A Lament For Five Brothers

Five of us, brothers, stood beside the waterIMG_4669
Bright sun played on the ripples
We mourned for our cousin
Lost when she fell into the river

We were tall, the others handsome
But I for twenty summers
Bore a scar on my body
Disfigured by a lightning bolt

Armed men came, not soldiers
But yet an orange army
We were surrounded, trapped
Unable to make our escapeIMG_4681

No chance to plead for mercy
A whirling blade plunged into my side
Then again and again until
I fell and lay motionless

This band of brothers has fallen
But we will rise, not as five, but fifty!
Come Easter and new shoots
Will spring from our stumps

So once more we’ll stand beside the water
And as the sun plays on the ripples
Mourn for our cousin the oak
Lost when she fell into the river

Copyright (c) Geoff Gauntlett 2017

Earlier in the year, a few yards down stream, from this site a huge oak tree fell into the River Banwy taking part of the bank with it. Removal was a difficult and costly task, but had to be done as it was obstructing the flow of water.

Following a survey of the other trees along this section several were identified for pre-emptive removal. The words and photos above record the first phase of this task.  Hopefully the stumps will coppice and in a few years time there will be fifty stems where there were once five trees.



Posted in Heritage, Lineside maintenance, Photographs, Poetry, railroad, railway, vegetation management, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Messing About By The River

Steam In The Banwy Valley

From Llanfair Caereinion for a distance of two miles, almost to Cyfronydd, the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway follows the course of the River Banwy. For about one and a quarter miles the river is adjacent to the line but for long sections the water is hidden from view by a barrier of trees and associated vegetation. Photos taken in the 1960s show that, when the Preservation Company took over the line, other than grass and similar plants there was very little else growing on what I shall term  as ‘railway land’.

Priorities such as relaying track and overhauling locomotives and rolling stock have meant that there had been plenty of time for plants and trees to colonise the margins along the line. Left unchecked the line would eventually become a green tunnel with nothing to see from the carriage windows other than leaves and branches. Hardly a great experience for our passengers.

This autumn the Hedgebash Gang have been working between Milepost 7 and Milepost 7 1/4 a part of the line otherwise know as The Kink.

IMG_4588_unsharpPhoto courtesy of J Wingfield

Believe it or not somewhere near the top of the slope is a railway line and behind the camera is the river. Betwixt the two is a vast amount of scruby hazel and ash, brambles, bracken and a few small oak trees.

The hazel has been coppiced many times and is getting done again. This process does not kill the plants and in a few years we will have to return to repeat the process.

the Hegdebash Gang Taking A Rest

Looking downhill in about the same area a day or so later. The river is now visible from the railway line. Contrary to popular belief the Hedgebash Gang leaders are not ‘slave drivers’ and here some of the gang are taking a breather. On this particular weekend people travelled from places ranging from Cornwall to Yorkshire and included a couple of loco drivers from the Severn Valley Railway.

Gone Fishing

The coppice stools (stumps) on the left of the picture suggest that over the decades the river bank may have moved northwards by around 10 yards.

An individual or company owning land that has a river as a boundary is know as a ‘riparian owner’. In general terms this means that you own the land to the middle of the river and in most cases have fishing rights. With rights come responsibilities and to quote from a Natural Resources Wales document:-

You should keep the banks clear of anything that could cause an obstruction and increase flood risk, either on your land or downstream if it is washed away. You are responsible for maintaining the bed and banks of the watercourse and the trees and shrubs growing on the banks. You should also clear any litter and animal carcasses from the channel and banks, even if they did not come from your land.

A few months ago a large tree fell into the river near the old water tower. Getting it out was difficult and expensive. So it is time to be proactive and assess which trees may be in danger of falling into the river and felling them before they become a financial burden.

Overhanging Tree

An example of a tree that might collapse into the river. The crown has been cut away and a winch cable has been attached the top of the trunk.

Cutting The Front Notch

Darren Knibbs from Oakbeech Valley  finishing off the cut on the landward side of the tree.

Taking The Strain

Once the waterside cut had been made the tree was pulled over using a hand operated winch.

A 90 second video showing the felling process. Your author took his turn at operating the winch and mighty hard work it was too.

