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We are delighted to be able to offer a return visit to the charming former Cambrian Railway line, the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, for a day of British Railways Western Region and Great Western Railway steam action in October 2018, a month before No.822 The Earl reaches the close of its current boiler certificate.
On Monday 1st October we will run with No.822 The Earl in British Railways black livery with the Railway's authentic goods train. The locomotive looked stunning in mildly weathered condition in Autumn 2015 and we are delighted that the Railway has again agreed to let us weather 822 for the first of our two days with the locomotive on our charters. To cater for all tastes, by the following morning we plan to clean the loco (not pristine, but much cleaner) for a second day with 822, again on the goods stock. We also hope to use the safety valve shield on the loco, which was prototypical for the latter years of Western Region operation. It is this era that many remember most fondly, as they can still recall the latter days of the line when the original engines and wagons trundled along the Valley in worn BR livery, which we aim to recreate.
The Railway dates back to the early years of the Twentieth Century when the only means for taking goods traffic to the Cambrian main line at Welshpool was by horse and cart. Similarly, this was the only way of bringing supplies in to the communities living in the Banwy Valley. Work began in 1901 to build a link from Llanfair Caereinion to the standard gauge main line, and the first passenger train ran in April 1903. The line was worked by the Cambrian Railway and was constructed to a gauge of two foot, six inches as this was a much cheaper alternative to standard gauge. At this time, the route ran through the town of Welshpool as far as the (still operational) main line station though this section was closed in the early 1960s when the local council decided to extend a car park in preparation for a new town bypass. The line was not hugely successful financially and struggled throughout its existence, though the two periods of war in 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 saw a rise in traffic. The Cambrian was merged into the Great Western Railway in 1923, which also ran a competing bus service; passenger trains ceased in 1931 though goods traffic would continue to run into British Railways Western Region days. The line was Nationalized on 1st January 1948 and ran up until eventual closure by British Railways in November 1956. Fortunately, that was not the end of the story as preservation efforts gained momentum in the late 1950s and the line was leased to the WLLR Preservation Company Limited in 1962. Over subsequent years, volunteers have gradually re-opened the line to the extent that we know and love today, running into a terminus at Raven Square on the outskirts of Welshpool.
Each of our days will start and finish at Llanfair Caereinion station and we will aim for an early enough start (circa 08.30) to make best use of any available light in the section to Cyfronydd first thing in the morning. We expect the prime locations to have been cleared prior to the charters and we hope to do one or two new locations as well as the more traditional favourites. Those who have visited previously will know of the exceptional hospitality and enthusiasm displayed by the staff and volunteers of the Railway that make this line well worth supporting - not to mention the beautiful rolling countryside through which the line wends its eight-mile route. We are aiming for a limited number of photographers to ensure that conditions at trackside remain comfortable for participants. The charters are timed to take place before the loop is taken out at Cyfronydd station for more major track-work this Autumn.
This will be the last time for a few years that we will be able to offer a charter event at the line using an original loco in British Railways black livery so why not join us for what promises to be a great day of narrow gauge steam action!