Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Great Railway Journeys, an occasional series

If I was rich and retired, I think I might travel the world to ride on historic railways along with taking some of the present great railways journeys. There are so many historic and restored railways, it may be impossible to see them all.

Here is nice little journey I might take. We go to Wales, that little bit of Britain stuck way out west. Very picturesque it is.

The Welsh Highland Railway starts at Caernarfron, complete with a castle and a pretty seaside village in North West Wales (the station is on a Roman road) and climbs steeply into Snowdonia National Park to Ryhd Ddu and then plunges down even more steeply to its present terminus at Haford y Llyn, a total of 32 kms. This year the extension to Porthmadog should be completed and the train will link to its sister historic railway, the Rheilffordd Ffestiniog Railway. (don't ask me how to pronounce any of those names, getting them written was hard enough)

The latter train was used to transport huge quantities of slate to ports for export around the world. This part closed in 1946 and the Welsh Highland Railway earlier in 1937.

As they were private railways, the railway lines could not be demolished without parliamentary legislation and besides, they would be very costly to remove.

Restoration has been going on for many years, with the restoration gradually extending itself southwards. And what do you think this work might have cost? Close to £30 million. Phew.

Of course that figure includes all the facilities and vehicles. Speaking of which, one of the steam engines is a Garratt and this engine started its working life in, and finished in the north east of Tasmania, here in Australia. Steam engine fans will know all about Garratts, but suffice to say, they are well suited to narrow and tightly curving tracks.

The slightly knowledgeable self knows that a Pullman Saloon carriage, or a Pullman Observation carriage must be pretty special and so yes, they use these for folk who have a few more bob.

You want pictures then? Sure, many have taken them. This one by Michael Chapman for whr.bangor.ac.uk/ This is Garratt no. 87 in the Aberglaslyn Pass.

And this is a photo of the ex Tassie Garratt engine from the website of the Welsh Highland Railway. Very good website too. See what you can do with £30 million.

On a day when we witnessed our home temperature gauge crack 43 deg, 110F, the thought of a comfortable and scenic train trip in the cool Welsh highlands is very appealing.


  1. "the Rheilffordd Ffestiniog Railway"

    Most famous (for any Brit of my generation at any rate) for Oliver Postgate's excellent Ivor the Engine. (It's a kids' programme from way back when, when times were simpler...and so was animation.)

  2. Seeing the heading 'Great Railway Journeys' my mind immediately turned to the New South Wales railway system.

    Shucks...only joking!

  3. A lovely cool train trip.. yeah that wopuld be awesome!

  4. Thomas's father Brian?

    Oh Victor. NSW does, the zig zag railway at Lithgow. Might make it my next train post. You will no doubt be pleased to hear our train system has failed miserably.

    Taken yours on any local ones Cazzie?

  5. Puffing Billy straight into Emerald Lake!

  6. there's some gorgeous train trips through Switzerland and the alps too, very picturesque.

  7. Decent hill to topple down Jayne.

    Trips to die for, I am sure Fen. I am an amateur on train trips.