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From a Distance
This page: A snow-capped Moel Ysgyfarnogod seen from Porthmadog Harbour Station on New Yearâ€™s Day. Front cover: A Welsh Highland train makes its way through the Aberglaslyn Pass. Back cover: Driver Paul Ingham and fireman Tesni Jones wait to leave for Caernarfon.
Welcome to the Top Left Hand Corner of Wales, where train travel is just a little bit different. With the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways stretching for 40 miles across the Snowdonia National Park, you can experience the magnificent scenery whilst savouring the magic of train travel as it used to be, with gleaming steam engines, comfortable carriages, friendly staff and just a hint of magic. 2014 sees the opening of the new ÂŁ1.3 million station at Porthmadog Harbour. At long last the town finally has a station worthy of the unique 40 miles of railway between Blaenau Ffestiniog and Caernarfon. And by this time next year, plans for an all-new station at Caernarfon should be well advanced. Never a dull moment...
Running in the family
Like father like daughter. Earlier this year, Dave and Emily High became the first father & daughter team to drive and fire a steam locomotive on the Ffestiniog Railway in North Wales.
Civil engineer Dave has been volunteering on the railway for 35 years and qualified as a driver 25 years ago when he relocated from Cumbria. He also played a major role in the construction of the Welsh Highland Railway, being the project manager for the Porthmadog Cross Town Link. Daughter Emily, 18, has just qualified as a fireman and is studying for her A-levels at Coleg Meirion Dwyfor in Dolgellau. Away from the railway, she won a first at Crufts in the ‘Heelwork to Music’ category in the Young Kennel Club section with her Papillon Anton for the second year in a row. Dave’s son William also works on the footplate on the Ffestiniog Railway. Dave and Emily are pictured in charge of Linda, built in Leeds in 1893.
Station to Station
A deserted Harbour Station in December 1960. Inset: The The same scene 54 years later.
Porthmadog Harbour Station first opened for passengers on January 6th, 1865, two years after the introduction of steam locomotives.
And so it was that a ÂŁ1.3 million project was started after the end of regular daily services in late 2011 to produce a completely new layout fit for the demands of the 21st Century. 40,000 tons of rock When the Welsh Highland Railway was opened was used to widen the Cob at the Porthmadog end throughout between Caernarfon and Porthmadog in to make room for two new platforms. 2011, the shortcomings in the station design became clear - a single platform for both railways The work continued over the winters of 2012 and and the need for a pilot locomotive to shunt both 2013, the new station opening for business on arriving and departing WHR services meant a Saturday March 22nd 2014. radical rethink was needed to provide a vastlyRead on for details of how it was done... improved customer experience.
Wider still and wider
November 2011 saw the arrival of the heavy contractorâ€™s plant that would be used to place some 40,000 tons of rock from nearby Minffordd Quarry to widen the first 250 metres of the 200 year-old Cob embankment. A haul road was constructed across the tracks in Harbour Station to enable both lorries and trains to use the station, although to avoid disruption, the bulk of the lorry movements were scheduled for times when no trains were running. The stone dumped to form the widened embankment was then faced with large boulders forming a layer of rock armour on the seaward side. The rock was laid on geotextile sheet to prevent sand from filling the spaces between the stones. Each block was painstakingly placed - as seen on the right - to ensure that the finished armour stone was locked together like a giant 3D jigsaw. The large surface area presented to the waves dissipates energy far more effectively than a smooth stone wall and greatly increases the structureâ€™s robustness in heavy seas. Opposite top: the view on December 1st 2012. Below: Three months later.
In November 2012, the second winter of work on the Cob widening project began. After almost a year of settlement, the fill material was levelled off and work to remove the original wave wall and replace it with a new one began. The original, built in the 1930s, proved to be rather more resilient than expected and had to be cut into sections and then attacked with the most powerful excavator on site. Meanwhile, the new wave wall was taking shape on the seaward side of the site and was completed on Tuesday November 19th.
With the new wave wall complete, work started on the foundations of the new signal box and its associated relay room. The buildings utilise a steel girder frame in order to make them capable of withstanding wind speeds of over 100mph. This was put to the test the following winter when the completed buildings withstood the first hurricane to hit North Wales in living memory. Before service trains started in March, new points were delivered from Pricesâ€™ of South Wales and were installed in the FR main line. Once in place, work could then begin on laying what would become the new FR and WHR platform roads, the original FR main line becoming the WHR loop. Despite bitterly cold weather, the track gangs continued to work with the mountains of Snowdonia forming a magnificent background. Work continued throughout the summer and by the time the 2013 season was drawing to a close, the far end of the platform and half the FR and WHR platform roads were in place, ready for the big push over the winter of 2013-2014 when the entire layout would be lifted and replaced before trains started again in March. Failure was not an option...
Working on the Railroad Winter 2013-14
After the last trains of 2013 had run, the task of lifting the entire layout of Harbour Station, building the new platform and relaying the track began. On January 16th the last lengths of rail from the old station are visible bottom left and the signal box and relay room are being commissioned. From left to right, the old FR main line has been partially lifted, the kerbs are in place for the WHR and FR platform roads and the yard crossover is in place, along with five road, nearest to the sea. The new station has four sidings compared with the previous five, but the amount of space available is greater.
Note how the rock armour, in place for only two years, is weathering to match the original part of the Cob embankment.
