Bala and Festiniog Railway
The Bala and Ffestiniog Railway was a 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm), standard gauge, railway backed by the Great Western Railway (GWR) railway in North Wales which connected Bala with Blaenau Ffestiniog.
The railway originally connected Bala with Llan Ffestiniog and was incorporated on 28 July 1873, and opened on 1 November 1882. In 1883 the line was extended by converting the existing Festiniog and Blaenau Railway between Llan Ffestiniog and Blaenau Ffestiniog from 1 ft 11 1⁄2 in (597 mm) gauge to 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge. The line terminated at Blaenau Ffestiniog (GWR) where until 1939 it connected with the Ffestiniog Railway to Porthmadog. At Bala Junction, the line connected with the Ruabon Barmouth GWR line.
The line closed to passengers in 1960 and to freight in 1961. An unusual feature of freight operation on the line was the carriage of 1 ft 11 1⁄2 in (597 mm) gauge slate wagons (provided by the GWR) on standard gauge transporter wagons between Manod and Blaenau Ffestiniog where the wagons were off-loaded in the large station yard and their loads of dressed slate transferred to standard gauge GWR wagons for onward carriage via Manod and Bala.
The building of the Llyn Celyn reservoir necessitated the flooding of the line. A diversion was considered but never built. A short section from Bala Junction to Bala remained opened but was eventually closed in 1965.
The summit of the line was at Cwm Prysor which lay at 1,278 feet or 390 metres above sea level. The line served an extremely remote area of North Wales, most of which was not served by a main road until the A4212 road opened in the early 1960s.
In 1964, a connection was made through Blaenau to the Conwy Valley Line at Blaenau Ffestiniog North allowing access as far as the nuclear power station at Trawsfynydd; a loading facility for nuclear flasks was constructed a hundred yards north of the closed Trawsfynydd Lake Halt.
In 1982, the Ffestiniog Railway was reopened to Blaenau Ffestiniog on the site of the former GWR station. Conwy Valley line services were extended along the 1964 connection to the new interchange station and Blaenau Ffestiniog North (LNWR) was closed.
The only part of the line in use today is the very short section between the two stations in Blaenau Ffestiniog. The section of line between Blaenau (GWR) and Trawsfynydd power station closed in 1998, although the track has remained in situ for several years. Much of the trackbed remains intact except for the section flooded by Llyn Celyn and some sections used to improve the A4212 road. Several other sections are open as permissive paths.
Many of the former stations are now in use as private residences.
Heritage railway preservation attempts
Lately, there have so far been at least two attempts at preserving at least a few miles of remaining trackbed of the line; however the first two attempts did not succeed. There is still hope one day that some of it could be re-opened as a tourist attraction.
- Awdry (1990); p15
- Awdry, Christopher (1990). Encyclopaedia of British Railway Companies. Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-8526-0049-7. OCLC 19514063.
- Jowett, Alan (March 1989). Jowett's Railway Atlas of Great Britain and Ireland: From Pre-Grouping to the Present Day (1st ed.). Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-8526-0086-1. OCLC 22311137.
- Photo Guide of the whole line circa 2001
- Line on navigable O.S. map