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Britain’s oldest working steam locomotive to visit Welsh heritage railway

13 Mar 2023 3 minute read
Furness No 20 at Kingscote by rcarpe2 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Britain’s oldest working steam locomotive will be visiting Blaenavon’s Heritage Railway, the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway, in late May and early June.

Furness Railway No.20, which is 160 years old this year, is making its first visit to Wales as part of the Blaenavon Heritage Railway’s 40th anniversary celebrations, courtesy of the Furness Railway Trust.

To commemorate the visit and to encourage people to visit the railway to view the historic locomotive, children aged 15 and under will be able to travel free on all dates when the engine is operating.

Built in 1863 by Sharp Stewart and Co., Furness Railway No.20 is an 0-4-0 tender locomotive and one of eight similar engines that operated on the Furness Railway in north-west England.

With the rapid increase in rail traffic in the 1860s meant small four wheeled engines like the No.20 soon became obsolete and in 1870 it was sold, along with five others in its class to the Barrow Haematite Steel Company. There it became BHSC No.7 and continued in service for another 90 years (just three years short of its centenary), until 1960 when diesel locomotives took over.


According to historians at Ribble Steam Railway Museum, instead of being scrapped, the two remaining former F.R. machines were presented to local schools.

BHSC No. 7 stood in the grounds of the George Hastwell Special School in Abbey Road, Barrow for over twenty years before being purchased by a group of enthusiasts determined to restore this historic locomotive to steam.

A Heritage Lottery Fund grant award of £97,000 allowed restoration work to continue, and after a total rebuild, including the construction of a new boiler and tender, the locomotive emerged two years later in December 1998, resplendent in Furness Railway Indian Red livery, 135 years after its construction.

Furness Railway No 20 by limegarth is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Remarkable survivor

Nathan Russell, the Railway’s Events Coordinator, said of the visit: “It is a delight to welcome Britain’s oldest working steam locomotive to Blaenavon for our fortieth-anniversary celebrations.

“It is a remarkable survivor that is testament to those who were determined to preserve the engine against all odds, and we really hope that many will come along to see her in action on our beautiful and challenging railway, and it is why we are allowing kids to travel free on the days when it is operation.

“I would like to give my thanks to the Furness Railway Trust for allowing this historic visit, and to our Operations Director Alex Hinshelwood and the Railway’s steam Department for their efforts in securing the locomotive.”

Furness Railway No.20 will be operating at Blaenavon’s Heritage Railway during the following weekends:

  • 20th and 21st May;
  • 27th and 28th May (Coal Train Weekend);
  • 10th and 11th June (Model Railway Show).

The Blaenavon Heritage Railway has a full season of events planned for visitors, kicking off with an Easter Family Fun weekend  starting on Friday 7 April.

Find out more about the Blaenavon Heritage Railway, special events, timetables and fares please visit the website.

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