The Falcon Locomotive

The Falcon Locomotive.
Thank you for your interest in the project to bring our next steam engine to the Dulas Valley. Below you will find a history of the project to date.
At the end of January 2021 conversations took place between the Corris Railway and Alan Keef Ltd who are constructing the new locomotive at their workshops near Ross-on-Wye and a target completion date has emerged. Every two years Keef’s hold an Open Day at the works with proceeds going to charity. The next will be due in late summer/early autumn 2022 and the target is to have a newly complete Corris “Falcon” 0-4-2ST as the centrepiece to mark the 50th year of the business. After that the locomotive would enter traffic in the Dulas Valley.
As of January 2021 some £150,000 inc VAT had been spent on the construction and another £100,000 would need to be have been raised and spent by July 2022 to complete the loco and reach the completion date target.
Your support to bring this closer will be much appreciated.. However we appreciate that in current troubled times this may not be possible – but please read on.

Reasons for having a second locomotive.

Back in 2006 discussion centred around the idea of having another locomotive on the Corris Railway. A second locomotive would take pressure off the `Tattoo’ when maintenance and repair work became necessary, especially important when it came to the 10 year overhauls of No. 7, the next of which is due in 2024. Additionally, by having a second locomotive, the work involved in operating the railway could be shared and there would be extra visitor interest.

What sort of locomotive would we have?
To build another Tattoo might be considered sensible because the design had been accepted by HMRI, but the opportunity to build a locomotive which would closely resemble the original Corris No.3, a Falcon, although fraught with difficulties, was an opportunity not to be missed. To have an appropriately modernised replica of a Falcon would be an advantage to give the railway variety in motive power. Our photo charter friends would love it, the visual display would be more satisfying than two identical twins and it would improve the profile of the railway as a national tourist attraction.
After a poll of the CRS members the decision was taken in the spring of 2007 to build a replica of No 3.

Lack of plans for No 3.
The builder of Corris locomotives 1, 2 & 3 delivered in November 1878, was the Hughes’ Locomotive & Tramway Engine Works, Loughborough. It eventually became part of the Brush Electrical Machines Ltd, Falcon Works, Loughborough and still exists today. The researcher George Toms assured the Society that no plans exist of the locomotive. To obtain drawings the extant locomotive at the Talyllyn Railway had to be surveyed (with permission).

Appointment of design & build consultants.
Reluctantly our Tattoo Locomotive consultant, Colin Blackwell, had decided for family reasons to take a back seat with regard to the Falcon Project. Fortunately Graham Morris, our boiler inspector, agreed to take responsibility for the project along with a colleague of his, David Potter. In August 2008 they began work on producing drawings by visiting the museum at Corris and then travelling on to Pendre, Tywyn to meet David Scotson (Chief Mechanical Engineer) and John Bate (former Chief Engineer) of the Talyllyn Railway. So began the complicated task of surveying the locomotive and producing drawings. This lasted for nine months and in September 2009 the drawings were complete at a cost of £26,000.

Funding.
Society members were encouraged to make a gift aided one-off donation or donations by standing order and by November 2008 the fund had reached £22,000. Nineteen members had taken out standing orders. The number has happily increased since then which helps to have a consistent income flow. Since then members have been encouraged to sponsor parts of the loco and an updated list of parts is included below including some that can be sponsored retrospectively. Anybody taking out a Standing Order of £20 or more for a period of 30 months will receive a limited edition print by Jonathan Clay.

Manufacture of the Locomotive.
The decision was taken in 2009 to make the boiler the first item to be built and our two consultants obtained a suitable quote (one of several) from Israel Newton, a 200 year old firm of boiler-makers in Bradford, for £31,250.00 plus VAT. Click here to see this being reported in the Bradford Telegraph and Argus.

Progress to date.
The boiler was completed by Israel Newton and was brought to Maespoeth in the late summer of 2012. A good number of other smaller components were also produced. Once the boiler was received the next move was the cutting of the main frame plates for the locomotive which was done using the water jet method to produce the outside profiles and also all holes needed for bolts and rivets. The frame plates were taken to the workshops of Alan Keef Ltd in Herefordshire for erection.

