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The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway Fence2Fence Team were in action over the weekend of 25th & 26th January. The work area was between Tanllan and Mill Curves – a stretch of line of about half a mile. If you are old enough to have thought this post might be about Hammy Hamster then I am sorry to disappoint you.
After the November Fence2 Fence session, Willy, our long standing Team Leader stood down. In the photo above he is giving his farewell speech at the team’s annual dinner. Dave and Peter have volunteered to be the new leaders and organise the vegetation management sessions.
Saturday morning and Dave and Chris tackle a small patch of bracken opposite ‘The Lawn’. Due to the shape of the lineside bank the railway’s flail couldn’t get to grips with this. The following day we raked up best part of a cubic metre of debris from this short stretch of lineside. So a summer fire risk has been removed.
There was no heavy work scheduled for the weekend; just plenty of work with loppers trimming back coppice stools and stray saplings so as to maintain a good view of the River Banwy. In December 2017 we took down five large trees at this location. This was a pre-emptive move as they were too large for the soil they were in and they were at risk of toppling either into the river or onto the railway – either way we would have had to pay a significant sum to tidy up the mess.
Regular readers of this Blog may remember the poem A Lament For Five Brothers that appeared way back in December 2017. Verse five goes :
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
Well spring forth they did and we must have trimmed back more than five times fifty fifty shoots. Ae the same time we had the opportunity to inspect the state of the bank – which just here is protected by gabions that were installed in the 1980s.
Gabions are wire cages that are put in place and then filled with rocks. The ones in the river seem to have survived quite well.
The vegetation at the entrance to the sidings at Tanllan had started to encroach on the lineside and was restricting visibility during shunting operations. It is a safety requirement that the Shunter and at least one of the Loco Crew can see each other at all times. The Fence2Fence team had been tasked with trimming it back to ‘improve sighting’.
This was how we left it on 1st December; much better, but look closely and you can see that once the leaves are back on the trees it won’t be quite so good.
The same picture again:
The purple line identifies vegetation that will be covered in leaves in the summer. The tree inside the red line is dead and leaning towards the railway.
Dealing with most of the growth inside the purple line was relatively easy. The dead tree took a lot of thinking about before a strategy for eliminating the risk of it falling on the railway was worked out.
Rather than remove the tree at stump level it was decided to remove the branches just above the lowest fork. The branches were roped and then tensioned to control which way they fell and cut using a pole saw. The careful planning paid dividends and the task went well and yielded some useful lighting up wood.
A Diesel Driver’s view of the entrance to the sidings.
The brambles along the fence line have been cleared using a combination of a ‘slasher’ to get them out of the wire and then mashed down using a petrol powered brush cutter.
Sunday 26th January and some of the team are taking a well earned rest from working in the rain.
The very last job of the weekend was to clean out the wagon.
More pictures here
And if you really would like to catch up with Hammy Hampster, Roderick Rat and GP then you will find them over on Youtube
Filling in Nine Acre Quarry near Heath & Reach began in earnest. The quarry face in the background had been netted to prevent sand martins nesting there. The fill material was clay brought in from the adjacent Mundays Hill Quarry.
Repairing fences between School Mistress Cottage and Heniarth at the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway
Quarry Cutting on the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway.
This part of the line was the focus of attention by the Fence2Fence Team over four weekends during the winter of 2018/19. The slope on the left had been covered in a dense thicket of blackthorn which was depositing heavy leaf fall onto the railway.
A pair of Scimitar-horned Oryx taking a drink in their pool at Whipsnade Zoo.
A visit to the Statfold Barn Railway. This was the first time I had been there and I had a very enjoyable time. The entrance fee covered the cost of as many train rides as you desired, an excellent museum and on the day I visited the workshops were open to look around.
I accidentally disturbed this newt whilst tidying up some old railway sleepers left at the lineside near Hanged Man’s Tree. As it was very cold the creature was in a state of torpor and made no attempt to move. The sleepers were very carefully replaced so as not to crush it.
Countess seen from the windows of the signal box at Llanfair Caereinion during a rain shower.
A cute little vole caught our attention while visiting the Irchester Narrow Gauge Railway Museum.
Network Rail demolished the footbridge that carried a public footpath over the West Coast Main Line at Leighton Buzzard.
A bogie from one of the MAV carriages is pressured washed prior to receiving a minor refurbishment of the brakes and running gear.
