Published: 16th October 2016
Vale of Rheidol Railway’s 2-6-2Ts No. 7 ( Owain Glyndŵr ) and No. 9 ( Prince of Wales) will form centrepiece exhibits at the November 26-27 Warley National Model Railway Exhibition at Birmingham’s NEC. The display will commemorate the 175th anniversary of Swindon works where they were built. The Warley appearance will be the first time either loco has been outside Wales for over 30 years. No. 9 was displayed at the NRM between November 1982 and February 1983.
No. 9 is currently operational at the 2ft gauge (nominal) Vale of Rheidol line carrying the name Prince of Wales . It will appear at Warley in a new (old) identity with a newly applied Great Western Railway green livery, its historic No. 1213 (as it ran from delivery in 1924 until 1948) and no nameplate.
In contrast, No. 7 will appear partially dismantled as a locomotive undergoing overhaul, as indeed is currently the case. Having been withdrawn from service in 1998 the frames have recently been re-wheeled and the overhauled loco is expected to return to steam during 2017. The Vale of Rheidol Railway shares Aberystwyth station with Arriva Trains Wales served by trains from Birmingham, Wolverhampton and west of Shrewsbury, is a very scenic route going through mountains and by the sea.
Railway Grouping in 1923 saw the Vale of Rheidol Railway become part of Great Western Railway. The GWR invested heavily in its newly acquired narrow gauge line with the GWR board authorising construction of two locomotives to replace Davies and Metcalfe built 2-6-2Ts which had operated the railway from its 1902 opening. This pair were No. 7 and No. 8 which ran between 1923 and 1956 without names, then being given Owain Glyndŵr and Llywelyn nameplates respectively.
Where things become interesting is that while Nos. 7 and 8 were being built, an unknown individual at Swindon works seems to have managed to ‘fiddle the books’ and a third full set of parts were manufactured. In 1924 these components were assembled (forming the locomotive we now know as No. 9) which replaced VoRs original 2-6-2T No. 1213 which had entered the works to be ‘rebuilt’. In this case ‘rebuilt’ might reasonably be interpreted as ‘built again’! To maintain the outward illusion that this new GWR-built loco was the same as the loco which had entered the works the new loco was fitted with the old No. 1213 plates on the bunkers Basically, this appears to have been an early exercise in creative accountancy!
The No. 1213 plates remained on the loco until 1948 when they were replaced by No. 9 plates. It is not known what happened to the No. 1213 plates, VoR has tried to establish their fate without success, and new No. 1213 plates have been produced at the line’s foundry for this modern reversion to its old identity.
The new GWR green scheme is the third livery carried by No. 9 in recent times. After a period carrying a lined red livery, it was given a Cambrian Railway’s ‘invisible green’ (many would be hard pushed to discern it was other than black!) in 2014 to mark the 150th anniversary of the Cambrian Railways. It was then unveiled in black GWR ‘shirt button’ livery for VoR’s September 2015 Steam Festival event.
No. 8 is currently in service at VoR in GWR green and not fitted with its Llywelyn nameplates. No. 9 is now in the same livery and without a nameplate and when No. 7’s overhaul is complete it too will be finished in GWR green, and will not carry its Owain Glyndŵr name. On No. 7 returning to service this will be the first time the Vale of Rheidol has been able to field all three of its 2-6-2Ts for 20 years – and the first time in nearly 40 years the railway has presented the trio in matching liveries.
Vale of Rheidol Railway has for some years progressed a programme of restoration and improvement to its carriage fleet with 14 of VoRs 16 carriages available for service – and all 14 needed for peak summer services. All the operational vehicles have been repainted in recent years with traditional GWR chocolate and cream, half the fleet having the GWR garter crest, the other half with GWR ‘shirt button’ logos. All now carry their historic Great Western numbers.
The two remaining carriages were withdrawn in the early 1990s and await restoration.
The carriage fleet is now the subject of a rolling programme of bogie replacements. After three years of testing modified bogies under summer car No. 7 the redesigned bogies, which incorporate shock absorbers to dampen and stabilise the secondary suspension together with new wheelsets manufactured in-house at Aberystwyth, are being fitted under the remainder of the fleet. Nos. 11 and 12 have already received the modified bogies, the programme being arranged so a carriage can be lifted, the old bogies removed and new put in place and the vehicle sent straight back into traffic with having to be withdrawn.
The Warley show is at the National Exhibition Centre on 26 and 27 November which is located next to Birmingham international railway station. It is served by trains from across the UK and to get the best fare deal irrespective of the train operator, visit www.redspottedhanky.com .
The event opens at 945 each day for (915am for holders of tickets booked in advance).