Archive News from the Line
2002 to 2008
To Welshpool from Austria via Romania - 12 December
Llanfair line bucks economic trend - 30 October
Railway geared-up for half-term finale - 19 October
Photographer’s friends join him on last ride - 19 October
GLTW welcomes Snowdon Mountain Rly - 20 September
Welshpool buys the Wasp - 29 August
Take the Train to take a stroll - 16 July
The Earl is Back - 23 June
Young visitors invade railway - 20 June
Busy winter on Llanfair Line - 10 March
A new boiler for Welshpool stalwart - 3 December
Track work underway - 3 December
Second Pickering Replica delivered to Welshpool - 21 August
Resita 764.425 available for service - 4 August
Carriage arrives from Romania - 4 August
Royal Reunited - 23 July
Resita 764.425 under test in Romania - 14 June
New 4-wheel Carriage Purchased - 20 May
Progress of Resita 764.425 - 28 April
Spring opening follows busy winter - 5 April
Royal's Progress at Llanfair - 9 January
A New Locomotive for Welshpool - 29 October
Members Recall Sadder Times - 29 October
Fiftieth anniversary of closure of the W&L by BR - 9 October
Welshpool line goes back to its roots - 9 October
Tubize No.5 Returns to Finland - 3 October
Largest Heritage Railway Rail Order - 19th September / Update 24th September
Mav Carriage makes traffic debut - 1st September
The Heaviest Train? - 1st September
Joan Project Underway - 1st September
Second Hungarian Carriage Restoration Progress - 2nd August
First Step to Joan Restoration - 22nd June
Dream Realised at Welshpool - 22nd June
Replica Carriage Arrival - 21st June
New Locomotive Arrives at Llanfair - 19th April
Welshpool's Steam Fleet Expanded - 5th April
Taiwan Diesel for Welshpool - 23rd March
News Round Up - 11th January
Red day for Welshpool line’s carriage fleet - 7th June
Welshpool Line Marks Two Anniversaries in Style - 7th April
Welshpool Line Stages Day to Attract New Members - 7th April
Would you like to put an Engine Back Together? - 7th April
WLLR & FR Sign Contract for Replica Carriage - 2nd February
Monarch is Home - 14th January
Plans in place for Centenary Celebrations - 14th January
News in Brief - 14th January
Welshpool joins Ffestiniog to recreate Missing Link - 22nd November
Replica Carriage Announcement - 21st November
2002 - It's a Record - 4th November
Monarch coming home at last - 4th November
Countess Goes - But only for the weekend - 4th November
News in Brief - 4th November
For other news items please follow the following links:
To Welshpool from Austria – via Romania
Famed narrow gauge railways in Wales and Austria gained yet another connection this month.
The Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway has taken delivery of a rollwagen transporter wagon, the vacuum-braked six-axle bogie vehicle, no W303, originally designed to carry standard gauge wagons on the 2ft 6in (760mm) gauge Zillertalbahn in the Austrian Tyrol. A number are still in daily use on the line. Transporter wagons were also used on the 2ft 6in gauge 'Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway' in Staffordshire, but no examples survived into preservation.
Photo: Andrew Charman
The wagon was found in Romania and refurbished before its journey to Wales. W&LLR volunteers now intend to modify it with a prime role being to carry a hedgecutter to ease the task of flailing back encroaching lineside vegetation. To avoid manual handling of heavy objects such as sleepers, the addition of a hydraulic crane may also feature in future plans.
W&LLR General Manager, Terry Turner commented; “The wagon was spotted on a scrap pile during a visit to Romania and arrangements were made for refurbishment before delivery. With a weight of 7.6 tonnes and a very low centre of gravity, this wagon will be ideal for our hedge flailing operations after suitable modification.”
Photo: Andrew Charman
The most popular passenger carriages on the W&LLR are the open balcony vehicles that were donated by the Zillertalbahn, the first arriving in Wales in 1968. One of the W&LLR locomotives, No. 10 'Sir Drefaldwyn', also formerly worked in Austria.
Meanwhile the W&LLR is busy with its winter work programme. The relaying of half-a-mile of track on the Golfa bank is well underway, with the ex-MOD railcar ‘The Wasp’, purchased in summer, proving a boon for crew transport.
In the workshops at Llanfair, Beyer-Peacock 0-6-0 no 1 ‘The Earl’ has been stripped down in readiness for its 10-year boiler overhaul, while work continues on returning Resita 0-8-0 no 19 to working order after its leading axle failure in August. Progress is also being made on the restoration of Kerr Stuart 0-6-2 no 12 ‘Joan’, with the axle boxes being fitted to the frames in readiness for their re-wheeling.
Llanfair line bucks economic trend
VOLUNTEERS working on the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway have received some good news as the line comes to the end of its regular season this weekend.
At a Members Forum held on 25th October, it was announced that the budget that had been set for 2008 had been exceeded, despite a season that suffered from poor weather and the economic downturn. W&LLR General Manager, Terry Turner commented: “Encouraged by marketing initiatives throughout the season, visitor numbers have been maintained at 2007 levels. There seems to have been a general downturn of around 10 per cent in Welsh tourism and in such difficult times, this achievement is a credit to all involved.”
Trains run this weekend before the line closes for the winter, though there will be pre-bookable Santa Special trains run over the two weekends leading up to Christmas. Meanwhile the members of the railway will be busy with an extensive winter maintenance programme.
The likelihood of the current economic situation continuing well into 2009 has meant that the railway has had to set its new budget accordingly, but Terry Turner added that there would still be plenty of new items appearing on the line over the coming year. “Significant sums are being committed to ongoing capital improvements,” he said.
Current major works include the rebuilding of the railway’s 0-6-2 tank locomotive ‘Joan’ which was built in 1927 by Kerr Stuart of Stoke-on-Trent for a life hauling sugar beet in Antigua. Acquired by the W&LLR in 1971, ‘Joan’ has not steamed since the early 1990s. Currently a new boiler is under construction for the loco at the Bradford works of specialist builder Israel Newton & Sons. One of the W&LLR’s original locomotives dating from 1902, No.1 ‘The Earl’, will also receive a 10-yearly overhaul over the winter and will return to service in early 2009.
The line will soon welcome back the second of its carriages formerly owned by the Sierra Leone Railway. Carriage 1207 has been restored in Romania to First Class status, complete with 16 leather armchairs, to compliment Third Class 1066 which was returned to Llanfair earlier this year. It is expected that both vehicles will be reunited with the ex-SLR Hunslet 2-6-2 No.85 in 2009 to form ‘The African Train’ at special events.
This winter will also see the W&LLR continue its major investment in track renewal. A further half-mile of track will be relaid, almost entirely by volunteers, around the tortuous reverse curves on the 1 in 29 Golfa Bank close to Welshpool. Connecting two recent renewals, this refurbishment will complete the entire route between Welshpool and Sylfaen summit – more than half of the eight-mile line having been relaid since 2000.
In another example of international co-operation, rails removed from the W&LLR during the winter will be sent to Romania to assist with the rebuilding of the Viseu de Sus and Moldovita 760mm (2ft-6in) gauge forestry lines. These lines were devastated by flooding last July.
Meanwhile in the opposite direction, a ‘rollwagen’ (a six-axle bogie transporter wagon used for carrying standard gauge wagons on narrow gauge lines), formerly owned by the Austrian Zillertalbahn with which the W&LLR has long connections, will shortly arrive at Llanfair. The line eventually intends to use this vehicle as a flail, for keeping down lineside growth, and a crane wagon.
Railway geared-up for half-term finale
PARENTS looking for ways to entertain the children over half-term this week (25 Oct-2 Nov) could grab virtually their last chance this year for a steam-train ride.
THE Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway will be running trains throughout the whole of half-term week – the last of its regular season.
Both children and grown-ups are assured of a highly enjoyable eight-mile journey through rolling hills with surprisingly steep gradients for the locos to tackle. This provides plenty of work for the crews, passengers enjoying a close-up view of the footplate action from the open balconies of the line’s Austrian and Hungarian carriages.
Anyone visiting over the weekend of 1-2 November may well share their carriage with several of the railway’s volunteers, who will be taking a last ride before knuckling down for the extensive maintenance work over the winter months. Apart from the Santa Special trains just before Christmas, the line’s locomotive fleet will not be called into action again until next Easter.
For more details of train times call 01938 810441.
Photographer’s friends join him on last ride
ON Saturday (19 October) a small ceremony at the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway marked the last journey of one of the line’s earliest volunteers.
Chris Gammell, who died earlier this year, was originally a railway man, and later became a noted photographer of steam railways. But he was also one of the dedicated band of volunteers that in the late 1950s resuscitated the Welshpool & Llanfair after four years of closure, clearing the track of weeds and readying the line for its eventual reopening in 1963.
In particular he was an instigator of a daring move in 1959 to rescue some of the line’s heritage wagons from the former terminus adjacent to Welshpool’s main line station, before the lifting of the W&LLR’s roadside route through the town. Train movements on this section were officially prohibited, but Chris and his colleagues hired a pair of shire horses to haul the wagons along the track to safety at Raven Square, where the line’s Welshpool terminus is located today.
While Chris photographed many preserved railways, his affection for the Welshpool & Llanfair was amply demonstrated by the fact that the line was one of just two preserved railways to benefit from a generous legacy from his estate – the other being the Bluebell Railway in Sussex.
At Llanfair on Saturday for the handover ceremony were members of Chris’s family, including his two brothers, one of whom flew in from Los Angeles for the occasion. They joined members of GLO, a social group of former railway men which Chris helped to found and which still meets today. All traveled in a specially-reserved carriage on the 3.45pm departure to Welshpool, where close to Castle Caereinion station a small but important ceremony took place, Chris’s ashes scattered through the firebox of ‘The Earl’, one of the railway’s original locomotives built in 1902.
W&LLR spokesman Andrew Charman said that the railway was honoured to have been able to fulfil Chris Gammell’s last wishes. He added; “Obviously we are very grateful for the very generous legacy left to us by Chris, but we are equally grateful for the pioneering work so many years ago by Chris and others like him which provided the basis for much of what we have on the line today.”
