Workshop Week – Part 2

In this instalment:

  • New parts for couplings
  • Ashpan damper door for The Earl
  • Crinoline for 699.01
  • #17 overhaul

Grondana Couplings

Grondana Centre Buffer & Coupling Hook

The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway is unique in the UK for using Grondana Couplings. These feature a centre buffer with an integrated draw hook. A screw coupling link is used to link the vehicles together. For the shunter they are a very safe design as there is no need to go between the vehicles until after the movement has stopped. This makes them superior to the previously used chopper couplers or the link and pin type couplers used on many items of industrial rolling stock.

NB The W&LLR does have as small number of vehicles with link & pin couplers but they are not in regular use. e.g. The wagon that the #17’s bonnet is currently stored on shown further down this page.

Our original stock of Grondanas came from the now defunct Sierra Leone Government Railway when it closed in the 1970s. The draw hooks on some vehicles are now approaching the scrapping limit and there are no longer any spares available. To overcome this a batch of draw hooks has been cast in steel.

Hook Drawing

Drawing of cast hook and the welded on link retainer

Hook Parts

Hooks and link retainers

Tack Welding Link Retainer 1

Final positioning of link retainer

Tack Welding Link Retainer  3

Tack welding a link retainer into place

Link Retainer Welded On

Finished Grondana draw hook

Ashpan Damper For The Earl

The Earl’s front ashpan damper door was badly warped. This meant that hot cinders could fall onto the track and air was always entering the ashpan providing a primary air source for the fire.

I removed the old door and then ground out welds that held the hinge bar in place.

A new piece of 6mm thick steel plate was cut to size. This was done using a plasma cutter. The business end of this consists of a hand held torch that is supplied with an electrical power source and compressed air. The operator operates a trigger on the torch and after a few seconds an arc appears at the cutting head. The head is placed on the metal to be cut and almost at once you can start to make the cut. The arc heats the metal and the compressed air blows it away.

The recovered hinge bar was welded onto the new door plate and a bracing piece was also welded on to, hopefully, prevent warping.

Heat Buckled Plate From Old Door

Old, warped, door plate.

Refurbished Ashpan Damper Door

Refurbished door ready to be fitted.

Door Open

Refurbished door in place on the front of The Earl’s ashpan.

Progress on 699.01 – Boiler Cladding Crinoline

Railway steam locomotive boilers are lagged to help retain heat. The lagging is covered by the Boiler Cladding which keeps it in place and also protects the boiler from the elements. The cladding is supported by a metal frame called a Crinoline ( as it is reminiscent of the frames used to support Victorian ladies dresses). The crinoline is made out of steel strip some of which has to be bent into a curved shape.

JB and myself were allocated the task of re-bending the strips that go over the firebox section. They had been started but resembled the new pound coins we will be getting soon.

An existing section of crinoline was tack welded to some spare steel strip to make a jig to bend the parts around.

Crinoline Forming Jig for 699.01 Sir Drefaldwyn

This photo shows the jig with a section of the crinoline we were working on clamped to it. This sort activity proves the theory that it is not possible to have to many clamps in your workshop.


The strip to be formed has to be heated and clamped to the jig. I was doing the heating and JB was putting the clamps on.


A clamp has been put on the red hot section of strip. The whole process had to be done twice per strip.

#17 – Diema Diesel Loco

This is not strictly a Workshop Week task but hopefully of interest.

Diema Overhaul

#17 had been suffering from a lack of power. Put simply a good proportion of the horses, that were supposed to be living under the bonnet, had escaped from the Allis-Chalmers prime mover. During 2016 various contractors were invited to come and inspect the machine with a view to undertaking an overhaul.

Diema Bonnet

The bonnet sitting on a wagon outside the Engineering Office

The Torque Converter Has Been Removed

There is now a gaping hole in the engine bay. The Torque Converter has been removed. The bolts that couple the input side to the engine crank shaft and the starter motor pinion can be seen within the bell-housing. In the foreground is the pneumatic actuator that works the clutch. On the right is the cardan shaft that connects the torque converter to the Forward/Reverse gearbox. The huge fuel tank that sits above the cardan shaft has also been removed. The fuel is used for two purposes – the obvious one of powering the engine and the less obvious one of being the torque converter fluid.

Wot  No Turbo ?

