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July 6th 2009 - Media personality, rail enthusiast and entrepreneur Pete Waterman OBE announced on his blog that the Waterman Railway Heritage Trust had purchased NGG16 no. 109 from the Exmoor Steam Centre - this is the same source from which no. 87 was purchased by another sponsor. No. 109 is to be overhauled at LNWR Crewe (in cooperation with Boston Lodge) before coming to the WHR. No. 109 was built by Beyer Peacock in 1939, works number 6919, and like no. 87 it last worked on the SAR Umzinto-Donnybrook line in the 1980s. These pictures show the loco at the Exmoor site at Bratton Fleming in 1998-9.

The loco's overhaul at Crewe is expected to start in November 2009, with a target of entering WHR service in 2011. It is intended that it will remain coal fired, and that it will appear in LNWR lined black livery.

FR Company press release:

NG/G16 Garratt no. 109 purchased for service on Welsh Highland Railway by Peter Waterman Trust.

To be restored by London & North Western Railway Company at Crewe.

The Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways are pleased to announce that the Peter Waterman Trust has agreed to purchase NG/G16 Beyer Garratt locomotive no. 109 from the Exmoor Steam Centre. This locomotive was the first of the class to be built by Beyer Peacock. It was constructed in 1939 at their works in Gorton, Manchester. It was also the first NG/G16 locomotive to be repatriated to the UK.

The restoration will be carried out at the London and North Western Railway workshops in Crewe and the restored locomotive will run on the Welsh Highland Railway in North Wales.

Peter Waterman, founder of the Trust said: "I am absolutely delighted that no. 109 will be returning to the North West for renovation. The locomotive will be a focal point for a project focussed on the retention and development of traditional engineering skills in the region. We will be working closely with the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways team to pool knowledge, and we hope this project will lead to further business opportunities for both companies. The completed locomotive will work on the Welsh Highland Railway between Caernarfon and Porthmadog, a line which is readily accessible for those living in the North West."

On a lighter note, Peter commented for the enthusiasts: "It has taken a long time, but at last the LNWR has a Garratt on its roster!"

Paul Lewin, General Manager of the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways also commented: "We have been overwhelmed by Peter's enthusiasm and support. His team have been highly professional in assessing this project both quickly and effectively. The opportunities to work together to develop the skills of FR&WHR and LNWR staff are very interesting indeed. At a time when engineering skills are in steep decline, projects such as this give opportunities for new trainees in both Wales and Crewe."

The Stirland family, owners of Exmoor Steam Centre, rescued the engine from South Africa and have commented: "The story of No.109 began on 7 February 1995. After lengthy discussions with the Curator of the Transnet Heritage Foundation of South African Railways, we were invited to meet him at the Springs Railway Depot approximately forty miles east of Johannesburg. Here there were four NG/G16s, an NG15 and one or two other locomotives being stored. They had been taken there for a preservation project which had then been abandoned, and they were now classed as redundant locomotives. We were offered No.109 and, as a special favour, some of the fitters from Germiston Depot agreed to move the locomotive on the May Bank Holiday. It was split into three parts and the components were lifted by a huge crane onto flat trucks. The loco was then transported over five hundred miles, firstly back to the Germiston Depot and then down to Durban Docks for shipment on to Tilbury. After arriving back in the UK, in mid-June 1995, it took several weeks for Customs & Excise to release it. We had to establish that it was a British product being reimported. Finally No.109 arrived at Exmoor on 3 July. No 109 was the first Beyer, Peacock-built NG/G16 to be sent to South Africa and the first to return home, it was also the first NG/G16 to be privately owned outside Africa, and its reimportation had nothing to do with the Robin Hoods Bay scheme. Although we have not been able to restore No.109 to working order, we have continually oiled its rods, etc., and frequently painted the plate work, in the hope that one day this magnificent locomotive would work again."

June 6th 2009 - The WHR was the destination for "The Welsh Highlander" railtour run by Vintage Trains Excursions. Having been hauled from the West Midlands by GWR Castle Earl of Mount Edgcumbe, participants were transferred by road from Llandudno Junction to Dinas for a return trip to Hafod y Llyn, with NGG16s nos. 87 and 143 hauling thirteen carriages.

No. 143 was failed at Rhyd Ddu on the return run with a sheared mechanical lubricator linkage. It was left there to be collected by Vale of Ffestiniog, while no. 87 worked the railtour train back to Dinas on its own. No. 143 was repaired and back in service the following day.

May 21st 2009 - The WHR was reopened from Beddgelert through the Aberglaslyn Pass and Nantmor to Hafod y Llyn. Details and lots more pictures.

May 16th 2009 - Special trains for sponsors became the first narrow gauge passenger trains from Caernarfon ever to reach Porthmadog (specifically a point just north of the Cambrian Crossing). See Sponsors' Day 2009.

May 14th 2009 - Following its repaint, K1 headed back to Dinas, hauling Van 2, which would be used with Prince during the following week's Hafod y Llyn reopening. The train crossed the Cambrian at Cae Pawb at 11.17am.

