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 <https://www.89a.org.uk/volunteering-intro/&gt;

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 <http://maps.nls.uk/view/104200477&gt;

Modern map Location http://streetmap.co.uk/map.srf?X=499323&Y=214172&A=Y&Z=115

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

Dull As Ditch Water


Running through lovely rolling hills in Mid Wales the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway  (W&LLR) is a little over eight miles long. That means there are 16 miles of fences, or hedges (or in places both) to maintain. Added to that are the dozens of culverts and miles of drainage ditches plus many acres of lineside vegetation that all require maintaining.

Out In The Countryside

Countess climbing Coppice Lane Bank with the 11:15 departure from Welshpool Raven Square on Saturday 24th March 2018.

The W&LLR Hedgebash Gang was formed several years ago with a number of aims

  • Getting on top of the rampant vegetation that was threatening to turn a train ride on the line into a trip through a green tunnel.
  • Provide an easy way for new and or casual volunteers to be able work on the railway and at the same time achieve something tangible.
  • Learn and pass on skills.
  • Feed people into other departments as and when they are ready’

If your interested in finding out more about volunteering with us then please click here

Our simplistic mission statement has always been Fence to Fence and with support and encouragement form the the railway’s management we are broadening our remit to include more of the infrastructure that lies between the boundaries.

Fallen Tree

Beyond the car park at Llanfair Caereinion is the River Banwy. Most of the time this is a broad shallow water course but after a bit of rain it rises quickly and can change into an angry torrent in a matter of hours. From time to time it even floods parts of the the railway track between Tanllan and Heniarth . A coppiced tree on the bank had fallen over and on Friday WF, KT and myself planned to trim all the limbs off before a flood washed it downstream.

Erosion Prevention ???

A bit further along the bank there was a spot where erosion was beginning to threaten another tree. Using some of the smaller limbs we had cut as stakes the structure seen in the photo above was assembled. The idea is that it will help to trap silt and hopefully the grasses and other plants will take a hold. Only time will tell if this low cost method is effective.

Saturday and Sunday were planned to be a full scale Hedgebash event to complete the re-coppicing on the top part of Castle Bank that had last been done in 2015.IMG_7575With a team of 15 working over the area progress was rapid. Picture courtesy of WF

At the bottom of the embankment the ground conditions were poor; the ditch was choked with debris and the ground was very soggy. After checking that there was no spawn in any of the pools a call was made to the office in Llanfair to get a couple of spades delivered on the next train.

Before Ditching Commenced

The ditch line is just about discernible

Clearing Debris From Ditch Area

KT clearing old branches from the ditch area.

Ditch Debris

Piles of old rotting wood might make good habitat for insects but not in the ditch please!!


DG digging out the ditch

Ditching The Hard Way

This short video will give a better idea of how tough a task this was.

After a strenuous day the team returned to Llanfair and an excellent meal in The Goat Hotel . It was the night that the clocks went forward from GMT to BST and all too soon it was Sunday morning. Again we had a good size team but with a few personnel changes.

The digging gang was increased to four (including RP who in his younger days had actually dug ditches and been paid for the privilege) and continued the ditch with the remainder deployed to tidy up the area around Castle Caereinion Station.

Countess On Castle Bank

The first train of the day passes the work site


The ditch does not only drain the railway but also the steeply sloping field adjacent.

Fynnon Coppice

We found a spring where the water was running beneath the soil but on top of a layer of  gloopy clay.

The Spring That Didn't Go Boing

Ffynnon Tanyffordd
(Spring Below The Road
) (Thanks to Glynn Evans for the Welsh naming assistance)

The four of us diggers were all in favour of an early lunch and we walked down to Castle Station to meet up with the others. It was warm and sunny and after I had eaten my food I had a look around. Were they still about? I moved slowly towards a pile of old rails dumped there a few years ago when the level crossing was relaid. There basking in the mid day heat was a small brown lizard. Needless to say there was no chance of getting a photo. After an all too brief moment the  lizard realised it had got company and scurried off under the pile.

Clearing Culvert

In the afternoon we checked out the twin bore culvert that passes under the embankment. This carries water from a field side ditch and also the outfall from the nearby pee processing plant.

