Restoring NG15 no. 134 for the Welsh Highland

[134 Restoration Site] [Jump to Latest News]

Work is now under way to get the NG15 2-8-2 tender loco no. 134 into service on the Welsh Highland Railway. This page summarises the restoration work, and opportunities to get involved with it, and it also chronicles the earlier work done on this loco since its arrival in Wales in 1998. Full 'blow by blow' details of the current progress are available on the restoration website at

WHRS announcement about the resumption of work on no. 134, October 2008

Following the announcement at the WHRS AGM, the Society would like to announce details of the project to restore one of the NG15s at Dinas. The basis of the project is as follows:

The WHRS has asked me (Peter Randall) to act as Project leader and I am now looking to establish a group of people to assist with this exciting project. In particular I would like to hear from anyone who could help in the following capacities.

If you would like to donate to the project, then email and I will send you details of how to contribute to the project. I have a new email for use in connection with the project and would appreciate it if all could use this one when emailing about the project whrng15ataoldotcom (replace "at" & "dot" with "@" & "." to use!). Hopefully an easy to remember address. So if you would like to come along to help, donate or just want to know what is happening, please drop me a line.

NG15 appeal launches in August 2009

An appeal entitled "From Scrap to Steam in 27 days" was launched in Caernarfon on August 3rd 2009, to raise funds towards the restoration of no. 134 (the "27 days" refers to the fundraising, not the intended time to completion!). To help in the appeal sister loco no. 133 (seen below in the position it has occupied at Dinas for several years) was displayed in the town centre. 

First work on the loco. 1999-2001

134's overhaul was started on a "no budget" basis in 1999, so as not to divert fundraising effort away from K1, which was the main focus at the time. Nonetheless donations were received for items such as boiler tubes and washout plugs, and numerous spares were acquired from South Africa to replace missing items on both locos, such as injectors and vacuum ejectors. To date the work has revealed no unpleasant surprises, indeed quite the opposite. It is thought that 134 was overhauled soon before withdrawal in South Africa, as its mechanical condition and the internal condition of the boiler have been found to be excellent.

Planned modifications include a redesigned tender body giving better visibility than the original. The outline design will retain the full-length bogie tender chassis, with a lower water tank than the original. While a design with some resemblance to smaller BR standard tenders had been sketched out, no firm decision has yet been taken on the design. One suggestion under consideration came from the late Handel Kardas ("Young Isambard" of Railway World, and a good friend to the WHR), who envisaged a design resembling the type of bogie tender seen with some Southern Railway Maunsell designs (e.g. the S15 class 4-6-0), with the addition of a removable cab back (as seen on the FR's Linda).

By January 2001, further good progress had been made. Cylinder bores and pistons were found to be in excellent condition. The valve chests were rebored; new valve heads (and possibly spindles) would be needed. The motion was ready; the valve gear was overhauled with new pins and bushes where necessary; brasses on the connecting and coupling rods were found to be in "good as new" condition. Work remained to be done on axleboxes and suspension. Although a detailed official inspection by the insurers was awaited, it was believed that the boiler would need little more work than a retube, plus new superheater flues and elements, and routine work such as internal cleaning and renewal of studs. New crinolines (the framework to which boiler cladding sheets are fixed) were made and new boiler cladding was also started (the loco arrived without any). The footplate and lower cab were completed, with work started on the upper part of the cab (detachable on SAR 2' gauge locos, so as to be within the loading gauge when transported on 3'6" gauge wagons). In the photos above the upper half of the smokebox is missing only because it too unbolts for maintenance access, as on the NGG16s. The tender chassis (separated from its old body at an early stage) was repaired together with one of its bogies, with work also done on the other. The other major work left is the tender superstructure and loco pipe runs.

Work was suspended in early 2001. The WHRS had already agreed to fund the 94 new boiler flue tubes which are required.

