Welsh Highland Railway History
Part 4 - The Push to Porthmadog
Phase 4 involved the rebuilding of the railway from Rhyd Ddu through Beddgelert and Aberglaslyn to Porthmadog in one go. This final phase includes street running across Britannia Bridge to link with the FR at Harbour Station, four tunnels, four large river bridges, a crossing of the standard gauge Cambrian coast line on the level and over 12 miles of track.
Work started in summer 2005 with the completion of Rhyd Ddu station (with two new water towers, an extended platform and a small yard) in early 2006. Following clearance, drainage and ballasting works by contractors, volunteer tracklayers laid track all the way to Porthmadog, the missing bridges were replaced, the flat crossing over the Cambrian Coast line installed and road crossings have been built.
The railway's original fleet of two NG/G16 Beyer-Garratts - Nos.138 and 143 - has been augmented by the arrival of NG/G16 No.87, which has been rebuilt at the Ffestiniog Railway's Boston Lodge Works after a private donation covering the costs of purchase and restoration was forthcoming. This coal-fired locomotive entered service in early 2009.
The Welsh Highland Railway Society is supporting a volunteer-led team restoring NG15 No.134. This 2-8-2 tender loco will provide an interesting contrast to the railway's fleet of articulated locos.
New carriages have also been built at Boston Lodge for use on the Welsh Highland Railway increasing the level of passenger comfort offered - as well as providing dedicated wheelchair accommodation and accessible seating. A new Observation Pullman Carriage entered service in 2009 and was named Glaslyn by Her Majesty the Queen when she visited the railway in early 2010. Further improvements have been the introduction of on-train toilets and new service cars with enhanced facilities for hot and cold buffet service.
The new Welsh Highland Railway has been developed on a much more substantial financial and engineering basis and is already making an environmentally-sensitive contribution to the economy of the area - independent research shows that the two railways generate over £15 million for the local economy each year and create more than 350 jobs in the surrounding area.
Public services started to Beddgelert, then Hafod y Llyn in 2009 and Pont Croesor in 2010. The final link to the FR has now opened, finally enabling through services to operate between Blaenau Ffestiniog and Caernarfon.
But even with the tracklaying phase complete, the railway is far from finished. There are station buildings to be completed, new carriages to be built and a major reconstruction of Harbour Station to allow trains from both railways to use the station simultaneously. All this will take time, effort and money, as will the never-ending task of maintaining a 40 mile railway and 80 miles of fencing.
Railways are never 'finished', so why not ask how you can help the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland keep their place as the very best heritage railways in the UK, if not the world!