Category Archives: Railways

Look, Duck and Vanish.

The BBC series “Dad’s Army” (1968-77) allowed the work of the Home Guard to remain in the public’s consciousness long after the volunteers stood down at the end of WW2.  The new film will remind us of the affection felt for the original series and its characters in the fictional “Walmington-on-Sea.”

Amusing as the comedy series was, the situation in 1940  was no laughing matter.  Britain was under serious threat of invasion by the Germans. On the night of May 14th, 1940, Anthony Eden made his first speech as Secretary of State for War.  Part of his speech was asking for volunteers for the LDV:

‘We want large numbers of such men in Great Britain who are British subjects, between the ages of seventeen and sixty-five, to come forward now and offer their services in order to make assurance [that an invasion would be repelled] doubly sure. The name of the new force which is now to be raised will be the Local Defence Volunteers. This name describes its duties in three words. You will not be paid, but you will receive uniforms and will be armed. In order to volunteer, what you have to do is give your name at your local police station, and then, when we want you, we will let you know…’

By August Winston Churchill had changed the name from “Local Defence Volunteers” to “The Home Guard” because he thought the original name was uninspirational and cumbersome.  The well known comedian Tommy Trinder had also nicknamed the LDV, rather unfairly, “Look, Duck and Vanish”.

The photographs below show the “Rhyl Railway Home Guard” (also including Crosville employees).  There was also the “Rhyl Town Home Guard” and the “Rhyl Post Office Home Guard”.  This must have represented quite a number of men in the town.  Nationally, 750,000 men had volunteered within a month of Eden’s speech and over a million by the end of June.

Officers of the Rhyl Railway Guard. Left – Right Back Row, NK, NK, Billy Wynne Front Row, NK, Bert Craighill, Major Blackwell, Bill Roberts, Owen John Williams.

The men consisted of those who were too old, too young, unfit or ineligible for the regular army.  Also included were those involved in reserved occupations.   This description is from the  Imperial War Museums website:

“The Home Guard was at first a rag-tag militia, with scarce and often make-do uniforms and weaponry. Yet it evolved into a well-equipped and well-trained army of 1.7 million men. Men of the Home Guard were not only readied for invasion, but also performed other roles including bomb disposal and manning anti-aircraft and coastal artillery. Over the course of the war 1,206 men of the Home Guard were killed on duty or died of wounds.”

N.C.O.’S of the Rhyl Railway Home Guard” Left-Right: Back row: N.K., Mr Evans, N.K. Middle Row: Harry Williams, Willie Whelan, N.K., Bert Hinder, N.K. Front Row: N.K., Bert Conde, Tommy Ratcliffe, N.K., Mr Sibley, N.K.

 

Click on the image to enlarge. The photograph shows the entire company of Rhyl Railway Home Guard. Names include those already mentioned in the previous photo’s also: Gerald Conde, Ronnie Davies, Idris Morris, Dick Morris, Dick Jones, Ken Ellis, John Jones (aka Jacky Esso), Williams brothers, Fred Webb.

Memories of local people include manoeuvres being carried out on the Cob and also apparently in Caerwys, where they gathered at the Picadilly.  One little story involves an Officer in charge of men during manoeuvres on the Cob.  As the evening wore on the Officer was reminded by the men about the need to be back in town for last orders.  The march back into town was doubled as drill practice.  Whilst marching down Kinmel Street a lady (who’d obviously got the wrong idea) shouted after them “Where are you off for boys?”  “Egypt” replied the Officer.  “Oh, God Bless you” replied the lady (just before the men fell out to retire to a local hostelry).

As always, your comments or reminiscences are very welcome.

 

 

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A railway journey down the Vale.

We have of course looked in detail at the Vale of Clwyd railway before, see

https://rhylhistoryclub.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/rhyl-to-corwen-the-vale-of-clwyd-railway/

The Vale of Clwyd Railway was a 4′ 8½” line which connected the towns of Rhyl and Denbigh via St. Asaph.  At Rhyl the line connected with the North Wales Coast line.  At Denbigh the line connected with the Denbigh, Ruthin and Corwen Railway and the Denbigh and Mold Junction Railway.  An extension of the line terminated at Foryd Pier.  The line was closed to passengers in 1955 and completely by 1962.

timetableclick on the timetable to enlarge the image

Above is a timetable from 1883 which featured in The Rhyl Record and Visitor. There were twelve stops between Rhyl and Corwen and there were two trains in the morning, two in the afternoon.  Journey times were approximately 1 hour 50 minutes.  Trains to Denbigh were more frequent, two in the morning and four in the afternoon/evening, with an approximate journey time of 35 minutes – not much longer than it would take us to drive there today, 131 years on.  The Vale of Clwyd was sometimes referred to as “The Eden of North Wales” and it must have been wonderful to have travelled its length by steam train.

To travel along the line via interesting photographs of all the stations, click on the link below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMcdR2cnwyQ

see also:

http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/r/rhyl/

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Rhyl to Corwen, the Vale of Clwyd Railway

The proposed cycleway along the tracks of the old Vale of Clwyd Railway caused great controversy a few years ago, and the plans never came to fruition.  There were, of course, arguments on both sides but an opportunity to trace the journey of the old steam trains from Rhyl along the beautiful Vale of  Clwyd was lost.

