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Welshpool, Llanfair ‘steaming’ this weekend

 
Created on 01/09/2010 @ 11:15
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Enthusiasts from across the country are expected to attend the Annual Steam Gala of the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway (W&LLR), which is being held this weekend (3rd to 5th September). The event sees the line busier than at any other time of the year, with all of its available steam locomotives in action.
 
And this year a special ‘guest’ will be appearing in the unusual shape of the 0-6-2 tank locomotive ‘Chevallier’ – the first engine to visit the W&LLR’s big event since 1995.
 
Built in 1915, Chevallier has a working history ranging from the Royal Navy and a paper mill in Kent to hauling day-trippers through the rhino enclosure of Whipsnade zoo in Bedfordshire. Yhe loco has been under extensive overhaul at the much-respected Flour Mill workshops in the Forest of Dean and is now in its best condition for very many years.
 
For the second year running, the Gala has been extended to include Friday. Traditionally a ‘set-up’ day, the day will feature extra trains from both Llanfair and Welshpool and shunting activity in the stations.
 
On both Saturday and Sunday the railway will run its most intensive service of the season. On both days there will be 14 departures each way from the terminus stations of Welshpool and the railway’s Llanfair Caereinion headquarters, compared to the usual high-season service of five trains each way.
 
These trains will include plenty to keep the cameras of enthusiasts busy, with mixed goods and passenger workings and double-headed trains, or shuttles to the intermediate station of Cyfronydd hauled by the line’s diminutive gasworks tank engine ‘Dougal’.
 
Aside from Chevallier, a second highlight this year is set to be a complete recreation of an original W&LLR passenger working, Beyer Peacock locomotive ‘Countess’ paired with three replicas of the original Pickering carriages delivered to the line along with Countess in 1902.
 
The newly-built third replica carriage was only delivered to Llanfair early last month, completing a re-creation of the original passenger stock, all of which was scrapped following the end of passenger services in 1936.
 
Other attractions at the event include the chance to look around the railway’s workshops, normally barred to visitors for safety reasons, and to view the now very visible progress on the restoration of the railway’s no 12 ‘Joan’, a locomotive repatriated from a life hauling sugar beet in Antigua and last steamed in Wales in the early 1980s.
 
There will be railway sales stands, model railways and local horticulturalist Callum Johnston’s popular plant sales. On Saturday evening the traditional night photography session will take place, many of the photographers then enjoying the real ale bar operating through the weekend.
 
Held over the same weekend as the Annual Gala is a completely separate Garden Railways exhibition in Caereinion Leisure Centre, featuring large-scale models many of which are steam-powered. A free shuttle-bus operates from the Welshpool & Llanfair station up the hill to the leisure centre.
 
W&LLR Press Officer Andrew Charman is greatly looking forward to the Annual Gala and Chevallier’s starring role. “For both our staff and the very many volunteers involved it’s a weekend of very hard work, but also greatly enjoyable,” he said. “Many of the volunteers and our visitors have told me that once they had been to a Gala, they had to keep coming back!”
 
Full details of the Gala, including timetables for all three days and the opportunity to book tickets online, are available on the railway’s website www.wllr.org.uk. Alternatively you can call 01938 810441 for more information.
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