, PW ballast wagon 4023, B921 and B1824.

 

North Wales main line 5/11/20

Colas locos Nos.56078/56113 have been active for the last few days on RHTT workings.

 

F&WHR news 4/11/20

On Wednesday 4/11/20 the two FR coaches moved from the WHR platform to the FR platform were still in position and could be used as a Spooners overspill if/when it reopens as expected next Monday 9/11/20. This also leaves the WHR platform, which had been blocked for months, free to use for any possible Hafod-y-llyn service that might also start from 9/11/20 or PW/stock transfer workings.

 

Gowrie progress

The project to build a replica of Gowrie the final NWNGR loco of 1908 has moved forwards with a quote to laser cut the frames. CTL Seal Ltd. of Sheffield has won the order. three sets of frames are on order for the single Fairlie comprising the boiler frame, power bogie and trailing bogie, buffer beams stretchers etc. The Gowrie Loco Trust is now appealing to supporters to raise £4,500 cost of the order.

About half a tonne of castings for the loco have already been made despite the pandemic. These include horn guides, axlebox underkeeps, regulator quadrant and valve spindle gland followers. New boiler calculations have helped finalise the CAD files for the frames. The replica loco will be fitted with both vacuum and airbrakes to allow it to haul trains on both the F&WHR and WHHR.

The loco was used until 1918 and was reputed to be a poor steamer. In an attempt to improve on this the new boiler, to be built by Israel Newton Ltd, will be 6 inches longer. Gowrie was sold to the government in 1918 and believed to be scrapped in the 1920s or possibly 1931 after being advertised for sale several times. Many WHR supporters would like to see a Moel Tryfan replica as being more representative of the NWNGR/WHR history as Gowrie did not make it into the WHR era.

See Gowrie Trust website for latest news and details of how to support the project.

 

F&WHR considering Hafod-y-llyn trains for November?

The WAG First Minister Mark Drakeford announced post 'firebreak' restrictions on 2/11/20 that would take effect from 9/11/20. However, these might be altered to take into account the 4 week English lockdown from Thursday 5/11/20. Tory Minister Michael Gove said it was quite possible the English lockdown would be extended beyond the current 2/12/20 end point 2/12/20 if the situation did not improve.

The First Minister expressed concern that English residents may cross the border into Wales to “escape” their month-long pandemic lockdown that is due to come into effect on 5/11/20. Mark Drakeford said he was worried that when the Welsh hospitality industry reopens next Monday after the country’s 17-day “firebreak” people in England might be tempted to visit pubs in Wales.

The F&WHR will be following his words with interest to see if they can reopen on 9/11/20 in any shape or form on a commercial basis. Basically the F&WHR and its hospitality outlets are allowed to reopen. There will be no travel restrictions within Wales, but people will not be able to leave the country except for essential purposes like work during the English lockdown. The FR could therefore reopen but only residents of Wales will be allowed to visit the railway.

On 2/11/20 the rake of four B wagons in the Hafod-y-llyn loop was removed (see below). This could mean the F&WHR is considering the Winter Season trains from 9/11/20 should go to Hafod-y-llyn as in previous years. The short flat journey across The Traeth could allow a fairly long rake with small engines with low coal consumption which could run round or top and tail as in previous years. this would also suit the local coach tour market.

 

F&WHR movements 2/11/20

The mixed four coach rake was still in the platform on Monday morning amidst sunshine and blustery showers. At 11:50 Upnor Castle arrived across The Cob in what was to prove to be a Grand Shunting operation! The loco stopped at the king point as the signalbox appeared to be unmanned. At 11:58 the Upnor Castle made its way to the rake in the WHR platform and coupled up. The rake was dragged out beyond the king point at 12:05 and then shunted back into the FR platform at 12:07 where it became obvious there was a B wagon coupled to the rear. Upnor Castle then detached at 12:12 and shunted back to the WHR platform at 12:14 light engine and shut down presumably for a lunch break. It left towards Dinas about 13:00 presumably for Hafod-y-llyn.

Upnor Castle reappeared about 14:30 with four B wagons thought to be the empty ash wagons from Hafod-y-llyn loop. This train was deposited in the WHR platform. The loco uncoupled and shunted to the yard about 15:00. At 15:22 it emerged with the Observation Car No.11 and Mess Car No.1111. At 15:24 the rake was shunted towards the four B wagons that had been left at midday in the WHR platform. For some reason the reversal was only accomplished on the fourth attempt, possibly through bad vacuum couplings, through the WHR platform point but then the train returned to the king point before reversing down the loop line and depositing the Mess van in the loop instead. At 15:32 Upnor Castle and the Observation Car pulled forward to the king point and the four wheeler was reversed into the yard. Emerging from the yard at 15:38 the loco then extracted the B wagon and two WHR Opens from the front of the rake in the FR platform and shunted the Opens into the yard before emerging with two B wagons at 16:06.

 

This easterly view (2/11/20) shows the long shunt that took place during the afternoon to extract 6 B wagons from the station and Hafod-y-llyn and move them to Boston Lodge for storage. There is hope the service may return from 9/11/20 when the Welsh 'firebreak' ends, possibly from Hafod-y-llyn (now that the wagons have been removed from the loop there) as in previous years. 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 webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

The rake set back onto the Mess coach in the WHR loop and coupled the wagons up at 16:10. It was then shunted onto the four B wagons in the WHR platform and coupled up at 16:15. These in turn were shunted onto the rake in the WHR loop at 16:15 and were coupled up at 16:18. Upnor Castle ran round the train of 6 B wagons and the Mess van through the WHR platform, coupled up to the rear and after some problems obtaining a vacuum, departed at 16:32 propelling the rake to Boston Lodge. There was a brief stop at the king point to pick up the signalman at 16:35 and the loco propelled the rake into Boston Lodge at 16:42, a most unusual main line propel movement.

 

F&WHR movements 31/10/20

There had been a further ECS movement by Friday afternoon 30/10/20 as two FR saloons and two WHR profile coaches, the two Open coaches Nos.2021/2, were parked in the WHR platform clear of the loop points.

Speaking recently to Heritage Railways, the F&WHR General Manager, expressed the view that 'only the smallest level of services, if indeed any at all, will be possible during the Winter'. The railway will busy itself with maintenance as far as can be afforded and engineering projects that earn an income, such as the Ashbury brake coach for the WHHR. More than £300,000 has been raised so far to support the F&WHR by the COVID Appeal which is still open. A decision on any services from Monday 9/11/20 will be made as soon as the WAG First Minister details any continuing restrictions after the current 'Firebreak' lockdown. Other companies such as West Coast are running The Jacobite and an extended season until 13/11/20.

