EMPRESS OF THE VALLEYS: BLAENAVON BUYS BAGNALL
Saddle tank moves from Lavender Line just in time for Welsh gala debut.
The Pontypool & Blaenavon Railway has acquired Bagnall 0-6-0ST Empress as a permanent addition to its fleet.
The engine arrived at the Welsh line on Thursday September 13, just in time to take part in its September 14-16 steam gala, starring Taff Vale Railway 0-6-2T No. 85 – formerly Lambton, Hetton & Joicey Collieries No. 52 (see News).
Empress found fame in the dying days of steam at Cadley Hill Colliery, near Burton-on-Trent, where it performed well into the 1980s. Ordered for the National Coal Board’s Leicestershire area as No. 6, the 16in-cylindered machine was dispatched from the Castle Engine Works in Stafford during October 1954 as Works No. 3061, one of the last standard gauge steam locomotives built by Bagnall.
Preserved in 1987, Empress has since spent most of its career at Mangapps Farm in Essex. After its most recent overhaul, it went on hire in 2015 to the Lavender Line, where it was the mainstay of steam-hauled trains until departing for Pontypool.
It is the second industrial steam locomotive to leave Isfield in 2018; unrestored Hawthorn Leslie 0-6-0ST Stewarts & Lloyds No. 11 (Works No. 3837) moved to the Epping Ongar Railway in April.
The Lavender Line will now rely on Cockerill 0-4-0VBT tram engine ‘Lady Lisa’ (formerly ‘Yvonne’) which passed its steam test on September 30 following overhaul and was due to run at the Miniature Steam Traction Engine & Classic Car Rally on October 6/7.
At Blaenavon, Empress will take over from RSH ‘Austerity’ 0-6-0ST No. 71515 ‘Mech Navvies’, which has been withdrawn for overhaul after suffering tube failures.
Empress prepares to tackle the gradients of the Pontypool & Blaenavon Railway during the September gala event.