Thursday, 20 May 2010

Ffestiniog Railway

On 25 May 2010 we booked our seats on the Festiniog Railway (the company uses the anglicised version of the name - only one f).  We were lucky enough to get seats in the observation car for our journey from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog and back and then the fun began.  We had last travelled the line when our children were young, and much has changed since then.    

Porthmadog station is close to the harbour - indeed the main purpose of the line was to transfer the slate brought down from Blaenau to load on to ships.

Porthmadog harbour now looks like this - the original railway quays were to the left:

Then at the station we saw our engine preparing for the journey - the "David Lloyd George" no less:

The David Lloyd George is a modern build of the original double Fairlie locomotive.  It was built at the Ffestiniogs own workshop at Boston Lodge in 1992.

Our seats were in the observation car with its stylish interior:

On the way up to Blaenau, the observation car was at the rear of the train.

Most of the photographs and videos were taken from inside the car, so you may notice some interesting window reflections!

Leaving Porthmadog Harbour station and heading towards Boston Lodge, the railway runs along the Cob.  This was built by William Madocks in 1811 to reclaim land from the sea for agricultural use. The diversion of the river (Afon Glaslyn) created a new natural harbour which was deep enough for small ocean going ships.  So William Madocks created the port hence the name Porthmadog.

This is a view up the Afon Glaslyn valley.

We then go on past the Boston Lodge works and come to Minffordd station

and then up and up:

See what I mean about interesting reflections!

And so to Tan-y-bwlch where the down trains can pass the up trains.  This is the down train awaiting our arrival:

and here as we leave to go on up to Blaenau, so the down train leaves for Portmadog:

on and on up:

until we get to Dduallt

When we first travelled the Ffestiniog in the '70s this was the final station on the line. I remember having a picnic admiring the view, playing with the family and then eventually taking another train back towards Porthmadog.

Originally the line went on to Blaenau and the slate quarries - that was the purpose of the railway.  But, in the '60s a project to create the Ffestiniog Pumped Storage Scheme to generate electricity at Tan-y-Grisiau required that the line be flooded.
Amazingly the resouceful railway restorers refused to give in and with a great deal of volunteer labour planned a loop detour to take the railway up on a higher trajectory towards Blaenau.  It included excavating a new Moelwyn tunnel, and the whole new line to Blaenau was opened in 1982.

This was our first chance to see the new line.  Leaving Duallt the track rises and loops round to cross the original alignment:

and here is a new view from the higher level.  If you look carefully at the bottom of the picture you will see the old track route (now grassed over) going from right to left.

Then on and up to the new reservoir at Tan-y-Griseau

where you can see (when the reservoir is low) the old line of railway emerging from the original Moelwyn tunnel and proceeding to Blaenau.

And so to Blaenau.  Here the "David Lloyd George" changes ends.  So now the observation car becomes the front carriage and we get to know the loco a lot more intimately! 
First a drink of water:

and then the recoupling:

And here we are ready to go:

with the view from the observation car, including our coffee mugs:

and here we go back down the line towards Porthmadog:

and here we return across the cob and then on to Porthmadog station:

and, back to where we started, the port:

Thanks for reading.

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