Work by Team Wylfa, 2003-5

Work restarted on a "no cost" basis in Autumn 2003, with the "Team Wylfa" volunteers weatherproofing the various openings in the boilers of both NG15s, and cataloguing parts refurbished during the previous work, plus those still needing attention. A container in the South Yard was kitted out for this work, and the majority of motion parts and other small components were reported as virtually in "ready to go" condition by mid-November 2003.

The locos acquired laminated paper "numberplates" so visitors could tell them apart, plus a summary text about the locos.

The tender chassis was moved into the Goods Shed in late November 2003. Although already part-overhauled, the chassis needed the bogies swapping round (they were the wrong way round), and the wheelsets needed to come out for re-profiling to exact gauge. With this done, the refurbished brake components could be refitted, giving a rolling chassis. The old body, removed in 1999 and stored in the South Yard, was due to be surveyed to see how much platework is fit for re-use in a new design; the sides and internals are thought to be relatively sound, while the top and former coal bunker definitely are not.

The forward bogie was removed in December 2003 (one axlebox was found to be partially seized) and then jacked up off its wheelsets so cleaning could proceed. It was found that while one of the four wheelsets had almost new tyres of the full 1'10" diameter, the other three were worn down to about 1'8.5". It obviously makes no sense to turn down a pair of new tyres to match the worn ones, so other short-term solutions were investigated - though a full new set of tyres will of course be needed at some point. The non-matching wheelset may be swapped for one from no. 133's tender.

Jim Comerford's pictures below show (left to right), axleboxes stripped from the forward bogie, the two wheelsets, the bogie frame, and detail of its centre pivot and side loading plates.

In January 2004 the forward bogie frame was scraped and sanded back to bare metal and had its first paint for probably thirty years - it is seen below on January 15th in its primer coat, with undercoating due the following week.

All four axleboxes were also cleaned and primed. Despite initially needing a jack to push the axleboxes out of the horn guides, now the scale/rust has been removed from the horn guide slippers and the axleboxes, there is now between 3 and 5mm play fore and aft and similar axially - so these parts are clearly well worn. All axleboxes needed a light skim to true up the sliding faces and the horn guide slippers needed to be replaced by new castings as there was too much play in them. The actual whitemetal bearings within the axleboxes were all badly worn and require re-metalling. There was some 10-15 mm axial play which, combined with the axial play in the axleboxes / horn guides, has resulted in the wheels hitting the frame and wearing shallow grooves in the plate! They were lightly scraped to clean them up and will be sufficient to keep the chassis "rolling" for short journeys around the yard.

The pictures below show the components of an axlebox. The unpainted slots on the box itself are the sliding faces that locate in the horn guides, the outer cover, the whitemetal lined brass bearing itself and the bearing carrier. Behind is the green inner oil seal which is a thick layer of felt sewn between two plasticised canvas outers. These fit into a slot in the inner face of the axlebox and are held in place by a steel keep plate, bolted on beneath.

The shots below, taken from above, show the central kingpin bearing and on either side, the side bearers. A hard steel disc is fitted into the centre of the square troughs (which in use, are part filled with oil). The rectangular top of the slipper (one is shown in the left hand trough) locates in a slot beneath the tender chassis cross beam and its lower face bears on the hardened disc. As the bogie articulates on a curve, these bearer slippers slide over the hard disc allowing the bogie to turn (articulate) about the kingpin - a similarly shaped casting is bolted to the underside of the tender chassis crossbeam and they are held together by two, loosely fitting, half moon shaped clamping rings.

On January 22nd 2004 Team Wylfa completely stripped the rear bogie, cleaned up the axleboxes, journals, hornguides, spring hangers etc, and commenced fitting it all back together again - this time well greased. Most of the pins were fit for re-use. The short-term aim was to make the bogie fit to shunt around the yard until the money for the major rebuild is eventually released. Through work such as this the team was building up a full picture of exactly what needed doing to bring 134 into A1 condition, by way of a holding exercise to prevent further deterioration and assessment ready for the rebuild.

