From Festipedia, hosted by the FR Heritage Group

At Beamish shortly after repaint, June 2016
Home Railway FR
Original Railway French Army
Number 11
Status In service
Built by Baldwin
Built 1918
1925 Arrived on F&WHR
1957 Rebuilt with pony truck
Wheel Arrangement 2-4-0DM
Length 17 ft 6 in
Fuel Diesel

Moelwyn is a 2-4-0DM Diesel locomotive originally built for use by the French during the First World War. It was acquired by the FR in the 1920s for use on shunting and other light duties. Rebuilt in the 1950s to improve its ride and economy, it was named Moelwyn and was extensively used on engineering trains as well as providing back-up for passenger operations.

It has now been retired from front-line use and forms part of the railway's heritage fleet, but it is still a useful locomotive and can often be seen in use around the railway.


1918-26: USA to France to Wales[edit]

Built by Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia in 1918 (possibly Builder's number 49604), this locomotive was originally an 0-4-0PM built for service in Word War I with the French Army. It was purchased in February 1925 from E. W. Farrow & Sons of Spalding through Honeywill Brothers for use on the Festiniog and Welsh Highland Railways, at what seemed to be a bargain £248 13s 4d. Put to work shunting mostly at Minffordd and around Portmadoc together with the Simplex, it was used for a short time to replace horse traction on part of the Croesor Tramway. It proved too heavy for the light track there and was returned to shunting duties. The need for economical winter services led in 1928 to the Baldwin being fitted with vacuum brakes for service on the Welsh Highland. Although no records are known to survive as to its actual use it probably was used on the WHR and it was certainly used as a rescue engine for passenger trains on occasion.

Baldwin Tractor, Boston Lodge Engine Shed on 8/7/1936 Source. SW Baker L871 AG Slide No. AG/FR/008, iBase 1052.

1920-40: Troubles and disfavour[edit]

However the Baldwin had feet of clay. Probably unbeknown to the Festiniog the American Society of Civil Engineers had in 1920 severely criticised the design. The actual petrol motors, mostly built by the Pittsburgh Model Engine Co, needed frequent repairs to the point where the Army engineering regiments asked for new motors. There were also problems with clutch and gear cases. The poor spring design was also criticised as were the long overhangs which made its riding lively at service speeds. The Baldwin had became much worn and broke an axle in April 1929. It was criticised for heavy fuel consumption in the autumn and had a heavy motor overhaul that winter. Not as popular as the Simplex it seems to have been increasingly confined to the shed after Colonel Stephens' death; however it was used up to December 1940 from the drivers' records of the time. It was not named at this period but photos in the 1930s (iBase 1020, 3281, 680, 1456) show it had 'No 11' painted on the RH cab side (only) despite this number having been allocated to Moel Tryfan. It was known as the tractor[1] though that name was also sometimes applied to the Simplex.

Moelwyn at Harbour Station in 1959. Photo: Derek Harrison via iBase Festiniog (iBase 2490)

1954-66: Repairs and redemption[edit]

Eric Cooper tells us what happened when the Baldwin was moved from the engine shed to the works erecting shop for appraisal:[2]

"The sump contained a substance which I would hesitate to call lubricating oil. It was more like tar and most unsuitable for the splash-feed system, so it was changed. The fuel system was flushed out, the spark plugs cleaned and we found, surprise, surprise, that the magneto worked. Now to start it! The cranking handle was a fearsome thing about five feet long, inserted from the rear of the cab. After many, many turns, and a few coughs (from the engine) it was decided to try tow-starting. This did the job but the clanking noises from the engine were ominous. The engine was removed and stripped down. It was considered to be of museum quality only."

The original engine was beyond repair and in 1956 the locomotive was fitted with a Gardner 3LW diesel engine by Ian Smart and Joe Rivett. It also received a four-speed Meadows gearbox which was coupled between the engine and the original two-speed gearbox giving in theory eight gear combinations, though in practice the original box was only used for reversing. It also acquired a handrail at the front. A photograph (iBase 1964) shows the tractor in 1956 with Carriage 10 on what is reported as possibly the first preservation work train above Penrhyn. It was later turned to run cab-first uphill so sand could be applied through the open cab back. In this state it ran to Blaenau in August 1956 [3]. It is reputed that Little Giant's connecting rods and part of Little Giant's buffer beam in the rear engine mounting were used in the rebuild. In this rebuilt state it was described by Fred Howes as a slug, but in 1966 it was fitted with a Gardner 4LK with a big improvement in performance.

Later in 1956 it was named Moelwyn[4]. The name was derived from a typical FR play on words, "Moelwyn" being the name of the mountain rising north of Tan y Bwlch; Moel means bare hill, but can be read as bald, so FR "Welsh" gives the translation of Baldwin!

Electric starter and lights were fitted at this time, but its ride was still unsteady so at this time it ran close-coupled to the old No. 1 van at the cab end to steady its riding[5].

In 1957 a pony truck was added at the front, made from half a bogie frame from a German bogie wagon from Brookes Quarry, making Moelwyn a 2-4-0DM and a more stable runner. It was then divorced from the van. The forward extension of the main frames was originally completed with what looked like the end of a 2-ton slate wagon, seen in 1958[6], 1959[7], iBase 3976 (c1958), 2490 (August 1959), 2822 (c1960), and here - stated to be 1961) In 1961 new side framing was built up to match the original and a sheet-steel plate fitted to enclose the front (iBase 2457) making a useful space for tools. The Autumn 1961 issue of the Festiniog Railway Magazine[8] has a picture showing the new side framing. The pony axleboxes were changed about the same time and eventually fitted with longer coil springs and hydraulic dampers as used on carriage bogies (iBase 2484). One photo (iBase 799) allegedly taken in August 1959 shows it without either the old or new front end, but the later type of axlebox. This could be explained if the picture was actually taken in 1961, and the axleboxes were changed first, before the outing depicted, then the front end was changed.

