5.5mm Association

The Malcolm Savage Archive

A Trio of Englands

Scratchbuilt Festiniog Railway Stock

by Malcolm Savage

Photographs by the author.

Railway Modeller - Feb 1985

Reproduced courtesy of Railway Modeller

This is the first in a series of articles describing the locomotives and rolling stock of the Gwynant Valley Railway (Railway Modeller October 1984). Each will describe one or more locomotives and appropriate rolling stock. They will not be detailed descriptions, but will answer those questions that I am most frequently asked.

I will start with a group of three locomotives which includes models of two of the oldest narrow-gauge steam locomotives in the world, one of which is still working on the Festiniog Railway at 121 years of age. The other is being restored to working condition after many years of decay.

"Palmerston" making way with an up period passenger train on the author's 5.5mm scale (12mm gauge) Gwynant Valley Railway.

View of "Welsh Pony" standing over the inspection pit at the sheds on the GVR.

The Prototypes
In 1863 George England supplied the Festiniog Railway with its first four steam locomotives. They were 'Princess', 'Prince', 'Palmerston' and 'Mountaineer'. Three of these have been modelled, although only two models now survive - 'Mountaineer' was scrapped and replaced by 'Palmerston'. The second model is of 'Prince': 'Prince' is modelled as it was in the late 1950's and Palmerston' as it was when first built but with a later tender. The differences between the two models show the changes that took place over a period of 100 years, for originally 'Prince' would have looked like 'Palmerston'. In 1869 George England supplied a further two locomotives, 'Welsh Pony' and 'Little Giant'. The former is the subject of the third model. In the short period between the delivery of the first four locomotives and the second two, the water capacity of the locomotive's tanks had proved to be insufficient and the new engines were supplied with large saddle tanks. They were also provided with an extra six inches in the wheelbase to make them steadier. These two were also rebuilt a number of times, so that they eventually so closely resembled the earlier engines that the only obvious difference was the longer wheelbase. 'Welsh Pony' still survives and it is remotely possible that one day it may be restored and returned to active service again.

In 1865, shortly after the arrival of steam locomotives on the FR, passenger trains were introduced. For this service a number of very low four-wheeled coaches were provided, so low in fact that many people have wondered if they have any wheels at all. Not all of these coaches are strictly in keeping with each other as I have modelled some of them in a rebuilt condition - for example the two semi-open coaches were originally completely open. The brake van had a small hut perched on a balcony at one end for the guard. There was no access to the van from this balcony, the van part being strictly for luggage only.

Rear view of "Welsh Pony" shows the footplate and fittings to advantage.

The "new" hearse van, complete with urns.

Quarrymen had their own coaches, originally completely open, then partly enclosed with open doorways and finally completely enclosed but with only very small windows. Some of the open coaches were rebuilt to resemble the semi-open type. The second and third types have been modelled. A model of the unique hearse van has also been made. The prototype for this was converted from one of the semi-open quarrymen's coaches.

The Festiniog Railway had over two hundred goods wagons, nearly all of them different in some way. Only a small assortment of these has been built so far. All are models of actual prototypes apart from the cattle wagon. Drawings exist for this vehicle but it is doubtful if it was ever intended for the Festiniog Railway, as the drawings show it to be for 2'3" gauge. This assortment of wagons includes my first attempt at wagon building in Plastikard, the 4-ton goods wagon. This is now nineteen years old, but blends fairly well with the newest stock on the railway.

"Palmerston" in 1865 condition. Body from Plastikard, fittings in brass.

Construction of "Welsh Pony" happened in a very strange way - see text.

"Prince" is an unmodified GEM kit, powered by a K's motor bogie.

The Models
'Prince' is an unmodified GEM Mk111 kit which is powered by a suitably adapted K's motor bogie. GEM replaced the original motor bogie keeper plate with a new extended keeper plate which incorporated mounting brackets for the cylinders and the bottom of the firebox and drawbar at the rear. The Mk1 kit of 'Prince' had no connecting rods or crossheads and this kit has no coupling rods, but this is not immediately noticeable. The model has been fitted with new tender wheels and some added detail such as vacuum pipes, smokebox door handles, pipes and handrails, as well as my own couplings. This model is now approaching twenty years of age and is on its second chassis, having worn out the gears on the first.

The model of 'Mountaineer' contained so many errors that I eventually decided to rebuild it. Rather than build another 'Mountaineer' and in case I ever decided to build a model of the present locomotive carrying that name the new model was named 'Palmerston'. Following GEM's use of K's TT motor bogie, I obtained from K's a motor bogie fitted with 12mm spoked wheels. One of the errors in 'Mountaineer' was that the wheelbase scaled at 5' instead of 4'6", so at the rebuilding the opportunity was taken to reduce the wheelbase to the correct 4'6". The body of the locomotive and all of the tender were made from Plastikard, with only the boiler fittings, cab fittings, and handrails from metal, mostly brass.

'Welsh Pony' is a very unlikely rebuild of a 5mm scale model of the Leek and Manifold locomotive 'J. B. Earle'. My first layout had insufficient clearance for a 5.5mm scale model of this locomotive, hence the slightly smaller scale. It looked alright until I made the Tasmanian Garratt which dwarfed it, so it was scrapped. After removal of the centre axle, the mechanism, a K's TT motor bogie, was used to power 'Welsh Pony'. Construction of the model was very similar to that of'Palmerston' but in this case the bogie did not need shortening. The curved tops of the saddle tank, firebox and smokebox were made from sections of polystyrene syringes. This locomotive is now on its second tender, the first having been irreparably damaged in an accident a few years ago.

A set of six four-wheeled coaches was built to run with 'Palmerston' to show what a train of 1865 would have looked like. There is some doubt about the livery but it is thought that the first class coaches were painted purple and the second class red, although probably a darker red than I have painted them. I batch built these coaches apart from the brake van which, because of its different construction, was made separately. The sides and ends were cut-out, panelled with strips of Plastikard, painted, lettered and lined before the coaches were assembled. Each coach is built around a box which forms both the longitudinal seat and the chassis. The 9mm Jackson wheels run in plain plastic bearings which are now showing signs of elongation. The bodies were made of Plastikard that was too thin and they are beginning to warp; an unfortunate characteristic that other models have also developed, sometimes years after construction. The brake van was more robustly constructed and has survived better.

The quarryman's coaches were also built in batches, the later vehicles including some variation in the style of the body construction. The hearse van is a replacement of an earlier model that disintegrated. The models are made almost entirely of Plastikard with a few metal fittings. Each vehicle is a simple box with the addition of seats in the earlier version and windows in the later. The hearse van is more detailed than the rather crude coaches which are due for replacement some day.

There is little that can be said about the wagons, except that they too are rather crude and are also to be replaced with better models.

The yard holds the entire collection of goods vehicles, other than slate wagons.

Very colourful - the two four-wheeled observation coaches.

Third wagon is the first Plastikard vehicle author built. Second is its new replacement.