East Lancs Railway Autumn Steam Gala 18/19 October 2014

The Crab
The Crab at Ramsbottom (double headed with the A Clas)
The ELR trains weren't running on the Friday, but I had a quick peep past the Trackside and saw the Crab, resplendent in its maroon LMS livery in Bury bolton Street station. It was also the weekend of the Homegrown folk festival and that evening went to the Met to see Lucy Ward and the Keston Cobblers' Club. It was a standing gig, which meant I didn't see a lot of it - why don't they make the tall gits stand at the back! Had a nice couple of pints of Ruby, however.

Sir Nigel Gresley
60007 Sir Nigel Gresley at Bury
On Saturday 18 October I used my ELR membership card as a platform ticket and spotted the magnificent Sir Nigel Gresley in LNER/BR blue. There were two streaks to be seen and the full line up was:

LMS Jinty 16407
  • 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley
  • 60009 Union of South Africa
  • 61994 The Great Marquess
  • 13065 LMS 2-6-0 Crab
  • 12322 LMS 0-6-0 A Class
  • 16407 LMS 0-6-0 Jinty
  • 80080 Standard tank
  • 0-6-0ST W^D 3163/1943 Sapper and
  • 0-4-0ST May (in Yates Duxbury livery)
I had a bowl of chunky veg soup and a half of Darkness in the Trackside, then it was over to the Drill Hall for the wonderful Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band with Lucy Ward doing three numbers with them, support was squeezebox maestro John Spiers.

Union of South Africa
60009 Union of South Africa at Rawtenstall
 On Sunday it was back to the ELR this time with a round trip ticket. I just misses Sir Nigel going out so jumped onto  train heading for Heywood pulled by South Africa. Two trains were in the sidings just outside Ramsbottom: Sapper, 80080 and The Great Marquess, all in steam. At Rawtenstall it started raining. I jumped off at Ramsbottom, with the aim of catching Sir Nigel in an hours' time. On the other platform was a double header of the A Class and the Crab. I'd been told of the new craft brewery behind Morrisons, so in a very crowded Irwell Works Brewery I had a half of dark mild and a half of milk stout.
The A Class
Double header of the A Class and Crab at Ramsbottom
 Back at the station, Sir Nigel was in, en route to Rawtenstall, so I crossed the footbridge and joined the train pulled by the A Class, with the Crab as backwards banker.

The Crab and Sir Nigel Gresley
The Crab (as banker travelling backwards) and Sir Nigel at Ramsbottom

Back at Bury I just spotted South Africa pulling out en route to Ramsbottom and Rawtenstall. On Monday I took the tram to Manchester, but had to get off at Market Street and walk to Piccadilly Gardens. Train to Euston via Crewe, 73 bus across London, half of Oyster Stout in Victoria Wetherspoon's and train home.

The Great Marquess
The Great Marquess at Bury

Other visits to the ELR:


Llandudno and the Snowdonia railways, part 4

Snowdon Mountain Railway.
Too windy to summit
Day 7: Snowdon, second attempt!
It was my last full day, so I had a second go at ascending Snowdon. Not such an early tart this time, so it was a mini full Welsh breakfast and down the hill to catch the 9.16 X5 to Caernarfon, via Bangor. At Caenarfon I caught the 88 (one an hour, on the hour) to Llanberis and got there in plenty of time. Unfortunately, it was too windy to travel to the top, so the train was only going 5/8 up - to Rocky Valley. Secretly I was a bit relieved as I'm not good with heights, especially when you're the highest thing for miles! With all my discounts the ticket worked out at £16.80 (I'd bought a Great Little Trains of Wales discount card and this gave me 20% off). So, to kill time until the 12.30 departure, I watched the film about the railway in the little cinema.

Snowdon Mountain Railway.
Inside the carriage
The coach was divided into compartments and I was in H. Just as we were about to set off a coach load of Japanese tourists arrive, with cameras and selfie sticks, and occupied the front of the train, we were by the engine, a diesel called George.
Snowdon Mountain Railway.
12 George
So, we trundled up the slope slowly, over viaducts and passing waterfalls until the landscape became quite barren. After passing another train coming down we stopped at Rocky Valley, then edged a little further on so we could see Llanberis Pass, from above. We weren't allowed out so had to take pictures through the glass windows.