 

'A Year in the Life of F&WHR' DVD published 29/10/20

A Year in the Life of the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways – 2020' is now available to buy from the webshop. It might seem that the F&WHR would have nothing to make a video about in 2020, 'the year that time forgot'. However, despite not running trains for most of the year the two railways have been very busy. Before lockdown it was business as usual with plenty of behind the scenes activity and of course, running trains.

This year was destined to be different and so what purchasers will find in the programme is different too. In addition to all the usual trains and railway related content the F&WHR has included a section of some of the videos made to keep the public and our volunteers and staff informed during the pandemic with all of its limitations. In years to come this will be a valuable record of how the railway dealt with the situation. Welsh Pony is the star of the show with a whole disk dedicated to the return to steam of the newly restored locomotive. The video includes footage from the live stream of the lighting and first movement of the loco. There were a couple of technical hitches which are reflected in the slightly lower quality footage of this section, but the rest of the programme is up to the usual standard.

The 'Bygones Weekend' was the time for the rededication of Welsh Pony and to get ‘all the toys out of the box’; this was a fabulous gala given the circumstances and fills a whole DVD.

Four DVD – running time 4 hours and 16 minutes

BluRay – running time 5 hours and 18 minutes

Both are £25 each plus P & P of £3.60

 

North Wales main line 29/10/20

RHTT services continue during the leaf fall season with regular performers Colas 56090/113 top and tailing on a midday trip back to Shrewsbury from Holyhead. On some recent runs 56113 has operated alone requiring run round at Holyhead. Holyhead-Cardiff test trains using TfW Class 67s and refurbished Mk4 coaches have restarted after a period of driver shortage at Holyhead. A southbound service was observed leaving Chester on 29/10/20 heading for Wrexham with the loco on the rear on a Chester-Cardiff test run.

 

Pete Randall 1960-2020

It is sad to report the sudden death of WHRS Director and Trustee, Pete Randall on 21/10/20. Pete was a former General Manager of the FR. Deepest sympathies are with Jane, his family and his many friends and colleagues. Pete was a leading light of the NG15 Restoration project who will miss his enthusiasm and practical experience.

Your webmaster first met him when he was manager of Eurotunnel's Coquelles depot at Calais, where I was given a guided tour on 27/5/98 as a journalist back in the days when I was contributing to Rail Express. He had been promoted to that position from previous experience as a manager for London Underground. I met him most recently on the WHR Open Day at Dinas 12/9/20 when he seemed well and full of enthusiasm for the NG15 restoration project.

 

F&WHR lockdown 27-28/10/20

As of 27/10/20 nothing appeared to have moved on the FR since lockdown began at 18:00 on Friday 23/10/20 with the rakes in Harbour Station still in the same place as left on 22/10/20. Staff are still in place for security and essential safety and the F&WHR on line shop is open for business.

However on 28/10/20 there was some movement as Martin Kressman reports:

'At 11:40 this morning I switched on the Harbour Station webcam. A steam locomotive and what later proved to be a five carriage train with one of the new Observation cars on the back was standing at the Blaenau end of the WHR loop line. At 11.48 the train set off towards Blaenau passing Boston Lodge. At 11:58 the train passed through Minffordd and proved to be made up of Linda hauling mess carriage No.1111 plus three modern FR saloons and observation car No.152 Eryri. From this angle it could be seen that the seats were empty so it was possibly a stock transfer for storage at Glan-y-Pwll. At 12:29 the train arrived at Tan-y-Bwlch and presumably took water. At 12:45 the train set off again towards Blaenau Ffestiniog.'

By the morning of 29/10/20 the three FR coaches in the WHR platform had been removed and also the reformed A set in the FR platform had disappeared, both possibly for storage. The station appeared bare of rolling stock from the webcam angle.

 

This easterly view (29/10/20) shows a completely empty Harbour Station with all the stock apparently moved under cover for storage. There is hope the service may return in November. 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 webcam. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

The Snowdonian Limited 5/11/20 cancelled

With the Welsh 'firebreak' lockdown in place, travel to the F&WHR is restricted so this year's Snowdonian Limited due to take place on 5/11/20 has had to be cancelled. It is hoped to offer both The Snowdonian and The Snowdonian Limited in 2021 given a relaxation in pandemic restrictions.

See The Snowdonian website.

 

Welsh Firebreak lockdown commences 23/10/12

At 18:00 on Friday 23/10/20 Wales went into lockdown with no services on the FR and Spooners closed. WHR services and the De Winton Cafe Caernarfon closed the day before. The closure will last at least until Monday 9/11/20 but the F&WHR regards its services as 'postponed' so there is the possibility services may restart in mid November.

The FR rake outside Spooners was moved to clear the WHR loop during the day as Spooners is closed so an overflow dining area is no longer needed. There may be movements putting the stock in the station into storage for the 2 weeks. The webcams remain operating with a skeleton staff ensuring the security of the railway. The reformed 4 coach A set remains in the platform where it was left after the final train yesterday.

 

This westerly view (22/10/20) shows Palmerston departing on the final 14:20 before the WAG 'Firebreak' lockdown crossing The Cob. Although it was a sad moment, 'every dark cloud has a silver lining' and there is hope the service may return in November. 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.

 

The F&WHR issued the following message thanking supporters.

A MESSAGE OF THANKS FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT

This afternoon, the last train of our revised summer service departed Harbour Station, signalling the end of what has been a whirlwind few months since our reopening on the 20th of July. During this period, we have been delighted to share two new services with you all; a ‘Heritage Service’ on our Ffestiniog Railway between Porthmadog – Tan Y Bwlch and a ‘Back to Beddgelert’ service on our Welsh Highland Railway between Caernarfon – Beddgelert.

Our ‘Heritage Service’ allowed customers to join us for a journey back in time to discover what trains were like in Victorian times, the Roaring Twenties or the Swinging Sixties on board our heritage carriages. Whilst our ‘Back to Beddgelert’ service allowed customers to select their own Food and Drink Hamper before enjoying a grand day out from Caernarfon to Beddgelert.

These new services have proved hugely popular and we are very grateful for all the positive feedback we have received. We are glad that our reopening could provide a ray of joy during these most challenging of times. We would also like to offer a huge thanks to all our staff, volunteers, members and supporters who have worked tirelessly throughout this period to keep our Railway steaming. Your unwavering dedication and generosity during these difficult times has highlighted all that is great about our Railway.

Whilst uncertainty clouds the upcoming months, we have found great reassurance in your ever-present support and remain more determined than ever to reignite our Railway in what we hope will be a brighter future.

Thank you all and stay safe.

