K1 is the first locomotive built to The Garratt Patent (No 12079) granted in 1907. Built in 1909 it exists today through an amazing series of "escapes". It represents a rare and important survival of a prototype steam locomotive and represents the final stage in the development of the articulated locomotive that began in the earliest days of the steam loco.
K1 preserves important elements in the early development of the Garratt locomotive that were rarely, if at all, repeated. One example is the location of the cylinders on the inward ends of the engines which was never repeated. Another is the use of compound expansion which was only repeated once more when one further compound Garratt was supplied to Burma in 1928.
There are also a number of other important mechanical features present in this locomotive that set it apart from "ordinary industrial locomotives" and make it as important as many cherished standard gauge locomotives.
It is owned by the Festiniog Railway Trust, the locomotive having been purchased for them in 1966 by the Festiniog Railway Company aided by the Ffestiniog Railway Society. K1 has been restored by a volunteer team (K1 Project) and FR and Dinas staff for use on the newly reopened Welsh Highland Railway.
K1 (and sister engine K2) were delivered to Zeehan in Western Tasmania in 1910 and put to work on the 2ft gauge North East Dundas Tramway where they hauled Silver-Lead ore for twenty years. By 1929 both engines were withdrawn from service following loss by the N-E Dundas Tramway of its major traffic. K1 and K2 were placed in storage at Zeehan in Western Tasmania. In 1947, Beyer Peacock purchased K1 as a museum piece. The loco had been drawn to their attention after Charles S Smith of the TGR (he started as an apprentice in 1940 and retired as chief engineer in 1981) had first suggested contacting Beyer Peacock. The firm was initially only interested in the loco's plates, but Smith, together with chief draughstman Douglas Wherett, persuaded TGR chief engineer George Mullens to offer the loco to Beyer Peacock at scrap value. By this time the loco was a combination of the power units of K1 and the boiler frame of K2; the swap was almost certainly made in service, and not (as often stated) when TGR employee Mark Gray prepared the loco for shipment; at this time the loco identified as K2 (with K1's boiler frame) was complete, stored in a different shed at Zeehan. The resultant locomotive (now known as K1) was shipped from Burnie (on Tasmania's North coast) to Manchester (England). K2 was later dismantled (when?) and the ex-K1 boiler was sold on for stationary use in a sawmill.
K1 returned to Gorton Foundry, the works of Beyer Peacock in Manchester, in 1947 where it was placed on display as a museum piece. In 1955 Beyer Peacock attempted to make K1 operational in celebration of their Centenary but failed in their attempt. K1 was offered to the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum in 1961, but this was not pursued as the NGRM could not offer covered accommodation. In 1963 Beyer Peacock surveyed the locomotive in order to sell it.
In 1966 the Festiniog Railway succeeded in purchasing the locomotive with the aid of the FR Society and it was moved to Porthmadog and displayed for a while at Harbour Station.
By 1967, K1 was in store at Boston Lodge. Between 1966 to 1976, numerous schemes were proposed to make K1 fit to work within the limited loading gauge of the Ffestiniog Railway, but no funds were raised nor any work done. In 1976, K1 was placed on loan by the FR to the National Railway Museum, York, where many people considered it to have reached its last resting place.
By 1995, having launched their bid to rebuild the Welsh Highland Railway, the Festiniog Railway Company asked the Welsh Highland Railway Society to supervise the complete restoration of K1. K1 was moved to Tyseley, home of the Birmingham Railway Museum, so that volunteers living in the Midlands could work on the loco.
Early in 2000 the locomotive was moved to Boston Lodge so that restoration could proceed further; the boiler frame was initially moved to Dinas. The major parts of the locomotive below footplate level were completed and the cab and tanks restored. The new boiler was assembled by Israel Newton & Sons in Bradford (incorporating major components from an abortive contract with Winson Engineering, now defunct) and arrived in 2002.
The ex-K2 boiler had been condemned in stages at Tyseley; it had been hoped to fit a new barrel to the original firebox, but the latter had been found to suffer from too much cracking to allow this. After display for a time at Dinas, the firebox assembly came to rest in the boiler park at Minffordd.
By the end of 2002, the funds that had been raised for restoration work were almost exhausted and the use of paid staff at Boston Lodge could not continue. Work on the locomotive slowed greatly as a result. However by the beginning of 2004 enough funding was available to re-engage paid labour, and work was resumed at full pace. Reassembly had reached the point in late July where a steam test could be carried out at Boston Lodge. K1 moved under its own power for the first time since 1929 on 22 August 2004.
On 2 October 2004, the locomotive was moved by road to Dinas. It ran trials during the first week of November but unfortunately small problems continued to impede progress for the next few years.
Until K1 gained full type approval, it ran on tests as a restricted use vehicle.
After several weeks of hints, K1 received HMRI approval to work passenger trains unaided on Thursday September 7th 2006 and the long promised Supporters' Special was run on Friday 8th, sadly without a large turnout, in view of the short notice. In celebration of HMRI approval, the yellow on the buffer beams was painted over with red on Friday 8th, showing that the loco is no longer a restricted use vehicle.
During the 2006 Superpower Weekend K1 hauled a short shuttle set, comprising FR No.39 & No.16 with the Combination Car at the rear, between Caernarfon and Waunfawr. Following the revision of the risk assessment, this train was worked with K1 at the top end in Push-Pull mode, with a qualified driver manning the brake valve in 1001 on the downhill trips, in addition to the driver and fireman on K1.
During 2007 the conversion to coal was carried out, and during 2008 it was in regular use on a shorter set, although tests were made with longer sets to assess performance.
In April and May 2009 K1 received a its final TGR livery of gloss black with red and yellow lining.
Many efforts to improve steaming have been made, during early 2011 the valve timings have been reset, improving performance and giving a sharper beat to the exhaust.