Christine, Rowan and I will be tackling the C2C and Reivers cycle routes this summer, so we took advantage of a sunny Bank Holiday Sunday for a spot of training, cycling from home to Holyhead.
Our route took us over the Amlwch branch at Llanermerchydd, disused since the oil trains stopped running and since acquired by Anglesey Council, who hope to restore it for passenger operation under the auspices of Isle of Anglesey Railways. By the state of the the track and the old station they have a lot of work to do.
Away from the desolation of the A5, Anglesey is a very quiet island, its network of narrow country lanes ideal for cycling.
We arrived at Holyhead at 17:30, in plenty of time to watch the arrival of the 15:53 from Crewe. 37 420 The Scottish Hosteller, recently returned from a long stint on the Cardiff to Rhymney run, was in charge.
The packed four-coach train spills its contents onto the concourse while 37 415 waits alongside.
420 is detached, runs out of the station and back to be coupled with 415
The pair draw forward before backing onto the four coach set on platform 1. Last time I caught this train, Stena Line had locked this part of the station and the eight coach train had to pull forward and reverse into platform 3. Today it was open and a large crowd was waiting on platform 1 so we joined them.
As the locos and four approached, the station announcer asked everyone to keep clear but before it had come to a halt the lads with their cases of Stella Artois from the ferry were opening the doors and jumping on. The other passengers followed once it had stopped and since there was no announcement we joined them. As were we travelling only one stop we decided to remain in the brake with the bikes rather than hunting for seats.
A rough looking woman turned to me:
"Where does this train go"
"Does it go to Chester?"
"It goes via Chester, yes"
"Does it STOP at Chester" she almost shouted. I replied in the affirmative and she turned away without troubling to thank me for the information. There was no trouble on this train but a sullen alcohol-fuelled hostility and I don't expect the conductors look forward to working it.
A few minutes later we were all asked to alight as the two sets hadn't yet been coupled! It would probably have been quicker to depart from platform 3 so the sets could be coupled away from the passengers, though an announcement to stay on the platform until authorised to board would have helped. As it was we departed 14 minutes late at 18:36.
Our train rounds the sharp curve at the east end of the Britannia Bridge, on the short single track section. There are many places where looking out of an open window is hazardous as the trackside foliage bangs against the coaches, so you have to choose your spot very carefully.
We were treated to a fine thrash to Bangor and 26 minutes after departure were on the platform and ready to cycle home.
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