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restoring the WHR - making the dream come true


Let’s Finish the Job

Issue 20.10.10

Issue: 07.12.2010


Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways Phase 5 Appeal - Let’s Finish the Job -

The Ffestiniog was brought back from dereliction - the same has been done for the WHR.

The WHR - though the scenery was beautiful, was not a commercial success. Now the world has changed.

In the 1990s the Ffestiniog Railway1 (FfR) began a massive project to restore the derelict 25 mile trackbed of the exceptionally scenic Welsh Highland Railway, to create a truly world-class tourist attraction in North Wales. This is the most daring and original project ever accomplished in the history of tourist railways. The new line, linked with the FfR, has brought opportunity and jobs to an area of Wales that needs them. Government, national and regional, local authorities, individuals and the public have all contributed to make this project happen and the physical works are done. Now the FfR is seeking ways to finish the job, to add the extras needed to confirm the combined, 40 mile railway as a centre of excellence. The Festiniog1 Railway Company is one of Britain’s oldest joint stock companies, formed under an Act of Parliament in 1832 to operate a railway between Porthmadog and Blaenau Ffestiniog. It opened in 1836, and has operated the line ever since, although from 1946 to 1954 the main line was closed, and it took from then to 1982 to fully re-open it. Since 1954 the Company’s majority shareholder has been the Festiniog Railway Trust (Registered charity No 239904). The FfR was at the forefront of railway technology in the latter half of the 19th century, and its leaders were involved in other railways around the world – most noticeably the Darjeeling and Himalaya Railway, which retains links with the line to this day. Nearer home, they developed a line known as the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways, from Dinas, just south of Caernarfon, to Rhyd Ddu, at the foot of Snowdon. After the First World War this line was extended to Porthmadog, and joined up to the Ffestiniog line. The extended line was named the Welsh Highland Railway (WHR).

Trains start from right in front of the famous castle at Caernarfon, and then run into the National Park.

In the 1960s a group of enthusiasts started to look at the possibility of rebuilding the line, spurred on by the success of the Ffestiniog in reopening. They made little progress, hindered by a legal tangle, although they opened a short line in Porthmadog adjacent to the WHR in 1980. As the 1980s progressed they looked at opening a further distance of the old WHR, and the Festiniog Railway Company, concerned about possible competition, looked at its options for the WHR.

1: The Festiniog Railway Company’s name is spelt with the archaic single F, as authorised by its 1832 Act of Parliament. The Company trades with, and otherwise uses, the modern Welsh spelling with a double Ff.

The Festiniog Railway Company decided that its best option was to purchase and rebuild the WHR itself, starting from Caernarfon, a natural terminus in the north, and offering a service of trains to access the National Park. It obtained the powers to do this, and from 1997 onwards has gradually rebuilt the line from Caernarfon. Dinas (3 miles) was reached, on the track bed of a closed BR line, in 1997; Waunfawr (7 miles) was reached in 2000, and Rhyd Ddu (12 miles) in 2003. These three sections of the line, known as Phases 1

Issue 20.12.10

The WHR was not a success. It was under-capitalised, served a depopulated area, and opened at the time that road transport became widespread. It went into receivership in 1927, and closed in 1933. However, the Festiniog Company negotiated a lease with the WHR and the local authorities, and reopened it for a further two seasons under FfR management, before finally closing in 1936. The track was lifted in the war, and most of the rolling stock scrapped. Although in receivership, the company was not wound up, and the receiver did not dispose of the track bed, the remaining asset.

to 3, were funded by a Millennium Commission grant and generous private donations. In 2004 the Company obtained further grant aid from the Welsh Assembly Government to rebuild the remainder of the line to Porthmadog - Phase 4. Match funding came from private donors, and a public appeal that eventually raised over two million pounds. The use of grant funding and donations means that the WHR has been built at no capital cost to the Company, and thus it can be operated profitably with no debts to service. These are some of the most stunning views from a train in Britain, as the railway goes from sea to sea.

The physical assets for running trains are in place, throughout, and traffic is growing rapidly on the parts open.

Some of the new rolling stock is innovative, extremely comfortable and very much in demand.

As well as its famed scenery, the FfR retains a strong vintage identity of its own.

The WHR is now physically complete throughout its length, and is open to traffic from Caernarfon to Pont Croesor, a distance of some 22½ miles. The last 3 miles will open in 2011 to link the two railways. The delay in completing this last section was caused by both cost issues and the introduction of a new signalling system on Network Rail’s Cambrian Coast line, which prevented the operation of WHR trains into Porthmadog until completed. The total expenditure on the 25 miles of railway has been about £28m, including refurbishing the infrastructure, laying new track, signalling, locomotives, rolling stock and buildings. This figure is less than it would have been without considerable volunteer input in project management, design, and physical work on the track. The success of the project has been recognised by support from HRH The Prince of Wales, the recent award of an OBE to Mike Hart, the Chairman of the WHR Construction Company and by a visit by Her Majesty The Queen to name the new observation car Glaslyn. The revised WHR has been as much a success as its predecessor was a failure. Traffic has steadily grown; indeed, the opening of the line through Beddgelert and the Aberglaslyn Pass in 2009 saw traffic double in a single year. It has also contributed greatly to the local economy in one of the more deprived parts of the UK. Construction jobs went to local firms as far as possible, and the drawing in of new visitors has also contributed greatly. Dr Megan Williams’ PhD thesis shows that the line contributes some £10m each year to the local economy equating to the value of the Phase 4 capital grant. However, it is not possible to say that the WHR is finished, and the Company is proposing a further batch of work affecting both railways, provisionally known as Phase 5, to deliver the capital works that will be necessary to offer a service that will satisfy the increased visitor demands. The proposal includes a programme of improvements to stations, additional carriages and diesel locomotives, new stabling facilities for locos and carriages, and a more flexible train control system to allow the WHR train operation to match traffic needs, and to recover when the service is disrupted. This programme of works would cost over £8m. The Festiniog Railway Company cannot support this amount of expenditure from profits; it would wish to see Phase 5 funded in a similar way to Phases 1 to 4. The launch of a public appeal to the supporters of the FR & WHR, with the hope of raising substantial sums is underway. The Company considers it is possible to obtain a 50% grant from the Welsh Assembly Government, drawn down from EU structural funds. The Ffestiniog Railway Trust, who are conducting and managing the Appeal, are looking for between £1m and £2m from public subscription and donation, as well as seeking supporters and sponsors for the project. Access is sought to new sources of funding, to close the gap in the Phase 5 programme, with the pleasure to the givers that the money they offer is likely to be match funded to achieve the things that the railways need. Here follows the list of the projects that the funds will be used for.

Finishing the Job - The Projects

Porthmadog Harbour Station from the air showing the restricted station site, with the route of the Welsh Highland Railway in red. The embankment area in the right of the picture will need to be widened to allow the second platform to run along the WHR, from a new junction to the first building that obscures the view of the trackbed. The current platform remains much as it is, except for moving it in at its right-hand extremity.

1 Harbour Station, Porthmadog Making the station fit for purpose

On the right is the old connection to the WHR, without change trains would have to go past and back in.

2 A new locomotive shed at

Dinas Allowing the increased fleet of WHR locomotives to be operated effectively

Est’d Improving the Harbour Station to serve both railways Porthmadog Harbour Station has served the Festiniog Railway for 145 years Cost with a single platform. There are some 180 thousand visitors moving through the terminal in a year, and the arrival of trains from Caernarfon will increase that number sharply. Continuing with the single platform would mean that it will not be possible to connect FfR and WHR service, as one train would have to leave the station before the other could arrive. This would limit the growth of the new railway, and therefore limit the growth of visitors to the area. The proposal offers a second platform, and with it the ability to handle two trains in Harbour Station at once. This will allow a timetable of through trains and connections for passengers between Blaenau Ffestiniog, Porthmadog, Beddgelert and Caernarfon, with a short stop in the station. The improvement will offer choice to Porthmadog visitors, new destinations from the Festiniog Railway and allow better access to National Park by public transport. £700k Widening works £300k Associated track and signalling works To increase capacity on the Welsh Highland Railway requires more locomotives, which have been obtained. But somewhere practical is needed to secure and operate them from. The present shed at Dinas is in half of a converted industrial building, and can only stable two locomotives; furthermore this building is used for maintenance. This function will increase with the rise in the locomotive fleet numbers. The increased length of the WHR means longer journey times. With

Finishing the Job - The Projects

Big engine - small shed. With five of these machines in the fleet, we need a new engine shed.


Additional carriages Increasing the railways’ carrying capacity

more trains up to four steam locomotives and two diesels will be needed in Est’d service at any time, plus others under overhaul. Although we have now bid to Cost Welsh Water for the whole building, to increase capacity in the short term, it is still necessary to construct a new locomotive shed in order to store and prepare more locomotives for their duties and to release the current building for volunteer restoration projects. The new facility will be sited more conveniently, eliminating complex manoeuvres and extra running time. Thus, as well as the required extra storage for the expanded fleet, there will be a saving in the time and expense from empty running. £700k

Providing ten new carriages to answer the demand for space The present FfR & WHR trains need to be augmented as the five carriage sets are not large enough to carry all the passengers that wish to use the railways, without the use of historic vehicles without corridors that are not suited to today’s demands and ought to be conserved rather than in everyday service. We therefore propose an initial build of ten modern carriages that do meet modern needs which will allow us increasingly to reserve our heritage stock for special occasions. More modern carriages like this, placed in service will £1.2m improve the quality of service that visitors enjoy throughout the railways.

