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The stunning scenery of Snowdonia reflected in the tranquil waters of the Afon Glaslyn seen from the comfort of a Welsh Highland train crossing Pont Croesor in October 2014. A southbound Welsh Highland train leaves Beddgelert. The Aberglaslyn Pass - voted the most beautiful spot in the UK by National Trust members.
You don’t need to travel to the ends of the Earth to experience one of the greatest railway journeys in the world - there’s a couple just 90 minutes away in the Top Left Hand Corner of Wales. It’s a short trip from North West England and the West Midlands, with the rest of the UK within easy reach by road or rail.
A wide range of full or half day journeys is on offer; kids go free; dogs and bikes are welcome; and all trains feature buffet service at your seat. And for a small extra charge you can even relax in the splendour of one of our sumptuous First Class Pullman carriages.
We know you’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how comfortable, sociable and relaxing a trip with us Our two lines stretch for 40 miles through the heart can be. We’ve been in the business of looking after of Snowdonia, allowing you to experience the our passengers for 150 years so you know you’ll be magnificent scenery in comfort whilst savouring the getting the best experience possible. romance of gleaming steam engines and carriages. Add in helpful and friendly staff and you get more So if you want to experience quality time with your than a hint of magic. family in a timeless way, we’re here to help...
A timeless scene. Welsh Black cattle graze peacefully on the lush grass, utterly unflustered as a Welsh Highland train heads towards the mountains under the justly-famous big skies of the Snowdonia National Park. But a little over 200 years ago, this scene would have been very different. Until 1811, when William Madocks completed his masterwork, the mile long Cob Embankment, these fields remained hidden beneath the tidal waters of the Glaslyn Estuary.
The railway running across this vast tract of reclaimed land offers unparalleled panoramic views of the surrounding hills and mountains as the train makes its leisurely way towards Caernarfon. The stone wall in the foreground is part of the Creassey Embankment, an earlier land reclamation project masterminded by Madocks. His reward was the towns of Porthmadog and Tremadog being named after him. Yours is the stunning views his pioneering efforts have made possible.
The Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland workshops at Boston Lodge are famed throughout the world for craftsmanship and quality. To celebrate a century and a half of passenger services, a very special new carriage was commissioned. Paul Lewin explains how it was done...
â€œTo mark 150 years of passenger services, we embarked on a mission to build our best carriage ever.â€? Our brand new luxury Pullman Observation Saloon marks the beginning of a new era for our railway and sets high standards to enable you to enjoy the glorious Snowdonian scenery in style.
The Pullman brand has been synonymous with the very best in rail travel for a century and a half and the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland team faced a big challenge in reinventing the Pullman experience in Wales for the 21st Century. The result is simply stunning, with a carriage inspired by 1930s art deco styling but with a modern twist - what we like to call Celtic Deco. The story of observation carriages on the Ffestiniog Railway goes back to the 19th century when the narrow gauge railway that clings to a ledge on a hillside in North Wales realised the immense potential for tourist traffic.
Dan Jones with Boston Lodge Works Manager Tony Williams
Her Majesty The Queen unveils Glaslyn at Dinas in 2010
Boston Lodge craftsmen pose for the cameras as the result of their efforts is rolled out into the sunshine
The first observation cars were very rudimentary We turned to designers and affairs but even to this day, whenever they are used artists and asked them to let on special vintage trains and at galas, people are their imaginations run free. eager to experience them. There were sketches in In 1965, when the railway celebrated 100 years of abundance; ideas flowed with work on shapes and curves; passenger service, a new observation car was thoughts about textures, created. It was designed to run at the rear of the train with large windows in the end of the carriage patterns, innovative materials to give the best possible view. The seats in the and all the opportunities that saloon were taken from old Pullman carriages from new technologies can bring. the main line and very comfortable they were too. Dan Jones, a student from They became an iconic feature of the Ffestiniog Huddersfield University, brought Railway which has served us well for fifty years. his CAD skills to bear on the When the Welsh Highland Railway, which runs project as part of a summer coast-to-coast from Caernarfon to Porthmadog, placement. What a great addition opened in 2009, new Pullman carriages were built. to his CV for him to see his Using modern glazing systems to give huge designs becoming reality and to panoramic windows, a new icon for Wales was see the finished carriage on display at Paddington Station in created. The Welsh Highland carriage Glaslyn was named by Her Majesty the Queen on 27 April 2010 London for its launch. and has proved immensely popular. Note the sweeping curve on the waistline of the carriage as it So to mark 150 years of passenger services, we embarked on a mission to build our best carriage drops away towards the neatly ever. But where does one start to build new curved end window. This were carriages when, just five years before, we had created by Dan as a principal created a new benchmark in scenic railway luxury? feature of the body. â–ş
Concealed LED lighting is a key feature
â—„ Robert Chambers, of Purcell Architects, very kindly helped us by turning his attention from the magnificent buildings he designs every day to the detail of the carriage interior. We wanted something different and were inspired by art deco, but it was Robert who managed to create the interior shapes and drive the design to the point where it looks very simple. As any designer will tell you, getting things to look simple takes an awful lot of hard work. With great plans and new shapes in mind, we went back to the craftsmen in our workshop to work out how this modern design could be created using traditional hand crafting methods. Our objective was modern style and convenience and traditional ambience. Key in all this was the choice of materials. High quality is rarely achieved without the finest materials.
