WHR

News Archive Page

2021

January-March

V4.2 updated 1/4/21

with news to 28/2/21

 

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

 

Moving Pictures No.47 26/2/21

Click on the YouTube window to watch 29 mins 58 seconds of video covering workshop reports including the completion of a rolling chassis for No.133. This YouTube was published on 26/2/21 and was taken by John Wooden (F&WHR) on a 4K digital camcorder. It is best watched in 1080p HD in Google Chrome browser as only 720p HD available on Windows. Alternatively click on the YouTube link.

 

WAG latest COVID update 19/2/21

The Welsh Assembly Government's 'stay at home' message may be relaxed from 15/3/21 according to Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister. Non essential retail may be allowed to reopen step-by-step cautiously depending on COVID numbers continuing to fall. This could mean the F&WHR is allowed to reopen at Easter if all goes well. WAG will be discussing with tourist businesses like the F&WHR in coming weeks the possibility of a potential reopening at Easter and any safety procedures that may be required.

 

NG15 No.134 re-wheeled 18/2/21

With work at Dinas winding down on new Garratt NG16 No.130, staff at Dinas put in some time on the volunteer project to restore NG15 No.134, progress on which has been stymied by COVID regulations which have prohibited volunteers working at Dinas. The loco has been ready to re-wheel for almost a year and this was finally achieved on 18/2/21. The loco was placed back on its drivers and the front drawbar fitted so that the chassis can be shunted.

Volunteers are hoping that working parties on the third Saturday of every month might resume shortly and additional volunteers might come to Dinas and progress speed up now there is a rolling chassis. Many WHR supporters will be pleased to see a large powerful loco that resembles a loco with a smokebox rather than a tank on the front operating on the WHR. See No.134 website for contact details and latest progress updated 18/1/21.

 

No.130 progress 18/2/21

New Garratt No.130 was out on test again on 18/2/21 and appears to have been fitted with draincocks as steam leaks have been minimised. The loco had to wait for a lineside clearance train to clear the section from Waunfawr before going out for a light test run towards Waunfawr. Loaded tests runs cannot be far off and it is hoped the loco will join the fleet for the hoped for reopening at Easter.

Harlech Castle arrived at Dinas from Waunfawr with the lineside clearance train. It was propelling the wood chipper on the well wagon and dragging the bridge inspection cherry picker wagon, the Mess Car No.111 and a spoil wagon BZ1423. The WHR route is being cleared of last year's growth for opening at Easter so that carriages are not scratched and passengers and staff do not come into contact with branches or briars when leaning out of locos/Open coaches.

 

Plas-y-nant bridge 17/2/21

The existing bridge has been freed from its bearings and is ready for craning out, presumably during the same crane hire as the new bridge being put in place. The contract is to deliver the bridge by the start of the next season so presumably by the end of March. The old bridge could go for scrap as valuable wrought iron or may be preserved in Dinas North Yard for use as a future turntable as is the former Betws Garmon bridge. It could accommodate an NG15 which would best be operated chimney first out of Porthmadog to cope with the 1 in 40 gradients north around Beddgelert and keep the crown of the firebox covered with water.

 

This northerly view (17/2/21) shows preparations nearing completion for the removal of the existing bridge. Scaffolding and ladders give access to the bearings. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This Shrewsbury view (17/2/21) shows the replacement bridge nearing completion. The curved way beams are evident as is the cantilevered footbridge attached to the west side. The steel bridge will need a good coat of paint before being put to the mercy of Snowdonia rainfall. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Bow Street station reopened 15/2/21

Bow Street station was opened without ceremony on 15/2/21 with the first train being the 09:12 Machynlleth-Aberystwyth. the new station is a little to the south of the old station closed 56 years ago. It is hoped that the 70 place car park will act as a Park and Ride location for Aberystwyth which has severe car parking problems. The BBC reports that the reinstatement of the Aberystwyth-Carmarthen line would be much preferred by local people. See BBC report.

 

A55 HGV traffic volumes down

Travel to the WHR post COVID will be easier for residents of North Wales and the North West as HGV volumes are down by 50% at Holyhead due to BREXIT and the consequent diversion of Irish traffic direct to Brittany, the ferry companies report. This has undermined the viability of the ferry route and may lead to cutbacks in Holyhead-Dublin sailings.

 

New F&WHR Interpretation and Boston Lodge Project webpage (12/2/21)

Following Paul Lewin's (F&WHR General Manager) recent YouTube, a new NLHF website has appeared featuring the F&WHR Interpretation/Boston Lodge Project scheme. There are many pages of plans, maps and diagrams within this webpage. See NLHF website.

 

WAG considers reopening Tourism for Easter (12/2/21)

A BBC News report reveals WAG First Minister Mark Drakeford is 'looking at a path' to reopen hospitality and tourism by April following the successful completion of the 'over 70' vaccination campaign target. This is good news for the F&WHR which is currently forging plans for a COVID compliant booked service on both railways similar to last year's.