To satisfy demand and to build on the success of WHR more carriages are needed, and the space to store them in.


Extend the Dinas Carriage Shed Keep all the carriages under cover

Making more space for more carriages The current carriage shed at Dinas was designed to accept trains of 100m. Increasing traffic resulting from the extension of the line, and the growth of its reputation, now means that the maximum length of the trains has risen to 145m. As a result the existing building is too short, and carriages have to be left outside at night, where they are at risk to damage and deterioration from the weather. A larger shed would see the valuable carriages stored dry, and safe £300k from vandalism.

Finishing the Job - The Projects 5

Improving flexibility Secure and flexible operation with loops and tokens

The bottom points of the loop line at Beddgelert.


Care of the infrastructure A central maintenance base for structures, track and signalling

Running a secure and more flexible service The way the WHR is operated is hampered by the signalling system and the passing tracks, or loop lines. The system does not readily allow changes in the timetabled services. Thus if for any reason a delay occurs, it can be locked in to the system for the rest of the day, with no chance of recovery. It is proposed to introduce the system used on the FfR of miniature electric trains staffs, but operating through the internet to minimise the cost of installation. Once installed, it becomes much easier to switch at short notice where trains cross. Furthermore, additional passing loops may be more easily made available using this system as it relies less heavily of expensive fixed electric installation costs. A better, punctual and more reliable service will be enabled by this technological advance.

Est’d Cost


A central infrastructure maintenance base at Minffordd Our Outdoor Engineering departments have no base, and are scattered between several locations. We plan to bring them together at Minffordd, with offices and messing to modern standards for staff and volunteers, undercover storage for valuable materials, and flexible works trains that can cover the full range of tasks from lineside clearance, to tracklaying and to signal maintenance. This will release space at Boston Lodge and elsewhere, and involves investment in both buildings and the works train vehicles.


We have the space at Minffordd to accommodate the new facility.

The most historic narrow gauge carriages in the world are on the FfR - they were the first for 2ft gauge. The WHR carriages today join this heritage cavalcade and the FfR Co. is determined that all carriages will be stored under cover . It has an immediate payback, as maintenance and rebuilding cycles can be extended, so the proposals for carriage storage make sound business sense, as well as preserving our railway heritage.

Finishing the Job - The Projects 7


A new loco shed at Boston Lodge Allowing the increased fleet of WHR locomotives to be operated effectively

A new carriage shed at Boston Lodge Allowing the increased fleet of WHR carriages to be stored under cover.

Housing the largest fleet of working narrow gauge locos in Britain. The present cramped locomotive facilities at Boston Lodge, are becoming life expired, are short of space, and will not accommodate WHR locomotives, which are taller and wider than FfR ones. We propose to provide a new, roomier shed for the whole main line fleet of engines, thus permitting easier access to and more effective operation and maintenance of the locomotives for both lines.

Two new diesel locomotives Powerful, versatile and economic units


Storing vehicles under cover At present there is insufficient storage space for all the FfR’s carriages at Porthmadog. Carriages thus remain outside at Harbour Station, where they are exposed to the weather coming off the sea, and hence deteriorate faster than they would if stored under cover. Some of these carriages, are wood, and historic. They are particularly expensive to remedy, and so such a building has a rapid payback date. The construction of a shed to take four full trains will allow covered storage of the FfR trains, along with the proposed third WHR train, and will permit other existing sheds to be used to store spare and heritage vehicles.


Est’d Cost


Providing flexible rescue locomotives that can also make off-peak services an economic proposition The line’s present diesel locomotives are capable of hauling short trains, but are at their limit, and as a result need regular, heavy maintenance. As a result their use is carefully husbanded. When they are out of service it is necessary to use extra steam locomotives on the lighter off-peak services, thus rendering them uneconomic. Should a train get into trouble from a greasy rail, or a malfunction on the steam locomotive, one locomotive alone cannot rescue it with ease.

