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the FR Heritage Group wiki.
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From this month's featured article

A contemporary engraving of a horse hauled train of waggons on the Cob together with a gravity train at Rhiw Plas

Horse operation was a feature of the FR from its opening until the introduction of steam locomotives.

James Spooner's elegant survey for the Festiniog Railway described a line of railway falling at a fairly steady gradient from the upper terminus near Blaenau Ffestiniog (700ft) to Boston Lodge, at the eastern end of the Cob (Sea Level) and was designed to allow loaded waggons to run down the line under gravity with empties being hauled back up by horses.

For a period after the opening of the railway, in 1836, the smooth line of James Spooner’s survey was interrupted by a pair of inclines that took the line over a shoulder of the Moelwyn mountains. Spooner had planned for a tunnel but had been overruled by Henry Archer on the grounds of cost. After a couple of years, and as traffic developed, the inclines became such a hindrance that Spooner prevailed and, in 1839, work began to drive the tunnel. It was opened in 1842 and from then on the FR was able to operate as it had been designed; loaded waggons exploiting the free power of gravity and being taken back up to the quarries by horses.

Each horse could haul 7 or 8 slate waggons and, though they are usually referred to as ‘empties’ they were, in fact, frequently loaded with a lucrative back traffic of goods for the growing community at Blaenau Ffestiniog. Each train included one extra wagon, known as a Dandy. These were high-sided open wagons with a door at one end, designed to carry the horse on the downward journey, permitting them to rest between duties. The earliest examples were wooden, as were the contemporary slate waggons. Later, iron dandies were built at Boston Lodge. (more...)


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This month's featured picture

Harlech Castle at Boston Lodge

Harlech Castle is medium sized diesel locomotive that forms part of the Ffestinog Railway's Infrastructure Department locomotive fleet.

This 0-6-0DH locomotive (Builder's number 3767 of 1983) was built by Baguley-Drewry of Burton-on-Trent, for an order from Mozambique which was subsequently cancelled. INA (as Harlech Castle is sometimes known) acquired her nickname from the Mozambique company's Instituto Nacional do Acucar (National Sugar Institute) initials on her cab side.

The locomotive did trials on the Ffestiniog Railway in 1985 but was found to be too large to fit within the loading gauge. Subsequently, the company purchased her in 1988 from the Bredgar & Wormshill Light Railway in Kent in part exchange for The Peckett. She was altered at Boston Lodge with funding from the INCA Programme, with a repositioned and differently-profiled cab and a replacement transmission. Fitted with RAF waggon couplings and no vacuum brakes, she went into service in 1990 with the Permanent Way Department. Her 180hp CAT engine, fully enclosed cab and seats make a nice change from other works engines. She has a HARLECH CASTLE nameplate on one side and CASTELL HARLECH on the other. These plates had been made in 1986 with the intention of renaming Upnor Castle but that plan was later cancelled and the plates given to the new locomotive instead.

Photo credit: User:JamesH125

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