Snowdon Mountain Railway.
Llanberis Pass - spot the road!
Back down on terra firma (we exited through the gift shop), I'd again missed the departure of the Lake railway so caught an S2 Sherpa bus through the Llanberis Pass trying to spot where we'd just been, up in the clouds. At Bews-y-Coed again I caught the X1 to Llandudno, had a coffee and toasted teacake in the Coffee Centre (there are lots of very old fashioned cafes there) and was temped by the 'veggie pie' advertised on a board outside the Alexandra Hotel (as featured on Hotel Inspector) and the smile of the waitress. It turned out to be a big pasty, filled with what could have been leftover veg in a cheesy mashed potato sauce. I was disappointed not to have had a Welsh rarebit in the time I'd been in Wales! After a pint in Wetherspoon's it was a walk in the rain back to the B&B to watch part 2 of The Apprentice.

Snowdon Mountain Railway.
Compartment H, at the top of our climb 
Day 8: to Bury
After a leisurely breakfast, I ambled to the station via a few charity shops to het the train to Manchester. I got the 135 bus to Bury and after a coffee and Bakewell tart (£3 deal) in the Art Gallery, made my way to my sister's.

More photos on Flickr.



Llandudno and the Snowdonia railways, part 3

Llanfair PG
Llanfair PG station
Day 5: Llanfair PG and Conwy
Monday was cold and windy and I accompanied Chrissie to Llandudno Junction to see her off to Euston direct. I planned to visit Conwy but saw that my train was going to Llanfair PG, the station with the longest name in Europe, the journey would also take me across the Menai Strait to Anglesey. Irt was a request stop so I informed the guard and alighted, to take some snaps and buy a souvenir platform ticket (30p) from the Pringle outlet nearby, then it was arm out to stop the next train, and another request stop for Conwy.

Smallest house, Conwy
The smallest house in GB
Apart from the castle, Conwy is famous for having the smallest house in Great Britain, and its mussels. In fact there is supposed to be a mussel museum there, but I couldn't find it. Nowhere seemed to be serving the famous mussels either, so after a pint in the Blue Bell, I caught the bus back to Llandudno and some of Wetherspoon's finest five bean chilli.

Welsh Highland Railway
Garrett 138
Day 6: the Welsh Highland Railway
It was up at 7am and a bowl of porridge for me on Tuesday - I had to get to Caernarfon for the 10am train and the 5 bus left at 8am. The train was pulled by the same 138 I'd cabbed on Saturday and I spotted a green Garrett on the way. Instead of a return, I booked a 'Snowdonia Single' (£15.80 with various discounts) that would take me to Porthmadog and on to Blaenau Ffestiniog. The WHR journey takes 2 hours, but the Ffestiniog just an hour. At Porthmadog it was much quieter than the weekend so I had some leek and potato soup followed by bara brith in Spooners, then went looking for a cashpoint. The train uphill was pulled by Merddin Emrys. At Blaenau Ffestiniog I took the train back to Llandudno and had a coffee in the Mostyn modern art gallery just before it closed.
Ffestiniog Railway
Merddin Emrys

Then it was to the Palladium for two pints of Hawkshead Red and their sweet chilli noodles, and back to the B&B for Holby City and The Apprentice.

More photos on Flickr.

Llandudno and the Snowdonia railways, part 2

Great Orme Tramway
Day 4: a lovely day in Llandudno
On Sunday we took the tram up the Great Orme. My landlord Keith had advised me of some vouchers in a leaflet that got us 15% off the £6 return. It trundled up the steep streets, past the King's Head. What we didn't realise was that the journey was in two halves: our tram stopped half way up and we had to walk to another tram to take us to the terminus. At the top we alighted and looked round the visitor centre before scaling the summit.

From the cable car
Chrissie persuaded me to have a go on the cable car, so we travelled down to Happy Valley, past some mountain goats, with a great view of the pier, had a coffee and then travelled back up, and then down again on the tram.

