RUSSELL MAKES A SURPRISE WELSH HIGHLAND COMEBACK
Unique Surviving Whr Gem Undergoes Secret Test Run To Beddgelert Ahead Of Event In 2019.
Russell, the last surviving original Welsh Highland Railway locomotive, has returned to the Aberglaslyn Pass for the first time in over 80 years. The November 25 test run was in preparation for a celebratory public event starring the locomotive next June.
The 1906-built Hunslet 2-6-2T completed a successful gauging and inspection run between Pen-y-Mount and Beddgelert as part of a collaboration between the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway, which owns the locomotive, and the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways. The trial, which took place under a cloak of secrecy, with only a handful of people from each railway aware it was happening, represents the thawing of historical animosity between the two organisations.
Russell will return to the WHR next year for a special event on June 21-23, in which it will haul revenue-earning passenger trains between Pen-y-Mount, Pont Croesor and Hafod y Lyn over the original route for the first time since 1937, when it was withdrawn. F&WHR General Manager Paul Lewin told Steam Railway that owing to Russell being air-braked, it will likely run either double-headed or top-and-tailed with another locomotive to haul the WHR’s vacuum-braked stock.
Mark Seale, who is project managing the joint event on behalf of the WHHR, said: “It was important for us to make sure that Russell was fit and well before we made a final commitment to participating in the event.
We are aware that many railway enthusiasts are very keen to see Russell running up the line and this is something that we ourselves have wanted for some time.
“The inspection run went very well and we are very excited to be supporting the event.
“The primary goal for the inspection run was to ensure that Russell’s rather special design of pony truck and running gear will negotiate the curves of the reinstated railway and ensure that enough movement from the trucks is evident on the tightest curve. While the inspection run took place, Ffestiniog Railway engineers were invited to take a closer look at the locomotive. The locomotive team at the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway will now have the winter to prepare the locomotive.”
Mr Lewin adds: “June 21-23 will be the narrow gauge event of the year. 2019 is shaping up to be an epic year for the Welsh Highland Railway, 21 years on from the first trains running out of Caernarfon.
“Not only will we see the opening of two new stations [at Caernarfon and Waunfawr], we will also enjoy visiting engines that will go a long way towards recreating so many Welsh Highland heritage scenes of years gone by, and there will be some fascinating visitors too.
“I would like to add at this point that we have really enjoyed working with the team at WHHR on the technical tests. We are looking
back in the Aberglaslyn pass for the first time since 1937, Russell – the only surviving Whr locomotive – hauls its test train on november 25, including one of the original north Wales narrow gauge railway’s carriages. forward to sharing the pleasure of seeing Russell in action with our many supporters and friends.”
It was not the first time the 2-6-2T had operated over the original WHR since the line closed altogether in 1941; it ran on the northern section between Caernarfon and Waunfawr in 2000, but this will be the first opportunity for Russell to stretch its legs on a longer run since it was restored in 2014 to as close to original condition as possible.
Team effort: the delegations from the Ffestiniog & Welsh highland and Welsh highland heritage railways, who helped make Russell’s historic test runs happen. F&Whr general Manager paul lewin is stood under the dome, whilst the Whhr’s Mark seale – who is project managing the joint event next year – is standing to the right on Russell’s footplate.
Russell takes water at beddgelert, following its successful outward run from pen‑y‑Mount.