Vale of Ffestiniog

From Festipedia, hosted by the FR Heritage Group
Vale of Ffestiniog
Vale of Ffestiniog passes Gelert's Farm on her way to Pen-y-Mount
Home Railway F&WHR
Original Railway Consolidated Diamond Mines of Namibia
Status In service
Built by CH Funkey & Co (Pty) Ltd
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. It is one of two 'Funkeys' purchased in the mid 1990s to augment the Ffestiniog fleet and prepare for the expansion coming with the rebuilt Welsh Highland Railway. Vale of Ffestiniog was extensively rebuilt to fit the FR loading gauge. The other locomotive is Castell Caernarfon, which retains its original bodywork.


Vale of Ffestiniog on test before the superstructure was rebuilt

Origins in South Africa[edit]

Vale of Ffestiniog is one of two 27 ton, 335 horsepower turbo-charged B-B diesel-hydraulic built by CH Funkey & Co (Pty) Ltd of Alberton, near Johannesburg, South Africa, for the Consolidated Diamond Mines of Namibia. After the diamond mines swapped to road haulage, they worked at the private siding of Pretoria Portland Cement Ltd, a twelve mile branch from the South African Railways Avontuur line. It is unknown exactly when the two Funkeys arrived there, but they were at work by 1975. Here the two locomotives were adapted to work in multiple and fitted with a crude vacuum braking system.[1] Originally built with Caterpillar 300hp engines, they had been re-engined with Cummins 335hp units in 1984-5.[2]

Vale of Ffestiniog passes Llyn Ystradau

To Wales[edit]

It arrived at the FR on 16 October 1993, as one of three engines purchased from Pretoria Portland Cement Ltd. The second locomotive, of the same type, became Castell Caernarfon on the Welsh Highland Railway. The third locomotive was Hunslet Taylor 6357, which never left South Africa.

When they arrived, the two Funkeys 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.

There was a deliberate decision to treat the two locomotives differently but with a caveat for "later on" offering the possibility of them working together. Of the two locos, one had evidently been crashed at some time and had had a new cab made out of steel. This locomotive (now Vale of Ffestiniog) was selected for trials on the FR on the grounds that the gas axe doesn't work so well on fibreglass, and the cabs fouled the FR loading gauge. Without its cab it ran several trials on the FR. The one with the intact fibreglass body (now Castell Caernarfon), was selected for the WHR, where the greater loading gauge allows it to retain its original body work.

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. In subsequent overhauls it has not so far been significantly altered.

Vale of Ffestiniog on test at Bryn Mawr

Rebuilt for the FR[edit]

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.[3]

The locomotive spent some time in 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. By August 2008, with parts refurbished replaced on the locomotive, and a repaint into a new two tone green livery it was ready for service again. On 12th March 2009 it was the first locomotive to cross Britannia Bridge in the modern era, with an ECS for Dinas. Following the opening of the WHR through to Porthmadog this locomotive can now regularly be seen operating over both railways.

In April 2019, Vale of Ffestiniog was involved in an incident at Beddgelert when it was unable to stop and passed through the station at 10 mph on the descending gradient and ran in to the following section without authorisation. It only stopped when it reached a level section of track 0.6 miles later.[4]

Principal dimensions[edit]

Height 9 ft 5½ in
Width 7 ft
Length 34 ft

Designer's description[edit]

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

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

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 through 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.

Heading an ECS movement onto the newly completed WHR

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.[5]

Vale of Ffestiniog at Pen-y-Mount Junction

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lewis, Charles. "Port Elizabeth - Loerie: The Limestone Traffic". Soul of a Railway. Retrieved 6 September 2018.
  2. ^ Paxton, L; Payling, D. (2005). "Narrow Gauge Super Power - Limestone to Port Elizabeth". The Narrow Gauge. Narrow Gauge Railway Society (192).
  3. ^ Part of the above comes from recollections made by Paul Martin in the FR e-group post 45607
  4. ^ Rail Accident Investigation Branch (3 May 2019). "Locomotive runaway at Beddgelert".
  5. ^ FR Co. records