Felling A Small Tree

In addition to employing the services of a professional tree surgeon the Hedgebash Gang now has a number of members who have recognised qualifications to use chainsaws. They are able to tackle smaller trees that in the past would have been dealt with using hand saws.

Bug Hotel

A five star bug hotel assembled from a pile of logs. This will provide a habitat for various insects as it slowly decomposes.

Tidy River Bank

A section of neat and tidy river bank. It may look barren for a few months but in 4 years time it will be necessary to coppice it all again.

The Earl passing the work site on Saturday 28th October 2017.

If you would like to become a volunteer on the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway please click here for further information. There are opportunities, and in most cases training available, in all aspects of running a heritage railway.

More photos over on Flickr




Posted in Cyfronydd, Heritage, Lineside maintenance, railroad, railway, vegetation management, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway | 4 Comments

Time For A Trim


An 8 mile long railway has got 16 miles of verge to keep tidy and it has been a while since the line side grass and hedges of the Welshpool &Llanfair Light Railway had a good trim. Yes, there has been some strimming done and the Hedgebash Gang have been tackling some interesting projects but ……

Over the last couple of weeks the line has been getting a short back and sides.

Trundling Along at 1/2 mph

You might ask why we want to cut back the ‘greenery’. Well for several reasons:

  • Safety – brambles and branches that grow too close to the train may injure the crew or passengers if they lean out.
  • Prevent damage – if the vegetation scrapes along the side of the locomotives and carriages it ruins the paintwork.
  • Reduce fire risk – old brambles and long dried grass burn readily if ignited by a cinder from a steam locomotive. Short grass is less likely to catch fire and then burn for any distance.
  • It enables embankments and cuttings to be inspected for damage or subsidence.
  • Last but not least it makes the railway look well cared for.

Flail Train

The Flail Train comprising: diesel locomotive Chattenden, Ferguson 590 tractor fitted with a Twose TE480 flail mower and mounted on the ex Zillertalbahn Railway Rollwagen.

Grass Cuttin (No 'g')

Cutting grass on the side of an embankment a couple of hundred yards east of Dolarddyn Road. This section took three passes to complete.

Approaching Dirty Lane

Hedge cutting near Dirty Lane (Hydan Fawr). Four passes were required: ground level, side of hedge, angle cut as shown in the picture and a top cut.

Removing Fencing Wire

Dumped fencing wire can get caught around the rotor. This was some of the original GWR fencing wire which is nearly 1/4″ in diameter (6mm). Here it is being snipped out in a series of small pieces. This was ‘found’ near The Kink (MP7). Yet in this area the fence is a good 15 feet from the line and  at least 6 feet lower. To confuse us even more when I traced this back to its source it turned out to be the top strand and was still connected to the rest of the fence.

Flailing Sylfaen Bank

Sylfaen Bank – here the hedge is a monstrous affair mainly of blackthorn. This lot took 6 passes. Unfortunately the arm of the flail could not reach out far enough to trim the top.

At the time of writing this article a little over 10 miles of line side have been trimmed.

Many thanks to the team involved: PS, DD, PM, BW, RW, WF, PM, GG (apologies if I have missed anyone)

Neat & Tidy on Left Side

The left side of Sylfaen Bank looking neat and tidy.

Two short videos showing the flail in action:

Flailing Sylfaen Bank

Near Dirty Lane

Not To Be Moved

All this crawling around, stopping and starting takes its toll on the loco. On Saturday 14th of October Chattenden had a new set of brake blocks fitted.

Worn Out Brake Blocks

The old brake blocks

Fitting A Brake Block

Jiggling a new brake block into position between the wheel and the brake hanger.

Team Diesel

Team Diesel

Ready For Service

3 o’clock Saturday 14th October ready for service.

Unfortunately Chattenden has now got a leak in the cooling system and is awaiting repair. This is delaying the completion the flailing task.

Some more photos over on Flickr


Posted in Heritage, Lineside maintenance, Llanfair Caereinion, Photographs, railroad, railway, Sylfaen, vegetation management, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, Workshops | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Superb Steam Gala


What can be better than having you expectations exceeded ? Booking visiting locomotives for a steam gala can be a worrisome business. Will it actually arrive in a fit state to run on an eight mile long railway that resembles a linear roller-coaster? Past experience has indicated that axlebox bearings will run hot and or the loco will not be able to produce steam at the required rate.

