Blaenavon heritage railway is a top attraction
3:02pm Wednesday 4th September 2013 in News
MEET Mary Mahabir - the Ystrad Mynach woman who loves steam trains so much, she's bought her own.
Mrs Mahabir, 54, has had a love of steam trains since being a child. For the past seven years, she has volunteered at the Blaenavon Heritage Railway.
Mrs Mahabir has fond memories of going on steam engines as a child with her father who was an engineer.
She also believes that she's a relative of the inventors of the Stephenson's Rocket an early steam locomotive, built in 1829 by George and Robert Stephenson and was the most advanced locomotive of its day.
Her interest in the railway has led to more than her volunteering in the heritage station's tea rooms, as in 2009 she purchased her own locomotive.
She explained that the opportunity came about after she saw it on sale in Yorkshire and she ended up buying it.
It was delivered on the back on a loader lorry and took seven months to restore.
She said: “It was thanks to other volunteers at the railway who carried out restoration jobs that it was completed.”
Her locomotive, RSH Mech Navvies Steam Locomotive 71515, is now based at the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway, and from 2010 it has carried thousands and thousands of passengers.
She believes that the locomotive was first built for the war department in the 1940’s in the north east of England, and it continued to be used until 1970’s when it broke down.
It was then bought by enthusiasts and taken to east Somerset, before being sold to a buyer in Yorkshire where it was used on a heritage railway.
She said: “I loved the restoration project and its pleasing to see it back in use again.”
Her love of trains has led daughter Shakira to also help in the station's tea room - and that led her to love.
She met volunteer of over 15 years Alex Hinshelwood, 28, who, after receiving a train set for Christmas at the age of 12, was inspired by his grandmother’s neighbour to go with him to the station where he volunteered as a guard.
And their relationship is still going strong after four and a half years.
Mrs Mahabir is part of a small but determined band of volunteers who keep the Blaenavon-based railway running.
This year is its 30th anniversary.
Although the regular passenger service stopped in 1941, the line remained open until 1980 to carry coal from the mines in the area, including Blaenavon's Big Pit.
The group of enthusiasts got together to save some of the line and in August 1983, they ran their first trains from Furnace Sidings to the Whistle Inn.
In the past few years, the railway has grown rapidly and now operates a compact but busy network, with trains running to Blaenavon High Level, Big Pit and the Whistle Inn.
The operations are now based at the station at Furnace Sidings which has been built from scratch.
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