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Topics - John L Dobson

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UK (Welsh, British) Two Footers / FR-built Observation car for Ravenglass
« on: January 02, 2019, 05:23:05 PM »
The new 15-inch-gauge observation car for the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway in Cumbria, built by Boston Lodge Carriage Works left the Works on delivery this morning. See:

UK (Welsh, British) Two Footers / WHR New Observation Car
« on: February 20, 2018, 09:01:32 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.

Thanks to funding decisions by the Welsh Assembly Government and other bodies it is likely that a permanent WHR station will be built in Caernarfon over the next 2-3 years. A £600,000 investment grant from the WAG, plus an anticipated £1.1 million from the EU Attractor Fund, will deliver a new terminus for the Welsh Highland Railway that will provide world class facilities for visitors and locals alike. The new station is budgeted at £2.2 million, with the difference between the estimated cost and the grants being raised by match funding.

A £400,000 grant is also being provided for improved access and links between the revamped Waterfront area around the station, and the town centre. Both projects are expected to generate significant economic and social benefits for Caernarfon.

"We're proud to be part of this dynamic waterfront team," said F&WHR General Manager Paul Lewin. "Collaboration between partners including the Welsh Government, Cadw, the Harbour Trust, Galeri and Gwynedd Council has resulted in a package that proves working together will pay substantial dividends. An iconic new station in Caernarfon will give us the confidence to step up our promotional efforts in the major conurbations of North West England with a view to attracting more visitors to this historic town."

"The collaborative approach has also allowed us to work with a number of smaller local partnerships to benefit the wider community in Caernarfon and I cannot overstate the vital support we have received from the Welsh Highland Railway Society, whose unstinting efforts continue to play a major part in this successful project.".

UK (Welsh, British) Two Footers / FR to build new double Fairlie
« on: March 25, 2016, 09:26:08 PM »
It has recently been announced that the Ffestiniog Railway is to build a new double Fairlie to replace the Earl of Merioneth, built in 1979. The announcement states:

Having served the railway well for many years, Earl of Merioneth needs a new boiler and, as one of the locomotives that the railway relies on very heavily, it needs to be given priority. Although the boiler is of similar vintage to that on Merddin Emrys, which has just been successfully overhauled for a fourth ten-year period in service, Earl of Merioneth’s boiler looks like it needs much more work. We have therefore decided to replace it, with the old boiler being kept so that the option for repair is kept open.

We also need to replace Earl of Merioneth’s water tanks. The square tanks provided when she was built were made of poor quality, thin material, acquired ‘advantageously’, as Mr Dukes (the then Works Manager) would have said, from various sources in the late seventies when the railway was short of money. They were heavily reworked for the conversion from oil to coal firing ten years ago and could be repaired once more, but the most cost-effective option is replacement.

The Works fitters have also asked that the boiler cradle (the main frame in a double Fairlie) should be replaced as this has been cut and welded many times over the years and it will not cost much to re-create it with clean metal. The net result is that we will build a new double Fairlie superstructure on the existing power bogies, and put Earl of Merioneth’s tired parts to one side in much the same way as happened with Livingston Thompson back in the 1970s. As this process will produce what is essentially a new locomotive, it will receive a ‘new’ name, James Spooner, and will be No.8 in the fleet list.

The re-use of existing power bogies for the new locomotive is a good example of the parallels between the double Fairlie design and a modern diesel-electric locomotive. Bogies are regularly swapped between the FR's Fairlies during overhauls, which can produce a situation where the newest locomotive is sitting on the oldest bogies. Two new sets of power bogies have been built over the past fifteen years and the oldest (possibly 19th century) set was only retired a year or so ago.

It is intended to build the new boiler for James Spooner 'in house' at Boston Lodge.

UK (Welsh, British) Two Footers / Well Wagon for the F&WHR
« on: June 12, 2015, 03:26:51 PM »
The first of a planned 'Green Fleet' of purpose-built Infrastructure wagons for the F&WHR. A well wagon (what the standard-gauge boys would call a 'LowMac' machinery wagon) designed to carry a 3-5 ton JCB or similar digger, mounted with a flail for lineside maintenance purposes.

