Gala 2018

Last weekend was the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway annual steam gala. Our line is normally a sleepy quiet backwater set in the rolling hills of rural mid Wales, but, at gala a intensive train service is operated.

Countess On Sign Hut Curve

Countess and the high capacity, wheelchair friendly, train near to Cyfronydd

This year the gala was over three days Friday 31st August to Sunday 2nd September. We were blessed with fine dry weather throughout the event. Unfortunately for those who remained behind on the Monday to clear up it poured with rain.

Blowing Off

For the second year running Superb an 0-6-2T tank engine, built by W G Bagnall of Stafford, was the guest engine; courtesy of the Sittingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway in Kent. In the picture above it is seen at Welshpool  Raven Square Station on the Friday morning with two of the replica Pickering coaches.

Starting at the Welshpool end of the line in the bay platform there was the opportunity for visitors to have a go on a pump trolley (also loaned by the S&KLR)

Pump Trolley

Two W&LLR volunteers demonstrate how easy it is to operate the pump trolley

A little further along in the Display & Carriage sheds was a model railway exhibition and a number of traders selling secondhand models and other collectables.


An 009 model of Castle Caereinion Station with Upnor Castle shunting freight stock.


The same model from a different angle. The bodyshell of Upnor Castle and the underframe of the leading Chattenden & Upnor Railway ‘toast rack’ carriage make use of 3D prints available from Banwy Models via their Shapeways shop.

Another Arrival At Raven Square

The view from the signalbox towards the sheds at Welshpool as The Earl arrives with another passenger train.

Approaching Cyfronydd

On the Friday with my rostered duties finished by early afternoon I took a ride in one of the SLR carriages to Cyfronydd and spent an hour taking photos of passing trains.

At the Llanfair end of the line there were numerous attractions. Many visitors headed for the local High School where there was a Garden Railway exhibition taking place. On the station site there was an exhibition of model engineering and a 45mm gauge roundy roundy layout aka the ‘Biggles Bahn’ featuring both steam and electrically hauled trains. In the yard was a small collection of steam vehicles.

Time For A Brew

Early morning train departures mean early starts for the loco crews. Here we are having a short pause in activity for a tea break.


It is just after 07:20 and the first departure for Welshpool, consisting of the The Earl, 3 x replica Pickering carriages, the J Ll Peate private owner wagon and a brake van, pulls out of Llanfair Ceareinion. Countess waits for her first turn of duty at 08:45.

They Are Off

On Saturday afternoon your scribe went to Welshpool to assist the loco crews with their duties. This allowed the crews to have a  more relaxing turn round – especially as things were running a bit late.

On the Saturday evening we had the now traditional night time photography session. In past years my success rate has been rather poor but this time I did a lot better.

Three Little Engines

Left to right: Joan, Superb, Countess

Late Shift Signalman

The late shift signalman

Highlights 1

The Earl on the inspection pit

Barman 2

And the obligatory beer tent serving ales from Monty’s and Purple Moose breweries.

All too soon it was Sunday morning and for me a shift as Yard Supervisor. I wonder if this interest in railways thing is handed down in our genes. My maternal grandfather was a loco driver and then the Running Foreman at Dorman Long’s Clay Lane works on Teesside.

Lights On But No One Home

All went really well on Sunday morning. There were a few minor hiccups with people – one person was too late off duty on Saturday night to start at the required time on Sunday and a fireman reported in sick. These were quickly resolved and the shed was soon emptied of engines.

Joan & Superb On Dolarddyn Bank

Joan & Superb double head the last train towards Welshpool.

I spoke to a lot of visitors during the gala and all seemed to be enjoying the event.

In closing I would like to thank the event organiser, Robert Robinson, as this was the first time he had undertaken this task. I tried to show my appreciation to all the others who played a pivotal role in making the gala happen I would be bound to miss somebody out so I will simply offer my grateful thanks to ALL who contributed either in the planning, execution or aftermath.

Post Script
A selection of my photos taken over the three days can be viewed here

Posted in Castle Caereinion, Cyfronydd, gala, Heritage, Llanfair Caereinion, railroad, railway, Sylfaen, Uncategorized, Welshpool, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wordless Wednesday

Mixed Train Heading To Raven Square

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

Boiler Repair

On 1st July the ‘Fifty Shades of Green‘ post on this blog included some photos of the first part of a repair on the boiler of 699.01

On 28th of June this was the situation with the boiler. A piece of plate had been cut away from the boiler backhead along with the firehole ring.

'Polo Mint'

The parts that had been removed.

Before any further work could take place the aperture in the boiler had to be examined by the insurance company’s Boiler Inspector and the final details of the remedial work required agreed.

Caulking Boiler Stays

Less than four weeks later, on Friday 20th July, the repair was coming to an end. A new piece of plate had been welded into place and the firehole ring rivetted into place.
In this short video John Varley of Varley Boiler Services Ltd is caulking some stay heads.

