Photo – Rich Smith
As an industrial engine, this light shunter doesn’t look like much next to our heavier mainline locomotives, but its importance to the industrial heritage of Britain is difficult to overstate.
Austin 1 was built at Kitson and Co. as Works Number 5459 for the Austin Motor Company, and delivered to the manufacturer’s Longbridge plant in 1932 to work alongside four other engines across their West and North Works.
5459’s time at the Longbridge plant would have been spent ferrying wagons full of materials back and forth to supply the busy production lines. Saved from an earlier low period by the advent of mass-market personal automobiles, by 1932 Austin Motors was supplying up to 37% of the UK’s motor manufacturing output and employing over 20,000 people. Alongside the iconic Austin Seven, Longbridge manufactured 3-ton lorries, a successful tractor and even a number of inter-war aircraft.
During the Second World War, the factory pivoted to producing tank parts, machine-guns and mortars, as well as armour-piercing and anti-tank ammunition, boxes, cans and helmets for the war effort. Meanwhile, Austin’s ‘Aero’ factory was founded in secret nearby to produce aircraft such as the Fairey Battle and Short Sterling bombers and the famous Hawker Hurricane fighter. In total, Austin Motors would contribute more than three thousand aircraft, and many thousands of vital components to the fight against Fascism.
Austin 1 worked the Longbridge yards long after the war had ended, eventually passing alongside four of its fellows into the ownership of British Leyland in 1968. Finally, it transitioned into preservation in 1973 when it was bought by Burtonwood Brewery for the Flint and Deeside Railway Society, before finding its home at Llangollen in 1975. Since then, it has been a constant presence at the Railway, pulling some of our very earliest passenger services in 1981. Its most recent overhaul was completed in 2020, and this rugged workhorse now appears on hire at a number of other railways.
Built in Glasgow for the Great Western Railway in 1930, this iconic Pannier Tank Engine first saw traffic from Reading before moving in 1936 to Paddington Station in London. There it worked hard in support of passenger operations throughout the Second World War, eventually being given its first major overhaul in 1949 before being moved to its last posting for British Railways at Wellington. This locomotive’s career with BR would have been spent shunting passenger trains for mainline use, and hauling mixed freight and light commuter services on rural lines. The ex-GWR Pannier Tankers became a key pillar of BR infrastructure owing to their reliability and ease-of-maintenance, filling roles the length and breadth of the country. Their distinctive shape and sheer ubiquity have ensured that they are a firm favourite of railway enthusiasts.
In 1959, 7754 was one of many old tankers to be sold to the National Coal Board; helping to provide affordable, reliable energy to households across the country. 7754 worked at the Talywain and Mountain Ash Collieries, where it seemed to be regarded as a bit too hefty for use on the light industrial lines. Nevertheless, it continued to work for the NCB until 1975, when it was donated to the National Museum of Wales, who then elected to permanently loan it to Llangollen Railway.
This engine has been a mainstay of the Llangollen Railway for most of our history, pulling its first trains for us in the Winter of 1994. After an extensive overhaul between 2017 and 2022, the engine is now due to return to traffic in 2023, where it will once again play its iconic GWR role of pulling passengers through the glorious Dee Valley. Now in the ownership of Llangollen Railway Trust, and sporting a splendid new GWR livery, we look forward to seeing this engine thundering about the valley for many years to come.
This venerable Great Western Locomotive was built at the famous Swindon works in 1938. Like others of its class, it was based on an older 2800 design modified and updated by engineers working under the great Charles Collett; sporting a longer, more enclosed cab than the original pattern, along with exterior steam pipes.
Like many of Collett’s designs, these engines were efficient, reliable and popular with crews, serving the Western region throughout the war and lasting long into the British Railways period, after the infrastructure was nationalised. After much debate, only the massive 9F-class was judged a viable replacement for these in the field of heavy freight haulage.
In its mainline career, 3802 served at depots throughout the Western Region, including Banbury, Bristol and Taunton, before being retired to the Barry scrapyards in 1965. It was then saved in 1984 and gradually restored to working order at the Plym Valley, Bodmin & Wenford and finally Llangollen Railways. It returned to steam for Llangollen in 2005, pulling for us for many years until its most recent overhaul between 2015 and 2018. Further maintenance works have been completed in 2021 and the engine will now haul our heavier services in 2023.