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The Ffestiniog Englands are the world's oldest working narrow gauge engines. We're laser scanning them to make the most accurate kits.
130 backers pledged £7,952 to help bring this project to life.

Books are shipping

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Hi everyone, Dan Quine here. I've been working with Chris and the Flexiscale team to produce the book about the George England locos. Many of you have chosen a copy of the book as your reward for backing us on Kickstarter. The first of these have been shipped and were delivered today. I hope those of you who have received them have enjoyed your books.

Here's a sneak peek at the book. First up, this is the front of the popular softcover edition:

The book covers the history of steam locomotives on narrow gauge railway, from Trevithick's 1802 locomotive through to the introduction of the Englands. You get a detailed history of the introduction of steam on the Festiniog Railway, including the fascinating story of how Charles Menzies Holland - nephew of the owner of Oakeley slate quarry - tried his hand at locomotive design.

Next is a chapter on George England. He's a fascinating Victorian character. He built a successful engineering company that supplied locomotives to many of the early railway companies. He was also know for his temper - the book covers the infamous incident when Robert Francis Fairlie eloped with England's daughter and England sued Fairlie, only to loose the case in dramatic circumstances. A few years later, England retired and left the company in charge of Fairlie who used it to build Little Wonder for the Festiniog Railway. Full details of the extraordinary episode are in the book.

After this, the locomotives themselves are introduced. Here's the timeline of major overhauls and periods out of service for the locos:

Each locomotive is covered in detail, with a full history and a plethora of archive and new photographs. Here for example, are two of the pages covering Welsh Pony:

And here is the first page of the section on Little Giant:

For the first time, the full story of the demise of Little Giant is told, as well as Palmerston's exile to Staffordshire and eventual return and restoration on the railway; we are lucky enough to have previously unpublished photos from Mike Hart, the man behind the restoration, for the book.

We end with a description of the laser scanning and 3D printing of the locomotives earlier this year.

More copies of the book are in production and will be shipping in the next few days. Everyone should have received a survey from us asking for your address. If you haven't filled it in, now would be a great time to do so and we can get your rewards shipped off.

For those who didn't choose a book as their reward, there is a chance to buy one at All proceeds from these sales are being donated to the fund to restore Welsh Pony to working order.

I hope you enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Books, cards, badges and t-shirts


Dear all who supported us for books, cards, badges and t-shirts. We're sorry you've had to wait so long. We've been bogged down in the modelling of these complicated but wonderful locomotives and we've neglected you a bit. 

The books which are wonderful and which Dan has worked on so hard have been waiting for a few images of the work in progress and are now ready to go. The badges are designed and the cards being printed. 

If you chose a t-shirt, please fill in the survey you should have just got so we know which one and which size to print for you.

If you could all send in your details as soon as possible that would be wonderful. 

Thanks again, and onwards!

Iterating on the subframes of the locomotive


The Englands in real life are quite unusually built. Much of the structure of the locomotive is the boiler itself. The frames are bolted to the front of the firebox and the drawbar to the rear meaning that the firebox is taking much of the drawbar load. The saddle tank sits onto a subframe supported on a frame, with valances to either side hung off of the subframe. 

When modelling the Englands, since many of the different scale kits are without chassis to provide support during fabrication/transit, the majority of the structural integrity is taken up by these subframes with a small component being provided by the attachments between assemblies (smokebox/saddle tank/cab). 

The subframes need to appear delicate from the outside as they do on the real thing, yet have strong structural integrity.

Initial efforts surrounded strengthening the valances, thickening them inwards with additional supports and cross members. However in all attempts they were simply too fragile. 

A novel approach has now been taken which is to model them afresh and afix high resolution prints for the valances to them. This part of the development has been incredibly iterative through the use of 3D printing with over 20 iterations leading to the final result.

Making the biggest part of the locomotive printable


The saddle tank of the England is one of the most distinctive parts and one of the biggest challenges in making the kit. This is largely as we need to leave enough space inside for weight and the motor and gearbox and for the larger scale for DCC. Therefore it needs hollowing out.

Solid (white), closed both ends (red), open one end (blue)
Solid (white), closed both ends (red), open one end (blue)

Problems appear as soon as you start doing this. Firstly the saddle tank is actually wider than the frame it rests upon, therefore there either needs to be a greater wall thickness (reducing space inside and also using more material and machine time).  Alternatively some support structures need building into the base. Secondly make it too thin and it warps badly.

After many iterations we have a design which works, it has a cutout at the front of the saddle tank which allows the a continuous space with the smokebox for running cables for a smoke unit or for using the smokebox for the DCC chip. It has the rear surface removed so that there can, with the removal of a portion of the cab, be a continuous run from firebox to smokebox for cables/motors/electronics.

The largest challenge in designing this piece was machine time. In 16mm scale the print takes over 30 hours on the MakerBot to print.

Some of what we did over the summer. The front of the locomotive.


Firstly many apologies for the lack of updates over the summer. Long hours working on the prototypes coupled with the responsibilities of a parent when school is out led to no updates, many apologies. However now as the autumn nights draw in we can share some of the work which has led to it being about a week away from pressing print on the first set of kits.

The face of the loco
The face of the loco

The first major piece of work was the assembly at the front of the locomotive. This is a fairly crucial piece being the face of the locomotive and several approaches were taken to create it. 

The initial plan was to print the chimney and it's base in one part, however it was clear that the base needed to be attached to the smokebox as there are some very fine edges which were at risk of warping/breaking in the resin print. 

Secondly the front platework was originally planned to be attached to the upper frames onto which the water tank is fitted on an England. On Palmerston in particular the prints for these frames are quite fragile at the point they meet the cab. This means that a stronger material will need to be picked for this part to be printed in and that has implications for minimum thickness of the thin platework. 

One of many broken upper frames and the ones which came next.
One of many broken upper frames and the ones which came next.

To thicken the platework would have compromised the quality and so an assembly was created which includes the balance weight, base of sandpots and the smokebox/chimney base assembly.

Complete assembly with additional parts
Complete assembly with additional parts

 Having the smokebox door separate will allow for it to be printed with a different z-orientation so that it has the smoothest finish possible from the printer. 

Nameplates from Narrow Planet test fitted.
Nameplates from Narrow Planet test fitted.

The complete front end of the engine is beginning to look very England like. This whole iterative process including prints of each test part took nearly 2 weeks, however along with the upper frames this is probably the most important part of the locomotive both structurally and visually and it was worth the time getting it right. 

The length of time of some of the prints led to a new innovation, CCTV and a remote control kill switch for the printer as some of the prints were taking over 8 hours.

Watching the MakerBot remotely
Watching the MakerBot remotely