Culvert Headend

The pipe on the left had been partially blocked but now both bores were running well.

With that cleared we had an early finish and took the tools and equipment back to Llanfair and most people had left for home by four o’clock.

Crossing Coppice Lane

Countess about to cross Coppice Lane

Photo Album on Flickr


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

Wordless Wednesday

Frozen In

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Winter Workshop Activity

At the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway it was Workshop Week from the 10th to the 18th of February . There was plenty of activity taking place in and around the railway as for the first time we were running steam trains during the spring half term holiday.

Joan arrives back at Llanfair Caereinion on Saturday 17th February 2018

One of the key activities was the visit from the Boiler Inspector for the dry examinations of the railway’s two original locomotives The Earl and Countess. They passed and in a week or so will be subject to an examination while in steam. Because Joan was required for hauling trains she will be dealt with later.

A constant feature of operating  a steam steam locomotives is replacing parts that have either worn out or corroded away due to the hostile conditions they have to endure.

Both The Earl and Countess are having new spark arrestors fitted. They are being made from stainless steel so hopefully they will last a little longer than the previous ones.

The top plates of a new spark arrestor is clamped in place in the The Earl’s smokebox.

Steve milling a spark arrestor plate for The Earl.

The brakes of the W&LLR’s locomotives and carriages are worked by vacuum. On a steam engine it is created in a vacuum ejector. This is relatively simple device that passes steam from the boiler through a series of conical passages to draw the air out of the braking system. The Earl and Countess each have two. The large one is used to initially create the vacuum and then, if required, release the brakes quickly and the small ejector maintains the vacuum while the train is on the move.

Boring A Pipe Flange

The exhaust pipe from The Earls large ejector was badly corroded and had a large hole in it. In this short video Alan is seen boring the centre hole in a plate that will form a new pipe flange.

The lathe is a Colchester Triumph and was purchased second hand during 2017 when the workshop was being re-equipped after the asbestos clean up.

The gradient profile of the W&LLR resembles that of a theme park roller coaster, however, for the comfort and safety of our passengers the trains run at a more sedate pace. Controlling the speed on the downhill sections means we get through quite a lot of brake blocks. Tim and myself spent several hours drilling the fixing pin holes in new brake block castings.

A trolley load of blocks ready to take over to the stores.

On Saturday afternoon we were asked to check how many brake blocks were stored in the undercroft of the engine shed. This is not some lofty vaulted cellar but a filthy dirty pit covered with gratings that you cannot stand up straight in. We dragged out about 120 of various shapes and sizes and stacked them in the yard at the back of the Colinette building.

Staying with brakes new handbrake screws and nuts have been made for the two Beyer Peacock locos. Here Mark is seen finishing off turning the shaft of one of them down to the final size required.

Out in the yard Tim on the inside and Christian on the outside (not seen) fitted dome headed bolts to hold the smokebox onto the boiler of 699.01.

A showy looking train ascending Dolarddyn Bank on Thursday 15th February.



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

Storm Patrol

On the night of Wednesday 17th January there was a storm with high winds and rain over much of the British Isles. The next day your author and his wife found themselves in Hertfordshire making the roof of a relative’s shed weatherproof.

The following weekend, 20th 21st January, was a scheduled Hedgebash at the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway. The plan had been to work adjacent to the River Banwy between the Old Water Tower and Mill Curves. Whilst the river was not in flood the level was up sufficiently for it to be moving very quickly and we decided it was too dangerous to operate in the that area.

It was decided that the main gang would be deployed between Cyfronydd and Brynelin Viaduct and a small gang sent to Dolarddyn Bank to re-cut some beech trees that had been coppiced a few years ago.

W&LLR Infrastructure Manager, Kevin Heywood, requested that the Works Train went through to the western end of the current track relaying operation at Welshpool to check for fallen trees and other damage.

Our train consisted of a Bowaters wagon,  a diesel loco – Chattenden, and a carriage (B20).