Raising Steam

A visitor from the Sittingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway was booked for the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway’s 2017 Steam Gala. Their 0-6-2T, Superb, built by Bagnalls in 1940 was delivered to Llanfair Caereinion on 18th August. Once on the rails she was steamed up ran light engine to Welshpool  and back again without any problems. The following day, after the last service train, she took an empty stock train for a full round trip again without issues.

Steam Diesel Steam

Superb rolls into Llanfair with a goods train working from Cyfronydd. On the shed road stands, Joan, a similar loco built by Kerr Stuart in 1927 and in the background stands Chattenden built a mere nine years after Superb.

Superb carries a headboard ‘The Bogie’. The Bowater’s paper mill complex was large enough to justify them running a passenger service for their workers and this was colloquially know as ‘The Bogie’.

Double Header At Dolrhyd Mill

On Friday and Sunday evenings Superb and Joan worked double headed to Welshpool and back.

On gala Saturday your author was rostered as the early shift Yard Supervisor. My task was to ensure that loco operations went to plan and that the required rolling stock was available and in the right place on time. I had a great team and they did a wonderful job.

7 Ladies

The W&LLR is an equal opportunities organisation and on Saturday morning we were lucky enough to have all the females who work on the footplate in the station yard at one time so we were able to capture this photo of seven ladies:- Five firemen, one recent recruit and our aristocratic centenarian.


As the day draws to a close The Earl has come onto the pit for a Daily Fitness To Run Examination. This entails checking that the motion is all in good order, the springs are visually OK and that there is not excessive wear on the brake blocks.

At 28 day intervals, normally linked with the regular boiler wash out, a much more rigorous examination takes place.

At Rest

For The Earl the day is over and it slumbers outside the workshops. Only to be rudely awakened by a firework display.

Fireworks @ Llanfair Caereinion

This was to mark that the preservation company has operated the railway for longer than the Cambrian Railway, GWR and BR put together. This short video catches the finale.


On Sunday I was back on driving duties and at lunchtime took Superb and a goods train out to Cyfronydd and back. In the picture above Superb and train wait in the loop for a passenger train to pass us. The weather was dreadful with almost constant drizzle occasionally relieved by periods of heavier almost horizontal rain.

Red Signal

On our return journey we were greeted by the Outer Home signal showing a red aspect. Our rule book defines a 5 minute waiting period before the train crew take any action. Eventually our guard radioed in to remind the signalman that we were waiting for him to let us into the station.

Approaching Llanfair

A seemingly action shot taken while we were stopped at the signal.

Oiling Up

Back at Llanfair I was offered to opportunity to climb in between the frames and oil the inside valve gear. I graciously declined and Nigel from the S&K undertook that chore.

What is there left to say ?

Thanks to:

  • The Sittingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway for not only lending us a Superb locomotive but for nurturing it while it was at the W&LLR.
  • The huge team of W&LLR people many of whom were doing menial but absolutely essential tasks.
  • Exhibitors & Traders
  • Electrify Pyrotechnics
  • Last but not least our visitors for turning up and supporting us.









Posted in Cyfronydd, Heritage, Llanfair Caereinion, Photographs, railroad, railway, Uncategorized, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, Workshops | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Up A Drain Pipe

The heritage railway movement might use rails but it depends on people. People from all walks of life who willingly give some of their time to make things happen. There are the obvious things that have to be done: trains to be driven, fares collected and teas dispensed. Looking a little deeper the locomotives, rolling stock and track all have to be maintained. Peel back yet another layer and the tasks become somewhat less glamorous but still need to be done.

Having an expertise to bring to a heritage railway can be a great asset. Just as valuable is a ‘can do’ attitude, a willingness to learn new skills and the humility to be prepared to do a share of the unseen tasks.

A few weeks ago a Church of England vicar and a former telecommunications consultant were to be found checking the drainage pipes and culverts that pass under the trackbed of the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway.

Inside a large culvertInside Looking Out

A view from within the large culvert beneath the track on Dolarddyn Bank just above White Bridge. The water level was sufficiently low to be able to enter the culvert from the upstream end without getting seriously wet. As a former caver/mine explorer confined spaces do not bother me.

