WHHR’s Baldwin restoration is back on track

View of the cladding and boiler bands in the front of Baldwin No. 794’s cab and below the dome. Steve Currin

The Welsh Highland Heritage Railway’s mission to restore No. 794, a 44-6-0t Pannier Tank locomotive of the Baldwin class 10-12-D, is back on track.

Work on restoring the locomotive has been at a standstill since March 2020, when the workshops at the Vale of Rheidol Railway (VoR) closed at the start of the pandemic lockdowns.

However, the project is now once again underway and progress is expected to accelerate over the coming months – but an additional £20,000 in funding will be needed to complete it.

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No. 794 was built for the Great War, one of a large number of similar machines. Following the conflict, it was sold and exported to India where it worked on a sugar plantation, carrying the name Tiger.

It was imported from India in about 1985. Now owned by the Imperial War Museum, it has a complete rolling chassis but the boiler is in poor condition.

Now transferred to Porthmadog, it is intended to fit a new boiler and that the loco will operate under the pseudonym 590 – being almost identical to the original WHR loco of that number.

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In a recent newsletter to WHHR members, Neil Evans, the Baldwin 794 Joint Project Manager, said: “I can report that a meeting was held in Aberystwyth on October 22nd to discuss and agree the final stage of the restoration with the VoR. Discussions centred on the work originally excluded from the contract, such as the provision of air/vacuum braking equipment, the purchase and installation of steam valves and other boiler fittings, the manufacture of a wooden back to the cab and a cab roof extension to replicate the modifications made to 590 at Boston Lodge in 1923, and the modification and/or extension of couplings.

“Work re-started on our Baldwin locomotive in January, with the installation of the new boiler cladding. However, the VoR’s chief mechanical engineer recently confirmed that, with winter maintenance work reaching a conclusion, he would now be able to devote more resources to the Baldwin project which should, therefore, see progress accelerate in the coming months.

“On March 8, Steve Currin – joint project manager – was able to visit Aberystwyth. He was able to confirm that the cladding of the boiler has been completed, and very smart it looks, and work has now moved onto the manufacture and installation of pipes and connections for water and steam supplies. Design work will also commence shortly on the modification required for the connection of the Klinger water gauge at the rear of the boiler.”

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Neil went on to thank people who have donated to the restoration fund, through standing orders or one-off contributions.

“No donation is considered too small,” he said. “Now that the extent of work to complete the Baldwin has been agreed, it is estimated that an additional £20,000 will be needed to have surety of completion. Any surplus will be used to support ongoing maintenance costs.”

Those who have contributed will be acknowledged on a plaque in the WHHR Museum at Porthmadog.

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Now, sponsors are being sought for a list of outstanding components and required items. To get involved and find out the details, email neil.evans@whr.co.uk

“We hope this sponsorship scheme will be of interest to supporters of the Baldwin restoration and that there is an encouraging take-up, thus enabling a timely completion of the contract works,” said Neil.

“If all goes to plan, the VoR expects to return the fully commissioned locomotive to Porthmadog towards the end of summer 2022.”

To find out more about the WHHR’s fundraising appeal, click here.

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