The Welsh Highland journey As you can see from the map, our railways follow three river valleys. From Caernarfon, the Welsh Highland Railway ( WHR) starts its climb from alongside the Afon, or River, Seiont, before heading east from Dinas to follow the Afon Gwyrfai valley through Waunfawr to Rhyd Ddu, at the foot of Snowdon. There are paths from our Halt at Snowdon Ranger, and from Rhyd Ddu, to Snowdon's summit. Snowdon, or Yr Wyddfa in Welsh, is 3560 feet ( or 1085m) high – making it the highest mountain in Wales and England. Its part of a range of mountains, three of which are over three thousand feet high. Next to Rhyd Ddu station is Llyn Cwellyn, a beautiful lake which supplies water to Caernarfon and district. In 2009, we open a new part of the railway. Heading south, the railway climbs a little further, breasting the watershed at Pitt's Head – a large rock next to the railway, said to resemble the late Prime Minister's head! From here it's downhill all the way, crossing several minor rivers, such as the Afon Meillionen, which gives its name to the campsite where we have a Halt. The railway twists and turns through Beddgelert Forest, sometimes heading back the way it's come! After passing through a deep cutting it turns back again and heads south to Beddgelert. This is where the railway joins its second river valley – that of the Afon Glaslyn. Leaving Beddgelert, the line passes through a short tunnel and swings across the river on one of the replacement bridges built in 2007 by the Brunswick Ironworks in Caernarfon. Roger Dimmick The railway now follows the river closely through the Aberglaslyn Pass, named recently as the most beautiful landscape in the UK. The railway then passes through several tunnels and the village of Nantmor before reaching the estuary, or Traeth. The railway then crosses the Afon Nanmor and the Afon Dylif, before it makes a sharp right hand turn passing the RSPB osprey nesting site. Another new bridge is crossed at Pont Croesor over the Afon Glaslyn, before the line reaches the outskirts of Porthmadog. Passing the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway on the right, the train then rattles across the Cambrian Coast main line and threads its way into the town itself. On the left is a view across the Llyn Bach tidal reservoir towards The Cob and Boston Lodge works. Trains usually wait here before joining a tramway section across the Britannia Bridge on the A487 and into Porthmadog Harbour Station.
Jan Woods The Ffestiniog journey Leaving Harbour Station, the train heads out across The Cob with marvellous views in all directions. To the left, the Moelwyns and Cnicht rise in the distance and Snowdon gradually appears on the extreme left. To the right one can look out towards Harlech Castle and the open sea beyond the Glaslyn estuary. The Cob was built in the 18th Century by William Maddocks to reclaim land from the sea and was then adopted by the railway as its route to the harbour at Porthmadog. At the end of The Cob is the railway's works at Boston Lodge. Here, most of our carriages have been built and where our engineering expertise has renovated and maintained our large fleet of steam and diesel engines. Carriages and engines have also been built under contract for other railways here. The railway turns sharp left here and follows the Glaslyn climbing steadily through Minffordd where the railway has its own hostel and training centre. The beautifully restored station sits above the old exchange sidings where slate was transferred from the Ffestiniog Railway waggons to those of the national rail system. There is a National Rail station here at a lower level, which serves the Cambrian coast with trains to Pwllheli and Barmouth. From here you can walk to Clough Williams Ellis' Italianate village of Portmeirion. The pastures become rougher as we climb away from the estuary and break through into our third river valley. The line is now high up above the village of Penrhyndeudraeth, served by our lovingly- restored station at Penrhyn. The train crosses the main road and heads back into the National Park, passing some old lead mines on the left. A sharp right curve takes the train on a high stone wall embankment called Cae Mawr. The views from here extend right down the Afon Dwyryd valley to Harlech Castle and Portmeirion. The train snakes through ancient woodland above Plas Tan y Bwlch and reaches our station of the same name, where the steam trains take water. Leaving here we are now high above the valley, looping round Llyn Mair, Mary's Lake, in the valley below, before we re- join the main valley and Garnedd Tunnel. Dduallt is a lonely outpost, its silence broken by the sound of the engine's exhaust as it climbs round the spiral constructed here in the 1960s to gain height. The scenery is now very rugged, with arable farmland left well behind us. Only sheep, buzzards and the occasional small herd of Bagot goats are seen up here. Emerging from the Moelwyn Tunnel we traverse the flooded valley with the old course of the railway below us. Passing the power station we head round to the new station at Blaenau Ffestiniog.