to its free-steaming nature, frugal coal use and smooth ride – even in his so-far short footplate career the author has come to understand why one fireman on the line dubbed the Hunslet a “Gentleman’s sporting engine.” Meanwhile the spacious cab and user-friendly characteristics have made the loco popular for use on the Driver Experience Days that earn important revenue for the W&LLR.
The engine underwent another heavy overhaul in 1991, the boiler rebuild by contractors including fitting a new firebox. The boiler was lifted again at the end of 1999 for replacement of firebox stays, and no 85 cleared to work the next decade.
Sadly that ticket ran out in April, and no 85 bowed out in style, the star of a Sierra Leone Weekend, at which it ran paired with two of the four carriages that had accompanied it home in 1975. These had recently been restored to original condition in Romania, which for the first class vehicle included fitting 16 armchairs in white ‘Dawn Mist’ leather.
Above: Later on No 85 was turned out in an attractive crimson lake livery, seen here at Sylfaen halt. Photo: courtesy W&LLR Below: The deep blue finish was considered attractive by many observers. Note the stand at right necessary to fill 85’s cabside coal bunkers. Photo: Andrew Charman. Right: In fullflow – no 5 double-heads a heavy train out of Raven Square, Welshpool. Photo: courtesy W&LLR.
No 85’s very final train was a special for members of the W&LLR on 17th April. After that the fire was dropped with no real indication as to when it will next be lit.
The issue is not just the cost of the required overhaul, which will include a new boiler, but the demands on the W&LLR’s workshop department, which includes just one paid member of staff. With most workshop duty confined to weekends maintaining
The 85 liveries Various finishes have been worn by no 85 over the years. On first arrival at the W&LLR the loco was turned out in a mid-green similar to that last worn in Sierra Leone. Following overhaul in 1991 the colour changed to a double-lined crimson lake, and later still a deep blue was chosen, similar to that worn by the Ffestiniog Railway’s ‘Linda’. Before the 2009 W&LLR Gala, at which the ‘African Train’ made its debut, no 85 was painted in prototypical matt unlined black.
too many locomotives in running order would put pressure on not only finances but available manpower.
No 85 is being replaced in the W&LLR roster by ex-Antiguan Kerr Stuart 0-6-2 ‘Joan’, restoration of which is expected to be completed in time for the 2011 season. This loco, the two original Beyer, Peacock 0-6-0s ‘The Earl’ and ‘Countess’ and the Romanian Resita 0-8-0 will provide more than enough motive power to run the Welshpool line. For the foreseeable future no 85 is simply not needed.
There is no doubting, however, the affection felt for the locomotive among volunteers at Llanfair. An unofficial ‘85 boiler fund’ started after a members’ outing following last year’s Autumn Gala has quickly swelled to well over four figures, gaining official recognition for the W&LLR’s fund-raising department, and it is clear that members intend to keep on fundraising to ensure that money for restoration will not be an obstacle to no 85’s return to service.
Until then the loco faces a period of static display. There are rumours that this could be at the National Railway Museum in York. Guests during the final weekend of service were due to include a delegation from the Sierra Leone High Commission and another from the National Railway Museum including Steve Davies – now head of the museum and the man who as a serving officer in the British Army masterminded the creation of a Sierra Leone Railway Museum while serving in the country.
The NRM rumours remained unconfirmed as this feature went to press, but there is little doubt that no 85, perhaps paired with the first class carriage, would be a very appropriate addition to the displays at York, providing an example of a period when Britain exported narrow gauge railways to the world... l
No 69 – NARROW GAUGE WORLD