Unlikely inspiration came in the form of a 100-year old Glasgow Tram Car which was in our workshops for restoration, the interior of which featured bird's eye maple. This wonderful light wood has beautiful natural patterns and a veneer of this wood is used for the centre panel of the roof which contrasts delightfully with the sustainably-sourced stripy sapele timber along the sides and below the waist.
The seats were one of our biggest headaches. You might have thought that a standard seat from another vehicle might do the job but that really isn't the case. Hand crafted and the subject of endless hours of design work, the curves of the seat are designed to match the tables and interior. Honing these curves to perfection took an awful lot of time and patience.
Every single dimension was considered, discussed and reviewed. Technology plays its part with an onboard WiFi information point, double glazing, shaped glass, modern heating systems and the like all built on the foundation of a strong steel underframe for safety. We think that by looking back into the past, we have come up with a design for the future, combining style with a relaxed ambiance; a hint of times past but very much contemporary.
We very much hope this ÂŁ250,000 carriage will meet with your approval and that you will take a trip with us soon to experience a journey through the heart of Snowdonia on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways - without doubt, two of the great railway journeys of the world.
If you think of the people who work on our heritage railway you might immediately picture folk in uniforms guarding trains or in dirty overalls fixing oily engines. But if you look at our stations you will see beautifully maintained gardens, the largest of which is 400 feet long. We also have lots of half barrel planters, window boxes and hanging baskets. As you can imagine it takes a lot of TLC to keep them looking attractive and all of the work is done by volunteers who travel from around the UK.
They come throughout the season, leaving behind the cares of daily life to work in the glorious surroundings of Snowdonia. Some join us on major weekends such as Planting Out Weekend or the great autumn clear up. Others spend a day or two deadheading and weeding borders in summer sunshine in the tranquil Welsh countryside, a perfect antidote to city air. The climate of Snowdonia gives unusual growing conditions - the warm air of the Gulf Stream allows us to grow various half hardy plants such as Abutilon, Chilean Fire Tree and the Lantern tree.
The annual cycle of events begins with the great autumn clear up. The perennial beds get a thorough weeding and a light pruning of some shrubs; we leave attractive seed heads and coloured stems as they give interest for passengers on the winter trains. Annuals are removed and in their place around 4,500 bulbs are planted. Each year we design layouts for all of the stations with various schemes to give us about two months of spring colour. We have another big maintenance weekend in March at the end of which wood chippings, produced as part of the railways’ line side clearance, are spread to keep weeds at bay Our favourite time is Planting Out Weekend in May. This year we had over 20 helpers with ages ranging from 10 to 80. This is a rewarding event, when we transform the planters, boxes and small beds, removing all the dying bulbs and replacing them with summer bedding plants. The gardens buzz with activity and by Sunday evening calm is restored and the gardens are ready the summer. ►
Volunteers in action during this year’s Planting Out Weekend.
â—„ During the summer deadheading and gentle weeding are so important to keeping the displays looking attractive. The stations are quiet with only the sounds of birds and bees going about their business; from time to time a whistle on the wind heralds the approach of the train. People come to catch the train and there is a buzz of anticipation for a while until the train arrives, bringing the station to life. It is soon over as the train is away once more and calm descends leaving the gardeners enjoying the sounds of nature. Our volunteers range from beginners to experienced gardeners, drawn together by their interest in gardening and the pleasure of their combined achievements. Working together offers a great opportunity to compare notes or learn something new. It is a very social scene, sometimes travelling by special train to the halfway station to enjoy a Saturday evening dinner together or sitting around the fire in a local pub on an autumn evening. If you would like to join our gardening volunteers we would love to hear from you, whether you are an expert gardener or just wanting to try something a little bit different. Eileen Clayton
Contact Tricia Doyle by email and we will help get you on board: firstname.lastname@example.org
2015 marks fifty years since the start of the Deviation Project - the biggest heritage railway building project seen in the UK until the rebuilding of the Welsh Highland Railway in the 1990s.
After the FR closed in 1946, no one believed the railway would ever reopen and a pumped storage reservoir was built at Tanygrisiau, flooding the original route north of Moelwyn Tunnel. The innovative solution was to build a new spiral railway (which is still the only example in the UK) to gain height before entering a new tunnel emerging on the western side of the new lake.
The men and women responsible for this undertaking became known as the Deviationists and will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the project with a series of events in the Summer. Over the page Moragh Bradshaw, one of those pioneers, looks back at the heady days of picks, shovels, wheelbarrows and sweat...
In September 1964, having spent several very muddy weekends the previous year working on the Stratford Canal with Gerald Fox and others, I experienced my first weekend volunteering on the Ffestiniog Railway. We were building a parapet wall for Cei Mawr embankment, mixing our mortar by rolling a barrel along the railway track. Gerald and others were already preparing plans to rebuild the section of the railway which had been flooded by the Tanygrisiau hydro-electric storage scheme.
