Published: 28th May 2016
Talyllyn Railway has confirmed the star attraction at its July 1-3 ‘The Grand Finale’ event to round off the 2ft 3in gauge lines 150th anniversary celebrations will be a standard gauge locomotive - 1877-built Fletcher, Jennings 0-4-0T Captain Baxter . The Bluebell Railway locomotive will be in steam running on a specially laid section of track at Talyllyn Railway’s Tywyn Wharf station.
Talyllyn’s ‘150th Party’ in July 2015 featured the unprecedented spectacle of Ffestiniog Railway’s George England 0-4-0STT Prince and Welsh Highland Heritage Railway’s Hunslet 2-6-2T Russell steaming on temporary 2ft gauge tracks at Wharf station alongside TR’s 2ft 3in gauge line. Captain Baxter will be the first standard gauge locomotive ever to visit the TR and almost certainly be a once in a lifetime event.
Captain Baxter spent its working life at the Dorking Greystone Lime Works operation at Betchworth station, Surrey, originally running as locomotive No. 3, subsequently acquiring its name. It entered preservation when the quarry system closed, going to Bluebell Railway in 1960 and returning to steam in 1982. Talyllyn Railway, opened in 1865, became the world’s first preserved railway when operation of the line was taken over by the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society in 1951.
Bluebell Railway can claim the title of the world’s first preserved standard gauge passenger railway having commenced operations over the ex-BR line in 1960 from Sheffield Park station in East Sussex. Although Middleton Railway carried passengers under volunteer auspices slightly earlier, Middleton Railway itself was built and operated as a mineral railway.
The visit of Captain Baxter has added significance. Its presence will unite four surviving Fletcher, Jennings locomotives for an unparalleled reunion. TR’s Fletcher, Jennings pair, 0-4-2ST No. 1 Talyllyn and 0-4-0WT No. 2 Dolgoch (the event specifically marks Dolgoch’s 150th anniversary) will be in operation with the fourth example of this locomotive builder’s products being ex-Dorking Greystone Lime Co. 3ft 2.25in gauge Fletcher, Jennings 0-4-0T William Finlay (173L/1880) which was purchased late last year by The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum Trust.
Presently undergoing cosmetic restoration, William Finlay will be displayed throughout the gala before taking its place inside the museum at Wharf.
Talyllyn Railway’s Wharf station is just a short walk from Network Rail’s Cambrian Coast line station serving Tywyn. Captain Baxter will be within sight of the national network tracks which pass the narrow gauge terminus parallel to the old wharf from which slate used to be transhipped from TR to standard gauge wagons.
Following the theme of visiting locos with a different gauge from the host line making guest appearances at gala events, 15in gauge Bassett-Lowke 4-4-2 Count Louis , completed in 1924, and Kirklees Light Railway’s 1956 Trevor Guest-built 2-4-2T Katie will visit Fairbourne Railway’s May 28-30 Centenary of Steam Gala.
Both these 15in gauge locos were once Fairbourne residents. Although Katie (at Fairbourne 1965-1985) visited two years ago, this will be the first time Count Louis (bought by Fairbourne in 1925 and for many years the line’s only steam loco) has returned. Two original Fairbourne coaches are now on long-term loan from Windmill Farm Railway, enabling running of authentic 15in gauge era trains on the section of 15in gauge track.
The gala celebrates the 100th anniversary of the introduction of steam at Fairbourne. The origin of the Fairbourne Railway was a 2ft gauge horse-worked tramway opened in 1895. This was regauged to 15ins in 1916 and steam introduced – hence the gala celebration of a century of steam. The Fairbourne line was regauged again in 1986 to its present 12.25ins. However, recent years have seen a third rail added to a section of the railway to create a length of dual-gauge line, enabling recent May gala events to feature visiting 15in gauge locos.
The dual gauge section has been progressively extended and now runs through the station, with a recently laid dual gauge (12.25in /15in) point allowing access to the shed and workshops, crucial to entertaining high-profile visiting locomotives. A new 15in gauge platform in the station is presently being constructed by Fairbourne Railway Preservation Society volunteers with completion targeted by the Centenary of Steam Gala.
The minimum gauge heritage line’s station at Fairbourne is right beside the national network’s Cambrian Coast Line and served by Arriva Trains calling at the nearby Fairbourne NR station.
And for something else a bit different, how about a workshop holding a gala at a nearby (not rail-connected) railway?
The Flour Mill steam locomotive works near Bream in the Forest of Dean plans to celebrate its 20th anniversary by holding a gala over the first two weekends in July – not at the works, but on the Dean Forest Railway a mile and a half away.
A number of high profile locomotives have been restored and/or overhauled at the Flour Mill and Bill Parker, owner of the workshop, plans to bring some of them ‘back’ to the Dean Forest to celebrate being in business for 20 years.
The guest list is still being assembled but NRM-owned Beattie Well Tank No. 30587 and T9 No. 30120 are understood to be confirmed visitors. The Flour Mill also hopes the event will see the return to operation after an absence of some 60 years of its Great Eastern Railway 0-4-0T ‘Coffee Pot’ No. 229 (built by Neilson in 1876) following overhaul.
Being a dedicated workshop The Flour Mill is never open to the public, but tentative plans envisage using a vintage bus link from the DFR’s terminus at Parkend to the workshop on one or more of the gala days – with Kerr Stuart 0-4-0ST 3063/1918 a.k.a ‘Willy the Well Tank’ in steam on the short spur at the Flour Mill.
Details are expected to be released on Dean Forest Railway’s website www.dfr.co.uk .