The influence of a local family on the fortunes of the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway has been celebrated in the latest open wagon to join the line’s heritage fleet.
John Lloyd Peate was a coal merchant based in Llanfair Caereinion. When the railway opened in 1903 he ordered five private owner coal wagons from R Y Pickering & Co Ltd, the supplier of the railway’s rolling stock. Peate’s wagons carried coal between Welshpool and his Llanfair facility in the railway’s yard.
While used extensively by standard gauge companies, private owner wagons were very rare on the narrow gauge, with only the W&LLR and the Southwold Railway in Suffolk, known to have employed them.
W&LLR members have long wanted to add an example of the Peate wagon to the heritage fleet, which replicates the type of trains that would have run in the railway’s pre-preservation days.
Among those contributing to the project were members of the Peate family and the Shrewsbury-based coal factor J A Smallshaw, which supplied J L Peate in 1903 and still supplies the W&LLR today.
A team of volunteers led by carriage and wagon engineer John Bancroft built the vehicle over a period of 10 months. The wheel sets were recovered from stock on the line – one is a 1930s Great Western Railway set and the other dates from the railway’s construction in 1902. It is believed that it came from the carriages scrapped by the GWR in the 1930s.
Remarkably the axleboxes are correct original items dating from 1902. They were acquired by the Talyllyn Railway after the W&LLR closed in 1956 and returned to Llanfair after being found during a clear-out of the TR’s workshops.
The wagon was launched into traffic with a special train on Saturday 15th July, and many members of the Peate family were present to travel on the train and to see their ‘family wagon’ make its debut.
"John Bancroft and his team should be proud of the splendid reproduction they have created", said W&LLR General Manager Charles Spencer. "The railway is very grateful for their hard work, and for the generosity of members and others who made this slice
of railway and local history possible.”
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