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Corwen Extension

LEFT - Rails through Bridge 28A. RIGHT - The last bit of bare trackbed to Dwyrain Corwen East (the platform location is just out of sight as the trackbed bends to the right. Pictures - George Jones

CORWEN EXTENSION PROGRESS MARCH 2014


ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES VISIT THE EXTENSION


Interest in the progress with the extension project has been boosted by elected representatives visiting the work sites to see the progress made and the challenge which remains to complete the work to allow trains to operate to Corwen by the peak summer period.


On Thursday, 27th February, two Welsh Assembly Members, Ken Skates and Mark Isherwood, joined by Mabon ap Gwynfor representing Llyr Gruffydd, joined officers from Denbighshire County Council for a tour of the work sites near Corwen. Due to inclement weather on the day, the party went by the community bus along the A5 road to the gated access at Bonwm. En route their attention was directed to the 66 footings at the station site, the head of steel and the repaired over bridge 28A, as well as the length of track now in situ.  At Bonwm a briefing on work progress was given, whilst the timely arrival of the ballast train provided clear evidence of continued commitment to the extension works. The representatives were also made aware of the concern about the river bank erosion here and the need for this problem to be tackled sooner rather than later.

On return to Corwen the site engineer for the contractors working on the Flood Alleviation Scheme gave a briefing on progress with the prospects for the scheme being completed by May 2014. The countryside ranger explained that a high level footpath accessing the station site from the car park would be built along the bund created by the drainage works. This would avoid the path through the Corwen Common which is presently under flood water.


On Saturday, 1st March, St David’s Day, the Member of Parliament for Clwyd South, Susan Elan Jones, had an escorted visit to the work sites on the extension where she met with volunteers engaged in line side vegetation clearance. She also had a close look at the repairs undertaken on Bridge 28A before sampling the cab of the class 03 shunter.

For the occasion of Gŵyl Dewi Sant the locomotive was decorated with Welsh Flags and was carrying the Welsh train headboard “Y CYMRO” (The Welshman) which is normally used on special occasions with more prestigious passenger trains. The 03 then took the ballast train along the new track towards bridge 28 for a stone drop. In so doing it provided spectators with a foretaste of what the scene will be like on this straight section when train services operate later in 2014.


Commenting on her visit Susan Jones said, “I was delighted to be able to visit the railway extension works and to meet some of the volunteers who are tackling this project. Their achievement with the track laying is tremendous!

I recognise the challenge which remains to complete the work to the station at Dwyrain Corwen East, but I am sure they will be there later this year and will realise their dream. I will continue to follow the successful completion of the work with interest and look forward to the train arriving in Corwen”



For the moment the railhead remains just west of Bridge 28A. A limited supply of concrete sleepers has been delivered to site. More are awaited to allow track laying to resume and complete the 40 panels now needed to reach the phase 1 station site at Dwyrain Corwen East. In the meantime arrangements for the construction of the platform are in hand. With the advent of the bird nesting season further vegetation clearance will cease, although good work has been done along the route through to the approach to the station site.


There continues to be a good response to the Corwen Sleeper Appeal which remains open to fund the many materials which are required to complete the project.


Llangollen Railway Trust Ltd

3 March 2014


TRACKLAYING STARTS AGAIN! More sleepers have arrived and are being laid towards Dwyrain Corwen East platform on 20th March 2014. Photo Richard Dixon Gough

The roadrailer ready for more tracklaying action. Seen under bridge 28A on 20th March 2014. Photo David Clark

St Davids Day: 1st March 2014. Susan  Elan Jones MP with the track gang at Bridge 28A

The St Davids Day Train! Only a ballast train unfortunately, but we did get it there! (See report above)

Both photos George Jones


CORWEN EXTENSION PROJECT

RAIL HEAD REACHES CORWEN TEMPORARY STATION SITE


A volunteer lead task force has completed the track extension project to reach the station site at Dwyrain Corwen East.


Track panels laid alongside the footings for the temporary platform were connected to a buffer stop at the end of the track on Saturday 5th April.