With No.150 out of the way it's time to start erecting the next carriage, 'Super Saloon' No.117. This is a replacement for one of the 'Tin Cars' - jig-built, steel-bodied cars cheaply built in the 1970s on secondhand under frames from the Isle of Man Railway. We've already built several Super Saloons. They are designed to the maximum dimensions that will go through Garnedd Tunnel and have extra leg room, big windows with double glazing, heaters, etc., for maximum passenger comfort.

The piles of wooden bits are the components for the body framework for 117. They were manufactured by the Carriage Works last year when the previous Super Saloon, No.119, was being built.

There's another Super Saloon (No.118) to come this year after 117, then the Service Car, No.125, to go with No.150, followed by a standard saloon for the WHR, so the Carriage Works is going to be busy. With a fleet of around 60 carriages on the two railways, there is also a fairly heavy refurbishment programme each winter. Typically, 6 to 8 cars are repaired and repainted and/or revarnished over and above new-build activity.

The under frames and bogies for the new carriages are built by Boston Lodge Engineering, the FR department that builds and repairs FR & WHR locomotives.

The bodies of two of the withdrawn 'Tin Cars' (No.119 and 117) have been sold to the Golden Valley Railway in the English Midlands and will be back in service as soon as the GVR fits new bogies (the original bogies are an FR standard design and have been kept for the new cars)

FR Observation Car No.150 out-shopped from Boston Lodge Carriage Works two days ago. It's to go on a promotional tour around UK whilst a matching service car is built – first stop Paddington Station in London.

The number 150 has been chosen as the construction of this carriage marks the 150th anniversary of the start of passenger services on the FR.

UK (Welsh, British) Two Footers / Another Garratt for the WHR
« on: December 19, 2014, 12:02:27 PM »
According to a recent press release from UK-based Steam Powered Services Ltd., another NG/G16 Garratt is to be restored for eventual use on the WHR. This will potentially give the WHR 5 of these locomotives (6 if Pete Waterman's No.109 is ever finished):

Gloucestershire-based Steam Powered Services Limited has acquired ex-South African Railways NGG 16 2’ gauge Garratt number 130 from the Exmoor Steam Railway. This locomotive was one of a batch of 12 built by the Manchester firm of Beyer Peacock in 1951 and exported to South Africa for use on the extensive 2’ gauge railways of the Cape and Natal.
SPS intends to restore the locomotive over the next three years with an anticipated first steaming date in the spring of 2018. The locomotive is expected to run on the Welsh Highland Railway.
130 was last operational on the Port Shepstone-Harding branch in Natal and was withdrawn in 1985. It was imported for the proposed Whitby-Robin Hood Railway in the 1990s before finally being moved to the Exmoor Steam Railway.
SPS Limited’s Managing Director Peter Best commented “I am really delighted to have bought 130 and thank the Stirland family for their support and guidance. Having restored four engines before, 130 will be a different and exciting challenge which we will relish. Serious work will not start till our S 160 2253 is substantially complete but the planning starts now.”


The site is at Dragon Curve on the Deviation Line above Dduallt. Sleepers (ties) and baseplates are life-expired and need replacing. The old ballast, which was a rather coarse material – the crushed arisings from boring the new Moelwyn tunnel in the 1970s – also needed replacing with better-graded material. The bogie wagons are class DZ low-sides from South Africa, originally bought for track-laying duty on the Welsh Highland, which have been renovated and fitted with new drop-down ends so that a JCB loader* can run from one wagon to the next to unload ballast. Three wagons are being converted for this work.

* Actually a small Komatsu on this occasion, I see on looking more closely at the photos!

UK (Welsh, British) Two Footers / Ffestiniog Railway Welsh Pony
« on: April 08, 2014, 06:53:04 AM »
There's a rather nice animated sequence giving a brief history of this locomotive, and announcing then start of her restoration, on the FR's Facebook site at:

A photo archive of the work done over the winter is at:

Both the FR and WHR reopen on 22 March, so the work has to be substantially complete by then.

