Blists Hill stop for Llanfair Line’s African Train Tour
29th June 2017
Hunslet 2-6-2T locomotive No. 85, built in 1954 for service in Sierra Leone and purchased from a scrap dealer by the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway (W&LLR) in 1975, will now be a feature exhibit in the summer-long festival of ‘Fire, Furnace and Steam’ at Blists Hill Victorian Town, one of the ten Ironbridge Gorge Museums in Shropshire. The loco will be on display at Blists Hill Victorian Town until Friday 25th August.
The locomotive, which last ran on the mid-Wales heritage railway in 2010, has spent six years on display at the Locomotion Museum in Shildon, an outpost of the National Railway Museum. Since leaving there in April, it has visited the Armley Industrial Museum in Leeds, the city where it was built, then Hull, the 2017 City of Culture, the Museum of Water and Steam at Kew, and the 50th Anniversary Weekend of Tyseley Locomotive Works in Birmingham.
At Blists Hill Victorian Town, the locomotive has been placed beside the London and North Western Railway goods shed, where visitors will see it as soon as they enter the Town. Displays created by the Friends of the Sierra Leone National Railway Museum (FoSLNRM) accompany No. 85, telling the stories of slavery and freedom, colony and independence, and the special story of the Sierra Leone Railway.
The grand tour of UK heritage sites, funded by a £22,800 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, celebrates the many links between the UK and Sierra Leone. The Tour has been organised by the W&LLR in partnership with the FoSLNRM and is helping to promote the Sierra Leone National Railway Museum and to raise funds for the building of a new workshop at the W&LLR’s Llanfair Caereinion base. It is intended that No. 85 will be the first locomotive to be restored in the new facility. When restored the loco will be able to form the African Train, running with two Gloucester-built Sierra Leone Railways bogie carriages that the railway also purchased in 1975.
Steam will be featured throughout the summer at Blists Hill Victorian Town, from the Steampunk Festival on July 1st and 2nd through to the ‘Blists Hill in Steam’ event on the weekend of 19th-20th August. Throughout the summer visitors will be able to see many of the Blists Hill engines in steam, with different engines running on different days. While No. 85 is of mid-20th-century construction, its technology is thoroughly Victorian.
At the end of its stay at Blists Hill Victorian Town, No. 85 will travel to the Shrewsbury Steam Rally on 27th-28th August before a triumphant return to the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway a week later as part of the line’s annual Steam Gala on 1st-3rd September.
Canada comes to Llanfair Line on Saturday
26th June 2017
Not many heritage railways in the UK celebrate Canada Day, but then not many have a Canadian-born General Manager! After a successful debut in 2016, the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway will again be marking the day on Saturday July 1st, which this year is a special celebration of the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation.
Stations along the mid-Wales line will be bedecked in Canadian flags, photographs and posters, and visitors will be invited to plot their friends and relations on wall maps of Canada. “Everyone I meet seems to know someone who lives in Canada,” says W&LLR General Manager Charles Spencer. “So I thought it would be fun to see where they were!” Charles’ family will be on hand to help visitors find locations on the map.
There will be quizzes on the subject of Canada for adults and children travelling on the train, with Canadian prizes, including special Canada 150 souvenirs, to be won (while supplies last). Also available is a handsome folder about Canadian railways from Via Rail, Canada’s national passenger railway, for those who might be tempted by the nearly 3,000 mile trip between Toronto and Vancouver. A spotting guide will challenge children to find the Canadiana located at each station, while there will also be a display of Canadian stamps at Welshpool Raven Square station.
Meanwhile any visitors holding valid Canadian passports will as a special bonus travel free on Saturday. They can present their passport at either booking office for their complimentary return ticket.
The Llanfair Line’s efforts have also been recognized, the railway proud to be named by the Canadian Automobile Association as one of the top ten places outside Canada to celebrate Canada Day!
Trains run on both days of this weekend, and Tuesday through Thursday next week, with return departures from Welshpool at 11.15am and 2.05pm.
