...and green in the valley
Rhyl's 90th anniversary
5 May 2001  
Jack drifts down towards Leadhills station
The 15" gauge railway has a long history in the UK - mention 15" gauge in railway circles and the RH&DR and the "Ratty" come to mind, or perhaps the late lamented 15" Fairbourne. But there were 15" gauge railways before that - going back in fact to 1875, and Sir Arthur Heywood's "Minimum Gauge" experiments. His first locomotive "Effie" was built in that year. The 15" gauge Rhyl Miniature Railway was opened in 1911, some years before its better known followers - and today would be the 90th anniversary of its opening. And there would be a link with those first days - the full-size replica of Effie, built in 1999 by the Great Northern Steam Company, would be visiting. We spent a most pleasant couple of hours here - firstly photographing regular trains, hauled around the continuous loop by Joan and Effie. Joan is one of the locomotives built in the early 1920s for the line by local engineer Albert Barnes. There
Geoff’s Rail Diaries
were six of these locomotives at one time, now Joan is the only one resident on the line, although today she was joined by John, another Barnes locomotive returning to the line for this anniversary occasion, from its home in Oxfordshire. Later in the morning, Joan and John ran double- headed, and for the anniversary cavalcade, a complete circuit was completed by the other motive power on the line - firstly 0-4-2 "Clara", a steam-outline diesel built in 1961 for Dudley Zoo, then the re-gauged Lister (ex-Shapwick Heath peat works) which ran assisting "KD1" - best described as a 15" gauge APT! Link: Rhyl Miniature Railway
Leaving Rhyl (one can have too much of a good thing) we rejoined the standard gauge and headed for Llandudno Junction. The Conwy Valley line was on this occasion being served by a couple of Class 101 DMUs, including the green-liveried set, so we thought we'd take a ride up to Blaenau. On taking our seats on the train, we rechecked the timetable and decided to shorten the trip by only travelling to Betws-y-Coed - this would give us a decent interval during which we could take on refreshments, and have a look at the miniature railway there (I think my colleague is getting a bit of a taste for very small gauges!). On arriving at Llanrwst North, the guard suggested to passengers that they might like to get out and take a breath of air for few minutes. Apparently, the Festiniog Railway had suffered a minor derailment at Blaenau, which was causing some problems for an excursion which was attempting to run round on the standard
gauge. As a result, the token for the Llanrwst - Blaenau section could not be released... The outcome was, in effect, rather like a photo stop on a special, as numerous gricers lined up to take pictures. Eventually, after about 40 minutes, we were called back to the train, and we soon arrived at Betws-y-Coed, where we we able to get an excellent quick meal in the "Buffet Coach Cafe". Sadly there wasn't time to sample the delights of the 7¼" gauge line, so a quick snap had to suffice. And that was it - back down the valley - perhaps our last trip on a 101 - to Llandudno Junction, where there was time for a pint before rejoining the North Wales Coast line. "Perhaps we'll get a ride in a Coradia" suggested Steve. It was a Pacer. 'Nuff said!
"Coradia" 175 110 at Llandudno Junction Clara takes part in the Anniversary Cavalcade The "green'un" departs from Betws-y-Coed for Blaenau ...and its Regional Railways-liveried companion Effie passes Rhyl shed Effie completes another circuit Effie poses at Rhyl The green 101 at Llanwrwst North... Joan and John double-heading Joan and John make another run Joan and John on the level crossing, Rhyl Joan passes the shed Joan approaches Rhyl shed John is prepared for action at the shed The Lister hauls the "APT" in the cavalcade Llanrwst signal box The "Buffet Coach Cafe" and the 7¼" gauge railway, Betws-y-Coed