Galleries Lilla Locomotive Group
Lilla Locomotive Group
Lilla is a small tank loco, built for use in the North Wales slate quarries. It is now based on the Ffestiniog Railway Railway and cared for by the Lilla Locomotive Group who run "drive-an-engine" experience runs, "Slate Shunts" and Corporate Training days, usually in Minffordd Yard, with some of the FR's vast wagon stock. Lilla looks at home bustling around with short trains of slate wagons - after all, it's what she's been doing for more than a century!


To see even more pictures of Lilla than the ones below, visit the Lilla Picture Gallery.


Contact Sam Miller, Chairman of the Lilla Group: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it




Lilla was built in 1891 by the Hunslet Engine Company of Leeds. Hunslets had carved a niche, specializing in industrial and narrow gauge engines, having a Works photo of Lilla"special relationship" with the Welsh quarries supplying 50 similar locomotives between 1870 and 1932. Seven more went to customers outside Wales. Although the basic design was similar, there were detail variations and Lilla is unique. The Chief Draughtsman  was probably Arthur Hird.  
Lilla's work began at Cilgwyn Slate Quarry in the Nantlle valley, Gwynedd. She is larger than most quarry engines - her predecessor Queenie, a small Bagnall engine, had found the tight curves on the "tip road", a struggle.

She took her name from Lilla Margaret Hayward - also known as Peggy - who was the fourth of five children of William Hayward (a managing partner) and his wife Matilda Kinsey. Peggy was born in Caernarfon in 1861 and died a spinster at Buxton in 1932. Lilla's work involved hauling trains of rock unsuitable for processing, from the working face to the tips, Lilla at work in Cilgwyn Quarryunder the control of regular driver William Williams of Grugan. Lilla worked with a larger loco at Cilgwyn, Jubilee 1897, which had been built next door to Hunslets, by Manning Wardle. By 1928, both were surplus and were sold to Penrhyn Slate Quarry, Bethesda, Gwynedd. Lilla was purchased for £150 and arrived at Penrhyn on 21st May 1928. 

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In the Service of His Lordship

Penrhyn, at Bethesda, was the largest slate quarry in the world and had been a regular Hunslet customer, employing many of their small locomotives in the system of terraced "galleries" on the mountainside. Three Hunslets to a larger design worked the Penrhyn Quarry Railway, which conveyed the slates to Port Penrhyn, six miles away. Lilla was about to be promoted to the status of a "main line" loco.

The quarry was at full stretch. There was a sales boom for roofing slates and, in the mid 1920s, heavy investment in a new plant to produce Fullersite. This powdered slate product, used with bitumen to make asphalt, was expected to boost traffic considerably, as many roads were being surfaced at the time. Three wartime locos by Baldwin of America had been purchased; they were not a success. After much effort to make the Baldwins steam and stop them de-railing on tight curves, the Locomotive Superintendent began a search for a second-hand replacements (preferably by Hunslet!); thus Lilla came to work for Lord Penrhyn.

At Coed y Parc workshops, Lilla was re-gauged from 1ft 11 1/2ins to 1ft 10 3/4 ins. and repainted in black with pale blue and red lining. Lilla often shared the Port Penrhyn engine-shed on the Menai Straits. Her duties involved hauling train loads of empty wagons back uphill to the quarry, returning with fully loaded trains of split slates or bagged Fullersite. Occasionally, she may also have hauled the workmen's "commuter" train of wooden open carriages. By the early 1930s, the slump had reduced Fullersite sales to a small proportion of those predicted, so by 1935, the original mainline fleet was adequate and Lilla was taken up the incline to Red Lion Level in the quarry. This vast level employed 7 steam locomotives at the time. Lilla's duties included moving waste rock to the tips, good slate to the mills and marshalling train loads of sawn and split slates for despatch to the Port. In August 1939, her black livery was modified with new lining-out in brown and red. She was laid-up from December 1946 to May 1948 but otherwise continued to work Red Lion Level until the mid 1950s. On 1st February 1955, following a successful boiler test, Lilla was placed in store as a serviceable spare. The engine's last duties at Penrhyn were in May 1957. 

"Hello Knebworth!"

The Penrhyn Quarry Railway closed in 1962 as road transport began to replace rail. Although the future for Penrhyn's remaining fleet of steam locomotives looked bleak, remarkably, they all found new homes. Lilla's saviour was J Bernard Latham. In 1963 he acquired the engine and moved it to his home in Woking, Surrey. Repainted dark blue, with nutmeg brown frames and scarlet lining, Lilla was back in steam by 1972 and was about to "do the rounds" of the preserved railway scene.

