The Longest Narrow Gauge Railway (in Wales)

I’ve been reading about this all week, but before I got round to blogging it the Guardian’s been and visited it .  A friend told me they’d linked up the Welsh Highland Railway and the Ffestiniog, as it used to be, crossing the mainline on the level and running through the streets of Porthmadog.  It’s true: 


Though that bit isn’t officially opened yet.

Ffestiniog trains can run from Blaenau Ffestiniog right through to Caernarfon (Welsh Highland trains can’t run through to the Ffestiniog though! The loading gauge is bigger on the WHR). That’s a run of 40 miles.

This history of the project is extraordinary, and actually encompasses two railway companies. The relaying of the line was bizarrely driven by the Ffestiniog’s attempts to block it. The politics and business arrangements are so complex I think I’m going to have to read several books on it.

The section from Dinas to Caernarfon, which has been open for 12 years, wasn’t actually part of the WHR. It used to be standard gauge, though originally Parliament approved a WHR extension on the route that was never built. There’s a nice symmetry to this, because the full length route is truncated at the Ffestiniog end, where the old Ffestiniog and Blaenau Railway route is now standard gauge (standard gauge transporters used to convey the narrow gauge wagons until the closure of the quarries).

Oh yeah, and I’ve realised what’s wrong with my job: unlike Partrick Barkham I don’t get paid for riding narrow gauge trains.

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See for more...

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