The F&WHR stated on 11/2/21: As many of us are currently wrapping up warm in the middle of the coldest period of the year so far, let's look forward to brighter times ahead - spring sunshine, colourful flowers, lambs playing in the fields - and the return of trains..! We've some exciting plans for the coming season, with a variety of journey options available - which will all be organised to comply with the appropriate guidelines. We're just putting the finishing touches to these plans and the 'behind the scenes' arrangements, but we're now very close to sharing the details with you...

Let's hope this covers the whole route this year.

 

No.130's first trip on the main line 11/2/21

Having fixed most of the leaks, No.130 was allowed out for a trip on the main line in sunshine on 11/2/21. The loco had previously been tested only within Dinas station limits. The loco is currently awaiting a replacement valve and is constantly shrouded in steam as the cylinder draincocks cannot be turned off. No.130 headed towards Waunfawr and was videoed passing Rhostryfan Road bridge. The trial steaming took the loco to Tryfan Junction. there were Fewer leaks, no warm bearings and the loco ran smoothly. The dome has sealed up nicely but the cover was not in place. The next steaming should be with the boiler inspector after which loaded test trains can operate over the whole route to test the loco on the 1 in 40. The loco might be ready for the hoped for start of the new Season at Easter.

 

Click on the YouTube window to watch 6 mins 30 seconds of video covering No.130's trip out onto the main line. This YouTube was published on 11/2/21 and was taken by John Wooden (F&WHR) on a 4K digital camcorder. It is best watched in 1080p HD in Google Chrome browser as only 720p HD available on Windows. Alternatively click on the YouTube link.

 

WHHR reopening

The WHHR has announced that it is making plans to reopen on a similar basis to last year with COVID compliant restrictions. The Tremadog road shop remains open for mail order. See WHHR website.

 

Trespass safety video 10/2/21

Following concern about trespass, the F&WHR has published a Safety YouTube video advising people that Works Trains may still operate on the line even though there are no advertised passenger services. The video is spoken in Welsh on the WHR and English on the FR.

 

Click on the YouTube window to watch 2 mins 21 seconds of video emphasising the dangers of walking on the trackbed. This YouTube was published on 10/2/21 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 the YouTube link.

 

Strange postcard on eBay

This image shows a strange photomontage postcard of a miniature train passing through T3 in the Aberglaslyn Pass. It is available on eBay. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken off eBay courtesy Kevin McElhone. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Brian Critchley has provided some analysis: The sepia postcard on offer via eBay of a superimposed miniature railway locomotive heading south between the two short tunnels (T2 and T3-Ed) in the Aberglaslyn Pass is an extreme example of artistic licence! It was published by the famous company of Frith who should have known better! However they were in the business of selling postcards and not worried too much about historical accuracy. The Frith postcard numbering system on the reverse of the card dates it to 1925.

The same card but minus the train was also produced in black and white by Frith and supplied to "J.E. Powell, Beddgelert" who I assume ran a souvenir shop of some kind. Interestingly W.H. Goss of Stoke on Trent who produced an enormous range of souvenir china (one of which was Prince Llewellyn's cottage) listed their Beddgelert stockist in 1921 as "Mrs. Powell, Glan-Afon". Almost certainly the same individual!

You are probably familiar with the "Snowdon Series" of W.H.R. postcards which were produced by the Snowdon Mountain and Tramroad Hotels Co. Ltd. Again dating from the 1920s. They are more of an "impression" rather than photographs of actual places!

 

Wylfa B site to be sold? 8/2/21

A report in the Daily Post suggests the Welsh government may buy the Wylfa B/Wylfa Newydd site for another developer as it sees the site as having potential for reuse despite a recently released strangely negative Inspector's Report suggesting the Planning Consent be withheld over biodiversity concerns! Nuclear power station developer Hitachi pulled out last September.

A further Daily Post report on 8/2/21 provides more hope for the stalled project that may bring rail freight back to North Wales. GBRf continue to run occasional nuclear flask training runs to Valley Triangle in order to preserve their NR access rights although Wylfa defuelling traffic terminated over a year ago.

 

Welsh Railways nationalised 7/2/21

TfW officially took over operation of Welsh Railway services (excepting NR's infrastructure) on 7/2/21. These include services through England to Birkenhead, Liverpool, Manchester airport, Birmingham International Airport and the Chester-Cardiff Marches Line through Shrewsbury. TfW is supported by a team from the old operator Keolis/Amey. See Rail News report.

Not even ScotRail is nationalised so TfW has a lot to prove in managing Welsh Railways post-COVID effectively. One measure of success is how quickly they can persuade NR to repair and reinstate the Conwy Valley line which is currently closed again following storm flooding damage in January after several months of closure last year. NR over-hyped its 2020 repair saying the rock armour they added would protect the line against future flooding events! The route remains bustituted.