The railway dates back to June 1856 when  “The Vale of Cwyd Railway Act” received Royal Assent, this allowed the construction of a line from a  junction with the Chester and Holyhead Railway near Rhyl to Denbigh, a distance of 10 miles.

The following extracts are from “The Railway Magazine”, February 1957, where  J.M. Dunn describes The Vale of Clwyd Railway.

The first directors were all local men.  The contractor was David Davies, who undertook to complete the line and to maintain it for 12 months afterwards; Thomas Savin, a mercer of Oswestry, was associated with him in the undertaking.

The first sod was cut on August 7th, 1857, just over a year after the act had been obtained, but once the work was put in hand it proceeded vigorously and it is said that the period of the construction of this line was one of the most strenuous in David Davies’s life.  The line was not difficult to build, but the job had to be done quickly and he is said to have worked 16 hours a day regularly, often getting what sleep he had in the firebox of a “dead” locomotive!  The line  opened on October 5th 1858, only 14 months after the first sod was cut.  Only a single track was laid, but the works were built to take a double line should this later be found necessary; it never was.

Alan Fletcher describes the occasion of the first train from Denbigh to Rhyl, in “The Clwyd Historian”, October 1988:

The day was set fair.  It was a fine autumn morning when at 6 o’clock the Russian gun at Denbigh Castle thundered out the signal for the festivities to commence…… Considering that the Vale of Clwyd Railway was really only a minor appendage to the Chester to Holyhead line as far as Rhyl was concerned, the seaside resort made a splendid effort to welcome the branch line.  There was great excitement, the town was decorated with flags and at Queen Street by the “George” there was an arch of evergreens constructed by a Mr Healing. 

In his article, J.M. Dunn continues:

Another Act, which received Royal Assent on June 30th, 1862, authorised the construction of a branch 1.25 miles in length to the north-west shore of the estuary of the River Clwyd at Foryd.  The branch at Foryd appears to have been opened in October 1865, but this is by no means certain and a great deal of mystery surrounds its early days Examination of the Parliamentary plans deposited in 1859 shows a line on the course of the present branch from its junction with the Vale of Clwyd main line to a point just north of the bridge by which it passes under the Chester and Holyhead Railway.  It then curves to the east, crosses the River Clwyd and continues in an east-south-easterly direction to the Chester and Holyhead station at Rhyl, cutting diagonally across what is now the Marine Lake.

The most intriguing feature of this plan, however, is the fact that from the point at which the projected line leaves the course of the existing branch another line shown as “H.R. Hughes’s Railway” follows the course of the present line to its terminus at Foryd Pier.  Further, an official L.N.W.R. list of bridges and other structures dated December 1874, describes the bridge over the Foryd Pier line as “Hughes’s Bridge”.  The said H.R. Hughes resided at Kinmel Hall, was a large landowner in the district, and Trustee of the Rhuddlan Marsh Embankment and Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Woods, Forests and Land Revenue, but no details about his railway appear to have survived.

The ballast used for the Vale of Clwyd Railway was shingle obtained from the beach near the Foryd – the spot can still be seen easily today at the end of the line at the pier – and it is known that the L.N.W.R. lent a “Crewe Goods” engine together with a Crewe driver named Clough to the Vale of Clwyd for working ballast trains during the construction of the line.  A passenger station was built at the level crossing over the main coast road at Foryd Pier, but there appears to be no evidence that it was ever used as such, although it was stated on August 27th 1864, that the branch would shortly be opened for passenger traffic.  The remains of the platform are still to be seen and the station buildings are now a dwelling house called “Pier Cottage”.  There was also a station called Foryd on the main Vale of Clwyd line, at the other end of the branch, but this was closed on April 20th, 1885, and is now a place of residence.  Foryd Station on the Chester-Holyhead line was opened on April 20th, 1885; it was closed on January 5th 1931.

On September 19th, 1955, the passenger service between Rhyl and Denbigh was withdrawn, although the line remains open for goods and special excursion trains.  On Sunday, September 2nd 1956, the signal boxes at Rhuddlan, St. Asaph, and Trefnant, together with all the signals worked from them, were taken away and during the following week the down loops at St. Asaph and Trefnant were removed.

These extracts are from lengthy articles from “The Railway Magazine” and include full details of the line as far as Corwen.  If anyone has an interest and would like to see the articles in their entirety please contact the Club.

Take a look at all the stations on the line from Corwen to Rhyl on this wonderful youtube video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMcdR2cnwyQ



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Trainspotting…

As kids in the 1950/60’s, trainspotting was what we did.  Wait for the train, and then underline the number of the train you had spotted in your book, with your pencil – hours of fun!

Check out your numbers here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_BR_%27Britannia%27_Class_locomotives

Here is a wonderful youtube video of the Railway Stations along the Vale of Clwyd from Corwen to Rhyl:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMcdR2cnwyQ

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Rhyl’s First Station Master, Mr Thomas Winston.

