Tag Archives: Rhyl Railway Station

The delight of a Sixties steam train at Rhyl Station

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If you liked the previous post, you’ll love this one.

It is a summer’s day in the early 1960s, there is an engine simmering in the engine shed yard and the silence is broken by the metallic sound of the Tannoy voice.

‘The next train to arrive at Platform 1 will be the 11.17 train for Manchester Victoria, calling at Prestatyn, Mostyn, Flint, Chester (change for Liverpool Crewe and London Euston, Helsby, Frodsham, Warrington Bank Quay, Earlestown, Newton le Willows, Patricroft, Eccles and Manchester Victoria. First class accommodation is at the front of the train. Platform 1 for Manchester Victoria.’

Such romantic names, Newton le Willows I thought of as a chocolate box pastoral idyll of a village with tea shoppes selling scones with cream and breakfast teas and Camp coffee. I was quickly dispelled of this image when I used this train regularly to travel onwards to university. By then it was a rattling corporate blue, anonymous diesel multiple unit. Newton le Willows was no rural idyll and would warrant prosecution under the Trades Description Act!

We’d stay on Platform 2 and stare through the heat haze beyond the H bridge to see the shimmering mirage of an engine becoming clearer . The signal gantry at the H bridge would be activated to show an engine on either the slow up line, or the fast up line taking the line for the platform. The signal arm at the signal box shown here would be pulled off to confirm the route.

By now we would be racing over the passenger bridge to race down Platform 1 to where the engine would stop just beyond the bridge and before the next signal gantry. If the signal had not yet been pulled it would indicate that the train was on or ahead of time and that might make the driver more affable to a request to join him on the footplate. If the signal was already off then he’d be impatient to be away and his fireman would be working hard to fill the firebox and adjust the injectors.

Sometimes the train would stop short so that it sat under the Vale Road Bridge. On these occasions we stood under the bridge with it, drinking in the magnificent aroma of live steam and hot oil and sulphurous coal. It made you giddy with excitement.

At the guard’s whistle, the driver would open the engine up and, if the rails were greasy from rail and the oil of previous trains the engine would slip and the wheels would spin, producing a cacophony of roaring slipping wheels and escaping volcanoes of steam which would envelop us. The driver would ease off to enable the engine to get a surer footing on the rails and move off to a succession of short sharp beats which gradually increased as the engine gained some traction.

The engine would move off at a quickly accelerating pace, the maroon carriages would then pass us by. The lucky people on the train were distractedly reading or lost in conversation or sandwich eating, not appreciating the wonder of their position on the train, a position we would have killed to occupy.

‘Look!’ we’d say, ‘at the mechanical wonder, of the scenery and sites, the other engines and the stations, the speed and the purpose, the adventures unfolding!’

But they’d simply give us urchins a glance and disappear behind their newspapers or relax into the sumptuous seating for a nap.

Train travel would look so much better with us on board!

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Memories of steam engines in Rhyl

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It is foolish to wish oneself older, but there was a time when I would quite happily have wished myself a decade older to have enjoyed for longer the marvel of steam engines on Rhyl station. As it was I caught the tail end of steam – it was all gone before my twelve birthday in 1968.

What I did witness, often with friends, was magnificent and endlessly exciting.

One of my favourite venues was Rhyl Railway Station, where for 2d  (2 old pence) in the red and cream platform ticket machine, you could while away the whole day. It was even cheaper if ‘uncle’ Harry Hughes was inspecting tickets – he would simply wave you through with a wink.

These pictures cannot do justice to this magnificent and long gone age. You had to smell the sulphurous oil and the hissing of the beast to really appreciate it. For those of us who were there, the sight of a steam engine is a transport of delights to simpler and more exciting times.

David Goodall took these pictures in 1957 and they show a Royal Scot and Jubilee   engines which were usually entrusted to the Euston Holyhead service and a Black Five which usually hauled the lesser services. Photos 1 and 3 are taken at the east end of Platform 1 where the trains to London, calling at Prestatyn, Flint, Chester, Stafford, Nuneaton, Rugby, Watford Junction and London Euston. Or Prestatyn, Flint, Chester, Helsby, Frodsham, Warrington Bank Quay, Earlestown, Newton le Willows, Eccles and Manchester Victoria (other routes were available!)

The second picture shows a Royal Scot in Platform 2 heading west. The picture was taken from near where the Bee Hotel stands. across the lines that led to a landing stage and from where the ‘Red Dragon’ set out to Llandudno. This train will be calling at Abergele, Colwyn Bay, Llandudno Junction (change for Llandudno and Blaenau Ffestiniog) Conwy, Llanfairfechan, Penmaenmawr, Bangor, (change for Caernarfon, Afonwen, Nantlle and Bethesda) Menai Bridge, Llanfair PG, Gaerwen (change for Amlwch) Valley and Holyhead.

The signal is not yet off for the Black Five 44696 so I’ve time to give my best pleading look to the driver and ask him if I can cab him (get up on the footplate). Back in a mo!

