Welshpool and Llanfair railway celebrating a double success
The Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway celebrated two milestones at its annual Bank Holiday Steam Gala.
The event saw the entry into service of the oldest locomotive to run on the mid-Wales line, following an unprecedented effort by the railway's mechanical engineering department.
It also marked the opening of ‘Llanfair Connections’, the first phase of the railway’s visitor centre project at Llanfair Caereinion station.
The locomotive ‘Zillertal’ arrived on the railway on August 13, at the start of a two-year hire agreed with its owners the Zillertalbahn in Austria.
The loco, built in 1900, two years before the Welsh line’s two original engines, had recently emerged from a major overhaul on the Austrian line, but once at Llanfair it had to be dismantled and its boiler lifted from the frames for a test to satisfy UK boiler insurance requirements.
General manager Charles Spencer, said: "Remarkably the railway’s mechanical engineering department, two permanent staff supported by a host of volunteers, completed the work in less than two weeks. Further volunteers stepped up to fill other duties on the line, enabling those involved with the loco to focus on it, several times working late into the night."
The loco worked its first passenger trains on August 30 and proved a star – especially when paired with the Austrian open-balcony carriages donated to the railway by the Zillertalbahn in 1968.
"Many enthusiasts attended the Gala to see Zillertal in action, and the Llanfair Line team received many comments praising their efforts in bringing the loco to mid Wales.
Zillertal will now undergo some minor modifications over the winter and is set to become a regular member of the loco fleet in the 2020 season.
Llanfair Connections was officially opened by the Earl of Powis, president of the railway. The ‘pop-up museum’ is the initial phase of a visitor centre project that the railway is creating in industrial units that it purchased in 2016 to improve facilities for visitors.
The facility is also the first project to be opened as part of the railway’s major developments programme that will also see significant improvements to the tearoom and shop at Llanfair.
Llanfair Connections tells the story of the railway and highlights its influence across the world, ranging from Antigua in the Caribbean to Taiwan in the Far East and Australia. A small team of volunteers has been creating the facility, led by trustee Helen Ashby formerly
part of the management team at Britain’s National Railway Museum.
The Llanfair Connections team will now be working to evolve the centre, which will be open to the public on major days when the railway is operating.