Random Events

I will start this report with a mention of the dreadful weather that we experienced during the week commencing 10th June 2019. The author of this blog was at the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday that week.

On the Tuesday the rain was incessant. The only way to have kept dry was to have stayed in Keyes Cottage all day, but, we had a railway to operate. It was more a question of how wet were we going to get.

Inspection Time

Joan was rostered to work the service on Tuesday and Wednesday. Countess was undergoing a boiler washout, 28 day mechanical inspection and subsequent steam test.

Unusual Fuel

I was rostered as Driver 2 all three days. On Tuesday afternoon, as we made our way towards Welshpool with the 15:30 ex Llanfair, we found that just east of Cyfronydd a branch was sagging due to the additional weight of rain water. We squeezed underneath but on the way back stopped. Using the tools carried in the Guard’s compartment of the train we were able to cut it down the offending vegetation and remove the hazard. In the photo above my fireman ‘Cushty’ is disposing of the cuttings.

By Wednesday water was appearing at several places along the line where the drains were struggling to cope. Between Mill Curves and School Mistress’ cottage there was a severe wet patch. Two of us were despatched by car to investigate. We had a go at clearing the drain, but with three feet of water in the inlet pit, finding the pipe was a lost cause. To alleviate the problem a very temporary relief channel was dug.

Expediant Drainage

Early the next morning we installed a couple of drain pipes.

On the Friday the Track Gang attended the site and being equipped with a comprehensive set of tools managed to get the drain flowing once more.

The temporary pipes were removed and the sleepers in that area repacked. Many thanks to Alan for the photos of the Friday operation.

699.01 Update

The guys in the machine shop have been busy producing parts for Sir Drefaldwyn.

MIG Welding Spring Hangers

In this video JG is welding side cheeks onto band new spring hanger hooks.

MIG Welding Spring Hangers

A photo of the same operation.

Spring Hanger Parts

Finished and partly finished spring hanger hooks. The hook goes over the end of the spring and depending on the location on the loco the spring hanger proper is pinned either to the main frames or and equalising beam.

Fitting Hornstay Studs

Hoagy is winding a horn stay stud into the frame. The studs are of a non-preferred size M23! and a special tap had to be made to clean out threads in the frame.

That is all for now


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The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway’s locomotive number 10, better known as either 699.01 or Sir Drefaldwyn has been undergoing a somewhat protracted major overhaul.

Sir Drefalydwyn

The loco was built in France in 1944 , by Franco-Belge, for the occupying German forces. It is probably fair to say that although the design is pretty substantial and rugged the people who built it had not put their hearts and souls into the work.

After commercial use in Austria it came to the W&LLR in 1969.

Oil Box

When I was in the workshops recently; ‘Hogey’ was installing the plumbing that will feed lubricating oil to the axleboxes and horns.

Red Wheel

So you might well ask “Why go to all the bother of plumbing it all in”. The picture above will give you a clue. The little driving wheels are virtually solid and have only a small aperture through which the conventional axlebox oil-wells can be accessed. So the plan is to feed oil directly from easily accessible reservoirs to the horns and the under-keeps.

There are a couple of real positives in this approach:

  • The conventional oil-well in the top of the axlebox is prone to collecting any water that may fall on it. This can be from rainfall, water being splashed off the wheels or if the loco’s tanks are accidentally overfilled. The contaminated oil/water mix has to be removed and disposed of. Plumbed in lubrication should result in lower overall oil consumption and a reduction in waste products.
  • Preparation time is reduced. Filling up half a dozen oil boxes and priming the syphons will take considerably less time than dealing with eight individual axleboxes
Straight Lines

Pipe runs for the leading axle

Braided Hoses

Steel braided flexible hoses will make the final connections.


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Time For Some TLC

The celebrities of the heritage railway world might well be the steam locomotives but without carriages for people to ride in there would not be much to offer the visitors. Recently the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway refurbished a bogie from one of our MAV carriages.