The Final Countdown
In the first three months of 2014, more than 150 volunteers worked tirelessly to get the new station ready for the first public trains on Saturday March 22nd. The remaining few lengths of rail remaining from the old layout were removed, signals were erected and connected and the new track laid. Meanwhile, contractors were busy finishing the platform and its block paving and constructing the new beer garden outside Spooner’s, complete with its elegant glass windbreak. Then, suddenly, everything came together. Despite hurricanes, snow and rain, the track was complete; the signalling system signed off; and the platform completed. Three winters of hard work had paid off and the new station was ready for trains. As the railway’s chairman, John Prideaux, commented: “Rebuilding and resignalling Harbour has been an ambitious project involving a huge number of volunteers, staff and excellent local contractors. It called on skills more usually associated with the national network than with a heritage railway. Completing such a complex project on time and despite adverse conditions reflects huge credit on everyone involved.”
One of the key features of the new station is the beer garden providing much-needed additional seating space for the popular Spoonerâ€™s pub and restaurant and a great location for relaxing and enjoying the view on those balmy summer evenings. Inset, station designer Stuart McNair enjoys a well-earned cup of tea in his new creation.
Two Trains Running
On a rather grey Saturday March 22nd 2014, public service trains were able to use the new Harbour Station for the first time. Although missing some final detailing - such as the decorative finials on the signal posts - the station not only opened on schedule, but on budget. Over the final winterâ€™s activity, from November to March, over 7,500 man hours work was provided by volunteers. Above, on the opening day, can be seen a Ffestiniog train for Blaenau Ffestiniog on the left, with a Welsh Highland service on the right. Below, the sun has finally put in an appearance as Garratt 138 waits at the head of its train, having just arrived from Caernarfon.
David Payling looks at the fascinating history of a locomotive which will be in regular use on the Welsh Highland Railway this year, more than 10,000 miles from its original home in Fiji. Engineers at the Statfold Barn Railway have restored the loco to pristine condition for its visit to Wales.
In the late 19th century the sugar cane industry was taking off in the tropical north of Queensland in Australia. Dense rainforest along the coastal strip was being cleared and replaced by fields of sugar cane. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company (CSR) of Sydney built or purchased a chain of sugar mills along the Queensland coast from 1882.
Many miles of two foot gauge tramways were built to carry sugar cane and firewood to the mills and raw sugar away to market. Motive power was provided by a growing fleet of tank engines, many built in Leeds by John Fowler. The company’s eyes also turned towards the Pacific islands of Fiji, some 2,000 miles to the east. This large archipelago, which was then part of the British Empire, enjoyed a similar climate to Queensland’s coast. There was plenty of rain and sunshine to ripen good crops of cane. There was an attractive case for investment in sugar production. Between 1882 and 1903, Colonial Sugar Refining built new mills at four coastal locations in Fiji. Lautoka Mill was the largest, built on the west coast of the principal island, Viti Levu. CSR acquired estates along the coast which were later made available for purchase by tenant farmers.
Most cane producing land was held on long-term lease from the native Fijian owners. A network of two foot gauge tramways linked the sugar cane fields with the mills. At its height the main line tramway system of the two principal mills stretched southwards from Lautoka mill for some 82 miles along the west coast of Viti Levu to Kavanagasau, beyond the Sigatoka River. Northwards along the coast from Lautoka, it was almost 30 miles to Rarawai mill and a further 25 miles to the terminus. As a condition of building the line to Sigatoka, CSR was obliged to provide a free passenger service for local people. It ran the round trip between Rarawai and Kavanagasau twice weekly, a distance of 111½ miles each way. The early operations were capably handled by compact tank engines, but for the line to the Sigatoka River, under construction from 1910 to 1914, larger locomotives were required. In 1911, Hudswell Clarke of Leeds built a powerful new tank engine for Rarawai Mill. CSR requested further development of this type to produce engines that would be able to do the round trip between Lautoka and Na Savu Savu on the new Sigatoka line, a distance of 82 miles, without refuelling, hauling up to 260 ton trains on the inward journey. ►
â—„ Hudswell produced a design that solved the problem for the next 50 years. The new engine had a six-wheeled chassis with a wheelbase just five feet six inches long. This would allow it to negotiate the sharp curvature of the sidings in the mill yards. A large, powerful boiler was fitted to cope with the heavy loads. The tender design allowed plenty of coal and water to be carried. To help keep the crew cool, the cab was as open as possible and the roof was double skinned to promote air circulation. A balloon stack chimney was fitted, equipped with a spark arresting core to minimise spark emissions.
Although attempts have been made to have some sugar cane industry locomotives burn cane waste (bagasse), its calorific value is very low, totally inadequate for the hard work of cane haulage in Fiji and Queensland. The Hudswell engines were therefore coal fired. Our engine was the first to be built to the new design (Hudswell Clarke No.972 of November 1911).
The Hudswells worked hard day and night through the crushing season in the second half of each year, steadily hauling long trains of cane, the ends of the stalks dragging along the dirt and throwing up clouds of dust. Innumerable times each season these reliable workhorses, sporting bright paintwork and polished brass, hauled their rakes past the gate of Nadi airport where today the It was the first of a batch of three, and their success international traveller glimpses Fijiâ€™s sugar cane trains for the first time as their coach bumps across was such that a total of 35 similar engines were the track en route for the resorts of the Coral Coast. eventually built for CSR mills in Fiji and Queensland. Lautoka received the initial batches of The first mainline diesels arrived in Fiji from these engines and subsequently operated the Australia in 1955, and as there were no local coal largest fleet of them. supplies in the islands, dieselisation proceeded The initial eight locos were followed by three of an enlarged design in the inter-war years and a final pair after World War II. They were stationed at the mill and at Cuvu, 64 miles to the south, interchanging loads at Na Savu Savu. No.972 was originally fitted with a boiler with a round-topped firebox, but this was replaced with a larger-capacity boiler with a Belpaire firebox after the Second World War.
