Heading East I caught a train as far as Abergele and Pensarn which is another favorite photo location from the 2000s when I spent a week or so staying in the area to get pictures for the first Lonely Planet guide to Wales. God, that seems such a long time ago as so much has changed since. The days when you could make money out of travel photography seem long gone, but at least the rail shots I took have historic value. I’ll add the shots I took at Abergele at a later stage.
I’ve escaped the Pennines once again today. After some thought and looking through the list of pictures I need to get for clients I’ve decided to make the most of the good weather and head to the Welsh border and onto the North Wales coast. So, to that end, I’m now on the handy 08:22 from Sowerby Bridge direct to the gateway to Wales – Chester.
Today the train’s formed of a 3-car CAF built class 195 – and it’s busy with people travelling to work in Manchester.
There’s few seats left and we haven’t reached Hebden Bridge or Todmorden yet. I’ve managed to bag an airline seat but I’m hoping to grab a table after Manchester Victoria so that I can set up the mobile office and do some work as we don’t arrive in Chester until 10:00.
As usual, I’ll be blogging on and off throughout the day so feel free to pop back and see what I get up to – and where…
Having stopped at Rochdale where the platforms were surprisingly empty of custom (another service was 10 mins ahead of us) we’re now on the outskirts of Manchester where a depressing number of clouds are muscling in on the blue skies…
As expected, the train emptied out at Victoria, allowing me to dive forward and secure a table just behind the driver’s cab. With the laptop plugged in and powered up and a connection to the wifi secured i’m all set up for the rest of the trip to Chester.
As I needed to use the loo – and out of interest – I’ve walked through the entire train to do a headcount. There’s 31 passengers aboard. Judging by the number of folks using laptops many are working. Others appear to be students, and a few leisure travellers (one woman’s carrying a bag full of plants). Interesting, the gender balance is over 80% female. Of the handful of males aboard there’s a retired gent who’s bus-spotter (I know that by the pictures he’s reviewing on his camera) a couple of Asian lads, a businessman – and me.
We’ve now called at and left Warrington Bank Quay station where we threaded our way through Arpley yard and stabling point. This was once a thriving place where coal trains from Scotland and elsewhere reversed before heading along the low-level line to Fidlers Ferry power station. Now the power station’s closed and the coal traffic’s disappeared. There’s still some old coal wagons in store here and a few remain in service carrying other heavy loads, but the majority have gone for scrap, leaving the yard much quieter, although DB still had several locos on the stabling point or shunting. To the East of the yards where factories once stood a huge housing estate is rising. I often wonder where people who will inhabit these places actually work, having displaced industry.
That was a turn-up for the books! I’d antiicipated having around 20 mins in Chester but after grabbing a couple of pictures I heard the sound of a locomotive arriving at the adjacent platform 4. To my surprise a TfW Class 67 hauling a rake of ex-Grand Central Mk4s (acquired for the abortive Blackpool service killed by Covid) which remain in black but with TfW branding.
The crew were changing ends and an enquiry with a Dispatcher established this was a late-running Cardiff- Holyhead service (AKA ‘Gerald’) calling at Llandudno Junction – happy days!
Time to catch my breath back after a very quick visit to Holyhead. I hadn’t intended heading this far West but as the weather was so good and the train so comfortable I thought what the hell. Besides, it’s nice to visit Holyhead in the daylight and not preparing to bed down in a rake of coaches in the sidings, which is my usual modus operendi as part of ‘3 peaks by rail’. That will be next month! Besides, the relaid sidings at Holyhead are playing host to ranks of stored TfW class 175s, which is worth a picture.
By pure co-incidence and the power of social media I found an old friend was also in Holyhead. Jon Veitch and his wife Tina were in town, so Jon and I quickly met up between trains.
Now I’m on Avanti’s 12:46 heading for Llandudno Junction. This service is operated by an ex ‘Virgin Voyager’ (221117 to be exact). They’re not everyone’s cup of tea but they’re due to be replaced by new trains from Hitachi, which have just gone on test.
I’m now at Llandudno Junction to get a few more pics and update on old magazine cover. I’ve ‘fond’ memories of this place as a kid from family holidays to Anglesey where my mum had family. We had plenty of time to admire the likes of Colwyn Bay, Llandudno Junction and Conwy in those days of the late 60s-early 70s – because we spent so much time in my Dad’s car stuck in miles-long traffic jams, going nowhere fast. Not a problem by rail…
Now, where was I? I really enjoyed my break at Llandudno and wander towards Conwy as the weather’s superb. It’s a place I’ve more recent fond memories as Dawn and I came here a few years ago, aalking along the estuary from Llandudno to enjoy some superb Mussels served on Conwy Quay as part of a food festival. Here’s how things looked today.
Right now I’m at Rhyl – another place from childhood memories but not a place I ever remember exploring by either road or rail. It has some family history from the days of ‘Mods and Rockers’ when one of my brothers was very much on the ‘rockers’ side and the place was infamous for pitched battles between the two.
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Stuart Samuel said:
Hopefully the 175s in the siding at Holyhead will not be off to pastures new, but will be returning to familiar haunts once they a repaired and fit for service again.
When we hear reports of a 150, or even a 153 on a mainline Holyhead/Manchester – Cardiff diagram we realise how much they are missed.