Immediately afterwards the boiler was hydraulically tested in the presence of the insurance company’s Boiler Inspector. The boiler smiths were then able to pack up their kit and return home.

View of Boiler Backhead

The finished job. Using the mk1 eyeball it is very difficult to see the join between the old and new sections of plate. The three studs to the right of the firehole are for mounting the the firehole door.

Repair Complete

A three quarters view of the boiler.



Posted in 699.01, Heritage, Llanfair Caereinion, locomotives, Photographs, railroad, railway, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, Workshops | 1 Comment

It Ain’t Arf Hot ‘Ere

The recent hot dry weather has been a cause of concern for the General Manager of the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway. There have been two small line side fires which barely extending beyond narrow strips of grass that had been treated with weed killer, but with the countryside tinder dry, a decision was made to reduce steam operation and  employ diesel haulage on 3/4/5 July and subsequent mid week services.

Just to add insult to injury #17 the Diema diesel loco developed its second gearbox oil leak in as many weeks, leaving #7 Chattenden to shoulder the passenger haulage load. The workshop team put in a huge amount of work to replace the defective oil seal, and repair the Forward/Reverse gear selector and by Friday morning it was ready for a proving trip to Welshpool.

Arrived At Welshpool

The Diema has successfully arrived at Welshpool with a load comprising of four x 4 wheel carriages and Chattenden hanging on the back (adding a bit of weight and ready if a rescue was required). Richard is walking back to uncouple.


Steve listens to the sounds within the gearbox using a stethoscope (not the flexible sort that medics use).

Ready For Departure

With the all important mugs of tea consumed and #17 now at the Llanfair end of the train it is nearly time for the return trip. The exercise was completed without incident and the loco was returned to traffic. It spent Friday afternoon shuffling about Llanfair yard re-arranging the carriages.

The weekend of 7th/8th July had been billed as a Vintage Train weekend. To reduce the fire risk this was cancelled and a less onerous steam hauled public train service planned. Additionally each steam hauled passenger train was followed by a firefighting train.

This consisted of diesel loco #17 and the ‘water wagon’ which is permanently equipped with 2 1000 litre IBC tanks and a petrol driven pump and hose. (This is normally used for supporting a steam loco when out with a photographic charter train). Additionally there were three fire beaters and a 20 litre firefighting water spray backpack. Having filled it and tried it on I can assure the reader that is is a heavy and cumbersome bit of equipment.

The method of train operation was that after a passenger train had departed Llanfair the firefighting train would be ready and waiting to depart. Once the passenger train had cleared the Cyfronydd to Castle Caereinion block section the firefighing train could proceed to Castle keeping a look out for any fires that may have been started. Only when the passenger train had arriaved to Welshpool could the Firefighting train then enter Castle to Welshpool block section.

Arrived at Welshpool

Our makeshift fire engine after arrived into the bay platform at Welshpool.

If the crew on the passenger train had become aware of a fire they would be responsible for stopping and attempting to extinguish it – assuming they could walk back in a reasonable time period. More importantly after the steam train had stopped the Guard of could have taken possession of the portion of the Divisible Train Staff that the engine was carrying. The Controller in agreement with the Duty Manager could have then issued an Emergency Working Order (EWO) to permit the firefighting train to enter the same block section. (There is more to an EWO than described above but that describes the basic process.)

Broken Branch

The first firefighting train of the day was also tasked with the removal of a broken branch at Rowland’s Crossing the was fouling the loading gauge. It was low enough to grab from the cab door of the diesel! After a couple of good tugs it came down and was deposited at the side of the line.

Calippo Delivery

From the shade of the signal box porch. Noel is observed bring us some cooling ice lollies (They are tucked in his top pocket so he doesn’t melt them with his hands.)

Other News

Drilling Brake Blocks

The elderly radial arm drill in the machine shop at Llanfair developed a number of defects and was deemed to be beyond economic repair and has been scrapped.

Radial Arm Drill

It has been replaced by a more modern, pre-owned, machine that was delivered on 6th July. It has yet to be fixed down and wired up.

Coupler Components

A batch of partially assembled screw couplings. The bright, turned and threaded parts were made at Llanfair using the CNC machine tools and the shackle parts supplied and fitted by external contractors.


Posted in Castle Caereinion, Cyfronydd, diesel, Heritage, Llanfair Caereinion, locomotives, railroad, railway, Welshpool, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, Workshops | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Wordless Wednesday

Shine Up Your Chimney Wiv Brasso

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

Fifty Shades of Green

Summer has well and truly arrived in the heart of Mid Wales. At the farms alongside the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway the hay has been cut and most of it had been baled and gathered in. Fields of barley were shimmering and waving in the breeze and just beginning to ripen. The spring lambs are putting on weight their woolly coats contrasting with the scruffy looking of the ewes who have had their fleeces shorn.  Around Sylfaen area there are large numbers of quite young calves.

