1 Ruston steam shovel by Cliff Thomas

Penrhyn steam spectacular at Threlkeld celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Bethesda steam working.

Published: 12th August 2015

Seven locomotives steam at Lake District quarry

Many who made the annual pilgrimage to Threlkeld rated the July 25-26 event as line’s finest yet. The glorious blessing of sun through the majority of the Saturday certainly helped, but you cannot beat a cracking gathering of steam motive power!

The fifth edition of the steam gala in the stunning Lake District setting of the 2ft line to the quarry carried a Penrhyn slate quarry theme to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the last locomotive to work on the system which served the great quarry at Bethesda. Threlkeld may not have been a slate quarry and is plainly not in North Wales, but could hardly have presented a more appropriate location to gather some of preservation’s finest restored narrow gauge locomotives to mark the end of Lord Penrhyn’s railway.

Promises delivered

The event organised by Martyn Ashworth and Ian Hartland’s Threlkeld team delivered all that was promised. Resident Bagnall 0-4-0ST Sir Tom was joined by six visiting locomotives. Five were one-time Penrhyn locomotives: Avonside 0-4-0T Marchlyn (Statfold Barn), Kerr Stuart 0-4-2ST Stanhope (Moseley Railway Trust’) and Hunslet 0-4-0STs Hugh Napier (National Trust) Sybil Mary (Statfold Barn) and Lilla (Ffestiniog).

The guest fleet was rounded off by Moseley Railway Trust’s Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0WT 1238/1916 which represented Penrhyn’s Bronllwyd. Porthmadog-based Lilla was newly back in action following an overhaul completed just prior to the visit.

Steam, steam and more steam

he steeply graded, comparatively short, line featured continuous action as passenger and demonstration freight operations alternated. Passenger services, featuring Threlkeld’s wonderfully appropriate vehicles presenting the outward appearance of wagons, were top-and-tailed at minimum, often with a second loco on the front. The temptation to run an additional final Saturday train in the afternoon sun featuring Lilla, Marchlyn and Stanhope with Sir Tom banking on the tail proved gloriously irresistible!

In the top quarry, Graham Lee’s Erie ‘A’ class steam shovel from Statfold Barn (returning after having made its post-restoration steam debut at last year’s event) was in full action loading skips, which were shunted around the fan of tracks, generally by Hugh Napier. A rail-borne Ruston steam shovel recently restored at Threlkeld was also demonstrated in the Middle Quarry area.

Ian Hartland has long aspired to extend the running line at its lower end. A recently laid turnout and around 100 yards or so of track demonstrated this project is now in progress. The extension will run across the present car parking area and is likely to reach the old weighbridge hut by next years gala, which is expected to centre on Bagnall locomotives.

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