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Fairlie Merddin Emrys

2. Merddin Emrys' story

The story of Merddin Emrys is well documented in many books and publications. There is also a good Wikipedia article on the loco.


The Ffestinog Railway was the first railway in the world to put the Fairlie articulated locomotive to work and in fact it is now the last one. There are three double Fairlies and one single Fairlie operational. Merddin Emrys dates from 1879 and was built in the railways' own workshop Boston Lodge. It can however be disputed how much of the original locomotive remains.

  • The 1879 frame resides in Livingston Thompson in the National Railway Museum in York.
  • The power bogies are shared in a pool with the other Fairlies. Consequently the history of the power bogies is very confusing as they have been swapped so many times. To the best of my knowledge Merddin Emrys' current power bogies are not the original ones. Given their age I very much doubt if the original power bogies are still in existence at all.
  • Water bunkers have for some inexplicable reason a tendency to rust harder than the rest of the loco. I cannot imagine they are still original given the many decades of little maintenance and downright neglect when the FR faced hard times.
  • I also found evidence that the roof of Merddin Emrys was replaced during a restoration
  • Boilers usually only last forty, fifty years, so presumably, but I may be wrong, the current boiler isn't the original one.

So what remains? The wheels, the motions, the domes, the chimneys and a handful of fittings. Am I sad about this? Yes and no. Yes in the sense that I tend to keep originals original. No in the sense that I realise that locos that are used wear and need to be maintained. In fact I prefer the option of new built steam locomotives with similar appearance but superior performance because that is a viable way to keep a railway like the Ffestiniog operational.


Merddin Emrys in Porthmadog Harbour station. (Photo Peter Trimming, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

Grate area 1.15 m2

Boiler pressure 11 bar
Cylinders 4 x 229 mm
Stroke 356 mm
Wheel diameter 812 mm
Valve gear Stephenson
Water capacity 2,52 m3
Coal capacity  
Total operative weight 24 tons
Total length  
Top speed appr 56 km/h
Tractive force 4,372 kg
Builder Boston Lodge


Currently there are five Fairlies operational wordlwide, four of them on the Ffestiniog railway

Merddin Emryss,

1879, Boston Lodge

Double Fairlie


David Lloyd George,

1992, Boston Lodge

Double Fairlie

Earl of Merioneth

1979, Boston Lodge

Double Fairlie


1999, Boston Lodge

Single Fairlie


Photo: © Guy Chapman

Licensed under Wikimedia Commons

Torch Lake

1873, Mason Machine Works

Mason Bogie, 0-6-4 single Fairlie.


Still hauls passengers on a tourist train during the summer season.


Photo: © Andrew Balet

Licensed under Wikimedia Commons