Posted by: travelrat | May 4, 2017

Push-me-pull-you: Unusual Railway Engines.


Merddin Emrys 1

The Ffestiniog Railway not only operated trains; it built them … indeed, still builds them … as well. A handful of their locomotives came from the Hunslet factory, in Leeds, via the defunct Penrhyn Railway; one, Mountaineer, was built in the United States, and came to Ffestiniog via the trenches of World War I.

The first engines came from the factory of George England & Co, but soon, the Ffestiniog was rolling out its own engines from its sheds at Boston Lodge, across the estuary from Porthmadog. Most notable of these were the strange-looking ‘double-enders’, the Double Fairlies.

In 1864, Robert Douglas Fairlie patented an idea. He believed that conventional steam locomotives lost a lot of efficiency, and he wanted to build an engine that operated as well in reverse as it did in forward. However, such an engine wouldn’t be able to negotiate tight turns, especially those on a narrow-gauge railway such as the Ffestiniog. So, instead of fixing the wheels to the chassis, they were carried on articulated power bogies. There were two of these, thus ‘Double Fairlie’.

FR Earl9

Despite the appearance, though, it’s not ‘two engines back to back’. There’s just a single boiler, running right through the cab, which means a rather restricted space for the crew. They want to get as far as possible from the firebox, but still keep any protruding body parts from hitting any trackside obstructions.

Although there have been a few Double Fairlies in use, both on the Ffestiniog and elsewhere, only three remain in service, all on the Ffestiniog. Merddin Emrys and David Lloyd George still provide sterling service; Earl of Merioneth is shortly to be taken out of service, to be replaced by James Spooner, which is under construction at Boston Lodge as I write. Another one, Livingston Thompson, is on static display at the National Rail Museum in York.

FR Lloyd George2

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