Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway

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Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway
Rheilffordd y Trallwng a Llanfair Caereinion
823 Countess – one of the two original W&LLR engines
Terminus Welshpool
Commercial operations
NameWelshpool & Llanfair Light Railway
Original gauge 2 ft 6 in (762 mm)
Preserved operations
Length8.5 miles (13.7 km)
Preserved gauge2 ft 6 in (762 mm)
Commercial history
Closed to passengers1931
Preservation history
1963Re-opened as a heritage railway
1972Services extended to Sylfaen
1981Opening of extension to Raven Square
Welshpool & Llanfair
Light Railway
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End of line
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Welshpool Raven Square
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Golfa Bank
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Castle Caereinion
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Llanfair Caereinion

The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway (W&LLR) (Welsh : Rheilffordd y Trallwng a Llanfair Caereinion) is a 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge heritage railway in Powys, Wales. The line is around 8.5 miles (13.7 km) long and runs westwards from the town of Welshpool (Welsh : Y Trallwng) via Castle Caereinion to the village of Llanfair Caereinion.



Early proposals

The first proposal to connect Llanfair Caerinion and Welshpool by railway was the Llanfair Railway of 1864; this would have been a narrow gauge line, with a mixed gauge section where it connected to the Cambrian Railways. This proposal was abandoned. The next attempt came in 1876 with the promotion of the Welshpool and Llanfair Railway Bill, which proposed a railway along a similar route to the 1864 effort. This Bill passed through the Houses of Parliament. This attempt failed in 1882 because the promoters were unable to raise sufficient capital. In 1886, another Welshpool and Llanfair Railway Bill appeared for a 3 ft (914 mm) gauge railway on a similar route; this bill expired unused in 1892. [1]

The Light Railways Act of 1896

In 1896, the Light Railways Act was passed, and this spurred further attempts at a railway to Llanfair Caereinion. The first of these was the Llanfair & Meifod Valley Light Railway bill of 1896, which proposed a standard-gauge line from Arddleen about 8 miles north of Welshpool, through the Meifod Valley. [1]

In late December 1896, the mayor of Welshpool William Addie proposed a 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) gauge railway called the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway. By March 1897, Addie had contracted with noted narrow gauge promoter Everard Calthrop to assist in preparing a case for the inquiry. An application for a Light Railway Order was submitted to the Board of Trade in May 1897. Calthrop proposed the use of transporter wagons, 0-6-0 tank locomotives and a large "Barsi-type" locomotive for heavy market day traffic. At the August 1897 public inquiry Calthrop appeared, along with J.R. Dix manager of the Corris Railway. The enquiry considered by the Llanfair & Meifod Light Railway and the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway proposals. The commissioners took their time deciding. Meanwhile, the promoters of the W&LLR had approached the Cambrian Railways to have them pay for and construct the railway. After much time-consuming negotiations, the Cambrian agreed and on 8th. September 1899, the Light Railway Order was granted to begin construction of the line. [1]

Original operations

Train in the streets of Welshpool (1950) Welshpool to Llanfair Caereinion railway line (12989519473).jpg
Train in the streets of Welshpool (1950)

It was opened on 4 April 1903 to aid economic development in a remote area, never making a profit. It was originally operated by the Cambrian Railways, connecting with it at the former Oswestry and Newtown Railway station in the town of Welshpool. The line is built through difficult country, having a great number of curves in order to reach the summit of 600 ft. The original terminus at Welshpool was located alongside the main line station and trains wound their way through the town, using the locomotive bell as a warning.

In the 1923 Grouping of railway companies, Cambrian Railways, including the Welshpool to Llanfair Caereinion line, was absorbed by the Great Western Railway (GWR). On 9 February 1931 the line lost its passenger service, which was replaced by a bus service, and it became a freight-only line. It was temporarily re-opened to passengers between 6 and 11 August 1945 for the Eisteddfod. The GWR itself was nationalised in 1948 and became part of British Railways.

Freight traffic lingered on until 1956, by which time British Railways decided to close the line, with services ceasing on 5 November. [2]


Gala Day: "The Earl" and "The Countess" at Llanfair Caerinion Welshpool Heritage.jpg
Gala Day: "The Earl" and "The Countess" at Llanfair Caerinion
The Grondana coupling now used on the railway, with a centre buffer and screw coupling link WLLR 2, coupling.jpg
The Grondana coupling now used on the railway, with a centre buffer and screw coupling link

A group of volunteers and enthusiasts took the line over and started raising money to restore it. On 6 April 1963 the western half of the line, from Llanfair Caereinion to Castle Caereinion, was reopened as a tourist railway. In 1972 services were extended to Sylfaen. The line through Welshpool, however, could not be reopened, so the line now has a new terminus station at Raven Square on the western outskirts of the town, opened on 18 July 1981. There are current discussions about reinstating the link through the town to the main line station, following a different route from that originally used.