The rear bogie was re-wheeled on February 3rd. Work then moved on to completion of cleaning and repainting the main tender frames. Part of this work involved needle gunning of heavy rust scaling on both dragboxes; to facilitate this an existing air compressor was mounted on a trolley, making a piece of mobile kit which wouldl be useful for future work on the loco and any other jobs requring compressed area around the Dinas site.

A meeting with FR General Manager Paul Lewin on February 14th 2004 led to a slight change in direction for the work in hand. Limited funds would be released for the team to do proper repairs on parts of the tender - so the job only needs doing once - rather than just doing an assessment/holding exercise. This included re-metalling the axlebox bearings while the bogies were out, which involved taking the wheelsets to Boston Lodge for some machining work on the pitted axle journals, as well as machining the new bearings to size.

The painted forward bogie frame is seen below on February 19th. Visible to the right is one of the wheelsets, wire brushed and ready for primer. The wheelsets were found to be a "mix and match" collection from different NG15s; this one seems to have started out with no. 148.

With the arrival of Spring attention turned back to the locomotive, as the boiler lift was confirmed for early April. The lift came courtesy of the crane that cleared the containers from the remaining Phase 3 construction sites. With the drawing of the smokebox saddle connection hand, it was decided to cut the 18 bolts with oxy-acetylene as they were standard 3/4" BSW and are rusted in solid.

Team Wylfa were well into releasing the boiler from the frames by March 26th. The evening of the 23rd saw removal of the lower footplate side sheets and side footplates so as to give clearance for the boiler to lift straight up from the sliding feet on the firebox. On the 25th (after a big struggle to bring the "gas axe" equipment down from the loco shed - one wheel of the gas trolley had a flat tyre) the nuts were cut off the mid-barrel support and a start was made on blowing the bolt heads off in the smokebox.

The lift took place on Monday April 5th, following a marathon effort over the previous fortnight to free or cut all the supporting bolts. The loco was moved for the first time in upward of two years for the lift, being shunted to the fuel road, which is adjacent to the car park, which was the obvious place for the crane. The pictures below show it shunted back into its usual place in the bay platform, and with the boiler behind on a flat wagon in the left-hand picture. The others show, from left to right, the rear Bissel truck, the view forward along the chassis, and the front driving axle from above. An early start was made on removing loose rust from the newly exposed components, and no unpleasant surprises were found. A needle gun was donated by a team member, which would help greatly with the next stage of preparation of the frames.

The boiler is newer than the loco, having been built for one of the 1957 batch of NG15s originally built for the Tsumeb Corporation. South African boiler records show that it received major attention to the firebox in 1981, ten years before the loco came out of service, with renewal of the rear tubeplate and the inner wrapper sides (plus of course the associated stays). In contrast to the 1997 misfortunes of the NGG16 boilers, the news about 134's seems to be all good, and getting better the more is learned.

On April 6th 2004 the tender bogie frames were swapped around so they are now correctly aligned with how they were originally. A large portion of the exterior frame was top coated and other bare metal areas primed. Team Wylfa received an offer to re-metal the bogie wheel bearings from two members of the original 134 team.

With both working NGG16s back in service in May, the pressure was on to vacate the Goods Shed. The forward bogie was replaced under the frames in the first week of the month, with the rear one due to follow the next week, so the chassis could be moved outside and sheeted over. However all eight spring hangers for the rear bogie turned out to be missing (the springs themselves have been located, as have the horn stays; these components were stripped in the original restoration effort); the rear bogie gained temporary wood block "springs" to get it mobile again.

When the time came to refit the bogies (though the wheelsets would need to come out again for remetalling of the bearings), it was realised that the bogies were both facing the wrong way (a check against 133's tender was needed!), so they were turned by dint of brute force on greased steel plates. The rolling chassis was rollable once more by the end of work on May 18th, leaving minor jobs such as refitting axlebox covers and fitting the drawbar so the chassis could be shunted.

