North West Wales

Hugh Napier steam engine back on track after 50-year restoration

A restored 100-year-old steam train has been reunited with the men who last drove it nearly 60 years ago.

The three former Gwynedd quarrymen have attended a rededication service to the Hugh Napier at Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway's Harbour Station in Porthmadog, on Friday.

The train shunted slate rubble from Penrhyn Quarry in Bethesda to the tip until abandoned on a track in 1954.

It has undergone painstaking restoration since 1966.

The National Trust-owned locomotive was named after the fourth Lord Penrhyn.

It is the first time Owen Gareth Williams, Thomas Edison Jones and Emrys Austin Owen have seen the engine in full steam since it was retired.

Mr Williams, 82, who was the Hugh Napier's fireman in the late 1940s, said: "It was beautiful, you felt on top of the world. She's still a powerful engine.

"For years I have been visiting Penrhyn Castle's Railway Museum to see the restoration work being done and have really looked forward to the day when I could see Hugh Napier running once more.

"It is fantastic that the National Trust has stuck at it and managed to save this engine, and bring it back to life."

David Pickavance, from Penrhyn Castle Railway Museum, said there was a big difference between a museum engine and a working one.

'Labour of love'

"It smells, it hisses... everything about it, it's totally different," he added.

"To see a steam engine in working condition, well, there's nothing like it.

"We are especially grateful to the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways for getting this long, yet satisfying restoration over the finishing line, and for hosting this landmark event," he added.

The Hugh Napier has under gone a significant amount of restoration. Some of its parts, like the pistons, have been fabricated from new by the Ffestiniog Railway.

Iorwerth Jones, who started rebuilding the train in the 1960s, died a few years ago.

Paul Lewin, general manager at the Ffestinigog railway: "When the engine had finished its working life in the quarry a number of parts had been taken off it and used on other engines.

"And so Iorwerth, who saved the engine from the museum and took it to the quarry, went round collecting up all the missing bits from various sales and other locomotives.

"But because they'd been used on other engines they weren't all necessary quite right."

It also had a new boiler, which cost £50,000.

The National Trust said it was impossible to put a figure on how much the restoration cost because the "labour of love" has taken so long.

Over the next few months, the Hugh Napier will travel around the UK as a roving ambassador for the National Trust.

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