Sunday May 26th began unpromisingly for the Corris Railway on its annual Gala Day but turned into a date to remember in the revival of the narrow gauge line in the Dulas Valley.
The day began with steady fine rain falling and when the first train departed Corris station for Maespoeth Junction with a single passenger aboard, an enthusiast visiting the Corris and Fairbourne Railway Galas, hopes were not high amongst the volunteer workforce. However by the time another hour had passed the weather was improving steadily and things had got considerably busier. The trains around the lunchtime period were leaving Corris with every seat occupied and passengers were waiting patiently for the next departure, many looking around the Railway’s Museum whilst others visited the village café. Car parking capacity was virtually full and thanks go to Corris School, which is adjacent to the Railway, for making their car park available. By the time of next year’s Gala construction of another carriage should have been completed by the volunteer workforce at Maespoeth Junction and visitors were able to see progress on this vehicle (No. 23) and the steelwork of a further example (No. 24). More hands to work on these and to help with operating the Corris Railway would be most welcome.
The number of passengers who wished to travel meant that the planned timetable had to be changed and two scheduled demonstration freight trains were cancelled in favour of running more passenger services. Things did ease off in the afternoon but passengers still arrived to travel on the last two trains of the day along what was now a sunlit valley.
The Gala featured the Corris’ steam engine “Tattoo” No. 7 and the diesel locos Nos. 6 and 11 working the trains whilst battery electric No. 9, once used in the slate industry at Aberllefenni, was the shunter at Maespoeth Junction. There was time to fit in a demonstration gravity worked train down the gradients to the Junction and at the end of the day the volunteers returned to their homes or accommodation (some had travelled considerable distances to help out) tired but pleased with the results of the day.
The Corris Railway will be holding its annual Gala Day on Sunday May 26th and the volunteer workforce are looking forward to welcoming enthusiasts and the wider public to the line along the beautiful Dulas Valley, between the station at Corris and Maespoeth Junction.
As per usual on Gala Day the service of passenger trains will be interspersed with demonstration freight trains, and harking back to the Railway’s origins, gravity trains. The locomotive worked trains will be headed by steam locomotive number 7 and the line’s diesel fleet (including number 11 with its Transylvanian links). Also in action will be battery electric locomotive number 9 which has strong local connections, having worked in the slate industry at Aberllefenni. Visitors can see behind the scenes at Maespoeth Junction including progress on the construction of new carriages for the line and learn about progress with construction of the next steam engine for the continuing revival of the oldest of the Mid Wales narrow gauge railways.
Due to the increased number of services, variations of locomotives in use during the day and differing train formations a special timetable for May 26th is shown below.
|Gala Day (May 26th) - Corris Departures|
|2||11||21,20||10:00||No 11 Diesel Passenger|
|4||6||21,20||10:45||No 6 Diesel Passenger|
|6||7||22||204||11:25||No 7 Steam Passenger|
|8||11||21,20||12:10||No 11 Diesel Passenger|
|12||7||21,20||13:40||No 7 Steam Passenger|
|14||11||21,20||14:45||No 11 Diesel Passenger|
|18||6||21,20||15:55||No 6 Diesel Passenger|
|20||11||22||204||16:30||No 11 Diesel Passenger|
|22||7||21,20||17:15||No 7 Steam Passenger|
The Museum and sales area at Corris will be open (last year it had to remain closed due to maintenance work) with exhibits large and small from the history of the Corris and the communities it served.
Passengers cannot join trains at Maespoeth Junction and must do so at Corris. The station is in the middle of the village and can be reached by leaving the A487 Machynlleth – Dolgellau road at the Braich Goch Inn.
The Corris Railway once again took a small part in the annual Machynlleth Comedy Festival on Saturday May 4th when before normal train services began from Corris Station a special steam train operated to Maespoeth Junction where the passengers were entertained by performances in the carriage shed.
Away from the morning of laughter the carriage shed has seen continued progress with carriage and waggon work. New coach 23 is steadily being taken towards completion and its entry into passenger carrying service. It has received its first coat of the dark brown Corris carriage livery as internal fitting out continues. The other carriage under construction, number 24, has taken many hours of patient steel erection and welding of the carcase that will carry the wooden bodywork and internal seating and fittings.
Volunteers have also constructed a new wooden underframe for an iron bodied waggon which will be available for use in demonstration gravity trains, photographic charters and in recreated goods trains. The restored waggon will feature on May 26th when the Corris Railway hosts its annual Gala Day. The Gala features trains headed by steam and diesel locomotives plus a chance to see the battery electric engine which once worked in the slate industry at Aberllefenni in operation. Visitors can also visit the workshops and the Museum and shop at Corris station will be open.
Fund raising continues towards the construction of the new station at Corris which will eventually feature an overall roof to evoke the atmosphere of the original building, demolished half a century ago. The next stage of the work, which will not commence until the winter months when the small band of volunteers is less involved in train operations will involve the start of the new track layout which will include a traverser and loop to allow locomotives to run round their trains instead of propelling them to Maespoeth Junction as is currently the case.
As has been previously reported the record breaking Santa Train operations on the Corris Railway in December last year were marred by a mechanical failure which put the Corris Ralway’s “Tattoo” steam locomotive No. 7 out of action. The valve gear failure occurred when the locomotive was climbing from Maespoeth Junction to Corris with empty coaching stock, and was on the driver’s side of the engine.
Once the Santa weekend was over (trains were worked by diesel No. 11 after No. 7 failed) a damage assessment showed that greater engineering capacity than that available in the Maespoeth Junction workshops would be necessary to carry out the repairs. The initial fault which caused the failure was traced to a lubrication problem.
Contact was made with the Vale of Rheidol at Aberystwyth and over the first three months of 2019 the V of R engineers worked with the Corris team who normally look after and maintain No. 7 so that it would be ready to work a David Williams photo charter and a “Your Railway for the Day” experience ahead of the Easter Weekend services which were the Corris’ first passenger operations of 2019. The target was reached and the “Tattoo” passed its fitness to run tests with less than 24 hours to go.
Corris Chairman Richard Foyn commented “We approached the Vale of Rheidol and fortunately their Management was highly supportive. We have really appreciated the help and advice that they have given us notwithstanding their busy winter schedule which this year has been affected by the work to completely remodel their Aberystwyth Station. Llyr and his team, together with our own workers led by Trefor Davies have done a tremendous job to make sure we have not had to disappoint our customers. This has not been a cheap project and we will have to look to our resources but a working steam engine, or two as we are working towards having, is a key part of what we offer to bring in fares and other revenue”.
No. 7 will also feature with the Corris’ diesel and battery electric locomotives on this year’s Gala Day, Sunday May 26th.