WHR (Caernarfon) Diesel Locos

[Castell Caernarfon] [Upnor Castle] [Conway Castle] [Dolgarrog] [Kerr Stuart 4415] [Criccieth Castle] [Bill and Ben]

Castell Caernarfon

Named in Welsh (only) after Caernarfon Castle, Castell Caernarfon is a B-B diesel built by Funkey of New Johannesburg in 1967 for work in a diamond mine, later being used for cement traffic at Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

The loco is fitted with a turbocharged 335hp Cummins engine, making it one of the most powerful narrow gauge diesels in the UK. One of a pair imported by the Ffestiniog, and initially known just as "Funkey 2", the loco is seen above at Dinas. After importation, the loco was overhauled at the Ffestiniog Railway, where it is seen below left in July 1996. The middle image shows the loco on display the same month at Caernarfon Festival (during which a naming ceremony took place). Castell Caernarfon was the first loco to be moved to Dinas, in January 1997.

Castell Caernarfon is in regular use on passenger trains. The pictures below show (left) the loco approaching Bontnewydd with a passenger train in May 1998, and (right) running round at Caernarfon in October of the same year.

For the 2000 season, Castell Caernarfon's livery was amended slightly, with the addition of "cat's whiskers". The left-hand picture shows the loco in Dinas Yard in July 2000; in the right-hand one it is leaving Waunfawr with a passenger train in May 2001.

Having given eight years of trusty and reliable performance since featuring in the construction launch ceremony in January 1997, Castell Caernarfon received heavy maintenance in January-April 2005. As the only available diesel capable of hauling a full passenger service over the WHR(C) route, or of acting as a "Thunderbird" in case of breakdown, it is in many ways the most important member of the fleet, so it is important to have it in top condition ahead of the main operating season.

Following an axle failure, Castell Caernarfon was temporarily fitted with the bogies of Vale of Ffestiniog between May 2006 and early 2008. The decision was taken to send all four final drive gearboxes (which are integral with the axles) away for specialist overhaul, which turned out to be a lengthy job. The completed gearboxes are seen below at Dinas on November 4th 2007, not long after their return.

The bogies were being reassembled in mid-December 2007; one was back on its wheels by the 11th. Both were completed before the "reverse bogie swap" was done, releasing Vale of Ffestiniog's bogies to be returned to Boston Lodge.

Castell Caernarfon is receiving a substantial mechanical refurbishment in early 2009; the bonnet was lifted off on January 7th 2009, in preparation for removing the engine to be sent to Boston Lodge for reconditioning. This work includes exchange cylinder heads, new piston rings and liners, crankshaft bearing shells, and a reconditioned turbocharger. The loco has also received a much needed repaint.

The engine and gearbox had been lifted out of the loco when seen on January 13th 2009.

The gearbox (seen above right - a fairly standard item, not to be confused with the specialised final drive boxes which were refurbished after the axle failure) has been sent away for attention by the company in Mansfield which previously overhauled Vale of Ffestiniog's gearbox.

The loco's repaint proceeded while its power train was being attended to. In these pictures taken on February 17th 2008 the bonnet had been repainted, and chief painter Dai Jones was at work on the cab and chassis in the Goods Shed.

Castell Caernarfon has been joined on the WHR by Vale of Ffestiniog for a period in 2009. Where necessary, WHR diesel crews were familiarised with the FR loco as part of the crew training events that took place in March 2009. Vale of Ffestiniog arrived at Dinas on March 12th 2009 by rail, delivering carriages nos. 2100 and 2060 as well as itself.

After a delay waiting for a replacement transmission component to arrive, Castell Caernarfon's overhauled engine and gearbox were delivered back to Dinas from the FR on June 18th 2009, sharing the lorry with a pair of carriage bogies. The third and fourth pictures show the engine and gearbox back in place in the loco the following day.

When seen on June 27th 2009 engineers were at an advanced stage with lubrication and reconnecting ancillaries. Seeing the two Funkeys together like this gives an interesting insight into the redesign of Vale of Ffestiniog to fit the FR structure gauge; its new body had to do this while accommodating the same size of radiator as Castell Caernarfon's, which fits under the WHR loco's bonnet.

