The crane will increase the lifting capacity of the Gwili Steam Railway and will also be crucial in the northern extension of the line towards Llanpumsaint.
The crane was built by Cowans Sheldon in Carlisle and entered service with BR in 1980 as part of the modernisation of recovery operations. The crane operated across Britain but was based in South Wales from 1983 until 2008, and was operational until 2017.
The Railway Heritage Committee selected crane ADRC 96714 to be preserved at the end of its working life.
In 2019, The Railway Heritage Designation Advisory Board identified 96714 as a candidate for transfer to a new home, and after a process of due diligence with a number of parties interested, the Welsh Railways Trust were the successful recipient of the crane.
After six months of planning, the crane was delivered to Bronwydd Arms on the 16th and 17th December.
Matt Bowen, WRT Trustee and Chairman of the Gwili Railway said: “We’d like to thank the RHDAB, the Science Museum Group, Network Rail, DB Cargo and Railway Support Services for all their help and assistance in making this happen. We are extremely pleased to be able to bring this piece of important railway history back to South Wales, for both display to the public and use in service as part of our plant and equipment.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester, RHDAB’s co-chair said: “We were very keen to ensure that this crane could be preserved. Having identified it as an artefact which represents a significant part of our nation’s railway story, we are delighted that it will have a future in heritage preservation and will be used to develop the Welsh Railway Trust. I would like to express my thanks to Network Rail, DB Cargo and the GwiliRailway for making this happen.”
Jonathan Evans, Network Rail’s Business Development Manager said “we are very pleased that Crane 14 is heading to a new home, close to where it spent much of its working life in South Wales. It was important to us help make the transfer as smooth as possible. Mark Bowler, our Fleet Engineer has worked with the WRT to provide the records and documentation for the crane along with a package of spares that will help keep it operational and available to support the railway’s future expansion plans”.
James Buckley Director of Gwili Railway Co and Trustee of Welsh Railways Trust commented: “The crane is a real boost to our future expansion plans.
“We will be using this useful piece of equipment for a range of lifting tasks on the line, including eventual replacement of a bridge over the Gwili river as part of our plans to extend to Llanpumpsaint which will give us a full eight-mile line from Abergwili Junction through stunning countryside.
“Much of our route is not accessible by road so the crane will be invaluable for that work at difficult-to-reach locations.”
Buckley added: “We chose RSS for this work because we have developed a successful relationship with them over recent years. They understand our needs and they are familiar with the complexities of dealing with the national network for complex operations and overweight loads.
“They were the obvious choice and we are delighted with the result.”
Andrew Goodman, managing director of RSS said: “This was a move many months in the planning. Initially, Network Rail wanted the crane moved from their depot by road, but ultimately agreed that the transfer could be undertaken by rail as far as Port Talbot.
“The journey began just after 1am on 14 December 2020 and with a 60mph speed limit, arriving at Port Talbot some 12 hours later.
“We contracted West Coast Railways, the UK’s largest specialist train operator, to handle the rail journey. They provided two historic Class 37 diesel-electric locomotives, no. 37706 and 37518, for the purpose.”
“This was quite a difficult move as the final part of the route is a narrow road and we had to ensure that with the various services beneath, it was safe for the weight of the load. The road was closed for the move, because it was necessary to reverse the vehicle for the final two miles to unload it onto the Gwili’s track at Bronwydd Arms,” Goodman explains.
“However overall, everything fell into place and the whole move was successful. The Gwili Railway / Welsh Railways Trust now has an extremely useful and versatile piece of equipment that should serve them well for many years, as they expand their operation. I’m delighted to have been able to ensure safe delivery of this historic crane.”
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