Welsh Highland Railway

Coordinates: 53°03′05.00″N 4°08′01.00″W / 53.0513889°N 4.1336111°W / 53.0513889; -4.1336111
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Welsh Highland Railway
Rheilffordd Eryri (Welsh)
TerminusCaernarfon and Porthmadog
Commercial operations
NameWelsh Highland Railway Company
Built byNorth Wales Narrow Gauge Railways (NWNGR), Welsh Highland Railway
Original gauge1 ft 11+12 in (597 mm)
Preserved operations
Operated byFestiniog Railway Company and Welsh Highland Railway Limited
Stations13 on WHR/RhE and 3 on WHHR
Length25 miles (40.2 km) and 0.75 mi (1.2 km)
Preserved gauge1 ft 11+12 in (597 mm)
Commercial history
Preservation history
1961Welsh Highland Railway Society formed
1964WHR Society reformed as Welsh Highland Light Railway (1964) Limited
1980WHR Limited line opened for passenger service
1990FR Co. became involved
11 October 1997WHR (Caernarfon) opened from Caernarfon to Dinas[1]
7 August 2000Reopened – Dinas to Waunfawr[2]
18 August 2003Reopened – Waunfawr to Rhyd Ddu[3]
7 April 2009Reopened – Rhyd Ddu to Beddgelert[4]
21 May 2009Reopened – Beddgelert to Hafod y Llyn[4]
27 May 2010Reopened – Hafod y Llyn to Pont Croesor
4 January 2011Reopened – Pont Creosor to Porthmadog Harbour
19 February 2011First through public passenger trains between Porthmadog and Caernarfon
Welsh Highland Railway
Braich | Moel Tryfan
slate quarries
Alexandra (Crown) | Fron
slate quarries
Tryfan Junction
Bettws Garmon
Salem Halt
Snowdon Ranger
Rhyd Ddu
Pitt's Head
Hafod Ruffydd Halt
(forest campsite)
Goat Tunnel (T1)
Aberglaslyn Tunnel (T2)
Aberglaslyn Tunnel (T3)
The Long Tunnel (T4)
Hafod y Llyn
Hafod Garregog Halt
Croesor Junction Halt
Ynysfor Halt
Pont Croesor
Portmadoc New (1933)
Cambrian Line
to Pwllheli & Shrewsbury
Cae Pawb
Portmadoc New (1923)
Britannia Bridge
over Afon Glaslyn
Level Crossing
Porthmadog Harbour
Detailed diagram
This is not intended as a route map as defined
by outside sources; rather, is intended to show
as much trackwork, current and historic, as
Dinas North Works sidings
Dinas South Works sidings
Braich│Moel Tryfan SQ
Alexandra (Crown)│Fron SQ
Tryfan Junction
(derelict station building)
Bryngwyn Branch
Bettws Garmon
(derelict station building)
Hafod-y-Wern SQ branch
Snowdon Ranger
Glanrafon SQ sidings
Rhyd Ddu
Rhyd Ddu Works sidings
Pitt's Head
Summit Cutting
Goat Tunnel
Tunnel 2
Tunnel 3
Tunnel 4
Hafod y Llyn
Afon Glaslyn & others
Pont Croesor
Tremadog Road
Cambrian Crossing
(Network Rail)
Harbour Station

The Welsh Highland Railway (WHR; Welsh: Rheilffordd Eryri) is a 25-mile (40.2 km) long, restored 1 ft 11+12 in (597 mm) narrow gauge heritage railway in the Welsh county of Gwynedd, operating from Caernarfon to Porthmadog, and passing through a number of popular tourist destinations including Beddgelert and the Aberglaslyn Pass. At Porthmadog it connects with the Ffestiniog Railway and to the short Welsh Highland Heritage Railway.[a] In Porthmadog it uses the United Kingdom's only mixed gauge flat rail crossing.

The restoration, which had the civil engineering mainly built by contractors and the track mainly built by volunteers, received a number of awards. Originally running from Dinas, near Caernarfon, to Porthmadog Harbour,[5] the current line includes an additional section from Dinas to Caernarfon. The original line also had a branch to Bryngwyn and the slate quarries around Moel Tryfan, which has not been restored. (This branch forms a footpath "rail trail", the lower section of which has been resurfaced and supplied with heritage notice-boards.)

