News Archive Page
V4.1 updated 1/6/21
with news to 30/4/21
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No.130 Member's Special 30/4/21
The WHR Soc. Members' train from Caernarfon to Beddgelert started from Dinas at about 10:15 after Bill had drawn the train out of the Carriage Shed. The ECS was in Caernarfon by 10:30 and the loco posed for a while before departing about 5 minutes down after waiting for members at about 11:05. Although there are 47 compartments, it was surprising that several were empty after the train was said to be full after one day of members applications opened. Many compartments contained just one person. A painting by Rebecca Kitchin was presented to Peter Best once the train arrived - The F&WHR is indebted to Peter Best, who was present on the train, for making the restoration of this locomotive possible.
This easterly view (30/4/21) shows No.130 running round the Gelert Explorer rake at Caernarfon ay 10:33. Click on the image to expand. This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Canon EOS 1300D post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This northerly view (30/4/21) shows No.130 approaching Cae Hen Crossing at 11.14 with plenty of steam to spare after climbing Coed Helen bank. Click on the image to expand. This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Canon EOS 1300D post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This northerly view (30/4/21) shows No.130 approaching Cae Hen Crossing at 11.14 with plenty of steam to spare after climbing Coed Helen bank. Click on the image to expand. This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Canon EOS 1300D post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This northerly view (30/4/21) shows No.130 arriving Waunfawr at 11.46 after an extended stop at Dinas waiting for food to be delivered for guests. Click on the image to expand. This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Canon EOS 1300D post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This northerly view (30/4/21) shows No.130 approaching the new Plas-y-nant bridge at 12.03 with the sound of a swarm of angry bees in the background as a quadcopter drone hovered taking video. Click on the image to expand. This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Canon EOS 1300D post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This northerly view (30/4/21) shows No.130 crossing the new Plas-y-nant bridge at 11.46 after a water stop at Waunfawr. Click on the image to expand. This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Canon EOS 1300D post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This northerly view (30/4/21) shows No.130 arriving at Rhyd Ddu at 12.21. There was no rolling stock in the sidings. Click on the image to expand. This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Canon EOS 1300D post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This northerly view (30/4/21) shows No.130 arriving at Rhyd Ddu at 12.21 and stopping to take water under the 'bag'. There is no longer a chain to operate the valve. It is operated by the fireman standing onto top of the loco water tank. Click on the image to expand. This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Canon EOS 1300D post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This northerly view (30/4/21) shows No.130 crossing the Afon Meillionen bridge at 12.57. Click on the image to expand. This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Canon EOS 1300D post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This northerly view (30/4/21) shows No.130 crossing the Afon Meillionen bridge at 12.57 giving a few toots of its whistle for the level crossings. Click on the image to expand. This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Canon EOS 1300D post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This northerly view (30/4/21) shows No.130 arriving at Beddgelert on the Members' Special inaugural run of the loco. The weather was mixed with occasional sleet and a dusting of snow on some mountains but strong sunshine at times too. Click on the image to expand. This digital camera image is copyright Chris Parry (F&WHR) and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This westerly view (30/4/21) shows No.130 having arrived at Beddgelert and the presentation of a painting to sponsor Peter Best by F&WHR General Manager Paul Lewin and driver Jonathan Whalley looking on. The weather was mixed with occasional sleet and a dusting of snow on some mountains but strong sunshine at times too. Click on the image to expand. This digital camera image is copyright Chris Parry (F&WHR) and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This southerly view (30/4/21) shows No.130 approaching Hafod Ruffydd crossing at 15.20 after leaving Beddgelert shortly after 15:00. Passengers had about 2 hours in Beddgelert, time to visit the famous ice cream parlour in the village which was open. Click on the image to expand. This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Canon EOS 1300D post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This southerly view (30/4/21) shows No.130 approaching Rhyd Ddu at 15.30 after a brisk climb up the Nant Colwyn Pass. Click on the image to expand. This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Canon EOS 1300D post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This southerly view (30/4/21) shows No.130 arriving at Dinas at 16.30. Click on the image to expand. This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Canon EOS 1300D post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
At the end of the day No.130 propelled the rake into the Carriage Shed.
Anglesey Central progress 29/4/21
After 6 years of detailed and lengthy discussions with Network Rail Infrastructure Limited, the ACR formally completed the legal steps on 29/4/21 and now have a lease deal for the Gaerwen Junction and Amlwch railway, also known as the 'GLA Line', for the period of 100 years up to and including 29/4/2120. The ACR wishes to convey their appreciation to all Lein Amlwch members, as well as Anglesey communities supporters for their unwavering support. The ACR would also like to record and acknowledge the support received from different areas of the commercial and industrial community as well as the efforts of the Senedd Anglesey representative, who have been extremely busy promoting the restoration of trains on this railway once again.
The supporters group has had a licence to clear the line for several years and many lengths of line are now clear. NR was proceeding with an insurance claim for the replacement of a overbridge at Llangefni on the A5114 just south of the town centre which was demolished by a lorry. The line has been disconnected at Gaerwen Junction for several years. Some rolling stock is stored in the yard at Llangefni. Anglesey Council has a policy of attempting to get the line reopened at least from Llangefni towards Bangor to allow a commuter service and an application has been sent to government for a 'Rolling Back Beeching' grant for a feasibility study.
This northerly view (7/8/85) shows 25224 propelling a weed-killing train towards Amlwch from Holyhead Road bridge, Rhosgoch. Click on the image to expand. This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was scanned from a slide taken on an SLR camera and post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
Sunday fully booked!
All trains on Sunday 2/5/21 were fully booked and the 11:05 which was reputedly to be run Monday Only appeared to have been added as a late addition on Sunday. As a result, all three England Engines were in use. At times the F&WHR website was overwhelmed with 'Resource Limit' showing and delays of over a minute connecting.
Woodland Wanderer Day 3 29/4/21
Upnor Castle arrived in Porthmadog's WHR platform with a rake of 7 coaches at 10:00 and ran round at 10:05. The rear two coaches including the Observation car No.152 Eryri-Snowdonia were removed and shunted into the WHR run round loop. The Obs was left in the loop and the remaining coach shunted back onto the rake in the platform and the 5 coach rake shunted onto No.152, leaving No.2115 Bodysgallen in the platform alone. At 10:20 Upnor Castle came back to collect the Pullman and attached it to the rear of the train at 10:32.
Having reorganised the WHR rake, the Upnor Castle moved to the station sidings at 10:40 and shunted the A set into the platform at 10:50. At 10:55 it was back on the eastern end of the WHR train in the WHR loop. At the booked departure time everybody was looking at their watches when Moelwyn was noted arriving with the flange lubrication train, now with six coaches and Blanche on the rear. Blanche shunted off 11:08 and made its way to the watering point emerging from the yard at 11:20.The train finally left at 11:24 some 19 minutes late.
Blanche arrived at Tan-y-bwlch at 12:00, having made good time and recovering some of the deficit. Harlech Castle was in the Up platform with a short PW train. This would have to depart or shunt to sidings before the 12:10 arrived. Meanwhile, at Porthmadog, Prince was already coupled up to the B set at 12:00 for the 12:10 departing just a minute down and passing Minffordd at 12:22. Meanwhile up at Tan-y-bwlch the 11:05 rake had been shunted to the Up platform and Blanche was running round at 12:25 with the PW train having disappeared. Upnor Castle was no where to be seen in Porthmadog but at 12.30 Garratt No.87 was noted departing towards Dinas hauling the 7 coach rake that had been left in the WHR loop.
Prince arrived at Tan-y-bwlch at 13:01 and Blanche left shortly afterwards at 13:06, arriving back at Porthmadog at 13:42 to form the 14:20. As soon as the passengers had got off at Porthmadog, the Zoono team were busy cleaning the compartments in readiness for the 14:20 as people were already arriving on the platform. This left on time and arrived at Tan-y-bwlch just after 3 pm. Blanche arrived back at Porthmadog at 16:50 with the return working of the 14:20. The loco ran round at 17:01 and moved the rake to the sidings at 17:05. Blanche left for the depot at 17:10. No public trains were planned on Friday but Spooners was open for take aways.
There is a special inaugural working of No.130 for WHR Society members on Friday 30/4/21. Peter Best, the sponsor of the loco, will be on this train which will run in the path of the Gelert Explorer departing Caernarfon at 11am. Your webmaster hopes to be there to record the event.
Bookings going well
All trains on 29/4/21 appear to have been fully booked including the 14:20 which was the second working by Blanche and the A Set. The Mountain Prince this weekend has 5 trains, the 10:00, the 11:05 (already sold out), 12:25, 13:40 and 15:00. The 12:25 must be the C Set and implies having a third steam loco available for traffic. These trains run to Dduallt Barn Cutting with a diesel loco on the rear to pilot the train back to Tan-y-bwlch. It appears that Moelwyn will be used as much practise has been made with the loco on the rear this week.