Because of the 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) gauge, unusual for British narrow gauge railways, locomotives and rolling stock to supplement the originals have had to be obtained from sources around the world including the Zillertalbahn in Austria. A major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund permitted restoration of both original locomotives together with several coaches and original wagons, and provision of new workshop facilities, ready for the line's centenary.


Locomotives of the preserved railway

WLLR No.NameImageBuilderWorks No.Date builtDate arrivedWheelsTypeStatusNotes
1 The Earl WLLR 1, Llanfair, 2016.jpg Beyer Peacock 349619021902 0-6-0   T SteamOverhaul off siteOriginal W&LLR locomotive. Last worked in 2018. Being overhauled at the Vale of Rheidol Railway. [4]
2 Countess Welshpool and Llanfair No.2 Countess.jpg Beyer Peacock 349719021902 0-6-0   T SteamOperationalOriginal W&LLR locomotive
6 Monarch Bagnall 3024 of 1953 - aka Monarch from the Bowaters railway at Sittingbourne.jpg W. G. Bagnall 302419531966 0-4-4-0   T SteamOn display at Welshpool Raven Square stationPreviously from Sittingbourne. Sold to Ffestiniog Railway but re-purchased by W&LLR.
7 Chattenden * Chattenden shunts the Sierra Leone coaches (cropped).jpg Drewry Car Co. 226319471968 0-6-0   DM DieselOperationalex Chattenden and Upnor Railway (also known as the Lodge Hill & Upnor Railway), previously from Admiralty Depots, rebuilt at Llanfair in 1980. Has recently been rebuilt at Llanfair and is now fitted with both air and vacuum braking.
8 Dougal * Dougal and train.jpg Andrew Barclay 220719461968 0-4-0   T SteamOn display at Welshpool Raven Square stationOriginally operated at Provan Gasworks, Glasgow. Currently awaiting boiler repairs
10 Sir Drefaldwyn * Welshpool (Raven Square) Station - geograph.org.uk - 108487.jpg Franco-Belge 285519441969 0-8-0   T SteamUndergoing overhaulOriginally operated by German Army & in Austria at the Salzkammergut-Lokalbahn Number 19, then sold to the Steiermärkische Landesbahn Number "699.01" . An HF 160 D-type locomotive.
11 Ferret * WLLR 11, Llanfair, 2016.jpg Hunslet Engine Company 225119401971 0-4-0   DM DieselOperationalPreviously from Admiralty Depots. Returned to service in 2015 and is used primarily as a works shunter at Llanfair.
12 Joan WLLR 12, Raven Square, 2016.jpg Kerr Stuart 440419291971 0-6-2   T SteamOn displayOriginally operated in Antigua. Returned to service in 2011 with a new boiler. Out of service from 2020 following expiry of 10 year boiler ticket.
14 - WLLR 14 at Castle Caereinion.jpg Hunslet Engine Company 381519541975 2-6-2   T SteamOn displayOriginally operated by Sierra Leone Government Railway.
16 Scooby * Hunslet Engine Company 19411992 0-4-0   DM DieselStoredPreviously from Admiralty Depots. Rebuilt by W&LLR
17TSC 175 WLLR 17, Llanfair, 2016.jpg Diema19792004 6w   DH DieselOperationalOriginally operated by Taiwan Sugar Company

* = Name added by WLLR

Locomotives on hire

No.NameImageBuilderWorks No.Date builtDate arrivedWheelsTypeStatusNotes
2Zillertal Zillertal Bahn - Steam Locomotive.jpg Lokomotivfabrik Krauss & Co. 450619002019 0-6-2   T SteamOperationalU Class, one of two locomotives built for the opening of the Zillertalbahn. Arrived in August 2019 on hire from the Zillertalbahn for approximately two years. [5]

