HERE at Wales West Light Railway, we've taken it upon ourselves to recreate one of mankind's crowning achievements, the Welsh narrow gauge railway. Come join us and feel the joy these little steam powered trains have been puffing out for over one hundred years. We are a working railway and museum meant to educate and entertain. Scroll down to learn more about the most westerly located Welsh narrow gauge steam powered railway in the world.
"Dame Ann" was the first new Port Class Hunslet type steam loco built in eighty three years when she was delivered to us from the Exmoor Steam Railway shops in Bratton Fleming England in 2004. Though she is not an exact replica, one has got to look hard to find the differences. Below are photos of "Dame Ann" next to several of her hundred year old cousins during her steam trails at the Lauceston Steam Railway in Cornwall. Click on a photo to bring up a larger version.
With a welded boiler, roller bearing, mechanical lubricator, and modern valve gear our eleven thousand six hundred pound "Dame Ann" is light years ahead of her sturdy little saddle tank relatives that rolled out of the Hunslet shops for over one hundred years. The Stirland family, owners of the Exmoor Steam Railway & shops did a wonderful job building her.
Today "Dame Ann" is hard at work here at the railway. On weekdays she pulls trains filled with children on educational field trips where they learn about trains, transportation, and train safety. On weekends she hauls the general public for birthday parties and picnics. When special event trains are running, she hauls children on the Pumpkin Patch Express to collect their very own pumpkins in October. During December she takes children to the North Pole workshop to visit Santa on the Arctic Express. In April she pulls the Cottontail Express to the bunny barn for a visit with the Easter Bunny in the egg patch.
Our diesel loco "Gareth" is a S40 type built by the now defunct British firm Simplex in the mid 1960's. We purchased this two thousand pound loco from Alan Keef Ltd. for use as a work engine to help in the construction of the railway. When we received the loco, its last mission had been to pull a one car train for some years in Scotland. What a sad site it was when we removed it from the container and onto the tracks! The poor little loco had a shabby steam out-line body and various mechanical issues that prompted us to give it a major overhaul! After a good steam cleaning we fixed most of the big problems and replaced the steam out-line shell with a proper body modeled after the Keef Simplexes of the 1980's.
Step back in time by taking a ride in one of our replica "Bread Boxes" Plans dating back to the early 1800s were used to build these sturdy little cars for the railway.The sturdy little cars were the forerunners of today's modern luxury coaches.
Made of wood with steel frames, wheels imported from England, and equipped with modern air brakes these funny little cars are a delight to ride in. The only difference you can see in our coaches from the originals is that ours are not enclosed. The weather here in south Alabama is so much warmer than the warmest day a Welshman would ever hope to see. Enclosing them would be impractical.
Our railway would not be complete without Victorian style buildings. I must admit that I took a bit of artistic license with this endeavor but it sure has been fun! Our aim was to build structures that would make people smile like we do when we visit the charming old railway buildings of Wales. We have cut out and painted thousands of decorative boards to replicate the cast iron Gingerbread found on stations all over England.
We have had to use modern building materials for our buildings because the cast iron and stone construction of the original buildings we were inspired by would have cost millions more than we had to spend even if craftsmen could be found to do the work. We have also built everything to exceed the southern building code to insure that our wonderful little railway can survive even the worst hurricanes that the Gulf Coast is famous for.
We are now 11 years into the building of what we like to refer to as our joy factory. A lot of the structures we planned to build are finished and in daily use either on the railway or in the RV resort. With picket fences, stone walls, typical English colors, and Gingerbread galore we believe we have recreated a Victorian atmosphere even the Queen of England and the Prince of Wales would be proud of.
We still have much to build over the next few years. We have completed work on our new children's complex at our "Chapel Halt" station. The complex has a large traditional Gambrel-style barn that will house all of our educational programs. The 30 ft. X 60 ft. meeting hall on the first floor is the new home of the children's Halloween activities, the Santa village, and the Easter Bunny's fun house. We are currently working to fence in the entire area with playgrounds surrounding the entire complex.
Once the boardwalk through the wooded wetlands and the 1861 Welsh chapel, we imported from England, several years ago are completed, the meeting hall will also be an ideal setting for wedding receptions. Other building projects include a station, beach cabanas, and bath house at Lake Victoria, two foot gauge loco shed, six Gingerbread, Painted Lady vacation cottages, music hall, and Welsh village. By God's Grace we have come a long way in 11 years. By His Grace we'll finish some day!