When narrow gauge railways are compared, the Ffestiniog Railway is perhaps the one that enthusiasts and tourists alike would highlight as rather special. Scenery, carriages, history and professionalism all play a part but if there is one thing that makes the Ffestiniog different from all other narrow gauge railways, it is the use of the articulated Fairlie locomotive.
The ‘new’ James Spooner
This paragraph is as true today as it was when it was used 15 years ago to introduce the appeal to give Merddin Emrys two new bogies, thus allowing the railway to run three double engines. A lot has happened since then. All of the Fairlies now run on new bogies, as our front line locomotives are heavily used and the last two Old Company bogies proved difficult to maintain. It’s worth noting that, as the average train length in 2016 was over nine carriages, we do need the power of our double Fairlies.
This heavy use and an ageing boiler, means that the Earl of Merioneth needs a lot of work to stay in service, including a new boiler, new tanks and a new cradle, in fact so much needs doing that the Company has decided that it will construct a new locomotive superstructure, to bear the name James Spooner, and lay the Earl to one side. In fact this will be as easy, and actually a quicker, way to get a third double engine back in service.
The Society has taken up the challenge of funding the new boiler so that the Company can get the job done as soon as possible. We have made a good start and have allocated funds from recent legacies to good effect. However we need your help to close the gap and ensure we are fully funded.
Over the years, when a locomotive leaves service for an extended period, various components tend to be removed for use on the rest of the fleet. No doubt various parts of the Earl would relocate to James Spooner but this is far from satisfactory. Apart from the fact that these components are frequently worn they are sometimes not ideal for their new role, so it would be much better to provide new valves, gauges, gauge glasses, etc .
All these additional bits will cost money and this is where you come in! We are launching an appeal that will allow the Ffestiniog Railway Society to ensure that the new James Spooner is a completely new locomotive, without having to strip the Earl of the older components. Donations of all sizes are welcome but please give generously. …..and there is a possible future bonus, four double Fairlies.
To sponsor a particular part, the list of items for James Spooner Sponsorship is available here.