Wednesday, 28th March 2007: A visit to North Wales
It was a great privilege to receive an invitation to join the sponsors and guests on a special train from Caernarfon to Beddgelert on Saturday, 24th March 2007. We decided to use the occasion to book a short holiday and we booked in at the Bryn Eglwys Hotel at Beddgelert for four nights from Thursday, 22nd March to Sunday, 25th March inclusive. The hotel was excellent in every respect and we have no hesitation in giving the proprietors our highest recommendation. We drove up in our 1967 MGB GT which proved a bit heavy on fuel because the needle jets in the carburettors had suffered some erosion during long term storage - a problem that has since been cured by fitting new needles and adjusting them correctly - nevertheless we had an extremely pleasant drive up on the Thursday, arriving in Beddgelert shortly after dusk. We awoke the following morning to the sound of construction work on the WHR's Beddgelert Station site and we could see the contractors at work from our window!
The special train on Saturday, 24th March was hauled as far as Ryd-Ddu by locomotive number 138, one of four Beyer-Garratt NGG16 (2-6-2 + 2-6-2T) locomotives brought back from South Africa, whereupon we changed to another set of coaches double headed by the diesel locomotives, 'Upnor Castle' and 'Conway Castle', before proceeding with caution as far as the entrance to Cwm Cloch cutting, which is on the horse-shoe curves just above Beddgelert. Graham travelled on the special train with Michael Draper, one of the great pioneers of railway preservation, while Jane used the time to explore Beddgelert and the Glaslyn Pass on foot.
After exploring the Caernarfon to Beddgelert section of the railway, invited guests travelled by road motor coach to Porthmadog to see the works at that end - including the newly installed crossing where the Welsh Highland Railway will cross Network Rail's Cambrian Coast Line on the level - one of only two rail across rail level crossings on the whole of the national network. Plans for re-instating the line as a tramway through the town and across the Britannia Bridge to the Harbour Station were explained during a guided walk. One can only marvel at what has been (and is being) achieved in bringing this abandoned railway back to life - the scope of work both on the ground and 'behind the scenes', the tremendous efforts of the volunteers, the local contractors and the railway's management team are all without equal in the railway heritage movement. For more information about the Welsh Highland Railway, please visit the links near foot of this page.
On the evening of Saturday, 24th March, we both joined a party hosted by Paul Lewin, the General Manager of the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways, and his wife for dinner in Spooner's Bar at Porthmadog. Despite staff shortages, the food was excellent and we were greatly impressed by the general ambience and the professional way that the venue is now being managed - a powerful recommendation when you remember Graham's background as an Area Manager in the licensed trade! During the evening, Paul had advised us that the 'rebuilt' single Fairlie, 'Taliesin', would be hauling trains on the Ffestiniog line during the Sunday - so we made plans to spend the best part of the following day riding behind 'Taliesin' and exploring the Ffestiniog Railway.
All in all we had a wonderful break in North Wales, we especially enjoyed the warm and friendly hospitality of Paul Lewin and his team and were immensely impressed by the professional and competent way in which the two lines are managed. We had wonderful weather and the photographs on this page show, respectively: Number 138, heading toward Caernarfon near Betws Garmon (25th March); The 'Special Train' on 24th March having arrived a Ryd Ddu, the coaches for the excursion on the newly laid track towards Beddgelert are in front of the engine; heading towards Beddgelert (24th March); tracklaying on one of the 'horse-shoe' curves above Beddgelert Station (25th March); and, 'Taliesin' at Harbour Station, Porthmadog on 25th March.
Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways official website
The Welsh Highland Railway Project - official project website
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© Graham & Jane Oliver 2007