Fifty Shades Of Green

Countess with MAV carriage Cax 418 and SKGLB carriages 569 and 572 heads towards Rowland’s Crossing on Tuesday 26th June 2018. A Brunswick green engine, hauling green carriages through a green and pleasant land.

A you might well imagine being on the locomotive footplate, especially when running chimney first, is a hot and sweaty experience. The consumption of copious quantities of tea, augmented with bottles of ice-cold water just about keeps de-hydration at bay. With Countess generally steaming well and a rush of air in through the cab windows it was a pleasure to be on the move.

In the workshops at Llanfair Caereinion there is some visible progress on the re-build of 699.01, Sir Drefaldwyn. This last week specialist contractors from Varley Boiler Services  Ltd have been on site.

Coded Welder In Action

The horn blocks that support the axle-boxes in the frames have been re-machined and bolted back into place. This particular design is only retained by bolting though the working face into the edge of the loco’s frame plate. The decision has been taken to fit them in a more secure manner. John Varley is seen here welding them onto the frames.

Welding Master Class

On Thursday afternoon John was holding a Master Class in vertical welding explaining how to keep the rod steady and demonstrating best ways of manipulating it to get a good quality weld. Such is the quality of his work that slag from each run of weld comes away easily with simple rub with a scraper rather than needing a chipping hammer to remove it.

Cutting Into The Boiler

699.01’s boiler had been overhauled in 2014/15. Subsequent to that it has been decided to undertake an additional repair to the fire hole ring. In this view the brackets that hold the fire hole door onto the backhead are being cut off using a plasma cutter. This cunning device runs on electricity and air. Note the earth clamp near the bottom of the firebox. When the trigger on the torch is operated an arc is struck from the cutting nozzle to the plate, this heats and locally melts the metal which is then blown away with a jet of compressed air.

Circular Cut

The slightly larger hole at about one o’clock was made to determine the thickness of the rolled steel fire hole ring. With that ascertained an arc was scribed around the backhead and then a circular cut made.

The rivet heads on the inner firebox side have been ground off and the fire hole ring and associated piece of plate has been removed.

'Polo Mint'

The removed piece – not unlike a very large and heavy ‘Polo Mint’

Cleaning Up

Cleaning up the water side face of the inner firebox.
The boiler will be checked over by the boiler inspector before the replacement plate is welded in and the fire hole ring riveted back into place.

If you would like to know more about plasma cutters have a look at this short video.

Varley Boiler Services Ltd have a Facebook page



Posted in 699.01, Heritage, Llanfair Caereinion, locomotives, railroad, railway, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, Workshops | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Wordless Wednesday – Just Waiting

What is this life if full of care

Posted in Carriage & Wagon, Heritage, Llanfair Caereinion, locomotives, railroad, railway, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway | Leave a comment

Update on Sir Drefeldwyn aka 699.01

699.01 was built in 1944, in occupied, France by Societe Franco-Belge for the German Military Railways. After the war and many years of commercial use in Austria the loco came to Wales in December 1969 to become Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway No.10, Sir Drefaldwyn, (which means County of Montgomeryshire).

It proved to be a useful locomotive but suffered from a number of issues that were due to (perhaps deliberate) poor quality workmanship during original construction. It was laid aside in May 2000 and brought out occasionally for display purposes.

The following is a personal observation and not a formal W&LLR news release.

With an increasing need for a powerful and reliable locomotive to pull heavier trains a major overhaul of 699.0 began in September 2013.

Let Us Begin

Dismantling about to commence.

The loco was reduced to its component parts, wheels and boiler were sent to contractors for re-furbishment and a new set of water tanks and coal bunker commissioned.

Applying red paint

By the end of 2014 the loco was being re-assembled.

Fitting The First Coupling Rod

July 2015 and the first coupling rod is given a trail fitting.

Then with personnel changes and the need to keep the lines three operation locos in service stagnation set in. In the spring of 2017, just as the project was beginning to regain some momentum, the workshops were closed for several months while they were cleansed of asbestos contamination.

With a brighter, cleaner, workshop available a thorough evaluation of what had and hadn’t been done was set in motion. To cut a difficult story to the bare bones a recommendation was made to reduce 699 to component parts and to begin afresh.

It would be easy to criticise both those who did the initial work and those who have pushed for the re-evaluation. But we can’t change what has gone before. We can and must learn from experience. I think the decision was correct and in the long term will yield a useful and powerful locomotive.

As ever keeping a railway running is resource hungry. If you have the time, appropriate workshop skills and would like to volunteer at the W&LLR please follow the link below <;

The following pictures give a few glimpses into what has been happening on this project in recent months.

