Welsh Railways

Welsh Highland Railway

After much uncertainty over the years, the Ffestiniog Railway was given the job of resurrecting the 40 km long Welsh Highland Railway, which was superficially a short-lived railway of the 1920/30's, but which actually involved the linking-together of two earlier railways - the Croesor Tramway (from Porthmadog) and the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways (from Dinas Junction to Rhyd Ddu).

This has a historical precedence in that, during the time of its original operation, the WHR was closely associated with the Ffestiniog, apparently to the great disadvantage of the latter.

A large amount of grant aid was made available, and work proceeded quickly. The northern terminus of the new railway is Caernarfon, from where it travels alongside the Lon Eifion cycle track for a couple of kilometers before joining the original WHR track at Dinas Junction, and thence via Beddgelert and the Aberglaslyn Pass to Porthmadog.

As of 2006, regular passenger services exist between Caernarfon and Rhyd Ddu.

There might be some confusion caused by the fact that there is a long-standing but separate Welsh Highland Railway who occupy Beddgelert Siding in Porthmadog, a former standard-gauge connection with the WHR. This group had hopes of restoring the WHR themselves but, as stated, that job has now been handed to the Ffestiniog Railway.

I have not given too much detail here of the long-drawn out discussions about the future of the railway which took place before the Ffestiniog was allowed by the British Government to re-build the railway. But some sort of agreement was been made between the two "WHR"s to collaborate on the re-construction.


From North to South

Caernarfon terminus, July 1998
North of Caernarfon station (July 1998), showing the castle. The original standard gauge line continued around to the right and passed thru a tunnel under the main square in Caernarfon. The tunnel still exists, at the end of the car park, although gated off.
Poor photo showing Caernarfon station again (July 1993), with a train arriving from Dinas Junction.
Nantlle Railway tunnel at Coed Helen. A WHR train can just be seen in the background, after it has crossed the River Seiont while leaving Caernarvon (July 1998). The tunnel was used by the Nantlle Railway to enter Caernarfon along a different route (and was planned to be re-used by the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways for their proposed Caernarfon extension).
Dinas Junction station, July 1998. Terminus of the old WHR.
South of Snowdon Ranger, the sidings with Glanrafon quarry, the largest quarry served by the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways main line. (July 1998).
Just South of the quarry is Glanrafon Viaduct. Despite appearances, this bridge is still strong enough to carry a locomotive, so its perfectly safe to walk across, just so long as you don't fall thru the large gaps below you.
View of line towards Beddgelert as it passes under the road (near Pitts Head). (July 1998).

Beddgelert

The original attempt to connect the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways and the Croesor Tramway was carried out by the Porthmadog, Beddgelert and South Snowdon Railway, who intended to use electric traction. They built a tunnel alongside the Afon Glaslyn to the South and a trackbed which was intended to cross the Glaslyn and connect with the bridge which still exists over the A498, but which leads nowhere in a southern direction, except to point towards the beginnings of another bridge near by. If you stand by Gelert's Grave ( the invention of a past landlord of the Goat Hotel ) you are in the middle of these works and you get a good view of this proposed route which would presumably have passed very near to the grave. The aforementioned bridge over the A498 leads on its other side to a tunnel which leads to Beddgelert station.

The route as built in the 1920's used steam traction and was unable to fully follow the steeper electric route. It crossed the Glaslyn earlier, tunneled under the A498 and connected with the tunnel just mentioned.If you intend to walk the route from the South, then as of July 1989, the old railway bridge over the Glaslyn is closed fpr renovation and you need to follow the old electric route further along the Glaslyn and then follow a path taking you to the footbridge adjacent to the village itself.

The station site is almost empty. It can be reached by taking the road to the right of the Goat Hotel, and following the road round to the right as it passes a row of white houses on the right. A public footpath is signposted off to the left but instead continue straight ahead thru a gate which leads up to the station site The route can be followed south (although very overgrown) thru a cutting and then this tunnel. Northwards the track can be followed easily at first but then becomes a bit difficult to follow exactly. However the point where it becomes a bit difficult is where it crosses a minor road, but the track actually crosses this road three times as it culs around to gain height, and when it finally moves off towards Rhyd Ddu, the trackbed becomes easy to follow and is actually a commonly used track. The aforementioned minor road is the first road on the left along the A4085.

The track can be walked (with some difficulty in wet weather) from Snowdon Ranger to Rhyd Ddu (ie the old South Snowdon station). It crosses a bridge which looks a bit risky but is actually still in good enough shape to take a locomotive as it stands.

There has been some opposition from the Ramblers Association to the re-opening of the Welsh Highland Railway, primarily because of the loss of the section between Snowdon Ranger and Rhyd Ddu, and the section between the Glaslyn Bridge and Nantmor.

Many other remnants of the old Welsh Highland still exist, too many to mention in full.

Site of Beddgelert Station (July 1998)
South of Beddgelert, the railway went over this bridge and then followed the Glaslyn for a while before entering a tunnel. This latter stretch is now used as a footpath and is one of the main topics brought up in opposition to the re-building of the railway i.e. loss of footpath. (warning: this bridge is currently shut for repair (July 1998), entry to the other side is via the bridge in Beddgelert village itself - to reach this point from Beddgelert, you pass over the trackbed of a proposed electric route built about 1900. This route was too steep for steam, so the steam railway diverted across this bridge and followed the western side of the road shown. The proposed electric route would have crossed the river further up and crossed the road by a bridge which was actually built and still exists to this day, along with the skeleton of a further bridge between the river and road. This route would have passed close by Gelert's grave, which is a good spot for viewing these remnants.

Brian Daugherty