After several days of heavy rainfall a drain beneath the railway became blocked. Water spilled over and was flowing through and across the ballast. An expedient solution consisting of two 200mm diameter pipes were inserted between the sleepers to channel the water away. A few days later it was dry enough for the Track Gang to dig out the inlet to the drain and get it flowing properly once again.
A bumble bee searching for nectar in a geranium flower. You do not necessarily need a fancy camera for wild life photography. This picture was taken using a mobile phone.
A nosey wasp alighted on my camera and remained long enough for me to photograph it.
On the 6th of July there was a Memorial Train for the late Tom Newby who passed away in January. His sons James and Richard are seen with Countess at Raven Square Station in Welshpool.
Some months previously, the superheater header for 699.01, Sir Drefaldwyn, was found to be porous. After some unsuccessful attempts to find the cause of the problem it was decided to manufacture a new one. A pattern was made and a raw casting delivered to the W&LLR workshops at Llanfair Caereinion. The picture above shows the casting in the later stages of machining.
A gatekeeper butterfly seen during a walk near Heath and Reach.
The harvest has been gathered in and the large round bales of straw are waiting to be wrapped in polythene and then stacked to await later use.
Familiarizing crews with ZB2 ‘Zillertal’ got underway. After the loco arrived from Austria it was dismantled to allow our insurance company’s inspector to examine the boiler. It then had to be re-assembled and steam tested for him. The loco was able to enter traffic on Friday 30th August, which was the first day at the W&LLR annual steam gala.
The owners of Chevallier, a Manning Wardle 0-6-2T, built in 1915 as works number 1877, undertook some modifications to the exhaust arrangements. In the photo above W&LLR driver ‘Gandalf’ is driving the loco, light engine, from Llanfair to Cyfronydd to check if any, of the bearings might run hot. Nothing was amiss and a week or so later it then undertook some load trials. These indicated that the modifications have reduced coal consumption.
Meanwhile at the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway a team from the Elizabeth Line (aka Cross Rail) assisted the regular track gang to relay the section of line from Stonehenge Works to Mundays Hill. As their railway has not yet opened for business they were, shall be say, under utilized.
The team consisted of: a supervisor, 2 leading trackmen and 6 apprentice trackmen. The latter group were almost at the end of their training period. Because most of the Elizabeth Line comprises of slab track and a mere 3 miles of traditional track the week proved a valuable part of their training.
On 20th November 1919 the narrow gauge railway that skirts the eastern and southern edges of Leighton Buzzard was officially opened. On 17th November 2019 a formal centenary event took place with a special train for members of the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway Society and guests. The picture above was taken a few days later on the actual centenary. It shows two Hudswell Clarke ‘Ganges’ class steam locos, similar to the pair that were supplied for the opening of the Leighton Buzzard Light Railway, and a petrol powered boat framed Simplex locomotive. These light weight, versatile, machines were used to pull the wagons of sand out of the quarries and the steam locos took the graded sand to the tipping docks where the sand was transferred to standard gauge wagons.
The Engineering Office at Llanfair Caereinion. This building is where the day to day running of the locomotive and mechanical engineering aspects of the railway are managed from. The outer portion is the ‘Booking On’ point and is where the maintenance documents, repair books and operational notices are readily at hand. Then there is the ‘inner sanctum’ aka the Workshop Manager’s office.
The old guy in the red suit, along with is posse, has flagged down a train at Tanllan and is preparing to climb on board and distribute gifts to the children.
The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway had an excellent ‘Santa Season’ and thankfully there was no disruption due to snow.
To mark the end of the year, and this blog post, the final image shows a cockle dredger at the quay-side in Leigh-On-Sea at sunset on Sunday 29th of December.
You will find many more photographs on my Flickr pages
Best Wishes for 2020.
Best Wishes for a Contented Christmas and a Happy New Year
If you would like to read part of the Christmas story you will find Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus here <https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+2&version=MSG>
If you would like to spend some time just looking at photographs, mainly of the railway variety, but with a few others showing canals, earth moving equipment, flora and fauna, then my Flickr Photostream is here <https://www.flickr.com/photos/tanllan/>
One hundred years ago on 20th November 1919 the Leighton Buzzard Light Railway opened for traffic. Over that time the railway has in one form or another has been operated . It was built to carry sand from the quarries to the east of Leighton Buzzard to the main line railway sidings adjacent to the Leighton Buzzard to Dunstable branch line of the London & North Western Railway Company.
Prior to the building of the line the sand had been carried initially by horse and cart and then by larger waggons hauled by traction engines which caused severe damage to the roads. The two main quarry companies Joseph Arnold & Sons Ltd and George Garside Ltd were face with the cost of ongoing road repairs or finding a better means of transporting the sand.
