At Boston Lodge, 2011
|Type||Penrhyn Mainline Hunslet|
|Status||Out of Service|
|Designed by||Hunslet Engine Company|
|Built by||Hunslet Engine Company|
|December 1963||Arrived from the Penrhyn Railway|
|1972||Converted to oil|
|2013||Converted to coal|
|Wheel Arrangement||2-4-0ST+T (originally 0-4-0ST)|
|Length||28 ft 4 in|
Blanche is a 2-4-0 saddle tank and tender locomotive operating on the Ffestiniog Railway. Originally built for the Penrhyn Quarry Railway it arrived on the FR in the 1960s.
This powerful engine was built as an 0-4-0ST by the Hunslet Engine Company, Leeds in 1893 (works No. 589) for main-line service on the Penrhyn Quarry Railway, costing £800 new. She is one of a class of three, the other two being Linda and Charles. The latter is preserved in the museum at Penrhyn Castle. She was named after Blanche Georgina Fitzroy (1865-1944), who married Edward Sholto Douglas-Pennant (the 3rd Baron of Penrhyn), and is together with Linda also known as one of the Ladies. Blanche was sent from Hunslets on 29th June 1893. She had a new firebox in 1920 and a new boiler in 1925. A full height cab rear sheet was fitted in 1934. She was repainted in the 'new livery' in June 1936 (sky blue lining instead of chocolate brown). An axle broke in June 1937 and the boiler off Linda and a new firebox were fitted in October 1939. An all welded tank was fitted in September 1949 and a new boiler in 1955. She worked the last steam trip over the Penrhyn main line on 27th July 1962.
Arrival on the FR
She was purchased by the FR in 1963 and arrived at the FR by lorry on 17th December. During 1964 she operated in close to Penrhyn condition with the addition of a temporary tender, previously used by Linda and originally from Palmerston. Whilst this tender was in use a door was cut into the rear cabsheet, in the style of the England Engines. For the 1965 season the cab roof was reprofiled as a result of clearance tests at Garnedd Tunnel, the cab rear sheet was removed, she was equipped with a new tender which incorporated an extended cab, and the wheel back to back dimension adjusted to fit the FR track gauge (Penrhyn gauge was 1ft 10.5"). These modifications followed similar ones carried out on Linda the year before.
In the 60's Blanche had a prang in the woods, this location now carrying the name Blanche's Bump.
She was rebuilt as a 2-4-0STT (saddle-tank tender engine) in 1972, with extended frames, new piston valve cylinders, oil burning and superheating. The pony truck fitted as part of the rebuild used a pair of wheels from the rear bogie of Single Fairlie Moel Tryfan, the other pair of wheels having already been used for a pony truck for Linda.
Blanche was used on the Welsh Highland Railway (C) between Dinas and Caernarfon in 1999, returning to the railway and requiring heavy maintenance in 2000. She was withdrawn from service when her boiler ticket expired in March 2003. Despite her status as a "traffic" engine, not part of heritage fleet, the parlous state of the company's finances required extensive fundraising for her new boiler, but following a large number of donations she returned in May 2005. Blanche received an overdue repaint in 2011.
In 2014 Blanche featured on a stamp issued by the Royal Mail as part of a a series celebrating "Classic Welsh Locomotives". The photo used was taken in 1964 and featured the loco still in Penrhyn condition with temporary tender and wearing the Y Cymro headboard.
Blanche is currently out of service, following expiry of the boiler certificate. Her final train was a special from Porthmadog to Tan Y Bwlch on the evening of 1st May 2016. As part of an overhaul the ex-Moel Tryfan pony wheels were replaced. The old wheels were sent (along with those from Linda) to the WHHR for display alongside Moel Tryfan's bogie frames.
Blanche is affectionately known by those who work on her as Ricket.
The engine also has a support site, aptly entitled Ricket Rescue, which detailed her return to active service.
Principal stated dimensions
Cylinders: 10.5" x 12", Nominal wheel diameter: 2' 2", Boiler pressure: 160 psi., Rigid wheelbase 5' 0". Tractive Effort (85% BP): 6,320lb, Weight: 12¼ tons (excluding tender)
- Mitchell V, 2002, "Festiniog: 50 years of Enterprise" caption 36
- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-26262966 Classic locomotives in Wales on new Royal Mail stamps, BBC News, 20 February 2014
- http://www.ricketrescue.co.uk Ricket Rescue