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The Pehrhyn Railway 50 Years On

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On Tuesday, 24thJuly 2012, I visited the old Penrhyn Quarry loco sheds located at Coed y Parc, Bethesda.

It was the first public open day of The Penrhyn Railway.  The day was organised by Felin Fawr Cyf who run the industrial estate at Felin Fawr and who have rebuilt the railway.

The event was low key in respect of advertising; it appeared it was directed at local people as their way of thanking the locals and introducing them to the railway.  The chosen date marked 50 years to the day of the closing of the line from Coed y Parc to Port Penrhyn, although steam carried on in the quarry for several more years.

The event was opened by the Manager of the Penrhyn Slate Quarry.  This was done by cutting the traditional ribbon.  There were a number of media outlets on site during the morning recording the event.  It was pleasing to see a large turn out from the retired quarry work force, all exchanging facts, information and stories concerning the railway.  I hadn’t realised there were 24 petrol and diesel locomotives in the quarry; some were built by the quarry, others were bought in second-hand; a number of RAF locomotives being amongst them.  I then met Mr Robin Willis, who is the photographic archivist for the society.  In his possession he had a large photographic album.  I was informed that the archive has now amassed 2000 photographs of the railway.  I viewed the album, and I can only describe the contents as a tribute to the society’s diligence and hard work. Each photograph is actually being researched by the society.  On seeing the photographs, it became apparent that there had been a lot of transplanting of parts, eg boilers, water tanks, cabs, etc.  A prime example was a Hunslet locomotive called Pamela.  This was one such engine that had received numerous parts from donor engines.  There were pictures of her with different water tanks, with and without a cab.

The guest locomotive’s identity had been kept a closely guarded secret.  Only when she emerged from the loco depot was her identity revealed.  She was a Hunslet quarry engine named George Sholto, an ex-Penrhyn locomotive.

She looked resplendent in her green livery and red buffer beams, and looked a beautiful sight.  This locomotive had been transferred from the Bressingham Museum in Norfolk.  This move had been made the previous evening on a low loader articulated lorry.

George Sholto did numerous runs with the workmen’s open coach.  People boarded from the platform at the oil shed and were conveyed to the temporary platform at St Anne’s a short distance away.

The public were allowed to sample the delights of travelling in the open coach; the first thing that entered my mind whilst travelling in the coach was what a hardy bunch these quarrymen were, having worked all day labouring in the quarry and then travelling home in these open coaches - can you imagine this journey in the depths of winter? No wonder there are pictures of them wrapping themselves in old sacking prior to boarding the train.

The society had also made available a seated café area where tea and bara brith (my favorite) were served.

I must commend the society for a truly nostalgic day and the way they made it into a truly family day out, you only had to see the children’s faces whilst they were standing on the footplate of the Hunslett.

I first became aware of the Penrhyn Railway Society 2 years ago via the website www.penrhynrailway.co.uk I found this website informative and always look forward to their weekly updates.  All I can say is “well done, great day, keep up the good work”.

If anyone is interested in joining the society, an application form can be found on their website.

By Gareth Hughes.                                                             Photos Brian Bollington.

 

 

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