After four years of hard work by a dedicated team of engineers, our iconic locomotive No.7 returned to steam in October 2018. The four year project costing £370,000 has not only restored the locomotive, but also re-introduced engineering excellence within Aberystwyth for the first time in many years.
With help in the form of funding from the Coastal Communities Fund, the locomotive became the centre piece of a wider project to save heritage engineering and bring it back to Ceredigion.
Locomotive No.7 has been used as a training tool for 4 young apprentices to learn the skills of heritage engineering, and all of them have now qualified. With the success of the project, these skills are now being used to benefit other Welsh railways.
Over the four years of the project the locomotive has been taken from a rusting hulk, in to the fine locomotive finished today. Work has included chassis overhaul, new tyres on all wheels, modified steering rear truck as fitted to 8 and 9 in the 1990’s. One new cylinder, re-bore, new pistons and valves and all new bearings. An overhauled brake and spring gear, new springs, new firebox and tubes in boiler all new studs and overhauled fittings. A new cab has been installed using some original parts, new tanks to include hidden air pump as No.8, all new plate work and boiler cladding. All cab and tanks hot riveted as originally built. Brand new air plumbing and copper boiler pipework and new main steam pipes. The locomotive has been returned as a coal burner with modified sealed ash pan and full master mechanics spark arrestor.
A unique set of 2-6-2 tank engines
The Vale of Rheidol Locomotive No. 7 was built in 1923 at Great Western Railway’s Swindon works alongside sister locomotive No 8. They were designed to replace lo-comotives supplied at the opening of the Vale of Rheidol by Davies & Metcalfe, which when the Great Western took over were worn out. The designed copied the Metcalf shape, but eradicated the weaknesses of the earlier design, with outside motion to ease maintenance and larger capacity. They, with their sister 1213, are the most powerful non- articulated tank engines on two foot gauge operating in the world. With the take-over of British Railways and the drive for more tourists, No.7 gained the name ‘Owain Glyndŵr’ in 1956 after the Welsh Prince. All 3 locos were in the same livery in 1980 lined blue with brass double arrows. Over the years it has clocked up thousands of trips along the scenic route to Devil’s Bridge until being withdrawn from traffic at the end of the 1998 season. It was dismantled and stored pending overhaul, the chassis sitting in the station on a wagon for many years.
During British Rail’s ownership of the line, No. 7 was well regarded by crews as being the ‘best of the fleet.’ In 1988, No. 7 gained the distinction of hauling the very last steam hauled train operated by British Rail.