Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways

November 18th 2014

Progress report on the restoration of Welsh Pony

Somehow other engines always managed to jump the queue and even Palmerston, thought for many years to be little more than scrap, has made its way back into service.

The locomotive has only left Wales once when it was displayed at a model railway exhibition in Birmingham in 1963. Last in traffic in 1938 the engine was withdrawn when its 1915 boiler, built by Adamson, was suffering serious firebox problems. Even as early as 1887 Welsh Pony was recorded as having achieved no fewer than 280,000 miles. By 1938 it had probably travelled a distance equivalent to going to the moon and back.

Welsh Pony was no stranger to the Welsh Highland Railway and many photos show the loco in traffic there. Sadly there is no one left alive that can remember working with the locomotive. 

Stored at Boston Lodge close to the sea for many years and then mounted on a plinth outside Harbour Station again exposed to the elements, the 72 years the engine has spent out of service have not been at all kind. Since removal from public display in 2002 the locomotive has been difficult to access and often stored at Glan y Pwll yard in Blaenau, not always under cover.

It is hard to imagine any heritage railway owning an original machine built for the line and not making strenuous efforts to conserve or restore it. 

In 2010 members of the Ffestiniog Railway Society were asked for their opinion on the future of this locomotive. The replies were overwhelmingly in favour of restoring the loco to service.

The loco back will eventually be back in traffic alongside fellow England locos Prince and Palmerston, which will put the Ffestiniog Railway in the unique position of having the world's three oldest steam locos in regular service on their original railway.

Current Progress

Welsh Pony is currently 'a kit of parts' having been fully dismantled over recent months. Initial checks on some of the key components have revealed the true extent of the corrosion present. 

It has been decided to build a new boiler for the loco, due to the deterioration of the original boiler. This will be done at Boston Lodge, and will be a welded as opposed to the riveted construction of the original. 

The original frames are in poor condition, therefore new steel plates have been ordered from which replacement finished frames will be constructed. 

New cylinders are being cast using the original wooden patterns made in accordance with the drawings for Palmerston's cylinders. These historic patterns were already in stock at Boston Lodge, and a considerable amount of money has been saved by using them as opposed to having new patterns made.

All of the original components that can no longer be used will be kept for eventual display.

The wheelsets were found to be in good condition on original inspection, with plenty of tyre life left. The eccentrics are also thought to be serviceable.

Many other components have been catalogued ready for refurbishment and eventual use during the rebuild, including connecting rods, brake gear, motion brackets, outer frames, reverser and many other items.

The tank has been completely refurbished and the cab will also be re-used.

It's not too late to contribute towards the restoration - Please visit Welsh Pony's own website for details of how to donate.

Overview of frames which are badly corroded
Close up of corrosion affecting frames
Original cylinders suffering from corrosion
Newly painted tank in the paint shop
Original drawing for Palmerston's cylinders
Original cylinder patterns
Original riveted boiler
Wheelsets in good condition
A selection of components to be re-used

© Copyright 2018 by Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways