Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway

Stop Press Page

 

V4.4787

 

News (28/2/24)

You are visitor No.

to this website

Modern images updated from 19/2/24

Archive images updated from 28/7/03

Click here for new images

Click here for latest news

Star Picture

No.590 safely tucked away at Gelert's Farm depot WHHR after loaded test trains between the FR and Beddgelert. The loco will feature in a launch event this weekend at the WHHR and in the WHR100 event at the end of June. This image is courtesy WHHR and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Welcome to Version 4 of this website, launched on 8/9/04 with news about work on Phase 4 of the WHR scheme. In addition to this Stop Press page and a Phase 1/2 page, there are 9 location pages, covering the Phase 3 works between Waunfawr and Rhyd Ddu. There are a further 9 pages covering Phase 4, the full route through Beddgelert, the Aberglaslyn Pass and on to Porthmadog, including the Traeth Mawr to Pen-y-Mount works recently constructed by the WHHR with three regularly updated map links for this area by Laurence Armstrong.

Finally, there are pages covering 'Phase 5', Views from the Line, the history of the abandoned PBSSR works around Beddgelert, Archived News and a Contacts page for volunteers. Another page covers the current operation of the WHHR southwest from Pen-y-Mount.

 

The above OS map shows the route through the Aberglaslyn Pass and Beddgelert. Click on the image to enlarge. Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

Click here to use the free OS Get-a-map service.

Route section pages

Listed below are links to pages featuring progress on different sections of the line or archive views. Jump ahead to News section or follow the section links from page to page. Please note that access to the links below was restored on 2/9/04 at the new website www.isengard.co.uk

 

Phase 4 pages

Rhyd Ddu to Pont Cae'r Gors (updated 29/6/06)

Pont Cae'r Gors to Hafod Ruffydd Halt (new 8/10/06)

Hafod Ruffydd Halt to Beddgelert Forest Halt (updated 4/12/06)

Beddgelert Forest Halt to Beddgelert Station (updated 1/7/07)

Beddgelert Station Area (updated 30/6/07)

Beddgelert Station to Bryn-y-felin (updated 1/7/07)

Aberglaslyn Pass (updated 2/7/07)

Nantmor to Pont Croesor (updated 16/7/07)

Pont Croesor to Pen-y-Mount (updated 1/4/07)

WHHR (Porthmadog) (updated 1/4/07)

Porthmadog Cross Town Link (updated1/4/07)

Caernarfon Cross Town Link  (updated 10/10/10)

 

Other pages

Phase 1 images (Updated 8/9/23)

Railtours 2023 (Updated 15/12/23)

The 40km Dream Phase 1 (Updated 12/2/21)

The 40km Dream Phase 2 (Updated 1/4/21)

'Phase 6' page (new 2/4/06)

Views from the Line Page (updated 26/2/05)

PBSSR Works Historical Page (updated 25/3/05)

Rhyd Ddu Opening Page (New 14/2/04)

Archived News Page (updated 2/2/24)

Prince Charles Visit July 2003 (updated 5/1/22)

Snow Scenes (updated 17/12/23)

Rolling Stock News Page (updated 28/12/04)

Phase 4 News Page (updated 3/3/05)

Volunteer Contact details page (updated 23/6/21)

Phase 2 and 3 page list (updated 27/8/08)

Video list (new 9/11/15)

Access to Phase 2 pages is currently being progressed.

 

If you would like an automated announcement of site updates, email me at the NEW (2013) address below replacing the letters 'dot' with a full stop

Isengard@talktalkdotnet

This has been introduced as an anti-spam feature.

Disclaimer

There has never been any intent by myself to suggest that the views on these pages represent the views, opinions or policy of the F&WHR, the WHRCL or the WHRS.

I am happy to confirm that this is an INDEPENDENT web news service.

 

Stop Press!!

New construction images/text will be posted on a regular basis.

New text in RED!

 

WHR timetables

Click here for Laurence Armstrong's latest WHR North map dated 5/11/07

Click here for Laurence Armstrong's latest WHR Middle map dated 14/3/10

Click here for Laurence Armstrong's latest WHR South map dated 14/3/10

Click here for Mike Schumann's Phase 4 TWA maps and other maps courtesy of WHRS

Click here for John Sreeves Gradient profile courtesy of WHRS

Click here for Chainages and OS Map References

Timetables

Trains commence on Saturday 25/3/23 and continue until 31/10/23.

Click on the image to enlarge and click again to enlarge to full size where available. This image is courtesy the F&WHR. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

2024 Timetable

 

F&WHR events 2024

SuperPower will return for 2024 as a weekend event but not on the Friday even though the FR's Bygones Weekend will again be a three day event. This replaces the low key WHR Society Members' Weekend in September to match the Society AGM so appears to be aimed at the general public as well and might feature appearances by both No.590, the WHHR's Baldwin and Russell given the disappointment when No.590 failed just before the Centenary of the WHR event. The WHR Members' Weekend in September 2023 was relatively poorly attended but the F&WHR's promised Baldwin did turn up at Dinas for cab rides. As last year, it seems the Snowdonian Limited has been dropped from the schedule.

 

Date Event
1/1/24 Final Day of Festive Trains
10-11, 17-18, 24-25/2/24 Half Term Holiday Blanche cab rides at Caernarfon Station
Late February Palmerston goes to Aberystwyth on display
23/3/24 First day of 2024 Season
20/4/24 The Snowdonian
4-5/5/24 'Friends of the Ffestiniog' events at Porthmadog (standard WHR service)
11/5/24 Caernarfon Food Fair (special connecting train may run)
18-19/5/24 Model Railway Workshop (Minffordd Gweithdy shuttles may run)
7-8/6/24 Rail-Ale (Dinas with connecting shuttles)
24-26/8/24 Palmerston running at VoR Rheidol Steam Festival
14-15/9/24 SuperPower and WHRS AGM will involve extra trains and the launch of NG15 No.134
28/9/24 Trailffest (special train following runners)
4-6/10/24 FR Bygones Weekend (may involve additional services on WHR)
7-8/14-15/21-22/12/24 F&WHR Santa Specials Caernarfon-Rhyd Ddu/Santa's Grotto at Porthmadog
26/12/24-1/1/25 Festive trains on F&WHR

 

News Section

F&WHR 28/2/24

Wednesday 28/2/24 was forecast to be an overcast rainy day with temperatures of 6-9C. At 08:00 Harlech Castle was noted stabled by Tan-y-bwlch signalbox in the Down line. The greasers were out today maintaining the pointwork at Harbour Station. Upnor Castle turned up at 09:40 propelling the FR's Mess Car No.1111 into the yard at Porthmadog. At 09:41 Harlech Castle set off to the west from Tan-y-bwlch light engine. Upnor Castle departed the yard at 10:15 dragging the Mess Car and stopped just beyond the king point before returning towards Boston Lodge at 10:25. Harlech Castle returned to Tan-y-bwlch in the late afternoon to stable overnight on the Down line as normal.

 

Spring comes to Tan-y-bwlch

1/3/24 is the first day of Spring as well as being St David's Day. The Tan-y-bwlch tea room will reopen at weekends from 10:00-15:00 to serve visitors to the station.

 

WHR 27/2/24

Tuesday 27/2/24 was forecast to be an overcast day with rain later and temperatures of 3-10C. At 09:15 Harlech Castle was noted being started up by Tan-y-bwlch signalbox. It propelled the wagons out of the station towards the west at 09:31. A cold snap is forecast for Friday/Saturday with hill snow forecast above 200m. Four locos had been moved around depots yesterday and two more were due steam tests today in preparation for the start of services for the new season in 4 weeks time. Porthmadog station contained a rake a coaches and a few B wagons full of coal for the fuelling point. Coaches are also receiving routine maintenance checks to ensure complete rakes are available for the new season.

Harlech Castle arrived back at Tan-y-bwlch just before 13:30 and staff left for work elsewhere.

 

F&WHR 26/2/24

Monday 26/2/24 was forecast to be a sunny day with temperatures of 1-8C. At 08:30 Harlech Castle was noted stabled by Tan-y-bwlch signalbox with its two DZ wagons. It had not appeared to have moved all weekend.

 

Waverley to call at Holyhead!

Waverley, the last ocean going paddle steamer, will call at Holyhead this year for the first time this century! There are three dates in June covering routes between Seacombe Pier in the Mersey and Holyhead Dock and Llandudno Pier. The trips are run in conjunction with Mersey Ferries. See advert below.

 

Click on the advert to enlarge.

 

No.134 report Jan/Feb 2024

Adrian Strachan, leader of the No.134 Group, gives a detailed report which reveals the locos will soon be paired with its tender and is likely to reach a stage where it can be tested later this year.

