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No. 85 to star at National Museum

Created on 05/10/2010 @ 19:23
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A steam locomotive regarded as a favourite by many crews on the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway is to take a new starring role with Britain’s National Railway Museum.

Hunslet 2-6-2 tank locomotive no 85, no 14 in the W&LLR fleet, was withdrawn in April following the expiry of its boiler ticket. The loco now needs a complete overhaul including a new boiler, and with newly restored no 14 ‘Joan’ due to enter service next season no 85 is unlikely to return to action for some time.

Therefore rather than have the historic loco stored out of sight in the stock shed, staff at the W&LLR have negotiated a loan for no 85 to go on display at the National Railway Museum’s ‘out-station’, Locomotion – The National Railway Museum in Shildon, County Durham. The loan period will initially be for five years but can be extended.

The loco is likely to form the centerpiece of a display highlighting the twinning of the National Railway Museum and the Sierra Leone Railway Museum. Built in 1954 in Leeds, no 85 spent its working life on the Sierra Leone Government Railways in the West African state. It was repatriated by the W&LLR in 1975, since when it has been one of the most popular and most regularly-employed locomotives at the Welshpool & Llanfair, its user-friendly nature making it a favourite for driver experience courses where members of the public are introduced to the skill of driving a steam locomotive.

In April no 85 bowed out in style at an African Train Weekend. Guests at the event included three members of the Sierra Leone High Commission and Steve Davies, now the head of the National Railway Museum based in York but the man who as a British Army officer serving in Sierra Leone was instrumental in setting up the railway museum in the country.

Commenting on the loan, W&LLR General Manager Terry Turner said that the railway was delighted to see no 85 going to the museum, adding; “Until such time as no 85 can be returned to service, it is important that the locomotive is on public display demonstrating how Britain exported narrow gauge railways to the world, while also promoting our railway. And there is no better place for it to be displayed than at Locomotion.”

Anthony Coulls – Senior Curator, Rail Vehicle Collections for the NRM and a fellow Sierra Leone Railway Museum activist with Steve Davies, is looking forward to welcoming no 85 for display.

He said; “No 85 has been a popular loco on the Welsh narrow gauge scene for over three decades, we hope that display in the NRM will introduce the engine and the Sierra Leone National Railway Museum to a new audience who we hope will wish to visit both the W&LLR and Sierra Leone in due course.”

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