Bala Lake Railway

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Bala Lake Railway
Rheilffordd Llyn Tegid
Bala Lake Railway - 2004-07-18.jpg
Alice at Llanuwchllyn, 18 July 2004
Locale Wales
Terminus Llanuwchllyn
Commercial operations
Name Ruabon Barmouth Line
Built by GWR
Original gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Preserved operations
Operated by Rheilffordd Llyn Tegid Ltd
Length 4.5 miles (7.2 km)
Preserved gauge 2 ft (610 mm)
Commercial history
Opened Between 1 December 1861
and 10 October 1867
Closed to passengers 18 January 1965
Closed 1968
Preservation history
Opened 1972
Bala Lake Railway
Ruabon to Barmouth Line
Bala (Penybont)(originally Bala Lake Halt)
Bryn Hynod Halt(closed 2011)
Glan Llyn Halt
Pentrepiod Halt
Ruabon to Barmouth Line
A Bala Lake Railway trip

The Bala Lake Railway (Welsh: Rheilffordd Llyn Tegid) is a narrow gauge railway along the southern shore of Bala Lake in Gwynedd, North Wales. The line, which is 4 12 miles (7.2 km) long, is built on a section of the former standard gauge Ruabon - Barmouth GWR route, which was built by the Bala and Dolgelley Railway Company, and opened in August 1868. The line joined the Corwen & Bala Railway at Bala Junction and with the Cambrian Railways at Dolgellau. The line was absorbed in 1877 and then operated by the Great Western (GWR). In 1896 Llanuwchllyn station was redeveloped, with an extended building and a new signal box. A passing loop and second platform were also added.

Passenger services through Bala ceased on Monday 18 January 1965 as the line from Llangollen to Barmouth was closed. Originally earmarked for dieselisation by the Western Region of British Railways in the early 1960s, the Ruabon to Bala / Barmouth line was included in the infamous Beeching Report in 1963. From that time, the line was gradually run down, with the long distance holiday trains and through freight traffic being diverted to the Cambrian main line through Welshpool and other facilities rationalised. Goods traffic finally ceased running 1 January 1968, when the Pontcysyllte branch was closed. However, through rail services had effectively ceased December 1964 when the last Mail Train from Chester used the line.

Another section of the former permanent way is used by the Llangollen Railway. The Bala Lake Railway, which runs on 2 ft (610 mm)-gauge preserved rolling stock, is a member of the Great Little Trains of Wales.


By 1969 the track had been lifted but rebirth of the line as a narrow gauge railway came when local engineer, George Barnes, saw the potential of the lakeside section for both local and tourist traffic. With the help of the late Tom Jones CBE, then Chairman of Merioneth County Council's Finance Committee, named Rheilffordd Llyn Tegid Ltd, was the first company in Wales to be registered exclusively in the Welsh language.

Bala Lake Railway opened on 13 August 1972. In its first season, it operated a small industrial diesel engine with two open carriages on 1 12 miles (2.4 km) of track between Llanuwchllyn and Pentrepiod.

Extension work continued throughout this period with the help of local ex-British Rail employees. The line was extended to Llangower by the start of 1973. In 1975 the line reached a new temporary station at Pant-yr-hen-felin.[1]

The following year the line reached Bala (Llyn Tegid), now known as Bala (Penybont). Expansion plans were to extend the line into Bala's town centre, with this final section opening in 1981. However, these plans were abandoned early in that year.[2]

The canopy at Llanuwchllyn was built in 1979 with supports which were made for the Cambrian Railways station at Pwllheli, but were relocated to Aberdovey in 1907 when Pwllheli station was moved.

In 2010, the company revived plans to complete the final 0.75 miles (1.2 km) of the railway to Bala town centre. The Red Dragon Project, under the auspices of the Bala Lake Railway Trust, has been established to build the £2.5 million extension.[3] The plans also include: a new engine shed and visitor centre as well as rebuilding of the carriage shed.

The company now has the largest collection of historic narrow gauge quarry locomotives built by the Hunslet Engine Company specifically for the slate industry in North Wales.

The stations along the line are:

  • Llanuwchllyn, includes the main buildings, workshops and railway offices.
  • Pentrepiod Halt, an operational request stop.
  • Glan Llyn Halt, a limited-use station, open only during the Halloween and Santa Special train services.
  • Llangower, principal intermediate station that all trains stop at. It has a passing loop for two-train services.
  • Bryn Hynod Halt, a request stop that closed in 2011 (platform demolished in February 2012).
  • Bala (Penybont), terminus located near the town of Bala.

Rolling stock[edit]

Maid Marian waiting with a train at Bala station in the rain.
Holy War seen in its red livery as it heads to Llanwchlyn in 1993; it is now painted blue.

Steam locomotives currently in use or stored on the line are:

  • Maid Marian, works number 822 (in use). Arrived on the line 1975. It has twice undergone overhaul supported by her owners, the Maid Marian Locomotive Fund.[4]
  • Holy War, works number 779 (in use). Arrived on the line 1975, serviceable 1979.
  • Alice, works number 780 (in use). Bought initially for spares for Holy War, restored to its own right in 1994.
  • Winifred, works number 364 (in use). It was repatriated to the UK from a warehouse at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the USA in April 2012. It has since been restored to working condition.[5]
  • Diana, works number 1158 (in use). Built by Kerr Stuart and worked in Newtown, Powys
  • George B, works number 680. Due to re-enter service spring 2017.