A previous post described the removal of the horse trough,  presented to Rhyl by Thomas Winston and which stood for so long in Queen Street.  It seems that Mr Winston was a remarkable man who deserves greater recognition in the history of Rhyl.

His obituary (Rhyl Record and Advertiser, July 6th 1889) goes some way to explaining why so little is known about him.

A quiet and unassuming man, he abhorred all pompous vanity and shunned every public office unless he was sure that by accepting it he would be of real service to someone”

Contrast this with our era of celebrity and self promotion.

He was born in Surrey in 1815, his paternal ancestors being Welsh.  He arrived in Rhyl on May 1st, 1848 as the town’s first station master.

The obituary goes on to explain:

“It was on this day that the railway here first opened and of all the factors which have contributed to the prosperity of Rhyl, unquestionably the greatest was the opening of the Chester and Holyhead Railway”  and “It may be interesting to note that it was Mr Winston who booked the first passenger from Rhyl, and the remembrance of this fact always gave him a peculiar satisfaction.  Indeed, he was for a long time in the habit of attending the booking office on the 1st of May each year, and booking a passenger in commemoration of this incident.”

The North Wales Chronicle of February 25rd 1853 describes the “Presentation of Plate and Dinner to Thomas Winston Esq.” , at a public dinner at The Royal Hotel Rhyl on February 17th of that year, by his friends and well wishers.  “The numerous friends and admirers of the above gentleman, whose sterling qualities of heart and head have justly endeared him to all who have the happiness of his friendship”

In 1859 he retired to Bodanerch, Russell Road.  His retirement from the post of Station Master was received by the employees under him, and the public alike, with great regret and on his departure he was made the recipient of a testimonial from men employed at the station.  He was presented with an inscribed silver cup and the obituary says “of all the many marks of kindness Mr Winston received from his brother townsmen and others, he looked back upon none with greater pleasure than he did upon the small token he received at the hands of the men who had been fellow labourers with him”

“He devoted his time entirely and absolutely to the furtherance of the prosperity of Rhyl”  He was actively associated with the raising of the necessary funds for the building of St. Thomas’s Church, a Director of Rhyl Promenade Pier Co., shareholder and Director of the Gas Co. and Rhyl Cocoa House Co., a Rhyl Commissioner from 1868-71 and was accorded a seat for 18 years on the St. Asaph Board of Guardians.  Again, from his obituary:

As a guardian, he was a “guardian of the poor” in truth; and where there was a real case of distress, and the red tapeism for which the Board of Governors are proverbial, would not permit relief being given, he would himself administer it.”  “His unostentatious liberality was princely, and his gifts were invariably accompanied with either words of encouragement or expressions of sympathy”

“As to his charities, they were unlimited.  Religious organisations in the town ever found him a ready and generous contributor.  He drew no distinction between church and chapels, nor between any one of the dissenting bodies.  All were recipients of his liberality, without reference to denominations of any kind.  The deserving poor in Rhyl always occupied a warm part of his heart, and his beneficent gifts towards their relief and amelioration are too well known to need any comment.  He gave to everything.. even the dumb animal will miss Thomas Winston and the drinking fountain in Queen Street is an instance of his care for the equine and canine tribes, as well as the human species.”

The cutting below is from the Rhyl Record and Advertiser, June 29th 1889 which was also the day he died.


The paper of the following week states “his demise has cast a gloom on the whole town, but his many acts of philanthropy, his unswerving rectitude, kindly disposition and urbanity of manner will ever remain green in the memories of the people of Rhyl and warm in their affections”

The paper of July 13th describes a meeting which took place to consider the best memorial to Mr Winston and the photographs show the Window and Monumental Brass , which was decided upon, in St. Thomas’s Church.


 

 

 

thos winston

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Rhyl Athletic knock Stoke City out of the F.A. Cup

Rhyl Athletic Supporters F.A. Cup 1926/27

Rhyl Athletic had a great run in the F.A. Cup in the 1926/27 season.  In the first round proper, Rhyl played Stoke at home on Saturday, November 27th.   They drew 1-1.  A replay was played at Stoke on Thursday, December 2nd and again the score was 1-1.  A second replay was arranged for Monday, December 6th at Old Trafford, Rhyl were victorious beating Stoke city 2-1.  This photograph shows the Rhyl supporters, pictured by the special train which took them to the match.  I wonder if this was on the way to Stoke or to Old Trafford?  We have two names: 6th from the left at the front is Jim Nevitt and 9th from left is O.J. Williams.  Please leave a message on the blog if you have any more information about the photo.

In the second round Rhyl beat Wrexham 3-1 at home, and went on the draw Darlington in the third round.  Unfortunately Rhyl lost at Darlington 2-1 on Saturday, January 8th 1927.  Darlington were beaten in the following round by the eventual winners of the cup, Cardiff City.  The Cup Final between Arsenal and Cardiff City was most remembered for a mistake by the Arsenal goalkeeper Dan Lewis, himself a Welshman.

This was the first ever Cup Final to be broadcast by BBC Radio.

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