Friday 20 May 2011

Cymru Gogledd : Tocyn Taith ...

... somebody will comment if that's wrong!

Two earlier blogs augment today's effort:-
Traveline, Truth or Twaddle (read again)
Are You "In the Zone"? (read again)
Readers will, doubtless, remember that fbb and Mrs fbb have just returned from a holiday in North Wales.   One day was spent on a circular tour by bus and train; and a splendid day it was, too.
fbb and co. joined an Arriva service 5 just outside the B&B and travelled swiftly to Bangor where they changed to the train.  Bangor used to have real through trains from London (up to 11 carriages) and similar trips from the North West, but, alas and alack, services are now in the hands of diesel units.
Bangor in those halcyon big train days (early 60s) 

fbb's chosen train was on a through five hour working from Holyhead to Cardiff.   Arriva Trains Wales [ATW] must have a special school for stock allocation, because the unit for this long distance "express"  trip was by a tired, tatty and decidedly dated class 150 two-car Sprinter, like the one on the right below.   The journey's comfort was little helped by the fact that a substantial proportion of the population of Bangor was aiming to catch the service.  It was packed!
Fortunately your blogging travellers managed to get a seat for the 15 minute run to Llandudno junction.   Here a very few passengers transferred to the shuttle train to Llandudno.  fbb counted three!  To cope with this onslaught of customers, ATW had rostered a shiny modern THREE-car type 175 Coradia (above left) for a leisurely 14 minute run.  Clever, that is!
Immediately outside the station is the "interchange", a long shelter with four huge poster panels headed "Bus Information", but, you guessed, with not a jot or tittle in the frames.   In a tiny frame on the stop pole there was a list of departures bedecked in multi coloured confusion.  A missed opportunity. What is worse, Conwy Council, despite publishing an excellent timetable book in hard copy, doesn't make it available on line, leaving the unfortunate enquirer in the hands of the ever-reliable Traveline (!!!).

But with timetable book in hand, fbb joined the Express Motors X1 service to Betws-y-Coed.   The journey is tightly timed (unworkably so, reckons fbb from his bus driving days) but, with the benefit of Lewis Hamilton speeds, the journey arrived only a couple of minutes late.  In recent years Betwys-y-Coed has gone commercial with the impressive station Building converted into shops selling high quality tat,
but the railway museum area is amusingly quaint.  The ambiance was not embellished in the slightest by an outbreak of Welsh monsoon.
One party member took the train forward to Blaenau Ffestiniog but the majority caught a later X1 for another formula one dash over the more picturesque mountains.  Blaenau Ffestiniog is not the most beautiful place in North Wales, unless you like slate!
But it is the terminus of the Festiniog Railway (one English "F", rather than the two welsh ones e.g. "Ff"**) and this narrow gauge leg was, as usual, truly magnificent in very untypical Welsh clear skies and sunshine. Although the pic below is a stock photo, this is what it was really like; no, really.
And so from Porthmadog back to Caenarfon, well documented in the earlier blog.   Despite the brief Betwys-y-Coed monsoon, the day could hardly have been better. And so much MORE enjoyable without the responsibility (and the cost) of driving.

One final snippet.  On the platform at Betwys-y-Coed was a dot matrix "next train" thingey (see below).
It made announcements from two little speakers underneath the display.   The volume was very low, but fbb listened carefully.  Did the old man hear correctly or was he dreaming?  He heard perfectly correctly. The electronics that generated the announcement from the words on the display DID NOT UNDERSTAND WELSH!   Whoops and Oh Dear!

Pont-y-Pant is pronounced something like "Pont-uh-Pant".   But not at Betwys-y-Coed.   There it comes out as:-  "Pont-why-Pant".   Glorious blunder.

And the shelter isn't there now.   Fandaliaeth; efallai?

** Before the Welsh extremists come and burn his house, fbb wishes to state that he does know that, in Welsh, "ff" is not (technically) a "double letter" but a distinct and separate letter consisting of two linked characters and pronounced "f".   The Welsh letter "f" is, of course, pronounced "v".   So in Welsh, Festiniog would be pronounced "Vestiniog".    With that in mind, have a guess at "fandaliaeth", above.

Next blog : due Saturday May 21st  


  1. Although by no means apologising for ATW's stock shortage [2 car 150 on Holyhead-Cardiff], I'd just like to mention that the Llandudno-Llandudno Junction shuttles are formed by Manchester-Llandudno services in marginal time, ie the sets work Manchester-Llandudno-Llandudno Junction-Llandudno-Manchester. So although a 3 car 175 is over-provision for interchanging passengers at the Junction, it is itself often crowded on the Manchester-Chester section of its main run.

  2. Thank you Stuart - I suspected that might be the case -0 but the juxtaposition was, to put it mildly, unfortunate!
    Blogs are based on limited observation and correction and explansion is very much appreciated.