With the end of the Great War a large amount of light railway equipment came onto the open market. Arnold’s and Garside’s formed the Leighton Buzzard Light Railway Company which was mainly built on narrow strips of land under wayleave agreements. The original company never had a Light Railway Order!
When the line opened ‘main line’ trains were worked by a pair of small steam locomotives. These had been built, by Hudswell Clarke, as yard shunters for the War Department Light Railways (WDLR) . They were 0-6-0 well tanks and were examples of the makers standard ‘Ganges’ class.
Trains in the quarries were hauled by horses and petrol engined Simplex locomotives – again ex-WDLR.
The steam locomotives did not last for very long and were replaced by more internal combustion powered machines, once again war surplus, and the product of the Motor Rail & Tramcar Company of Bedford.
Many thanks to all who made today’s event possible but in particular Chris & Duncan.
Twenty years ago (1999) the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway was in need of additional carriages that would be suitable for ‘everyday use’. The search lead to the Jindřichův Hradec Místní Dráhy in the Czech Republic and they were able to sell the W&LLR two semi-derelict vehicles that had been built for the Hungarian state railway company MAV in the 1950s.
Cax 430 was converted and put into service fairly soon afterwards. The rebuilding of Cax 418 commenced in July 2003.
Regular visitors to our railway will know that we like balconies. This carriage was not going to be an exception. In this first of the pictures Leslie Pask, perhaps better known in the Llanfair Caereinion workshops as ‘Squeak’ is cutting out one of the end panels with an oxy-acetylene cutter.
A side view of the same process. Note the pile of bits of timber lying on the ground.
The inevitable consequence was that the wood was set alight by the falling sparks.
A couple of days later and the end panels have gone. There is sill more cutting to do though.
Here we have a picture that sums up the much missed Pasco Rowe with a hammer in one hand and the gas-axe in the other. He had a ‘can do’ attitude to any project that he took on and was renown for seemingly resolving all problems he encountered with either an arc welder or oxy-acetylene cutter. Regrettably he developed an aggressive Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and passed away in his early fifties.
A look through the empty bodyshell. These carriages are substantially built and ride on equally heavily built bogies. Note the watering can at the far end to provide a means of quenching any accidental fires.
Once the ends had been cut open to create the space for the balconies nothing much happened until November. Then a shot blasting contractor was brought in to clean and prime a number of items undergoing restoration. Cax 418 is seen on the Ballast Siding at Tanllan and the shot blasting kit is mounted on the back of a lorry on the loading dock.
It was then shipped to Boston Lodge where it was fitted out by the Ffestiniog Railway’s Carriage Department.
The other items shot blasted at the same time were Monarch and the chassis of the former SKGLB carriage number 569.
Since gala there have been some changes to the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway’s workshops at Llanfair Caereinion. Regular readers of the blog will be aware that to cover a shortage of steam locomotives the railway has hired one in from the Zillertalbahn in Austria.
ZB2 ‘Zillertal’ is somewhat taller than the incumbent fleet of locomotives and in order get in and out of the workshop a bit of surgery on the gable end and the doors to Road 2 was necessary.
Thankfully the gable end roof truss did not need to be modified.
There have also been some changes to Road 1 – it is now considerably shorter than it once was. The existing welding fume extraction machine has been deemed unfit for purpose so a new more powerful one is going to be installed – in the corner where the welding bench is. So it is all change!
This is a ‘before’ view looking towards the doors to the outside world.
And this is a ‘before’ view looking towards the welding bay in the rear right corner.
The first two lengths of rail have been removed and can be seen lying on the floor in the foreground. We couldn’t undo one of the nuts that held the right hand waybeam down; so we split the beam instead. It didn’t put up very much resistance.
The first three brick piers put a bit of resistance up at first but rapidly yielded when the Cambrian hammer was applied. (Yes we have a large sledge hammer that once belonged to the Cambrian Railway Company.)
Shortening the next set of waybeams.
A chisel in an SDS hammer drill made short work of the cement that was stuck to the concrete floor. In this view the task is almost complete.
A wagon load of rubble. This was later transferred to one of the Bowaters dropside wagons and subsequently taken down the line to bolster the embankment on Castle Bank adjacent to the sewage works.
Last but by no means least an length of rail was welded across the end of the track to prevent any vehicles ending up on the floor. Sir Drefaldwyn’s (aka 699.0) bunker and cab floor assembly can be seen under the portable lifting gantry.