Merddin Emrys

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More pictures of the subject: Merddin Emrys (Pictorial Views)
Merddin Emrys
Merddin at Duffws c1880
Type Double Fairlie
Home Railway FR
Number 10
Status In Service
Designed by GP Spooner
Built by Boston Lodge
Built 1879
1896,1921,1934 Rebuilt
1961 Return to service
1970 Rebuilt
1988, 2005 Rebuilt
Wheel Arrangement 0-4-4-0T
Length 32 ft 6 in
Fuel Coal
Whistle(s) Stanier Hooter
FR Bell Whistle

Merddin Emrys was the first locomotive to be built by the Festiniog Railway Company in its own workshops at Boston Lodge and the third FR Double Fairlie. Merddin Emrys was built in 1879 to the design of George Percival Spooner and has spent its entire working life on the Festiniog Railway. When the railway closed in 1946 Merddin was the only double engine still available for service.

Merddin was returned to service in 1961 and has been much rebuilt since. It was reboilered in 1970 and converted to oil burning in 1973. The locomotive was rebuilt again in 1988 when the opportunity was taken to give it a more heritage style appearance. In 2007, as part of the FR's fuel diversification process, the locomotive reverted to coal firing.

Merddin Emrys is named after a legendary Welsh wizard (more often spelled Myrddin Emrys) who later became the basis for the wizard Merlin of Arthurian legend.[1]


1877-1879: Original construction[edit]

Merddin Emrys was the first locomotive to be built in house by the Festiniog Railway Company at Boston Lodge; the Works had been extended by the building of an Erecting Shop specifically to enable the work to be done and some of the costs were set against the account for Merddin Emrys. Built to the design of G. P. Spooner and incorporating Fairlie's Patent articulation, leading to the type being commonly known as as a double engine or Double Fairlie, Merddin was the third such locomotive to operate on the Festiniog Railway and, like all the others it had an 0-4-4-0 wheel arrangement. The FR had proved the suitability of the Fairlie type for its particular circumstances during internationally observed trials in 1870. The success of those trials led to Fairlie articulated locomotives being adopted in several other countries and, as a token of appreciation, Robert Fairlie had granted the FR free use of his patent.

The decision to proceed with construction was taken in 1877, with the frame plates supplied by the Farnley Iron Co of Leeds. The frame plates were flattened, planed and set out by Adamsons of Hyde in Cheshire, who also supplied the boiler (the first FR wagon top boiler). As built, the main suspension was by coil springs, as had been trialled on Taliesin before. It left Boston Lodge on 21 July 1879 as number 10, having cost £2,235 7s 8d. It had two half-cabs, with the gap in the roof between able to be filled in to make the now familiar FR double engine cab profile.

The same basic design was used again in 1886 when Livingston Thompson was built.

At Duffws c1880 (John Thomas) By permission NLW

1880-1919: Early modifications, second boiler and repairs[edit]

By May 1880 the coil spring suspension was replaced by leaf springs. In February 1881, the splashers were put on. Also at this time the experimental thermic syphon/ fire arch support was removed from the firebox. In January 1882 Salter safety valves were fitted and petticoat pipes were fitted inside the smokeboxes. In August 1882 the cab side sheets were shortened and a canvas cover in two parts was provided for the gap between the two halves of the cab.

It had a major overhaul in 1885 with the boiler being retubed and new centres for the bogies. In 1886 the square sandboxes provided when the locomotive was built were replaced with the cast cylindrical pattern eventually fitted to all FR locomotives. The four brass handrails on the sides of the smokeboxes were also fitted and two Wilsons Patent lubricators put on. In 1888 the fire doors on the driver's side were removed and all the tube ferrules were replaced in stages that autumn. In January 1889 the reversing rod broke through the effect of heavy strain from want of proper lubricant. Vacuum brakes were fitted in October 1892 - the first FR locomotive to be fitted.

Through the early 90s, much work was done to patch the firebox and keep the tubes expanded, finally, in 1896, the engine was rebuilt and fitted with a new mild steel boiler from the Vulcan Foundry, Newton-le-Willows, costing £454, with Everetts red metal tubes. Two new smokeboxes were fitted with the brass handrails in the pattern seen today. The work took from January to August to complete. In March 1899 a trial fitting of two piston rings instead of 3 was tried - this was subsequently successful and applied to other engines. In 1901 the balance pipe between the tanks was enlarged for quick filling. From 1904 onwards firebox and boiler repairs become more frequent, but the tubes were never recorded as being replaced. The boiler lasted until September 1919 when Merddin had to be taken out of service.

