|Introduced||1923 – 1924|
|Driving Wheels||2ft 6in|
|Cylinders||Outside – 11.5ins x 17in|
|Valve Gear||Walschaert (piston valve)|
The original primary purpose of the line was to carry timber and ore from the Rheidol Valley to the sea and the main line railway at Aberystwyth. Many lead mines in the valley were producing ore at the end of the 19th century. Construction began in 1901 following an Act of Parliament in 1897. Rock was hand-hewn instead of being blasted, in order to save money.
By the time the railway was ready to open in 1902, lead mining in Ceredigion was in steep decline. However, a significant growth in tourism was under way, and the carriage of passengers soon became the principal traffic of the railway. It opened for mineral traffic in August 1902 and for passengers on 22 December 1902.
The line lost its independence when it was absorbed by the Cambrian on 1 July 1913, however the onset of war in 1914 prevented major improvements being carried out. Passenger services were cut back however and the need for timber for the war effort meant that freight became the principal revenue source for a short while.
After the Cambrian Railway was absorbed by the Great Western Railway in 1923, Swindon Works sought to replace the ageing locomotive fleet with more capable, enlarged fleet of three locomotives. For inspiration Swindon turned to the original 1902 design by Davies & Metcalf 2-6-2 tanks built for the line, intending to build three slightly larger, more powerful versions. However, the GWR Board disagreed with the need for three new locomotives, and only authorised the building of two.
7 and 8 were built together at Swindon Works in 1923 to replace the aging 1 Edward VII and 2 Prince of Wales. Upon delivery 1 and 2 (now numbered 1212 and 1213) were withdrawn, ostensibly for heavy overhauls. 1212 was overhauled at Aberystwyth, where it was used as a spare engine until being withdrawn for scrap in 1932. Meanwhile, 1213 was quietly scrapped and an all new engine, almost identical to 7 and 8 returned to Aberystwyth, masquerading as a heavily overhauled 1213 to fool the GWR Board. Upon nationalisation 1213 was renumbered as 9 to bring it into the same number sequence as the other locomotives on the line.
Initially built with steam heating, the locomotives were designed with standardised Swindon fittings where possible, including the iconic brass safety bonnets. Despite being built for a narrow 1 foot 11¾in gauge railway, they weigh over 25 tons each and are more than eight feet wide. They are the most powerful locomotives built of this gauge for a British railway.
On 1 January 1922, it was grouped into the Great Western Railway. The GWR turned it into a service solely for tourists, freight services being withdrawn, and from 1931 trains only operated during the summer months. The entire line was closed for the duration of the Second World War, though maintenance continued. The railway re-opened in 1945.
The Great Western Railway became part of the Western Region of British Railways on 1 January 1948 and the line continued to operate a tourist service.
In 1968, the line was rerouted in Aberystwyth to run adjacent to the BR line into the former standard gauge Carmarthen line platforms of the main station which had been abandoned in 1964. The former standard gauge locomotive shed was also refurbished and adapted into use for this railway. The former station site is now occupied by a supermarket and the former route of this alignment has been sold for redevelopment.
The line was privatised in 1989 and the railway continues to operate as a tourist railway, generally operating between Easter and the end of October with extra services during February Half Term and Santa Specials at Christmas.
The three locomotives had the distinction of being the only steam engines to remain on British Railways after the end of standard gauge steam in 1968. They also became the only steam locomotives to be painted in the standard BR blue livery and became BR class 98. Early in 1989 the Vale of Rheidol Railway was sold to the Brecon Mountain Railway Company, and the locomotives finally ceased to be part of the BR stock.
7 became a test bed for a successful oil fired system in 1978 which was subsequently used on the rest of the fleet.
Since privatisation the thee locomotives have been converted to from vacuum braking to air braking with the air pumps being a prominent feature on the front of the engines.
Due to higher oil prices 8 and 9 have been converted back to coal firing.
The three locomotives (7 Owain Glyndwr, 8 Llywelyn and 9 Price of Wales) remain in use on the VoR today, through the ownership of the Phyllis Rampton Trust.
7 Owain Glyndwr has not steamed since 1998 but an overhaul of the locomotive started in 2015. It Returned to steam in October 2018.
8 Llwelyn steamed again in April 2017 following its overhaul after completing 50,000 miles since its last overhaul in 2007.
9 Prince of Wales has had annual boiler maintenance work and is back in traffic.
|Home Base||Current Status||Owner|
|Vale of Rheidol
· 7 Owain Glyndwr
· 8 Llwelyn
· 9 Prince of Wales
|Phyllis Rampton Trust