GLTW welcomes Snowdon Mountain Railway
The ‘Great Little Trains of Wales’ has - quite literally - reached new heights as members welcome ‘Snowdon Mountain Railway’ to the family.
The GLTW is a very special way of seeing some of the best scenery in the British Isles by narrow-gauge rail; and whilst members share the charm of old-time steam trains, polished paintwork and brass, each railway offers something very different to passengers.
The inclusion of ‘Snowdon Mountain Railway’ brings the consortium to ten (see below for full list of members) and adds further prestige to this already world-renowned brand.
…Amongst its members, GLTW boasts the oldest independent railway company in the world, one of Europe’s most exciting railway projects, and some of the most recognisable engines on the planet – including enthusiasts’ favorite, ‘Russell’.
GLTW Secretary, Ray Reid said: “The Great Little Trains of Wales was started in 1970 to encourage visitors to Wales in general and the narrow gauge railways in particular.
“The addition of the Snowdon Mountain Railway, an established major attraction, to the existing nine railways makes the GLTW a more representative body and its Discount Card an even better bargain.”
Based on Victorian engineering, ‘Snowdon Mountain Railway’ has been taking holiday makers up Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales and England (3560ft), for 112 years.
The railway is the only public ‘rack and pinion’ railway In the United Kingdom, and with work soon to be completed on the £9m Snowdon Summit Visitor Centre (Hafod Eryri), there has never been a better time to see Wales at its best, by train.
A spokesperson for Snowdon Mountain Railway added: “Snowdon Mountain Railway are thrilled to be a part of the Great Little trains of Wales once again. Snowdon Mountain Railway are looking forward to working with such a prestigious brand and all the people associated with GLTW.”
See the best for less: For just £10 buy the ‘Great Little Trains of Wales Discount Card’ which gives you a 20% discount on the price of a return journey on all 10 members railways (including Snowdon Mountain Railway!) - which is valid for one year from the first date of use (Terms & Conditions apply).
Discounts for Great Little Trains of Wales Card holders with selected accommodation providers close to many member railways!
Available at Booking Offices and online at GLTW website: www.greatlittletrainsofwales.co.uk
The 10 GLTW member railways are:
Talyllyn in Mid Wales: www.talyllyn.co.uk
Llanberis Railway in the heart of Snowdonia: www.lake-railway.co.uk
Ffestiniog Railway in Porthmadog: www.festrail.co.uk
Welsh Highland Railway in Caernarfon: www.festrail.co.uk
Welshpool & Llanfair Railway in Welshpool: www.wllr.org.uk
Vale of Rheidol Railway in Aberystwyth: www.rheidolrailway.co.uk
Brecon Moutain Railway in Merthyr Tydfil: www.breconmountainrailway.co.uk
Bala Lake Railway in Llanuwchllyn: www.bala-lake-railway.co.uk
Welsh Highland Railway (P) in Porthmadog: www.whr.co.uk
Snowdon Mountain Railway: www.snowdonrailway.co.uk
Welshpool buys 'The Wasp'
Mike Hart, Director of Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways recently rescued two Baguley-Drewry standard gauge personnel carriers for preservation. Capable of carrying 14 passengers each, the two-axle railcars were built in 1976 for military use at MOD Longtown, Cumbria.
Despite the standard gauge, a width of less than 8’ led to thoughts of conversion to narrow gauge and discussions with Terry Turner, General Manager of the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway led to re-gauging by RMS Locotech and trial running on the W&L.
The trials proved so successful that the W&L sought outright purchase of Railcar No.9150, having received approval from HM Railway Inspectorate as a track personnel carrier and occasional passenger use at special events etc. Terry Turner commented: “The railcar will greatly aid track refurbishment and maintenance, allowing personnel and tools to be quickly and easily conveyed to remote worksites. We are very grateful to Mike for this initiative”
The second railcar, No.9120, awaits restoration to standard or, perhaps, an even narrower gauge? Mike Hart commented: “Having driven the railcar at Welshpool, I can say that it looks at home there. I’m really pleased to have rescued the railcars and delighted to have found “The Wasp” a new home and purpose at the W&L. The second railcar is in storage at the moment and its future has not been determined”
Photo: Dave Billmore
Take the train to take a stroll
Photo: Andrew Charman
VISITORS to a Mid-Wales heritage steam railway are being encouraged to put their best foot forward following the publication of a new booklet of walks around the line.
‘Off the Rails’, a 32-page fully-illustrated colour guide, has been published by the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway, with the aim of encouraging visitors to spend longer in the area by combining travel on the railway with a walk from the train.
Compiled by Steve Page, a volunteer guard on the railway, the book contains six walks from points along the line, each one supported by maps and colour photographs. All the walks are graded for level of difficulty and an estimate given of how long each will take, while there are also notes on the flora and fauna of the Montgomeryshire countryside traversed by the railway and the walks, compiled with help from the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust.
Several railway members contributed to the book, with the graphic design carried out by David Marsh Design, which creates most of the railway’s publications. The maps were drawn by Bruce Webber, a volunteer driver and Trustee of the charitable company that operates the Welshpool & Llanfair line.
The book was officially launched at Llanfair station tearooms on Tuesday 15th July, with special guest Mick Bates AM. Steve Page said he was very grateful to all those who had contributed to the book. “Prior to publication the walks have been path-tested by a team of volunteers to make sure that the directions are accurate and can be easily understood,” he added.
The book costs just £1.95 and copies are available from the stations at Llanfair Caereinion and Welshpool Raven Square, on some trains and other good local tourist outlets.
The Earl is Back
One of the railway's original locomotives, No.1 (822) 'The Earl' will be available for the forthcoming vintage weekend on 28th and 29th June. The locomotive was withdrawn last autumn following a suspicion of defects on two of its axles after routine ultrasonic tests.
New axles have been supplied and fitted to the wheelsets by Baguley Engineers Ltd of Burton on Trent, and returned to the W&L for fitting to the locomotive on 12 June. Workshop volunteers, mindful of the approaching vintage weekend, subsequently rallied around to return the locomotive to operational status over the following two weekends.
'The Earl' will now join the railway's other original locomotive 'The Countess' and former Sierra Leone Railway No.85 at the vintage weekend, whilst No.19 will take a break from regular traffic and act as reserve locomotive.
During the weekend No.1 will haul the demonstration freight trains and No.2 will be paired with the Great Western Era mixed train (featuring both replica Pickering Carriages and heritage wagons). A second passenger set featuring some of the railway's former Austrian 4 -wheel carriages will be hauled by No.85.
Young visitors invade railway
THE usual quiet Friday lunch-time at the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway’s Llanfair Caereinion station proved anything but today (Friday 20th June) when a train arrived from Welshpool bursting with children.
The special service for children of Maes Y Dre School in Welshpool was organised and funded by members of the town’s Rotary Club, with the aim of showing the children what goes on behind the scenes at the railway, and the many different tasks carried out by volunteers who run it.
With Rotary Club member and Welshpool Town clerk Robert Robinson leading the way, some 56 children and accompanying adults were shown all aspects of the railway, including visits to the tea rooms, the signal box and the workshops where 1902-built tank engine “The Earl’ was nearing the end of a repair.
Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway Press Officer Andrew Charman said as well as being enjoyable the event had been aimed at informing the children; “It’s exactly 40 years since steam was withdrawn from Britain’s main lines and to many children today a steam engine is a thing of mystery. For all we know some of the children visiting today could be the volunteers to tomorrow keeping the railway running for future generations to enjoy.”
Busy winter on Llanfair Line
THE Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway opens its 2008 season on Good Friday following a highly successful winter maintenance period.
This year’s track programme saw major renewals completed a month ahead of schedule, whilst the railway’s annual ‘Workshop Week’ was dubbed the best ever, with a great deal of essential work carried out.
The previous year’s track renewal from Sylfaen summit down to Cwm Lane (Golfa) level crossing was extended by a further half kilometer towards Welshpool using, firstly, Polish S30 (60lb) and then Chinese 50lb rail. The latter fits into W&L concrete sleepers and a bulk purchase has given sufficient for the next two years.
The railway’s General Manager Terry Turner said a number of factors had contributed to the success. “Mechanisation again paid dividends with ballasting completed in two days using the Romanian hopper wagons and all consolidated in five days with the Plasser tamping machine. We had good weather, few hold ups and the regular gang of local volunteers was boosted by extra people when needed,” he said. “We’re very pleased with the way it all went.”
The workshop week from 16-24 February focused on preparing the line’s operating fleet for the start of the running season, and work carried out included fabricating a new chimney for 1902-built Beyer Peacock 0-6-0 No 2 “Countess” and making various modifications to the most recent acquisition, the Romanian ‘Resita’ 0-8-0 tank 764.425, built in 1954. The major change to the locomotive was the fitting of a Lempor exhaust system to improve performance on the steeply-graded line. Work also continued on the restoration of 1927-built Kerr Stuart 0-6-2 ‘Joan’, with the cylinders being refitted to the frames.
W&LLR Press Officer Andrew Charman, who spent his first ever two days in the workshop after moving to the area last year from Surrey, said it had been a very enjoyable experience. “I spent a couple of days making new lubricator internals for the Resita,” he said. “I’m a complete rookie in this environment but everyone was very helpful and I also brought along a friend who spends most of his weekends in the workshops of the Kent & East Sussex Railway, so I had plenty of guidance. After some years working remotely for the railway it was good to finally get my hands dirty!”
Following the week the W&LLR’s Workshop Foreman Keith Bide said he was delighted with what had been achieved. “It was the best workshop week ever, in terms of both turnout and work cleared,” he said. “Virtually everything critical on the initial work list was cleared, with a number of additional jobs tackled.”
A new boiler for Welshpool stalwart
The restoration project to return the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway’s 0-6-2 Kerr Stuart tank ‘Joan’ to steam has passed a major milestone with the ordering of the locomotive’s replacement boiler.