Corwen Community Representatives visit the rail head

Following a Project Co-ordination meeting on Wednesday 9 April, at which the conclusion of the track laying exercise was announced, representatives from the local community and Denbighshire County Council celebrated with a visit to the rail head.


Picture below shows the view looking west from bridge 29 with the track alongside the platform footings. Corwen is evident in the background.

Progress during March

Thanks to a magnificent response by contributors to the Corwen Sleeper Appeal, new supplies of concrete sleepers were sourced and delivered to site during March. With the Road/Rail machine back in action, the volunteer work force made good progress when track laying resumed and, as of the end of March, the rail head had exited the cutting west of Bridge 28A and was into the curve heading for underpass Bridge 29. From here the town centre of Corwen was plainly in sight and track laying was again visible for users of the A5 road. With continued effort in early April, the railhead reached the station site and the buffer stop was placed on site rather sooner than initially forecast.



Dwyrain Corwen East station

The next challenge for the Railway’s project will be the building and installation of the 100metre platform and associated access ramp leading off the embankment. It is evident this work will require the employment of some expertise to achieve this installation to the required standard and appropriate help is being sought.


Work on the riverside drain outlet has been concluded by the contractors for the Corwen Flood Alleviation Scheme and their need to access the railway embankment is ended. With that project now nearing completion the contractors are looking to vacate their works compound and restore the area on the approach to Corwen which will improve access to the terminal site.


Picture below shows the view looking west from bridge 29 with the track alongside the platform footings. Corwen is evident in the background.




Llangollen Railway Trust chairman, Neil Evans, said, “The occasion was the culmination of a lot of hard work and application of resources over the past three years. Whilst a significant moment to celebrate, there is still much to do before trains can operate into the station. However it is evident now that we have almost completed phase 1 of this exciting rail extension project.”

Opening Prospects

Whilst the finish of track laying is a great achievement, it is not the end of the project by any means. Delivery of over a thousand tons of stone is needed for the top ballasting of the track, with packing and aligning from the aid of a hired in tamper machine. There are various other aspects to be finished off and the length tidied up before the line can be passed for passenger trains.


However it is looking hopeful that train services to and from Corwen will commence in the summer of 2014, provided finance continues to come to hand to provide the necessary resources to complete the job.


A further announcement will be made in due course.


George Jones

Llangollen Railway Trust

11 April 2014


A few more pictures of the railhead at Dwyrain Corwen East. Left: The rails through the soon to be erected platform before the buffer stops were positioned. Centre: The buffer stops in place with the foundation pads for the platform to the left. Right: The bufferstops from the Corwen Town side.

All pictures - George Jones

CORWEN EXTENSION PROJECT REVIEW – May 2014  


Useful media headlines resulted from the arrival of the railhead at the Dwyrain Corwen East station site in April and local enthusiasm for the arrival of trains in 2014 is renewed. However there remains much to do and it would be unwise to speculate on an opening date at this point, although train services to Corwen in the summer remains an objective.


Corwen station site


The installation of the platform and access ramp at the Phase 1 temporary station requires the hiring in of expertise for the task and the Llangollen firm of Davies Bros have been appointed to undertake this work. Materials stored at the Llangollen Railway Carriage & Wagon works will be taken by rail through to Corwen and the erection work will start later in May. With an estimated six weeks work for the construction of the platform, it may be available for fitting out by early July.
















Photo. The finalised drain channel access to outflow pipe below the railway embankment – platform will be installed above and to the centre right.


George Jones,

Llangollen Railway Trust

15 May 2014




Photo above shows the newly surfaced car park. New fencing and landscaping is underway in the back ground. Right hand is the meandering footpath to the car park via the Corwen Common.


Meanwhile there is much still to do to arrange for the basic facilities to be provided at the public access point to the station site.