The main suspect in the case of the missing horsepower is the Turbo Charger and it also has been removed for servicing. When in place it bolts onto the exhaust manifold between the pipe on the left that connects to the inlet manifold and the pipe on the right that leads to the exhaust pipe.





Posted in electrical, Llanfair Caereinion, Uncategorized, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, Workshops | Leave a comment

Workshop Week 2017- Part 1

At the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway every year, in mid February, we have what we call Workshop Week. The aim is to push on with getting the locomotives and rolling stock ready for the fast approaching operating season. This year the ‘week’ ran from Friday February 10th through to Sunday the 19th. As it was my wife’s birthday earlier in the week I  attended for just four days from Wednesday  to Saturday.

The following pictures and notes will hopefully give a flavour of what was taking place and perhaps tempt some readers to try a bit of hands-on heritage railway work themselves. There is always work available for people of all levels of experience ranging from complete novices to skilled machinists. Training is available and there is the opportunity to learn new skills.

Lempor Exhaust

Lempor 4 Nozzle Blast Pipe

This photo shows a Lempor four nozzle blast pipe for one of the Beyer Peacock locomotives. Both The Earl and Countess are having their blast pipes replaced this winter. The existing units are badly worn and it makes sense to undertake all the machining and fabricating in a single winter.

These are more complex than a simple one nozzle blast pipe but the improvement in steaming and reduction on coal consumption make them a sound investment.

Top View Of Lempor Blast Pipe

This is a view looking down on top of the blast pipe. Multiple outlets mean that there is an increased surface area to the blast to help draw the fire. The complex shapes of the nozzles, diverging angles and the matched petticoat pipe ensure good gas flow.

Inside View Of Lempor Blast Pipe

Looking from the inlet side. A lot of hour of machining time are taken to turn the nozzles and then mill them to fit together precisely.

If you would like to learn a little more about Lempor exhausts then have a look at the two links below. NB they are now quite old but still useful reading.

Improving The Fleet by David Moseley

Theory Of The Lempor Ejector As Applied To Produce Draught In Steam Locomotives
by L D Porta

Four Handles

What sort of handles ?
Handles for the Mess Coach…..

It would seem that the track gang are being molly coddled and additional grab handles are being provided to help them get into their mobile tea hut. This was one of the tasks I undertook. Basically some 20mm diameter bar was bent into handle shapes and then welded to some little fixing pads. It all sounds so simple doesn’t it.

Heating 20mm bar prior to bending

The bar is put in a jig heated and bent to shape. Even when hot 20mm bar still puts up a bit of a fight. To make matters worse the welding/hot-work bay is rather cramped so working with long lengths of metal requires a bit of planning otherwise the walls and pillars get in the way.

Radial Arm Drilling Machine

The fixing pads were marked out on a length of 25mm x 10mm strip. The pilot holes were drilled on a pillar drill and then opened out to the required size using the 60″ radial arm drilling machine.

Drilling the handle mounting pads

Drilling the 11mm diameter holes that will be used to fix the handles to the Mess Coach.

Pads drilled

All the holes have been drilled. The next task was to cut it up into individual pads.

Handles and Pads on welding jig

Another very simple jig held the parts in the correct alignment for welding.

Four Handles

My part done!

Preparing for paint

‘HG’ preparing a handle for painting.


Elsewhere ‘Gandalf’ was dismantling Countess for attention to the left hand side slide valve. A while ago one of the drain cocks became jammed open and when examined a piece of a copper rivet was found to be the cause. The most likely source of the rivet was one used to hold the valve adjustment shims in place.

We did a similar repair to The Earl a couple of years ago and you can read about that at:

That is the end of the first instalment I will post some more in a day or so.


Posted in Heritage, Llanfair Caereinion, railroad, railway, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, Workshops | 1 Comment

Replica Private Owner Wagon – Update

This is a quick update on the progress of the replica J Lloyd Peate & Sons private owner wagon being built at the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway. Unless credited otherwise photographs are from the author’s collection.

Wagon Chassis

The timber components of the chassis have been assembled and the W Irons fitted to the Welshpool end. The other metal components bolted to the side of the solebar are, from left to right: corner bracket, floor/side knee support bracket, curved washer plate, straight washer plate, corner bracket.

Coupler Body

The coupler body has been fitted to the headstock. The other coupler components will  not be fitted until much later.

