Corris Railway’s Gala Weekend on September 4 and 5 was notable for the brief return of centenarian steam locomotive number 4 and the attendance of visitors whose parents and grandparents worked on the line before its closure in 1948.
Now named Edward Thomas and based on the neighbouring Talyllyn Railway, the Tattoo class locomotive, built by Kerr Stuart in Stoke on Trent in 1921, had not headed a passenger train from Corris station since 1930.
The visit was to mark the locomotive’s centenary and it carried a suitable birthday headboard. Among the visitors attracted by number 4’s return was Selwyn Humphreys, son of Humphrey Humphreys, the last regular driver and fireman, as he did both jobs amongst others, on the line.
Selwyn worked from the locomotive shed at Maespoeth Junction, where number 4 was housed during its return, and Elizabeth Humphreys, Humphrey’s sister, was the final station mistress at Corris.
Corris Railway’s mechanical engineer in the 1920s when number 4 was delivered was Albert Hulme who performed or arranged work on the locomotive to ensure that it worked reliably after initial problems. Not to mention a mishap when the original chimney was damaged in a collision with an overhanging branch or structure.
Clearly a first class engineer, he was also responsible for amalgamating components of the original trio of Loughborough steam engines built in 1878 into one locomotive which, numbered 3, worked with number 4 until the Corris line was closed by British Railways.
Sadly, he seems to have lost his job when the Great Western took over the Corris in 1930 and returned to his native Manchester.
Albert’s grandsons, David and Stephen, travelled to the event where they met Mrs Jackie Jeffrey whose grandfather, Thomas Squire, worked with Mr Hulme on the Corris in 1926, when he lived in Esgairgeiliog, served by the next station down the line from Maespoeth Junction.
After the Corris closed in 1948, it would have been logical for the two steam locomotives to have been quickly reduced to scrap metal. However, station master at Machynlleth, Campbell Thomas, was their saviour.
He hoped that they might have a future life and kept numbers 3 and 4 sheeted over in the goods yard at his station, away from prying eyes. Had it not been for Mr Thomas’ actions, it is unlikely that No.4 would have survived to the age of 30, let alone seen its centenary.
After three years under his care, they were purchased by Talyllyn Railway in 1951, where they have served ever since, helping to establish the world's first heritage railway.
Without the two Corris locomotives, it is unlikely that the Talyllyn preservation project would have succeeded, and the history of railway preservation might have been very different.
To recognise his role in the birth of railway preservation, number 4 was temporarily renamed Campbell Thomas and this was done in the presence of Chris Magner whose book, The Saviours of British Railways Narrow Gauge Railways.
The book tells the tale of how Mr Thomas and other BR officials helped to conserve and preserve locomotives and infrastructure of Mid Wales narrow gauge lines including the Welshpool and Llanfair and the Vale of Rheidol.
Following the Gala Weekend, number 4 returned to the Talyllyn for a Gala Weekend on September 11 and 12 which will further mark its centenary and the 70th anniversary of the Talyllyn’s revival. It will be accompanied by Corris number 7, a 2005-built version of the same Kerr Stuart Tattoo class.
Enjoying Corris Railway’s Gala Weekend are (from left),Stephen Hulme, Trefor Davies, Jackie Jeffrey, David Hulme and Sam Knappett.
Selwyn Humphreys, son of Humphrey Humphreys, the last driver on Corris Railway.
Pics by David Coleman
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