There is also the 34-mile (1.2 km) long Welsh Highland Heritage Railway which runs from Porthmadog along the trackbed of the former Cambrian Railways exchange siding and connects to the WHR main line at Pen-y-Mount junction.


WHR locomotive K1, the first Garratt articulated locomotive, at Snowdon Ranger halt with train and Snowdonia behind

The original Welsh Highland Railway was formed in 1922 from the merger of two companies – the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways (NWNGR) and the Portmadoc, Beddgelert and South Snowdon Railway (PBSSR),[6] successor to the Portmadoc, Croesor and Beddgelert Tram Railway. It was never a commercial success; the carriages of the 1890s were outdated and uncomfortable for so long a ride, the journey took too long and the service had a reputation for being unreliable.

Forerunners: 1863–1921[edit]

The Croesor Tramway had run from Porthmadog since 1863 up into the Croesor Valley and the slate quarries in this area. This was a horse-worked line laid to a nominal 2 ft (610 mm) gauge.

The NWNGR had originally built a 1 ft 11+12 in (597 mm) narrow gauge line from a junction with the 4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge London and North Western Railway line at Dinas to Bryngwyn with a branch from Tryfan Junction via Waunfawr to Llyn Cwellyn (Snowdon Ranger). The line was opened in 1877 and was extended to South Snowdon (Rhyd Ddu) in 1881, a total of 9 miles (14 km). This closed to passengers in 1914 but goods traffic continued up to its absorption by the WHR in 1922.

In 1902, the newly formed PBSSR took over the failed Portmadoc, Croesor and Beddgelert Tram Railway with the aim of extending it to South Snowdon slate quarry in the Nant Gwynant Pass. Work was abandoned by the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, although the tunnels through the Aberglaslyn Pass were mostly completed.

Formation and construction: 1921–1923[edit]

The name Welsh Highland Railway first appeared in 1921 when a 1914 light railway order (LRO) was processed. It was originally drawn up by the local Caernarfonshire authorities and aimed to link the PGSSR and NWNGR but had been delayed by the First World War. It was revived by two local politicians and a Scottish distillery owner, Sir John Henderson Stewart. In July 1921, Stewart also obtained control of the Festiniog Railway, to obtain extra rolling stock for the WHR.[7]

The LRO was passed in 1922, following a public inquiry. The budget was £75,000 and much of the funding was borrowed from the Ministry of Transport and local authorities. According to the historian Peter Johnson, this would become a burden as the railway needed to generate the unlikely sum of £3,750 profit each year to service the debt.[7]

Two further LROs enabled improvements to the railway's alignment at Beddgelert, a new station site in Porthmadog and a link to the Festiniog Railway.[7] McAlpine & Sons were contracted to refurbish the existing lines and complete the link between Rhyd Ddu and Croesor Junction, thus creating a railway that ran from Dinas to join the Festiniog Railway at Porthmadog.[8] Like the modern day WHR, the railway was opened in stages. The former NWNGR section re-opened on 31 July 1922 and the remainder on 1 June 1923.[7]

Fall into receivership: 1923–1933[edit]

The WHR venture was not a success and was beset with problems from the start. Indeed, 1923 was its most successful year.[7] Much hoped-for revenue from quarry traffic never materialised as the slate industry had fallen into decline. Its passenger services were also unsuccessful and could not compete with the local bus services, which often took half the time to complete the same journey.[9] Its rolling stock was out of date, it lacked locomotives and carriages and its marketing was inadequate. In 1924, winter passenger services were discontinued due to poor traffic. A dispute with the Great Western Railway over the costs of the crossing over its line at Porthmadog also caused problems, despite the crossing having been used since 1867 without any charges or problems. The railway even had to resort to escorting passengers across the crossing on foot.[7]

After 1923, it was unable to pay debenture interest and, in 1927, the county council sued and put the railway into receivership. Services continued and by 1933, it was run down and the local authorities decided to close it.[7]

Control by the Festiniog Railway Company: 1934–1937[edit]