Joan, which was built in 1927 for service in the sugar mills of Antigua, came to Mid-Wales in 1971 and entered service in 1977. The engine then proved a mainstay on the Llanfair line until sidelined by a firebox failure in 1991. Restoration began two years ago after members responded magnificently to a £105,000 appeal.
Because Joan’s existing boiler, built in 1949, was found to be in a very poor condition, its firebox cracked and barrel badly corroded, it was decided to obtain a new one. As W&LLR Chief Mechanical Engineer Colin Tickle explained, designing the replacement provided an opportunity to improve the specification.
“We have reduced the grate area slightly so that the general proportions and ratios fall in line with those of the Beyer and Hunslet locos which have given such satisfactory service over many years,” Colin said, adding that this will allow more room in the cab and facilitate “driver experience” operations – an important revenue-earner on the railway. He also said that the boiler fittings would be brought up to date to improve safety, ergonomics and maintenance, the working pressure raised to offer more power potential and a Lempor exhaust system incorporated to improve the draughting.
The new boiler and smokebox is being designed and made by Israel Newton and Sons Ltd. of Bradford to a specification supplied by the W&LLR. Delivery is expected in about 18 months.
Release Date: 3 December 2007
The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway will not be running a normal service timetable again until next Easter, but winter is by no means a time of rest on the line. Days after the last train of the regular season ran on Sunday 28 October, an extensive programme of winter track renewal began.
This winter’s programme continues on from the work that was carried out between Sylfaen halt towards Welshpool a year ago. At the time of writing track has been removed from a stretch running from Golfa Halt down the line’s fearsome Golfa Bank towards Welshpool, and daily work parties are busy renewing the line. The W&LLR’s Diema diesel, formerly based in Taiwan, is being used as a works locomotive, based at Welshpool Raven Square on the opposite side of the cut line to the line’s Llanfair Caereinion headquarters, and hauling materials trains to the work site.
Diema locomotive No.17 has recently had a full service and repaint.
Photo Simon Bowden
Winter exercise. Dismantling and lifting of the old line prior to drainage work, re-grading of the track bed and relaying. November 2007. Photo courtesy John Pearsall.
Second Pickering Replica delivered to Welshpool
The replica "All Third" Pickering carriage was unloaded at Welshpool Raven Square shortly after the last service train departed the station at 17.00 yesterday, 20 August. The carriage has been constructed by the Ffestiniog Railway at their Boston Lodge workshops to match the Brake Composite delivered in 2004.
The railway's original carriages were scrapped a few years after the cessation of passenger services in 1931. There were only three in total, two Brake composites (First and Third class) and one all third.
The arrival of the new carriage, numbered 4154, will open up further opportunities to recreate times past. The Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway possesses both of its original locomotives and several wagons also.
Carriage 4154 being unloaded at Welshpool. Photos: Tammy Stretton
Resita 764.425 available for service
The railway's newest steam locomotive, 764.425 (No.19 in the W&L numbering system), is now available for traffic having successfully passed her final tests and examinations in this country during the first half of July. The locomotive will see periodic use whilst crews are familiarised with her, but naturally anybody wishing to visit specifically to view the locomotive is advised to telephone the railway, 01938 810441, before travelling.
764.425 at Castle Caereinion whilst undergoing tests before entering traffic. Photo: B Webber
Carriage Arrives from Romania
The first of this year's new carriages arrived at Welshpool on Thursday 20 July. The carriage, a replica of Zillertalbahn carriage B20, will now have finishing touches added at Llanfair Caereinion before entering service.
The railway has decided to take advantage of the delivery of the new carriage to back-load one of the SLR carriages for external and basic internal refurbishment in Romania. Over the past year there has been considerable feedback from W&L members on the possible restoration of Sierra Leone carriages which in recent years have only been used on special occasions.
Exterior and interior views of the new 4-wheel carriage at Welshpool shortly after unloading on 20 July 2007. Photos: Tony Beardsell
A nice surprise awaited the unloading team, a spare axle for the recently purchased Resita locomotive - a present from Romania to the W&L. Photo: Tony Beardsell
The project to restore the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway’s historic articulated locomotive ‘Monarch’ to display condition took a major step forward on Friday 20th July when the constituent parts of the engine were reassembled in the railway’s Tanllan Yard at Llanfair Caereinion.
Despite torrential rain, a giant industrial crane swung first the frame and bunker over to be mounted on the two power bogies of the Meyer-type locomotive, which had been moved into position on track adjacent to the corner of the yard where a group of W&LLR volunteers have been carrying out the restoration over the past five years.
After the frames were fixed in place the boiler, weighing some six tons and with its rare marine-type firebox, was moved into position, followed finally by the side tanks and cab to produce something that once again looked like a steam locomotive.
Monarch, the last industrial narrow gauge steam engine built in Britain, was constructed for Bowaters Paper Mills at Sittingbourne in Kent in 1953, but spent just 13 years in service there. Purchased by the then-fledgling Welshpool preservation operation in 1965, the locomotive proved a challenge on the steeply-graded W&LLR, crews of the time finding difficulty adapting to such features as the marine-style firebox.
In 1992, with more locomotives having been acquired by the W&LLR, Monarch was deemed surplus to requirements and sold to the Ffestiniog Railway, which intended to overhaul and cut down the engine to enable it to work within the north Wales line’s restricted loading profile. Monarch was dismantled for this purpose but then priorities changed and despite later thoughts towards using it on the Welsh Highland Railway, under restoration by the Ffestiniog, the loco was left in parts where it slowly rusted until re-purchased by the W&LLR.
Since then a group of members have been working to restore Monarch to display condition, with most of the effort expended during just three working party weekends in March, June and October, culminating in Friday’s reassembly. However much remains to be done before Monarch can be put on display, most likely at the Welshpool end of the line.
More help with the project would be welcome, and particular skills are not needed, as more experienced members of the group will offer guidance at every stage. The next restoration weekend will likely be staged in October and anyone wanting more details can contact project leader Tom White on whitetw [at] hotmail.com or at 5 Newing Green, Bromley, Kent BR1 2TD.
Both Photos: Derek Purves
New Steam Locomotive Arrives at Welshpool
The eagerly awaited arrival of Resita 764.425 from Romania took place this morning at Welshpool. The locomotive departed Cluj works, Romania, on Thursday 14 June and arrived at Welshpool during the evening of Tuesday 19 June.
The scene that greeted W&L staff at 6.00am, 20 June. Photo: E Niblock / G Hall
By 7.30am the locomotive had been successfully transferred to W&L rails. Photo: E Niblock / G Hall
Locomotive No.7, 'Chattenden', was used during the unloading exercise and for subsequent haulage to Llanfair Caereinion. Photo: E Niblock / G Hall.
The two locomotives en-route to Llanfair Caereinion at Castle Caereinion station. Photo: John Stretton
Resita 764.425, W&L No.19, at her new home, Llanfair Caereinion locomotive shed. She will now undergo various tests and inspections before entering service. Photo E Niblock / G Hall.
Resita 764.425 Under Test
The W&L's latest acquisition 764.425 has been successfully tested in Romania and will shortly arrive in Wales. During a visit to Romania, General Manager Terry Turner and a group of locomotive & workshop volunteers inspected the locomotive at "16 Februarie" Remarul Locomotive Works in Cluj-Napoca on Friday 8 June before heading to the disused 11km Abrud- Campeni line for testing on the following day.
Following running trials, the locomotive was returned to Cluj for minor modifications and finishing touches before transport to Wales. Once the locomotive arrives in Wales further testing and certification will be required before it can be used on passenger services.
Resita 764.425 being prepared for loading before transportation for testing on the disused railway between Campeni and Abrud. Photo: Simon Bowden
The visiting party from Wales outside Cluj works. Photo Copyright: Simon Mayor
Under test at Rosja Montana with Criscior 5. Photo Copyright: Simon Mayor
The W&L group also had the opportunity to view the progress of the Austrian replica carriage at S.C Calea Ferata Ingusta S.R.L. in Criscior. See news released on 20 May for details. Photo: Simon Bowden
New 4-wheel Carriage Purchased
In addition to the newly rebuilt Resita locomotive due to arrive from Romania in June, the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway is to obtain a replica 4-wheel Austrian carriage from the same country.
Constructed alongside a refurbishment of Zillertalbahn B20 at S.C Calea Ferata Ingusta S.R.L. in Criscior, the replica B20 uses a standard Austrian chassis. The carriage is the same design as three vehicles now operating on the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway (B14, 16 and 17).
Along with another replica Pickering carriage being constructed at the Ffestiniog Railway and the rebuilding of ex Salzkammergut Lokalbahn carriage C569 at the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway’s own workshop, the new vehicle will provide sufficient capacity to allow other refurbishments to take place throughout the season.
A delivery date for the new vehicle has yet to be confirmed.
The W&L's ex Zillertalbahn B17 is the same design as the newly purchased replica carriage from Romania. Photo Copyright: A.N.T. Photographics and Keith Adams
Progress of Resita 764.425
During a visit to "16 Februarie" Remarul Locomotive Works in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway officials were delighted with the quality and progress made on the rebuilding of Resita locomotive No.764.425 which is due to enter service later in the year. Many of the components are now complete, and reassembly is in an advanced state.
Refurbished boiler awaiting inspection and hydraulic test. Photo: Colin Tickle
Later in the day the boiler was successfully steamed in the presence of an independent boiler inspector. Photo: Colin Tickle
View from the cab of 764.425 showing the new water tanks and discarded tanks beyond. Photo Colin Tickle
Various workshops revealed many new parts for the loco and the last wheel being turned to the correct profile. Photos: Colin Tickle.
764.425 had worked on a 10 Km railway linking the chalk quarry at Sandulesti and the cement works at Turda. Sadly all the freight now travels by road. The photograph shows the location of 764.425 before being rescued for preservation. Photo: Colin Tickle
764.425 stored at Criscior in October 2006 whilst awaiting restoration. Photo: Colin Tickle
Spring opening follows busy winter at Llanfair
The month of April has seen the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway opening to passengers for the first time in 2007 and the promise of an exciting season with several highlights to come, including the arrival of a new locomotive. But no running would be possible had it not been for the extensive and mostly behind the scenes efforts of the largely volunteer staff over the winter months, with much accomplished both on the track and in the workshop.
