Llanberis Lake Railway

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Llanberis Lake Railway
Rheilffordd Llyn Padarn
Railway-osm-Llanberis Lake Railway-z15-mapnik.png
The loco “Dolbadarn” pulls into Llanberis station which was opened in June 2003.
Dates of operation1971–present
Track gauge1 ft 11 12 in (597 mm)[1]
Length2.5 miles (4 km)
Llanberis Lake Railway
Padarn Railway
Pen-y-Llyn (PR)
Penllyn (LLR)
Passing loop
Cei Llydan
Gilfach Ddu (PR)
Gilfach Ddu (LLR)
Dinorwic Quarry
Afon Rhythallt
Llanberis (LLR)
Llanberis (LNWR)
Llanberis (SMR)
Snowdon Mountain Railway
Carnarvonshire Railway

The Llanberis Lake Railway (Welsh: Rheilffordd Llyn Padarn) is a 1 ft 11 12 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 (53°07′03″N 4°07′09″W / 53.1175°N 4.1193°W / 53.1175; -4.1193 (Llanberis station)), with the western terminus at Pen Llyn in the Padarn Country Park (53°08′13″N 4°08′58″W / 53.1370°N 4.1495°W / 53.1370; -4.1495 (Penllyn station)).[2] The return journey takes around 60 minutes.


Early proposals[edit]

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.[3]

Quarry closure and formation of the railway company[edit]

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.[3] The quarry's workshops at Gilfach Ddu were purchased by the Gwynedd County Council with the intention of creating a Country Park.[1]

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.[3]

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 12 in (597 mm) narrow gauge instead of the more unusual 1 ft 10 34 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.[3]

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.[3]

Early years[edit]

Dolbadarn beside the lake

The railway officially opened on 28 May 1971[1] but because of the need to redesign the carriage stock, the first public trains did not run until 19 July 1971.[3] 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.[3]

Llanberis extension[edit]

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 alight at Cei Llydan station, where a picnic site is available with views of the Snowdonian mountains above Llanberis Pass.[4]


The railway uses three steam locomotives (“Elidir“, “Dolbadarn” and “Thomas Bach”) all of which ran on the internal 1 ft 10 34 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.


Current locomotives[edit]

Number Name Builder Type Works number Date Notes Image
1 Elidir Hunslet 0-4-0 ST 493 1889 Built for the Dinorwic quarry; originally named Enid then later renamed Red Damsel LlanberisLakeRy-Elidir-2013-07.jpg
2 Thomas Bach Hunslet 0-4-0 ST 894 1904 Built for the Dinorwic quarry; originally named Wild Aster ThomasBach.jpg
3 Dolbadarn Hunslet 0-4-0 ST 1430 1922 Built for the Dinorwic quarry Locomotive Dolbadarn.JPG
7 Topsy Ruston Hornsby 4wDM 441427 1961 Built for Bestwood Colliery Topsy.jpg
8 Twll Coed Ruston Hornsby 4wDM 268878 1952 Worked at the Lodge Hill and Upnor Railway
11 Garrett Ruston Hornsby 4wDM 198286 1939
19 Llanelli Ruston Hornsby 4wDM 451901 1961 Locomotive 19 at Llanberis Lake Railway.jpeg

Also on site[edit]

Name Builder Type Works number Date Notes Image
Una Hunslet 0-4-0 ST 873 1905 Built for the Pen-yr-Orsedd Quarry. Now in the National Slate Museum, with which the Llanberis Lake Railway shares premises. Una at Welsh Slate Museum.jpg

Former locomotives[edit]

These are locomotives that ran on the Llanberis Lake Railway in the past, but have now moved to other locations.

Name Builder Type Works number Date Notes Image
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 Maid Marian Bala.jpg
Cyclops[5] Jung 0-4-0 T 7509 1937 Based on the Llanberis Lake Railway from December 1971 to February 1980. Now renamed "Ginette Marie" and in storage at Strumpshaw Hall Steam Museum
Helen Kathryn[5] Henschel 0-4-0 T 28035 1948 Arrived at the Llanberis Lake Railway in 1975 from the Bala Lake Railway. It stayed until 1991, when it moved to the South Tynedale Railway
No. 8[6] O&K 0-4-0 WT 12722 1936 Used at various construction sites in northern Germany until 1957. Moved to the UK in 1970, where it ran on the Llanberis Lake Railway and then the Brecon Mountain Railway. Acquired by the Bredgar and Wormshill Light Railway in 1999. Orenstein & Koppel 12722 of 1936.JPG

Locomotives formerly on site[edit]

These are locomotives that were stored at the Llanberis Lake Railway in the past, that have now moved to other locations. They did not run on the LLR during their stay.

Name Builder Type Works number Date Notes Image
Diana Kerr Stuart 0-4-0 T 1158 1917 First ran on the Kerry Tramway, then moved to the Oakeley Quarry, then the Pen-yr-Orsedd Quarry. Stored in derelict condition on the Llanberis Lake Railway in the 1970s. Moved to the Brecon Mountain Railway in 1972.[7] Restored to working condition in 2015, and in 2018 is based at the Amerton Railway Diana (locomotive).jpg

See also[edit]


  • "Llanberis Lake Railway under construction 1". digiDo.
  • "Llanberis Lake Railway under construction 2". digiDo.
  • "Gilfach Ddu, velocipede and early Llanberis Lake Rly". digiDo.
  • "Llanberis Lake Railway". digiDo.


  1. ^ a b c 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. ISBN 0 85361 328 1.
  2. ^ Yonge, Padgett & Szwenk 2013, Map 51F.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g 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.
  4. ^ "The Train Journey". Llanberis Lake Railway. Retrieved 7 October 2017. Cei Llydan station is now passed, where there is a good picnic site on the side of the lake - the train will stop here on the homeward run.
  5. ^ a b Baughan, Peter E. (1980). A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain: North and mid Wales. David & Charles.
  6. ^ Visitors Guide. Bredgar and Wormshill Light Railway. 2008.
  7. ^ Quine, Dan (March 2015). "Private railways of the West Midlands in the 1960s". Narrow Gauge World.

External links[edit]

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