In 1934, the company agreed to lease the line to the Festiniog Railway Company for 42 years. It was a disaster, with the FR forced to pay rent even if the WHR made a loss.[7]

The FR Co. attempted to change the line's fortunes by re-focussing on the tourist market. This included painting the carriages bright colours, including yellow and blue and promoting the Aberglaslyn Pass as a destination by renaming Nantmor station as Aberglaslyn. They also tried to promote round trip (return) journeys, with passengers taking the standard gauge line to Dinas, travelling on the WHR and the Festiniog Railway to Blaenau Ffestiniog and then changing again to take the standard gauge railway to their original starting point.[8]

Despite these attempts, the FR Co. were unsuccessful, the last passenger train ran in 1936 and the last goods service in 1937. The early tourist industry did not provide sufficient visitors to make the railway pay, especially during the Depression. Competition from buses which ran a faster and more regular service from Caernarfon and Beddgelert also played a part. The last passenger train ran on 5 September 1936 and, in February 1937, the FR decided not to run the WHR again.[7]

Fall into liquidation 1937–1941[edit]

As there was no provision for the Ffestiniog Railway Company to hand back its lease and the WHR was bankrupt, the line became dormant. In 1941, the authorities decided to requisition the movable assets for use in the Second World War. Much of the rolling stock was sold off and most of the track was lifted. The Croesor Tramway section was left intact in case the slate quarries re-opened and remained until finally lifted in 1948–9.[7]

In 1943, the Ffestiniog Railway surrendered its lease and, in exchange for £550 compensation, it was allowed to keep 'Single Fairlie' Moel Tryfan (although it only paid £150).[7]

Various legal manoeuvres followed this, including a serious application to turn the route into a long-distance footpath. Although these plans were ultimately unfruitful, the statutory powers ensured that the trackbed was kept mainly intact, rather than sold off bit by bit, which would have made restoration much more difficult and potentially expensive. However, some parts, such as the sites of Rhyd Ddu and Dinas stations, were sold off.


Welsh Highland Railway K1 at Caernarfon station

The Welsh Highland Railway's restoration has a long, complicated and controversial history and includes several court cases and public enquiries.

The origins of the WHRL restoration efforts, tentatively began in 1961 when disagreements within the volunteers of the Festiniog Railway[10] and a group of like-minded railway enthusiasts, joined to form The Welsh Highland Railway Society. This group is the precursor of what eventually became WHR Ltd., which owns and operates the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway (WHHR). Legal problems meant they were unable to take over the old company so, in the 1970s, the group purchased the former standard gauge exchange sidings (the Beddgelert Siding) near Tremadog Road, Porthmadog, from British Railways[11] to use as a base. In 1980, they began running passenger services over the line that is now known as the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway. They also acquired an original WHR locomotive Russell, which began working passenger services in 1987.

In the mid-1980s, a number of FR Co. employees became concerned about impact of possible competition from a rebuilt WHR and passed this view on to the FR management.[7] In 1987, this resulted in a confidential offer to buy the WHR track bed from the official receiver for £16,000 to prevent the WHR being developed. In 1989, the offer became public, causing a backlash against the FR Co.[7]

In 1990, a change of directors resulted in the FR Co.'s decision to take over the restoration of the WHR.[7] After a long legal battle between the two companies, the FR Co. won control of the WHR track bed and it re-opened the railway in stages, starting in 1997. The line was completed in 2011.


With Caernarfon Council having a longer-term plan to reinstate the town's rail transport link to Bangor, speculation mounted that the FR/WHR would potentially later extend itself. However, the Ffestiniog Railway wrote to the council in January 2014 to confirm that they would not themselves be supportive of such a scheme in narrow gauge, but supported the reconnection of the town to the national rail network using standard gauge.[12]

The present day WHR[edit]

The modern Welsh Highland Railway is a tourist railway owned and operated by the Festiniog Railway Company. It is longer than the original line and starts from Caernarfon rather than Dinas. The extension was built on the trackbed of the former standard gauge railway. Dinas station is also built on the standard gauge railway site, rather than the original narrow gauge site, with the line moving onto the original WHR alignment just south of the station.