Ideally suited to small pleasure railways, Lilla's "UK tour" began in the famous grounds of Knebworth House. She worked on the Knebworth West Park and Lilla in blue livery at Kew Bridge museumWinter Green Railway, then later at the Kew Bridge Steam Museum in London and visited the West Lancs. Railway. However, after all her travels beyond the border, Lilla must have felt  the "hiraeth" (homesickness, or the longing to return to Wales), as her next move would be to the Bala Lake Railway. Her gauge had by now reverted to the original 1ft. 11 1/2ins. and livery to the earlier Penrhyn black.

Not one to miss the party, Lilla arrived at the Ffestiniog Railway, Porthmadog, Gwynedd in 1993, to join in the Hunslet Hundred, the centenary celebrationsLilla at Boston Lodge on the evening before the Hunslet Hundred Gala - the visit from which there was no return for her two former colleagues on the Penrhyn Railway, Blanche and Linda. This glorious gala of Hunslet engines also saw a re-union with Charles from Penrhyn Castle Museum. Lilla was of course, by this time 102 years old! Despite her age, Lilla was still a sprightly performer and proved to be a bit of a "stop-out". Indeed she never went home! The Ffestiniog was to become Lilla's new railway. With money raised by the Lilla Group, a small band of supporters, the engine was acquired and presented to the FR in 1997. Lilla is now based at their Boston Lodge Works, alongside her former Penrhyn shed-mates. 

Project Lilla

Thanks to the efforts of the Lilla Group, the loco joined the Ffestiniog Railway fleet in 1997. Unlike the highly polished and much modified, mainline FR Hunslets, Lilla retained the original appearance of a hard-worked quarry engine. Sadly, this reflected her mechanical condition. The riveted water tank bore a Profile view of Lilla at Boston Lodgeheavy welded patch. Perhaps most amazingly, the boiler barrel was the one it carried on leaving the factory in 1891!  The firebox had been replaced by one built at Andrew Barclay's works in Kilmarnock in August 1939. As built, Lilla would have carried large wooden dumb-buffers faced with iron plates, plus sanding gear and a roof-mounted whistle. Throughout its time at Cilgwyn, Lilla carried only one injector to feed water into the boiler, on the fireman's (left) side. On the driver's side, a crosshead pump performed the same function so long as the engine kept moving. At Penrhyn, a second injector replaced the crosshead pump. Lilla also received a new smokebox and door, along with a new chimney. Central sprung-buffer/couplers were fitted and the whistle moved to the cab front.

A new smokebox was fitted in post-industrial service. However, by the time she was acquired by the Lilla Group, she needed heavy maintenance; funds were raised for a rebuild. New pistons and rings were fitted during the winter of 1998/9. A mechanical lubricator was added, although the loco retains its original Roscoe displacement type on the tank-front. It was realized that Lilla could be an ambassador for the railway as a guest loco to visit other lines, as well as pulling shuttle trains at FR Galas. To allow passenger train working, a concealed vacuum brake ejector was fitted in 2000. Lilla visited the Welsh Highland Railway (Caernarfon) for the Vintage event in September 2001; later appearing at the WHR (Porthmadog) in June 2004 to celebrate their 40th anniversary.

The original boiler expired in October 2004 and Lilla was stripped down at Boston Lodge for chassis maintenance. With similar 'Large Mills' class Jerry M in the background, Lilla stands at Porthmadog in May 2008 with the new Boston Lodge built boilerThe FR's Boston Lodge workshop won the job of designing and constructing the new boiler.  Lilla was re-assembled and tested during 2008. By May Bank Holiday, she was able to star in another photo-shoot, as guest Hunslet locomotive Jerry M (ex Dinorwic Quarry, Llanberis) joined Lilla and fellow former Nantlle quarries engine Britomart in steam at Harbour Station, Porthmadog.

Lilla is helpful on the FR, providing "drive-an-engine" experience runs, "Slate Shunts" and Corporate Training days, usually in Minffordd Yard, with some of the FR's vast wagon stock. Lilla looks at home bustling around with short trains of slate wagons - after all, it's what she's been doing for more than a century!



Lilla's vital statistics

Completed: November 1891 by Hunslet Engine Co., Leeds. Maker's number 554. Order number 13760. Cost £150. Wheel arrangement: 0-4-0ST (saddle tank)
Wheelbase: 4ft. 6ins
Wheel diameter: 2ft 2ins
Cylinders: 8 1/2ins. x 14ins
Boiler pressure: 130 psi (originally 120psi)
Tractive Effort (at 75% boiler pressure): 3,793lb
Weight: 10tons 15cwt
Length: 16ft 11ins
New boiler designed and built Ffestiniog Railway, Boston Lodge Works 2007; serial BLB1


Click here to visit the Lilla Picture Gallery.


Contact Sam Miller, Chairman of the Lilla Group:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Registered Office: Ffestiniog Railway Society, Harbour Station, Porthmadog. Gwynedd. LL49 9NF
Registered Charity no: 1064178.  Company Limited by Guarantee no: 542449.
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