There's also sequence on this weekend's 'Terabash' volunteer blitz on the Harbour Station buildings to get them ready for the new season.

I have been trawling through some photos I took on the FR several years ago and came across the attached. A Parlor Car built by the Boston Lodge Carriage Works in 2004-5 for the Beeches Light Railway - a private garden(!) railway in Oxfordshire.

The car was loosely based on the Sandy River Parlor Car Rangeley, but slightly shorter to deal with sharp curves, and with a fully-fitted, all-electric, kitchen capable of producing fairly elaborate cooked meals.

The go-ahead has been given for Welsh Pony's restoration to traffic by the FR Company Board, and a comprehensive restoration management plan has been drawn up in conjunction with the FR Heritage Company. Funding for the work will be secured ‘in different and creative ways’, says F&WHR General Manager Paul Lewin. The decision could mean an eventual return to steam for the whole F&WHR fleet.

Welsh Pony was built as an 0-4-0ST in London in 1867 by George England. It was the fifth loco delivered to the FR and has been out of use since its firebox was condemned in 1939. It is slightly larger, more powerful and with a longer wheelbase than the four earlier England 0-4-0T engines, built in 1863.

The locomotive was a stalwart of services on the original Welsh Highland Railway, which closed to passengers in 1936, and it was at one time plinthed at Porthmadog Harbour Station as an advertisement for the FR. Over the winter of 2012-13, it was the subject of a cosmetic restoration to enable it to take part on the celebrations of 150 Years of Steam on the FR alongside its sisters Princess, Prince and Palmerston.

“As a mature railway, our aspiration is that all our locos should eventually be returned to operating condition,” adds Lewin. “We want to be in a position to be able to simply pull any one of them out of the shed and light it up. With the notable exception of Princess and Double Fairlie Livingston Thompson, which contain much original material and will be preserved as historic artefacts, the idea is that everything else should be restored to working order rather than being tucked in the back of a shed covered in dust. This will be a complete contrast to the early days of preservation, when the bare minimum of locomotives needed to run services was maintained in operable condition, the rest lying unloved in sidings and sheds. Welsh Pony will be the first and we will draw up a priority list of our remaining locos. Our hope is that everything we’ve got will eventually be able to run – Englands, Fairlies, Hunslet ‘Ladies’, Garratts and NG15 2-8-2s. It’s a simple idea, but nailing down the details of how we’ll implement and pay for it will be far more complex."

Welsh Pony will also be the first FR locomotive to be restored ‘live’ on the internet, with regular news, photo and video reports on a dedicated microsite at Some phases of the work may also be broadcast live by webcam, although details have yet to be finalised.

“We know where we’re going,” adds Lewin, “And we’re starting to fill in the details of how we get there. We believe that this long-term vision will ensure continued and growing interest in our railways around the world.”

No start date, or deadline for completion, of the work on Welsh Pony has yet been made public, but work is likely to start over the winter of 2013-14. The locomotive is due to celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2017.

Steam 150 – A Narrow Gauge Odyssey.
3-6 May 2013:

In 1863, the Ffestiniog was still a new railway, barely 30 years old and business was brisk. Capacity was becoming an issue. Plans were drawn up for doubling the 13 miles of track between Blaenau Ffestiniog and Porthmadog, but the cost would have been prohibitive. A radical and unproven alternative for getting the empty slate wagons back to Blaenau had been suggested: steam power, something that had never been tried on so narrow a gauge over such a distance.

2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the delivery of the world's first successful two foot gauge steam locomotives – Princess, Prince, Mountaineer and Palmerston. Remarkably, three of them still exist on their original railway. Prince and Palmerston are in full working order and Princess has been cosmetically restored for the occasion, as has the slightly younger Welsh Pony.

