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  • SheffieldPark 19 Dec 2012 at 11:55
    "Eased off" curves is probably another way of saying "Transitioned Curves".

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10 corrections, most recently by GJReid-B.Sc.M.Mgmt. - Show corrections


The Festiniog Railway.

So much has at different times been written concern- ing the celebrated Festiniog Railway that there are probably but few who take an interest in such matters, who are not familiar with the general characteristics of the line. Hence we believe that the view (taken from a photograph) of part of the line, which we publish on the opposite page, will be regarded with much   interest. To those who have examined this miniature railway the view may serve as a reminder of a pleasant visit, while to those who have not inspected the   line personally, the sketch will serve to convey a more clear idea of some of its features than they could derive from any mere written description. Before say ing anything more ooncorning this particular view, is however, it may be desirable that we should-even though we necessarily reproduce some information previously published- give a general account of the Festiniog Railway and its rolling stock.

The Festiniog Railway is a single line of 1 ft. 11½ in. gauge, extending from the shipping port of Portmadoc in water, to some slate quarries at Dinas, in the   neighbourhood of Festiniog. Its length is 13½ miles, exclusive of a branch, about a mile long, leading to

Duffws. In the 13¼ miles, the

main line rises 700 ft, the rising gradients being continuous, but  

variable. For the first mile, being practically level, the inclusive nation is but 1 in 1343½. Exclusive of this flat portion of the line, the least gradient is 1 in 186, while the steepest is 1 in 68.69. The steepest gradient of any great length, however, is one of 79.82, which extends for about two and a half miles, while there is another of about the same length, of 1 in 85.22, and one, about two miles long, of 1 in 82.71. For a   length of twelve and a quarter miles the average gradient is 1

in 92.

Throughout almost its entire course the line is a series of curves varying in radius from 8 chains to as little as 1¾ chains, some of

the curves of the latter radius being 200 ft in length. The curves are all of the parabolic class, and have been laid out with great care, the extremities being eased off into the reversing curves or straight lines, and as a result,

the entrance of a train into a

curve or its passage from one curve to another is practically imperceptive. The result is, no doubt, due primarily to the adoption of the parabolic form for the   curve ; but its attainment also in no slight measure depends upon the admirable condition in which the permanent way is maintained, as well as upon the narrowness   of the gauge and the   short wheel base of the rolling stock.

The width of the line on   embankments is 10 ft. at formation level ; but in many of the cuttings there is a width of 8 ft.,  

and the olearance between the rock and the sides of the engines is excessively small. In the tunnels--of which there are two on the line, one 60 yards and the other 730 yards in length-- it is, if possible, still closer work, and in fact these tunnels, as they   at present stand, form a complete bar to any further enlargement of the rolling stock. The shorter tunnel passes through a slate formation, while the longer one, which is partly on a gradient of 1 in 85.22, and partly on one of 1 in 116.59, is cut through syenite. Neither of the tunnels are lined. A prominent feature on the line are the dry stone walls or embankments. The view shows a train passing over one of these walls, although it scarcely gives a fair idea of the narrowness nor height of the latter. In some cases the embankments or "breast walls," as they are locally called, instead of   being constructed to dry stone masonry throughout, are

formed of a pair of retaining walls filled in between with soil. The side batter is usually about 1 in 6. The culverts are of dry masonry, faced in mortar, and with the exception of one iron girder bridge, which crosses turnpike road, the under bridges are all of stone


In 1832, when the construction of the Festiniog Railway was commenced, it was intended that the line should merely be a tramway, on which the trains of loaded slate waggons should descend by gravity, while the empty trucks, or trucks loaded with coals or sundries, are hauled back by horses. This state of affairs continued until 1863, when, on the recom- mendation of Mr. C. E. Spoonor, the engineer of the line, locomotive power was adopted. During the autumn of 1864, passengers were carried by the company experimentally, without charge, and in the   following year the line was regularly opened for passenger traffic. These changes have, of course, necessitated a corresponding change in the permanent way. The rails originally used weighed but 16 lb. per yard, and these were subsequently replaced by others weighing 30 lb. per yard, most of which were laid more than eighteen years ago. These 30lb. rails have, how- ever, in their turn been found too light, and the line is now relaid for the greater part of its length with double-headed rails weighing 48.66 lb. per yard. The rails are fixed by strong chairs to 9 in. by 4½ in. larch cross sleepers, 4 ft. 6 in. long, and placed 3 ft apart from centre to centre, except at the joints, where the pitch is contracted to 2 ft. At each joint a frame is formed by placing two sleepers as longitudinals and the cross sleepers, and spiking the latter to them. This arrangement, combined with the use of a very stiff form of fish-plate made to embrace the bottom flange of the rails, enables the joints to be rendered very firm and even-an important matter in a narrow- gauge line worked at what are relatively very high speeds. In the course of last autumn the writer had the oppor- tunity of examining carefully long lengths in different parts of the Festiniog Railway, and was especially struck by the entire absence of even the slightest sign of subsidence in the ballast, or the least crack indi- cating a movement in the sleepers.

The Fairlie engine, 'Little Wonder,' has frequently traversed portions of it at speeds over 30 miles per


We have now to speak of the rolling stock. The two locomotives originally built for the line by Messrs. G. England and Co. in 1863, are four-wheeled engines, the wheels being 2 ft. in diameter and coupled. The wheel base is 5 ft. and the cylinders, which are outside, are 8 in. in diameter with 12 in. stroke. The weight of these engines in working order is 8 tons. Subsequently Messrs. England built five other engines of a similar class, two of them, however, being heavier and weigh- ing 10 tons in working order. One of the 10-ton engines will take up in ordinary work a train consisting of itself and tender, one first-class, one second-class, and one third-class carriage, a guard's brake-van, four goods waggons, and twenty-four slate waggons, these last being empty. The total gross weight of such train inclusive of engine and tender will be 55 tons, of which about 16 tons consist of passengers and goods carried. During the down journey the goods waggons being then empty and the slate waggons loaded, the total weight of the train will be about 93 tons, of which 54 tons is paying load carried.  

The year 1863 was marked by the introduction of the Fairlie-engine on the Festiniog Railway. The engine is mounted on two steam bogies, each bogie having four coupled wheels 2 ft. 4 in. in diameter. The wheel base of each bogie is 5 ft. and the total wheel base of the engine 19 ft., while the weight in working order is 19½ tons. Each bogie has a pair of cylinders 8 3-16 in. in diameter, with 13 in. stroke. In ordinary work  

this engine will take up a train consisting of three   carriages (first, second, and third class), a guard brake-van, six goods waggons, and 112 empty slate waggons, the total gross weight, inclusive of engine, being 127½ tons, of which about 21 tons will be pas- sengers and goods carried. On the down journey, when the slate trucks are loaded and the goods waggons empty, the total weight of engine and train is about 336½ tons, of which 230 tons are paying load.

Such train as that we have just mentioned as form- ing an ordinary load for the 'Little Wonder,' measures   over 1200 ft. in length, and on some parts of the line it is thus on three or more curves at once, the different

parts of the train being moving towards almost all points of the compass. Riding in one of the last waggons  

of such a train it is at times difficult for a stranger   to realize that the engine which he sees moving along the opposite side of a ravine in a direction almost    

exactly opposed to that in which he is travelling, can possibly have any connection with the vehicle in which he is carried. The engraving will give some-- although we fear but a faint idea of the appearance of these long trains. The view shows an ascending train of goods waggons, passenger carriages, and empty alate waggons, the front part of the train standing on one of the breast walls already referred to, while further back it extends round one of the 1¾ chain curves.  

Here again but a portion of the train is visible, the hinder part expending through the bridge shown on the left in the back ground of the illustration. The   line, in fact, forms such a succession of curves that it is almost impossible to obtain a point of view from which one of these long trains can be seen clearly

throughout its length.

It is not, however, for its hauling powor alone that   the Fairlie locomotive 'Little Wonder' is distin-   guished. An equally important matter is the ease and steadiness with which it traverses the sharpest curves

on the line. We have repeatedly directed attention to this point ; but we may nevertheless again speak of the matter here. We have ridden on the buffer beam   of one of the bogies of the 'Little Wonder' at speeds   up to thirty-five miles per hour, and we can testify to the extraordinary steadiness of the running, both on the straight and curved portions of the line. On the footplate-- which is supported by the carrier frame connecting the two bogies-- the ease of the motion is still more remarkable ; and the expression which has been frequently made use of, that the engine 'appears to glide round the curves,' is really the only one giving a fair idea of the movement. As regards the economy of fuel, also, the 'Little Wonder' has given   most satisfactory results, Mr. Spooner stating that her consumption in proportion to the work done is quite 25 per cent. below that of the other engines on the


The passenger carriages in use on the line are of various types. Those most recently built may be   regarded as ordinary railway carriages in miniature ;   but in others the seats are placed longitudinally, the passengers sitting in two rows back to back. In some of these latter carriages there are no sides, the passengers being, however, protected by strong leather aprons ; which reach about half way up the aides of     the carriages, and are secured to the ends and inter- mediate pillars by straps. The carriages with longi- tudinal seats are 10 ft. long by 6 ft. 3 in. wide (outside dimensions), while they weigh 26 cwt., and carry twelve first-class or fourteen second or third-class passengers. The carriages most recently built are 9 ft. 9 in. long by  

4 f t. 10½ in. wide outside, or 9ft. 2 in. long by 4 ft 6 in. wide, inside dimensions ; and each is divided into two compartments by a petition reaching about half the height of the carriage. The seats run transversely as usual, each seat accommodating three persons, so that each carriage carries twelve passengers. The height is somewhat small, being only 4 ft. 9 in. inside

at the centre. The wheel base is 5 ft. 6 in. and the   diameter of the wheels both for these and the other carriages and waggons is 1 ft. 6 in. The wheels are of cast-iron with wrought-iron tyres, and the carriages are mounted on springs of the ordinary form. The carriages are well lighted by side windows and a lamp is provided in the roof. The weight of these carriages is but 23 cwt., or less than 2 cwt. per passenger


The whole of the rolling stock is provided with central buffers and couplings, an arrangement which, of course materially facilitates the passage of the curves. The speed was at first limited by the Board of Trade regulations to twelve miles per hour, but more recently these restrictions have been entirely removed.

In conclusion, it is desirable that we give some par- ticulars of the traffic which the Festiniog line is accommodating. We have not ths figures for the last year by us, but during 1869, the passengers carried amounted to 97,000, and the goods and mineral traffic to 18,600 tons, and 118,132 tons respectively. The train mileage was 45,619 miles, and the total engine mileage 50,314 miles. The total receipts for the year were L23,676 12s 10d, while the cost of working, repairs, and maintenance was L10,518 6s 3d, and the special expenditure L2535 11s 7d. making the total expenditure L13,053 17s 10d. The line thus yielded during the year the net revenue of L10,622 15s-- equal to a dividend at the rate of 29½ per cent. on the original capital of L36,185 10s.

We have, we think, said sufficient to show that the Festiniog Railway is a line possessing a vast amount of interest for engineers at the present time when narrow gauge railways are steadily and surely making their way. It is, in fact, the most perfect miniature rail- way in existence, and it is deserving of being most carefully studied in all its details. The line is one which is not only advantageous to the local proprie- tors, but also highly appreciated by the thousands of tourists who annually flock to the beautiful district

which it traverses.