Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway

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Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway
Rheilffordd y Trallwng a Llanfair Caereinion
Countess.jpg
823 COUNTESS - one of the two original W&LLR engines
Locale Mid-Wales
Terminus Welshpool
Commercial operations
Name Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway
Original gauge 2 ft 6 in (762 mm)
Preserved operations
Length 8.5 miles (13.7 km)
Preserved gauge 2 ft 6 in (762 mm)
Commercial history
Opened 1903
Closed to passengers 1931
Closed 1956
Preservation history
1963 Re-opened as a heritage railway
1972 Services extended to Sylfaen
1981 Opening of extension to Raven Square
Welshpool & Llanfair
Light Railway
Cambrian Line
End of line
Welshpool
Cambrian Line
Welshpool Raven Square
Golfa Bank
Sylfaen
Castle Caereinion
Cyfronydd
Heniarth
Llanfair Caereinion

The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway (W&LLR) (Welsh: Rheilffordd y Trallwng a Llanfair Caereinion) is a 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge heritage railway in Powys, Wales. The line is around 8.5 miles (13.7 km) long and runs westwards from the town of Welshpool (Welsh: Y Trallwng) via Castle Caereinion to the village of Llanfair Caereinion.

History[edit]

Early proposals[edit]

The first proposal to connect Llanfair Caerinion and Welshpool by railway was the Llanfair Railway of 1864; this would have been a narrow gauge line, with a mixed gauge section where it connected to the Cambrian Railways. This proposal was abandoned. The next attempt came in 1876 with the promotion of the Welshpool and Llanfair Railway Bill, which proposed a railway along a similar route to the 1864 effort. This Bill passed through the Houses of Parliament. This attempt failed in 1882 because the promoters were unable to raise sufficient capital. In 1886, another Welshpool and Llanfair Railway Bill appeared for a 3 ft (914 mm) gauge railway on a similar route; this bill expired unused in 1892.[1]

The Light Railways Act of 1896[edit]

In 1896, the Light Railways Act was passed, and this spurred further attempts at a railway to Llanfair Caerinion. The first of these was the Llanfair & Meifod Valley Light Railway bill of 1896, which proposed a standard-gauge line from Arddleen about 8 miles north of Welshpool, through the Meifod Valley.[1]

In late December 1896, the mayor of Welshpool William Addie proposed a 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) gauge railway called the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway. By March 1897, Addie had contracted with noted narrow gauge promoter Everard Calthrop to assist in preparing a case for the inquiry. An application for a Light Railway Order was submitted to the Board of Trade in May 1897. Calthrop proposed the use of transporter wagons, 0-6-0 tank locomotives and a large "Barsi-type" locomotive for heavy market day traffic. At the August 1897 public inquiry Calthrop appeared, along with J.R. Dix manager of the Corris Railway. The enquiry considered by the Llanfair & Meifod Light Railway and the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway proposals. The commissioners took their time deciding. Meanwhile the promoters of the W&LLR had approached the Cambrian Railways to have them pay for and construct the railway. After much time-consuming negotiations, the Cambrian agreed and on 8th. September 1899, the Light Railway Order was granted to begin construction of the line.[1]

Original operations[edit]

It was opened on 4 April 1903 to aid economic development in a remote area, never making a profit. It was originally operated by the Cambrian Railways, connecting with it at the former Oswestry and Newtown Railway station in the town of Welshpool. The line is built through difficult country, having a great number of curves in order to reach the summit of 600 ft. The original terminus at Welshpool was located alongside the main line station and trains wound their way through the town, using the locomotive bell as a warning.

In the 1923 Grouping of railway companies, Cambrian Railways, including the Welshpool to Llanfair Caereinion line, was absorbed by the Great Western Railway (GWR). On 9 February 1931 the line lost its passenger service, which was replaced by a bus service, and it became a freight-only line. It was temporarily re-opened to passengers between 6 and 11 August 1945 for the Eisteddfod. The GWR itself was nationalised in 1948 and became part of British Railways.

Freight traffic lingered on until 1956, by which time British Railways decided to close the line, with services ceasing on 5 November.[2]

Preservation[edit]

A group of volunteers and enthusiasts took the line over and started raising money to restore it. On 6 April 1963 the western half of the line, from Llanfair Caereinion to Castle Caereinion, was reopened as a tourist railway. In 1972 services were extended to Sylfaen. The line through Welshpool, however, could not be reopened, so the line now has a new terminus station at Raven Square on the western outskirts of the town, opened on 18 July 1981. There are current discussions about reinstating the link through the town to the main line station, following a different route from that originally used.

Because of the 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) gauge, unusual for British narrow gauge railways, locomotives and rolling stock to supplement the originals have had to be obtained from sources around the world including the Zillertalbahn in Austria. A major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund permitted restoration of both original locomotives together with several coaches and original wagons, and provision of new workshop facilities, ready for the line's centenary.