 

No.130 moves under own steam 5/2/21

After a couple of years of hard work No.130 was extracted from the Dinas shed by Bill and propelled onto the main line. This allowed the brakes to be tested away from the confines of the depot headshunt and shed roads. The snags list has been dealt with, including the leaking unions, but the loco was sent out without its dome. No.130 has been restored from 'Barry wreck' condition originally for the abortive Robin Hood's Bay project. The COVID secure work environment at Dinas has slowed down progress.

Once out on the main line and detached from Bill, the brakes were tested and found to be a little tight on the curves. The loco was driven into Dinas station under the control of Paul Lewin, F&WHR General Manager and ran through the loop a couple of times to check for hot axleboxes. Snagging will continue with the loco next week before any loaded test runs. It is hoped No.130 will be ready for the new season if/when the WHR is permitted to carry passengers again in the Spring.

 

Click on the YouTube window to watch 2 mins 6 seconds of video showing No.130 being lit up and having a short test run on 5/2/21. This YouTube was published on 6/2/21 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 the YouTube link.

 

National Lottery Heritage briefing 4/2/21

Click on the YouTube window to watch 1 hour 6 mins 4 seconds of video showing a presentation by the F&WHR General Manager Paul Lewin. A list of clickable links to the sections of the video is provided from the YouTube link. This YouTube was published on 4/2/21 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 the YouTube link.

 

Moving Pictures No.46 (3/2/21)

Click on the YouTube window to watch 40 mins 43 seconds of video showing No.130 being lit up for a pressure test on 29/1/21 and a survey of the F&WHR Diesel Fleet. This YouTube was published on 3/2/21 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 the YouTube link.

 

Hugh Napier update 31/1/21

Hugh Napier has undergone an overhaul and ten-year boiler exam/re-tube at Boston Lodge. The work has been completed over the last five months using funds raised through an Envelope Appeal left on tables on the trains amongst other sources. The chassis, although usable, had a number of flaws so Boston Lodge have sorted out axleboxes and horns etc. Also new crankpins have been made so the engine is properly square again. After some running in tests, Hugh Napier has been to the paint shop where staff have completed a paint repair and varnish. The coupling modifications allow the original couplings to work properly with FR hook and link couplings. Sadly the old smokebox was condemned so a new stainless steel one was fabricated to the original drawings and the chimney is back to original height.

Locos are now acquiring their own Facebook pages. Another quarry Hunslet, Velinheli, now has such a page.

 

This easterly view (25/1/21) shows Hugh Napier at Boston Lodge in its new repaired and re-varnished paint scheme. The loco has been refitted with full height chimney and F&WHR compatible couplers. The Moelwyns are still covered with snow in the distance. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera and. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Latest WAG COVID ruling impacts F&WHR start-up 29/1/21

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford set out the results of his 3 weekly COVID review on 29/1/21. While COVID infection rates have remained fairly stable in Wales recently he will continue the Tier 4 lockdown for another 3 weeks until a review on 19/2/21. After this it might be possible to start easing restrictions very slowly, he said. The F&WHR will therefore not know whether the level of WAG restrictions will permit a train service during the school Easter Holidays, when the new season traditionally begins, until a few weeks before. Easter this year begins on 2/4/21 with Good Friday and Summer Time begins on 28/3/21. F&WHR would traditionally start the week before. If there is a further 3 week extension of lockdown into March, as currently seems likely, then the F&WHR would only have a week to organise any Easter Holiday services. As an indication of how WAG sees the severity of the pandemic situation, those previously shielding have been asked to start again and continue until at least the end of March!

The company is planning various for various scenarios at the moment but it seems likely that the service offered will be similar to that of last year where compartment stock and small locos were used on the FR and a long rake was used on a daily train to Beddgelert. Seats would be booked on line as last year. If traffic grows, then the six train FR service would be offered according to demand. One of these trains one could be extended to Blaenau Ffestiniog. As regards the Aberglaslyn Pass, it is possible one of the FR services could run to there or the FR could use its more modern stock after making it COVID compliant as it did with the WHR saloon stock. If the F&WHR is not going to use the Aberglaslyn Pass route maybe the WHHR might put in a bid to run Russell and its heritage coaches  to Hafod-y-llyn or even Beddgelert providing the F&WHR with additional monies by sharing the fare income.

 

North Wales Main Line news 29/1/21

Several test trains Class 67 hauled Mk4 rakes have been out of test from their Cardiff Canton base, some reaching Holyhead. TfW becomes the 'Operator Of Last Resort' on 7/2/21, Keolis/Amey having pulled out because of the low traffic revenue caused by the pandemic. Representatives of the former TOC will continue to advise TfW through KA Consulting, a new company set up on 15/12/20. TfW Innovation was set up on the same day to advise on introduction of the new rolling stock that has been ordered.

