The Corris Railway has reluctantly had to join the list of lines that will not be re-opening for normal passenger trains in 2020 due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. However with the easing of restrictions in Wales the volunteer workforce has been able to progress various projects on the line to further improve the Railway ahead of 2021.
The problems with reopening are threefold. The recreation of the bogie coach carriages from the Corris’ first incarnation has led to an internal layout of open saloons accessed by a shared entrance in the centre of the vehicle. Possibilities of social distancing are further reduced by the tight loading gauge.
Social distancing is also a consideration with the talk and sheds tour which is offered to passengers arriving at Maespoeth Junction, and for passengers in the shop and refreshment area at Corris. During wet weather, not exactly unknown in the Dulas Valley, passengers tend to use this as a waiting area until the train arrives.
However the volunteer workforce has pressed ahead with various projects. Construction of the new shelter for the heritage waggons at Maespoeth Jnc. is underway and once the waggons are in their new home more space in the carriage shed will be available. Carriage No. 23 is approaching completion and should be available for traffic in 2021, assuming no new restrictions on work inside the shed are imposed. Clerestory roofed carriage No. 24, which will eventually bring First Class travel to the Corris for the first time since 1930, is also progressing on both metal and wood working fronts.
Between Corris and the Junction work has also been carried out with vegetation clearance and track maintenance being undertaken.
The newly manufactured smokebox for new-build “Falcon” steam engine No. 10 has been taken to Maespoeth Junction and temporarily united with the boiler. Both will be taken to the workshops of Alan Keef near Ross-on-Wye when work on the bottom half of the locomotive is complete.
Donations towards the Corris General Fund, which will assist with the continuing costs during the suspension of operations and their eventual resumption, and also for the works on the ongoing Southern Extension can be made via Paypal at www.corris.co.uk.
Having completed the wall of stone filled gabion baskets during the long spell of dry weather in May and early June the return of wetter conditions had left the Corris Railway looking for another sunny period in order to further advance work on the embankment south of Maespoeth Junction.
The embankment will be made up of stone, slate, earth and some geotextile material and when complete will be 170 metres long and up to 6 metres high in places. It will have steep sides to meet flood amelioration requirements in the Dulas Valley. Construction therefore will have to be by professional contractors using heavy plant and machinery. This will use the estimated 12,000 – 15,000 tonnes of material obtained from Dolgellau but will still leave some work to be done. There is a risk that if the construction is not able to advance the Corris Railway may lose the material, which will be frustrating as if work resumes this phase of the job can be done in around one working week.
There has been some optimistic talk among enthusiasts of having the embankment complete and the running line extended along its top by the end of 2020 but the Corris Railway is keen to point out that whilst this is not impossible (although potentially further complicated by Covid-19 and possible consequent limitations for volunteer workers) it will certainly not happen without enough money being available. Even with all the earthworks in place, ballast, sleepers and track fixings have to be purchased. A complete 10 metre length of the new track will cost £795, so that work will absorb around £13,500. The Corris Railway has a supply of rail in secure storage.
However current donors can be assured that all money received during this stage of the Southern Extension Project will go into materials and construction. The Corris Railway wants to be running its trains over a longer distance in the Dulas Valley as soon as possible. Track has already been laid, and used, on the northern part of embankment that has previously been constructed.
Donations for the Southern Extension and, if necessary, to help the Railway through the Covid-19 crisis, can be made via the Corris Railway website www.corris.co.uk. The website is updated with information and pictures as progress is made and video reports are posted via the Corris’ Facebook page and embedded in the website. Cheques, payable to Corris Railway, can be sent to Corris Railway, Station Yard, Corris, Machynlleth, Powys, SY20 9SH.
Construction work on the new steam locomotive for the Corris Railway “Falcon” No. 10 has taken some significant steps forward as the “bottom half” at Alan Keef Ltd near Ross-on-Wye continues, with work on the valve and running gear ongoing.
During May the stainless steel smokebox was formed at Barnshaws Plate and Section Rollers in Bilston with a section cut from its front which will act as the baffle plate behind the smokebox door in due course.
The smokebox door “dish” was produced in June by Purdie Dished Ends of Bradford and this extended the links between the West Yorkshire city and the Corris as the boiler for No. 10 was built by Israel Newton at an early stage of the new locomotive project. This was prior to the relocation of Newton’s to the Peak District.
The smokebox and door have cost over £1400 to produce but the construction of the smokebox will allow the boiler to be moved with it to Keef’s workshop when the work currently in progress there is completed. Without the smokebox the boiler could not be erected in the frames.
In another part of the project work on CAD drawings for the saddle tank and cab has been progressing. The cab’s appearance will resemble that of the originals carried by the 1878 built “Falcon” trio of engines of the Corris but will stand higher to accommodate 21st Century footplate crews.
As always the date of the entry of No. 10 into traffic in the Dulas Valley and on the extended section of running line depends on the rate of fund raising. Online donations can be made via www.corris.co.uk or cheques payable to Corris Railway can be sent to Peter Guest, 38 Underwood Close, Callow Hill, Redditch, Worcestershire, B97 5YS.