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Welsh Slate’s Steam Loco finds its Forever Home in Aberystwyth

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A 123-year-old steam railway locomotive that saw 27 years’ service with Welsh Slate has found its forever home with a narrow-gauge heritage railway in Mid Wales.

Jubilee 1897 has found a new home in Aberystwyth. Image by Cliff Thomas

The 11-tonne Manning Wardle “Jubilee 1897”, so named to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, has been sold to the Vale of Rheidol Railway at Aberystwyth which had been its foster home for the past two years.

Jubilee 1897 initially worked at Cilgwyn slate quarry at Nantlle, hauling waste from the quarry to remote tips near the village of Y Fron. It was sold to Welsh Slate in 1928 when it travelled to Dinas Junction on its own wheels down the incline and over the Welsh Highland Railway for unloading at Penrhyn from a standard gauge wagon.

For a year, she worked at Port Penrhyn at Bangor before moving to be stored at Felin Fawr. After being painted and returned to steam at the end of World War II, she worked on Red Lion Level but was withdrawn from service 10 years later.

Her home was then the Narrow-Gauge Railway Museum Trust at Tywyn where she was cosmetically restored for display.

In 2016, Jubilee 1897 was moved to Felin Fawr where the Penrhyn Quarry Railway project was being developed. The original plan was for her to be a static exhibit but, after examination established she was in fundamentally sound condition, agreement was reached that the project would restore her to steam at Coed y Parc workshops.

Dismantling began in 2017 but, four months later, the project collapsed and the Vale of Rheidol Railway offered to accommodate her while the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum Trust established a way forward. Her components were relocated to Aberystwyth in 2018.

Now, the Vale of Rheidol Railway is her permanent home.

Robert Gambrill, Vale of Rheidol Railway’s chairman, said:

“We are delighted to have secured the sale from Welsh Slate of this significant addition to our roster and can assure Welsh Slate she will have a happy home with us.

“Manning Wardle is a locomotive builder not previously represented within our collection, so we jumped at the chance to secure an example of this manufacturer .Our thanks go to the team at Welsh Slate for working with us to secure the future of this historic Welsh locomotive.

“We are planning to restore Jubilee 1897 to steam by 2023, allowing the public to be see her again working for the first time since the 1950s.”

Welsh Slate managing director Mark Hodgkinson said:

“The Jubilee 1897 will always be a part of our history and we’re only glad she has found such an appreciative permanent home.”

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Duncan Foulkes Public Relations Limited is a well established communications consultancy based in beautiful Mid Wales.

Incorporating public and media relations, the consultancy provides a range of services to businesses and organisations throughout Wales and the Marches.

A former newspaper journalist for 24 years, Duncan moved into PR in 1999 after editing the County Times & Express & Gazette newspapers – the main weekly titles in Mid Wales – for five years.

His main reason for leaving the newspaper industry was a desire for a new career challenge. His successful PR business predominantly focuses on companies based in Wales and Shropshire.

His motto is to keep things as simple as possible to avoid over-complicating what is a straightforward goal – to achieve media coverage for a client.

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He has extensive PR experience of the food and drink, education and training, catering and hospitality, insurance and financial services, manufacturing, tourism, farming, property, fine art, lubricants and telematics sectors.

His contacts extend from local newspapers in Wales to the national print and broadcast media, trade publications and digital media.

Duncan Foulkes PR uses only the most creative photographers, ensuring that photography to support his work is of the highest quality.

He is passionate about issues relating to the countryside and enjoys fly fishing, watching sport and spending time with his family in his spare time.

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