Woodland Wanderer Day 2 28/4/21
Wednesday started grey and dull. Having left Boston Lodge about 09:30 Blanche had hauled the flange lubrication train with Moelwyn on the rear to Tan-y-bwlch. Moelwyn was noted leading the rake back into Tan-y-bwlch Up platform from the east at 10:26 before leaving for the shunt limit again about 10:30. Next the train was back into the Down platform at 10:32, presumably driver practice shunting moves. It was back out again at 10:37 and finally left for Porthmadog about 10:45 with Blanche still on the rear.
Meanwhile the Woodland Wanderer was loading in Porthmadog at 10:50 and was sold out as were the 12:10 and 14:20 (bar one compartment) suggesting there is suppressed demand. The train left on time at 11:05 and the operation was a little more slick than the first day when the train departed a little late. The 11:05 on Thursday was also sold out.
At 11:35 Moelwyn was back at Porthmadog with Blanche on the rear with the Flange Lubrication Express but had to use the WHR platform as the ECS for the 12:10 needed the FR platform. It had passed the Woodland Wanderer en route. Moelwyn was detached and Blanche shunted the rake into the yard before retiring to the watering point. Meanwhile Welsh Pony emerged from Boston Lodge to arrive at 11:51 and drawing a coach out of the seawall siding to add to the rake for the 12:10 service. Passengers were treated to three locos in action with Welsh Pony shunting their rake into the FR platform, Blanche shunting the yard and Moelwyn stabled in the WHR platform. The 12:10 was in the platform by 12:05 while Blanche continued to shunt removing one of the panoramic coaches from its rake. The 12:10 left on time with 3 four-wheelers Nos.12/3/4 and NWNGR coach No.24 in the rake with two bowsiders and a brakevan No.10. Blanche returned the single coach to the WHR platform at 12:16 and Moelwyn coupled to the rear. The pair set off across The Cob and arrived at Boston Lodge yard at 12:32.
This westerly view (28/4/21) shows Welsh Pony working its first train of the new season, the 12:20 carrying the second Woodland Wanderer headboard. There must be three of these as on 29/4/21 a third set with a third loco will be put into traffic. Click on the image to expand. This image is courtesy (F&WHR) and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
Meanwhile Prince arrived at Tan-y-bwlch at 12:00 with the 11:05. At 12:10, the rake was shunted to the Up platform where it arrived at 12:13. Prince then ran round at 12:15. The 12:10, hauled by Welsh Pony, arrived at 12:58 and rapid hand over of the token allowed Prince to depart at 13:00 with the return working of the 11:05. This arrived back at Porthmadog 13:40 and was to form the 14:20 after Zoono cleaning at Porthmadog. Departing on time, the train passed the returning 12:10 at Minffordd at 12:10. The train arrived back at Porthmadog at 14:45 and the loco ran round by 14:56 and shunted the rake back to the seawall siding at 15:01. The loco was disposed to Boston Lodge at 15:05.
Meanwhile Prince arrive at Tan-y-bwlch with the 14:20 at 15:10, a standard 50 minute journey in good conditions. There was no need for the rake to change platforms with no trains following so it could remain in the Down platform. After taking water Prince ran round by 16:00 and departed at 16:16. The train had a good run arriving at Porthmadog at 16:50 with the engine running round at 16:56. Then rake was shunted to the yard at 17:00 and Prince departed for Boston Lodge light engine at 17:05.
Mountain Prince expanded!
With heavy demand for the services this week leading to additional Woodland Wanderer services being added to the timetable, the F&WHR has decided to offer five trains a day on the Mountain Prince this weekend and on Bank Holiday Monday. Trains will depart at 10:00, 11:05, 12:25, 13:40 and 15:00. already the 11:05 is sold out both days. Unfortunately it seems impossible to add additional trains to the WHR if this was to prove popular too. There are currently plenty of seats available on the Gelert Explorer this weekend but it does not run Bank Holiday Monday. Several dates are sold out, 18/5, 25/5, 2/6, 8/6 and 19/6/21. However a short train ride from Caernarfon to Waunfawr/Rhyd Ddu should be possible with an FR rake while the Gelert Explorer was down in Beddgelert if the F&WHR put their minds to it? Otherwise an earlier start to the Glaslyn Venturer could be envisaged from Porthmadog to Beddgelert with FR stock.
F&WHR 2021 leaflet available
The 2021 information leaflet (formerly the timetable leaflet) is now available on line. The traditional folded A4 leaflet for tourist information racks in hotels gives details of the four train services available but no timetable information or ticket or prices, referring people to the website. Click here for full details.
FR reopening day 27/4/21
One of the first workings was Criccieth Castle which brought over the newly partitioned Open coach No.37 from Boston Lodge and attached it to the rear of the first train in Harbour Station.
This westerly view (27/4/21) shows Prince and Criccieth Castle working the first train of the new season, the 11:05 carrying the Woodland Wanderer headboard. Click on the image to expand. This image is courtesy (F&WHR) and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
After many days of sunshine it turned out to be cloudy in North Wales on 27/4/21. Steam was noted being raised at Boston Lodge at 09:22. At 10:00 Moelwyn dragged the coaching stock out of the Carriage shed with Blanche on the rear. Blanche drew forwards onto Boston Lodge curve before setting off on a test run for Tan-y-bwlch at 10:03. These are also referred to as 'flange lubrication' trains, as these carriages are fitted with grease sticks to help prevent squealing when the train passes round the tight curves along the railway. As the train proceeds the lubricating grease is transferred from the wheel flanges onto the rail edge, which ensures that all locos, carriages and wagons benefit from their use with less wear, as well as passengers ears!
Blanche passed Minffordd on 4 modern FR saloons, including panoramic coach No.120 (and one similar), a service car and Observation Car No.102 Eryri Snowdonia at 10:11 with Moelwyn on the rear, presumable practising the Mountain Prince for Saturday. This train arrived at Tan-y-bwlch at 11:03 and departed at 11:15 and was shunted back into the Up platform at 11:19. Prince was being prepared at 10:15 for the 11:05 Woodland Wanderer. Some diesel shunting was also noticeable at Boston Lodge preparing coaching stock extraction from the Carriage Shed. Criccieth Castle arrived at Harbour Station with a single coach, open coach No.37, in tow at 10:28 as passengers began to gather for the inaugural train, wearing masks as requested (staff too!).
This was attached to the rear of the Heritage rake stabled in the yard and propelled out onto The Cob after Prince arrived light engine at 10:48 and went to water. The diesel then dragged the rake back into the platform. It consisted of 3 four-wheelers Nos.8/2/5, bowsider No.19 (compartments 16+), No.26 (compartments 10-15), No.22 (compartments 4-9) and a brake/toilet No.113 (compartments 1-3). By 10:53 passengers were boarding. Prince with Criccieth Castle inside, reversed onto the train at 11:05 and it departed at 11:09 some 4 minutes late carrying the Woodland Wanderer headboard.
This westerly view (27/4/21) shows Prince and Criccieth Castle arriving at Minffordd in the rain at 11:15. Click on the image to expand. This digital camera image is copyright Chris Parry (F&WHR) and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
After days of brilliant sunshine and weeks of little or no rain the hillsides are very dry, so the diesel was added to ensure that Prince did not have to work too hard on the climb through the Vale of Ffestiniog. As luck would have it a short spell of heavy rain ensued so the diesel assisting may well have proved advantageous on a wet rail in the woods! The rake passed Minffordd at 11:23 and arrived at Tan-y-bwlch at 12:00.
This westerly view (27/4/21) shows Prince and Criccieth Castle having arrived at Tan-y-bwlch. Passengers were treated to four locos in the station, three visible her and Moelwyn at the other end of the station. Click on the image to expand. This digital camera image is copyright Chris Parry (F&WHR) and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
Moelwyn departed with Blanche on the rear still at 12:09 for Porthmadog allowing Prince and the diesel to run round at 12:16. Some passengers made use of the new awning in the car park to escape the light drizzle. Criccieth Castle then coupled separately so it was again inside at 12:52 with Prince following at 12:55.The train departed at 13:00. Blanche had arrived at Porthmadog by this time and, after a lunch break, was noted running round at 13:19. The empty train left for Tan-y-bwlch at 13:25, still with Moelwyn on the rear. It was due to cross the Woodland Wanderer at Minffordd, which had arrived there by 13:28. Blanche passed at 13:36 allowing Prince and Criccieth Castle to proceed on its journey at 13:40. The Zoono cleaning squad was already on the platform awaiting the trains arrival while the 14:20 service arrived at 13.45, allowing plenty of time for a deep clean.
