|THE INDUSTRIAL RAILWAY RECORD
© AUGUST 1974
NARROW GAUGE AT VYRNWY WATERWORKS
The two 3ft gauge Falcon 0‑4‑0 saddle tanks at Barrow Salt Works, which are referred to on page 175 of RECORD 40, may well have been two of the five locomotives of this type used by Liverpool Corporation on the construction of the Vyrnwy Waterworks in Radnorshire. The plate on the cab‑side of the locomotive illustrated on page 175 is of the small oval type associated with early Falcons between 1882 and 1884: these plates may have been used in some instances after this, but evidence is lacking. From 1884 onwards, larger and more distinctive plates appeared, showing the maker's number and date: the first of this type recorded seems to have been Falcon 45 of 1884, a standard gauge 0‑4‑0 saddle tank once at Prestonpans Colliery near Edinburgh.
According to the Minutes of the Liverpool Corporation Water Committee, two 3ft 0in gauge 0‑4‑0 saddle tanks, named LIVERPOOL and MERSEY, were ordered in November 1881 from Hughes's Locomotive & Tramway Engine Works Ltd at Loughborough. VYRNWY, ordered about February 1883, was slightly different from the first two and cost an additional £10, the price delivered to Llanfyllin being £635 less 2½% discount. A further locomotive, like VYRNWY, ordered from the Falcon Engine & Car Works Ltd (Hughes's successor) about March 1884 at £625, was supplied in May 1884. A similar locomotive to the last was ordered from Falcon about August 1885. The names of the last two were EUNANT and RHIWARGOR, but in which order is not known.
All five locomotives were offered for sale by Liverpool Corporation on 23rd and 24th July 1890. EUNANT (Lot 133) and RHIWARGOR (Lot 134) were at Llanfyllin station, with VYRNWY (Lot 173) at the Cement Shed at Llanfyllin: LIVERPOOL (Lot 368) and MERSEY (Lot 369) were at the Loco Shed at Lake Vyrnwy. No dates or maker's numbers were quoted in the sale catalogue, and each engine is described in exactly the same terms: 'EXCELLENT SADDLE-TANK LOCOMOTIVE ENGINE, ... , with very strongly-built boiler, copper fire-box tubed with 70 1¾in. brass tubes, and tested to 150 lbs. steam pressure, Salter's double safety valve, feed pumps, injector, and all necessary fittings; two 9 in. cylinders, 15 in. stroke, with double steel connecting rods on four cast-steel wheels, Bessemer steel tyres 2 ft. 6 in. diam. for 3 ft. gauge, by the Falcon Engine Co., Loughborough.'
The description seems to imply that all five engines were built by Falcon, although the first two were ordered from Hughes. Early in 1881 the Hughes Company had become involved in a High Court suit, and the Falcon Works were carried on for a time by the Liquidator until acquired by the newly formed Falcon Company in 1882. Thus LIVERPOOL and MERSEY may have been amongst the first locomotives built by Falcon, or possibly some of the last built by Hughes.
Three other rail vehicles were offered for sale in July 1890. Lot 374 at the Tramcar Shed at Lake Vyrnwy was described as a 'TRAMWAY CARRIAGE, built of wood and iron, covered with canvas roofing, and fitted with a powerful double acting brake, on 4 cast-steel axles and wheels 21 in. diameter, 3 ft. gauge.' Neither the maker nor the date of construction is recorded in the catalogue. Perhaps this interesting vehicle can be identified with the 3ft gauge bogie carriage with open balconies which was purchased in 1957 by the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society and regrettably scrapped almost immediately. It had been used as a quarry store for some thirty years by Boden's Stone Ltd at Stanton-in-the-Peak, Derbyshire, and before that by waterworks contractors Lehane, Mackenzie & Shand Ltd. When at Towyn this carriage is said to have carried a Kerr, Stuart plate.
Lots 386 and 387, outside the Oil Stores at Lake Vyrnwy, consisted of two Ransomes & Rapier vertical boiler locos. Each was described in the sale catalogue as a 'BOGIE LOCOMOTIVE on four wheels coupled, 2 cylinders, reversing gear with slot links, lever and catch plate, regulator, wrot-iron connecting and coupling rods, wrot guide bars and hangers, wrot cross heads, powerful brake, vertical boiler with all necessary fittings including extra injector, 3ft. gauge, by Messrs. Ransomes & Rapier (Ipswich)'. One of these engines seems to have been purchased at the sale (or very soon afterwards) by C.D. Phillips, who sent it to his Gloucester Works (plant number 916g). It was advertised in his "Monthly Register" from September 1890 until February 1893 inclusive, appearing from July 1891 as EMLYN No.57. At first the price asked was £150, but this Was later reduced to £130. Very full dimensions were quoted in February 1893 and these included: 6½in x 10in cylinders, 1ft 11in diameter wheels, 4ft wheelbase, 11ft total height from rails to top of 'stack', and two side tanks 10ft long x 12in diameter. "2 seats are placed on the top of the tanks and have back rails which makes the engine very handy for taking workmen from one place to another."
(Left) An early Falcon locomotive worksplate, un-dated and without works number, as mentioned in the text.
(Below) Official maker's photograph of MERSEY. The worksplate carried would seem to confirm that the engine was built by Falcon, and not by Hughes.
(courtesy Leicester Museums)
Apart from the possibility that the two Falcon 0‑4‑0 saddle tanks at Barrow Salt Works came from the Lake Vyrnwy contract the later history of the narrow gauge engines that worked on the Lake Vyrnwy contract has yet to be traced.
'The experiment in mechanical traction on tramways is being continued by the Brussels Tramway Company with a great deal of caution, more, indeed, than the technical Belgian press considers necessary in face of the results obtained in Paris, where ten Harding [Merryweather] steam-trams are running daily, carrying fifty passengers each, and reaching a speed of eleven miles an hour.' ("Iron," 30th September 1876. – KPP)