The driving wheels on the Corris “Falcons” as built in 1878 are unusual for a small narrow gauge tank engine by being larger than the norm at 30” diameter and solid with spokes cast on (rather reminiscent to the onlooker of the original Tri-ang model railway locomotives of the 1950’s). By way of contrast the wheels on the trailing pony truck which converted the original 0-4-0ST’s to 0-4-2ST’s with a view to making the original trio of engines ride more steadily were very small with a 10” diameter, but No. 10 will have slightly larger ones of 12” diameter. The wheel centre castings for the driving wheels were produced and drilled ready to accept axles and crank pins at Keef’s workshops. Steel tyres were produced in South Africa and were fitted to the driving wheels in November 2017.

The axleboxes and bearings were produced and fitted to the frames and two Corris volunteers with engineering skills constructed the pony truck and delivered it with wheels in place I to Alan Keef’s.. Cylinders were cast in Wolverhampton during 2017. They were machined in May 2018 which took the project closer to the “rolling chassis” stage. A generous individual donation paid for the casting and machining of the cylinders, plus production of the cylinder covers. Motion parts were being manufactured to be fitted in the narrow area between the frames and a further individual donation helped towards production of the connecting rods. It was estimated that the manufacture and erection of coupling rods and the motion had cost £53,000. Once the motion, including the gear in the narrow area between the frame plates, is completed then the frames can be united with the boiler after the smokebox has been constructed. It has been agreed that the smokebox will be constructed by Corris volunteers as will the cab and brake gear.

Steam engines, even small ones like No. 10, are expensive items to build and once these stages of the construction have taken place it will take expenditure to date to over £200,000. Estimates to complete the contruction work suggest that it could be around another £70,000 that will be needed and the time taken until the engine leaves the Alan Keef workshops and commences work in the Dulas Valley will be determined by the rate of fund raising.

As at the end of September 2018 the driving wheels were in the frames and the trailing truck wheels machined along with their axle ready to join the pony truck. Further components that had been produced and were at Alan Keef’s were as follows:-

2 x Coupling rods: 4 x Coupling rod bushes; 4 x Coupling rod oil pot covers
2 x Connecting rods; 2 x Split big-end bearings c/w oil pot lid and tube
2 x Big-end cap plates; 2 x Big-end spacers; 2 x Little-end bushes
2 x Valve spindle guides; 2 x Valve spindles (await final machining upon assembly)
2 x Valve drive rod (part machined)’ 2 x RH/LH valve adjusters
2 x RH Lock nuts; 2 x LH Lock nuts; 2 x Valve spindle glands
2 x Piston rod glands; 4 x Slide bars; 4 x Slide bar mounting angles
8 x Slide bar fitted bolts

In addition to the components above, Keef’s had finish machined the axleboxes, fitted the bronze wear plates and fitted them to their respective hornguides. That had allowed the wheelsets to be finish fitted and dropped into the frames. They had also set up a datum wire line for the centreline to set up the alignment of the cylinders and wheelsets. The expansion links and die blocks were being manufactured by a wire-erosion sub-contractor.
The above steps come to a total cost of £29,315.00 plus VAT. The axlebox completion and wheelset fitting was previously offered at £5,500 and the coupling and connecting rods at £12,000.

In mid-October 2019 Keef’s quoted a sum of £44,000 to complete the locomotive to the “rolling chassis” stage with the hope that this could be seen operating under compressed air at their open day in September 2020. 

In November 2019 a meeting was held between representatives of the Corris Railway and Alan Keef’s and it was confirmed that Corris volunteers would construct some components for the locomotive including the cab and brake gear while work continued on the “underneath” of the engine at Keef’s. Work by CR volunteers will reduce the cost of the overall construction by over £30,000. This volunteer work will include construction of the cab and bunker. The cab will have an outline similar to that originally fitted to the “Falcons” but will stand taller to accommodate 21st century footplate crews.

The next stages for the loco, and the best way of maintaining the current momentum were judged to be as follows as at November 2019:-
Crossheads and Slidebars:- The slidebars and mounting brackets for this element were completed, and Keef’s were awaiting the castings for the crosshead body. These would need machining, gudgeon pins machining to suit, and a set of bronze slippers machining to suit. All components would need assembly onto the cylinders and motion brackets. This would effectively complete the outside motion.
Outstanding Budget Cost: £7,500 – £8,000.

Inside Valvegear:- There was already a significant collection of components completed or near completed. This included expansion links and die-blocks, valve spindle components and guide bushes, along with part completed eccentric rods. The major elements outstanding were the eccentrics and straps, weighshaft, bearings and links and reverser lever, quadrant and reach rod. All components would need to be assembled onto the driving axle and frame. This would complete the inside valvegear.
Outstanding Budget Cost: £21,000 – £22,000.