 

FR services 22/10/20

Thursday was another wet day in Porthmadog, a damp, sad end to the FR's Heritage Service during the pandemic. The FR coaches in the WHR platform were still close to Spooners and blocking the WHR loop points. Palmerston turned up at 10:23 to haul the 11:05 reformed A set and immediately coupled up as the rake was left in the platform as usual. Palmerston also hauled the last train before the 'postponement' of the service, the 14:20.

 

This easterly webcam view (22/10/20) shows Palmerston departing on the final 14:20 before the WAG 'Firebreak' lockdown. Surprisingly, considering the WAG travel restrictions and impending lockdown there were enough passengers to fill the two trains today. 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 year in the Life F&WHR 2020 Intro 22/10/20

Click on the YouTube window to watch 5 mins 46 seconds of video showing a taster for the upcoming A Year in the Life of the F&WHR 2020. This YouTube was published on 22/10/20 and was taken by John Wooden (F&WHR) on a 4K digital camcorder. It is best watched in HD in Google Chrome browser as only 720p HD available on Windows. Alternatively click on YouTube link.

 

WalesRail to be nationalised 21-22/10/20

It seems Keolis-Amey want to hand back the keys to their WalesRail contract after passenger numbers plummeted following the pandemic and advice to 'Work from home'. WAG is likely to nationalise WalesRail on 22/10/20, taking direct control of rail services via TfW. Infrastructure will remain the responsibility of NR. Keolis is a subsidiary of French state owned railways SNCF. WAG will attempt to maintain services, jobs and current projects. This looks like the end of the Tories ill-fated privatisation experiment at least in Wales that saw other countries state railways making a profit out of hugely inflated ticket prices. Railways will revert to state control as with most other European states and even Amtrak in the USA.

See Nation Cymru story.

The BBC confirmed the story on 22/10/12 but say the transition will not occur until February next year. New rolling stock commitments will be honoured including, hopefully, the strengthened NWC Mk4 loco hauled service to Cardiff and Manchester which is on staff training standby at Holyhead.

See BBC story.

 

FR services 21/10/20

Wednesday was a mild wet day in Porthmadog, with the FR coaches in the WHR platform close to Spooners and blocking the WHR loop points. Palmerston hauled the 11:05 reformed A set departing on time at about 11:05 arriving at Tan-y-bwlch about 11:50 but stopping short so that passengers would have less far to walk to the cafe in the damp conditions. The loco detached to water at 11:54. The loco ran round at 12:01 and operated the 14:20 service later. The final FR services 11:05 and 14:20 on 22/10/20 were still bookable on 21/10/20.

 

FR services 20/10/20

Tuesday was an overcast day in Porthmadog, with the FR coaches in the WHR platform close to Spooners and blocking the WHR loop points. Palmerston was on the 11:05 service hauling the reformed A set and the 14:20 too. The first train had a good crowd and the final two days both feature bookable 11:05/14:20 services. However, the number of tourists is likely to drop drastically as people become aware of the Wales 'firebreak' lockdown in addition to the recently imposed travel to Wales restrictions for hotspots outside Wales.

 

North Wales mainline 16-20/10/20

Work has started on the complete restoration of the Barmouth Bridge in a £25m upgrade. NR is replacing components on a 'like for like' basis to retain the Victorian engineering of this famous viaduct, and the work is planned to take three years. There will be three periods of complete closure, the first of which started from 23:40 on 16/10/20 until 05:30 on 2/11/0 with bustitution of the whole Cambrian Coast. It is uncertain how the Wales Covid Firebreak will affect these works as they start from 18:00 on 23/10/20.

The RHTT was top and tailed by Class 56s Nos.56096/113 and heading along the NWC to Shrewsbury.

New Borderlands Line Class 230 No.230008 arrived at Wrexham for test on 20/10/20, a day late.

 

Cambrian excursions to return in 2021?

NR has apparently listened to the long standing complaints of local councils, excursion operators and enthusiasts and made £12m available to make the ERTMS work with visiting traction including steam. Design work has already commenced and fitment to 'Tornado' and a Black 5 is under way. It has taken many years for NR to honour its promise to allow excursions back on the route post ERTMS.

 

WAG opts for 'firebreak' lockdown (19/10/20)

Wales will lock down from for 17 days from 18:00 Friday 23/10/20 to Monday 9/11/20. All non essential business and leisure facilities such as the F&WHR must close for that period. Non essential travel is banned including travel by tourists from other parts of the UK. this will mean the F&WHR has to shut until November and there is some question about whether it will reopen though previous statements have indicated an intention to attempt to run a service in November and this announcement indicates services have been 'postponed'.

During the afternoon of 19/10/20 the F&WHR removed its booking facility for dates from Friday 23/10/19 onwards on the FR but strangely from Thursday 22/10/19 on the WHR when there is no need to cancel Thursday's train if one can operate on the FR?

The F&WHR has released the following statement:

WELSH ‘FIREBREAK’ LOCKDOWN: SERVICES POSTPONED ANNOUNCEMENT…

This afternoon, the Welsh First Minister announced a ‘firebreak' lockdown, due to begin at 18:00 on Friday, 23/10/20 until Monday, 9/11/20. In line with government regulations, we will not be running train services from the 23/10/20 onwards. The 11:00 ‘Back to Beddgelert’ service on Wednesday, 21/10/20 will be our final service on the Welsh Highland Railway prior to the ‘firebreak’ lockdown. The 14:20 ‘Heritage Trains’ service on Thursday, 22/10/20 will be our final service on the Ffestiniog Railway prior to the ‘firebreak’ lockdown.

Caernarfon Station’s Café De Winton and the station shop will close at 16:00 on Wednesday, 21/10/20. The station shop at Porthmadog Harbour Station will close at 15:00 Friday, 23/10/20. Please note, up until these closure times and dates, all our establishments will be operating under regular working hours. Further announcements on the closing dates of both Spooner’s and Tearooms at Tan-Y-Bwlch will be made shortly.

The commercial side of the railway will be closed until Monday, 9/11/20 at the earliest, with the exception of the online shop. We are as yet unable to comment on what will happen following the culmination of this ‘firebreak’ lockdown. The developing situation will be kept under constant review, with a further announcement being made in due course. We urge everyone to adhere to these new Government regulations. Thanks for you continued support.

See BBC story.

 

FR services 19/10/20

Palmerston turned up at 09:35 and coupled to the FR coaches in the WHR platform. After disconnecting power supply, the 'Spooners overspill' coaches were shunted along the platform to clear the WHR loop for some possible movement on the WHR later in the day. Palmerston then shunted to 4 coach A set and was coupled at 10:50 ready for the 11:05 departure which left on time. The station points were greased starting with the king point at the station throat.