W Iron

This is the other side of the chassis. The black metal components below the solebars are the spring hanger brackets.

Drag Box

This view shows the Llanfair end dragbox and the draw bars that connect it to the dragbox at the other end. This assembly links the couplers at each end of the wagon and all the pulling forces pass through it rather than the wooden components.



The Carriage & Wagon Team Leader ‘JB’ had set a target to have a rolling chassis by Christmas. This was achieved on Saturday 17th December.

Photo courtesy of the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway


Posted in Carriage & Wagon, Heritage, Llanfair Caereinion, railroad, railway, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, Workshops | 3 Comments

A Replica Private Owner Wagon

Readers of this blog will be aware that the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway has a small fleet of heritage goods wagons. When the line was first preserved only a small proportion of the rolling stock could be preserved and anyway not all of it had survived until the second half of the twentieth century.

The Carriage & Wagon Team lead by ‘JB’ are currently building a replica of one of the five private owner wagons that belonged to JLL Peate & Sons who were coal and lime merchants.


Wagon Number 2 photographed at R&Y Pickering’s works in 1903

Wooden Wagon Building

A general view showing the two solebars lying on the trestles. Leaning against the wall on the right are the cross members.

Cutting Tenons

JB cutting tenons on the end of one of the solebars

Solebars and Headstocks

A trial assembly of the headstocks and solebars

Drilling Ironwork

The original wagons were scrapped in 1935 and the only known surviving relic is a Cambrian Railways registration plate. All the iron work has had to be made from scratch. In this photograph one of the new ‘W’ irons is having the fixing holes drilled.

'W' Iron on the Radial Drilling Machine

A closer view of the ‘W’ iron being drilled.

To be continued

Posted in Carriage & Wagon, Heritage, railroad, railway, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, Workshops | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Shooting Trains !

No not with a twelve bore shot-gun but a lot of very expensive cameras.

Over three days in mid October the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway played host to a group of people who were taking part in a ‘Photo Charter’. In simple terms the whole railway was hired out so that the paying guests could take photos of trains in action.

Now of course you can come along on any day when the railway is running and take photos, but, on a normal running day there will only be three passenger trains in each direction. What if the sun isn’t shining when the train comes along ? What if you want the engine to be unkempt and pulling goods wagons ?

The Afternoon Goods Train

The Earl pulling a goods train near Sylfaen

The answer is to take part in a Photo Charter.

The organiser specifies the locomotive to be rostered and what it will be pulling. They will also indicate how clean (or dirty) they would like the loco to be. On this occasion a ‘make-up artist’ came in to give The Earl a make-over.

Grubby Engine

The Earl heavily made up to look like it had not been cleaned for weeks. Personally I think this was overdone as there is little evidence to suggest that the W&LLR engines were ever neglected to such an extent.

Each day the photographers assemble from about eight o’clock and (hopefully) by nine o’clock the train will be on its way to the first location.For a goods train shoot the crew will usually consist of : driver, fireman, goods guard, passenger guard and the liaison person.

Train operation on such occasions requires the implementation of sections of the railway Rule Book that are normally only used for Emergency Working Procedures. For example under normal circumstances the propelling of passenger trains is not permitted. To do this there must be a guard or other competent person riding at the front who is in radio contact with the driver. Such trains must also run at reduced speed.

What you wont see in any of the photos is the carriage that they ride in. Once the train has arrived at the chosen location and the photographers have disembarked it is moved well out of shot and uncoupled. The passenger guard stays with it and has plenty of time to read or even take a nap.

With the photographers and the liaison person safely off the track, and perhaps in a neighbouring field, instructions are then radioed to the driver as to what is required of the first run past.

Passing Ron's Last Hut

The Earl and goods wagons running between the Banwy Bridge and Heniarth Halt

The chances of all the photographers getting what they want in one take is minimal and so multiple runs are needed. The weather can be problematic particularly if there are clouds scudding across the sky and then the loco crew may have to wait several minutes until the ‘light is right’. At Heniarth there is the A458 main road to Dolgellau part the way up the hill side. One run past was spoilt by the presence of a bright blue ready mixed concrete truck passing by at the wrong moment.