The Denbighshire Routes Warden, Ros Stockdale, said, “The pedestrian access from Corwen East platform is developing well, and the paths should be completed in the next few weeks. The AONB has been working closely with the Flood Alleviation Scheme contractors as they complete their works, and they will be reseeding the site with a mix of wild flowers, so we are hoping that the journey from the railway into town will be a very colourful experience. The Artists in Residence – Camp Little Hope – are back and developing their ideas for the meadow and community orchard areas.”


In order to prepare train staff for the operation of trains to Corwen, a visit by members of the Traffic Department was arranged on 8 May. In the course of an escorted walk from the station site into town, the party gained an appreciation of the access arrangements for those arriving by train or visiting by car/bus. A conducted tour of the town centre provided an awareness of what Corwen has to offer in terms of shops, refreshment facilities and places of interest. Further visits by other customer facing volunteers and Llangollen Railway staff are to be arranged.


Track


The need for top ballasting of the new track remains a priority. Unfortunately there is a scarcity of the required grade of recycled ballast and resumption of deliveries from Crewe to Carrog is awaited. The calculated need is for 1,500 tonnes of stone requiring delivery by 55 lorry loads, at an estimated cost of £27,000. The start of ballasting is anticipated in late May and, if the section west of over bridge 28A can be completed during June, the hiring of a tamper machine in July will see the track work completed.

In the meantime, the extension has been the subject of a detailed in-house inspection to produce a list of items requiring specific attention to track and infrastructure. The list of ‘snags’ is being worked through by the project team but some of the heavier work requires the services of the 12 ton crane, once a repair to it has been effected.  One very visible addition to the railway scene is the installation of a fixed distant signal on the section east of bridge 28A as a sure sign the train will be coming.


Passenger Survey


In the course of the Easter and the May Bank Holiday weekends a Corwen Awareness survey was conducted at the Exhibition coach in Llangollen station. This revealed a great deal of interest in the project and eager anticipation for its completion. A high number of responses confirming the use of the Corwen terminus for a visit to the Llangollen Railway were recorded. The availability of convenient car parking was welcomed, as well as the easier accessibility from a different road network and nearness to home, or place of holiday accommodation, in the North Wales sector.  The results point to a need for a major marketing and promotional effort in North Wales once a date for the opening of train services to Corwen can be accurately determined.


Prospects


Llangollen Railway Trust Chairman, Neil Evans, said. “We are working hard on the final aspects of the project and trust all will come to fruition in time for trains to operate to Corwen during the summer period. A date will be announced directly we are confident that the extension and facilities are complete and have passed an inspection.”


Work on the Corwen Flood Alleviation scheme is now completed and the contractors have vacated the work site. In the course of restoring the area the surface on the over spill car park, on the approach to the station site, has received a new coat of asphalt, including the track up to the end of the existing railway embankment. This work is a notable improvement to the area.


Also due for attention is the pedestrian route from the town’s car park through the Corwen Common area when a top coat is applied to the footpath. Other enhancements to this area to make it attractive to visitors are planned, including the provision of an all-weather route in the area now restored by the contractors.

The photo shows the station site as seen looking East from the access gate with buffer stop middle centre; the platform will be located on the right.


This photo shows the newly surfaced car park. New fencing and landscaping is underway in the back ground. Right hand is the meandering footpath to the car park via the Corwen Common.

LLANGOLLEN RAILWAY TRUST


CORWEN EXTENSION PROJECT REVIEW – combined June/July 2014


First Train at Cowen East Station site


A notable occasion was achieved on Wednesday, 25 June 2014, when the first loco hauled train visited the station site – albeit only the ballast train propelled by diesel shunter 03162, nevertheless, it made an impressive sight as it waited to make a run to drop stone on the formation.


It should be noted that the appearance of 03162, a former Birkenhead Docks shunter, at Corwen was entirely appropriate. The loco celebrated the former long established connection with the Merseyside town when train services operated on the Ruabon – Barmouth line from and to the railway terminus at Birkenhead Woodside.