Pistons and Valves:- To this date, rather less had been completed in this area, the valve spindles were part completed, and Keef’s were awaiting the valve castings. The piston heads were part machined. All these elements would require completion, plus machining of new piston rods and setting of ‘bump’ clearances, supply and fitting of piston rings. All components would require assembly, along with new cylinder gaskets, and final setting of the valves.
Outstanding Budget Cost: £8,000 – £8,500.

Brakegear:- No work had been undertaken on this element. As previously discussed, this is relatively ‘low-tech’ element which Corris volunteers could potentially undertake ‘in house’, which would only require final assembly and fitting
Potential Cost with Corris Input: £2,500 – £3,000.

Draincocks and linkage:- Again much of the linkage components, brackets etc. is a ‘low-tech’ element with potential for Corris to undertake in house. Keef’s would then undertake assembly and fitting of the modified commercial valves and pipework.
Potential Cost with Corris Input: £2,000 – £2,500.

To complete all of the above would effectively achieve the ‘holy-grail’ of a fully rolling chassis that could potentially be demonstrated running on compressed air. Only the buffers and drawgear would remain outstanding.

By March 2020 the locomotive was an 0-4-2 for the first time in the history of the project and the latest components to be manufactured were the crossheads and slide valves.

£30,000 of the £44,000 target to pay for the completion of the “bottom half” of the loco had been raised by the end of March 2020 and the crossheads and slide valves had been completed at a cost of £2.150 each for the crossheads and £785 each for the slidevalves. After this the next items to be made were:-
Valve spindle guides
Guide rods
Eccentric rods
Cylinder cover gaskets
Valve buckles
The volunteer built pony truck was due to be primed and painted.

The next stage of construction after the “bottom part” of the loco was completed would be the smokebox. Five quotes were sought for thework. This was to create the stainless steel smokebox wrapper, front plate and some small flats needed. In April 2020 some of these costs were quoted as:-

Stainless steel for the smokebox wrapper:- £400.00
Stainless steel and laser cutting for the smokebox front plate:- £330.00
Rolling the wrapper:-£190.00
Stainless steel flats to make up the weld on flanges:- £60.00

Overall a touch under £1000

As it transpired in the Covid-19 pandemic the smokebox was made before the “bottom half” was completed. At the end of May 2020 the smokebox wrapper and front plate had been manufactured. In addition the dished plate which will form the main part of the smokebox door had been ordered at a cost of £412. This was made by Purdie Dished Ends of Bradford and was collected from their works on Friday June 26th 2020.

Meanwhile at this stage Alan Keef’s workshops were progressing with the eccentric straps.

CAD drawings of the cab and saddle tank were advancing well thanks to Graham French.

In mid-July 2020 the smokebox was taken to Maespoeth Junction and was united with the boiler. Although the chimney was there it was felt that its weight would be problematic if it toppled and the pattern was mounted on the smokebox instead.

This turned out to be a brief interlude as on August 13th there was a lorry in the Mid Wales area looking for a “return load” after taking a Talyllyn (originally Corris) carriage back to Tywyn after overhaul in Haltwhistle. Keef’s agreed to take delivery of and store the boiler, smokebox and other components and they departed at this point. The movement cost just over £400 including VAT.

At the end of August 2020 the castings for the eccentrics for the inside motion were delivered to Keef’s from a foundry. At the same time the following was also afoot.

Work was continuing on the main build of the loco at Alan Keef Ltd to complete the motion with the aim of reaching a point where it could be “run” on compressed air hopefully before the end of the year. The original plan was to make this a feature of their open day usually held every other September but was not surprisingly cancelled for 2020 and work had been slowed by the pandemic. A further Autumn lockdown then further slowed progress.

The crossheads had been trial fitted and the right hand side piston rod was in place so that the slide bar alignment could be checked. Once the slide bars had been finally aligned and bolted the crosshead slippers could be machined to suit.

The valve buckles had been externally machined and sent away for the insides to be wire cut out.

Another part of the loco to be started was the Salter Spring Balances to control the safety valves.

With regard to the brake parts for the loco steel had been ordered so that Corris volunteers could begin work on these components at Maespoeth Junction. This was delivered to Maespoeth Junction at the start of September 2020.

