“You should have come in earlier, we had a locomotive outside”. The barman at ‘Mischief’s Café Bar’ who served our coffees was talking to one of his daytime regulars. This was near the Coal Exchange on Cardiff Docks. The Coal Exchange is in the area of Cardiff that is an alarming mash-up of the grand buildings of renewal and the faded grandeur of buildings from when the city was the hub of the British coal trade (and in days of Empire, that meant most of the world).
The locomotive in question, 0-6-2 tank engine, Taff Vale Railway No. 28, had been built just a stone’s throw from the bar in question, in West Yard Works in 1897 (the site is now a housing estate). With assistance from Cardiff City Council and the local brewers (never forget your ‘Brains’) and at the suggestion of the Cardiff Civic Society, TVR 28 had been taken for a photocall at the Coal Exchange whilst en-route to the Gwili Railway in West Wales.
TVR 28 is on loan to the Gwili Vintage Carriages Group and forms the centre piece of an ambitious plan to restore a complete Taff Vale Railway train. Fundraising (donations are still welcome) and a loan from the Transport Trust had enabled the project to go ahead, and the locomotive was reassembled at the railway workshops in Llangollen mainly by engineering apprentices.
Now back in one piece after 17 years and sporting a Great Western Railway livery for the first time since 1927, the locomotive looked surprisingly small against the giant buildings of renewal, but in keeping with the Coal Exchange, a Grade II listed building from 1886. The Coal Exchange was once home to hundreds of merchants trading coal, and was where (reportedly) the first million pound deal was struck. Currently empty after it closed to the public in 2013 it is hoped that a sympathetic redevelopment of the building will start soon.
It is also to be hoped that TVR 28’s return to Cardiff will have whetted the appetite of those interested in seeing a restored pre-grouping train. In this case something that will fly the flag (the Welsh Dragon) for standard gauge preservation in Wales.
Find out more, and keep up to date with progress via Taff Vale Railway’s Facebook page.