Llanberis Lake Railway
Rheilffordd Llyn Padarn
The loco “Dolbadarn” pulls into the Llanberis station which was opened in June 2003.
|Dates of operation||1971–present|
|Track gauge||1 ft 11 1⁄2 in (597 mm)|
|Length||2.5 miles (4 km)|
|Llanberis Lake Railway|
The Llanberis Lake Railway (Welsh: Rheilffordd Llyn Padarn) is a 1 ft 11 1⁄2 in (597 mm) narrow gauge heritage railway that runs for 2.5 miles (4 km) along the northern shore of Llyn Padarn in north Wales in the Snowdonia National Park. The starting point is the town of Llanberis at the eastern end of the lake ( ), with the western terminus at Pen Llyn in the Padarn Country Park ( ). The return journey takes around 45 minutes.
The Llanberis Lake Railway runs along part of the trackbed of the defunct Padarn Railway, a 4 ft (1,219 mm) gauge line which connected the quarry with Y Felinheli (Port Dinorwic) on the Menai Strait. The Padarn Railway closed in October 1961 and was lifted between 16 May 1962 and February 1963. Following the closure of the Padarn Railway, various plans were made to open a 2 ft (610 mm) gauge tourist railway on the trackbed. The first serious attempt was made by G. Ward a local resident, who proposed a railway that would circle Llyn Padarn using the trackbeds of the British Rail Llanberis branch and the Padarn Railway. This plan would have utilized track and locomotives from the Dinorwic slate quarry, but the company did not pursue the proposal.
Quarry closure and formation of the railway company
In July 1966, A. Lowry Porter of Southend-on-Sea proposed a shorter railway running from the quarry company's workshops at Gilfach Ddu near Llanberis to Penllyn, along the eastern-most three miles of Padarn Railway trackbed. Negotiations were progressing with the company, when in July 1969 the quarry closed at short notice. The quarry's workshops at Gilfach Ddu were purchased by the Gwynedd County Council with the intention of creating a Country Park.
The quarry's land and equipment were put up for auction, and Lowry Porter's fledgling railway company purchased three steam locomotives and one diesel locomotive for use on the planned lake railway. In June 1970 the County Council purchased the trackbed of the Padarn Railway and agreed to allow its use for the lake railway.
The Ruston diesel locomotive was quickly put into service laying track. Meanwhile, the first steam locomotive, Dolbadarn, was restored to working order. The new railway was built to 1 ft 11 1⁄2 in (597 mm) narrow gauge instead of the more unusual 1 ft 10 3⁄4 in (578 mm) narrow gauge used in the quarries. This required all the rolling stock to be regauged, including the locomotives. Tracklaying progressed during 1970 using track recovered from several sources, including some originally used on the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway.
New carriages were built using the chasses of bogie wagons. These initial efforts at creating passenger stock proved unsatisfactory — they had a tendency to derail due to their very rigid construction. This caused a delay in opening, and a subsequent rapid redesign of the carriages.
The railway officially opened on 28 May 1971 but because of the need to redesign the carriage stock, the first public trains did not run until 19 July 1971. By the end of the first season, more than 30,000 passengers had been carried. In the winter of 1971 the railway was extended to its current terminus at Penllyn. For the beginning of the 1972 season, a second steam locomotive Red Damsel was returned to service with a new name: Elidir. The locomotive roster was expanded that year to include Maid Marian (now operating on the Bala Lake Railway) and an 0-4-0 tank locomotive built by Jung in Germany.
In June 2003 the railway was extended to the town of Llanberis, with a new station close to the start of the Snowdon Mountain Railway. The original terminus at Gilfach Ddu is now a through station serving both the National Slate Museum and the nearby Dolbadarn Castle. On the return journey from Pen Llyn, passengers may stop off at the Cei Llydan station for a picnic and a chance to enjoy the magnificent views of the Snowdonian mountains above Llanberis Pass.
The railway uses three steam locomotives (“Elidir“, “Dolbadarn” and “Thomas Bach”) all of which ran on the internal 1 ft 10 3⁄4 in (578 mm) gauge lines of the Dinorwic Quarry. There are also several diesel locomotives which are used for works trains and when the steam locomotives are unavailable for passenger trains.
When the Quarry closed down in 1969 the lakeside section of the trackbed was utilised for the current Llanberis Lake Railway, originally running from the National Slate Museum at Gilfach Ddu to Pen Llyn. Gilfach Ddu was the main engineering workshop of the Dinorwic Quarry and provided repair facilities for all of the steam locomotives of the quarry system.
|1||Elidir||Hunslet||0-4-0 ST||493||1889||Built for the Dinorwic quarry; originally named Enid then later renamed Red Damsel|
|2||Thomas Bach||Hunslet||0-4-0 ST||894||1904||Built for the Dinorwic quarry; originally named Wild Aster|
|3||Dolbadarn||Hunslet||0-4-0 ST||1430||1922||Built for the Dinorwic quarry|
|3||Maid Marian||Hunslet||0-4-0 ST||822||1903||Built for the Dinorwic quarry. Based on the Llanberis Lake Railway from 1972 to 1975. Subsequently operating on the Bala Lake Railway|
|7||Topsy||Ruston Hornsby||4wDM||441427||1961||Built for Bestwood Colliery|
|8||Twll Coed||Ruston Hornsby||4wDM||268878||1952||Worked at the Lodge Hill and Upnor Railway|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Llanberis Lake Railway.|
- Thomas, Cliff (2002). The Narrow Gauge in Britain & Ireland. Atlantic Publishers. ISBN 1-902827-05-8.
- Boyd, James I.C. (1986). Narrow Gauge Railways in North Caernarvonshire, Volume Three: The Dinorwic Quarry and Railways, The Great Orme Tramway and Other Rail Systems. The Oakwood Press.
- Carrington D.C. and Rushworth T.F. (1972). Slates to Velinheli: The Railways and Tramways of Dinorwic Slate Quarries, Llanberis and the Llanberis Lake Railway. Maid Marian Locomotive Fund.