Welsh Pony

From Festipedia, hosted by the FR Heritage Group

Welsh Pony
Welsh Pony during its running in after overhaul, 11 July 2020.
Type Large England
Home Railway FR
Number 5
Status In service
Designed by George England
Built by George England & Co., Hatcham Iron Works
Built 1867
1891,1915,2020 Rebuilt
Wheel Arrangement 0-4-0ST+T
Length 25 ft 4 inches
Fuel Coal
Whistle(s) FR Bell Whistles (replicas)

Welsh Pony is a steam locomotive built for the Festiniog Railway in 1867. Part of the second batch of locomotives built for the line, it was constructed to an improved enlarged design. The locomotive saw major rebuilds in 1891 and 1915. Welsh Pony continued in use until c1940. After this the locomotive was out of use for a prolonged period, including time spent on a plinth in the car park at Porthmadog Harbour Station.

The time spent out of use took its toll on Welsh Pony and parts of it were in poor condition. After a consultation on what should be done with the locomotive, it was decided to return it to steam. Welsh Pony was taken into the works at Boston Lodge in 2014 and, following a comprehensive overhaul, returned to steam in 2020.


Welsh Pony at Portmadoc around 1872. Click here for more info

1867-1879: Delivery to second major overhaul[edit]

This was the 5th locomotive built for the FR and the first of the "Large Englands" (the second was Little Giant). Welsh Pony (works number 234) was built and delivered in 1867. She entered service in June 1867 becoming No. 5 in the FR fleet.

The photograph to the left shows some original features such the first maker's plates and nameplates (which were enamelled). One of the original maker's plates was found buried in Glan y Mor yard in 1961 and is now in the FR archives.[1] The sandpots are also the originals, somewhat taller and narrower than the standard design adopted later. Wooden brake blocks are still in use. By the time of this photograph the whistle had been moved from the cab to the saddle tank and the slide bar arrangement had been altered.

The records show it was retubed in 1873 and broke an axle in 1875. Brass piston rings were tried out but they needed replacing often and so were changed for cast iron ones. In 1878 it derailed at Duffws but the damage was slight. By 1879 it had been fitted with a lubricator.

Welsh Pony at Duffws c1880

1880-1890: Final maintenance in original form[edit]

In 1880 it had a major overhaul. 132 tubes were replaced with steel tubes, the firebox was removed and refitted (148 copper stays), two whistles were fitted and a braked shunting engine tender No 2 was built. These facts date this photograph to 1880 or later. Also of note the enamel nameplates have been replaced by brass plates otherwise the engine is much as it was 10 years earlier.

New sandpots were fitted in 1883. In 1887 it was fitted with a Wilson lubricator (i.e. mounted on the cabsheet) and its mileage was quoted as 281,700. The boiler and tank were now wearing out, the tank being patched in 1887 and 1888 and the working pressure being 120lbs by 1889. Work started before it came out of service, new frames were being worked on when it was withdrawn on 23rd September 1890.

Welsh Pony at Duffws 1906

1891-1911: Rebuilt, Vulcan boiler & cab, later vacuum brake[edit]

It re-emerged on 29th May 1891 with a new steel boiler from the Vulcan Foundry costing £227-15-0, with Everetts red metal tubes. It had a full cab and the tank, smokebox, cylinders and frames were all new. In October 1891 a new tender No.5 was completed for the loco (wooden framed). A vacuum brake was fitted to the loco in May 1893.

In November 1895 it came off the line at Festiniog but with minor damage. In 1899 the first two tubes had to be removed and the holes left were plugged with brass plugs. In December 1900 a number of 'red metal' tubes burst and 68 were replaced with some taken out of Livingston Thompson. In August 1901 another tube burst so in September the engine was retubed with brass tubes. The smoke box was replaced in 1903 and major firebox work was carried out (64 copper stays) and a cylinder was replaced in 1904. Fire box repairs were carried out often after that.