Evening all, as the dark nights recede the possibility of Kalahari action in North Wales increases, following another great month of volunteer input on No.134. At the late Jan and Feb working parties, sometimes at weekends and sometimes during the week, we have made many steps closer to completion.
Checking the Heusinger gear resulted in a requirement to adjust the fireman's side lifting arm to ensure equal mid gears, but the return crank angles proved very close to expectation so no rectification needed there. All in all - better than expected after all the work done over 15 years to the bottom end of the loco by many staff and volunteers. Final setup of the piston valves is left to do.
At the heart of the boiler the brick arch support pegs and angles were completed allowing the first set of firebrick arch segments assembled in the firebox following a few days curing in the heater box. This marks the completion of firebox works so the firehole door assembly was final fitted. Surrounding this area the firebox was then lagged and the recently painted cladding sheets final fitted on top.
Directly below, under the cab footplating, the loco to tender interfaces were worked with the mounting eyes for safety chains fitted to both vehicles, and the injector water pipes completed, now only awaiting the opportunity to position the tender behind the loco to connect up and test movements. Due to length of the loco & tender and the sharp radius curves in Boston Lodge carriage shed the hoses between the two vehicles have to accommodate a lot of movement, so some innovative routing and suspension methods have had to be applied here to hopefully ensure no leakage or damage to hoses in traffic.
Forward of the injectors the large diameter copper pipework for their steam supplies have been formed into the shape required to drop down from the steam turret, avoiding handrails and stay covers, and arrive at the steam elbow interfaces. The Dinas machinists are presently producing mountains of bronze swarf as a by-product of the creation of the impressive large nuts and unions required for the feed water supply pipework. There is a lot more work to come in this area! But the polishable pipework has started well
The small lube pipework from the 2 mechanical lubricators to the Krauss-Helmholtz truck, Steampipes & Cylinders was completed at the February working party and awaits testing once the lubricator drives are completed by the Dinas staff. As the cylinder bore feed oil pipes were completed, the Cylinders were lagged and the cladding sheets fitted.
Also at the working party the boiler handrails were fitted for the first time and the stanchions we previously fitted can now be drilled and pinned to secure them in position.
The vacuum train pipe on the loco has now been worked back to the cab and awaits the final positioning of the brake ejector in the next week or two for connecting in. The routing of the vac pipework on the loco is completely new, running just inside the driver's side frame plates rather than bolted along the outside of the running plates as in SAR service.
Late in February one of our volunteers spent a week in the workshop and as part of this the tender sandboxes were fabricated, and the stainless handrails fabricated to their mounting brackets and fitted to the cab. The renovation of the car-catcher for the front of the loco has been started, utilising expired boiler tubes as per SAR practice, but this time donated from F&WHR resident Hunslet Britomart! The spindle & gauge plate which mounts atop the firebox has been formed and trial fitted and work will continue on this next time.
The tender vacuum pipework is now 95% complete requiring only the termination of the hard piping under the front dragbox, then we will await shedpace to get the tender behind the loco and connect the flexibles, as per the water supply pipes.
On the tender a large package completed has been the bunker insert, which raises the bunker floor by 100mm to give a more ergonomic shovelling height, and takes the opportunity to include a sump drain under the coalspace and avoid shovelling welsh liquid sunshine onto the fire too often! This assembly is bolted in and easily removable from the tender, the interfaces matching to the fuel tank we have designed in the conversion kit for when the loco may be required to switch easily from coal to liquid fuel in future.
At the February working party the rear headlamp returned, now also fitted with its battery and LED cluster and was final mounted on the tender. The ladder for loco crew to access the tender top was mounted at the rear, and the brackets for flange lubrication sticks were mounted to the rear bogie back axle. Underneath the tender a specific packer was made to ensure the correct alignment of the brake beam support bracket and when fitted this completed all the rigging now. We did suffer an unexpected setback as the handbrake column became seized due to insufficient tolerance between the shaft and housing, this has been dismantled for modification.
134 is really starting to look the part, and we have high hopes to be out of the line this year if we continue to get the financial and skilled support we need for the completion tasks. There is certainly an impressive amount of volunteer input going in from the team. Many thanks to all who have, and continue to, contribute to the project!

For images see Adrian Strachan's Facebook page.

 

F&WHR 25/2/24

Sunday 25/2/24 was forecast to be a day of light cloud with temperatures of 4-8C. At 08:00 Harlech Castle was noted stabled by Tan-y-bwlch signalbox with its two DZ wagons. It did not appear to move all day.

 

F&WHR 24/2/24

Saturday 24/2/24 was forecast to be a day of light cloud and sunny periods with temperatures of 4-7C. There was a dusting of snow on the Rhinogs. At 08:30 Harlech Castle was noted stabled by Tan-y-bwlch signalbox with its two DZ wagons . It did not appear that the train moved all day and it was still present in the evening.

 

F&WHR 23/2/24

Friday 23/2/24 was forecast to be a day of showers and sunny periods with temperatures of 3-7C. There has been a little overnight snow on the peaks. At 08:45 Harlech Castle was noted stabled by Tan-y-bwlch signalbox with its two DZ wagons as workers arrived. At 09:04 the train departed with spent ballast towards Dduallt. At 09:57 the loco propelled the two empty waggons back into the station and waited additional duties. It had gone to the worksite by 10:5 and back again in the Down line by12;00. The loco left at 12:00 to the east leaving the two wagons in the platform but was back again around 14:30 and was shut down as staff left for the weekend.

 

F&WHR 22/2/24

Thursday 22/2/24 was forecast to be a rainy day with temperatures of 4-7C but improving later. At 09:00 Harlech Castle was noted stabled by Tan-y-bwlch signalbox as workers arrived. The loco eventually departed about 10:45. At 13:13 the loco propelled the two DZ wagons through the station from east to west via the Down line. The loco and wagons were back by 15:30 and shut down as staff went home at the end of the day.

 

Main Line news 21-22/2/24

The Penmaenmawr stone train has restarted. Colas liveried No.70802 worked 6K33 the Penmaenmawr Quarry Colas to Longport on 21/02/24.

