September 2013


Over the weekend of 5-7 September,the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway

held a "SuperPower Great and Small" Gala over the northern end of the line,

mainly from Caernarfon to Rhyd Ddu.


The 'Great' featured the mighty Garratt locomotives,

built by Beyer Peacock in Manchester

around the mid 1950's for the South African railways


and the 'Small' being the 'England' engines,

the first steam locomotives supplied to the Ffestiniog Railway,

and built in 1863 in London by George England & Co.


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5 - 7 Sept 2013




Beddgelert & Porthmadog






Click below to visit the joint website of

Ffestiniog Railway & Welsh Highland Railways





To view the

RVR Historical Rail Map

which includes the

Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways

click image below


On a lovely sunny day on Friday 5th Sept, we arrived at Beddgelert to find newly rebuilt K1,


one of a pair of the world's first 0-4-0 + 0-4-0 articulated Garratt locomotives

built by Beyer-Peacock in 1909


for the North-East Dundas Tramway in Tasmania,

double heading Beyer-Garratt No.143,


which had a complete mechanical rebuild in 2011,

and was converted from oil to coal burning, this now being the cheaper option.












The train approaches the water tower at Beddgelert


and a mad scramble takes place by the waiting photgraphers

trying to get the best position.








Having arrived safely at Beddgelert,


the fireman prepares his fire for the stiff climb ahead around the 'S' bends

towards Meillionen Forest Campsite.


Coal burning is clearly in evidence!












Now, completely satisfied with the condition of his fire,

the fireman of red Garratt no.138 prepares to replenish the water tanks,


thus ensuring plenty of steam for the beast to tackle the hard climb ahead.


Note the rounded front of Pullman/Observation saloon no.2100 " Glaslyn " next to the engine,

which is similar to the cars on the old Caledonian Railway.












Standing in the siding road at Beddgelert

was the Plasser and Theurer KMX Tamper, built in Austria in 1995.


Originally metre gauge, it was delivered to Minffordd yard on the FR

on 29th March 2005 for re-gauging and overhaul,

many modifications being carried out from its last use

in an underground coal mine in France .


It was delivered to Dinas on the WHR on 16th May 2006 for commissioning trials.

It has given much trouble in its short life during the rebuilding of the WHR,

but, after receiving the very expensive attention of P&T engineers,

has proved to be invaluable on this railway,


which is now 40 miles long in total (Caernarfon to Blaenau Ffestiniog).












After leaving Beddgelert, no. 138 begins the 1:40 climb to the 'S' bends,

which allow the train to gain much height on its journey


to the next station stop at Rhyd Ddu


in the shadow of Mount Snowdon .













As the train passes the 'W' and 10mph restriction sign,


the lifting safety valves are a fitting tribute

to the skills of the fireman and locomotive designers,


despite the engine working very hard to move the fully loaded coaches


on this steeply-graded and curved line.












Still pulling hard, our train approaches Meillionen Campsite Halt

hidden amongst the trees, which must make drivers slightly apprehensive on a wet day

as the leaves from the them add difficulty to the already steep gradient

in restarting the heavy load.

However, on a fairly warm sunny day as this, and with dry rail conditions,

the loco slips momentarily before gaining its feet

and makes light of the weight attached to the drawbar.

The sight and sounds of a Beyer-Garratt in fine fettle leaving this halt

are not to be missed by any avid steam engine enthusiast!












Arriving at Rhyd Ddu, we are greeted by the pleasing sight of Garratt no.87,

now repainted in a deep blue from the original grey livery,

which was difficult to keep clean,

and framed by the new water tank in it's red oxide paint.

This locomotive was provided by an unknown sponsor,

much to the delight of FR/WHR management.

Here the engine crews will exchange 'Tokens',

enabling the trains to proceed into the next section.

The carriage next to the engine

is an original NWNG ( North Wales Narrow Gauge ) vehicle,


but more about this later.












Having reached the summit of the line at Rhyd Ddu,

we now descend downhill,

passing one of the original slate quarry workings on our right,

which were the main reason for the existence of the original NWNG line.

The NWNG line was opened in about 1879

from Dinas ( junction with the LNWR Caernarfon to Afon Wen std. gauge line ) to Rhyd Ddu

in order to serve the slate quarries along the route.

Passenger trains were introduced, but were little used and the company became bankrupt in 1907.


In 1901 a new company know as the PBSSR ( Portmadoc, Beddgelert, and South Snowdon Railway )

proposed a new, more direct route from Rhyd Ddu to Portmadoc

via the Aberglaslyn Pass ( gradients of 1:22 around Beddgelert! )

using DC electric locomotives, and work began in 1906.

But funds soon dried up and the scheme was abandoned.

Remains of this proposal can still be seen around Beddgelert.

There is a bridge and embankment over the road

and two retaining walls in the middle of a field!

The history of this line is available to read on the Internet.












The driver keeps a watchful eye out for any errant sheep

as we round the curve at Ffrydd Isaf,


the locomotive making a fine sight in the morning sunshine

as we drop down into the valley below,


and the weary fireman can now take a well-earned rest,

just keeping up the steam pressure for the vacuum brakes.












