Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway

The Welshpool and 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.

Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway
Rheilffordd y Trallwng a Llanfair Caereinion
823 Countess – one of the two original W&LLR engines
Commercial operations
NameWelshpool & Llanfair Light Railway
Original gauge2 ft 6 in (762 mm)
Preserved operations
Length8.5 miles (13.7 km)
Preserved gauge2 ft 6 in (762 mm)
Commercial history
Closed to passengers1931
Preservation history
1963Re-opened as a heritage railway
1972Services extended to Sylfaen
1981Opening of extension to Raven Square
Welshpool & Llanfair
Light Railway
End of line
Welshpool Raven Square
Golfa Bank
Castle Caereinion
Dolarddyn Crossing
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 1896 edit

In August 1896, the Light Railways Act 1896 was passed, and this spurred further attempts at a railway to Llanfair Caereinion. 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 both 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

Train in the streets of Welshpool (1950)

It was opened on 6 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.[2][3]

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.[4]

Preservation edit

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[5]

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 Heritage railway.

On 13 December 1964, a pier supporting the steel girder bridge over the River Banwy was seriously damaged by flood waters dislodging the bridge. During the spring and early summer of 1965 the 16th Railway Regiment of the Royal Engineers replaced the damaged masonry pier with a fabricated steel one and restored the span to its original position. Train services between Llanfair Caereinion to Castle Caereinion resumed on 14 August 1965.[6]

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. In 2008, there were discussions with Welshpool Town Council about reinstating the link through the town to the main line station, following a different route from that originally used.[7]

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.

Golfa Bank edit

Golfa Bank is a particularly steep bank on the railway.[8] The bank is nearly a mile at 1 in 29, which in its day, was the steepest section of the Cambrian Railways worked by passenger trains and is still a challenging climb. The line travelling up the slope is curvy, to make the climb easier. Golfa summit is 630 ft above sea level, meaning the locomotives have to travel from about 350 ft above sea level at the bottom of Golfa Bank, equal to climbing 280 ft in 1.5 miles. The locomotives had to be built specifically to manage the bank, due to its steepness.

There was a halt at the top called Golfa Halt, 1.75 miles or 3.2 km from the Welshpool Raven Square terminus. The halt had a loop that was provided for goods traffic.[9] The station was opened on 6 April 1903.[10]

The Great Western Railway withdrew passenger services on 9 February 1931,[10][11] and the line closed completely on 3 November 1956.[11] The station officially reopened on 18 July 1981,[10] but was closed again by 2015.

Locomotives edit

Locomotives of the preserved railway edit

WLLR No. Name Image Builder Works No. Date built Date arrived Wheels Type Status
1 The Earl   Beyer Peacock 3496 1902 1902 0-6-0T Steam Operational
Original W&LLR locomotive. Overhauled at the Vale of Rheidol Railway between 2019 and 2021. Currently painted in a Great Western green livery.
2 Countess   Beyer Peacock 3497 1902 1902 0-6-0T Steam Withdrawn following expiry of boiler certificate 2021
Original W&LLR locomotive
6 Monarch   W. G. Bagnall 3024 1953 1966 0-4-4-0T Steam On display
From the Sittingbourne and Kemsley Light Railway. Sold to the Ffestiniog Railway but re-purchased by W&LLR.
7 Chattenden *   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 *   Andrew Barclay 2207 1946 1968 0-4-0T Steam On display
Originally operated at Provan Gasworks, Glasgow. Currently awaiting boiler repairs
10 Sir Drefaldwyn *   Franco-Belge 2855 1944 1969 0-8-0T Steam Operational
Originally operated by the German Army as a tender engine. Then in Austria at the Salzkammergut-Lokalbahn as Number 19, then sold to the Steiermärkische Landesbahn as Number "699.01", where it was converted to a tank engine.[12] An HF 160 D-type locomotive.
11 Ferret *   Hunslet Engine Company 2251 1940 1971 0-4-0DM Diesel Operational
Previously from Admiralty armament depot in Wiltshire. Initially named Raven after the loco it replaced.[12] Returned to service in 2015 and is used primarily as a works shunter at Llanfair.
12 Joan   Kerr Stuart 4404 1929 1971 0-6-2T Steam On display
Originally operated in Antigua. Returned to service in 2011 with a new boiler. Out of service from 2020 following expiry of 10 year boiler ticket.
14 SLR No. 85   Hunslet Engine Company 3815 1954 1975 2-6-2T Steam On display
Originally operated by Sierra Leone Government Railway.
16 Scooby * Hunslet Engine Company 2400 1941 1992 0-4-0DM Diesel Stored
Previously from Admiralty Depots. Rebuilt by W&LLR
17 TSC 175   Diema 4270 1979 2004 6wDH Diesel Operational
Originally operated by Taiwan Sugar Company

