After 50 years in Cornwall, one of our Hunslet steam locomotives – Velinheli – is returning to her ‘homeland’ of North Wales for a new boiler to be fitted.
Built by the Hunslet Locomotive Company of Leeds in 1886, she spent her working life at the Dinorwic Slate Quarry near Llanberis. Velinheli actually has a unique place in history as she was built as the prototype for a new class of smaller locomotives (now known as the ‘Alice’ class), designed to be used in quarries where the standard locomotives were too large.
The locomotive is owned by James Evans, and after spending some years operating on the private railway in the Evans family’s garden, it was rebuilt by James at Launceston Steam Railway in the 1980s.
Velinheli is now in need of a new boiler, and this is to be built by the Ffestiniog Railway at its Boston Lodge workshops in Porthmadog. Construction work started on the new boiler in January, when a team from the Ffestiniog visited us to form the firebox plates, using flanging blocks which we made when building new boilers for our locomotives Lilian and Covertcoat.
Velinheli left Launceston on Friday 9th February. She will not be heading straight for Wales though, as she will be joining another similar locomotive from the Ffestiniog Railway, Hugh Napier, together with a Victorian carriage, and is on display at King’s Cross station, London, until Sunday 18th February.
When her new boiler has been completed, it is planned that Velinheli will spend time based at both the Ffestiniog Railway and here at Launceston. However, due to the timescales involved with the new boiler, she is unlikely to return to Launceston for a few years.