In October 1907 it came off the line at Minffordd sidings and fell into the standard gauge lines. It took 3 hours to get it back on FR metals. By 1908 the boiler pressure was down to 125lbs. It soldiered on until 1910 when it had a last thorough repair of the firebox. At this time the balance weights were moved fully to the front footplate and made to their final dimensions. In October 1911 the tender for a new boiler was accepted from J Adamson & Co and the loco was taken out of traffic at the end of December. In September 1912 Prince is recorded as receiving Welsh Pony's smokebox.

Welsh Pony double heading with Taliesin in the 1920s

1915-1940: Low Moor iron boiler and livery changes[edit]

The locomotive was rebuilt again in 1915 with a new Low Moor Iron boiler, the outward signs being the pronounced dome cover and the double Fairlie style brass smokebox handrail (which it retains to this day). The engine had a wooden framed tender in the 1920s but this was damaged in an accident at Boston Lodge in August 1924 (see 'Narrow Gauge Rails to Portmadoc' page 78). A more permanent replacement eventually came from Prince. This was a steel framed tender and this currently belongs to Linda.

It had heavy repairs between August & October 1925 and then again was taken out of service in May 1928 for a general overhaul which lasted until early 1930, the firebox had much stay work done and four stay tubes were inserted.It was re-tubed with secondhand brass tubes. A new foundation ring was supplied by the Avonside Engine Co. It was re-tubed again between June and September 1932 with steel tubes and had new tyres and the brasses & axleboxes remetalled and the valves set. The tubes were not a success and it was retubed a third time in March/April 1934 together with more firebox work. Company records suggest Welsh Pony was painted in 'Crystal Palace blue' in 1933 (Boyd described the shade as 'sea blue'), but the paint deteriorated and it was later painted in an all over darker livery, quoted as green.

In June 1937 after the boiler inspector cited signs of leakage at several stay heads and tube ends in the firebox. He recommended drill testing the firebox tubeplate, re-tubing the boiler and giving it a hydraulic test before being put into service again. Work was done and it was back in service in August 1938. It worked the 1939 season, pulling its last passenger train under the old company on 15th September 1939 and was running up to at least February 1940.

Welsh Pony - incorrectly displaying Mountaineer scrawled in chalk in Glan y mor yard
On display outside Harbour Station

1955-2002: Out of use then plinthed[edit]

During the years the railway was closed Welsh Pony was left in the old engine shed. As with the other locomotives left there, it was in a relatively poor condition by the time the railway was reopened. During the rebuild of Prince in 1955 the spectacle plates from Welsh Pony were used and in the early '60s Welsh Pony's tender was placed behind Linda (the tender has been significantly rebuilt since). It had been the intention to restore Welsh Pony to service, but the arrivals of Linda, Blanche and Mountaineer meant that the work involved never became a priority. As such, the locomotive lay out of use at Boston Lodge until the early 1980s.

In 1984, Welsh Pony was cleaned up and painted red for display outside the Goods shed at Harbour Station. At this time it was given dual language nameplates (Welsh Pony on one side, Merlen Gymreig on the other). In March 1985 it was moved to a plinth at the entrance to the Harbour Station car park. It remained there until March 2002, when it was removed in need of a little TLC.

Welsh Pony at Boston Lodge during the 2005 gala

2002-2012: Storage and reunion[edit]

From 2002 the locomotive was stored undercover at Glan y Pwll.

The locomotive returned to Boston Lodge in 2005 for the 50th anniversary event. The wood-framed tender displayed with this locomotive, which had originally been used with Princess, was rebuilt by Andrew Lance with a new oak frame. It was the last original tender with the vacuum brake gear still intact. A few days before the gala the locomotive was painted in Darjeeling blue to wind people up and get people talking about the engine (both loco and tender were painted in blue with a black top to the tank and cab front, as on Prince in 1980).

Welsh Pony was on display again in 2010 for the Quirks & Curiosities event.

In December 2012, Welsh Pony was returned to Boston Lodge prior to the 150th anniversary of steam on the FR. The opportunity was taken to reunite the four surviving Englands for the first time in many years. Welsh Pony was cosmetically restored to a green livery in order to match Linda's tender (which had originally come from Welsh Pony). The wooden framed tender was returned to Princess which had also been cosmetically restored for the event.

Welsh Pony 2013, prior to dismantling for restoration. The tender is from Linda.