A large diesel locomotive that can handle any train on the system, including a failed one with a locomotive, will enable the line to operate more efficiently Imposing though it looks, the Vale of Ffesand more economically. An improved diesel fleet allows for increased optiniog’s 350hp is not enough. eration at the extremes of the season, when it is economic to run a diesel service, but not a steam one. It will also permit the running of early and late trains for walkers and leisure customers, and thus it increases the range of services the WHR can offer.


10 Terminal Stations

Better terminal stations Making the stations fit for purpose The two termini of Caernarfon and Blaenau Ffestiniog are our biggest generators of traffic after Porthmadog. In both cases the buildings are temporary structures with limited shop facilities and no catering. Also, the stations are not ideally located, and both the railway and towns would benefit from better access to the town centres, transport interchange, and parking.

Nice view of the castle, but the facilities here are not what’s needed.

Adequate toilet and catering facilities, and full disabled access to the building and the trains are needed at these important points. New stations will offer the level of amenity that the visitor expects, and this in turn will sustain the increasing demand from new visitors. Our solutions must meet a wide range of railway and local needs. Discussions with local bodies continue on the desired outcome, but it is clear that our share of the expenditure will be significant.


Finishing the Job - The Projects 11 Turning our intermediate

stations into jewels Creating character with amenity

Beddgelert Station has only rudimentary facilities, its potential indicates more.

Providing the station facilities fitted to our popular intermediate locations Intermediate stations on the FfR and WHR enable many people to access the beautiful scenery of Snowdonia by sustainable transport, a feature not lost to visitors who are increasingly patronising them.

Est’d Cost

Beddgelert is a jewel in the crown of the WHR. It is currently the second busiest station on the line after Caernarfon, with an accessible and charming village set in outstanding scenery. Beddgelert is fast becoming the major attraction on the line; trains from Porthmadog have not yet even begun to arrive! As a base for walking up Snowdon, the delightful village, with tourist attractions such as Gelert’s Grave and Sygun Copper Mine has become really popular. That popularity is held in check as there is so little parking and the village is unsuitable for major road traffic. Since opening in 2009 the station has only had minimal shelter for passengers, with a temporary toilet and a small ticket office. The station is some way from the village of Beddgelert, and these facilities are not available without a long walk, which necessitates a climb back to the station afterwards. A new building to replace the present temporary facilities will offer a much improved benefit to the travelling public, with adequate toilet and catering facilities, and full disabled access to the building and the trains.

Tan y Bwlch, heritage setting but it could be much improved with better amenity

While Beddgelert is the most obvious case, many other stations are significant attractions in their own right. These include Tan y Bwlch and Minffordd on the FfR, and Waunfawr on the WHR. In each case, the need is to enhance their potential by making the most of the attractiveness and historic associations of the sites, while providing facilities to modern standards.


12 Stewards to historic buildings Enjoying the historic buildings in context today and delivering Heritage in use today.

them for tomorrow The Ffestiniog is unique as the oldest independent railway company in the world, and has buildings such as Boston Lodge, parts of which date from 1811, before the start of the railway age. The railways have no less than 67 traditional buildings to look after, many used for their original purpose; several are listed.

The railway has established an enviable reputation for conservation to the highest standards on its historic rolling stock, but has only just started applying the same high standards to its buildings with projects such as the The original Boston Lodge Workshop from old loco shed at Boston Lodge. We wish to extend this programme and to the 1830s, still in use today. progressively bring our building stock up to the best standards.

Grand Total



Finishing the Job - Summary The Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways are becoming famous throughout the world. They generate over 300 thousand visitors per annum to Snowdonia, putting over £10m per year into the local community and sustaining 350 local jobs. The railways employ some 60 people full time, and over 1000 active volunteer supporters visit North Wales every year, making their own contribution. Our objective is to build a world class tourist attraction, drawing in new, high spending visitors to North Wales. To do this the railways must look their best, must offer a sufficiently frequent service with appropriate facilities, and must do so economically. The projects described make this possible and they will add value to the local economy by the employment of local contractors. We have the active backing of the Welsh Assembly Government, our own supporters, patrons and many others. It is especially pleasurable to be able to welcome encouragement from members of the Royal Family. It offer confidence in the view that a project as bold as this, with extremely modest beginnings can blossom and succeed, and then be endorsed for that success. We now look for the matched funding needed to crown this project and finish the job.

On 27th April 2010 Her Majesty The Queen visited the Welsh Highland Railway, travelling from Caernarfon to Dinas in the new Pullman Observation Car . Upon arrival at Dinas, Her Majesty named the new vehicle ‘Glaslyn’ . The Railway was very proud to be honoured in this way and it shows how far the project has come, and responsibility we now carry to finish the job.

Phase 5 Project List v2  
Phase 5 Project List v2  

Phase 5 Project List