The task ahead

May 2013 - Welsh Pony outshopped in green

May 2013 – Welsh Pony outshopped in green

The most enigmatic of the original Ffestiniog locos, Welsh Pony, was the third engine in line for restoration to service when the railway was reopened in the 1950s.

Somehow other engines always managed to jump the queue and even Palmerston, thought for many years to be little more than scrap, has made its way back into service.

The locomotive has only left Wales once when it was displayed at a model railway exhibition in Birmingham in 1963. Last in traffic in 1938 the engine was withdrawn when its 1915 boiler, built by Adamson, was suffering serious firebox problems. Even as early as 1887 Welsh Pony was recorded as having achieved no fewer than 280,000 miles. By 1938 it had probably travelled a distance equivalent to going to the moon and back.

Welsh Pony was no stranger to the Welsh Highland Railway and many photos show the loco in traffic there. Sadly there is no one left alive that can remember working with the locomotive.

Stored at Boston Lodge close to the sea for many years and then mounted on a plinth outside Harbour Station again exposed to the elements, the 72 years the engine has spent out of service have not been at all kind. Since removal from public display in 2002 the locomotive has been difficult to access and often stored at Glan y Pwll yard in Blaenau, not always under cover.

It is hard to imagine any heritage railway owning an original machine built for the line and not making strenuous efforts to conserve or restore it.

In 2010 members of the Ffestiniog Railway Society were asked for their opinion on the future of this locomotive. The replies were overwhelmingly in favour of restoring the loco to service.

With the 150th anniversary of narrow gauge steam due in 2013, pressure is mounting to get the loco back in traffic alongside fellow England locos Prince and Palmerston, which will put the Ffestiniog Railway in the unique position of having the world’s three oldest steam locos in regular service on their original railway.

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