A series of major events – featuring street theatre and period costume - celebrating 150 years of steam on the Ffestiniog Railway starts on Friday 3 May. It is intended to give an insight into the events of 1863 starting with the humble horse and then the arrival of a new, strange machine to the area. The event will tell a much wider story in our special corner of Wales: the global story of narrow gauge that started in the Top Left Hand Corner of Wales then spread around the world.

The story is made even more compelling by the presence of not only the first, diminutive narrow gauge steam locomotives, but also their ultimate evolution – the massive Garratts used on the Welsh Highland Railway. The F&WHR is the only place in the world that 150 years of steam evolution can be seen in action, side by side.

Saturday will focus on the arrival of steam and the departure of the horse, a day of early FR history where the double Fairlie features, but only as a hopelessly-modern anachronism. On Sunday we see an explosion of new lines opening up across the world and Fairlies, Hunslets and other locos being developed for export across the globe. Monday showcases the ultimate narrow gauge trains represented with long trains, larger locos and heavy haulage across the African veldt.

Come along and meet some of the characters from the past. Witness their wonder at the arrival of steam and watch as they help the story along. Steam 150 isn’t an event just for the steam enthusiast.
This event promises to be the largest event for some years and the first bi-railway event. Don't miss it.

The weekend includes:

-      All four England locos. Line ups, train haulage, old loco shed line ups including ‘nightglow’ photography
-      Horses
-      Theatrical dramatisations
-      Long slate empties trains
-      Gravity train operation
-      A reconstruction of the delivery of Princess
-      Double-headed Hunslet ladies reprising their Queen of the Hill title
-      Slate trains on the Welsh Highland
-      Loco line ups: Englands, first to last, ‘built at Boston Lodge’ etc.
-      1963 gravity train operation. One for the FR connoisseurs: come and see a re-creation of a re-creation! (Check out:
-      England engine heavy haulage
-      Additional through trains on WHR
-      Garratt heavy-haul freight and mixed trains

Check out the FRCo website ( and Facebook page ( for details as they’re finalised.


 FRIDAY: Ffestiniog Railway
• Round-trips from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ff., including an additional
16:00 train to connect with the late afternoon Conwy Valley Line service.
• Additional 11:40 train from Porthmadog, terminating at Blaenau Ffestiniog.
• Additional mid-afternoon vintage shuttle to and from Tan-y-Bwlch.
• Evening Porthmadog to Minffordd shuttles, to view re-enactments of the
1963 'Centenary of Steam' gravity train between Rhiw Goch and Minffordd.
Welsh Highland Railway
• Standard ‘Blue’ service of two round-trips from Porthmadog and Caernarfon.
(NOT included in 'Steam 150' Event and Friday Rover tickets)

SATURDAY: 'Horses to England Engines' Ffestiniog Railway
• Horse haulage demonstration and early morning dramatised re-enactment of
the 1863 delivery of Princess - from 08:00 at Harbour Station.
• England locomotive hauled slate empties to and from Blaenau Ffestiniog.
• Four standard service trains between Porthmadog and Blaenau Ffestiniog.
• Additional 09:25 train from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog.
• Footplate rides with Hugh Napier at Blaenau Ffestiniog.
• Additional vintage shuttles running to and from Tan-y-Bwlch.
• Additional mid-afternoon vintage train to and from Blaenau Ffestiniog.
• Freight trains across the Cob hauled by all four England locomotives.
• Boston Lodge Works open to holders of 'Steam 150' tickets.
• Evening shuttles between Porthmadog and Boston Lodge Halt from 19:00 until 22:00 - top‘n’tailed by a Garratt and a Fairlie - in connection with...
• Nightglow photography with England locos outside Old Engine Shed.
• Ffestiniog Railway Society AGM evening train to Tan-y-Bwlch
- restricted to FRS members only.
Welsh Highland Railway
• ‘Yellow’ service with three round-trips from Porthmadog and Caernarfon.
(NOT included in 'Steam 150' Event and Saturday Rover tickets)
• Additional 17:45 Porthmadog to Rhyd Ddu round-trip with Double-Fairlie and FR carriage-rake. (included in 'Steam 150' Event and Saturday Rover tickets)