The Conwy Valley Line saw a 5 coach NR test train today top and tailed by former EPS loco 37612 with 37254 Cardiff Canton on the rear as it made its way back to Chester.

The May timetable change does not show restitution of the midday loco-hauled Holyhead-Cardiff so the North Wales Coast has become the Cinderella Line with almost all the Mk4 stock allocated to Swansea/Cardiff-Manchester several times a day. TfW seems to think Class 153s will do for North Wales! To think that at one time the NWC Main Line had loco hauled trains from Holyhead/Bangor/Llandudno to Birmingham International and Manchester and even some Transpennine workings!

 

F&WHR 21/2/24

Wednesday 21/2/24 was forecast to be a day of drizzly periods and fog with temperatures of 7-11C but improving later. At 09:20 Harlech Castle was noted passing through Tan-y-bwlch at speed light engine on the Down line from the east having departed about 09:00. The loco arrived back at 11:09 in the Down line hauling the two empty DZ wagons in very wet conditions but had gone by 11:22. The loco was back stabled on its own by the signal box at 15:25 as workers left at the end of the day.

 

Free ‘Behind The Scenes’ Tours of Boston Lodge

Ever wondered what goes on at the F&WHR's historic Boston Lodge workshops? Well wonder no more... as there are three ‘Behind the Scenes’ tours taking place over the coming weeks!
13:00 – 28/2/24
13:00 – 11/3/24
10:00 – 27/3/24
Experienced Tour Guides will take you on a fascinating guided walk around the works, explaining progress on the restoration work of both listed and new buildings, showing you all that is going on in the Erecting Shop, as well as an opportunity to admire the craftsmanship at the Carriage Works.
These tours will be free to all, whether you are a steam train enthusiast or simply curious to see what goes on at the works!
Please note some age and accessibility restrictions apply, further details on the NLHF website:
https://nlhfproject.festrail.co.uk/workshops/
Book your tickets by contacting James Kindberg: jkindberg@ffwhr.com.

 

Getting the railway ready for the new season

Sue Sharp reports: Megabash weekend is 23-24/3/24 and is an event for FR Volunteers who would like to help prepare the railway for our visitors at the beginning of the new season. There will be work around the railway for those who enjoy Gardening, for those interested in Electrical work at Boston Lodge and for those who would enjoy using their DIY skills with the Buildings Department.
On this occasion the Company provides a special train to Tan y Bwlch café on the Saturday evening to enjoy a two-course meal together at the café. There is no charge for the train but we do have to pay for the two-course meal.
If you would like to join us, please let me know -
1) which days you can work with us?
2) which department you would like to work with?
3) and if you would like to join us for the meal?
Do ask any questions if you need to know more.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Please email Howard Wilson on
volunteer@ffwhr.com OR leave a message with us and we will come back to you!
📷 Penrhyn Hostel Team. Thank you Sue Sharp
We can't promise sunshine but we can promise lots of laughs!

 

F&WHR 20/2/24

Tuesday 20/2/24 was forecast to be a day of drizzly periods with temperatures of 8-10C. At 08:45 Harlech Castle was being started up at Tan-y-bwlch and had left by 09:15. Down in Porthmadog, families on Half Term Holidays were already wandering around Porthmadog station looking for trains at 09:00. At 11:23 Harlech Castle arrived light engine from the west presumably for staff to collect tools as it departed for the worksite by 11:27. The loco was back again at midday receiving some attention possibly topping up windscreen washer liquid before returning to the worksite at 12:08. The loco and wagons were back stabled by the signalbox by 16:20 as staff had finished for the day.

 

Linda's Beddgelert trip 19/2/24

This easterly view (19/2/24) shows Linda hauling a short 4 coach rake passing through the Aberglaslyn Pass. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image copyright F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera.

 

This easterly view (19/2/24) shows Linda hauling a short 4 coach rake approaching Cemetery Crossing with the village in the background. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image copyright F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera.

 

Additional photos are available on F&WHR Facebook page.

 

Free tours of Boston Lodge

The F&WHR is taking part in The National Lottery Open Week, to say a huge thanks to National Lottery players for their support of the railway's Interpretation and Boston Lodge Project. To celebrate this occasion, on the 15-16/3/24, the railway will be offering free tours of Boston Lodge to visitors who bring a National Lottery ticket or scratch card with them. It is as simple as that!
Visit the F&WHR's NLHF website to book your place.

 

Click on the advert to enlarge.

 

F&WHR 19/2/24

Monday 19/2/24 was forecast to be a day of sunny periods with temperatures of 8-11C. There was quite a surprise this morning with Linda in the WHR platform at Porthmadog at 09:15 with a four coach rake. The train left towards Caernarfon at 09:18 but probably only went to Beddgelert/Rhyd Ddu as it was back by 11:45 and departed at 12:10 for the depot which it entered at 12:15.