The line’s summer daily service then starts on 8th July and will run right through to September, with extra trains and freight movements featuring at the next Vintage Weekend, on 15th-16th July. The Tearoom at Llanfair Caereinion is open every day for light lunches and refreshments.
Fathers' Day - Dads can ride Llanfair line for a child fare
7th June 2017
The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway is joining in the celebrations for Fathers’ Day on Sunday 18th June by offering dads the chance to ride the line at child rate.
On that day fathers who travel on the popular mid-Wales steam railway with one or more of their children will pay only £4.50 return for each ticket, the standard fare for children aged 3-15 (as always, children under three travel free). This compares to the standard adult return fare of £13.50.
The offer applies to multiple generations – grandfather, father and child riding together will need only three £4.50 tickets. And if there is a great-grandfather in the party, he travels for free! He really deserves it.
Any dads that come along for the Fathers’ Day trip will also be offered a tour of the sheds at Llanfair, to see part of our collection of locomotives, carriages and wagons and projects in our woodworking shop. Unfortunately we can’t take children into the sheds, but perhaps mum could help out here?
The 18th June timetable features two return trips from Welshpool Raven Square, at 11.15 and 14.05, and three from Llanfair Caereinion at 10.00, 13.00 and 15.30. We expect the day to be busy, so dads wanting to take advantage of the offer are advised to guarantee their space by booking online on this website (select 18th June on the timetable page and follow the instructions), where the child’s ticket is only £4.00. Dads should just book themselves a child’s ticket along with the tickets for the children.
Big Train Little Train Launches New Website
14th April 2017
In 2016, the Great Little Trains of Wales secured a £67,000 grant from the UK Government Department for Transport’s Heritage and Community Rail Tourism Innovation Competition. The initiative is to encourage visitors to explore Wales by public transport, enjoying the efficiency of main lines but also enjoying the unique experience of Welsh steam trains.
The grant enabled the group to publish a guidebook called “Big Train meets Little Train”, of which nearly 10,000 copies have already been distributed, and to develop a “Service with spirit” training programme for their staff and volunteers. The new website is the next step to promote the project.
Why a new website?
The Great Little Trains of Wales group has its own website on which you can find a lot of information about each of the 12 railways involved (http://www.greatlittletrainsofwales.co.uk/). However, we were keen to have a dedicated website for the Big Train Little Train project promoting the guidebook itself but also taking the project to another level. The new website was built by Owen Fletcher, a freelance Designer.
What will it add to the project?
First, every train page will not only provide information about the railway itself but will also promote the area. The visitors will find other interesting places to visit, nice places to eat or stay and will learn more about local legends, itineraries for walkers and hidden gems.
Then, there will be a “plan your trip” feature on the website menu, which will give the visitors all the information and tips they need to plan their travel easily. Need to use a journey planner? Any question about accessibility or fares? Looking for a discount card? Every useful answer will be on this page.
Finally, a later update of the website will include a feature where visitors will be able to share their own experience on the railways by clicking “travellers’ tales”, writing their story and adding their photos. In the meantime, they can enjoy the four tales, already present on the website, from writers who contributed to the first edition of the guide. This feature is a friendly way to promote the Welsh railways and the area but also a great opportunity to improve our understanding of the visitors’ point of view as their experience is at the centre of our concerns.
Charles Spencer, Chairman of Great Little Trains of Wales, said:
“We are thrilled to launch this exciting new website. We hope it will inspire more visitors to take to the tracks as they explore the railways
and other attractions of Wales”
Notes to Editors:
Established in 1970 as the Narrow Gauge Railways of Wales Joint Marketing Panel, the GLTW represents 12 of the narrow gauge heritage railways across Wales. Between them, these railways have hundreds of years of history and carry approximately 700,000 visitors a year, making a major contribution to the Welsh economy.
Each railway is an individual attraction, each with its own unique history and heritage. The railways include the oldest independent railway company in the world, the world’s first preserved railway, Britain’s only rack and pinion railway and the last steam railway to be run by British Rail.
