Taliesin III

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This is the third locomotive named Taliesin. The first is described under Taliesin and the second under Livingston Thompson.
101205 sml.jpg
Starting a loaded Santa special away from Tan y Bwlch
Type Single Fairlie
Home Railway FR
Status In Service
Built by Boston Lodge
Built 1999
2005 Converted from oil to coal
Wheel Arrangement 0-4-4T
Length 22 ft 6 in
Fuel Coal

Taliesin is a Single Fairlie locomotive running on the Ffestiniog Railway. It is a replica of an earlier locomotive that was scrapped in the 1930s.


Origins and construction[edit]

This 0-4-4T single-Fairlie was built jointly by small group of volunteers and by 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 1932, though it is slightly larger. 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 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 probably the hand wheel for the brake is from Moel Tryfan. It was once argued that the chimney was original -however that chimney was damaged in the collision with Welsh Pony in 1924 and is now used for donations. The chimney as built was two inches too short for the scale of the present 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.

The locomotive has been 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 loco is currently rated at seven carriages and burning coal.

Starring roles on the WHR[edit]

Taliesin starred with Russell on the WHR(C) Welsh Highland Ffestival, September 16-17 2000, returning to the WHR for the Vintage Weekend on 22-23 September 2001 and in November 2009 for a photographic charter.

Coal to oil and back[edit]

The Ffestiniog 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.[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.

Overtaxing and new cylinder block[edit]

Taliesin is very popular with crews, being a free steaming engine. The problem is that is 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 casting and the valve casting. To overcome this problem a new 'monoblock' block, incorporating both cylinders and piston valves has been designed and developed.

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. 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 first 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.

2012-present: Higher boiler pressure[edit]

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.

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.

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.


See also[edit]