This westerly view (27/4/21) shows Prince and Criccieth Castle working the second train of the new season , the 14:20 against the backdrop of a threatening sky. Click on the image to expand. This image is courtesy (F&WHR) and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
Upnor Castle arrived light from Boston Lodge at 14:00 and ran into the yard. Prince, with Criccieth Castle inside again, was coupled up by 14:10 and Blanche had arrived at Tan-y-bwlch by then. The second Woodland Wanderer left Porthmadog at 14:21, just a minute late and Blanche left Tan-y-bwlch simultaneously still on the rear of Moelwyn's train. The Woodland Wanderer arrived at Tan-y-bwlch around 15.10. With the train having left Porthmadog Upnor Castle was free to shunt the yard. It drew one WHR coach out before shunting it back to the seawall siding. Then a WHR service car (No.2010 or No.2011) and No.2060 were shunted out and the loco ran round. Further shunting had to await the arrival of Moelwyn's train from Tan-y-bwlch at 15:20. Upnor Castle resumed shunting at 15:22 propelling the two coaches across The Cob to Boston Lodge. All was over by 17:00 when all trains had returned to stable for the night.
The 12:10 arrived at Tan-y-bwlch in sunshine hauled by Welsh Pony at 12:58 allowing the return of the 11:05 with Prince at 13:00. This would become the 14:20 from Porthmadog after Zoono cleaning.
Seats selling well 27/4/21
Tomorrow's 11:05 train is Sold Out, but there were some seats remaining on the 12:10 and 14:20 departures.
F&WHR lend track for Bala Gala
The F&WHR has lent some of its temporary track frequently used at the Shrewsbury Flower Show temporary railway to the Bala Lake Railway. It has been erected at the new Bala Town Centre station site in preparation for a live steam gala on 12-13/6/21 to draw attention to the BLR's extension plans. The BLR reopens 1/5/21 and tickets must be booked via their website. For full details see BLR website.
Tal-y-llyn reopens 1/5/21
The Tal-y-llyn Railway reopens from Saturday 1/5/21. All bookings must be made via the TR website as with the F&WHR.
Llangollen Railway may get WAG aid
Speaking during a Labour election visit to the area, the Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford and Ken Skates, the local Senedd member and Transport Minister, gave indications they might support the Llangollen Trust's attempts to revive the railway given its contribution to the local tourist economy. However there would not be a blank chequebook! Some £200 million has been promised by Labour to supporting businesses across Wales if Labour win the Senedd election due 5/5/21.
Class 37 heaven 12-27/4/21
The North Wales Coast main line and branches have become a mecca for photographers of Class 37 locos on main line test trains recently.
12/4/21 37800 on ROG driver training for the Class 197 introduction programme.
20/4/21 97304 John Tiley (37217) ran to Llandudno and the Conwy Valley in its NR livery.
20/4/21 37521 covered the whole route in LSL's green livery for their upcoming excursions.
25/4/21 37800 Great Rocks covered all the lines for LSL in its Trainload construction livery. Lets hope LSL does not splash green all over this too. They are clearly thinking of appealing to a granddad generation but not realising that most septuagenarians' experience is rail blue!
27/4/21 97304 was active again, this time on the Borderlands Line, reversing at James Street, having traversed the Mersey Tunnel, as diesels are not allowed in the single track loop tunnel under Lime Street because of ventilation problems.
First visit of No.130 to Porthmadog 26/4/21
Notable amongst a number of test trains and stock movement today was the brief appearance of No.130 in Porthmadog bringing four coaches to Porthmadog for attention and taking four back to Dinas, presumably fitted with Perspex 'compartments' for use on the Gelert Explorer. Blanche was also out do repeat runs to Tan-y-bwlch using modern panoramic coaches fitted with Perspex compartment screens rather than the heritage stock of last year. What was surprising though was the absence of any other small engines being tested. The FR seems to be relying on Blanche. See full details of today's movements below. For further images of No.130 see F&WHR Facebook page with thanks to Chris Parry.
This westerly view (26/4/21) shows No.130 crossing Britannia Bridge on its first working to Porthmadog, bring four coaches to Porthmadog from Dinas for attention. Click on the image to expand. This digital camera image is copyright Chris Parry (F&WHR) and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This southerly view (26/4/21) shows No.130 four compartmentalised coaches and 3 B wagons back to Dinas from Porthmadog. Click on the image to expand. This digital camera image is copyright Chris Parry (F&WHR) and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This week's trains are due to be worked by Welsh Pony and Prince. The first train of the season steams out of Porthmadog in the morning on the 'Woodland Wanderer' service to Tan-y-Bwlch and back. The 11:05 service is 'Sold Out', but there are still seats available on the 14:20. The service has been increased to 3 trains a day from 28/4/21 with the addition of a 12:10 departure. On Wednesday and Thursday there are trains at 11:05, 12:10 and 14:20. A 13:40 has also been added to the Mountain Prince service on Monday 3/5/21 and Friday 7/5/21 but there is only one compartment left on the Friday train.
Welsh pubs and restaurants open 26/4/21
Welsh outside catering opens from Monday 25/4/21. This means the F&WHR can offer take away and outside seated food just in time for the resumption of services on 27/4/21. In accordance with WAG guidelines, Spooner’s is opening its doors for ‘takeaway-only’ service from the 27/4/21. During the past few weeks staff have been busy creating a system that will maintain the safety of customers and staff. Having been given the green light to re-open, the F&WHR can provide a service that is both as safe and enjoyable as possible. The takeaway service will be available seven days a week between 09:00 and 16:00. The tea room at Tan-y-bwlch also opens for takeaway on 27/4/21 seven days a week from 10:00 until 17:00 with hot food available between 11:00 and 15:00. It is expected that De Winton Cafe will open from Saturday on a similar basis when the Gelert Explorer commences operation.
Steam up 26/4/21!
The F&WHR was noted getting steam up during the morning of 26/4/21 ready for test trains in anticipation of starting services on Tuesday 27/4/21. Blanche arrived at Tan-y-bwlch at 11:07 with the first train with six modern FR carriages including Observation car No.102 Eryri Snowdonia which must have departed Porthmadog about 1020. After running round the train departed for Porthmadog at 11:29.
This westerly view (26/4/21) shows Blanche arriving at Tan-y-bwlch with modern FR stock at 11:07. Click on the image to expand. This webcam image is courtesy F&WHR and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
At 11:53 Criccieth Castle left Boston Lodge and crossed The Cob with 3 empty B wagons. After uncoupling the loco drew the train out to the signalbox before propelling the wagons to the sidings. Four WHR saloons were extracted and at 12:22 propelled into the WHR loop line. At 12:29 the loco detached and shunted back and forth with the wagons before returning to the WHR loop. A few minutes later the loco left light engine for Boston Lodge.
This easterly view (26/4/21) shows Criccieth Castle arriving at Porthmadog with 3 B wagons at 11:57. Click on the image to expand. This webcam image is courtesy F&WHR and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
Meanwhile up at Minffordd, Blanche was strangely running round for a second trip to Tan-y-bwlch. This may have been because Harbour Station was occupied by shunting manoeuvres.
This westerly view (26/4/21) shows Blanche running round at Minffordd at 12:13. Click on the image to expand. This webcam image is courtesy F&WHR and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
Blanche arrived back at Tan-y-bwlch at about 13:00 and ran round at 13:07, departing after a lunch break at 13:54 for Porthmadog. The train arrived back at Porthmadog at 14:34 running into the FR platform. Blanche emerged from the yard at 14:50 and set back onto the rake in the FR platform, departing at 14:56 for Tan-y-bwlch, arriving there at 15:41. The loco ran round at 15:50 and departed for Porthmadog at 16:00.
Meanwhile, at Porthmadog No.130 arrived on its first visit to Porthmadog hauling a four coach rake including a Service Car No.2060 and the WHR Observation Car No.2152 Gwyrfai at 13:09 pulling into the WHR platform. At 13:19 the Garratt propelled the rake into the yard before detaching and running through the WHR platform. It coupled up to the rake in the WHR loop and left with the 4 WHR coaches, presumably now fitted with Perspex screens, and 3 empty B wagons at 13:36.
This easterly view (26/4/21) shows No.130 departing Porthmadog with four WHR coaches and 3 B wagons at 13:35. Click on the image to expand. This webcam image is courtesy F&WHR and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
Blaenau Test Train 25/4/21
Class 37 No.37219 is due to haul an NR test train to Blaenau Ffestiniog on Sunday 25/4/21 with DBSO No.9708 on the rear. The train will reverse at the terminus between 13:13 and 13:23 without running round and return to Crewe.
The new Tan-y-bwlch awning is now complete with tables and chairs from Spooners. This will provide a rest area for passengers awaiting their return service during the shunt when FR services increase to more than 2 a day. There did not appear to be any trial running on Sunday, which leaves Monday the last day before FR services commence to regain staff competences and check spare locos out with full loads.