apace over the next ten years. The redundant steam locomotives were, for the most part, scrapped. No.972, being the doyen of its class, was luckier. It was stored at Lautoka mill from 1958. There, matters might have rested, but for the decision of the Fiji Sugar Corporation in 1978 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the mill opening. The engine was overhauled, and put back into use on a ceremonial train of dignitaries to Lautoka Mill. â–ş
No 11 with a train of dignitaries at the opening of the new bulk sugar store at Lautoka Mill on 5th January 1979
◄ Later, a local tourist venture, the Coral Coast Railway Company (above), was formed to run tourist trains, using the cane railway tracks in the Cuvu area. No.972 was to be the motive power, but not as a steam engine. In 1985, it was taken from the mill and a 65hp diesel engine with hydraulic transmission was placed in the tender. The inner firebox was cut away to make room for a gearbox which powered the locomotive’s rear axle via a chain. To give clearance for the chain, a large slot had to be cut out of the front of the outer firebox. The Coral Coast Railway laid No.972 aside, preferring to use smaller Simplex diesel locomotives for haulage. It was sold and brought to Britain in 2011. Its ownership passed to the Statfold Barn Railway where it was hoped that it could be restored to working order. When the locomotive was stripped for assessment, it was realised that restoration would present a major challenge. The boiler repairs would include major attention to both the barrel and fire box. The barrel was so corroded that one section would require complete replacement, together with the whole of the smoke box. Also, the modifications made for the Coral Coast train’s chain drive would need to be made good. This would require fabrication of a complete new inner firebox, together with repair of the large slot cut in the outer box. When the wheels and axles were removed major frame cracks were found. These ran from the axlebox horns towards the top of the frames. In at least one place the frame had parted into two pieces. The many fittings and pipe work in the cab and on the chassis were largely absent. Fortunately, Statfold Barn is home to the Hunslet archive which contains not only the records and drawings of the Hunslet Engine Co. but also the surviving records and drawings of the many locomotive builders absorbed by Hunslet, such as Kerr Stuart, Avonside, Manning Wardle, Kitson, Robert Stephenson and Hawthorn and others.
Fortunately, the Hudswell Clarke collection of more than 21,000 steam engineering drawings is amongst the survivors. After lying fallow for some years the Hudswell drawings had recently been catalogued and indexed by the volunteer staff. This made it possible to find all 80 of the drawings used to construct No.972 in 1911. The boilersmiths, engineers and fitters at Statfold therefore had substantial information to guide the restoration which now began. The fire box and boiler repairs were completed and pressure tested, and the boiler insured. The cracked main frames have been re-aligned and welded repairs made. The whole chassis has been stiffened and strengthened. This was achieved by the replacement of its running plate with one of a thicker section. The balloon stack was problematical because its anti-spark core proved not to have been supplied by Hudswell, but by a local Australian engineering company. No drawings for it were therefore available. Eventually the locomotive was completed. It is now equipped for train air braking, as used at Statfold Barn. It also has a vacuum ejector and valve to make it suitable for use on other railways, including the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland. On May 2nd this year, Fijian High Commissioner His Excellency Mr Solo Mara visited Porthmadog to name the locomotive, pictured right being presented with a replica name plate by general manager Paul Lewin and Statfold Barn’s Graham Lee. Although these railways are some 10,000 miles away from its own home lines in Fiji, the loco’s sturdy build and large, powerful boiler should stand it in good stead in the Welsh mountains.
David Payling wishes to thank John Browning (Brisbane, Queensland) for help with factual content in the text, and for editorial support. He also thanks his many friends and colleagues at Statfold Barn for their assistance.
Please Mr Postman
When the Royal Mail wanted to celebrate the Classic Locomotives of Wales with four new stamps, they naturally turned to the F&WHR. The new stamps complete a series of four which began with England in 2011, followed by Scotland in 2012 and Northern Ireland in 2013.
Fireman Dan Jones and driver Richard Hanlon pose with Blanche for the launch photographs.
The stamps pay tribute to the workhorses of Welsh railways in the Classic Locomotives stamp set. The F&WHR and the Welshpool & Llanfair railway were chosen as the launch locations.
Hunslet 589 Blanche stars on the 78p stamp and the loco was lined up in the same position featured in the photograph on the stamp, taken 50 years earlier, wearing the very same Y Cymro (The Welshman) headboard. Blanche is one of more than twenty Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland steam engines - some of them more than 150 years old - that still pull trains through 40 miles of glorious scenery in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park
While most passengers choose the comfort of our modern carriages, those seeking an authentic taste of travel on the original Welsh Highland in the 1920s can ride in the ‘Summer Coaches’, Carriages 23 and 24. The former is a lovingly-restored original 1894 North Wales Narrow Gauge Railway carriage, while 24 is an identical replica, built in our own workshops in 2002. The attention to detail extends to original pattern curly-spoked wheels, although as a nod to today’s passenger expectations, we have fitted glazed doors for those rare occasions when it rains. Inset shows the unglazed carriage 26 at Harbour Station in 1963.
I Can See Clearly Now
The views from the Ffestiniog Railway are justly world-famous, but the ideal growing conditions of Snowdonia mean that nature can quickly make it rather difficult to see the wood for the trees. This winter, a large-scale programme of tree clearance means that many of the vistas have been restored to their former glory, as typified by this view of an FR train passing Llyn Mair, just above Tan y Bwlch. It is hard to imagine that this beautiful lake is artificial, but it was constructed on the orders of William Oakeley, owner of Plas Tan y Bwlch, as a 21st birthday present for his daughter Mary. Today, the lake provides hydro-electric power to the Snowdonia Study Centre located in Oakeleyâ€™s erstwhile family seat.