It is rumoured that TfW is looking for additional Mk4 rakes which have been abandoned by other TOCs after the pandemic collapse in traffic. TfW has already stated it will continue the Holyhead-Manchester loco hauled services and might use the new rakes on Holyhead-Birmingham International (via Wrexham). Grand Central has announced it has abandoned its Blackpool-London service and those two rakes could be add to the TfW loco hauled fleet. If Cross Country does not take up its MkIV fleet to replace the Birmingham-Manchester-Edinburgh fleet even more rakes will be available. The Class 67 does not have many duties and spare locos are available for TfW to expand its loco hauled services. 

67025 was noted on a test train on 29/12/20. 67015 in TfW livery was noted on 12/1/21 on a Holyhead-Crewe test train. Four days of testing were planned with headcodes 3J91 and 3J92. Test trains continue to appear on The Marches route with 67010 on a Cardiff-Wrexham the same day.

The latest delivery to TfW, Class 230 EMU 230009 arrived in North Wales for the Wrexham-Bidston line on 21/1/21 by an unusual route. It started from Stourbridge Junction and headed south through Kidderminster to Worcester, then to Hereford before heading north through Craven Arms to Shrewsbury.

Storm Cristoph dropped a veritable deluge on North Wales from 21/1/21 and by 25/1/21 NR advised that both the Heart of Wales/Llandudno-Blaenau Ffestiniog (yet again) would be closed until further notice with bustitutions. The Cambrian Coast from Dyfi Junction to Pwllheli was closed by 26/1/21 but it was planned to reopen it on 26/1/21. See NR's statement and photographs. What is shocking is that NR's long closure last year of the Conwy Valley line was said to have made the route robust enough to survive such storms! It only reopened in September after a 2.2m scheme to protect from future floods.

 

No.130 first fire 28/1/21

Ex-Shotton Steelwork shunter Bill drew No.130 out of the Loco Shed on 28/1/21 in order for a fire to be lit and the loco gently heated. Smoke was seen issuing from the chimney. The main purpose of the fire was to warm the brick arch to drive out moisture which can cause the bricks to disintegrate if heated too strongly when not dry. The loco was given a wash afterwards having stood in the shed for several months since the painted parts were assembled.

 

Click on the YouTube window to watch 4 mins 41 seconds of video showing No.130 being lit up for the first time on 28/1/21. This YouTube was published on 28/1/21 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 the YouTube link.

 

No.130 boiler test 25-29/1/21

On the afternoon of Friday 29/1/21 No.130's fire was relit and the pressure was gently brought up to around 180 psi when the safety valves lifted on cue. Both injectors worked well, as did the ejector as witnessed by the vacuum gauges. The brakes were tested and work well as did the slacker pipe. There were a few minor problems with one wash out plug leaking as well as a few joints, but, over all, it was a big success. The next steaming may be on Tuesday 2/2/21 assuming these faults have been attended to. It cannot be long before running in commences with loaded test trains.

 

Click on the YouTube window to watch 3 mins 22 seconds of video showing No.130 being lit up for a pressure test on 29/1/21. This YouTube was published on 31/1/21 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 the YouTube link.

 

This Dinas view (25/1/21) shows No.130's pressure gauge showing pressure rising as shown on the inner scale to 180psi at which point the safety valves blew. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera and. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

TfW Covid timetable reductions 25/1/21

Transport for Wales has cut back on its railway timetables again due to the very low volume of 'essential traffic'. The Conwy Valley line remains bustituted due to further damage in the recent storms and there is a section of the Central Wales line OOU though Cambrian Coast services are now restored. Potential passengers are advised to look at the timetables before travel as they are currently being updated on a week by week basis. See TfW website for full details.

 

Archive snow scenes from 2000 (24/1/21)

Scanning of your webmaster's archive slides and film strips has now reached the end of 2000, the completion of Phase 2 and opening to Waunfawr. Documenting Phase 2 will now begin shortly as part of regular updates. The last few days of 2000 saw a heavy snowfall down to sea level and the Xmas-New Year specials ran in snow. Your webmaster made a perilous 200 mile journey on 30/12/00 to record the Festive Specials on film and video. Apologies in advance as some of these slides have been damaged or scratched stored in A4 filmstrip pocket sheets. As snow covers much of the country since Sunday 24/1/21, it seems apposite to publish a set of images of the WHR operating in snow 21 years ago!

Arriving at Caernarfon after a nearly 4 hour drive in difficult conditions it transpired the train was late so a quick trip to St Helens Road bridge caught the short rake arriving in Caernarfon.

 

This southerly archive view (30/12/00) shows No.143 approaching St Helen's Road bridge on the first train of the day with a three coach train. The rails are covered in snow ahead of the train. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Centon DF300 SLR camera and scanned using a Minolta DiMage Scan Dual III AF2940. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Half an hour later the first train departed Caernarfon.