May 13th 2009 - Pioneer Garratt K1 emerged from Boston Lodge after its long-awaited repaint into its original Tasmanian Government Railways livery of gloss black lined out in red and gamboge (mustard yellow), ahead of the loco's centenary later in the year. K1 was due to return to Dinas under its own power shortly afterwards.

May 8th 2009 - The WHR Project received the Institution of Civil Engineers' Special Award for Sustainability at the ICE Wales Dinner - see certificate (PDF). This was given in recognition of the wide use of recycled and natural materials in the project, and the sensitive nature of the construction methodology in respect to the natural environment.

May 8-10th 2009 - The Railway held its popular annual Cwrw ar y Cledrau / Rail Ale festival. As usual Dinas Goods Shed was the focus of activities, and trains linked Dinas with participating hostelries along the line. Preparations at Dinas included moving the portable toilet blocks (earmarked for Beddgelert) a short distance, and tipping stone to cover temporarily the track immediately outside the Goods Shed to allow a temporary extension to be put up. It had been planned to lift these rails (the first ones laid, in December 1996) and relay them afterwards, but this was not needed.

April 25th 2009 - Media personality, rail enthusiast and entrepreneur Pete Waterman OBE visited the WHR at the railway's invitation. He is seen below firing no. 87 on the 17.00 departure from Beddgelert (in a thunderstorm), and reportedly described his day on the railway as "absolutely fantastic".

April 17th 2009 - K1 ran to Boston Lodge for painting into Tasmanian Government Railways lined black livery. Piloting the 1135 service train from Caernarfon to Beddgelert and then running onwards light engine to Porthmadog, the pioneer Garratt became the first locomotive to run the full length of the rebuilt railway in a single movement.

April 7th 2009 - The WHR was reopened from Rhyd Ddu to Beddgelert. Details and lots more pictures.

March 23rd 2009 - The first steam movement over the Cross-Town Link took place. No. 87 set off to deliver itself to Dinas, hauling WHR carriage no. 2090, which had been at Boston Lodge for modification. The train crossed Britannia Bridge at 07.17 am, and then proceeded to the old Portmadoc New site to wait for a mid-morning engineering possession path across the Cambrian at Cae Pawb. The train set off north from Portmadoc New at 10.54, reaching Pont Croesor at 11.31, Beddgelert at 12.23, Rhyd Ddu at 13.20, Waunfawr at 13.59, and arriving at Dinas at 14.33.

YouTube video (FR Co):

March 12th 2009 - The first through trains in the modern era ran between the FR and WHR. In a stock transfer move heading for Dinas, Vale of Ffestiniog crossed Britannia Bridge light engine at 05.20, and then crossed it again at 05.36, hauling brand new observation car no. 2100, Romanian carriage no. 2060 (both being delivered to run trials and enter service on the WHR), and FR carriage no. 111. In what was also the first train movement along the Cross-Town Link, the train crossed Snowdon Street before waiting at the 1923 Portmadoc New station site for its path across the Cambrian line crossing at Cae Pawb, under an engineering possession. Cae Pawb was passed at 11.07, within the booked 30-minute path. The train later picked up Criccieth Castle at Hafod y Llyn. A pause was made at Beddgelert to check clearances, and a longer one near the upper S-bend while a works train moved out of the way, before the through train proceeded to Dinas. Having detached at Meillionen Halt, Criccieth Castle later headed back south with carriage no. 111; the loco returned to the FR after a short working visit to the WHR.

YouTube videos:

1) The first light engine movement across Britannia Bridge and on to the link span (Victor Lubelski)

2) The train crossing Snowdon Street (Victor Lubelski)

3) Britannia Bridge & Cae Pawb (FR Co)

4) Long-distance view of the train passing OB216 at Portreuddyn (Keith C. Bradbury)

5) Approaching Pont Croesor (Keith C. Bradbury)

6) The train on Pont Croesor and heading north towards Ynysfor (Keith C. Bradbury)

7) Criccieth Castle (with an electrical fault in its throttle control)
crosses the Cambrian and returns along the CTRL to the FR (William High)

February 28th 2009 - The connection of the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways was celebrated by a large crowd of volunteers and supporters at Harbour Station - see the February 20th press release below, plus details and lots more pictures on the "Golden Bolts" page.

February 20th 2009 - The following press release was issued about the impending physical connection between the FR and WHR:

The Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways will be connected at Harbour Station on Saturday February 28th, at 2pm.

This milestone marks the culmination of track-laying on the 28m Welsh Highland Railway development.

It is a railway tradition when making the final connection to complete a new railway line, that golden bolts are used and great celebrations are held.

Following in the footsteps of those pioneers, who built railways across great nation states, the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland teams are to connect the two railways at Harbour Station, Porthmadog on Saturday the 28th of February at 2.00pm.