While Palmerston was at Tan-y-Bwlch at midday, Moelwyn was present taking a couple of 4 wheelers to Boston Lodge for storage. Palmerston arrived back at Porthmadog 13:39 for the 14:20 service. The 14:20 left on time with a good load of Half Term holidaymakers.

Criccieth Castle arrived back at 1550 from the WHR with a lineside clearance train propelling consisting of the well wagon with the shredder and hauling the Mess Coach No.111 running through the WHR loop. The diesel then propelled the FR coaches in the WHR platform back to their normal place close to Spooners fouling the WHR loop point by 16:23 and advanced to the starter at 16:25 before setting off for Minffordd at 16:28. Meanwhile Palmerston left Tan-y-bwlch at 16:15 with the returning 14:20 service and passed at 16:44. Several passengers seemed to leave the train and join a coach tour. Criccieth Castle reversed into Minffordd Yard at 16:53.

 

FR services 18/10/20

Sunday was a cloudy day in Porthmadog if chilly, with the FR coaches in the WHR platform close to Spooners and blocking the WHR loop points. Welsh Pony hauled the 11:05/14:20 services. Lilla was at Tan-y-bwlch with a PW train as Welsh Pony arrived. The PW train consisted 5 FR wagons and a brake van and departed at 15:23 passing Minffordd at 16:00. The rake was shunted into the old Loco Shed sidings. At 16:15 Lilla shunted through Pen Cob junction on shed.

 

FR services 17/10/20

Saturday was a fine sunny day in Porthmadog if chilly, with the FR coaches in the WHR platform close to Spooners and blocking the WHR loop points. The 14:20 was in charge of Palmerston which was delayed by the late arrival of passengers until 14:28. The standby steam loco was shunting at Boston Lodge, possibly shunting stock for storage in the Heritage Carriage shed. Palmerston passed Lilla which headed for Boston Lodge at 14:45 with a brake van, a 4 wheeler and a couple of wagons. The rake was shunted back into the Old Loco Shed at 14:55 and the coaches next to the engine detached. Lilla arrived back at Pen Cob junction at 15:05 and entered the depot.

Optimistically, the 11:05/14:20 remain bookable until 31/10/20, however as Half Term is starting for some areas, the 14:20 appears to be already fully booked on 21-22/10/20 leading to the possibility of a 13:15 being added if passenger numbers justify.

 

Progress with WHHR Pickering brake project 17/10/20

Good progress has been made with the WHHR's Pickering Coach project in Boston Lodge coachworks. The new build project completes a prototypical set for the WHHR which currently relies upon a VoR brakevan. The bogies are now complete and have been fitted with helical spring suspension which will be hidden as it is not prototypical but provides a better ride quality.

The coach body is nearing completion should be mounted on these bogies in the next few weeks. The coach itself now has all of the beading fitted along with the doors, and the roof has been covered. It is really beginning to show it's Edwardian elegance.

There is still work to be done. The droplights and ventilators are still to be made for the doors. The door handles have been cast and are ready to fit. All of the interior now has a scumbled finish, which is looking really smart. The seat frames are installed and the laths are being prepared. In the Guard’s compartment the brake valves are installed and connected to the communication cord. Pressure, or lack of pressure, gauges are still to be installed as is the handbrake stanchion. Switches have been fitted to control the interior lights.

 

Welsh Pony nameplate sold

The replica Welsh Pony nameplate sold for £2255 on eBay raising finds for the F&WHR.

 

Wales Covid rules from 16/10/20 and 'circuit breaker' threat

At 18:00 Friday 16/10/20 people from hotspots in the rest of the UK will be turned back by police if attempting to visit Wales on holiday. It remains to be seen if this affects volunteers and passenger numbers on the F&WHR.

See BBC report.

The Daily Post has revealed WAG is considering a 'circuit breaker' lockdown similar to Northern Ireland's from Friday 23/10/20 which could mean non essential travel bans and hospitality/retail being asked to close for 2-3 weeks, presumably including the heritage railways. It is unclear if this will affect the whole of Wales or just the already identified hotspots but WAG will announce its decision on Monday 19/10/20. The F&WHR's money back guarantee should reassure tourists wishing to travel over the last two weeks of October into the Half Term holiday period.

See Daily Post story.

 

FR services 16/10/20

Friday was a fine sunny day in Porthmadog if chilly, with the FR coaches in the WHR platform close to Spooners and blocking the WHR loop points. Welsh Pony left with the well loaded 11:05 on time with the 4 saloon A set. Only the 11:05 and 14:20 will run today as Mondays and Fridays are considered lighter days as regards passenger numbers.

A PW train was up at Tan-y-bwlch at 13:15 on a lunch break with BZ2004 carrying a shredder and the cherrypicker hauled by Criccieth Castle. This ran round at 13:40 and departed around 2pm for Minffordd Yard.

Welsh Pony arrived back at Porthmadog at 13:44 and its train was sanitised and prepared for the 14:20 service. The PW passed at Minffordd a 14:39

 

FR services 15/10/20

Thursday was a fine sunny day in Porthmadog if chilly, with the FR coaches in the WHR platform close to Spooners and blocking the WHR loop points. Palmerston hauled the 11:05 with a good crowd filling the four saloon reformed A set. As yesterday, the 13:15 was also bookable today along with the 11:05/14:20. Welsh Pony departed at 13:15 with the reformed C set as yesterday consisting of Coach No.1 two saloons and brake No.10. At 14:09 Welsh Pony propelled its rake to the departure platform before running round, as the 14:20 was due to arrive before its departure.

Reformed A Set

Coach Compartment/s
No.24 Replica NWNGR bogie coach 16-22
No.26 Ex-NWNGR bogie coach 9-15
No.22 FR Ashbury bogie coach 2-8
No.113 Carnforth Brake bogie coach 1

 

Reformed C set

Coach Compartment/s
No.1 Observation Car open 4 wheeler 16
No.16 Original FR bogie coach 9-15
No.20 Bowsider bogie coach 3-8
No.10 Bogie brake 1-2

 

Bygones weekend You Tube 14/10/20

Click on the YouTube window to watch 25 mins 42 seconds of video showing the Bygones Weekend 9-11/10/20. This YouTube was published on 14/10/20 and was taken by John Wooden (F&WHR) on a 4K digital camcorder. It is best watched in HD in Google Chrome browser as only 720p HD available on Windows. Alternatively click on YouTube link.

 

WAG latest COVID regulations 14/10/20

Mark Drakeford (WAG First Minister), fed up with no response from Boris Johnson over the threat to Gwynedd etc., has 'gone nuclear' and will ban travel to Wales from Tier 2/3 hotspots from Friday. He has the support of the Scottish Government who may take similar action. This might affect both travel of volunteers and tourists to then F&WHR.

