Published 16th April 2013
Big engines on big heritage railways tend to grab the headlines, but while narrow gauge railways are small of gauge they are big on atmosphere and always have a very historic past to recreate.
The narrow gauge grand-daddy, the Ffestiniog Railway, (FR), celebrates the 150th anniversary of steam being introduced on its North Wales line with its May 3-6 ‘Steam 150’ event – see http://www.rail.co.uk/rail-news/2013/princess-of-paddington-celebrates-150th-birthday/ to get a flavour of what to expect amid the mountains of Snowdonia.
The FR’s Porthmadog Harbour station is on the other side of the town from the Cambrian Coast Line’s national network station at Porthmadog, which itself is just the other side of the street from the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway’s Tremadog Road station, so that offers a ‘two for one’ visit possibility!
The FR can also be reached by rail from the Cambrian Coast line at Minffordd, or in Blaenau Ffestiniog where the standard gauge Conwy Valley line terminates in a station shared with the 2ft gauge Ffestiniog Railway.
Bedfordshire’s Leighton Buzzard Railway, (LBR), in association with the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Society, is presenting an Indian Extravaganza on May 5-6 to pay tribute to the narrow gauge railways of India. The star visitor is privately-owned Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) B class 0-4-0ST No. 19 which normally works on the private Beeches Light Railway. No. 19 visited the LBR in 2007 when a similar event was a big success.
Other locos in steam will include the Greensand Railway Museum Trust’s Baldwin 4-6-0T WDLR No. 778 which worked post-WW1 in north-west India before repatriation and restoration. The LBR’s own ex-India locomotive Baguley 0-4-0T Rishra is expected to be displayed pending completion of its overhaul. Models of a DHR A Class 0-4-0WT and B Class 0-4-0ST will operate alternately on the miniature line at LBR’s Stonehenge Works.
DHR No. 19 will steam on further May dates, culminating in a late Spring Bank Holiday weekend when it will be one of six locos in steam. On May 25 resident Kerr Stuart 0-4-0ST ‘Wren’ Peter Pan will double-head with Amerton-based new-build ‘Wren’ Jennie, while on May 26-27 India meets Africa when passenger services will be handled by a rotation of four larger locos from the two continents.
The DHR B class and WDLR No. 778 both once worked in India, while Africa will be represented by LBR’s ex-Cameroon Development Corporation O&K 0-6-0WT Elf and privately owned LBR-based ex-Sezela Sugar Estates, South Africa, Avonside 0-4-0T Sezela No 4.
Down in Devon, the revived section of the iconic Lynton & Barnstaple Railway is holding a May 10-12 gala featuring a visit by the Ffestioniog Railway’s new-build L&B 2-6-2T Lyd in Southern livery, working with the L&B’s own full-size carriages for the first time – an image recreated today showing how things used to be on this part of Exmoor.
Lyd visited the L&BR in 2010, but at that time was in post-works black livery. It was accompanied for that visit by two Ffestiniog coaches.
The L&BR’s first ‘full size’ passenger coaches (Nos. 7 and 17) were to arrive at the line’s Woody Bay station a couple of weeks prior to the gala. Although newly constructed, they incorporate elements of original vehicles. A restored centre observation section which had served as a garden summerhouse in Braunton is in No. 7, while No. 17 includes the original brake end, discovered on a farm near Barnstaple.
The only survivors from original L&B carriage stock (Nos. 1-16 dating from 1897, No. 17 added in 1911) are composite observation saloon brake No. 2 (renumbered 6992 by the Southern Railway) in unrestored condition at the NRM and No. 15 acquired in 1959 by the Ffestiniog Railway where it was converted to become FR No. 14.
When Lyd visited the L&BR in 2010 it was accompanied by this coach. The replica L&B carriages enable replacement of the small ex-Thorpe Park coaches which have served hitherto, raising passenger carrying capacity while enhancing the railway’s visual image. Carriages Nos. 7 and 17 will be followed by two further replica carriages thanks to recent grant successes.
To coincide with the standard gauge Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway’s Cotswold Steam Celebration event, the Toddington-based 2ft gauge North Gloucestershire Railway is holding its own May 24-27 ‘mini-gala’ with three locos expected to be in steam.
Ex-Sena Sugar Estates Henschel & Sohn 0-8-0T ‘Brigadelok’ (14968/1917) was displayed at the NGR’s 50th anniversary celebrations last October but at that time was not ready to be steamed. This late May event will see it steamed in public for the first time in Britain. It will be accompanied by the NGR’s own Henschel ‘Brigadelok’ 0-8-0T No. 1091 (15968/1918) - probably the first time two ‘Brigadeloks’ have steamed together in the UK – and Arn. Jung 0-4-0WT Justine.
Written by Cliff Thomas