James Spooner II

From Festipedia, hosted by the FR Heritage Group
James Spooner II
March 2024
Type Double Fairlie
Home Railway FR
Number 8
Status completed Construction
Designed by Boston Lodge
Built by Boston Lodge
Built 2016-2023
Wheel Arrangement 0-4-4-0T
Length 32 ft 6 in
Fuel Coal
Whistle(s) Replica FR whistles

The new James Spooner is the seventh locomotive to be built by the Festiniog Railway Company in its workshops at Boston Lodge, and the seventh FR Double Fairlie. The building of the new locomotive was announced in 2016 as a replacement for Earl of Merioneth. It was completed in 2023 and is expected to enter service in 2024.

This locomotive takes its name from an earlier FR engine which was named after the company's first manager.


Design of new boiler for James Spooner

Announcement & Design[edit]

It was announced in March 2016 that Earl of Merioneth was worn out and needed replacement and that the new double engine would be named James Spooner. The power bogies for the new loco and some cab fittings would come from Earl of Merioneth. The locomotive features a boiler to the same design as that which could replace Merddin Emrys' current boiler. The boiler would be built at Boston Lodge with a hybrid riveted/welded design. It is also planned for the locomotive to have a removable roof section, so it can be presented in the style of Merddin Emrys when it was newly built. It was originally planned that the locomotive would be complete in 2020, in time for the 150th anniversary of Little Wonder's trials of 1870. At the time of the announcement, some boiler components had already been delivered.[1]

CAD render from locomotive drawings

In December 2016 the Ffestiniog Railway Society distributed appeal leaflets with the magazine to raise money for the new loco. This leaflet featured the first concept drawing for the loco. At the same time, it was stated that the appeal would help fund new components so that (except the power bogies) parts from Earl of Merioneth would not be needed and that James Spooner would be entirely new. This would additionally make it easier to restore Earl of Merioneth in the future.[2]

December 2016 also saw more boiler components, including the ready-formed tapered barrels arrive at Boston Lodge.[3]

Half of the part complete boiler in the erecting shop at Boston Lodge, June 2019.

The design work on the new loco was carried out with the aid of modern 3D solid modeling techniques. This work is being carried out remotely by a volunteer and was considered around 90% complete at the end of 2017. The use of digital modeling techniques allowed the design to be easily modified as it progressed with the result that the proportions of the final design could be adjusted to be more representative of historic practice.[4] Although the resultant design has the original locomotive's distinctive bell and whistle assemblies, the main design cues are from the early Merddin Emrys. The boiler design is such that it is the same overall size as the Hunslet boilers of Earl of Merioneth and Merddin Emrys and could be used to replace the boilers of those locos. The detailed design includes the successful taper shape used in David Lloyd George but with fireboxes more like those of the Hunslet boilers which have proved less prone to broken stays. The tube layout is also the same as the Hunslet boilers which are known to steam well and be more suited to coal firing than that of David Lloyd George. This will also allow the reuse of the superheater castings from the Hunslet boilers.[5]


The frames in the erecting shop at Boston Lodge, June 2019.

Boiler construction commenced in January 2018, with major components being welded together by a contractor in the Tanat Valley.[6] By March the cradle was under construction at Boston Lodge.[7] A year later, in March 2019 progress was being made with the boiler with the first of the assembled boiler barrels being delivered to Boston Lodge.[8][9] The chimneys had also been cast and other pre-assembled components were expected to follow shortly in readiness for final assembly at Boston Lodge.[10] On the 20th March the carrier frame was fully assembled, thus (according to tradition) turning the collection of components into a locomotive for the first time.[11] Following the mounting of the frames on the bogies attention was turned to the completion of the reverser and brake linkages whilst the absence of a boiler made access easier.[12] By October 2019 the firebox had been assembled and one of the boiler barrels attached.[13] November 2019 saw the delivery of a "flat-pack" of laser-cut steel parts that would form the superstructure.[14] By the end of 2019 the boiler was fully assembled with a hydraulic test expected in the new year, at this time it was still anticipated that the locomotive would be completed in 2020.[15]

The part-complete locomotive outside whilst being shunted around Boston Lodge works (February 2023)

