25 July 2020
Narrow Gauge World magazine has revealed how two of the most iconic locos on the UK narrow gauge might have had a very different history.
The September issue of the magazine describes how newly discovered documents suggest that sometime in the 1950s, Bowaters Paper Mill in Kent seriously considered buying Beyer Peacock 0-6-0Ts ‘The Earl’ and ‘The Countess’ of the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway.
It is not currently clear whether the paper mill’s bid was made before or after the Welshpool line was closed in 1956. If it was before and had succeeded then conceivably Bowaters might never have ordered the articulated locomotive ‘Monarch’, the last narrow gauge engine built for UK industrial service.
If the bid was made after the Welshpool line’s closure, then the two Beyer Peacock engines would have spent the rest of their working lives on the Kent system, part of which survived to become the Sittingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway.
Crucially, they might not have been available to the preservationists who reopened the Welshpool & Llanfair in 1963. In its early years the revival project suffered from a perennial lack of funding and not having the two engines could have seriously damaged its chances of success.
The Earl and The Countess did eventually return to the W&LLR and have since provided the core motive power on what has become one of the leading narrow gauge lines in the UK.
The full story is in the September edition of Narrow Gauge World, published digitally on 24th July and on newsstands on 31st July.