Cleaned up for display, March 1956

1919-1946: Third boiler and bogie swap[edit]

It was not until October 1919 that the tender of £1905 was accepted from the Vulcan Foundry on condition that the new boiler was delivered in 6 months. The new boiler was delivered in December 1920! The engine re-entered service in 1921. In May 1923 the bogies from Livingston Thompson were put under the locomotive because they had better tyres. The tubes started failing in late 1923. One end was re-tubed in December 1923 and the other in March 1924; it then had spells in the works in January 1925, March 1926, July 1926, being re-tubed, January 1927 and April 1928.

Merddin had further stay work in late 1929 and was taken out of service again in mid 1930. It probably returned to service only to be taken out of service again in 1931. It was 1934 before heavy repairs were carried out; major work on the boiler and firebox was carried out by the Avonside Engine Company in Bristol. At this time it was fitted with the wheels from James Spooner, the original wheels from Livingston Thompson having been prone to coming loose on the axles. In November 1936 it came in for a bogie overhaul and one steamchest was found to be cracked. The steamchest from the single Fairlie Taliesin was used as a spare. Merddin went back in service in June 1937. Firebox problems continued and it was retubed at one end in March 1938 and probably the other in May 1939.

In January 1940 it was taken out of traffic for maintenance which took until May to complete. However it was then set to one side and only returned to service in March 1942 when Taliesin needed repairs. From then onwards it was the only double engine in service. When the railway closed, because the closure came so abruptly, literally overnight, the loco had been put into the shed with water in the boiler and tanks and coal in the bunkers, ready for its next turn of duty. The unfortunate results were inevitable and corrosion of the tanks and boiler rendered Merddin Emrys completely unfit for use during the eight years when the railway was closed.

As first rebuilt in the preservation era.

1956-1967: Overhaul and subsequent boiler troubles[edit]

Merddin was put on display at Harbour Station for the Easter weekend in 1956 but it was 1958 before it was stripped down for overhaul. The work required for a return to service, was significant, unlike the funds available to finance it. New smokeboxes, chimneys, and tanks were donated by John Summers & Sons Ltd in 1959 and boiler work was carried out on site by Vulcan Foundry staff. The new chimneys had a distinctive taper (said to be inspired by those on traction engines) and copper caps. The old cab could not be made to fit so the locomotive initially ran without one. The buffers were removed from the bogies and replaced with chopper couplings (ex-Welshpool and Llanfair) with the original coupling hooks retained beneath.

The locomotive returned to service in an unfinished state, painted in red primer, in April 1961. In July 1962, further boiler problems put it out of commission for the remainder of the year and new stays were fitted before a return to service in 1963. By 1963 a basic cab had been added using the front sheets from the old one and the sandpots reinstated. The locomotive was painted and lined out in the standard green livery. Further problems with the superannuated 1920 boiler meant it was out of service once more from 1967.

1970-1973: Hunslet boiler and conversion to oil[edit]

A new, superheated, boiler from the Hunslet Engine Company, Leeds, was fitted in 1970. Hunslet also rebuilt the bogies with new cylinders. To accommodate the new boiler the cradle was widened by the insertion of spacers. The rebuilt locomotive was longer, larger and more angular than before, and the appearance was further altered by the top end smokebox door being hinged from the left hand side rather than the right as was traditional. The change in appearance was a cause of concern to many traditionalists but the locomotive's performance was transformed, and it became the mainstay of the fleet until the arrival of the new Earl of Merioneth.

An axle broke in 1972 and one of the bogies from the old Earl of Merioneth was fitted at the bottom end. It was recognised that the original wheels (which were smaller than those of the Earl) were from James Spooner. The other bogie was swapped the following winter.

Merddin Emrys was converted to oil burning in 1973, the first double Fairlie to be so treated.

Merddin as rebuilt in traditional style in the 2006 livery at the Blaenau Ffestiniog water tower

1985-1996: Rebuilt in traditional style but boiler problems develop[edit]

By 1985 a major overhaul was required. Improvements to the railway's loading gauge and a growing recognition of the value of the railway's heritage, coupled with a generous sponsorship scheme permitted a complete redesign of the superstructure to produce a locomotive that more closely resembled the 'traditional' Fairlie appearance. Changes included new smokeboxes of traditional size, reprofiled tanks and cab and boiler cladding giving the appearance of a wagon top boiler. New bogies were constructed using the wheels and motion from the old ones. These were to the revised design used for the new Earl of Merioneth, featuring steam brakes mounted on a fabrication at the rear end. The old bogie frames were then used during the cosmetic restoration of Livingston Thompson.

The rebuilt locomotive re-entered service at the end of 1987 in an unlined black livery. It then went into the paintshop before emerging in 1988 in a version of the traditional FR maroon livery.

