Peter Treloar Our railways have a fascinating history ….. The Ffestiniog Railway, the oldest independent railway in the world, was incorporated by Act of Parliament in 1832. It was opened in 1836 and saw slate traffic, mined in the vast quarry system at Blaenau Ffestiniog, transported down to the sea to the waiting ships in the harbour at Porthmadog. The railway was built by local entrepreneurs to replace the pack mules and barges used to carry the slate originally. The slate was transferred into barges on the Afon Dwyryd, before being transferred once again to ocean- going sailing ships at a quay which now forms part of the Portmeirion Hotel and gardens. The Ffestiniog Railway proved to be highly successful. Transporting goods, workmen, slate and even tourists during the 19th Century. Steam engines, a first for such a narrow gauge, were introduced in the 1860s, but unfortunately the Great War and cheaper imported slate put an end to the quarries. The railway lay dormant from the latter part of the 1930s through the Second World War until the early 1950s. A group of visionary young men convened in a London hotel and decided to follow the lead taken by others in restoring the Talyllyn Railway, by planning to revive the Ffestiniog. With the help of a wealthy businessman, Alan Pegler, they managed to obtain control of the Company and raise capital to start the restoration process. Eventually, in 1955, the first train made its way gingerly across The Cob from Porthmadog to the entrance to Boston Lodge works. Within a couple of years, first Prince, and then a double- Fairlie engine were restored and put back into use. What was usable of the carriage stock was renovated in Boston Lodge to operate busy tourist trains in the 1950s. Unfortunately, it had been decided to construct a reservoir which would result in the flooding of the railway near Tanygrisiau. In 1958 the railway reached Tan y Bwlch, at the same time a group of intrepid people were building a deviation to raise the height of the railway to avoid the newly flooded part of the line. After many years toil, and some exciting adventures, the railway was progressively re- opened to Dduallt, around the reservoir to Tanygrisiau and, eventually, reaching Blaenau Ffestiniog in 1982. A new station was built in Blaenau Ffestiniog as an interchange with buses and the National Rail branch line from Llandudno. Over the last twenty- seven years much work has been done to improve the amenities for our passengers, including converting the old goods shed at Porthmadog into a thriving café and bar, called Spooner's – after the Ffestiniog Railway's pioneering engineer of the 1830s. The café at Tan y Bwlch, in the middle of the National Park, has been revitalised and is a welcome location for walkers and train passengers alike, serving hot meals and refreshments throughout most of the year.
……. Our railways have a fascinating history The Welsh Highland Railway only came into existence in the 1920s. It was long seen as a dream to build a through railway between Porthmadog and Caernarfon. This route, through Beddgelert, was seen as avoiding the need to sail all the way round the Lleyn Peninsula, with its dangerous currents between the mainland and Ynys Enlli. A tramway already existed linking the quarries above the Croesor valley with Porthmadog and, originally, a tramway linked the quarries in the Nantlle valley with slate wharves at Caernarfon. Eventually a main line railway was built from Caernarfon south, through Dinas to Afon Wen, just outside Pwllheli. Much of this old railway line, now dismantled, forms the long distance footpath and cycle- way of Lon Eifion. The tunnel carrying the road underneath the Square, Y Maes, in Caernarfon, is a vestige of that railway. The NWNGR constructed a slate- carrying line between the quarries near Rhyd Ddu, at the foot of Snowdon, and Dinas to join up with the main line, where slate and other goods were transferred between the different sizes of railway. Latterly, in the early part of the 20th Century, a plan was evolved to build a railway from Porthmadog, through Beddgelert and on to Rhyd Ddu. Using part of the old Croesor Tramway it followed the Afon Glaslyn upstream to Beddgelert and then snaked its way through the forest to join up with the NWNGR at Rhyd Ddu in the early 1920s. Sadly this railway was not a huge success. Slate traffic had dwindled and other goods traffic could be handled much more efficiently by the emerging road transport. Peter Treloar Train in the Aberglaslyn Pass Passengers were inconvenienced by the change of trains at Dinas – and often by a change of train at Beddgelert as well. Unfortunately the 1930s were not a good time for the local economy and today's mass tourism had yet to develop. The Welsh Highland was reborn in 1997 after several attempts since 1964 and earlier, with the line now restored to its rightful position in Caernarfon. After operating for only half of its distance for several years, 2009 finally sees the re- opening of the throughout line between Caernarfon and Porthmadog. Trains will now be able to run the full distance between these two historic seaside towns, with the opportunity for people to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the National Park without needing to bring their motor cars into this sensitive environment. Walkers and cyclists can also enjoy full access to this delightful area, with Beddgelert and the Aberglaslyn Pass being easily reached by train from campsites along the route and from the coastal towns.