Then there is the issue of what some people euphamistically refer to as ‘texture’. To you and me that means smoke or steam coming out of the chimney. Now the gradient profile of the W&LLR is akin to a linear roller coaster. Leaving Welshpool there is a great big climb up the Golfa Bank followed by a short down hill bit, a gently sloping down hill section, an up hill section, followed by a down hill and so on until the end of the line is reached at Llanfair Caereinion. Because of the Golfa Bank (gradient 1:29 or 3.4%) all the engines face chimney first towards Llanfair.

You may have worked out what is coming next….

Many of the better photographic locations are on downhill sections of line. Under normal operating circumstances the train would be coasting with minimal smoke or steam issuing from the chimney. This compounded because we use a soft Welsh coal that contains little in the way of volatile hydrocarbons. In other words the engines don’t make much smoke anyway.

The Farmers Line

The Earl approaching Morgan’s Crossing near Cyfronydd

So to get some of that lovely ‘texture’ various subterfuges are employed. Now the simplest is to run the locomotive with the hand brake on and regulator open. If the event takes place at a time of year when the weather is cool the steam will condenses into nice white clouds.

Dark smoke can be achieved by adding a bit of oil to the fire but this is rather hit and miss and often only last for a few seconds. It the sequence of pictures below there was dark smoke at the chimney for around ten seconds.

img_3317 img_3318

img_3319 img_3320

Dark smoke sequence near Sylfaen that lasted a mere 10 seconds. A bit of steam and the rainbow overhead would yield a much nicer photo.

Another trick is to use old VHS tapes these burn slower and give a moderate amount of smoke. Thomas The Tank Engine, Postman Pat and many other other titles were seen being loaded into the goods brake van for later transfer to the loco coal bunker.

Unusual Livestock aka Railway Photographers

Photographers in one of Phil Morgan’s fields near Cyfronydd

Taking water

Refilling The Earl’s water water tanks. One of the heritage goods wagons contains two x 1 cubic metre tanks and a petrol engine driven pump. Photo by Tim Abbott

One day I was acting as the Liaison person. It was my job to follow the organiser about and turn his requirements into action. Whilst it was the first time I had done this role many years of being on the loco at these events meant I was able to understand the job quickly.

The weather was not kind that day with squally showers, lots of cloud and just a few sunny breaks. Photography had to be crammed into the times when the sun peeped out from behind the clouds. In between it was a case being patient. (One photographer did comment ‘Does the sun have to shine/ Why can’t they just get on with it’.)

While we were near Cyfronydd the organiser yomped off on his own and I was left to make the decisions about when to call in the train. I think I got it right ….

There was bonus to doing the Liaison job – I could take some pictures. No expensive camera for me, just a £70 compact that slips into my pocket.

Somewhere Under The Rainbow

Somewhere Under The Rainbow

Cwm Lane Level Crossing

Late afternoon goods train at Cwm Lane level crossing

Golfa Bank

Slogging Up Golfa Bank

Photographs used in this post are all mine unless credited.

More of my photos can be found here

Other peoples photos:-

Daryl Hutchinson click to the right hand side to scroll through

Ron Lines click to the right hand side to scroll through

Tim Abbott click to the right hand side to scroll through


Posted in Cyfronydd, Heniarth, Heritage, Llanfair Caereinion, Photographs, railroad, railway, Sylfaen, Welshpool, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Tending To The Tamper

Maintaining railway track involves hard physical work. The sleepers and rails are heavy. Then there is the ballast. Each individual lump may only weigh a few tens of grammes but it is required by the ton. The ballast not only goes around the sleepers but also underneath so as to form a firm but flexible road-bed.

Tamping Ballast The Hard Way

Tamping using an electrically powered hammer

Packing, also called tamping, the ballast under the sleepers so as get the track ‘just right’ requires a lot of force. There are a number of ways of achieving this:

  • Shovel packing – basically bashing the stones under using the business end of a shovel.
  • Beater pick – a pickaxe with hammer head which does a similar job to shovel packing.
  • ‘Kango’ hammers – and electrically powered tool that replicates the action of shovel packing.

All of these methods require a lot of hard physical graft. Unless you are very fit you will quickly become tired and at risk of more aches and pains that you ever thought possible.

During the second half of the last century machines were developed that would undertake this task. On the mainline railways ballast tamping machines can pack hundreds of metres per hour.

At the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway we were fortunate to be able to acquire a second hand Plasser tamping machine. Even on our relatively small railway this has significantly reduced the manpower required for track maintenance. Additionally there has been an improvement in the quality of the ride and thus passenger comfort.

Plasser Tamper

Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway’s tamper in the workshop

The stresses and strains that manual tamping makes on the human body are also felt by the machinery that has by and large taken over. Our tamper is currently semi-dismantled while the hydraulic rams that perform the lifting and slewing operations are repaired or replaced.

Tamper Showing Lifting Ram

The vertical lifting ram can be seen between the rail wheel on the left and the taming tines on the right.

Lifting Ram Removed

The lifting rams have been removed.

Slewing Ram

The end of the right hand side slewing ram can be seen. The inboard end is pinned to a lug on the chassis.

Slewing Ram - Fixing Pin Sruck Fast

The pin holding the ram in place was well and truly stuck fast. A hole was cut in the floor to gain better access.

Heating Ram Clevis 1

Copious amounts of heat were applied in attempt to shift the pin.

Heating Ram Clevis 2

The view from underneath.

Filing End Of Locating Pin

Grinding off the end of the pin to remove any burrs.

Ram Now Removed

The right side slewing ram was eventually removed and a similar battle fought and won on the left side.

Drilling Floor For Cover Plate

The floor than had to be repaired. Here it being drilled to fit a removable cover plate.

Tapping Floor To Fix Cover

A brief pause while the holes were being tapped. Note also the access hole in the side member so that the ram locating pin can be punched out in future.

Cover Plate Fitted

Left and right cover plates fitted and the operators seat bolted back into place.

Well that’s all there is for the moment on this story ….

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

The Yard Supervisor’s Tale

Many heritage railways break out their normal routine at least once a year and hold a special event where there is a more extensive timetable for a few days. The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway is no exception and over 2nd, 3rd and 4th of September there was the annual Steam Gala.

On a normal operating day at the W&LLR up to five people are rostered to crew the locomotive in steam and on a busy summer day that number climbs to seven or eight. These people work with minimal supervision because the tasks follow a predictable pattern. At a gala event the situation is vastly different. There may be well over twenty loco crew rostered along with a number of other people doing mundane tasks such as loading coal, loco cleaning, etc.

Enter the ‘Yard Supervisor’ and his assistant; their job is to make sure everything runs to plan. I fulfilled this role on the Friday assisted by John.

Rolling stock for the first few trains was in position the night before. The first major job for John was to check that all the wagons and carriages had been oiled.

Oiling Wagons

It is our normal practice that once an engine is ready to leave the shed area the crew that prepared it have a break for breakfast and to change into clean overalls. While they are away a relief crew takes charge; their task is to top up the water tanks and coal bunker and then put the loco onto the train. Finding people for this task is usually easy.

At 10 o’clock the first train of the day, Countess and B Set (2 x MAV + 2 x SKLB all green carriages) departed.

Chevallier then fetched the goods stock and departed at 10:30 heading for Castle Caereinion. This loco was supposed to be the star of the show but had been experiencing problems with overheating bearings since it arrive a couple of months previously. Would it make it back OK?

After the first two trains had gone more rolling stock had to be fetched from the carriage shed, at Tanllan, about a quarter of a mile from the station. Rather than relying on the Yard Supervisor working out the movements for himself he is provided with a Shunting Schedule which details when stock is to be brought in or out and where it is stabled. Invariably though a scratch crew for the shunt moves has to be assembled and a locomotive assigned to the task.

Tanllan Sidings

The carriage shed at Tanllan. The loco #17 and the PW gang mess van is on Road 0,  ex Sierra Leone carriages are in Road 2 and the ex Zillertalbahn carriages in Road 4.

With The Earl and the A Set (replica Pickering carriages and two Zillertalbahn 4 wheelers)  off down the line it was time to await the return of Countess and the B Set at 11:58. The Controller informed me that The Earl was running late and could be delayed by up to twenty minutes. Oops! The loco needed to be serviced the crew changed and the train ready to depart at 13:00. Thankfully some time was recovered on the way and the errant train arrived only ten minutes behind schedule.

Meanwhile Chevallier and the goods wagons arrived back.  Much to the relief of the people who worked hard to get the bearings sorted out all was well and only the fireman’s side front coupling rod bearing was running warm and then only when the loco ran backwards for any distance.(The cynics pointed out that at Whipsnade Zoo other than leaving the shed area in the morning the engines go, chimney first, round and round in circles all day)

Chevallier At Cyfronydd

Chevallier and a goods train at Cyfronydd

After the departure of the 1 o’clock train the goods  wagons were shunted out of the way as they would not be required again until Saturday.

There was just enough time to grab a sandwich before it began to get complicated.

The Earl and the A Set arrived back. It was time to lead from the front and John and I lent a hand with the shunting. The two Zillers needed to be removed and replaced by an open wagon and a goods brake van ready for 14:30 mixed train. Meanwhile Chevallier returned from Tanllan with the SLR stock for the 14:00 departure to be hauled by Joan.

Chevallier Returns From Cyfronydd

Chevallier and SLR carriages

Dear reader by now you have probably got the gist of the Yard Supervsior’s job. Rather than continue the move by move account it is probably sufficient to say that we got through the day relatively unscathed. The trains were well loaded and the passengers seemed happy.

Coaling Joan

Coaling up – a labour intensive task

With the stock for the photographic special, topped and tailed by Chattenden and Countess, in the platform we signed off for the day. Time for a shower and then off for a meal at the Red Lion.

Diesel Hauled Departure

The photographic special departs from Llanfair Caereinion hauled by Chattenden with Countess bringing up the rear.

All in all the gala was a successfully event. The heavy rain on Saturday morning probably reduced the numbers attending that day and made working outside unpleasant  – heritage wet weather gear is not the most comfortable attire.

As the station at Llanfair Caereinion is close to the riverbank Mr Toad and his friends were kind enough to pay us a visit in his Stanley steam car.

Poop Poop !!

‘Ho! ho! I am the Toad, the motor-car snatcher, the prison-breaker, the Toad who always escapes! Sit still, and you shall know what driving really is, for you are in the hands of the famous, the skilful, the entirely fearless Toad!’

(from The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Graeme)

There are more photos of events at the gala at the link below:-




Posted in Heritage, Llanfair Caereinion, railroad, railway, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway | 3 Comments

An Afternoon Stroll

This post is a bit of a curved ball. But, this blog is about stuff that takes my fancy so for this post there is a departure from the normal subject matter.

After a busy morning Margaret and I went for a gentle walk along the canal towpath. For the first section from Three Locks we had the hedgerows between us and the bright hot sunshine but beyond Stoke Hammond Bridge we were in the full glare.

Leaking Lock Gates

The bottom gates of the top lock were leaking badly and the lock chamber was steadily emptying. The works plate shows that the gates were made in 1998.

Heron At rest

We came across a heron standing on the towpath. As we approached it flew about a hundred yards further on and came to rest on the edge of a pool of light.

Take Off

Needless to say as we got closer it took flight

Travel Air 3000

Somewhat higher up a Travel Air 3000 biplane passed overhead.
It was built in the USA in 1928 and a short history of the aircraft can be found at this link

Inquisitive Cygnets

A little way beyond Stoke Hammond Lock there was a group of inquisitive cygnets and a parent. They quickly came across to see if we had anything for them to eat.

Feeding Frenzy

Disappointed that we had nothing but a camera they drifted off. Finding a carcass of some unfortunate creature floating in the water their behaviour became anything but graceful as for a few minutes there was feeding frenzy.



Posted in bird watching, canals | 2 Comments

Oh Grate !!

During the second week of August I had a four day session of footplate work at the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway. Day one, Tuesday 9th of August, Tony and myself were rostered as Crew 3. Oh an easy day we thought …. sign on at half past eight and nip down to Welshpool by car; collect a diesel and two carriages, that had been stabled there over night, and bring them back to Llanfair arriving at 10:30. A quick bit of shunting and then some of time off ….. before changing overalls and working a steam trip at 12:50. Then last but not least work the diesel back to Welshpool at five o’clock.

Token Exchange

Diesel train arriving at Cyfronydd

Oh how wrong we were. The run up from Welshpool was without incident; the shunting was another matter and involved moving just about every bit of rolling stock that was in the yard at Llanfair. There was then a few minutes to grab a mug of tea before inspecting and re-fueling the diesel.

By then The Earl was arriving with the 11:05 ex Welshpool. Tony and I helped with the turn around which involves taking water, coal and emptying the ashpan. Crew 1 then looked after the loco while we had lunch. Food consumed we took charge of the ‘old gent’ and worked the 12:50 Lanfair to Welshpool & Return.

We were looking forward to a break of an hour or so when we got back but no! The diesel locos were being swapped. Richard in the workshop needed a hand to check out that Chattenden was fit for traffic. And then it needed to be fuelled and made ready for the 17:00 departure.

Chattenden At Rest

Chattenden outside the workshops at Llanfair Caereinion

And so we arrived at Welshpool ran round and shunted the train onto the carriage shed siding. (We were unable to actually put the train into the shed as the floor was being concreted.) By the time we had driven back to Llanfair and deposited the loose kit from the diesel in a safe place it was six-thirty!! So much for an easy day.

Day 2: Tony and I we were Crew 2 along with Tom (a trainee driver). We prepared Joan, an 0-6-2T built by Kerr Stuart that originally worked in sugar mill in Antigua,  ready for the 11:20 departure.

Waiting For The Signal

Joan waiting for departure time at Llanfair Caereinion

With dry rails and plenty of steam Joan coped with ease and all was going well until we were descending Golfa Bank.

We are currently burning Welsh coal it is nearly all carbon and contains only a small percentage of volatile hydrocarbons so consequently makes very little smoke. But it does create clinker. Firemen often run a bar through the fire as the train approaches Welshpool to get the fire-bed ready for building the fire for the return journey.

Tony had the misfortune to dislodge a firebar ! One end was up above the hot coals the other down in the ashpan. On the move there was nothing that could be done.

Once we were at the water tower Tony was despatched to find some bricks or rocks to fill up the gap in the grate if the dislodged bar could not be refitted. Meanwhile Tom dealt with the water and oiling.

Using the fire-irons I pushed the fire forwards and away from the out of place firebar. The bar was then teased into the ashpan. I was then able to reach into the ashpan and extract the errant bar. As you might imagine it was rather hot and required a copious amount of water to cool it down.

The next job was to try and get it back into place. Now Joan’s firehole door is tiny and the grate is deep. With gloves on and a thick rag for extra insulation I reached in through the door and dropped the bar into place, it didn’t go right down level with the others, but was going to be good enough to get us home.

Tony’s bricks were not needed but we took them along for the ride. Back at Llanfair the Duty Manager decided to take Joan out of service and use a diesel on the 14:20 service.

Departure Under A Stormy Sky

No. 17 deputising for the failed steam locomotive.

The next morning Tony and I did a partial firebar swap.

Burnt Firebar

The bar that fell out is 5th from the left.
As it did not go back in level with the rest of the bars it has been badly burnt.

Two New Firebars

Two new firebars were inserted and Joan was ready to be lit up again.

I’ll not bore with any more of our ‘adventures’ that week but below are few photos.

Through The Long Grass

Joan arriving at Cyfronydd. The driver and blockman are exchanging train staffs.

Concreting The Carraige Shed Floor

Concreting the floor of the Welshpool Carriage Shed

On Shed

Extracting water from The Earl’s axleboxes.


Posted in Cyfronydd, Heritage, Llanfair Caereinion, Photographs, railroad, railway, Welshpool, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway | 1 Comment

July The Obscure

I don’t really have the time for writing much at the moment so here are a few obscure photos.

Fire Glow

This picture was taken from the inspection pit and is looking in through the back damper door of Countess. The glow from the fire provides the lighting. After the morning inspection and boiler blow down have been completed the locomotive will be moved to the ashpit and the ash and cinders seen here raked out.

Birds Nests On The Tube Plate

The firebox end tube plate of Countess before grate was cleared and the fire lit. The lower rows of tubes have got a build up of clinker or ‘birds nests’ on them. If this is not scraped off then the heat from the fire cannot efficiently pass through the tubes to boil the water and so make steam.


A photo of the copper cap on the top of Countess’ chimney. In the reflection you can see the rails to the shed, the oil store hut, the photograher’s hands & camera and the corrugated iron wall of the engine shed.

Mechanical Inspection

A view of the under side of Countess looking up at the fireman’s side connecting rod, little end, crosshead and coupling rod.

Escaped Hay Bale

This photo is nothing to do with engines. On the upper half of Castle Bank, near Coppice Lane, a hay bale has rolled down the field, cleared the fence without demolishing it and is now lying in the ditch at the bottom of the embankment.



Posted in Castle Caereinion, Heritage, Llanfair Caereinion, Photographs, railroad, railway, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway | 2 Comments