The Vale of Rheidol Railway has proudly announced that when the railway opens for the new season in late March, on static display will be the oldest narrow-gauge locomotive in existence.
The locomotive, Fire Queen, is a unique steam locomotive as it is thought to be the oldest narrow-gauge locomotive in existence, having been built in 1848.
Together with the Directors Coach, Fire Queen and its tender were entrusted on loan to National Trust Cymru in lieu of tax by HM Treasury in 2021. Since then, Fire Queen has been on temporary display at Penrhyn Castle pending a decision on its permanent base.
At the Vale of Rheidol Railway in Aberystwyth, it will be on public display in the restored 1938 engine shed which has been transformed into a museum, display, and events building as part of a larger project called “Wales to the World”, which is developing the railway's terminus into a more-attractive Great Western-style station.
The Director's Coach will move to the Bala Lake Railway in the future.
Llŷr ap Iolo, Managing Director of the Vale of Rheidol Railway, said: “We are grateful to Julian Birley for offering us the Director's Coach for short-term display until the Bala Lake Railway can exhibit it themselves, and also for recommending us to Cyngor Gwynedd as a possible temporary home for Fire Queen.
“It is good that the public can continue to enjoy it, rather than it going into temporary storage behind closed doors. We are excited to have such a historic exhibit to display in our museum, to showcase alongside other rare and unseen rolling stock from our collection. We are really happy to have Fire Queen on public display until it returns home to where it belongs at Gilfach Ddu.”
Councillor Nia Jeffreys, Deputy Leader of Cyngor Gwynedd and Cabinet member for the Economy and Community Department, said: “Our industrial history and heritage continues to fascinate and inspire people of all ages, and we very much look forward to welcoming the Fire Queen home to Gwynedd and more specifically to Parc Padarn soon.
“In the meantime, we are pleased to work with the Vale of Rheidol Railway to ensure the locomotive and tender has a fitting residency while restoration work is carried out on its original shed in Llanberis.”
Julian Birley, Bala Lake Railway said: “Taking on the safeguarding of the directors coach is a great responsibility. We are very grateful to the Vale of Rheidol Railway is offering it a home for the time being, as all of our efforts and resources are being directed towards extending our own railway into the town of Bala. It is wonderful that all the artefacts from the unique Padarn Railway are going to be kept together, most importantly here in Wales.”