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Glendower Rheilffordd Gwibdaith

Welsh coach
Emett cartoon
The Rowland Emett cartoon which inspired Glendower Rheilffordd Gwibdaith

One of Rowland Emett's illustrations shows three carriages 'themed' with stereotypes of Scotland, Wales and Stratford-upon-Avon. A slight whoopsie on Emett's part as he depicts the Welsh hats as complete cones. These are more correctly 'witches' hats' or even 'dunces hats'. Welsh women wore truncanted (i.e. flat-topped) slightly conical hats (see photo below) – unless they were from Pembrokeshire, in which case the hats were parallel-sided, akin to 'top hats'. Although not part of Emett's illustration, at the Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway similarly-themed coaches will be pulled by an Irish locomotive.

Emett named his locomotive Owen Glendower and this coach also commemorates Owain Glyndŵr (circa 1359 to circa 1415), the last native Welshman to hold the title Tywysog Cymru (Prince of Wales). Rheilffordd gwibdaith is Welsh for 'railway outing'.

The management of Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway regard the coaches used on the Talyllyn Railway as somehow quintessentially 'Welsh railway'. Purists may disagree, perhaps on the basis that these vehicles were built in the 1960s to enable the preserved line to carry passengers. But what's the point of being a purist except to allow others to irk you?

The roof owes nothing to the Talyllyn Railway coaches, which do not have clerestory roofs, nor ventilators shaped like Welsh women's hats. And, so far as the management of Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway are aware, no railway carriages have roof finials shaped as small red dragons (in homage to y ddraig goch). Not even Ivor the Engine's carriages.

In the coach are four members of Urdd Gobaith Cymru (literally 'Welsh League of Hope' but often translated as 'Welsh League of Youth') practicing on their harps.

Welsh ladies

Ladies dressed in Welsh costume partaking of tea and what looks like a fine bara brith. The photograph is undated but presumably from after 1880, when traditional Welsh female attire (which had largely gone of out of 'common use' by the mid-nineteeth century) was revived as part of the expression of Welsh identity. Although the ladies' shawls look black they were presumably red – early photographic emulsions were orthochromatic so red appears as black.


Most of this coach was comnstructed from an I P Engineering kit of a Talyllyn Railway No.4 coach. The wheels, axles and centre couplings supplied were replaced with counterparts from Binnie Engineering, mostly to maintain consistency with other Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway rolling stock. For the same reason LGB couplings were added, along with small wooden blocks to support them. Another couple of stripwood cross-members were added to beef up the chassis. More for appearance than necessity M2 self-tappers were tapped into pilot holes to make the running gear look more authentic.

After assembling the kit the management realised the laser-cut axle boxes should also have been swapped for moulded Binnie ones – leaf springs in plywood less than 1 mm thick are just too fragile!

The chassis was sprayed matt black then the more visible parts painted with black artists' acrylic. The bodywork was stained before assembly with Colron wood stains – either mahogany or English light oak. The challenge of sticking the very thin 'trim' to the main structure was solved with Photomount – this went on uniformly without 'seeping' around any edges and proved to have more than enough adhesion. After assembly some more light oak stain was selectively applied then the whole body (but not the chassis) was sealed with a coat of matt polyurethane varnish.

The 'hidden' part of the roof was assembled from foam-cored board then sprayed matt black (except for the ceiling – this isn't seen but leaving it white helps make the harpists more visible).

The visible part of the roof is from an LGB 'Rio Grande' coach – the rest of the coach has been used for another item of rolling stock, but not the roof. Suitable modifications were followed by a trip to the paint shop.

Welsh coach
Welsh coach
Welsh coach
Top: the I P Engineering kit unmodified, except for the chassis.
Middle: the 'sound sytem' in place, before painting.
Above: the completed coach.
Welsh coach
The four harpists and their instruments

The four girl harpists were adapted from figures supplied by Dorspring Models. Truth be told these are 1:25 scale – but as they are quite young members of Urdd Gobaith Cymru then hopefully no one will notice. Additional clothing was made from masking tape and Welsh hats added using Milliput. Their harps were made from assorted strip wood, stained with Colron dyes. No attempt was made to replicate strings or tuning pegs – the management were doing this for fun, not purgatory.

Hidden in the roof is a small MP3 player and loudspeaker. So the sound of harps can be heard as the carriage makes it way.

There is space in the roof void to add battery-powered LED lighting but this has yet to be actioned. Sorted.

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Images and text copyright Bob Trubshaw 2018–2021