So far it appears only Blanche has seen the cobwebs of Winter dusted off. The three England locos do not appear to have been trialled yet. Both Lyd and Taliesin are awaiting refurbishment. David Lloyd George and Merddin Emrys could be used as last year if a small engine is not available for traffic. The FR's Woodland Wanderer service can be increased to six trains a day with three locos/rakes in traffic (as last year) if the demand materialises simply by putting extras services on the booking website if trains appear to be filling up well in advance.
Gelert Explorer booking fast
The Gelert Explorer, Caernarfon-Beddgelert service, is booking well for both Saturday and Sunday of its first weekend. The 3 day-a-week TThSO service may be extended to additional days if demand justifies that as there is only 1 train service a day. Already Tuesdays 18-25/5/21 are fully booked. An extra on Wednesday 2/6/21 is fully booked as is Saturday 19/6/21. Some of these days may be block bookings in association with excursions. From Wednesday 30/6/21 the Gelert Explorer runs four days a week MFSuX. Services are currently bookable until 22/7/21 when services will presumably be revised for the school summer holidays in light of traffic demand and any new WAG COVID third wave regulations (hopefully not!).
Hampers now bookable
Food hampers are now bookable for the Gelert Explorer and Glaslyn Adventurer and must be booked in advance at the time of booking the tickets. In addition to the Pullman Pamper Package inclusive on the Gelert Explorer Gold tickets, there are five offerings.
Glaslyn Venturer/Glaslyn Venturer Gold
The Engine Driver's Lunchbox, child's hamper, is available on both services.
For full details of contents of hampers click on the F&WHR's hamper ordering webpage.
Tan-y-bwlch awning prepares for restart 24/4/21
A wooden base structure was set up at the east end of the Tan-y-bwlch car park by the weekend. On 24/4/21 an awning had been erected opposite the signal box on the wooden base. This may be a waiting room in case passengers have to wait while shunting occurs in inclement weather. Normally when a train follows the first up to Tan-y-bwlch the first one is shunted to the Up platform while people used the cafe and toilets or go for a walk. Last year up to six trains a day operated this way with only the last not requiring a shunt. There did not appear to be any test runs or shunting on 24/4/21.
This westerly view (24/4/21) shows the new awning erected today at Tan-y-bwlch. Click on the image to expand. This webcam image is courtesy F&WHR and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
Services booking up quickly
With the possibility of running up to six FR services a day, so far only Blanche appears to have been tested. Lilla is not used on the FR services as it is too small. At least two other small locos from Prince, Welsh Pony and Palmerston might need to be tested in traffic before the service starts on Tuesday. Taliesin's boiler certificate expired in 2020 and it is awaiting boiler repairs and bogie attention which is a pity as it can haul seven bogies but Lyd might appear soon from its 10 year overhaul. Last year double Fairlies were used if a small engine was unavailable on the FR.
Monday could be a busy day as many test runs with a range of locos, not used over the Winter, may be needed before services start on Tuesday, not least for staff competence renewal. The 11:05 on 27-28/4/21, the first two days of The Woodland Wanderer, are fully booked but the 14:20 with the same loco is still bookable on all three days. Both 11:04/15:00 workings of The Mountain Prince are still bookable for 1-2/5/21 next weekend. The 11:00 Gelert Explorer is bookable both 1-2/5/21, though the Gold compartments have sold out on the Saturday.
More details have appeared about The Glaslyn Venturer, which operates TWThO in June and additionally on Bank Holiday Monday 31/5/21. Tickets are available until 22/7/21 for these journeys on the 10:15 and 13:40 from Porthmadog to Beddgelert. There is an hour to explore Beddgelert or visit the famous Glaslyn Ice Cream shop. Pre-order picnic hampers are available on this train as well as the Gelert Explorer. The first train is timed to leave before The Gelert Explorer and the second to arrive after it has departed.
The modern coaches and divided in Perspex compartments for COVID safety with six seats and usually two tables in each compartment. Passengers must stay in their chosen compartment for the return journey. The train will be cleaned using Zoono between the two daily trips during layover time in Porthmadog. There will be two FR Observation Cars on the train (one reversed to provide views on the return journey. Already the Gold Class tickets on the 31/5/21 are fully booked!
WHR loco ash train 23/4/21
Upnor Castle was used to dispose of the WHR loco ash on 23/4/21, after Lilla has collected it from Caernarfon on 17/4/21. It was noted hauling four B wagons full of loco ash and the Mess Coach at Tryfan Junction heading south. The ash may have been used for embankment strengthening in the Beddgelert Forest as in previous years.
This westerly view (23/4/21) shows Upnor Castle hauling four B wagons full of loco ash from Caernarfon and Dinas approaching Tryfan J7unction, taken from the road bridge. Click on the image to expand. This digital camera image is copyright Jonathan Wilkins (FR member) and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This westerly view (23/4/21) shows Upnor Castle hauling four B wagons full of loco ash from Caernarfon and Dinas approaching Tryfan Junction, taken from the road bridge. Click on the image to expand. This digital camera image is copyright Jonathan Wilkins (FR member) and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
More F&WHR preparations 23/4/21
Moel Hebog was at Tan-y-bwlch from midday with a flat wagon on the Down line carrying a scaffolding platform completing work on the footbridge begun last year. The loco remained there while staff had a lunch break. It was out of view at 12:45 but was noted back again at 1340 on the Up line in association with work on that side of the footbridge. Staff were noted on the footbridge assisting assembly of the smoke deflectors. At 15:00 the rake was back in the Down platform and the scaffolding platform was packed away. Moel Hebog finally ran round at 15:36 ready to depart for Minffordd Yard. By 16:00 it had coupled up and was waiting to depart with Blanche presumably still in section in the woods.
This easterly view (23/4/21) shows Moel Hebog with the scaffolding on the flat wagons at Tan-y-bwlch. It appears stainless steel smoke deflectors were being fitted. The bridge was rebuilt by a private contractor last year and these were the finishing touches. Click on the image to expand. This webcam image is courtesy F&WHR and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This westerly view (23/4/21) shows Moel Hebog running round the flat wagons at Tan-y-bwlch at 15:35. Click on the image to expand. This webcam image is courtesy F&WHR and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
Meanwhile, down in Porthmadog, Blanche was shunting the Harbour Station yard at 14:25. It emerged from the yard to couple to the rake in the FR platform. Compartment cleaning staff were waiting on the platform to make sure the rake was in good condition internally after several months out of use. The rake, with Moelwyn on the rear, emerged at 14:38 and headed across The Cob towards Minffordd, passing there after a brief signal stop at 14:48. The 6 modern FR coaches included a Service car and Observation car on the rear. This may have been a trial for the Mountain Prince service to Dduallt Barn Cutting due to start on 1/5/21.
This easterly view (23/4/21) shows Blanche shunting the yard at Porthmadog station at 14:29. Click on the image to expand. This webcam image is courtesy F&WHR and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This westerly view (23/4/21) shows Blanche hauling a rake of modern FR coaches through Minffordd at 14:47 presumably for store at Glan-y-pwll. Click on the image to expand. This webcam image is courtesy F&WHR and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi
Welsh COVID rules relaxed 23/4/21
Speaking at the latest COVID Rules briefing on 23/4/21, Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister, has confirmed outdoor attractions can open from Monday 26/4/21 (including F&WHR). The final restriction on hotels and tourist accommodation concerning shared facilities will be lifted on 17/5/21 along with indoor hospitality given continuing good progress with COVID. This means touring caravans can resume visiting Wales and hotels/motels can offer their full breakfast and dining facilities.
If there is no sudden surge in cases it is intended that Wales will move to Alert Level 3 from 3/5/21. A further £200 million has been allocated to support businesses impacted by the lockdown. This will be available after the May Senedd Election. The next briefing will be on 13/7/21 after election on 6/5/21. He thought that further lockdowns would be unnecessary given the trajectory of the pandemic. However, virologists have warned a Summer wave might occur if people ease their precautions too much.
Premier Inn steel structure rises 23/4/21
With continuing deliveries of steel, the frame of the new Premier Inn on the site of Ty Moelwyn Tax Office opposite Harbour station continues to grow rapidly. The £8 million motel is likely to be open by 'early next Autumn' and create 30 new jobs in Porthmadog.
Coach Works progress 22/4/21
Glenn Williams team at the Boston Lodge Coach Works has finished another two repaints and there are now just two coaches and a Service car to paint before the Winter Work programme is complete.