See BBC News report.

The WAG Health Minister said a 'circuit breaker' lockdown as proposed by Labour and Lib Dems (and activated in Northern Ireland later this week) would be decided on this week.

See Daily Post report.

The Daily Post also reports on a possible extension of the Bangor local lockdown through additional areas of Gwynedd, which might affect the WHR and eventually the FR operations. The Bangor outbreak is thought to be largely due to students socialising as with many other University towns.

See Daily post report.

 

FR services 14/10/20

Wednesday was a fine sunny day in Porthmadog if chilly, with the FR coaches in the WHR platform close to Spooners and blocking the WHR loop points. Welsh Pony hauled the 11:05 with a good load filling the four saloon rake. Palmerston arrived at Porthmadog light engine at 11:50. After refuelling the loco shunted the yard at 12:11. The two Birminghams returned from yesterday's Boston Lodge maintenance were shunted to the seawall siding and a rake formed up with three saloons, which were shunted to the platform at 12:25 for the 1:15 additional service. Strangely the two four wheelers were then removed at 12:30 and the Observation Car No.1 shunted onto the train by 12:40.

Welsh Pony arrived back at 13:39 with the reformed 4 saloon A set with Nos.113/26 and two other intermediate saloons. This was deep cleaned for the 14:20 service. It seems that the gate to the end of the platform from the board crossing is now locked to prevent access from The Cob path during COVID regulations.

 

WAG to make restrictions on visitors from English hotspots 12/10/20

Mark Drakeford, First Minister of Wales, announced on 12/10/20 WAG would consider unilateral action if no reply had been received from his second letter to Boris Johnson about WAG's worries concerning tourists from English Hotspots. Such action might be similar to that conducted by North Wales Police earlier in the year where they pulled over cars with number plates from hotspots.

See Daily Post story and BBC report.

Mid Wales Tourism has issued the following statement concerning the recent adverse criticism of Simon Calder etc. Although some might question the inclusion of Meirionnydd in Mid Wales as it is in the Snowdonia National Park, it nevertheless borders the F&WHR and tourists in that area visit the F&WHR.

Visit Mid Wales – a delicate balance to support tourism and keep communities safe

As a region, Mid Wales relies heavily on tourism. The region - Powys, Ceredigion and the Meirionnydd - covers more than 42% of Wales and is not currently subject to any lockdown restrictions. Mid Wales currently has one of the lowest Covid -19 rates in the country and this is a reflection on who we are in Mid Wales, the way our visitors, communities and businesses have all pulled together to protect our fragile economy whilst keeping everyone safe.

MWT Cymru has had a difficult task of navigating the delicate balance between promoting the region, encouraging people to visit safely, supporting our members and reassuring our communities that all possible measures have been implemented by our businesses to minimise any potential risk. As a tourism membership organisation, we have never felt closer to our 600 plus tourism and hospitality member businesses and have worked incredibly closely with the Welsh Government and officials. Everyone has worked tirelessly over the last few months to enable our sector to re-open safely following months of closure.

Since re-opening in July, our member businesses have reported that visitors to Mid Wales have been respectful and understanding of the situation, they have followed the rules and been vigilant. International travel journalist Simon Calder’s recent comments on ITV’s This Morning show, and the recent visit and comments by Stacey Solomon and Joe Swash to the Elan Valley praised Mid Wales as a great place to visit - a good, positive story for Mid Wales and a much-needed boost for our region in these difficult times. It was disappointing, therefore, that the coverage received negative comments on social media channels.

Our businesses have all worked so hard to safeguard their employees, visitors and local communities since the start of the Covid-19 crisis. They have invested in all the necessary Covid-secure measures to protect their communities. It is understandable that a small minority project their fear and anger online but some of these people do not even live or work in our region. The resulting negative media coverage has the potential to impact our reputation as a warm and welcoming destination and could even affect the speed of our recovery following this crisis.

Mid Wales business owners are doing their very best to keep themselves and their families afloat through very difficult times. They are protecting jobs and livelihoods whilst keeping families and local communities safe. With a long winter ahead of us, and virus infection cases rising in all parts of the UK, it is more important than ever that we all pull together to help each other through this difficult time. We all need to be aware of the unintended consequences of online comments which could be putting our independent businesses in imminent risk of closure, negatively impacting on jobs and livelihoods.

Our fantastic visitors love coming to our rural region to stay, relax and experience the great outdoors. They take in our peaceful countryside, visit local shops, independent restaurants, attractions and frequently comment about our warm and welcoming communities. This is the Mid Wales be all know and love, and it’s important that visitors who are planning future visits see this reflected in balanced media coverage and online commentary.

 

Welsh Pony visits Beddgelert 10/10/20

This easterly view (11/10/20) shows Welsh Pony in its new livery taken after naming on 10/10/20 returning from Beddgelert on the 15:35 rounding the curve off Bryn-y-felin bridge. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Peter Bowes and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Welsh Pony naming 10/10/20

The dedication ceremony at Dduallt took place in bad weather and was streamed live. No.5 was a little late in arriving due to slipping on wet rail in the woods. As well as the small party of 30 that came by train, some spectators watched from a distance by using public footpaths. The film crew stayed to watch the departure, with much slipping, for Blaenau Ffestiniog. Sound was interrupted by a lot of electronic noise in the Facebook live recording but the professional recording YouTube below was perfect.

 

Click on the YouTube window to watch 13 mins 44 seconds of video showing the naming ceremony of Welsh Pony at Dduallt on 10/10/20. This YouTube was published on 10/10/20 and was taken by John Wooden (F&WHR) on a 4K digital camcorder. It is best watched in HD in Google Chrome browser as only 720p HD available on Windows. Alternatively click on YouTube link.

 

The full translation of David Gwyn's speech at the renaming of Welsh Pony follows:

"Greetings friends, Paul has asked me to speak to you in Welsh today.

The first thing I would like to say is thanks to everyone for being here today, it’s a shame it’s raining but this rain is very typical of Blaenau Ffestiniog and the surrounding area! The last time Welsh Pony steamed was during the second World War, it’s been out of use for a very long time. The War was a difficult time for Gwynedd County and the Railway and we are facing difficulties yet again in the present moment.

We were expecting a large crowd here to welcome the engine back to the service of the railway. However, we have only been able to invite a small number of guests to represent a much larger number of supporters who have been involved in the efforts to return Welsh Pony to steam. It is also a pleasure to recognise the work of those who were involved in the overhaul and repair of Welsh Pony and how this has created work which has supported the local community and helped carry us through a difficult period.