In autumn and winter 1964/65 we were working on preparations for the start of the Deviation project. To reach the still closed section of the railway we had to scramble up a rough goat track from the valley below. We were fortunate that Colonel Campbell, who had recently acquired Dduallt Manor offered us the use of his barn to fit out as our first “mess”. Easter weekend 1965 saw us move into the mess carrying our pots, pans, mattresses and bedding across the hillside from the train which had brought them from Tan y Bwlch.
On a grey 2nd January 1965 a dozen of us assembled on the hillside near Dduallt Station. The first turf of the ‘deviation’ was ceremonially cut with a golden spade. Twelve yards of formation were dug that weekend. Over the following months we continued to move rock and soil using picks, shovels and wheelbarrows.
Colonel Campbell had a licence for storing and using explosives - vital to breaking up the rock we had to move. Fortunately before too long we acquired our first compressor, a heavy cast off from British Gas. Now we could go more quickly. Our work consisted of drilling and blasting the rock. We learnt the value of shovelling boards. We shovelled the rock into a skip and pushed the full skip along a rather wobbly track to the end of the embankment. This added a quarter of an inch to the embankment each time a skip was emptied. At the end of 1965 400 skip loads had been tipped and at that rate the deviation would have taken 79 years to complete. A true act of faith.
Gradually the project gathered momentum. People brought their sisters, boyfriends, girlfriends and work colleagues. Some were interested in railways but most just came for an energetic weekend in the Welsh mountains. It was hard work. We would arrive at Tan y Bwlch on Friday at midnight or later. This was followed by a two mile walk up the line pushing our luggage and supplies on a trolley.
Our traditional meal on Saturday evening was a diggers’ stew cooked in an ancient bomb shaped pressure cooker. The journey home on Sunday afternoon began with an exhilarating gravity run on the trolley down to Tan y Bwlch to our cars.
Having arrived back home in the early hours we Work continued through the 70s. As time went on tried to stay awake at work on Monday keeping our the rate of progress increased. A Smalley excavator dirt begrimed hands safely hidden under our desks. was acquired with donated Green Shield stamps. Then came the first major civil engineering contract The project was led by the Junta – Gerald Fox, for work beyond the capability of volunteers Peter Jamieson, Paul Bradshaw, Roger Simons, unaided, the construction of Moelwyn Tunnel. David Currant and Mike Schumann. Mike took over as Project Engineer when Gerald departed for the In 1975 a team of three mining engineers from US in 1967. A considerable debt is owed to Gerald Cornwall led by Bob Le Marchant started cutting a for his enthusiasm, organisation and hard work in new tunnel two hundred and seventy metres long getting the whole project off the ground and to Mike hrough some of the hardest rock known to man. for running the project when he took over. In 1976, construction company McAlpine set up a A foot and mouth outbreak meant that no work team of people under the Government’s Job could be done between November 1967 and April Creation Scheme to complete the trackbed around 1968. This delayed the completion of work in the Tanygrisiau Pumped Storage power station. At Dduallt Station and the reopening of the public first, the Central Electricity Generating Board train service, extended to Dduallt in April 1968. considered this area too sensitive to allow From then on those of us working near the station volunteers to work there. Later when they realised could enjoy the very welcome chance of a - strictly just what our volunteers were capable of, they non-alcoholic - drink from the buffet car. changed their attitude and the volunteers moved in. In July we were joined by the first of the “God Squads”, various church groups who came for fortnight work camps and did sterling work. Negotiations with the FR resulted in the delivery of our first decent, working compressor. In May 1970 Bunny Lewis, ex Royal Marines sergeant, became the first paid worker on the deviation. Bunny was much loved for his commanding voice and perceptive phrases and for being an excellent leader.
With the new tunnel complete, the first trains ran as far as Llyn Ystradau Halt in 1977. A little more work was needed to complete the Deviation and on a very wet 26th June 1978 the first train of the new era entered Tanygrisiau Station. We had done it in 13 years - rather more quickly than the 79 the original projections had forecast.
One of the highlights of the 2014 Victorian Weekend was the appearance of genuine fairground gallopers at Harbour Station. Not only did the children of Porthmadog, who had never seen such a thing before, enjoy themselves immensely, but the big kids of the railwayâ€™s staff, dressed in Victorian garb, took the opportunity to re-live their youth. This October, the gallopers will roll into town once more...
Llyn Cwellyn nestles at the foot of Snowdon. This crystal clear man-made lake not only supplies the inhabitants of Caernarfon with drinking water, but provides one of the most stunning locations in Snowdonia. And perhaps the best view of all is from the Welsh Highland train as it crosses the Gwyrfai Valley approaching Rhyd Ddu, offering a breathtaking view back along the length of the lake with the mountains tumbling down on either side.
Welsh Pony hauls a single carriage through the Aberglaslyn Pass in the 1920s. Inset: relaying the track 70 years later.
Long ago, after the Great War, there was a real need to bring some economic relief to the communities of the Snowdonia area. The plan was to join two of the old mineral lines together to form the legendary Welsh Highland Railway.
The scenery was magnificent and the tourists flocked to see it, but then the Thirties depression closed it, just 13 years after opening. It would have gone for good, except that the Second World War preserved the route - but without any rails.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of visitors travelled to North Wales to see the fabulous views from the train and while husbands wondered at the strange push-me, pull you, Double Fairlie steam locomotives, their wives were glad to sit comfortably in the little narrow gauge, main line train and look down into the lovely scenery. All the railway enthusiasts remembered the legendary Welsh Highland Railway that was once joined on to the Ffestiniog and they thought that if it was also restored into today's tourist aware world how marvellous it would be.
