FR No. 2 Prince at Porthmadog, taken from the Ffestiniog Railway Travellers Guide 2004. Picture by John Dobson
No. 2 "Prince", 0-4-0ST+T on the Welsh 1’ 11 1/2" Ffestiniog Railway at Porthmadog is the oldest working engine in the UK, built by George England in 1863. Originally called "The Prince" (hence "The Duke" on the model MSR), his only remaining brother still in steam is "Palmerston" from 1864. (see the Real Stories Database about how Palmerston spent time as a pumping engine and thus possibly the inspiration for the story of No. 2).
The Ffestiniog, the first and biggest of the Welsh narrow-gauge railways, is a remarkable line running from Porthmadog across the causeway known as the "Cob" to spectacular Blaenau Ffestiniog deep in Snowdonia, up some steep gradients which include the Darjeeling-esque Deviation Spiral at Ddualt. There are Network Rail interchanges with the Cambrian Coast line at Minffordd (alight here for Portmerion) and the North Coast line at Blaenau. The Ffestiniog is also famous for its Double Fairlie engines, inspiration for the TV engines "Mighty" and "Mac", all built in the railway's unique erecting shop at Boston Lodge (Prince was there on my visit). Meanwhile, the sister Welsh Highland Railway is currently in two parts, running south from Caernarfon and north from Porthmadog, and construction of the link between, them running past mighty Snowdon, is scheduled for completion in 2008, giving 40 miles of continuous 2ft running from Caernarfon via Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Here is a detailed page on Duke's railway, the Mid Sodor Railway, featuring a tour of the Rev W Awdry's own model layout of the MSR, and historical notes compiled by Tony Griggs from The Island of Sodor.
The red engine behind Falcon and Duke in the shed at the beginning of Bulldog - "when Falcon was new to the line" - is MSR No. 2, "Stanley".
Baldwin No 590 is seen at Dinas Junction, 1923, shortly after being delivered to the Welsh Highland Railway. From the website of the WHR (P)
This engine appears to be similar to the Welsh Highland Railway's former 4-6-0T 10-12-D class No 590, which was built by the Baldwin Works in the USA in 1917 and came to Europe to run the 2ft gauge lines behind the trenches of the Western Front. Colonel Holman F Stephens bought it for the WHR in 1923, and it had a reputation for "rough riding", partly due to the unusual wheel arrangement for a narrow gauge tank engine. It was scrapped with the WHR permanent way in 1942, but one of its pannier tanks continued to be useful to store oil. There is an ongoing attempt to recreate no 590 from a loco of the same class which came from India, no. 794, details of how you can contribute here. Meanwhile, the engine has a very similar wartime history and superficial appearance to the Ffestiniog Railway's American Locomotive Company (Alco) "prairie" pannier tank Mountaineer.
However, Richard Greenhough of the Corris Railway points out that Duke's shed is modelled on that of the Snailbeach District Railway, which was a lonely outpost of the Col. Stephens Empire in Shropshire, England. This line was also staffed with Col. Stephens' Baldwins, which would appear to be an ultimate match for "Stanley". Thanks once again to Richard for this information.
Stanley, meanwhile, is named after Stanley Baldwin (a play on the Baldwin name), Conservative Prime Minister of the UK intermittently between 1923 and 1937. His type is barely recognizable from the main picture of him in the book, as a pumping engine shorn of his frames, chassis, pannier tanks and cab.
The rolling stock of the MSR included the Corris Railway brakevan known as Cora on the Skarloey Railway. However the blue coaches in Bulldog and You Can't Win! are tremendously similar to the Festiniog Railway's carriage no. 10, carriage no.16 and carriage no. 23. Thanks to Peckett of the SiF for this lead.
Getting back to Colonels and products of the great Baldwin Works, in Duke the Lost Engine, the Reverend W. talks in the preface about a Brazilian locomotive that was abandoned for 30 years and discovered consumed by the rain forest, after which it was repaired and steamed again, running for another 30 years. The diligent research of the SiF's Ben Pennock has unearthed that this railway was the Estrada de Ferro Madeira Mamore (EFMM), an ambitious scheme isolated from Brazil's rail system designed to give Bolivia access to the Atlantic Ocean via the Amazon. Subsequent research by self and Jim Gratton discovered that the loco concerned, Baldwin metre-gauge "American" 4-4-0 No. 12 Coronel Church from 1878, still exists! At the EFMM Railway Museum in Porto Velho, Rondonia, Brazil. Thanks very much to Jim and Ancario, Brazillian contact for the EFMM Society, for this recent snap of the Colonel.
The EFMM was originally backed by Col. George Earl Church, a Union colonel deeply involved in South American politics. At this first attempt to build, thousands of labourers were consumed by malaria, and the company's shareholders eventually balked to the Col.'s dismay, although it was only a minor setback in his active career. The concession for the line was bought out and a successful attempt to build was started in 1904. The Col.'s locomotive was discovered around 1909, and remains his fitting memorial. While the bulk of the line lasted until the 1930s, a few km were preserved as a tourist attraction at Porto Velho until quite recently.
"The Duke" on the Rev. Awdry's Ulfstead Road model of the Mid-Sodor Railway. Photo © Martin Clutterbuck 2004. This was probably the second incarnation of the engine on an Arnold chassis, after the first on a Minitrains chassis (thanks to Pat Hammond for this information). There was a model of "Stanley", a WHR Baldwin cut down to an 0-6-0 on a Minitrix chassis, which like No. 2 in the book, didn't run well and was reduced to a static display.
Duke starred in "Duke the Lost Engine" (1970).