New ‘Super-Fairlie’ Locomotive Project: Can You Help?

The steam locomotive is loved by enthusiasts and irresistible to holiday makers, but it is generally less than ten percent efficient, and also labour intensive in daily preparation and routine maintenance: however it can be repaired almost indefinitely and seldom fails in traffic. Engineers working with steam locomotives in several countries are using modern technology and materials to improve its less good features, enhancing its overall financial performance and prolonging the ‘age of steam’.

James Evans, owner of Hunslet locomotive ‘Velinheli’ which is based at Launceston, has been developing a state-of-the-art ‘Super-Fairlie’ proposal, specifically for the Welsh Highland Railway and taking the long view on sustainability. Unfortunately the proposal has been rejected by the Board of the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways at a recent meeting as “a dream too far”; the Company being focused on raising funds to complete the existing infrastructure, and believing that a brand new locomotive project would detract from their commitment to create a sustainable railway. James felt that an imaginative project of this nature would have been complementary, and widen interest in Welsh Highland ‘news’.

However, the project has been sanctioned to continue independently, and the Welsh Highland Railway would accept a fully functioning addition to its motive power roster once any teething troubles have been sorted, (and of course subject to acceptance by the various engineering and regulatory authorities); which is some encouragement!

Although disappointed by the response of the F & WHR Board, James is reminded that over thirty years ago he was told by the experts that his proposal to build a new Lynton and Barnstaple locomotive would be both “impossible” and “not financially viable”; even members of the L & B Association thought it was a ‘dream too far’ at that time! With LYD now in service and her insides modernized within the constraints of being a ‘replica’, she appears to be rather more powerful than her forebears and hopefully she will be viable in the long term.

Fairratt outline drawing, click for larger view

James has been involved with renewable energy, conservation and low-carbon living since the 1960’s: he was brought up on a self sufficient farm where even the electricity was home made, plentiful and virtually free. With his passion for steam he would like to see the cleanest most economical steam locomotive built for the WHR; sustainable steam traction for a sustainable railway. Calculations show that a smaller locomotive with maximum power to weight ratio and 100% adhesion, like a Ffestiniog double Fairlie, would have the same haulage ability as a Garratt and save 15% in fuel consumption. Centralized lubrication, easy cleaning and accessibility of working parts, plus use of the best modern materials would reduce both paid and volunteer labour. In designing a new locomotive to fulfill the exact requirements of the Welsh Highland Railway the opportunity would be taken to add several safety features and minimize emissions.

LYD only turned from a ‘pipe dream’ into reality as a result of a team effort managed by Paul Lewin, now General Manager of the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways, and this new proposal will only turn a wheel if a similar team can be assembled. Only twenty five years ago the thought that trains might run through the Aberglaslyn pass once again, and sometimes hauled by a Lynton and Barnstaple type of locomotive, was considered “a dream too far” even by the most sanguine enthusiasts!

So, James would love to hear from YOU if you have expertise in project management, fund raising, public relations and of course engineering, OR if you can suggest people who might be willing to help. A deep knowledge of steam railways is NOT essential, James’ enthusiasm should be sufficient! Initial contact can be made by email to steamax@phonecoop.coop.

The first 10% of the funding for the design and construction of the ‘Super-Fairlie’ is in place, and the formation of a charitable trust for the project is being investigated. An updated outline specification can be viewed here and fuller details will be posted at a future date if there is sufficient interest.