 

This easterly view (19/2/24) shows Linda hauling a short 4 coach rake departing Porthmadog presumably for Dinas. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a webcam.

 

Up at Tan-y-bwlch Harlech Castle which had been stabled by the signal box all weekend had left with a works train by 09:30. It was back stabled by the signalbox with the two DZ wagons by 17:15.

 

Recruiting for the new season

The F&WHR is looking for new seasonal staff. The countdown is nearly over as next month, the F&WHR will be ready to steam into the 2024 season as they look forward to welcoming visitors once again!
The railways currently have a number of new job vacancies available across various departments, including;
🔵 CARRIAGE CLEANERS
🔵 CHEFS
🔵 COMMERCIAL ASSISTANTS
🔵 FOOD & BEVERAGE ASSISTANTS
🔵 ON-TRAIN STEWARDS
… and more...!
If any of these jobs take your interest, see the F&WHR jobs page for more details!
Click here to view full job descriptions: https://www.festrail.co.uk/jobs/

 

F&WHR 18/2/24

Sunday 18/2/24 was forecast to be a cloudy day with temperatures of 7-12C with sunny periods later. Up at Tan-y-bwlch Harlech Castle was stabled by the signal box at 09:00 and appeared not to have moved over the weekend. Vale of Ffestiniog must have returned from Dinas yesterday as it arrived in the WHR platform coming across The Cob at 08:30 with the six coach rake that was taken to Dinas yesterday. This was probably a training course for guards. The train ran round at Minffordd at 08:50 and was noted back in Porthmadog WHR platform and having run round by 09:45.

The train departed at 09:50 before coming to a sudden stop on the king point. The train reversed into the WHR platform at 09:52 and again at 09:58. About 10 trainee guards got off the rear coach at 10:00. Signals indicated shunting was taking place in the yard but no loco was noted so it was probably a test. It appeared connections were examined for vacuum problems or guard training. The front two coaches were split off and then reconnected at 10:10. A further splitting and coupling attempt was made at 10:15 with final departure coming at 10:24. The train headed to Minffordd to run round at 10:55 before departing at 11:12 for Porthmadog. Arrival in the WHR platform came at 11:24 and the 10 trainee guards made their way to Spooners whilst others examined the couplings and vacuum connections.

 

This westerly view (18/2/24) shows Vale of Ffestiniog hauling the Quarryman rake arriving at Minffordd on a Guards training exercise. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a webcam.

 

The sun came out in the afternoon and Velinheli was noted making a run across The Cob between Boston Lodge and the WHR platform. The loco arrived light engine at 15:22 and departed again at 15:44. The train was back again at 16:26 drawing a wagon possibly giving a treat to the Young Rail Professional volunteers and departed for Boston Lodge at 16:33.

 

This easterly view (18/2/24) shows Velinheli arriving at Porthmadog with a wagon full on volunteers. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a webcam.

 

F&WHR 17/2/24

Saturday 17/2/24 was forecast to be a cloudy overcast day with temperatures of 8-11C with yellow warning of heavy persistent rain in the afternoon and continuing into Sunday evening. Up at Tan-y-bwlch Harlech Castle was stabled by the signal box at 08:50. An ECS working was noted passing Minffordd at 09:13. Vale of Ffestiniog then ran round and was noted being shut down in the station at 09:30. Upnor Castle passed through the loop at 09:40 with a PW train including the FR Mess Car No.1111 and wagons with sleepers and rails heading towards Boston Lodge. This train was propelled from Pen Cob Junction into the yard to complete trackwork alterations for the new Small Loco Shed, courtesy of the Young Rail Professional volunteer group. At 13:00 staff returned to the Funkey stabled in Minffordd platform. What appeared to be the six coach Quarryman set then departed at 13:25 towards Porthmadog, arriving in the WHR platform at 13:35. At 13:40 the train departed, heading towards Dinas with its 6 coach train.

 

This easterly archive view (17/2/24) shows Vale of Ffestiniog hauling the Quarryman rake towards Caernarfon. This is the first train noted going towards Caernarfon since 1//1/24. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a webcam.

 

As well as Porthmadog, holidaymakers were noted visiting Tan-y-bwlch and even turned up at Minffordd to look at the ECS train.

Up at Dinas Blanche was booked to be giving cab ride duties over this weekend and next for Half Term Holiday visitors to Caernarfon. The General Manager has explained that the FR cannot offer Half Term holiday trains as Boston Lodge is being dug up to reorganise utility services. However, an ECS passenger train did depart Boston Lodge today and ran via Minffordd and Porthmadog towards Caernarfon (see above). So it appears the excavations at Boston Lodge do not explain the absence of Half Term holiday services on the WHR from Porthmadog or Caernarfon. Given that the Bala Lake and Tal-y-llyn Railways are both offering such services over the next few weeks it appears to be a commercial decision not to offer these services.

