Narrow Gauge Railway Museum to acquire new locomotive

William Finlay in its current unrestored condition.

A £60,000 appeal has been launched by The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum Trust to acquire another Fletcher, Jennings and Company engine for the Tywyn museum.


William Finlay, which used to work at the Dorking Greystone Lime Company, will be displayed in the museum, where it can be compared to Talyllyn Railway’s two original locomotives, also manufactured by Fletcher, Jennings, Talyllyn and Dolgoch.


The great limestone quarry of the Dorking Greystone Lime Company stood to the north of the Southern Railway line at Betchworth, Dorking. William Finlay was the owner who set up the quarry in 1865 and incorporated the first Hoffman kilns for lime-burning erected and fired in England.


The quarry once extended to around a third of a mile wide and was 300 feet deep, with other workings in tunnels that stretched much farther.


William Finlay and its sister engine, Townsend Hook, are identical 3ft 2¼ inch (972 mm) gauge 0-4-0 tank locomotives built for the company by Fletcher, Jennings and Company in 1880. Both locomotives have been disused since the quarries closed in 1963.


Townsend Hook was subsequently purchased by the Amberley Chalk Pits Museum in Sussex as a long-term cosmetic restoration project.


William Finlay (works number 173L) has been privately owned for some years and has not been on display. The locomotive has been offered to the trust which has launched a £60,000 appeal to fund the purchase, transportation, cosmetic restoration and display costs.


Not only will the purchase bring another example of a Fletcher, Jennings locomotive to Tywyn, it will also illustrate another aspect of the role of narrow gauge railways, that of limestone quarrying.

Because of its unusual gauge, there is no realistic prospect of the locomotive being returned to service and a cosmetic restoration is planned for display within the museum.


Arrangements are in the planning stage, but it is intended that William Finlay will replace the Manning Wardle locomotive Jubilee 1897, which will be placed on loan as a static exhibit to the Penrhyn Quarry Railway, where it formerly worked. William Finlay will take on the role of access locomotive, where adults and accompanied children will be allowed on the footplate.


In the meantime, William Finlay has been moved to a secure location in Northern England, where detailed planning of conservation and cosmetic restoration will take place by Heritage Painting, Darwen, Lancashire.


Donations to the William Finlay appeal can be made by online payment or by downloading a donation and gift aid form from the museum’s web site