Ffestiniog Railway: Queen of the Narrow Gauge


1. Porthmadog Quay 6. Blaenau
2. Quarry Engine 7. Fairlie's Patent
3. The Longest Grade 8. Downhill Run
5. On Dwyryd's Flank 9. Evening Chores
5. Deviation


Nine: Evening Chores


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Iarll maneuvers
out along the Cob.

For passengers like me the ride was over, but a railwayman's work is never done.  While the carriages disgorged their happy patrons, Iarll's crew was hard at work preparing for one last twilight assault on the hill.  After watering and fueling their locomotive at the servicing stand by the end of the platform, Colin and Michelle brought the Fairlie back though yard throat and out onto the Cob.  A few throws of the levers on the ground frame, and the switches were soon lined to bring the big engine back in against the train.


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Bringing 'round
the headlamp.

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Detail of a Fairlie
at rest.

After helping Colin back down and make the couple, Michelle climbed up on the engine frame to take the white headlamp down from the rear firebox.  Carrying it around to the two-headed locomotive's other end, she clamped it securely back into its brackets atop the front smokebox, thus ceremonially "changing ends" for the uphill run.  While Michelle tended to her chores, Colin tended to his, making his way around the running gear with the oilcan, feeling each of the bearings for heat and applying a dose of lubricant wherever needed.   Content to be so pampered, the Iarll Meirionnydd steamed quietly to herself, with wisps of vapor escaping from the cylinder cocks and wafting gently around the big bogie driving wheels.


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Fireman Michelle
Gammidge pauses
between evening

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Away by diesel
car, back down
the Cambrian

Work done at last if only for a moment, Michelle mounted the engine's cab to take her ease, and rest before the hard work she'd have soon have to do keeping up steam during the day's final uphill run.  I took her rest as an indication to go seek my own.  Taking my leave reluctantly from the platform, I passed out through the depot and left the Ffestiniog behind.  A short bridge led over the Afon Glaslyn to the mainland,  and from there I made my way along Porthmadog's high street past the shops and stores, and on to the Cambrian Coast Line standard-gauge station at the other end of town.  At the slab-sided old Cambrian Railways depot a Central Trains diesel car soon called, which carried me back down through Minffordd for the last time, across the Afon Dwyryd, past medieval Harlech Castle and on towards my lodgings in Barmouth.  Yet even as the diesel train throbbed on its way, I knew I had left part of my heart back in Porthmadog, where the tall Fairlie engines of the Queen of the Narrow Gauge still steam boldly forth to carry their passengers to high Blaenau Ffestiniog.  It's a good place to leave a piece of your heart, for it means that someday, somehow you'll have to return to reclaim it.  For me, that someday can't come too soon.



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All materials, images, text and presentation copyright 1998 Erik Gray Ledbetter.  See Terms of Use.