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Messages - John L Dobson

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The Ffestiniog Railways latest double Fairlie, James Spooner, went into service yesterday. It's first revenue earning duty was the 11:10 Woodland Wanderer Porthmadog to Tan y Bwlch service. The photo shows it passing Penrhyndeudraeth station on the Up journey.

Other Narrow Gauge / Re: Narrow Gauge Dining Cars?
« on: August 09, 2023, 12:16:26 PM »
Until Covid disrupted schedules, the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway served light lunches in its Pullman saloon and Observation cars on the WHR between Porthmadog and Caernarfon. They still offer picnic hamper and afternoon tea options in the current timetable.

Here in UK we also have Easy Fundraising, which provides contributions from retailers such as Apple, Asda, eBay, Land’s End, John Lewis, Just Eat, M&S, Rohan, Sainsbury’s, Screwfix, TalkTalk, Tesco, Thorntons, Waitrose, Wex Photo, and over 4,500 other companies. Does this also operate in the US?

The Original W&Q and WW&F: 1894-1933 / Re: Joint Bar Spacing
« on: November 22, 2022, 10:37:16 AM »
Reviving this old thread about parallel versus staggered rail joints.  I happened upon a November 19th photo showing track relaying at the Stwlan Dam Road level crossing renewal in Tan-y-Grisiau on the Ffestiniog.  The photo shows parallel joints along a curve. 

I'm guessing this has been and is the common practice in Wales.  I hope John Dobson and our other U.K. friends will weigh in.

I also understand Wales doesn't experience the deep ground freeze/thaw cycles that Maine does, and very likely has better soil conditions, particularly than mid-coast Maine, both of which would affect track alignment over time.

I know early on as the WW&F has been restored staggered joints were viewed as a concern for swaying cars at speed, but after many years of experience we've adopted staggered joints, particularly for curves, to avoid track kinks.

This post doesn't offer an answer for the practice historic Maine two-footers followed for track maintenance, but I think the comparison with Wales standards is interesting to learn.

Traditionally the FR used parallel joints and clasp fishplates, and had little trouble with kinks, largely thanks to the use of 48-50lb double-head or bullhead rail, which curves quite easily compared with the equivalent weight of flat-bottom. When we relaid the WHR, using the 60lb or 30kg/metre flat-bottom rail that is still commercially available for mining and other industrial use, we found that it was necessary to get this rail pre-curved by a specialist rolling mill before it was laid on anything but the gentlest curves. Staggered joints (and steel, spade-ended ties) were also used on the sharpest curves to prevent movement. Parallel joints are still used where curvature is slight to avoid the unpleasant rocking motion that can be induced in carriages if dips occur at staggered joints .

Two Footers outside of the US / Re: Two-footers traveling home
« on: April 12, 2022, 12:32:57 PM »
These two locomotives were both built in the early 1930s for the Burnhope reservoir scheme of the Durham County Water Board, which involved building a large dam. An extensive narrow-gauge railway system was built to carry materials, using a fleet of small contractor's locomotives, at least six of which were bought new for the contract. Four of the locomotives were sold on to the Penrhyn Quarry when the contract was completed about four years later, and two more went to the neighbouring Dinorwic Quarry. AFAIK all six have been preserved.

The SAR's two-foot gauge Garratts weren't really designed for hill climbing. They were designed with a low (6-ton) axle load to provide relatively high power for lightly-laid, twisty, lines. Unlike the Ffestiniog's Fairlies, they only have one regulator, so it isn't possible to 'baby' the front power bogie to clear water and muck off the rails whilst the rear bogie does the work, as is normal practice with a Fairlie.

Thanks Bill

You'll be welcome at the FR any time you want to visit.


The Ffestiniog Railway is planning to mark 150 years since the 1870 Locomotive Trials at Porthmadog in 2022 (postponed from 2020 due to the pandemic) with a re-run, as far as can be managed, of the original trials. This will feature the England 0-4-0STT Welsh Pony, which was actually involved in the 1870 trials, in competition with the new double Fairlie James Spooner (which should be in traffic by then) substituting for the pioneer Fairlie Little Wonder, which was the 'opposition' to Welsh Pony in 1870 but was scrapped in the early 1880s. I don't, at present, know if, or how many, delegate from overseas are to be invited, but we certainly intend to make the most of the publicity that should ensue.