This milestone marks the culmination of ten years effort by over five hundred volunteers, supported by funding from private donations, the Millennium Commission, Welsh European Funding Office and the Welsh Highland Railway Society.

The final golden bolts will be installed by representatives from the two teams that have completed the lion's share of the track laying work. The teams work on alternate weekends with one team (Black Hand Gang) made up of predominantly Welsh speaking local volunteers, and the other gang (Rest of the World Gang) comprising volunteers living throughout the UK and beyond.

Once the connection is made our latest locomotive, No. 87 - newly restored at our own Boston Lodge works - will make the first movement on to the new section of line and will be positioned with original Ffestiniog Railway locomotives, built in the same works more than 100 years ago.

Visitors are welcome to witness and record this historic moment!

Public services are scheduled to commence from Caernarfon to Beddgelert on the 8th of April. The service will extend through the Aberglaslyn Pass to Hafod y Llyn on the 21st of May and through to Porthmadog after the 2009 peak summer service.

Mr. Mike Hart, Chairman of Welsh Highland Construction Ltd, the subsidiary company of the Ffestiniog Railway tasked with building the new line said: "This is a very proud moment for the many people that have worked so hard to make this dream a reality. Our volunteers and staff have worked in all weathers and against seemingly overwhelming odds at times to reach this landmark. We are delighted to make this connection with the world's oldest independent railway and we are looking forward to running public services in the spring."

Note: the date of April 8th given above for the start of public services to Beddgelert is correct; there will not be a public service on the 7th (see Feb. 2nd press release below), which will be an event day with special opening trains (details to follow).

February 2009 - The Railway worked on improved arrangements for coal storage and handling at Dinas, in anticipation of the arrival of coal-fired NGG16 no. 87. A new coal store was built up on the old loading dock, the pictures below show the first half of the concrete base newly laid on February 17th 2009; the second half was due to be done three days later.

The completed coal stage base is shown below on March 3rd 2009, together with the tractor newly purchased for coaling locomotives.

A pair of secondhand coal hoppers have been installed on the edge of the old loading dock, adjacent to the coal stage, one intended to discharge into loco bunkers via an arrangement involving the conveyor used previously (rather than the chute seen in the last picture below), while the other is fitted with bagging apparatus.

The new facilities came into use with the start of the 2009 passenger season; K1 is seen being coaled on the morning of March 29th.

February 2nd 2009 - The Festiniog Railway Company issued the following press release, updating the plans for opening Phase 4, now to be done in three sections rather than two, with the start of services to and from Porthmadog put back until later than previously intended, but with the opening through the Aberglaslyn Pass brought forward by several weeks.

The Ffestiniog Railway today announced its plans for opening the remaining sections of the Welsh Highland Railway to full public service.

The Welsh Highland Railway is a 28m project to reinstate railway communication between Caernarfon and Porthmadog across the Snowdonia National Park. It has been reopened in stages, and now runs from Caernarfon to Rhyd Ddu on the southern slopes of Snowdon. The remaining sections of the railway from Rhyd Ddu to Porthmadog Harbour have been rebuilt over the last four years.

The section from Rhyd Ddu to Beddgelert will open on 7th April 2009 to full public service. This will be extended from Beddgelert to a temporary station at Hafod y Llyn (about a mile south of Nantmor) on 21st May, and to Porthmadog after the summer peak season.

The Ffestiniog Railway is pleased to have been able to bring forward its proposals to open the railway through the Aberglaslyn pass (described by the National Trust as the best scenery in Britain), but regrets that the opening through to Porthmadog has had to be postponed due to delays in letting the final commissioning contracts. This contract delay has been caused by the delays in receiving payment from another party for work carried out on their behalf last year by Ffestiniog Railway on repairing flood damage alongside the Welsh Highland Railway.

The railway is substantially complete throughout and will be used by test and special trains in the meantime.

The Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways are a major attraction in North Wales. A recent University study indicates that the Railways in their present form support over 350 full time local jobs, and that the extension when fully open will support a further 70 long term local jobs. These figures are in addition to the Railway's own employees.

January 2009 - NGG16 Beyer-Garratt no. 87, built in Belgium in 1936, ran its first steam trials after a complete rebuild from derelict condition over a period of almost three years at Boston Lodge Works. The trials across the Cob (the NGG16 is too large to work further up the Ffestiniog Railway) brought an NGG16 into Porthmadog Harbour for the first time, providing a foretaste of the post-reopening scene.

This video extract (hosted by Youtube) shows no. 87 on trial on January 28th 2009, filmed by John Wooden.

The gloss aircraft grey livery is the initial choice of the sponsor who has funded no. 87's purchase and restoration. It is expected that this paint job (evocative of "photographic grey", but more practical) will be carried for the loco's first year in service, after which it will go into South African Railways black. The loco will be transferred north to join the WHR fleet based at Dinas after the rail link from Porthmadog is connected up.

 WHR Project News page

Authored by Ben Fisher; last modified May 20th, 2010 by Laurence Armstrong