Hunslet Works photo; Kim Winter collection
|Hunslet Engine Co.
|Last known sighting
|Last written record
Gowrie was a Single Fairlie locomotive built for the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways in 1908. It has been suggested it was unsatisfactory in service and was sold during WW1, maybe in 1918. This was probably to raise funds to keep the railway going, or because without passenger trains a third engine was no longer needed.
Following the sale the locomotive was seen for sale at various yards in the North East of England and was probably scrapped in 1931.
Gowrie was the final engine purchased by the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways in 1908. The background to the purchase was given by J.C. Russell in his affidavit to the High Court, Chancery Division, sworn on 19th March 1908 in his role as Receiver and Manager, asking for £1300 to be released from 'Monies in Court':-
- It has become necessary to expend a sum not exceeding £1300 in the purchase of a new Locomotive in the place of one of the original Locomotives which has been running since the Line was opened in August 1877. In spite of the constant renewals and repairs one of the old Engines is quite worn out and the Engineer of the Company (Mr Aitchison) has informed me that it is impossible to renew it except by rebuilding it which is practically the same as acquiring a new Engine and that it would be less efficient, less powerful, and less economical in working than the proposed new Engine.
- I have carefully considered the matter with the said Engineer and have made enquiries from three Firms and have obtained a Tender from the Hunslet Engine Company Limited of Leeds and I find that the Engine proposed by that Company is the least costly and will prove very efficient and I submit that their Tender should be accepted.
- The Tender, and the Tracing No. 9992 referred to thereon, together with a letter from the said Hunslet Engine Company Limited dated 10th March 1908 to the said Mr Aitchison which accompanied them are produced and shewn to me at the time of swearing this my Affidavit and are fastened together and marked with the Letters “J.C.R”.
On 26th March the Court ordered that sufficient Consols (3% New Consolidated Stock) be sold to produce £1,300 which was transferred to the Company from the Paymaster General. A charge to renewals reserve of £1,298 in the last half of 1908 was undoubtably the cost. Delivery was in September 1908.
The original locomotive referred to would have been either Moel Tryfan or Snowdon Ranger, almost certainly the latter. Despite the comments in the affidavit, Hunslet supplied a new set of frame plates for Snowdon Ranger in 1908, and further spares until 1913 (and for Moel Tryfan until 1919). The last spares order by the NWNGR to Hunslets was in January 1916.
Built by Hunslet (works number 979), the basic design of Gowrie was the manufacturer's, but Gowrie C. Aitchison exerted influence to the extent that the single Fairlie bogie arrangement was used. Unlike the Spooner designed Fairlies the steam pipe on Gowrie travelled from the dome down the outside of the boiler to a ball joint below the bogie pivot. This resulted in a much longer steam pipe. Many features such as cab, boiler mountings and firebox outline were similar to Russell and a number of components were the same as those used on other Hunslet locomotives. Gowrie was the only single Fairlie to be built by Hunslet and the last built for UK use, until the Ffestiniog Railway built the replica Taliesin.
Gowrie was delivered to the NWNGR in September 1908.
In NWNGR service and subsequent sale
The locomotive reputedly suffered from being short of steam. A possible reason for this is that although the capacity of the locomotives cylinders to consume steam was greater than that of the earlier Fairlies its boiler was smaller. It also suffered from the steam pipe fracturing due to its inflexibility, the pipe was later rerouted to include a spiral round the dome in an attempt to increase the flexibility but the orders for spare parts continued, the last from Hunslet in December 1915 for piston rings and January 1916 for brake blocks.
Tradition has it that the engine was not a success, and after the combining of Moel Tryfan and Snowdon Ranger into one good loco in 1917, Gowrie was sold, probably in 1918. A paragraph headed North Wales Narrow Gauge Railway in a Magazine of 24 May 1919 said "We have heard it on the highest authority that last year the Locomotive ‘Gowrie’ was sold to the Government and that the two Locomotives ‘Moel Tryfan’ and ‘Snowdon Ranger’ have been dismantled and rebuilt as one locomotive with dimensions etc. about the same as the separate Locomotives before rebuilding." NWNGR driver Willie Hugh told Goronwy Roberts all about the locomotive, described as the most hateful machine he had ever encountered. The main issue was the sheer top-heaviness of the engine: it fell sideways off the rails twice, according to Goronwy, one location being near Bron Fedw, the other at Dolau Gwyn area. When re-purchase was discussed in the '20s after the WHR completion to augment the existing stock, the general concensus at Dinas was that it simply would not be safe on the poorly aligned McAlpine-built southwards extension (PBSSR)
From May 1919, and for several years, Gowrie was advertised for sale (at one point for £375) by J.F. Wake at Darlington with a 1918 Wakes rebuild plate. Robert Williams was sent to inspect it in steam and report on it for the FR in 1923, but this was not pursued. Also in 1923 an attempt was made to sell it to the Vale of Rheidol Railway fo £600, they declined and forwarded the offer to the FR who also declined (again). Spares were supplied by Hunslet in 1924. It was still in Wake's yard at Darlington when photographed in 1926, and continued to be advertised by them until the end of 1927.
At the beginning of 1928 the Wake's advertisements stopped and several of the engines, including Gowrie, were advertised by Hughes Bolckow Ltd, The Aerodrome, Marske-by-Sea, North Yorkshire, apparently sold to them. Several Royal Arsenal locomotives are reported to have gone the same route. Hughes Bolckow were shipbreakers, based at Battleship Wharf, Blyth, but also acted as scrap merchants. In early 1921 the firm had acquired 30 acres of land and 4 concrete hangars at the decommissioned Aerodrome from the MoM, Disposals Board, from which initially to dispose of stores of material from dumps in France purchased by the firm.
No further advertisements appeared and the last written record of the loco was by Robert Hudson Ltd in January 1931. It is assumed the loco was broken up soon after this as a list written later that year does not include the locomotive.
That might have been the end of Gowrie, but when men from Vulcan Foundry came to Boston Lodge to retube the Double Fairlie Taliesin in 1956 one of then said he had driven the engine on the contract for the East Lancs road (the present A580) being built between Liverpool and Salford from 1929 to 1933 by Sir Lindsay Parkinson Ltd. He spoke well of it. However, this evidence has to be seen in the light of 10 new engines (8 standard gauge, 2 of 2ft gauge) being bought for the job; why would they have purchased a second-hand one ?
- Main Article: Gowrie II
As of 2018, a group has been formed which plans to build a replica of Gowrie. The group is made up of engineers who have previously worked on Edward Sholto, the Mosely Railway trust's Hudswell 0-6-0T 1238 and a War Department Hunslet 4-6-0T 1215. The group have formed a trust and anticipate the cost to be in the region of £600,000. Construction is underway.
- Information from Vic Bradley
- Locomotive News and Railway Notes, 24 May 1919
- Flight, 27 January 1921
- "The Gowrie Project". Freinds of Gowrie Newletter (1).
- Festiniog Railway Heritage Group Journal, Issue 30, Summer 1992
- "Last Welsh Highland Fairlie to be Resurrected". Steam Railway (477): 17. 3 March 2018.
- Jones, Robin (9 March 2018). "Welsh Highland single Fairlie Gowrie to be recreated from new". Heritage Railway (239): 27.