Taliesin III

From Festipedia, hosted by the FR Heritage Group
This is the third locomotive named Taliesin. The first is described under Taliesin and the second under Livingston Thompson.
Type Single Fairlie
Home Railway FR
Status Under Overhaul
Built by Boston Lodge
Built 1999
2005 Converted from oil to coal
Wheel Arrangement 0-4-4T
Length 22 ft 6 in
Fuel Coal
Whistle(s) FR Bell Whistles (replicas)

Taliesin is an 0-4-4T single Fairlie built jointly by small group of volunteers and the Festiniog Railway Company in its own workshops at Boston Lodge. It is the fifth locomotive to be built at the works and was completed in 1999 under the auspices of the Taliesin 2000 project. It is similar in design and appearance to the original FR Single Fairlie No. 9 Taliesin which was built in 1876 and dismantled in 1924, though it is slightly larger to allow for modern design requirements.

Since its completion Taliesin has become a regular performer on the Ffestiniog Railway's more lightly loaded services such as early morning and evening trains run during the summer season. It has recently acted as a test bed for a number of innovations, becoming the first FR locomotive to revert to coal firing and the first Fairlie to be fitted with piston valve cylinders.


Undergoing testing after building.

1988-1999: Origins and construction[edit]

Funds for the replica were raised by an appeal devised by Andy Savage and Gordon Rushton whereby 250 people gave £10 or more a month for twelve years; this was enough to pay for the work after tax allowances, but without any matching funding from the Welsh Govt. The majority of the CAD drawings were drawn by Michael Guerra (as were those for the new boiler of K1, carriage 1111 and others). It was a difficult task as the only surviving drawing of the original locomotive was a general arrangement kept in a controlled environment in a museum archive in Liverpool; its condition was such that it could not be viewed. Under the circumstances, Michael did an amazing job.

The new "Taliesin" incorporates the reversing lever from the original locomotive and the hand wheel for the brake is probably from Moel Tryfan. The original chimney was found, however it was damaged in the collision with Welsh Pony in 1924 so a different old chimney from one of the double engines was used instead. The original is now used for donations. The chimney was two inches too short for the scale of the loco and probably dates from early 20th century rebuilds of the double engines when the chimneys were shortened by that amount. The toolbox on the rear buffer beam is a replica built from the original found in the Stores.

Modifications to the design included an increase in the overall length to allow the use of a standard power bogie as used under the double engines. The additional length was required both because the current bogies have a longer wheelbase than the original (4 ft 8 in compared to 4 ft 6 in) and to allow space for the steam brake cylinder to be mounted at the rear of the bogie. Unlike the double engine bogies Taliesin's is fitted with sanders. Modern boiler regulations resulted in a taller dome than the original with a resultant increase in size of the brass cover. The locomotive was designed so that it can run as either a coal or an oil burner, the conversion between one or the other taking one day.

The power bogie was the first part to be constructed, using parts originally made for David Lloyd George.[1] The boiler was built by Bloomfield Steel Construction, who also built the boiler of David Lloyd George, in 1998. The boiler shares a number of features with that of David Lloyd George including the grate width, smokebox size and degree of superheat.

Taliesin first moved under its own power in April 1999 and was named at that years May gala.[2]

2000-2005: In service on the FR and starring roles on the WHR[edit]

Following completion and painting at Boston Lodge it hauled its first public trains in August 2000. Although testing had been carried out on coal firing it entered service on oil. Taliesin starred with Russell on the WHR(C) Welsh Highland Ffestival, September 16-17 2000, returning to the FR for that years vintage weekend.

Taliesin was back on the WHR for the Vintage Weekend on 22-23 September 2001 and again in November 2009 for a photographic charter.

2005-2011: Back to coal[edit]

The Ffestiniog had converted to oil-firing in the 1960s to limit the number of line-side fires in the Snowdonia National Park (and the insurance premiums resulting from them). Oil price rises forced the railway to reassess the situation, leading to trials during 2005 with Taliesin as it was built to be changeable between oil and coal firing. Trials on winter and Santa services were highly successful and led to the subsequent conversion of the rest of the FR fleet.[video 1] For more details on the conversion of locos to coal firing and the fuel diversification programme, please see Ffestiniog Goes Back To Coal.

Taliesin had a very busy winter in early 2011 being used on shuttles to Hafod y Llyn (WHR), taking no less than eleven carriages on one journey across the flat formation on the Traeth.

2011-2019: Overtaxing and new cylinder block[edit]

Taliesin is very popular with crews, being a free steaming engine. The problem is that it is often loaded with six carriages, sometimes even seven. This is the equivalent of 14 carriages behind a double engine. Consequently the power bogie is put under a lot of strain, and a weakness of the original design shows up in the form of problems keeping a steam tight seal between the cylinder castings and the separate steam chest casting. Additionally the higher superheat used on Taliesin and David Lloyd George was found to be preventing proper lubrication of the slide valve faces and causing excessive wear.

To overcome this problem a new 'monoblock', incorporating the cylinders and piston valves in a single casting has been designed and developed. As well as solving the problems outlined above the new design has the advantage of directly driven valves. No changes are required to the valve gear although it is no longer put under as much strain due to the change to piston valves.

Boston Lodge was very busy in 2011 trying to get NGG16 No 143 available for the peak service. As soon as this was accomplished the power bogie from Taliesin was removed in early July. The old cylinder block was removed to enable a start to be made on fitting the monoblock cast cylinder assembly. By mid October the power bogie complete with monoblock cylinder was complete and being tested in time for the Vintage weekend, when Taliesin worked a number of trains. The new bogie seems an improvement with some economy in steam use. The new cylinder block design has subsequently been used on David Lloyd George's new bogies and it is planned to use it on the other Fairlie bogies when their cylinders require renewal.[2]

In 2012, following adjustments to the valve timing to improve starting by reducing its tendency to centre, the boiler pressure was raised to 200 psi and its haulage capacity on the Ffestiniog raised to seven, although it is still usually limited to six carriages.

In 2015 Taliesin received a full repaint into a lighter shade of Indian red with lining in black and straw. After many years of use Taliesin required a power bogie overhaul before it could be used regularly again. This was completed in time for the October 2016 Victorian weekend when Taliesin starred alongside the newly overhauled Merddin Emrys which had also been repainted into a matching livery.

As of 2017 Taliesin has found regular work as the motive power of the 8:40 am 'Early Bird' trains run during the high season.

2019-Present: Second Overhaul[edit]

By 2020, Taliesin's boiler certificate had expired. Thanks to the legacy of a generous supporter, funds are available to overhaul the boiler, and also to work on the power bogie. It is now at Boston Lodge awaiting time for the overhaul. [3]

Principal stated dimensions[edit]

Cylinders 9" x 14"
Wheel diameter 2' 8"
Boiler pressure 200 psi
Power bogie wheelbase 4' 8"
Grate area 5.44 sq.ft.
Rating FR: 7 carriages
WHR: 3 carriages


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jo Clulow (1997) "Musical Bogies", Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 157 , http://www.ffestiniograilway.org.uk/full_article?a=musical-bogies-part-i
  2. ^ a b Payling, David (2017). Fairlie Locomotives of North Wales. Harbour Station, Porthmadog: Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways. ISBN 978-0-901848-14-7. OCLC 1006424938.
  3. ^ F&WHR Loco Round UP, Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways YouTube channel 23 May 2020