General Freight Waggon
Photos of one of the originals for this type of early waggon were the inspiration for volunteers to make a start on construction, along with the promise of funding from the FR Society. Joinery was straightforward but the waggon required brand new wheelsets of a particular pattern and inside bearing journals. The wheels were cast using an original FRCo pattern, a second set being cast for use under the replica Mk2 quarrymen’s carriage. The waggon was completed in 2012 and turned out in a deep purple maroon livery, based upon paint discovered on an old slate waggon bobbin similar to that used on the Victorian passenger carriages. The choice of colour was also partly inspired by the nickname the waggon had acquired. The old photograph that inspired the project shows one of the two waggons of this type at Minffordd, loaded with large barrels which has led to the replica being dubbed ‘the beer waggon’, a nickname that has stood the test of time. It has spent some time, loaded with appropriate barrels and has delivered full barrels, from the Purple Moose Brewery, to Spooner’s bar for a Vintage Weekend. In August 2013 the waggon spent a week at the Great British Beer Festival at Olympia, London in the company of Prince to promote both brewery and the F&WHR.
Two of the original Brown, Marshalls 4-wheeled carriages of 1864 were completely open. They were later rebuilt with huge, fixed, glazed windows, one either side of a full height door. With only one droplight per side (against three in a closed third class vehicle, or five in the first class coaches as built), additional ventilation was provided by a series of three circular ventilators high up on the vehicle ends (giving rise to the -porthole' bugbox name) together with a further prominent ventilator mounted on the roof. The 'porthole' bugboxes were still fully enclosed in the early 1900s but had lost their large glazed windows and droplights in the doors before WW1. From the side, in appearance they were then similar to the previously converted semi-opens Nos. 1 & 2. However, the prominent circular openings on the ends made them very distinctive. Photographs of these two vehicles during the Colonel Stephens era show that they had been renumbered again, to Nos. 11 & 12. Both these survived into the new administration in 1954, one becoming what is now known as the flying bench and the other being scrapped after a side fell out. The latter one could have been saved.
However, having rebuilt most of the other types of these vehicles it was felt that a Port-hole bugbox was needed to complete the set.
The aim of this project was to recreate semi-open "porthole" bugbox No. 12. Two 'porthole' bugbox doors survive, one each from Nos. 11 and 12 and it was planned to refurbish them and use them for this carriage. The finished vehicle incorporates a set of steel underframes built a number of years ago, in common with most other bugboxes in service but, externally, the carriage appears as it is seen in photographs taken between the wars.
"Team X" and other carriage works volunteers carried out the work during their regular monthly working parties. As the project approached completion it was hoped that it would make a debut appearance in time for the FR Vintage Weekend 2011. Unfortunately the project leader suffered an accident, and “Team X” were diverted to other work during 2011, so this was not possible.
No.12 did, however, enjoy its moment of glory exactly 12 months later, during the vintage weekend of 2012.
Replica Ashbury carriage
A recent project created a replica of a 4-wheeled Ashbury carriage although the Group was not directly involved with funding this. None of the originals survived into the preservation era and the last were used as station buildings on the Welsh Highland Railway. The replica was financed from funds left over from the building of the single Fairlie, Taliesin.
Double arm signal
The group has installed a dummy double arm signal at Tan-y bwlch, which is shown here together with the restored gravity train to which the Group has also had some input. This signal does not form part of the Railway’s signalling but is just to show a feature that once existed on the line. It is hoped to install other, similar signals elsewhere on the railway possibly at Penrhyn and especially at Minffordd near the replica down platform shelter.
Minffordd down platform shelter
The shelter took over ten years in planning and fund raising. It replicates as far as possible an earlier shelter demolished in 1956 although some modifications were made to help it survive the rigours of the Welsh climate. It was finished in spring 2002 and was later shortlisted in the National Railway Heritage Awards 2002.
Tent for the Bench
The photo on the right shows David Newham's model of one of the original eight four-wheeled carriages ordered by the FR from Brown, Marshall and Co of Birmingham in the summer of 1863 and delivered early the following year. Collectively they were the first carriages to carry fare paying passengers on the narrow gauge and are now thought to be the oldest carriages anywhere still in regular use.
By the late 1880s or early 1890s the completely open pair had undergone drastic rebuilds, emerging with enclosed bodies of the same overall dimensions as the other Brown, Marshalls.
When the railway was taken over in 1954, this vehicle required drastic attention and remained in store until the Midland group of the Ffestiniog Railway Society took it away for a full rebuild in 1967. Having discovered the evidence of its original low ends when the panelling was removed, the decision was taken to restore it to original fully open condition, although without its awning. It was returned to the railway in 1970 but the re-build from semi-open to completely open meant that it was unsuitable for ordinary service. In the 1990s permission was given by the HMRI for it to run again for special events providing a suitably competent person was in charge of it. However, a combination of a few fairly minor faults and the need top roster someone to be in charge has meant that it has not run for some time.
It has been a Heritage Group aspiration for some time to recreate the 'tent' and awnings on this vehicle to restore its authentic appearance. Research was done to ascertain how the awning would have been fitted (and suitably tensioned), with drawings and a working model produced. Volunteers have taken on the task of restoring the vehicle to its original appearance, and additionally strengthening the original wooden underframes with steel inserts. The open carriage itself (the 'flying bench') was re-liveried to match the rest of the Victorian train and the whole tent assembly unveiled somewhat appropriately at the FR's Quirks and Curiosities event in May 2010.
Our first Group Chairman, Michael Seymour, wanted to see a replica of "The Boat", a whimsical gravity inspection vehicle used by the Spooner family in the 19th century. The original came to a sticky end when its owner disobeyed his own rules and crashed into an up train. When Michael died a few years ago he left money to build a replica. After intensive, last minute efforts, it was ready to make an appearance at the Vintage Weekend 2005 as shown in the photo. Since then, completion of the braking system and improved sail arrangements mean the Boat has made several appearances at FR events, culminating in its starring role at the FR's Quirks and Curiosities event in May 2010, where it sailed across the Cob successfully in both directions and also managed a non-stop journey of the entire FR mainline using gravity and wind power (along with a small amount of manual effort near Tan y Grisiau).
Disc signal restoration
The project to restore the line’s disc signals continues to run in the background. A broken post was repaired and the whole reassembled by the Old Engine Shed at Boston Lodge in time for the 2005 Vintage Weekend. The next job was to remove the two which remained in position near Minffordd and Penrhyn. They are being refurbished and will be re-erected. Further signals will also be rebuilt - see Current Projects.
Iron bogie wagon
Around fifteen years ago, the group was involved in restoring the 6-wheeled “Iron bogie” which is actually a simplification of the unsuccessful Cleminson design. This needed dismantling, cleaning, painting and refurbishment of all moving parts. It also required the replacement of the floor. One potential final job, yet to be done, is the provision of a corrugated iron roof as it once carried.