THE FESTINIOG RAILWAY.
(From The Times, December 25.)
THE resources of the Festiniog Railway have lately been increased by the addition of a secoud Fairlie locomotive of
the type of the "Little Wonder ;" and by some new rolling stock intended to accommodate the increased passenger
traffic of the summer season. The
engine, which is named the "James Spooner," has been built by the Avonside Company at Bristol, and made her trial trip on the line on Thursday. She
does not differ from the Little Wonder in any important respect, but has been improved upon in some minor details, among which should be mentioned a regulating apparatus, the contrivance of Mr. Percy Spooner, by means of which the driver can work the two engines either separately or in combination. On the 2 feet (or rather 1 foot 11¼ inches) gauge of the marvellous little railway the eugine descended from Duffws to Portmadoc, a distance of 14½ miles, at an average speed of thirty miles an hour ; and was pushed to a speed of fifty miles an hour on one portion of the journey. When passing at this rate over a straight linc, her course was as perfectly smooth as that of a tramway car, and only in going round the sharpest curves, curves of two chains radius or less, was the smallest oscillation perceptible to those standing either on the driving or on one of the bogie platforms. The slight oscillation then produced was not
a lo-aud-fro lateral movement of the
engine as a whole, like that of an ordinary locomotive, but an alternate rising and falling of the sides of the carrier
frame, and was supposed to be due to the elasticity of some indiarubber packing on which the frame is supported.
The engine being quite new, and hardly settled to her bearings, no attempt was made to test her traction power to the full extent ¡ but this will certainly not be inferior to that of the Little Wonder, which, weighing twenty tons herself, is able to draw a train a quarter of a mile in length, and weighing 213 tons, at the rate of ten miles an hour, up an uninterrupted ascent which averages 1 in 90, and reached 1 in 69 at its steepest part. So winding is the road that with a train of this length, the occupants of the last carriage only got a glimpse of the engine five times in the fourteen miles. In truth, the Festiniog Railway follows a course, much like that of a path cut for tourists in a mountainous country, bending round cliff sides, passing through deep cuttings, and overhung by frowning precipices.
The new passenger rolling stock, like the engine, is mounted on double bogies, each bogie platform having four wheels. The carriages are 6 feet wide, and 36 feet long over all ; aud are composite, containing first, second, and third class compartments. Each compartment holds six passengers comfortably. Before completing the superstructure, Mr. Spooner, the engineer of the line, tested the practicability of tbe carriages by running platforms of the same size, and he found that they made their way round the curves with perfect smoothness. For the goods traffic of the line, which consists of slates, coal, timber, and
general merchandise, he does not propose to alter the small waggons already in use, since the extraordinary facility with which they can bc moved and handled, and the small amount of non-payiug weight involved in their employment, arw found in practice to more than compensate for thw absence of great cubic capacity. When thw trials of thw day were over, Mr. Spooner entertained the visiters on thc occasion at dinner, and, in response to his health, entered somewhat fully into the question of thc utility of narrow-gauge railways. He said that be thought a gauge of 2 feet 6 inches was ample for every purpose lo which a railway could be
applied, aud that the diminution of the
dead weight of the rolling stock, by facilitating stoppage in cases of danger, would render high speeds more safe on such a line than on one of the ordinary gauge of 4 feet 8½ inches. Referring to the controversy now in progress with regard to thc future gauge of India, Mr. Spooner said that the supposed difficulty of carrying bulky goods, such as
unpressed cotton, on a narrow gauge was unreasonable. His own rolling stock was constructed with a view to a heavy traffic ; and would require modification for traffic of a different description. Hut be would uudcrtakc to carry on the Fcstiniog Railway as much unpressed cotton as could be carried on the Bombay
and Baroda, and that without the smallest difficulty or inconvenience. With regard to the break of gauge, it only wanted well-considered mechanical arrangements. His railways formed a sort of junction with the Cambrian railway at Minnford; and large quantities of coal and slate, not to speak of other merchandise, were interchanged between thc two lines. He found that two men, working steadily, could transfer 100 tons of coal per day from the Cambrian to the Fcstiniog trucks; so that the break of gauge added not more than one penny per ton to the price of coals in the district supplied by the latter railway way. In conclusion, he paid a warm tribute to the public services rendered by Mr. Fairlie, whose engines increased nearly threefold the carrying capacity of any line to which they were applied.
In Wales the gauge of the Festiniog railway is about to be much extended. A similar line will shortly be opened from Fortmadoc through Boddgelort to Bettwa-y-Coed, and others are projected in different directions, while twelve Fairlie engines, resembling the James Spooner, have already been ordered for the purpose of working them.