Avonside Engine Co Works No 1421   No2 Pontyberem 0-6-0ST

Avonside 1421 at the Didcot Railway Centre - September 1988.jpg
Introduced1900
CompanyBurry Port & Gwendraeth Valley Railway
Weight29 tons
Driving Wheels3ft 6ins

The Burry Port and Gwendraeth Valley Railway (or Burry Port and Gwendreath Railway, owing to a spelling mistake in the Act of Parliament creating the railway) was a 21-mile long railway progressively opened between 1859 and 1891.

It ran along the bed of the former Llanelly & Kidwelly Canal built to bring coal down the valley.It also operated dock facilities at Burry Port. The railway was poorly managed in the nineteenth century and often bankrupt. Increasing traffic at the turn of the century and intelligent management transformed it as a business and Colonel Stephens was employed as a consultant in 1908 to reconstruct it to legalise its unofficial carrying of passengers. The necessary legislation was obtained in two Light Railway Orders in 1909 and 1911. Stephens supervised re-construction and re-equipment over the years up to 1913 after which he had no further connection.

Various small branches from the Burry Port and Gwendraeth Valley Railway fed out to the collieries and small villages like Rhiwlas and Llandry. It was completely dependent on the economy of the mineral industries it served and due to depression in them, it was for many years in administration. In the final years of the nineteenth century those industries developed considerably and the fortunes of the BP&GVR improved as well. It was at this time that this locomotive was ordered.

The railway was absorbed by the Great Western Railway in 1922 and in turn by British Railways in 1948. Throughout its lifetime the railway kept an unusual style. The fact that part of it was built down the old canal route meant that the line was not only prone to flooding but had low bridges and sharp curves. This always posed a problem to the railway operators as very little rolling stock could traverse the line safely. The original passenger stock was primarily second hand, including ex Metropolitan Railway stock and four-wheelers. The Great Western condemned almost all of the existing coaches on takeover and replaced them with four-wheel GWR S11, S17, T32 and T59 coaches from the 1890s. Only in 1939 did the railway acquire new GWR coaches slightly narrower than the standard suburban bogie coaches and 18 inches lower.

Despite the problems passenger traffic lasted until 1953. The freight service continued far longer and coal traffic continued until 1996 when the Cwm Mawr loading point closed down. In later years the restrictions on the line meant that British Rail maintained several specially height reduced diesel shunters to pull the coal trains down the line as well as brake vans with the stove chimney cut down to clear the bridges.

Only one Burry Port and Gwendraeth Valley Railway locomotive still exists this day into preservation.

This locomotive was built in 1900 by Avonside and Chapman & Furneaux (Gateshead) for the Burry Port & Gwendraeth Valley Railway (BP&GVR) as an Avonside 16in 0-6-0ST. It was one of seven such locomotives built for the line.

The locomotive was sold in 1914 to Llewelyn (Nixon) Ltd (later Mountain Ash Colliery and subsequently part of the National Coal Board on nationalisation of the industry). 

In 1962 it was transferred to Penrikyber Colliery where it became NCB No11. This locomotive and Barclay 0-6-0ST 2074 of 1958 Penrikyber 1 worked the yard at the colliery until 1968 when one diesel shunter replaced them. It was decided to keep one of the steam locomotives as standby and, amazingly, it was decided to retain the 68 year old Avonside locomotive rather than the Barclay one, even though it was only 10 years old. This may well have been because the Andrew Barclay 2074 was transferred elsewhere and remained in service at Mountain Ash until around 1979 and was subsequently preserved.

The Avonside locomotive was withdrawn from service in about 1970.

It was initially preserved by the Great Western Society at Didcot but subsequently it moved to the Pontypool & Blaenavon Railway.

As of September 2020 it was being restored at a private site in Barry.

1421 at NCB Penrhiwceiber Colliery – circa 1968
Peckett 1163 in front of 1421 under the care of the Greatb Western Society at Taunton motive power depot – May 1971
Avonside 1421 at the Didcot Railway Centre - September 1988.jpg
1421 at the Didcot Railway Centre – September 1988

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