This year's difficulties continue for everyone; in my previous Progress Report (August 2020) I noted that the Committee had decided to cancel the 2020 AGM and that the Officers would remain in post until the 2021 AGM. This decision was understood by all subscribers, many of whom wished the Fund well and hoped that it would be possible to see Maid Marian once again in 2021 when the pandemic had died down. The Railway had opened successfully for several months until the service was halted by the Welsh Government's decision to order a further lockdown. Since then there has been no change in circumstances and movement into Wales has become problematic; at this juncture it is not possible to give any indication of when the loco will be next in steam. The Railway is holding Working Parties involving the appropriate social distancing and using only volunteers from Wales but of course there will be no opportunities for the Fund to have a sales stand in the foreseeable future.
The Fund will be producing a small run of Christmas cards featuring two scenes of locomotive No.1 at the bottom level of the Dinorwic Quarry. These will be on sale in packs of 6 cards, 3 of each type and will cost £4.50 each pack, including P & P. Cheques should be made out in favour of the Maid Marian Locomotive Fund and sent to the Honorary Secretary at 139, Stoops Lane, DONCASTER, South Yorkshire DN4 7RG. A calendar for 2021 has not been produced and arrangements are being made to consider a different publisher; the Fund regrets the interruption to what has been a steady supply of calendars since 2014 and hopes to resume with a calendar for 2022.
The Fund was saddened to learn about the passing away of John Firth in early November. John had always been interested in railways, particularly narrow gauge ones; he volunteered at the Ffestiniog Railway in its early days and became a founder member. He was in the original working party that had met in a mill yard in Bolton to clean some wagons owned by the then Welsh Highland Railway (1964). This led to a discussion about locos leaving the UK for export to the USA and subsequently to the small party that visited the Dinorwic Quarry in July 1965 to view the locomotive Maid Marian with a view to purchasing it. John was heavily involved in the initial stages of the Fund and was the Secretary for many years at the time when the Fund was quite unknown; he had many contacts around the country with whom he corresponded over a range of different subjects. He continued to act as Secretary once the loco had been acquired and remained in this post until 1970. In 1972 he rejoined the Committee and became Chairman in 1974 and in 1978 he became Secretary once more until 1986. John's life was busy; he continued to be the organist at the Harwood Methodist Church alongside his interest in railways until 1997 when he moved to Northumberland. He worked in a number of civil engineering positions, specialising in motorway design for Lancashire County Council before setting up his own consultancy 2004. Our deepest sympathies go to Joan, his wife for 55 years and to his daughters Helen and Joanne.
The Fund is pleased to announce that it has successfully acquired a Hunslet works plate number 822, which was bought at auction in late November. This is an important artefact for the Fund, as it is the only item of the original Maid Marian that was supplied to the Dinorwic Quarry in 1903 that the Fund owns. The photograph in the auction catalogue showed that it has the distinctive markings around the numbers that Hunslet used when casting the first pair of works plates for each loco. There was also a gash in the casting, showing signs of heavy use in the quarry environment. Any subsequent castings made by Hunslet for the same locomotive could be distinguished by the fact that the individual loco number and date of manufacture were set on a blank background. This is how the current works plates on Maid Marian have been cast, when the loco was being made ready for presentation to the Fund after it had been purchased in 1967. Clearly, the original works plates were no longer available to the Quarry, possibly because the Quarry was known to sell off brasses from locos that were out of commission. Maid Marian, along with Bernstein and Rough Pup, was stranded by a rockfall around 1965; when the first group of interested people visited the Quarry in 1965 to inspect Maid Marian the name plates and works plates were missing, presumably removed by the Quarry.
It has been well documented that the current Maid Marian has no parts stamped 822 (the latest 10 year inspection had confirmed this). Most of the parts stamped 822 are on King of the Scarlets, now at Statford Barn Railway, with some others on Velinheli, now at the Launceston Railway. More recently the whistle stamped 822 was spotted on Hugh Napier, also a Hunslet loco though from the Penrhyn Quarry; presumably the whistle was bought at the closing down sale in 1969 and incorporated into the rebuilt Hugh Napier. So the recent acquisition of the works plate is an important milestone in the Fund's history; the Committee will be deciding on how best to celebrate this event. It can hardly be called a re-union of the works plate with the locomotive because it was never united with any of the parts of the locomotive we like to call "Maid Marian" The works plate is now in safe storage and will await a suitable opportunity for an official ceremony, when it is hoped that interested subscribers can be invited to the unveiling of the plate. Naturally the plate will be on the side of the loco facing the platform at Llanuwchllyn where it can have pride of position; however, the continuing Covid 19 situation means that no date can yet be proposed when this ceremony can take place.
In the August 2019 Progress Report, subscribers were asked if they had any possible suggestions for where Maid Marian could travel for photo opportunities on another railway, subject to operating conditions on the Bala Lake Railway. Since then, no suggestions have been made but some consideration has been given to organising a Subscribers' Day on the BLR so that subscribers could spend more time with the loco than might be usually available on, say, an AGM day when the AGM eats into the time available on that day. The format of the day has yet to be decided and, of course, COVID 19 considerations mean that no date can even be considered. However, this possible day could include the ceremony mentioned in the previous item; subscribers will be kept informed on any developments that might arise.
The Committee would like to take the opportunity of wishing all subscribers the Season's Greetings and the hope that 2021 will bring more opportunities than 202 has done. Keep safe!
Hugh Jones Honorary Secretary 04.12.20Back to home page.