Lottery grant helps Llanfair promote African heritage
7th April 2017
Leading Mid-Wales tourist attraction the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway has launched a project to create an ‘African Train’, with the help of a £22,800 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The project will see the railway celebrating the connections it, and the UK as a whole, has with the west African nation of Sierra Leone. Under the initial phase one of the Llanfair line’s most popular locomotives will undertake a ‘Grand Tour’ of UK heritage sites, from Leeds where it was built, via London and Birmingham to the Shrewsbury Steam Rally in August.
Hunslet 2-6-2T locomotive No. 85, built in 1954 for service in Sierra Leone and purchased from a scrap dealer by the Welshpool & Llanfair in 1975, has been out of use since 2010 when its boiler ticket ran out. For the past five years the locomotive has been on display at the Locomotion Museum in Shildon – an ‘out-station’ of the National Railway Museum in York.
No. 85 has fulflled a vital role at Shildon helping to promote links with the Sierra Leone National Railway Museum. This was opened in Freetown in 2005, after British Army Colonel Steve Davies, serving in Africa following the civil war, discovered a host of British-built stock from the former Sierra Leone Government Railways stored in the line’s former workshops. The Sierra Leone museum has since forged a strong relationship with the UK National Railway Museum and today enjoys the support of a very active UK-based Friends group.
Now that No. 85’s time in Shildon is at an end, the plan is to take the locomotive on a summer tour around the UK, accompanied by a travelling museum exhibition, children’s activities for schools and families, plus interpretation items, and staffed by volunteers from the W&LLR and the Friends group.
No. 85 will be used to tell the story of slavery and freedom, and the links between the UK and Sierra Leone, while helping to raise funds for the building of a new workshop at the W&LLR’s Llanfair Caereinion base – it is intended that No. 85 will be the first locomotive to be restored in the new facility. When restored the loco will be able to form the African Train, running with two Gloucester-built Sierra Leone Railways bogie carriages that the railway also purchased in 1975.
First stop on No. 85’s Grand Tour will be the Armley Industrial Museum in Leeds, the town where the locomotive was built. It will be on show on 22nd April with the theme ‘West Riding to West Africa’, and will then travel to spend 23rd April to 7th May in Hull, the 2017 European City of Culture, where it will be displayed as part of a ‘Spotlight on Sierra Leone’ event. Hull has many connections with Africa and Sierra Leone, and is twinned with Freetown.
Between 27th May and 5th June No. 85 will be on display as part of the ‘Steam Railway Adventure’ event at the London Museum of Water & Steam at Kew Bridge, supported by the Sierra Leone museum’s UK Friends group. The locomotive will then travel to Birmingham, another city with strong Sierra Leone connections, for the 50th anniversary open weekend at Tyseley Locomotive Works on 24th-25th June.
The final stops on the Grand Tour are still being confirmed, but are expected to include a visit to Shrewsbury Steam Rally on 27th-28th August before a triumphant return to the Welshpool & Llanfair a week later as part of the annual Steam Gala on 1st-3rd September.
How quickly No. 85 will be restored to service will depend on the success of fund-raising for the railway’s ‘2020 Vision’ major developments project, that includes the building of a brand-new workshop, and the availability of volunteers to do the work. The multi-year restoration of Franco-Belge 0-8-0T ‘Sir Drefaldwyn’ is nearing completion and it is hoped that this locomotive will return to service in 2018.
Iain McLean, Vice-Chairman and Appeals Director of the W&LLR, described the awarding of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant towards the project as terrific news. “It means that we can showcase our African Train in places that are crucial to the British history of slavery and liberation – it is fitting that our locomotive will stop in Hull, the city of William Wilberforce and the abolition of the slave trade,” he said.
Chairman of the Sierra Leone museum’s Friends Group, Helen Ashby, was also delighted by the grant. “The Sierra Leone NRM and its Friends are very excited at being able to showcase SLR No. 85 as a representative of Sierra Leone at relevant venues throughout the UK,” she said.
More details of No. 85’s Grand Tour will be published as they become available.
Local resident? Ride the Llanfair Line for 14 Shillings!
22nd March 2017
Leading Mid-Wales tourist attraction the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway is looking forward to opening what will be a milestone season on Saturday 1st April, with the first special event of the year aimed especially at local people.