IMG_4171_tweakedThe Outfall

There is quite a deep pool here. Wellies would not have been sufficient to avoid wet feet.

Readers may well wonder at the apparent strange combination of skills in this micro-team and how come they got landed with this task. So, the Reverend Ryk is on his third career. The previous one was as a lecturer in civil engineering specialising in railway permanent way. As for your author, in the past I have been involved with heritage railway trackwork, and currently during the winter months get involved with vegetation management and have been known to un-bung a drain or two.

IMG_20161126_115521367_HDRA drain on Golfa Bank near Black Mill cottages cleared 26 November 2016

Ryk and I did a similar survey two years ago. This time around we had some additional objectives: To physically tag the culverts and GPS tag them. The physical tagging was straight forwards and involved small metal tags stamped with a serial number. How well (precise) the GPS tagging went has yet to be determined. The longer term aim of this being that a people could be accurately dispatched to look at a drain and not have to spend ages thrashing around in the undergrowth trying to locate it.

Obvious And Easy To Find

IMG_20170630_172348You Need To Know Where To Look And What To Look For

IMG_20170629_163753If You Didn’t Already Know This One Existed …..
Near Mile Post 2 – A blocked pipe part way up the cutting side obscured by grass & weeds

IMG_4157Joan Approaching Pussy Bridge with Y Golfa In The Background

A bonus of tasks like this is  the opportunity to get some photos from normally inaccessible locations.

IMG_4166Joan Climbing Golfa Bank

This photo was taken while checking out a drain under the embankment near to Nant Y Caws.

To round off …. if you already volunteer on a heritage railway or some other organisation here is a challenge – try something new – one of those tasks that does not mean being part of the cast that the public see.  Perhaps even something that means working with a different bunch of folk – even out of your comfort zone.

If you aren’t a volunteer already – well you are missing something – a great chance to learn new skills and do something for the heritage railway movement.

If you would like to volunteer on the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway then please follow this link. We are only just across the border into Wales and within a couple of hours driving of several million of people.







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Never A Dull Moment

On Friday morning I set off early to drive to the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway and arrived at Llanfair Caereinion just after nine o’clock. After finding a room in the volunteers’ hostel I went up to the Duty Mess Room to have some breakfast. Bruce, the Chief Mechanical engineer,  and Richard, the Workshop Foreman, were in there discussing the tasks they were hoping to tackle that day.

Looking at me in a quizzical sort of way the CME asked “What were you planning to do today?”.
I replied ” A bit of genteel PAT testing – unless you have got a better offer”
He said “How do you fancy getting involved with doing a 28 day exam on Countess?”
“OK” I said; thinking that I would be done by lunchtime and could get on with the testing in the afternoon.

Steam locomotive Countess and diesel locomotive Ferret

Countess on the inspection pit at Llanfair Caereinion

So after a bit of shunting Countess was positioned on the inspection pit ready for me to clamber about underneath.

As part of the normal daily routine the locomotives are inspected before and after service then after 28 days of use they are given a formal Fitness To Run Examination. For this inspection the engine is out of steam so that you can squeeze into places that would be mighty uncomfortable if it was hot. Springs, motion and brakes are significant parts to be looked at. Then there are nuts, bolts and split pins to be checked. Lubrication of almost inaccessible components, like the rocking shaft on the cylinder drain cock linkage, is also on the list of tasks.

The driver’s side piston gland needed some new packing and a couple of new coupling rod end oil pot trimmings were made up to reduce their oil consumption.

There was plenty of life left in the brake blocks but the brake rigging needed adjusting to reduce the slack. Getting the lock-nuts undone on the turn-buckle between the middle and rear axles can be tricky. One end refused to budge until after it was given a bit of gentle persuasion from the ‘hot spanner’.

Last job was to fix a leak on the driver’s side injector. Up came the floor plate …..
……. they say that discretion is the better part of valour. The ‘C’ nut on the pipe union was going to need replacing. Well, after a bit of consultation, we agreed to put up with that leak for a little longer.

Three steam engines and a diesel locomotive

The Earl had been parked well out of the way on the running line, Joan is standing outside the engine shed and Countess, attached to Ferret, has been pulled off the pit.

Fitter working on steam locomotive

Joan being re-assembled following some modifications to the live steam injector delivery pipes.

