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Welsh Slate’s steam loco finds its forever home in Aberystwyth

Jubilee 1897 has found a new home in Aberystwyth. Image by Cliff Thomas

A 123-year-old steam railway locomotive that saw 27 years’ service with Welsh Slate has found its forever home with a narrow-gauge heritage railway in Mid Wales.

The 11-tonne Manning Wardle “Jubilee 1897”, so named to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, has been sold to the Vale of Rheidol Railway at Aberystwyth which had been its foster home for the past two years.

Jubilee 1897 initially worked at Cilgwyn slate quarry at Nantlle, hauling waste from the quarry to remote tips near the village of Y Fron. It was sold to Welsh Slate in 1928 when it travelled to Dinas Junction on its own wheels down the incline and over the Welsh Highland Railway for unloading at Penrhyn from a standard gauge wagon.

For a year, she worked at Port Penrhyn at Bangor before moving to be stored at Felin Fawr. After being painted and returned to steam at the end of World War II, she worked on Red Lion Level but was withdrawn from service 10 years later.

Her home was then the Narrow-Gauge Railway Museum Trust at Tywyn where she was cosmetically restored for display.

In 2016, Jubilee 1897 was moved to Felin Fawr where the Penrhyn Quarry Railway project was being developed. The original plan was for her to be a static exhibit but, after examination established she was in fundamentally sound condition, agreement was reached that the project would restore her to steam at Coed y Parc workshops.

Dismantling began in 2017 but, four months later, the project collapsed and the Vale of Rheidol Railway offered to accommodate her while the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum Trust established a way forward. Her components were relocated to Aberystwyth in 2018.

Now, the Vale of Rheidol Railway is her permanent home.

Robert Gambrill, Vale of Rheidol Railway’s chairman, said: “We are delighted to have secured the sale from Welsh Slate of this significant addition to our roster and can assure Welsh Slate she will have a happy home with us.

“Manning Wardle is a locomotive builder not previously represented within our collection, so we jumped at the chance to secure an example of this manufacturer .Our thanks go to the team at Welsh Slate for working with us to secure the future of this historic Welsh locomotive.

“We are planning to restore Jubilee 1897 to steam by 2023, allowing the public to be see her again working for the first time since the 1950s.”

Welsh Slate managing director Mark Hodgkinson said: “The Jubilee 1897 will always be a part of our history and we’re only glad she has found such an appreciative permanent home.”