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Full steam ahead for 2011

Created on 13/03/2011 @ 10:39
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No passenger trains have run on the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway since before Christmas, and the start of the new season in April is still some weeks away. Yet the popular mid-Wales tourist attraction has been anything but quiet.
Staff and volunteers at the railway have been using the winter months to undertake vital maintenance work, and despite at times very challenging weather conditions a great deal has been achieved.
Out on the track a small but enthusiastic gang has been tackling a number of jobs to ensure the safety and comfort of passengers in the new season. Lengths of track at Sylfaen near Welshpool, Cyfronydd and Dolrhyd Mill near Llanfair Caereinion have been taken up and relaid to exacting specifications.
Meanwhile the line’s workshops at Llanfair Caereinion have been busy almost every day of the winter, culminating in a highly successful Workshop Week in February when staff and volunteers contributed a record-breaking 133.5 man hours and enabled many vital jobs to be carried out. Volunteers travelled from as far afield as Surrey to take part in the week’s work.
Both of the line’s two original Beyer Peacock steam locomotives dating from 1902, ‘The Earl’ and ‘Countess’, have received attention – ‘The Earl’ to its rear axle, while ‘Countess’ has undergone a 10-year boiler overhaul. This involves stripping the loco down, lifting the boiler from the frames and then replacing all of its tubes.
Meanwhile progress has been rapid on the restoration of no 12 ‘Joan’, an 0-6-2 Kerr Stuart tank built in 1927 and which has not steamed on the Llanfair line since 1991. In early February a fire was lit for the first time in the locomotive’s new boiler, railway tradition dictating that the match was thown in – under supervision – by 15-year-old Aaron Jones, the youngest volunteer involved in the restoration. 
Final assembly of ‘Joan’ is now taking place, with the boiler cladding fitted and the new side tanks lifted into place. The workshop team are confident that the loco will make its debut on the line not long after the start of the season.
As if the above was not enough, the railway’s hard working vintage diesel locomotive, Baguley-Drewry no 07 ‘Chattenden’ of 1949, has had a full overhaul including the fitting of a new axle, and work has continued on restoration of one of the line’s Austrian carriages.
General Manager, Terry Turner praised the efforts of a small but dedicated band of members who turn up regularly throughout the year; “I’m most grateful for their efforts, be it on the track, in the workshop or elsewhere. Without doubt, their determination will ensure that we are ready to open at Easter – but additional help is always welcome!”
The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway opens for the new season on April 16. Trains will run every day through to Easter Monday, April 25, and then on weekends throughout May – more details, including the full timetable, are on the railway’s website
Meanwhile if you would like to get involved with running and maintaining the railway, you would be made very welcome. There is something for everyone no matter what your skill level – for more details contact the railway on 01938 810441.
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