 

This northerly archive view (30/12/00) shows No.143 approaching St Helen's Road bridge on the first departure of the day from Caernarfon storming up the bank. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Centon DF300 SLR camera and scanned using a Minolta DiMage Scan Dual III AF2940. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

A short drive enabled an arrival at Cae Moel before the train which could be heard departing Dinas in the distance.

 

This westerly archive view (30/12/00) shows No.143 emerging from Cae Moel bridge with the rails emerging from the snow. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Centon DF300 SLR camera and scanned using a Minolta DiMage Scan Dual III AF2940. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This westerly archive view (30/12/00) shows No.143 emerging from Cae Moel bridge with the rails emerging from the snow. The driver Dave Yates suggested the image could be used as a Christmas Card! Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Centon DF300 SLR camera and scanned using a Minolta DiMage Scan Dual III AF2940. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Next it was up to Waunfawr to watch the run round. It proved difficult to get out of the sloping Snowdonia Parc car park exit and WHR Soc. Chairman Dave Kent who was present confirmed that driving up to Rhyd Ddu would be impossible unless in a 4x4!

 

This southerly archive view (30/12/00) shows No.143 waiting for the staff to clear the points as packed snow was preventing the blades closing. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Centon DF300 SLR camera and scanned using a Minolta DiMage Scan Dual III AF2940. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This southerly archive view (30/12/00) shows No.143 working through the points after staff had cleared the snow from the blades. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Centon DF300 SLR camera and scanned using a Minolta DiMage Scan Dual III AF2940. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This southerly archive view (30/12/00) shows No.143 departing Waunfawr with the first train for Caernarfon. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Centon DF300 SLR camera and scanned using a Minolta DiMage Scan Dual III AF2940. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This southerly archive view (30/12/00) shows No.143 departing Waunfawr with the first train for Caernarfon. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Centon DF300 SLR camera and scanned using a Minolta DiMage Scan Dual III AF2940. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Next it was back to Dinas to see the train depart for Caernarfon.

This southerly archive view (30/12/00) shows No.143 arriving Dina with its three coach trains. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Centon DF300 SLR camera and scanned using a Minolta DiMage Scan Dual III AF2940. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This southerly archive view (30/12/00) shows No.143 departing Dinas for Caernarfon. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Centon DF300 SLR camera and scanned using a Minolta DiMage Scan Dual III AF2940. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Finally, remaining at Dinas, No.143 was noted returning on the final working with the carriages being shunted to the new Carriage Shed and the loco being disposed to the Loco Shed.

 

This northerly archive view (30/12/00) shows No.143 arriving Dinas with the final train of the day passing the North Yard headshunt. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Centon DF300 SLR camera and scanned using a Minolta DiMage Scan Dual III AF2940. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This northerly archive view (30/12/00) shows the disposal of No.143 after it had shunted its rake into the Carriage Shed. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Centon DF300 SLR camera and scanned using a Minolta DiMage Scan Dual III AF2940. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This northerly archive view (30/12/00) shows Upnor Castle and some RRMs in the North Yard as the sun sets late in the afternoon. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Centon DF300 SLR camera and scanned using a Minolta DiMage Scan Dual III AF2940. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This northerly archive view (30/12/00) shows Upnor Castle stabled in Dinas North Yard. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Centon DF300 SLR camera and scanned using a Minolta DiMage Scan Dual III AF2940. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

At the end of the day your webmaster made his way home and found himself pacing Class 37 No.37429 between Colwyn Bay and Abergele on the A55 as it worked the final timetabled Class 37 working on the North Wales Coast!

 

National Rail news

The Tories are going ahead with the annual train fare rise now planned for 1/3/21 (delayed from the start of January because of the pandemic). Fares will rise by 2.6% (RPI plus 1%). The rail industry is concerned about how this might affect post pandemic recovery in rail traffic as many office workers may have new arrangements to work from home. TfW still runs 15 non-compliant Class 143/153s but these will soon be phased out as PRM modifications are made.

 

Carriage Works progress 21-30/1/21

Ex-NWNGR Summer Carriage No.26 of 1894 has had attention in the Coach Works. This carriage was returned to service in 1959 and saw a major rebuild in Jarrah wood in 1986 being fitted with full height doors so that it no longer resembles the original coach. Work has taken place over winter to restore the coach as it is useful in the bookable compartment trains of the COVID compliant era.

 

This Coach Works view (30/1/21) shows No.26 at Boston Lodge fully sanded down after repair of all the woodwork. Upholstery has been repaired and fittings repainted. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Glenn Williams (F&WHR_ and was taken on a digital camera and. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Coach No.23 which carries the WHR metal letters is also receiving attention. The frame at one end had become warped making the door difficult to latch.

