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.
Great Little Trains of Wales quick to rise to the Department for Transport Challenge
3rd August 2016
GREAT LITTLE TRAINS OF WALES PRESS RELEASE
Thanks to a competition sponsored by the Department for Transport, travellers to Wales have a new free guide to tell them how to visit the "Great Little Trains of Wales" and many other Welsh attractions by public transport. Taking the big trains to meet the little trains is the theme of a new 100 page guidebook launched at London King’s Cross station on 2nd August. It is published by the little railways, working together with Arriva Trains Wales, and includes ideas for intriguing places to stay and eat, walks, heritage sites and the magnificent scenery of Wales.
"Big Train meets Little Train" is inspired by the Bradshaw’s Guides of years gone by, and suggests a range of trips into and around Wales, encouraging the novice public transport user or overseas tourist to get out and about by rail. There is a feature on each of the eleven little trains, plus two of Wales’ beautiful community lines, run by Arriva Trains Wales. In addition, there are some real travellers’ tales to whet your appetite, including BBC ‘Antiques Roadshow’ expert, Paul Atterbury. There are suggestions on places to eat, journeys to make and places to stay as well as some local tips to get the most from your visit to this proud little country.
Rail Minister Paul Maynard said: "I am delighted that The Great Little Trains of Wales is one of 17 national winners across Britain in our Heritage and Community Railways competition. This new guide for visitors and tourists is a great way of showing the best that Britain has to offer. I look forward to seeing the scheme thrive and be of real benefit to tourists visiting Wales."
In May 2016, a £67,000 UK Government funding boost was awarded to the Great Little Train of Wales (GLTW) from the Department for Transport (DfT) to work together with Arriva Trains Wales to attract tourists from London to Wales. GLTW, which represents eleven railways across Wales, put together an entry for the DfT Heritage and Community Rail Tourism Innovation Competition and secured the grant to implement the plan.
And GLTW have not let the grass grow under their wheels – the pilot edition of their guide and website is being launched at King’s Cross station from 1200 on Tuesday 2nd August. Traveller and Storyteller, Gavin Young, will be telling stories found during his family’s visit to Mid Wales. The exhibition will remain in place until 7th August for people to collect their guide.
Newly appointed Chair of North Wales Tourism, Clare Britton, comments: "We are very pleased indeed to be working closely with GLTW and Arriva Trains Wales to promote this excellent venture. It is great to see all the railways working together and we are impressed to see the guide out this summer so the tourism business in Wales can benefit this year. We, at North Wales Tourism, firmly believe that joint working and bringing related products together to make planning easier for visitors is the way forward for a stronger tourism offer in Wales."
Copies of the printed guide are available on request from gltw [at] ffwhr.com
Fish & chips back by popular demand
25th July 2016
The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway will run a second Fish & Chip Special train on Saturday 27th August, following the success of the initial sold-out event in May.
Travellers on the inaugural Fish & Chips train run on 28th May described it as "most enjoyable" and a "good value evening."
The special working will depart Llanfair Caereinion at 6pm, and on arrival at Raven Square fish & chip suppers from the award-winning Andrews Fish Bar of Welshpool will be served for passengers to enjoy during the return trip on the hopefully summer-like evening. Large and small meals, together with vegetarian options, will be available to travellers and ice cream treats and soft drinks will also be on sale in the station during the halt.
Weather permitting, the return train will pause at the intermediate station of Castle Caereinion for participants to stretch their legs and enjoy the evening view. The train is scheduled to arrive back at Llanfair at 8:20 pm.
Advance booking for the train is essential. Bookings close on 24th August – full details and online bookings can be found on the events page of this website.
The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway was opened in 1903 to connect the agricultural community around Llanfair Caereinion with the market centre of Welshpool. The eight-mile journey over the famous Golfa Bank and along the Banwy River valley takes about 45 minutes each way.
Canada comes to Llanfair Line on Saturday
29th June 2016
The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway will be celebrating Canada Day for the first time on Saturday 2nd July, in honour of its Canadian-born General Manager.
Stations along the 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 General Manager Charles Spencer. "So I thought it would be fun to see where they were!"
There will be quizzes on the subject of Canada for adults and children travelling on the train, with Canadian prizes to be won (while supplies last). And travellers will also be able to hear a talk given in one of the carriages en route by Dr. Reg Davies, answering the question, ‘What does Canada Day have to do with railways?’
Historian (and W&LLR member) Dr. Davies will explain why the construction of a railway was one of the conditions for the birth of the country. Those who survive the talk will be awarded a handsome folder about Canadian railways from Via Rail, Canada’s national passenger railway.
