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After an extensive programme of refurbishment and general overhaul, Talyllyn Railway Loco No. 7, named after the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society pioneer the late Tom Rolt, has now been returned to service in tip-top condition.

Steam Locomotives require a Boiler Safety Certificate to be renewed every ten years. An independent inspector will advise on all necessary work that is to be carried out, which for the Talyllyn means sending the boiler away to a specialist workshop. While the boiler was away, our own engineers, including many volunteers, set about overhauling the frame and running gear back in Tywyn.

The final inspection takes place after the work has been completed, the boiler tested, fitted back and re-connected and the loco ready to be tested out under steam. Then when everything is passed, the new Boiler Certificate, an essential safety document, can be issued.

The time needed to complete work for these 10 yearly inspections will vary greatly with each locomotive. It depends on the age of the boiler and as other general  work will be carried out, it will also depend on the overall condition of the loco, on the number of miles that it has run since the last inspection and of course in the availability of suitably qualified staff and the ever present band of willing, and often very highly skilled and dedicated volunteers.

No 7’s boiler was sent away to D and M Goddard of Chippenham, Wiltshire, who specialise in Steam Traction Engine Boilers. The refurbishment took just a little over three months from October 2018 to March this year. During that time our own staff and volunteers in the engineering department carried out work on the frame and running gear of No. 7 where, as well as the general overhauling that was needed, other work including some further modifications and new work were also carried out.

No 7 Tom Rolt's boiler in the workshop.
No 7 Tom Rolt’s boiler in the workshop

The original project in 1991 to build No. 7 was carried out under the supervision of John Bate who was the Talyllyn Chief Engineer at that time, John had ordered some additional parts to make improvements to the original engine but these were not essential and were never fitted. However, on this occasion, there was time to fit the parts that John had ordered back in 1991 which had remained unused in the storeroom ever since.

John, now in his 90’s and long since retired, still calls in at every week to give his much-valued encouragement and advice. He was delighted to find that his intended improvement had now been finally carried out.

Paying tribute to the skills of all who had worked on No. 7, Engineering Manager Chris Smith commented that the loco had only been re-painted in 2017 and that the volunteers had been so skillful and expert in dismantling the loco last autumn, that when it was all finally re-assembled some ten months later, no further re-painting was needed other than to the new metalwork. Chris paid tribute to the quality of work on the boiler carried out by Goddards, who specialise in Traction Engine Boilers, but whose engineering skills have transferred so very well to the requirements of the Steam Railway sector.

Inside No 7 Tom Rolt's boiler.
Inside No 7 Tom Rolt’s boiler
Repairs to No 7 Tom Rolt's boiler barrel.
Repairs to No 7 Tom Rolt’s boiler barrel.

Chris also commented on the quality of work undertaken by our own staff and especially by the volunteers on the Talyllyn Railway, a number of whom are highly competent engineers in their own right and many more who are regular volunteers in the engineering department taking the opportunity to develop their skills.

No. 7 has now had its trial runs, was certificated back into service on August 15th and has been available for use for the rest of the year.

No 7 Tom Rolt at Pendre on test during the rebuild.
No 7 Tom Rolt at Pendre on test during the rebuild

In September, former General Manager Chris Price, now General Manager of the North York Moors Railway, paid a return visit to the Talyllyn Railway and took the opportunity of driving the newly overhauled locomotive. He commented that No 7, ‘Tom Rolt’ was ‘In the best condition now that it had ever been’.

With a continuing policy of using steam power for the hauling of all our passenger trains, the Talyllyn Railway has a fleet of six steam locos. To have four of them available for service would be the minimum to maintain our current operating timetable over the year. That timetable includes seven steam hauled trains per day in the summer season, each loco completing two and sometimes three trips per day, but with occasional ‘specials’ running there are times when having five locos available in steam is preferable.

The current overhaul programme, which is of course dependent on the expiry dates of the Boiler Certificates for each of our locos, is looking to be very sustainable.  Loco No 1, ‘Talyllyn’ is in the workshop now and expected to be back ‘on track’ next Autumn, No 2. ‘Dolgoch’ is scheduled for 2020/21 and then No.4 ‘Edward Thomas’ and No. 6 ‘Douglas become due in 2022 and 2023 respectively. After then, outside of any unforeseen overhaul issues arising, we anticipate a four-year period 2024-2028 when all six locos are expected to be fully available.

No 7 Tom Rolt at Wharf.
No 7 Tom Rolt back in service

For further information about this press release please e-mail: [email protected] or phone 01654 710472