The building of the locomotive was delayed after the Covid-19 crisis caused all work to be stopped. Before work was stopped, the top-end smokebox had been fitted and parts for the other smokebox and the tops of the domes had arrived. At this point, it was expected to enter service in 2021, but further Covid-related delays over the following winter caused this to be pushed back.[16] By July of 2021 the boiler had completed a successful hydraulic test and work was continuing on the rest of the locomotive, in particular, the process of fitting the boiler cladding had begun.[17] By the beginning of 2022 attention had turned to the construction of the tanks.[18] By the end of the year attention had turned to the cab and the time-consuming job of fitting all the pipework.[19] The locomotive appeared mostly complete by February 2023, however it was subsequently disassembled again so the parts could be sent away for shot blasting before final assembly


In steam after the lighting of the first fire

James Spooner passed its hydraulic boiler test on 14 July 2023. The first power bogie was fitted a week later with the other following another week later. The first fire was lit on 4 August. The locomotive has been painted in the same deep purple brown livery as Welsh Pony. Other features of the livery include round corners to the lining in the style of Merddin Emrys when built and Prince of Wales feathers over the nameplates in style of the original James Spooner when built. James Spooner was unveiled during the Bygones weekend on 6 - 8 October 2023 where it appeared in steam moving around the yard at Harbour Station and at a photography session but did not haul any passenger trains. [20] The locomotive initially appeared without its name and works plates, pending the naming ceremony.

At the Bygones Weekend before name and worksplates were fitted. 7 October 2023

Following the Bygones Weekend, James Spooner hauled a number of test trains, including some for staff and volunteers. The locomotive was officially named by Liz Saville-Roberts MP in a ceremony at Blaenau Ffestiniog Station on 20 October. The locomotive's works plates are in the style of Merddin Emrys and feature the text "FR Co's WORKS 2023 No 8 FAIRLIE'S PATENT". James Spooner's first public service train was on 27 October when it took charge of that days Woodland Wanderers to Tan y Bwlch. It was subsequently used on the Christmas Ffestinog Railway services before joining the main fleet for the 2024 season. James Spooner's first trip over the Welsh Highland Railway was as part of The Snowdonian in April 2024.

Principal dimensions[edit]

Cylinders (4) 9" x 14"
Nominal wheel diameter 2' 8"
Boiler pressure 160 psi
Tractive effort (@ 85% BP) 9,640 lb
Driving bogie wheelbase 4' 8"
Loading gauge width n/a
Loading gauge height n/a
Loading gauge length n/a

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Inside Motion, March/April 2016
  2. ^ "The Fairlie Appeal", Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 235 (2016)
  3. ^ Post on F&WHR Insider Facebook apge.
  4. ^ "James Spooner", Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 239 (2017), page(s): 805
  5. ^ Payling, David (2017). Fairlie Locomotives of North Wales. Harbour Station, Porthmadog: Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways. ISBN 978-0-901848-14-7. OCLC 1006424938.
  6. ^ Thomas, Cliff (2018). "Narrow Gauge Track Record". The Railway Magazine. 164 (1403): 77.
  7. ^ Moving Pictures, Fifteen - 14/3/18
  8. ^ "Boilers, Boilers, and More Boilers", Inside Motion, 6 February 2019
  9. ^ "New Double Fairlie Boiler". Ffestiniog Railway Society. 6 March 2019. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  10. ^ Moving Pictures, Twenty Nine - 20/3/19
  11. ^ Post from Paul Lewin on Facebook
  12. ^ Moving Pictures, Thirty Three - 26/7/19
  13. ^ Post on Festrail insider Facebook page
  14. ^ Post on Festrail Insider Facebook page
  15. ^ Jones, Robin (20 December 2019). "Two 'original' Ffestiniog engines 'to debut in 2020'". Heritage Railway (262): 27.
  16. ^ F&WHR Loco Round Up, Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways YouTube channel 23 May 2020
  17. ^ Moving Pictures, Fifty Three - 16/07/2021
  18. ^ "James Spooner taking shape!", Inside Motion, 1 February 2022
  19. ^ Loco Round-Up - Winter 2022, F&WHR Youtube channel, 16 Dec 2022
  20. ^ Hayward, Owen (4 August 2023). "Bygones debut planned for new 'modern day' double Fairlie". Heritage Railway. Mortons Media Group Ltd.

External Links[edit]