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.
Canada Day actually falls on the 1st July, but there are no trains running on Friday so the celebrations are being held on Saturday instead. 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 9th July and will run right through to September, with extra trains and freight movements featuring at the next Vintage Weekend, on 16th-17th July. The Tearoom at Llanfair Caereinion is open every day for light lunches and refreshments.
Visitor returns for Llanfair Line’s big event
16th June 2016
An old friend returned to the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway today, as the line begins to gear up for its annual Steam Gala in September.
‘Chevallier’, an 0-6-2T steam locomotive built by Manning Wardle & Co, Leeds, in 1915, will be the star attraction at the Gala, which this year is a three-day event being held from 2nd-4th September. The locomotive has twice before visited the line to take part in the Gala, in 1991 and 2010.
Chevallier was built originally for a Royal Navy railway in Kent and later moved across to the Bowaters Paper Mill line in Sittingbourne. When that company closed its line in 1969, the locomotive went to work on a new line running through the animal paddocks at Whipsnade Zoo. It was later sold to Bill Parker of the Flour Mill Workshop in the Forest of Dean, and Bill undertook a full overhaul.
Chevallier came to the W&LLR’s 2010 Gala within days of the overhaul being completed, but various running-in issues prevented it showing its full capabilities over the weekend. W&LLR staff anticipate no such issues this time round – the loco has spent the last couple of seasons working very reliably in its old haunt of the Great Whipsnade Railway, while its early arrival in mid-Wales will leave plenty of time for testing over the Llanfair Line’s challenging eight-mile route throughout the summer before Chevalier takes its role in a typically intensive Gala timetable.
“We are delighted to have the loco here and grateful to owner Bill Parker for making the loan possible,” said W&LLR general manager Charles Spencer. “We will not be using Chevallier on any timetabled services before the Gala, but we will be carrying out extensive testing to ensure the loco can prove a worthy special guest at our biggest event of the year.”
Plans are well underway for the Gala, which as in previous years will be held alongside the Garden Railway Show at Llanfair Caereinion High School, with a shuttle bus connecting the two. More details of the Gala attractions will be revealed closer to the event.
Llanfair Line wins grant to improve wheelchair access
25th May 2016
The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway has been awarded a Government grant of £42,500 to improve access to trains for wheelchair-bound visitors to the line.
The grant, announced by Minister for Rail Claire Perry MP on 25th May, is being made as part of the £1 million Heritage and Community Rail Tourism Innovation competition, run by the Challenge Fund of the Department for Transport and the Rail Safety & Standards Board (RSSB). The Llanfair Line’s ‘Disability First’ project, that plans a combination of carriage modifications and platform lifts to allow visitors in wheelchairs to board and alight from most service trains in comfort and safety, is one of 17 winners announced by the Government.
Access for wheelchair users has always been a challenge for heritage railway operators, the passenger carriages on such lines having been built long before society recognized the importance of disabled access. That challenge is increased on narrow gauge railways such as the W&LLR, due to the more restricted dimensions of the carriages and lower platforms. The line has adapted some carriages to take portable ramps but these have proved less than satisfactory for both passengers and staff.
Under the Disability First project portable platform lifts will be purchased for both Welshpool and Llanfair stations, replacing the ramps and allowing effective access for manual wheelchairs to most of the line’s carriages. In addition, two carriages in regular service are to be modified to enable them to accommodate the larger motorized wheelchairs and scooters that have become more common in recent times.
Announcing the award, Rail Minister Claire Perry said: “We want to show the best of British to our visitors and Heritage and Community Railways are part of that package. I am delighted that the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway’s Disability First project is one of 17 national winners across Britain. I look forward to seeing the scheme develop, providing another great reason to visit Mid-Wales.”
Commenting on the award, the W&LLR’s Appeals Director Iain McLean said that everyone on the line is delighted that the DfT and RSSB are supporting the efforts to improve access for those with mobility challenges. “We want to be able to welcome everyone to our railway, to fulfill our mandate to educate the public about the railway and the important role it played in this agricultural community,” Iain added.
Once the new equipment is in place and the carriage modifications complete, the railway plans a communications campaign informing wheelchair users about the improved facilities and encouraging them to enjoy the 16-mile return journey through lovely Mid-Wales countryside. Visitors are also welcome in the Llanfair Caereinion tearoom and in the fully accessible stations at each end of the line, where disabled parking is also available.
Railway announces major developments at Llanfair
23rd May 2016
Plans by the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway to significantly improve its facilities have been boosted by an agreement to purchase industrial units adjoining Llanfair Caereinion station.