Pressure Washing

After being removed from the carriage and brought from Tanllan to Llanfair the first task was to give it a good clean. It was placed on the inspection pit and given a good blast with the pressure washer.

The carriages were built in Hungary for the state owned railways, Magyar Államvasutak, (MAV) and after being taken out of service there found their way to the Jindřichův Hradec Místní Dráhy, a tourist railway, in the Czech Republic. In 1999 the W&LLR purchased two carriages (or rather body shells on wheels) plus two spare bogies. After rebuilding they entered traffic in MAV livery as Cax 418 and 430.

Welding In A Bush

After the wheelsets had been removed a number of minor repairs were carried out. In this picture a bush in the frame that a brake hanger pin runs in had come loose and was being tack welded to retain it in the correct place.

Preparing Axlebox Oil Seals

The leather seals that prevent the axle bearing oil from spilling out from the back of the axleboxes are being prepared.

Bogie Ready For Re-fitting

The bogie has now fitted with re-profiled wheelsets and new brake blocks and is ready to be taken back to the shed at Tanllan and be put back under the carriage.

Link to the Jindřichův Hradec Místní Dráhy http://jhmd.cz/introduction


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A Bridge Too Many

Once upon at time there was just one footbridge across the railway line in the vicinity of Leighton Buzzard station. From when it was erected in the nineteenth century until just recently it carried a public right of way from one side to the other.

In the early 1990s the station was redeveloped. The subway that linked the platforms to the main station building was replaced by a new footbridge. Around this time British Rail announced a desire to demolish the old bridge. Fierce local opposition resulted in a change of heart.

Time passed, the expectations travelers increased, the voice of people who found stairs difficult to mange was heard and in 2014 work commenced to built another bridge equipped with stairs and lifts (elevators) to all the platforms.

An image, from Google Maps , showing the three footbridges crossing the railway line at Leighton Buzzard railway station.

Original image is available here:
<https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.9159974,-0.6776217,172m/data=!3m1!1e3!5m1!1e1 >

Now to be brutally honest the old 19th century footbridge was not in the best of condition. It did, however, provide a direct route across the railway that was unhindered by people going to or from the trains.

Footbridge Closed

In July 2018 a the local council closed the bridge as a safety measure due to a defective wooden stair tread. Given a bit of goodwill it could have been fixed in a couple of days, but no, Network Rail decided that they needed to go away and think about the matter. It was pretty obvious what was likely to happen.

As the days began to warm up it was announced that the bridge was beyond economical repair and would be demolished during the early May bank holiday weekend.

Building The Spreader Pads For The Crane

Saturday 4th May 2019. Preparations are being made for the arrival of a large mobile crane that would be used to lift out all the components of the bridge as it was dismantled. In the pictures above and below they are laying out spreader pads to support the weight of the crane.

Building The Spreader Pads For The Crane
Crane Seen From Southcourt Avenue

Dawn on Sunday 5th May 2019 and a 500 tonne capacity crane towers above the station.

Cutting The West Side Steps Away

Above and below: Cutting away the stairs on the west side of the bridge.

Lifting Out The West Side Steps

The steps are slowly eased away and upwards.

Lifting Out The West Side Steps
Cutting Up The West Side Steps

And deposited in Southcourt Avenue to be chopped up into manageable pieces.

Jack Hammer Man

Meanwhile above platforms 2 and 3 they were breaking out the concrete floor of the bridge in order to separate the bridge spans from the cast iron supporting columns.

And then cutting through the reinforcing bars with a petrol powered disc cutter.

As it was going to be a little while before any more lifting took place I went home, and back to bed, for an hour or so.

Fast Line Span Held By Crane

When I returned they were getting ready to lift out the span over the fast lines.

West Side Cut AWay
Up It Goes

After a bit of cajoling the span came free and was whisked up into the air.

Slewing Round
Fast LIne Span Loaded onto Lorry

And after a brief stop on the ground to alter the slinging arrangements it was loaded onto a lorry for removal to a breakers yard.

Eight Axle 500 Tonne Mobile Crane

The undercarriage of the crane. It had 8 axles to support the weight when travelling on the public roads.

