Clock and Engine Side

From Festipedia, hosted by the FR Heritage Group

Clock and Engine Side are terms are used to differentiate the two sides of the railway or a vehicle on it. According to the rule book the clock side is the left hand side looking towards Blaenau and the engine side is the right.


The origins of the terms are thought to be a touch of whimsy from early volunteers at Boston Lodge and refer to locations within Boston Lodge works.

Typically double engines were maintained on Nos 2 or 3 road at Boston Lodge. When stabled there the driver's side was adjacent the old 'clocking in' clock that was mounted on the wall where the lobby is now. The fireman's side was adjacent to a Crossley hot bulb gas engine that worked the line shaft machinery. Hence the adoption of clock side for the driver's side, and engine side for the fireman's side.

The 'clocking in' clock was removed, but the reference still makes sense as now a clock is hung from a roof beam close to the original location. This clock is also labelled on each of the twelve positions with the letters JOLLYGOODFUN (JGF), a reference attributed to working on the FR by John Routly.

The FR was laid out for the driver's side to be on the clock side. When the Ladies arrived from Penrhyn they were right hand drive engines (the coal bunker being on the left hand side). Very soon after they arrived tenders were added to each locomotive, the coal bunker removed and the reverser moved over to the left hand side, enabling them to be driven from that side.

However, when Taliesin was delivered from Vulcan Foundry in 1876 they delivered it with their standard right hand drive configuration, and it remained in this form for all its working life. The right hand drive was perpetuated when the replica was made in 2000, and subsequently Lyd is also a right hand drive locomotive.

The standard parlance for loco crews is to refer to double engines as having top ends and bottom ends, and up and down trains with reference to the principal gradient on the line.

When the Welsh Highland began its revival, the up and down train references were used again, with no problem as that line also had a principal gradient facing the same way as the Ffestiniog.

However, once working past the summit on the WHR, up trains were working downhill and vice versa. To eliminate any possibility of confusion, the rule book was changed to encourage references to be made to the 'Blaenau End' or 'Caernarfon End' of rolling stock and infrastructure rather than top and bottom or up and down. This change also meant clock and engine side had even more meaning than before, these terms being official ones recognised in the Rule Book.