WHR NG87 in blue near Rhyd-Ddu

It is marketed by the FR Co. as The Welsh Highland Railway and Rheilffordd Eryri (In the Welsh language, Eryri = "Snowdonia"). The WHR's connection to the Ffestiniog Railway means that the FR Co. controls almost 40 miles of narrow gauge railway and it promotes both lines jointly as the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways or Rheilffyrdd Ffestiniog ac Eryri.

The Welsh Highland Heritage Railway[edit]

The Welsh Highland Heritage Railway (Welsh: Rheilffordd Ucheldir Cymru) is a 1-mile (1.6 km) long heritage narrow gauge railway owned and operated by Welsh Highland Railway Ltd. (WHR Ltd.). It operates from its main station at Tremadog Road, Porthmadog to its terminus at Pen-y-Mount, where it connects to the Ffestiniog Railway Company owned Welsh Highland Railway.

WHR Ltd's primary focus is on recreating the atmosphere of the original Welsh Highland Railway. This includes replicas of original buildings, using original and replica carriages and rolling stock and the staff wearing period costume. It also has a museum at its Gelert's Farm Works and every train halts there on the return journey to allow passengers to visit it. There is also a miniature railway and a tea room at its main Porthmadog station.

Relationship with the Festiniog Railway Company[edit]

Portmadog to Caernarfon train

Although WHR Ltd lost the battle for control of the WHR to the Festiniog Railway Company, they have also been involved in its restoration.

On 12 January 1998, both companies signed an agreement, commonly known as the "98 agreement".[13] In return, for dropping its objections to the Festiniog Railway Company's application to restore the railway; WHR Ltd would be allowed to construct the section of the railway from Pen y Mount to Pont Croesor and then operate their own services over it until such time as the "Head of Steel" arrived at Pont Croesor from the north. The Pen y Mount to Pont Croesor section would then be handed over to the FR's construction company for incorporation into the rest of the WHR. Finally, in between its principal services, the FR would then operate trains from the WHR Ltd's Porthmadog (WHHR) railway station, to unspecified destinations on the WHR, using WHR Ltd locomotives, rolling stock and (where possible) WHR Ltd staff. Revenue from these trains would be retained by the FR, but they would, in turn, pay a hire fee for the use of the locomotive and rolling stock and a track access fee for the use of WHR Ltd's line between Porthmadog (WHR) and Pen y Mount.

Another key part of the agreement defined the names of the two companies' operations during the period that the line was restored. The FR Co. promoted their section as The Welsh Highland Railway (Caernarfon) (WHR C) and WHR Ltd. changed its operational name from The Welsh Highland Railway to The Welsh Highland Railway (Porthmadog) (WHR P). When the two sections were connected in 2008, WHR Ltd. changed its operational name to The Welsh Highland Heritage Railway and the FR Co. started to promote their operation as The Welsh Highland Railway or, in a largely Welsh-speaking area, Rheilffordd Eryri.

In the end, WHR Ltd was only able to build around a third of the way to Pont Croesor, with trains terminating at a location known as Traeth Mawr Loop (opened in 2007). The reasons behind this and the consequences, continue to be a subject of debate and led directly to a breakdown of relations between the two companies in 2008. Since then efforts have been made to improve relations and these are still ongoing.[citation needed]

Welsh titles[edit]

The original Welsh Highland never had an official Welsh translation of its name, despite the fact that North Wales has always been a heartland for the Welsh language. Local people tended to refer to it by informal names such as Y Lein Bach or Lein Bach Beddgelert (the little Beddgelert railway).[b]

In contrast, the restored lines are known as Rheilffordd Ucheldir Cymru and Rheilffordd Eryri.

Rheilffordd Ucheldir Cymru (= Welsh Highland Railway) has been used since 1980 by WHR Ltd. and its predecessors.

Rheilffordd Eryri (Eryri = Land of Eagles, the Welsh name for Snowdonia) is the Welsh title used by the Festiniog Railway Company for its Welsh Highland Railway operations.

Rolling stock[edit]

Original locomotives[edit]

Two locomotives were inherited from the predecessor companies: Moel Tryfan and Russell. When these proved insufficient, Baldwin 590 was acquired by H.F. Stephens and several Festiniog Railway locomotives saw regular use on the Welsh Highland Railway throughout its entire pre-closure existence from 1923 to 1937. 590 was planned to be part of a larger fleet to replace Moel Tryfan and Russell but it gained so little popularity that Stephens never bought another. By 1936 Moel Tryfan was out of use at Boston Lodge. When Russell and 590 were withdrawn the following year, they were placed in Dinas shed, but when the Second World War broke out, the Ministry of War came to see about appropriating them for the war effort. After some examination of the engines and questioning of those who had worked them, Russell (regarded as a good engine) was removed for further use, and 590 (seen as an unreliable, rough rider with difficult controls and inadequate adhesion) was broken up at Dinas. Despite the unpopularity of 590, the WHHR (Porthmadog) is currently refurbishing a similar Baldwin to act as a replica.

During the ownership of the WHR by the Festiniog Railway Company, Moel Tryfan and Russell were cut down to allow them to traverse the Festiniog Railway to Blaenau Ffestiniog. Moel Tryfan proved suitable, but Russell, even in cut down form, was not low or narrow enough to fit the FR's highly restrictive loading gauge. Russell is now owned by WHR Ltd and has been restored to its original profile. 590 notably retained its original form until its demise.

Name or Number Wheel arrangement Builder Date built Notes
Moel Tryfan 0-6-4T Vulcan Foundry 1875 ex-North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways
Russell 2-6-2T Hunslet Engine Company 1906 ex-Portmadoc, Beddgelert & South Snowdon Railway
590[14] 4-6-0T Baldwin Locomotive Works USA 1917 ex-War Department Light Railways

Current rolling stock – Welsh Highland Railway[edit]

Current rolling stock – Welsh Highland Heritage Railway[edit]


Ffestiniog Railway No. 2 Prince works the heritage set in 2002 on the WHR

The railway is a single track line with passing loops at Dinas, Waunfawr, Rhyd Ddu, Beddgelert and Pont Croesor halt. There is also a loop at Hafod y Llyn, which is normally locked out of use as a stabling point for engineering trains.

As with any single track railway, there are strict rules managing the movement of trains to prevent more than one entering a section. The line is managed from a single "Control" office at Porthmadog Harbour Station, which also performs the same task for the Ffestiniog Railway. Control is responsible for the safe and efficient operation of trains, logs train movements on a train graph and acts as a single point of contact in emergencies. A system of tokens is used to control train access to single line sections.

Communication between train crew and Control always occurs using a landline at stations. There is no in-cab radio system and current regulations forbid use of such whilst in motion. As a backup system only, the guard carries a company mobile telephone for use in an emergency. This is not a primary system as cellular coverage is intermittent over the length of the line. His Majesty's Railway Inspectorate, the organisation responsible for safety on British railways, insists on landlines as the main form of safety critical communication.


A WHR train with NG G16 No. 87 passing the bridge over Afon Glaslyn.

The signalling on the WHR is much simpler than that used on the Ffestiniog Railway or the UK national rail network.

To enter any section of line, the train crew must obtain permission from Control and the relevant token. Each section of line is a token block section. The WHR uses the traditional Staff and Ticket system in which trains can either be issued with the section token staff or a numbered ticket. Tickets allow multiple trains to pass one-at-a-time through a section in one direction. The Controller advises the train crew which method they will be using. Tickets are kept in a locked box opened by a key on the token staff. This means the last train must use the token staff to pass through the section, so it can be used for trains to travel in the opposite direction. For additional protection, both the footplate crew and the guard must see the token or ticket before the train can depart.

At some stations an additional "Shunt" token is used to allow shunting to take place (such as a locomotive "running round" a train). They are provided at Dinas, Rhyd Ddu, Beddgelert and at Pont Croesor. The shunt token can only be withdrawn (used) with permission from Control and if there are no trains approaching the station in the adjacent single line sections. Withdrawing the token causes two yellow lights to go out on a red warning board on the line approaching the station, preventing other trains from entering the station.

