Visitors to the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway on 22nd-23rd April were given the rare opportunity to watch a mixed passenger and freight train in action – the reason being that in 2016 such trains are set to become rather more familiar on the mid Wales line.
The popular Vintage Trains, which operate this season over five weekends, will be mixed workings, combining one of the railway’s original Beyer Peacock 0-6-0T locomotives with three superbly recreated Pickering bogie carriages - and for the first time in a while also including heritage freight stock. Mixed workings will also form essential elements of the new Country Railway Weekend event on 25th-26th June, and the annual Steam Gala on 2nd-4th September.
As well as requiring shunting of the stock at each end of the journey to ensure the vacuum-brake fitted passenger vehicles are rostered next to the locomotive, mixed trains on the W&LLR require extra focus due to the line’s steep gradients. In particular trains travelling to Welshpool have to stop at Sylfaen summit, around two miles from their destination, to have their brakes pinned down before descending the challenging Golfa Bank, where the ruling gradient is 1 in 29.
Therefore the railway staged two days of ‘training trains’, both to reassess those Guards who have worked with mixed trains before, and to train members of the Operating Department in the particular skills of operating such trains.
“The two days were very successful, and we are now ready to run our mixed workings,” said W&LLR general manager Charles Spencer. “Travellers on them will enjoy a rather different journey to our normal trains, while the shunting movements required at Welshpool and Llanfair should provide plenty of photographic opportunities for enthusiasts. And of course we’re recreating part of the railway’s history, as old photographs can attest.”
The W&LLR Vintage Trains run on 14th-15th May, 4th-5th June, 16th-17th and 30th-31st July, and 13th-14th August. Each day’s timetable will feature two return Vintage Trains, enabling travellers beginning their journey from Welshpool to travel both ways on the special workings. Full details and timings can be found on the timetable page of this website.
Railway’s behind-the-scenes day hopes to attract new volunteers
27th April 2016
Ever wondered what it takes to operate a heritage steam railway? Perhaps you have considered getting involved yourself but are not sure whether it is for you? Then the Volunteers Day at the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway could well be for you.
Scheduled for Saturday 14th May and aimed at all those that live within an hour’s drive of the railway, the Volunteers Day will provide a unique insight into this leading Mid-Wales tourist attraction and a chance to meet the friendly team that run it.
While one of the best-known of Britain’s many heritage railways the Welshpool & Llanfair operates with just four full-time paid staff – virtually all those involved in running the line are volunteers, crewing the trains, maintaining the track, tending the locomotives and rolling stock in the workshops, staffing the shops and tearoom, keeping the vegetation in check, and the 101 other jobs needed to keep trains running through the beautful Banwy Valley.
The Llanfair line relies on a wide variety of volunteers, and is always keen to attract more. These volunteers come from all walks of life, male and female, and are of all ages – there is something for everyone to do, whether you have specific skills or simply mere enthusiasm, and you don’t even have to particularly like trains to find a fulfilling role on the line!
Those who attend the Volunteers Day will be given an in-depth view of all aspects of the line in operation, from seeing inside the locomotive and rolling stock workshops, to learning how the track is maintained, duties at the stations and the responsibilities of signalmen. A trip on the train forms part of the day during which the roles of the loco crew and guard will be explained.
“This day is aimed directly at anyone who has ever wondered whether volunteering might be for them, and you might be surprised at what you can end up doing,” said W&LLR spokesman Andrew Charman.
“While I’ve been the railway’s press officer for many years, I never imagined actually working on the locomotives. But when I moved locally in 2007, I was persuaded to sign up. I’ve been a qualified locomotive fireman for some years now, and greatly enjoy the role – it’s all-involving and a great way to make a whole new group of good friends.”
Anyone that wishes to attend the Volunteer Day or who requires more information should contact the W&LLR’s Volunteer Liaison Officer, Robert Robinson, on 07767 267830 or by email at volunteerliaison [at] wllr.org.uk, to book their place.
Bunnies to kick off busy season for Llanfair line
12th March 2016
Leading Mid-Wales tourist attraction the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway will be opening up for what is set to be its busiest season yet on Saturday 19th March, and welcoming a seasonal visitor just a week later.
The Easter Bunny will be dropping in to the W&LLR’s Llanfair Caereinion headquarters from Good Friday 25th to Easter Monday 28th March, with some special fun for all children travelling on the line’s ‘Easter Eggs-press’ trains.
