In Minffordd Yard, 1992
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|Original Railway||Bowater's Paper Mill|
Monarch was built by Bagnall of Stafford in 1953, the name commemorating the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth. This articulated 0-4-4-0T was the last narrow gauge (2'6") steam loco built for British industry, for use at Bowater's in Kent, the system partly preserved by the Sittingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway.
The design is almost identical to earlier Bagnall-Meyers built for plantation work in South Africa, one of which is now in a private collection in England. Another is being restored to working order in Colorado, USA.
In 1966 Monarch was sold to the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway. The loco only served as the main service machine on the WLLR for one season in the 1970s, but was used sporadically between 1973 and 1978. It was withdrawn for boiler repairs and fitting of vacuum brake but this work was never finished.
In 1991, it was acquired for the Ffestiniog Railway by two individuals who believed it had potential, with ownership later passing to the Festiniog Railway Company. It was thought that oil firing could transform Monarch's usefulness, and this consideration contributed to its acquisition for the FR. The locomotive was dismantled shortly afterwards, with a view to conversion from 2'6" gauge and overhaul, but work came to a standstill as more urgent projects took precedence at Boston Lodge. The main components were stored in Minffordd Yard.
A regauged Monarch was then considered for use on lighter Welsh Highland services - its superstructure was slightly too large for use on the FR. This could have involved some quite drastic re-designing and mechanical surgery, in addition to the regauging work, and by no means everybody was convinced of the loco's potential for the WHR. In addition, its historic status as the last narrow gauge steam loco built for British industry suggested a strong case for keeping it in as close as possible to its original condition.
The FR came to the decision that Monarch would not form a part of future plans for the FR or WHR fleet. Following negotiations with a group of WLLR volunteers, and still dismantled, in November 2002 the bulk of it was moved back to the WLLR, with the remainder following two months later.
Proceeds from the sale of Monarch were put towards projects on both the FR and WHR.
Monarch has since been cosmetically restored and is on display at Welshpool Raven Square.
- Text edited from the WHR Official Construction website.
- "Locomotive News", Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 132, page(s): 494
- http://www.irsociety.co.uk/Archives/16/Bagnall_articulated_locos.htm - Industrial Railway Society article with more about Bagnall articulated locomotives.