Taff Vale Railway
No 28 was built at the West Yard Works of the Taff Vale Railway in Cardiff, being put into service in May 1897. Built as an 01 Class, 0-6-2 Mixed Traffic tank locomotive, the design was perfect for the TVR’s main traffic of hauling coal from the South Wales Valleys to the South Wales Ports. The tank locomotive arrangement provided a high level of adhesion, combined with a flexible route availability due to its diminutive size and ability to run equally well smokebox or bunker first due to its radial truck arrangement. The 17 ½” x 26” Stroke cylinders provide a tractive effort of 18,600lbs. During her Taff Vale Railway ownership, records show that the loco was based at Cardiff Cathays, Aberdare and Abercynon. Unfortunately no photographs of No 28 in service are known to exist.
Great Western Railway
In 1922, the TVR were absorbed into the Great Western Railway. The locomotive was renumbered 450, before being given a major overhaul in 1923, with a new boiler being fitted including a GWR style safety valve cover. However, with locomotive design moving apace and No 450 now 29 years old, in 1926 the Victorian locomotive was withdrawn from service and advertised for sale, being in ‘good order’.
Life after the GWR
This could have been the end for the locomotive. However fate shone upon her and as all her classmates were scrapped, GWR 450 found a new home on the Woolmer Military Instructional Railway, later to become the Longmoor Military Railway. Renumbered WD 205 and later WD 70205.The engine was named "Gordon", after General Gordon of Khartoum, and was kept in immaculate condition in Hampshire, performing relatively light duties compared to its TVR working days. The locomotive’s military service came to an end in 1947 when she was deemed surplus to requirements.
Yet again, lady luck was to play her part and ‘The Last Survivor’ as the loco is affectionately nicknamed, was again saved from the scrapman. This time coal was to be the locomotive’s saviour as she headed North to the Hetton Colliery Railway, Country Durham, under the ownership of the National Coal Board. Under the new number of 67, although still wearing ‘Gordon’ nameplates she worked tirelessly until 1955 when a major overhaul was undertaken at the NCB Philadelphia Works. This overhaul included a new boiler, NCB pattern buffer beams, welded water tanks and replacement of the vacuum brake with a steam brake. However in 1960, the locomotive’s 63 year working life came to an end when she was withdrawn from service.
As a truly unique piece of Victorian engineering, representing the last ever standard gauge steam locomotive built in Wales and one of only two surviving Taff Vale Railway Locomotives, in 1962, the NCB donated the locomotive to the British Transport Commission, later the National Railway Museum, arriving back in South Wales at the Caerphilly Works in February 1962.
The locomotive was then stored for a number of years at different locations before returning to Caerphilly in 1967 under the custodianship of the Caerphilly Railway Society, being displayed there until 1971 before restoration commenced and TVR 28 returned to steam on the 8th April 1983. The locomotive ran for 7 years, before being withdrawn in 1990, before moving to the Dean Forest Railway in 1996. The locomotive was dismantled, the wheels, axle journals and crankpins being re-machined at Swindon. The rear dragbox assembly was replaced and the rear sections of the frames were locally built-up where they had wasted. Axleboxes were overhauled and new springs were obtained to replace these life expired items. After considerable progress made on the restoration of the chassis, the restoration stalled and in 2008 the dismantled locomotive was moved into storage at the Llangollen Railway.
A New Hope
In 2013/14 a joint venture between the Gwili Vintage Carriage Group, National Railway Musuem and Llangollen Railway resulted in the fundraising and successful re-asembly of major components and cosmetic restoration of the loco to allow it to be put on display. In April 2014, TVR 28 travelled to South Wales, being displayed for one day near its birthplace at the West Yard Works in Cardiff. Between October 2014 and October 2015, the loco was displayed at the National Railway Museum in Shildon, before returning to her new home at the Gwili Railway. On 1 October 2019 the National Railway Museum and Welsh Railways Trust (Formerly Gwili Vintage Carriages Group) announced a three-year overhaul agreement to return it to steam in a £160,000 project.