Steam locomotive James Spooner II (No.8) – Project Information

No.8 "James Spooner" One Year Old // Credit Lets Go Loco website

Returning back to another narrow gauge New Build Project, this week, we look at the project to build a new “James Spooner”, based on the original engine that used to operate on the Ffestiniog Railway (FR).

Before looking at the history and construction of the new James Spooner, we will first look at the original James Spooner’s History.

History of James Spooner

No.8 "James Spooner" in 1887 // Credit R. H. Bleasdale
No.8 “James Spooner” in 1887 // Credit R. H. Bleasdale

Built-in 1872 by Avonside Engine Company, No.8 “James Spooner” became FR’s second ‘Double Fairlie’. Experience gained with the line’s first double Fairlie was used in the designing stage of James Spooner, being used to improve FR’s double Fairlie design. James Spooner’s design later became the starting point for further engines to be built for use on FR.

Although James Spooner was an improvement on “Little Wonder”, the line’s first double Fairlie, the engine received a number of repairs and modifications before the first rebuild. Repairs include new sand pots and mending the cracked frame, while modifications included new lubricators, more sand pots, new holes in the wheels, full cab and handrails.

In 1889 a new boiler was fitted, but due to poor construction, it meant James Spooner spent a lot of time undergoing repairs to its boiler between 1889 and 1907. During this time, the engine carried its second boiler, a new cab and tanks were fitted, along with buffer and bogie repairs due to a collision.

1907 saw James Spooner’s receive its third boiler, with slightly different dimensions to the previous boiler. This rebuild saw cost-cutting measures by utilising existing patterns, such as the new cylinders, cast to design used on “Livingston Thompson”. Most of the third boiler’s tubes had been previously been used in Livingston Thompson.

Decline and scrapping

The third boiler suffered one major flaw, it didn’t feature rubbing plates. The impact of this was the boilerplate that sat on the cradle had worn through. Attempts to fix this had failed, with James Spooner being broken up. Most parts were scrapped and a few surviving on other engines.

Background to James Spooner II

The project was announced in March 2016, with the new engine being a replacement for “Earl of Merioneth”, which is due to be withdrawn from traffic soon. More information on its ‘farewell’ run can be found here

The new engine will carry the name “James Spooner” and be number 8, just like the original engine. An appeal was launched to fundraise for the project, with the main aim being to raise enough funds to build and purchase new parts, rather than use parts from Earl of Merioneth. The less components are taken from Earl of Merioneth, the easier it will be for a possible overhaul in the future.

Progress so far

New Boiler Barrels for New “James Spooner” // Credit Welsh Highland Railway

Good progress has been made on building the new boiler for the engine at FR’s Boston Lodge workshop, with a combination of both welding and riveting being used to construct the boiler.

Currently, only the power bogies and cab fittings will come from Earl of Merioneth. Some original components from the first James Spooner are still in use today. It’s hoped a few of these can be used in the new engine.

The latest news on the project is the Compute Aided Design (CAD) drawings have been completed and all the parts required to built the new James Spooner are at Boston Lodge. This is a big milestone in the project, which should hopefully enable FR to complete the engine by 2020.

It has come to end of this week’s Project Information. Don’t worry, we will be back again next week with another project. For further information or to support the project, please visit the Ffestiniog Railway’s website here

Missed last week’s Project Information? You can find it here

  • […] No. 8 James Spooner II – currently under construction. James Spooner II will be the newest Double Fairlie and is currently under construction at the Boston Lodge Works. It is estimated that James Spooner II will enter service in 2020. It replaces Earl of Merioneth who has already been withdrawn. Latest news is that the boiler construction has begun. You can read more on this locomotive in the Project Information here. […]