The restoration of Welsh Pony has reached a very high standard. Its restoration represents the history of the railway but it also speaks volumes about our future as a railway. Both the high standard of work and the high number of volunteers involved in the whole process has been fantastic to see.

I would like to remind you all about the fact that Welsh Pony’s sister has the name; ‘Little Giant’, the name of one of the ships which served between Porthmadog and the wider world. Welsh Pony also reminds us of the use of horses on the railway prior to the steaming of engines pulling wagons up and down the line and the subsequent arrival of passengers. It says a lot about our history the way the slate was moved down from Ffestiniog to Porthmadog and then to the four corners of the world.

I would also like to note that the driver and the fireman on the engine today, Matt Ellis and Will King, are the youngest on the railway. It’s a pleasure to see young people given the chance to volunteer on the railway. I would now like to invite our VIP guests, Michael Davis and Robert Smallman, to unveil the name plate and I would like to thank you both on behalf of everyone for your efforts in restoring Welsh Pony.

Thanks very much to you both."

 

This northerly view (8/10/20) shows a publicity shot of Welsh Pony taken before its naming on 10/10/20 so officially still No.5. The loco is pictured at Boston Lodge headshunt in dark chocolate livery with red lining. 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 northerly view (8/10/20) shows Welsh Pony being named by Michael Davies, one of the original FR Working Party members. The loco is pictured at Dduallt. 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 westerly view (10/10/20) shows Welsh Pony about to depart Porthmadog on the first public train after its naming at Dduallt that morning and private supporters trip to Blaenau Ffestiniog. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Keith Holland and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Baldwin surprise 9/10/20

The privately-owned Baldwin No.608 resident at the F&WHR put in a brief appearance, as requested by many fans, shunting the yard in Porthmadog on 9/10/20 but apparently had a problem and has been withdrawn yet again! The loco's previous appearance on a photo charter last November also resulted in a failure.

 

This easterly view (9/10/20) shows a close up of the green liveried Baldwin No.608 shunting Porthmadog. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Ian King and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This easterly view (9/10/20) shows Baldwin No.608 shunting the coal wagon to the refuelling point at Porthmadog. With so many locos on special trains a good supply of coal was needed by Friday afternoon. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Ian King and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

No.5 new livery 9/10/20

This westerly view (9/10/20) shows No.5 crossing The Cob on the 11:05 to Tan-y-bwlch running for just one day in its new livery before naming as Welsh Pony. 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.

 

COVID refund guarantee

With WAG restrictions now extending to Bangor the F&WHR is aware of visitor numbers dipping so only 4 trains per day are now running on the FR. Some trains have been reduced to 3 coaches rather than the 5 saloons originally. There was sharp reaction on the internet to the BBC's transport correspondent recommending Gwynedd for Half Term holidays and he now says he will not come to Wales.

See BBC Simon Calder report.

See BBC Bangor lockdown.

To reassure passengers in case WAG restricts further travel the F&WHR has issued a 100% refund guarantee.

'With uncertainty growing across the country, and people worrying about Half Term holidays already promised, we have amended our refund policy to help you to book with confidence. During the rest of October, we will offer a 100% refund on all advanced bookings up to 16:00 on the day before travel. Hopefully this will give you the confidence to make your booking but will enable us to resell your seats if you are unable to travel. Please note that any booking not cancelled by 16:00 on the day before travel will not be eligible for any refund.'

 

WHR service 8/10/20

This northerly view (8/10/20) shows No.87 passing Dinas on the 11:00 MFSuX from Caernarfon to Beddgelert. 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.

 

The Treats Box passengers will find at their seats on returning to the WHR Pullman service includes:

 

This Pullman coach view (9/10/20) shows the treats offered when upgrading to the Pullman Observation car special service in Gwyrfai found at seat on returning to train at Beddgelert. 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.

 

FR services 8/10/20

Thursday was a day of sunshine and showers. Merddin Emrys arrived at Porthmadog at 14:46 in sunshine on the 4 coach C set with the returning 12:10. Hand shunting of 4 wheelers was taking place in the yard! At Tan-y-bwlch Linda, with fitted cab backsheet arrived at 15:06 with the shortened B set on the 14:20 service. The FR coaches in the WHR platform had been east along the platform moved clear of the WHR point.

Preparations were being made for the Bygones Weekend at Porthmadog. At 13:10 Blanche arrived hauling 4 coaches, including the curly roofed Van No.1, quarryman's coach No.8 and the historically important coach No.15 which has been under wraps for almost 12 months. Merddin Emrys then assisted in shunting this rake before returning to Boston Lodge at 15:23 while Blanche continued the shunt.

 

This easterly view (8/10/20) shows Blanche shunting stock at Harbour Station in preparation for the Bygones Weekend starting 9-10/20. 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.

 

At 15:38 Palmerston passed Minffordd with just 3 coaches from the A set hauling the returning 13:15. Traffic must have been light today! As a rake had been left in platform by the Merddin Emrys, there was a bit of a traffic jam at Porthmadog with Palmerston being brought to a stand and held at the trident signal out on The Cob whilst Blanche shunted the rake to the yard. Palmerston finally arrived about 5 minutes late at 15.55.

 

This northerly view (8/10/20) shows Victorian livery coach No.15, now the oldest bogie coach in the UK. The Purple-Brown and Off-White livery is complemented by the intricate paint and gold leaf lining to its many panels. 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.

 

Welsh Pony replica nameplate on eBay 8/10/20

Supporters now have the opportunity to obtain their very own 'WELSH PONY' nameplate, as one has been placed on auction with eBay. Funds from the auction will go towards the cost of the latest repaint of the locomotive - the results of which can be seen for the first time on Friday, 9/10/20 during the Bygones Event.

 

This Boston Lodge view (8/10/20) shows the lining applied to Welsh Pony. The new livery will be revealed on 9/10/20 at the Bygones Event. 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.

 

The nameplate being auctioned is a replica plate, cast in 2013, which was intended for use on the loco, but which has never been carried by Welsh Pony. It is solid brass, weighing in at around 7kg (15½lbs) and measuring 800 x 125 mm (2' 8" x 5"). The auction runs for SEVEN days - finishing on the 15/10/20 at 12:47. To join the auction, click the following link and enter your bid - https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/353230149672.

 

FR services 7/10/20

Wednesday was forecast to be a day with sunny periods at Porthmadog becoming wet later. There were plenty of passengers for the 11:05 which left on time hauled by Linda, with cab backsheet fitted, hauling the 5 coach B set. Prince turned up about 11:30 to haul the 4 bogie coaches of the reduced C set out of the yard for the 12:10 service. Palmerston arrived at 12:04 and headed to the yard to shunt the three saloons of the reduced A set into the platform at 12:17 for the 13:15 service. No.5 does not currently appear available for traffic as it is in the workshops being repainted for its naming on Saturday.