Track renewal has included a long section between Welshpool and Sylfaen stations, some 32 lengths, each 18 metres long, relaid on an approximately 1 in 45 section leading from the former Golfa halt towards the summit of the famed Golfa bank. The work was a true international effort, using Polish rail on Brazilian hardwood sleepers, secured with Sheffield steel baseplates, fishplates from Poland, clips from China and screws from India!
Photo: Bruce Webber
Included in the work was the replacement of the level crossing at Cwm Lane adjacent to the former Golfa halt, and major improvements to the drainage including the digging out of a three-foot diameter culvert that had become plugged by 16 feet of soil and mud – a tough job.
The railway’s now traditional ‘workshop week’ in February saw a great deal achieved by the almost entirely volunteer workforce, including work to the motion of Beyer Peacock 0-6-0 tanks ‘The Earl’ and ‘Countess’, and a new chimney cab for ex-Sierra Leone Hunslet 2-6-2 no 14.
Machining the new chimney cap for loco No.85. Photo: Keith Bide
Organisers reported some 98 man days put in by volunteers with the second Saturday seeing some 19 people in the workshop. Workshop supervisor Keith Bide was delighted with the efforts of the volunteers; “I’d like to thank everyone who attended and made such a contribution to the successful completion of the winter work programme,” he said.
Other work put in over the winter included three new turnouts constructed in South Wales to replace existing ones at the Welshpool station throat, while the commercial side of the business was not forgotten, with the shop at Welshpool Raven Square receiving a completely new interior.
Newly completed line. Photo: Tony Beardsell
New turnouts at Welshpool. Photo: Tony Beardsell
Now everyone at Llanfair is looking forward to a successful season, and one which should see several highlights including the entry into service of a second replica carriage and the debut of the latest locomotive to be acquired by the line, the Romanian ‘Resita’ 0-8-0 tank.
The finished product. Loco No.85 approaching Sylfaen summit at the start of the 2007 season. Photo: Tony Beardsell
Royal's Progress at Llanfair
Efforts to return the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway’s historic 0-6-2 tank locomotive ‘Joan’ to working order might be taking centre stage right now, but a small group of members have also been making good progress on a rather longer-term restoration project. In a corner of the railway’s Tanllan yard, the articulated engine ‘Monarch’ is beginning to look like a steam locomotive again, five years after returning to Llanfair as a kit of rusty parts following a decade-long sojourn on the Ffestiniog Railway.
The fledgling Welshpool preservation operation bought Monarch in 1965, from Bowaters Paper Mills at Sittingbourne in Kent. The last industrial narrow gauge steam engine built in Britain was then just 13 years old. Monarch proved a challenge at Welshpool, crews of the time finding difficulty adapting to such features as the marine-style firebox, and in 1992 the loco was sold to the Ffestiniog Railway after being deemed surplus to W&LLR requirements.
The Ffestiniog intended to overhaul and cut down Monarch to enable it to work within the line’s restricted loading profile, and dismantled the loco. But priorities changed and despite later thoughts towards using it on the Welsh Highland Railway, under restoration by the Ffestiniog, the loco was left in parts where it slowly rusted until re-purchased by the W&LLR.
Since then a group of members have been working to restore Monarch to display condition, and over the last year in particular much has been achieved, despite all restoration being fitted in around the maintenance of the railway’s active fleet. Most effort is expended during just three working party weekends in March, June and October. Both of the locomotive’s power bogies are now virtually complete, as is the boiler, and the members working on the project are highly hopeful that these three major components will be reunited during 2007.
Other work in 2007 will likely include replating and patching the bunker and smokebox before applying the standard four coats of paint, and finding and fitting a suitable set of couplings. Much of this will be carried out during working parties on Friday 16 - Sunday 18 March, Tuesday 5 - Saturday 9 June and a weekend in October, and while plenty of work will be carried out, there will also be some socialising too, including a tour to somewhere of railway interest during the June event.
More help would be welcome, so if you fancy a challenge why not join in? There’s always plenty to do and particular skills are not needed, as more experienced members of the group will offer guidance at every stage. The Monarch restoration group are a friendly bunch, and at the end of the day you will helping to preserve a highly historic narrow gauge locomotive. For more details contact project leader Tom White on whitetw [at] hotmail.com or at 5 Newing Green, Bromley, Kent BR1 2TD.
A New Locomotive for Welshpool
Just weeks after 2-6-2 tank locomotive ‘Orion’ left Wales to return to its home in Finland, the cosmopolitan nature of the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway’s rolling stock has been enhanced once more, with the news that a second Resita-built locomotive will soon be on its way to Welshpool from Romania.
The W&LLR already owns a Resita locomotive, no 764.423, a 25-ton 0-8-0 tank built in 1954. It arrived at Welshpool in April 2004 after several years in storage for an abortive railway scheme near Aberystwyth, and is in need of full restoration. Following a visit to Austria by Terry Turner, W&LLR General Manager, and Romania by W&LLR Chief Mechanical Engineer Colin Tickle, the railway has now purchased sister engine 764.425.
Similar to the W&L's latest acquisition, 764.411 is at the Stainzerbahn, Austria Photo: Terry Turner
The locomotive will undergo a ‘heavy overhaul’ by S. C. Remarul “16 Februarie” at Cluj-Napoca, Romania before delivery to Welshpool in around six months time.
The purchase of the Resita follows the W&LLR business plan published three years ago, though its acquisition has been brought forward thanks to funds from the sale of ‘Orion’ to its original line. Resita 764.425 will take the place in the plan that was originally to be filled by 764.423.
W&LLR General Manager, Terry Turner commented: “from the technical specification and following discussions with other users of this type of locomotive, it appears to be a powerful ‘workhorse’ capable of relieving the pressure on the original Beyer-Peacocks. Our CME was impressed with the Romanian locomotive works and the high standards of workmanship achieved there.”
W&LLR members were officially told of the purchase at a members' forum held on October 28th, and the locomotive’s impending arrival has generated a great deal of excitement. With no similar locomotive currently at work in the UK, the Resita will further enhance the unique appeal of the W&LLR.
Members Recall Sadder Times
On the last day of this year’s main running season, members of the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway recalled a time half a century ago when prospects for the line looked rather more bleak.
In October 1956, the W&LLR faced imminent closure. Attempts by Welshpool Borough Council and Llanfair Parish Council to persuade British Railways to keep the line open had been given up as a lost cause. Hopes rested on a preservation society that had been formed that January.
The omens for the scheme, however, were not good, preservation society secretary William Morris, a London-based printer, having told local paper the County Times that local support in terms of volunteers and money was ‘not forthcoming’. The recently preserved Talyllyn Railway was reported to be looking to buy up the W&LLR rails for re-use on its own line, while Welshpool locomotive No. 822, The Earl, was wanted as a static exhibit for the Talyllyn museum at Towyn.
After lunch the special train combined with the 2.15 service train and is seen here arriving at Llanfair Caereinion, 29 October. Locomotives Earl and Countess.
Photo: John Stretton
On 29th October this year, W&LLR members celebrated the 50th anniversary of the ‘last train’ with a special train organised by the line’s West Midlands area group. Motive power was provided by The Earl, and passenger accommodation included the replica of one of the railway’s original coaches from 1903. Members also enjoyed a lunch at The Raven Inn, Welshpool, at which Ralph Cartwright, author of several books on the history of the line, talked about the events of 50 years ago and their significance for what followed, the line duly being preserved, reopening in 1963 and growing to become one of the top tourist attractions in Mid Wales.
While the line is now officially closed for the winter, there will still be an opportunity to ride the Llanfair train before the end of 2006 with the ever-popular Santa Specials. For more details call 01938 810441 or visit the Santa Specials page.
Fiftieth anniversary of closure of the Welshpool and Llanfair by BR
W&L members from around the UK are set to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of closure and rescue of the 2’ 6” gauge Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway at the end of October.
A full re-enactment of the Stevenson Locomotive Society’s “last train” of 1956 will not be attempted, mainly because the mode of conveyance employed then – station benches fitted to open goods wagons without continuous brakes - would run foul of current health and safety regulations. The goods wagons were necessary because all the original passenger stock had been broken up before 1956.
Nor is it possible to recreate the famous passage of the last train through the streets of Welshpool, as the town section has not been preserved.
However, a special train will operate on the final day of the W&L season, Sunday 29th October 2006. It will be hauled by original W&LLR loco No.1, The Earl, which was on duty on 3rd November fifty years ago. Included in the train will be the Pickering replica coach which entered service in 2004.
For the return journey, the special will be coupled to the normal service train before departure from Welshpool Raven Square at 14.15 hrs. It will then be double-headed up the notorious Golfa incline. The journey behind the railway’s centenarian Beyer-Peacock loco’s, through the autumnal woodlands of the Powys estate to the summit of the line, is expected to be a fitting climax to the current season.
The Special Train for members and their guests has been organised by the West Midlands area of the Welshpool and Llanfair Railway, the first regional group to be formed in 1957.
Included in the day’s festivities will be a luncheon and talk at The Raven Inn, Welshpool, which adjoins the present terminus. The speaker will be railway Vice-President Ralph Cartwright, who is the author of several books about the railway, including the definitive history.
The organiser of the 50th Anniversary Special, Steve Page, who until recently was joint secretary of the West Midlands area, said “This is an important milestone in the life of the railway.”
“When we celebrated the centenary of our opening with such style in 2003, the events we were recalling inevitably were not within the memory of anyone now involved with the railway.”
“However, even though half a century has passed since the line was closed by British Railways, there are still many people involved with the railway who can remember the carnival atmosphere of 1956.
“Several of them will be travelling on the special train, and reminiscing about the events of that day.”
“By that date photography was firmly established as a popular and affordable hobby, and it would be nice next year to stage an exhibition of photographs taken at the time.”
