The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway (W&LLR) has raised £95,000 in just three months to complete the mandatory 10-year overhaul of its original locomotive ‘The Earl.’
Overhaul of the locomotive, which was built in 1902, was started in June 2019 at the Vale of Rheidol Railway, Aberystwyth thanks to a large legacy of unassigned funding.
W&LLR’s own workshops are focused on the restoration of locomotive no 699.01 ‘Sir Drefaldwyn’, which has not steamed since the end of the 20th century.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic and resultant closure of the W&LLR over the first four months of the 2020 season put significant pressure on the railway’s finances. This raised the prospect of having to ask the Vale of Rheidol to suspend the overhaul, which was half complete at the time the pandemic closed the workshops in March.
By June, W&LLR’s ‘Tracks to Recovery’ appeal had raised more than £55,000 in less than three months to help meet the line’s fixed costs during closure This success encouraged the railway to repurpose the appeal to ‘Keep The Earl on Track’ with a minimum £30,000 target to complete the loco’s rolling chassis.
However, in three months, members and supporters have raised the entire £95,000, enabling management to authorise the overhaul to proceed to completion when the Rheidol workshop in Aberystwyth reopens, expected to be in November.
“We are absolutely delighted with the success of the appeal and very grateful to all those who made contributions,” said W&LLR spokesman Andrew Charman. “Having ‘The Earl’ back in time for the majority of the 2021 season is essential to our plans, particularly as sister locomotive ‘The Countess’ reaches its 10-year overhaul point early next year
“Our friends at the Vale of Rheidol completing ‘The Earl’ will allow our own mechanical engineering department to concentrate on completing the restoration of ‘Sir Drefaldwyn’, the work on which has suffered from many delays, not least due to Covid-19.
“With ‘The Earl’, ‘Sir Drefaldwyn’ and our visiting Austrian engine ‘Zillertal’ on the roster in 2021, we should be able to offer visitors three contrasting but equally interesting types of motive power on their trains.”