A few ramblers walked through the old tunnels and lots of people said how splendid it would be to have So having restored the Ffestiniog back to glory, they a railway back, to be able to glide along on rails set about the task also of rescuing its derelict through such magnificence, right below the neighbour and even extending it into the town of imposing peak of Snowdon itself. Caernarfon, 25 miles away, a place that had lost its In the 1950s a group of people managed to save the main line railway in the sixties and looked forward Ffestiniog Railway - a pioneer line from the dawn of to getting another one to put alongside its famous railways in 1832. They scrimped and saved, and castle, to bring the visitors in. gradually restored to life this famous slate carrying By a lucky coincidence, it just so happened at this line, together with the oldest narrow gauge steam time that the Millennium Lottery Fund was engine still working in the world. They made it searching for high profile and high quality projects pretty, they made it fun and they made a profit for grant aid, to make sure that something really which people had said they'd never do - and they momentous was done to celebrate the advent of the ploughed all the money back into the railway and new century in style. â–ş they even ran it as a charity.
The same location 90 years later as Lyd heads for Caernarfon.
â—„ The idea of reviving the Welsh Highland Railway, to take people into all that wonderful Welsh scenery, but to leave their motor cars firmly in the car park by going on a charming little train, was just what they were looking for. If the Ffestiniog is a steep and curvy little railway, it has nothing on the Welsh Highland; to give those wonderful views it climbs and snakes through the forest and by lakes, connecting one coast with another. So to haul the trains on the restored railway some narrow gauge 60 ton giants, built in Manchester, were found at the end of their lives, rusty and unloved, in sidings in South Africa. They were bought and restored, renewed and repainted, to sparkle, with power enough to haul ten carriage trains. The Garratts are unique, articulated locomotives like the Double Fairlies, but with twice the power. The sight and sound of them working hard on some of the steepest and twistiest railway in the UK is one to savour.
The Welsh Highland opened throughout in 2011, connecting Caernarfon with Beddgelert and Porthmadog. It was an instant success, with the combined railways generating more than 350,000 passenger journeys every year, and contributing over ÂŁ20m annually to the local economy. And all those people are not in their cars on the narrow roads of the National Park. When asked why people travel on the little trains, the simple answer is that this is now truly one of the Greatest Railway Journeys in the World.
Not only is there exceptional scenery to see outside, there are also refreshments served to your seat, an on-board loo , and comfortable seats to sit on, with Pullman luxury on hand if you want to pay a little extra and really spoil yourself. But perhaps the most remarkable thing about the railways, now joined together again, is that the whole 40 miles - by far the longest heritage line in the UK - is owned by and run as a charity.
This is a volunteer-led enterprise, and the chances are that if you're on the train you'll be looked after by people who are giving their time free. In fact, dozens of young people come to us each year to enjoy their holiday time working on the railway and making new friends for life.
Of the ÂŁ28m of funds needed to restore the Welsh Highland Railway, some ÂŁ14m of it came from generous supporters, from gifts, volunteering, cash donations and regular subscriptions. And this raises a vital point - the railways are not finished.
The Ffestiniog and the Welsh Highland looks professional and is wonderful to travel on. However, to make it sustainable in the long term it must be completed to the highest standards. New carriages are needed to carry visitors in the style and comfort that we all expect.
We would like our vintage carriages, dating from the 1860s and 1870s (the oldest carriages in regular operation in the world) to be reserved for special occasions; we need new sheds to keep our carriages out of the rain; we need a new engine shed to prevent those shiny Garratts from going rusty again; we would like to replace temporary buildings with permanent ones.
These two remarkable narrow gauge railways give so much pleasure to so many people, both those who work here and those who visit. Our supporting societies, numbering some 10,000, are helping us. Could you become part of the adventure? Gordon Rushton
Just a ten minute walk from Minffordd Station on the Ffestiniog Railway lies the enchanting village of Portmeirion - one of the worldâ€™s most iconic places.
Created by Welsh architect Clough Williams-Ellis in the 1920s to demonstrate how a beautiful location could be developed without spoiling it, this unique village is set on its own private peninsula on the southern shores of Snowdonia. It comprises some 50 unique buildings, the majority of which are used as hotel or self-catering accommodation and is surrounded by 70 acres of beautiful sub-tropical woodland gardens.
You can visit for the day or linger in the magic of Portmeirion at any time of year with a stay at the luxurious Portmeirion Hotel. The village features several cafes including the Castell Deudraeth brasserie and the Hotel Portmeirion dining room itself.
You can book online for both Castell Deudraeth and the Hotel at www.portmeirion-village.com
Lost in the landscape, a Ffestiniog train heads past the imposing peaks of the Moelwyns as it approaches Tanygrisiau. The train is running on the deviation line built by volunteers 50 years ago. Below it can be seen the original 1830s route, which is now submerged when the man-made lake it runs across is full.
Despite all the jokes about incessant rain or liquid sunshine as we prefer to call it - the Top Left Hand Corner of Wales enjoys some rather splendid weather.