This Boston Lodge view (22/4/21) shows brake/saloon coach No.14 finished. This coach can join the COVID compliant rakes. Click on the image to expand. This digital camera image is copyright Glenn Williams (F&WHR) and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This Boston Lodge view (22/4/21) shows four wheel Observation car No.1 finished. This coach can joint the COVID compliant rakes as an extra attached as last year on fine days. Click on the image to expand. This digital camera image is copyright Glenn Williams (F&WHR) and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
Archaeology Appeal 22/4/21
Paul Lewin (F&WHR General Manager) is looking for a bit of help next week at Boston Lodge. The F&WHR are doing some archaeology work in support of the NLHF bid preparations. From Tuesday to Friday a couple of helpers are needed who can dig away gently with shovels under the instruction of a team leader. If you could help do please email the General Manager at the usual address.
F&WHR readied for the off 22/4/21
Tan-y-bwlch was a hive of activity on 22/4/21 with two works trains present at lunchtime. Blanche arrived early with the Mess Van, cherrypicker, an S&T wagon and Van 7. After running round by 10am, Blanche propelled the train towards Dduallt by 10:45. At 12:30 a second PW train was visible with Harlech Castle having run the two containers. Blanche reappeared at 12:42 with the S&T train with a telegraph pole in the grab and both trains basked in the sunlight while staff took a well earned lunch break. Both trains had gone by 14:00.
This westerly view (22/4/21) shows Blanche on an S&T train at Tan-y-bwlch heading for Coed-y-bleiddiau where two telegraph poles needed replacing. Click on the image to expand. This digital camera image is copyright Chris Parry (F&WHR) and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This westerly view (22/4/21) shows Harlech Castle on a PW train at Tan-y-bwlch and Blanche with an S&T train arriving from Dduallt at 12:42. Click on the image to expand. This webcam image is courtesy F&WHR and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
There was also shunting activity at Porthmadog in the afternoon with WHR stock being formed up into a rake ready for transfer to Dinas. A rake of four WHR coaches was shunted into the WHR platform by 15:25 presumably by Conway Castle which turned up with another four WHR coaches from Boston Lodge at 1540 and pulled into the FR platform.
At 15:49 the loco shunted one of the WHR coaches from the WHR platform to the rear of the rake in the FR platform.
At 15:57 the loco came back to the WHR platform and shunted the remaining three coaches onto the front of the rake in the FR platform to form one long train of 8 WHR coaches.
By 16:16 the WHR rake had been reversed into the WHR platform and 16:20 the loco ran light to the yard to shunt FR stock.
At 16.20 an FR rake was extracted from the yard and shunted into the FR platform including an FR Observation car on the rear.
At 16:34 the WHR rake was shunted into the now vacant siding in the yard.
At 16:45 Conway Castle took the FR rake over to Boston Lodge. This rake is possibly the modern coaches that came down from Glan-y-pwll a few days earlier.
This easterly view (22/4/21) shows Conway Castle shunting WHR stock at 15:49 in Porthmadog Harbour station and the sidings yard. A full rake of 8 WHR coaches was eventually made up. The Observation Cars are already at Dinas. Click on the image to expand. This webcam image is courtesy F&WHR and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
More Porthmadog shunting 20/4/21
Criccieth Castle was noted coupled to 19 FR coaches in the WHR platform on 20/4/21. The rake was split leaving 7 behind before returning to Boston Lodge. The loco is due to go into the Carriage Works for new doors and very soon for a repaint. The General Manager has invited suggestions for the new livery variant based upon the existing green colour, black frames and red side rods.
Senedd Elections: Parties promise North Wales transport improvements
WAG elections are due on Thursday 6/5/21 for the Senedd along with local elections across the UK. Labour are promising to expedite the long promised plan to remove the last two roundabouts on the A55 which are at Penmaenmawr and Llanfairfechan and replace with grade separated junctions. They also promise to provide a new Dee Bridge to replace the existing worn our A494 Dee Bridge at Queensferry, gateway to North Wales for many, and widen the route under the North Wales Coast line there. The Lib Dems are focussed on improving rail services and planning for reopenings such as Bangor to Llangefni on the Amlwch branch to ease congestion on Anglesey. Conversely, Plaid Cymru want to build a new road bridge over the Menai Straits to ease car congestion on Anglesey. The Tories want to invest in improving the M4 in South Wales but have no specific promises for North Wales.
Disused railway bridges receive support
The campaign to save disused railway bridges and viaducts (see earlier story) for future transport use such as rail reopenings or cycle paths has won the support of the Transport Select Committee. They have written to the Transport Secretary asking for a rethink on this Tory cost cutting plan to demolish old bridges. See Construction News story which includes an interesting explanatory video. Such demolitions and infilling by the Highways Agency may greatly increase costs of reopening the Bangor-Afonwen and Aberystwyth-Carmarthen rail routes in the future.
WHHR set to reopen 29/5/21
The WHHR plans to reopen on 29/5/21 with an initial diesel service but it is planned that a steam service will return in July. Rolling stock is being prepared for a COVID secure service. The Tremadog Road shop is open Wednesday-Saturday 11:00-15:30 but is also accepting email/post orders. It is hoped that the Baldwin No.794 (to run as No.590) will be available in 2022 with work restarting at the VoR workshops as soon as the Welshpool & Llanfair's The Earl is complete.
Staff checked coaches for a fitness to run test on 18/4/21. The railway is hoping to receive the Pickering Brake soon and then will be able to run a full prototypical heritage rake, sidelining the former BR VoR brakevan. The restaurant opens for takeaway on 21/4/21 with outdoor seating from 28/4/21 Wednesday-Saturday 10:00-15:30. Indoor seating will follow when WAG COVID rules allow. See WHHR Facebook page for full details.
Cambrian resilience works
NR will close the Cambrian Coast Line between Machynlleth and Caersws from 15/5/21-28/6/21 to raise Black Bridge over the Afon Dulas, 1 mile east of Machynlleth, by 1m. This bridge floods with increasing frequency as a result of global warming leading to disruption to services. Track will be re-graded over the bridge approaches. The project costs £3.6 million. Bustitution will be provided during the six week closure,
One week to go 20/4/21!
FR services recommence on Tuesday 27/4/21 given no adverse advice from WAG. There are still plenty of seats still available on The Woodland Wanderer FR train to Tan-y-bwlch though some trains are nearly full. See FR Booking Page for details.
Preparations for the first trains of the season are increasing. On 19/4/21, Vale of Ffestiniog passed through Tan-y-bwlch apparently hauling a rake of modern FR coaches from Glan-y-pwll to Porthmadog.
At 16:45 on 20/4/21 Vale of Ffestiniog shunted a long rake of WHR coaches in Porthmadog Yard presumably after the anti-COVID Perspex screens had turned the stock from Opens into virtual compartments. At 16:56 the Funkey left the yard and headed back to Boston Lodge. It cannot be long before steam comes out on test on the FR for competence runs and running in.
Snowdonian Statesman 19/5/21
The Snowdonia Statesman on 19/5/21 'Tan-y-bwlch option' is sold out. The FR steam hauled add-on from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Tan-y-bwlch and return is being run in connection with the excursion from Hull to Blaenau Ffestiniog. The train is likely to be hauled by an LSL Class 47 from Hull to Blaenau Ffestiniog where it lays over for about 3 hours in the afternoon. It is likely to be shunted into the run round to allow normal service trains such as the 14:57 to Llandudno to use the platform. The FR special will see one of the few uses of the Dduallt-Blaenau Ffestiniog this year unless the timetable changes radically. This might impact the advertised timetable.
Railway Touring Company specials 19-20/7/21
In association with their Snowdonia and the Northern Fells Tour, the RTC has organised a one way trip over the complete WHR on 19/7/21 from Caernarfon to Porthmadog. The following day there is a complete one way trip over the FR from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog. How this impacts on the normal service timetable is unclear.
North Wales Main Line 14-20/4/21
On 14/4/21 a new TfW Class 197 DMU No.197001 was seen at Shrewsbury on route to Crewe where it will be based for driver training on the North Wales Coast. These units have corridor connections allowing them to be assembled into longer trains. Some of the 2/3 car sets will have ERTMS fitted for the Cambrian Lines. The ECS move was hauled by No.66587 from store at Telford's disused railfreight terminal at Donnington. The 77 units will eventually replace all the Class158/175 trains. The two car sets will have just one toilet and so will be failed if that stops working. Doors have been positioned at the 1/3 and 2/3 positions as with commuter stock rather than at the coach ends as with existing stock. The design is similar to Northern's Class 195 though TfW claim improved seating has been fitted.
Freightliner Class 66 No.66547 was noted on a light driver trainer to Holyhead on 14/4/21 presumably in association with the restart of Penmaenmawr stone traffic.
DB livered Class 67 No.67010 hauled the Holyhead-Crewe Mk4 driver trainer on 15/4/21.
NR Class 37 No.97302 Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways / Rheilffyrdd Ffestiniog ac Eryri escorted a tamper bound to Barmouth on 16/4/21. This is necessary as the line is equipped with the discredited ERTMS system which requires stock to be fitted with a form of cab signalling.
