SATURDAY 20th MAY 2000


 I long ago lost track of the final date for Class 37/4 locomotives hauling the First North Western Trains along the North Wales Coast but, to date the situation prevails and long may it be. In May 2000, anticipating the demise of the 37's with the introduction of the Summer timetable, First North Western and Railway Magazine collaborated to run two rail specials to bid farewell to these charismatic machines. The first would run Crewe-Holyhead-Manchester Piccadilly-Crewe and would visit the Blaenau Ffestiniog and Llandudno branches as well. As if this were not enough, the train would be double headed throughout and topped and tailed by twin locomotives for the Llandudno branch section of the journey. How could anyone with the slightest interest in modern traction possibly miss such an event?

The second tour was similarly hauled but this time to Southport, Blackpool and Barrow-in-Furness, visiting Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria as well (twice!). The tours ran on successive days which was quite a slog for us aging hippies and unfortunately clashed with the Crewe Works Open days - no contest! Charlie Hulme, who has long been a protagonist of the 37's and the North Wales Coast, went to extraordinary lengths to promote the trains via his North Wales Coast Railway web site and I congratulate him for his efforts. Charlie did publish photographs of both tours (maybe still available on his site) but I was unable to submit any at the time so I felt that I would include some of my shots on Rail37 - better late than never. I have been on some rail tours but never anything like these and the meanderings of the second one left me wondering where I had been and where I was going next!

All things considered it was a marvellous weekend and thanks go to the organisers and their representatives on board the trains, the First North Western drivers and staff and, especially, the people with the food trolleys who kept us fed and watered throughout. I am sure there were many others involved and I would say to all concerned that your efforts were very much appreciated (and can we have another one this December please?).

 The ticket for tour 1 - visiting Chester, Holyhead, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Llandudno and Manchester.

 37029 leading 37379 "Ipswich WRD Quality Approved" entering Platform 12 at Crewe Station, with the first of two FNW specials.

 Both locomotives waiting for the green to go from Platform 12.

 The train paused at Llandudno Junction for two more Class 37 locomotives, numbers 37608 and 37612, resplendent in DRS livery, to attach to the rear. It all became very confusing from now on


 The cavalcade set off from Llandudno Junction and peeled off right onto the branch for Deganwy and Llandudno itself. 37029 leading 37379 with 37608 and 37612 trailing - what a sight! For those of you who missed it - eat your hearts out...

 The two DRS locos are ready to leave Llandudno for Llandudno Junction and the Blaenau Ffestiniog branch.

 After a brief pause at Llandudno Junction to detach locos 1&2, the train ran cautiously down the Conwy Valley and up to Blaenau Ffestiniog. The line originally ran on to Bala but was truncated at Trawsfynedd nuclear power station for the flask traffic. Although briefly reopened to passenger specials a few years ago, this section is currently out of use.

 Blaenau Ffestiniog station is the interchange for the Ffestiniog narrow gauge railway which runs down to Porthmadog where the Cambrian Coast Line can be accessed. A FR works train can be seen bottom right.

 Blaenau Ffestiniog is famous for its slate quarries and the appalling weather added new meaning to the term slate grey. The spoil tips which dominate the town can be seen in the background with the FR tracks on the left.

 The train left Blaenau and ran along the beautiful Conwy Valley to return to Llandudno Junction where a pause allowed photographs to be taken. This shows 37608 leading 37612 and the rain!

 The sprint along the North Wales Coast, over the Menai Bridge and across Anglesey was most enjoyable and this shot from the train shows the entry and complications of Holyhead Station. 37379 and 37029 can be seen waiting under the road bridge having run light from Llandudno Junction.

 Entry into the station and an old friend 37420 "The Scottish Hosteller" was waiting with empty stock for its next duty, probably a Crewe service. This locomotive, the first class 37/4 I travelled behind on the Coast Line, is now sadly withdrawn.

 The two DRS locomotives at the Holyhead headshunt. Here they uncoupled while 37379 and 37029 hooked onto the other end for the journey to Manchester and Crewe.

 Arrival (in the rain) at Chester before heading for Altrincham, Stockport and Manchester Piccadilly.

 After leaving Chester the train took the Cheshire Lines route to Northwich, Altrincham and then via Skelton Junction to Stockport and Manchester Piccadilly. It ran through Piccadilly to Warrington via Castlefield Junction and on to Weaver Junction and the West Coast Main Line for Crewe. There were no stops along this part of the route and therefore no images.

 Arrival at journey's end, Crewe, and a somewhat weatherbeaten headboard. What a fantastic day it had been thanks to First North Western and Railway Magazine.