An update on steam locomotive James Spooner

James Spooner frames
Credit: Paul Lewin

The Ffestiniog Railway has released an update on the work progressing to build the brand new Double Fairlie steam locomotive, James Spooner.

Five years ago, the Ffestiniog Railway Company decided to build a new double Fairlie locomotive to keep hauling the long and heavy trains which are a regular feature of the railway these days.

Work started with the design of a new boiler to replace one of two fifty-year-old boilers, which was built by Hunslet in 1969. The third boiler, which is currently fitted to David Lloyd George, is now approaching 25 years old. The aim of this is to mitigate the risks involved with running locomotives that are so old.

Designed at Boston Lodge, the new boiler has been under construction for more than two years at Powys Steel Fabrications. The sub-assemblies of the boiler were brought to Boston Lodge in October and have been welded together as a result in the past month.

Work staff are about to complete the riveting of the foundation ring and tubing the boiler. A hydraulic test is there expected early 2020.

The cradle frame, which is the frame that carries the boiler, was fabricated over the course of the last year. More recently, the final parts including the reversing gear and brake rigging have been completed.

The frame which the boiler will be mounted on is the 1986 bogies from withdrawn locomotive ‘Earl of Merioneth’. These are now ready to accept the completed boiler.

The superstructure for the locomotive has been designed by volunteer Dominic Wells using modern CAD software.

At the end of November, 3.5tons of steel profile were scheduled for delivery at Boston Lodge. Space has been cleared ready for the major exercise that will see the new locomotive taking shape of quite quickly.

In addition to all this work, the machine shop has been building the myriad of components needed. For example, the regulator ‘J’ pipes were on the horizontal borer at the same time as handrail knobs were being produced. Meanwhile, the rather fetching stove pipe chimney castings are weathering out in the yard.

It is hoped that the locomotive will be in service in 2020, but this is based on whether the team keep attention on the locomotive whilst keeping the current fleet in order.

2020 will see the 150th anniversary of the trials of the first Ffestiniog Fairlie ‘Little Wonder’ so it seems fitting that the works are fully taken up with the Fairlies at this time.

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