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Thursday, 6 September 2012

Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway

Countess takes on water at Raven Square

In a nutshell

Gauge:   2' 6"

Length: 8 miles

Opened:  4th April 1903


Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway Preservation Co. Limited,
The Station,
Llanfair Caereinion,
SY21 0SF

View Narrow Gauge Railways in a larger map


Date of visit: 2 September 2012


Key Facts

  • After several proposals were drawn up to provide a railway for Llanfair Caereinion, the plan for a 2' 6" narrow gauge railway was selected quite late in the railway age
  •  The lower part of the line originally started beside the mainline railway station at Welshpool and passed through the town running between houses and crossing the main street
  • A livestock market was situated alongside the terminus for the railway in Welshpool
  • As the railway served a rural community its principal source of income was from the transportation of coal and agricultural goods
  •  The railway possessed only two locomotives and three passenger coaches
  •  The line's infrastructure includes a short stone viaduct and a steel girder bridge over the River Banwy
  • There is a gradient of 1:29 up Golfa Bank shortly after the railway leaves the station at Raven Square in Welshpool
  • Passenger services were withdrawn in 1931 but the railway survived with goods traffic into nationalisation in 1948
  • The last train under British Railways auspices ran on 3 November 1956
  • The preservation society for the railway was formed in 1960
  • The original locomotives were restored but the line's coaches had been scrapped. Those now running on the railway are replicas which are faithful representatives of the originals.
  •  Over the years of preservation, the railway has accumulated locomotives and rolling stock from many parts of the world




My Impressions

I have visited the W&LLR many times over the years, from my first encounter with it in the mid-1960s. For me, this railway is one of the most interesting and inspiring of all the UK's narrow gauge railways, partly because of its resilience but also because of its location and raison d'etre. It was never primarily an industrial railway. Although there was a small quarry near to Raven Square Station, this never contributed greatly to the line's traffic. As can be seen from the map above, it was not long before competition from road transport significantly diminished passenger and goods traffic on the line and yet, the railway soldiered on into the 1950s, albeit as a freight only line with only one train of six wagons a day or so.

My visit on this occasion coincided with the railways' gala which is usually held on the first weekend in September. When we arrived, locomotives were steaming-up for their days' duties in the yard at Llanfair.
Countess, one of railway's the two original Beyer Peacock 0-6-0 loco
Dougal: Former Provan gas works Barclay 0-4-0
Joan. 0-6-2 Kerr Stuart loco which originally ran on a sugar plantation in Antigua - restored in 2011
Ferret: 0-4-0 ex-Admiralty Hunslet diesel mechanical
One attraction of visiting the railway on a gala day is the variety of trains which are run. While we were there, for example, the line's Baguley-Drewry diesel, Chattenden, arrived with a goods train.

There are mixed trains, double-headed trains and night trains. On a previous visit, for example, the railway ran what it calls its 'vintage train', comprising one of the original Beyer Peacock locos and the railway's replica Pickering coaches.
Vintage train at Raven Square (in 2010)
Vintage train at Llanfair Caereinion (2010)
Another benefit of gala days are the exhibits in the sheds ...........

and the trading stalls on the platform at Llanfair, where I have bought on various occasions hard-to-find railway books and railwayana. I also spend time at the garden railway fair which is held in the local secondary school a short walk or free bus ride away.

On this occasion, I did not travel on the railway, but on my next visit I will include some lineside views and share my experiences of riding the railway. The W&LLR is extremely photogenic as can be seen from the examples which are on the railway's website.


[In preparation]

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