At the end of the 1988 season cracking was discovered in the throatplates of the boiler. This was welded up and the loco returned to service. Subsequently more cracks were discovered and repaired in Merddin Emrys' throatplates and those of Earl of Merioneth which has the same type of boiler. By 1996 the boiler inspector refused to authorise further welded repairs and the locomotive was withdrawn. The recently overhauled bogies were transferred to Earl of Merioneth which had given its own to the newly built David Lloyd George. The cracking was determined to be due to a design flaw in the Hunslet boilers resulting from insufficient staying.

1996-2005: Major rebuild[edit]

Another major rebuild project was started in 1996, although little physical work was done initially. Eventually the boiler was sent to Israel Newton & Sons of Bradford where it was rebuilt with new sections of throatplate and new longitudinal stays to prevent the cracking from re-occurring. Various new parts were constructed to replace those which had been used on the other two double Fairlies. These included new bogies that were constructed from parts originally intended for David Lloyd George. The rebuild also included the fabrication of new water tanks, which were discovered to be required at a late stage of the overhaul. These were constructed by volunteers over the Christmas holidays of 2003 (so as not to interrupt other work at Boston Lodge) and were designed with oil firing in mind. Instead of oil tanks slotted into the space were the bunker should be one whole tank on the engine side was dedicated to oil. A second pair of tanks was also built, intended for fitting to Earl of Merioneth, although this never happened.

The overhaul was completed in 2005, when for the first time since the 1920s the FR had three double engines available for use. Its first appearance was at the FR50 gala when it ran in gloss black and with only one bogie operational. By that year's vintage weekend in October the locomotive was complete and repainted back into the Victorian maroon livery carried previously.

2006-2015: Conversion to coal and use on the WHR[edit]

During Winter 2006/07 Merddin Emrys was converted to burn coal, the work included fabricating new bunkers as the new tanks were designed for oil. It returned to service on Friday 7th April 2007. An experimental design of inward opening firebox door was tried but this was not a success so traditional outward opening ones were refitted. Steaming was not as good as Earl of Merioneth and so in January 2009 Merddin was the subject of performance testing. A number of different blast pipe arrangements were made for the testing by a group working with Paul Molineux-Berry. The optimum arrangements was then used on the other locomotives.

In November 2009 Merddin Emrys and Taliesin took part in a photocharter on the WHR. This was the first time a double engine had been on the WHR in 86 years (picture on pictorial views page).

This period of work saw Merddin Emrys become one of the lines most reliable locomotives. It worked its last train before overhaul on September 14th 2015 before being withdrawn for its ten yearly boiler rebuild.

At Dduallt on first weekend of running after overhaul.

2015-present: Overhaul with further cosmetic improvements[edit]

After the boiler was stripped for inspection the only major work found to be required was the replacement of the bottom sections of both inner and outer fireboxes in parts around the foundation ring. Otherwise, work on the boiler was restricted to a straight forward re-tube. Thanks to the efforts of those who built the new tanks for the loco during its last rebuild and those who built the new power bogies, this overhaul could concentrate on the locomotive's appearance, building on lessons learned with David Lloyd George. Along with new stainless steel smoke boxes with better proportioned doors and taller chimneys, boiler cladding has been replaced to a larger diameter and splashers added to reduce the amount of coal debris getting into the inside motion of the bogies. A great amount of effort has been put into the locomotive by works staff on its pipework, not only has it been tided up and steel pipes exchanged for copper, the layout of valves have been tidied up, old holes in the cab sheet have been plugged and a number of heritage features have reappeared on the locomotive.

The overhaul also included a new livery in Indian Red. The new shade is the same one used for Taliesin and Palmerston during their repaints the previous year. The lining style was also adjusted and monograms added to the upper cab sheets, to match with a photograph of it in the early 1900s. Merddin Emrys re-entered service on Friday the 7th of October 2016, the first day of that year's Victorian Weekend.

Principal stated dimensions in 1923[edit]

Heating surface 887 sq.ft.
Grate area 12.4 sq.ft.
Cylinders (4) 9" x 14"
Nominal wheel diameter 2' 8"
Boiler pressure 160 psi
Tractive effort (@80% BP) 9,070 lbs
Total wheelbase 20 ft
Driving bogie wheelbase 4' 8"
Weight 24 tons
Water capacity 667 gallons.

See also[edit]


  • Boyd, James I.C. (1975) [1959]. The Festiniog Railway 1800 - 1974; Vol. 1 - History and Route. Blandford: The Oakwood Press. ISBN 0-8536-1167-X. OCLC 2074549.
  • Boyd, James I.C. (1975) [1959]. The Festiniog Railway 1800 - 1974; Vol. 2 Locomotive and Rolling Stock and Quarry Feeders. Blandford: The Oakwood Press. ISBN 085361-168-8.
  1. ^ Johnson, Peter (2007). An Illustrated History of the Festiniog Railway. Hersham: Oxford Publishing Co. ISBN 0-860936-03-1. OCLC 180463433.

External links[edit]