Indeed, Porthmadog, from whose beautiful harbour once sailed the ships carrying slate to every corner of the globe, regularly finds itself the hottest place in the UK.
Luckily, the town has a wide choice of pubs, restaurants and ice cream parlours to which the visitor can repair if it gets too hot. Not least Spoonerâ€™s beer garden at Harbour Station, where you can relax with a refreshing drink, take in the stunning view across the sea to Harlech Castle and watch the trains go by.
We like it here and we think you will too.
In 1836, when the FR first opened, passenger trains weren’t immediately on the agenda – the swift and safe carriage of slates to the harbour at Portmadoc (as it was then known) was by far the most important consideration. However, it wasn’t long before quarrymen living along the line began making unofficial use of the trains to get to and from work. It would be obvious that a ride in a ‘carriage’ consisting of a plank across a slate waggon, or even a seat on the slates, was luxury compared with a 13-mile walk, especially in the depths of winter.
Even tourists appear to have been catered for soon after the opening by ‘… a carriage placed on the line connected with the Oakeley Arms Hotel’ (a report in an 1844 tourist guide). However, until the advent of locomotives in 1863, the passenger-carrying capacity of the railway was severely limited. When the first locomotives arrived, the potential for passenger traffic rapidly became apparent and the first four-wheeled carriages were ordered from Brown, Marshalls & Co. of Birmingham in 1863-4. Unfortunately, there was then a hiatus whilst permission to operate passenger trains was obtained from ‘Her Majesty’s Privy Council for Trade & Foreign Plantations’ (aka the Board of Trade) because the Gauge of Railways Act of 1846 had forbidden the carriage of passengers on anything other than standard (4'8½") gauge. ►
Top: Edwardian passengers wait at Tan y Bwlch Above: Some of the original 1860s four-wheelers are still in use today on special occasions
◄ But Captain Tyler, the Chief Inspecting Officer of Railways, sent by the Board of Trade to investigate and report, was sympathetic, although he prepared a long list of improvements that had to be implemented before official passenger services could start, which they eventually did on 5 January 1865.
Because of the railway’s very narrow gauge, there was some concern about the stability of passenger carriages, and care was therefore taken to keep the centre of gravity of the Brown, Marshalls carriages as low as possible. This accounts for the rather peculiar design of these vehicles, of which a number of originals still exist. Known to the railway’s staff as ‘Bug Boxes’, they have a very narrow fourwheeled wooden chassis over which a longitudinal, ‘knifeboard’ double-sided bench seat is constructed, and from which the floors, sides, ends and roofs are hung. This makes them very low slung, with passengers’ feet only a few inches above rail level.
Their major disadvantage is that access to the seats on the non-platform side of the carriage can be difficult. Nevertheless, they ride well and are very stable. Thanks to their odd design and eccentric appearance, they are very popular vehicles during special events in the 21st century – especially the restored ‘Flying Tent’ observation-car version - a singular vehicle featuring a canvas roof and the leather side aprons protecting passengers’ legs.
Replicas of a number of other variations on the Bug Box theme have been constructed in recent years, to replicate vehicles that didn’t manage to survive the 150 years since they were originally built. The latest re-created vehicle to go into service is a replica of one of the curious, and short-lived, ‘Sentry-box’ brake vans, built at Boston Lodge in the 1860s on Bug Box underframes. These provided luggage space and weather protection for the Guard, but were superseded by much bigger bogie vans in the 1870s. It was soon found that concerns about the stability of narrow-gauge carriages had been exaggerated. After the Railway had bought a few rather cramped, two-compartment four-wheelers from the Ashbury carriage works in 1868, therefore, ever more ambitious designs emerged.
Bogie carriages had been advocated by Captain Tyler during his 1864 inspection and the Company’s engineer, George Percival Spooner, took up the suggestion with enthusiasm. The result was Nos.15 and 16, two of the earliest bogie carriages ever seen in the United Kingdom, and certainly the first featuring iron underframes.
Top: Few creature comforts - early carriages dating from 1863 Middle: Carriage 16 as delivered in 1872
Bottom: The view from inside Observation Carriage 100, built to commemorate 100 years of passenger services on the FR
Built as a collaboration between Boston Lodge and Brown, Marshalls, they were designed to cope with a heavy ‘tail’ of waggons hung on their couplings on the way up the hill to Blaenau, and the bodywork features a hidden iron framework, cunningly concealed within the wooden panelling. This very solid construction stood them in such good stead that they are still in regular use on the Railway. ►
◄ Having survived the closure years standing in the open, they were repaired and put back into traffic from 1960. Due for further renovation around 2000, they have both been carefully restored – No.15 back to the condition in which it was delivered in 1872; No.16 to the condition of the rather more spartan styling of the 1920s. Having achieved success with Nos.15 and 16, Spooner went on to design a series of more conventional bogie carriages, ‘Bowsiders’ Nos.17-20 delivered from 1876 to 1879. Although not quite so robust as the original pair, all were returned to service from the 1950s, and all have since been restored in various ‘period’ liveries like the earlier pair. Unfortunately vehicles built after Spooner left the scene were not so well designed and a discreet veil should maybe be drawn over a pair of very cheaply constructed ‘tourist’ carriages built in the 1890s on wooden underframes. When one was returned to service in 1958 it quickly became known, for very obvious reasons, as the ‘banana car’! As for half a dozen, small open-sided ‘toast racks’ built in the 1920s for services on the new Welsh Highland Railway, the least said the better (although, in good weather, today’s tourists quite enjoy riding in a replica built some years ago).