The majority of the points at passing loops are operated automatically using the Automatic Train Operated Trailable (ATOTP) system, rather than a manually operated lever or point motor. There are also no signals to indicate that a train can enter a section. A "Stop" board at the end of the platform orders the train to stop until the train crew have obtained permission to proceed from control and a token. At the end of the section, the train can proceed into the platform provided the lights are lit on the home (shunt token warning) board, the point indicator is lit and the relevant platform is clear.

Future signalling – ETS[edit]

One of the disadvantages of the staff and ticket system is that it is very inflexible. If a locomotive fails in a station, for example, a token staff may be at the wrong end of a section and will have to be moved by road. This situation does not occur under the Electric Token System (ETS), a more advanced system in which tokens can be obtained at either end of a section from a token instrument.

ETS has been used on the Ffestiniog Railway for many years and the FR Co. were anxious to obtain enough ETS instruments to equip the WHR. After a long search, sufficient ETS equipment to operate the entire railway has been obtained from the Irish railway company Iarnród Éireann. The equipment became redundant after Iarnród Éireann modernised its signalling systems in the early 2000s.[15][16]

As the WHR has no telephone cabling to connect the system, the FR Co. is developing a more modern alternative method of connecting the ETS machines.[17] Until the system is finished, the WHR will continue using its current token systems.

Cae Pawb – The Cambrian crossing[edit]

Just outside Porthmadog, the railway crosses the Network Rail-owned Cambrian Coast line using a flat crossing. It existed on the old Welsh Highland Railway and was the source of much conflict between the old company and the Great Western Railway over the cost of WHR trains using the crossing. On the modern WHR, the crossing is called Cae Pawb. Cae Pawb means "everybody's field" and is a reference to the nearby field of allotments.

Information, from the engineers involved, is that the Network Rail line crosses on solid steel billets to the same head, foot and height measurements as the adjacent standard gauge rail, but that the narrow gauge crosses on rail of a similar section which is joined on either side in succession to 80 lb/yd (36 kg/m)rail and then to the normal 60 lb/yd (30 kg/m) rail used for the narrow gauge.

Cae Pawb is at the north-western end of the Network Rail Harlech to Porthmadog signalling section, which is controlled from Machynlleth Control Centre. Standard gauge trains are protected by signals and wide-to-gauge trap points on the WHR line, which are interlocked with the standard gauge European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) signalling. The crossing is activated locally and ERTMS automatically gives permission for WHR trains to cross provided the standard gauge section is available. A crossing controller operates the crossing when passenger trains are running, with operation at other times being carried out by the train crew.

A set of replica white wooden crossing gates separate the narrow gauge line from the standard gauge track and continue the Network Rail boundary fencing. They are left open when a crossing controller is present. The gates open inwards to prevent them blocking the standard gauge line. A replica signal box was constructed for this crossing but has now been installed at Pen y Mount to control the junction with the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway.

Porthmadog cross-town link[edit]

South of the Cambrian crossing, WHR cross town link trains move direct to Porthmadog Harbour, where passengers alight.[18]

At Harbour Station there is a platform between the Welsh Highland and Ffestiniog lines so that passengers may transfer from one train to the other. There are also the usual facilities including a respectable eating house.


Historically, the WHR was split into two operational sections:[19]

  • Dinas to Beddgelert and Beddgelert to Porthmadog (using present day form)

For the 2009 timetable operation, a "two set" operation was employed, with rolling stock being based at Dinas. During the year, operations were extended from Rhyd Ddu, first to Beddgelert on 7 April 2009,[20] and then to Hafod y Llyn on 21 May 2009,[21] site of a small halt on the original line. Although passengers could board and alight at Hafod-y-Llyn, its remote location meant that it could only be accessed by self-sufficient walkers and cyclists as there were no parking or other facilities at the halt and the platform was very short. It closed when Pont Croesor was opened in 2010.

