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Princess with two traditional loco headlamps - © FR ArchivesSeveral years ago, while still Group Chairman, Jim Hewett remarked upon the anachronism presented by the use of BR style headlamps on vintage FR locos when the railway had once used rather magnificent examples of the lamp makers art, of a style very similar to those used by the LNWR. The Committee agreed that it would be desirable to provide authentic lamps for all the genuine and replica vintage locos in the FR’s operating fleet; Prince, Palmerston, Taliesin, Merddin Emrys and Dafydd Lloyd George. Subsequently this was amended to include lamps for the museum exhibits Princess and Livingston Thompson and to consider lamps for Welsh Pony, should the need ever arise.

The original headlamp donated by Mike Sharman - © Adrian GraySome time was spent casting around for a manufacturer, without much success and the potential project dipped in and out of the committee’s attention for several years. One obstacle to authentic oil lamps was a requirement in the modern FR Rule Book that locomotives should carry either a white bodied lamp, to give contrast with dark liveries and smokeboxes, or a light of sufficient brightness, for the safety of pedestrians on the Cob and workers beside the line elsewhere. Traditional FR lamps had black bodies and used oil flares, neither of which satisfied the Rule Book; so the project remained in abeyance.

Side view of the original headlamp donated by Mike Sharman - © Adrian GrayIn due course Jim conceived, and then built, a lamp unit to fit into a BR lamp body that employed an LED cluster powered by rechargeable batteries. The result was extraordinary; the LEDS gave such a bright light that it illuminated the line ahead, though that was not the intention, and demonstrated that a solution might be found to the safety case required by the Rules. The BR lamp fitted with the LED unit became the loco headlamp of choice with FR crews and other LED units were built to equip the other lamps in use.

Shortly afterwards, contact was established with the Hetherington Lamp Company, a long established company under new management which specialised in constructing lamps to traditional designs. Fortunately a pair of FR lamps still survived in the Museum collection and, though they had been rather butchered to serve as level crossing lamps at Penrhyn at some time in the past, they were good enough to be used as patterns for the essential design criteria; square body with top chimney, side door, LNWR style spigot mounting and, crucially, spectacle glasses front and back. Some careful study of old photographs confirmed that these were, indeed, white at the front and red at the rear. The lamps were sent on loan and FRHG placed an order for an initial pair, to be built for testing under working conditions. These arrived at Boston Lodge on 9th January 2012 and bespoke, rechargeable, LED units were soon constructed. The lamps have since travelled many miles Up and Down the FR, frequently on Palmerston but, also, gracing both Taliesin and Merddin Emrys from time to time, and have proved themselves sufficiently durable. The LED units were as successful as those for the BR pattern lamps, giving a strong, bright, light that was adjudged to satisfy the requirements of the Rule Book.

Inscription on an original headlamp donated by Mike Sharman - © Adrian GrayAt the same time as the order for the first pair of lamps was placed FRHG launched an appeal inviting individuals, or groups, to sponsor one or more replica lamps for the various locomotives and were very pleased by the excellent response. Andy Savage sponsored lamps for Taliesin, Dee & Mersey Group for Prince, London Area Group for Merddin Emrys and a family who wish to remain private made a memorial donation to provide lamps for Dafydd Lloyd George. When it was learned that Princess would be going out on tour the Group Committee agreed to allocate all the minor donations received and make up the funds, as required, to provide lamps for the Old Lady.

Using materials funded by FRHG Dave High has welded up lamp sockets, to accept the spigots on the lamps, for all relevant locomotives.

The exception is, of course, Livingston Thompson, on display in York and surely deserving of being properly equipped. It was been thought that having the two lamps in the Museum collection refurbished would provide for Livingston Thompson. However, inspired by the trials of the first pair of lamps Mark Hoofe, a loco headlamp collector, generously donated one of two genuine FR lamps from his collection back to the FR. It has suffered over time and requires some restoration but, once that is done this lamp, being a genuine FR artefact, will be placed on Livingston Thompson at the NRM in York. Just one of the Museum lamps will be sent to York.

In a further extraordinary development another lamp collector, Mike Sharman, was also moved to donate another genuine lamp back to the FR that needs no more restoration than re-fixing of the red spectacle. This lamp, however, is really rather special as it bears the legend ‘James Spooner, No.8, Festiniog Railway’ scratched into its paintwork in beautiful copperplate script! It is, therefore, too important to be displayed anywhere but Harbour station; besides, we don’t have a James Spooner anymore. Well, not yet!

One of the original sentry box brake vansThe recreation of this characterful looking early vehicle has been progressing steadily at Boston Lodge as a volunteer project.

Progress in January 2011: the underframe being shunted.The underframe has been designed to incoporate a steel frame and this was fabricated then assembled in the erecting shop. In late 2010 this steel assembly was united with the wooden chassis components along with the machined axleboxes and wheels to form a rolling chassis.

Since then framing and panelling for the bodywork have been made and erected dry several times. Couplings and brake gear have been made and fitted and ironwork for the body is being gathered together as time and resources allow.

Progress in Autumn 2010: bodywork repairs largely complete.Restoration continues on the first batch of the waggons purchased from one of the quarries in Blaenau Ffestiniog. Extensive bodywork repairs have been undertaken using as much original material as possible. Authentic construction techniques such as hot riveting have been used throughout, mainly by a young enthusiastic team of volunteers so that traditional skills as well as waggons are preserved.

Restored slate waggons - © Will HighThe expensive components required for this project to make significant progress, new wheels, axles and couplings, were acquired in 2010 with the assistance of a £40k grant from the Festiniog Railway Society and £5k from FRHG funds. The young volunteers have continued their work, while engaged in summer work at Boston Lodge for the last two years and have made significant progress with both putting new components on waggons already restored, to keep them safe for use and adding to the fleet.

More restored slate waggons - © Will HighThe work of this team of younger volunteers was honoured in 2012 by the award of the FR Heritage Group’s Livingston Thompson Trophy at the Group’s AGM.

It is now recognised that restoring every last one of the Maenofferen waggons is unlikely, some being in such poor condition, so a grading and prioritisation process has been carried out.

Further work was carried out to finish and upgrade the restored wagons over the summer of 2013, with the result that 10 of the Maenofferen waggons 3 LNWR, 2 GWR and 5 FR waggons have been added to the fleet available for gravity trains and special events.

Mark 2 quarrymen's carriage (Photo: FR Archives)Recreation of one of the earlier types of quarrymen’s carriages has been a long-held ambition. The original Mk2s were taken out of service about 1890 and several became a line side huts for the P.Way department. One survived and has been preserved for eventual display; it will not be restored to traffic.

The replica Mk 2 quarrymens in late August 2013 - © Norman BondWith chassis materials in hand a successful application was made for funds for timber to create the bodywork. These components were subsequently machined in SE England and then transported to Wales where the main bodywork was assembled as a project during Kids' Training Week in August 2009. At this point the project stalled as authentic running gear did not exist until the production of new components could be piggy-backed on to the ‘beer waggon’ project. In August 2013 the body was taken into Boston Lodge for volunteers to fit the running gear and couplings and complete details of the bodywork. Material for the roof is still required and will be ordered as soon as a supplier has been identified.

Original-style milestone at Minffordd (Photo: Jim Hewett)The Dee & Mersey Group of the FR Society have been replicating original milestones in their original locations.

One of the original disc signals above Penrhyn (Photo: Robert Bishop)Replica disc signals are being erected at authentic locations around the Cob, Boston Lodge, Minffordd, Penrhyn and Tan y Bwlch. Two original posts still in situ were removed from site in 2010 and subsequently assessed. Work continues to restore these signals and it is hoped they will be complete during 2011. With a view to erecting more signals, more brand new brackets and platforms have been cast in iron, the latter needing a new pattern to be made. Two original posts have also been recovered from storage at a local farm. It is to be hoped that a pattern can be made from one of these before it is erected so that even more signals can be restored in the future.


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