Weston Wharf Navigator
Sunday 28th August 2016
Driving into the Weston Wharf Railway (2ft gauge) http://goo.gl/4sVMty site, it was time for a pause to check bearings... But there at the bottom of the access track was a beckoning John Williamson (finding his true vocation in life). A slow to caution followed while John explained the vehicular choreography required to negotiate the railway tracks and other machinery before lining up on the standard gauge Oswestry to Llynclys trackbed (the track is lifted here although otherwise mostly in situ) ready for a nose first exit. A legitimate case for a new 'yellow dot' (car parked on an old railway!) marked on TRACKmaps, all things considered.
"Look as if you are enjoying it chaps!" The tippler train with its blue very newly-painted wagons.
In the early 1900s the ¾ mile long 'Sweeney Brickworks Tramway' used to run to Weston Wharf goods yard, but the brickworks was repeatedly bankrupt and the line closed by 1926. It was immediately clear that the modern Weston Wharf Railway folk are friendly, enthusiastic people and make optimal use of their site's spatial constraints, being hemmed in as they are by the brewery and the standard gauge line. Having observed the usual sign-in protocols and courtesies, it was time for a 'welcome' cup of tea, biscuits, lovely homemade cake etc, while locos, wagons and miscellaneous stock were busily whizzed around to create as much clear running space as possible. Two hours of narrow gauge fun were about to unfold for our party of 33. This was the largest group ever 'entertained' by this rarely visited railway that has no public running. The visit was a 'farewell' as the railway is expecting to be moving to the former Brymbo steel works site near Wrexham (one loco has already moved), releasing Weston Wharf to become the southern terminus of the standard gauge Cambrian Heritage Railway (CHR) from Oswestry. This very (Bank Holiday) weekend the latter had extended running with steam, south of Middleton Road overbridge (total run 600yd). CHR has also purchased the Weston Wharf site freehold.
RH 496039 'Llanforda' hauls two rush-hour loaded former RNAD vehicles alongside the large standard gauge Weston Wharf goods shed heading north.
Back on the 'straight and narrow', well narrow gauge at least, first off it was a pair of return runs in two well loaded engineering carriages (ex-Royal Naval Armaments Depot) from the main yard via the main line to the top shed station platform in. This was topped and tailed by Green RH 497760 and red RH 7002/0967/6 1967 -'Vulcan'. For later trips, blue RH 496039 'Llanforda' was used.
First passenger train on one of the new north end shed sidings.
On return, and with unloading underway in the stabling spur at south yard, a works train consist of a wagon, boxvan and another wagon drew up, powered by yellow MR 22031 'Mole'. This was used to visit both new sidings as far as possible. After this, the main train was re-boarded. The middle siding, the end of line sidings and eastern shed road (short) were then covered. In doing so the effectiveness of the operational shunting procedures and reversals was amply demonstrated. In fact the (Cambrian line) 19½ milepost was even temporally removed to complete the final few centimetres of track at the very top end siding! 150yd has been added to the north end of the now 14ch long running line since our previous visit of 1 Apr 2012 (doesn't 4½ years go quickly when you are having so much fun!).
The 'Sweeney Brickworks Tramway' to Weston Wharf http://goo.gl/Ycm9CW (top right) makes a rare appearance on this 1901 revision
25" (nominal) to the mile OS map. There was a second tramway, unconnected, from the brickworks to its clay pit.
Returning to the south yard, the more adventurous were able to sample the freshly liveried, 'Tippler Express' (no, it didn't have a bar and no members were tippled during the run), a rake of vehicles sitting on the south west spur heading up to the site exit. As the coupled-up locomotive had failed to start, it was hauled away and replaced by the lively green FH 3465 1954 for a run into the main engine shed road, buffering up to steam loco 'Iorwerth' on the single shed road. Quickly reversing to the main yard spur, our generous hosts insisted on clearing yet more track for us up at the top shed.
Reaching the parts that others don't reach… MR 22031 'Mole' at the north (Oswestry) end of Weston Wharf Railway on the relatively recent (despite appearances) extension of the main running line. The Gobowen to Blodwell (Jn) standard gauge line is right (once part of the Cambrian main line). Its last train ran 28 Oct 1988
and the line was retained for occasional use until Sep 1993. The Cambrian Heritage Railways (Oswestry) are hoping to extend here from Oswestry (1½ miles).
So off we set (balanced or clung) to complete the faintest of kisses to the tin wall of the top shed, middle road. With the Tim Wallis 'longest shed road rule' being observed, that was it for the end of a very enjoyable visit. To be fair, our hosts, who clearly greatly enjoyed the occasion, were more than happy to clear the other shed road out. However, as our visit was now nearly an hour over booked time, their kind offer was declined and passengers either walked back to the car park to get to their next venue of choice or got a lift on the returning locomotive train cavalcade hauled by yellow 'Mole'.
It is rare now to hear people comment afterwards that it 'was just like the good old days' about a fixture. In this case it really was, thanks to the enthusiasm and co-operation of all at the Weston Wharf Railway. Various of their family members were even present to assist, particularly with refreshments. Finally, many thanks to John Cameron for organising the excellent visit and for the sound fixtures team support (Peter Scott, Martyn Brailsford, Gary Lonsdale and Jim Sellens) of maps, stocklist, tickets and the lovely Bank Holiday weekend sunshine.