Every winter, Talyllyn Railway volunteers take the engines apart ready for the annual boiler inspection. Once that’s over, they put the engines back together again ready for the start of the season. Read on to find out what work was carried out over this winter.

This year, we decided to try a different format for the working parties to cut down on travel. Two weekends before Christmas and two afterwards, each working party concentrating on two locos. The first weekend was spent taking the chosen engines apart ready for the boiler inspector’s visit, then the second weekend was spent putting them back together. This format worked really well. A core team of regulars were ready to teach new attendees the different tasks so everyone had something useful to get on with.

16 & 17 November

The first weekend started well, with No 2 Dolgoch and No 6 Douglas being the first two engines to get stripped down. Tasks included removing the ashpans, gauge glasses, pressure gauges, smokebox bits, taking out the boiler plugs and checking and cleaning them up, removing the safety valves and starting to give the engine a good clean. We also cleaned out and painted the bunkers.

A person cleaning out plug holes on No 6.
No 6 Douglas


Once the locos were stripped down we gave the boilers a good washout to get rid of the accumulated scale. One of the more ‘glamorous’ jobs is to clean out the fireboxes – No 6 can be done with an electric wire brush, however No 2’s has to be done by hand as it’s a copper box. The gang took it in turns to do ‘firebox duty’, helped immensely by tea and a lovely homemade cake brought by one of the regulars.

Firebox duty on No 2 Dolgoch and No 6 Douglas:

21 & 22 December


Pendre Shed at dawn.
Winter dawn at Pendre – in early to light up locos for the Santa Specials


No 2 was pretty much put back together on the Saturday, so there was time to do some painting. Some tasks had been completed by volunteers earlier in the month, there’s always something to do at Pendre even out of season!


No 2 Dolgoch with newly painted smokebox and running plates.
No 2 Dolgoch with newly painted smokebox and running plates


No 6 was Sunday’s victim and mostly put back together, apart from a couple of ‘staff’ jobs. As well as the Santa Specials running, No 7 was lit up to test the airpump so there were lots of engines about! A couple of the working party regulars were rostered on the trains so a smaller gang than usual.


Abergynolwyn Silver Band playing carols at Wharf.
Abergynolwyn Silver Band playing carols at Wharf during the Santa Specials


11 & 12 January

No’s 3 and 4 was stripped down. Each loco had a gang allocated. The ashpans were removed while other gang members took off the pressure gauges, safety valves and gauge glasses. The smokeboxes was cleaned out and various other ‘deep clean’ tasks were done. We took out the boiler plugs and mudhole doors, which were cleaned up and checked ready for when they go back in.


Removing a boiler plug from No 4's smokebox.
Removing a boiler plug from No 4’s smokebox


Progress was good so we managed to wash out both boilers to get rid of all the scale. We also gave the fireboxes a good wash to get rid of as much dust as possible before wire brushing them out.


No 3's cab mudhole door.
Mudhole door in No 3’s cab


Our plan on Sunday was to clean the fireboxes. Unfortunately the fireboxes hadn’t dried out from yesterday’s wash so we couldn’t finish that off. Instead, we started painting and deep cleaning the locos, finishing at lunchtime so people could travel home.


Cleaning out boiler plugholes with a rod.
Boiler washout – rodding around the foundation ring.


No 1 Talyllyn is currently out of service for a massive overhaul. While the boiler’s being worked on at the Mid Hants Railway, it’s an opportunity to do some work on various bits of the engine. Over this weekend, the axlebox bearings were being scored to put a white metal lining over the existing bearing, and the eccentrics were having some work done on them.

Work on No 1 in Pendre works:

8 & 9 February

This weekend was spent putting No’s 3 and 4 back together following a successful boiler inspection. Some tasks had already been done by staff and local volunteers, including putting the fusible plugs back in the fireboxes. 

No 3 Sir Haydn

  • Safety valves back on
  • Ashpan etc back on
  • New gauge glasses put in
  • Plugs back in and boiler filled with water to check for leaks
  • Backhead painted
  • Running plate cleaned and groundcoat put on.
  • Pony truck greased

No 4 Edward Thomas

  • Safety valves back on
  • Boiler plugs put back in, ashpan, brake gear and wishbone back on.
  • New gauge glasses put in
  • Smokebox and backhead cleaned and painted
  • Bunker cleaned and painted
  • Buffers painted
  • Running plates given a good clean and painted, plus other bits and bobs given a lick of paint as we had the time, including the crest which looks very smart now.
  • The boiler was filled with water to test for initial leaks.


No 4's whistles and safety valves from above.
No 4’s whistles and safety valves from above


We managed to get the priority tasks done by Sunday morning so everyone grabbed a paintbrush and set about painting running boards. They look much smarter now.

Loco working party gang painting No 4 Edward Thomas.
Loco working party gang painting No 4 Edward Thomas


Many thanks to everyone who came along to the working party weekends. It’s always great to see new faces joining us, even people who don’t do loco volunteering.

Photos and article – Karen Willans

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