Our Great Western Railway 0-6-2T is the wandering ambassador for the Furness Railway Trust. It has always been the intention that the locomotive would travel far and wide, earning its keep and flying the flag for the Trust.
Having made its first passenger run in 43 years on 1st September 2006 at the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway where it was restored, 5643 was off and away immediately to the Llangollen Railway, for a successful initial hire period from September 2006 to the end of April 2007.
This allowed the locomotive to star in the LR's September gala weekend, but also to undertake running-in under the watchful eye of a team that has considerable expertise in dealing with GWR locomotives. The engine bedded in well - undertaking Santa Special and regular service duties at the LR, and culminating with its appearance at the spectacular Betton Grange Gala in April 2007.
5643 was called up to haul a non-stop special running the entire length of the line, and made up of no less than 8 coaches: quite a challenge for any engine with 3 miles of the strenuous Berwyn Bank at the start of the journey!
5643 then spent just two weeks back at the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway in May for the Mixed Traffic Gala before heading south again, to visit the Barry Island Railway. This was a poignant trip: 5643 spent its final months in British Railways service based in Barry, before moving next door to the famous Woodham's scrapayard.
It is the first member of this class that was so closely associated with South Wales to return to the area in preservation.
Next top, a short stay at the East Lancashire Railway, for its June 2007 gala event.That included double-heading with the iconic GWR record breaker "City of Truro" (the engine that Furness Railway Number 20 rubbed shoulders with at the National Railway Museum).
The engine then went back to the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway.
Unusually, it faced downhill - running boiler first on trains from Lakeside to Haverthwaite. This opened up new photographic possibilities.
The July Steam Gala event also saw the first time that 5643 appeared in action alongside the FRT flagship engine Furness Railway Number 20, although the pair ran separately, not double-heading together.
The hectic 2007 schedule continued with Weybourne Shed its next temporary home on the North Norfolk Railway. A fairly intensive month-long hire saw the engine in action during a Steam Gala weekend and on regular service trains. Such was the popularity of this visit that 5643 returned to East Anglia again 12 months on in August/September 2008.
Back with 2007, after a brief return to Llangollen, the engine paid a short visit to the Great Central Railway for its October gala event. The GCR used a Stanier 8F and Black Five to haul a long rake of its iconic "windcutter" wagons... however many visitors were more impressed by 5643 taking the train away afterwards unaided!
Tot that up and that's seven gala and special event starring appearances in one year - something of a record!
5643 had a fewer dates with the low loader in 2008 - it spent virtually the whole year at Llangollen apart from the month-long foray back to the North Norfolk Railway for another star turn at the Poppy Line's Steam Gala.
Llangollen had another major booking for the locomotive in 2009, apart from a brief foray to the Severn Valley Railway for its famous autumn Steam Gala, and Llangollen duties were completed in time for 5643 to guest at the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway in Yorkshire for the Santa Special Season. The locomotive was steamed 88 times in 2009 - another very busy year!
201o started with a photocharter at Embsay before moving to the Ribble Steam Railway at Preston. This line is providing a new workshop base for the FRT and 5643 starred alongside FRT stablemate "Cumbria" for the February gala - the first time the pair have been in steam together on the same site at the same time. 5643 stayed on for winter maintenance and to haul Easter services.
The majority of 2010 was spent back at Llangollen for another major booking but first the engine managed to fit in two gala appearances in just two weekends at the Midland Railway - Butterley in Derbyshire in early May. The 56 was in action first with the Vintage Train event over the May Day bank holiday weekend, and then starring in the 1960s gala the following weekend.
A last minute stop off back at the Severn Valley Railway allowed 5643 to undertake half a dozen steamings covering for missing SVR locos that themselves were away at a GWR 175 gala elsewhere!
5643 ran at Llangollen to the end of 2010 when the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Railway again requested the engine for what sadly turned out to be a snow-truncated Stanta Special season.
2011 dawned with 5643 receiving new valve liners at Embsay, before moving to Llangollen in time for the Spring Gala. Then in May, the locomotive began what was supposed to be a month-long hire running the 16 miles of the Wensleydale Railway. However the line liked the engine so much, it was booked to stay on til the end of October!
This saw 5643 undertaking a heavy workload, running at least 66 miles a day, 5 days a week during the school summer holiday period. The FRT provided all the drivers and firemen for these services.
Unfortunately, just before the end of the hire period, 5643 was failed with weepage from its boiler tubes and stays and a broken rivet in the foundation ring. This necessitated starting, two years earlier than planned, the loco's first heavy general overhaul since restoration.
If you wish to hire this powerful and beautifully turned out locomotive, then please contact us.
İFurness Railway Trust