 

Mainline trains

The Aberystwyth Log train ran on Friday 16/2/24. 6C56 the 15:48 Aberystwyth to Chirk Kronspan left at 15:45 but became late after Welshpool. Despite being 48 minutes late whilst changing locos at Coleham LMD (Shrewsbury), the train arrived on time at Chirk after reversing at Chester in the absence of a facing crossover at Chirk. The train was hauled by a 97304 and HNR livery Class 37 inside but usually has a Colas loco inside to cope with the heavy gradient up to Talerddig summit. See H18-PDW Photography YouTube clip.

 

F&WHR 16/2/24

Friday 16/2/24 was forecast to be a day of light cloud with temperatures of 8-10C. Up at Tan-y-bwlch Harlech Castle had left probably on works train duty by 10:30. The loco propelled the two DZ wagons into the Down line by 10:50 and headed west at 11:00 propelling the wagons to the worksite. The loco was back in the Down line ECS wrong line at 12:21 for a lunch break but shut down for the rest of the day as staff went elsewhere.

Up at Dinas Blanche was booked to offer cab rides over weekend (and is booked for next weekend too) for Half Term Holiday visitors to Caernarfon. The General Manager has explained that the FR cannot offer Half Term holiday trains as Boston Lodge is being dug up to reorganise services. While this would affect trains starting from Porthmadog on the WHR too it does not explain the absence of services from Caernarfon given that the Bala Lake and Tal-y-llyn Railways are both offering such services.

 

Loco Roundup YouTube 16/2/24

Click on the YouTube link to watch 20 minutes 39 seconds of video showing progress with locos. This video is copyright F&WHR and was published on 16/2/24. It is best viewed at 1080p with Chrome and was videod on a 4K camcorder by John Wooden (F&WHR).

 

Nesta to be based at Boston Lodge

The as yet unrestored former Penrhyn Quarry Hunslet Nesta (No.704 of 1899), which was repatriated from Puerto Rico, is the subject of a deal between the F&WHR and the Richmond Light Railway. The loco will be exhibited initially in its unrestored state at Boston Lodge as part of the new workshop tours, but subsequently will be restored at the works for operation on the RLR. https://www.festrail.co.uk/nesta-conservation-plan/. The loco will soon arrive on the FR from display at the BLR.

 

Statesman Railtours 2024

Statesman will operate several railtours to North Wales this year although Holyhead seems to be off the schedule and no railtours originate from North Wales which Statesman seems to regard as an economically depressed area. In addition to a trip to the Llandudno Victorian Extravaganza Statesman from Woking, Salisbury and Bath on 6/5/24, there are four Snowdonia Statesman trips to Blaenau Ffestiniog with optional FR add-ons to Tan-y-bwlch from the following starting points:

15/5/24 Chesterfield, Leicester and Nuneaton

19/6/24 Cardiff, Chepstow and Birmingham New Street

17/7/24 Chester-Le-Street, Leeds and Stalybridge

4/9/24 High Wycombe, Banbury, Birmingham International

Trains will call at intermediate stations. See Statesman Rail website for full details.

 

F&WHR 15/2/24

Thursday 15/2/24 was forecast to be a drizzly overcast day with temperatures of 8-11C. Up at Tan-y-bwlch Harlech Castle had left probably on works train duty by 09:15. The loco passed through the Down line wrong line light engine at 12:30 heading east. The loco was back light engine and stabled by the signalbox at 15:40 as staff went home for the day.

Up at Dinas Blanche was probably on shed awaiting its cab ride duties over the next two weekends for Half Term Holiday visitors to Caernarfon.

 

10% off James Spooner merch!

To celebrate winning the HRA ‘Coiley Award for Steam Locomotive Engineering’ (for the building of the F&WHR's new Double Fairlie) the Retail Manager has reduced the price of James Spooner souvenirs by 10% until the end of February. This is an exclusive ‘online only’ offer for orders placed through the F&WHR webshop.

 

Click on the advert to enlarge. Items shown are listed below. Image copyright F&WHR.

 

What’s included?
▪ Mug – Two designs (were £7.99, now £7.19)
▪ Glass Placemat – Two designs (were £9.99, now £8.99)
▪ Acrylic Keyring (was £2.99, now £2.69)
▪ Acrylic Fridge Magnet (was £2.99, now £2.69)
▪ Slate Coaster (was £5.99, now £5.39)
How does the discount work?
The discount will applied automatically to the offer items included in your basket when you are ready to checkout.
Simply click the link below to go to the webshop's selection of ‘James Spooner’ items:
James Spooner merchandise.

 

Hanson & Hall Railtours to visit North Wales

Hanson and Hall of Keighley, the Class 50 owning rail logistics company that works with RailAdventure, will be offering railtours this year. An initial tour to North Wales has been announced for 20/7/24 using their short Mk1 set from the Chiltern Hills (probably High Wycombe). In addition to H&H's No.50008 Thunderer another loco will be required, probably top and tailed. See H&H website for details of railtours.

