The Anonymous Widower

Class 230 Trains On The Conwy Valley Line

I suspect to some people, the use of Class 230 trains, which are rebuilt London Underground D78 Stock on the Conwy Valley Line is a challenge to far.

Class 230 Trains

I wrote about these trains in First D-Train With Transport for Wales In March 2019, where I stated that the train formation will be.

  • DM – Driving Motor with battery
  • T – Trailer with four generators
  • DM – Driving Motor with battery

As the trains will have regenerative braking, this will be used to help charge the batteries.

Note that batteries and traction motors are only in the Driving Motor cars.

The Conwy Valley Line

The route of the single-track Conwy Valley Line can be summsarised as follows.

  • From Llandudno to Llanrwst it is a fairly level route alongside the River Conwy.
  • From Llanwrst the line climbs to a 240 metre summit in the Ffestiniog tunnel, with gradients as steep as 1-in-47.
  • From the summit, the train descends into Blaenau Ffestiniog with gradients as steep as 1-in-43.

It has some of the characteristics of a roller-coaster.

Class 230 Trains On The Conwy Valley Line

Provided the trains can handle the gradients either side of the summit, they can just roll down the other side. During the descent, the regenerative braking will charge the batteries.

This will have the following effects.

  • Trains on the downhill sections will not need to use their diesel engines.
  • Trains waiting in Blaenau Ffestiniog station, won’t need to use their diesel engines until they start back to Llandudno.
  • I suspect some Northbound services, trains would be able to reach Llandudno without using their diesel engines.

Gravity is being used as an energy store to create an efficient railway!

Energy Of A Class 230 Train On The Conwy Valley Line

I am curious to know how much energy is needed to get a fully-loaded train up the hill from Llandudno to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Consider the following.

  • A D78 Driving Motor car weighs 27.5 tonnes
  • A D78 Trailer car weighs 19 tonnes
  • Wikipedia says “For the Country layout, each D-train unit is to be a three-car formation, which would accommodate 163 seats along with a total capacity of 291.”
  • I assume each passenger weighs 90 Kg with baggage, buggies and bicycles.
  • I think it is fair to say that each generator and battery weighs about a tonne.
  • The summit of the line in the Ffestiniog Tunnel is 240 metres above sea level.
  • I will assume that the coastal end of the route is at sea level.

This means that the empty train weighs eighty tonnes and a full load of passengers weighs twenty-six tonnes.

Using Omni’s Potential Energy Calculator, this gives a potential energy for the train of seventy kWh, at the summit with a full load of passengers.

This figure means that if two 55 kWh batteries from a New Routemaster bus were used on the train and they were fully-charged, then they could power the train to the summit and on to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

It should be noted that Vivarail talk about using 106 kWh battery rafts on the Class 230 train.

A Few Questions

I have these questions.

Are These Class 230 Trains Serial Hybrids?

I ask this question, as it could be key to making the operation of the trains more efficient on this line.

The train would always be powered directly from the batteries.

  • The diesel engines would cut in to charge the batteries, when the battery charge level got to a certain low level.
  • The diesel engines would cut out, when the battery charge level, got to a certain high level.

As the train has four generator sets, an appropriate number could be used as required.

A well-trained driver or an intelligent control system could make these trains very efficient.

In this article on RAIL Magazine, this is stated.

Shooter told RAIL that the trains will save around 20% on fuel consumption.

Adrian Shooter is Chairman of Vivarail, who are creating the Class 230 trains.

Possible Electrification Of The Ffestiniog Tunnel

The Class 230 trains are created from London Underground D78 Stock and I suspect it would be possible for the Class 230 trains to be powered by third-rail electrification.

The Ffestiniog Tunnel is the summit of the Conwy Valley Line.

  • It is a single-track.
  • It is 3.5 kilometres long.
  • One end of the tunnel is close to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Would it be a sensible idea to electrify the tunnel either fully or partially, to top up the batteries?


  • The third-rail electrification would be no intrusion in the landscape.
  • The electrification could only be switched on when a train is present.
  • I don’t think supplying power would be difficult.
  • There could be less need to run on diesel.

The electrification could even be extended to wards Blaenau Ffestiniog station, so that trains leaving the station could have electrical power to climb to the summit.

Will The Class 230 Trains Attract Passengers?

I think that the Class 230 trains have several passenger-friendly features.

  • All new interiors.
  • Ten percent more seats and almost twice the capacity.
  • Lots of space for bicycles
  • Large windows
  • Wi-fi and power sockets
  • Accessible toilet

Hopefully, there will also be step-free access between train and platform.

This package of improvements should encourage more to travel.

I also suspect, that having a decent train with a novelty appeal that connects to the Ffestiniog Railway will tap a new market of travellers.


I have no doubt, that Class 230 trains will be able to provide a successful service on the Conwy Valley Line.





July 24, 2018 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Day Out From Liverpool

I was staying at the Premier Inn close to Moorfields station in Liverpool and decided to go to Blaenau Ffestiniog for the day, with hopefully, a ride from there on the Ffestiniog Railway to Porthmadog on the coast.

The following sections describe the route I took.

