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Friday, February 23, 2024

It's full steam ahead for Llangollen Railway in 2024 season

      * Steam locomotive 7754 which will star at the Branchline Gala in April. 

After its sold-out Santa Special season finished at Christmas, staff and volunteers at Llangollen Railway have been working flat-out behind the scenes to get the heritage attraction ready for a busy 2024. 

The Branchline Gala on April 12-14 will see four steam locomotives in use on the railway for the first time in many years.

This will be another significant achievement alongside the railway's two recent success in major industry awards - the Heritage Railway Infrastructure Award and Go North Wales Tourism Awards Attraction of the Year for 2023 title.

Press officer Terry Pickthall said: "Our track gang have also made incredible progress on relaying the line through the 689-yard long Berwyn tunnel, toiling away in the dark, damp and cold to get trains running back to Corwen. 

"Our Branchline Gala will see 1930-built Great Western pannier tank No 7754 formally rededicated to traffic after a restoration that has taken nearly 20 years and was largely completed using volunteer labour. 

"Great Western heavy freight locomotive No 3802 should also be back in steam for the first time in over two years following comprehensive overhaul work. 

"Harking back to the railway’s first trains in the early 1980’s, ex-Longbridge car factory tank engine Austin 1 is about to have a new axle bearing fitted in order to take part in the gala. This large, brass component has been lovingly made from scratch in-house by our machine shop volunteers and requires the locomotive to be lifted with a 50-tonne crane, twice. 

"The crane itself has been saved thanks to donations from our supporters and the kindness of a scrap merchant, who had originally purchased it at the auction of railway assets back in 2021. We were able to buy it back, a bit at a time. 

"Finally ex-Bold colliery Austerity loco No 68067  - one of the last steam engines to work in British industry - will be operating her last trains with us before heading off for hire to another railway."

He added : “A diesel locomotive and railcar will also take part, with Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon Sulzer Type 2 (Class 26) diesel No 5310 helping work a Glyndyfrdwy-Corwen steam shuttle service. These trains help add to a real early 1960's feel for the event. 

"Austin No 1 will be hauling a short rake of passenger-carrying brake vans, which provide a unique travelling experience and hark back to the early days of railway preservation. 

"As well as our usual excellent catering facilities at Llangollen station, the volunteers who look after Glyndyfrdwy Station will be opening their station cafĂ© and Porters Bar, making this usually quiet wayside station a bustling hub to visit for a brew, pint, butty or cake whilst watching trains cross, come and go.”

Robin Crowley, volunteer coordinator, said: “Volunteers are our lifeblood and we’re always looking to grow our team, with a busy and ambitious programme of events planned for 2024. 

"We will be running a series of new volunteer open days through the year, which give folk the chance to visit the railway and get a taste of what is involved in being a volunteer. 

"Our first Open Day will run on Saturday 2nd March and details on how to attend are on both our website and Facebook pages."

Llangollen Railway continues to make a spectacular recovery from the collapse of its PLC operating company in 2021. 

As well as winning two national awards, the railway has also secured two substantial UK Government Levelling Up grants. 

One funded the construction of the spectacular Corwen station canopy in January 2023. The other, from the Shared Prosperity Fund. has fully financed four new staff posts at the railway to develop volunteer recruitment, retention and training, environmental and climate change strategy and the wider visitor experience. 

The railway also recently announced a partnership with nearby Wrexham University, with research staff and students from the University’s Engineering, Environmental Management and Business departments looking to support the railway’s ambitious development plans. 

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