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The picture below of the BR Standard Class 4 76079 pulling the Cambrian Coast Express was taken on 22nd August 2005 and I was there!



Throughout the whole of the last week of August, West Coast Rail are running the "Cambrian Coast Express" from Machynlleth to Barmouth and Portmadoc. I was present to witness the running of this train on the Sunday and the Monday. And a joyous site it was to see it arriving and departing from the local stations on the two days. The sound of the whistle and puffing steam echoed around the Welsh mountains for miles as the train chuffed along the coast.

The 'Cambrian Coast Express' steam operation seems to have done well. The first train was well loaded but with the odd bay free noted at Machynlleth. It arrived on time at Barmouth tender first and parked in the siding to the north of the station for almost 2 hours before returning to Machynlleth resplendent with the "Cambrian Coast Express" sign head first. The short section of line leaving Barmouth station to the tunnel was absolutely packed either side with tourists and local visitors and this was a sight to see! There could not have been more people present had the Queen visited Barmouth in the Royal Train. The engine driver and fireman of 76079 had clearly being practicing their royal wave!

The next day's train, which ran to Porthmadog on 22/8/05, was almost full and enjoyed a sunny day. Timetabling errors saw it retimed to wait at Harlech for a northbound 158 DMU and ran some 40m mins later than advertised. West Coast Rail's coaches have an Arriva Trains Wales transfer applied.

On arrival at Porthmadog, the loco ran around and the rake was shunted into Porthmadog's siding. The loco is said to have later returned to water from a hydrant opposite the WHR(P). The extended layover at Porthmadog (almost 4 hours) is due to the train being unable to run to Pwllheli due to bad track at Afonwen. It is possible that next year's services will run all the way to Pwllheli.

There is more info on the 2005 "Cambrian Coast Express" tour if you visit the link below including timetabling and prices:-

http://www.page27.co.uk/nwales/nwcal.htm#August_2005_

And there is info with pictures on the last 2 years of steam working on the Cambrian line during the 1960's if you visit the link below:-

http://www.page27.co.uk/nwales/news/nw0508.htm

Graeme Bunker, managing director of Arriva Trains Wales, said: "I am delighted that tourist trains will be running, particularly on the Cambrian. It will be a real boost for the line, which has suffered in recent months from the effects of the landslip at Friog.

"The line is extremely picturesque and it is high time that a dedicated tourist service was introduced to do justice to its beauty. The steam trains will do just that, and will also help to give the area a significant economic boost. If the trips are a success, we will be looking at repeating them in future years, " he said.

The tourist trains will provide a wonderful opportunity for both visitors to the area and local residents to enjoy the beautiful surroundings, in the unhurried comfort of vintage carriages, and to experience the glorious days of steam.

The steam trains will be provided by specialist steam operating company, West Coast Railway Company (WCR), which has run the highly successful 'Jacobite' steam train from Fort William in the West Highlands of Scotland for the past 10 years.

WCR's James Shuttleworth said: "I am very pleased to be working in partnership with Arriva Trains Wales on what is going to be a very exciting project and hopefully the start of an ongoing relationship. The Cambrian Coast Line has similar attributes to the Scottish Highlands and we will be able to use our established expertise from this and the other steam services we regularly operate nationwide, to ensure that we provide a first-class service."

The trains will run on six dates, 21, 22, 24, 25, 28 and 29 August, starting at either Aberystwyth, Machynlleth or Shrewsbury and running along the Cambrian Coast Line to Barmouth or Porthmadog, taking in some of Wales' most stunning mountain and coastal scenery.

Wales Tourist Board chief executive, Jonathan Jones, said: "This is a popular destination for people visiting Wales and the romance and history of steam trains will provide a wonderful added attraction to the beauty of the area. I am sure that the scheduled runs will draw a large number of railway enthusiasts, many of whom might be visiting Wales for the first time - but not the last."

The trains are expected to be popular with local residents and tourists to the area, particular over the August Bank Holiday. Fares start at £17 for children and £25 for adults and vary according to route. Tickets can be reserved by calling 01743 458130.

Strangely the BR standard Class 4 2-6-0 loco does not appear to have been modelled by any of the ready to run model manufacturers either now or in the past and so anybody wishing to model this operation on their layout is out of luck. These locomotives were used to haul the last of the "Cambrian Coast Express" trains in 1966 and so it would be a suitable choice for a preservation train running on a modern day layout.

Happy modelling
Gary

PS for those visitors who may not know the route the Cambrian Coast line runs through central west Wales and then takes a coastal route following the Irish Sea and heading north and then west following the coast for about 50 miles. It is arguably the most attractive rail route in Britain for passengers with a combination of mountain and sea views and was spared the Beeching axe in the 1960's although the route is heavily subsidised today and suffers a constant talk of closure.
 
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