An article by ERYL CRUMP in the Welsh Daily Post talks about the fact that the James Spooner – named after the man who constructed and managed the Ffestiniog Railway for over 50 years – will carry the number 8 plate as did its predecessor, built by Avonside in 1872 and withdrawn in 1928.
Engineers at the world’s oldest railway workshops are to build a new, narrow gauge steam locomotive.
The Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway (F&WHR) Board has approved plans for the building of a new Double Fairlie locomotive, the seventh to run on the railway and the fifth built entirely at the Boston Lodge workshops near Porthmadog.
Some parts of the original survive to the present day, the wheels being under Livingston Thompson at the National Railway Museum in York.
It is hoped that some original components and design details will be incorporated into the new loco.
The new loco will take the place of Earl of Merioneth in the FR’s frontline fleet of Double Fairlies alongside Merddin Emrys and David Lloyd George, built in 1879 and 1992 respectively at Boston Lodge.
Earl of Merioneth was built in 1979 and will hold a unique place in railway preservation history as the first new-build steam loco on any preserved line in the UK and the first to be withdrawn.
On the expiry of its current boiler ticket, the loco will be placed in dry storage on its original 1979 bogies so as not to preclude restoration at a later date. Cab fittings and controls will be removed for use on James Spooner.
F&WHR General Manager Paul Lewin said Earl of Merioneth, affectionately known as The Square due to its angular appearance, is approaching the end of its ten-year boiler certificate and needs a new boiler, boiler cradle, smokeboxes, chimneys and water tanks.
Mr Lewin said: “Back in the early days of rebuilding the FR, when reopening to Blaenau Ffestiniog seemed an impossible dream, volunteers would have thought it inconceivable that 50 years later, legendary locos such as Welsh Pony and James Spooner would be in action on two wonderful railways stretching 40 miles from Caernarfon to Blaenau Ffestiniog.”
The first components for the new boiler have already been delivered. This will be the fourth new boiler built in the works and will be of hybrid welded/riveted construction, currently being designed at Boston Lodge.
It is planned the loco will enter traffic in 2020, in time for the 150th anniversary of the Little Wonder trials in 1870, when the world’s first successful double engine hauled a train of 111 slate wagons, six carriages, 60 passengers and 12 goods wagons some 1,350 feet long.