CONFIRMED: Steam locomotive Russell to return to the Welsh Highland Railway

Russell near Beddgelert
Credit: FRCo / Jon Whalley

The Welsh Highland Heritage Railway has announced that they have worked with the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway to bring Russell back to Welsh Highland Railway in 2019.

Russell, the last surviving Welsh Highland Railway locomotive, successfully completed a gauging and inspection run on the 25th November 2018.

This inspection run represents the first time the locomotive has travelled along this section since 1937. Back then, it was on its way to Dinas to be locked away after the line was closed.

The run was made possible thanks to the close working relationship between the two railways. This is all in preparation for Russell to appear at a special event in 2019 to celebrate the heritage of the Welsh Highland Railway.

As part of the Welsh Highland Heritage Weekend, which takes place between Friday 21st and Sunday 23rd June 2019, Russell will be working between Pen-y-mount and Hafod y Llyn.

Russell has previously run on another section of the line in 2000 when it ran from Caernarfon to Waunfawr. This will be the first opportunity for it to have a longer run since it was restored in 2014.

What did the officials say?

Mark Seale from the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway is project-managing the joint event on behalf of the WHHR and said:

“It was important for us to make sure that Russell was fit and well before we made a final commitment to participating in the event. We are aware that many railway enthusiasts are very keen to see Russell running up the line and this is something that we ourselves have wished for, for some time. The inspection run went very well and we are very excited to be supporting the event; we believe that working together we can make a valuable contribution and make the event in June a spectacular weekend.”

“The primary goal for the inspection run was to ensure that Russell’s rather special design of pony truck and running gear will negotiate the curves of the re-instated railway and ensure that enough movement from the trucks is evident on the tightest curve. Whilst the inspection run took place Ffestiniog Railway engineers were invited to take a closer look at the locomotive. The locomotive team at the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway will now have the winter to prepare the locomotive.”

Graham Farr, the Chairman at the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway added:

“This is another important milestone in the evolving Welsh Highland Railway story. It demonstrates how ‘Russell’ operated by the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway in Porthmadog can be used to complement and support the further development of the reinstated railway.”

Welsh Highland Heritage Railway members are looking forward to working with our Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway colleagues. Hopefully this will be a first step and the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway looks forward to operating more heritage trains beyond our station at Pen-y-mount in the future. Watch this space…

Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways General Manager Paul Lewin comments:

The 21st -23rd of June will be THE narrow gauge event of the year. 2019 is looking like being an epic year for the Welsh Highland Railway 21 years on from the first trains running out of Caernarfon. Not only will we see the opening of two new stations we will also enjoy visiting locos that will go a long way toward recreating so many Welsh Highland heritage scenes of years gone by and some fascinating additional visitors too.

The first visiting loco we can announce following the successful test last weekend is NWNG locomotive Russell in the care of our friends at the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway. Keep a close eye on the press in coming months as we hope to announce further attractions for this long summer weekend.

I would like to add at this point that we have really enjoyed working with the team at WHHR on the technical tests. We are looking forward to sharing the pleasure of seeing Russell in action with our many supporters and friends.

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