A few weeks ago there were some problems with a pipe joint on Joan. Modification and partial replacement was required. The parts had been returned and a team were busy at work putting her back together. After everything was reassembled she was lit up for a steam test. Unfortunately there was a quality issue with some work done by a contractor and as a consequence the fire had to be dropped.

Oh and my afternoon doing some electrical testing ? No chance!! We finished late got cleaned up and headed off for something to eat.

Before going to bed I set my alarm for nine the next morning. I was roused sometime after eight by an unattended alarm clock in the next room. By half past eight I could stand it no longer.

Rowan and I were rostered to crew a special train. There was no need to start until ten so time for a leisurely breakfast. Countess was our engine and she was ready and waiting by 12:30. We had a bit of lunch and waited for the 13:00 train to depart. We took Countess down to the carriage shed at Tanllan and fetched the replica Pickering carriages and the water wagon  back to Llanfair. After a bit of shunting and taking coal and water we were ready to depart.

The special train was for Colin, our previous CME who retired from the role a few months ago, and was now celebrating a significant birthday. Before the train departed there was a presentation made by W&LLR Chairman Steve Clews.

two people

Steve presents Colin with a picture of a GWR King class locomotive


Two people

Steve presenting Colin with a golden brake block

With the presentations over we set off down the line. We paused briefly at Cyfronydd to change footplate passengers and arrived more or less on time at Castle Caereinion. After a few minutes the service train arrived from Welshpool. The blockman set about exchanging the single line train staffs and setting the points. A message came in over his radio – a fire had been reported on Coppice Lane Bank. We were tasked with evaluating it and if possible extinguishing it.

Once we had the right-away I eased Countess and her train out of the loop and up the steep bank that leads to Coppice Lane level crossing. As we approached the road we could see a lot of smoke. After crossing the lane I brought the train to a halt a sensible distance from what had been a vigorous grass fire on the north side of the line. Rowan clambered down from the engine with the firing shovel and began to beat out the flames. After stopping our engine from blowing off I joined in.

The flames were soon put out but it was a hot sunny day and everything was as dry as tinder. We really needed to give the whole area a good soaking. So that annoying water wagon on the back of the train was going to come in handy. I went back to the loco and moved the train past the smouldering cutting side.

The wagon door was dropped, a hose deployed and the pump started (on the third attempt).

Fire-fighter with small hose at side of railway line

Railway locomotive fireman turned fire-fighter

fire-fighter with small hose

Damping down the smouldering embers

Once the smoke was gone a herd of cows came over to see what all the fuss was about. We packed up the hose and got the train moving again. The locomotive’s fire had suffered a bit with the delay but we were able to enjoy a good run up Sylfaen Bank. The ‘birthday boy’ was stood on the front balcony of the train trying to see where the regulator was set. It is sufficient to record that he was not disappointed.

Our arrival at Welshpool was well behind schedule but as we were running to the ‘Tea Train’ timetable the point to point times were generous. The water wagon had to be shunted to the other end of the train, Countess’s tanks replenished with water and the crew topped up with hot sweet tea.

The return trip was without incident and we were on time at Castle Caereinion and did not delay the 15:30 ex Llanfair.

Colin, his relatives and friends appeared to have had an enjoyable afternoon.

So it all goes to show that when you volunteer at the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway there is never a dull moment.

Steam locomotive chimney

The first picture in this blog need a bit of ‘photoshopping’ to eliminate a lovely set of flood lights attached to the top of the chimney. Here is an extract from the original picture.



Posted in Castle Caereinion, Heritage, Llanfair Caereinion, Photographs, railroad, railway, Welshpool, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, Workshops | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brake Blocks & Running Repairs


On Sunday 9th of April I was rostered as ‘Driver 2’ on the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway. On this turn of duty crew ‘2’ look after the loco while crew ‘1’ have their breakfast and lunch breaks then work the last train and dispose of the loco at the end of the day (aka put it to bed for the night). So once the first train of the day has departed you are available for other jobs that might need doing. On this day I assisted Bruce and Richard changing the brake blocks on Chattenden.

Routine Maintenance

The task was done on the large outside pit

The loco was chocked to prevent it moving and then the brake adjusters slackened off, to give a bit move movement the brake rigging was also disconnected from the main brake shaft. Each brake block is held in place with a pin. In this case the pins are retained with a nut, a lock nut and for good measure a split pin. The pins are inserted through holes in the locos main frames and so the brake rigging has to be aligned to get the pins out and then back in again.