Moorfields To Chester

After buying a Day Return from Liverpool Stations to Blaunau Ffestiniog with my Senior Railcard for £20.40, I took one of Merseyrail‘s four trains per hour (tph) from Moorfields station, that goes direct to Chester station.

The train was one of Merseyrail’s Class 508 trains, which are nearly forty years old. Although, they were refurbished a few years ago and get much better TLC. I’ve yet to see a Merseyrail train, that has suffered from spray painters!

It always surprises me, how many people I’ve met, who’ve been for a weekend to Liverpool and haven’t used the Merseyrail system, that has four stations in the City Centre and connects to attractions in the North, South and on the Wirral.

Over the next few years, it will be getting larger and better.

  • New Class 777 trains will replace the current ones.
  • The new trains will have a battery capability to extend routes.
  • The network will be expanded to Skelmerdale and possibly Preston and Wrexham.
  • A connection to Liverpool Airport is a possibility.
  • New stations will be added.

It should also be noted, that after the extensive works at the main Liverpool Lime Street station, that extra direct main line services will be introduced.

  • Chester, Lladudno and Shrewsbury via the Halton Curve.
  • Edinburgh and Glasgow via the West Coast Main Line.

If I was going between Liverpool and Llandudno from next year, I will have two routes.

Chester Station

I think it is truthful to say that Chester station needs improvement.

According to Transport for Wales, improvement is coming by 2028.

It certainly needs it!

  • Chester is one of England’s historic cities.
  • Many residents of Chester commute to Liverpool and Manchester.
  • Chester station is a main railway interchange between North Wales and Birmingham, Liverpool, London and Manchester.
  • The station doesn’t have enough staff or a decent passenger information system.

As the station is managed from Cardiff, does it suffer from being out of sight and out of mind?

Chester To Llandudno Junction

From Chester to Llandudno Junction station took about an hour in a Class 175 train, along the North Wales Coast Line.

The scenery is mixed as these pictures show.

The line has an operating speed of ninety mph, but the train didn’t seem to travel at much over seventy.

The signalling is being improved and it strikes me, that the section of the line to the East of Llandudno could become a route, where Virgin’s Class 221 trains and the new Welsh diesel multiple units to be built in Newport, could really crack on and improve timings.

Up The Conwy Valley Line

Blaenau Ffestiniog has an altitude of 215 metres, and Llandudno Junction has an altitude of perhaps less than ten metres.

The Class 150 train was fairly well loaded, but it managed the climb on the Conwy Valley Line easily.

.As you can see the single-track route starts alongside the estuary of the River Conwy, then continues up to the summit in the 3.5 km long Ffestiniog Tunnel. The summit is 240 metres, so the line descends into Blaenau Ffestiniog station.

Transport for Wales intend to run Class 230 trains on this line.

I wrote about this in Class 230 Trains On The Conwy Valley Line.


The trip with its three changes took around three hours, but this time will get a bit shorter, once direct trains between Liverpool and Llandudno Junction stations via the Halton Curve will be faster and there will be no need to change trains at Chester station.

I looked at the effects of the Halton Curve in Between Liverpool Lime Street And Chester Stations.

I came to this conclusion on timings.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see timings of direct trains between Llandudno and Liverpool Lime Street stations in the order of an hour-and-a half.

I suspect the direct train and the improved journey time will attract more passengers to the route.







July 23, 2018 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blaenau Ffestiniog Station

Blaenau Ffestiniog station is the interchange between the Conwy Valley Line and the Ffestiniog Railway.

Note that as my train arrived from Llandudno, there was a Ffestiniog Railway train to take travellers to Porthmadog.

This is said in the Wikipedia entry for KeolisAmey Wales under Improvements.

Invest to co-fund new station buildings at Blaenau Ffestiniog


  • The Conwy Valley Line is scheduled to be run by new Class 230 trains from mid-2019.
  • According to Wikipedia, there have been steam workings up the Conwy Valley Line.
  • Blaenau Ffestiniog station has a run-around loop to put a locomotive on the other end of a train.
  • The Halton Curve will open in December 2018, allowing direct and faster trains between Liverpool and Llandudno.

It would appear Transport for Wales are pulling out all the stops to bring tourists and employment to Blaenau Ffestiniog.


July 22, 2018 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Now That’s What I Call A Footbridge!

This article on Global Rail News is entitled Network Rail Launches Footbridge Design Competition.

This is the first two paragraphs.

A competition for new footbridge design ideas has been launched by Network Rail and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

Entrants are asked to design fully accessible footbridges that can be used across Britain’s rail network and that further improve the legacy of rail pioneers.

Hopefully, something better than some of those on Britain’s rail network will be designed.

I was in Wales last week on the Ffestiniog Railway and saw this bridge.

Surely, someone can come up with something like this, that meets all the regulations and looks a lot better, than Network Rail’s standard offering in green-painted steel.

My father used to build structures like this with timber and bolts to create extra floors and storage in his print works in Wood Green. From about the age of seven, I was his little helper.

Perhaps, thirty years later, I had a barn built at a house I owned. The architect had the building designed in a similar manner.

Someone, ought to enter Network Rail’s competition with a similar design.

July 22, 2018 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment