Will the Festiniog Railway run the first hydrogen train in Wales?
Two developments that I would like to share with you.
Firstly, Alan Brant, John Violet and Graham Cole have undertaken an initial survey of our missing bridges. There are four, five or six bridges depending on what we reinstate! The four of us walked the line on 24 January 2020 in typical Blaenau weather. The investigation was very much a preliminary look at what might be needed because, as we all know, bridges are expensive! There is also the question of what type of bridges we need and what sort of train will they need to support? The report although preliminary contains much valuable information, particularly with regard to any grant application that we may make. I am very grateful to our experts for their efforts.
The second development is that I was invited to visit the Rail and Research Department at the University of Birmingham on 13 February. As many of you will be aware, they lead the way in the development of hydrogen train technology. In partnership with Porterbrook Leasing, they have produced HydroFlex, the UK’s first Hydrogen train. Charles Calvert, a member of the research team, had previously walked the line with me in January 2020 and he is particularly interested in the potential of the branch and the power station. When I met with Dr Stuart Hillmansen who is the project leader, both he and Charles were enthusiastic about the prospect of the FR procuring a narrow gauge hydrogen engine for the Dinas branch. We will of course want some steam engines, but an entirely green clean train will be of interest to many. The research team has a narrow gauge hydrogen locomotive, Hydrogen Hero, which they will bring to the Festiniog Railway Locomotive trials in June 2020. Hydrogen Hero is likely to be running in the new carriage shed at Boston Lodge. In this YouTube link Stuart Hillmansen explains the concept, and there is a video of Hydrogen Hero in action.
The next Dinas working working party will take place on 21-22 March. Separate notices have gone out to those who have indicated they will attend. If you would like to participate, please let me know. We are clearing one of the bridge sites and hope to gain access to what is known as the ‘island’ (see the image above). I doubt whether many FR people have walked this section!