North and Mid Wales Rail Rover

Day 3: Coasting to Crewe

We caught the 9:05 from Bangor only as far as Colwyn Bay to investigate a steam loco I'd glimpsed from the train on previous occasions. It's locked and boarded in to the disused buildings on the up platform, which looked as though they'd been used as a nightclub after they were no longer required by the railway. In one corner there are beer crates and in another building further up the platform are stacked tables and chairs. My appeal for information on the uk.railway newsgroup brought this response from Charlie Hulme:

Charlie maintains the definitive website on the North Wales Coast Line with comment, photo archives and news of developments as they arise - check it out! And if you haven't yet visited the National Railway Museum in York then shame on you!

There was a pub/nightclub, various little 'crafty' shops including a model shop - you can still see the sticker for Railmatch paints (is it?) on the window - and a railway museum including both standard gauge stuff and a miniature (7.5 inch?) passenger-carrying line. The model shop moved on to the opposite platform for a while before vanishing completely, the pub was about the last to go, I recall drinking in there about 1995 or 96 in between riding the Class 37-hauled trains, great view over the sea from the windows. Ansell's keg beer, though. I believe that Colwyn Bay signalbox was also intended to be part of the complex, called Platform 3. The main problem, I think, was that nobody could see that it was there: it was once a platform line in the days when there were four tracks at this point, the equivalent on the opposite side disappeared in the changes for the A55 road. There was an LMS passenger brake van in the open at the up end until about 1996, too. Don't have any info about the steam loco, would be glad to get some!

Anthony Coulis of the National Railway Museum supplied the final piece of the jigsaw: the locomotive is a Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0T, no. 1864 built in 1952. Formerly known as Firefly, it's an ex-Coal Board loco which Platform 3 bought from Steamtown, Carnforth around 1988.
We had only 15 minutes at Colwyn Bay before boarding the Virgin 47-hauled service to take us on to Crewe.

Here's the 14:31 service to Manchester and Edinburgh behind 47 712.

German liveried 90 028 Vrachtverbinding at the head of this Euston to Lancaster service is giving a free ride to 87 019 Sir Winston Churchill, skulking at the rear with it's pantograph down.
Vintage e.m.u. 310 104 heads north out of Crewe.

We caught the 15:25 to Holyhead so we could enjoy some more 37 haulage. This train forms the return 18:23 from Holyhead, first stop Rhyl. Ever since this service was introduced I'd wanted to enjoy a non-stop run through my home station of Bangor, where almost all daytime trains stop.

We had an hour or so to spare in Holyhead so sat outside a pub enjoying a pint of Burtonwood. There were about ten people on board the five-coach train, then the conductor announced that the ferry was late but we wouldn't be waiting for it. So off we went for a tremendous run to Rhyl! The lighting wasn't working in our coach, all the windows were open and the sequence where we roared out of Belmont tunnel, through the centre road at Bangor then plunged into Bangor tunnel was unforgettable, like the runaway train sequence on an old film.

Here's a shot of 37 415 taking us along the short single-track section after crossing the Britannia Bridge.

At Rhyl we learned that the ferry was only just arriving at Holyhead - any passengers for the train would get a nasty shock as there's only one train after the 18:23 and that's the 22:51 which goes only as far as Chester, even though there's another ferry due to arrive at 22:24. We had only 20 minutes to wait before 37 418 arrived to take us back to Bangor.

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