THERE'S something a bit remarkable happening at the Llangollen Railway this Friday...
THIS Friday, April 20th, Carrog station, at 11.30 - a media photocall you really shouldn't miss...
IT'S JUST the 11 o'clock regular timetabled train from Llangollen, normally scheduled on a Friday to be worked by an old 'heritage' diesel unit of no special distinction, on the regular 7½-mile run to Carrog and back.
But in a mighty piece of overkill, the 11 o'clock from Llangollen THIS coming Friday, April 20th, will have at its 'business end' one of the most powerful express passenger steam locomotive ever seen in Britain – the 100mph A1 Class locomotive No.60163 Tornado – the first express steam locomotive to be built in Britain for half a century.
And it's going to a place that no train has been for almost 50 years – the tiny hamlet of Bonwm (say it 'bonnum') - on a line (the old Ruabon to Barmouth route) which the notorious BR Chairman Doctor Beeching thought he had closed in 1964.
Bizarre? Well, there's another twist. You might recognise the fireman...!! Read on to find out who.
He first swung a shovel on the footplate of a steam locomotive as a scrawny 17-year-old in the early 1960s, employed by British Railways at their big loco shed at Stafford Road, Wolverhampton. He's the multi-millionaire pop music entrepreneur (and now Britain's best-known railway enthusiast), Pete Waterman.
What's it all about? Well, Tornado – normally to be found running special charter trains at speed on Network Rail main lines - is coming to the Llangollen Railway as one of a host of 'celebrity' guest engines which will run trains at 'Steel, Steam & Stars III' – the nine-day steam 'mega-gala' on the Dee Valley line from Saturday April 21st, until Sunday April 29th.
It's the biggest event of its kind in Europe, and over the nine days, at least 10,000 people are expected to see and take part in this eye-popping 'wall-to-wall' steam pageant, which will make the normally 'quiet' Llangollen Railway seem more like Crewe on a busy summer Saturday in the 1950s.
But 'Steel, Steam & Stars III' also happily coincides with the completion of the 'first half' of the Llangollen Railway's 2½-mile Corwen extension, on a trackbed that has been closed and derelict for 48 years. Thus this Friday's 11 o'clock from Llangollen, hauled by Tornado, will be the first passenger train west of Carrog since January 1964 (The Beatles with 'I wanna hold your hand' were topping the charts then!).
Just 24 hours later, 'Steel, Steam & Stars III' gets into its stride, and a whole procession of specially imported 'guest engines', from the four corners of the UK, will run trains over the extended line from Llangollen to Bonwm (8¾ miles). The Llangollen Railway hopes to open the full 2½ miles of the extension to Corwen in 2013.
The whole purpose of the 'Steel, Steam & Stars III' gala is to raise funds for a brand new £1 million main line steam locomotive – No.6880 Betton Grange – which is being built in the workshops of the Llangollen Railway.
All 80 of the Great Western Railway's 'Grange' class locomotives, were scrapped during the Beeching purge of the 1960s, but the Betton Grange Society - the enthusiast group organising 'SSS III' - is bringing the type 'back from the dead', with an 81st 'Grange', built in the 21st century.
And here's another coincidence – it was the successful construction of the £3 million Tornado by The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, over the 14-year period 1994 to 2008, which influenced the Betton Grange Society to 'really go for it', and tackle the construction of another of the famous 'missing links' in the world of steam preservation.
"If it wasn't for Tornado, 'Steel, Steam & Stars' wouldn't be happening, and we wouldn't be here" says Betton Grange Society Chairman Quentin McGuinness. "Tornado has been our inspiration and our belief that we too can build a new full-size main line steam locomotive in our small corner of the UK."
ALL-MEDIA PHOTOCALL this coming Friday April 20th at Carrog Station (just off the A5, seven miles west of Llangollen)
We cordially invite bone fide broadcast and print media cameramen and journalists to Carrog station (LL21 9BD), just off the A5, seven miles west of Llangollen, this Friday April 20th, to record the arrival of Tornado (at 11.35), followed by the ceremonial cutting of a ribbon by Pete Waterman to signify 'curtain up' on the 9-day 'Steel, Steam & Stars III' extravaganza, and the departure from Carrog (at 11.55 sharp) of the first train to Bonwm since January 1964. Clwyd South MP Susan Elan Jones will be among a host of VIP guests.
Those media representatives who prefer can travel on the train from Llangollen to Carrog, Bonwm and back (departure from Llangollen at 11.00 sharp, returning to Llangollen at 12.40), but are asked to arrange ticketing in advance.
All media enquiries: David Wilcock, Media Affairs, 'Steel, Steam & Stars III' telephone 01691-718351, or email firstname.lastname@example.org