Track Ballasting


A continued famine of supplies of recycled ballast from Crewe frustrated the top ballasting of the track during June.  The issue was resolved by placing an order for 1,000 tonnes of new stone from the quarry at Penmaenmawr, although it does come at increased cost. However immediate delivery of stone by lorry to the yard at Carrog commenced and the ballast train began running again on the extension west of Bonwm from 23 June. These daily deliveries allowed for the ballast train to work through to Corwen East as stone was dropped west of Bridge 28A. It was anticipated that the ballasting would take four weeks to complete, to be followed by the hiring in of a tamper machine which will clearly take completion of the exercise into August.


Corwen East station site


As of late June the volunteer work force began laying the final panels of track to take the railhead through to the end of the embankment. In the event the railhead was extended at the Corwen East station site during week ending 28th June and the stop block now sits by the access gate at the end of the phase 1 station site and the Toad mess van is in residence.


Unfortunately, the prospect of the wooden temporary platform being erected by local contractors did not proceed as planned. The contractors have now withdrawn from the project and alternative methods for platform erection were being explored to provide a quick fix for this essential facility. In addition, the erection of the graded access ramp off the embankment is to be tackled as a volunteer lead option, once the railhead is secured.


The site of the accommodation building for the station has to be determined to allow for a concrete base to be cast, whilst the actual steel framed building is on order from the Railway’s engineering department. Solar powered lighting for the station is being investigated as the cost of a mains supply to the site is beyond the available budget.


Also by the end of June agencies for Denbighshire County Council began preparation of the footpath below to station site which will allow access via under bridge 29 to the adjacent nature reserve. Top coating of the footpath through the Corwen Common area to the town’s car park was also proceeding.


Local representatives at the Community Liaison meeting on 25 June were told that an autumnal option for a first passenger train in the Dwyrain Corwen East station is a possibility, if progress is maintained.



TRACK EXTENSION REACHES CORWEN RAIL HEAD


As of Tuesday, 8th July, the track extension at the Dwyrain Corwen East station site received its top ballast. Thanks to consistent supplies of ballast from Penmaenmawr quarry, the top ballasting of the extension has proceeded apace and the job was completed ahead of estimates.


The 03 shunter brought the SHARK and two tipper wagons onto the station site to spread the ballast and place ash on the north side of the station site. This is the furthest west a train has proceeded so far.


The services of the hired in tamper machine are now needed, when further ballast supplies will be required to top up the formation. In the meantime, there has been plenty of spade work for the volunteer work force to fettle up the stone dropped and the track is now ready for attention from the tamper machine to pack and align the formation.


It may be that we can soon have another golden fishplate moment at the end of the line to celebrate the volunteer achievement in completing the track laying exercise.


Station infrastructure


Estimates for the building of the temporary platform with scaffolding are coming to hand from contractors, but a start date for construction has yet to be determined.


There also remains the matter of building the graded access ramp off the embankment onto the approach road. However the footpaths from the car park have now been given a top coating and the poor weather approach is complete. The nature reserve access below the station site has been seeded with wild flowers and is closed to allow for germination.


The ‘snagging’ list of items large and small continues to be worked on. The piping of culverts 25g & 25h which take surface water off the A5 has been completed and work on the road surface drainage has been tackled by Highways. Some 800 fishplates on the extension have all been greased, but further work is necessary to complete the list of items requiring attention which includes fencing, crossings and items of infrastructure.


Retrospect


By way of reflection on the progress with the project, a picture taken in June 2011 makes a contrast with the current scene. Then chairman, Jim Ritchie, was seen  explaining to Corwen community leaders that the wilderness on the old trackbed would become the station site. The party was standing on the old under bridge 30 which disappeared as part of the Corwen Flood Alleviation Scheme – the spot where the 03 shunter stood with the final load of ballast. We did get there, but it has been a real challenge to rebuild nearly 2.5 miles of railway.


With a range of work still to be completed, the date for the start of passenger services still cannot yet be given, as inspection of the completed works will be required, but the recent achievement brings the opening ever nearer.

George Jones

Llangollen Railway Trust

21 July 2014


Photos Left to Right: Preparing the footpath alongside the platform site; Ballasting through the station site; The view of Corwen Town from the site of the new platform

All photos - George Jones