The Festiniog Railway Company had, at one point, planned to open the entire railway in 2007.[c] Delays from government processes, a foot-and-mouth epidemic and funding restrictions meant that the opening was repeatedly delayed, with the full opening not happening until 2011. The line could not be opened to Beddgelert until the track left the national park at Pont Ynysferlas; this restriction was imposed by the Snowdonia National Park Authority to be sure that the railway really meant what it said, but this suspicious attitude lost the railway a year's income from Beddgelert. From the end of May 2010, the line was extended a further 3 miles (4.8 km) to Pont Croesor. Shortly thereafter the railway announced that as it had approval for service by the Safety Directorate of the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), the remaining section would be completed before the end of September 2010. The cause of this sudden rush was the transition from legislation enshrined in the Railways and Other Transport Systems (Approval of Works, Plant and Equipment) Regulations 1994 (ROTS) to new legislation enshrined in the Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations 2006 (ROGS). This should have happened in 2006, but heritage railways gained an extension of the transition period to 1 October 2010.[22] It was foreseen that this change in regime would bring additional costs to the railway, so it was decided to complete the line before that date. A minor delay was incurred by the necessity to build a new culvert where the new Porthmadog A487 bypass road was being built.

Following the visit from the ORR on 15 October 2010, approval was given for passenger operation. On 30 October 2010 the first passenger trains, departing from Caernarfon to Porthmadog and return, were operated for the benefit of sponsors of the project.[23] The commissioning of the ERTMS signalling on the Cambrian Line was completed during a possession from Harlech to Pwllheli between 24 and 27 October.[24]

As a result of the A487 Porthmadog bypass works, the Ffestiniog Railway was severed just east of Minffordd station from 3 January to 16 February 2011 to build a new bridge. Therefore, the regular Winter FR trains were scheduled to operate from Porthmadog to Hafod y Llyn.[25] The first through services between Caernarfon and Porthmadog Harbour station began on 19 February 2011, with regular services recommencing from 27 March 2011.[26]

Whole of line operations[edit]

Although, with completion of the main track laying it is now possible to run trains from Caernarfon through to Blaenau Ffestiniog,[5] there are initially no plans to do so on a regular basis. The WHR is built to a slightly larger loading gauge than the Ffestiniog Railway and therefore through trains would, of necessity, be exclusively of FR stock.

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On 4 March 1881, a passenger train was blown off the line near Snowdon Ranger Halt. The sole passenger on board was injured.[27]
  • On 10 June 2018, whilst hauling a passenger train, locomotive 143 was derailed near Clogwyn y Gwin South foot crossing due to the failure of part of the suspension of the front bogie. There were no injuries amongst the 74 passengers and seven staff on board.[28]
  • On 16 April 2019, the diesel locomotive Vale of Ffestiniog passed a signal at danger and entered a single line section without authority while travelling light engine from Dinas to Porthmadog. The locomotive did not have sufficient brake force to stop on the steep downhill gradient through Beddgelert, as a result of in-house modifications to the brake system and poor adhesion conditions. There were no injuries, and no damage was caused.[29]
  • On 19 December 2021 a derailment occurred on the bogie of the 4th passenger coach (no 125), just after crossing Brynyfelin River Bridge. The line was closed for 2 days to recover the train.[citation needed]



Restored Welsh Highland Railway / Rheilffordd Eryri[edit]

Welsh Highland Heritage Railway / Rheilffordd Ucheldir Cymru[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Spelling of many Welsh placenames have changed over the past 50 years, as use of the Welsh language and modernised spelling has gained ground. For example, the name "Ffestiniog" is the correct modern Welsh spelling, whereas the previously accepted "Festiniog" was the older and possibly sub-mediaeval spelling [citation needed]. It is a common fallacy that Festiniog is an Anglicism – this is not so [citation needed]. The company is legally known as the Festiniog Railway Company (FR Co.), and as such conducts its official business. Since the mid-1980s it has promoted itself as the Ffestiniog Railway, in keeping with other local trades. This convention (Ff for the railway, F for the company) is used throughout the article.
  2. ^ Although the Welsh word bach normally mutates to fach after a feminine noun (such as lein), in many parts of North Wales the word is commonly not mutated, as in this instance.
  3. ^ The completion date for the whole line continued to slip. This is because each section (or phase) of the line has been funded from different sources, and usually these were not available until completion of each proceeding phase. At the start of work on Phase 4 (in 2004), the opening was tentatively, and optimistically, set for 2007. As work progressed, for various reasons this was extended, officially, to 2009. Work to complete the track laying was completed in 2009, and on 12 March 2009 the first movement of a train from Harbour Station to Dinas took place. The completion of additional infrastructure, such as signalling and crossing works (road and rail) occurred in late 2010, with the first trains across Porthmadog running in January 2011, and the public passengers between Porthmadog and Caernarfon in February 2011.