Further details and tickets for this train are available from :
Ty Celyn, Bettws Cedewain, Newtown, Powys, SY16 3DS.
Telephone : 01686 650102
Email - steppage [at] aol.com
Welshpool line goes back to its roots
For much of its working life the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway was a freight line serving the isolated communities along its length. Now the line has returned to its roots, coming to the rescue of a couple who needed improvement works on the access to their secluded home.
W&LLR members joined forces with Care and Repair in Powys, an agency that assists older or disabled people to remain in their homes in comfort and security, to provide a new concrete path to the home of Mr and Mrs Mills-Evans.
The Mill-Evans’s live down an isolated rural track inaccessible to vehicles, but alongside the W&LLR. The existing track to their home had fallen into considerable disrepair and it was becoming increasingly hazardous for Mrs Mills-Evans to make the walk to the main highway.
Picture shows from left to right CRiP Technical Officer, Brian Jones, the contractor, Graham Jones, Mrs Mills-Evans and CRiP caseworker Gaynor Astley
The W&LLR was called in to transport the contractor’s building materials to the site and remove any debris after the work was completed. Special trains hauled by 0-6-0 ‘Countess’ delivered several tonnes of sand, cement and aggregate to the property, a task which would otherwise have taken the contractor a considerable amount of time and resulted in additional expense before the renewed footpath was completed. The trains just as easily removed all the rubble and rubbish after the work was completed.
Gaynor Astley, Care and Repair in Powys’ caseworker for the couple, said that the agency had been delighted when the W&LLR volunteers got involved. “The help was invaluable and it enabled us to completely renew the pathway to Mr and Mrs Mills-Evans’ home on budget and ahead of schedule. We are all very grateful to them.”
Kevin Heywood, Deputy General Manager of the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway, said that the line was happy to assist: “Mr and Mrs Mills-Evans’ cottage is right alongside our railway line and at the bottom of a very steep footpath – we were very pleased to have been able to help deliver all the building materials to the site, saving everybody a considerable amount of time and a great deal of hard work.”
The £1100 project was part funded by Powys County Council, with Care and Repair in Powys securing the balance from other sources.
Tubize No.5 Returns to Finland
Ex JMR No.5 (W&L No.15, Orion) has returned to Finland after nearly 35 years in Great Britain to join her sister, No.4, at the Jokioinen Museum Railway (Jokioisten Museorautatie). The locomotive left Llanfair Caereinion on Thursday 28 September in time for a Friday departure from Harwich on board Mann Lines M/S Estraden. The locomotive reached Finland at Turku on 3rd October. No.5 rejoined her sister at the Jokioinen Museum Railway at about 3.00pm local time.
For more information about Orion's new home visit www.jokioistenmuseorautatie.fi (English language available).
The proceeds from the sale of Orion will go towards another locomotive for the W&L, but will not fund the rebuilding of No. 12 Joan which continues as a separate project and is the subject of an appeal.
Loading at Llanfair Caereinion, 28 September. Photo: David Marsh
Turku, 3 October. Photo: Pekka Välimäki
Turku, 3 October. Photo: Pekka Välimäki
Together again, Minkiö Depot, JMR. 3 October.
Photo: Juha-Pekka Vitanen
Locomotive to Return to Finland &
Second Replica Carriage for the W&L
At the Annual Steam Gala on Sunday 3rd September, the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway announced:
An understanding had been reached with visiting officials from the Jokioisten Museorautatie (Jokioinen Museum Railway) to return exJR5 to its original line in Finland before the end of September. W&L No.15 ‘Orion’ left Jokioinen for the UK in 1972 and was eventually purchased by the W&L in 1983. After extensive rebuilding, it entered service in 2000.
The W&L also announced the building of an “All Third” replica carriage to complement the composite vehicle already in service. The carriage will be in matching GWR livery and will be built by the Ffestiniog Railway at their Boston Lodge Works. It should be completed in time to appear at the 2007 Steam Gala.
Release date: 19th September 2005
Largest Heritage Railway Rail Order
As part of the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway's continuing rail renewal program , General Manager Terry Turner has recently returned from Poland following his inspection of new rail on 8th September. The pictures show part of the combined order of 1400 tonnes for the Welsh Highland, Ffestiniog, and Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railways. The order represents the largest single order of new rail to heritage railways in the UK.
In addition to significant amounts for the FR and W&L, sufficient rail has been purchased to complete the relaying of the Welsh Highland line between Rhyd Ddu and Porthmadog.
The rail destined for the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway was delivered to Welshpool Raven Square station on Friday 23rd September having arrived at the Port of Flixborough on the Wednesday afternoon.
MAV carriage makes traffic debut
Operating staff at the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway were able to put the second of the line’s Hungarian-built ‘MAV’ carriages into passenger-carrying service in time for the August Bank Holiday traffic and the line’s Annual Gala weekend on 3-4 September. The vehicle made its debut on Tuesday 23rd August, following its restoration by the Ffestiniog Railway.
The line owns two of these bogie carriages, which were built in 1958 for the Hungarian State Railways and came to Wales in July 1999. The first, no 430, entered service in June 2003 after major restoration by members at the railway, and with its end balconies it has since proven almost as popular as the line’s well-known Austrian four-wheeled vehicles.
With much demand on passenger vehicles, the W&LLR decided to have the body of the second vehicle, no 418, restored by the Ffestiniog Railway’s Boston Lodge carriage works. The decision followed the Ffestiniog’s previous project for the Llanfair line, building a replica of the W&LLR’s original Pickering bogie vehicles, all of which were scrapped by the GWR in the 1930s. The stunning re-creation of the Pickering entered service in 2003 and has since been highly admired by visitors and Welshpool members alike.
Meanwhile the W&LLR’s own rolling stock team is not being left out. At the line’s Tanllan workshops the reconstruction of B24, built in 1924 for the Salzkammergut Lokalbahn line in Austria and obtained by the W&LLR in 2003, is progressing well. Much work, especially on the body, will be required before this vehicle can join its fellow Austrian four-wheelers on W&LLR trains.
THE HEAVIEST TRAIN?
On Saturday 6 August the W&LLR ran what is believed to be its heaviest-ever train, double-headed, comprising eight vehicles and totalling more than 130 tons.
The event was the result of a special working for a party from Norwich, hauled by the line’s Hunslet 2-6-2 no 85 and Beyer Peacock 0-6-0 no 2 ‘Countess’ and comprising three bogie vehicles and two Austrian four-wheelers, which ran from Welshpool to Llanfair ahead of the usual service train of one bogie vehicle and two four-wheelers. For the return trip to Welshpool the two were combined and again double-headed by no 85 and ‘Countess’. With the 16 passenger units (four four-wheelers plus four bogie vehicles, each of which are designated as two units) weighing in at almost 70 tons, plus 40 tons of locomotives and around 20 tons of passengers, this train was very likely the heaviest load ever carried on the Llanfair line.
Crewing the mega-train required some changes to regular operating procedure, two guards accompanying it (one in the middle and one at the rear) and W&LLR members stationing themselves at road-crossings to flag the train across and close the gates, saving a long walk for the guards. Alan Buckley, fireman on ‘Countess’ said that the two locomotives proved equal to the challenge, adding that running-round at Welshpool also required some ingenuity, the train rather longer than the loop, before the return with a much lighter passenger load.
JOAN PROJECT UNDERWAY…
Preliminary work is now underway in readiness for the restoration of ‘Joan’, the W&LLR’s
0-6-2 Kerr Stuart tank which has been out of use since 1991 when the locomotive suffered a firebox failure. She has since played an essential role parked at Llanfair enabling children to gain a close-up look at a steam engine.
‘Joan’ was built in 1927 for the Antigua Sugar Co, and was a larger-boilered version of locomotives that can be seen today on the Sittingbourne & Kemsley and Great Whipsnade Railways. The locomotive was discovered and brought to Wales in 1971 by W&LLR director Tony Thorndike, and after restoration proved a mainstay of services, her large grate proving particularly useful during a coal crisis in the 1970s when she ran for two days on old sleepers and rotten lineside telegraph poles.
The decision to restore Joan has proved very popular among the W&LLR membership (not least your correspondent, whose first W&LLR trip was behind the engine in the mid-1980s), and an appeal to raise the projected £105,000 cost has attracted much early support. The locomotive will be restored to as near-original visual condition as possible, complete with the spark arrestor chimney worn in Antigua. Members will also be very pleased to see the back of the ‘Thomas the Tank engine’-style livery worn during Joan’s sojourn at Llanfair.
Vitally the project is planned to greatly involve the line’s young members group. This group is having growing influence at Llanfair, one of their most visual recent efforts the attractive GWR-style livery applied to works diesel ‘Ferret’.
…WHILE MONARCH PROGRESSES
Also making solid progress is the project by a group of W&LLR members to cosmetically restore ‘Monarch’, a locomotive closely connected with the early days of the preservation company. The articulated locomotive was bought by the W&LLR from Bowaters Paper Mills at Sittingbourne in Kent in 1965, at which time it was just 13 years old. It proved difficult to work on the undulating Welshpool line and was sold to the Ffestiniog Railway in 1992.
The Ffestiniog intended cut down the loco to enable it to work within the line’s restricted loading profile, and Monarch was dismantled. However priorities changed and in 2003 the loco kit of parts returned to Llanfair.
Since then a small team has been restoring Monarch, work organised so as not to interfere with the line’s normal maintenance programmes. Both power bogies have been restored and the boiler has recently received a new coat of light Brunswick green paint. Currently the team is working on the loco’s mainframe with the hope of reuniting it with its bogies and boiler some time next year.
Second Hungarian Carriage Restoration Progress
The restoration of the second ex Hungarian State Railways carriage, No. 418, has made a significant leap forward today following its return to Llanfair Caereinion from the Ffestiniog Railway's Boston Lodge workshops. The Ffestiniog Railway was rewarded the bodywork contract following the successful construction of a replica Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway Pickering Carriage last year. In the meantime Llanfair Caereinion workshop staff have thoroughly overhauled the carriage's two bogies, which were reunited with the remainder of the carriage this morning.
