The Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway's Palmerston first visited Aberystwyth in 1912 and was last there in 1922. Now the loco, built in 1864, is to head special trains on the weekends of September 20-21 and 27-28. The loco will also appear in special photo opportunities during the visit, with part of the revenue raised going to support the fund to rebuild sister F&WHR locomotive Welsh Pony in time for its 150th birthday in 2017.
"We're delighted to welcome this historic loco back," says VoR General Manager Llyr ap Iolo, "It's a great example of how Welsh narrow gauge railways can work together and we expect there will be a big demand to ride behind her this autumn."
After regular service trains had finished for the day, Palmerston ran the full length of the line from Aberystwyth to Devil's Bridge light engine on June 26th and with a test train on July 1st to prove its suitability for the task. The loco has been equipped with coupling adapters and modified to operate with the air braking system of the VoR stock.
Palmerston is the fourth loco made for the FR and was delivered in March 1864. The engine was named after Liberal Prime Minister Viscount Palmerston, who was also Chairman of the Welsh Slate, Copper & Lead Mining quarry at Blaenau Ffestiniog.
"It's great that Palmerston, one of our most travelled locos, is returning to the Rheidol more than 100 years after its first visit," says Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland General Manager Paul Lewin. "Like Welsh Pony, Palmerston spent many years in a very sorry state before eventually being restored to full working order in 1993 and it's appropriate that some of the revenue earned during this visit will go to getting its sister loco back into steam."
Apart from being hired by the VoR on a number of occasions between 1912 and 1922, the following year the loco was used during the construction of the Welsh Highland Railway, having previously been used in 1876 on the construction of the WHR's forerunner, the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways. In 1994, the loco visited the Chemin de Fer des Chanteraines in Paris.
Advance tickets for the special trains will only be available online at www.valeofrtickets.co.uk.
For more details of the visit and other attractions during the event, check the VoR website www.rheidolrailway.co.uk.