The Sun Goes Down
The town of Porthmadog lies in the shadow of Moel y Gest, the rocky outcrop at the end of a ridge once dotted with granite quarries. The quarries are long since closed, but traces of the inclines down which the rock was carried can still be seen. Whilst small by the standards of Snowdonia, Moel y Gest comes into its own each evening as the sun sets. In the foreground is the fresh water of the Afon Glaslyn, help back by the mile-long Cob embankment, providing not only a road and rail link between the old counties of Merioneth and Caernarfonshire, but a haven for wildlife.
I can see for miles
One of the things for which the Ffestiniog Railway is justly famous is the stunning views of the Dwyryd Valley to be had from the trains. Over the years, nature conspired to obscure these as tree growth gradually covered the slopes below the railway, but an outbreak of Ash Dieback meant that over the winter of 2013-2014, many trees were felled and the view restored. Here, Merddin Emrys heads a train with the village of Maentwrog and Plas Tan y Bwlch - once the home of the slate quarrying Oakeley Family - in the distance.
Approaching the mid point of the line at Rhyd Ddu, a Welsh Highland train climbs away from Llyn Cwellyn, the lake that provides sparkling clear drinking water to Caernarfon. On the right lie the slate waste heaps of the old quarries the railway was originally built to serve which have now become as much a part of the landscape as the mountains and lakes of Snowdonia.
Looking like a model, a Welsh Highland train heads through the Aberglaslyn Pass. Trains slow down to walking pace through the Pass to enable passengers to appreciate the splendour of what National Trust members have voted the most scenic spot in the UK. There is a road through the Pass, but youâ€™d be crazy to miss the opportunity to see it at its best from the comfort of one of our trains.
The Welsh Highland has only been open throughout since 2011, but already the railway has blended in and become part of the landscape. Indeed, the Fishermanâ€™s Path between the railway and the Afon Glaslyn stands out more in this picture of the Aberglaslyn Pass than the sixty ton steam locomotive and its ten car train. In the distance can be seen the imposing peaks of Moelwyn Mawr and Moelwyn Bach.
A selection of personal reminiscences of working on the railway. Many more adventures can be found on our website.
From the outset, rebuilding the Ffestiniog Railway was an adventure like no other. Where else was there a chance to roll your sleeves up and rebuild a railway which had inspired the construction of similar lines in every corner of the world?
“Many of our standard gauge counterparts rely on nostalgia for times gone by to encourage volunteers and supporters. With those folk who remember steam on British Rail becoming increasingly rare, they have to look afresh how they can encourage people to get involved.
Four decades later, many of those original volunteers along with a new generation, returned to North Wales to embark on a new adventure: the rebuilding of the longest heritage line in the UK, the Welsh Highland.
“For us things are very different. We could never really appeal to nostalgia that much and we don’t try to. Whether we consciously know it or not, we focus on the adventures and camaraderie to be enjoyed now. But, most of all, the real reason to be here centres around the people you meet and the friends you make.
As General Manager Paul Lewin says: “We often try to answer the question: just what is it that makes people so passionate and become “As we enter the Diamond Jubilee of the so strongly attached to our railway? preservation era, the temptation is concentrate on the events of 60 years ago. “Perhaps the answer is the sense of adventure that we feel as we take part. For some that can “But what we should be doing is using our be building a stretch of new line; for others it stories of adventure to inspire the next can be financial support for something that generation. We must also take the time to will enhance the scene and for many the ensure that when we do encourage people to opportunity to work with new friends at the join us and support us that we make them feel heart of the adventure. part of the team.”
Will Jones came from Waunfawr and was on the construction gang that built the WHR in 1922-23. He was appointed Porter in Charge of Tan y Bwlch station in 1924 and lived there with his wife Bessie (the 'girl station mistress'). Will became the leading expert on narrow gauge permanent way and taught many of the post-war revivalists how to lay and fettle track. He became a full-time employee at a weekly wage of £7. He died in 1981 and is buried alongside his wife at Bettws Garmon Church, close to the WHR. “I remember one time when I was up at Buarth Melyn above the long tunnel with Griffith Griffiths the Permanent Way Inspector to look at some of the track. When we had finished we had to walk down to Tan y Bwlch and we were thinking we'd have to walk over the hill above the tunnel, but when we got to Moelwyn there was still smoke in the tunnel from the down train which had been a bit late. As the trains passed at Minffordd, we though it would be safe enough to walk through; it was a bit wet you know, but we were used to it. Well, when we were about half way through there was a sudden noise and it was black at the bottom end of the tunnel, and we realised that with the down train being late they'd passed at Tan y Bwlch and here was the up train. We tried to shout to the stoker, but there was too much noise and he couldn't hear us, so I jumped in the only hole there was at the side of the tunnel, and Griffith Griffiths jumped in on top of me. I was thinner then, but I was never so nearly squashed in my life, and we both breathed out hard as the train came to us. I could feel Griffith Griffiths being pulled by all the door handles, and it was a long train with a double engine too. As soon as it was past we took breath and fell a-coughing for the the smoke from the engine. We were gasping all the way to the bottom of the tunnel, and when we got there, never did you see such a pair of chimney sweeps.
And Griffith Griffiths was a great fat man with round stomach, and look, all his waistcoat buttons were pulled off him.”