You could probably do the job with two people – one to manipulate the brake blocks while the other deals with the pins. However, a third person use useful to push the brake rigging about to get the new blocks into position.

Last but not least the brakes were adjusted and a check made to ensure that all the split pins were fitted and opened out.

Countess Near Brynelin


A couple of days later Countess disgraced herself and set fire to some dry grass at the side of the line near Coppice Lane. It didn’t amount to much and the fire soon burnt its self out.

The next morning while preparing her for traffic I noticed that there was a gap in the spark arrestor. A search for some fireclay to stop up the hole proved fruitless…. and plans were made for some remedial work to be done at lunch time.

A little later on while I was changing into my clean ‘public facing’ overalls someone came into the locker room to say that Countess had been detached from the train for immediate attention and the train would be leaving 15 minutes late.

There was no space on the tracks outside the workshop so she was taken down the main line to the back of the running shed where a portable arc welder could be plugged into the electrical supply.

Tactical Modification

Richard then undertook the sort of tactical modification that would have typical of the late Pasco Rowe and welded a couple of old and reshaped base-plates to the under side of the spark arrestor base. ( NB Base-plates are small plates about  6″ x 8″ x 1/4″ (150mm x 200mm x 6mm) that go between the wooden sleeper and the rail to spread the load over a wider area.)

Positional Welding

The task was done quickly and in the end the train was only delayed by ten minutes.


Posted in Heritage, Llanfair Caereinion, railroad, railway, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, Workshops | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tree-mendous Achievement

The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway 2016-17 winter hedgebash project has come to a successful conclusion. In just six weekends the gang has made a significant impact on the vegetation alongside the line on the Golfa Bank.


The extent of the site was from Llanfair Lodge adjacent to New Drive level crossing to around a 100 yards west of Nant-Y-Caws a distance of 700 yards (650m). On the south side of the line (fireman’s side) the majority of the trees that have been liberally strewing the the line with leaves have been removed. On the north side activity has been a little more restrained with the majority of the work being restricted to the section between the two cattle creeps.

For the last event of the winter we were able to have a works train to bring in the gang and their tools and to move the cut materials around the site.

Works Train Being Loaded With Brash

Chattenden and the Works Train. Gang members are busy loading brash after a small ash tree was felled.

Loading Brash

A small tree barely 20 feet tall (6m) has an awful lot of branches. All of this has to be moved to a place where it is safe to burn it. The larger logs are removed by rail to the nearest road access.

Loading The Trolley With Logs

At previous weekends during the winter we have relied upon just one, small, four wheeled trolley to move tools and materials.

Before - Looking towards Llanfair

Readers may well question why we go to all this effort to cut down mature trees and out of control hedgerow. Take a look at the picture above. This section of the line was hemmed in and overhung with trees. For the passengers there is little to see from the carriage windows other than greenery. They will now be able to see the surrounding countryside: hills, wooded slopes, pasture with grazing animals. If they are observant and lucky there may be able to watch a buzzard or a red kite going about their daily routines.

From a railway operating perspective there are significant benefits from this work. When in leaf the trees drop sap on the rails when it gets mixed with a little rain the rails become slippery. In the autumn the the leaves begin to fall and they too make the rails slippery. The leaves that lie on the track bed go on the cause further problems. By covering up the sleepers they make it difficult for the track inspectors to do their work. They retain moisture and keep the sleepers damp; a sure fire way of accelerating the rate at which the timbers rot. Then as the leaves begin the break down the fragments clog up the ballast and reduce its ability to drain freely and maintain a firm road-bed.

By way of example of the results achieved:-


Before (October 2016)


After (January 2017)

Other Benefits

Joining a volunteer organisation that runs an eight mile long narrow gauge railway may be a daunting prospect to someone who perhaps has got some spare time, would like to get involved but would like a low risk entry strategy. Joining our Hedgebash Gang does not require a huge learning curve. The skills required are fairly easy to acquire and can largely be picked up by working with other people. Providing a person is reasonable fit, has  some common sense then there is a short(ish) induction session a bit of training they can be up and running in less that half a day.