SUNDAY: 'Global Narrow-Gauge Expansion' Ffestiniog Railway
• Morning line-up of all available England locomotives at Harbour Station.
• Three standard round-trips from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog.
• Also 16:20 Minffordd to Blaenau Ffestiniog continuation of ‘through’ train from Caernarfon - returning to Porthmadog as 17:45 ex-Blaenau Ffestiniog.
• Additional vintage shuttles running to and from Tan-y-Bwlch.
• England locomotive hauled slate trains to/from Dduallt and Rhiw Goch.?• Gravity train from Dduallt - past England loco and slate empties at Minffordd.
• Footplate rides with Hugh Napier at Blaenau Ffestiniog.
• Boston Lodge Works open to holders of 'Steam 150' tickets.
Welsh Highland Railway
• ‘Yellow’ service with three round-trips from Porthmadog and Caernarfon.
(NOT included in 'Steam 150' Event and Sunday Rover tickets)
• England hauled slate empties to and from Pont Croesor.
• Additional train to Pont Croesor to view England loco and slate empties.
(included in 'Steam 150' Event and Sunday Rover tickets)
• Additional 'Queens of the Hill' train - double-headed by Linda and Blanche - from Porthmadog to Caernarfon, returning via FR train from Minffordd. Both locomotives will have been turned to run chimney first to Caernarfon. (A separate 'Queens of the Hill' ticket is required for travel on this train)
• 'Queens of the Hill' train continues to Blaenau Ffestiniog - following change of locomotives - before a return to Porthmadog, enabling a full round-trip over the nearly eighty-mile Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways system!
(A 'Steam 150' Event or Sunday Rover must be held for this portion of the journey)

MONDAY: 'Ultimate Narrow-Gauge - Grand Finale' Ffestiniog Railway
• Variety of locomotive line-ups at Harbour Station prior to service trains.
• Four standard service trains between Porthmadog and Blaenau Ffestiniog.
• 16:00 service train double-headed by England locos Prince and Palmerston.
• Mid-morning train to/from Tan-y-Bwlch hauled by two small Hunslet locos.
• Afternoon vintage shuttle to and from Tan-y-Bwlch.
• England locomotive hauled slate empties to and from Dduallt.
• Boston Lodge Works open to holders of 'Steam 150' tickets.
Welsh Highland Railway
• ‘Yellow’ service with three round-trips from Porthmadog and Caernarfon.
(NOT included in 'Steam 150' Event and Monday Rover tickets)
• Early morning - Prince and Palmerston top‘n’tail an extra 12-carr. train from Porthmadog-Boston Lodge-Hafod y Llyn (WHR)-Boston Lodge-Porthmadog. (included in 'Steam 150' Event and Monday Rover tickets)
• Additional 'England to Beddgelert' vintage train with a single England loco
- with the locomotive turned to run chimney first towards Beddgelert.
(Limited capacity on this train - a 'Steam 150' Event or Day Rover plus a separate
'England to Beddgelert' ticket required for travel. Advance Booking recommended)
• Morning Garratt hauled heavy goods train from Dinas to Porthmadog.
• Afternoon trip working of wagons from Porthmadog to Pont Croesor.
• Two Garratt locos double-head the 15:40 Porthmadog to Caernarfon train.
(NOT included in 'Steam 150' Event and Monday Rover tickets)
• Wagons added to 15:40 ex-Porthmadog at Pont Croesor - continues as a heavy-haul mixed train as far as Dinas, then passenger only to Caernarfon.

And one for later…
From 11 to13 October, one of the FR’s lauded Vintage Weekends takes on the title “1863 and all that”. The event will feature a much more traditional and authentic combination of original stock and locations. This year we’ll also be really doing as much as we can to take people back 150 years. The trains provide a flavour and the weekend will also include costumes, technology, food, customs and beer and wine from that period in history where anything seemed possible and the Top Left Corner of Wales was at the forefront of railway technology development.
For further information contact or ring 01766 516072 or 07919 414871

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