Joe Scott: I was first introduced to the Ffestiniog Railway by Eileen & Neil Clayton, who are active volunteers on the railway. My first involvement with the railway was sitting in their garden from the age of two and watching the trains pass by from my pram. My mum tried to take me down to Black Rock beach for a change, but apparently I preferred to watch the trains. I started volunteering on the railway in 1996 on Kid’s Week when I was just 6 years old. I’d travel down to Boston Lodge in the morning on the works train, do half a day’s work, and then go off for a train ride in the afternoon. Half a day’s work was an instruction rather than a choice until I was a little older, and I undertook my first full Kid’s Week in 2001. One of my first jobs on the railway was painting the notice board for Boston Lodge Halt, this was one of the more glamorous jobs believe it or not. In 2003, I started becoming a more active volunteer. I started working within the Commercial Department as a Buffet Steward and also a Booking Office Clerk. In 2006 I was offered my first of many seasonal contracts with the railway. Getting paid for a hobby – great! Challenge In 2008, I fancied a new challenge and so I began training as a Guard. I progressed through the Operating Department over the years and in 2010 I qualified as a Controller, responsible for the operation & safety of the 40 mile railway. I have also made other contributions to the railway including organising staff social events. These events give something back to the volunteers who give up their time to keep the railway running, whilst at the same time raising extra money for the Ffestiniog Railway Society. I have also organised two photo charters, helping keep the railway in the press and also provide an additional income over the winter season. I have gained a lot from my railway adventure including friendship, essential skills, and a vast amount of experience, all of which have helped me in the outside world. In 2012 I decided to pursue a career within the railway industry and started as a Conductor for First TransPennine Express. I have recently progressed into a new role as a Train Service Controller, which means that I am now responsible for traffic and resource management across the TransPennine network and also for First Hull Trains.
Emma Baxendale: I still remember my first day volunteering at the railway. I was eight years old and where we were going was a surprise. It didn't disappoint. My first job was weeding the ground frame flower bed in Port with Janet Towers. I stayed in Penrhyn hostel in a red bunk bed. Twenty years later, almost to the day, I lay in that same bunk bed and thought about what had changed - and what had not. I've done many things at the railway over the years, starting as a Parks & Gardens kid and doing all the various things that included. Gardening, painting, bush bashing, painting, helping to build the new hostel, painting, the list goes on.
Being a P&G kid helped to bring me out of my shell, and by the time I'd finished at Boston Lodge I was hardly what youâ€™d call shy. I do believe that without this I wouldn't be doing what I do today. I'd never have gone to university or had the self confidence to even apply for most of the jobs that I've had. I now work in the heritage industry, something I've always wanted to do. My passion for old things was certainly cultivated by my time at the railway, and helped me fix on what I wanted to do with my life - handy, as I'm not particularly ambitious.
To me, it's also living proof that the past and the 'old' are also vital for the future and should not be Kidsâ€™ Week was always the highlight of the summer, forgotten. The railway can be a bit of a rollercoaster, with various cousins joining in as they became old but the ups always outweigh the downs. enough. I've moved round various departments, While illness has got in the way of my volunteering starting with marketing with Eamon and Lou, then of late and I've moved on to the gentler, more moving on to working in the booking office and on refined art of sign writing, there are important buffet cars (Mince says I taught him everything he things I've learned along the way - what goes down knows). Then I went to the works. always comes back up. That was when the fun really began. Even if you don't see your friends for long periods of Messing about with slate wagons was really useful time they are always there. Girls can do anything, for learning skills that the average girl doesn't really and while the Linda is a fine machine, it would still get to do. Gas cutting, drilling holes in bits of metal look better in blue... (I did a lot of that), cleaning engines, the odd bit of firing and helping to build double engine tanks, not to mention the joys of pylon paint (it doesn't come out of your hair). Life skills An important part of all of this has been the friends that I've made and the life skills I've picked up along the way. Aside from the usual teenage dramas, I have friends and acquaintances of all ages and backgrounds, and some friends made for life. I'm hard to offend and get on with most people. While all of these things make for an interesting and colourful CV (you've done what?!) it's certainly the life skills bit that has helped me most in my working life. Before I started volunteering at the railway I was quite a shy little thing. Emma Baxendale and Daniel Ellis pictured in 2001.
Left: Elizabeth Griffiths, John Catchpole, Joe Scott, Tim Puddephatt and Patience Eastwood in 2001.
Peter George: I first became aware of the Ffestiniog Railway when I was three and my father, a cleric, returned from a weeks volunteering. It was something he had been doing since the year of my birth, having been introduced to the railway by Howard Wilson, the current society chairman's father-in-law. At the agreed age of eleven I accompanied my father on what was my first week’s volunteering on the FR. I worked in the shops and car parks before moving to Boston Lodge, qualifying as a fireman in 1976 and volunteering regularly until 1983. I had four years earlier joined the Royal Air Force as an Apprentice Engineering Technician. On completion of my training, where I had been blessed with plenty of leave, I had subsequently been commissioned and in 1984 I started aircrew training and opportunities for visiting the railway became very rare indeed. However training as aircrew was not without its compensations and on a number of 'self planned low level sorties' I transpired to devise a route with maximum 'loiter' time over the railway at 250 feet. It was during these that I did practice-bombing runs on Garnedd Tunnel and my pilots took the opportunity to practice strafing runs on FR trains. However it was not the only time I over flew the FR. My last flight as aircrew in the Royal Air Force was in a maritime patrol aircraft on a practice in-flight refuelling sortie off the Cornish coast involving a transit down and back to our base in the North of Scotland. Yet again reasons were provided as to why we should include some low level transit as part of the overall sortie. I have to say the view from the Cob is magnificent but the view of the Cob from a few hundred feet is equally stunning. I worked with and for many people, some are still around whilst others are no longer with us. My life has been better for making their acquaintance for many reasons, without the railway and its unique engineering this would never have happened. Married life and a civilian career further limited opportunities to visit my favourite railway, but now the children have grown up, I am a grandfather to three grand daughters and my wife and I are now lucky enough to be able to spend plenty of time in North Wales as we count down on the fingers of
one hand the years to retirement and the luxury of having the FR running past the bottom of the garden of our retirement home. Why would I go to such lengths to want to be near the FR? Because I recognise the faces on the people on the railway, some I have known for decades, and I feel at home. It's a community, a railway community, one we have already introduced to two of our grand daughters and we look forward to the time when they can take part in Kids’ Week just as our elder daughter did. And yes I think I do know who the bemused drivers were on the engines and trains we strafed – to you a much belated apology for the shock we must have caused. But it was all jolly good fun and how many other volunteers can claim to have done this? Bob Battersby: In 1975 I read an article about the Deviation in the Sunday Times. In those pre-Internet days I rang the contact number and asked if, over the Easter holidays, I could come and take part in what sounded like a fantastic project. Taking the train from Surrey, I finally arrived at Blaenau (via Crewe and Llandudno) and set off, as instructed, round the back of the power station and over the mountain. Wearing my Belstaff jacket, PVC waterproof trousers and lugging my mother's Norwegian rucksack the trek seemed to go on forever. Finally, I crested the final hill and saw the old army hut standing at the end of the line. I was met by Bunny Lewis, who handed me a shovel and told me to find some mud. We proceeded to a particularly large boulder upon which Bunny stuck some explosive, packed it down with my mud and lit the fuse. 'Start walking' he said, setting off briskly. As the debris rained down I realised that I had passed the first test - I was a 'Deviationist'. I stayed up there for about ten days, during which we were visited by one of the regular weekend groups from Bristol and another from London. During that visit I mainly worked with Romulus and Remus, the pair of four wheel drive dump trucks, on the footings for the station at Llyn Ystradau near the new pumped-storage power station. ►
Tatiana Kotrikova: I am a volunteer on the permanent way gang on the Ffestiniog Railway. I commenced my studies at the Railway University in Russia back in 2002 which really started my passion for railways. Since coming to the UK in 2007, I have worked for several railway organisations including London Underground, South West Trains and Network Rail. I am currently a Project Manager for Colas Rail in the Electrification Projects Division. I first started volunteering on the Ffestiniog Railway in 2010 while I was studying for my Masters Degree in Construction Management and, since graduating in October 2013, I am now able to spend much more time working on the FR, which I not only find very fulfilling, but also great fun.
â—„ Particular memories are of the drain-destroying curries, the cheap beer in the hut, 'gravitating' down the line to catch the Sunday beer train and staggering back up the line a few hours later.
The next year I returned with my girlfriend for another stint. By then the Cornish tin miners where progressing well with the tunnel and we spent our time bringing out spoil and putting it through the shaker to make ballast. Each day we had to walk down to Dduallt to throw sheep back over the sheep-proof fence to clear the line. By some miracle, we suspected aided and abetted by person or persons unknown, a handful of sheep still appeared on the track every morning.
Each evening the miners would blast the tunnel the shock waves making everything in the hut rattle before one of us would accompany them into the tunnel to check that all the charges had gone off. I don't think we had heard of Health and Safety then. Happy memories of going to the pub in Blaenau in the back of a Land Rover pickup and walking down past Colonel Campbell's to the pubs in Maentwrog, followed by the long walk back counting sleepers in the pitch black and hearing the expletives in the darkness as someone inevitably missed their step. I finally got to travel the whole route in 1983 - the Deviationists hut was long gone and most of my hard work buried under concrete.
Diamonds are Forever On 30th October 2010 the first train ran through from Caernarfon to Porthmadog on the reopened Welsh Highland Railway. To rebuild 25 miles of narrow gauge railway shut for over 70 years was quite an effort; to find the £26.5m to do it was more like a miracle. The first 12 miles from Caernarfon to Rhyd Ddu, completed in 2003, was difficult. The worst aspect of the project to build the first 12 miles was the fact that the destination, though one of the most splendid of mountainsides, was not the one that people wanted to go to enough to sustain a tourist railway. Only a mile or two away, at the top of the summit of Snowdon, at an even bleaker terminal, there were plenty of people who wanted to go there! Down below, there was really only one answer - to push on to Porthmadog. The far-sighted Welsh Government, under Rhodri Morgan, was prepared to support the extension. Flagging numbers at Rhyd Ddu meant that it needed to happen quickly. The Ffestiniog Railway was not in a position to finance the restoration of the remaining thirteen miles of railway. The first estimate for the job was £10.8m and an offer of a grant for half was made. £6m had to be raised before any work could start. Miracles began with £5m of the matching funding, promised from a small number of people who wanted to see it happen, and were prepared to support it generously. Public donors were estimated to offer £330k, if they could be persuaded to give, with the balance to be found from the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Societies and from volunteering, thus achieving the gateway figure. Extensive press coverage of the Welsh Highland Railway restoration story greatly assisted the launch of the appeal for funds, which raised £1m in six months and thereafter increased steadily to
£2m. This exceeded the original estimate by seven times. Of course the initial estimates for rebuilding also rose throughout the project, eventually reaching £15.2m, but the wide public support for the project continued. Firstly on such a big project, it was clear that as money was short, if it wasn't essential then the restorers did not build it. Thus the Welsh Highland Railway reached Porthmadog as a 'basic railway' and began service in October 2010 culminating in a line through the streets of Porthmadog, joining the Ffestiniog Railway part-way down the Harbour Station Platform. It was not 'finished', but trains could be run. However the job to be finished so that the railway could be sustainable. Any doubts about the wisdom of the extension disappeared when in the month of April 2009, 7,000 people booked from Caernarfon to the newly reopened Beddgelert Station, and this had grown to 70,000 in the first year, and reached 85,000 in 2011, with the two openings to Pont Croesor and then Porthmadog. In Porthmadog there was a need to shunt all Welsh Highland trains from the Cob, back into Porthmadog platform, and vice versa on departure this required a shunt engine, was very ponderous, and meant that only one train could be in the station at a time. So there was no connection between trains, although they could run through. This needed to be put right but again there was no money. So in 2011 a new 'Phase 5' scheme was launched, but this time to try to find the matched funding for the rebuilding of Porthmadog Station. A grant was made available for this important task, this time from the National Station Improvement Programme, and there was much raising ►
◄ of eyebrows about why a little narrow gauge railway outfit should get it. Of course, the traffic handled at Porthmadog is more than at Llandudno and is three times larger than Porthmadog Cambrian Station. Steam Railway magazine readers became subscribers to the scheme, which has raised just under £1m - even during a recession.
