Threlkeld 2014 steam shovel by Cliff Thomas

50th anniversary of closure of the North Wales Penrhyn slate quarry rail system marked by gala gathering in Lake District

Published: 24th June 2015

Seven locos to steam in spectacular scenery at Threlkeld quarry

The fifth annual steam gala in the stunning setting of Threlkeld quarry over July 25-26 will feature seven 2ft gauge locomotives in steam – with six visitors joining resident Bagnall 0-4-0ST Sir Tom.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the rail system at Penrhyn slate quarry at Bethesda, North Wales, closing. True, Threlkeld was a granite quarry, but where better to mark the anniversary with a major gathering of steam locomotives which once worked for the great Penrhyn quarry than the fabulous, unspoilt, Lake District location of the railway at Threlkeld Quarry and Mining Museum.

Indeed, past participants have remarked on how reminiscent some parts of the line up to the quarry face are to the Penrhyn quarry system!

Six guest locomotives

Event organiser, Martyn Ashworth, has drawn up a six-loco guest list comprising five locomotives which once worked at Penrhyn, plus another which will perform the part of a sixth one-time Penrhyn locomotive.

The visiting locomotives signed comprise: Hunslet 0-4-0ST Hugh Napier (National Trust/Ffestiniog Railway), Hunslet 0-4-0ST Lilla (Ffestiniog Railway), Avonside 0-4-0T Marchlyn, Hunslet 0-4-0ST Sybil Mary (both Statfold Barn Railway), Kerr Stuart 0-4-2ST Stanhope and Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0WT 1238/1916 (both Moseley Railway Trust). The latter is the one guest which did not work at Penrhyn, but it will appear ‘as’ Penrhyn Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0WT Bronllwyd.

Steam shovels at work

Last year’s event featured a 1920-built Erie ‘A’ class steam shovel, which had just been restored to operation for the first time in 40 years by Statfold Barn Railway, operating at the top quarry.

The 2015 event holds the prospect of two steam navvies at work. In addition to the railway, Threlkeld is also home to the Vintage Excavator Trust with the attractions at the site including a large collection of digging machinery.

Most Penrhyn locos gathered in preservation era?

Is the 2015 gala at Threlkeld going to be the largest gathering of Penrhyn locomotives since 1965? The prospect has certainly been raised. The answer is possibly, it depends on how one counts things.

In September 2012 the Ffestiniog Railway staged a ‘Quarrypower’ gala themed around the survival into preservation of locos which had once lain derelict at Penrhyn’s Coed-y-Parc ‘scrap line’.

This event featured five operational ex-Penrhyn locos (O&K 0-4-0WT Eigiau, Kerr Stuart 0-4-2ST Stanhope, Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0WT ex-Surrey County Council No. GP 39 later Bronllwyd, Hunslet 0-4-0ST Lilla and Hunslet 0-4-0ST Hugh Napier) plus a sixth non-operational ex-Penrhyn loco (Hunslet 0-4-0ST Winifred) aboard a wagon.

So, Threlkeld 2015 – five genuine ex-Penrhyn plus one representing a sixth, with all six in steam. Ffestiniog 2012 – six genuine ex-Penrhyn, but only five of them in steam. Hopefully we are not overlooking any other past gathering, but whichever way one looks at it, this year’s Threlkeld gala is going to be a major Penrhyn celebration and not to be missed!

Keen photographers will doubtless want to sign up for the private charters which precede the gala weekend proper – and generate the finance to make such a significant gathering of locomotives possible.

Threlkeld is located on the hillside above the A66 road about three miles east of Keswick in Cumbria.

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