Cumulus clouds provide a lovely backdrop

as we approach the first of two lakes


on this very scenic part of our journey

towards the next request halt at Snowdon Ranger












The fireman unwittingly spoils the view of the hilly back scene

as we make the next scheduled stop at Waunfawr.

This is where your writer has agreed to stop for lunch at the adjacent hostelry

in order to keep peace with the domestic authorities.


Unknown to me, (and to my lovely wife),

there is a Beer Festival being held here this weekend,


with a choice of thirteen different ales, many being brewed on the premises.

Unfortunately, there is only time to sample two of them

before the returning train !!












However, as we alight from the train, we are greeted by the news

that a goods train is due within the next three minutes.

Sure enough, a distant whistle is heard, and, very shortly,

the magnificent sight of no.87 comes into view


with a rake of SAR steel hopper wagons,

recently purchased from South Africa .












Bringing up the rear, and serving as a guards van for today,

is the newly refurbished SAR van


for use as a tool van for the maintenance teams.












On Saturday 6th Sept., we travelled by train to Dinas, where the main event display was located,

with footplate rides, heritage train shuttles between Dinas, Waunfawr & Caernarfon,

model railway layouts in the good's and engine sheds and a real ale festival.

On the approach to the station at Waunfawr, we were stopped at the outer signal

to allow newly restored England engine no.2 "Prince" to run round her heritage coaches,

and the set waited on the other platform for our arrival.

This is a lovely station, even better when the sun shines, ( it was raining on this occasion ),

but the original station was little used by the villagers in the 1920's


as the local bus ran straight to Caernarvon,

obviating a change of train at Dinas to the LNWR std.gauge.












" Prince " coupled tender first to the 'Curly Roof van'

built in 2004


in preparation for the return journey to Dinas












The fireman prepares plenty of steam for the re-start of the journey,


although the return is relatively stress free,

being all downhill from here.












Having been recently converted to burn coal,

along with other modifications to her draughting and flexible steam couplings,

and showing the 'white feather' from her safety valves,


the Shed Master obviously feels enough confidence to allow "Tasmanian Garratt K1"

to take solo charge of the heavy SAR goods wagons

on the very stiff climb out of Dinas on wet rail.

This must have proved successful

as she returned safely later in the afternoon!












The driver of Hunslet saddle tank 'Lilla '

chats amicably to an interested visitor to the site.

Your writer had a most enjoyable footplate ride on this engine

down to the end of the carriage shed


where a dis-assembled Beyer-Garratt was observed on a flat bogie wagon,


the friendly driver commenting

that it would "probably not be available for use this afternoon"!!












' England ' engine no.1 " Princess ",


the first steam locomotive to be supplied to the FR

on a horse drawn cart in 1863,


is displayed here at the Dinas Gala,


looking resplendent in her red livery and polished brass work.












' England ' locomotive no.4 " Palmerston "

with two fully refurbished heritage 4 wheel coaches (Bug Boxes)

was giving short rides up and down the yard.


The front coach had been fitted out with fully buttoned leather seats,

which run longitudinally, adjacent to the coach sides and were very comfortable,

and which is more than can be said for the ride quality!

The other coach sported wooden slatted seats in the same orientation.

Here, the driver is checking the water level in the saddle tank before moving off.












Shamed by her brand new modified tender, which has been fitted with a cab extension

to give more protection to the crew and built locally,

NG15 2-8-2 , No.134, awaits further attention by the volunteer team engaged in her restoration.


No.133 was displayed in Caernarfon Town Square in 2009 to raise funds for her rebuild.

These locomotives feature a Krauss-Helmholtz pony truck for the leading wheels.

This system allows the front driving axle some sideways movement

so that only the three rear driving wheels form a rigid wheelbase.


The front axle is guided around curves by the front pony truck,

which is attached via a pivoted linkage.

When restored, she should prove useful to the newly re-opened WHR.












In addition to the heritage shuttle trains between Dinas and Waunfawr,

these trains also ran from Dinas to Caernarfon & return.

' England ' engines nos.4 and 1 Palmerston & Prince running tender first

prepare to take out the first afternoon train to Caernarfon.

Note the Curly Roof Van next to the train engine.












Working hard as pilot engine to ' England ' no.4, " Palmerston "

on the afternoon shuttles


was Peckett saddle tank no.1,

which came originally from Harrogate Gasworks.


Although this train is leaving for Waunfawr,

your reviewer rode this set to Caernarfon later in the afternoon,


and a most enjoyable journey it turned out to be.












Ffestiniog Railway coach no.18,

built by Brown & Marshalls of Birmingham in 1876,

restored 1957 and 2003.

These coaches designed by George Percival Spooner

were the first bogie coaches,

of any gauge, to operate in Britain ,

and nos.15 &16 entered service in January 1873.


They were built with iron underframes and iron framing for the coachwork.

This was the coach, in which your reviewer travelled to Caernarfon

behind "Prince" and the Peckett saddle tank double headed.