Main Hoisting Drum Not Rigged

Many, many, tonnes of counterbalance weights have been added to the rear of the crane. Note that because the bridge components are not really that heavy the main hoisting drum has not been rigged.

Other commitments meant that I could not hang around all day and watch the remainder of the demolition. There are additional photos in an album on my Flickr pages


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How To Weigh A Railway Locomotive

Railway locomotives are large and heavy objects. Knowing just how heavy is important because if the weight is not correctly distributed it could lead to damage to the loco, the track and might also contribute to a derailment.

At the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway one of the line’s locomotives, Joan, had been in the workshops for some attention to the pony truck that carries the weight of the cab and coal bunker. This work had included removing and replacing the spring hangers. After re-assembly it was necessary to ascertain if the springs had been correctly tensioned.

Warming Fire in Joan

Joan was built by Kerr Stuart & Company at their works in Stoke-on-Trent in 1927 and was exported to the Caribbean island of Antigua where she worked at a sugar mill. Following repatriation to the UK in 1971 she now works on the W&LLR.

The loco has three coupled axles and a single axle pony truck and this is denoted as an 0-6-2. Overall it weighs around 20 tons with the boiler, water tanks and coal bunker full.

Joan' Trailing Truck

A side view of the pony truck. This is equipped with two coil springs on each axlebox. The spring hanger passes through the centre of the spring. The bottom end is attached to the truck frame and the top is attached to a beam that bears on the axlebox. The springs are tensioned by adjusting the nuts that can be seen below the springs. NB as the work was still in progress when this photo was taken the lock nuts and split pins have not been fitted yet.

Joan Is Rolled Onto The Weighbridge

The weighbridge in action. The structure was built as an inspection pit but the opportunity was taken to include a feature to allow load cells to be inserted/removed to allow vehicles to be weighed. A short length of track is removable to allow the load cells and associated accessories to be installed. The load cells connect to indicator gauges that are calibrated in imperial tons.

The vehicle being weighed is propelled very slowly across the load cells. Joan is about to have the front axle weighed. It is being propelled by Chattenden, the black diesel loco. the green diesel, Ferret, is acting as a barrier vehicle so that Chattenden does not have to go onto the pit potentially trapping the driver in the cab while spring tension adjustments are being made.

Wheelset On Load Cell

Joan’s driving axle bearing down on the load cells.

Pressure Recorders

In this picture you can see the gauges that record the loads. There are two needles to each gauge. The red ‘slave’ needle remains at the maximum load registered. It is reset using a magnet.

Weight adjustment is often a protacted process. As a bit of tension is added to one set of springs the weigh carried by all the others changes. After each adjustment It can also be helpful to run the loco up and down the yard to allow the springs to bed in before the next round of weighing

When the task is complete then the lock nuts have to be fitted and tightened up and split pins inserted and opened up.


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Wordless Wednesday

Carriage Body 1
Carriage Body 2
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Leaves Off The Line

The weekend of 30th and 31st of March 2019 was the last of the winter programme for the Fence 2 Fence Team. After six busy sessions during the winter months several section of the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway are now neatly manicured.

Primroses & Brambles

But please dont’ think we have blitzed the whole line. There are still plenty trees, hedges, bramble patches and just at the moment primroses. In just a few weeks time the bluebells will be coming into flower.

Mile Post 2

The objective for the weekend was to work from Mile Post 2 up to Hanged Man’s Tree and clear the small scrub and saplings on what we call the FIreman’s Side of the line. In the picture above that is to the left of the railway.

On the Friday before the activity the work site was checke for evidence of nesting birds and other wildlife that might have been adversely affected by vegetation management activities. There was no evidence of low level birds nests just a few crows type nests atop very tall trees. Plenty of deer tracks & droppings; no bunnies or badgers.

It's a train Jim but not as we know it

To reach the work site the team had to walk up the Golfa Bank for half a mile from the access point at New Drive. Tools and equipment were carried on out light-weight trolley.