No. 418 will join her sister carriage No. 430 in service following the installation of brake cylinders and other associated parts.
Both carriages were built in 1958 and were obtained in 1999 from the Ciernohronska Forest Railway in Slovakia. They are both 40ft steel bodied carriages with seating for 54 people plus guard's compartment. The major overhauls have involved converting the brakes to vacuum operation and fitting new compatible couplings, plus a complete interior re-fit.
First Step to Joan Restoration
The first task of a lengthy restoration of Joan was completed on the afternoon of Sunday 19th June when she was moved from her resting place outside Llanfair Caereinion tearoom. A few cosmetic refinements have been made for her display at the forthcoming 'Vintage Weekend', including restoration of her original spark-arresting chimney. As well as returning a much missed locomotive to service, the project is seen as an ideal opportunity to pass on skills from one generation to the next. More details to follow.
DREAM REALISED AT WELSHPOOL AS HISTORIC STOCK RECREATED
Members of a Mid-Wales heritage railway are celebrating the realisation of a long-cherished dream, the recreation of one of the line’s long-lost original passenger carriages.
On Monday 21 June the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway took delivery of a brand new replica carriage, built under commission by specialists at the Ffestiniog Railway in Porthmadog. The vehicle recreates one of three vehicles built for the opening of the Welshpool line in 1902 by R.Y. Pickering & Co in Wishaw, Lanarkshire. The three were withdrawn in 1931 when the Great Western Railway, by then owners of the W&LLR, ended passenger traffic on the 8.5-mile line, and all three were scrapped in 1936.
The new carriage, centrepiece of a £260,000 fund-raising appeal, was off-loaded from haulier Duncan Milner’s trailer onto the W&LLR line just before mid-day, and was immediately taken on a test run to the intermediate station of Cyfronydd, hauled by the line’s no 175 diesel newly acquired from Taiwan .
Those present on the test run included a contingent from the Ffestiniog Railway, among them Chief Engineer Jon Whalley and Project Leader Norman Bond. The combined W&LLR/FR crew carried out braking and ride tests after which W&LLR General Manager Terry Turner commented that the ride quality of the vehicle was superb. “We’re delighted with our carriage,” he added, saying; “The overall quality of the vehicle reflects the skills and enthusiasm of the staff at Boston Lodge Works on the Ffestiniog – this venture and the co-operation between two of the ‘Great Little Trains of Wales’ has without doubt been of significant benefit to both organisations.”
Terry further commented that, subject to approval of Her Majesty’s Railway Inspectorate, the carriage will enter public service at the line’s Annual Steam Gala on 4-5 September when it will operate on early morning mixed trains with one of the line’s original locomotives no 823 'Countess' and a rake of restored freight wagons. Enthusiasts hoping to travel on these trains will need to book in advance as accommodation is limited to the capacity of the new carriage.
Many W&LLR members have long argued for the building of a replica original passenger vehicle, seeing this as the ‘missing link’ to the line’s history, now that the original locomotives and goods stock have been restored with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The current appeal, which also includes restoring other passenger rolling stock on the line and providing covered accommodation for the vehicles, has already raised half of its £260,000 target, and the arrival of the new vehicle will provide a great impetus to collect the remainder.
The replica is not only a unique reminder of the line’s earliest days but also its only example of truly ‘British-style’ passenger rolling stock. When preservationists took over the line in the 1950s the lack of passenger-carrying vehicles resulted in a search far and wide for suitable carriages. Today’s passengers travel in vehicles that have seen previous service in Austria, Sierra Leone and Hungary!
Replica Carriage Arrival
The Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway is pleased to announce the arrival of the new Replica Pickering Carriage this morning. The public launch for this vehicle will be at this year's annual steam gala on 4th and 5th September.
New Locomotive Arrives at Llanfair
First pictures of arrival of former Taiwan Sugar Corporation locomotive No. 175 on 19th April 2004 at Llanfair Caereinion.
WELSHPOOL’S STEAM FLEET EXPANDED
It seems it is locomotive month at the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway. Just two weeks after it was announced that the line had bought what is thought to be the first diesel locomotive exported from the Republic of Taiwan, the Mid-Wales line’s steam fleet has been expanded by the arrival of a locomotive originally from Romania.
The locomotive, a 25-ton 0-8-0 tank built in 1957 for a forestry railway and named Resita No.423, arrived at the W&LLR’s Llanfair Caereinion headquarters on Saturday 3rd April, having been transported from the Midlands by haulier Duncan Milner.
The locomotive has been stored in the UK for some time, having originally been imported in the early 1990s for an abortive railway scheme near Aberystwyth after ending its working life in a Romanian cement works. It will join a cosmopolitan fleet at the W&LLR, which includes locomotives that have formerly worked in Antigua, Sierra Leone, Austria and Finland.
The engine was donated to the W&LLR by its owners the Staffordshire Railway Group, and W&LLR General Manager Terry Turner says it will become part of the W&L "strategic reserve" of 760mm gauge display locomotives from Europe and beyond. Initial assessment suggests that there is potential for an eventual return to steam, although cosmetic preservation for display will be the initial aim.
Meanwhile the line’s newly-purchased modern diesel locomotive from the Taiwan Sugar Corporation is expected to arrive at Llanfair on 13 April following its journey on the cargo ship 'Ming Orchid.'
TAIWAN DIESEL FOR WELSHPOOL
TAIWAN has become the latest country to add to the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway’s globally-sourced locomotive stock.
After much work and investigation by a life member of the W&LLR working in Taiwan, the mid-Wales line has purchased a modern diesel locomotive from the Taiwan Sugar Corporation. TSC No.175 was one of a number built in 1978 by Diema of Bremen, Germany. Weighing 17 tons, this 3-axle locomotive is powered by an Allis-Chalmers turbocharged engine rated at 235hp. At the time of going to press the locomotive is aboard the vessel 'Ming Orchid' heading for the UK, with anticipated arrival in Felixstowe on 7th April.
The line has for some time been seeking an additional diesel locomotive with the aim of relieving the strain on the line’s ageing diesel fleet and making life easier for permanent way gangs. W&LLR General Manager Terry Turner is delighted with the purchase. "We believe that this is the first locomotive to be exported from the Republic of China (Taiwan) and we wish to thank all involved in Taiwan,” he said.
Terry added; ”Particular thanks go to Pauline Tsai of Millzone International Exporting Company in Taiwan for her help with translation, purchase, export, insurance and shipping arrangements - without her, this purchase would not have been possible."
NEW WAGONS AID WINTER TRACK WORK
Over the winter period, the W&L has continued with its policy of large-scale track refurbishment using new materials, with well over half of a mile having been relayed.
The arrival of ballast hopper wagons from Romania allowed additional relaying to take place this year. Instead of spending a week manually unloading more than 50 ballast wagons onto the newly relayed section from Welshpool to New Drive, the gang moved on to further relaying at Henllan Mill. The newly arrived ballast hoppers, hauled by Beyer Peacock loco.No.1 The Earl, then laid more than 350 tons of ballast at both sites in less than three days. The South African Plasserail ballast tamper completed the task of levelling and lining shortly afterwards.
General Manager, Terry Turner, commented; "Investments in mechanisation such as the tamping machine and ballast hopper wagons have already paid for themselves with over a third of the eight mile line having been relayed over the past five years".
Meanwhile the line’s Pickering replica carriage is rapidly approaching completion at the Ffestiniog Railway. The W&LLR hopes to take delivery by early summer. The vehicle has been finished in early 20's GWR ornate chocolate and cream livery by Bob Timmins. Terry Turner is looking forward to its arrival at Welshpool. “The Pickering reflects the skills and enthusiasm of all involved with its construction at Boston Lodge," he said.
NEWS ROUND-UP FROM WELSHPOOL
Looking like a carriage – Pickering replica progresses well
PROGRESS on the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway’s replica bogie carriage, a long awaited recreation of the railway’s original passenger vehicles all of which were scrapped by the Great Western Railway in 1937, is continuing to be swift. The carriage is under construction at the Ffestiniog Railway’s Boston Lodge works and its body is now complete allowing work to switch to the bogies.
General manager of the W&LLR, Terry Turner, has praised the efforts of those working on the carriage, saying; "We are delighted with the workmanship which reflects the skills and enthusiasm of the staff at Boston Lodge"
Meanwhile the appeal set up by the railway to raise funds for both the new carriage and work on existing passenger rolling stock has so far proven very successful. With £125,000 already raised the campaign is almost halfway to its £260,000 target, and Appeals Director Iain McLean reported that the last quarter of fundraising was the best yet, with more than £27,000 raised – rising to £34,000 including tax relief.
Ballast on the hop across North Sea
THE Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway’s permanent way vehicle stock has been expanded with the arrival of two ballast hopper wagons from Romania. The two vehicles were delivered to the line’s Llanfair Caereinion base on Saturday 20 December, W&LLR General Manager Terry Turner having inspected them in Brad, Romania eight days earlier. But the acquisition had proven a rather longer process, the original enquiry being made on 4 December 2002.
Both vehicles are in excellent condition. The side discharge wagon has been refurbished with 70 per cent of its steel replaced while the centre discharge wagon is of new construction using parts from other vehicles. Both vehicles are fitted with roller bearing bogies and the standard KE air brake system. The vehicles were supplied by SC Calea Ferata Ingusta SRL of Brad, Romania and will no doubt prove a boon to track gangs. To haul these vehicles, W&LLR Locomotive No.7, Drewry diesel Chattenden, is being fitted with dual air/vacuum brakes as part of its current rebuild.
Winter break brings tracklaying progress
With the passenger-carrying season not due to begin for several weeks permanent way gangs have enjoyed total occupation of the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway’s main line.
Before the year end Castle Bank, the step climb out of Castle Caereinion station, was relaid using new 50lb rail obtained from the Corus steelworks at Workington. At the time of writing track is dismantled between Welshpool and New Drive Crossing and awaiting the arrival of hardwood sleepers from Brazil. These will be combined with more new 60lb rail from Corus.
