Llangollen Heritage Railway holds auction to pay £350k debts

By Rob Thomas
BBC Wales News

  • Published
Media caption,
The items were being sold by Lambert Smith Hampton

For sale: A couple of million miles on the clock, two careful owners.

A diesel shunting engine, carriages and railway cranes were among the items being sold off this week.

The items, owned by Llangollen Heritage Railway, were being auctioned off after Llangollen Railway PLC ran up debts of about £350,000 - though it is hoped the railway will continue to run.

"I think it's tragic what's happening here and it makes me very sad," said prospective buyer Iain Tyrrell.

Mr Tyrrell, who restores classic cars at his base at Hawarden airfield, was considering putting in bids for a range of machine-shop tools - but was particularly drawn to the idea of owning a railway carriage.

Image caption,
Businessman Iain Tyrrell says he is interested in buying a railway carriage

"I just see potential in the carriage. It fits in with my classic car, olde-worlde restoring things vibe," he said.

"I think it would make a great office, a great place to entertain customers if they come to visit. Just a funky thing that fits in with the classic car restoration ethos really."

He was one among many considering bidding at the online auction - not least the Llangollen Railway Trust.

The trust, which is not affected by the debts run up by Llangollen Railway PLC, hopes to buy back enough equipment to ensure the railway remains up and running.

The 10-mile line, between Llangollen and Corwen, was completed in 2019 after volunteers spent 45 years rebuilding it.

Crucially, the trust retains control of the track, all the stations and the licences needed to operate trains.

Image caption,
The Llangollen Railway Trust hopes to buy back a number of the auctioned items

It also still owns, or has access to, enough engines and carriages that have not been included in the sale.

With tens of thousands of pounds donated by supporters, the trust hopes to buy back a number of items it believes it needs to reopen the line, once Covid restrictions are relaxed.

Nevertheless, there were plenty of others interested in bidding for the equipment.

Image caption,
Auctioneer Patrick Ditcham says there has been an "incredible amount of interest"

"We've had an incredible amount of interest," said Patrick Ditcham, of auctioneers Lambert Smith Hampton, who organised the online sale for administrators.

"We've had 60-odd parties coming through... and they're coming from all walks of life and all areas.

"We've had other heritage railways - a significant amount of those - coming from Norfolk, from the south, Cornwall, all the way up to northern ones as well."

He said the 10 carriages being auctioned off were the most popular potential buy.

Image caption,
The carriages are likely to go for between £20,000 and £25,000

He estimated the sale would raise a six-figure sum, with the carriages likely to go for between £20,000 and £25,000 each.

"It's worth the money to those who want it," Mr Ditcham said.

"They are businesses and they need to survive in their own right, so, if they manage to buy something which enables them to keep going, then surely that's a good thing."

Who has bought what will become clear later - along with confirmation of whether the Llangollen Railway Trust manages to buy what it needs to keep its line open and engines running.