Former locomotives

WLLR No.NameImageBuilderWorks No.Date builtDate arrivedWheelsTypeStatusNotes
3 Raven * Ruston & Hornsby 1934 4w   DM DieselN/ASold — now in private ownership.
4 Upnor Castle * Upnorcastleconst.JPG F. C. Hibberd 36871954 4w   DM DieselN/ASold to Ffestiniog Railway
5 Nutty Chain driven Sentinel locomotive of Leighton Buzzard Light Railway.jpg Sentinel 770119291964 4w   VBT SteamN/APreviously from Fletton Brickworks. Owned by and returned to care of Narrow Gauge Railway Museum, now at Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway.
9 Wynnstay * Hectorandvictor.jpg J. Fowler 1951 0-6-0   DM DieselN/ABuilt for a failed groundnuts scheme in Africa, sold to British Portland Cement Co.'s works at Lower Penarth, Glamorgan. Arrived at Llanfair in 1968, Sold to the Great Whipsnade Railway in 1972 as Victor.
15 Orion * Les Ateliers Metallurgiques 2-6-2T 2369 (1948) No 15, Llanfair Caereinion, Welshpool & Llanfair Railway, Wales 22.8.1992 (10196767393).jpg Tubize236919481983 2-6-2   T SteamN/APreviously from Finland. Returned to Jokioinen Museum Railway in Finland in 2006.
18 764.423 Reșița works 19572004 0-8-0   T SteamN/AOriginally operated in Romania. Sold in May 2016 to an Austrian buyer as a spare parts donor for #19 [6]
19 764.425 Locomotive at Welshpool - geograph.org.uk - 1926845.jpg Reșița works19572007 0-8-0   T SteamN/AOriginally operated in Romania. Sold in May 2016 to an Austrian buyer [6]

* = Name added by WLLR


Coordinates: 52°38′43″N3°15′01″W / 52.645341°N 3.250236°W / 52.645341; -3.250236 (route)

Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap  
Download coordinates as: KML  ·  GPX

See also

Related Research Articles

Cambrian Railways owned 230 miles (370 km) of track over a large area of mid-Wales. The system was an amalgamation of a number of railways that were incorporated in 1864, 1865 and 1904. The Cambrian connected with two of the larger railways to give connections to the North West of England, via the London and North Western Railway; and with the Great Western Railway for connections between London and North Wales. The Cambrian Railways amalgamated with the Great Western Railway on 1 January 1922 as a result of the Railways Act 1921. The name is continued today in the route known as the Cambrian Line.

Welshpool railway station

Welshpool railway station on the Cambrian Line in Powys, mid-Wales, serves the town of Welshpool.

British narrow-gauge railways

There were more than a thousand British narrow-gauge railways ranging from large, historically significant common carriers to small, short-lived industrial railways. Many notable events in British railway history happened on narrow-gauge railways including the first use of steam locomotives, the first public railway and the first preserved railway.

Sierra Leone Government Railway

The Sierra Leone Government Railway operated in Sierra Leone from 1897 to 1974. It was unusual in that it formed a national railway system constructed solely to a 2 ft 6 in narrow gauge, whereas in other countries gauge of such a narrow width was usually confined to feeder railways.

Narrow-gauge lines of the Victorian Railways

The former Victorian Railways, the state railway authority in Victoria, Australia, built a number of experimental 2 ft 6 in narrow-gauge lines around the beginning of the 20th century. Although all were closed by the early 1960s, parts of two have been reopened as heritage railways.

Everard Richard Calthrop was a British railway engineer and inventor. Calthrop was a notable promoter and builder of narrow-gauge railways, especially of 2 ft 6 in narrow gauge, and was especially prominent in India. His most notable achievement was the Barsi Light Railway, but he is best known in his home country for the Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway. Calthrop has been described as a "railway genius". Later in life he took an interest in aviation, patenting some early designs for parachutes.

Barsi Light Railway

Barsi Light Railway (BLR) was a 202-mile (325 km) long, 2 ft 6 in narrow-gauge railway between Miraj and Latur in the state of Maharashtra in India. It was the brainchild of British engineer Everard Calthrop, and regarded as having revolutionised narrow-gauge railway construction in India.

Welshpool Raven Square railway station

Welshpool Raven Square railway station, located in Welshpool, in Wales, is the eastern terminus of the narrow gauge Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway (W&LLR).

Sylfaen railway station

Sylfaen Halt railway station, located in the tiny hamlet of Sylfaen on the A548, is an unstaffed request halt on the narrow gauge Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway 2 34 miles (4.4 km) from the Welshpool Raven Square terminus. It has a short platform and waiting shelter.

