Becca Jane St Clair

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Last Day in Wales: Ffestiniog Railway

The last train we visited in Wales was the Ffestiniog Railway in Porthmadog.

The Ffestiniog Railway runs for 13 and a half miles from Porthmadog to Blaenau Festiniog, where it meets the standard gauge lines of the national rail network. The Ffestiniog is gorgeous; the train winds around spirals, horseshoes, and tunnels,and climbs over 700 feet along the way.

The Ffestiniog Railway is the oldest railway in the world and was created by an Act of Parliament in 1832, however it has not been in continuous service the entire time. Traffic on the line ceased in 1946, and it wasn’t revived until 1954. In 1990 the railway became involved in reviving another local railway – The Welsh Highland Railway. Plans were to connect the two railways in 2010, and while we saw the completed connection on our visit, they were unable to run trains at that time. They have since opened the connection, and this past weekend was it’s first weekend in service!

We still managed to experience a first, though. I was taking photos of the shiny, black engine bringing in the passenger cars and I was curious as to why it did not have a name plate, so I texted my husband. He was quick on the response and wrote back “I’m jealous, that’s their new engine”. The engine would come to be known as Lyd, but we were watching the engine’s FIRST EVER APPEARANCE on the Ffestiniog. It was being run in and tested, but would not be pulling out train. Instead, we rode behind Blanche, whose sister engine shares my mom’s name.

The ride was fantastic. Despite the chill in the air and the drizzle, I rode in the open car so I could stick my head out and take photos. Boy, was it cold! I was glad I had brought along gloves and a scarf. I wish I had remembered the tunnels before I picked the open car, though – inhaling the smoke wasn’t very pleasant!

We decided to explore Blaenau Festiniog, but it was a very small town and there wasn’t much to do. Once again, we managed to find a small hole in the wall tea house to have some Lunch before heading back to the station….where to my great joy, we got to go behind one of the double fairlies!

I love the double fairlies. They are incredible machines with TWO boilers that meet in the middle with two separate smokeboxes – one facing forward and one facing backwards. At first glance, you might even think that there are two locomotives back-to-back instead of it being just one. I spent most of the return trip with the camera out the window trying to catch the engine.

Unfortunately, it started to pour once we got back to Porthmadog. Helen and Mark wanted to explore the shops of the town, but since I was carrying Tim’s rather expensive camera I chose to spend my time reading in a cafe. We returned to our camp site later that evening and began packing for our trip back to Lincoln the following morning.

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1 comment

1 Comment so far

  1. Tim L November 4th, 2010 16:24

    So you’ll be glad to go again with me, then? Excellent. Of course I know that your Fairlie engine problem can only be cured by having a readily available “fix” at home, so we both know what next year’s winter project is going to be.
    Just one correction: The FR is not the world’s oldest railway (Liverpool & Manchester 1829, Stockton & Darlington 1825, and others even earlier). What I think you meant is that it’s the oldest surviving original railway COMPANY- other lines may be older but their original owners have long since disappeared into mergers or bancruptcy.

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