In the meantime the rebuilding of the Welsh Highland Railway from the mid-1990s led to the construction of a fleet of large, well-appointed carriages for that railway which had reached a total of 14 by 2010, including closed and semi-open saloons, buffet service cars, a Pullman saloon and a very luxurious First Class Pullman Observation Car, Glaslyn, which sports curved observation windows and armchair seating.
On the FR an upgrading programme has begun under which the rather austere ‘Tin Cars’ (cheaply built in the 1970s and 1980s when money was tight) will be replaced by a series of new highquality ‘Super Saloons’. This programme began in 2009 with the construction of No.103 and there are currently three vehicles in service with two more planned for completion by 2016. Designed to the maximum size allowed by the FR’s limited loading gauge, these carriages feature increased leg room, large windows with double glazing, a diesel-fired heating system for winter use, and extra-wide doors at one end giving access to specially-equipped wheelchair bays.
Old-style Buffet Cars are also being replaced by Service Cars fitted with on-board generators to run refrigeration and other equipment. However the When the FR reopened in 1955 passenger numbers most exciting current development is the rapidly rose to levels far above those that had been construction of a radically redesigned Observation experienced prior to the Second World War, and this Car, numbered 150 to mark the 150th anniversary of passenger trains on the FR. With its elegant wood soon led to a situation where it was obvious that -panelled interior, concealed lighting, speciallymerely restoring surviving carriages wouldn’t designed seats, curved observation windows, and remotely cope with the increased traffic, and a temporary solution was found by restoring a couple luxurious purple-brown livery it promises to be very much the last word in elegant narrow-gauge of old carriages from the Welsh Highland and Lynton & Barnstaple railways, found in use as hen passenger vehicles - at least until we design houses. However, by the early 1960s, it was obvious something even better… that new carriages would have to be built. We believe that George Percival Spooner would have It had also become clear by this stage that there approved wholeheartedly! John Dobson was a demand for better facilities on the trains, such as buffet cars, first-class observation cars and access to toilets. This led to the construction, over the next 40 years, of a large number of corridorconnected, centre-aisle saloons, variously known as ‘Barns’ (large wooden-bodied carriages built in the 1960s), ‘Tin Cars’ (rather basic steel-bodied carriages built on secondhand underframes from the Isle of Man), ‘Carnforth Cars’ built by a contractor in the 1990s, and a number of ‘one-offs’ in between times. The FR’s fleet of bogie vehicles increased from the dozen or so carriages found in 1955 to around 33 by the end of the century, after which a continuing programme of renewals, refurbishments and upgrades began.
Super Saloon 119 entered service in the autumn of 2014
The rebuilding of the Welsh Highland Railway offers the chance to follow in the footsteps of the intrepid explorers of the 1920s. We look at what it was like almost 100 years ago and how to do it today... Although the magnificent North Wales scenery seems a world away from the bustle of everyday life, it's more than possible to immerse yourself in its beauty for a day from as far away as London, while Manchester and the North West are within easy reach of the mountains. Virgin Trains’ 0710 service from London Euston calls at Crewe just after 0830 and delivers you to Chester to join the Arriva service along the North Wales Coast to Llandudno Junction. Changing here, the train gets smaller, the pace slows and you get a taste of what's to come as the train winds its way along the Conwy valley and Snowdonia starts to unfold in all its glory.
On arrival in Porthmadog you have an hour to break your journey (check the timetable at www.festrail.co.uk as this can be shorter on high season days). There is a great café on the station itself and refreshments are also available on the onward Welsh Highland service.
The Welsh Highland is something different again. Leaving Porthmadog at 1415 (blue timetable) there is a five mile run across land reclaimed from the sea 200 years ago, before the train threads its way through the Aberglaslyn Pass - voted Britain's most beautiful place by members of the National Trust.
There is a long climb up the western foothills of Snowdon before reaching the summit of the line at Rhyd Ddu. A climb rewarded by views of the At Blaenau Ffestiniog the Arriva train and the Ffestiniog Railway steam service stand side by side. stunning Gwyrfai valley as the train drops down Tickets for the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland train towards Caernarfon and its station next to the can be bought at the booking office on the platform imposing world heritage site of Caernarfon castle. or on the train, which has a buffet service on board. A short walk across the Castle Square, Y Maes, The line down to Porthmadog clings to the hillside allows you to board the 1642 Arriva 5C bus to high above the Vale of Ffestiniog and offers views Bangor station where you can catch the 1810 direct out to the sea and the great castle at Harlech. service to London Euston, where you arrive at 2125. Now that's what we call a grand day out… The last mile in to Porthmadog is said by many to be the best mile of the journey as the train crosses the huge sea wall known as The Cob which www.virgintrains.co.uk stretches right across the estuary and presents www.arrivatrainswales.co.uk www.festrail.co.uk an outstanding vista of Snowdonia inland.