2013-2020: Restoration to working order[edit]

Following an initiative from FRCo. general manager Paul Lewin in Steam Railway magazine in 2010, much interest was raised in restoring the sole surviving Large England loco to working order.

The first step was to draw up and agree a conservation plan for the locomotive prior to carrying out an in-depth look at the loco to ascertain exactly what could be reused and to estimate the cost of its restoration. In 2013 the FR Co. agreed this report and to the restoration of the locomotive to working order (including the building of a new tender). Dismantling of the locomotive for assessment and restoration started on 4th May 2014. As expected, the boiler required replacement but it was also found that the frames and cylinders were too corroded to be re-used. Although it was originally hoped that the originals could be reused, it was later found necessary to also replace the coupling and connecting rods.

One of the first jobs completed was repairing the saddle tank; new plate was let in at the base and secured using traditional riveting techniques. The saddle tank then appeared at some events as focal point for the continued fundraising. New frameplates were procured and new cylinders cast from the pattern previously used for Prince and Palmerston's new cylinders. These were assembled by the end of 2015. Boiler work commenced in 2016 after the completion of Merddin Emrys's overhaul. Meanwhile, work to construct and fit out the frames continued with a mix of new and original parts. By autumn 2017 the boiler was complete and in the frames, which were back on the original wheels. The new tender was also complete. It is a replica of the original iron frame England tenders, complete with vacuum brake gear. The coal space has been shortened in order to provide space for seats (as in Prince's tender). At the same time the cab was having sympathetic repairs done to the platework. The cab roof was replaced but the rest was left largely intact, including a few 'heritage' dents. A number of heritage cab fittings came to light including token and document holders, these were refitted in the original locations.

The locomotive was rebuilt using the original 1867 outside stepped frames and rear buffer beam. The wheelsets are also original, the front pair being from Little Giant. The inside motion, as far as one can tell, is also original. Lubrication is by an old FR displacement lubricator re-fitted. Two of the cab side plates from 1915 have come back to the railway and have been refitted. There are two new plates. One commemorating the 2020 rebuild and the other, the original build date.

Welsh Pony first smoke since 1940!

2020-present: Back in steam[edit]

It was planned that the locomotive would make its first appearance at a special event in June 2020, but this event had to be cancelled due to the global coronavirus pandemic. Despite the pandemic, work on the locomotive continued under lockdown and it returned to steam on Saturday 27th June 2020. The first day in steam was shared with the world via a live video broadcast so that the occasion could be enjoyed despite travel restrictions. At the time of the first steaming the locomotive was not fitted with its nameplates. The locomotive re-entered traffic on 18th July 2020. When first outshopped Welsh Pony appeared in an all-over unlined purple-brown livery (the same style livery as the Victorian carriages). Welsh Pony was taken back into the paint shop at the end of September and the purple-brown brown livery was lined out in the style of the Victorian livery. It returned to service for the Bygones Weekend from the 9th to the 11th of October. On the morning of the 10th, it was officially renamed in a ceremony at Dduallt attended by the locomotive's supporters. The renaming was carried out by Michael Davies and Robert Smallman, two of the society's longest-standing members. The youngest available volunteers crewed the engine to represent the passing of the railway between generations. The train then continued to Blaenau Ffestiniog.

In 2023 one of the crankpins on the rear driving wheels was found to be loose. The axle was removed from the loco in July 2024 and a crack was found in the wheel centre. The repair will involve making new rear wheel centres.

18 July 2020. Welsh Pony departs Harbour Station with its first passenger train after rebuilding. This was also the first train of the special Covid-19 service.
Welsh Pony is re-dedicated by Michael Davies (right) & Robert Smallman (left). 11th October 2020

Principal dimensions[edit]

Cylinder dimensions 8.5" dia x 12" stroke
Boiler pressure 160 psi
Wheel diameter 2' 2"
Wheelbase 5' 0"
Rating FR: 5 carriages
WHR: 3 carriages

In popular culture[edit]

The song The Fairlie Duplex Engine by the Spinners references Welsh Pony in trials against Little Wonder.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 14, page(s): 3

External links[edit]