The Partial Inspiration For The Arlesdale Railway
The Ffestiniog Railway in Wales was the first narrow gauge railway in the world, built in 1836 as a horse-drawn tramway to carry slate from the mines in Blaenau Ffestiniog down to the Harbour at Portmadoc (now Porthmadog).
The practice for the railway was to use gravity slate trains to escort their loaded wagons and horses back down to Portmadoc in the days of frieght operations. Working out of the biggest slate mine in the world, the railway was also the first narrow gauge line in the world to use such small steam locomotives. Although by the time they converted in 1863 the practice was common on Standard Gauge lines, it had not yet been a tried and tested method on such a small railway.
The Railway ordered four locomotives from George England works and these became the early main-stay for the railway. One of these locomotives, Prince, is not only the longest serving narrow gauge locomotive in history, but also the inspiration behind another Sodor legend - Duke. At the time of closure in 1946, following the Second World War, Prince was waiting to be fitted with a new boiler.
Sadly, the locomotive may never have seen the chance to be fitted with it had it not been for the dedication and hard work of Ffestiniog Railway volunteers. Due to the line being in a bad state of decay, it was required that the line had to be rebuilt completely to return to full power. It took roughly thirty years to rebuild the line's 13.5 mile route, with more than a few potholes along the way, but it has proved it's worth and seen every problem through with grace and dignity to become one of the world's premier Heritage Railways.
The Railway's rich and colourful history proved invaluable along with the Corris Railway in preparations for the 25th Railway Series book - Duke The Lost Engine. Awdry was even found to use material from the latter day Ffestiniog too, using the event of "Linda's Leap", as it is affectionately known and remembered by enthusiasts, for the basis of his Bulldog story. But from the history of the Ffestiniog, there was no truer representation of the locomotive than the steely determination of Duke. Once rebuilt in 1955 by the society, Prince worked the two early seasons of the line completely alone and despite being "retired" in 1969, the old dog is still found to be hard at work on the Ffestiniog Railway alongside his fellow locomotives.