 

F&WHR 14/2/24

Wednesday 14/2/24 was forecast to be a drizzly overcast day with temperatures of 10C all day. Up at Tan-y-bwlch Harlech Castle was still present in the loop at 08:45. There was further shunting around mid day with the loco turning up light engine with lights on in the fog and departing to the west shortly afterwards. The loco was back by late afternoon and resumed its position stabled by the signalbox. Up at Dinas Blanche was probably on shed awaiting its cab ride duties over the next two weekends for Half Term Holiday visitors to Caernarfon. Half Term Holidaymakers were noted on the platform at both Porthmadog and Tan-y-bwlch at various times but there were no trains to greet them.

 

Palmerston to be displayed, repaired and run at VoR

Despite the WHHR's problems with No.590, the Vale of Rheidol Railway and the F&WHR have agreed a collaboration to run 1864-built steam locomotive Palmerston at the VoR later this year. The loco will thus be back in steam faster than the F&WHR could manage from its own resources. Palmerston visited the VoR several times between 1913-1922 before being required for WHR construction and most recently it visited the VoR again in 2014. This widely travelled loco even visited the BLR in 2018. Out of boiler ticket since 2022 the loco is currently stored in the Old Loco Shed.

 

This westerly archive view (2014) shows Palmerston tackling the steep gradients in the Rheidol valley towards Devil's Bridge. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a webcam.

 

The locomotive will arrive at Aberystwyth in late February, and will spend the first half of the 2024 season on static display in the VoR's new Museum, Display & Events building at Aberystwyth station in the former Loco Shed. The locomotive will then enter the VoR workshops in July, for work to return it to traffic. Palmerston will then feature (in steam) as the star guest at the line’s ‘Rheidol Steam Festival’ event from 24-26/8/24 where it will be hauling trains to Devil’s Bridge (presumably double headed with an air braked loco). Palmerston will return in late September to take part in the FR's Bygones event. It seems it will miss the WHR SuperPower weekend.

See full story here.

 

Chinese C2 Loco project news

After a quiet few months, the CR volunteers are resuming their regular monthly updates. Work has been proceeding on various components including the expansion links and the design of the new boiler has been progressing. See C2 website.

 

F&WHR 13/2/24

Tuesday 13/2/24 was forecast to be a rainy overcast day with temperatures of 7-9C. Up at Tan-y-bwlch Harlech Castle was still present in the loop at 08:00. The loco had left on works duties by 09:50. DZ 1424 and another wagon, both empty, were shunted into the Down platform by 12:30. The loco returned to join the wagons in the late afternoon. Up at Dinas Blanche was probably on shed awaiting its cab ride duties over the next two weekends for Half Term Holiday visitors to Caernarfon.

 

Loco projects review

Taliesin's power bogie is being refurbished and the wheels re-profiled. New tubes will soon be fitted followed by a hydraulic test to approve the boiler for another 10 years. Work has yet to start on checking Welsh Pony's shifted crank pin problem that sidelined the loco last September. Prince is also set to see some progress in 2024 with fundraising for a new boiler as the last certificate expired 9/22. The NG15 No.134 Kalahari needs about £50,000 more spending on it to complete. The loco has cost almost £630,000 so far. The loco has been OOU since 2020.

Work also continues at Glan-y-pwll depot on the Alco Mountaineer. The 1863 Mountaineer project at North Bay Rail Engineering Services Darlington continues to make good progress on this original design side tank version of the England engines. The private project to complete Gowrie, a single Fairlie of dubious steaming ability ordered for the PBSSR but used on the NWNGR. The loco was sold in 1918 and never saw use on the WHR which opened in stages over 1922-23. Work is currently underway on the coal bunker, cabs and side tanks plating, having a wheeled rolling chassis. Work is also underway on the trailing unpowered bogie. For further information about Gowrie, click on the Gowrie website. What is surprising is that there is no project to recreate Moel Tryfan, a single Fairlie used on both the WHR and the FR right up to closure being scrapped by the new FR management in 1954.

 

F&WHR 12/2/24

Monday 12/2/24 was forecast to be a sunny but chilly day with temperatures of 4-8C. Up at Tan-y-bwlch Harlech Castle was still present on its own in the loop at 08:30 and did not appear to have moved over the weekend. The loco was started up at about 09:00 and set off on works duties by 09:15. It was noted shunting around the station ar 09:25 and was back at 09:30. The loco returned at 14:30 with a wagon and was shut down for the day. Up at Dinas Blanche was probably on shed awaiting its cab ride duties over the next two weekends for Half Term Holiday visitors to Caernarfon.

 

North Wales main line news 2-12/2/24

On 2/2/24 97303 Dave Berry hauled a tamper to Porthmadog from Tywyn. The loco returned light to Shrewsbury Coleham LMD later. Tampers need to be hauled as they do not have ERTMS fitted.

All seven Class 67 hauled rakes are being extended to include an extra Mk4 coach by the end of March. Selective door opening is required because of some of the shorter platforms on the Marches route.

The Aberystwyth Logs does not appear to have run on 9-10/2/24.

