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Messages - John L Dobson

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Two Footers outside of the US / Re: Concrete ties for two-footers
« on: October 23, 2018, 02:37:43 PM »
When we started rebuilding the Welsh Highland Railway in the mid-1990s, much of the track was laid using second-hand steel ties (and 60lb/ft rail) bought from a line in South Africa that had been abandoned. We then used a mixture of new steel and new hardwood ties (with new 30kg/metre rail) to complete the line. Current Ffestiniog and WHR practice is to use ties made from recycled plastic for both plain track and turnouts, with cast steel baseplates and screw spikes, with 30kg rail. The plastic ties cost slightly more than wood or steel but have a much longer projected service life, and can be further recycled when removed from use.

The 'motor cars' in the first view are all ex-WW1 US Army 'speeders' made by Fairbanks-Morse. I think one of them (the one on the right) is the Ffestiniog Railway's 'Busta', which had a long and somewhat disreputable history before being restored to its original state. At one point it was rebuilt with an engine liberated from a saw bench, and married to a gearbox from a motorcycle, it was lethally fast (reputed capable of crossing the ¾-mile Cob in less than a minute from a push-start) and had no brakes to speak of… Stopping was achieved by switching off the engine – and bailing out if it was about to hit something! The black engine in the final frame is an ex-WW1 Hunslet 4-6-0T, the British equivalent of the Baldwin. Hunslet made 75 of them but were a smallish firm not geared up for production-line assembly, hence the Baldwin order when the War Department Light Railways people wanted to expand their battlefield network in short order.  The grey engine is, I believe, a German 'Brigadelok' 0-8-0T. The green loco in the second frame is a McEwan-Pratt petrol-mechanical 0-4-0, also ex-WW1 but superseded in service by the much more reliable 20hp Simplex petrol 'tractor' (see middle left in frame 4).

Work and Events / Re: Trout Brook Bridge - Official Work Thread
« on: August 13, 2018, 03:14:18 PM »
What kind of pile driver are you using – is it the kind where a diesel cylinder is mounted on the pile and the thrust is generated by the reaction of the metal mass?

Work and Events / Re: Trout Brook Bridge - Official Work Thread
« on: August 12, 2018, 02:26:25 PM »
Are the piles rot-proofed in any way?

UK (Welsh, British) Two Footers / WHR New Observation Car
« on: February 20, 2018, 10:01:32 PM »
The underframe and stainless-steel body framing for the second WHR Pullman Observation Car was out in the Bottom Yard at Boston Lodge today, waiting for entry to the Carriage Works, where the wooden body structure will be built. The FR's second Pullman Obs seems to be complete apart from fitting the bogies – it was up in the air in the Erecting Shop, on the electric jacks and difficult to photograph. It should be in service by Easter.

Two Footers outside of the US / Re: Model T crew car?
« on: February 13, 2018, 07:12:45 PM »
This is a 'Crewe tractor'. Model T Fords converted for use on the trench railways in WW1 by the LNWR Works at Crewe in Cheshire. They were designed so that they could be easily converted back to road use. IIRC, Their main use was actually by British Forces fighting the Germans in East Africa. After the war one found its way to the 15" gauge Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway, and I believe the power unit is still in existence in one of their ICL Locos.

Other Narrow Gauge / Re: Narrow gauge action in New Zealand on Jan. 21
« on: January 27, 2018, 09:31:54 PM »
The carriages could be one of the Tranz Alpine sets used on the cross-island main line from Christchurch to Greymouth. I certainly remember riding in an observation car like the one at the front when I rode the Tranz Alpine in 2001. Another thought is that the carriages might be some of the former British Railways (standard gauge) Mark 2 carriages sold to New Zealand in the '90s and converted to 3'6" gauge.

Two Footers outside of the US / Re: AMTP in Pithiviers, France
« on: December 14, 2017, 11:33:54 PM »

Could you tell us about the railroad?  I Google mapped it and traveled the whole length from the terminal to the loop.  What is that loop area all about?  It is a spot of trees in the middle of fields.  Was it something else before this became a heritage line?  Was the line longer at one time? Were there branch lines?  Is there a map of the line if it was longer?  What was it built to serve?

Bernie Perch

The AMPT is a remnant of a much larger system (the TPT) that closed as a commercial business in 1964. It was an extensive agricultural light railway, constructed (I believe) around 1920 using locomotives and rolling stock from the military light railways used by both sides to serve the trenches during WW1. It used equipment from both sides. The major traffic was sugar beet, but it also carried other agricultural products. The Ffestiniog Railway's Alco 2-6-2T Mountaineer worked here for many years as TPT No.3-23, before being bought by an FR supporter after the TPT closed.

