On St. David’s Day – The Great Little Trains of Wales (Trenau Bach Arbennig Cymru)

Or two of them at least!

2013 saw me pay visits to the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway (W&LLR) and the Talyllyn Railway (TR), two of the eleven ‘Great Little Trains of Wales’.

Opened in 1903 the 2ft 6in gauge W&LLR has its headquarters at Llanfair Caereinion in Powys and still operates services with the original locomotives built by Beyer, Peacock & Co Ltd in 1902.

BP 0-6-0T No.823 (works no.3497 of 1902)-20130720Beyer, Peacock & Co Ltd 0-6-0T No.823 COUNTESS
Llanfair Caereinion, W&LLR, 20 July 2013

Great Western Railway-liveried No.823 COUNTESS is seen taking on coal at Llanfair Caereinion, in the background are the three replica R.Y. Pickering & Co Ltd carriages built by the Ffestiniog Railway‘s Boston Lodge works between 2004 and 2010, the original W&LLR carriages having been scrapped in 1931.

BP 0-6-0T No.822 (works no.3496 of 1902)-20130720Beyer, Peacock & Co Ltd 0-6-0T No.822 THE EARL
Sylfaen Halt, W&LLR, 20 July 2013

no.822 THE EARL is seen approaching Sylfaen Halt with a Welshpool Raven Square-Llanfair Caereinion service. The locomotives were named in honour of The Earl and Countess of Powys as the Earl supported the building of the railway. THE COUNTESS had its name shortened to just COUNTESS by the Great Western Railway (GWR) who absorbed the W&LLR in 1923.


The 2ft 3in gauge Talyllyn Railway was opened in 1865 to carry slate from the quarries at Bryn Eglwys to Tywyn on the coast and despite becoming incredibly run-down was never closed, becoming the first heritage railway in the world in 1951.

The TR also uses its original locomotives (amongst others) and on the day I visited No.1 TALYLLYN (built by Fletcher Jennings & Co in 1865) was photographed running round the 12:45 service to Tywyn Wharf at Nant Gwernol at the eastern end of the line.

FJ 0-4-2ST No.1 (works no.42 of 1865)-20130816Fletcher Jennings & Co 0-4-2ST No.1 TALYLLYN
Nant Gwernol, TR, 16 August 2013

Also in operation was Andrew Barclay, Sons & Co Ltd 0-4-0WT No.6 DOUGLAS (works no.1431 of 1918). The ‘Modified E Class’ locomotive was built for the railway serving RAF Calshot in Hampshire. The locomotive was donated to the Talyllyn Railway in 1953, regauged from 2ft gauge and named after Douglas Abelson, who donated it.

AB 0-4-0WT No.1 (works no.1431 of 1918)-20130816Andrew Barclay, Sons & Co Ltd 0-4-0WT No.6 DOUGLAS
Tywyn, TR, 16 August 2013

Both railways are on my ‘to be revisited’ list and both are accepting donations to help them survive COVID-19 enforced shut-downs, please support them if you can…

Military Manoeuvres – AD 34

Ever since I found out that the railway scenes in the 1966 film The Great St. Trinian’s Train Robbery were filmed at the Longmoor Military Railway in Hampshire I’ve had an interest in the sometimes secretive world of the railway systems used by our armed forces.

Happily these days, an interest in such matters isn’t likely to get you shot (at least here in the UK) and a considerable amount of information has now been published about such systems. In addition, a lot of former military railway equipment has passed into the hands of preservationists all over the country.

Locomotive AD 34 is one such piece of equipment, now preserved at the Golden Valley Light Railway in Derbyshire.

HE 4wDH AD 34 (works no.7009 of 1971)-20180207Hunslet 4wDH AD 34
Golden Valley Light Railway, February 2018

Built by the Hunslet Engine Co Ltd (HE) in 1971 (as works no.7009), AD 34 was one of five such locomotives supplied new to the Ministry of Defence, Royal Ordnance Factory Eastriggs in Dumfriesshire (now Dumfries & Galloway) to move munitions around the site on a vast 2ft gauge railway system.

Fitted with a 28hp Perkins diesel engine and a hydraulic transmission, AD 34 has a top speed of 4mph (would you want to go any faster with a trainload of munitions in tow?)

By 1996 all five locos had been transferred to the Department of the Environment Lydd Gun Ranges in Kent where they were used to haul maintenance and personnel trains on the extensive rail network there.

The other four locomotives also survive in preservation; AD 35 (works no.7010) can be seen at the Statfold Barn Railway in Staffordshire (see image below) while AD 36 (works no.7011), AD 37 (works no.7012) and AD 38 (works no.7013) can all be found at the Old Kiln Light Railway in Surrey.

HE 4wDH 35 (works no.7010 of 1971, reb.1988 by HAB, works no.6941)-20110917Hunslet 4wDH AD 35
Statfold Barn Railway, September 2011

On the Narrow Gauge – Talyllyn Railway Anniversary

A very quick post today…

On 14 May 1951, the Talyllyn Railway (Rheilffordd Talyllyn) re-opened under the control of the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society with trains running between Wharf and Rhydyronen stations.

FJ 0-4-2ST TALYLLYN (works no.42 of 1865)-20130816Fletcher Jennings & Co. 0-4-2ST TALYLLYN (works no.42 of 1865)
Tywyn Wharf station, Talyllyn Railway (Rheilffordd Talyllyn), August 2013

The 2ft 3in gauge railway is currently closed due to the Covid-19 situation and like many heritage lines they are appealing for funds to help the railway survive. If you can, please make a donation here.

The Talyllyn Railway is one of 11 heritage lines that make up the Great Little Trains of Wales (Trenau Bach Arbennig Cymru).

On the Narrow Gauge – ‘Z’ is for… ZM32

From my last post’s ‘A’ for ‘Andrew Barclay, Sons & Co. Ltd.’ all the way to the other end of the alphabet today!

Sorting through many years worth of digital images at the moment and I came across pics from two visits (in 2009 and 2011) to the Steeple Grange Light Railway (SGLR) near Wirksworth in Derbyshire.

RH 4wDM ZM32 'HORWICH' (works no.416214 of 1957)-20090531Ruston & Hornsby Ltd 18in gauge 4wDM ZM32 ‘HORWICH’ (works no.416214 of 1957)
Steeple Grange Light Railway, May 2009

ZM32 has called the SGLR home since 1997 and is one of a very small number of narrow gauge locomotives that were owned and operated by British Railway (BR).

The Ruston & Hornsby Ltd. 20hp LAT class diesel loco (works no.416214 of 1957) was supplied new to the former Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway’s (L&YR) Horwich Locomotive Works for use on the extensive 18in gauge system there (where eight 0-4-0ST steam locos had previously been employed). It worked there until 1965 after which it went into store (following a failed attempt to export it to British Honduras).

Purchased by R.P. Morris in 1971, ZM32 was restored and re-gauged (to 2ft) and operated at Gloddfa Ganol, a working quarry and tourist attraction in Blaenau Ffestiniog in North Wales before finally moving to the SGLR where it has been re-gauged (again) to 18in, named ‘HORWICH’ and painted into BR lined green livery.

RH 4wDM ZM32 'HORWICH' (works no.416214 of 1957)-20110710Ruston & Hornsby Ltd 18in gauge 4wDM ZM32 ‘HORWICH’ (works no.416214 of 1957)
Steeple Grange Light Railway, July 2011

‘HORWICH’ is often in charge of passenger trains on the 1 in 27 gradient ‘Killer’s Branch’ at the SGLR.