General Manager Terry Turner commented that the W&LLR would continue with the policy of investing in major renewals of the permanent way at a minimum rate of half a mile per season. “This will both improve ride quality and minimise future maintenance,” he said, adding that the recently acquired ballast hoppers along with the Plasserail ballast tamper would greatly aid the programme.
Red letter day for Welshpool line’s carriage fleet
WEDNESDAY 4 June 2003 proved a momentous day as far as the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway’s passenger rolling stock was concerned. On the same day as the Mid-Wales line received official notification that its newly restored ex-Hungarian ‘MAV’ bogie carriage was fit to enter service, another example of the much admired ex-Austrian carriages was unloaded at the railway’s Llanfair Caereinion headquarters.
The latest arrival is a four-wheeler built in Graz in 1925 as number Ci569 for the Salzkammergut Localbahn in Austria. When the Salzkammergut Localbahn closed in 1957, both it and sister vehicle Ci567 were bought by the Zillertalbahn where Ci569 became B24.
Ci567 was donated to the W&LLR by Zillertalbahn along with three other vehicles in 1968 and which has since given many years of good service. Curiously Ci567 now wears the Zillertalbahn number B24 though it was originally B25!
Ci569 was later sold to 'Club 760', a support group for the Murtalbahn, another Austrian line, and was sent to the Murtalbahn. It was later purchased by the Gurkthalbahn in Carinthia and has been awaiting restoration for 24 years.
As part of the W&LLR’s efforts to extend its passenger-carrying fleet with suitable vehicles General Manager Terry Turner, accompanied by volunteer carriage and wagon engineer, John Bancroft, visited the Gurkthalbahn on the 13/14 May, travelling free on Ryanair to Klagenfurt. The purchase was concluded with Gert Schneider, President of the Gurkthalbahn and the The carriage with spare axles and other useful parts, were transported by Austrian hauliers, Prangl Gesellschaft m.b.H, arriving in Llanfair Caereinion on Wednesday 4 June to be reunited with its sister vehicle.
During its time residing at the Gurkthalbahn’s Treibach/Althofen station, the vehicle was subjected to much vandalism but Terry Turner says it will be an excellent volunteer restoration project as it is a historic and original vehicle. When finished, it will be identical to its sister vehicle.
Meanwhile a long and involved restoration project on ‘MAV’ (Hungarian State Railways) carriage no 430 reached its climax with notification from the Railway Inspectorate that the carriage was fit to enter service. This was one of two bogie vehicles built in 1958 which came to the W&LLR in July 1999. In restored form with end balconies it is bound to be popular.
This news comes as progress continues apace on the replica of one of the W&LLR’s original bogie carriages, currently under construction at the Ffestiniog Railway. The £260,000 appeal to fund this carriage’s construction, restore existing vehicles and acquire new ones such as Ci569 is also making good progress, with more than £80,000 having already been collected. Full details of the appeal can be obtained from the railway on 01938 810441.
WELSHPOOL LINE MARKS TWO ANNIVERSARIES IN STYLE
THE Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway launched its centenary year over the weekend of 5-6 April by celebrating not one but two anniversaries.
The first of this year’s Centenary celebrations, dubbed Commemoration Day, recalled both the opening of the Mid-Wales line, on 4th April 1903, and its reopening as a preserved railway on the 6th April 1963, it having been shut down by British Railways seven years earlier.
The event, aimed firmly at the voluntary members of the company that has made the W&LLR a very successful preserved line, produced many connections with both anniversaries being celebrated. Many past members, who played vital roles in seeing the preservation company through its difficult early years, returned to take part in the event and travel on a special double-headed train pulled by original locomotives The Earl and The Countess, the latter having been in charge of the train in both 1903 and 1963. Some original members came from far and wide to be a part of the event, such as Tony Allen, who travelled on the 1963 train. He flew in from Botswana for Commemoration Day, complete with his original ticket from 1963.
En route from Welshpool to Llanfair Caereinion the special paused at Four-Mile Oak, close to the line’s Sylfaen halt, for a tree-planting ceremony. The original oak was more than 200 years old and so big that the railway was diverted around it when being built in 1901-2. Sadly storms last year brought it down, so a replacement was planted in the same spot by a quartet of young and old W&LLR volunteers spanning the history of the preservation effort.
When the special train reached Llanfair Caereinion speeches were made from a flat wagon, just as they had been in April 1963 by the then Chairman of the preservationists Sir Thomas Salt. At the time he was accompanied by the preserved line’s first President, the Earl of Powis, and in 2003 the event was repeated to the letter with current W&LLR Chairman Ken Fenton leading the speeches accompanied by today’s President, the current Earl of Powis.
Other elements harking back to the original opening included a full three-hour pealing of church bells in Welshpool, by bell ringers from both the town and surrounding villages. This followed one of the bell-ringers reading in W&LLR member Ralph Cartwright’s history of the line that bells had been run in Welshpool on the opening day in 1903.
One family used the event as an excuse for a gathering. Descendants of the Mayor of Welshpool at the time of the opening in 1903 visited the line, some 22 of them coming from all over the UK to be at the event and bringing the special medal struck at the time of the opening, which has been passed down the generations.
The highly successful Commemoration day has kicked off the W&LLR’s centenary year in great style and the line is now looking forward to its next major event, the Edwardian Weekend on 14-15 June. The plan is to present the line as it would have been around the time of its opening, and members and visitors are being encouraged to join in the spirit of the occasion by wearing Edwardian dress – organisers hope many will take up the challenge. Extra attractions will include a heavy horse display and working steam machinery, and full details can be obtained from Llanfair Caereinion station on 01938 810441.
WELSHPOOL LINE STAGES DAY TO ATTRACT NEW MEMBERS
The W&LLR would not have reached its centenary without the efforts of its volunteers – more than 95 per cent of the staff are voluntary and new recruits are not only welcome but essential to keep the line functioning and progressing. To give potential recruits an idea of what they can get involved with the annual New Members Day is being staged on 17 May.
Guided tours will cover the whole line including many behind the scenes areas not normally open to the public, with expert members on hand to describe the many opportunities from engineering to carpentry, track work to making tea and gardening. If you want to some along contact Llanfair station on 01938 810441 for more details.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO PUT AN ENGINE BACK TOGETHER?
A SMALL team of W&LLR volunteers are looking for help in reassembling one of the locomotives from the line’s early preservation days. ‘Monarch’ a large articulated Mallet locomotive which originally worked at paper mills in Kent, was bought for the W&LLR in 1966.
Problematical steaming and the arrival of other engines eventually saw Monarch sold on to the Festiniog Railway in 1992, which then dismantled the locomotive for rebuilding. However Festiniog priorities then changed and the loco was left in parts in a yard, until earlier this year a group of Welshpool members reacquired it.
The intention is to rebuild Monarch to display condition, and working parties have already begun. More help would be welcome, experience is not needed, and anyone who wishes to get involved is welcome.
WLLR & FR SIGN CONTRACT FOR REPLICA CARRIAGE
The Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway and the Ffestiniog Railway are delighted to announce the acceptance of the contract to build a replica Pickering Carriage for the WLLR by the FR at their Boston Lodge works. The General Manager of the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway, Terry Turner, and the Acting General Manager of the Ffestiniog Railway, Paul Lewin, signed the contract on Tuesday 28th January 2003. Following this on Friday 31st January, engineers from both railways met to make further detailed assessments of the drawings to enable materials to be purchased for the construction of the carriage.
Three carriages were built in 1902 by R.Y. Pickering & Co. Wishaw, Lanarkshire for the opening of the line. These vehicles remained in service until in 1931 the Great Western Railway, by then owners of the W&LLR, ended passenger traffic on the 8.5-mile line. The three vehicles were scrapped in 1936 and today all that is believed to remain of them is one wheel set, which is in the W&LLR’s keeping. The replica will be a composite carriage in the style of original vehicles nos 1 and 2.
The W&LLR’s bid to build the replica has received a big boost within weeks of being announced, with an anonymous donation of £60,000 to the £260,000 fund-raising appeal. The £260,000 figure comes as a result of a careful study of the railway’s predicted future passenger stock requirements, and will fund the building of the replica, restoration of existing carriage stock, the possible purchase of further examples of the line’s highly popular balcony stock from Austria and the building of a shed and display area to keep them all in.
Appeal leaflets are being sent out with the latest edition of the W&LLR’s members’ journal. For further details or to donate to the appeal contact the line at 01938 810441.
MONARCH IS HOME
Adding further impetus to the W&LLR’s coming centenary celebrations, a locomotive closely connected with the early days of the preservation company returned to the line’s Llanfair Caereinion headquarters on Tuesday 7th January.
The articulated locomotive Monarch was bought by the W&LLR from Bowaters Paper Mills at Sittingbourne in Kent in 1965, at which time it was just 13 years old. It was sold to the Ffestiniog Railway in 1992 after being deemed surplus to W&LLR requirements. The Ffestiniog intended to overhaul and cut down the loco to enable it to work within the line’s restricted loading profile, and Monarch was dismantled for this purpose. However priorities changed and despite later thoughts towards using it on the Welsh Highland Railway, under restoration by the Ffestiniog, the loco was left in parts.
The various parts of the loco are now safely stowed around the W&LLR’s Tanllan yard, where plans for the foreseeable future involve restoration of Monarch to display condition. Work is due to begin as soon as possible, but will be organised to avoid taking volunteer effort away from the Railway's main events such as Workshop Week or February Track Fortnight.
PLANS IN PLACE FOR CENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
Members of the W&LLR are now looking forward to the line’s 100th anniversary year, with three specific events planned.
The first will be on the opening day of the season, Saturday 5th April, which has been dubbed Commemoration Day. The first train of the day will be hauled by the line’s no 2 Countess, the same locomotive that hauled the very first train in 1903 and the first train when the W&LLR reopened as a preserved line in 1963.