From the start it was clear that the storm had damaged or uprooted lots of small trees but thankfully none were on the track. We left the main gang, of ten men and a dog, and the carriage near Cyfronydd and an intrepid team of four set off for Welshpool.

Opening The Gates at Syfaen

At Sylfaen the farmer had left the gate across the railway.

Obstruction Danger

As we went over the summit and onto the Golfa Bank we were greeted by what appeared to be two trees across the line. On further investigation the nearer one in this photos was actually a huge branch. Both had fallen from the Powis Estate onto the railway.

Cutting Up Fallen Trees Near Golfa Summit

Peter got cracking with his chainsaw.

Loading Logs & Brash

Joe, Willy and myself loaded the brash onto the train. About this time the rain was turning to snow.

Trunks Left For Later Recovery

We decided to leave the larger sections in the cess for collection at a later date. We then dealt with some horrid blackthorn in Quarry Cutting

Fallen Tree Near Milepost 2

Further down the Golfa Bank, about 200 yards west of milepost 2, a small tree had fallen and was within the loading gauge. This was an awkward spot to work and as you can see from the picture it was snowing hard. We dumped the trunk and brash back over the fence.

Rabbit Curve

At the Welshpool end of Rabbit Curve another small tree had succumbed to the gale. After dealing with it we headed back towards Cyfronydd.

At Four Mile Oak the twin culvert was partially blocked and only one bore was flowing. Peter waded into the water to pull out some branches while I prised them up with  a shovel. After just a few minutes there was torrent of water flowing towards the Sylfaen Brook.

Slave driver Willy stopped on Dolarddyn Bank so we could cut back a load of beech that had been coppiced a few years previously. As the wagon was almost full we left it on site.

Dolarddyn Curve Incursion

Nest stop was at the bottom of Dolarddyn Bank where we paused to deal with yet another incursion.

Dolarddyn Curve After Trimming

The treatment was rudimentary and brutal. By now the load on the wagon was looking unstable so I slung a rope over it to help keep it all on board.

Bonfire Site

At the main work site the wagon was unloaded and then I went back with a new team to clear up the stuff we had left on Dolarddyn Bank.

Another Load Of Brash

It seems hard to believe that we cut that lot in about twenty minutes!

Relaxing In The Mess Room

We got back to Llanfair at half past four, cold and somewhat damp. Here are some of the team resting and warming up and enjoying mugs of tea and chocolate biscuits.

Chilly Sunday Morning

Next morning there was more snow.

Final Load On The Fire

We decided to go to Cyfronydd to just clear up and burn the brash that had been left the day before.

Today, Tuesday, I received a message from Kevin to say ‘Thanks – good job by all. Gold stars all round’.


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

When Winter Comes Howling In

The words below are from Winter Song written by Alan Hull of the folk/rock band Lindisfarne and it featured on their 1970 debut album Nicely Out Of Tune

When winter’s shadowy fingers
First pursue you down the street
And your boots no longer lie
About the cold around your feet

Do you spare a thought for summer
Whose passage is complete
Whose memories lie in ruins
And whose ruins lie in heat
When winter comes howling in

Running Round At Cyfronydd

Well winter certainly arrived in Mid Wales a few days ago! I travelled to Llanfair Caereinion on the evening of Thursday 7th December. Next morning there was a sprinkling of snow on the ground and the forecast was threatening more.

My task for the day was to rouse The Earl from hibernation and prepare the old gent for the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway’s Santa Special trains scheduled for the weekend.

Filling The Boiler

Thankfully the water supply to the engine shed was not frozen and I set about filling the boiler. A little while after turning on the tap I became aware of cold wet droplets falling on my face. Was the hose leaking ? Had I not properly closed the divert valve resulting in water from the blower spraying out of the chimney ? None of those – snow was blowing in through the longitudinal smoke vent in the roof!

While the boiler was filling I checked the fusible and washout plugs and then cleaned the remains of the last fire from the grate. I had commenced laying the fire when Steve arrived. I had expected to be working on my own for most of the day and was delighted to be getting some invaluable assistance at this stage of the day.

Lighting The Fire

Steve lit the fire and I popped the hose into the water tank and we retreated to the warmth of the mess room for a mug of tea.