Over recent years a number of people have begun volunteering with the Hedgebash Gang and moved onto other areas including: fireman, locomotive maintenance, track gang and building maintenance.

Activities are planned to carry on through the summer months. This will focus on keeping the intermediate stations looking neat and tidy – for example grass cutting. There will be a weekend training session in the safe use and operation of strimmers at the end of June.

If you would like to get involved with this or some other aspect of running a railway then why not get in touch ? This link will take you to the volunteering page.

Alternatively you might like to enjoy a ride through hills, fields and woods of rural Mid Wales. We are about 35 miles from Telford, 60 miles from the West Midlands and Stoke-On-Trent, 70 miles from Liverpool and 80 miles from Manchester. Timetables and Fares are here.

Post Script

Unloading At Bonfire Site

A works train comprising of vehicles all of which had their origins on the Chattenden & Upnor Railway in Kent. The diesel loco, Chattenden, was supplied to the Admiralty by the Drewry Car Company in 1949. Low side wagon 33 and high side wagon 65 and behind and last but not least is the Mess Coach, the body was formerly on ex-Zillertalbahn carriage B17 and is now mounted on a C&U bogie wagon chassis.


Posted in Carriage & Wagon, Golfa Bank, Heritage, Lineside maintenance, railroad, railway, vegetation management, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Inspector Calls

With just a few weeks to go before the start of the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway’s 2017 operating season things have been busy at Llanfair Caereinion. On Friday 10th March three locomotives were in steam for a visit from the insurance company’s boiler inspector.

In this picture the Boiler Inspector and his assistant are about to check that there are no leaks from the boiler inside the smokebox of Joan. Note that none of the three locos have their cosmetic dome covers in place.

All three locomotives passed the inspection. Final re-assembly including the spark arrestors can now be undertaken.


The Earl has had the dome and cylinder covers fitted back on. The old boy in the picture is happily puffing away at his pipe while applying a coat of heat resistant black paint to the smokebox.


One of the diesel locomotives, is undergoing a major overhaul. The grey box on legs is its fuel tank. As there was no inspection hatch a hole had to be cut in the top to allow it to be inspected and cleaned. Here the piece of plate that had been removed it being welded back in.


Work continues on the restoration of the Franco-Belge built 0-8-0T 699.01 ‘Sir Defaldwyn’ (This is Welsh for ‘County of Montgomeryshire’).

In the photo above part of the crinoline – the frame that supports the boiler cladding – is being  welded together.

In the photo below the outside of one of nozzles for the Lempor exhaust system is being milled so that it will be a close fit with the other three that make up the blast pipe.


And here is one we did earlier for one of the Beyer Peacocks.

Top View Of Lempor Blast Pipe


One of the Track Gang’s tool wagons has been suffering from the dreaded tin worm and work to replace the angle brackets at the corners can be seen in progress in this photograph.


Progress continues on the replica J Lloyd Peate private owner wagon. The end hoops and side knees that support the planks are in place. Three planks are fitted at each end and when this photo was taken some of the side planks had been positioned to check that they fitted OK.


Last but not least; running a railway has a lot of maintenance burdens. Yes most are to do with recognisable railway equipment or infrastructure but the tools that are used to get the work done also wear out or break down. Above is a photo of the inside of a 230v to 110v transformer – used to provide a relatively safe power source for drills and angle grinders. A crimped joint had corroded, overheated resulting in the aluminium wire melting and rendering it unservicable.

A satisfactory repair was achieved and after PAT Testing it was returned to service.

If you are interested in visiting the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway we start running trains again from April the first. The days we operate and the timetable are here.

If you are interested in volunteering you can expect a warm welcome. We value people with all types of skills and you will have the opportunity to learn new ones as well.

Volunteer at the W&LLR



Posted in Carriage & Wagon, Castle Caereinion, electrical, Heritage, Llanfair Caereinion, railroad, railway, Workshops | Leave a comment

Workshop Week – Part 2

In this instalment:

  • New parts for couplings
  • Ashpan damper door for The Earl
  • Crinoline for 699.01
  • #17 overhaul

Grondana Couplings

Grondana Centre Buffer & Coupling Hook

The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway is unique in the UK for using Grondana Couplings. These feature a centre buffer with an integrated draw hook. A screw coupling link is used to link the vehicles together. For the shunter they are a very safe design as there is no need to go between the vehicles until after the movement has stopped. This makes them superior to the previously used chopper couplers or the link and pin type couplers used on many items of industrial rolling stock.