At the preservation company’s Annual General Meeting on 21st May, the trustees announced that on the previous day contracts had been exchanged for the site owned by Colinette Yarns. This consists of five industrial units, located next to the railway’s Keyse Cottage volunteer block and running alongside its existing running shed, plus a small car park.
On this site it is intended to construct a new and larger mechanical engineering workshop, which will incorporate the railway’s carriage and wagon shop. It will release space at the Tanllan sidings facility to provide extra carriage accommodation, and crucially release the space at Llanfair currently occupied by the workshop on which to build a new visitor centre.
The Colinette purchase is the most significant progress so far of the W&LLR’s Major Developments Programme, which was launched at the 2015 AGM and has as its goal to improve the railway’s operations, enhance volunteer enjoyment and improve the visitor experience. This project has already produced recommendations for both termini, the intermediate stations and the lineside.
Central to the recommendations was the need for expanded visitor facilities at Llanfair Caereinion station, including more hospitality space, a museum, and a site entrance closer to the car park, whilst retaining the existing heritage buildings in their current and original locations. To provide these expanded facilities would require relocating or redeveloping the present workshop, which no longer meets the railway’s needs.
Renewal of the Llanfair workshop was first considered in 2006, and some funding was allocated. “Trustees now consider that this renewal has become the priority project in order to provide the space to unlock the major development proposals at Llanfair,” said W&LLR chairman Steve Clews.
In November 2015 the railway learned that the Colinette site might be placed on the market. “Our feasibility group working on possible sites for a combined workshop, woodwork shop and paint shop added the Colinette site to the options and it was judged the best solution – providing the space needed, located at the station site and allowing an increase in storage space at Tanllan carriage sheds,” Steve added.
In early 2016 the Colinette site was put up for sale and the W&LLR trustees entered negotiations for purchase. These negotiations resulted in Friday’s exchange of contracts.
A project team will now be set up to produce a detailed design for the site and construction is scheduled to start late in 2016.
Some capital for this first phase of the Major Developments Programme has already been provided thanks to generous donations and legacies. The W&LLR will shortly be launching a major appeal aiming to complete the funding, and details of this appeal will be released in the coming weeks.
Austrian buyer for Resita locomotive
Agreement has been reached for the sale of the W&LLR’s Resita 0-8-0T locomotive No. 764.425 to Handel mit Eisenbahnmaterial Georg Hocevar, based in Graz, Austria.
The locomotive, built in 1957, was purchased from Romania and arrived on the W&LLR in 2007. However it suffered a number of reliability issues on the challenging Welsh line and was withdrawn from service in 2013 following a major motion failure.
The railway understands that the locomotive is to be restored to working order. The sale also includes the chassis of sister locomotive No. 764.423, which the W&LLR also currently owns, and both locomotives are expected to leave the line before the end of June.
Fish, chips and tea on the Llanfair train
10th May 2016
Visitors to the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway will have the opportunity to take a different trip along the Banwy Valley in coming weeks, with food and drink on offer during the journey.
On the evening of Saturday 28th May the railway is running its first Fish & Chips train. The special working will depart Llanfair Caereinion at 6pm, and on arrival at Raven Square fish & chip suppers from the award-winning Andrews Fish Bar of Welshpool will be served for passengers to enjoy during the return trip on the hopefully spring-like evening. Weather permitting, the return train will pause at the intermediate station of Castle Caereinion for participants to stretch their legs.
Large and small meals, together with vegetarian options, will be available to travellers and advance booking for the train is essential – bookings close on Thursday 26th May.
Then on Saturday 11th June and Sunday 24th July Welsh Tea trains will be a new addition to the timetable. Departing Llanfair Caereinion at around 1.50pm, passengers will travel in one direction in one of the line’s balcony-ended carriages built originally for the Zillertalbahn Railway in Austria, donated to the W&LLR in 1968 and for these trains specially fitted out as a buffet car. On offer will be tea, and a selection of locally-sourced Welsh tea-time treats including Caerphilly scones, bara brith and Welsh cakes.
For the journey in the other direction participants will join a select few who have enjoyed the sumptuous white leather armchairs of former Sierra Leone Government Railway carriage no 1207. This British-built vehicle was repatriated from the west African nation by the W&LLR in 1975 and fully restored to its original condition in 2009. In keeping with the first-class environment, a steward will be on hand to offer cooling drinks as might have been served to combat the African heat in the carriage’s former days. SLR 1207 has seen limited use since its restoration, with fewer than 100 people having travelled in it so far.
As with the Fish & Chip train, advance booking for the Welsh Tea specials will be necessary and space is very limited – full details and booking forms for both trains can be found on the events page of this website.