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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 the third of our days of charters at the line, today featuring a mixed Great Western train.
On Wednesday 3rd October we will use No.823 Countess in Great Western Railway green livery with two of the superb replica Pickering coaches built at Boston Lodge, two or three wagons and van to form a mixed train so prototypical of the line in the period from 1923 up until 1931 when the line's passenger service was withdrawn by the GWR (the original coaches were scrapped in 1934).
For the first time on one of our charters, we will include the recently-constructed private owner wagon in the livery of John Lloyd Peate and Sons, the Llanfair Caereinion-based coal merchant who ordered five wagons when the line opened, operated by the Cambrian Railway in 1903. The wagons were built by R J Pickering & Company Limited who supplied the line’s other rolling stock. A team of volunteers led by John Bancroft constructed the replica wagon using wheel-sets dating back to Cambrian and Great Western days. The axle boxes are also original which were, upon the line’s closure by British Railways Western Region in 1956, acquired by the Talyllyn Railway and recently rediscovered during a stock inventory in the TR’s own workshops at Pendre. Private owner wagons on our narrow gauge systems were extremely rare, with only the WLLR and a handful of other lines such as the Southwold Railway handling private owner vehicles. When run as part of a GWR mixed train, the new addition to the wagon fleet will be entirely in keeping with services on the line in the 1920s and very early 1930s.
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.
Our day 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.
There are few finer sights in heritage railways than the Great Western Railway mixed train on the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway, so why not join us for a day recreating GWR steam of the 1920s and early 1930s!