NB The W&LLR does have as small number of vehicles with link & pin couplers but they are not in regular use. e.g. The wagon that the #17’s bonnet is currently stored on shown further down this page.

Our original stock of Grondanas came from the now defunct Sierra Leone Government Railway when it closed in the 1970s. The draw hooks on some vehicles are now approaching the scrapping limit and there are no longer any spares available. To overcome this a batch of draw hooks has been cast in steel.

Hook Drawing

Drawing of cast hook and the welded on link retainer

Hook Parts

Hooks and link retainers

Tack Welding Link Retainer 1

Final positioning of link retainer

Tack Welding Link Retainer  3

Tack welding a link retainer into place

Link Retainer Welded On

Finished Grondana draw hook

Ashpan Damper For The Earl

The Earl’s front ashpan damper door was badly warped. This meant that hot cinders could fall onto the track and air was always entering the ashpan providing a primary air source for the fire.

I removed the old door and then ground out welds that held the hinge bar in place.

A new piece of 6mm thick steel plate was cut to size. This was done using a plasma cutter. The business end of this consists of a hand held torch that is supplied with an electrical power source and compressed air. The operator operates a trigger on the torch and after a few seconds an arc appears at the cutting head. The head is placed on the metal to be cut and almost at once you can start to make the cut. The arc heats the metal and the compressed air blows it away.

The recovered hinge bar was welded onto the new door plate and a bracing piece was also welded on to, hopefully, prevent warping.

Heat Buckled Plate From Old Door

Old, warped, door plate.

Refurbished Ashpan Damper Door

Refurbished door ready to be fitted.

Door Open

Refurbished door in place on the front of The Earl’s ashpan.

Progress on 699.01 – Boiler Cladding Crinoline

Railway steam locomotive boilers are lagged to help retain heat. The lagging is covered by the Boiler Cladding which keeps it in place and also protects the boiler from the elements. The cladding is supported by a metal frame called a Crinoline ( as it is reminiscent of the frames used to support Victorian ladies dresses). The crinoline is made out of steel strip some of which has to be bent into a curved shape.

JB and myself were allocated the task of re-bending the strips that go over the firebox section. They had been started but resembled the new pound coins we will be getting soon.

An existing section of crinoline was tack welded to some spare steel strip to make a jig to bend the parts around.

Crinoline Forming Jig for 699.01 Sir Drefaldwyn

This photo shows the jig with a section of the crinoline we were working on clamped to it. This sort activity proves the theory that it is not possible to have to many clamps in your workshop.


The strip to be formed has to be heated and clamped to the jig. I was doing the heating and JB was putting the clamps on.


A clamp has been put on the red hot section of strip. The whole process had to be done twice per strip.

#17 – Diema Diesel Loco

This is not strictly a Workshop Week task but hopefully of interest.

Diema Overhaul

#17 had been suffering from a lack of power. Put simply a good proportion of the horses, that were supposed to be living under the bonnet, had escaped from the Allis-Chalmers prime mover. During 2016 various contractors were invited to come and inspect the machine with a view to undertaking an overhaul.

Diema Bonnet

The bonnet sitting on a wagon outside the Engineering Office

The Torque Converter Has Been Removed

There is now a gaping hole in the engine bay. The Torque Converter has been removed. The bolts that couple the input side to the engine crank shaft and the starter motor pinion can be seen within the bell-housing. In the foreground is the pneumatic actuator that works the clutch. On the right is the cardan shaft that connects the torque converter to the Forward/Reverse gearbox. The huge fuel tank that sits above the cardan shaft has also been removed. The fuel is used for two purposes – the obvious one of powering the engine and the less obvious one of being the torque converter fluid.

Wot  No Turbo ?

The main suspect in the case of the missing horsepower is the Turbo Charger and it also has been removed for servicing. When in place it bolts onto the exhaust manifold between the pipe on the left that connects to the inlet manifold and the pipe on the right that leads to the exhaust pipe.





Posted in electrical, Llanfair Caereinion, Uncategorized, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, Workshops | Leave a comment