A Class 37 on an LSL driver training train 0Z42 visited Blaenau Ffestiniog light engine on 20/4/21 in advance of future railtours. The loco was green liveried 37521 carrying D6812 and was purchased from Colas and immediately repainted to an early BR livery with small yellow warning panels. The loco also ran to Holyhead.
K1 confirmed for Autumn visit
Paul Lewin (F&WHR Manager) has confirmed that K1 has been invited to visit the WHR from its new home at the Statfold Barn Railway. Presumably this will coincide with the WHR's SuperPower event planned for September given further improvement in COVID regulations. K1 was restored to use at the SBR last year and has featured in their open days.
Boston Lodge shunt 19/4/21
Further shunting of carriage stock was noted taking place at Boston Lodge at 16:20 on 19/4/21.
L&BR applies for extension study grant
The Lynton & Barnstaple Railway has applied for a grant of £50,000 from the Restoring your Railway fund to pay for a feasibility study into reopening the whole L&B railway, the only narrow gauge railway to submit a bid. The route to be studied runs from a new station at Lynton, convenient for the Lynmouth cliff railway and town centre, to the former depot area at Pilton in west Barnstaple, the route through Barnstaple to the former terminus having been built over. Lyd regularly visits the L&BR and Baldwin replica Lyn No.762 has also visited the WHR. Various sections of trackbed are being negotiated for or are already in the hands of sister organisation Exmouth Associates, including the recently purchased Bratton Fleming station.
Clearance work is currently underway with test borings along the route of the currently authorised extension between Killington Lane station and Wistlandpound Reservoir (both planned to be temporary termini). The short section currently operating between Woody Bay and Killington Lane reopens 24/4/21. Two new replica Manning Wardle locos Exe and Yeo are planned for the expansion of the line based on the success of Lyd and fundraising for them started in 2019. See L&BR website.
WHR tidy up 17/4/21More than 20 volunteers turned out for the first ‘On Shed with Shane’ weekend on Saturday 17/4/21. The socially distanced work went well with locos cleaned, firewood cut, rubbish moved and plastic litter collected and an ash train run to clear the loco ash from the south end Caernarfon station.
This northerly view (17/4/21) shows Lilla running round the ash train at Caernarfon. Click on the image to expand. This iPhone image is copyright Paul Lewin (F&WHR) and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This southerly view (17/4/21) shows Lilla coupling up to the ash train at Caernarfon. The loco ash in the foreground has been scraped up by an excavator and loaded into the B wagon. Click on the image to expand. This iPhone image is copyright Paul Lewin (F&WHR) and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This northerly view (17/4/21) shows Bill extracting No.138 from the Goods Shed where it has been stored with one ambulance bogie awaiting the return of its rear power bogie from Boston Lodge. Click on the image to expand. This iPhone image is copyright Clive Briscoe and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This northerly view (17/4/21) shows Bill propelling the rolling chassis of No.134 being propelled into its new home in the Goods Shed where volunteers will be able to work on it in coming months under cover now COVID restrictions have been eased. The FR Van No.7 is attached at the rear. Click on the image to expand. This iPhone image is copyright Clive Briscoe and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This northerly view (17/4/21) shows Bill propelling the new tender up to the rolling chassis of No.134 for the first time, illustrating the incredible length of this loco compared to the NG16s. Click on the image to expand. This iPhone image is copyright Clive Briscoe and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This northerly view (17/4/21) shows No.87 being given a good clean outside the Loco Shed and will be standby steam loco this season. New Garratt No.130 is visible to the rear. Click on the image to expand. This iPhone image is copyright Clive Briscoe and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
Moelwyn shunts Porthmadog 15/4/21
The afternoon of 15/4/21 saw Moelwyn shunting stock in Porthmadog Harbour station. Additional rolling stock may have been brought over from Boston Lodge.
This easterly view (15/4/21) shows Moelwyn shunting Porthmadog station at 15:58. Click on the image to expand. This iPhone image is copyright Keith Holland and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This westerly view (15/4/21) shows Moelwyn shunting Porthmadog station at 16:01. A bowsider has been added to the seawall siding and additional stock lies behind Moelwyn in the FR platform. Click on the image to expand. This iPhone image is copyright Keith Holland and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
A55 average speed cameras
People travelling by car to the F&WHR via the A55 should be aware of the 40mph average speed cameras on the A55 between Junctions 12/13 Aber to Tai'r Meibion. This is for the final stage of upgrading of this, the earliest section of the A55 to be dualled. The scheme consists of widening, flood prevention and closing central reservation gaps originally provided for farm access. Advance drainage works were completed in 2017 and the whole scheme will be completed by 2022.
Welsh 'Reversing Beeching' schemes
Of the 85 applications for £50,000 grants to restore local railways, two are in North Wales. The disused 18 mile Gaerwen-Amlwch line is one of them. While new Anglesey Tory MP Virginia Crosbie supports the project, she may not have won herself any friends by suggesting that the route could be converted into a cycleway! The local council wants the line re-opened as a commuter route and a service restored at least between Llangefni and Bangor to reduce heavy commuter traffic over the A55 Britannia Bridge and A5 suspension bridge. The Local Authority suggest that the cost of restoring the railway would be a lot less than building a new bridge across the Menai Straits. The revivalist group Lein Amlwch supports the restoration of the route and has been clearing sections under an NR licence with the eventual aim of running a heritage service. This could operate between Llangefni and Amlwch if the Local Council succeeds in reinstating the Llangefni commuter service.
The other scheme to appear in the list is the Bangor Caernarfon-Afon Wen route supported by the local Plaid Cymru WAG MP Llyr Gruffydd. This is a more costly and longer scheme and would require rebuilding a few sections, including third railing through Caernarfon WHR station to Dinas. It is part of a broader scheme to link the Cambrian Coast as a through route to Carmarthen proposed by TRAWS, which had a WAG feasibility study a few years ago for Aberystwyth-Carmarthen (click on the link to see the map and documents).
Prince to visit Statfold (12-13/6/21)
Prince will not be available for FR duties on 12-13/6/21 and maybe a few days before and after to allow for transport as it will appear at the Trangkil Sugar Mill Event scheduled for that weekend at the Statfold Barn Railway. Tickets for this strictly 'book in advance' event can be obtained from the SBR.
Moving Pictures No.49 15/4/21
Click on the YouTube window to watch 23 mins 3 seconds of video covering the WHR including No.130 on test including the first test train to Beddgelert and Lilla and Van No.7 heading north from Beddgelert to Rhyd Ddu in the snow. This YouTube was published on 15/4/21 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.
Upnor Castle PW working 15/4/21
Upnor Castle was noted arriving at Porthmadog WHR platform at 10:32 on 15/4/21 with a short PW train consisting of Van No.51 and a couple of wagons. The loco ran round the train via the WHR loop by 10:41 and departed back across The Cob at 10:55. It seems run round is still mot possible at Boston Lodge as normally that would have happened there and the train would have been propelled onto The Cob before setting out up the FR.
No.130 test train 14/4/21
With the arrival of the WHR coaches in Dinas on 13/4/21, complete with COVID partitions, it was possible for No.130 to run its first test train to Beddgelert with a scratch passenger in advance of the start of the season on 1/5/21. The unusual formation contained two Observation cars Gwynedd and Glaslyn (both turned to face south) behind the loco, a B wagon, WHR coach, Service Car, Romanian Carriage No.2060 and a third Observation Car Gwyrfai on the rear! The rear Observation cars faces north so one faces each way. For other images from Chris Parry see F&WHR Facebook page.
This northerly view (14/4/21) shows No.130 being prepared for its first trial on passenger stock to Beddgelert. Click on the image to expand. This iPhone image is copyright Keith Holland and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This northerly view (14/4/21) shows No.130 on its first test passenger train to Beddgelert. A section of guide rail in the foreground still needs to be fixed in place. Click on the image to expand. This digital camera image is copyright Chris Parry (F&WHR) and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This northerly view (14/4/21) shows No.130 on its first test passenger train to Beddgelert approaching Rhyd Ddu. Snowdon still has a dusting of snow! Click on the image to expand. This digital camera image is copyright Chris Parry (F&WHR) and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
Work starts on Porthmadog Premier Inn 13/4/21
Progress is being made with the construction of the new Premier Inn on the site of Ty Moelwyn Tax Office which was demolished in January/February. A lorry delivered some of the steel for the framework of the new building on 13/4/21.