array of superb original style semaphore signals to come. The whole site follows the Ffestiniog policy of maintaining a traditional look but using new technology to the full. So in the wooden signal box, a reclaimed Westinghouse frame controls advanced motor points, and electrically operated semaphores, with LED lights in them for clarity and reliability.
Important PhD research at the University of Bangor concluded that the two railways taken together would offer £14m generated income to the local economy each year. Since opening throughout, that figure has gone up considerably – last year, the two railways generated more than £25 million - £250 for every man, woman and child in Gwynedd and created around 350 additional jobs in the area on top of the 85 directly employed full time staff. The railways' income is ploughed back into the business and provides the resources to buy the important things that are needed, like new rails and sleepers. Thus the grant of public and EU funds to restore the Welsh Highland has amply repaid itself, and will continue to do so.
First step Rebuilding Porthmadog Harbour Station is only the first step, as there are still other very important things that the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways have to do in order to finish the job of restoring both Railways and to make them sustainable. Less beautiful by far than the new Porthmadog semaphore signals, but arguably more important as a source of income and satisfaction, are comfortable and attractive booking, restaurant, personal amenities and shop facilities. The grant and the subscriptions may stretch to the operational fabric of the station, but it still doesn't cover the improvement works that need to be done to serve the huge increase in visitor numbers.
Porthmadog Harbour Station opened in spring 2014, allowing Welsh Highland and a Ffestiniog train to be handled at the same time. It is quite splendid and is complete with signal box, and an
The other two terminals at Caernarfon and Blaenau Ffestiniog also demand attention. Caernarfon was always a compromise. The whispered dreams of those who want to see the standard gauge railway restored from Caernarfon to Bangor are now voices clearly heard. And why not? The passenger numbers at Bangor Station have nearly doubled to 700,000 in a decade. A colossal 65% of visitors from outside Wales visit a tourist railway, and 23% of residents do as well! Historic properties attract 19% of overseas visitors, so on those figures restoring the railway link with Bangor sounds better value for money. The F&WHR intends to invest in a better offer at Caernarfon on the current site. Since the arrival of the new railway, Caernarfon is no longer a town with only one tourist attraction, and the massive car park under the brooding walls of the Castle houses ranks of cars whose passengers are not taking up space on the roads of the National Park. At the other end of the 'empire', 40 miles away, Blaenau Ffestiniog rail traffic at the station has almost doubled since 2004, and there are prospects for more to come, as there are many car-borne visitors already on the doorstep enjoying the famous Llechwedd Slate Caverns. An enhanced narrow gauge station increases the likelihood of increased patronage for two lines joined together as an attraction on the Swiss scale of tourism, offering comfortable steam train journeys though the magnificent Welsh mountain scenery. ►
◄ This year marks the Diamond Jubilee of the year in which Alan Pegler found the money needed to gain control of the Festiniog Railway Company. All the traditions that began sixty years ago thrive today. The Ffestiniog has always been feisty, and the tradition of young people volunteering on the railways flourishes. Traffic is on the up.
Only South African Railways NGG16 Garratts can handle ten-car trains up the 1:40 gradients on the Welsh Highland, and those locos are averaging 15,000 miles a year each. If the WHR traffic keeps growing, then three Garratts will be needed for three train sets, every day: not two.
Nice though the vintage carriages are - and the Ffestiniog has some historic gems - today's customers prefer to travel in corridor coaches. At least 14 new cars are needed, and the build programme has begun. The Ffestiniog Railway Society has worked hard to support funding for one car per year. The growing traffic demands a faster rate than this. To be sustainable the railways must have six train sets of modern carriages, ideally each with a first class/Pullman observation car, and the money needs to be found to build them.
The importance of providing a robust and powerful locomotive fleet is a core priority, one that everyone has a delight in supporting. However, finding somewhere to put them is another matter. The fleet is expanding, and it has outgrown the facilities at Boston Lodge. An NG/G16 is so huge that it cannot fit in the existing sheds without removal of its chimney! New locomotive sheds are vital and a plan to build a new facility at Boston Lodge is underway, but it needs funding. Likewise the depot at Dinas has been expanded - but more is needed. Soon, a powerful NG15 2-8-2 will join the fleet.
In the summer, every day, three train sets operate on the Ffestiniog, and two on the Welsh Highland. This requires three steam locomotives on the Ffestiniog, and two on the Welsh Highland. The traffic on offer demands twelve car trains on the Ffestiniog, and ten car trains on the WHR.
On the two railways 56 carriages are required daily. There is a covered carriage shed at Boston Lodge for 12 cars. At Dinas another 18 cars sleep under cover, however a third WHR train set makes a drama into a crisis. Leaving carriages in the open at Porthmadog exposes them to the sea air.
This is 'mainline' narrow gauge and there's nothing quite like it in the world. It was thought that three double Fairlie locomotives would never be needed on the Ffestiniog: there are now three. Only they can handle the heavy summer trains and if they are not available, then it has to be double-heading.
