Llangollen Railway: Locomotive Building Centre of Excellence – four new builds on the stock

In recent years the Llangollen Railway has developed a reputation as a centre of excellence for building new steam engines. Allan George investigates how the worshops have become the centre of new locomotive construction to fill in gaps in classes which have not been preserved.

The frames of new-build LNER Sandringham 4-6-0 No. 61660 Spirit of Sandringham. In the background are GWR 2-6-2T Nos. 5532 and 5199, new-builds Betton Grange and The Unknown Warrior, and LNER D49 4-4-0 No. 62712 Morayshire. QUENTIN MCGUINESS
The frames of new-build LNER Sandringham 4-6-0 No. 61660 Spirit of Sandringham. In the background are GWR 2-6-2T Nos. 5532 and 5199, new-builds Betton Grange and The Unknown Warrior, and LNER D49 4-4-0 No. 62712 Morayshire. QUENTIN MCGUINESS

Currently the Llangollen workshops have no less than four engines under construction: GWR 4-6-0 No. 6880 Betton Grange; LMS Patriot 4-6-0 No. 45551
The Unknown Warrior; GWR heavy goods 2-8-0 No. 4709; and LNER B17 4-6-0 No. 61660 Spirit of Sandringham.

The Llangollen Railway is the longest standard gauge heritage line in Wales, operating the 10 miles of track along the lyrically picturesque Dee Valley from Llangollen to Corwen. It became absorbed into the Great Western Railway in 1896 and remains characteristically GWR.

After the line between Ruabon and Barmouth was closed in the Beeching cuts, the Flint and Deeside Railway Preservation Society was formed in 1972 and took on the task of reopening the line. This became the Llangollen Railway Trust, a charity which today is effectively the landlord and volunteers organisation, whose operating arm is the Llangollen Railway PLC.

Originally, the local council leased the Llangollen railway station building and three miles of track to the society, with the hope that the railway would improve the local economy and bring more tourists to Llangollen. The station reopened in September 1975, with just 60 feet of track.

Early progress in reopening the railway was slow due to the perennial problem faced by heritage railways: a lack of funding. However donations and fund raising allowed development to continue, and the railway reached Berwyn, one and three quarters of a mile from Llangollen, in 1986. It was extended through the Berwyn Tunnel to Deeside Halt in 1990 and into Carrog in 1996.

Read more in Issue 222 of Heritage Railway

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