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September 2005

Gosling's Prince

by Marc Horovitz

The prototype
Prince was the third of four locomotives supplied to the famous Ffestiniog Railway in Wales, in 1863 and 64 (the others were Mountaineer, Princess, and Lord Palmerston). These were the first steam locomotives to be used by the railway, which had opened in 1836. The engines were constructed by George England (who is also credited with the invention of the screw jack, used to replace derailed locomotives on the track). These engines were delivered a couple of years before the railway began hauling passengers.

George England was to build two more locomotives for the Ffestiniog before his locomotive works was passed to his son-in-law, Robert Fairlie, who renamed the works the Fairlie Engine and Steam Carriage Company. He acquired a patent for the well known, unusual double-ended locomotive, but that's a different story.

The Prince that is running today on the Ffestiniog is the same Prince delivered by George England in 1863, and is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, steam locomotive still in operating condition. Prince was originally built with side tanks, like the model. The saddle tank and cab were later added at the Ffestiniog’s Boston Lodge Works. Photos of the original can be seen in the book, Ffestiniog Railway, Vol. 1, by James I.C., Boyd (Oakwood Press).

The model
Robin Gosling, the builder of Prince, is one of the more enigmatic and little known of the British builders. He was busy during the 1970s and early 80s, but has since dropped out of sight. He is known to have produced only three different locomotives commercially -- Prince, a Glyn Valley Tramway loco with an oscillating cylinder (both in 16mm scale for gauge-0 track), and an 0-scale model of an LBSC 4-4-2T. None were produced in great numbers (this engine is works number 110).

Robin Gosling was a craftsman of a high order. Both his machine work and his finish work are superb, as can be seen in the photos. Prince has two, small, D-valve cylinders with inside valves and slip-eccentric reversing. All wheels on the engine are sprung. The boiler is a Smithies with a wet-leg backhead, fired by a four-wick alcohol burner. Fuel is carried in the tender and uses the chicken-feed system of supply. Water is also carried in the tender. There’s a hand pump in the water cavity to supply the boiler.

Boiler fittings include a water glass with blowdown, pressure gauge, safety valve, throttle, and blower valve. Since the boiler is internally fired, steam must be raised through the use of a suction fan on the stack. Prince is a tiny locomotive, fine and delicate. Standing next to a larger engine of the same scale gives you a feel for how diminutive the prototype is.

The run
I prepared the engine in the usual manner. Once all was in readiness, I dropped the suction fan in the stack, turned it on, opened the fuel valve on the tender, and lit the fire. I then set off to wipe down the track, which is what I usually do while the engine is raising steam. By the time I got all the way around, less than five minutes later, there was already 30 pounds on the clock. I opened the blower and removed the fan.

Steam came rapidly up to blow-off pressure. I initially intended to just run the engine off the water in the boiler, but even the process of steaming up depleted its small capacity. I filled the tender tank and pumped up the boiler. This brought the water level up and the pressure down, both of which were desirable.

I opened the throttle and the engine moved off without a hiccup. I suppose that the engine is so small that the cylinders heat up well before steam is admitted, obviating the need to push the engine.

To say that this is a lively engine is an understatement. In fact, it is exceedingly lively. All the control you'd ever want is in the first few degrees of rotation of the throttle lever. Once I got it adjusted, though, Prince proved to be perfectly controllable, even running light. This is a beautiful engine. It runs as well as it looks. It will throttle down to a walking pace (with the blower cracked) and amble around all afternoon. Because the boiler capacity is so small, frequent topping-up with the tender pump is required. On the other hand, with the addition of fuel and water to the tender, the engine could be kept in steam all day. It's a pip! If you are ever offered a Gosling engine, grab it.


Builder Gosling Locomotives (Great Britain)
Date built Unknown (early 1980s?)
Gauge 0 (32mm)
Scale 16mm = 1'0"
Boiler Smithies
Fittings Safety valve, throttle, blower, pressure gauge, water glass, blowdown
Fuel Alcohol
Blow-off pressure 60 p.s.i.
Cylinders Two, double acting, D-valve
Reversing gear Slip eccentrics
Lubricator Displacement
Weight 5 lbs. (with tender)
Dimensions Length over end beams (including tender), 13-1/2"; width, 3-1/8"; height, 4-3/4"
Gosling’s Prince is close to a finescale model. It reflects the prototype's diminutive size. Water and fuel connections from the tender to the engine can be seen here.

Even though fully figured, the cab is neatly laid out. Lack of a roof and side walls make for excellent access.


A small displacement lubricator resides below the front deckplate. Door handles are dummies.


External running gear is quite simple. Note the round-section drive and main rods. Valves are concealed inside the frames.
Above: The slip eccentrics are visible on the rear axles, with the long rods reaching forward to the inside valves. A four-wick burner is contained in the firebox of the Smithies boiler.

Right: The tender carries both fuel and water. A hand pump is provided to replenish the boiler. The fuel tank works on the chicken-feed principle. Sadly, the hatch over the pump is missing.



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