Castell Caernarfon was rostered to return to service in the first week of July 2009, but did not quite manage this as a couple of faults were identified after the reconditioned engine was started. A leak was found in the transmission, and when seen below on July 7th 2009 the turbocharger had been removed and dispatched for service after a seal had blown.

Castell Caernarfon - Technical Details
Length over frames 31 feet 0 inches
Wheel arrangement B-B
Total wheelbase 22' 6"
Wheelbase of each bogie 5' 2"
Bogie centres 17' 4"
Diesel motor (present unit fitted 1984) Cummins NT 855 L4
Power output 335 HP @ 2,100 RPM
Transmission mechanical via cardan shafts
Gears in each direction 3

There are also three ex-Polish diesels of comparable power to Castell Caernarfon located at the Welsh Highland (Porthmadog). See the LYd2 Page (A.Goodwin) for details.

Upnor Castle [top of page]

Originally built to 2'6" gauge for the Admiralty in 1954, this Hibberd "Planet" diesel loco used to be familiar to visitors to the Ffestiniog Railway, where it worked from 1968 to 1997. Although uprated and updated for passenger service, Upnor was largely supplanted by more recent diesels on the FR, and was moved to Dinas in 1997 for engineering duties, following fitting of a reconditioned engine.

There has also been very limited use of the loco on passenger trains. Prior to Upnor's transfer, the FR's small Hunslet diesels Harold (Hunslet) and The Colonel (Simplex) were briefly in use on WHR (Caernarfon) during the building of Phase 1 of the line; indeed Harold was the first locomotive used on the line. Upnor has been used extensively on Phase 2, 3 and 4 construction duties, at various sites.

After many years service with the reconstruction of the WHR, Upnor Castle was badly in need of a major overhaul. Therefore in April the loco was returned to Boston Lodge for attention to its gearbox. This was removed and by the 7th July was fully overhauled and is seen at Boston Lodge that day. The third picture is Upnor Castle minus its cab as this needs to be removed to access the gearbox. 

Upnor's gearbox at Boston Lodge. (Photo: A.Thomas/FR)Upnor's gearbox amongst Boston Lodge's collection of Planet gearboxes! (Photo: A.Thomas/FR)Upnor outside Boston Lodge and minus cab. (Photo: A.Thomas/FR)

By the 23rd July Upnor Castle was receiving attention inside Boston Lodge. I is seen below in a rather 'fetching' shade of pink, presumably the undercoat for the final livery. The third view is the following week with the loco now outside at Boston Lodge.

Upnor being worked on inside Boston Lodge. (Photo: A.Thomas/FR)Upnor being worked on inside Boston Lodge. (Photo: A.Thomas/FR)Upnor now outside at Boston Lodge. (Photo: A.Thomas/FR)

Castell Conwy/Conway Castle [top of page]

While Upnor Castle was in use on Phase 2 construction work away from Dinas, the FR's Conway Castle (unlike Castell Caernarfon this loco carries its name in English as well as Welsh) was moved to Dinas as WHR (Caernarfon)'s spare passenger diesel and yard shunter, and the loco continues on these duties, as well as on construction work when required. Essentially a modernised version of Upnor, this 1958-built Hibberd loco also started off as an Admiralty 2'6" gauge loco. Upon arrival on the FR in the 1980s a new body was fitted, in addition to a Gardner 180 horsepower diesel engine.

Although the Planets are former FR passenger diesels, they are only very rarely seen on WHR(C) public services other than gala shuttles, as they are underpowered individually for full-length trains over the gradients. They are seen below deputising together for Castell Caernarfon on June 27th 2006.

Conway Castle is seen very occasionally working passenger trains solo; it is rated at three carriages for these duties. It is seen below at Rhyd Ddu on October 14th 2006, standing in for no. 138 while a fault was being rectified on the Garratt. With Castell Caernarfon working the other train set, this gave the very unusual spectacle of WHR(C) running a two-train diesel service.

On September 23rd 2007 Conway was operating with an unusual rake comprising carriages 23 and 24 with FR Van 2 as the brake.

Dolgarrog [top of page]

This small cabless Simplex diesel is on loan to the WHR Project from RWE npower (formerly Innogy, previously National Power), and it initially spent some time in store at Dinas. It was intended to move it to the Waunfawr construction base for use on Phase 2 tracklaying, but in the event this did not happen.

