Hunslet Works photo; Kim Winter collection
|Built by||Hunslet Engine Co.|
|1928||Last known sighting|
Gowrie was a Single Fairlie locomotive operating on the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways. It was sold during WW1, maybe in 1918, probably to raise funds to keep the railway going, or because without passenger trains a third engine was no longer needed. It has been suggested it was unsatisfactory in service.
Gowrie was the final engine purchased by the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways in 1908. Built by Hunslet (works number 979), the basic design of the loco was the manufacturer's, but Gowrie C. Aitchison exerted influence to the extent that the single Fairlie bogie arrangement was used. Many features such as cab, boiler mountings and firebox outline were similar to Russell. It was the last single Fairlie to be built for UK use, until the Festiniog built Taliesin III.
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.
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 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.’
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. 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 until the end of 1927. At the beginning of 1928 the Wake's advertisments 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 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. That might have been the end of Gowrie, but when men from Vulcan Foundry came to Boston Lodge to retube the Double Fairlie Taliesin (ex Livingston Thompson) 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 ?
- Boyd, James I.C. (1972). Narrow Gauge Railways in South Caernarvonshire. Lingfield, Surrey, England: The Oakwood Press. ISBN 9780853611158. OCLC 707587.
- Locomotive News and Railway Notes
- FR Heritage Group Journal No 30, Summer 1992