Another volunteer had two items lined up to make, one being for the brake blocks which involved a trip to Keef’s and the other for the cast iron brake stand to support the shaft and handle. All this would be time consuming and therefore expensive work so it was great that there were volunteer members prepared to take on some of the work.

Discussions were ongoing about boiler fittings for the loco. Some were straightforward but others required careful consideration so that we get the parts which would not only do the job well but also look right. The aim was to put together a definitive list so that best prices can be sought.

A whistle for the loco was being sought, ideally being donated. A GWR whistle casing was available but would need work to create the working “innards”.

At the beginning of November 2020 the eccentric straps and sheaves had been machined and of course more of the money raised had been spent as follows;-

Casting for one eccentric strap including supplying the pattern4 No. in total
Machining one pair of cast iron eccentric straps4 No. in total
Machining an eccentric strap special bolt8 No. in total
Machining a pair of eccentric sheaves4 No. in total
Machining and fabrication of draincock linkage, brackets and rod1 set

Also at this stage the patterns for the cast iron brake stand and brake blocks had been taken to Manor Foundry in Ilkeston and the casting was made. Cost of this foundry work was £800. They were due to go to Keef’s for machining and finishing.

In the last week of November 2020 the CAD design work for the cab showed some unusual features were planned as follows; It was the intention that despite the cab standing higher than the 1930’s version carried by No. 3 when it left for its post Corris career at the Talyllyn it would follow Corris practice by having the coal bunker inside the cab. At Tywyn No. 3’s is now outside the cab. To make coaling easier there would be a hinged sidesheet section on the left hand side of the cab.

It had also been decided to have a removable backsheet to the cab. This would make life more comfortable for the footplate crew on hot sunny days in the Dulas Valley. And when it was not in place passengers in the front carriage en route to Corris would be able to see the crew at work and how the engine was handled.

At the end of January 2021 the order for the purchase and cutting of the steel for the cab, apart from the roof and upper cab backsheet had been at an estimated cost of circa £2,000. A volunteer would then construct the cab in his workshop. This was delivered in February to the East Midlands where two Corris volunteers with engineering skills and workshop facilities would construct the cab. They were also busy with work on hinges and fittings for the smokebox door.

Photographs received from Alan Keef Ltd at the start of March 2021 showed that the connecting rods and outside motion for the locomotive was nearly complete, taking the bottom half construction a welcome step closer to completion. Although most of the main parts had already been made as some may know often the final machining of mating parts in a one off build such as this loco is carried out at the assembly stage. The slidebars had been finish fitted, the bronze crosshead slippers were machined and fitted, the gudgeon pins had been made and the pistons and piston rods had been fitted presumably so that finish measuring and setting could be carried out. Then at the end of the first week in March came a photograph that had been eagerly awaited, the wheels and cylinders with the connecting rods and outside motion in place.

Other components that were being produced and worked on included the hinges for the smokebox door which were to be shaped to follow the curve of the door as another engineering job.

Nearer the back end of the loco the top plate for the brake stand along with the fixing studs had been made. A thrust washer and locking ring were needed after which these parts along with the previously cast brake column could be delivered, any lockdown permitting, to an engineering firm near Keefs who will bore out the centre of the casting.

Moving on by mid-April 2021 the outside motion was complete and between the frames work at Keef’s was being done on the weigh shaft and keys were being machined into the eccentrics.

When the inside motion is complete the plan was to make the slide block and fixings to mount the pony truck on the loco then some necessary sections of foot plate followed by a start on mounting the boiler. So overall there was some very visible progress coming closer.

Another Covid-rooted change of plan was the production of the brake gear for No. 10. This was going to be carried out by the volunteers in the Maespoeth Junction workshops but with restrictions on access there the plan changed so that East Midlands volunteers would assist by doing part of the work in Derby and Nottingham. Other jobs that they had performed included the shaping of the hinges to fit the curves of the smokebox door mentioned above.

