164-year old locomotive in close-up (many photos)
Fire Queen, built in 1848 by A Horlock & Co of Northfleet, Kent (near London), for the Padarn Railway in North Wales. It was used on a 4 ft gauge line at Dinorwic slate quarry.
Apparently it was one of only two locomotives built by the company. Remarkably, after it was replaced by more modern locos in the 1880s, it was preserved by its owners, but seen by few people. In 1969 it was moved to its current location, the railway museum at Penrhyn Castle.
More of this castle, and of the local slate industry later. Meanwhile, some details:-
Note the way the regulator rod circumnavigates the safety valve cover!
An unusual feature is the lack of a frame. Everything was bolted to the boiler (as on traction engines). Another oddity is the long wheelbase (for an 0-4-0 loco). Obviously the boiler was going to expand a lot more than the coupling rods!
I suspect that these wheels were fire-welded from numerous pieces. If so, very fine examples of the blacksmith’s art.
Stephensons’ link motion: unusually, the expansion links are made of brass or bronze, with steel liners at the ends.
Typical of the sort of slag inclusions that the blacksmith was faced with.
More to follow.
That is gorgeous!!
Typical of the care taken to get flanges nicely matched. These things mattered, then!
U-shaped straps on the little ends were common, but incorporating the oil reservoir wasn’t, and made life just that bit more interesting for the shops. The way the bronze bearing is retained is neat, too.
More to come.
Beautiful Asquith. Thank you!
Thats one shiny steering wheel.
OK Asquith!! You got my attention with both of my loves for both Trains and Machining!!
Thank God someone in 1880 had a sense of history and preserved this great old loco.
Thanks for the comments.
According to a placard at the museum, instead of being scrapped, 'it was placed in a small museum, at the insistence of Assheton Smith’s daughter, who had grown fond of it.'
I had seen an old photo of this engine in preservation in George Watkins' Stationary Steam Engines of Great Britain, Volume 4, and was intrigued by its design and workmanship. Imagine my surprise when I came across the engine when visiting the castle. Looking at the photo again, I can see that it was taken when the engine was stored in its shed at the quarry. It was in good condition then, just slightly dusty and tarnished depsite its 80+ years in storage. It was over an inspection pit, and an interesting feature was the use of quite long fish-bellied cast iron rails.
The forked end of the rod is another nice piece of work, made that bit more difficult by having the slightly raised bosses (beneath the head of the pin). Even the simple slide valve rod, with the cylindrical swell, was a challenge, not so much for the blacksmith, more for the machinist and fitter. The gland bush is a nice piece of work, as are all the shiny nuts with integral collars.
More head-scratching work for the shops.
those three valves on the vertical column would make the greatest beer taps in the history on mankind...
I will have to try and put something like that together.
Truly a magnificent piece of quality design and engineering, i wonder what our decendants in 2152 will be looking at ?
I wonder how many of us are capable of that level of work with all our modern machinery and equipment.
Going back to design, it would seem hanging things of the boiler plate was a built in fatigue factor ?
Yes, but similar concerns applied to vast numbers of traction engines.
Fire Queen followed Thomas Crampton’s principles of having the driving wheels out of the way of the boiler barrel, allowing for a relatively large boiler in relation to the overall width. Although I said there were no frames, the rear axle was mounted in a small sub frame attached to the back of the firebox, while the front axle appears to be attached to a sub frame fixed to the smoke box.
I found a bit of historical information about the engine, but there is great uncertainty about the relative usefulness of this compared with its sister engine, Jenny Lind. See halfway down this link:-
Dear Sir (Letters) 36
There didn’t seem to be much information online about the makers of these two engines - A. Horlock & Co. However, I did find an interesting source, in someone’s genealogical research:-
The impression is that Arthur Horlock was a good engineer, but a poor businessman. He was in business at a young age, and in fact when Fire Queen was built (1848) it appears that he was only 26. He had started up the Northfleet Ironworks in 1847, taking over a new factory from Poynder & Medlicott (Medlicott being his uncle).
Unfortunately he went bankrupt in 1853, and was sent to debtor’s prison. Such places may be familiar to followers of Charles Dickens’ stories. He was released (1856?), presumably following the sale of his factory (to Bell, Wells & Co, shipbuilders). Unfortunately his wife died in 1857.
He remarried in 1859, and was at that time employed at Fletcher’s shipyard in Gravesend. He was bankrupt again in 1866, and died of TB in that year.
Although some features of the locomotive seem strange, particularly the long wheelbase - which doesn’t seem suited to the rigours of a mineral railway system - the detail design is impressive, especially since it was Hurlock & Co’s first locomotive! The use of Stephenson’s link motion with screw reversing does seem quite advanced for that date.
Lovely engine Asquith, I would imagine in todays world, one would find coming across a blacksmith comfortable enough to forge the little end connecting rod straps, with their integral forged oil reservoir, a fairly scarce commodity! The planning for this little forging would be of interest, I would imagine to form this component on the forging, one would need special cresses It is of note that Patrick Stirling designed his big end straps on his famous single driver engines with the same style of oil box,(most elegant)
Makes one wonder how the electric welding set has simplified the forming of engineering components to a more managable & utilitarian task, but how the artistry & magic of the old time craftsman has been by and large lost. The final fate of Arthur Horlok, was indeed a sad ending for such a talanted engineer
Fire Queen was built to haul trains on the Padarn Railway which ran from the Dinorwic slate quarries at Llanberis to the wharf at Port Dinorwic (Y Felinheli). En route to Penrhyn Castle we stopped off at Y Felinheli for a mooch round. The wharf, which was improved at some point by adding lock gates, is now a small marina. Little evidence of the railway, except for the trackbed, and Mrs Asquith commented on how narrow it was. Having now seen how relatively wide Fire Queen is, and noting the steepness of the descent to the wharf, I was puzzled.
However, all was revealed when I learned that the quarry railway's narrow gauge trucks were piggy-backed on 4 ft gauge trucks to be hauled to a place nearer the coast, whence the narrow gauge trucks were sent down an inclined plane system to the wharf. Some old photos here:-
The Slate Industry of North and Mid Wales
The wharf area was a pleasant spot on a warm sunny day. The sea (Menai Straits) was calm, and the beach being covered with fragments of broken slate, it seems an ideal spot to hold the Olympic stone skimming event. I think I am in with a medal chance.
Nearby was this discarded centrifugal pump……..
Thanks for that Asquith! I can't help but wonder how well recieved my drawings would be today on the manufacturing floor If I designed them like that. I think there would be a revolt in the CNC shop to make that rod strap, or to fit that keyhole bush for the screw reverse with the lockscrew......yet there it is 164 years later made by hand, eye and cunning. Beautifully made and fitted. WOW!
You supply the taps and I will supply the beer
Originally Posted by D-RAILED
Asquith, thank you for the beautiful and interesting photos.
Asquith, perfect photography as usual, and you keenly know the mechanical details that PM'ers love to see.
The steel insert dovetailed into the reversing links to reduce wear is fantastic. Fit and finish on all aspects of the loco are great, but pitty the poor bastards that had to do all the draw filing and polishing!
Any more photos to add to this?