From this month's featured article
Horse operation was a feature of the FR from its opening until the introduction of steam locomotives.
James Spooner’s elegant survey for the Festiniog Railway described a line of railway falling at a fairly steady gradient from the upper terminus near Blaenau Ffestiniog (700ft) to Boston Lodge, at the eastern end of the Cob (Sea Level) and was designed to allow loaded waggons to run down the line under gravity with empties being hauled back up by horses.
For a period after the opening of the railway, in 1836, the smooth line of James Spooner’s survey was interrupted by a pair of inclines that took the line over a shoulder of the Moelwyn mountains. Spooner had planned for a tunnel but had been overruled by Henry Archer on the grounds of cost. After a couple of years, and as traffic developed, the inclines became such a hindrance that Spooner prevailed and, in 1839, work began to drive the tunnel. It was opened in 1842 and from then on the FR was able to operate as it had been designed; loaded waggons exploiting the free power of gravity and being taken back up to the quarries by horses.
Each horse could haul 7 or 8 slate waggons and, though they are usually referred to as ‘empties’ they were, in fact, frequently loaded with a lucrative back traffic of goods for the growing community at Blaenau Ffestiniog. Each train included one extra wagon, known as a Dandy. These were high-sided open wagons with a door at one end, designed to carry the horse on the downward journey, permitting them to rest between duties. The earliest examples were wooden, as were the contemporary slate waggons. Later, iron dandies were built at Boston Lodge. (more...)
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This month's featured picture
Prince is (probably) the third of the first four locomotives. It is now numbered No. 2 but there is doubt about the order of building and numbering of the first four England engines. It was delivered to the FR in January 1864. These locomotives were worked hard; before the arrival of Taliesin they were coming in for a 2 week period of maintenance every quarter. In this period they would replace brake blocks, brasses and cotter pins in the crank pins as well as replacing some of the firebars. In 1878 Prince had its chimney knocked off and that of Mountaineer was put on. By May 1881 Prince was in a poor state with the boiler pressure restricted to 110lbs. It had a major refit with a 'sham' cast iron tank fitted on top of the side tanks to increase the weight to ten tons and improve adhesion in wet weather, a new weather board, new sandboxes, new cylinders and the boiler retubed.
The new owners in 1954 found the loco as left in 1946, in mid overhaul and with a new boiler. It was the obvious candidate for first loco to be restored. It first ran in preservation on August 2nd 1955 and was the mainstay of the service for the next 2 years. By 1962 Prince was in need of a major overhaul and was given a different frame arrangement, to try and take the drawbar load through the frames and not the boiler. This was the form in which it ran for its Centenary in 1963.
Prince's 2012/2013 overhaul was completed by passing its official steam test on 8th April prior to visiting London to be in steam at Acton Lane Depot over the weekend of 13/14 April.
Photo credit: Chris Jones
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