125 years of narrow gauge Hunslet locos celebrated

Cliff Thomas reports on a special commemorative event which brought 19 Hunslet locomotives together in North Wales – creating a new record for one manufacturer.

THE Ffestiniog Railway held a Hunslet 100 gala in 1993 that is still revered as a landmark narrow gauge event. Twenty-five years on and the formula was not merely repeated, but dramatically expanded. Hunslet 125, staged over June 22-24 by what is now the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway (F&WHR), has reset the height of the bar.

The hook for this spectacular was a celebration of the 125th birthdays of F&WHR’s Hunslet 2-4-0STTs Linda and Blanche. The attraction was an astounding guest list of 13 visiting locomotives in steam, plus two out-of-ticket guests, and operations spread over both the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway elements of the expanded, now 40-mile system, compared with the railway a quarter of a century ago.

Steamy action in Minffordd yard on June 23 involving Jerry M (left), Cloister (centre), Holy War (distant background), Winifred and Gwynedd (right).

Of the visiting locos, 14 were built by Hunslet, the 15th being a half-size version of a Hunslet. The guests joined five F&WHR Hunslet-built resident steam locos and
a 1979-built Hunslet diesel.

In July 2015, the Amberley Railway claimed a record for the largest number of locomotives from one manufacturer to be present in one location, certainly in the preservation era, by producing 12 Lister locos for a gala. In May 2016, Leighton Buzzard Railway topped that by presenting 17 Motor Rail ‘Simplexes’ for an event.

Read more and view more images in the August issue of The RM – on sale now!

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