Vale of Ffestiniog

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Vale of Ffestiniog
Ben Rosen at the helm of the 13:40 from Blaenau Ffestiniog
Home Railway F&WHR
Status In service
Built by Funkey
Built 1967
1993 Arrived on FR
Wheel Arrangement B-B
Length 34 ft
Fuel Diesel

Vale of Ffestiniog is a large diesel locomotive in use on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways.


Vale of Ffestiniog passes Llyn Ystradau

This locomotive is a 335 HP turbo-charged B-B diesel-hydraulic built by CH Funkey & Co (Pty) Ltd of Alberton, near Johannesburg, South Africa, for a diamond mine in Namibia. It arrived at the FR on 16 October 1993, one of three engines purchased from Pretoria Portland Cement Ltd, New Brighton Cement Works, Port Elizabeth, Cape Province, South Africa. The second loco, now Castell Caernarfon, is in service on the Welsh Highland Railway (Caernarfon), its superstructure being unchanged. A third loco was involved, details below.

When the two Funkeys arrived in 1993, there was a deliberate decision to treat them differently but with a caveat for "later on" offering the possibility of them working together.

When they arrived they were equipped with quite complex electrical control systems on them that allowed them to run in multiple. This system even included switches on the seats to make sure the driver was sat down. They had tachographs installed with discs still in showing impressive high speeds. They were festooned with safety cut-out switches most of which were shorted out to get them to run.

Of the two locos, one had evidently been crashed at some time and had had a new cab made out of steel. This loco was selected for trials on the Festiniog on the grounds that the gas axe doesn't work so well on fibreglass! In this form it ran several trials on the FR.

Vale of Ffestiniog on test at Bryn Mawr

The one with the intact fibreglass body (now Castell Caernarfon), was selected for the WHR and it was decided to rewire and rework the control systems to a simplified pattern. To this end it was fitted with Bowden cable drives for the throttle and gear selection and a simplified electrical scheme but with the deadman systems needed to single man these days. Paul Martin did the rewiring of the loco at Boston Lodge. In this form it did several test trips on the FR but of course only across the cob.

The point of the caveat and "later on" reference was that at the time it was decided to do the simple rebuild with the possibility of doing a more "Vale of Ffestiniog" type job on it later. The theory was that if it was sent to Dinas in its tall form it would suffice until the lines were connected and by then it would be due an overhaul the extent of which could be decided at the time.

Very much more powerful than previous FR internal combustion units, the Funkey provides an attraction in its own right as well as reserve power able to handle the heaviest trains. The original body was, however, far too large for the FR loading gauge, and as a result the loco has received a new body with a cab at each end. Work on this was done with the generous support of National Power (now Innogy). The FR's loco originally carried a livery similar to the Class 59's operated by the National Power Rail Unit at Ferrybridge for the transport of coal and limestone to power stations, while the name Vale of Ffestiniog is in keeping with the names carried by the National Power locos, as well as denoting the valley through which part of the FR runs. The transformation of the Funkey into Vale of Ffestiniog was the main part of the FR's participation in the 1997 Year of Engineering Success campaign.[1]

Heading an ECS movement onto the newly completed WHR

Principal dimensions[edit]

Height 9' 5½"

Designer's description[edit]

The control panel of the Vale of Ffestiniog, with the side panel removed, showing the pneumatic control systems.

The description given below is written by Steve Coulson, the designer/builder of the 1997 version of the Funkey.

The locomotive is of the B-B classification in diesel terms but is rather unique in that all wheels are coupled mechanically in a similar manner to that of a Climax steam locomotive. The power unit is a Cummins NT 855 L4 big cam diesel engine producing 335 HP at 2100 RPM cooled by a fan cooled radiator. The diesel engine drives through a torque converter into a constant mesh epicyclic gearbox giving forward and reverse gears and was manufactured by Allison of America. The final drive is a drop-down gearbox integral with the speed/direction gearbox having two output flanges from which the cardan shafts drive to the final drive gearboxes. The gears are engaged by hydraulically operated clutches through an integral selection valve, as is the direction function, with the hydraulic power being supplied by an integral pump. Engine and gearbox oil is cooled by the cooling system through separate heat exchangers. The final drive gearboxes, one to each axle and coupled by cardan shafts, are axle hung with torque reaction being taken through links to the bogie frame. The final drive gearboxes have an input shaft driving through a helical bevel gear onto a layshaft at 90 degrees then through a helical spur to the axle mounted spur gear.