Llandudno tram
We then walked down the pier, past the dilapidated Grand Hotel, and sat for a while basking in the sunshine on one of the many benches that line the pier. Back on dry land, a boat - the Sea-Jay - was giving half-price (£2) trips round the bay, so I jumped aboard and Chrissie sat it out. It was only a half trip too, just about 20 minute round the pier, not venturing round the corner of the Orme.

We walked along the pristine front to the bandstand then ventured inland for another coffee. Back at the Wetherspoon's they had run out of Sunday roasts, so we schlepped up to the King's Head for an 'open' veggie lasagne, which was very tasty and not too filling.  After three pints (one Bass, two Spitfire) it was back to the B&B to watch Homeland series 4.

Llandudno pier
Llandudno Pier

More photos on Flickr.

Llandudno and the Snowdonia railways, part 1

Snowdon Mountain Railway.
Snowdon Mountain Railway
Ever since I went on my coach trip to North Wales in 2009, staying in Rhyl. I've wanted to return, but this time staying in the more attractive resort of Llandudno, with the twin objectives of doing the Snowdon Mountain Railway and travelling on the completed Welsh Highland Railway line all the way to Porthmadog. I was joined for the first part of the holiday by Chrissie, who through a train-driving friend at the Albion had wangled a couple of free tickets for the Ffestiniog. We travelled up on Thursday 9 October via Warrington, a station that could do with a few more destination boards, and by the time we arrived in Llandudno, at 4pm, everywhere was closing! I booked in at Anglesey House, right bang opposite the Tramway station, and she was in the Stella diagonally opposite. It was curry night at the rather splendid Wetherspoons, the Palladium, and I had a couple of pints of Dark side of the Moose.

Snowdon Mountain Railway.
Will we get a ride today?
Day 2: to Snowdon
We got the train to Bangor (I bought an 8-day North Wales Flexi-Rover ticket for £42.20, Chrissie got  £10 day rover) and then jumped on a bus to get us to the bus station. Bangor was another place lacking in information, so after asking a few bus drivers we established that we needed a yellow 85 from stand A and they were one an hour (a quarter to, we discovered). Arriving at Llanberis we saw the queue for the 1pm train, but our names were taken and if they could find 20 people we'd go up at 2pm. As it happened only 14 people registered so the train was cancelled! We'd also missed the Llanberis Lake Railway, which set off at 1.40, but we spotted an S2 Sherpa bus, heading for Betws -y- Coed so we jumped on.

 The journey through Llanberis Pass to Pen-y-pass was spectacular and made up for the disappointment. At Betws-y-Coed we visited the museum (£1 admission), where they had many model railways and a scale model of 70000 Britannia and got an X19 back to Llandudno and fish and chips at the Palladium and another pint at the King's Head, up near the tram station.

70000 Britannia model
Day 3: Ffestiniog Railway Victorian weekend
On Saturday we discovered there was a rail strike, so got the X1 bus to Blaenau Ffestiniog. We got there just as the train was coming in and exchanged our vouchers for free tickets. The train was hauled by David Lloyd George, one of those push-me pull-you designs, and we travelled down the hill to Porthmadog, where Chrissie was surprised to find her football friend Paul waiting.

Ffestiniog Railway
David Lloyd George
A beautiful Garrett, No. 138 from the Welsh Mountain Railway was also waiting on the platform, and Paul arranged for me to step up into the cab. He also arranged for us to travel back First Class in the observation coach.

Cabbing 138
Garrett 138 with me on board!
On the way back up, we stopped to allow a gravity train to pass by, populated by volunteers sitting in slate wagons with their legs hanging over the side of the loco-less train.

Gravity train
Gravity train
We had to make the last X1 bus at 16.30, but we had plenty of time and back at Blaenau Ffestiniog had a coffee in a nearby cafe. In Llandudno, we had a pint at the Cottage Loaf, and a Chinese at Jasmine House, then it was back to the B&B for Dr Who and Casualty.

First class
Travelling First Class
More photos on Flickr.