Guard John Doyle shows the green flag to driver Graham Parkin for the 11am departure.
According to a report in the Oswestry & Border Counties Observer, the first weekend of resumed services for the Llangollen Railway Trust (LRT) was a success. Limited rail services resumed on Friday July 9, with the heritage diesel railcar operating between Llangollen and Berwyn for the first time since October 2020. The trains operated an hourly service between 11am and 4pm for the three days, Friday to Sunday, following confirmation that the engineering work on the Dee bridge had been inspected, approved and signed off. In a message to members LRT chairman Peter Edwards said: “Inspectors from the Office of Rail and Road have visited the railway, principally to assess the bridge repairs but some scrutiny was also given to the new Safety Management System. "Both were judged fit to run, so we have no technical impediment to running trains from Friday.” Mike Williams, operations director for LRT, said: “The first day of operations was something of a ‘shakedown exercise’ to ensure we had everything in order. In the event it was a fantastic day when everything went as planned as supporters and others came out to ride the trains. Everybody has worked really hard. The volunteers have stepped up to the plate and performed a range of operational duties. It's been a great day - we'll be running trips again each weekend through July and from August 3 on six days a week – Tuesday to Sundays. As essential engineering work is completed, we will extent the service to Glyndyfrdwy and later Carrog. We expect to be able to reintroduce steam hauled trains during August. If everyone continues to support the railway, hopefully, the line will be saved." The first of the diesel trains got away on time on Friday at 11am with 44 passengers on board for the run across the river Dee to Berwyn station. Passengers had a 15-minute stopover to enjoy the view of the Chain Bridge and the Dee Gorge or the option to stay a while longer and take in a stroll to see the famous Horseshoe Falls.
The train at Berwyn
The class 108 diesel railcar is an historic vehicle in its own right giving great views of the line and the River Dee. At 60 years old, it provides a contrast with modern day trains on the mainline by offering the classic way ahead view from behind the driver and the observation coach style view from the rear. A marketing survey of passengers found the majority had come from the local catchment area of Wrexham, Deeside, Cheshire, Shropshire and Merseyside with visitors pleased to have the train back at Llangollen and anxious to lend their support to the Trust; others came from some distances away for weekend breaks and summer holidays and were surprised to find the trains operating again. Chris Magner from Bridgnorth, Shropshire, was particularly enthusiastic about the positive turn of events. He said: “I am very pleased the trains are running again and have come to give my support. Back in October 1985 I was a passenger in the first train to Berwyn on the railway’s then new extension across the River Dee bridge. That train was also a diesel railcar and the event was a major achievement in the pioneering era of heritage railways. I am so glad the Trust has been able to recover from the difficult period of administration for the PLC and able to run trains again, with the prospect of reaching the new terminus at Corwen next year.”
Simon Baynes MP joins the train at Llangollen
Clwyd South MP Simon Baynes showed his support for the reopened railway when he joined the 1pm departure for the ride to Berwyn. Later he said: “It was a great pleasure to visit Llangollen Railway today on the day that they have re-opened and started running their first trains since October. I had the opportunity to meet with many of the volunteers who work so hard and with such commitment to the railway. It’s wonderful to see the railway back in operation and it’s a great tribute to the board members and volunteers who have dedicated a huge amount of time to make this happen.” Trains will run again for the three-day weekend starting July 16.