 

FR services 6/10/20

The Porthmadog weather was poor again on Tuesday with misty wet conditions but became showery with sunny periods and windy in the afternoon. The FR rake in the WHR platform was still blocking the WHR loop. Linda (with rear cab-sheet fitted) turned up at 10:30 for the 11:05 and coupled up directly to the B set, which had been left in the platform overnight. It left on the dot at 11:05 as booked. Prince turned up at 11:30 for the 12:10 service and shunted the shortened 3 bogie coach C set from the seawall siding to the platform.

At 11:25 Prince detached and went to collect the rest of the Colonel Stephens set from another siding to strengthen the C set presumable because of stronger bookings. The full C set was reformed by 11:45 but then the three leading four wheelers were removed to the seawall siding minutes later leaving the formation for the 12:10 as 4 saloons, which departed on time. Unusually, Palmerston was provided for the 13:15 which left on time with 3 saloons from the A set. The loco has not seen use for a few weeks after a problem with a fusible plug, presumably now repaired, caused major disruption on 8/9/20. No doubt it was being given a work out before use over the upcoming Bygones weekend.

Linda was back in Porthmadog with the 5 coach B set for the 14:20 service later, the final train of the day. Passing heavy showers causing good condensation effects on the loco exhaust. Prince arrived back next at 14:40 and shunted its 4 coach rake into the seawall siding before departing for Boston Lodge at 15:09 (there was no 15:25 service today) in a brief period of sunshine. Meanwhile, up at Tan-y-bwlch Linda ran round its rake at 15:15, still in the arrival platform as there was no following train. Linda was noted heading back to Boston Lodge at 16:50 after leaving its rake in the platform.

 

No.130 update 4-6/10/20

By 4/10/20 the red undercoat had been applied to the cylinder claddings.

By 6/10/20 the loco carried the unusual front and rear number plates NG130 and side rods were given a good clean.

 

Caernarfon Bypass YouTube 5/10/20

Click on the YouTube window to watch 6 mins 56 seconds of video showing a drone view of the Caernarfon Bypass under construction from Griffiths Crossing to Llanwnda, crossing the WHR just north of Bontnewydd Halt. This YouTube was published on 5/10/20 and was taken by Son Jones on a digital camcorder. It is best watched in HD in Google Chrome browser as only 720p HD available on Windows. Alternatively click on YouTube link.

 

This recent view (9/20) shows earth movers crossing the WHR immediately north of Bontnewydd Halt. This little used halt is now grassed over in the foreground. There must be coordination between frequent random haul road movements and occasional train services. 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.

 

Barmouth Bridge works start 16/10/20

A works compound has been built at Morfa Mawddach for the £25 million refurbishment of Barmouth Bridge, the largest wooden bridge on NR. Work to replace timber, metal fixings and a complete rerail will take place over the next three years with several closures (including the footpath), the first being 16/10/20-2/11/20. In previous years work took place when the tide was out and equipment could access the sands alongside the bridge. The periods of closure could cause disruption to visitors to the F&WHR coming by train. Sadly there will be no attempt to run a Pwllheli-Barmouth shuttle as during previous major closures and a Pwllheli-Machynlleth bus link will be in running calling at all stations! Previously a temporary refuelling point as established at Pwllheli.

See NR website.

 

Spooners Bygones opening times

Spooners will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9-11/10/20 from 08:00 to 22:00. The 'Bygones Weekend’ is fast approaching and passengers/visitors should be aware of the amended Spooner’s opening times and options during the event. Spooners will not be taking reservations for tables and 'walk-ins' will be welcomed on a 'first come, first served' basis. However, the overflow coaches on the WHR platform will most likely not be available due to the use of the WHR for the Beddgelert trains on Saturday/Sunday. An 'eat in' Breakfast option will be offered between on all three days from 08:00. The café takeaway service will run between 08:00 and 16:00. The Bar and Grill will be open as normal during the event weekend, from 12:00 until 22:00, with last food orders at 20:00. The Sunday Roast Lunch menu will be served between 12:00 and 15:00 on Sunday but standard menu will not be available during these times.

 

Welsh Pony naming ceremony goes live

No.5 will be renamed Welsh Pony at Dduallt on Saturday 10/10/20 at 10:30. The event will be broadcast live on the internet.

 

FR service 5/10/20

The Porthmadog weather was poor again on Monday with misty wet conditions but cleared up in the afternoon. The FR rake in the WHR platform was still blocking the WHR loop. It seems the FR has abandoned the 10:00 service with lower visitor numbers in October as the signaller did not even open the box until 10am. The B set had been left in the platform and so when Linda (with cab rear sheet fitted for the bad weather) turned up, it coupled straight up and departed on time at 11:05. Blanche arrived at 11:35 to extract the C set from sea wall siding but only 2 saloons and the brake were shunted as presaged by Blanche's shunt the previous day. This week also seems to have confirmed the sidelining of the open coaches which were less popular with the inclement weather as neither set had one included over the last few days. Matching train length to traffic demand saves money on coal.

Midday saw a burst of activity at Porthmadog as after the 12:10 had departed Criccieth Castle arrived to shunt the FR rake in the WHR platform clear of the loop after coupling up by 12:30. Meanwhile Prince arrived light engine from Boston Lodge at 12:50 and shunted the A set into the platform. Criccieth Castle uncoupled at 13:06 and ran round via the WHR loop, coupling to the west end of the FR 'Spooner's overspill' set. Meanwhile Prince removed the four wheelers and lead saloon from the A set and shunted them to the yard. A few minutes later it coupled up to the shortened rake with 13 compartments for the 13:15 service. This departed on time passing Linda at Minffordd at 13:29 returning with the 11:05. Criccieth Castle headed north with the FR rake at 13:23 but returned at 13:30 after running round at Pont Croesor or Beddgelert, presumably to check the line before the services planned for the Bygones event next weekend. The loco detached and left the coaches in their usual position. After Blanche arrived at 14:46 with the returning 12:10, Criccieth Castle headed back to Boston Lodge light engine a minute later. The B set was again left in the platform overnight.

 

WAG COVID policy latest 5/10/20

After the Tories said they won't ban people from travelling out of infected areas, WAG has responded to protect Gwynedd by reviewing the situation next Monday and considering a quarantine for residents of dangerously infected English areas similar to the travel restrictions from other countries. Police action has also been suggested in Wales on the A55/A5 routes etc. e.g. police might pull over cars with Liverpool number plates travelling to Gwynedd using APNR.