 

This westerly view (21/1/21) shows No.23 at Boston Lodge stripped of its lettering and cleaned with sugar soap ready for repair in the Coach Works. When complete this coach will also prove useful in the COVID complaint rake. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Glenn Williams (F&WHR) and was taken on a digital camera and. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Paintwork is also nearing completion on the WHHR's Pickering Brake Coach giving a 1930's period internal look resembling the traditional 'scumble' finish. When finished the WHHR will be able to operate an authentic WHR train rather than using the ex-VoR brakevan.

 

This Coach Works view (25/1/21) shows progress with paintwork on the WHHR's new build Pickering Brake at Boston Lodge. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Glenn Williams (F&WHR) and was taken on a digital camera and. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

F&WHR making reopening plans 20/1/21

The F&WHR is continuing to make plans for an Easter reopening dependent on the Welsh lockdown situation. The latest statement from the company is as follows:-

We've been rather quiet lately - but 'behind the scenes' we've also been busy making and revising plans for a new season ahead. We're not quite there yet, but we'll soon be in a position to give you an outline of how we hope to run our train services in the 'early' part of the year. We can't guarantee firm dates or exact details due to the ongoing situation, but we'll give you as much information as we can about our 2021 plans, so that you'll have something to look forward to when we're able to get out and about again..!

 

Archive photos from 2000

This northerly archive view (1/7/00) shows Mountaineer on the last train of the day passing Hendy level crossing. This was a short rake as passenger numbers were depressed whilst supporters waited for the line to open to Waunfawr a little later than planned on 7/8/00. there were also questions about the timing load for the Alco on the steep bank out of Caernarfon. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Centon DF300 SLR camera and scanned using a Minolta DiMage Scan Dual III AF2940. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Historic railway bridge destruction

There is a petition going round opposing the destruction of historic railway bridges, some of which may be track beds with the potential to be reopened or reused as footpaths/cycleways. The move could be seen as a Tory cost saving move rather than facing the ongoing cost of maintenance/repair these structures:

Highways England Historic Railways Estate plans to rapidly expand their demolition programme of redundant railway structures. The list attached shows 135 structures in the first tranche as published by HRE Group:

https://twitter.com/theHREgroup/status/1343533070855643137

and a map:

https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?ll=54.497867611651664%2C-2.141808848720559&z=10&mid=14uBPUTgoOoCWI0VKCAIDg-nc5zDHSE9M

Press reports this week:

https://www.railengineer.co.uk/railway-heritage-at-risk-from-highways-englands-wrecking-ball/

https://www.newcivilengineer.com/latest/plan-to-demolish-and-infill-hundreds-of-unused-rail-bridges-and-tunnels-must-be-stopped-dft-told-06-01-2021/

Not only are some of these bridges on aspirational route extensions for heritage railways, others could be on lines suitable for reopening under the governments 'Undoing Beeching' project to extend the national network if the government is serious about extending public transport use, and reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. Others may be developable as long distance footpaths/cycleways.

Highways England appear hell bent on wholesale destruction of the nation’s heritage. A lot of these are masonry arches, skills of a bygone era and mostly 150 years old. Survived Beeching, but once they are gone, they will never be rebuilt in the same way. Analogous to demolition of Stonehenge. Other bridges that are not on the list are likely to follow in subsequent tranches. Local authority ‘protected railway route’ status may not be sufficient. Highways ‘England’ remit includes Scotland and Wales.

It is important to note:

It is understood that Highways England has already notified local planning authorities of their intention to progress 124 schemes under permitted development powers which are only applicable when there is a threat of “serious damage to human welfare” involving the potential for death or injury. This approach circumvents the need for planning permission.

This means that the public will not necessarily be made aware of the proposals nor have any opportunity to object as would be the case with the normal planning consultation process. You won’t know until a contractor turns up on site, then it will be too late. This was the case with Chilcompton Bridge on the S&D mentioned in the Rail Engineer report.

There is also a petition that we could ask WHR Society members to sign up to:

www.change.org/theHREgroup

It is also important to note that the recent list is only the start. There are another 3000 bridges to go with the programme lasting up to ten years. Wales has got off lightly this time with only Peblig Mill in Caernarfon and another at Pont Llanio south of Tregaron of significance. The latter is on the former Carmarthen to Aberystwyth line (which WAG is proposing to be reopened as part of a North to South Wales Coast route.

