THE Ffestiniog Railway’s ground-breaking new-build double Fairlie Earl of Merioneth has been withdrawn from service to make way for a replacement locomotive.
‘The Earl’, affectionately known as The Square due to its angular appearance, has reached the end of its 10-year certificate and needs a new boiler, a new boiler cradle, smokeboxes, chimneys and water tanks.
Only its power bogies, built in 1986, are serviceable and they are in need of heavy overhaul and new tyres. The decision was therefor made that building a brand new locomotive was the best approach rather than patching up one that is life-expired.
Earl of Merioneth hauled its final revenue-earning trains on Sunday, April 8 as the rostered locomotive on the 10.05am and 1.35am return trips to Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Later that day it made its final run to Blaenau with an evening ‘staff only’ special, returning to Boston Lodge for the last time at around 9.30pm.
Earl of Merioneth was built in 1979 and can claim a unique place in railway preservation history as the first full-size all-new-build steam locomotive on any heritage line in the UK – and now also the first to be withdrawn.
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