Dolgarrog (Motor Rail 22154 of 1962, Dorman 2LB engine) originally worked (though there was little work to do) on the Llyn Cowlyd Tramway, built for construction of reservoir dams high above the Conway Valley, and retained for maintenance purposes until falling out of use between 1968 and 1975. Curiously, Dolgarrog is not the first loco from this line to work on Welsh Highland construction; in 1922/3 the WHR contractors made use of a Bagnall 0-4-0ST that had previously been used there. In the mid-1970s, the Simplex was one of several small diesels that saw use on the major contract installing underground power cables alongside the Llanberis Lake Railway, feeding power from the Dinorwig pumped-storage scheme into the National Grid. The picture below shows the loco still at Llanberis in August 1984, some years after the end of the contract, with cab, lights, nameplates, and numberplates in the Lake Railway's number series.

More recently, it had been seen in public on exhibition at FR Galas together with wagons from Llyn Cowlyd, still in the livery seen above but minus the cab. It was painted blue after arrival at Dinas.

In May 2002 Dolgarrog was moved to the Phase 3 base at Rhyd Ddu North, to be used for delivering track materials to the advancing Head of Steel on the Rhyd Ddu - Glanrafon section.

It continued in use for the remainder of Phase 3 construction over the following fifteen months, and started work on Phase 4 in 2006. As the loco that has done most of the "front line" work at the Head of Steel, this little Simplex has become a firm favourite with volunteers and Project supporters.

The loco spent 2008 at Dinas for repair. While Dolgarrog was out of action, Brian Faulkner's Lister Rail Truck (works no. 56371 of 1970) spent some time deputising on Phase 4.

Dolgarrog is seen below undergoing surgery in Dinas Goods Shed on April 7th 2008.

The part-stripped engine is seen below on June 23rd 2008. By this point all parts needed for the repair were to hand, and oil plumbing was being removed to gain access to torque up the main bearing caps prior to reassembly.

Within the following week the pistons were refitted, all crankshaft and big end bearings were torqued up and fitted with locking tags, and the oil plumbing was reinstated.

Dolgarrog was almost back in working order in early July 2008. The only remaining item to be sourced to complete the engine was the top coolant hose, and the axle drive chains would also be re-tensioned to take up free play.

The final part needed arrived from Alan Keef Ltd on July 12th 2008, and the engine was started at midday the following day. The loco also displayed its name for the first time on the WHR, with name badges provided by owner RWE npower.

Unfortunately the loco overheated between Dinas and Waunfawr when an attempt was made to drive it down to Hafod y Llyn; after further attention at Dinas, the engine was removed and sent to a local specialist for repair in August 2008. However it failed again following its return and reinstallation in early 2009, with symptoms of overheating and partial seizure similar to the previous failure. It is understood that these problems were caused by a faulty batch of bearings; after rectification, the loco was running in Dinas yard on March 17th 2009.

Kerr Stuart 4415 [top of page]

In 1928-9, an experimental 6-wheeled diesel built by Kerr Stuart of Stoke-on-Trent operated on the Festiniog and Welsh Highland Railways, on loan from its builders. It is seen below (credit: the late L.T.C. Rolt) at Dinas Junction.

After leaving Wales, the loco worked in various locations (including a spell in Ireland, converted to 3-foot gauge), and by 1934 was as far away as Mauritius, where it hauled sugar cane until 1971, being plinthed subsequently. In 1997, this unique loco has returned to Wales, through the initiative of the Greenwich and District Narrow Gauge Society, having been generously donated by its former owners in Mauritius. The Festiniog Railway Trust met the costs of repatriation, and KS 4415 is now at the FR.

It is to be restored to original external condition, and hopefully also to working order on both the Ffestiniog and restored Welsh Highland lines. This loco is the oldest surviving British-built diesel (as opposed to earlier locos built to run on petrol or paraffin, and later fitted with diesel engines), and as such is of particular historical significance.

The chassis and the massive custom-built gearbox have been found to be in generally good condition, but the bodywork requires renewal and the engine (not the original) fitted to the loco before shipment to Mauritius has proved to be beyond repair. A McLaren diesel of similar type has been acquired in working order. The drive sprockets and roller chains require replacement, a major item as they will have to be custom made.

A restoration fund has been started; to find out how to contribute, please send 9"x4" (22x10cm) stamped self-addressed envelope (or envelope with IRC if overseas) to:

Hugh Smith (Hon Sec. 4415 Group)
31 Carnarvon Road
London. E15 4JW
Email: hugh.slimgit@talk21.com

The appeal was re-launched in Summer 2005, with the aim of having the loco in presentable condition (though probably not yet operational) for the 80th anniversary of its original operations in North Wales.

The replacement McLaren diesel engine was delivered to Minffordd from Leighton Buzzard in August 2007. It is conveniently mounted on a 2ft gauge trolley, so it can be moved around. The trolley also has all the equipment required to start the engine up and run it. The trolley was due to be moved into the secure Heritage Store, for its own good and to clear the space for storing carriages during the winter.

In early October 2007 a group of interested people spent time in the heritage shed at Minffordd, to go over the new power unit and compare it with the unit in 4415. A further meeting was held at Swanley later that month, during the Narrow Gauge Exhibition. Also the October Narrow Gauge & Industrial Railway Modelling Review published two articles, along with some new drawings and a range of pictures, giving all the interested parties a much better idea of what is required to be done. In the light of these articles it is being considered if the locomotive's cab should be returned to the 1928 dimensions, as the loco looks much better in this state, and it would give more space on the footplate (which, incidentally, contains the radiator!).

The group has informally approached the Fund for the Preservation of Industrial and Scientific Material (the PRISM Fund) to see if the project might qualify for a grant; the first contact seems hopeful, so an application is being put together, along with a costed work plan. It is likely to be some months before any work is done on 4415, but the initial intention is to remove the locomotive's sub-chassis, and overhaul that so that it becomes easily towable - at present moving it even a few feet is a major and risky operation! The second stage would be to install the new power unit, and overhaul and connect up the gearbox, drive and controls, to give us a powered running chassis. Finally the bodywork would be replaced, and the loco painted in its original grey livery.

4415 will never be a prime member of the FR/WHR fleet, but it is as unique a piece of our history as Princess or Merddin Emrys, and we should cherish it. When it is restored it will be able to visit other railways, and demonstrate another piece of the railway technical history of the FR/WHR and UK.

24th February 2013
Renewed interest in the restoration of this loco is being taken, particularly in view of its historic significance. A Conservation Management Plan and a Strategy for Restoration have been drawn up and submitted to the Board of the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Heritage Company who have now approved the proposals.

Castell Cricieth/Criccieth Castle

FR passenger diesel Castell Cricieth/Criccieth Castle paid a brief visit to the WHR in early March 2009, to perform shunting duties while the Planets were deployed on Phase 4 work and Castell Caernarfon was under overhaul. Having been delivered by road on March 3rd, Criccieth was put straight to work, shunting no. 143 to the South Yard for a warm through before being steamed fully the following day for work on the NGG16's safety valves. The loco also worked on crew training duties as far south as Pont Croesor, before returning to the FR in the first North-South journey over Cae Pawb crossing and the CTRL on March 12th 2009.

Bill and Ben

In early 2010 two further diesel locos were acquired as shunters for the WHR and FR. They were quickly nicknamed Bill and Ben from the names hand painted on the loco's sides. The locos are Hunslet 4wDHF type and are thought to be Nos 9248 and 9262 both 1985 built. They are 2' 6" gauge and so will require re-gauging as part of their preparation for service on the WHR.

Hunslets at Dinas (Photo: Alasdair Stewart) Hunslets at Dinas (Photo: Alasdair Stewart)

The first loco to receive attention was the one nicknamed Bill and this is shown below being delivered to the LOROL motive power depot at Willesden where both locos will be overhauled. When complete and returned to Dinas it is planned that the haulage vehicle will collect Ben and deliver it to Willesden for its overhaul. The photos come courtesy of Ian Brookes, the  LOROL Fleet Manager

Bill at Willesden Depot. (Photo: Ian Brookes) Bill at Willesden Depot. (Photo: Ian Brookes)

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Authored by Ben Fisher; last updated 24th February 2013 by David Tidy