 

Plas-y-nant bridge project 18/1/21

This Doncaster view (18/1/21) shows the new Plas-y-nant girders under construction on order for Beaver Bridges who will be installing them in February ready for the new season. The new sympathetic design will not have fake rivets attached to replicate the appearance of the old bridge. The status of the apparently never used parallel footbridge is currently unknown. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is courtesy Beaver Bridges/ F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera and. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Tax Office Demolition (12-25/1/21)

This northerly view (25/1/21) shows the gap opened next to the Custom House on The Cob as seen from the foreshore next to Harbour Station. Cnicht and the Moelwyns are coated in the previous day's snowfall but it did not extend to sea level. Excavators are reducing the pile of rubble left after the completion of demolition last week. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera and. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This easterly view (12/1/21) shows the start of demolition of Ty Moelwyn as seen from the F&WHR's webcam, the angle of which was changed to observe the demolition. A member of staff is spraying the rubble to reduce dust. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera courtesy of Martin Kressman. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

A crusher is being used to reduce the bricks and concrete to hardcore which can be used within the site or elsewhere. The new building will be set back considerably from The Cob with the associated car park between it and The Cob.

Plans for the new building can be viewed here.

 

F&WHR statement

LOOKING FORWARD TO THE 2021 SEASON

It’s time to look onwards and upwards as we continue to form plans for our 2021 services. Whilst the upcoming months will undoubtedly be clouded by much of the uncertainty which has overshadowed us for large parts of 2020, we are moving forward with renewed hope that 2021 will be a brighter year for our Railway. We are currently discussing numerous proposals which would allow us to potentially reopen the Railway during the Spring. Please keep a look out on our website and social media pages for updates. At present, all services and facilities along the Railway will remain closed. Thanks for your continued support.

 

Lineside clearance 7/1/21

This westerly view (7/1/21) shows Moel Hebog with the Lineside Clearing Train with volunteers working to reduce lineside growth that can scratch carriages. The location is adjacent to the long siding west of Minffordd Goods Yard Junction. If the westbound access from Minffordd is ever built it will join the FR here and complete a triangular layout that would allow stock to be turned to even out flange wear or provide new photo opportunities with chimney first photos going the opposite direction. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera and. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

English lockdown may hit F&WHR

The F&WHR General Manager said before Xmas that the then English 'firebreak' lockdown then operating and the new Welsh restrictions meant it was uneconomical to reopen the F&WHR for Santa Specials and the normal Festive Season trains. The new lockdowns in force until at least mid February will only be reduced gradually from March, Mr Gove said. The Welsh restrictions are to be reviewed in mid January but seem unlikely to be eased as the new fast spreading virus variant gains pace in Wales. This leads to the unpleasant likelihood of a severe impact on any resumption of trains at Easter as hoped for in the GM's statements.

Already the F&WHR has had to make cuts and is unlikely to produce timetable leaflets in the same quantity to stock tourist racks in hotels as in previous years, if at all. Services from Easter could be 'book only' as during last summer with the numbers of trains running adjusted according to demand. Already 32 staff have been made redundant following consultations in September when it was thought in excess of 20 jobs might need to be trimmed. In the March lockdown 93 of the 97 permanent staff were furloughed. The job losses were inevitable as the railway made only £1 million in the 2020 season compared to the £6 million budgeted for. Job losses have focussed on the commercial side in catering, train operations, shops etc, protecting the engineering businesses which earn money for the railway. There are now 60 permanent staff. Restarting in Easter, if possible, will still need an input of £2 million as maintenance alone costs £200,000 per month!

 On 8/1/21 the WAG First Minister Mark Drakeford announced the current all-Wales lockdown will be continued until the next review on 28/1/21 and additional measures will be made to ensure shops and workplaces were complying with regulations. Already police have been very effective and turning away, prosecuting and impounding cars of people who visited Snowdonia from Tier 4 English areas.

 

Good progress with Phase 2 scanning

Phase 2 slide scanning has now reached July 2000 and will soon cover the whole construction period and the Phase 2 initial opening. It is hoped to start the Phase 2 page shortly. Some images have suffered from being stored in plastic wallets rather than slides boxes and will need cleaning. Hopefully the Phase 2 story will provide F&WHR supporters something interesting to read during lockdown.

 

This northerly view (17/6/00) shows Mountaineer and Conwy Castle arriving at Dinas with a short three coach rake. Conwy Castle had hauled the first train of the day and was left attached when this view was captured at 15:30. This scan shows some of the problems caused when filmstrips stick to the plastic A4 storage sheets. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Centon DF300 SLR camera and scanned using a Minolta DiMage Scan Dual III AF2940. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Premier Inn Ty Mawr demolition started 4-7/1/21

Work started demolishing the vacant former Tax Office at Ty Mawr opposite Harbour Station at the start of January. Permission has been given for a Premier Inn and associated restaurant on site. As usual the Premier Inn is not providing sufficient car parking spaces for the number of rooms it will have in the four storey flat roof building as they intend to cater for coach traffic stop-overs. It will however be a convenient place for those visiting the F&WHR as the Travelodge in the industrial estate the other end of town does not have an associated restaurant. The site was formerly the Britannia Foundry until 1972, see History Points. There might have to be a car park barrier to prevent people using the car park to visit Porthmadog or the F&WHR. Spooners might benefit by offering breakfast and all day meals when the Premier Inn restaurant is unable to cope,

 

This westerly view (7/1/21) shows work starting on the demolition of Ty Mawr, the derelict former Tax Office on the opposite side of The Cob to Harbour Station on the site of Britannia Foundry. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Happy New Year!