Castle Caereinion railway station

Castle Caereinion railway station is a railway station on the 2 ft 6 in narrow gauge Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway in Mid Wales. It serves the nearby village of Castle Caereinion and lies 3 34 miles (6.0 km) from the Welshpool Raven Square terminus. The station was opened on 6 April 1903.

Heniarth Halt railway station is an unstaffed halt on the narrow gauge Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway serving the hamlet of Heniarth. This station is a request halt and lies 6 34 miles (10.9 km) from Welshpool's Raven Square terminus. Alighting passengers are required to step down onto the grass as there is no platform. The railway crosses the River Banwy Bridge 200 yards to the east of the halt.

Cyfronydd railway station railway station 5.7 miles from Welshpools Raven Square station

Cyfronydd railway station lies 5 3/4 miles or 9.2 km (5.7 mi) from Welshpool's Raven Square station on the narrow gauge Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway in Mid Wales. This is where trains pass each other when a two train service is operating. Passengers are able to alight and join trains here. The station serves the hamlet of Cyfronydd on the main Dolgellau to Welshpool road as well as Cyfronydd Hall.

Llanfair Caereinion railway station

Llanfair Caereinion railway station located in Llanfair Caereinion is the Western terminus of the 2 ft 6 in narrow gauge Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway. The locomotive running shed and workshops are located here, along with a tea room and gift shop. The original corrugated iron booking office and waiting room survive and have been restored for use as the registered office of the company.

Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway steam locomotive number 19 Romanian-built narrow gauge 0-8-0T locomotive

Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway (W&LLR) steam locomotive number 19 was built in 1954 by Uzinele de Fier și Domeniile din Reșița S.A. based in Reșița (Romania). It was imported to the UK in 2007 having been restored to working condition at Remarul 16 Februarie Locomotive Works in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Prior to restoration the locomotive had been stored at Crișcior.

Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway No.1 <i>The Earl</i> and No.2 <i>Countess</i> preserved narrow gauge 0-6-0T locomotives

Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway No. 1 The Earl and No. 2 Countess are narrow gauge steam locomotives. They were built by Beyer Peacock & Co. Ltd. at the Gorton Foundry, Manchester in 1902. They were delivered new to the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway in 1902, as No.1 The Earl and No.2 The Countess, where they continue to run today.

Golfa Bank is a particularly steep bank on the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway. The bank is nearly a mile at 1 in 29, which in its day, was the steepest section of the Cambrian Railways worked by passenger trains and is still a challenging climb. The line travelling up the slope is curvy, to make the climb easier. Golfa summit is 630 ft above sea level, meaning the locomotives have to travel from about 350 ft above sea level at the bottom of golfa bank, meaning they climb 280 ft in 1.5 miles.The locomotives had to be built specifically to manage the bank, due to its steepness.

<i>Monarch</i> (locomotive) Modified Meyer 0-4-4-0T locomotive

Monarch is a narrow gauge steam locomotive, built by W.G. Bagnall Ltd., Stafford in 1953. It is currently on public display at the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway. It is the last industrial narrow gauge locomotive to be built for commercial use in the UK and is constructed to a modified Meyer articulated design. It is the last of seven locomotives built to a similar design, the other six being built to 2 ft gauge and delivered to sugar estates in South Africa.

<i>Dougal</i> (steam locomotive)

Dougal is a 2 ft 6 in narrow gauge T steam locomotive, built by Andrew Barclay Sons & Co. Ltd., Kilmarnock in 1946. It is currently running on the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway.

Welshpool Seven Stars Halt railway station

Welshpool Seven Stars Halt railway station was located in the streets of Welshpool on the corner of Union Street. Seven Stars was an unstaffed request halt on the narrow gauge Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway. It had a single ground level platform on the single track line, a name board, a sign warning passengers not to board until the train had stopped and a lean to waiting shelter with a fence.


  1. 1 2 3 Johnson, Peter (2011). An Illustrated History of the Great Western Narrow Gauge. Oxford Publishing Co.
  2. Railway Magazine November 1956
  3. "Workshop Week - Part 2". Fifteen Flatout. 21 February 2017. Retrieved 22 July 2017.
  4. "News, 14 May 2019". Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  5. "Llanfair Line to host Austrian narrow gauge locomotive in UK". Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  6. 1 2 "Handel mi Eisenbahnmaterial Georg Hocevar, Graz". Overseas News. Industrial Railway Society (978). p. 4. September 2016.