It was constructed at Andrew Barclay Sons and Co in Kilmarnock as a 2ft gauge 0-4-0 tank locomotive originally for use at the Royal Naval Flying Corps airfield at Manston in Kent. A few weeks later, on 1 April 1918, the Royal Air Force was formed and the airfield became RAF Manston, and so the locomotive’s connection with the RAF began.
In 1921 it was transferred to RAF Calshot. This was the RAF’s sea plane base in the Solent in Hampshire. Here it worked transferring personnel and stores on a line along Calshot Spit. When the line closed in 1945 the locomotive was eventually sold to Abelson and Co in Birmingham. It remained there until 1953 when it was donated to the newly preserved Talyllyn Railway.
With the centenary of the locomotive coming up and realising that 2018 also marked the centenary of the RAF, the railway has worked with the local RAF Association to mount a joint celebration of both centenaries.
During the event the locomotive was officially adopted by the association.
In attendance was the Lord Lieutenant of Gwynedd, Edmund Bailey and Dwyfor Meirionnydd AM Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, who has had a long association with the railway; also present were representatives of the RAF, the RAF Association and other local dignitaries.
Crewing the locomotive for the day were a current and a past member of the RAF, the latter being Chris Price formerly general manager at the Talyllyn Railway.
There were speeches and presentations to mark the event hosted by the current general manager, Stuart Williams.
RAF’s Air Officer Wales, Air Commodore Adrian Williams, said: “As the RAF celebrates its centenary in 2018, it is a real privilege to be able to commemorate and celebrate the centenary of an original RAF steam engine from 1918, that is now part of the Talyllyn Railway.
“Whilst the aircraft of the RAF have always tended to grab the attention and the headlines, there is so much more to the RAF and our history.
“In this RAF centenary year, as we celebrate our creation as the world’s first independent Air Force, it is fantastic to work with the Talyllyn Railway and recognise the very special connection between this steam engine and the RAF, all the way back to our very first days as an armed service.”
Ian Drummond, chairman of the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society, added: “We are delighted at the overwhelmingly positive response there has been, both during the event and online.
“The superb finish on the locomotive is a tribute to our paintshop team and thanks must also go to the local RAF Association for the help they have given us.”