All locos - with the exception of Diana - were built by the Hunslet Engine Company for the Dinorwic and Penrhyn Quarries. The numerous Hunslet slate quarry steam locomotives have led the railway to market itself as the home of the Hunslet brand.[6]

Until late 2011, Peckett 0-6-0st Triassic was stored on the Bala Lake Railway, was relocated to the Statfold Barn Railway during the overhauls of Winifred and George B due to storage space issues, but returned in Summer 2016.[7]

The four main diesel locomotives are:[8]

  • Meirionydd, a Bo-Bo diesel-hydrostatic locomotive built by Severn Lamb of Stratford-upon-Avon in 1973, and based on a Western class standard gauge locomotive outline
  • Trigger (Bob Davies), a Baguley Drewery, works no. 780, which is the railway's main standby diesel, used to haul out of season trains, for yard shunting and goods or works train haulage, which was built as 2 ft 6in gauge for the Royal Navy at Fishguard, purchased by Pete Briddon's Yorkshire Engine Company, regauged to 2 ft, and named 'Bob Davies' in honour of a remarkable local railwayman
  • Chilmark, Ruston & Hornsby, works no. 194771, the oldest of the railway's diesels (a 40DL diesel mechanical 3-speed built in 1939 for the Air Ministry), used by the Royal Air Force for hauling explosives and ammunition at RAF Chilmark, Wiltshire
  • Lady Madcap, a Ruston & Hornsby 20DL, which sees only occasional use for light shunting and ballast ploughing.

A new addition to the fleet is a track maintenance trolley in the style of a standard gauge Wickham trolley.

Current and former locomotives[edit]

Locomotive Name Locomotive Type Year Built Builder Works Number Notes
Current Steam Locomotives
Winifred 0-4-0 ST 1885 Hunslet Engine Co 364 Relaunched 13 April 2015, by Pete Waterman.[9]
George B 0-4-0 ST 1898 Hunslet Engine Co 680 Due to be in service spring 2017.
Holy War 0-4-0 ST 1902 Hunslet Engine Co 779 At Bala since 1975, first worked 1979. In regular service. Overhauled in 2015.
Alice 0-4-0 ST 1902 Hunslet Engine Co 780 In regular service. Overhauled in 2010.
Maid Marian 0-4-0 ST 1903 Hunslet Engine Co 822 At Bala since 1975. Undergoing 10 year overhaul, to return May 2017 in original form.
Triassic 0-6-0 ST 1911 Peckett 1270 At Bala from 1992. In service from 2008. Left Bala 2011. Returned 2016. Stored.
Diana 0-4-0 T 1917 Kerr Stuart 1158 Entered service 2016 following restoration.
Former Steam Locomotives
Lilla 0-4-0 ST 1891 Hunslet Engine Co 554 Sold to Ffestiniog Railway in 1997.
Jonathan 0-4-0 ST 1898 Hunslet Engine Co 678 Left Bala in 1986.
Dryw Bach or Ashover 0-4-0 ST 1918 Kerr Stuart 3114 Now in the Vale of Rheidol Railway collection.
Helen Kathryn 0-4-0 ST 1948 Kassel, Germany 28035 At Bala from first opening until 1975. Moved to Llanberis Lake Railway and now on South Tynedale Railway in Cumbria.
Current Diesel Locomotives
Chilmark 4W DM 1939 Ruston & Hornsby 194771
Lady Madcap 4W DM Ruston & Hornsby Light duties.
Bob Davies 4W DM Baguley Drewery 780 Built for the Royal Navy. Passenger & engineers' locomotive.
Merionnydd Bo-Bo 1973 Severn-Lamb 22 Diesel hydrostatic double-cabbed locomotive. Passenger locomotive. Built specifically for line.
Wickham trolley 4W trolley A track inspection trolley in the style of a Wickham trolley.
Former Diesel Locomotives
Goofy 4W DM 1930 Hudson 38384
"No 2" 4W DM 1936 Ruston & Hornsby 182137
4W DM 1938 Ruston & Hornsby 189972
Indian Runner "No 3" 4W DM 1940 Ruston & Hornsby 200744 Built for gravel works. Moved to Bala in 1977. Left Bala in 2004. (Named Invicta until 1981.)
Cernyw "No 11" 4W DM 1940 Ruston & Hornsby 200748
Flaxen 4W DM 1942 Ruston & Hornsby 209430
4W DM 1949 Ruston & Hornsby 283512
4W DM 1934 Motor Rail 5821
4W DM 1939 Hunslet Engine Co 1974
4W DM 1942 Hibberd 2544
4W DM 1949 Lister-Blackstone 34025 Left Bala in 2001 (to Devon Railway Centre).
Alister "No 2" 4W DM 1958 Lister-Blackstone 44052

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Steam '82 directory, edited by Roger Crombleholme and Terry Kirtland, published 1981 by Allen & Unwin (London), ISBN 0-04-385091-X, entry 304.
  2. ^ Statement of G H Barnes (General Manager) in Steam '81 directory, edited by Roger Crombleholme and Terry Kirtland, published 1981 by Allen & Unwin (London), ISBN 978-0-04-385082-4, entry 304.
  3. ^ "Proposed Route for the Bala Town Extension". Bala Lake Railway Trust. Retrieved 3 September 2016. 
  4. ^ See that society's own website.
  5. ^ "Welcome to the Bala Lake Railway". Retrieved 2012-09-10. 
  6. ^ See the full list at this Archived 4 November 2014 at the Wayback Machine. supporters' society webpage.
  7. ^ "Triassic moves to Statfold". Retrieved 2012-09-10. 
  8. ^ See data and illustrations at the official webpage.
  9. ^ Eryl Grump: Bala Lake Railway steaming ahead with more visitors in 2015. Daily Post, Trinity Mirror Merseyside, 5 June 2015.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°52′48″N 3°37′34″W / 52.88000°N 3.62611°W / 52.88000; -3.62611