Back in the 1920s, the Five Valleys Tour was an enterprise undertaken by energetic travellers between the wars. It was a publicity wheeze contrived by Evan R. Davies, the FR Chairman until 1934. The Five Valleys were those of the Conwy, Lledr, Dwyryd, Glaslyn and Gwyrfai, though that did less than justice, most notably to Afon Menai.
The journey began at Llandudno where a splendid six-platformed overall-roofed station encouraged you with multicoloured posters to go on day trips to Rhyl, Chester, Liverpool, Betws y Coed, Holyhead for Ireland or indeed anywhere away from Llandudno. After all, the London Midland & Scottish Railway made a living from moving people, so they were keen to promote the Five Valleys Tour.
The first leg took you to Llandudno Junction, with views of the celebrated Castle and walled town at Conway (as it was), then as now the finest walled town in Britain. You might have to change at the Junction and clamber onto another train to Tal y Cafn (for Bodnant Gardens, only a mile and a half up the hill), Llanrwst (for the fine bridge of 1636, erroneously attributed to Inigo Jones), Betws y Coed (for the Swallow Falls, two miles up the hill) and then the diminutive engine would strain itself hauling four or five coaches up the hill to Blaenau Festiniog (as it was) and if you stuck at Milepost 19, that was part of the fun. Having admired Dolwyddelan Castles (there were two), from the beauties of the Lledr Valley you entered the longest single track tunnel in Britain, with its screaming rails, to enter the waste tips of Blaenau Festiniog with the melodious sound of tinkling slate sliding down the heaps in the rain.
At Blaenau, you quickly crossed the North-Western Road to climb on the oddest little train you ever saw. Well, it was considered odd then, but we now consider it comparatively normal. You rode in a poky compartment in a carriage for an hour down the hill, stopping only to buy tea and postcards from Bessie Jones in her Welsh dress at Tan y Bwlch, until you arrived at Portmadoc (as it was).
There, after a prolonged wait, you climbed onto an even shorter little train hauled by an asthmatic engine through Aberglaslyn Pass, had another prolonged wait at Beddgelert and if you weren't lucky, another change of train.
If little Effie needed to spend a penny, you held her out of the window. The next train slogged up the hill, with entrancing clouds of evil greasy yellow smoke and once over the summit, ran down ten miles to Dinas Junction. Here there was yet another change of train, commonly onto antique coaches left over from the Lancashire & Yorkshire or the London & North-Western Railways. So back through Carnarvon (as it was), with its notable (but never-completed) castle and town wall, to Bangor, with yet another change of train â€“ the next took you back to Llandudno Junction where you changed for the seventh and last time for the short trip back to Llandudno. This was considered a Grand Day Out, and hundreds of people did it every summer. â–ş
◄ Nowadays it is rather easier and our trains are far more comfortable with corridors, loos for little Effie and proper refreshments (including one of the best beers in Wales). The journey takes from 1000 (10 a.m.) until 1700 (5 p.m.) or 1800 (6 p.m.) so you can be back in time for your evening meal. Llandudno Station has been refurbished under the supervision of the Railway Heritage Trust; three platforms have been given over to car parking. You can buy a through ticket to Porthmadog Harbour but not yet to Caernarfon; you may need to buy another at Porthmadog (We would like one day to arrange with Arriva Trains and Arriva Buses for you to buy a single ticket at Llandudno for the trip).
[departs1008] The Arriva Class 150 twin-car train trundles three times a day from Llandudno to Blaenau Ffestiniog, dropping off masses of climbers with their gear at Betws y Coed. [arrives 1136] At Blaenau station the standard gauge slides in at one side, and on the other is the FR station with a respectable rainproof roof.
[d.1145]The Ffestiniog train is commonly three times the length of the Class 150, and every seat has a view of the scenery. The train has refreshments served by charming young folk, many of them volunteers. [a.1255] At Porthmadog Harbour Station, in Spooners Café, you may have either a snack or a proper meal. If you need another ticket for the journey to Caernarfon, buy it here.
Now make your way to the Welsh Highland train on the opposite side of the platform. This is a rather bigger train with a much larger steam engine that quite dwarfs the FR locomotive, but it runs on the Otherwise take the Arriva 5C bus to Bangor (every same gauge of rails – two feet apart. Again, there 30 minutes, takes half an hour). At Bangor the bus are refreshments, this time from a trolley. changes its number and continues directly to [d.1315 or 1400] According to the time of year, you Llandudno. may travel either on the 1315 or the 1400 in some [5C>5X d. Caernarfon 1612; a. Bangor 1640, a. comfort through the Aberglaslyn Pass, Beddgelert, Llandudno 1739] over Y Copa (the Summit) and downhill not just to [5C>5 d. Caernarfon 1642; a. Bangor 1710, a. Dinas, but right to Caernarfon, arriving only a few Llandudno 1815] hundred yards from the famous Castle. Trains are little quicker from Bangor to Llandudno [a. 1535 or 1620 according to the time of year]. because of the time waiting en route. Unfortunately the railway from Caernarfon to d. Bangor 1623, a. 1702 (change Llandudno Bangor shut forty years ago and while we would Junction) using taxi from Caernarfon to Bangor. like to have it back, that day is not yet. So make your way 600 yards to the bus station on the other d. 1718, a. 1802 (change Llandudno Junction) side of Y Maes, the Castle Square. This is awkward using 5C bus. for wheelchairs, but our station staff will summon a taxi to take you to Bangor Station.
d. 1809 a. 1853( ditto).
