Friday, 20 June 2014

The Llangollen Railway...

Hi all. Today myself & Eddie were on route to Bala again. Our normal route takes us via Knockin, over the pass and down into Bala on little used mountain roads. However, the alternative route along the A5 takes you through Llangollen and, on a lovely day like today, a visit to the railway was on the cards! I hadn't been to Llangollen for years and as it was probably the first ever time that we've been heading to Bala and the railway hasn't been running a Thomas event, it seemed a good time to call in. As we gradually neared the town, a huge selection of hideously slow moving agricultural vehicles almost seemed to have put pay to our 3:05pm train ride: the last run of the day on the midweek timetable. Luckily, on time and tractor free, we made it with a bit of time to spare. As promised on the website, the wonderful BR Standard Class 4MT Tank No80072 was on service and stood glistening in the platform at the head of a 5-coach train...
Having spotted the tank, Eddie was in his element. He is a big fan of Cox; a man very influential in steam locomotive design of the period, and he of course did have a hand in the making of the Standard Classes. In 1958 for example, Cox became the Assistant Chief Mechanical Engineer. For anyone who isn't in the know, the Standard Classes were designed by BR following nationalisation and took almost everything good from previous steam locomotive designs to make them reliable performers whilst also providing ease of maintenance and making them more user friendly. The Standard Class 4 was no exception, with outside Walschaerts valve gear employing both oil pots and grease nipples, as well as seats in the cab for the crew, both injectors on the fireman's side, good weather-proofing, rocking grate, rocking ashpan and so on. They were very well thought out designs and I know it will please Eddie to read that I thought that! With a boiler pressure of 225psi and cylinders at 18" x 24", the 4MT's were powerful engines and carried 2000 gallons of water. The total class output was 155, and 15 have been preserved. 80072, based at Llangollen, was built in 1953 and had a working life of only 12 years, having been withdrawn in July 1965 and sent to Barry. Rescued in 1988, the engine returned to steam after a pain staking restoration a couple of years ago. It was soon time to board the blood & custard liveried coaches ready for our ride to Carrog...
"The Best of Cox: 80072"
The Llangollen provides a beautiful journey, particularly on a day like today. The track seems to snake through various wooded glades and then across open fields, following the winding course of the River Dee. The Standard Class 4 was certainly in good voice and the driver was definitely giving her some 'last run of the day stick'. With four very loud equal beats leaving her chimney and echoing through the trees, the big black 2-6-4 was soon at Berwyn...
Leaving Berwyn, 80072 made a cracking start, rocking from side to side as she accelerated the train in no doubt second valve!...
"The Land Is A Blur as 80072 Tears Along"
The shut-off for Carrog came as a great disappoint as we could have quite happily listened to the roaring tones of 80072 all day long. Soon enough though, the engine was simmering at Carrog as the trainee fireman uncoupled the stock...
The big 2-6-4 duly ran round at the current terminus, as the sun continued to shine...
A rear view portrait of 80072, showing her elegant and yet very powerful looks...
The loco was then recoupled for the return journey, before a break of about 25 minutes ensued. During this time, the fairly chatty driver came to talk to myself and Ed. We managed to extract most thoughts about the line's locomotives from him and, to our surprise, he said that the Standard Class 4 was..."a good engine, but she ain't no Manor". This gentleman was clearly, as he stated, "a Western man", meaning he liked to drive engines standing up, tender first in sleet & snow...and fair play to him. Jokes aside the Western's have many pro's to be admired but, to me, the Standard Classes give out very good performances whilst also providing the creature comfort required for us preservation amatuers! Before long, 80072 was cruising back along the winding route towards Llangollen, taking it a little easier on this flatter run...
Back at Llangollen after an enjoyable run, 80072 took a well earned break: another beautiful old gal...
"80072"
It was then time to walk back up into the village to fetch the car and continue on to Bala. 80072 is seen here from the road bridge...
A last look at 80072 and Llangollen Station, alongside the beautiful River Dee...
"A Wonderful Setting"
Following this enjoyable visit it took us around 45 minutes to make Bala and, after a wash & brush up, it was off to the Eagles for, yes, as Eddie is with me, he insisted on three courses again! Cheers guys, Sam...

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes readers, I have always been a Cox fan! The design of the standards was very much a team effort, spread over four design workshops, and it was E.S Cox who co-ordinated everything under the direction of Riddles. Everything he wanted in design was there from the high running board to the excellent valve gear. Riddles even allowed him to him to have his own choice of chimney, and so his beloved L&Y design adorned all standards as a kind of personal trademark! Eddie

Anonymous said...

So you're an ES Cox fan eh Eddie? Must admit, I'm a bit of a Riddles fan myself, along with Johnson, Deeley, Fowler and Langridge. Emma-claire.

Sam Brandist said...

Can't beat a Black Five...that is all

Anonymous said...

Except with a Standard Caprotti Black 5! Eddie