1960s: Diesel mainstay[edit]

It became a valuable mainstay both on engineering trains and as a back-up passenger locomotive. In the '60s Moelwyn was much more intensively used than Mary Ann (the old Simplex). According to the Festiniog Railway Magazine, by the end of 1966 Moelwyn had clocked up 16,446 miles "under the present administration" but the Simplex only 1,502.[9] In the 1960s Moelwyn was used by Paul Dukes almost as his personal transport and he regularly commuted from Minffordd to Boston Lodge on it. Paul Dukes also usually drove Moelwyn (with a smile on his face) when it hauled the breakdown train to rescue service trains with steam locomotives in difficulty. Following its 1966-7 overhaul it emerged with the cab enclosed at the rear and fitted with a heater. It was intended to fully enclose the cab in due course. [10] This reflected its intensive use on works trains throughout the re-opening years.

Late 1960s on: Departmental engine[edit]

In the late 1960s it was acquired by PW Department.[11] While in use by the PW Department the carrying space in the new framing at the front often contained spare tools such as shovels, mattocks and crow bars, giving the locomotive a uniquely utilitarian appearance (as can be nicely seen in the second photograph below) which it has lost in recent years. It had an advantage over other diesels available to the PW Department at that time of being faster and thus able to fit in to the timetable between passenger trains.[11] The popularity of the locomotive with staff is illustrated by the fact that compared with The Simplex, the other diesel locomotive from early revival days, it had by 1989 clocked up over three times as many miles. In 1970 it was given an engine overhaul and a new leading coupled axle from Hunslet[12], and in 1980-1 was re-engined [13], but in 1986 was taken out of use due to a defective axle[14]. By this time the line was open throughout, and other locomotives had been obtained for works trains, so Moelwyn was not urgently needed.

After 1998: Active retirement[edit]

A fund was started for its renovation in 1992, and in 1994 work started with the intention of reverting to its late-1950s appearance; to revert to any previous period would considerably restrict its usefulness[15]. The locomotive returned to the FR in August 1998 after a lengthy restoration in England, and now forms part of the Railway's heritage fleet. Most of the 1960s crew comforts have been removed. Its cab is now unglazed but it does have a solid lower panel enclosing the rear.

In 2009 Moelwyn entered Boston Lodge works for a major overhaul, including work to its motion, engine and wheels as well as a re-paint in FR Maroon, after many years in green. It has been fitted with a new pony-truck following an appeal by the Ffestiniog Railway Society. On the weekend of 5th & 6th July 2014 Moelwyn starred at the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway's Slate, Steam & Sail event.

In 2016 Moelwyn was repainted into a grey livery to represent its first world war condition. In this state it visited P'tit train de la Haute Somme in France with The Simplex and Busta during the first week of May. They also visited the Tracks to the Trenches event at Apedale on the 13-15th May before going on to Beamish for more first world war themed events. In this condition it bears the number 7011 (last two digits the same as its FR fleet number) but its actual number in French military service is unknown. It does not currently carry nameplates.


1957 1,700

1960 1,322 (Total 7,877)

1966 803 (Total 16,446)

1967 803 (Total 17,249)

1968 1,301 (Total 18,550)

1969 2,431 (Total 20,981)

1970 1,819 (Total 22,800)

1971 2,182 (Total 24,982)

1972 2,624 (Total 27,606)

1973 2,398 (Total 30,004)

1974 3,311 (Total 33,313)

1975 3,535 (Total 36,850)

1976 3,075 (Total 39,925)

1977 3,602 (Total 43,527)

1978 3,002 (Total 46,529)

1979 2,454 (Total 48,983)

1980 2,454 (Total 49,954)

1981 1,595 (Total 51,549)

1982 1,343 (Total 52,892)

1989 0 (Total 57,506)

Source: FR Magazine via FRHG Chronology page 66.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Lone Torch-Bearer -", Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 033, page(s): 002
  2. ^ Cooper, Eric in Great Railway Eras, Festiniog: The Pioneers' Stories (2007) Davies M and Mitchell V, page 26, Middleton Press, Midhurst, West Sussex, GU29 9AZ.
  3. ^ 'Taliesin' (Weaver, Ingham, Rees, Johnson) (1988) Festiniog Railway Locomotives, AB Publishing, p48.x
  4. ^ "Ian Smart 1920 - 2018", Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 240, page(s): 907
  5. ^ Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 155, page(s): 417
  6. ^ Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 1, page(s): 21
  7. ^ Festiniog Railway Heritage Group Journal, Issue 125, page(s): 28
  8. ^ Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 14, page(s): 14
  9. ^ "Traffic", Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 36, page(s): 002
  10. ^ Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 36, page(s): 003
  11. ^ a b "FR Diesels", Festiniog Railway Heritage Group Journal, Issue 111, page(s): 24
  12. ^ Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 49, page(s): 004
  13. ^ Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 92, page(s): 006
  14. ^ Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 115, page(s): 007
  15. ^ Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 145, page(s): 23