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Rail Gala promises fireworks

Created on 23/08/2017 @ 18:00
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Visitors to the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway last weekend might have spotted an unfamiliar green locomotive in steam.

Bagnall 0-6-2T ‘Superb’ (pictured), built in 1940 for the Bowaters Paper Mills at Sittingbourne in Kent, and today preserved on the Sittingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway that uses part of the old Bowaters line, arrived at Llanfair Caereinion on Friday.

The loco is to be the star of the W&LLR’s annual Steam Gala from September 1-3, appearing on a number of passenger and freight workings, including the possibility of working the first double-headed train on the line for some years with its W&LLR-based half-sister loco ‘Joan’. So no time was wasted in lighting up Superb and sending it on what proved to be highly successful test runs along the challenging mid Wales line.

Fireworks will also play a major part in this year’s Gala. The event celebrates the fact that in 2017 the Llanfair line has been preserved for more years, 54 in all, than its entire previous history operated successively by the Cambrian, Great Western and British Railways.

So on Saturday evening a special Fireworks Train will run, with passengers enjoying small displays at stations along the route before a major fireworks extravaganza on its return to Llanfair Caereinion.

Advance tickets for the Fireworks Train, which include a supplement on top of the normal Gala fare, are available to order from the railway’s website and with limited capacity on the train booking early is advised to avoid missing out.

The Gala is a three-day event, with enthusiasts able to enjoy some of the attractions on Friday. Over the weekend an intensive timetable will operate including freight and mixed passenger and goods trains.

Once again a highlight of the weekend displays at Welshpool Raven Square will be the now traditional ‘Little Layouts’ model railway exhibition organised by W&LLR member Martin Rich.

Held in the Raven Square sheds which have undergone further access improvements since last year’s event, the exhibition will feature at least five model railways on show plus live steam. And new to Welshpool for this year’s event is a ride-on miniature railway. This is sure to be a big hit with younger visitors, and some of the older ones as well.

Also at Raven Square, the railway’s track gang will be demonstrating their work in the bay platform, and hopefully encouraging one or two visitors to join them this winter! Meanwhile miniature traction engines will be running around the railway throughout the weekend.

Friday will see the long-awaited return to Llanfair of Hunslet 2-6-2T No.85, built in 1954 for the Sierra Leone Government Railways and repatriated by the W&LLR in 1975. Last steamed on the railway in 2010 and on display for several years at the Locomotion Museum in Shildon, County Durham, the loco has been on a ‘Grand Tour’ of heritage events en route to its W&LLR home. It will be on show all weekend outside the railway’s planned new workshops in which it will be eventually returned to steam, and will be accompanied by the stand of the Friends of the Sierra Leone Railway Museum.

Among the many attractions at Llanfair will be stands and displays including more model railways with live steam. Works locomotives will be demonstrated for visitors, while vintage steam traction engines and rollers will be on show. The popular Edwardian-style tea rooms will be open all weekend, joined by a burger van on Friday and Saturday evening, and a Real Ale bar all weekend.

Once again the Gala coincides with the separate-entry Garden Railway Show held on Saturday and Sunday at Llanfair Leisure Centre. A free bus service will run from Llanfair station up the hill to this event, which showcases large-scale model railways with again many using live steam locomotives.

Site entry to the railway’s Llanfair station will cost £3 per car but parking at Welshpool station will be free. Many visitors, especially those attending the model show, have traditionally parked at Welshpool and enjoyed a steam train ride to Llanfair.

Commenting on this year’s Gala plans, W&LLR general manager Charles Spencer said: “The Annual Gala is a must for railway enthusiasts, but it's also a highlight of the season for those who enjoy a steam railway trip in the Mid Wales countryside, with lots for the whole family to see and enjoy at both ends of the line.”

Full details of the Gala and the timetable are on the railway’s website,, where discounted online tickets can be pre-booked. Updates will also appear on the W&LLR Facebook page For more information, contact the railway on 01938 810441.


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