For the second time this year, I got the chance to visit the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway. This is the second from last normal day of service for this heritage narrow-gauge steam line before 2014, although the Santa Specials on the weekends leading up to Christmas deserve attention, celebrating the WLLR’s 50th year of steam preservation in mid-Wales.There are plenty of positive things to say about the experience of the WLLR. In the summer, we set off from the Raven Square station (on the western edge of Welshpool) and did the journey westwards to Llanfair Caerionion and then we returned.
This time we did it the other way around: we parked in the small village of Llanfair Caerionion, walked to the railway station beside the Afon Banwy, and were the only family on the 10am departure eastwards towards Welshpool. We returned in a fuller train at 11.30am back to Llanfair.On both occasions, our engine with ‘The Earl’ and both our summer experience and the recent one were fabulous days out in variable weather conditions (i.e. raining lots). Importantly, each day was not ruined at all by the weather: a major advantage of a Welsh tourist experience!
At Raven Square, there is a little museum to look around, which we saw in the summer but didn’t venture in today because it was raining. In here, there are two steam engines and a history of the railway in display boards.At Llanfair, there is the engine sheds and you get to see from the railway platform some wonderful little diesel engines. Both stations have shops and Llanfair has a cafe. In between, the 9-mile journey is composed of magnificence countryside, with the line following the river for a way, crossing it on a fabulous bridge and occasional stops at little idyllic halts, and at road-crossings.
There are so many aspects of the WLLR that make it a joy as a heritage experience and fabulous value for money but the Austrian and Hungarian coaches with pull-down windows and canopied but open-air standing areas at either end. Together, these make it possible to view out the back, view out front at the steam engine and together this creates an invigorating experience for steam buffs and kids alike.
With regard to commemorative culture, as on other heritage preservation railways, benches are the principal medium of commemoration for enthusiasts, whilst the engines are themselves a commemorative medium, in this case ‘The Earl’ commemorates the Earl of Powis, one of many pseudo-feudal undertones to the heritage experience of steam railways. In conclusion, an unbeatable steam experience, friendly staff and great value for money.