Next year is a very special year – it is 150 years since the introduction of steam power on the Ffestiniog Railway.
In 1863 the Ffestiniog Railway began the use of steam locomotives built in London by George England, to haul trains of empty slate wagons from the harbour at Porthmadog to the quarries of Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Two were named Prince and Princess, reflecting widespread public interest in the marriage of the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, to Princess Alexandra of Denmark, one Palmerston after the then Prime Minister, who was also an investor in one of the Ffestiniog slate quarries, and a fourth Mountaineer, reflecting the rugged terrain over which the railway operates.
Built barely more than 30 years after Stephenson's Rocket, the George England locos are the oldest surviving narrow gauge locomotives in the world. Remarkably, after 150 years, four of the six built still survive, two of them in regular use.
All four locomotives will feature prominently in a series of celebratory events being organised both at the railway and around the country. Dates for these events are as follows:
March 1st: St. David's Day - Princess commences a six week period on display at Paddington Station, London.
April 13th - 14th: Prince in steam at the London Transport Museum Open Weekend - Acton, London.
April 27th: Mountaineer at the 16mm Association National Garden Railway Show - Peterborough.
May 3rd - 6th: Steam 150 Gala - Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways.
May 10th - 12th: Lyd at the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway Spring Gala - Woody Bay.
May 17th - 19th: Rail Ale - Welsh Highland Railway.
August 9th - 10th: Prince at the Shrewsbury Flower Show.
September 6th -8th: Super Power - Welsh Highland Railway.
September 14th - 15th: Lilla at the Birkenhead Festival of Transport.
October 11th - 13th: Vintage Weekend - Ffestiniog Railway.
Further details of these events will be made available in due course, so please keep checking festrail.co.uk for more information.