On a trip through the Welsh Higland we halted in Blaenau Ffestiniog, terminus of the Ffestiniog railway. I asked me wife permission ;-) to take a look at the station. I was lucky: a train was due in five minutes.
1 The difference between standard gauge (1425 mm) and the Ffestiniog's narrow gauge (600 mm).
The Ffestiniog Railway is the oldest independent railway company in the World - being founded by an Act of Parliament in 1832. The railway was built as a gravity and horse drawn line to transport slate from the quarries in the mountains around Blaenau Ffestiniog. During the 19th century the railway operated succesfully. The slate industry - and then passenger numbers - slowly declined, until finally the railway closed to traffic in 1946. Luckily, pioneering railway enthusiasts were determined that the railway should survive and it was re-opened in 1954. Over the last fifty years, the Ffestiniog Railway has become a leader in railway preservation and is now one of Wales’ top tourist attractions.
2 Arriva arrives
3 To my great joy the train was pulled by a Fairlie.
4 A Fairlie is a type of articulated steam locomotive that has the driving wheels on bogies. The locomotive may be double-ended (a double Fairlie) or single ended (a single Fairlie). Some people believe it to be a fancy invention for tourists, it is not, this is a serious locomotive design. The Fairlie was invented and patented by the Scottish engineer Robert F. Fairlie in 1864. It was developed with severals goals: no unpowered wheels so all the weight could be used for traction, no turning of the locomotive, but also good curve running as the loco stands on two swiveling bogies. By their nature Fairlies were destined to play a niche role in the steam world. Their growth potential was very limited due to engineering and operational constraints. The building of Fairlies ceased well before 1900 with little exceptions and in all they have never been built in any great number.
The first Fairlie of the Ffestiniog Railway was introduced as early as 1869 and it was an immediate success. Fairlies have long since been the landmark loco's of the Ffestiniog Railway. The FR is now the refuge of the Fairlie being the only railway to operate three double Fairlies and one single Fairlie on a regular basis. There is only one more operational Fairlie in the rest of the world.
The here pictured David Lloyd George is a newly built loco dating from 1992 to replace the ageing examples from 1885
5 The "other side" of the Fairlie
The FR's site comments:
David Lloyd George is the railway's newest and most powerful Double Fairlie. It is named after the famous Liberal Prime Minister, who was a local solicitor and travelled on the railway regularly. It carries its name 'David Lloyd George' in English on one side and in Welsh 'Dafydd Lloyd George' on the other side. The engine was built between 1989 and 1992. Originally the proposal was just to build a new boiler for the Earl of Merioneth - but it grew a bit! The appearance externally is that of an 1880s loco with tall domes and smaller smokebox handrails. Underneath however is an all welded, 200psi superheated boiler which is the source of its power. It can stroll away with 12 cars but also is the most economical of the double engines as well. Because the boiler is designed to operate at a higher pressure and has a greater degree of superheat than any other double engine boiler David Lloyd George is the most powerful steam locomotive ever to run in normal service on the Ffestiniog Railway. The colour of the paint and its similarity to a well known brand of tomato soup gave it one of its nicknames - 'The Soup Dragon'!, otherwise it is known as DLG or 'The Dave'.
6 A double Fairlie stands on two indivually swivelling bogies, like any modern day diesel or electric locomotive
8 Now what is this??
9 Decoupling by the female (!!) fire ermmmm man ?
10 If the odd appearance might not have dawned on you, this will rule out any discussion about the origin of the design.
15 Grease pump, clear sign of modern loco building. This pump, driven by the skew rod on the right side of the photo, lubes the moving parts during the ride, greatly reducing the need for the crew to grease and oil the loco during halts.
19 Apart form some minor details (as this whistle) the loco is completely symmetrical
21 Unfortunately I made whole series of photo with my camera not in its correct setting. Most elevated views are way too bright.
22 After I sorted that out, lighting got better ;-)
23 Starting running round to the other end of the train
24 At the water tower
28 Now is that symmetrical or not
29 When the loco braked the water gushed out of the tanks, from which the lids were not properly closed
30 Concentration at work. The two boilers have one firebox in common. Consequently the drive can't walk from one side of the loco to the other (at least not in the cab ;-)