By Philip Hindley
I have a particular interest in the Penrhyn Railway because many years ago I had a return trip up the railway in one of the quarrymen’s coaches. In the late 1950’s to early 1960’s much of the school holidays were spent with a like minded school friend exploring the railways of North Wales, travelling on many of the BR lines closed by Beeching, visiting quarries still using narrow gauge railways or walking long abandoned quarry tramways. On a visit to Port Penrhyn we were told that a school party would be travelling up the railway to the quarry later that day and we could travel with them. The date was August 1958, long before I started making proper notes or taking photographs, and only recorded because at the quarry we were taken through the mills on Red Lion Level to see the production of slates and were each given a slate as a souvenir on which I scratched the date of the visit. I made more than a dozen more visits to the quarry, some official others rather less so, before the rail system finished completely in 1967. As a newcomer to 16mm live steam the Roundhouse CHARLES therefore seemed a good model to start with.
The prototype locomotive CHARLES probably last worked in 1955. According to the quarry records the boiler received a water test in February 1955 and was given an eight months certificate with the pressure reduced to 100 lb/sq.in. In January 1956 the records state that it was not intended to overhaul this loco as a new boiler would probably be required. It was decided instead to utilise parts as spares for LINDA and BLANCHE. According to J.I.C.Boyd in his 1985 Oakwood Press book on the Penrhyn, CHARLES worked a last ‘special’ in 1958 and its tempting to think that this was the train I rode. However it’s probably unlikely that they would use a loco with a condemned boiler on such a train (if at all). I don’t recall seeing CHARLES on the railway and I believe after withdrawal it was stored in the shed at Port Penrhyn.
Overall I am very pleased with the Roundhouse model although there were a few items I thought could be improved, particularly the chimney and the buffers. Living just 20 minutes drive from Penrhyn Castle gave convenient access to the loco for measurements and photos. The new chimney was constructed in three sections – the barrel, with its lower end threaded to suit the existing fixing nut; the cap, heat shrunk onto the top of the barrel, and the base.