Part of the attraction of Snowdonia is its very remoteness, with magnificent walks allowing you to forget all the cares of daily life. But how to reach them? Luckily, we have a couple of railways that can help...
Snowdon dominates the skyline as a Welsh Highland train negotiates its way past Llyn y Gader, the start of the L么n Gwyrfai Trail.
An 18th century stone bridge across the Afon Cwm Du that once carried coach and horse traffic to Caernarfon
There are some fantastic walks around our two railways, the newest of which runs between Beddgelert and Rhyd Ddu, allowing you to let the train take the strain if you don't feel up to the full nine mile round trip.
and there is a footbridge to cross in Beddgelert Forest. If you don’t fancy walking both ways, you can easily create a circular route by using the Welsh Highland Railway to bring you back to your starting place.
The path from Rhyd Ddu to Llyn y Gadair is even and wide and suitable for some wheelchairs. The remainder of the path has some steep sections
Llyn y Gadair lake, and the Afon Gwyrfai river that flows out of it, sustains a wide variety of plants and wildlife of national importance, such as the Arctic Char, and Floating water-plantain.
The Lôn Gwyrfai trail is a multi-use recreational path created especially for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. It features wide and even paths with the occasional steep section. The path leads through a variety of landscapes offering fantastic views of the surrounding area.
The path starts directly opposite the entrance to station in Rhyd Ddu. The first part of the route takes you to Llyn y Gadair and along the causeway along which ran the tramway that transported slate from Gadair-wyllt Quarry.
Beautiful views of the surrounding area can be enjoyed from here. Snowdon and Yr Aran stand to the east, with Mynydd Mawr, Y Garn and Mynydd Drws y Coed to the west. The path then enters the beautiful conifer and broadleaved Beddgelert forest. The path climbs gradually towards Hafod Ruffydd Uchaf where you can take a breather on one of the benches and enjoy magnificent views of the surrounding mountains before descending to Beddgelert Forest Campsite past the WHR’s Meillionen Halt. The path then wanders in and out of the forest, offering beautiful views of the surrounding area, alternating with the cool stillness of the forest.
The path then emerges from the forest onto open farmland on the foothills of Moel Hebog, where a striking view of Moel y Dyniewyd can be enjoyed, before gradually descending towards Cwm Cloch.
From Cwm Cloch the route follows the road down to Beddgelert, bearing right before the railway bridge to go to the car park near the Welsh Highland Railway Station in Beddgelert. The Lôn Gwyrfai trail opened in 2014 and was part funded by the Communities and Nature Project, a £14.5m European-funded scheme led and managed by Natural Resources Wales. CAN aims to generate economic growth and sustainable jobs by capitalising on Wales’ landscape and wildlife.
What makes walking in Snowdonia so rewarding is the sheer number of hidden scenic splendours. Sometimes a short walk from a well-trodden path can lead you to magical places that take your breath away. Read on to discover one of those secret places...
My favourite walk is Hafod y Llyn, just along from Tan y Bwlch, the halfway station on the Ffestiniog Railway. As a teenager I often went swimming in this beautiful lake with my friends on hot summer days after a hard day's work on the steam engines. But the years slipped by and I couldn’t quite remember the precise location. Twenty years on I was delighted to be reacquainted with this tranquil spot surrounded by trees and the hillside, lily pads floating on the water; a small jetty set perfectly on the southern edge; and only the sounds of nature. On blue sky days it is hard to even believe this is in the UK. Simply sitting on the bench at the far end of the lake is enough to make your cares simply melt away.
Down at the bottom of the hill is Llyn Mair around which you can walk on an easy path (a free booklet with maps to guide you around the walks is available from the Station café). If you want to explore a little further then there are the gardens of Plas Tan y Bwlch house and footpaths leading further into the forest around the Ffestiniog Railway. The woodlands have the freshest air you will find anywhere in the UK.
One of the reasons that this is a site of special scientific interest is because of the lichens that grow in the forest. Some of them are very rare indeed and this is because they can only thrive in the cleanest of air conditions. With the prevailing wind bringing fresh air from the Atlantic in to this sheltered valley, those lichens have the perfect When my friends visit the railway I recommend that environment in which to grow. they take a trip from either end of the line and break their journey half way. There is a great café The 1010 service from Porthmadog Harbour station in the old railway goods shed which is ideal for is a good starting point. I like to take the train all lunch or afternoon tea. You can of course walk for the way to Blaenau Ffestiniog and then break my miles over the hills from here, but just ten minutes journey on the way back down arriving at Tan y away are three fantastic short walks. Bwlch in time for lunch at 1215. Then walking in the early afternoon before catching the half past The upper lake at Hafod y Llyn is accessed over the three train back to Porthmadog, but you can also station footbridge. Walk down the hill on the travel from Blaenau Ffestiniog if that suits your footpath from that station and you are in the travel plans better - just check the online timetable Meirionnydd Oak Woods. There are carvings and on our website www.festrail.co.uk sculptures set in a short trail each with reflecting a story of these ancient and rather special woodlands. Happy walking! Paul Lewin
The latest in a series of magazines published by the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways