User:Keith/Features

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2008[edit]

January[edit]

Coach 20

Carriage 20, seen here at Harbour Station, is one of the Bowsiders, so called because of the shape of their sides. It was supplied to the Festiniog Railway in 1879. It carries the 1920s "Colonel Stephens" livery.

Photo credit: Martin Ellis

Charles Easton Spooner

Charles Easton Spooner (1818-1889) was the Secretary and Engineer of the Festiniog Railway Company from 1856 until 1886. He was also Engineer to the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways Company and was involved in the family company of Spooner & Co., which at times appeared to conflict with the FR.

Charles was the third son of James Spooner and was born in Maentwrog in 1818. As a teenager he, along with his oldest brother, James, assisted his father in laying out the Festiniog Railway. He and James continued to assist their father and Thomas Pritchard during construction. Charles was thus trained as a civil engineer, gaining much practical experience that would stand him in good stead in his later life. During the early 1840s, Charles' training continued under both Joseph Locke and Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He continued to be involved with the railway under his father, who was Secretary to the Company. (more...)

February[edit]

60 Eryri

60 Eryri is one of three 24 tonne 350hp 0-6-0DH locomotives of this type on the WHR(P). It was built in Bucharest, Romania, for Polish State Railways. After service on the Jarocin Railway, it was purchased for the WHR(P) in July 1993 and moved to Gelert's Farm, entering service at the 1993 Autumn Bank Holiday gala.

Photo credit: Keith C. Bradbury

Type 1b and 2 quarrymen's carriages.

Special quarrymen's carriages first appeared on the FR in 1867. Their primary use was in special trains that carried men to work in the quarries around Blaenau Ffestiniog. Though many quarrymen lived in the various communities along the FR others came from further afield, having walked from home to join the train. Initially the trains ran only on Monday mornings and Saturday afternoons as most men stayed at the quarry barracks during the week. The Saturday train was usually added to the midday Down departure from Blaenau, with spectacular results. During the period when only a weekly service operated the carriages were stabled in an open, lean-to, carriage shed at Duffws during the week. A regular, daily, service was introduced in 1881.

Over the years, a number of different designs of carriage were used. The earliest were little better than low-sided, unsprung, wooden wagons with planks for seats; photographs appear to show that these overhung the sides and some passengers' legs hung outside! There was no protection from the elements. In order to simplify the story this type has long been designated Type 1a.

The first improvements to quarrymen's carriages involved the erection of a crude, shed-like, covers with zinc roofs, but lacking both doors and windows, over Type 1 vehicles. These have been designated Type 1b.

Type 2 carriages appear very similar to Type 1b, but were built as covered vehicles from new. In later years they acquired doors with small windows. Their running gear was not improved, however, and they remained unsprung.

Closed carriages with glazed windows and springs, Type 3, were not introduced until 1885. (more...)

March[edit]

The dressing mill at Ynys-y-Pandy

The Dressing mill at Ynys-y-pandy is an imposing relic of a railway nearly as long as the FR. It stands as a tribute to the visionaries of the Gorseddau Junction and Portmadoc Railways Company, closed over 100 years ago

Photo credit: Keith C. Bradbury

Merddin at Duffws c1880

Merddin Emrys is a Double Fairlie locomotive, the third such locomotive built for the Festiniog Railway, the suitability of the type having been proven in tests using Little Wonder. Merddin was built in the Festiniog Railway Company's own workshops at Boston Lodge in 1879 to the design of G. P. (Percy) Spooner and has spent its entire working life on the Festiniog Railway. When the railway closed in 1946 Merddin was the only double engine still available for service, Livingston Thompson having been withdrawn for repairs.

Merddin was returned to service in 1961 and converted to oil burning in 1973. In 2007, as part of the FR's fuel diversification process, the locomotive reverted to coal firing again.

A picture gallery of this locomotive is available. (more...)

April[edit]

Livingston Thompson

A national treasure. The second locomotive built by the Festiniog Railway Company at Boston Lodge, and having served the FR for 85 years, Livingston Thompson was pensioned off to the National Railway Museum at York. Seen here, on a temporary return, during the FR50 celebrations in 2005.

Photo credit: Martin Ellis

Map of the Rhiwbach Tramway

The Rhiwbach Tramway was a narrow gauge railway connecting the remote slate quarries to the east of Blaenau Ffestiniog with the Festiniog Railway. Built to the same gauge as the FR and completed in 1863, it ran from the FR's Duffws station, three miles east to to Rhiwbach Quarry, serving the Cwt-y-Bugail, and Blaen y Cwm quarries on the way. Just before Rhiwbach itself was reached, a branch lead to Bwlch y Slaters (Manod) quarry, now operated by McAlpines and known as Cwt y Bugail, the original quarry of that name having closed in the early 1960s.

The line was actually built by the FR but paid for by the Festiniog Slate Company. It was designed by Charles Easton Spooner, then Secretary and Engineer to the Festiniog Railway Company.

The quarries connected to the tramway had no practical road access as they lay at an altitude of around 1560' above sea level in a remote moorland.

The majority of the tramway was closed in 1961 and lifted in 1964. However, a short section remained in use until 1976 and some sleepers and a few lengths of rail are still in place. (more...)

May[edit]

James Spooner at Duffws station

The Double Fairlie locomotive James Spooner at Duffws station in Blaenau Ffestiniog in the early 1890s. The locomotive was supplied to the Festiniog Railway by the Avonside Engine Company in 1872 and worked for over 50 years before being dismantled and condemned in 1933. Parts of the locomotive survive. Duffws station opened in 1866 and closed in 1931. The station building survives as a public convenience.

Photo credit: FR Archives

A contemporary engraving of a horse hauled train of waggons on the Cob together with a gravity train at Rhiw Plas.

Horse operation was a feature of the FR from its opening until the introduction of steam locomotives.

James Spooner’s elegant survey for the Festiniog Railway described a line of railway falling at a fairly steady gradient from the upper terminus near Blaenau Ffestiniog (700ft) to Boston Lodge, at the eastern end of the Cob (Sea Level) and was designed to allow loaded waggons to run down the line under gravity with empties being hauled back up by horses.

For a period after the opening of the railway, in 1836, the smooth line of James Spooner’s survey was interrupted by a pair of inclines that took the line over a shoulder of the Moelwyn mountains. Spooner had planned for a tunnel but had been overruled by Henry Archer on the grounds of cost. After a couple of years, and as traffic developed, the inclines became such a hindrance that Spooner prevailed and, in 1839, work began to drive the tunnel. It was opened in 1842 and from then on the FR was able to operate as it had been designed; loaded waggons exploiting the free power of gravity and being taken back up to the quarries by horses.

Each horse could haul 7 or 8 slate waggons and, though they are usually referred to as ‘empties’ they were, in fact, frequently loaded with a lucrative back traffic of goods for the growing community at Blaenau Ffestiniog. Each train included one extra wagon, known as a Dandy. These were high-sided open wagons with a door at one end, designed to carry the horse on the downward journey, permitting them to rest between duties. The earliest examples were wooden, as were the contemporary slate waggons. Later, iron dandies were built at Boston Lodge. (more...)

Recently featured: Rhiwbach TramwayMerddin EmrysQuarrymen's carriages

June[edit]

The tamper at Cwm Bychan

The tamper at Cwm Bychan. Built as a metre gauge tamper in 1995, it was delivered to a coal mine in France. It was purchased by Welsh Highland Railway Construction Ltd in 2005 for use in Phase 4 of the reconstruction of the Welsh Highland Railway. It has been in use since 2006, consolidating the track. It is also capable of lifting and aligning the track.

Photo credit: Simon Starr

Charles Easton Spooner

Charles Easton Spooner (1818-1889) was the Secretary and Engineer of the Festiniog Railway Company from 1856 until 1886. He was also Engineer to the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways Company and was involved in the family company of Spooner & Co., which at times appeared to conflict with the FR.

Charles was the third son of James Spooner and was born in Maentwrog in 1818. As a teenager he, along with his oldest brother, James, assisted his father in laying out the Festiniog Railway. He and James continued to assist their father and Thomas Pritchard during construction. Charles was thus trained as a civil engineer, gaining much practical experience that would stand him in good stead in his later life. During the early 1840s, Charles' training continued under both Joseph Locke and Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He continued to be involved with the railway under his father, who was Secretary to the Company. (more...)

Recently featured: Horse operationRhiwbach TramwayMerddin Emrys

July[edit]

Tryfan Junction Station, c1960

Tryfan Junction on the Welsh Highland Railway. Originally built by North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways, it stood at the junction between the Bryngwyn Branch (originally the main line) and the line to South Snowdon (Rhyd Ddu). Despite closure of the Bryngwyn Branch to passengers in 1913, the station survived into WHR days. The photo shows the station in derelict condition c1960. It remains derelict today and is the subject of an ongoing conservation project by the Welsh Highland Railway Heritage Group.

Photo credit: Ron Fisher

Coed y Bleiddiau

Coed y Bleiddiau (Wood of the Wolves) is a remote location just Down the line from Dduallt and there is evidence of ancient forest in the area. Local legend has it that the last wolf to be killed in Wales met its end nearby. There is a small halt here, serving a cottage which was built around 1860 for the use of the Superintendent of the Line.

The current Festiniog Railway Company Rule Book spells the name of this location as either "Coed-y-Bleddiau" or "Coed y Bleddiau". However, the correct spelling of the Welsh word for "wolves" is "bleiddiau". The location is also occasionally referred to as either "Coedybleddiau" or "Coedybleiddiau".

The railway crosses a small side valley on a curved, dry-stone, embankment here and the extra width on the outside of the curve is evidence of its having been eased at some time, probably after 1869 when a lot of improvements were made to make locomotive working easier. (more...)

Recently featured: Charles Easton SpoonerHorse operationRhiwbach Tramway

August[edit]

Gelert's Farm Works, July 2008

Gelert's Farm Works is the operating centre for the Welsh Highland Railway (Porthmadog) (WHR(P)). It was, as the name suggests, a working farm. After the WHR(P) purchased Beddgelert Siding in 1975 from British Rail the ramshackle collection of farm buildings known as Gelert's Farm came up for sale. The farm which is situated between Beddgelert Siding and the Cambrian line and was purchased to become the operating centre for the rebuilt WHR (P). After possession of the land was obtained in late 1975 track was laid into the site. Over the next couple of years five sidings were laid into the yard and another back towards Pen-y-mount. The old hay barn was converted into a Loco shed and a large pole barn became the Carriage Shed. The stone buildings were converted to workshops and a machine shop. This photo shows Jack Lane at rest in the main shed.

Photo credit: Chris Dearden

The Maenofferen Wharf in Minffordd Yard

Minffordd Yard is located to the north of the FR main line just west of Minffordd station. The very extensive slate wharves and exchange sidings with the Cambrian Railways were established in 1872. There is some confusion over dates here. Having originally leased the land from the Huddart Family estate the FR Co. bought the land for £2500 in mid 1876.

Slate storage sheds were built at the FR main line end of the yard, adjacent to the Maeofferen wharf and continued in use, leased to Davies Bros., slate merchants, until the 1960s. They are now fully used for railway purposes.

The only rail access is via the bottom end of the Down line at Minffordd, originally the Mineral Line. Trains leave the present loop and join a line which runs parallel to the FR main line, passing over the road access to the yard and in front of the former weigh house before reaching a set of weighted points that are normally set for the small fan of post-preservation sidings that comprise the Upper Yard. In order to gain access to the steep, sharply curved, line into the lower (main) yard the weighted points must be held over by the guard or second man of the train. Trains 'rushing the bank' in order to leave the yard simply trail through the weighted points so that their progress up the bank is not hindered.

The weighted points have considerable heritage significance as there has been a set on this location ever since the yard was established and they have been operated by the same method throughout that time! The only other set of points having a similar pedigree is at Boston Lodge, though their operating lever has been changed over time.

The steepness and curvature of the line down into the main yard places limits on the locomotives and stock that can use it; double engines are forbidden, as are some of the older bogie carriages. (more...)

Recently featured: Coed y BleiddiauCharles Easton SpoonerHorse operation

September[edit]

Criccieth Castle at Boston Lodge in August 2007

Criccieth Castle is an 0-6-0 diesel hydraulic locomotive built at Boston Lodge using parts bought from Baguley-Drewry following that company’s liquidation, although much was built new. Experience with Harlech Castle had suggested that a similar locomotive would have potential as a passenger locomotive and the in-house designed bodywork reflect the links between the two locos. Entering service in 1995, the loco sees regular service in the passenger fleet and is fitted with advanced computer controls which enable the use of the Push Pull system. This allows the engine to remain at the top end of the train on down services, being driven from a cab in observation Carriage 111. The locomotive carries a CRICCIETH CASTLE plate on one side and CASTELL CRICIETH on the other.

Photo credit: Ben Kelly

Makers photograph of Taliesin in 1876

Taliesin was an 0-4-4 Single Fairlie built by the Vulcan Foundry in 1876, originally given the number 9. It had its first run on 10th August 1876, double heading with Little Giant, and was put into service on 17th August. It was completely rebuilt between 1898 and 1900. Over subsequent years the locomotive fell into increasing disrepair and was dismantled in preparation for a new boiler in 1924. However, despite recommendations from the Locomotive Superintendent and Engineer, the Board refused to purchase a boiler and Taliesin was reassembled with its existing boiler. The locomotive was finally dismantled in 1932 and the boiler was sold for scrap in 1935. Some parts of the original locomotive survive. A replica was built in 1999, also named Taliesin. The replica uses the reversing lever from the original locomotive. (more...)

Recently featured: Minffordd YardCoed y BleiddiauCharles Easton Spooner

October[edit]

The Simplex at Minffordd in 2007

The Simplex, also known as Mary Ann, was built as a 4wPM in 1917 for service in World War 1. It is one of a small number of survivors from that conflict built for the Ministry of Munitions by the Motor Rail and Tramcar Company of Bedford, England. The Festiniog Railway’s example is a blend of the frames and running gear from an “Open” type Simplex and “Protected” type bodywork butchered so it appears as “Open” Type bodywork. It was purchased for the Festiniog and Welsh Highland Railways in July 1923 from The Kent Construction & Engineering Co of Ashford, Kent, at a cost of £350 and was used mainly for shunting the wharves at Portmadoc and Minffordd, replacing a steam locomotive in these duties.

Photo credit: William High

Makers photograph of Taliesin in 1876

Taliesin was an 0-4-4 Single Fairlie built by the Vulcan Foundry in 1876, originally given the number 9. It had its first run on 10th August 1876, double heading with Little Giant, and was put into service on 17th August. It was completely rebuilt between 1898 and 1900. Over subsequent years the locomotive fell into increasing disrepair and was dismantled in preparation for a new boiler in 1924. However, despite recommendations from the Locomotive Superintendent and Engineer, the Board refused to purchase a boiler and Taliesin was reassembled with its existing boiler. The locomotive was finally dismantled in 1932 and the boiler was sold for scrap in 1935. Some parts of the original locomotive survive. A replica was built in 1999, also named Taliesin. The replica uses the reversing lever from the original locomotive. (more...)

Recently featured: Minffordd YardCoed y BleiddiauCharles Easton Spooner

November[edit]

Palmerston at Minffordd in the early 1880s

Palmerston is (probably) the fourth locomotive built for the FR. It was delivered to the FR in March 1864. The engine was named after Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston (1784-1865), Liberal Prime Minister and Chairman of the Welsh Slate, Copper & Lead Mining Co’s quarry at Blaenau Ffestiniog. It is seen here acting as Bottom Shunter in the early 1880s. More information about this photo appeared in issue 94 of the FR Heritage Group Journal.

Photo credit: FR Archives, uploaded by Chris Jones

Ashover on S&T duty in Minffordd Yard in March 1982

Ashover is a 50hp F.C. Hibberd “Planet″ 4wDM (4-wheeled Diesel Mechanical) locomotive (Builder′s number 3307 of 1948). It was originally supplied to the Ashover Light Railway which transports minerals from Ashover to Clay Cross in Derbyshire. It did not carry a name at that time. Ashover came to the FR in October 1981 from the East Anglian Transport Museum Society, Carlton Colville, Suffolk. Ashover was commonly used as Boston Lodge works shunter, occasionally being used on Parks and Gardens works trains. It is currently out of service having suffered from a lack of attention to routine maintenance checks whilst it was away from Boston Lodge. (more...)

Recently featured: TaliesinMinffordd YardCoed y Bleiddiau

December[edit]

Prince entering the Aberglaslyn Pass in October 2008

Prince is (probably) the third locomotive built for the FR. It was delivered to the FR in January 1864. The engine was originally named The Prince in honour of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales. The name was shortened to Prince in 1892. Prince played a major role in the history of the WHR and later became the first steam locomotive to run on the restored FR. It is seen here entering the Aberglaslyn Pass, one of the most spectacular stretches of the WHR, in October 2008.

Photo credit: Chris Jones

Recently featured: PalmerstonThe SimplexCriccieth Castle

Remains of the old Beddgelert station in July 2005.

Beddgelert is the principal intermediate station on Rheilffordd Eryri / Welsh Highland Railway at the well-known tourist spot, famous for its fictitious Dead Dog, Gelert, who was invented around 1793 by David Pritchard, the landlord of the Goat (locally pronounced Go-at) Hotel. Pritchard must be accounted the greatest benefactor to the local tourist trade. The original Kelert was possibly a sixth-century Celtic saint who was buried here, but the Priory was dedicated to St. Mary. The graves of the FR Spooners are in the churchyard, together with that of their nursemaid. (more...)

Recently featured: AshoverTaliesinMinffordd Yard

2009[edit]

January[edit]

Sam Hughes preparing for the first passenger trip in the Boat

The Boat was built partly as an inspection vehicle and partly as a private vehicle for the Spooner Family. Its date of construction is unknown but almost certainly predates the operation of steam locomotives (1863). It came to a sticky end when Charles Easton Spooner disobeyed the rules for train staff working and crashed into the single Fairlie, Taliesin, at the north end of the old Moelwyn tunnel in February 1886. One of those on it at the time was thought to be Nora Tiddeman, Charles Easton’s niece.

A replica was built in 2005 and made its first public appearance during the Vintage Weekend that year. It made its first journey on Saturday 15th October 2005 with Sam Hughes in period costume as the first passenger.

Initially fitted with a small sail, The Boat could only reach 10 m.p.h, so a larger sail (dipping lug rig) was prepared, and with this she has reached 20 m.p.h. by GPS (17.4 knots). She was memorably used at Quirks and Curiosities Weekend in 2010 to carry the Bishop of Bangor from Port to Pen Cob to dedicate the memorial to deceased volunteers and to baptise the locomotive Lyd. The Bishop looked enchanted, but his fellow clergyman, a Director of the FRCo., looked terrified - he knew too much.

Photo credit: Keith C. Bradbury

A simple layout plan of the junction from 1924.

Croesor Junction lies just 20 chains (¼ mile) to the north of Ynysfor, and 50 chains (⅝ mile) south of Ynys Ferlas. It is the point at which the WHR historically joined the route of the Croesor Tramway, following it southwards from here to Porthmadog.

This location was — and is — relatively featureless, being on the original flood plain of the Glaslyn, and had no road access. Despite what might appear to be a grand name, it was simply a junction (later with a loop). Few pictures exist of this location in WHR times; given that there was no halt here, and no access, this should not be surprising. One such picture, though, taken in 1925, appears in Branch Lines around Portmadoc, 1923-46 (see references).

John Stretton, in The WHR Volume 2, states "Due to the elaborate loop and pointwork at the junction, a station was not provided there." A more logical reason for the lack of any station was the total lack of need. The only access was by way of a footpath from Erw Fawr and along the track of the Tramway from Pont Garreg-Hylldrem, but even so anyone at the Junction would surely only be there on railway business for nearby farms were served by the adjacent halts, as named above. (more...)

Recently featured: BeddgelertAshoverTaliesin

February[edit]

Newly restored No. 87 on shed at Boston Lodge in January 2009

Acquired early in 2006 from the Exmoor Steam Railway, 87 is the fourth South African Railways Class NGG16 2-6-2+2-6-2T Beyer Garratt locomotive to be acquired for the WHR(C). In contrast to 1958-built numbers 138, 143 and 140, number 87 comes from the very first batch of NGG16s (developed from the NGG13), built by John Cockerill of Seraing, Belgium in 1936.

87 spent its working life in South Africa. Following the arrival of the Class 91 diesels in 1973 on the Avontuur line, the Class NGG16s there were transferred to Natal. At the time of closure in 1986, locomotives No. 87, 109, 113 and 153 were on shed at Ixopo. 109 later found its way to Exmoor, where it is today, while 113 and 153 were sold to the Midmar Historical Village in Natal, where they remained until 1998 when both locomotives passed into the ownership of the Sandstone Heritage Trust. Both 113 and 153 are now operational on the Sandstone Steam Railroad.

Following overhaul, 87 made its first test runs in late January 2009. It is expected to enter service later in the year.

Photo credit: Alun Evans

Type 1b and 2 quarrymen's carriages.

Special quarrymen's carriages first appeared on the FR in 1867. Their primary use was in special trains that carried men to work in the quarries around Blaenau Ffestiniog. Though many quarrymen lived in the various communities along the FR others came from further afield, having walked from home to join the train. Initially the trains ran only on Monday mornings and Saturday afternoons as most men stayed at the quarry barracks during the week. The Saturday train was usually added to the midday Down departure from Blaenau, with spectacular results. During the period when only a weekly service operated the carriages were stabled in an open, lean-to, carriage shed at Duffws during the week. A regular, daily, service was introduced in 1881.

Over the years, a number of different designs of carriage were used. The earliest were little better than low-sided, unsprung, wooden wagons with planks for seats; photographs appear to show that these overhung the sides and some passengers' legs hung outside! There was no protection from the elements. In order to simplify the story this type has long been designated Type 1a.

The first improvements to quarrymen's carriages involved the erection of a crude, shed-like, covers with zinc roofs, but lacking both doors and windows, over Type 1 vehicles. These have been designated Type 1b.

Type 2 carriages appear very similar to Type 1b, but were built as covered vehicles from new. In later years they acquired doors with small windows. Their running gear was not improved, however, and they remained unsprung.

Closed carriages with glazed windows and springs, Type 3, were not introduced until 1885. (more...)

Recently featured: Croesor JunctionBeddgelertAshover

March[edit]

David Lloyd George in 1915

David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, OM, PC (1863-01-17 – 1945-03-26) was a British statesman who guided Britain and the British Empire through the latter half of World War I and the first four years of the peace as Prime Minister, 1916-1922.

Although born in Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester and therefore a Mancunian by birth, Lloyd George was a Welsh-speaking man and Welsh by descent and upbringing, the only Welshman ever to hold the office of Prime Minister. In March 1863, his father William George returned to his native Pembrokeshire due to failing health. He took up farming but died in June, 1864. His mother Elizabeth (1828-1896) sold the farm and moved with her children to her native Llanystumdwy, where she lived with her brother Richard who, as a strong Liberal, proved a towering influence on the boy, encouraging him to take up a career in law and enter politics. Articled to a firm of solicitors in Porthmadog, Lloyd George was admitted in 1884 after taking Honours in his final law examination and set up his own practice in the back parlour of his uncle′s house in 1885. It is believed that Lloyd George was a regular passenger on the Festiniog Railway during this part of his life.

In 1992 the railway named its newly completed Double Fairlie locomotive David Lloyd George.

Photo credit: University of Texas Utopia Portrait Gallery

Merddin at Duffws c1880

Merddin Emrys is a Double Fairlie locomotive, the third such locomotive built for the Festiniog Railway, the suitability of the type having been proven in tests using Little Wonder. Merddin was built in the Festiniog Railway Company's own workshops at Boston Lodge in 1879 to the design of Percy Spooner and has spent its entire working life on the Festiniog Railway. When the railway closed in 1946 Merddin was the only double engine still available for service, Livingston Thompson having been withdrawn for repairs.

Merddin was returned to service in 1961 and converted to oil burning in 1973. In 2007, as part of the FR's fuel diversification process, the locomotive reverted to coal firing again.

A picture gallery of this locomotive is available. (more...)

Recently featured: Quarrymen's carriagesCroesor JunctionBeddgelert

April[edit]

Little Wonder at Duffws circa 1870

Little Wonder was the first Double Fairlie locomotive built for the FR. It was designed by Robert Francis Fairlie and built by the Fairlie Engine and Steam Carriage Company Limited. The success of this this locomotive enabled the FR to avoid having to double the line. It ran trials against the England engines which were witnessed by many foreign emissaries. The publicity this gave Fairlie persuaded him to grant the FR the right to build future locomotives of this type without having to pay him for the patent rights.

The photo shows Charles Easton Spooner in top hat, son Percy on right hand front footplate. The person at left may possibly be William Williams, but if so, he has no beard.

Photo credit: FR Archives

Map of the Rhiwbach Tramway

The Rhiwbach Tramway was a narrow gauge railway connecting the remote slate quarries to the east of Blaenau Ffestiniog with the Festiniog Railway. Built to the same gauge as the FR and completed in March 1863, it ran from the FR's Duffws station, three miles east to to Rhiwbach Quarry, serving the Cwt-y-Bugail, and Blaen y Cwm quarries on the way. Just before Rhiwbach itself was reached, a branch lead to Bwlch y Slaters (Manod) quarry, now operated by Rigcycle and known as Cwt y Bugail, the original quarry of that name having closed in the early 1960s.

The line was actually built by the FR but paid for by the Festiniog Slate Company. It was designed by Charles Easton Spooner, then Secretary and Engineer to the Festiniog Railway Company.

The quarries connected to the tramway had no practical road access as they lay at an altitude of around 1560' above sea level in a remote moorland.

The majority of the tramway was closed in 1961 and lifted in 1964. However, a short section remained in use until 1976 and some sleepers and a few lengths of rail are still in place. (more...)

Recently featured: Merddin EmrysQuarrymen's carriagesCroesor Junction

May[edit]

Carriage 2100 at Boston Lodge

Carriage 2100 is a brand new Pullman observation carriage built for use on the Welsh Highland Railway. Before construction started, the second Pullman was originally conceived to be similar to Carriage 2115. This idea was changed to a Pullman Observation carriage to give a panoramic view at one end, with a rounded end similar to Caledonian Railway observation carrs.

The livery of 2100 was kept a closely guarded secret prior to its public unveiling. It has been painted in the same purple-brown livery as the FR Victorian heritage carriages, lined out in gold and with “Pullman” lettering. It was unveiled at Boston Lodge on 10th March 2009.

Photo credit: Roger Dimmick

Recently featured: Little WonderDavid Lloyd George87

A contemporary engraving of a horse hauled train of waggons on the Cob together with a gravity train at Rhiw Plas.

Horse operation was a feature of the FR from its opening until the introduction of steam locomotives.

James Spooner’s elegant survey for the Festiniog Railway described a line of railway falling at a fairly steady gradient from the upper terminus near Blaenau Ffestiniog (700ft) to Boston Lodge, at the eastern end of the Cob (Sea Level) and was designed to allow loaded waggons to run down the line under gravity with empties being hauled back up by horses.

For a period after the opening of the railway, in 1836, the smooth line of James Spooner’s survey was interrupted by a pair of inclines that took the line over a shoulder of the Moelwyn mountains. Spooner had planned for a tunnel but had been overruled by Henry Archer on the grounds of cost. After a couple of years, and as traffic developed, the inclines became such a hindrance that Spooner prevailed and, in 1839, work began to drive the tunnel. It was opened in 1842 and from then on the FR was able to operate as it had been designed; loaded waggons exploiting the free power of gravity and being taken back up to the quarries by horses.

Each horse could haul 7 or 8 slate waggons and, though they are usually referred to as ‘empties’ they were, in fact, frequently loaded with a lucrative back traffic of goods for the growing community at Blaenau Ffestiniog. Each train included one extra wagon, known as a Dandy. These were high-sided open wagons with a door at one end, designed to carry the horse on the downward journey, permitting them to rest between duties. The earliest examples were wooden, as were the contemporary slate waggons. Later, iron dandies were built at Boston Lodge. (more...)

Recently featured: Rhiwbach TramwayMerddin EmrysQuarrymen's carriages

June[edit]

Prince in the Aberglaslyn Pass

Prince is (probably) the third of the first four locomotives built for use on the Festiniog Railway. It is now numbered No.2, but there is doubt about the order of building and numbering of the first four England engines. It was delivered to the FR in January 1864.

The locomotive played a major role in the history of the Welsh Highland Railway, hauling the first train from Dinas to Porthmadog in 1923, and regularly performing on both lines in the 1920s and 1930s. Later, it was the first steam locomotive restored for use on the revived Festiniog Railway. It first ran in preservation on August 2nd 1955 and was the mainstay of the service for the next 2 years.

It is seen here in the Aberglaslyn Pass on the Welsh Highland Railway on 21 May 2009, hauling the first train through the pass for fare paying passengers following the reopening of that section of the WHR. Earlier in the day, Prince had broken the banner at Beddgelert station to declare the route through the Aberglaslyn pass open

Photo credit: Chris Jones

Recently featured: Carriage 2100Little WonderDavid Lloyd George

Charles Easton Spooner

Charles Easton Spooner (1818-1889) was the Secretary and Engineer of the Festiniog Railway Company from 1856 until 1886. He was also Engineer to the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways Company and was involved in the family company of Spooner & Co., which at times appeared to conflict with the FR.

Charles was the third son of James Spooner and was born in Maentwrog in 1818. As a teenager he, along with his oldest brother, James, assisted his father in laying out the Festiniog Railway. He and James continued to assist their father and Thomas Pritchard during construction. Charles was thus trained as a civil engineer, gaining much practical experience that would stand him in good stead in his later life. During the early 1840s, Charles' training continued under both Joseph Locke and Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He continued to be involved with the railway under his father, who was Secretary to the Company. (more...)

Recently featured: Horse operationRhiwbach TramwayMerddin Emrys

July[edit]

Railway Letter Service stamp issue 62

The Ffestiniog Railway Letter Service is an officially authorised service within the United Kingdom railway system for posting and transmission of letters, and under certain circumstances also delivering the letters directly to intended recipients. The service operates on the Ffestiniog Railway and the Welsh Highland Railway, and is similar to one operated on the Talyllyn Railway and on other heritage railways in the UK. The service was also offered until 1984 by British Railways as successors to the many constituent railway companies that had in 1891 signed an agreement with the G.P.O. and it was BR that regulated the terms and the charges in conjunction with the Royal Mail.

The Railway Letter Service has issued many stamps since its reinstatement in 1969 including the one depicted here, issued in May 2009.

Photo credit: Railway Letter Service

Recently featured: PrinceCarriage 2100Little Wonder

Coed y Bleiddiau

Coed y Bleiddiau ('Wood of the Wolves') is a remote location just down the line from Dduallt and there is evidence of ancient forest in the area. Local legend has it that the last wolf to be killed in Wales met its end nearby. There is a small halt here, serving a cottage which was built around 1860 for the use of the Superintendent of the Line.

The current Festiniog Railway Company Rule Book spells the name of this location as either "Coed-y-Bleddiau" or "Coed y Bleddiau". However, the correct spelling of the Welsh word for "wolves" is "bleiddiau". The location is also occasionally referred to as either "Coedybleddiau" or "Coedybleiddiau".

The railway crosses a small side valley on a curved, dry-stone, embankment here and the extra width on the outside of the curve is evidence of its having been eased at some time, probably after 1869 when a lot of improvements were made to make locomotive working easier. (more...)

Recently featured: Charles Easton SpoonerHorse operationRhiwbach Tramway

August[edit]

Railway Letter Service stamp issue 62

Tan y Bwlch was the principal passing station from its opening in July 1873 until it closed to passengers on 15th September 1939. Passenger service to Tan-y-Bwlch was resumed on 5th April 1958. Tan-y-Bwlch is 434ft above sea-level and 7 miles 35 chains from the modern zero point at Porthmadog.

This early photo of the station was taken between 1873 and 1875. Double Fairlie James Spooner in original condition is on a down train and one of the England engines is on the up train using the original water tank, complete with wooden cladding. The station building has a ticket window and on the right hand side is a Gentleman's toilet. In the distance can be seen the white painted wooden steps leading to the signal and top points. A replica of the double armed signal seen in this picture now stands in the car park.

Photo credit: uploaded by Chris Jones

The Maenofferen Wharf in Minffordd Yard

Minffordd Yard is located to the north of the FR main line just west of Minffordd station. The very extensive slate wharves and exchange sidings with the Cambrian Railways were established in 1872. There is some confusion over dates here. Having originally leased the land from the Huddart Family estate the FR Co. bought the land for £2500 in mid 1876.

Slate storage sheds were built at the FR main line end of the yard, adjacent to the Maeofferen wharf and continued in use, leased to Davies Bros., slate merchants, until the 1960s. They are now fully used for railway purposes.

The only rail access is via the bottom end of the Down line at Minffordd, originally the Mineral Line. Trains leave the present loop and join a line which runs parallel to the FR main line, passing over the road access to the yard and in front of the former weigh house before reaching a set of weighted points that are normally set for the small fan of post-preservation sidings that comprise the Upper Yard. In order to gain access to the steep, sharply curved, line into the lower (main) yard the weighted points must be held over by the guard or second man of the train. Trains 'rushing the bank' in order to leave the yard simply trail through the weighted points so that their progress up the bank is not hindered.

The weighted points have considerable heritage significance as there has been a set on this location ever since the yard was established and they have been operated by the same method throughout that time! The only other set of points having a similar pedigree is at Boston Lodge, though their operating lever has been changed over time.

The steepness and curvature of the line down into the main yard places limits on the locomotives and stock that can use it; double engines are forbidden, as are some of the older bogie carriages. (more...)

Recently featured: Coed y BleiddiauCharles Easton SpoonerHorse operation

September[edit]

Carriage 22 at Harbour Station

Carriage 22 was built for the Festiniog Railway's Quarrymens' Train in 1896 by the Ashbury Carriage & Wagon Company of Manchester, after justified criticism of the existing Quarrymens' Train by Government Inspectors of Mines. Both carriages were known as "The Yellow Cars" after an early livery.

No 22 was restored to traffic in 1958 and is shown here at Harbour Station in 1965.

Having lost the tension in the wooden underframe, a pronounced sag appeared in the body shape so it was known as "the banana van." It held 56 in some discomfort; guards had to load the middle compartment first, shut the door, then load the side compartments, shutting the doors, ending with the compartments over the bogies. This was because the doors jammed and if you loaded the ends you could not shut the middle doors. Rebodied in 1984, it now bears little resemblance to its original appearance. It now has a metal underframe; however it is still uncomfortably crowded and passengers' knees have to interlock with the people opposite. It was downgraded from 56 to 42 passengers around 2003 to allow for the greater bulk of modern passengers.

Photo credit: Michael Bishop

Makers photograph of Taliesin in 1876

Taliesin was an 0-4-4 Single Fairlie built by the Vulcan Foundry in 1876, originally given the number 9. It had its first run on 10th August 1876, double heading with Little Giant, and was put into service on 17th August. It was completely rebuilt between 1898 and 1900. Over subsequent years the locomotive fell into increasing disrepair and was dismantled in preparation for a new boiler in 1924. However, despite recommendations from the Locomotive Superintendent and Engineer, the Board refused to purchase a boiler and Taliesin was reassembled with its existing boiler. The locomotive was finally dismantled in 1932 and the boiler was sold for scrap in 1935, after being run into by Welsh Pony, whose tender was also damaged in the accident. A replica was built in 1999. The only parts of the original locomotive known to have survived are the reversing lever (used on the replica) and the eccentrics (which were used on Linda). A set of Fairlie wheels survives and may well be from this loco. (more...)

Recently featured: Minffordd YardCoed y BleiddiauCharles Easton Spooner

October[edit]

K1 at Harbour Station

K1, shown here at Harbour Station in 1966, is the first locomotive built to the Garratt Patent (No 12079) granted in 1907. Built in 1909 it exists today through an amazing series of "escapes". It represents a rare and important survival of a prototype steam locomotive and represents the final stage in the development of the articulated locomotive that began in the earliest days of the steam loco. It preserves important elements in the early development of the Garratt locomotive that were rarely, if at all, repeated.

It is owned by the Festiniog Railway Trust, the locomotive having been purchased for them in 1966 by the Festiniog Railway Company aided by the Ffestiniog Railway Society. K1 has been restored by a volunteer team and FR and Dinas staff for use on the newly reopened Welsh Highland Railway.

Photo credit: Michael Bishop

Makers photograph of Taliesin in 1876

Taliesin was an 0-4-4 Single Fairlie built by the Vulcan Foundry in 1876, originally given the number 9. It had its first run on 10th August 1876, double heading with Little Giant, and was put into service on 17th August. It was completely rebuilt between 1898 and 1900. Over subsequent years the locomotive fell into increasing disrepair and was dismantled in preparation for a new boiler in 1924. However, despite recommendations from the Locomotive Superintendent and Engineer, the Board refused to purchase a boiler and Taliesin was reassembled with its existing boiler. The locomotive was finally dismantled in 1932 and the boiler was sold for scrap in 1935, after being run into by Welsh Pony, whose tender was also damaged in the accident. A replica was built in 1999. The only parts of the original locomotive known to have survived are the reversing lever (used on the replica) and the eccentrics (which were used on Linda). A set of Fairlie wheels survives and may well be from this loco. (more...)

Recently featured: Minffordd YardCoed y BleiddiauCharles Easton Spooner

November[edit]

The Wickham in 1965

The Wickham was built as a standard gauge trolley by D Wickham & Co Ltd in Ware, Hertfordshire, builder's number 1543 of 1934, for the London & North Eastern Railway. Delivered to York, it was a Type 17, fitted with a JAP 1100 petrol engine. It was obtained from British Railways in 1962 and regauged for use on the FR.

It had not been seen in action on the railway for many years and in 2006 was reported as under restoration somewhere in southern England, but in 2010 it returned to the FR in an improved condition with larger windows in the ends and painted green.

This vehicle is notoriously said to be among the faster on the line and is recorded as travelling about 1965 from Dduallt to Minffordd in twentyfive minutes, including from Tan y Bwlch to Penrhyn Crossing in ten minutes, with Ron Lester driving.

It is seen here near Coed y Bleiddiau in 1965.

Photo credit: Gerry Horrocks

Recently featured: K1Carriage 22Tan y Bwlch

Ashover on S&T duty in Minffordd Yard in March 1982

Ashover is a 50hp F.C. Hibberd “Planet″ 4wDM (4-wheeled Diesel Mechanical) locomotive (Builder′s number 3307 of 1948). It was originally supplied to the Ashover Light Railway which transports minerals from Ashover to Clay Cross in Derbyshire. It did not carry a name at that time. Ashover came to the FR in October 1981 from the East Anglian Transport Museum Society, Carlton Colville, Suffolk. Ashover was commonly used as Boston Lodge works shunter, occasionally being used on Parks and Gardens works trains. It is currently out of service having suffered from a lack of attention to routine maintenance checks whilst it was away from Boston Lodge. (more...)

Recently featured: TaliesinMinffordd YardCoed y Bleiddiau

December[edit]

Merddin Emrys enters the Aberglaslyn pass

Merddin Emrys is a Double Fairlie locomotive, the third such locomotive built for the Festiniog Railway, the suitability of the type having been proven in tests using Little Wonder. Merddin was built in the Festiniog Railway Company's own workshops at Boston Lodge in 1879 to the design of Percy Spooner and has spent its entire working life on the Festiniog Railway. When the railway closed in 1946 Merddin was the only double engine still available for service, Livingston Thompson having been withdrawn for repairs.

It is seen here entering the Aberglaslyn pass on 31st October 2009 with Taliesin and some vintage carriages.

Photo credit: Chrisjones

Recently featured: The Wickham trolleyK1Carriage 22

Remains of the old Beddgelert station in July 2005.

Beddgelert is the principal intermediate station on Rheilffordd Eryri / Welsh Highland Railway at the well-known tourist spot, famous for its fictitious Dead Dog, Gelert, who was invented around 1793 by David Pritchard, the landlord of the Goat (locally pronounced Go-at) Hotel. Pritchard must be accounted the greatest benefactor to the local tourist trade. The original Kelert was possibly a sixth-century Celtic saint who was buried here, but the Priory was dedicated to St. Mary. The graves of the FR Spooners are in the churchyard, together with that of their nursemaid. (more...)

Recently featured: AshoverTaliesinMinffordd Yard

2010[edit]

January[edit]

Carriage 103

Carriage 103 is an all 3rd saloon with more passenger room inside. In particular, the seat spacing is being increased from previous FR carriages to give more leg room. The length and width are greater than any other FR passenger vehicle and therefore the doors are inset in relation to the rest of the body. The Blaenau end vestibule has double doors to facilitate pushchairs/wheelchairs as can be seen in this photo. Inside, a seat can be collapsed to allow wheelchair access to a table.

The carriage was completed in November 2009 after a test run to Blaenau. Its first use was a couple of days later on a special train from Minffordd to Porthmadog and return along with Van 4 on a special train for FRS Directors, as the rebuild was a Society funded project. The carriage is expected to enter regular service in February 2010.

Photo credit: Roger Dimmick

A simple layout plan of the junction from 1924.

Croesor Junction lies just 20 chains (¼ mile) to the north of Ynysfor, and 50 chains (⅝ mile) south of Ynys Ferlas. It is the point at which the WHR historically joined the route of the Croesor Tramway, following it southwards from here to Porthmadog.

This location was — and is — relatively featureless, being on the original flood plain of the Glaslyn, and had no road access. Despite what might appear to be a grand name, it was simply a junction (later with a loop). Few pictures exist of this location in WHR times; given that there was no halt here, and no access, this should not be surprising. One such picture, though, taken in 1925, appears in Branch Lines around Portmadoc, 1923-46 (see references).

John Stretton, in The WHR Volume 2, states "Due to the elaborate loop and pointwork at the junction, a station was not provided there." A more logical reason for the lack of any station was the total lack of need. The only access was by way of a footpath from Erw Fawr and along the track of the Tramway from Pont Garreg-Hylldrem, but even so anyone at the Junction would surely only be there on railway business for nearby farms were served by the adjacent halts, as named above. (more...)

Recently featured: BeddgelertAshoverTaliesin

February[edit]

Lady Diana's cab

The Lady Diana is a 20hp Motor Rail “Simplex” 4wDM (Builder's number 21579 of 1956) and was previously named “Diana”. It was obtained by the FR Society’s Staffordshire Group about October 1972 from the Upper Tame Drainage Authority, Minworth, Warwickshire. Refurbished for use on the Deviation it arrived on the railway in July 1974. It carried the Deviationists’ number JGF2, referring to the “Jolly Good Fun” that is had by all who work on the FR, and received the name “Diana” after the wife of Adrian Shooter, who was one of the Deviationists. The name was changed to “The Lady Diana” to commemorate the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. The cab was observed in Glanypwll yard in March 2009.

Photo credit: Andy Elms

Type 1b and 2 quarrymen's carriages.

Special quarrymen's carriages first appeared on the FR in 1867. Their primary use was in special trains that carried men to work in the quarries around Blaenau Ffestiniog, with a single fare of 6d, any distance. Though many quarrymen lived in the various communities along the FR others came from further afield, having walked from home to join the train. Initially the trains ran only on Monday mornings and Saturday afternoons as most men stayed at the quarry barracks during the week. The Saturday train was usually added to the midday Down departure from Blaenau, with spectacular results as seen in the photo on the right. During the period when only a weekly service operated the carriages were stabled in an open, lean-to, carriage shed at Duffws during the week. A regular, daily, service was introduced in 1881.

Over the years, a number of different designs of carriage were used. The earliest were little better than low-sided, unsprung, wooden wagons with planks for seats; photographs appear to show that these overhung the sides and some passengers' legs hung outside! There was no protection from the elements. In order to simplify the story this type has long been designated Type 1a.

The first improvements to quarrymen's carriages involved the erection of a crude, shed-like, covers with zinc roofs, but lacking both doors and windows, over Type 1 vehicles. These have been designated Type 1b.

Type 2 carriages appear very similar to Type 1b, but were built as covered vehicles from new. In later years they acquired doors with small windows. Their running gear was not improved, however, and they remained unsprung.

Closed carriages with glazed windows and springs, Type 3, were not introduced until 1885. (more...)

Recently featured: Croesor JunctionBeddgelertAshover

March[edit]

Nantmor Halt

Nantmor is a pretty little village with some fine gardens on view. It was a halt on the original WHR, lying south of Beddgelert and the Aberglaslyn Pass. There was a 40 foot stabling siding located here. Although there were plans for a halt serving Nantmor when the re-building of the WHR was proposed, they were dropped because of two local objections. Subsequently, a parish vote was held and by a large majority they agreed to ask for a halt to be located in the village.

Construction, just downhill from the village road level crossing, was delayed until February 2010 due to lack of resources (funding and manpower) and it opened in May 2010. The rebuilding was funded by the Welsh Highland Railway Society using funds donated in memory of the late Dr Ben Fisher, one of its members.

This northerly view shows the southern end of the platform before the wooden waiting shelter was erected. The south end of the platform had to be constructed on gabions as a disused access path for a local resident rises alongside the rear of the platform. This path emerges by the concrete base of the future waiting shelter.

Photo credit: Barrie Hughes

Merddin at Duffws c1880

Merddin Emrys is a Double Fairlie locomotive, the third such locomotive built for the Festiniog Railway, the suitability of the type having been proven in tests using Little Wonder. Merddin was built in the Festiniog Railway Company's own workshops at Boston Lodge in 1879 to the design of Percy Spooner and has spent its entire working life on the Festiniog Railway. When the railway closed in 1946 Merddin was the only double engine still available for service, Livingston Thompson having been withdrawn for repairs.

Merddin was returned to service in 1961 and converted to oil burning in 1973. In 2007, as part of the FR's fuel diversification process, the locomotive reverted to coal firing again.

A picture gallery of this locomotive is available. (more...)

Recently featured: Quarrymen's carriagesCroesor JunctionBeddgelert

April[edit]

Model T Ford railcar

The Model T Ford is a modern recreation of a four-wheeled petrol railcar that ran on the 2 foot gauge Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes Railroad in Maine, USA. It is based on a 1927 Model T Ford motor car and is normally found on Adrian Shooter’s private railway in Oxfordshire.

It visited the Launceston Steam Railway in 2008 and is scheduled to attend the Quirks & Curiosities event on the FR from 30 April to 3 May 2010.

Photo credit: Adrian Shooter collection

Recently featured: NantmorThe Lady DianaCarriage 103

Map of the Rhiwbach Tramway

The Rhiwbach Tramway was a narrow gauge railway connecting the remote slate quarries to the east of Blaenau Ffestiniog with the Festiniog Railway. Built to the same gauge as the FR and completed in March 1863, it ran from the FR's Duffws station, three miles east to to Rhiwbach Quarry, serving the Cwt-y-Bugail, and Blaen y Cwm quarries on the way. Just before Rhiwbach itself was reached, a branch lead to Bwlch y Slaters (Manod) quarry, now operated by Rigcycle and known as Cwt y Bugail, the original quarry of that name having closed in the early 1960s.

The line was actually built by the FR but paid for by the Festiniog Slate Company. It was designed by Charles Easton Spooner, then Secretary and Engineer to the Festiniog Railway Company.

The quarries connected to the tramway had no practical road access as they lay at an altitude of around 1560' above sea level in a remote moorland.

The majority of the tramway was closed in 1961 and lifted in 1964. However, a short section remained in use until 1976 and some sleepers and a few lengths of rail are still in place. (more...)

Recently featured: Merddin EmrysQuarrymen's carriagesCroesor Junction

May[edit]

Carriage 2100 being named by the Queen

Carriage 2100 is a Pullman Observation Carriage built to operate on the Welsh Highland Railway. Before construction started the second Pullman was originally conceived to be similar to Carriage 2115. This idea was changed to a Pullman Observation carriage to give a panoramic view at one end, with a rounded end similar to Caledonian Railway observation carrs.

The carriage was named Glaslyn at Dinas by Queen Elizabeth II on 27th April 2010. FR Company Chairman Dr John Prideaux and the General Manager, Paul Lewin, can also be seen in this photograph.

Photo credit: Andrew Thomas

Recently featured: Model T FordNantmorThe Lady Diana

A contemporary engraving of a horse hauled train of waggons on the Cob together with a gravity train at Rhiw Plas.

Horse operation was a feature of the FR from its opening until the introduction of steam locomotives.

James Spooner’s elegant survey for the Festiniog Railway described a line of railway falling at a fairly steady gradient from the upper terminus near Blaenau Ffestiniog (700ft) to Boston Lodge, at the eastern end of the Cob (Sea Level) and was designed to allow loaded waggons to run down the line under gravity with empties being hauled back up by horses.

For a period after the opening of the railway, in 1836, the smooth line of James Spooner’s survey was interrupted by a pair of inclines that took the line over a shoulder of the Moelwyn mountains. Spooner had planned for a tunnel but had been overruled by Henry Archer on the grounds of cost. After a couple of years, and as traffic developed, the inclines became such a hindrance that Spooner prevailed and, in 1839, work began to drive the tunnel. It was opened in 1842 and from then on the FR was able to operate as it had been designed; loaded waggons exploiting the free power of gravity and being taken back up to the quarries by horses.

Each horse could haul 7 or 8 slate waggons and, though they are usually referred to as ‘empties’ they were, in fact, frequently loaded with a lucrative back traffic of goods for the growing community at Blaenau Ffestiniog. Each train included one extra wagon, known as a Dandy. These were high-sided open wagons with a door at one end, designed to carry the horse on the downward journey, permitting them to rest between duties. The earliest examples were wooden, as were the contemporary slate waggons. Later, iron dandies were built at Boston Lodge. (more...)

Recently featured: Rhiwbach TramwayMerddin EmrysQuarrymen's carriages

June[edit]

Upnor Castle in Minffordd Yard

Upnor Castle was built as a 102hp FC Hibberd "Planet" 4wDM (Builder's number 3687 of 1954, Model SCN). It arrived from the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway on 12 February 1968 and was regauged from 2ft 6ins at Boston Lodge. It had been used up to early 1962 at the Royal Navy's Lodge Hill and Upnor Railway in Kent.

This locomotive was the first diesel on the FR able to haul anything like a normal service train. In 1971 it received a Gardner 6LW engine at the same time as the wheelbase was extended to improve its ride. It was later upgraded to a 180hp Gardner 6LX. It was transferred to the WHR(C) in 1997 after being fitted with a reconditioned engine. It has seen limited use on WHR passenger trains and extensive use on construction trains.

It is seen here leaving Minffordd Yard on Permanent Way duty on 18th April 1981.

Photo credit: Jeremy Laytham

Recently featured: Carriage 2100Model T FordNantmor

Charles Easton Spooner

Charles Easton Spooner (1818-1889) was the Secretary and Engineer of the Festiniog Railway Company from 1856 until 1886. He was also Engineer to the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways Company and was involved in the family company of Spooner & Co., which at times appeared to conflict with the FR.

Charles was the third son of James Spooner and was born in Maentwrog in 1818. As a teenager he, along with his oldest brother, James, assisted his father in laying out the Festiniog Railway. He and James continued to assist their father and Thomas Prichard during construction. Charles was thus trained as a civil engineer, gaining much practical experience that would stand him in good stead in his later life. During the early 1840s, Charles' training continued under both Joseph Locke and Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He continued to be involved with the railway under his father, who was Secretary to the Company. (more...)

Recently featured: Horse operationRhiwbach TramwayMerddin Emrys

July[edit]

Lyd at Boston Lodge

Lyd a close replica of Lew, one of the 2-6-2Ts of the legendary Lynton & Barnstaple Railway in Devon (closed 1935). As there is a possibility (increasingly remote) that Lew may still exist in South America, where the engine was shipped after the L&B closed, a new name has been chosen. The first manufacturing tasks were carried out in Cornwall, but the main building of the engine later moved to the FR's Boston Lodge Works.

The loco is being finished off to make its first public runs in August 2010. It will also visit the Launceston Steam Railway and the reborn Lynton & Barnstable Railway during the autumn of 2010. It was steamed for the first time at the Quirks & Curiosities event in May 2010. It is seen here at Boston Lodge during that event.

Photo credit: Chris G Jones

Recently featured: Upnor CastleCarriage 2100Model T Ford

Coed y Bleiddiau

Coed y Bleiddiau ('Wood of the Wolves') is a remote location just down the line from Dduallt and there is evidence of ancient forest in the area. Local legend has it that the last wolf to be killed in Wales met its end nearby. There is a small halt here, serving a cottage which was built around 1860 for the use of the Superintendent of the Line.

The current Festiniog Railway Company Rule Book spells the name of this location as either "Coed-y-Bleddiau" or "Coed y Bleddiau". However, the correct spelling of the Welsh word for "wolves" is "bleiddiau". The location is also occasionally referred to as either "Coedybleddiau" or "Coedybleiddiau".

The railway crosses a small side valley on a curved, dry-stone, embankment here and the extra width on the outside of the curve is evidence of its having been eased at some time, probably after 1869 when a lot of improvements were made to make locomotive working easier. (more...)

Recently featured: Charles Easton SpoonerHorse operationRhiwbach Tramway

August[edit]

The Coalition in Gelert's Farm Works

The Coalition was originally built in the 1890s as a steam locomotive. It was converted to run on electricity in 1930 by Llechwedd Slate Mines where it continued to work until the 1960s pulling trucks of slate around the site. When it was withdrawn from service it was placed on static display at an exposed location on the Llechwedd site.

Along with similar locomotive The Eclipse, The Coalition has now moved to the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway where it is being kept under cover until the means can be found to restore it. Restoration of the locomotives is likely to take several years and will not begin until enough money is in place to complete the task.

Photo credit: Chris Dearden

Recently featured: LydUpnor CastleCarriage 2100

The Maenofferen Wharf in Minffordd Yard

Minffordd Yard is located to the north of the FR main line just west of Minffordd station. The very extensive slate wharves and exchange sidings with the Cambrian Railways were established in 1872. There is some confusion over dates here. Having originally leased the land from the Huddart Family estate the FR Co. bought the land for £2500 in mid 1876.

Slate storage sheds were built at the FR main line end of the yard, adjacent to the Maeofferen wharf and continued in use, leased to Davies Bros., slate merchants, until the 1960s. They are now fully used for railway purposes.

The only rail access is via the bottom end of the Down line at Minffordd, originally the Mineral line. Trains leave the present loop and join a line which runs parallel to the FR main line, passing over the road access to the yard and in front of the former weigh house before reaching a set of weighted points that are normally set for the small fan of post-preservation sidings that comprise the Upper Yard. In order to gain access to the steep, sharply curved, line into the lower (main) yard the weighted points must be held over by the guard or second man of the train. Trains 'rushing the bank' in order to leave the yard simply trail through the weighted points so that their progress up the bank is not hindered.

The weighted points have considerable heritage significance as there has been a set on this location ever since the yard was established and they have been operated by the same method throughout that time! The only other set of points having a similar pedigree is at Boston Lodge, though their operating lever has been changed over time.

The steepness and curvature of the line down into the main yard places limits on the locomotives and stock that can use it; double engines are forbidden, as are some of the older bogie carriages. (more...)

Recently featured: Coed y BleiddiauCharles Easton SpoonerHorse operation

September[edit]

Prince at Highley

Prince is (probably) the third of the first four locomotives. It is now numbered No.2, but there is doubt about the order of building and numbering of the first four England engines. It was delivered to the FR in January 1864. These locomotives were worked hard, before the arrival of Taliesin, they were coming in for a 2 week period of maintenance every quarter. In this period they would replace brake blocks, brasses and cotter pins in the crank pins as well as replacing some of the firebars. In 1878 Prince had its chimney knocked off and that of Mountaineer was put on. By May 1881 Prince was in a poor state with the boiler pressure restricted to 110lbs. It had a major refit with a 'sham' cast iron tank fitted on top of the side tanks to increase the weight to ten tons and improve adhesion in wet weather, a new weather board, new sandboxes, new cylinders and the boiler retubed.

The locomotive played a major role in the history of the WHR, hauling the first train from Dinas to Porthmadog in 1923, and regularly performing on both lines in the 1920s and 1930s.

Prince is temporarily out of use as the boiler certificate expired in May 2010. He can be seen during the summer of 2010 at the Severn Valley Railway, in The Engine House, Highley.

Photo credit: Chris Jones

Recently featured: The CoalitionLydUpnor Castle

Makers photograph of Taliesin in 1876

Taliesin was an 0-4-4 Single Fairlie built by the Vulcan Foundry in 1876, originally given the number 9. It had its first run on 10th August 1876, double heading with Little Giant, and was put into service on 17th August. It was completely rebuilt between 1898 and 1900. Over subsequent years the locomotive fell into increasing disrepair and was dismantled in preparation for a new boiler in 1924. However, despite recommendations from the Locomotive Superintendent and Engineer, the Board refused to purchase a boiler and Taliesin was reassembled with its existing boiler. The locomotive was finally dismantled in 1932 and the boiler was sold for scrap in 1935, after being run into by Welsh Pony, whose tender was also damaged in the accident. A replica was built in 1999. The only parts of the original locomotive known to have survived are the reversing lever (used on the replica) and the eccentrics (which were used on Linda). A set of Fairlie wheels survives and may well be from this loco. (more...)

Recently featured: Minffordd YardCoed y BleiddiauCharles Easton Spooner

October[edit]

Lyd in the Aberglaslyn pass

Lyd is a close replica of Lew, one of the 2-6-2Ts of the legendary Lynton & Barnstaple Railway in Devon (closed 1935). As there is a possibility (increasingly remote) that Lew may still exist in South America, where the engine was shipped after the L&B closed, a new name has been chosen. The first manufacturing tasks were carried out in Cornwall, but the main building of the engine later moved to the FR's Boston Lodge Works.

The loco appeared on the Welsh Highland Railway for the Superpower event in September 2010. It is seen here in the Aberglaslyn pass on 11 September. It is now on tour, visiting the Launceston Steam Railway and the reborn Lynton & Barnstable Railway.

Photo credit: Chris G Jones

Recently featured: PrinceThe CoalitionLyd

Makers photograph of Taliesin in 1876

Taliesin was an 0-4-4 Single Fairlie built by the Vulcan Foundry in 1876, originally given the number 9. It had its first run on 10th August 1876, double heading with Little Giant, and was put into service on 17th August. It was completely rebuilt between 1898 and 1900. Over subsequent years the locomotive fell into increasing disrepair and was dismantled in preparation for a new boiler in 1924. However, despite recommendations from the Locomotive Superintendent and Engineer, the Board refused to purchase a boiler and Taliesin was reassembled with its existing boiler. The locomotive was finally dismantled in 1932 and the boiler was sold for scrap in 1935, after being run into by Welsh Pony, whose tender was also damaged in the accident. A replica was built in 1999. The only parts of the original locomotive known to have survived are the reversing lever (used on the replica) and the eccentrics (which were used on Linda). A set of Fairlie wheels survives and may well be from this loco. (more...)

Recently featured: Minffordd YardCoed y BleiddiauCharles Easton Spooner

November[edit]

Tryfan Junction

Tryfan Junction was a station on the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways and later the Welsh Highland Railway. It formed the junction between the North Wales Narrow Gauge main line to Bryngwyn and a secondary line which ran to South Snowdon, later Rhyd Ddu. The arrival of the Welsh Highland Railway resulted in the line to South Snowdon becoming the main line with the line to Bryngwyn becoming a branch.

The station building became dilapidated during the closure but is now being restored by the Welsh Highland Heritage Group.

Photo credit: Keith

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Ashover on S&T duty in Minffordd Yard in March 1982

Ashover is a 50hp F.C. Hibberd “Planet″ 4wDM (4-wheeled Diesel Mechanical) locomotive (Builder′s number 3307 of 1948). It was originally supplied to the Ashover Light Railway which transports minerals from Ashover to Clay Cross in Derbyshire. It did not carry a name at that time. Ashover came to the FR in October 1981 from the East Anglian Transport Museum Society, Carlton Colville, Suffolk. Ashover was commonly used as Boston Lodge works shunter, occasionally being used on Parks and Gardens works trains. It is currently out of service having suffered from a lack of attention to routine maintenance checks whilst it was away from Boston Lodge. (more...)

Recently featured: TaliesinMinffordd YardCoed y Bleiddiau

December[edit]

Van 4 at Harbour Station

Van 4 was constructed as a bogie luggage brake van by Gloucester Wagon Co. Originally it had no passenger accomodation. It was rebuilt in Boston Lodge in 1929/30 with a new body, incorporating a guard′s compartment and passenger accomodation in 1st and 3rd class. Van 5 (Carriage 12) was treated similarly.

It was one of the two carriages first restored for use when the railway reopened, and there are early references (FRM NL/05) to this vehicle as Coach 11 and Van 11. In 1957/58 it was rebuilt again, this time involving conversion to an observation car.

It has been restored in the green and ivory livery carried in the 1950s and early 1960s, and in 2005 returned to its original identity of Van 4. In 2007 it was officially transferred to the Heritage fleet. As such it is no longer be used in regular service but will remain available for occasional use and on heritage trains. It is seen here at Harbour Station during the Quirks and Curiosities event in May 2010.

Photo credit: Ben Kelly

Recently featured: Tryfan JunctionLydPrince

Remains of the old Beddgelert station in July 2005.

Beddgelert is the principal intermediate station on Rheilffordd Eryri / Welsh Highland Railway at the well-known tourist spot, famous for its fictitious Dead Dog, Gelert, who was invented around 1793 by David Pritchard, the landlord of the Goat (locally pronounced Go-at) Hotel. Pritchard must be accounted the greatest benefactor to the local tourist trade. The original Kelert was possibly a sixth-century Celtic saint who was buried here, but the Priory was dedicated to St. Mary. The graves of the FR Spooners are in the churchyard, together with that of their nursemaid.

The station lies at a height of approximately 55m (180 ft), and a route distance of approx 12.71km (7.9 miles) from Porthmadog. (more...)

Recently featured: AshoverTaliesinMinffordd Yard

2011[edit]

January[edit]

Open day booklet

Over the years the FR has produced many publications including guide books and booklets to mark special events. This image shows a Welcome To The Festiniog Railway booklet which was produced for an open day on 7th July 1973 for local dignatories to show progress on the Deviation and to publicise the "Back to Blaenau" project. Copies were given to all guests and also volunteers involved.

Photo credit: Jim Hewett

Recently featured: Van 4Tryfan JunctionLyd

A simple layout plan of the junction from 1924.

Croesor Junction lies just 20 chains (¼ mile) to the north of Ynysfor, and 50 chains (⅝ mile) south of Ynys Ferlas. It is the point at which the WHR historically joined the route of the Croesor Tramway, following it southwards from here to Porthmadog.

This location was — and is — relatively featureless, being on the original flood plain of the Glaslyn, and had no road access. Despite what might appear to be a grand name, it was simply a junction (later with a loop). Few pictures exist of this location in WHR times; given that there was no halt here, and no access, this should not be surprising. One such picture, though, taken in 1925, appears in Branch Lines around Portmadoc, 1923-46 (see references).

John Stretton, in The WHR Volume 2, states "Due to the elaborate loop and pointwork at the junction, a station was not provided there." A more logical reason for the lack of any station was the total lack of need. The only access was by way of a footpath from Erw Fawr and along the track of the Tramway from Pont Garreg-Hylldrem, but even so anyone at the Junction would surely only be there on railway business for nearby farms were served by the adjacent halts, as named above. (more...)

Recently featured: BeddgelertAshoverTaliesin

February[edit]

Minffordd bypass cutting

The A487 Minffordd bypass is currently being constructed. Designed to take traffic away from Porthmadog town centre, the bypass will go under the FR just short of Bron Turnor Crossing. The FR track was removed over the weekend of 6th/7th January 2011 allowing work to commence. This view shows the cutting dug for the road by the contractors on 7th January. The cutting will be crossed by a new bridge which is expected to be in place during February.

Photo credit: Dan Evans

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Type 1b and 2 quarrymen's carriages.

Special quarrymen's carriages first appeared on the FR in 1867. Their primary use was in special trains that carried men to work in the quarries around Blaenau Ffestiniog, with a single fare of 6d, any distance. Though many quarrymen lived in the various communities along the FR others came from further afield, having walked from home to join the train. Initially the trains ran only on Monday mornings and Saturday afternoons as most men stayed at the quarry barracks during the week. The Saturday train was usually added to the midday Down departure from Blaenau, with spectacular results as seen in the photo on the right. During the period when only a weekly service operated the carriages were stabled in an open, lean-to, carriage shed at Duffws during the week. A regular, daily, service was introduced in 1881.

Over the years, a number of different designs of carriage were used. The earliest were little better than low-sided, unsprung, wooden wagons with planks for seats; photographs appear to show that these overhung the sides and some passengers' legs hung outside! There was no protection from the elements. In order to simplify the story this type has long been designated Type 1a.

The first improvements to quarrymen's carriages involved the erection of a crude, shed-like, covers with zinc roofs, but lacking both doors and windows, over Type 1 vehicles. These have been designated Type 1b.

Type 2 carriages appear very similar to Type 1b, but were built as covered vehicles from new. In later years they acquired doors with small windows. Their running gear was not improved, however, and they remained unsprung.

Closed carriages with glazed windows and springs, Type 3, were not introduced until 1885. (more...)

Recently featured: Croesor JunctionBeddgelertAshover

March[edit]

Carriage 2042

Carriage 2042 is one of the first batch of carriages built new for the Welsh Highland Railway (Caernarfon). It is shown here being delivered to the North Yard at Dinas Junction on 23 September 1997.

Photo credit: Peter Jarvis

Recently featured: Minffordd bypassPublicationsVan 4

Merddin at Duffws c1880

Merddin Emrys is a Double Fairlie locomotive, the third such locomotive built for the Festiniog Railway, the suitability of the type having been proven in tests using Little Wonder. Merddin was built in the Festiniog Railway Company's own workshops at Boston Lodge in 1879 to the design of Percy Spooner and has spent its entire working life on the Festiniog Railway. When the railway closed in 1946 Merddin was the only double engine still available for service, Livingston Thompson having been withdrawn for repairs.

Merddin was returned to service in 1961 and converted to oil burning in 1973. In 2007, as part of the FR's fuel diversification process, the locomotive reverted to coal firing again.

A picture gallery of this locomotive is available. (more...)

Recently featured: Quarrymen's carriagesCroesor JunctionBeddgelert

April[edit]

Rats tails gantry at Buarth Melyn

Devices known as Rat Tails were erected to protect the brakesmen of gravity trains from the dangers of bridges, footbridges and tunnels.

Brakesmen worked their trains brakes by walking along the tops of the loaded waggons to adjust the brakes and, while so doing, they could be foul of the FR's restricted loading gauge. To give them warning that they were approaching a hazard gantries were erected from which hung knotted ropes at a level that would strike a standing brakesman and cause him to sit down. The success of the system, however crude, is borne out by a complete lack of any records of brakesmen suffering injury from bridges or tunnel portals.

The use of ropes ensured that other rolling stock was not damaged. The limited photographic evidence suggests that the passage of other stock and the effects of locomotive exhausts made the central ropes pretty tatty!

This photo, taken some time after closure in 1946, shows the gantry at Buarth Melyn. The ropes are no longer in situ.

Photo credit: FR Archives

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Map of the Rhiwbach Tramway

The Rhiwbach Tramway was a narrow gauge railway connecting the remote slate quarries to the east of Blaenau Ffestiniog with the Festiniog Railway. Built to the same gauge as the FR and completed in March 1863, it ran from the FR's Duffws station, three miles east to to Rhiwbach Quarry, serving the Cwt-y-Bugail, and Blaen y Cwm quarries on the way. Just before Rhiwbach itself was reached, a branch lead to Bwlch y Slaters (Manod) quarry, now operated by Rigcycle and known as Cwt y Bugail, the original quarry of that name having closed in the early 1960s.

The line was actually built by the FR but paid for by the Festiniog Slate Company. It was designed by Charles Easton Spooner, then Secretary and Engineer to the Festiniog Railway Company.

The quarries connected to the tramway had no practical road access as they lay at an altitude of around 1560' above sea level in a remote moorland.

The majority of the tramway was closed in 1961 and lifted in 1964. However, a short section remained in use until 1976 and some sleepers and a few lengths of rail are still in place. (more...)

Recently featured: Merddin EmrysQuarrymen's carriagesCroesor Junction

May[edit]

Jatibarang No.9 shortly after arrival in UK

Jatibarang No.9 is a Mallet 0-4-4-0T that is scheduled to work on the WHR during the 2011 season.

Said to be the last Mallet locomotive built in Germany, it is Jung 4878 of 1930, supplied to HE Oving of Rotterdam for use at Jatibarang sugar mill in Java. Brought to the UK by Graham Lee, it has been beautifully restored at Statfold Barn. On the WHR it will be the first full-size Mallet used for passenger services in the UK and it will provide an interesting point of comparison with the other types of articulated locomotives to be seen on the line.

No.9 arrived at Dinas by low-loader on the morning of April 8th 2011 and moved to Boston Lodge under it's own power the same day.

During its stay on the F&WHR the locomotive will be based at Boston Lodge.

Photo credit: Geoff Cryer

Recently featured: Rats tailsCarriage 2042Minffordd bypassPublications

A contemporary engraving of a horse hauled train of waggons on the Cob together with a gravity train at Rhiw Plas.

Horse operation was a feature of the FR from its opening until the introduction of steam locomotives.

James Spooner’s elegant survey for the Festiniog Railway described a line of railway falling at a fairly steady gradient from the upper terminus near Blaenau Ffestiniog (700ft) to Boston Lodge, at the eastern end of the Cob (Sea Level) and was designed to allow loaded waggons to run down the line under gravity with empties being hauled back up by horses.

For a period after the opening of the railway, in 1836, the smooth line of James Spooner’s survey was interrupted by a pair of inclines that took the line over a shoulder of the Moelwyn mountains. Spooner had planned for a tunnel but had been overruled by Henry Archer on the grounds of cost. After a couple of years, and as traffic developed, the inclines became such a hindrance that Spooner prevailed and, in 1839, work began to drive the tunnel. It was opened in 1842 and from then on the FR was able to operate as it had been designed; loaded waggons exploiting the free power of gravity and being taken back up to the quarries by horses.

Each horse could haul 7 or 8 slate waggons and, though they are usually referred to as ‘empties’ they were, in fact, frequently loaded with a lucrative back traffic of goods for the growing community at Blaenau Ffestiniog. Each train included one extra wagon, known as a Dandy. These were high-sided open wagons with a door at one end, designed to carry the horse on the downward journey, permitting them to rest between duties. The earliest examples were wooden, as were the contemporary slate waggons. Later, iron dandies were built at Boston Lodge. (more...)

Recently featured: Rhiwbach TramwayMerddin EmrysQuarrymen's carriages

June[edit]

Bodysgallen at Boston Lodge in 2010

Bodysgallen is the sixth Winson-built coach for the Welsh Highland and made its début in September 1998. Built by Winson Engineering in Daventry, it runs on bogies imported from South Africa. It was originally fitted out as a luxury Pullman-style vehicle with sponsorship from the owner of the hotel of the same name in the Tudor mansion near Llandudno. While the concept is quite magnificent, the original structural workmanship needed upgrading at Boston Lodge because the carriage hogged. Prior to entering regular passenger services in 2002 following the opening of the extension to Waunfawr the table mounted lamps were removed, the seats modified to raise their height and the tables raised by a similar amount. The marquetry panels at the ends of the saloon, the oval windows on the doors of the vehicle and of the butler's pantries are worth note. It is seen here at Boston Lodge in March 2010 having just been outshopped after an external rebuild.

Photo credit: Norman Bond

Charles Easton Spooner

Charles Easton Spooner (1818-1889) was the Secretary and Engineer of the Festiniog Railway Company from 1856 until 1886. He was also Engineer to the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways Company and was involved in the family company of Spooner & Co., which at times appeared to conflict with the FR.

Charles was the third son of James Spooner and was born in Maentwrog in 1818. As a teenager he, along with his oldest brother, James, assisted his father in laying out the Festiniog Railway. He and James continued to assist their father and Thomas Prichard during construction. Charles was thus trained as a civil engineer, gaining much practical experience that would stand him in good stead in his later life. During the early 1840s, Charles' training continued under both Joseph Locke and Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He continued to be involved with the railway under his father, who was Secretary to the Company. (more...)

Recently featured: Horse operationRhiwbach TramwayMerddin Emrys

July[edit]

Lyd at Rhyd Ddu in April 2011

Lyd is a close replica of Lew, one of the 2-6-2Ts of the legendary Lynton & Barnstaple Railway in Devon (closed 1935). As there is a possibility (increasingly remote) that Lew may still exist in South America, where the engine was shipped after the L&B closed, a new name has been chosen. The first manufacturing tasks were carried out in Cornwall but the main building of the engine later moved to the FR's Boston Lodge Works. The project was being funded partly by the individuals behind it and partly by a variety of contribution schemes. The loco entered service in September 2010, making its first public runs during the WHR Superpower weekend.

During December 2010 Lyd was lined out in BR livery, given an early BR crest and numbered 30190, as a nod towards what might have become of the original L&B engines had they survived to nationalisation.

Photo credit: Bruce Brayne

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Coed y Bleiddiau

Coed y Bleiddiau ('Wood of the Wolves') is a remote location just down the line from Dduallt and there is evidence of ancient forest in the area. Local legend has it that the last wolf to be killed in Wales met its end nearby. There is a small halt here, serving a cottage which was built around 1860 for the use of the Superintendent of the Line.

The current Festiniog Railway Company Rule Book spells the name of this location as either "Coed-y-Bleddiau" or "Coed y Bleddiau". However, the correct spelling of the Welsh word for "wolves" is "bleiddiau". The location is also occasionally referred to as either "Coedybleddiau" or "Coedybleiddiau".

The railway crosses a small side valley on a curved, dry-stone, embankment here and the extra width on the valley side of the curve is evidence of its having been eased at some time, possibly after 1869 when improvements were made to make locomotive working easier, but maybe when line-straightening and relaying in heavier rail was in progress in the 1850s, when locomotives were anticipated. (more...)

Recently featured: Charles Easton SpoonerHorse operationRhiwbach Tramway

August[edit]

Linda and Blanche at Boston Lodge on 22nd July 2011

Linda and Blanche were built as 0-4-0ST by the Hunslet Engine Company, Leeds in 1893 for main-line service on the Penrhyn Quarry Railway at a cost of £800 each. Linda was named after Linda Blanche Douglas-Pennant (1889-1965), the daughter of Edward Sholto and Blanche Georgina Douglas-Pennant, after whom Blanche was named. Linda was hired by the Festiniog Railway to help with a motive power shortage in 1962 and both locomotives were purchased the following year. They were given tenders to extend their range, regauged from the slightly smaller gauges used by the Penrhyn Quarry Railway and converted to 2-4-0 wheel layout with the addition of a leading pony truck, using wheels from the Single Fairlie Moel Tryfan.

In July 2011 both locomotives were given green liveries, the first time they had both run in a green livery since the 1980s. They are seen here in Boston Lodge yard on 22nd July 2011.

Photo credit: Roger Dimmick

Recently featured: LydBodysgallenJatibarang No.9
The Maenofferen Wharf in Minffordd Yard

Minffordd Yard is located to the north of the FR main line just west of Minffordd station. The very extensive slate wharves and exchange sidings with the Cambrian Railways were established in 1872. There is some confusion over dates here. Having originally leased the land from the Huddart Family estate the FR Co. bought the land for £2500 in mid 1876.

Slate storage sheds were built at the FR main line end of the yard, adjacent to the Maeofferen wharf and continued in use, leased to Davies Bros., slate merchants, until the 1960s. They are now fully used for railway purposes.

The only rail access is via the bottom end of the Down line at Minffordd, originally the Mineral line. Trains leave the present loop and join a line which runs parallel to the FR main line, passing over the road access to the yard and in front of the former weigh house before reaching a set of weighted points that are normally set for the small fan of post-preservation sidings that comprise the Upper Yard. In order to gain access to the steep, sharply curved, line into the lower (main) yard the weighted points must be held over by the guard or second man of the train. Trains 'rushing the bank' in order to leave the yard simply trail through the weighted points so that their progress up the bank is not hindered.

The weighted points have considerable heritage significance as there has been a set on this location ever since the yard was established and they have been operated by the same method throughout that time! The only other set of points having a similar pedigree is at Boston Lodge, though their operating lever has been changed over time.

The steepness and curvature of the line down into the main yard places limits on the locomotives and stock that can use it; double engines are forbidden, as are some of the older bogie carriages. (more...)

Recently featured: Coed y BleiddiauCharles Easton SpoonerHorse operation

September[edit]

Duffws station looking East

Duffws station in Blaenau Ffestiniog first opened in January 1866 and led a chequered existence until final closure in 1931. After closure the site was cleared of most of the track and part of it became a car park. Some tracks were retained to connect to quarry inclines but these were removed in October 1968 and the car park extended. The attractive station building remains today as a council operated public convenience, across the main road from the Queen's Hotel.

Over time there have been at least 3 different spellings of the name - Diphwys, Dyffws and Duffws.

Photo credit: George Cash

Recently featured: Linda and BlancheLydBodysgallen
Makers photograph of Taliesin in 1876

Taliesin was an 0-4-4 Single Fairlie built by the Vulcan Foundry in 1876, originally given the number 9. It had its first run on 10th August 1876, double heading with Little Giant, and was put into service on 17th August. It was completely rebuilt between 1898 and 1900. Over subsequent years the locomotive fell into increasing disrepair and was dismantled in preparation for a new boiler in 1924. However, despite recommendations from the Locomotive Superintendent and Engineer, the Board refused to purchase a boiler and Taliesin was reassembled with its existing boiler. The locomotive was finally dismantled in 1932 and the boiler was sold for scrap in 1935, after being run into by Welsh Pony, whose tender was also damaged in the accident. A replica was built in 1999. The only parts of the original locomotive known to have survived are the reversing lever (used on the replica) and the eccentrics (which were used on Linda). A set of Fairlie wheels survives and may well be from this loco. (more...)

Recently featured: Minffordd YardCoed y BleiddiauCharles Easton Spooner

October[edit]

Chaloner at Cae Pawb

Chaloner is an example of de Winton's distinctive vertical-boiler design, as used for many years in the North Wales slate quarries. It was built in 1877 at the Union Works in Caernarfon, derelict remains of which are located across the road from the present WHR station. It is believed to have been supplied new to the Pen-y-Bryn slate quarry, Nantlle, moving to Pen-yr-Orsedd nearby in 1888. It was obtained for preservation by Mr A Fisher and is normally based at the Leighton Buzzard Railway.

It has visited all three lines and is seen here on the Welsh Highland Railway in August 2011.

Photo credit: Michael Chapman

Recently featured: Duffws stationLinda and BlancheLyd
Makers photograph of Taliesin in 1876

Taliesin was an 0-4-4 Single Fairlie built by the Vulcan Foundry in 1876, originally given the number 9. It had its first run on 10th August 1876, double heading with Little Giant, and was put into service on 17th August. It was completely rebuilt between 1898 and 1900. Over subsequent years the locomotive fell into increasing disrepair and was dismantled in preparation for a new boiler in 1924. However, despite recommendations from the Locomotive Superintendent and Engineer, the Board refused to purchase a boiler and Taliesin was reassembled with its existing boiler. The locomotive was finally dismantled in 1932 and the boiler was sold for scrap in 1935, after being run into by Welsh Pony, whose tender was also damaged in the accident. A replica was built in 1999. The only parts of the original locomotive known to have survived are the reversing lever (used on the replica) and the eccentrics (which were used on Linda). A set of Fairlie wheels survives and may well be from this loco. (more...)

Recently featured: Minffordd YardCoed y BleiddiauCharles Easton Spooner

November[edit]

Chaloner at Cae Pawb

Chaloner is an example of de Winton's distinctive vertical-boiler design, as used for many years in the North Wales slate quarries. It was built in 1877 at the Union Works in Caernarfon, derelict remains of which are located across the road from the present WHR station. It is believed to have been supplied new to the Pen-y-Bryn slate quarry, Nantlle, moving to Pen-yr-Orsedd nearby in 1888. It was obtained for preservation by Mr A Fisher and is normally based at the Leighton Buzzard Railway.

It has visited all three lines and is seen here on the Welsh Highland Railway in August 2011.

Photo credit: Michael Chapman

Recently featured: Duffws stationLinda and BlancheLyd
Ashover on S&T duty in Minffordd Yard in March 1982

Ashover is a 50hp F.C. Hibberd “Planet″ 4wDM (4-wheeled Diesel Mechanical) locomotive (Builder′s number 3307 of 1948). It was originally supplied to the Ashover Light Railway which transports minerals from Ashover to Clay Cross in Derbyshire. It did not carry a name at that time. Ashover came to the FR in October 1981 from the East Anglian Transport Museum Society, Carlton Colville, Suffolk. Ashover was commonly used as Boston Lodge works shunter, occasionally being used on Parks and Gardens works trains. It is currently out of service having suffered from a lack of attention to routine maintenance checks whilst it was away from Boston Lodge. (more...)

Recently featured: TaliesinMinffordd YardCoed y Bleiddiau

December[edit]

Chaloner at Cae Pawb

Chaloner is an example of de Winton's distinctive vertical-boiler design, as used for many years in the North Wales slate quarries. It was built in 1877 at the Union Works in Caernarfon, derelict remains of which are located across the road from the present WHR station. It is believed to have been supplied new to the Pen-y-Bryn slate quarry, Nantlle, moving to Pen-yr-Orsedd nearby in 1888. It was obtained for preservation by Mr A Fisher and is normally based at the Leighton Buzzard Railway.

It has visited all three lines and is seen here on the Welsh Highland Railway in August 2011.

Photo credit: Michael Chapman

Recently featured: Duffws stationLinda and BlancheLyd
Remains of the old Beddgelert station in July 2005.

Beddgelert is the principal intermediate station on Rheilffordd Eryri / Welsh Highland Railway at the well-known tourist spot, famous for its fictitious Dead Dog, Gelert, who was invented around 1793 by David Pritchard, the landlord of the Goat (locally pronounced Go-at) Hotel. Pritchard must be accounted the greatest benefactor to the local tourist trade. The original Kelert was possibly a sixth-century Celtic saint who was buried here, but the Priory was dedicated to St. Mary. The graves of the FR Spooners are in the churchyard, together with that of their nursemaid.

The station lies at a height of approximately 55m (180 ft), and a route distance of approx 12.71km (7.9 miles) from Porthmadog. (more...)

Recently featured: AshoverTaliesinMinffordd Yard

2012[edit]

January[edit]

Chaloner at Cae Pawb

Chaloner is an example of de Winton's distinctive vertical-boiler design, as used for many years in the North Wales slate quarries. It was built in 1877 at the Union Works in Caernarfon, derelict remains of which are located across the road from the present WHR station. It is believed to have been supplied new to the Pen-y-Bryn slate quarry, Nantlle, moving to Pen-yr-Orsedd nearby in 1888. It was obtained for preservation by Mr A Fisher and is normally based at the Leighton Buzzard Railway.

It has visited all three lines and is seen here on the Welsh Highland Railway in August 2011.

Photo credit: Michael Chapman

Recently featured: Duffws stationLinda and BlancheLyd
A simple layout plan of the junction from 1924.

Croesor Junction lies just 20 chains (¼ mile) to the north of Ynysfor, and 50 chains (⅝ mile) south of Ynys Ferlas. It is the point at which the WHR historically joined the route of the Croesor Tramway, following it southwards from here to Porthmadog.

This location was — and is — bleak and featureless, being on the original flood plain of the Glaslyn, and had no road access. Despite what might appear to be a grand name, it was simply a junction (later with a loop). Few pictures exist of this location in WHR times; given that there was no halt here, and no access, this should not be surprising. One such picture, though, taken in 1925, appears in Branch Lines around Portmadoc, 1923-46 (see references).

John Stretton, in The WHR Volume 2, states "Due to the elaborate loop and pointwork at the junction, a station was not provided there." A more logical reason for the lack of any station was the total lack of need. The only access was by way of a footpath from Erw Fawr and along the track of the Tramway from Pont Garreg-Hylldrem, but even so anyone at the Junction would surely only be there on railway business for nearby farms were served by the adjacent halts, as named above. (more...)

Recently featured: BeddgelertAshoverTaliesin

February[edit]

Prince at Boston Lodge

Prince is (probably) the third of the first four locomotives built for the FR. It is now numbered No.2, but there is doubt about the order of building and numbering of the first four [England Engines|England engines]]. It was delivered to the FR in January 1864. These locomotives were worked hard, before the arrival of Taliesin, they were coming in for a 2 week period of maintenance every quarter. In this period they would replace brake blocks, brasses and cotter pins in the crank pins as well as replacing some of the firebars.

Prince is temporarily out of use as the boiler certificate expired in May 2010. The loco returned from Highley on 24th January 2012. Prince will celebrate his 150th anniversary in 2013. Plans are being made to ensure he is returned to working order by this date.

Photo credit: Chris Jones

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Type 1b and 2 quarrymen's carriages.

Special quarrymen's carriages first appeared on the FR in 1867. Their primary use was in special trains that carried men to work in the quarries around Blaenau Ffestiniog, with a single fare of 6d, any distance. Though many quarrymen lived in the various communities along the FR others came from further afield, having walked from home to join the train. Initially the trains ran only on Monday mornings and Saturday afternoons as most men stayed at the quarry barracks during the week. The Saturday train was usually added to the midday Down departure from Blaenau, with spectacular results as seen in the photo on the right. During the period when only a weekly service operated the carriages were stabled in an open, lean-to, carriage shed at Duffws during the week. A regular, daily, service was introduced in 1881.

Over the years, a number of different designs of carriage were used. The earliest were little better than low-sided, unsprung, wooden wagons with planks for seats; photographs appear to show that these overhung the sides and some passengers' legs hung outside! There was no protection from the elements. In order to simplify the story this type has long been designated Type 1a.

The first improvements to quarrymen's carriages involved the erection of a crude, shed-like, covers with zinc roofs, but lacking both doors and windows, over Type 1 vehicles. These have been designated Type 1b.

Type 2 carriages appear very similar to Type 1b, but were built as covered vehicles from new. In later years they acquired doors with small windows. Their running gear was not improved, however, and they remained unsprung.

Closed carriages with glazed windows and springs, Type 3, were not introduced until 1885. (more...)

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March[edit]

Carriage 121 being fitted out

Carriage 121 is a new carriage currently under construction funded by the FR Society. It is a twin to newly completed Carriage 103. Fabrication of new bogies and chassis were complete by January 2011. By November 2011 the bodywork was panelled and the ceiling was being fitted. In February 2012 the carriage was being fitted out at Boston Lodge.

Photo credit: Chris Jones

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Merddin at Duffws c1880

Merddin Emrys is a Double Fairlie locomotive, the third such locomotive built for the Festiniog Railway, the suitability of the type having been proven in tests using Little Wonder. Merddin was built in the Festiniog Railway Company's own workshops at Boston Lodge in 1879 to the design of Percy Spooner and has spent its entire working life on the Festiniog Railway. When the railway closed in 1946 Merddin was the only double engine still available for service, Livingston Thompson having been withdrawn for repairs.

Merddin was returned to service in 1961 and converted to oil burning in 1973. In 2007, as part of the FR's fuel diversification process, the locomotive reverted to coal firing again.

A picture gallery of this locomotive is available. (more...)

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April[edit]

Carriage 121 being fitted out

Carriage 121 is a new carriage currently under construction funded by the FR Society. It is a twin to newly completed Carriage 103. Fabrication of new bogies and chassis were complete by January 2011. By November 2011 the bodywork was panelled and the ceiling was being fitted. In February 2012 the carriage was being fitted out at Boston Lodge.

Photo credit: Chris Jones

Recently featured: PrinceChalonerDuffws station
Map of the Rhiwbach Tramway

The Rhiwbach Tramway was a narrow gauge railway connecting the remote slate quarries to the east of Blaenau Ffestiniog with the Festiniog Railway. Built to the same gauge as the FR and completed in March 1863, it ran from the FR's Duffws station, three miles east to to Rhiwbach Quarry, serving the Cwt-y-Bugail, and Blaen y Cwm quarries on the way. Just before Rhiwbach itself was reached, a branch lead to Bwlch y Slaters (Manod) quarry, now operated by Rigcycle and known as Cwt y Bugail, the original quarry of that name having closed in the early 1960s.

The line was actually built by the FR but paid for by the Festiniog Slate Company. It was designed by Charles Easton Spooner, then Secretary and Engineer to the Festiniog Railway Company.

The quarries connected to the tramway had no practical road access as they lay at an altitude of around 1560' above sea level in a remote moorland.

The majority of the tramway was closed in 1961 and lifted in 1964. However, a short section remained in use until 1976 and some sleepers and a few lengths of rail are still in place. (more...)

Recently featured: Merddin EmrysQuarrymen's carriagesCroesor Junction

May[edit]

Charles Menzies Holland

Charles Menzies Holland claimed to be the designer of the first locomotives built for the FR. In 1860 the Board of the Festiniog Railway Company instructed the Secretary, Charles Easton Spooner, to investigate the possibility of using steam locomotives. They advised Spooner to consult with Charles Menzies Holland, the nephew of Samuel Holland, Junior (a quarry proprietor and one of the FR's largest customers). Charles Holland was an Engineer who was said to be acquainted with the subject.

After much correspondence, the contract to build the first locomotives was given to George England, selected partly because his works in London was near to where Holland was then working.

Holland's earlier designs were somewhat eccentric. England suggested changes to the design and pursuaded Holland to agree to a more conventional design. Holland stated in a letter (20/2/1863) to C.E.Spooner that he supported the changes because he believed England had the greater experience in locomotive design. Holland was paid £100 by the FR Company for his services.

Photo credit: Jim Hewett

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A contemporary engraving of a horse hauled train of waggons on the Cob together with a gravity train at Rhiw Plas.

Horse operation was a feature of the FR from its opening until the introduction of steam locomotives.

James Spooner’s elegant survey for the Festiniog Railway described a line of railway falling at a fairly steady gradient from the upper terminus near Blaenau Ffestiniog (700ft) to Boston Lodge, at the eastern end of the Cob (Sea Level) and was designed to allow loaded waggons to run down the line under gravity with empties being hauled back up by horses.

For a period after the opening of the railway, in 1836, the smooth line of James Spooner’s survey was interrupted by a pair of inclines that took the line over a shoulder of the Moelwyn mountains. Spooner had planned for a tunnel but had been overruled by Henry Archer on the grounds of cost. After a couple of years, and as traffic developed, the inclines became such a hindrance that Spooner prevailed and, in 1839, work began to drive the tunnel. It was opened in 1842 and from then on the FR was able to operate as it had been designed; loaded waggons exploiting the free power of gravity and being taken back up to the quarries by horses.

Each horse could haul 7 or 8 slate waggons and, though they are usually referred to as ‘empties’ they were, in fact, frequently loaded with a lucrative back traffic of goods for the growing community at Blaenau Ffestiniog. Each train included one extra wagon, known as a Dandy. These were high-sided open wagons with a door at one end, designed to carry the horse on the downward journey, permitting them to rest between duties. The earliest examples were wooden, as were the contemporary slate waggons. Later, iron dandies were built at Boston Lodge. (more...)

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June[edit]

George England

George England was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1811 or 12. He received his training as an engineer with John Penn Boiler Works and other shipyards in south east London. Later he set up the Hatcham Iron Works and started to make jacks and other machinery. By about 1849 he started building railway locomotives and in March 1863 received an order from the FR for two locomotives with the option of a third and later a fourth. Three years later he built another two slightly larger locomotives; see England Engines.

In 1862 his daughter, Lizzie, eloped (under the age of 21) with and married Robert Francis Fairlie, inventor of the Fairlie's Patent locomotive. This led to an acrimonious court case brought by England against Fairlie, which England lost because he was not married to her mother at the time she was born and therefore Lizzie was declared to be nobody's child. It seems no ill will lasted between the two men as they later worked together again.

In addition to the single England engines (above), George England also offered to build a Double Fairlie for the FR in 1868. The engine (Little Wonder) was built at England's works in 1869, being delivered in August.

Shortly afterwards, in September 1869, George sold the Hatcham business to the Fairlie Engine And Steam Carriage Company which was a partnership of Robert Francis Fairlie, his son, George England Jr., and J. S. Fraser of the GWR. He retired, living on in France until he died in 1878.

Photo credit: Jim Hewett

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Charles Easton Spooner

Charles Easton Spooner (1818-1889) was the Secretary and Engineer of the Festiniog Railway Company from 1856 until 1886. He was also Engineer to the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways Company and was involved in the family company of Spooner & Co., which at times appeared to conflict with the FR.

Charles was the third son of James Spooner and was born in Maentwrog in 1818. As a teenager he, along with his oldest brother, James, assisted his father in laying out the Festiniog Railway. He and James continued to assist their father and Thomas Prichard during construction. Charles was thus trained as a civil engineer, gaining much practical experience that would stand him in good stead in his later life. During the early 1840s, Charles' training continued under both Joseph Locke and Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He continued to be involved with the railway under his father, who was Secretary to the Company. (more...)

Recently featured: Horse operationRhiwbach TramwayMerddin Emrys

July[edit]

George England

George England was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1811 or 12. He received his training as an engineer with John Penn Boiler Works and other shipyards in south east London. Later he set up the Hatcham Iron Works and started to make jacks and other machinery. By about 1849 he started building railway locomotives and in March 1863 received an order from the FR for two locomotives with the option of a third and later a fourth. Three years later he built another two slightly larger locomotives; see England Engines.

In 1862 his daughter, Lizzie, eloped (under the age of 21) with and married Robert Francis Fairlie, inventor of the Fairlie's Patent locomotive. This led to an acrimonious court case brought by England against Fairlie, which England lost because he was not married to her mother at the time she was born and therefore Lizzie was declared to be nobody's child. It seems no ill will lasted between the two men as they later worked together again.

In addition to the single England engines (above), George England also offered to build a Double Fairlie for the FR in 1868. The engine (Little Wonder) was built at England's works in 1869, being delivered in August.

Shortly afterwards, in September 1869, George sold the Hatcham business to the Fairlie Engine And Steam Carriage Company which was a partnership of Robert Francis Fairlie, his son, George England Jr., and J. S. Fraser of the GWR. He retired, living on in France until he died in 1878.

Photo credit: Jim Hewett

Recently featured: Charles Menzies HollandCarriage 121Prince
Coed y Bleiddiau

Coed y Bleiddiau ('Wood of the Wolves') is a remote location just down the line from Dduallt and there is evidence of ancient forest in the area. Local legend has it that the last wolf to be killed in Wales met its end nearby. There is a small halt here, serving a cottage which was built around 1860 for the use of the Superintendent of the Line.

The current Festiniog Railway Company Rule Book spells the name of this location as either "Coed-y-Bleddiau" or "Coed y Bleddiau". However, the correct spelling of the Welsh word for "wolves" is "bleiddiau". The location is also occasionally referred to as either "Coedybleddiau" or "Coedybleiddiau".

The railway crosses a small side valley on a curved, dry-stone, embankment here and the extra width on the valley side of the curve is evidence of its having been eased at some time, possibly after 1869 when improvements were made to make locomotive working easier, but maybe when line-straightening and relaying in heavier rail was in progress in the 1850s, when locomotives were anticipated. (more...)

Recently featured: Charles Easton SpoonerHorse operationRhiwbach Tramway

August[edit]

George England

George England was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1811 or 12. He received his training as an engineer with John Penn Boiler Works and other shipyards in south east London. Later he set up the Hatcham Iron Works and started to make jacks and other machinery. By about 1849 he started building railway locomotives and in March 1863 received an order from the FR for two locomotives with the option of a third and later a fourth. Three years later he built another two slightly larger locomotives; see England Engines.

In 1862 his daughter, Lizzie, eloped (under the age of 21) with and married Robert Francis Fairlie, inventor of the Fairlie's Patent locomotive. This led to an acrimonious court case brought by England against Fairlie, which England lost because he was not married to her mother at the time she was born and therefore Lizzie was declared to be nobody's child. It seems no ill will lasted between the two men as they later worked together again.

In addition to the single England engines (above), George England also offered to build a Double Fairlie for the FR in 1868. The engine (Little Wonder) was built at England's works in 1869, being delivered in August.

Shortly afterwards, in September 1869, George sold the Hatcham business to the Fairlie Engine And Steam Carriage Company which was a partnership of Robert Francis Fairlie, his son, George England Jr., and J. S. Fraser of the GWR. He retired, living on in France until he died in 1878.

Photo credit: Jim Hewett

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The Maenofferen Wharf in Minffordd Yard

Minffordd Yard is located to the north of the FR main line just west of Minffordd station. In old company days, slate was transhipped from here on the Cambrian Railways. It is now the headquarters of the Infrastructure Department and one of their main depots. It is also used to store heritage vehicles and artifacts.

The very extensive slate wharves and exchange sidings with the Cambrian Railways were established in 1872. There is some confusion over dates here. Having originally leased the land from the Huddart Family estate the FR Co. bought the land for £2500 in mid 1876.

Slate storage sheds were built at the FR main line end of the yard, adjacent to the Maeofferen wharf and continued in use, leased to Davies Bros., slate merchants, until the 1960s. They are now fully used for railway purposes.

The only rail access is via the bottom end of the Down line at Minffordd, originally the Mineral line. Trains leave the present loop and join a line which runs parallel to the FR main line, passing over the road access to the yard and in front of the former weigh house before reaching a set of weighted points that are normally set for the small fan of post-preservation sidings that comprise the Upper Yard. In order to gain access to the steep, sharply curved, line into the lower (main) yard the weighted points must be held over by the guard or second man of the train. Trains 'rushing the bank' in order to leave the yard simply trail through the weighted points so that their progress up the bank is not hindered.

The weighted points have considerable heritage significance as there has been a set on this location ever since the yard was established and they have been operated by the same method throughout that time! The only other set of points having a similar pedigree is at Boston Lodge, though their operating lever has been changed over time.

The steepness and curvature of the line down into the main yard places limits on the locomotives and stock that can use it; double engines are forbidden, as are some of the older bogie carriages. (more...)

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September[edit]

George England

George England was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1811 or 12. He received his training as an engineer with John Penn Boiler Works and other shipyards in south east London. Later he set up the Hatcham Iron Works and started to make jacks and other machinery. By about 1849 he started building railway locomotives and in March 1863 received an order from the FR for two locomotives with the option of a third and later a fourth. Three years later he built another two slightly larger locomotives; see England Engines.

In 1862 his daughter, Lizzie, eloped (under the age of 21) with and married Robert Francis Fairlie, inventor of the Fairlie's Patent locomotive. This led to an acrimonious court case brought by England against Fairlie, which England lost because he was not married to her mother at the time she was born and therefore Lizzie was declared to be nobody's child. It seems no ill will lasted between the two men as they later worked together again.

In addition to the single England engines (above), George England also offered to build a Double Fairlie for the FR in 1868. The engine (Little Wonder) was built at England's works in 1869, being delivered in August.

Shortly afterwards, in September 1869, George sold the Hatcham business to the Fairlie Engine And Steam Carriage Company which was a partnership of Robert Francis Fairlie, his son, George England Jr., and J. S. Fraser of the GWR. He retired, living on in France until he died in 1878.

Photo credit: Jim Hewett

Recently featured: Charles Menzies HollandCarriage 121Prince
Makers photograph of Taliesin in 1876

Taliesin was an 0-4-4 Single Fairlie built by the Vulcan Foundry in 1876, originally given the number 9. It had its first run on 10th August 1876, double heading with Little Giant, and was put into service on 17th August. It was completely rebuilt between 1898 and 1900. Over subsequent years the locomotive fell into increasing disrepair and was dismantled in preparation for a new boiler in 1924. However, despite recommendations from the Locomotive Superintendent and Engineer, the Board refused to purchase a boiler and Taliesin was reassembled with its existing boiler. The locomotive was finally dismantled in 1932 and the boiler was sold for scrap in 1935, after being run into by Welsh Pony, whose tender was also damaged in the accident. A replica was built in 1999. The only parts of the original locomotive known to have survived are the reversing lever (used on the replica) and the eccentrics (which were used on Linda). A set of Fairlie wheels survives and may well be from this loco.

The name is that of a legendary Head Bard to Prince Elffin, who maybe lived around 520-560 A.D. The name means 'fair-brow'; it can also mean 'fair pay' or 'reward.' The story is that William Williams (a bard himself, Gwilym Meirion) persuaded the FR Board that the legendary bard was just the name for the loco, but as there was a pay dispute between the Board and their staff at the time, it gave some glee to the men seeing the loco puffing up the line displaying the brass plate 'Fair Pay.' (more...)

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October[edit]

James Arthur Iggulden

James Arthur Iggulden was Colonel Stephens’ chief clerk and principal “indoor assistant” for most of the 35 years he worked at 23 Salford Terrace, Tonbridge. Before he died in February 1979, he compiled some notes on what life was like at the famous light railway offices, and these were edited and published for the first time in 2005 by Philip Shaw in the "Tenterden Terrier", house magazine of the Kent & East Sussex Railway, Issue No. 98

Arthur was the audit accountant to the old FR for many years, and died in hospital at Tonbridge on 20th February 1979, breaking perhaps the final link with the Colonel Stephens era.

"JAI" held a variety of posts on lines forming Stephens' Tonbridge empire. Joining the staff at the Colonel's HQ, 23 Salford Terrace, Tonbridge, on 23rd March 1914 at a wage of 5s. (25p) per week, Arthur worked there until the closure of the office on 7th June 1948 upon the nationalisation of the late Colonel's standard-gauge lines.

Photo credit: Keith Holland

Makers photograph of Taliesin in 1876

Taliesin was an 0-4-4 Single Fairlie built by the Vulcan Foundry in 1876, originally given the number 9. It had its first run on 10th August 1876, double heading with Little Giant, and was put into service on 17th August. It was completely rebuilt between 1898 and 1900. Over subsequent years the locomotive fell into increasing disrepair and was dismantled in preparation for a new boiler in 1924. However, despite recommendations from the Locomotive Superintendent and Engineer, the Board refused to purchase a boiler and Taliesin was reassembled with its existing boiler. The locomotive was finally dismantled in 1932 and the boiler was sold for scrap in 1935, after being run into by Welsh Pony, whose tender was also damaged in the accident. A replica was built in 1999. The only parts of the original locomotive known to have survived are the reversing lever (used on the replica) and the eccentrics (which were used on Linda). A set of Fairlie wheels survives and may well be from this loco.

The name is that of a legendary Head Bard to Prince Elffin, who maybe lived around 520-560 A.D. The name means 'fair-brow'; it can also mean 'fair pay' or 'reward.' The story is that William Williams (a bard himself, Gwilym Meirion) persuaded the FR Board that the legendary bard was just the name for the loco, but as there was a pay dispute between the Board and their staff at the time, it gave some glee to the men seeing the loco puffing up the line displaying the brass plate 'Fair Pay.' (more...)

Recently featured: Minffordd YardCoed y BleiddiauCharles Easton Spooner

November[edit]

James Arthur Iggulden

James Arthur Iggulden was Colonel Stephens’ chief clerk and principal “indoor assistant” for most of the 35 years he worked at 23 Salford Terrace, Tonbridge. Before he died in February 1979, he compiled some notes on what life was like at the famous light railway offices, and these were edited and published for the first time in 2005 by Philip Shaw in the "Tenterden Terrier", house magazine of the Kent & East Sussex Railway, Issue No. 98

Arthur was the audit accountant to the old FR for many years, and died in hospital at Tonbridge on 20th February 1979, breaking perhaps the final link with the Colonel Stephens era.

"JAI" held a variety of posts on lines forming Stephens' Tonbridge empire. Joining the staff at the Colonel's HQ, 23 Salford Terrace, Tonbridge, on 23rd March 1914 at a wage of 5s. (25p) per week, Arthur worked there until the closure of the office on 7th June 1948 upon the nationalisation of the late Colonel's standard-gauge lines.

Photo credit: Keith Holland

Ashover on S&T duty in Minffordd Yard in March 1982

Ashover is a 50hp F.C. Hibberd “Planet″ 4wDM (4-wheeled Diesel Mechanical) locomotive (Builder′s number 3307 of 1948). It was originally supplied to the Ashover Light Railway which transports minerals from Ashover to Clay Cross in Derbyshire. It did not carry a name at that time. Ashover came to the FR in October 1981 from the East Anglian Transport Museum Society, Carlton Colville, Suffolk. Ashover was commonly used as Boston Lodge works shunter, occasionally being used on Parks and Gardens works trains. It is currently out of service having suffered from a lack of attention to routine maintenance checks whilst it was away from Boston Lodge. (more...)

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December[edit]

The porthole bug box

Carriage 12 is a new replica "Porthole bugbox". It is known by this name on account of the ventilators in the ends, as seen in the photograph. It incorporates the last of the metal underframes built for Ron Jarvis and is vacuum braked. It uses two original doors.

Enclosed bodies were added to original open vehicles, in place of the original leather aprons and canvas canopy, to make 1st class observation carriages and the side windows were completely glazed with a single pane of glass either side of the central door, which had a glazed droplight. It does not take much imagination to see that the glazing would have acted like a greenhouse in any sort of sunlight. The portholes originally had sliding ventilators which were in evidence to the end. There are two different styles of ventilator and a sample of each exists.

The replica is seen at Tan y Bwlch on its first revenue earning run.

Photo credit: Jim Hewett

Remains of the old Beddgelert station in July 2005.

Beddgelert is the principal intermediate station on Rheilffordd Eryri / Welsh Highland Railway at the well-known tourist spot, famous for its fictitious Dead Dog, Gelert, who was invented around 1793 by David Pritchard, the landlord of the Goat (locally pronounced Go-at) Hotel. Pritchard must be accounted the greatest benefactor to the local tourist trade. The original Kelert was possibly a sixth-century Celtic saint who was buried here, but the Priory was dedicated to St. Mary. The graves of the FR Spooners are in the churchyard, together with that of their nursemaid.

The station lies at a height of approximately 55m (180 ft), and a route distance of approx 12.71km (7.9 miles) from Porthmadog. (more...)

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