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The Reso: A place in time

 

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Copyright: Rhyl Town Council

 

It started as a homage to childhood really, my childhood, growing up on the Reso council estate in the seaside town of Rhyl in the nineteen sixties.

It was a time when my most serious concerns were, in seasonal order, would it snow when forty of my family made their way to the Fun Fair on Easter Monday, would the temperature in Rhyl outdoor baths ever top 55F, would I be picked for the annual Gwynfryn Avenue 150 a side football match against Rhydwen Drive and where was I going to find the two shillings a day needed to feed my autumnal firework habit.

 

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It quickly turned into something else.

In a feat of memory that seems to rival the Rain Man, I seem to have stored forensic detail of my childhood which others have forgotten……

… the starched feel of the antimacassars in our Welsh chapel-going neighbours’ front room where I sat playing with the snow dome bought on a Sunday school visit to Llandudno

… the metallic clunk of the stamping machine in the railway station on which you could print out rude messages of sixteen letter lengths, on which, I, at the age of eight, managed “Bum. titty bum bu” because I miscalculated the spaces and the punctuation

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Not my copyright – Unknown Photo

…the intensely warm glow of a family Christmas tea at my Nain’s when twenty of my cousins would gather around the extended table to savour meats and pickles of cosmic variety and Corona lime and dandelion and burdock pop which was as flat as a witches’ tit, all the time sweating from the ship’s boiler room fire that my Nain had stoked up in the grate, inches behind me. 

…the wisdom of my mother, who reassured me that the reason we didn’t have chocolate biscuits in our house was because “I’d only eat them…”  an explanation that kept me happy until I was thirteen, and began wondering what else you’d do with biscuits!

…the twenty minute rule of my dad, which he reassured us, was more than enough time to have the immersion heater on for our weekly bath (whether we needed it or not!) in advance of watching the Beatles appearing on Sunday Night at the London Palladium

It seemed that my childhood was in fact everyone else’s childhood. Deeply rooted in that sixties decade when, despite the threat of world mutually assured destruction and random violence from the likes of Steve Caroli on the estate, everything seemed possible.

Many lived the same dream, and many today wished they had.

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Essence of a sixties August family outing to Rhyl…

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Compared to today, when everyone has a camera on their phone,  one of my abiding  sadnesses is that so many of my childhood memories were so poorly documented on film.

Imagine my joy then when I found this little gem filmed in the early sixties . . it shows a group from the Rugeley Progressive Working Mens Club (no doubt CIU affiliated) on their annual pilgrimage to Rhyl.  Not only a camera, but a cine camera no less. The  stuttering graininess of the film merely adds to it’s charm.

I may have been on platform two at Rhyl Station that day with my tartan duffle bag, filled with a packet of crisps, some Tuc biscuits, some cheap orange squash and if I was particularly lucky, a Blue Riband bar.

The train would inevitably have been pulled by a Black Five loco, unkempt, wheezing and magnificent. Before I was enveloped by steam from leaking glands, I would make a note of the shed plate on the front of the engine. If it was a Birmingham shedded engine, it might be a cop – one I hadn’t seen before and I would write it in my little notebook to copy into my Ian Allan Combined Volume.

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If I was feeling particularly adventurous I would approach the driver and ask if I could ‘cab’ him – climb up on the footplate for a few seconds. If the signal at the end of the platform was still down I might be lucky. If it was up, the driver and fireman would be busy for a sharp start to make up time on the route to Llandudno, which would be the destination of this excursion service.  On such occasions, no amount of please and thank you would elicit an invite.

Meanwhile the train would be disgorging trippers from every carriage door, all racing for the footbridge and all the kids rattling the chain along the top of the bridge in their rush to make the most of their short time in the town. Mums and dads, like our own, would be dressed in their Sunday best for a sit on the beach – suits and floral dresses abounded. Pacamacs available for the first sight of inclement weather!

This was Rugeley’s finest on parade. What happy days!

Watch the full glorious video here…    1961 Visit to Rhyl from Rugeley

 

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Colin Jones’ Blog Spot on Rhyl

 

jklmlPhoto from Colin’s blog of a pre war Birmingham family enjoying themselves on Rhyl Beach

 

I’m not the first to have a lasting affection for my home town that has turned online.

One of my inspirations has been Colin Jones’ blog, which has been a constant source of amusement, memories and enjoyment.

I feature in one of the posts together with the Rhyl Junior High School Rugby team of 1969. My abiding memory of that team was playing on a frozen pitch at Glyndwr (then the Junior High School) and performing what others described as a ‘brave’ blockage of a long kicked ball with a rather sensitive part of my anatomy. I knew I had dome some serious damage, but it was thirty seconds, due to the cold, before the agony kicked in.

The blog is a compendium of  key places, events and people that makes up the historical fabric of the town. Strange to think that so much of what was our daily lives as children now forms historical records, of which, without people like Colin, would be lost in faded memories.

I send Colin my thanks and best wishes as he scales down the blog and concentrates on new challenges. Thank you for your research and insights into our great town.

Visit Colin Jones’ Rhyl BlogSpot

 

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