Over the opening weekend, anyone showing that they live in an SY21 postcode will be able to take a return trip on the line for just 70p, or 14 shillings in old money. Why 14 shillings? That is what today’s usual return fare of £13.50 would have been equivalent to in 1963, the year that the Llanfair Line reopened as a heritage railway.
The 2017 season will be the 54th in which the railway has been operated almost entirely by volunteers, overtaking the 53 years – 1903 to 1956 – that it was run commercially by the line’s three previous owners the Cambrian Railway, Great Western Railway and British Railways.
A number of celebrations are planned throughout the 2017 season, but staff and volunteers on the line feel that this first event should recognise the role the community played in building and operating the railway in its first half century.
In addition to the usual services on the printed timetable, two extra trains will run on each day of the weekend from Llanfair Caereinion to Castle Caereinion only, recreating the section operated between reopening in 1963 and the return to Welshpool finally achieved in 1981. These will leave Llanfair Caereinion at 10.25am and 1.20pm each day, pausing 10-15 minutes at Castle Caereinion while the engine runs around before returning to Llanfair – the round trip will be about one hour and five minutes.
“Today the Llanfair line is known the world over but it also remains a very important part of the local community,” said W&LLR general manager Charles Spencer. We consider it very important that we celebrate that relationship first in this milestone year.”
The opening of the new season follows much maintenance work carried out by staff and volunteers over the winter. Jobs achieved this year have included the complete renewal of the level crossing at Dolarddyn Road, while early travellers will notice much better views as they steam up the Golfa Bank from Welshpool, thanks to the clearance efforts of the W&LLR’s determined hedgebashers group.
Full information on the railway, including online ticket booking, can be found on the www.wllr.org.uk website or by calling 01938 810441. SY21 residents taking advantage of the opening weekend special offer will need to buy their tickets on the day at the booking office.
Narrow Gauge Llanfair line obtains standard gauge wagon
16th December 2016
The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway is now the proud owner of a former Great Western Railway standard gauge five-plank open wagon. The National Railway Museum has made this vehicle available as part of a rolling stock collections review.
The W&LLR intends to put the wagon on display at Welshpool Raven Square station to demonstrate the transhipment of goods that took place between the railway and the main line in pre-preservation days.
Standard gauge wagons were once common beside (although not on) the W&LLR – at the interchange with the main line at Welshpool Station, the light railway had exchange sidings over which goods were transhipped between the two railways. The former cattle docks still exist complete with a short section of mixed-gauge track, and Welshpool Town Council is planning to restore this area as a historical exhibit.
The original major reason for constructing the Welshpool & Llanfair line in 1902-03 was to connect the agricultural area surrounding Llanfair Caereinion with the important market town of Welshpool, carrying coal and other supplies up the valley and returning with livestock, timber and other agricultural products for Welshpool and other points on the main-line railway.
In a conversation with the National Railway Museum, W&LLR General Manager Charles Spencer mentioned his interest in recreating the transhipment scene at the railway’s current Welshpool terminus of Raven Square as part of the Llanfair Line’s mandate to educate the public about the railway’s history.
A transfer of ownership of former Great Western Railway wagon No. W108246, built in 1925, was arranged and the W&LLR organised transport from Shildon to Welshpool, where the wagon is to be placed on a standard gauge track panel next to a siding outside the shed in which narrow gauge heritage goods wagons are displayed.
“We are delighted to be taking responsibility for this heritage vehicle and to have the opportunity of demonstrating how the narrow-gauge railway served the rural community with a connection to the big railway”, said Charles Spencer. “Having the wagon helps us fulfil our mandate as an educational charity to preserve and display our part of Britain’s’ railway heritage.”
“The National Railway Museum is very pleased to be working with the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway and to have found such a suitable home for this wagon on a railway which was once operated by the GWR”, said Anthony Coulls, Senior Curator at the Museum. “The W&LLR has an outstanding record for preserving and displaying heritage goods wagons, something which is paramount to the museum, allowing the public to appreciate and understand fully. The W&LLR runs transhipment demonstrations which the museum knew would interest railway enthusiasts and helped us to make the decision to entrust the wagon to them.”