Hanged Man's Tree

This is the ancient oak known as Hanged Man’s Tree. During 2018 it shed a few large branches and we were concerned that it might be nearing the end of its life. Back in February, in an effort to save it and reduce the weight, a contractor was brought in to ‘balance the tree up’. This photo shows that a large section of the branch that overhangs the railway line has been removed.

Track Inspector

Shortly after the Fence 2 Fence team had arrived at the site Deputy General Manager passed by as he did a pre-season track inspection.

Marital Harmony

With ‘his’ and ‘hers’ saws this happy couple tackle a stubborn coppice stool.

Overgrown Fence Line

Most of the work involved cutting down the ‘small stuff’ that blocks the view into the woods of the neighbouring Powis Estate.


With the small bits of wood out the way you can begin to see the bigger trees.

Trees 1 - Fence Post 0

Tree 1 – Fence Post 0

The tree has grown around the wire strands of the fence and has broken the concrete post off at ground level and is now steadily lifting it up into the air.

Leaf Clearing

The railway side of the fence line has been cleared of saplings and now the leaves that fell last autumn are being blown away.

The petrol powered leaf blower is a very efficient way of clearing the leaves off the track.

Newt Home

Near Hanged Man’s Tree there were a number of old, discarded, railway sleepers. I thought that tidying the area up might be a good idea. After lifting the one on the right of this picture above I had a surprise. See the next picture.


Underneath was this little newt; it was only about 50mm long (2 inches). As it was still chilly the little creature was in a state of torpor and did not move. I carefully replaced the sleeper making sure that one end was slightly propped up so that the newt did not get crushed. Finding it was a pleasant surprise and was flagged up to the Deputy General Manager.

Tidy Cutting Side

Looking down Golfa Bank. The Driver’s Side line through this cutting also got a gentle make over.

The Fence 2 Fence team have done a fantastic job this winter and hopefully the passengers will enjoy travelling through the rolling Powys countryside.

There are more photos to view here.

Would you like to come and work on the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway ?
Details about joining and supporting us are here.


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The Ultimate Train Set

On Saturday 23rd March the Statfold Barn Railway had what they described as an Enthusiasts Day on . It is located on a a farm near Tamworth in Staffordshire and could well be described as the Ultimate Train Set. This was my first visit and I was impressed with how well everything was organised.

For the entry fee there was access to the workshops and the Roundhouse Museum plus as many train rides as you could cram into the time available. The only chargeable extras were rides on the tram (£1 each way) and whatever food or drink you required. I thought the catering prices were very reasonable: £1.50 for a tea, sandwiches and baguettes were around the £2.50 mark and cakes at £1 each.

In the workshops were several components for the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway’s locomotive Sir Drefaldwyn; more about them later.

For those who are less able to get around the place is generally wheelchair friendly. There is step free access to the station platforms and ramps are available to allow access to the trains. The perimeter walkways of the Roundhouse are concrete but floor of the main body of is composed of limestone chippings so some assistance might be needed in there. There is a lift to access the mezzanine.

Magic Roundabout

Fiji (Hudswell Clarke) on the turntable at Statfold Junction


Alpha (Hudswell Clarke) hauling a passenger train

Roundhouse Museum Hall

A glimpse of the Roundhouse Museum main hall as seen from the mezzanine.

Off The Wall

Pakis Baru No.1 (O&K) is mounted on a railway wagon, minus its bogies, at mezzanine level.

Several parts of Sir Drefaldwyn aka 699.01 were on display in the workshops.

RHS Cylinder for 699.01

Right hand side cylinder and piston valve casting.

New & Old Pistons for 699.01

Old and new pistons

New Piston Rings for 699.01

Piston Rings

Wheel Lathe

There are some big machines in the workshop. The wheel lathe had got a standard gauge wheelset between the centres.

There are more pictures in the album below.
Just click on the chevron at the side of each image to scroll through them.