I can honestly say that it was the most comfortable journey

in a narrow-gauge coach at a constant 25mph

that I have experienced, with very little unwanted movement of note.

This part of the new WHR runs on the old LNWR std. gauge trackbed,

and, although some attention has been paid to track improvement,

it was still a memorable experience in comparison to the last, larger, WHR carriage

in which I rode on this trackbed.












Having reached the Northern terminus of the WHR at Caernarfon,


the fireman of " Prince " returns to his post

after replenishing the water tank

to allow the Peckett saddle tank to do likewise.

At this end of the line, the sun had returned,

making a lovely warm afternoon.












As the two locomotives couple up to the heritage coaches

for the return journey to Dinas (very smooth once again),


a mother explains to her young son how these old fashioned beasts work,

and the young boy, slightly fearful, looks in awe at the sight of the hot fire inside the cab,

producing steam to power the engine, no petrol or diesel fuel here!

Meanwhile the photographers wait impatiently to capture one last shot before departure.












Back at Dinas, our 'Garratt', no.138, in Crimson Lake livery,


the last train of the day, draws into the station to take us back to Porthmadog


after one of the most enjoyable days that we have had on this railway.

( Yes, even my wife enjoyed it ! ).
















Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog



5 - 7 Sept 2013






Click below to visit the joint website of

Ffestiniog Railway & Welsh Highland Railways



To view the

RVR Historical Rail Map

which includes the

Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways

click image below


Replica Manning Wardle Lynton & Barnstaple 2-6-2 locomotive Lyd ,

built at Boston Lodge and entered service in 2010, now resplendent in Southern railway livery,


moves slowly across the station throat at Porthmadog Harbour onto the 'Cob'

to reverse onto the next train to Blaenau Ffestiniog.


This engine has undergone modern improvements to her design,

and is a very powerful and useful locomotive,

able to take seven fully loaded coaches up the 1 : 50 gradients on this line with ease.













On an extremely wet Sunday morning, L&B, Lyd , prepares for the challenge

of the greasy climb up the steep gradients and sharp curves,

which is the Ffestiniog railway,

and all the worst that 'Mother Wales' can throw at him!

We need not have worried,

she accomplished all this with ease !












On reaching Tan y Bwlch, the torrential rain prevented any form of photography,

but having crossed the down train, the driver moved off with extreme caution

onto the very sharp and greasy exit from this station.


He was obviously at one with his locomotive, and a master of his craft,

as, with the mere suggestion of a slip, Lyd immediately gained its feet,

and made glorious music as we headed into the cutting,

which leads almost immediately to Garnedd tunnel.


The rain has eased on reaching Tan y Grisiau station,

and, passing two glorious waterfalls in full flow, we ease out of the platform,

past the modern derivative of the old Festiniog disc signal

and move onto the original route to Blaenau Ffestiniog.


The wonderful rock face on the left of picture

and the original small footbridge over the line shout Ffestiniog Railway!












On arrival at Blaenau Ffestiniog; it has actually stopped raining!

With a 40 minute layover, the young lady fireperson (!)

seizes the opportunity for a bite to eat.











Having decided to take advantage of the longer stop at Blaenau,

we take a walk up to the old top FR station at Duffws,

which is now a council-operated public convenience for the newly-created car park.

The history of slate mining is very prominent in this area,

and, in the window of the old station building,

I was thrilled to find this picture of the original scene in FR days.

It shows " Prince " with a rake of slate wagons on the left

and single Fairlie " Taliesin " on the right, with the wagon ropeway to the slate mine centre of shot,

running amongst what must be the accommodation for its workmen either side of the rope incline.













There was also a photo in the window of the station building

showing a 'Dandy' wagon,

which was attached to the gravity slate trains,


and which ran downhill to the harbour at Portmadoc (sic),


allowing the horse to pull the empties back to Blaenau

before the introduction of the first steam locomotives in 1863.












Compare the previous picture with this one as it is today.


The station building still stands on the right, (in perfect condition)

with the mine workings still discernable in the background,


some 106 years after the previous shot was taken around 1907.












This is the pedestrian entrance to the site,


with newly-built columns in slate

and a small replica diesel locomotive and 2 slate wagons,

all tastefully executed.

A shame about the rain returning

as these photos were taken under a golf umbrella !!












The original station building at Duffws, still in first class condition.

Things were built to last in those days!

It reminds me of the style of station buildings

built by the Midland railway company


for the Settle & Carlisle line.












With the crew fed and watered it's now the engine's turn!

Note the CCTV camera on the top of the water tank building,

a sad sign of the times.


Vandalism can be a problem in this area.












On the return journey, we meet 1970's built Double Fairlie " The Earl of Merioneth "

arriving with the up train at Tan y Bwlch.

Note the replica signal arms, and, just discernable through the steam,

are the two bridges over the platform,


( It's a very long story !!!! ).












As the rain finally stops,


and, under a sky mixed with smoke, steam, and clouds,


our train returns to Porthmadog Harbour station.





All in all, a very enjoyable Gala.

The next event is the Ffestiniog Railway Heritage Gala

on 11 to 13 October.


See you there!!







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