North West Wales

Restoration aim for slate mine electric trains

The Coalition at Llechwedd Slate Mines
Image caption The Coalition was converted to electricity in 1927 at the slate mine

Two of the oldest electric railway engines in the UK are starting a journey from the Welsh slate mine they served for 70 years to be restored.

The Coalition and the Eclipse locomotives worked at Llechwedd Slate Mines in Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd, from the 1890s to the 1960s.

Originally steam engines, they were converted to run on electricity in the 1920s - which was very unusual.

They will be stored at Porthmadog while money for restoration is found.

Both locomotives were used to pull trucks of slate around the Llechwedd mine and were rebuilt as electric engines there.

When they were withdrawn from service they were preserved on static display at the site.

However, time and weather have taken their toll, and they are being transported to the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway (WHHR) in Porthmadog where they will be kept under cover while fundraising to restore them is carried out.

The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum in Tywyn, Gwynedd, is paying for the transportation.

Don Newing, the museum's secretary, said: "These locomotives are historic in their own right because they show how the Welsh slate quarries were at the cutting edge of technology in making the switch to electric power."

Restoration work is likely to take several years and will not begin until enough money is in place to complete the task.

'Influenced the world'

Image caption The two engines arrive at Porthmadog on the back of a lorry

David Hicken, director of Slate Heritage International which owns the locomotives, said: "We are pleased that these two important pieces of slate mining history can now take a step towards being restored.

"Once the locomotives have been restored, we intend that one of them will return to Llechwedd to be put on display, with the other being on show at the WHHR in Porthmadog."

James Hewett, chair of the WHHR, added: "The WHHR is developing a new museum in Porthmadog to show how the narrow gauge railways of the area influenced the world.

"The unusual history of these locomotives means the Eclipse and the Coalition have a special place in the hearts of many railway enthusiasts, and are just two examples of how Wales led the way in industrial technology."

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