WDLR Hunslet

Last but not least; if you would like to visit Statfold Barn click here for details


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Wordless Wednesday

The Works Yard
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A Crossing And A Cutting

Surely not another blog post about the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway’s vegetation clearance gang AKA the Fence 2 Fence Team? Well yes, we were in action again on 22nd to 24th of February.

Friday’s task was a relaxing, one person, job for the author of this journal. Drive to Golfa Halt (OK that does take me three hours from home), phone into the office to say that I was on site, put on overalls and boots and then take a gentle stroll along the line. It had been dark and foggy when I left home but by now the sun was shining and the birds were singing; and that was why I was there. Just what species of birds might be hopping about in the bushes and trees down in Quarry Cutting ?

Well much to my relief my birding tally was just a couple of blue tits foraging for a mid morning snack. The thin whippy stems of blackthorn that made up most of the scrub we were planning clear were hardly ideal targets for those birds that do start to nest this early in the year.

Emergency Clearance in Quarry Cutting January 2018

Wind back to January 2018. A severe storm had brought down several trees on the railway and in Quarry Cutting had blown over a lot of thin blackthorn saplings some of which were within the loading gauge. e.g. there were likely to scratch along the side of the trains or maim anyone hanging out of a carriage window. The bare minimum was cut back and the rest left for later.

Saturday 23rd February

The team had prepared their plans for the weekend well in advance but as often happens in the real world a few days earlier the GM had put in a request ‘ The north-east quadrant of Hydan Fawr (that’s Dirty Lane in old language) has a bit of brush and bramble on the bank obscuring the view of drivers approaching from Castle.  Would a couple of people be able to divert there by car (walking in from Dolarddyn road is best because the lane itself is very rough) to spend a few minutes lowering it?

Decision Point

Well, it is a half mile walk from Dolarddyn Road, so six people in three cars drove to Dirty Lane and parked on the south side of the line. This photo is taken from what is called the ‘Decision Point’ and is where the vehicle driver decides if it is safe to continue onto the crossing.

View of Railway Line From The Decison Point

Taken from the same location as the photo, the railway line can clearly be seen.


On the other side of the road there was a huge mass of brambles on the field side of the hedge. Once these began growing again they would have posed a visibility problem. A phone call to Llanfair resulted in a brush cutter being despatched on the 11:00 train.

Clearing Brambles

Dave is busy shredding the brambles with a brush cutter.

So with that ‘little’ task completed we set of for Golfa Halt to meet up with the rest of the team. We had an Engineering Possession for the part of the line so, after deploying the necessary protection, the components of our trolley were unloaded and assembled. We then loaded our equipment and walked the near half mile to the work site in Quarry Cutting.

After arriving at the site our first choice task was a lunch break!

Slow Tedious Work

We then set about clearing the horrid spikey blackthorn scrub. The stems of most of this was less than one inch (25mm) in diameter so could be cleared using loppers.

That afternoon Wales were playing England in the Six Nations Rugby. So some of the team wanted an early finish. Wales won 21-13 so the atmosphere in the pub that evening was a bit raucous.

Sunday 24th February

Needless to as the DGM found yet another ‘just job’ – clearing a way a pile of logs and brash a couple of hundred yards beyond our work site.

Snip By Snip We Cleared It

Sunday was more of the same, but, as we reached the top of the cutting there were some larger bushes that required a saw.

Looking Up Quarry Cutting

With our task completed this is the view looking up the cutting.

Looking Down Quarry Cutting

Looking towards Welshpool. All the scrub has been cleared. To the left of the line at the top of the cutting there is a hedgerow and on the other side is an extensive woodland that is part of the Powis Estate.

The Fence 2 Fence Team’s trolley can also be seen in the photo. It is equipped with self acting brakes, e.g. if you let go of the brake handle they are applied, a critical feature as the gradient on this section of the line is 1 in 29 (3.4%). It can be dismantled into easily handled sections for transporting by car. We use it for carrying our tools and equipment and moving materials around on site.

The Sunday Team

The Sunday Team


Further down the cutting in the area we working on before Christmas the snowdrops are out and look magnificent.

Photo album on Flickr


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