* = Name added by WLLR

Locomotives on hire edit

No. Name Image Builder Works No. Date built Date arrived Wheels Type Status
2 Zillertal   Lokomotivfabrik Krauss & Co. 4506 1900 2019 0-6-2T Steam Operational
U Class, one of two locomotives built for the opening of the Zillertalbahn. Arrived in August 2019 on hire from the Zillertalbahn for approximately two years.[13]

Former locomotives edit

WLLR No. Name Image Builder Works No. Date built Date arrived Wheels Type Status
3 Raven * Ruston & Hornsby 1934 4wDM Diesel N/A
Sold in 1974. Now in private ownership.
4 Upnor Castle *   F. C. Hibberd 3687 1954 1964 4wDM Diesel N/A
Sold to Ffestiniog Railway in 1968.
5 Nutty   Sentinel 7701 1929 1964 4wVBT Steam N/A
Previously from Fletton Brickworks. Owned by and returned to care of Narrow Gauge Railway Museum in 1971, now at Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway.
9 Wynnstay *   J. Fowler 1951 1969 0-6-0DM Diesel N/A
Built for a failed groundnuts scheme in East Africa. In 1954 sold to British Portland Cement Co.'s works at Lower Penarth, Glamorgan. Arrived at Llanfair in 1969, Sold to the Great Whipsnade Railway in 1972 as Victor.
15 Orion *   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 N/A
Originally operated in Romania. Sold in May 2016 to an Austrian buyer as a spare parts donor for #19[14]
19 764.425   Reșița Works 1957 2007 0-8-0T Steam N/A
Originally operated in Romania. Sold in May 2016 to an Austrian buyer[14]

* = Name added by WLLR

Passenger carriages edit

Carriages of the preserved railway edit

WLLR No. Other No. Image Builder Type Date built Date arrived Notes
B14   Grazer Waggon 4-wheel balcony 1900 1968 Built for and donated by Zillertalbahn
B16   Grazer Waggon 4-wheel balcony 1901 1968 Built for and donated by Zillertalbahn
B17   Grazer Waggon 4-wheel balcony 1901 1968 Built for and donated by Zillertalbahn
C572 B25 Grazer Waggon 4-wheel balcony 1925 1968 Built for Satzkammergut-Lokalbahn
C569 B24   Grazer Waggon 4-wheel balcony 1925 2003 Built for Satzkammergut Lokalbahn
B27   Grazer Waggon 4-wheel balcony 1954 1975 Built for Austrian State Railways
1066 1040 GRC&W Bogie third 1961 1975 Rebuilt in Romania, 2008
1207   GRC&W Bogie first 1961 1975 Rebuilt in Romania, 2009
418   Hungarian State Rly Bogie 1958 1999 Rebuilt with extended balcony 2018-19
430   Hungarian State Rly Bogie 1958 1999 Rebuilt with extended balcony 2018-19
6166 Ffestiniog Railway Bogie composite 2004 Replica of 1903 R.Y. Pickering original
4154 Ffestiniog Railway Bogie third 2007 Replica of 1903 R.Y. Pickering original
B20   S.C. Calea Ferata Ingusta SRL in Brad 4-wheel balcony 2006 2007 Replica of Austrian Zillertalbahn carriage
6366 Ffestiniog Railway Bogie composite 2010 Replica of 1903 R.Y. Pickering original

Coordinates edit

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. ^ Farnworth, Roger (24 July 2022). "The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway – Part 1 – The Abandoned Town Section". Roger Farnworth. Retrieved 26 December 2022.
  3. ^ Farnworth, Roger (23 September 2022). "The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway – An Addendum". Roger Farnworth. Retrieved 26 December 2022.
  4. ^ Railway Magazine November 1956
  5. ^ "Workshop Week - Part 2". Fifteen Flatout. 21 February 2017. Retrieved 22 July 2017.
  6. ^ Gunston, Henry (July 1966). "Rebuilding the Banwy Bridge". Railway Magazine. Vol. 112, no. 783. pp. 408–409.
  7. ^ "Steam train could return to town". BBC News. 31 March 2008. Retrieved 12 July 2022.
  8. ^ "English". Coflein. Retrieved 16 June 2021.
  9. ^ Rushton, Page 24
  10. ^ a b c Butt 1995, p. 106.
  11. ^ a b Rushton, Page 6
  12. ^ a b Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway Guide. Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway Preservation Company Ltd. 1973.
  13. ^ "Llanfair Line to host Austrian narrow gauge locomotive in UK". Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  14. ^ a b "Handel mi Eisenbahnmaterial Georg Hocevar, Graz". Overseas News (978). Industrial Railway Society. p. 4. September 2016.

Bibliography edit

External links edit