The W&LLR regularly runs Vintage Weekends featuring mixed trains, including the railway’s three handsome replica Pickering carriages and heritage wagons hauled by one of the original Beyer-Peacock tank engines built for the opening of the line in 1903. Vintage steam and petrol road and farm vehicles are often on display and on the move at the Llanfair end of the line, and trans-shipment activities with the new wagon will add to the shunting and other demonstrations featured on these weekends.
The W&LLR’s Raven Square station is located one mile up the line from the original Welshpool yard, which was reached by a section of line that ran through the town. Today’s passengers board the narrow gauge train at Raven Square for the eight-mile journey to the farming town of Llanfair Caereinion, where the railway tea room, shop and workshops are located. Trains run at weekends from Easter to October and during the week from May to September.
Santa to spend extra day on the Llanfair Line
9th November 2016
Just as weather forecasters predict the first significant snow of the winter, Welshpool & Llanfair Railway staff and volunteers are preparing to welcome an annual visitor who is well used to the cold climate.
It may be his busiest time of the year but Santa never misses his visits to the Llanfair line, so much so that this year he will be spending an extra day with us, taking the train to give children a fun pre-Christmas treat.
The highly popular Santa Specials are being held over the weekends of 10th-11th and 17th-18th December, plus this year for the first time on Monday 19th December. Children travel on the special trains to meet Santa and his helpers, who join the train en-route and then stroll the warm steam-heated carriages distributing presents to each child.
The trip is just as much fun for accompanying grown-ups. The glorious scenery through which the train runs looks distinctly different to the summer months, no matter what the weather.
All trains run from Llanfair Caereinion, the journey taking around 45 minutes, and on their return to Llanfair adults will be offered a complimentary glass of warming mulled wine and every child a fruit drink, with a complimentary mince pie too.
The tearoom will be open for hot drinks and light refreshments and the railway shop open for snapping up last-minute Christmas presents.
This year the trains leave Llanfair station each day at 10.45am, 12noon, 1.15pm and 2.30pm, while on Sunday 18th only there will be an extra train, departing at 3.45pm.
Advance booking is strongly advised to both save money and guarantee a seat – bookings are already coming in fast. Advance tickets cost just £10.00 each (babies under 12 months old travel free). Tickets bought on the day cost £12.00 per person travelling. Further information can be found on our Santa Specials page or by phoning 01938 810441.
Diesels take over Llanfair Line
19th September 2016
One notable element will be missing at the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway this coming Saturday – visitors won’t hear the whistle of a steam locomotive!
For just one day on 24th September the railway’s steam fleet is taking a rest, as the W&LLR stages its first-ever diesel day. All passenger train services will be hauled by one of the line’s heritage diesel fleet, led by the 1949-built ‘Chattenden’ which before coming to the Llanfair line in 1968 worked for the Royal Navy on a railway in Kent.
The line’s works locomotives will also be making an appearance during the day, among them another military veteran, an MOD railcar called ‘The Wasp’. Low-down diesel, ‘Ferret’ will be hauling a freight train of former military stock, and the tiny but swift Wickham Trolley, powered by a motor cycle engine, will be moving around Llanfair yard.
Adding to the internal combustion theme, several vintage diesel lorries will be present including a 1960 Bedford.
“While obviously our steam locomotives are the major attraction for most visitors to the railway, there are a growing number of enthusiasts who have a passion for diesel locos, so this day is specially for them,” said W&LLR general manager, Charles Spencer.
“Steam enthusiasts should not worry, however,” Charles continued. “The steam fleet will only be having one day off and will be back hauling trains on Sunday.”
October 2016 Photo Charters
12th September 2016
The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway is looking forward to welcoming back the popular photographic charters organised by David Williams. On the 17th and 18th October we are planning the popular combination of No.822 'The Earl' along with the period goods train. On 19th October we shall be using No.823 'Countess' and the GWR mixed train. Further details and contact details for bookings can be found here.