Tea break over and it was time for some serious work. Steve set about cleaning the brass work and I washed down the paintwork on the inside of the cab. The smokebox was looking very tatty and so Steve went off in search of the heat resistant paint and a brush. On his return  I wire-brushed the rust away and carefully worked the paint onto the metal, meanwhile, he got on with the oiling up.

Oiling Up

After lunch the plan was to take The Earl and the carriages forming the Santa Special train to Cyfronydd and back to give them a run and check the line was all OK.

Pause At Tanllan

It was snowing as we left and we had a short pause at Tanllan to unload several bags of leaves that had been swept up from around the station area a couple of weeks previously.

Clearing Debris From The Stream

Near Heniarth Bill and Dave waded into the stream to clear a build of debris from behind an old gate that prevents livestock from straying out of the field, under the railway line and onwards into the River Banwy. While they were busy doing doing that Steve had noticed a leak on the steam heating pressure gauge pipe.

The remainder of the trip was cold and miserable, but otherwise uneventful.

Unheated carriages was not going to be a popular feature so once we were back at Llanfair Richard was summoned from his nice warm workshop into the cold and gloomy engine shed to attend to the leaking pipe. After much discussion a tactical repair was effected and we knocked off for the night.

By now it was snowing heavily and the overnight weather forecast was grim. So grim that the General Manager and his deputy had decided to stay overnight in the hostel in case they could not get back to Llanfair in the morning. A little later eight of us adjourned to the Red Lion for dinner. When we emerged it was still snowing.

On Saturday morning everything was covered in snow. There was a sound of scrapping as a team battled to clear the snow off the platform.

After Santa’s Chariot had been delivered to Tanllan, Richard, Peter & myself were instructed to take Chattenden to Cyfronydd to clear the line and check that the points were not frozen.

River Banwy In Winter

It was cold and crisp with plenty of blue sky as we trundled alongside the River Banwy

Mill Curves

At Mill Curves the trees that overhung the line were laden with snow.

De-icing Train

The de-icing train at Cyfronydd.
Note the large cylinder of propane gas lashed to handrail behind the cab.

Snow Clearing

Clearing snow at the Castle Caereinion end of Cyfronydd loop.

Frozen Points

Melting out the snow and ice from between the point blade and the stock rail.

Clearing Flangeways

A short video showing the snow and ice melting process.

With the line now fit to use we headed back to Llanfair.

Santa & Helpers

Santa and his helpers at Tanllan depot. After the train leaves Llanfair Caereinion it pauses here to pick up the gent in the red suit and his posse of elves. They then meet each family group on the train and distribute gifts to the children.

Hello Santa

Running Round At Cyfronydd

The Earl runs round the train at Cyfronydd.

At the end of the day the carriages were left in the platform and The Earl was put back in the engine shed. I packed up my stuff and headed for home.

Next morning there was even more snow. Worse still the main road between Shrewsbury and Welshpool was blocked by fallen power cables. The railway’s Facebook page carried the following announcement:

Due to very heavy snow in Mid Wales, we recommend you don’t travel to Llanfair for today’s Santa trains (Sunday 10 December). The police have advised only necessary travel, and the A458 is currently closed near Middletown, Shropshire
We will try to run a limited Santa service today, but we will also add extra seats to all three days next weekend (16-18 December) exclusively for those who were booked today.

If you are booked today and don’t come, please call us on 01938 810441 today or during the week to change your booking to next weekend. If you can’t make it then, we will offer a full refund.


A train service did run for the few hardly families that battled through the snow. The train set was reduced to two carriages top and tailed with The Earl at the Llanfair end and #17 at the other.

The whole W&LLR team put in a fantastic effort over the weekend to ensure that we were able to run trains. Whether you were shovelling snow, operating trains or manning the phones or just making tea many many thanks to all of you.

Trains will be running on 16th, 17th and 18th December.

If you would like to listen to Lindisfarne perform Winter Song click here




Posted in Cyfronydd, Heniarth, Heritage, Lineside maintenance, Llanfair Caereinion, Photographs, Poetry, railroad, railway, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

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