- This article is about the NWNGR locomotive named Moel Tryfan. For the preservation era locomotive that might have been so named, see Rustenberg no. 3.
1875 Works photo with the kind permission of Graeme Wilkinson.
|Amalgamated with Snowdon Ranger
|Cut down for use on FR
|Dismantled for repair
Moel Tryfan was an 0-6-4T Single Fairlie locomotive built for the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways in 1875. At some time in the 1910s (certainly by 1917) it was run down and was amalgamated with Snowdon Ranger to create one good locomotive. It later saw use on the Welsh Highland Railway and Festiniog Railway.
Having last run in 1935, it survived to play a significant, if rather inglorious, part in the early history of the revived FR when it was scrapped in 1954 to provide much needed funds.
Moel Tryfan was named after the local mountain where the slate quarries that provided most of the railway's commerce were located.
1875 - 1903: Origins to first rebuild
The original Moel Tryfan was a 14-ton single Fairlie 0-6-4T built in 1875 by the Vulcan Foundry in Lancashire (Builder's number 738* of 1874) for the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways. Moel Tryfan and its sister, Snowdon Ranger, were the first British 0-6-4Ts. However, due to a contractural dispute they were not delivered until circa December 1876/January 1877. In 1902 and 1903, the two engines were given new boilers and fireboxes by Davies & Metcalfe of Romiley, near Stockport. It seems that a boilersmith (Thomas Kay), from Gorton Works, Great Central Railway, was engaged for the occasion.
(*)In the well-known Dinas photograph of Moel Tryfan the worksplate reads 739 of 1874. This photo is pre-1903, as the whistle is still mounted on the firebox. When Davies & Metcalfe fitted new fireboxes the whistle was moved to the cab roof. The works photo of Snowdon Ranger seems to read 739 also. This anomaly has yet to be definitively resolved, but it is most likely that the works number was as per the makers list (WHHJ 87)
1908 - 1922: Accident and amalgamation
In March 1908, James C. Russell as Receiver and Manager swore an affidavit and applied to the High Court (having been informed by the Locomotive Supt., G.C. Aitchison) saying that one of the original engines which had been running since August 1877 when the line opened was quite worn out and had to be replaced with a new one, (and he needed money from the funds 'in Court' to pay for it). (see full text under Gowrie) Of the two - Moel Tryfan or Snowdon Ranger, the most likely candidate in the light of subsequent events, being Snowdon Ranger, which, in the event, was repaired, Hunslet Engine Company supplying a set of frame plates in 1908; it was photographed at Dinas in June 1909. Hunslet continued to provide spare parts for Moel Tryfan until 1919, and Snowdon Ranger until May 1913. In February 1914, G.C. Aitchison (having become Receiver and Manager after Russell's death) swore an affidavit for presentation to the Court, saying that two of the three engines had 'collapsed' (and he needed £500 from the funds 'in Court' for the repairs), the two being Moel Tryfan and Russell. The third must have been Gowrie, bought in 1908, suggesting that Snowdon Ranger had now been retired from service.
At some stage during World War I, the 'frames' of Snowdon Ranger were placed under the superstructure of Moel Tryfan. Almost certainly this would have benefited from Snowdon Ranger's new frames (presumably the fairly new driving bogie), and as the combination carried Moel Tryfan's nameplates, it probably included the tanks of Moel Tryfan. Published histories give 1917 for this, although 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.’ What remained of Snowdon Ranger was then scrapped.
By November 1922, Moel Tryfan was in poor condition. As an alternative, the re-purchase of Gowrie was even considered, but rejected.
1923 - 1936: Serving both railways
In June 1923, she was retubed at Dinas. Between January and April 1924, she received maintenance at Boston Lodge and was probably cut down at this time to fit into the very restricted Festiniog Railway loading gauge. She was used from 1924 to 1935 on the Welsh Highland Railway and FR between Dinas and Blaenau Ffestiniog. She probably entered the FR stock as No.11 in 1924. Entering Boston Lodge for repairs in 1936, she was dismantled for boiler repairs, but then set to one side.
At the start of the preservation era she was judged to be beyond repair, and on 2nd October 1954 the boiler and driving bogie were towed across the Cob to Harbour Station for scrapping, providing invaluable income for the success of the nascent preservation effort. The remains of the rear bunker were still in Boston Lodge Bottom yard in the Spring of 1955 but were soon scrapped.
The trailing bogie frames, one side tank sheet, the air receiver and (as of 2017) the trailing bogie wheelsets are currently on display at the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway. The dome cover is in the Ffestiniog Railway heritage collection.
Was the scrapping necessary?
Hindsight allows us to wonder whether the locomotive could possibly have been resurrected. This was not a reasonable proposition in 1954 and those pioneers of preservation should not be unduly criticised for the decision. The loco would have needed a new boiler, a new bogie frame and much else. It can be argued that it would have been quicker and cheaper to build an entirely new locomotive, and that we are better off with a new single Fairlie to the FR design.
- Keylock, John and Bishop, Michael (2009) "Two into One Will Go", Welsh Highland Heritage, Issue 46
- Original on Vulcan Foundry website.
- Original on Vulcan Foundry website.
- Locomotive News and Railway Notes
- Mitchell, Vic; Keith Smith (1994). Branch Lines Around Porthmadog 1954-94. Midhurst, Sussex, England: Middleton Press. ISBN 1-873793-31-6. OCLC 32132010.
- For a discussion of the pros and cons of the scrapping of Moel Tryfan see "From a Railway Highland Welshman", Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 088, page(s): 025