Further stripping of the chassis in late May and early June 2004 revealed the first unwelcome surprises, although they are not major obstacles to the loco's eventual completion. The rear frame stretcher was found to be wasted to the point of penetration. This cast steel component (left-hand picture below) also forms the pivot for the Bissel truck, and should be repairable by cropping out the corroded areas and welding in new plate. Damage here is explained by the component lying under the front end of the firebox, where some trouble from corrosive ash is understandable. Also, removal of the remaining footplating revealed corrosion in the dragbox (centre and right-hand pictures), with the 5/8" top plate all but gone (remainder shovelled out as two buckets of rust by the time the pictures were taken). Again, the damage can be repaired by welding in new plate, with some simplification to the structure; the original includes a bearing bracket and rod on the left-hand side for the original rocking grate, which will not be needed with oil firing.

The next stage in preparation and evaluation of the chassis was to lift the chassis off the wheelsets. A necessary step for this was shunting the boiler and more particularly the frames from the bay platform to the adjacent release road. This was done in early August 2004, and allowed access to the horn guides on the right-hand side, which was difficult with the chassis adjacent to the platform.

A plan for the chassis to be moved into the rail clip shed at Dinas for work to proceed was been put into effect; this is one of the sheds alongside the boundary of the north yard, and is not rail connected. However track was laid inside the shed in September 2004 to accommodate the chassis and keep it safe from the elements, and improved lighting of the shed was also put in hand.

It was only in October 2005 that the logistics fell into place for the move to happen, the main item being the opportunity for brief hire at favourable rates of a 100-ton capacity crane on its way back to its depot from a job in Pwllheli. On the 5th, with the lift performed and 134's chassis turned through 90 degrees to face the right way, temporary track was connected up to the clip shed, and a JCB shunted the chassis inside.

It should be noted that this move did not mean that work on no. 134 was due to get back into full gear. The railway's loco policy was based around the NGG16s, and accordingly Team Wylfa and others were concentrating on no. 140, with an intention that work could restart on no. 134 later. Moving the chassis inside, and sheeting over the boiler, was more to do with protection from the elements so that work already done does not have to be redone when the time comes.

The boiler was craned off its flat wagon during the October 2005 rail deliveries, and took up a new position adjacent to the fuel oil tank.

Work restarts, 2008-?

The new team held a first working party as planned on October 25-6th 2008, with Clive Briscoe of Team Wylfa attending on the first day to point out where parts previously stripped from the loco were stored. The shed where the frames are located is no longer strictly speaking the clip shed, as the remaining stillages of rail clips are now located elsewhere at Dinas. The working party's first priority was a major tidying exercise, and a B wagon load of junk and rubbish was assembled and moved to the disposal skips in the South Yard. On the second day of the working party the chassis was jacked up, and the springs from all the axles were removed to be sent off for refurbishment or replacement, a significant task for getting the loco to "rolling chassis" status.

On January 17th 2009 volunteers released all the wheelsets by jacking and packing the loco frames with two 25-ton jacks and sleepers, and the next day the frames were lowered to a suitable working height for cleaning. After cleaning, the frames and wheels will be repainted in black. The cylinders were also stripped of the piston rods and heads; the bores were checked and were found to be in very good condition. The cylinder bores will not need machining; the piston valve bores were machined during the first phase of work on the loco in 1999.

It is intended that working parties will be held on the third weekend of the month and there is also likely to be a working week at some stage - watch this space for details, or email Peter Randall at whrng15ataoldotcom (replace "at" & "dot" with "@" & "."). Team Wylfa members also intend to help on Tuesday evenings as and when work on carriage inspections and NGG16 work allows - see Volunteer Projects.

There is no target date for completion of the loco - the project is being approached on a "ready when it's ready" basis. It is also hinted that there may be enough modifications to justify a reclassification as a new sub-class, "NG15A", echoing a process with a pair of NGG16s on the former Alfred County Railway in South Africa.

