To survive in the 21st century as a viable tourist attraction the Corris Railway needs a working steam locomotive. This gives visitors the unique experience of travelling part of the oldest narrow gauge railway in Mid-Wales aboard an early 20th century-style train. The members of the Corris Railway Society were asked if they would help to finance the building of a modern version of the Kerr Stuart “Tattoo” class locomotive, similar to loco No.4 (now Talyllyn Railway No.4 “Edward Thomas”). A majority of those who responded to the survey said they would support an Appeal Fund to build the engine. The Project was started officially on 1st February 1995 and with funding provided by members’ covenants plus many other fund raising initiatives the new locomotive, numbered 7, entered service in 2005, bringing the sound of a steam engine at work back to the Dulas Valley after half a century. For the full story of the construction see “The Tale of a “Tattoo””, written by Peter Guest and available from the online shop or from the sales counter at Corris.
During the dozen years since then No. 7 has worked the vast majority of passenger services on the revived section of the Railway between Corris Station and Maespoeth Junction, including Santa Trains, private charters, and special operations in conjunction with the Machynlleth Comedy Festival. In 2011 it worked successfully as a “guest engine” at our neighbours on the Talyllyn although some important lessons were learned which were put into practice later in the loco’s history (see below).
As the end of the 2014 season approached it was time for the statutory “10 year” major overhaul to take place to enable No. 7 to continue to haul trains on the Corris Railway. The required work was carefully surveyed and planned in advance and was carried out by the volunteer workforce at Maespoeth Junction. On completion of this work the locomotive passed all of the necessary examinations and was able to return to work at the start of the Corris Railway’s 2015 season. During 2016 it featured in the Railway’s first enthusiasts Gala Day including restarting a passenger train on the heavily graded headshunt south of Maespoeth Yard, a foretaste of what can be looked forward when the Southern Extension has opened.
No. 7 worked a successful series of “Santa Special” trains at the end of 2016. At the start of 2017 the locomotive went to the workshops of the Statfold Barn Railway where work was carried out on the steam circuit and “front end” in light of experience gained during the decade of operations in the Dulas Valley and the 2011 visit to the Talyllyn Railway. Returning to Maespoeth Junction in time for the annual “training day” it was reported by footplate crews that as a result of the modifications the “Tattoo” was consuming less water and had an increase in power. With the increased number of carriages in regular use, following the conversion of No. 20, to a brake second vehicle the extra “muscle” is useful. The more visual work carried out at Statfold Barn was a repaint into a new shade of red paint , similar to that once used by the Furness Railway, that is believed to be closer to the original Corris Railway locomotive livery.
Having worked successfully during the 2017 and 2018 main operating seasons No. 7 suffered a major failure whilst working Santa Trains in December 2018. Taking empty coaching stock back to Corris station to collect extra passengers waiting to meet the man in the red suit at Maespoeth Junction a lack of lubrication caused a section of the valve gear on the driver’s side to seize. As the locomotive was working uphill with the regulator open this caused stress and strains and damage to the valve gear as a whole. The locomotive had to be taken out of traffic immediately and repairs (rather expensive ones) had to be carried out in which the help of workshop staff from the Vale of Rheidol Railway was crucial. The “Tattoo” was ready just in time to work a photographic charter and a “Your Railway for the Day” experience package before passenger train services for 2019 were due to commence at Easter.
After Easter 2019 No. 7 worked well on the Corris’ timetabled services and has also proved popular with participants in the new experience days. Once again it featured on Gala Day in May.
During 2019 an unusual twist in the history of the engine came with an editorial mention and its picture appearing in “The Times of India”. In a joint venture the Karala State Government and the Tata company are planning to revive the closed Kendale Valley Light Railway and part of the Kanan Devan Hills Project. The Light Railway was built to take tea in chests from the valley to the markets and was worked by a “Tattoo” locomotive. This engine has been scrapped and the Project contacted the Corris to see how we set about getting No. 7 built.
2020 began with the Corris Railway, along with the rest of the country, closed by the Covid-19 outbreak and No. 7 securely confined to the interior of the Maespoeth Junction engine shed.
After some months of talks between the Corris and Talyllyn Railways it was agreed that in 2021 No. 7 will visit the TR once again when it will be interesting to see how the modifications mentioned above have improved performance when working on a longer railway. This is part of the celebrations of the centenary of the original Corris “Tattoo” No. 4 Kerr Stuart 4047, now Talyllyn No. 4 “Edward Thomas”. Before No. 7 heads to Tywyn No. 4 will return to the Corris and among other events will appear in a 2-day Gala event on May 8th and 9th.