Historic locomotive reunited with its nameplate at Welsh Highland Railway

By Richard Moss | 03 December 2010
a photo of three men holding a name plaque with the name russell on it
Bob Darvill from the Industrial Railway Society (left) presents the nameplate to Martyn Owen (centre) and Christopher Boulter (right) of the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway© Welsh Highland Light Railway
A piece of narrow gauge history has returned home to the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway in Porthmadog, a decade after it was thought to be lost.

The original nameplate is from the line’s flagship steam engine, Russell (Hunslet 901 of 1906) and has been presented to the WHHR on loan by the Industrial Railway Society.

Made of solid brass, the nameplate was one of a pair made by the steelworks in Brymbo near Wrexham when the locomotive was refurbished there in 1942. It was then carried by Russell for the next ten years until the locomotive was withdrawn in 1953. 

When it was later rescued from the scrap heap by enthusiasts from the then Birmingham Locomotive Club the Russel had lost one of its nameplates. Even an article about its disappearance in the WHHR magazine failed to lead to any clues and it was presumed to have been lost forever. 

Years later the nameplate was presented to the Industrial Railway Society by the family of a deceased railway enthusiast and a deal has been done to loan it to the WHHR, which owns the other plate, as well as the locomotive itself.

Russell is currently being restored to its as-built 1906 condition, and should return to service during 2011. Since the nameplates it carried at that time looked different, the newly reunited pair of 1942 nameplates will go in the WHHR museum in Porthmadog for display.

“Russell is one of the world's most famous narrow gauge locomotives because of the number of lucky escapes its had during its life to become the only locomotive left from the original Welsh Highland Railway,” said Bob Darvill of the Industrial Railway Society. “We’re delighted to have helped a piece of its history to come home in this way.”

Another mystery still surrounds the other two nameplates carried by Russell from 1906 to 1942.  One is now in the National Railway Museum in York, but the other is also lost. The WHF would love to hear from anyone who might know where it is.
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