  1. ^ "Rebuilding the Welsh Highland Railway Phase 1: Caernarfon to Dinas, 1997". Retrieved 3 September 2011.
  2. ^ "Rebuilding the Welsh Highland Railway Phase 2: Dinas to Waunfawr, 1999/2000". Retrieved 3 September 2011.
  3. ^ "Phase 3: Waunfawr to Rhyd Ddu, 2000-3 Opening Day, August 18th 2003". Retrieved 3 September 2011.
  4. ^ a b "The WHR Project: Phase 4 – Completing the Welsh Highland Railway". Retrieved 1 March 2009.
  5. ^ a b Boyd (1972), pages=283
  6. ^ Turner, Alun. "Welsh Highland Railway History: The Welsh Highland Railway". Welsh Highland Railway Ltd. Archived from the original on 16 September 2008. Retrieved 21 August 2008.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Johnson, Peter (May 2009). The Greatest Little Train. Steam Railway Magazine. pp. 41–45.
  8. ^ a b Turner, Alun (1990). "2: The WHR – Welsh Highland Heritage Railway". cms.whr.co.uk. Archived from the original on 24 February 2012.
  9. ^ Klapper, Charles Frederick (1978). Golden age of buses. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul1984 [printing]. p. 231. ISBN 0-7102-0232-6.
  10. ^ Hopkins, John (2003) [1999]. The Welsh Highland Railway 1991–2003. John Hopkins for WHR Society. OCLC 42445841.
  11. ^ "Welsh Highland Railway History: In brief". Welsh Highland Railway Ltd. Archived from the original on 16 June 2009. Retrieved 22 August 2008.
  12. ^ "Ffestiniog Railway: No plans to extend link from Caernarfon to Bangor". Daily Post. 27 January 2014. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  13. ^ "Formal Agreement with FRC". Welsh Highland Heritage Railway. 1998. Archived from the original on 22 March 2019.
  14. ^ Whitehouse 1969, p. 35.
  15. ^ "Engineering the Welsh Highland Railway re-build". RailwayPeople.com. 15 August 2008. Archived from the original on 4 June 2016. Retrieved 27 September 2008.
  16. ^ "FR Company Information Release". Festiniog Railway. 30 August 2008. Archived from the original on 15 September 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2008.
  17. ^ "The MicroETS system".
  18. ^ "Cross Town Rail Link Schematic" (PDF). Ben Fisher. Retrieved 14 August 2010.
  19. ^ "Beddgelert (2): The Station". Welsh Highland Railway. Retrieved 14 August 2010.
  20. ^ "Reopening to Beddgelert".
  21. ^ "Reopening to Hafod y Llyn".
  22. ^ "The Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations 2006" (PDF). UK Government. 2006.
  23. ^ Video of Inaugural "Through" Train
  24. ^ "Cambrian ERTMS ready to go live". Rail (656): 13. 3 November 2010.
  25. ^ "Ffestiniog Railway Winter Timetable January to April 2011". Archived from the original on 21 March 2013. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
  26. ^ "Welsh Highland Railway Timetable January to April 2011". Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
  27. ^ "Gale and Snowstorm". Liverpool Mercury. No. 10343. Liverpool. 5 March 1881.
  28. ^ "Derailment of a passenger train near Clogwyn y Gwin South foot crossing, Welsh Highland Railway, 10 June 2018". Rail Accident Investigation Branch. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  29. ^ "Runaway locomotive at Beddgelert, North Wales, 16 April 2019". Rail Accident Investigation Branch. Retrieved 4 October 2022.
  30. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Turner, Alun (1990). "WHR History - Chapter 3: The Route Described". Welsh Highland Railway Ltd. Archived from the original on 5 May 2008.
  31. ^ Map


External links[edit]

53°03′05.00″N 4°08′01.00″W / 53.0513889°N 4.1336111°W / 53.0513889; -4.1336111