Thursday, 19 October 2017

The Final Furlong

The FR's recent Victorian Weekend was a fabulous occasion. (But then again, it always is.)

If there was one disappointing note, however, it was the absence of Welsh Pony from any role in the proceedings, hidden out of view in the old engine shed.

At one time supporters of its restoration to working order - which I have backed not just with words but with money from sales of my 009 kits - might have hoped that the engine would have been seen in steam in this year, its 150th birthday.

It is hard to avoid the impression that in recent times the Welsh Pony project has slipped down the railway's priority list - and of course there are many other competing priorities which are more important to day-to-day running of the business - but it does feel like it has lost momentum.

What puzzles me most is that while we are told the restoration fund is around £60k short of what is needed to complete the remaining work on the locomotive this is not being shouted about.

I have seen little evidence of a 'final push' to complete the job.

Yes, the collecting envelopes can still be found on the tables in the carriages of the trains on the FR, but we all know that fundraising involves a lot more than that these days.

Why is this?

The General Manager was asked about the state of play at the Heritage Group AGM over the weekend and very reasonably pointed out that a great deal has been achieved - such as the new frames, the new cylinders, the new boiler, the new tender with every new rivet painstakingly placed in the same position as the originals - and that the scale of the work was greater than was anticipated at the outset of the project.

He stressed that the company was committed to completing the restoration (although I note that he didn't say when) and also explained, once again very sensibly, that it is far better to take the time to do the job properly and not rush it, and who could disagree with that?

Forgive me for labouring the point, but this still doesn't explain why at this of all events, the weekend where the FR invites the world to come and celebrate its heritage and admire the many wonderful restorations and recreations, the railway was not shouting from the rooftops that they need us all to dig deep one last time to get Welsh Pony back in action.

So let me do that on the pages of this blog.

If you, like I, have dreamed for years of seeing the only Large England run again, to complete what Allan Garraway called the FR's 'unfinished business' please consider making a donation to the appeal.

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