THE “FALCON” STEAM LOCOMOTIVE – CORRIS NO. 10.
The following is an abbreviated story of the second steam locomotive to enter traffic in the revival of the Corris Railway. For a fuller account a 36pp booklet “The New Steam Locomotive For The Corris Railway – Falcon Locomotive No. 10” can be purchased from the website shop or at the Museum sales counter when the Railway is running public service trains.
Having taken delivery of the new “Tattoo” locomotive, No. 7, in 2005 the Corris Railway had taken a major step in the revival of the line and along the way to evoking the Railway as it was in the first decades of the 20th Century. No. 7 was clearly a classmate of Corris, now Talyllyn, No. 4, albeit eighty years younger.
Members of the Corris Railway Society then turned their thoughts toward what should be constructed next. A neat answer would have been to have another “Tattoo” constructed as the engineering drawings were to hand and it is a straightforward design. Against this the original Corris only had one of these Kerr Stuart machines on its books and to enhance the evocation a Hughes “Falcon” was desirable. The downsides to that plan was that the “Falcon” design dated to 1878 and it was a considerably more complex machine. A third school of thought was to go for a Kerr Stuart “Thames” class – similar to the “Tattoo” but carrying its water supply in side tanks rather than a saddle tank.
The options were put before the CRS membership and the majority of those who voted were in favour of the “Falcon”. Peter and Rosie Guest who had overseen the “Tattoo” project agreed to take on the same role and the work on bringing the new locomotive to the Dulas Valley began.
The first requirement was to find a specialist railway engineering company with experience of building narrow gauge locomotives who would be prepared to make progress with construction as the Corris raised the funds. The well-established firm of Alan Keef Ltd based in Lea near Ross-on-Wye agreed to tackle the project and over the ensuing years this proved to be an ideal arrangement as Keef’s were supportive of the Corris throughout and developed a good relationship with the skilled engineers among the CR’s volunteer workforce.
Before any metal could be cut engineering drawings were required. The Hughes Company was absorbed eventually into Brush Engineering at Loughborough and they were contacted. Sadly they had no drawings of the Corris engines in their archives and nor did the National Railway Museum or the Great Western Railway Society. Fortunately the original Corris No. 3 is alive and well at the Talyllyn Railway and was available for measuring. The TR was also very supportive of the “Falcon” project all the way through but even with their help the drawing work eventually absorbed £25,000.
The first major component top be constructed was the boiler which came from the workshops of Israel Newton and Son. That cost £31,000 and although the project has attracted a lot of support and donation income there was then a need to allow the bank balance to recover. The boiler went on display in the carriage shed at Maespoeth Junction together with some smaller components and explanation boards in the hope of bringing more donations from visitors to the Railway.
Donations did indeed continue to come in and a sales stand selling donated models travelled to model railway exhibitions which further boosted the funds. The frames for the loco were cut and erected at Keef’s and the driving wheels, which are unusually solid castings rather than spoked, were cast and drilled for the crank pins. Unfortunately there was a delay in delivery of the tyres for the driving wheels from a specialist manufacturer in South Africa which pushed back the rate of construction.
Once these had arrived and had been fitted matters at Keef’s moved on producing the component parts for the motion. A number of these were individually sponsored by supporters and a further generous donation allowed the cylinders to be cast. These were then machined and fitted.
In parallel with work on the motion a Corris volunteer with engineering skills and a well-equipped workshop set to work and produced the trailing truck and its wheels. This work was also sponsored by an individual donor and it began a sequence of work by engineering skilled Corris Railway Society volunteers that included brake components, safety valve parts, buffers and trial erection of the cab sections after they had been commercially cut.
It was hoped that the wheels and motion would be ready to be demonstrated and moved by compressed air at an Alan Keef Open Day in September 2020 but the Covid pandemic brought that plan to a halt. However the smokebox assembly and door were produced and moved first to Maespoeth Junction. Shortly after their arrival they were moved again, together with the boiler, to Keef’s in 2021.
The high spot of 2021 for those connected with the project came in June when Keef’s placed online a video of a hose being connected and compressed air moving the motion and wheels for the first time.
The cab gauges and controls were sponsored by another individual and many other donations, plus sales from attending exhibitions meant 2022 was a year of major and quick progress. Another major landmark was passed when the boiler was successfully tested hydraulically. Larger visible items made and fitted included the saddle tank and the cab was bolted together.
At the end of September the “Falcon” was steamed for the first time and a few days later at an Alan Keef Open Day it could be seen steaming back and forth on a short length of demonstration track. It attracted a large amount of attention and the sight of it on the move was heartening but much remained to be done.
The jobs done over the next 11 months included lagging the boiler, fitting buffers and many other seemingly smaller, but very important jobs. Most crucial was the fitting of the air brake mechanism.
Finally the “Falcon” was painted and it was delivered to Maespoeth Junction on August 30th 2023. On September 8th it worked its first trains on a special day for supporters and the media and ran its first public passenger trains on September 9th and 10th 2023.