Samson's visit to Wales...

Samson’s visit to Wales…

It has been an eventful few weeks, though I apologise that blog coverage has been a little stifled lately.  It has another small extension of its chunk of the internet, so hopefully we’ll be ok for a little while longer!

The main news has been Samson’s trip to Wales.  So here is a little coverage to mark the occasion and reflect upon what we did, saw and hopefully how it acted as an ambassador for the Museum during what was a large and prestigious Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway event…

Below: A photo included for no other reason that to remind me that two things I would like to do this year is complete the lining on the front boiler band and flatten then re-varnish the paintwork to achieve the lustre evident on the bunker sides – evidence perhaps of the slight rush things were in when it was done but also that the varnishing of the barrel cladding was done horizontally over a frame, whilst the other items were done vertically.  Which might make all the difference…


Below: Upon arrival in Wales, Samson worked engine-only from Minffordd where it was unloaded, to Boston Lodge, around a mile west, where the engineering HQ is located.  As this was largely downhill, no real idea of the performance over a longer run could be established from this.  But, it arrived in one piece!  Matt and I then joined Samson on the Wednesday, with the waggon and tender inside the van!  Matt had packed every conceivable spare we’d need, plus all those other bits that are useful when working away from base.  Coupling adaptors had also been hastily manufactured, including a means of coupling Samson’s tender to FR couplings (which we will need at Beamish of course).  On Thursday morning this new train was assembled for the first time, in fact, it was the first time the tender had been on a railway!  Samson was steamed and then worked around to the examination pit for its Fitness to Run and sign-off by the FR engineering team.  When it was built, and with all of our new wheelsets, a back-to-back measurement of 21 3/8 inch has been used to ensure compatibility with the FR track (which uses a back to back of 21 inches, as opposed to the 21 3/4 of pure two foot gauge – these things matter a lot on pointwork, less so on plain track!).


Below: With Samson in steam, it was decided on the Thursday that it could move itself back to Minffordd, and in due course, with a pilot aboard the tender, we set off…  The loco performed very well and at around 10mph it could maintain progress, steamed against the pump feeding water into the boiler and brightened its fire to a whole new level of ‘hot’ for this locomotive!  It was all over rather too quickly really, leaving us impressed and reassured about what the engine is capable of if carefully fired and operated to take account of its particular design of boiler.  Running on long lengths of rail on proved to be very smooth and the engine actually rides very well despite its short wheelbase.


Below: The venue for Samson was the yard at Minffordd, where the new waggon storage shed is being completed – this is where the FR’s valuable waggon fleet will be housed (including, eventually, those we have restored as BINGE projects).


Below: The main activity for Samson was running out of the ‘coal hole’ in Minffordd yard, which entailed a 1:40 climb to the main yard but also enabled us to show the locomotive in more appropriate surroundings.

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Below: As is recorded in the ‘Book of Samson’, the locomotive is actually slightly larger than the original we think, not least the driving wheel diameter.  It is therefore appropriate to see Samson here alongside the FR’s single-Fairlie locomotive Taliesin, which itself is a ‘new’ build and was built to 13 inches to the foot scale!  Both are therefore improved/enlarged versions of their original selves.

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Below: On the Bank Holiday Monday, an afternoon cavalcade was arranged for the ‘Quirks’ attending the event.  Most were worked in one train to Boston Lodge, where we were separated and then called across the Cob (the embankment that was built as part of the land reclamation in the area and provided a ready route for road and rail to the harbour of Portmadoc, later Porthmadog) where we would arrive into the station and crowds accompanied by a commentary by Anthony Coulls and Tim Dunn.  Here Matt and I ‘smile’ for Will High’s camera as we wait our turn…


Below: During the weekend there was also a chance for a trip on the legendary gravity slate train, seen here on both up and down runs.

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Below: We were also able to inspect (and in fact, collect) the next FR waggon to be loaned to Beamish, this coal waggon, No.26.  This will be tidied up for use on the narrow gauge and, in due course, play its part in some very important celebrations on the FR in the medium term…


Below: We had set off for home by the time Websters arrived to collect the stock, so Iain Wilkinson obliged with both supervision and photographs as the lorry was packed for the trip north and east.

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Looking at the photo above, Samson in a travel crate plus its train and a pile of track would fit nicely onto this lorry – and I’d love to take it to Cornish Hush, where the original worked, one day…

It only remains to thank the staff and volunteers of the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway for inviting us, hosting us and for all of their support and interest throughout the visit – we had a great time and it will surely not be the last trip away for Samson in its new-found role as ambassador for steam at Beamish!