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Topics - John L Dobson

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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.


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!

UK (Welsh, British) Two Footers / Ffestiniog Railway latest Pullman
« on: October 10, 2019, 01:06:13 PM »
The F&WHR's latest Pullman Observation Car – the 4th – went into service last weekend.

The De Winton vertical-boilered locomotive Watkin has returned to Caernarfon as an exhibit in the WHR's new station building, having previously been preserved in the small railway museum at Penrhyn Castle near Bangor. Watkin is three-foot gauge and was built in 1893 in the De Winton works, located just across the road from the new WHR station. It worked all its active life moving wagon-loads of rock on a wharf owned by the Penmaenmawr granite quarry on the coast of the Menai Strait, opposite Anglesey.

Part of the De Winton works still exists – the red brick building in the background in photo No.3. See:  You may have to scroll down the site as information about F&WHR activities is being added fairly reqularly.

UK (Welsh, British) Two Footers / James Spooner exists - official
« on: March 27, 2019, 06:54:57 AM »
 The FR's new double Fairlie James Spooner now officially exists. See:

The FR's Inside Motion site is reporting that the northern portal is now complete, see:

The southern portal is scheduled for next winter

UK (Welsh, British) Two Footers / FR-built Observation car for Ravenglass
« on: January 02, 2019, 01:23:05 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, 05:01:32 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, 05:26:08 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, 11:26:51 AM »
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, 08:02:27 AM »
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.”

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