Costings had been obtained for upcoming components and these are shown below:

VALVE COMPONENTS FOR SPONSORSHIPCost (each) 
Main Steam Valve£720
Injector steam control valve (1 of 2)£480
Injector steam control valve (2 of 2)£480
Air pump isolation valve£120
Boiler blowdown valve (with operating key)£696
Combined clack and boiler feed isolation valve (1 of 2)£780
Combined clack and boiler feed isolation valve (2 of 2)£780
Whistle operating valve£108
Whistle isolation valve£48
Inspectors test cock (for Pressure gauge)£56
Washout plugs (1 of 2)£90
Washout plugs (2 of 2)£90
Injector water feed isolation valve (1 of 2)£48
Injector water feed isolation valve (2 of 2)£48
Air pump auto control valve£120
Feed water injector (1 of 2)£780
Feed water injector (2 of 2)£780
Boiler water level gauge glass protector (1 of 3)£168
Boiler water level gauge glass protector (2 of 3)£168
Boiler water level gauge glass protector (3 of 3)£168
Boiler fusible plug£160
Ref: JS - 03/08/2021 Rev:1.0

The smokebox door fittings were completed in mid May 2021 and the door was ready for fitting to the smokebox in due course. Work was continuing on the brake gear components.

At the end of the last week in June 2021 another crucial milestone on the progress with the locomotive was reached. A video was posted by Alan Keef Ltd showing the wheels in motion moving for the first time, courtesy of compressed air. Fine tuning would be necessary but it meant that the bottom half of the loco was close to completion. The video can be viewed by clicking on this link: Falcon in motion 24/06/21.

In the same week parts for the brake gear, constructed by volunteers, was delivered to Keef’s whilst the brake stem casting was being finished.

After the successful first running of the wheels and motion work continued at Alan Keef’s. The boiler was trial fitted into the frames which necessitated some minor, and expected adjustments to the frame and, following some measuring of number 3 at Tywyn, to the valve gear. To take the project forward to the point where the boiler could be permanently mounted sections of the footplate were produced. Another job completed at Keef’s during July/August 2021 was the construction of the mounting block for the rear pony truck which was then put in place.

Work by volunteers and Alan Keef’s staff on the brake gear continued through August 2021.

The summer work after the first running cost fourteen thousand pounds including VAT.

Meanwhile in a volunteer’s workshop in Nottingham the cab components were being readied, machined and trial assembled.

During September 2021 work at Keef’s included the fitting of the brake blocks and initial work on the drain cocks. Some plating had been fitted for the front of the footplate and the regulator housing was fitted to the boiler.

On October 14th 2021 the cab components were taken to Alan Keef’s and trial erected on the frames. As expected this showed that some adjustments would be required but nothing major. At the same time volunteer constructed draw gear and buffers were delivered for fitting along with the smokebox door and its fittings.

At the same time discussions were held and a number of targets were set to be reached by the end of February 2022.

Andy Cooper would follow up with the relevant people on Salter spring balances, safety valves, cab, boiler fittings, springs for the trailing truck and draw hooks, builders plate, cab windows, CAD design and laser cutting files for the saddle tank. Some of the individual boiler fittings can be sponsored here.

Ian Cross would work with Vince at Alan Keef’s on the remaining brake parts we are responsible for.

Richard Hamilton-Foyn would sort out the air brake valve and mechanical lubricator and liaise with the Talyllyn Railway regarding the air pump, injectors, steam brake cylinder, steam brake valve and pipework drawing.

Many of the above were well on the way already but there was a lot still to do to get them over the line.

Your support would be very welcome if you feel able to click in the donations icon for one of the individual components listed. Some of these are for parts that have already been manufactured but donors will be able to specifically identify “their” contribution and the money raised will take the project forward.

But we do value ALL donations, small or large, so if you would like to help please go back to the main page of the site and click on the appropriate icon there. Thank you in anticipation of the day when the sound of a “Falcon” 0-4-2 saddle tank can be heard again in Dyffryn Dulas.

Donations paid by cheque towards the construction of No. 10 can be posted to 38 Underwood Close, Callow Hill, Redditch, B97 5YS. Cheques or postal orders payable to Corris Railway. Peter can also provide standing order forms for those who would like to make regular payments towards completing No. 10.

There are some sales items available from our web shop that specifically contribute towards the fund raising for No. 10. These include an enamel badge featuring the loco surrounded by the Corris Railway garter and the poster and postcards from the painting by Steve Butts.

SUPPORT THE FALCON LOCOMOTIVE FUND TODAY TO FURTHER SECURE THE FUTURE AND HERITAGE OF THE CORRIS RAILWAY IN THE 21ST CENTURY.

If you would like to make a general donation to the Falcon Locomotive Appeal Fund by credit card or PayPal then please click on this button.


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