As part of the celebrations, I'm hoping to publish contemporary (1870s) reports on the trials, to illustrate the influence that the FR had on railway construction in rough country and the subsequent Narrow Gauge Movement. This will be particularly fitting as the north Wales slate districts and their associated railways (the FR and Talyllyn) have just, in the past few days  been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Is there any reason why I shouldn't republish the piece from the Yarmouth Register, as part of the celebrations?

There will be an official renaming ceremony at some point, after Covid-19 has subsided. The nameplates will be left off until then.

It's a sobering thought that this loco has been out of service for longer (80 years – 1940-2020) than it had run up to the date it was withdrawn for overhaul by the 'Old Company' (73 years – 1867-1940). Alan Garraway, the first General Manager of the revived FR had always wanted to get it back into service as he'd been told that it was a much more useful loco than Prince (a 'Small England' of 1863) by several retired 'Old Company' employees, but events always conspired to prevent him starting the rebuild.

You may also be interested to learn that your 'small cash donation' (I assume via one of the appeal envelopes that are distributed on the trains) was matched by a sufficient number of other donations from this source to the extent that half of the £260,000 cost of the rebuild was financed in this way.

Despite the current Covid-19 lockdown and and very stormy weather, the Ffestiniog Railway's 'Large England' No. 5, 0-4-0ST Welsh Pony, moved for the first time in 80 years last Saturday, 27 June.


US Two Footers / Re: 2-feet in Alabama
« on: June 01, 2020, 08:25:29 AM »
Dame Ann, the steam loco, was built in 2004 by the Stirlands at the Exmoor Steam Railway Centre, Bratton Fleming, Devon to the same design as the Hunslet locos used in the North Wales slate quarries – there were various sizes, and Dame Ann appears to be one of the 'small quarry' variety.

As you probably know, all British heritage railways are currently closed and their staff furloughed under the ‘lock-down’ instituted by the British Government about a month ago. There has, however, recently been an interesting development:

Steve Oates, Chief Executive Officer of the Heritage Railway Association, took a call from Sir Peter Hendy, the Chairman of Network Rail (the operator of the UK national railway network) a couple of weeks ago. Sir Peter wanted to know whether the UK’s heritage railways could, if needed during the Covid-19 crisis, provide experienced staff to help run the nation’s railways.

As the HRA has commented “That call was an honour. It acknowledges the capabilities and professionalism of the people who run our member railways. Those are the qualities, along with good old-fashioned railwayman (and woman) resourcefulness and resilience that will enable us to weather this storm”.

Stay well everyone!

Volunteers / Re: April 2020 Work Reports
« on: April 27, 2020, 11:08:50 AM »
Would encasing the plastic pipe in a lean concrete mix help reduce the crushing forces?

US Two Footers / Re: Newest 2-foot steamer
« on: April 03, 2020, 10:36:43 AM »
This locomotive is a mostly new replica of a World War I Davenport locomotive, used by US forces in France. The frame, drivers and cylinders are original; everything from the wheels up is new. It has air brakes, which were not used on the originals. Owned by someone in California, I understand.

This is a recreation of Davenport 2967 of 1918 which, along with sister loco 2968, was turned into a 2-6-0 tender loco by Byron Hiatt of Creston, Iowa. An interesting detail of the rebuilt loco is that it has Ffestiniog-designed 'chopper' couplings.

Addendum: Discussion of the identity of this loco on the British NG Enthusiasts site seem to indicate that it was actually US Army No 5240, Davenport works number 1695, and Byron Railroad No. 2967. US Army 5245 was Davenport's number 1700, and Byron Railroad No. 2968. The man behind the project is apparently Peter Nott, a Ffestiniog Railway supporter who has spent long periods in UK over the past few years. He passed out as a steam loco driver on the FR some years ago.

UK (Welsh, British) Two Footers / Re: COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in the UK
« on: March 23, 2020, 12:16:02 PM »
The Talyllyn ( is also closed, including its workshops

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