Lifting 699.01's boiler

A bitterly cold day in January 2018 and the boiler is lifted out of the frames.

699.01 - boiler

The boiler safely on the ground and propped up on sleepers.

699.01's Wheelsets

Wheels out

699.01 LHS Cylinder

The piston valve chests had been re-bored in situ. Measurements indicated that cylinders were also in need of re-boring.

Big Spanner Tight Space

Getting the cylinders off was a fight. In this view the author has crawled under the chassis and is reaching up inside the smokebox saddle to get a spanner onto a bolt head.

Lifting Off The RHS Cylinder

The RHS cylinder has been unbolted and hands from the hoist.

Lowering The RHS Cylinder

The cylinder is lowered to the floor. Two days later both cylinders were taken to Statfold Barn for re-boring.

Cascade Of Sparks

Cutting off the heads of the bolts that held the brake shaft bearing.

Prising Off The Bearing

Removing the RHS brake shaft bearing.



Posted in 699.01, Heritage, Llanfair Caereinion, locomotives, railroad, railway, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, Workshops | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Shiny New Bolts

One thing you can always be sure of at a heritage railway is that something is wearing out and in need of maintenance. It is all too easy to lavish lots of care and attention on the steam locomotives and the passenger carrying rolling stock and quietly neglect some of the other key items of equipment.

Railway locomotives, regardless of the method of propulsion, all have wheels and axeboxes. The interface between axlebox and loco’s frame – the horn guides – suffer from wear and from time to time require refurbishing. Recently the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway’s loco #17 was in the workshops for some tender loving care.


Ex Taiwan Sugar Corporation diesel locomotive 175 now W&LLR number 17.
It was built by Diema in Germany and has a Allis Chalmers prime mover.
The loco is an 0-6-0 with fully compenstated suspension.

Shiney Bolts - Annotated

Significant wear had occurred between the axleboxes and the horn guides.

An investigation session on Sunday 29th April revealed that the loco had been designed such that the wear shims between the axleboxes and the horn guides could be replaced without removing the wheel sets. This design feature meant that these components could be changed without the need for any heavy lifting equipment – ideal for a machine designed to operate in an environment where workshop facilities might be minimal.

Measurements were taken and a local firm made the new shims.

Horn Guide and Axlebox Shims

A close-up shot showing the new shims – and some of the shiny new bolts.

There is an expression that ‘the grass never goes on a busy street’. Streets maybe; but on a railroad it is a different matter. If there could be anything worse for maintaining adhesion than the dreaded ‘leaves on the line’ it has got to be grass on the track.

Weedkiller Wagon 2

The weed killer wagon has had a new (to us) set of tanks fitted.

Weedkiller Wagon 1

At the other end a new stores carrying platform has been constructed additionally the whole wagon has been repainted.
The 2018 weed killing campaign took place on Friday 18th May. The weedkiller train consisted of diesel loco Chattenden, the water wagon (which carries up to 2000 litres of water and a transfer pump) and the weedkiller wagon. The W&LLR provide a train crew and the spraying work was done by a team from a specialist contractor.

If you have access to Facebook there is picture of the train departing from Llanfair Caereinion on the ‘official’ W&LLR page  here.

Tool & Generator Wagon

This wagon is used with the Wasp personnel carrier. This is used for carrying tools and equipment for the permanent way gang. New decking and steps are being fitted.



Posted in Carriage & Wagon, diesel, Heritage, Llanfair Caereinion, locomotives, railroad, railway, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, Workshops | Leave a comment

Hoo Wood Kiln

Hoo Wood kiln is situated to the North of Little Gaddesden on the border of Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.It dates from the Victorian era and appears on the 25 inch to mile map of Hertfordshire that was revised in 1897 <;

Modern map Location

When I first saw the kiln in 2002 I thought that is had been built for burning lime. After my visit today I am left wondering if it was actually a brick kiln.

Hoo Wood Kiln

A general view of the kiln

Hoo Wood Kiln

Some basic dimensions

Hoo Wood Kiln

The top of the kiln. The left edge is more or less straight.

Hoo Wood Lime Kiln

Internal brickwork taken through the top hole.

Hoo Wood Kiln

The remains of a motor scooter and other more recent detritus at the bottom

Hoo Wood Kiln

End wall and domed top – approx 5.6m in diameter.

Hoo Wood Kiln

Domed top

Hoo Wood Kiln

About 100m to the west of the kiln is a small pit

More photos here

Link to a  booklet titled Chilterns Brick published by the Chilterns conservation Board which covers both historical and contemporary brick making in the area. Thanks to Phil Jenkins for passing on this link.

Please be aware that exploring old industrial structures is potentially hazardous.

When leaving such sites take with you only notes and photographs.



Posted in Industrial Archaeology, kiln, pit, quarry | Tagged , , | Leave a comment