Things were busy at Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway at the start of the week, David Williams Photographic Charter trains were booked for Monday & Tuesday, civil engineering work was taking place at Castle Caereinion level crossing and the main coal bunker was beginning to look somewhat depleted.
As I was rather occupied for the two days I have little to offer in the way of photographic evidence and so you will have to make do with my words.
The Monday charter train consisted of Countess, two Pickering coaches, a goods brake van, cattle van, box van and a four wheel open wagon containing the additional water supply. This got away about ten o’clock.
Myself and Tom Newby, the relief crew, were left at Llanfair to get on with some shunting, wood chopping, ash clearing and other tasks that are essential to keep the railway going.
The train returned at about two p.m. so that the loco could be replenished with coal and water and the photographers with tea and cake; at about the same time a lorry load of best Welsh steam coal arrived.
At three it was time to go back down the line with the loco now crewed by myself and Tom. Now this is where is all gets a bit unconventional.
The ground frame at the east end of Cyfronydd loop has not yet been re-connected and there was civil engineering work taking place at Castle Caereinion. So there was nowhere that the loco could run round the train other than Welshpool! So with the desired destination of the photographers being Sign Hut Curve the only realistic option was to propel the train all the way. Thankfully this was broken up into stages as stops were made to take pictures at Mill Curves and Heniarth. The level crossings at Heniarth and Cyfronydd which are normally operated on the “whislte and go” basis were flagged.
Three or four run pasts were done at Sign Hut Curve and then there was a request to return to Cyfronydd to take some station shots, while these were being taken Tom & I took the opportunity to pump water from the wagon into Countess’ tanks.
“Can we now go back to Sign Hut Curve please ?” asked David Williams.
So back we went. There was bit of hanging about waiting for “the light”. The sky was mainly overcast with the odd short burst of sunshine and a real threat of a rain shower. After a while a rainbow could be seen over towards Y’Golfa and shortly after there was a delivery of liquid sunshine.
That put a dampener on the photography session and we set off back to Llanfair arriving at about a quarter to seven. With stock to shunt and engines to rearrange ready for the next day it was getting on towards eight before we were finished.
It was then time for a quick shower and off up the road to get something to eat followed by an early night. Next morning I was deliberately late for work to maximise my rest break.
Tuesday ? Then it must the 822 on the goods train. I say 822 deliberately as “The Earl” nameplates have been removed, the safety valve deflector is in place and the loco had not been cleaned for a week to give it that nineteen fifties look.
By the time I turned up Richard Newby had got the fire going and Steve Sedgwick, one of the photographers, was busy taking pictures in the gloom of the engine shed.
Preparation complete and the train ready to depart we set off for Welshpool at ten o’clock. After crossing Dolarddyn Road I blew a couple of crows on the whistle. As we rounded the curve at the bottom of Dolarddyn bank a large yellow flag could be seen in the distance. A hundred yards beyond that was red flag and waiting by it was our Pilotman. We stopped and he clambered aboard and instructed us to proceed slowly through the work site and stop in the station. From what I could see from the footplate most of the earth moving was complete.
The next stop was at Sylfaen Summit to pin down the brakes on the goods wagons and then a steady run down the Golfa Bank to Welshpool. There was plenty of shunting to do including collecting another open wagon from the bay platform.
Eventually we were ready to set off up the bank. The train formation was as follows: carriage B27, 822, open wagon, water wagon, box van, cattle van, brake van. Destination Hanged Man’s Tree. We had a steady plod up the bank and the photographers disembarked at the reverse curves. The train then proceeded further up the line to where the gradient eases (above where the ten mile per hour speed limit ends). The carriage was uncoupled, chocks inserted and sprag placed though he spokes of one of the wheels.
The train returned to below Hanged Man’s Tree and a series of run pasts made. Each time we ran back we had to pin down the wagon brakes and release them before setting off up hill again. After a while the action move to Quarry Cutting and then it was time to pick up the coach and proceed to the next location at Sylfaen.
Having arrived there and disgorged the photographers the carriage was propelled to Four Mile Oak. We then set back to Sylfaen where we replenished 822’s water tanks. Umpteen runs were made to Pussy Bridge and back punctuated by a few pauses to allow the sun to have a rest behind the clouds. During one of these breaks arrangements were made for Richard and I to be relieved when we arrived at Castle Caereinion although this was subsequently changed to be Dolarddyn Road.
Arriving at Castle we picked up the Pilotman for passage through the work site. Earlier in this account I omitted to mention that the road is currently closed to traffic. This is to allow excavation work to improve visibility at the the level crossing A fantastic amount on work has been achieved in two days and as we passed through turf was being laid on the reshaped roadside bank.
At the next crossing Richard and I were relieved and were taken back to Llanfair by car. The Photographers train went on to Sign Hut Curve.
We had not been back for more than an hour when the train arrived to allow the loco to be coaled and watered. It then went back out for another session and returned for the last time at about five thirty.
The goods wagons were shunted to Tanllan shed and then the loco returned to Llanfair yard for a final set of photos of it being coaled up.
Two busy days and a bunch of happy photographers.
The picture below was taken during a similar event last year my mischievous aim being to capture the photographers with out any obvious railway reference points.