This northerly view (13/4/21) shows a crane unloading steel from a lorry on the site of the new Premier Inn at Porthmadog as seen from Harbour Station platform. Click on the image to expand. This iPhone image is copyright Keith Holland and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
The Grand Shunt 13/4/21
Tuesday 13/4/21 saw the reverse of last year's 'Great Shunt' with stock being returned from the new Boston Lodge Carriage Shed to be stored in Porthmadog station yard and holidaymakers and spotters turned out to watch the fun. The action kicked off at 09:48 with a train of 10 WHR coaches hauled to Dinas by Vale of Ffestiniog. The rake contained at least one Observation Car and there was possibly a loco on the rear assisting this heavy train up the 1 in 40 out of Beddgelert. The loco returned at 17:08 and went on shed at Boston Lodge. It was expected that there might be a test train to Beddgelert with No.130 the following day.
Meanwhile, in Porthmadog, green PW loco Harlech Castle brought over rakes and shunting also took place throughout the day though the manual points in the yard appeared to need some greasing as much use of the boot was noted to ensure the sidings' points were in the correct position. The WHR showed signs of use as the rust had gone from both platform and run round tracks.
This easterly screengrab from the F&WHR webcam (13/4/21) shows Harlech Castle hauling the second rake into the FR platform at 11:36. Click on the image to expand. This image is courtesy F&WHR and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
10:36 Harlech Castle was noted running round after pulling four coaches into the FR platform with open No.37 at the west end, FR Nos.106/102 and WHR service car No.2010.
10:40 The train was propelled into the seawall siding and No.37 was left there.
10:46 The train was back out at the signalbox
10:48 The train was propelled into the siding next to the seawall where WHR service car No.2010 was deposited
10:55 The train was propelled back into the third siding where Nos. 106/102 were deposited.
11:00 Harlech Castle left light engine for Boston Lodge.
11:36 Harlech Castle arrived back hauling 7 coaches which were left in the FR platform road. These were Nos.26/24/2021/2022, two WHR saloons (one of the newer panoramic window style from Nos.2046-2048 and one original style from Nos.2040/2042-45 with top light windows) and a green FR compartment coach No.21.
11:44 Harlech Castle left for Boston Lodge light engine.
12:30 Harlech Castle was back with another rake of 5 coaches which ran into the WHR run round track
12:35 Harlech Castle was stabled in WHR platform for staff lunch break.
This easterly screengrab from the F&WHR webcam (13/4/21) shows Harlech Castle running round the third rake via the WHR platform at 11:33. Click on the image to expand. This image is courtesy F&WHR and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
13:10 Harlech Castle shunted onto the rake in the FR platform.
13:15 Harlech Castle shunted the rake into the siding adjacent to the seawall siding and deposited WHR Opens Nos.2021/2022 there.
13:24 Harlech Castle drew out the remaining three coaches and propelled them into the FR platform.
13:28 Harlech Castle returned light engine to the siding with the WHR Opens.
13:36 Harlech Castle drew out the WHR Opens Nos. 2021/2021 now connected to the Service Car and Pullman No.2115 Bodysgallen, the latter of which must have arrived in an unobserved shunt move before 10:30. The rake headed across The Cob for Boston Lodge.
A delay then ensued while several of the F&WHR's 'orange army' appeared to be giving attention to the pointwork outside the small Loco Shed. Another PW staff member inspected the track all the way across The Cob.
15:12 saw an unusual move in that a rake of 5 coaches (three FR and two WHR) was propelled very slowly across The Cob by Harlech Castle into the WHR platform suggesting some pointwork problem in Boston Lodge Yard which prevented a run round there.
15:17 saw the two original style WHR coaches (from Nos.2040/2042-45) removed and shunted into the siding next to the seawall siding by Harlech Castle.
15:27 Harlech Castle then emerged from the yard light engine before backing onto the 3 coach rake in the FR platform, which was drawn out and shunted onto the WHR coaches just deposited in the sidings.
15:40 Harlech Castle then removed FR coach No.21 from this rake and shunted it back into the FR platform.
15:46 Harlech Castle promptly removed the three FR coaches Nos.21/24/26 to The Cob and shunted them back onto the 5 FR coaches left in the WHR run round line.
15:52 Harlech Castle hauled the combined FR rake out of the WHR run round loop and onto The Cob from where it was propelled back into the seawall siding.
16:05 Harlech Castle was back on The Cob having hauled two of the four FR coaches in the WHR platform. These were propelled to the sea wall where one was left. The other was placed in the third siding from the seawall.
16:20 Harlech Castle collected the final two FR coaches from the WHR platform and propelled them into siding 3 about 5 minutes later.
16:35 with the Grand Shunt job completed Harlech Castle left light engine for Boston Lodge.
It is possible more shunting make take place Wednesday 14/4/21.
Visitors were freely walking on the platform to The Cob and sea wall, some without face masks. The webcam now has a useful 'back 10s' feature. The F&WHR website is noticeably slower this year and the webcams sometimes reach their 'resource limit' when too many people request access simultaneously. Time Outs are imposed on people who watch the webcams for a long while.
FR line clearance train 13/4/21
Upnor Castle was up at Tan-y-bwlch running round a lineside clearance train on 13/4/21 at 11am. This train featured Upnor Castle, and, from east to west, the cherry picker, a converted low sided B wagon with the shredder, a B wagon for waste and a brake van. This departed for Minffordd at 11:11.
Gelert Explorer 1/5/21
The Gelert Explorer Gold compartments are now sold out on the first train 1/5/21 but standard class compartments are still available. The other trains that first week of the new season from Tuesday 27/4/21 also have availability.
BHG/RoWG at Plas-y-nant 10-14/2/21
The North Wales Track Gang (BHG) worked on the Plas-y-nant bridge over the weekend of 11-12/4/21 with their Mess Car ex-FR Coach No.111 (fitted with toilet) in attendance, hauled by Bill, the ex Shotton Steelworks shunter. The loco disappeared from the worksite for other duties from time to time. The main task was to complete the guide rails over the bridge which restrain sideways movement of rolling stock in case of a derailment. The Rest of the World gang was present completing the job on 14/4/21.
This northerly view (14/4/21) shows the RoWG fixing guide rails to the bridge at Plas-y-nant in advance of the public service starting 1/5/21. A section of guide rail in the foreground still needs to be fixed in place. Click on the image to expand. This iPhone image is copyright Keith Holland and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This northerly view (14/4/21) shows the cut up remains of the Plas-y-nant bridge at Dinas on wagons in the North Yard. Click on the image to expand. This iPhone image is copyright Keith Holland and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
North Wales Main Line news
ROG's No.37800 was hired as a Crewe-Holyhead route learner on 12/4/21 in preparation for renewed stone traffic from Penmaenmawr. GBRf has won the haulage contract and there will be two loaded outbound trains a day SuX from 17/5/21. One 'jumbo' return working of empty wagons is envisaged. The orange army was out in Penmaenmawr yard after Easter clearing vegetation and rehabilitating the track. This will mean the welcome return of revenue earning freight to the North Wales coast Line after 2 years of absence since the Wylfa nuclear waste traffic ceased. The other scheme to restart freight from Llandudno Junction Yard has yet to make any progress.
A TfW officials special ran on 8/4/21 from Cardiff to Holyhead and back. The train ran as the 1Z48, the 07:17 ex Cardiff and had the DVT leading at Bangor after reversing at Chester with TfW liveried 67017 on the rear. The driver was advised at Bangor that no platform was available at Holyhead so the train ran into the stabling sidings at Holyhead! Maybe a case for reopening the disused platform 3? The rake consisted of four TfW livery Mk4 coaches including first restaurant plus DVT which can carry bicycles etc. Driver training on the route has been going on for several months and it is hoped the service might be introduced with the timetable change in May given planned COVID relaxation in Wales.
LSL's Crewe-Carmarthen excursion ran into problems on the Central Wales line on 2/4/21 when 45231 'Sherwood Forester' developed wheel flats and was taken off at Llandeilo. The special working continued to Carmarthen sidings with the diesel 20107 which was the 'insurance' loco, arriving 441 minutes late. The steam loco remained there for some days before being rescued by a Class 37.
230008 was on test on the borderlands line on 12/4/21.
Dinas Volunteer call
The team that maintain the Welsh Highland fleet based at Dinas are looking for a bit of help with a tidy-up after the long winter and the work to get Nos.87/138 back in traffic. Shane Rademan, the site manager, and the team are looking for volunteers to come and lend a hand on the weekend of the 17-18/4/21. There is lots to do and, as it is a big site, we can spread out well for social distancing safety. There is some work on locos to be done, work around the site and a train collecting bits and pieces from Caernarfon (clearing the loco ash from the south end of the station). If you would like to join in, please drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more images see F&WHR Facebook page.
