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January 19th 2012

Phillip Dowse 2.4.1949 - 15.1.2012

It is with great sadness that we hear the news that Phil Dowse lost his battle with cancer on Sunday the 15th of January. More recently working with Arriva Trains Wales, Phil started his career on the footplate in the last days of BR steam in South Wales. He went on to be employed by the Ffestiniog Railway and was the principal driver of Blanche for many years in the seventies and eighties.

Phil was a wonderful character and a footplateman of the first order even though his methods were somewhat unorthodox. A whole generation of FR footplate crews learned their craft from Phil and look back with great fondness at time spent on the footplate with him. Phil did not suffer fools gladly but was a wonderful teacher to those who made the grade in his eyes.

Phil was a very sociable person he will be greatly missed by his many friends in the railway and local communities.

The funeral will take place at St Peter's Church, Machynlleth at 2pm on Monday January 30th.

January 11th 2012

Inter-Rail Pass (Heritage Railway Association)

We are pleased to announce that the Heritage Rail Association InterRail Pass scheme will be going ahead in 2012.

The scheme is open to directors, managers, paid staff and volunteers working on a railway which participates in the Inter-Rail Pass scheme. For £25 you receive a 2 person Pass allowing you and another person to travel at free or reduced rates on railways participating in the scheme subject to travel restrictions set by each railway. The passes generally cannot be used on Santa specials, some gala days and other special occasions. A list of participating railways and the restrictions is provided with the pass.
The 2012/2013 pass will be valid from 1st March 2012 to 28th February 2013.

If you would like to purchase a 2012/2013 pass please send a cheque for £25 per pass, made payable to 'Heritage Railway Association', together with a stamped addressed envelope, to Joanna Vincent, Ffestiniog Railway, Harbour Station, Porthmadog, Gwynedd, LL49 9NF.

I am afraid I cannot accept any other forms of payment. No cash please.

In order to receive your pass as soon as possible please ensure your cheque reaches me by Monday 20th February.

Joanna Vincent, Commercial Department

December 19th 2011

Prince 2013

Prince is the oldest steam locomotive the Ffestiniog Railway has that is capable of working. It has been a great ambassador for the FR for the last 15 months at Highley but there are a series of important anniversaries coming up that highlight the importance of returning it to service.

Few, if any, railways have anything as iconic as the Ffestiniog's Fairlies - our articulated locomotives not only give the FR a distinct image but work hard on our heavier trains year in year out. You will be aware that the Society is helping the Company by funding two new bogies to replace the last two ‘historic' units, something that should increase efficiency and improve reliability. Several hundred individuals have kindly donated to this project and our thanks go out to you.

However, the Fairlies are not the only locomotives associated with our line. When the Rev. Awdry gave Thomas some narrow gauge friends it was Prince, one of our England locomotives that he chose. At the time Prince was the only one working, since then Palmerston has joined the fleet and there is talk of a Welsh Pony rebuild as well. These locomotives can be considered in the ‘nice to have' category and, as such, the Society has been asked to fund the rebuild of Prince in time for his 150th birthday.

This is where you come in, we need to raise the funds for this project, and, although we have an England Engine fund there is nowhere near enough in it to complete the project. We need your help. Donations will be welcome and these can be sent to Dave Charlton. FRS. Freepost NATE 1232, Haltwhistle NE49 9BR.

Cheques payable to Ffestiniog Railway Society.

Chris Jones, who has played a leading role in Prince's overhaul and maintenance for many years adds: Prince is the oldest steam locomotive the Ffestiniog Railway has that is capable of working. He has been a great ambassador for the FR for the last 15 months at Highley but there are a series of important anniversaries coming up that highlight the importance of returning him to service.

The first of these is in 2013 when we celebrate the 150th anniversary of steam on the FR - the first successful application of steam on such a narrow gauge.

The success of the design led to the railway being the first narrow gauge railway in the country allowed to carry passengers, and to narrow gauge railways being adopted around the world. Prince was there then and needs to be there in 2013, in steam, to continue our heritage journey.

Prince is iconic to the preservation of the Ffestiniog Railway as the first steam locomotive to run in preservation on the railway and the mainstay of the service for the first two years, without Prince the railway would have struggled to become as successful as early as it did.

In 1963 Prince became the first preserved locomotive to celebrate its centenary in regular service on its own railway. What better way to continue this celebration than to achieve its 150th birthday, in steam, with the joint resources of the current generations of volunteers and Boston Lodge staff and your help.

December 17th 2011

John Towers

John Towers
Sad news has reached us regarding John Towers. His wife Janet reports that he passed away 13th December following a brief illness.

For almost 20 years he was a regular volunteer with the Parks & Gardens Department and contributed greatly towards the construction of the Society Hostel, turning his hand to electrical and plumbing work. He was also responsible for much of the slate cladding on the front of the building.

In latter years he assisted on Kids' Training Week and up until last year was active with the Electrical Working party.

The funeral is December 30th at 13.00 in Giggleswick Parish Church and the interment is at a woodland burial site at Rathmell, about 3 miles away.

December 1st 2011

Cold Turkey on the Welsh Highland

Joe Scott writes: I've organised a staff train for the 28th December, known as Cold Turkey. It is open to all staff of both the F&WHR and the WHHR. It is also a joint celebration with the Talyllyn and the Welshpool & Llanfair Railways .

Timings: 1100 ex-Porthmadog Harbour Station to Rhyd Ddu, the train will stop off at Beddgelert on the return so that people can go down into the village for food and drink. Train will arrive back in Porthmadog by 1600.

Purple Moose Ales will be available on the train. We could still do with some stewards for it, so if you can help, then please let me know at

December 1st 2011

Great Central Experience

Calling all F&WHR Guards, Controllers and Signalmen – Ever wondered how other heritage lines operator? Looking to broaden your railway experience? Or just interested in a good social gathering with other like-minded individuals? Well if you fancy seeing how other railways “do it” – then now is your chance.

Last August we hosted a few regular volunteers from the Great Central Railway Loughborough in Leicestershire. They shadowed us guarding trains, in control and also working Porthmadog groundframe. They thoroughly enjoyed their visit and are now offering to return the favour over the weekend from the 27th until the 29th January 2012.

During this weekend the GCR will be hosting their Winter Gala – which will mean there will be more trains and activity than usual, so there will plenty going on to keep us entertained!

Arrangements have yet to be finalised but at this stage there should be opportunities to act as the guard, do a spot of shunting and operate Rothley groundframe – all under the supervision of qualified GCR staff of course.

Places are limited and will be on a first come, first served basis – so if you are interested please email me at

Hope to see you there!

November 10th 2011

Vintage Weekend – a thank you

The Vintage Weekend organising team would like to say a huge thank you to all those involved in this year's event.

As ever, to get the old non-standard stock out (human and wheeled!) and make it into a wonderful spectacle takes a huge amount of effort from many people. So thank you very much to all involved in getting carriages, locos, waggons, Boats, lamps, uniforms, dresses, bustles, booking offices, lunches, beers and straw boaters ready. Please be reassured that people DO notice the things you do when working into the early hours or getting out of bed in the same.

Special mention should go to Boston Lodge, who produced a working Taliesin straight ‘out of the box' following some major redesign work – a credit to all involved that was crucial to the success of the weekend.

This year the atmosphere was fantastic and this has not gone unnoticed. Takings for the weekend through the different tills were positive – a useful addition the Autumn cashflow. FRS have reported that the event caused and contributed to several new members joining and feedback has been excellent, a good example of which is reproduced below.

A quick look on the FRS website photo galleries and also on YouTube shows just how many wonderful spectacles were created that weekend.


19th October 2011

Dear Mr Lewin,
I am writing to thank all those involved in this year's Vintage Weekend.
The variety of stock running, the traditional uniforms worn by the staff and the attention to detail all contributed to the great atmosphere which was much enjoyed and appreciated.
I spoke to many visitors/passengers over the weekend and everyone was very impressed – the lack of Hi-Vis clothing was particularly welcome.
Will you please pass my thanks to those involved in the event. I can only hope that further vintage weekends will take place in the future.

(name and address supplied)


It is to be hoped this particular happy customer gets his wish, but we've always said that Vintage Weekends should be a special thing. For this reason, there won't be one in 2012. However 2013 sees a very special anniversary which should undoubtedly be celebrated with a vintage-style event… Watch this space!

The VW Team.

November 9th 2011

Christmas Party

Volunteers, staff and friends of the Rheilffordd Eryri / Welsh Highland Railway are all invited to this year's Christmas Party.

Elwyn Jones writes: This year we are returning to Dinas Goods Shed for our annual Xmas do, to be held on Friday 2nd December.

We have the usual offer of food, drinks (real ale, wine, ciders or soft drinks), and entertainment by Neil Wilde (all the way from Yorkshire). The cost will be £20 per person and is all inclusive.

The party is open to volunteers, staff and friends of the Welsh Highland Railway. It all kicks off at 7.00 pm. Food list will be given out to all interested parties when they contact myself or Dafydd Thomas by either e-mail or phone. 

My contact no is 07840 910460, Dafydd is 07808 846103 please reply by Friday 18th November.

Brand new heaters have been installed to keep you all warm!

November 3rd 2011

Latest issues of Sidelines and Broadlines

Please find below the latest editions of the HRA's Sidelines and Broadlines newletters.

Attached file(s):
  • Sidelines_116.pdf
  • Broadlines_116.pdf

  • October 31st 2011

    Kids Training Week 2012

    It’s a rainy October Monday and we’re already getting enquiries about next year’s Kids Training Week!  The dates for KTW 2012 are Saturday 28th July – Friday 3rd August.

    Please contact for further information.