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

Mixed Traffic

I spent four days working on the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway last week. Each was unique and with the following words and pictures I will endeavour to give you, the reader, an insight to the workings of a heritage railway.

Monday was a Driver Experience day. One way of describing this might be ‘Self Drive Hire’ or in other words the client or clients have paid a significant amount of money to drive a steam train from Llanfair Caereinion to Welshpool and back again. Needless to say they don’t take the train unaccompanied on the engine with them is an Instructor and a Fireman – for whole days events both are fully qualified drivers .

Intense Concentration

Driving under supervision.
In this instance a W&LLR fireman working the train back to from
Dolarddyn Road to Llanfair to gain experience.

On this occasion just one client had paid for a full day and thus two round trips.

Now one way of describing the W&LLR is a linear roller coaster so our guest driver has to cope with some steep up hill gradients and very long downhill gradients and other bits where the engine is climbing but the carriages are still descending. As long as the rails are dry the uphill sections are usually fine. Going down is the tricky part. Driving a train is nothing like driving a family car. Even our little narrow gauge train consisting of Joan (20 tons) and and three passenger carriages (aggregate 25 tons) weighing in at 45 tons can be difficult for a novice to control in a smooth flowing manner.

The role of the instructor is to coach the client so that after the first few brake applications the train does not shudder to an ignominious halt in the middle of nowhere and that they begin to understand and cope with the hysteresis of the vacuum brake. Most of this is done through verbal instructions and so you are talking virtually all the time.

Usually there are family or friends riding on the train and so making sure that the client gives them a comfortable journey adds a bit more pressure to the task.

Meanwhile the fireman has to keep the pressure and water levels right and act as an extra pair of eyes and ears.

I can report that on this occasion ‘John’ did very well and went home with a big, big, smile.

Polishing The Paintwork

Meanwhile in the engine shed a new recruit was getting to grips with
polishing The Earl’s paintwork until he could see his reflection.

Tuesday’s rostered duty meant I could have a lie-in as I was not required until eight o’clock. Driver & Fireman 2 cover the breakfast & lunchtime breaks, assist with the coaling and then operate the last train of the day.

I filled the intermediate time with inspecting electrical equipment and organising the repairs of a number of items found to be defective. Alan my fireman was dispatched to the engine shed where he did a magnificent job of tidying it.

Fallen Tree

Later in the day drifting back across the Banwy Bridge there was time to take a good look at the large tree that had fallen into the river on 18th of June. As it fell it has done some minor damage to the top handrail.

The alarm clock on Wednesday morning was most unwelcome. An early start was needed to deal with a minor repair. The regulator gland had been blowing and was getting worse. At times hot water was dripping down onto the footplate. It was only a little job but had to be done before the engine could be lit up.

With that done Alan tended to the fire while I drained and re-filled The Earl’s boiler with clean water. While we were working there were strange sounds coming from the premises formerly occupied by Colinette Yarns. The W&LLR has recently bought this site and plans to re-configure the buildings as a workshop.

During our breakfast break I popped round the corner to investigate what was going on. A scrap merchant form Oswestry was working there and I quickly grabbed some photos.

Inside Colinette's - Awaiting The Scrap Man (1)

Redundant machinery

Inside Colinette's - Awaiting The Scrap Man (2)

Waiting for the scrap man

Colinette's Loading Bay

The loading bay

With our morning break over it was time to take the first train of the day down to Welshpool. Things were a little different as we were to run as a mixed train with a single wagon behind the carriages. A few days previously a guest locomotive (Chevalier) had been delivered. Before it could be steamed up and driven to Llanfair the boiler needed filling.  There is not a water supply in the storage shed at Welshpool so we were going to take the ‘water wagon’ that contains two, one tonne, bulk liquid containers and an a petrol driven pump.


On arrival at Welshpool we replenished Joan’s tanks and then did a bit
of slick shunting to position the water wagon behind Chevalier.

Loading Coal

After handing Joan over to the second crew there was more to do to enable Chevalier to be steamed. Coal and then later firewood were loaded into a wagon.

Thursday I was on the late turn again. After seeing off the first train of the day I drove another volunteer who was returning home down to the mainline station in Welshpool.

Other time-stealers meant I had no opportunity to settle to any tasks that would take more than half an hour or so. So I took a few photos of other people working. A gang were working erecting a cage to surround a new fuel oil tank for the diesel locos.

Danger! Men At Work

Assembling the cage

Are You Sure This Ladder Is Safe?

Are you sure this step ladder is safe ?


Applying a coat of red oxide primer

Meanwhile round in the workshop there is some visible progress with the rebuilding of the Franco-Belge 0-8-0T 699.01 Sir Drefaldwyn.

Reverser Screw

The reversing gear screw has been bolted onto the boiler

Front Tube Plate

Most of the bolts that secure the smokebox to the boiler barrel have been fitted

Later in the afternoon filming was taking place for a new TV series Trainspotting Live that will be shown on BBC 4 later in the year. This will be similar in format to Spring Watch with a mix of live action and pre-recorded activities. It will be presented by Newsnight‘s Peter Snow and co-hosted by engineer Dick Strawbridge and mathematical sociologist Dr. Hannah Fry.

Lifting Coal Buckets For The TV Camera

Coaling Joan – a scene for Trainspotting Live

You might have thought that all of the messing about for the TV would have meant alate departure for the 15:30 to Welshpool. But, no, we were ready on time. While all this was taking place  The Earl  had been taken to Castle Caereinion with a test train. It was late getting there and locking into the passing loop. So we were late departing. Once down there there was more shunting to retrieve the now empty water wagon to return it to Llanfair.

Getting two engines ‘to bed’ was time consuming and it was ten to seven when I got to the shower.

Happy Loco Crew

Larry & Tony on Joan’s footplate. It might be hard work at times but we love it.



Posted in Heritage, Llanfair Caereinion, railroad, railway, Uncategorized, Welshpool, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, Workshops | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Track Maintenance

A couple of weeks ago there was a plaintive email from the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway locomotive roster clerk asking for someone to drive the Track Gang’s works train on Friday 10th of June as their regular driver was not going to be available. I was already planning to be at Llanfair that day, and some mainline mileage on one of the diesels would be useful practice, so I volunteered for the job.

My normal activities at the W&LLR comprise of driving trains, loco maintenance, vegetation clearance and testing & repairing electrical equipment; so this was going to be a bit of a change for me. But, in the past I have done plenty of track work so I knew what I was letting myself in for.

The works train had been shunted the night before so when I arrived on Friday morning all I had to do was put on my overalls, check that the loco had been prepared and head off down the line.

First stop was Tanllan, less than a quarter of a mile from Llanfair Caereinion, where about four tons of ballast was loaded.

Loading Ballast At Tanllan

While that was taking place Alan used an extending pole saw to lop off a couple of low hanging branches.

Cutting A Low Branch

Falling Branch

We then set of again pausing at Mill Curves to drop off Rodney and his tools. He was going to do some re-pointing on the stone faced embankment adjacent to the River Banwy.

We then went on to Heniarth where there was a loose fishplate bolt. This put up quite a fight but eventually it came undone, the bolt was checked for damaged threads and then the nut done up tight.

Tightening Fishplate Bolts

Our next stop was at milepost 7 just east of The Kink. Here we spent a good bit of time slewing track to improve the alignment and thus the ride. This also reduces the wear and tear at the rail joints. As this task required all five of us there are no photos. Alan and I were left to do a bit of ‘Kango’* packing while the others walked on ahead towards Brynelin Viaduct in search of loose fishplates and more places to slew.

Tamping Ballast The Hard Way

* The W&LLR actually uses Hilti electric packing hammers.

The train was then moved forward and some additional ballast dropped.


We then stopped for a well earned tea break but all to soon we were slewing track again on the approach to Brynelin Viaduct.

We then went onwards to Cyfronydd Station for a late lunch. ‘Chef’ was not present so we had to make do with whatever we had brought in out packed lunches.

The next task was to improve the rail fixings on a couple of sleepers on the loop line. The old spikes and base-plates were removed and Pandrol base-plates inserted. These are wider than the old base-plates and so can be fixed into a different part of the sleeper.

Fitting Pandrol Rail Fixing

We had barely started when rumblings of thunder heralded a deluge that drove us back into the mess coach.


Heavy Rain

Thankfully it did not last for long and we completed the repairs to the loop line.

Loading Ballast At Cyfronydd

Rodney arrived with his JCB and loaded a some more ballast.  He then set about digging  a hole to locate the outfall of the culvert that is supposed to drain the field on the south side of the line. We set off on our way again to Sign Hut Curve for more slewing and a bit of tweaking of a few rails with the hydraulic rail bender. It is very effective machine but sooo heavy.

Arriving back at Cyfronydd about an hour later we found Rodney at the bottom of  a large trench shoving drain rods up the culvert. He ran out of rods so the set from the tool van were passed down to him. After a total of 37 rods had been pushed in nothing had emerged on the other side of the line. Clearly this culvert did not go towards the point in the field where we knew there was a drain.

Rodding A Culvert

The rods were retrieved and fed in to the culvert from the field end. Eventually they came to a dead stop. They were pulled out and laid along the ground surface and stopped a few yards short of where Rodney’s trench was. He resolved to come back another day and feed a wire in with the rods and then use a tracer on the surface to track the line of the culverts.

The rain was setting in again as we ran round the train and got ready to set off back to Llanfair. Alan was in the driving seat which allowed me to catch a photo of the reflection of the Diema in the mirror at the level crossing.

Cyfronydd Level Crossing

On the way back I spotted a jay perched on a line side fence post near School Mistress’ cottage. It did not stay for long and took refuge in the trees on the opposite side of the line. At Mill Curves we paused to pick up Rodney’s tools and a pile of empty sand and cement bags. Back at Llanfair we, unloaded tools, rubbish, etc, and then reversed the works train back to Tanllan and shunted it into the sidings. Last but not least we returned the Diema to Llanfair, parked it in the loop and signed off at just after six pm.





Posted in bird watching, Cyfronydd, Heniarth, Heritage, Lineside maintenance, Llanfair Caereinion, Photographs, railroad, railway, Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

From Drips To Toreadors

On Tuesday (24th May) I was rostered as Driver 2 on the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway. On this particular duty the second crew look after the locomotive while the first crew (Driver 1 & Fireman 1 + their trainee) have their breakfast and lunch. Later in the afternoon we work the last train to Welshpool & back and last but not least clean out the loco’s ashpan and smokebox before putting it to ‘bed’for the night.

This means that there is time available to do other jobs …..

For me the first of these was to try and determine why the float valve on the water tower was not closing properly, when the tank was full, resulting in water running to waste from the overflow pipe.

Dripping float valveThe diagnosis was inconclusive and the recommendation was to replace it.

From the top of the tower you get a good view of other activities taking place below
Filling The Tanks
In this case The Earl is having its tanks replenished

On the last train of the day The Earl was steaming well and I was able to capture an image of the fireman’s reflection in the pressure gauge as we plodded up Golfa Bank.

The following day I was D2 again. Much of the day was spent repairing and testing 110v extension leads – they get some rough treatment.

For the last train of the day I was accompanied by a trainee driver so I was more or less redundant. On the Beyer Peacock locos when the whistle is blown the spray hits the window on the fireman’s side of the cab and for a few brief seconds it makes a pretty starburst pattern.

But a visit to this railway need not be just about trains. If you keep your eyes and ears open the natural world around the railway offers some fabulous sights. On Tuesday we were treated to a pair of red kites zooming about over Llanfair Caereinion station. They might be a common along the M40 corridor but much less so in this part of Wales.

Wednesday’s thrill was watching a buzzard trying to get airborne with a rabbit. Hassled by the train it dropped the corpse and flew up into a tree to wait until we had gone away.

On the first trip on Thursday we had a race with a grey squirrel! As we rounded Sign Hut curve it scampered along the railhead, initially, about twenty feet in from of our engine. We were gradually catching up. You will probably be relieved to learn that when the gap had closed to around ten feet  it decided to head off into the cess and safety. So we now know that a squirrel can run at 15mph.

Further down the line on the Golfa Bank we disturbed two fallow deer does.

These event happen very quickly and so taking wildlife photos is virtually impossible. But dear reader, later in the afternoon I was able to photograph a toreador in action.
The Toreador In Action
He must be braver than me. I would not stand and cruelly taunt 21 tons of railway engine with only a piece of cloth for protection.

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