This northerly view (25/3/21) shows No.130 departing Dinas with a loaded test train heading for Waunfawr. Click on the image to expand. This image is courtesy F&WHR and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
All Britons can holiday in Wales from Monday 12/4/21
Wales will welcome holidaymakers (and non-essential travellers) who live in the whole of Britain from 12/4/21 though they must stay in self-contained accommodation e.g. static caravans and holiday cottages, for the time being. Hotels and motels appear to be limited to Welsh residents only still according to motel websites, though there is still confusion about this as Premier Inn states they are 'open to all'. These and touring caravans sharing communal toilet blocks and showers will follow later, possibly after 17/5/21. Non essential retail can also open from 12/4/21. On 26/4/21 outdoor hospitality reopens, including tourist attractions like the F&WHR. Indoor hospitality will follow later provided the trend in COVID cases continues to fall/remain low.
Fairlie Event postponed yet again! 11/4/21
The F&WHR announced on 11/4/21 that they have considered the practicality of holding any major events this year and have decided to cancel the Fairlie Event. Although the overall situation is improving at present, it is impossible to say with certainty what will be the situation throughout the coming few months. Therefore, the F&WHR have regretfully decided that they will not hold the postponed 'Fairlie Eventful' event this year after all, as they cannot give it the status or attention it deserves. It will now take its place as a major part of the planning for our 2022 events programme - when the F&WHR should be able to organise the quality of event they had originally hoped to hold, and which will be a worthy celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Ffestiniog Fairlie locomotive!
WHRS Special Trains sold out 10/4/21
The WHR Society Special /No.130 launch planned for Friday 30/4/21 sold out within a few days of appearing on the internet. There are still plenty of seats on the FR trains 27-29/4/21 and the first Beddgelert Explorer on 1/5/21 though there is only 1 Gold compartment left on this train.
'Roles on the Rails' explained 10/4/21
In an attempt to attract volunteers again post-COVID lockdown the F&WHR is making an effort to explain the roles available. A series of articles on the FR's social media will explain what is involved, starting with Loco Crew. See F&WHR Insider page.
Pre-season WHRS Members' Special Train 30/4/21
On Friday, 30/4/21, there will be a pre-season ‘Gelert Explorer’ train specifically for members, Caernarfon to Beddgelert and return, as part of testing and preparation for the season the following day. The train will run in the normal path, leaving Caernarfon at 1100 and giving time to take a walk into Beddgelert during the layover. This train will mark the official handover of NGG16 No.130 from the workshops to the operating railway and Peter Best, who sponsored the loco, will be on the train. There is no ticket charge for WHRSoc. members and their immediate family bubble, travelling together in a seating bay. WAG rules require that all passengers travel in their bubble on this service.
There will not be a buffet service on board but the hamper service will be available to book in advance when ordering tickets. Prices vary from £10 per person.
Details of the hampers can be found here.
The De Winton Cafe/Caffi De Winton in Caernarfon station will be open for takeaway only. Hot and cold drinks will also be for sale at Beddgelert during the layover.
To book onto this special train, please click here.
Members will need to enter their membership number with prefix, so will need to have their card ready!
If members have any problems booking they should contact the Booking Office on 01766 516024, which is open 10:00 – 16:00, Monday to Friday. Please note, compartments are strictly limited in number.
IMPORTANT - All ongoing services and events will be subject to any further changes in WAG policy in response to the Covid-19 situation.
Lilla visits Dinas 6/4/21
Lilla made a surprise visit to Dinas on 6/4/21 with FR Van No.1 in tow. The loco struggled through variable weather with snowstorms at Beddgelert and Rhyd Ddu. The sun came out later and the staff took the opportunity to take photos on the recently completed Plas-y-Nant bridge without the van. The gate on the bridge has been moved to the correct position on the north side of the bridge. This stock movement is remove the unsightly large piles of ash that have accumulated around the run round track at the south end of Caernarfon station. No doubt B wagons will be filled with the ash and Lilla will haul them to Dduallt for disposal or possibly the Beddgelert Forest site used previously. More ECS trains, including No.130 tests with a full length coach rake to Beddgelert, are likely before services restart in May. For more pictures from Chris Parry (F&WHR) see F&WHR's Facebook page.
This easterly view (1/4/21) shows Lilla with FR Van No.1 hauling a stock movement back to Dinas from the FR. The train struggled through heavy Easter snow showers at the summit. This is the only snowy picture from Winter 2020/21 to come to hand. Click on the image to expand. This image is copyright Chris Parry (F&WHR) and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
This northerly view (1/4/21) shows Lilla with FR Van No.1 detached posing at Plas-y-nant bridge in brilliant sunshine. The gate on the bridge has been moved to the correct position of the property boundary at the north end of the bridge. Click on the image to expand. This image is copyright Chris Parry (F&WHR) and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
WHR volunteer hostel available for booking from 12/4/21
Cymdeithas Rheilffordd Eryri / Welsh Highland Railway Society’s volunteer accommodation at Dinas, Station View, is available for use by both Society members and others volunteering on both the WHR and FfR with effect from 12/4/21.
Bookings can be made at: www.whrsoc.org.uk/index.php/volunteer-hostel
or by post to: Volunteer Accommodation Dinas, WHR Society/Cymdeithas Rheilffordd Eryri, Station View, Dinas, Caernarfon. LL54 5UB.
The accommodation comprises two bedrooms for sharing and one single room; along with shared bathroom facilities; shared kitchen/ dinner and a lounge. For the time being bookings can only be accepted on a “single occupancy” or “one household” basis in compliance with Welsh Government regulations. Bookings are presently accepted contingent upon compliance with local regulations and may be cancelled at the sole discretion of the Society in the event that regulations change. There is parking for two cars on-site with additional parking at the rear. Facilities for camping are not available.
Provision of facilities for motor homes and small caravans.
There is now a space for a maximum of three vehicles. There are three electrical hook up points with a standard 16amp connection available plus water taps. Enquiries about bookings can be made by email to: email@example.com
North Wales main line 3/4/21
GBRf continue to use their path to Valley Nuclear Electric sidings on an occasional basis for crew route retention purposes. There is no traffic from the siding and it seems traffic is unlikely ever again now that Wylfa B project has been abandoned though there is some possibility of traffic as the reactor is disassembled. Nos. 68005/002 hauled one empty nuclear flask there and back on 3/4/21 and presumably ran round the Valley triangle.
F&WHR looking for Head Chef 1/4/21
The F&WHR has put out a job advert for a Head Chef for Spooners in anticipation of reopening Spooners with the restart of services in May. Other job opportunities are being offered too as the F&WHR prepares to reopen. See F&WHR job opportunities.
Test trains and stock movements likely in April
A series of test trains is likely in April to renew staff competences, test the locos and rolling stock to be used and the systems for dealing with passengers. It seems the WHR test trains cannot start to run to Beddgelert until the completion of tracklaying at Plas-y-nant this week, though shorter trains to Waunfawr are possible. Some WHR stock movements are due as soon as Plas-y-nant bridge tracklaying is complete. This must have been completed by 1/4/21 allowing the stock movement shown below.
This westerly view (1/4/21) shows Vale of Ffestiniog with Harlech Castle hauling a stock movement back from Dinas to the FR. The consists contains Bodysgallen presumably going for refurbishment at the Coach Works and the PW Depts' cherrypicler. Click on the image to expand. This image is copyright Phil Brown (F&WHR) and was post processed and displayed at 96dpi.
The Woodlands Wanderer to start 27/4/21
The F&WHR is to reopen on 27/4/21, four days earlier than expected, with The Woodland Wanderer Porthmadog to Tan-y-bwlch. Trains will operate for 3 days from 27-29/4/21 (Tuesday-Thursday) at 11:05 and 14:20 with no service on Friday in advance of the previously advised opening Saturday 1/5/21. See Booking page for full details. The WHR Beddgelert Explorer service will not be starting until Saturday 1/5/21. Trains on Saturday 1/5/21 are booking well. Already the 11:05 Mountain Prince is fully booked and just 3 Gold compartments were left on the Gelert Explorer. The booking website gives up to the minute information on train availability and additional trains. See F&WHR booking website calendar view.
WAG to allow visitors from England (1/4/21)
Mark Drakeford has announced visitors from England will be allowed into Wales from 12/4/21 and outdoor hospitality will reopen from 26/4/21 allowing the F&WHR to open its De Winton, Spooners and Tan-y-bwlch cafes for take aways and outdoor seating. Indoor hospitality will reopen by the Spring Bank Holiday week at the end of May, all subject to a continuing improvement in COVID infections.
Camping and caravanning in Wales using campsite's shared showers and toilets, as opposed to self contained accommodation that opened on 27/3/21, will probably reopen for the Spring Bank Holiday from Saturday 28/5/21. This will be confirmed in the COVID review on 17/5/21 if infections continue to fall and England is able to follow its 'roadmap' plan out of COVID.
Call for volunteers
There has been a call for volunteers to give a 'Spring Time Spruce Up' to the FR and ready it for the return of passengers on 1/5/21. See F&WHR Insider page for contact details. Presumably there will a similar call for the WHR shortly as it opens on the same day.
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