UK (Welsh, British) Two Footers / Re: L&B "LYN" makes first move
« on: September 12, 2017, 06:01:26 PM »
Lyn is now painted and on her way to Devon…


As a point of interest, Observation Car No.150 has been so well received that a second almost identical car, No.152, is to be built over the coming winter. The main difference will be in the choice of woods used to decorate the interior. The older Observation Car displaced by No.150, No.111, a steel-bodied car with a half-width driving cab at the observation end, built for use on push-pull winter services in the 1990s, has become a riding van for the Permanent Way and Infrastructure departments. It is very well suited to its new role as it is fitted with a retention toilet and has a brake compartment with wide doors and van space for equipment.

I suspect that the Observation Car that will be displaced by No.152 will be No.102, built in 2005 as a replacement for the first class Observation Car No.100 built in 1965, the wooden body of which was life-expired. I suspect No102 will be turned round to become a 'top end' standard class Observation Car like No.123, the former first class Observation Car No.101, built in 1970, which was displaced by the new, higher capacity, first class Observation Car No.100 in 2006. No.123 was converted to allow easy access for wheelchairs during renovation for its new role, whether that will also happen to No.102 remains to be seen.

UK (Welsh, British) Two Footers / Re: Ffestiniog Railway Welsh Pony
« on: May 12, 2016, 09:38:27 PM »
Most likely steel was substituted since copper was considered a "strategic" metal for wartime construction.

Almost certainly – cost would have been a factor by that stage as well.

UK (Welsh, British) Two Footers / Re: Ffestiniog Railway Welsh Pony
« on: May 12, 2016, 03:51:21 PM »
Not doing copper fireboxes anymore?

Apart from the old boilers we inherited in 1954, we haven't used copper fireboxes on the FR since the railway reopened in 1955. They are extremely expensive and not really necessary. Even the Adamsons boiler ordered by the 'Old Company' during WW2, and which was delivered in 1945 for Prince, but which stood unused until 1955, had a steel firebox.

UK (Welsh, British) Two Footers / Re: Ffestiniog Railway Welsh Pony
« on: May 12, 2016, 03:10:11 PM »
The new boiler for Welsh Pony, part-assembled and tack-welded, is currently in the Welding Shop at Boston Lodge, waiting for the insurance company's boiler inspector to approve the work that has been done so far, and for him to authorise the FR's coded welder to finish-weld the seams. The steel inner firebox and foundation ring are in the foreground, The brass bezel is an original part from the 1890s, and the chalk circles on the backhead show where the pop-marks for drilling stay holes are located.

UK (Welsh, British) Two Footers / Re: Question for John Dobson
« on: May 04, 2016, 06:01:33 PM »
To take your points in order, we don't normally get involved with the long-term storage of non-FR locomotives. Britomart is a special case as it belongs to a consortium of FR (and former FR) staff and the FR has had free use of it since the 1960s. Inspection and certification of visiting locomotives is the responsibility of the owners as is boiler insurance – in UK, boilers are certified by a boiler insurance company, which will have its own qualified inspectors who do visual inspections (internal and external) and oversee both cold pressure tests and tests under steam. They will also carry out ultrasonic thickness testing of boiler plates and test stays for cracks. Any other insurance (especially public liability insurance) is the responsibility of the FR whilst visiting locomotives are on the railway – I believe we have a policy that covers them without the need for special arrangements. Whilst the locomotives are in transit to/from the FR the road haulier's insurance applies. Servicing, in terms of coal water and oil, is from FR stocks whilst the visiting locomotives are on our premises – we are usually employing them on special, revenue-earning, trains which more than cover these costs.

The FR's new Pullman Observation Car finally goes into public service this weekend along with its dedicated Service Car and two Super Saloons.

There was a 'jolly' for local and national (Welsh Assembly) politicians, and other bigwigs, from Tan y Bwlch to Beddgelert yesterday, see

Super Saloons cost around £100,000 to build, so the Service Car must have cost around £150,000.

There's a third Super Saloon under construction at the moment, with another to come next winter. All four are replacements for 'tin cars', built cheaply in the 1970s on secondhand under-frames from the Isle of Man Railway, which no longer meet the standards of comfort needed for longish journeys on the FR and WHR. All four have been sold on to smaller railways elsewhere in UK for re-use.

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