This reduces the overhaul time to approximately ten years. At that rate the workshop will have to deal with nearly seven carriages per year. Storage under cover will increase the overhaul period to 15 years - four per year. Cover is essential for all. Building new car sheds is therefore a priority, for which the money must be found, in order for the railway to remain sustainable. The list of things that are needed is long but the object is a railway that can sustain itself into the future. The 40 mile railway is now a reality. To help it to prosper and remain in being requires an investment of some £8.45m over the next ten years or so. This will allow all to 'Finish the Job'. It will equip the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways to handle the growth it needs to earn the money to sustain itself. Here are the reasons for the Diamond Jubilee Appeal for the new Ffestiniog Railway. Who could possibly have known that what Alan Pegler started with £3,000 in 1954 would lead to such a dazzling success? Gordon Rushton
Opposite: Coed y Bleiddiau, The Wood of the Wolves, where legend has it the last wolf in Wales met its end. The isolated house here is being restored as a luxury holiday cottage, only accessible on foot or by rail.
Keeper of the Castle
Penrhyn Castle, near Bangor, was originally a medieval fortified manor house. The present building was created between about 1822 and 1837 for George Hay Dawkins-Pennant, who inherited the Penrhyn estate on the death of his second cousin, Richard Pennant, who had made his fortune from Jamaican sugar and local slate quarries including Penrhyn. Hugh Napier Douglas-Pennant, 4th Lord Penrhyn, died in 1949, and the castle and estate passed to his niece, Lady Janet Pelham, who adopted the surname of Douglas-Pennant.
Former quarryman Iorwerth Jones and the curatorial team at Penrhyn Castle spent many years gathering together all the missing parts needed to return Hugh Napier to steam. He was determined that the engine should be restored and was behind several attempts to move things forward over thirty years. Sadly the extra effort he planned to put in to finish the job when he retired never happened as he died shortly after retiring.
But friends and supporters were determined that his work would not be in vain and engineers at the In 1951 the castle and 40,000 acres of land were Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway's Boston accepted by the Treasury in lieu of death duties Lodge Works were asked to finish the job started by from Lady Janet. It now belongs to the National Iorwerth, the loco being delivered to the works in Trust and is open to the public. Amongst Penrhyn's July 2011. In 2012 Hugh Napier was back in action many attractions is an industrial railway museum. after being blessed by the Bishop of Bangor
One of the Penrhyn Quarry locos was named Hugh Napier after the fourth lord and started work at Penrhyn Quarry in 1904. After 50 years of hard work, it was deemed to be worn out and in 1954 was dumped on a siding awaiting its fate. But somehow the loco escaped the scrapman's torch and was given to Penrhyn Castle Industrial Railway Museum in 1966.
The diminutive locomotive is now based on the F&WHR, where it is used for light duties and on special occasions. Hugh Napier is also a roving ambassador for the National Trust, visiting locations around the UK. The loco is pictured left on a visit to Penrhyn Castle in August 2012.
Light my Fire Amongst the locomotives at the Railway Museum in Penrhyn Castle sits an engine that was miraculously saved from being scrapped, was lovingly restored and is the oldest surviving locomotive in North Wales.
Built by Alfred Horlock’s marine engineering company on the Thames in 1848, the Fire Queen's duties were to haul slate wagons from the quarries at Llanberis down to the top of the incline above Port Dinorwic (Felinheli). The wagons were then lowered down a steep incline to the port, from where the slates were shipped all over the world. Slates for use in mainland Britain could also be transported by standard gauge railway from 1850 onwards.
The engine ran on 4ft gauge track, and is built without any frames, all the important parts being bolted directly to the boiler. It looks more like a traction engine than a railway engine. Coal and water were carried in a tender which is a standard gauge tender adapted for the four foot gauge. Along with its sister engine Jenny Lind, (a famous opera singer of the time), it was in service from 1848 until 1882 when more modern engines were delivered and took over its duties. Jenny Lind was unfortunately scrapped, but one of the quarry owner’s daughters wanted to start a small museum, so Fire Queen was put in a small engine-shed in Llanberis. It was looked after there by the quarry apprentices for many years, but as the quarry’s fortunes dwindled so did the attention given to the Fire Queen.
In 1963 an American museum wanted to buy the loco, but Tom Rolt, founder of the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society, persuaded Sir John Smith, the MP for Merioneth at the time, to buy the engine because of its historical importance. This he did, but it still lay in its little engine shed in Llanberis. When the quarries were closed in 1969, a new home had to be found for it. Fortunately the National Trust’s Railway Museum at Penrhyn Castle was just being formed, and Sir John Smith kindly agreed for the locomotive to be loaned to the National Trust. When the engine first arrived at the Castle it was in a very sorry state after almost 70 years of neglect. Since then the museum, assisted by many volunteers, has lovingly repaired and repainted it to bring it back to its former glory. It is now part of a small but historically important collection of locomotives and rolling stock in the Penrhyn Castle Railway Museum. The Museum is located in the stable yard next to the Coffee Shop, along with a collection of model engines and railway paraphernalia. The Museum, stable yard, coffee shop and garden are open daily all year round except Christmas Day and offers a great experience for both the expert and novice loco enthusiast.
For more information call 01248 353084 www.nationaltrust/penrhyncastle.org.uk
TLC4 Design & Edit: Andrew Thomas Pictures: Ben Abbott, James King, Cﾄフﾄネin Munteanu, Chris Parry, Gilbert Roscoe, Eddy Reynolds, Alasdair Stewart, Andrew Thomas, Visit Wales, FR Archive Published May 2014 by Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway, Harbour Station, Porthmadog, Gwynedd LL49 9NF
01766 516024 www.festrail.co.uk