Small England Class

The Festiniog Railway was originally built to be worked by gravity, with horses used to haul the empty slate wagons uphill from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog. By the late 1850s it was clear that the line was reaching its carrying capacity, while the production from the slate quarries was continuing to expand. To increase the amount of slate that could be carried by the railway. In order to increase capacity, in 1860 the board began investigating the use of steam locomotives for the railway. Although steam had been used on narrow gauge railways before this, it had only rarely been used on a gauge as narrow as the Festiniog's.

In 1862, the railway advertised in The Locomotive magazine asking for manufacturers to bid to supply an 0-6-0 T locomotive to the railway. Although they received 29 expressions of interest, none were accepted. Charles Menzies Holland was acting as locomotive designer for the Festiniog Railway and he approached George England who lived near him in London. England agreed to bid for the contract and in February 1863 he proposed building three 0-4-0 T locomotives primarily to his own design. This bid was accepted and construction began. England's design was for a small 0-4-0 locomotive with side tanks and tender. The locomotives had a low centre of gravity and were extremely small to fit within the restricted loading gauge of the railway.

The first pair of locomotives Mountaineer and The Princess arrived in July 1863. They were delivered without domes, over the objection of George England. As a result, they suffered badly from priming and domes were hastily fitted in Wales before the locomotives could be run on service trains. The first formal steam-hauled train on the Festiniog Railway ran on 23rd. October 1863.

The second pair, The Prince and Palmerston arrived in 1864. These were to the same basic design as the first two locomotives, but were delivered with domes already fitted. The introduction of the initial locomotives was a great success, allowing the railway to handle the increasing slate traffic and its first formal passenger trains.