Waggon Tracks Update – December 2011
(as originally sent out to all donors, along with our limited edition Waggon Tracks Christmas Card, an item still available to new donors!)


Waggon Tracks


First of all, a big thank you to all of you who have responded positively to the Waggon Tracks appeal. It is no overstatement to say that we have been overwhelmed by the positive response and by donations received so far. By the end of November, we had received more than £19,000 against our target of £25,000. An amazing achievement in such a short space of time!

As a direct result of this success we are currently discussing the schedule for reinstating bullhead rail through Minffordd station and plans are being developed for the dedicated waggon storage facility in Minffordd yard. Such a massive undertaking naturally takes a great deal of planning and we need to integrate our project within the ambitious FR/WHR development programme currently underway. We are therefore currently working with the Outdoor Engineering section to include the bullhead relaying through Minffordd as part of the 2012/13 winter programme. In addition, a steering group has been set up to oversee developments in Minffordd Yard and you will be pleased to hear that the Waggon Tracks team is represented on the steering group and a possible site for covered waggon storage has already been identified.

As the photo shows, we have started to survey one possible site in order to investigate how it will fit within the revised track schemes for the yard and materials are being identified and quotes obtained for the required works. At this stage please rest assured that we are confident that sufficient storage for the entire fleet of heritage waggons is feasible within the revised Minffordd scheme.

All this activity doesn’t mean that we can rest on our laurels quite yet and we still have quite some way to go to achieve the full target amount so please do keep the donations coming if at all possible. For regular updates on how the project is progressing, please look at the Heritage Group website at www.frheritage.org.uk (though we wanted to write to you - our generous donors - before we updated everyone else). Financial progress is monitored on our ‘Waggonometer’. So far we have 7 full ones in our rake of 10, and they are 3 tonners so you get a lot of bang for your buck!

In other related news, the FR Society once again sponsored two young volunteers to spend their summer working on the heritage waggon fleet. The start of the summer was concerned with the overhauling of the bodies for some of the waggons acquired from the Maenofferen Quarry a number of years ago; later on the focus became on wheels – overhauling old sets for safe use in the gravity train. These keen young volunteers learnt some new skills and practiced some of the traditional skills we are aiming to keep alive like hot-riveting, the original and still the best means of fixing the waggon bodies together.

This funding is part of a much larger package agreed by the FRS Board, aiming to achieve a step change in the state and size of the slate waggons and gravity train. A batch of brand new couplings have been ordered and two brand new sets of wheels cast, machined, assembled and tested prior to a much larger order being placed. It is to be hoped that this improvement work, coupled (sorry!) with the storage element of Waggon Tracks will secure the future of the heritage waggon fleet for many decades to come. We and many people want this uniquely large batch of vehicles to have a sustainable future on our sustainable railway.

The summer work by subsidised and non-subsidised volunteers, led to a train of 48 waggons running at the Vintage Weekend in October. This was, with one exception, the largest gravity train to run in preservation. We can also tell you that three more waggons (enough to make it THE longest train) were available in the week before, but failed an inspection immediately prior to the weekend on hitherto unseen faults; a tough decision to make but evidence of the high standards we now set ourselves.

The Vintage Weekend, aided by the weather we managed to organise, was once again a great showcase for the FR’s heritage fleet. The FR Society website (www.ffestiniograilway.org.uk) contains several galleries of the best images from the weekend – well worth a look whether you were present or not. We have also managed to secure the remaining copies of the weekend’s souvenir Spotter’s Guide exclusively for Waggon Tracks donors. Please get in touch if you would like a copy.

Thank you once again for supporting the Waggon Tracks project. We look forward to keeping you informed of developments over the coming months.

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