See BBC story.

 

FR service 4/10/20

The Porthmadog weather improved during Sunday with some sunshine by midday. The FR rake in the WHR platform was still blocking the WHR loop. Surprisingly the B set had been left in the platform overnight it seems. There was no 10:00 service but Linda, complete with cab back-sheet, left Boston Lodge at 10:16 for the 11:05 which was already in the platform but without the Observation vehicle. Blanche followed an hour later and hauled the 12:10 with the C set. Linda was back on the 14:20 passing Blanche at Minffordd while Prince was in steam at Boston Lodge, presumably on standby duty.

As there was no 15:25, Blanche shunted a shortened rake into the sidings and then collected an empty B wagon from the coaling siding for loco coal and disappeared back to Boston Lodge. Linda departed Tan-y-bwlch at 16:12 having run round its train in the arrival platform, a sure sign there was no 15:25 following. At 16:30 Prince emerged from Boston Lodge propelling B1621, probably the same empty coal wagon to Minffordd, where it stopped to reverse the points and propel the wagon into the yard at 16:37 just before Linda arrived at 16:42 on its way back with the 14:20. Prince was visible in the yard by the Maenofferen shed at 16:50 before departing passing Minffordd at 17:00 with two wagons full of clearance spoil presumably for Dduallt. The loco returned light engine passing Minffordd at 18:12 and shunting into Boston Lodge at 18:17.

 

FR services 3/10/20

Scotland/Wales-Ireland Link 3/10/20

The UK government has ask NR to report on the UK to Northern Ireland rail link. Let us hope they consider the Holyhead option. Several recent schemes have suggested a tunnel or immersed tube between Holyhead and Howth near Dublin and third railing to Belfast due to the wider Irish track gauge.

See Celtic Sea crossing overview.

Had we still been a member of the EU this project would certainly qualify for a Trans-European Network (TEN) scheme grant as did the A55 upgrade along the North Wales coast. The Scotland-Northern Ireland proposals are ridiculous with the Mull of Kintyre link the shortest sea crossing but a very long way round and the Stranraer-Larne link facing the huge depth of Beaufort's Dyke, a seabed glacial valley over 200m deep, by far the deepest spot off the UK coastline. In contrast the seabed between Holyhead and Howth is generally under 50m deep though the crossing is longer at about 100km (or 3 times the length of the Channel Tunnel).

See BBC report.

Foul weather covered North Wales on Saturday with wind and heavy rain forecast from Storm Alex, the first of the new Autumn season. There was no 10:00 service but Linda (with removal back sheet fitted due to inclement weather) departed at 11:10 with the B set on the 11:05 service and again on the 14:20, which left on time. It passed Blanche, hauling the C set returning from the 12:10 service, at Minffordd at 14:34. The FR rake in the WHR platform was reduced to the standard 3 coaches again by 2pm by the removal of the two saloons added yesterday. There was no 15:25 service.

 

North Wales mainline news 3/10/20

Colas Rail Head Treatment Trains are running again to combat leaf fall season and avoid wheel slip when braking. Class 56s Nos.56096/56113 top and tailed the RHTT to Holyhead on 3/10/20.

 

COVID-19 Safety reminder 2/10/20

The F&WHR is still open for business but reminds passengers...

 

Friday specials 2/10/20

There were no public FR services on Friday 2/10/20, the only such day scheduled for no FR services in October. It appeared there was a management special planned, maybe for annual Trustees' Inspection train. By 0945 Merddin Emrys had dragged the 3 FR coaches that were cleaned on the WHR platform the previous day and shunted them into a rake with two other FR coaches and Observation Car Eryri Snowdonia in the FR platform. A second loco was being prepared at Boston Lodge. The train departed with guests at 10:22 towards Boston Lodge, presumably to inspect the Works.

After some shunting another train left Boston Lodge around 10:30 and at 10:50 Prince passed Minffordd on its way towards Dduallt with the slate wagon gravity train, arriving at Tan-y-bwlch at 11:37 and departing for Dduallt at 11:44. Merddin Emrys arrived at Tan-y-bwlch at 12:05 with its special working and passengers decamped to the footbridge to watch the gravity train come through. It passed through non-stop at 12:17. The Trustees' Inspection train departed presumably for Blaenau Ffestiniog at 12:37, so Prince must have been locked in the siding at Dduallt. The train was back at Porthmadog by 15:50 and the 5 saloons were shunted into the WHR platform by Linda as an overflow for Spooners as usual, blocking the WHR loop point. The Observation Car may have been removed.

 

Bygones Weekend update

The Loco Roster has been updated with the addition of two further locos. Assuming the event is not unduly affected by changing WAG COVID regulations the weekend's service fleet now consists of :

Blanche

• Lilla

• Linda

• Merddin Emrys

• No.5/Welsh Pony (from 10/10/20)

• Palmerston

• Prince

Hunslet WD608

but surprisingly not the Baldwin No.608 and Taliesin

Working Timetables and Graphs updated with latest loco details are now available to download from https://bit.ly/36ozWZd.

 

WAG COVID advice 2/10/20

WAG First Minister Mark Drakeford was on National BBC News on 2/10/20 asking that regulations in England be changed to make it illegal for people in lockdown areas of England to travel to the areas of Wales not affected by lockdowns, including Gwynedd. That is already the case in Wales as people in Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham as well as most of South Wales, are not allowed to make non-essential journeys, including holidays. He was happy that holidaymakers from English areas without lockdown could continue to visit Gwynedd. He explained that Police in North Wales had previously intercepted cars from lockdown areas by number plate recognition and persuaded people to go home rather than potentially spread disease.

See Daily Post report.

 

FR services 1/10/20

The FR coaches were back by Spooners blocking the WHR loop by the evening of 30/9/20. These coaches, used as a Spooners overflow, were having a good external wash down during the morning, possibly for some management event on Friday. Lower visitor numbers meant that the FR dropped the 10:00 train, possibly for the first time, on 1/10/20. Linda hauled the 11:05.Merddin Emrys turned up at 11:30 to shunt the C set into the platform for the 12:10 departure. Upnor Castle was present shunting the FR rake in the WHR platform clear of the western loop points to let a train pass onto the WHR around midday but disappeared later after propelling the rake back into its normal resting place close to Spooners. Blanche also turned up to extract the A set from the sidings for the 13:10 as it was the first time it had been used this day.

The timetable remains the same but there are no trains bookable on 2/10/20 for some reason. The 11:05/12:10:13:15/14:20 are bookable until 11/10/20. After the Bygones event the 11:05 and 14:20 are the only trains currently offered except for 15-16/10/20 when the 13:15 is added. Additional trains may be added according to traffic.

 

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