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 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.
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)
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.
The view from the signalbox towards the sheds at Welshpool as The Earl arrives with another passenger train.
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.
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.
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.
Left to right: Joan, Superb, Countess
The late shift signalman
The Earl on the inspection pit
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.
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 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.
A selection of my photos taken over the three days can be viewed here