Your webmaster would like to wish a Happy New Year to all visitors to this website. 2020 was a bad year where we all suffered, not least the F&WHR which has had to make staff cuts to remain solvent with income much reduced and surviving on Government Grants. Assuming the vaccine roll out we might reasonably expect the F&WHR to reopen for Easter with a socially distanced booking system similar to the recent operations on both railways. Later, if the pandemic fades away, the service might expand. However, BREXIT might affect the economy adversely and families' disposable income too. Already the Daily Post reports in the first hours of BREXIT, 6 lorries turned away at Holyhead. The WHR, built largely with EU regional funds, can no longer look to that funding resource.

 

 

Special Events 2020

1/1/20 Final Mince Pie special (two Caernarfon-Rhyd Ddu trains)
15-23/2/20 Half Term Blue timetable Caernarfon-Porthmadog (one return service from each end)
26/2/20-26/3/20 MTFX Orange timetable Porthmadog-Hafod-y-llyn twice a day
28/3/20 Main Season Easter service starts POSTPONED
18/4/20 The Snowdonian POSTPONED TO 17/4/21 and subsequently POSTPONED AGAIN INDEFINITELY
2/5/20 FR AGM and FR extra services? VIRTUAL AGM-NO TRAINS
9/5/20 Caernarfon Food Festival with additional train on WHR? POSTPONED TO 2021
5-7/6/20 WHR Beer Festival POSTPONED TO 4-6/6/21
19-21/6/20 Fairlie Eventful (may include some WHR events) POSTPONED TO 18-20/6/21
27/6/20 Welsh Pony Launch (Live Stream). The public launch/naming is POSTPONED TO VICTORIAN WEEKEND
20/7/20 Restart of limited services with virus compliant protection measures on FR ONLY six times daily all week
13/8/20 Restart of limited services on the WHR with an 11:00 once a day TWThSO service to Beddgelert with hampers
11-13/9/20 SuperPower POSTPONED TO Sept 2021 (may feature Baldwin No. 608 and K1)
12/9/20 WHR Society Members Day. Two special trains between Porthmadog and Beddgelert with No.5 (Welsh Pony)
9-11/10/20 Bygones Event replacing FR Victorian Event will feature two trains Porthmadog-Beddgelert on both 10-11/10/20 and Welsh Pony naming 1/1/20 at Dduallt
5/11/20 The Snowdonian Limited (0800-2000 possibly some running in dark with fireworks?) POSTPONED
12/20 Santa Specials CANCELLED
27/12/20-1/1/21 Festive Specials CANCELLED

 

Trackwork Volunteering 2020

Volunteering is currently suspended due to the Covid-19 outbreak. The F&WHR has a small number of staff ensuring the railway remains secure. Keeping the permanent way, in particular, and the infrastructure in general, fit for trains to run is an essential task. Volunteers have a lot to offer by assisting with this and will be needed later in the year when the railway resumes service. We have a mix of weekend and weekday working parties. The Black Hand, Tuesday Gang and Rest of the World Gangs will be very glad to accept your help. Contact the relevant organiser to let him know when you plan to join us. Please do not just turn up as that makes it difficult for us to plan ahead.

The programme for 2019 is as follows with the ROWG in BLACK and the North Wales Track Gang in RED:

January  
February
March
April
May
June
July
August 1-2/8/20   15-16/8/20   29-30/8/20
September   5-10/9/20WW     26-27/9/20
October   10-11/10/20     24-25/10/20
November 7-8/11/20 7-11/11/20WW   21-22/11/20  
December 1-2/12/20 15-16/11/20WW     29-30/12/20

^ Bank Holiday weekend

! Subject to confirmation when the Winter Major Works Programme is available

WW-Working week Saturday-Thursday

The Tuesday Gang expects to be operating most Tuesdays.

Arrangements may change so contact the working party organiser before you commit yourself to joining us just to make sure.

Contacts

If you intend to join one of the weekend or Tuesday gangs, please contact the appropriate organiser. If you are interested in weekday working or have any queries about track work volunteering, please contact Phil Nock.

Tuesday Gang:

North Wales Black Hand Gang (BHG):Dafydd Thomas Phone: 01248 681019 Email: dthomas@ffwhr.com

Rest of The World Gang (ROWG): Phil Nock Email: pnock@ffwhr.com

If you intend to join one of the weekend or Tuesday Gang days, please contact the appropriate organiser. If you are interested in weekday working or have any queries about track work volunteering, please contact Paul Bradshaw. See Contacts page.

 

Site development

If you have suggestions for development of this site, please contact me by email from the link on the Stop Press page.

 

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