Merseyside, Chester & North Wales Branch

Merseyside Branch Area Activity

   The frontage of Liverpool Lime Street has for many years been partly obscured by "temporary" buildings. These have now been removed and the area cleaned up to provide unobstructed views of this magnificent structure. The work was virtually complete when photographed on 11 May 2010   Mark Youdan

DMU classes seen in the area are Class 185 (Trans-Pennine Express), Class 175 (Arriva Trains Wales), 158 (Arriva & East Midland), 156 (Northern & occasional visits by East Midland units), 153 (Arriva), 150 (Arriva, Northern), 142 (Northern) and 221 (Virgin). Emu classes seen are Class 319 (Northern), 350 (London Midland), 390 (Virgin) and 507 / 508 (Merseyrail Electric), the latter being some of the oldest units running on regular franchised services.

   142020 waits at Ormskirk with a Preston service while 507012 can be seen behind on a service to Liverpool on 31 January 2012. The 2 lines here are no longer connected.   Andrew Rushton
   158819, the last of ATWs class 158s to remain in "silver" livery, crosses the Roodee viaduct outside Chester on 31 Aug 2012. The viaduct received an extensive renovation during most of 2012   Geoff Morris

Scheduled loco-hauled passenger services in the area are limited to a pair of diagrams operated by Arriva Trains Wales using by a push-pull Mk 3 rake powered by a class 67. The Welsh Assembly Government-supported Holyhead - Cardiff round trip continues to run as WAG sponsorship continues although the future of its full restaurant service is open to question. The second diagram, introduced at the end of 2014, originates (and ends) at Crewe but predominantly operates between Manchester Piccadilly and either Holyhead or Llandudno. Both diagrams operate Monday - Friday only although one of the rakes, often strengthened, is also used for specials to Cardiff for rugby internationals at the Millenium Stadium and Saturday services between Crewe & Holyhead around Bank Holiday periods.

Other diesel classes appear occasionally on charter trains, empty stock movements or Network Rail test trains and there are regular steam-hauled charter services, particularly during the summer holiday period.

   82306 leads a strengthened Mk 3 formation (67003 at the rear) into Chester with an additional service from Holyhead to Cardiff for a rugby international on 24 Nov 2012   Geoff Morris
   The scheduled dragging of Pendolinos between Crewe & Holyhead ceased in 2012. 57308 tows 390002 past Shed Lane, Chester, while returning to Crewe on 7 July 2012   Chester

Electrification of the Manchester - Liverpool (via Chat Moss) route saw the gradual introduction of class 319-operated emu services between Liverppool and Manchester Airport (via Piccadilly) in March 2015. As more units became available, their sphere of operation extended to Manchester Victoria and Wigan North Western by the middle of May 2015.

   319362 heads the 08:40 from Manchester Airport to Liverpool Lime St through Huyton on the first day of public electric operation.   John Cashen

Most freight services in the area are operated by DRS, DBS and Freightliner, although Colas & GBRf locos also appear regularly. Details of booked services on the WCML and North Wales appear in the well-known "Freightmaster" book, and the on-line version thereof. The majority of diesel-hauled freight services are worked by Class 66 but classes 20, 37 or 57 can be seen on the flask trains to Valley, class 56 on some of the timber trains to Chirk while classes 60, 67 & 70 also appear regularly. The class 60s, due to their superior low-speed power, are the standard motive power for the Liverpool Bulk Terminal - Fiddlers Ferry coal trains while class 70s are the standard motive power for the Ellesmere Port - Fiddlers Ferry coal trains. Classes 86, 90 & 92 work electrically hauled freights on the WCML, including some services to & from Garston.

   60040 (now in DB Schenker livery) at Warrington Bank Quay on Liverpool Bulk Terminal - Fiddlers Ferry coal hoppers on 11 Dec 2012.   Geoff Morris
   Class 70s have been allocated to the Ellesmere Port - Fiddlers Ferry coal service since their introduction. 70010 heads the midday departure off the Docks branch and through Ellesmere Port station on 29 Nov 2012.   Geoff Morris

The busiest freight centre in the area is Warrington, with other traffic being dealt with at Garston, Liverpool Docks, Oakleigh (Northwich), Folly Lane (Runcorn), Ditton & Ellesmere Port. The curve from Olive Mount Junction to Edge Lane Junction reopened in December 2008, allowing freight trains to and from the docks to avoid reversal at Edge Hill.

Freight services along the North Wales coast are now confined to the flasks to & from Valley, infrequent stone trains from Penmaenmawr and the autumn Rail Head Treatment trains. The latter are hauled by Network Rail class 97s as the diagram includes the Cambrian line to Machynlleth and these are the only locos equipped with ERTMS to enable them to work that route.

   66623 (in its uinique blue livery) takes the Mickle Trafford route out of Chester with a stone train from Penmaenmawr to Guide Bridge (for Metrolink extension work) on 9 March 2012   Geoff Morris
   Grubby-yellow 97304 propels the North Wales RHTT out of Chester (97303 is on the front) on its return to Crewe having visited Machynlleth, Bidston & Holyhead on 5 Nov 2012   Geoff Morris

Freight services on the Chester - Shrewsbury line convey steel from South Wales to Dee Marsh, (occasional) coal to the cement works at Penyffordd and timber to the Kronospan factory at Chirk. Investment in new sidings at the Kronospan factory has allowed the timber trains to be increased to 21 wagons and investment in further wagons saw the introduction of additional services from South West and South Wales in 2012, all operated by Colas. The service from Carlisle may be hauled by a class 56 or 66 while those from the South are usually hauled by a class 56. The line between Bidston & Dee Marsh is normally the preserve of class 150 dmus on the hourly service to Wrexham with locos appearing only on the autumn Rail Head Treatment trains mentioned earlier. These are the only "regular" loco-hauled services on the Merseyrail Electrics network: the only other appearance of locomotives occurs on (irregular) departmental trains.

   66850 approaches Helsby with the Carlisle - Chirk log train on 30 March 2012   Geoff Morris
   Bringing the rare sight of a loco-hauled train to the Wirral, 66054 stands on a ballast train during relaying work at Hoylake.   Ian Henderson

last updated: 26/05/15