The Bunny has hidden some of his Easter eggs at various locations along the eight-mile route, and children riding on the trains will be encouraged to spot as many of them as they can. And every child that travels on the line will receive a free chocolate egg.
There will be plenty of opportunity to spot the eggs too, as between Easter Saturday and Easter Monday two trains will be in operation, ensuring everyone visiting will have plenty of opportunity to take a steam-hauled ride along the delightful Banwy Valley.
The line will be running every day through the Easter school holidays to 10th April, with the exception of Monday 21st March, Monday 4th and Friday 8th April. It will then settle down to its traditional early-season weekend service through to mid-May, trains also running on the Mayday bank holiday.
This season will also see more special events than ever before on the line, aimed at both family and enthusiast visitors. Highlights include an evening fish & chips train on 28th May, afternoon tea trains on 11th June and 24th July, and a Country Railway weekend on 25th-26th June. “At the Country Railway Weekend we will be taking visitors back to a time when the line was the prime means of transport in the district, particualrly for farmers, their produce and their livestock,” says W&LLR general manager Charles Spencer.
As ever the opening of the railway for a new season would not have been possible without a great deal of essential winter work carried out by staff and volunteers. The Llanfair Line track gang have braved all kinds of winter weather to relay a stretch of line situated between Cyfronydd station and Dolarddyn Road level crossing, while the volunteer ‘hedgebash’ gang have been busy cutting back encroaching vegetation and opening up new views for passengers, concentrating this winter on the stretch of line leading from Welshpool Raven Square.
Meanwhile in the workshops a host of maintenance duties have been carried on the steam and diesel locomotives and the heritage rolling stock, while restoration is continuing on the Franco-Belge 0-8-0T locomotive ‘Sir Drefaldwyn’, which has not worked on the line since May 2000.
Further information about train times, fares and special events can be found elsewhere on this website.
Smallest steam loco to star with large models
12th February 2016
The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway’s smallest steam locomotive is going on its travels again – Andrew Barclay 0-4-0 tank locomotive ‘Dougal’ is to be a central attraction at the 2016 National Garden Railway Show in Peterborough on Saturday 9th April.
The visit to the event, held at the Peterborough Arena and the largest UK show of its kind, follows a highly successful expedition by Dougal to the Shrewsbury Steam Rally over the August bank holiday weekend in 2015.
Dougal is a favourite with Llanfair Line members thanks chiefly to its diminutive size compared to the railway’s other locomotives, a legacy of the 1946-built engine’s former life working at the Provan Gasworks, in Glasgow, Scotland.
Paradoxically at the Peterborough event the loco will be surrounded by some of the largest model engines around – the National Garden Railway Show is organised by the Association of 16mm Scale Narrow Gauge Modellers, which has more than 4,500 members worldwide building model railways in the impressive scale of 16mm to the foot, mostly in the garden and the majority running on live steam.
Emerging in the 1970s, ‘16mm’ has grown to become a major modelling scale, and the Peterborough event will feature 17 layouts, help and advice stands, the annual and much-prized Model of the Year competition and more than 90 specialist traders, offering a vast range of steam and battery locomotives, rolling stock, kits and accessories in garden scales.
Among the best-known of these traders is Accucraft UK, and it is thanks to kind sponsorship from the Herefordshire-based manufacturer of model steam locomotives and rolling stock that Dougal can make the trip to Peterborough. Accucraft includes several W&LLR models in its much sought-after range, including Beyer Peacock locomotives ‘The Earl’ and ‘Countess’ and Hunslet 2-6-2T No. 14, the line’s Pickering bogie carriages and most of its freight stock.
Commenting on Dougal’s forthcoming trip east, W&LLR general manager Charles Spencer said that the loco would be working hard for the railway, even if not pulling trains; “Dougal has been out of service for a while as the loco needs some boiler repairs – visits such as this and the trip last August to the Shrewsbury rally helps keep Dougal in the public eye as well as providing vital publicity for the railway”.
“We are particularly pleased to be taking Dougal to Peterborough as the railway has close ties to the 16mm Association – many Association members are also members of the railway, some of them highly active,” Charles added.
Ian Pearse of Accucraft UK said; "We are delighted to once again support the National Garden Railway Show in this way and are very happy to help fund the movement of 'Dougal' from the W&LLR to Peterborough."