Train in the streets of Welshpool (1950)
Gala Day: "The Earl" and "The Countess" at Llanfair Caerinion
The Grondana coupling now used on the railway, with a centre buffer and screw coupling link[3]

Locomotives[edit]

Locomotives of the preserved railway

WLLR No. Name Image Builder Works No. Date built Date arrived Wheels Type Status Notes
1 The Earl Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway No. 1 The Earl.JPG Beyer Peacock 3496 1902 1902 0-6-0T Steam Operational Original W&LLR locomotive
2 Countess Countess basks in the sunshine at Welshpool Beyer Peacock 3497 1902 1902 0-6-0T Steam Operational Original W&LLR locomotive
6 Monarch Bagnall 3024 of 1953 - aka Monarch from the Bowaters railway at Sittingbourne W. G. Bagnall 3024 1953 1966 0-4-4-0T Steam On display at Welshpool Raven Square station Previously from Sittingbourne. Sold to Ffestiniog Railway but re-purchased by W&LLR.
7 Chattenden * Chattenden shunts the Sierra Leone coaches Drewry Car Co. 2263 1947 1968 0-6-0DM Diesel Operational ex Chattenden and Upnor Railway (also known as the Lodge Hill & Upnor Railway), previously from Admiralty Depots, rebuilt at Llanfair in 1980. Has recently been rebuilt at Llanfair and is now fitted with both air and vacuum braking.
8 Dougal * Dougal and train Andrew Barclay 2207 1946 1968 0-4-0T Steam On display at Welshpool Raven Square station Originally operated at Provan Gasworks, Glasgow. Currently awaiting boiler repairs
10 Sir Drefaldwyn * Welshpool (Raven Square) Station - geograph.org.uk - 108487 Franco-Belge 2855 1944 1969 0-8-0T Steam Undergoing overhaul Originally operated by German Army & in Austria at the Zillertalbahn. An HF 160 D-type locomotive.
11 Ferret * Ferret Welshpool & Llanfair Hunslet Engine Company 2251 1940 1971 0-4-0DM Diesel Operational Previously from Admiralty Depots. Returned to service in 2015 and is used primarily as a works shunter at Welshpool.
12 Joan Joan at Llanfair Caereinion Kerr Stuart 4404 1929 1971 0-6-2T Steam Operational Originally operated in Antigua. Returned to service in 2011 with a new boiler.
14 - WLLR 14 at Castle Caereinion Hunslet Engine Company 3815 1954 1975 2-6-2T Steam On display Originally operated by Sierra Leone Government Railway.
16 Scooby * Hunslet Engine Company 1941 1992 0-4-0DM Diesel Stored Previously from Admiralty Depots. Rebuilt by W&LLR
17 TSC 175 Diema and The Wasp Diema 1979 2004 6wDH Diesel Operational Originally operated by Taiwan Sugar Company

* = Name added by WLLR

Former locomotives[edit]

WLLR No. Name Image Builder Works No. Date built Date arrived Wheels Type Status Notes
3 Raven * Ruston & Hornsby 1934 4wDM Diesel N/A Sold — now in private ownership.
4 Upnor Castle * Upnorcastleconst F. C. Hibberd 3687 1954 4wDM Diesel N/A Sold to Ffestiniog Railway
5 Nutty Chain driven Sentinel locomotive of Leighton Buzzard Light Railway.jpg Sentinel 7701 1929 1964 4wVBT Steam N/A Previously from Fletton Brickworks. Owned by and returned to care of Narrow Gauge Railway Museum, now at Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway.
9 Wynnstay * Victor and Hector at the Great Whipsnade Railway J. Fowler 1951 0-6-0DM Diesel N/A Built for a failed groundnuts scheme in Africa, sold to British Portland Cement Co.'s works at Lower Penarth, Glamorgan. Arrived at Llanfair in 1968, Sold to the Great Whipsnade Railway in 1972 as Victor.
15 Orion * Les Ateliers Metallurgiques 2-6-2T 2369 (1948) No 15, Llanfair Caereinion, Welshpool & Llanfair Railway, Wales 22.8.1992 (10196767393).jpg Tubize 2369 1948 1983 2-6-2T Steam N/A Previously from Finland. Returned to Jokioinen Museum Railway in Finland in 2006.
18 764.423 Reșița works 1957 2004 0-8-0T Steam Sold in May 2016 to an Austrian buyer as a spare parts donor for #19[4] Originally operated in Romania
19 764.425 Locomotive at Welshpool - geograph.org.uk - 1926845 Reșița works 1957 2007 0-8-0T Steam Sold in May 2016 to an Austrian buyer[4] Originally operated in Romania

* = Name added by WLLR

Coordinates[edit]

Coordinates: 52°38′43″N 3°15′01″W / 52.645341°N 3.250236°W / 52.645341; -3.250236 (route)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Johnson, Peter (2011). An Illustrated History of the Great Western Narrow Gauge. Oxford Publishing Co. 
  2. ^ "Railway Magazine" November 1956
  3. ^ "Workshop Week - Part 2". Fifteen Flatout. 21 February 2017. Retrieved 22 July 2017. 
  4. ^ a b "Handel mi Eisenbahnmaterial Georg Hocevar, Graz". Overseas News. Industrial Railway Society (978): p4. September 2016. 
  • Cartwright, Ralph I. (2002). The Welshpool & Llanfair. RailRomances.  ISBN 1-900622-06-8

External links[edit]