Report from the February 2009 working party:

Work on no. 134 has continued behind the scenes since the January working party. Articles in the WHRS magazine The Snowdon Ranger have brought the project to the forefront of people's minds and have introduced the appeal for funds and the general principles of the agreement with the Ffestiniog Railway, the owner of the loco. There has also been discussion with possible sponsors of particular parts of the work. On a more concrete level, the corroded chassis cross member just ahead of the firebox has been cut out and removed.

The monthly working party took place over the weekend of the 21st-22nd February, preceded by a couple of days' preparation work undertaken by five volunteers during school half-term week. The principal focus of the efforts was on the tender chassis, though the loco itself was not totally ignored. The first job was to extricate the tender from its location at the far end of the long siding, where it has sat for several years under a tarpaulin. Team Wylfa had taken a preliminary look at the bearings and pronounced it fit to move. On a drizzly Thursday afternoon therefore, Conway Castle was fired up and a big shunt removed a line of other vehicles. Fortunately there were no trains running so the main-line could be used to hold these wagons whilst the tender was moved temporarily to the coal siding adjacent to the 'clip shed' workshop. The rest of the wagons were then replaced carefully and in an order which more accurately reflected the likelihood of them being used in the near future.

On the Friday, the main task was to clear a space for the tender chassis in the northern half of the clip shed (the old tender body was removed years ago, and is lying in the South Yard). The tender is 23' long and 8' wide and will require access from all sides, so it was no five minute job. A full day of heavy work, supported by Team Wylfa, involved the removal of shelving and all its contents to the side of the shed, some rearrangement of big castings on pallets, and the transfer of the remaining construction company stores to their shed next door. A final piece of preparatory work saw two lengths of jubilee track loaded into a B wagon and brought across from the South Yard ready for the Saturday.

On Saturday morning ten or so volunteers gathered in the mess room before starting the challenging task of moving the tender by way of the jubilee track through a 90 degree turn to face the clip shed entrance. Such a job takes much longer to complete than to write about. By lunchtime the vehicle had been turned through 45 degrees but was now into a more confined space. The afternoon therefore saw a change of technique, first running the wheels onto steel sheets rather than rails, and then finally with the bogie centres supported on rails mounted on sleepers and slid sideways into line with its future home in the shed. Meanwhile two volunteers had been working inside, removing all of the loco coupled axle bearings and transferring them to the degreasing tank in the main loco shed.

On the Sunday morning the first job was to cut away the plywood panelling and supporting beams around the single door to make an opening big enough for the tender to run through. After laying rails in the shed and connecting them to the jubilee track outside, the tender ran in smoothly and was in its new home by lunchtime. During the afternoon the tender chassis was jacked up and the first of the bogies run out for inspection within the space in the shed. Rather than pull the bogies from under 133's tender (all wheelsets partly worn to the same degree) and have to completely overhaul them, the proposal is to assess the wheelsets on 134's already mainly overhauled bogies for the fitting of new tyres to the three sets with worn tyres to match the good wheelset - this would make good economic sense in the long term. Roller bearing axleboxes may also be fitted to the tender bogies, in place of the current plain bearings.

Some additional work on the loco saw efforts commence on the dismantling of the Krauss-Helmholtz truck. The big ball joint linking the truck to the front coupled axle appeared to be in excellent condition considering the length of time out of use, with everything still surrounded in oil or grease. Most bolts could be removed without any difficulty. A final blitz of clearing up and reinstalling the plywood wall took place before everyone dispersed for home. Thanks are due to each of the dozen or so volunteers; "a very productive weekend" was the final verdict.

Similar working weekends take place throughout the year and dates and how to get in touch can be found on the restoration website 

The restoration work on 134 has now reached the phase of re-construction and whilst there could still be the odd item that still needs to be dismantled by far the larger proportion of the work now involves painting and the re-assembly of component parts. In September 2013 the loco's frames were moved to the main loco shed to make easier working conditions for the restoration team.

This progress can be followed through the Cymdeithas Rheilffordd Eryri website to the restoration website at

Back to rolling stock page
Authored by Ben Fisher; last updated March 23rd, 2015 by Laurence Armstrong