From Festipedia, hosted by the FR Heritage Group

More pictures of the subject: Princess (Pictorial Views)
Type Small England
Home Railway FR
Number 1
Status Cosmetically Restored
Designed by George England, CM Holland
Built by George England & Co., Hatcham Iron Works
Built 1863
1882, 1895, 1923 Rebuilt
1946 Withdrawn
Wheel Arrangement 0-4-0ST+T

Princess (originally The Princess) is a steam locomotive built for the Festiniog Railway in 1863. One of the line's original locomotives, it continued in use (much rebuilt) until the closure of the railway in 1946, when it hauled the final train.

Princess has not been restored to working order but has been cosmetically restored, allowing it to act as a roving ambassador for the railway at various locations and events. There are currently no plans to return the locomotive to steam.

Princess was named after Princess Alexandra of Denmark (later Queen Alexandra) (1844-1925), who had married Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later Edward VII, 1841-1910) in March 1863.[1]


Palmerston and The Princess at the FR Duffws station around 1870.

1863: Second loco to arrive on the FR[edit]

The Princess was one of the first four FR locomotives built by George England & Co. at Hatcham Iron Works. As originally built, it was a side tank locomotive with an open footplate.

The Princess was the second locomotive to be delivered. This engine, was carried by the LNWR from London to Caernarfon and then brought (around 22 July 1863) by road to Portmadoc on Job and Harry Williams' specially built cart or wain drawn by ten horses. This was the first locomotive to run on the railway and was first steamed on 4 August 1863. The Princess was numbered 1 in the earliest of photographs, however Charles Spooner referred to her as No.2 in 1879, perhaps remembering the order of delivery.

The Princess at F&BR Duffws station 1880

1863-1881: Frontline to shunting engine[edit]

In this picture, The Princess has no cab sheet and is at the terminus of the Ffestiniog & Blaenau Railway near Duffws (their station name was Diphwys). The chimney has been changed and the tender (No. 6) was one of two, built for the 'large Englands'. These were wooden framed and unbraked, but did have leaf spring suspension. At this time (1880) The Princess was in a poor state: the cylinders were wearing out (a copper patch had been bolted on one of them in 1878) and the wheel tyres were wearing thin. New cylinders were in hand by July 1880 and in February 1881 it is recorded as "Needs shopping".

The Princess in 1887

1882-1887: Rebuild with sham tank[edit]

In December 1882 she completed a major refit. The boiler was retubed with 25 new brass tubes, 10 old brass tubes, 80 electro copper tubes and 115 new steel ferrules; costs were being pared even at a profitable time for the railway. The firebox was completely removed, the plates straightened and then fitted with new stays. The smokebox was replaced and a "sham" cast iron tank was fitted on top of the side tanks to increase the weight to ten tons and improve adhesion. A second large whistle was added and the FR standard pattern of sandpots "with brass nobs" were put on. These tubes obviously did not last as well as the previous set, as in 1887 (after this photograph) she was retubed again using the recovered tubes from Little Giant. A Wilson lubricator was also put on at this time.

The Princess c. 1891/1892 on Britannia Bridge with the cab from Prince

1888-1892: Balance weights, first cab and withdrawal of last small England[edit]

The sandpots had two pieces of cast iron inserted under them in 1888 "to balance the engine'. Hence these and their successors are termed 'balance weights'. The cab was one which had previously been fitted to Prince and was transferred in 1891. The boiler was wearing out though, and in August 1892 she was withdrawn from service for a major rebuild which would take 31 months.

Princess at Duffws September 1906

1893-1905: Rebuild with Cab & Saddle tank, Vulcan boiler[edit]

The rebuild took place over 2 years to spread the cost. The new boiler was ordered from the Vulcan Foundry in February 1893 for £190. In March 1895 she emerged with the present all-over saddle tank and full cab and a new boiler. At the same time the name was shortened to 'Princess'. In November 1895 she was recorded as coming "off the line at Minffordd" and in August 1896 "Thrown off the Line at Penrhyn". The repairs from the latter took 2 weeks to carry out. In 1898 it is recorded "Princess & Tender – Painted all over & Tender 5 coats Varnish" clearly standards were high. A tube burst in 1904 and, although plugged, this signalled future troubles. Four tubes went in June 1905 and these were replaced with 4 of Little Giant's old tubes.

Princess at Duffws September 1906

1906-1920: Re-tube and run down to finish[edit]

There was a further refit in early 1906 then in September it is recorded "Leading axle broke at Cei Mawr with 9.40 AM train, steel appeared brittle, new axle made of Cammell Mild steel". A month later she was fully retubed with James Spooner's old tubes including "old ferrules". She worked until August 1920.

At Tafarn Trip working up to Blaenau with empties. Taken in the week before the final closure of the FR

1920-1946: Final rebuild and decline to last pre-preservation train[edit]

A new Adamson steel boiler was fitted (purchased November 1920 and delivered July 1921). She was back in traffic by May 1923 just in time to work the first WHR train from Portmadoc on 1st June 1923. However there was not enough time to change the tyres and so she was taken in for this the following winter. Comber (a photographer) records in 1933 "painted black, Bad condition but could be used in emergency, Expected to be rebuilt this winter". In fact she was taken out of service in late 1935 and repairs were completed in April 1937. Photographs show this being recorded by a crude alteration to the large oval cab plates she had worn since 1895. She was the last steam locomotive to operate on the line under the old company, working the last train on 1st August 1946 before the nine years of closure.

1954-Present: Plinthed, then roving ambassador[edit]

Princess has not been restored to working order but remains as she was left by the old company in 1946. For a year or two in the mid 1960s she was on display at Porthmadog Harbour Station at the end of the siding nearest the sea with a notice which read "No 1 Princess, This locomotive was the first engine in steam on the railway, 4th August 1863. and also hauled the last slate train 1st August 1946, It now awaits restoration." For some years from 1969 she was displayed in the open outside the Queen's Hotel at Blaenau Ffestiniog, then on a plinth at the site of the Blaenau LNWR Exchange station (see picture page), and then at Porthmadog before finally being displayed inside the museum in the Goods Shed at Porthmadog Harbour Station (now Spooner's Bar) from 1981. She was removed from Spooners in November 2012, to be repainted and re-attached to her tender (which had for the last 25 years been attached to Welsh Pony). She is now used as a roving ambassador for the celebrations for the railway, appearing at Paddington, Dublin and Penrhyn Castle in 2013. In 2016, Princess visited London King's Cross Station along with Carriage 1 and Carriage 12 from 12th to 21st February 2016.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Johnson, Peter (2007). An Illustrated History of the Festiniog Railway. Hersham: Oxford Publishing Co. ISBN 0-860936-03-1. OCLC 180463433.