On 14th and 15th June the line will stage an Edwardian Day, with added attractions and extra trains. This follows the success of last year’s celebration of the cutting of the first sod, when several members donned Edwardian outfits for the occasion.
Finally the railway’s traditional steam gala on 30th-31st August will this year be a special centenary event – more details will follow nearer the time.
THE W&LLR has begun 2003 by relaying a half mile of track from Hydan Fawr to Dolarddyn Road – between Cyfronydd and Castle Caereinion stations – using new rail purchased from South Africa and new hardwood sleepers from Brazil.
W&LLR General Manager Terry Turner reported that the major project had involved much drainage work, the rebuild of a major culvert, the rebuilding and strengthening of a bridge and the upgrading of two occupation crossings.
The policy of major renewals to create a lower maintenance railway will continue beyond 2003 while major levelling and maintenance work on existing track using the line’s Plasserail tamping machine will also be carried out. A highlight for this work will be during the line’s traditional Track Fortnight from 15-28 February, and anyone wanting to join the work parties will be made very welcome.
THE rebuild of one of the W&LLR’s latest carriages, acquired from Hungary, is nearing completion. W&LLR General Manager Terry Turner reported that the carriage ‘MAV 430’ should see trial running and brake testing in late January/early February with a view to being in service for the start of the season. Work will then transfer to its sister vehicle MAV 418.
These carriages will enter service with end balconies and are likely to prove as popular as the line’s balconied Austrian stock.
STAFF at the W&LLR are pleased with the results from the line’s annual Santa Special trains, which returned pleasing figures similar to those in 2001.
W&LLR AWARDED 'RAILWAY WORLD INDEPENDENT RAILWAY OF THE YEAR AWARD'
The Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway was delighted to learn at a ceremony in London that it had been awarded the 'Railway World Independent Railway of the Year'. Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal made the presentation at the National Railway Heritage Awards 2002 which were held at the Merchant Taylors' Hall in the City of London on Tuesday 3rd December.
The award was presented to the W&L for its all round achievement in meeting the expectation of its customers. The announcement comes towards the end of a very successful year for the railway; one which has seen a record number of passengers travelling on the line, the availability of both of its original steam locomotives for the first time since the early 1970s and a visit by HRH The Prince of Wales during July.
W&LLR General Manager Terry Turner commented "Everyone on the railway is absolutely delighted with the news and looks forward to continuing to provide a great day out to all its visitors during its Centenary Year in 2003. It is a fitting reward to all the hard work undertaken by everyone this season."
WELSHPOOL & LLANFAIR LIGHT RAILWAY
Ffestiniog Railway General Manager Peter Randall and Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway General Manager Terry Turner are delighted to announce that the FR has successfully bid to build a replica carriage for the W&LLR.
Built in 1902 by R.Y. Pickering & Co. Wishaw, Lanarkshire, the three original vehicles ran until the cessation of passenger services in 1931 and were eventually scrapped in 1936. Many W&L members see a replica of one of these vehicles as the ‘missing link’ now that the original locomotives and goods stock have been restored with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund
The replica, a composite carriage, will be built at the FR’s Boston Lodge Works where considerable skills and experience in this type of work have been amassed over many years. It is expected that the W&L will take delivery before the start of the 2004 season.
This venture and co-operation between two of the ‘Great Little Trains of Wales’ will be of significant benefit to both organisation
21st November 2002
WELSHPOOL JOINS FFESTINIOG TO RECREATE MISSING LINK
THE Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway is to recreate a missing part of its history in a joint initiative with another of the Great Little Trains of Wales, the Ffestiniog Railway.
Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway General Manager Terry Turner and Ffestiniog Railway General Manager Peter Randall announced this week that the FR has successfully bid to build a replica of one of the W&LLR’s original carriages, for use on the Mid-Wales line which celebrates its centenary next year.
For the opening of the Welshpool line three carriages were built in 1902 by R.Y. Pickering & Co. Wishaw, Lanarkshire. These three vehicles remained in service until in 1931 the Great Western Railway, by then owners of the W&LLR, ended passenger traffic on the 8.5-mile line. The three vehicles were scrapped in 1936 and today all that is believed to remain of them is one wheel set, which is in the W&LLR’s keeping.
Many W&LLR members see a replica of one of these passenger vehicles as the ‘missing link’ to the line’s history, now that the original locomotives and goods stock have been restored with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The replica, a composite carriage in the style of original vehicles nos 1 and 2, will be built at the FR’s Boston Lodge Works in Portmadoc. The Works has undertaken a number of heavy engineering projects in the past including the building of complete locomotives. The plans are for the carriage to be delivered to the W&LLR before the start of the 2004 season.
Once at Welshpool the carriage will not only be a unique reminder of the line’s earliest days but also its only example of truly ‘British-style’ passenger rolling stock. When preservationists took over the line in the 1950s the lack of passenger-carrying vehicles resulted in a search far and wide for suitable carriages. Today’s passengers travel in vehicles that have seen previous service in Austria, Sierra Leone and Hungary!
Members of the W&LLR are immediately setting up an appeal to fund the building of the carriage, and considering that over many years constant pleas to build a replica have been made by many members, it is predicted the appeal will be well supported.
W&LLR General Manager Terry Turner was delighted to make the announcement of the carriage project, but added that it meant more than just the building of a new vehicle. “This venture and co-operation between two of the ‘Great Little Trains of Wales’ will be of significant benefit to both organisations,” he said.
2002 – IT’S A RECORD
PASSENGER figures on the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway appear to have smashed last season’s totals – which was itself a record. Initial analysis of the end-of-season figures by the Mid-Wales railway’s management show passenger journeys and bookings to be 17 per cent up on those in 2001, a remarkable increase considering that last year was a record season.
Far outshining the railway’s efforts, however are those of its sales department. Having also enjoyed a record season in 2001, the two shops took full advantage of two new books and a new video on the line to boost their takings this year by 22 per cent, earning much useful revenue that will be ploughed back into funding the many expenditures necessary to keep the W&LLR running. Members are delighted with the results and the railway’s operating staff are to be congratulated on such impressive totals.
MONARCH COMING HOME – AT LAST
After months of ‘Will it Won’t It?’ the articulated locomotive Monarch, sold to the Ffestiniog Railway in 1992, is to return to Welshpool. On Tuesday 29th October W&LLR General Manager Terry Turner visited the Ffestiniog Railway to make the purchase of Monarch. Arrangements for transport of the loco, which is currently dismantled, will follow, and once back at the railway’s Llanfair Caereinion base the intention is to cosmetically restore Monarch for display.
Monarch, a 0-4-4-0 side tank, entered service at Bowater Paper Mills, Sittingbourne, Kent in 1953, and was the last narrow gauge steam locomotive to be built for industrial use in the British Isles. Constructed by Bagnall of Stafford, the locomotive was unique in more than one way – it was articulated on the Meyer principle, and it had a marine design firebox.
The engine was taken out of service at Sittingbourne in 1965, after just 12 years work, and in 1966 was purchased by the W&LLR with funds donated by a member, at a time when serviceable steam engines of 2ft 6in gauge were scarce in the UK. The engine became W&LLR No 6 but due to the necessary slow pace of overhauls at that time did not see regular passenger service until 1973.
Monarch continued to suffer reliability and steaming problems on the steeply-graded Welshpool line, though more recently with the benefit of hindsight members’ opinions as to how problematical the loco actually was have differed. In any event it was eventually taken out of service in favour of other easier to maintain locomotives, until 1992 when it was sold for use on the Ffestiniog Railway.
The original intentions of Monarch’s new owners were to overhaul and cut down the loco to enable it to work within the Ffestiniog’s restricted loading profile. Monarch was dismantled for this purpose, but priorities changed and despite later thoughts towards using it on the Welsh Highland Railway, under restoration by the Ffestiniog, the loco was left in parts, which is as it remains today. In fact much of the delay in buying Monarch back for the W&LLR has been due to Welshpool management needing to ascertain that all of the parts are still present!
Monarch may have had a suspect reputation in its former working life at Llanfair, but most members look forward to its return, albeit for the foreseeable future only as a static exhibit.
COUNTESS GOES – BUT ONLY FOR THE WEEKEND
Welshpool & Llanfair locomotive No 2 The Countess is leaving the line at the end of November, but only briefly. The Beyer Peacock 0-6-0 side tank, built in 1902, will form the display centrepiece at the Warley Model Railway Exhibition on 30th November and 1st December. Held at Birmigham’s National Exhibition Centre, the Warley Model Railway Club event is regarded as the UK’s national model railway show.
As part of the locomotive’s centenary celebrations, Countess will be displayed along with three of the railway’s heritage wagons on 2.5 lengths of rail, mounted on a pair of transporters. A sales and publicity stand will also be present at what is an excellent publicity opportunity for the W&LLR, made possible by generous sponsorship of the visit by two of the line’s members.
The display continues a fast-evolving tradition by the Warley organisers of attracting impressive centrepieces for their show, displays in past years having included one of Virgin Rail’s brand new Pendolino electric trains.
NEWS IN BRIEF
WELSHPOOL & Llanfair Light Railway members have been focusing on track maintenance recently. As part of the annual and usually busy Autumn track week a new crossover was scheduled to be inserted in the formation at Llanfair Caereinion station. This new 50lb crossover has been obtained from Hocking Rail, Cardiff.
Meanwhile General Manager Terry Turner reported in early November that a mile of new rail, of 30kg/m weight, was on the seas from South Africa and should arrive by the middle of the month for use on track work after the new year. 1000 hardwood sleepers have also been ordered to go with the rail.
“These large capital purchases highlight the Company's commitment to major improvements to the track and infrastructure over the coming years,” said Mr Turner.
THE Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway escaped lightly from the storms that swept mid-Wales at the end of October. The first train of the day on 27 October had to terminate at Castle Caereinion as obstructions and flooding on the line were being dealt with, but these were soon cleared and the 1pm train was able to run as normal. Obstructions mainly consisted of tree branches but a track-clearing gang using diesel No. 7 Chattenden did find what appeared to be the side of a barn on the line. However they could see nowhere it might have come from!