Control of the drive system described above is as follows:

The power unit fuel supply is controlled by a valve operated by a solenoid with current fed via a protection circuit so that should the power unit overheat or lose oil pressure then the fuel supply is cut off and so stopping the diesel engine. The protection circuit is manually overridden when starting the diesel engine.

The gearbox selection valves are operated by pneumatic cylinders, one for the drive gear and one for direction, and these are controlled by solenoid valves operated by an ex-British Railways DMU gear/direction controller. The controller also provides interlocking between cabs, ensuring that it can only be driven from one end at a time!

The throttle is controlled pneumatically by a solenoid valve and uses a brake valve as a pressure regulator to a bellows unit reacting against a spring.

The locomotive brakes are air operated tpxhrough a pressure regulating valve to four bogie mounted cylinders. When hauling a train of vacuum braked stock a combination valve operated by the vacuum brake valve applies the locomotive brakes in unison with the train.

There are two modes of operation: Shunt and Passenger. Shunt mode is for yard operation eliminating the deadman system and the removes the ability to generate vacuum for braking and so makes it impossible to pull passenger trains in this mode. Passenger mode activates the vacuum brakes and the deadman system. The deadman system requires resetting every 40 seconds, indicated by a siren. If it is not reset then 5 seconds later the power unit shuts down to tickover, the gears disengage and the brakes come on simultaneously. A Park switch disables the deadman system, applies the locomotive brakes and disengages the gears.

Vacuum for train braking is generated by a vane type exhauster driven by a hydraulic motor, which in turn is driven by a hydraulic variable displacement pump driven off the gearbox power take-off. Flow to the motor is restricted through alternative flow restrictors giving two running speeds 750 and 1400, available whatever the power unit speed. Four high vacuum receivers provide additional "suck" availability. The parking brake is cable-operated on one bogie actuated through a screw jack and powered by electric motor or hand in case of power failure.

Cab heating and demisting is by a diesel powered unit situated centrally feeding to both cabs simultaneously. Windscreen wipers and washers are pneumatically powered, as are the warning horns. The electrical system, 24 volts DC, is supplied by a power unit driven alternator and storage by two batteries. Air is supplied by a compressor driven by the power unit.

The cabs are modules mounted on neoprene pads and the interiors are lined with sound-absorbing material. The control panels are covered in leather cloth.

The bonnet side and roof panels are carried on three portal frames with the centre frame carrying the silencer, air filter and cab heater. The bonnet and roof panels do not carry any services and can be removed by two people in less than 30 minutes so making access for heavy maintenance easy.

Under the bonnet the layout is modular, with radiator, power unit/gearbox, exhauster package, brake package, electrical/pneumatic package, fuel tank and handbrake units. Each of these units can be lifted out separately after disconnection.[2]

The unit was recently (2007-8) out of service and rested for a long while on ambulance bogies. A swapping of parts took place with Castell Caernarfon to ensure continued use of that engine on the WHR(C). By August 2008, with parts refurbished, returned, replaced, and a new repaint into a two tone green livery and the loco is ready for service again. On 12th March 2009 it was the first locomotive to cross Britannia Bridge in the new era, with ECS for Dinas.

A Third Loco[edit]

Current ownership to be identified.

A little publicised fact resurfaced in 2008.

When the engines that became Vale of Ffestiniog and Castell Caernarfon were purchased from South Africa, a third engine was involved. This was a 1964 Hunslet Taylor No 6357 ex Eastern Province Cement Co. 6wDM, sidelined after Spoornet had taken over operation of the branch around 1986. As it was not needed by the FR, and as part of the purchase arrangement, it remained in Port Elizabeth and was offered to ACR for a token sum. Apparently ACR had second thoughts and declined the offer.

Subsequently, ownership passed to the Apple Express Society, a heritage steam railway operation in South Africa. Additionally, as part of this arrangement, there was the possibility of the motor being removed, and returned to UK, if no attempt was made to restore it (all three had identical engines). These arrangements took less than a week, and is probably amongst the shortest period an engine was owned by the FR Co.

As of August 2008, it had been heavily vandalised, and although Sandstone had looked at acquiring it recently, no further progress has been made.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Part of the above comes from recollections made by Paul Martin in the FR e-group post 45607
  2. ^ Source: FR Co. records