Llanfair line announces busy and varied 2016 season
22nd December 2015
Visitors to the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway in 2016 will discover more trains on offer and more special attractions following major changes to the line’s timetable.
The season is set to start earlier than in previous years, on 19th March, one week before the Easter weekend, and the regular timetable will include a new intensive service in August. On these days the first departure from the Welshpool end of the line will be at 9.45am, more than an hour earlier than in previous years, and the service will include heritage diesel trains at either end of the day.
Likely to be a major attraction to photographers are the return of the mixed trains which formed the majority of workings on the line in its early life. Five vintage weekends during the season will feature train sets made up of replicas of the W&LLR’s original Great Western liveried carriages, with goods wagons and brake van attached, and shunting taking place at each end of the line.
The railway’s traditional September Gala weekend is being expanded and in 2016 will take place on Friday to Sunday, 2nd- 4th September. Following the successful visit of Statfold Barn Mallet locomotive ‘Pakis Baru No. 5’ to the 2015 event, arrangements are currently being finalised for another visiting engine, along with further attractions.
The traditional and popular Gala menu of an intensive train service, steam road vehicles, model railways, trade stands, night photography will also feature. As in previous years the Gala will be held over the same weekend as the excellent Garden Railway Show at Llanfair High School.
Further new events in 2016 will include a Country Railway Weekend in June, during which the W&LLR will be demonstrating railway operations as they would have been in the 1920s-30s, and in September an all-diesel day. The line’s heritage diesels will be hauling passenger trains, the industrial diesels and internal combustion plant putting on demonstrations.
Also planned as part of the season are an evening fish and chips train, and an afternoon tea special train, featuring the restored carriages from the Sierra Leone Government Railway.
Popular family activities including the Easter Bunny and Teddy Bear weekends will again be held in 2016, together with further events currently being planned.
The W&LLR has also announced that standard travel fares are to remain unchanged from 2015 rates, though different fares will apply for some of the special events.
“We are planning a range of attractions which we hope will encourage visitors to come to us more than once”, said W&LLR General Manager Charles Spencer. “On a given weekend the goings-on could be completely different from the previous week – or the next one!”
The W&LLR’s 2016 timetable and special events are available on this website, while regular updates will also appear on the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WelshpoolSteamRailway and the Twitter feed, @LlanfairLine. Further information can also be obtained from 01938 810441.
2016 Driver Experience Dates
19th December 2015
Bookings are now being taken for our Driver Experience courses next season. See our Driver Experience page for more details.
New Christmas Card Available
5th October 2015
SALES OF OUR 2015 CHRISTMAS CARDS HAVE NOW CLOSED. KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR ANNOUNCEMENTS ABOUT OUR 2016 DESIGNS.
Our Christmas cards are now available from our shops, and by mail order (at a new address). Please visit our Christmas cards page for more details. (Link removed).
Race the Train - Sunday 20th September
14th September 2015
The Rotary Club of Welshpool's annual cyclist 'Race the Train' event will be taking place on Sunday 20th September. Further details can be found on the Rotary Club's Webpage.
Teddy Bear fun at Llanfair Line
11th September 2015
Furry friends of all shapes and sizes will be much in evidence on the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway on 19th and 20th September when the railway stages a Teddy Bears' Weekend.
Younger visitors to the line will be encouraged to bring their favourite teddy with them, and every child that arrives with a bear and a paying grown-up will travel for free.
Along the line, meanwhile, there will be teddy bears to spot, while the railway’s own big ted will also be on hand to meet children and their teddies, and to pose for pictures.
“Having just organised a very successful Steam Gala for the enthusiasts at the start of the month, it’s nice to focus on the railway’s many family visitors,” said Llanfair Line spokesman Andrew Charman. “We are looking forward to seeing many young visitors to the line, with their teddy bears of course!”
Round trips depart from Welshpool station at 11.15am and 2.05pm on both days, and from Llanfair Caereinion at 10am, 1pm and 3.30pm. More details including ticket prices can be found on the railway’s website, www.wllr.org.uk, or by calling 01938 810441.
Steam Gala - Updated Timetable
4th September 2015
Final preparations for this weekend's Steam Gala are well underway and we have a slightly amended timetable.
Version 3 of the Public Timetable has just been published. Other than an addition of a light engine movement on Sunday evening the timetable remains the same as Version 2 published during August.