On 12/2/24 Europhoenix (hired to ROG) No.37800 Cassiopeia (ex Glo Cymru) hauled a Class 175 DMU No.175114 (sidelined at Holyhead) going to store at Barton under Needwood. No.37510 was on the rear. See Deiniol Williams excellent photo on Facebook's Railways of North Wales page.

 

Steam driving courses at the WHHR

The 2024 Driving Courses are now bookable at the WHHR. A full day course is £700 available on 19-26/4/24, 3-24/5/24, 19/7/24 and 4-11-18/10/24. Evening courses are available any day the railway is operating steam (check timetable). A taster experience for £45 is also available on steam days. Contact WHHR steam driving experience to book.

 

No news about Baldwin No.590

Several months have now passed since the no-show of No.590 after it was failed with hot bearings the day before its was due to appear at the WHR100 Gala. Many supporters hope that a year on it might appear at the F&WHR's September SuperPower event but there is no news so far. Steam Railway Magazine made a short YouTube about No.590 including some archive footage to whet the appetite. With Russell shortly due to be withdrawn for its 10 year overhaul it seems sadly unlikely the pair can appear together for some years.

 

Click on the YouTube link to watch 5 minutes 22 seconds of video showing No.590 at the WHHR including some archive footage. This video is copyright Steam Railway Magazine and was published on 11/24. It is best viewed at 1080p with Chrome and was videod camcorder by Tim Dunn.

 

F&WHR 11/2/24

Sunday 11/2/24 was forecast to be a mixed day with temperatures of 3-9C and some sunshine later. Up at Tan-y-bwlch Harlech Castle was still present on its own in the loop at 08:15 and did not appear to move all day. Up at Caernarfon Blanche was booked on Sunday and over the next two weekends to give cab rides to visitors who might visit the station at Half Term Holidays.

 

Success at Heritage Railway Association Awards 10/2/24

The Coiley Award for Steam Loco Engineering went to the F&WHR for its new double Fairlie James Spooner. The F&WHR also won the Rising Star Award for its Osian Hughes who joined the Marketing Department in 2020. See F&WHR Facebook page for full details. The Llangollen Railway won the Infrastructure Award for the completion of Corwen Station.

 

Fare issues

F&WHR fares have been rising with inflation as the costs of providing the service rise. The F&WHR currently promotes round fares for complete journeys (Disneyfication experiences as some detractors suggest) and the price of these journeys may be off-putting for those holidaymakers on low incomes or with families with adult teens. When faced with these prices on the website some people will baulk at visiting the railway even though they are in the area, in favour of cheaper entertainment. For example the Snowdonia Star experience for a husband, wife and adult teen son/daughter would cost £166.95 including booking fee! This particularly hits the WHR with its longer journeys.

Potential passengers may feel intimidated about seeking lower fares at the booking office in a queue and there is little or no promotion of turnback fares in literature/on websites. Rather than losing the trade of such groups, turnback journeys could be promoted at roughly half the fare e.g. Caernarfon-Rhyd Ddu by changing into the Harbourmaster off the morning Snowdonia Star or in the afternoon, getting off the return Harbourmaster at Rhyd Ddu and joining the returning Snowdonia Star. Similar opportunities exist for both morning and afternoon from Porthmadog to Beddgelert/Rhyd Ddu. This gives a Cwellyn type journey out of the Cwellyn's Summer season twice a day or an extended Aberglaslyn type journey on days when The Aberglaslyn is not running. While the F&WHR would no doubt like to fill its trains with full fare passengers, trains do not usually operate fully booked except in the high season, so filling spare seats with these economy fare options seems a sensible way of garnering marginal income.

 

F&WHR 10/2/24

Saturday 10/2/24 was forecast to be a sunny day with temperatures of 4-10C. Temperatures were forecast to rise a little over the weekend. Up at Tan-y-bwlch Harlech Castle was still present on its own in the loop at 08:15 and was still there at the end of the day. From 08:30 steam was being raised at Boston Lodge. This was Blanche being prepared for its cab rides at Caernarfon later in the day.

Blanche came over The Cob light engine at 09:20 but paused by the king point for several minutes before stopping near the signal box at 09:26 for the token. The loco left for Dinas at 09:30 and was expected to offer cab rides in Caernarfon over the three weekends of the Half Term Holidays starting 10/2/24. The loco might be expected to arrive at Caernarfon at about midday.

 

This easterly view (10/2/24) shows Blanche making a light engine move to Dinas to offer cab rides at Caernarfon over the 3 weekends of Half Term Holidays, starting today. This was probably the first steam engine on the WHR since 1/1/24! Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a webcam.

 

Timetable dates in March

The Gelert Explorer runs TThSX from 24/3/24.

The Snowdonia Star runs TThSO from 23/3/24.

The Harbourmaster runs TThSO from 23/3/24.

The Aberglaslyn runs WSuO from 27/3/24.

The Woodland Wanderer runs FSSuO from 29/3/24.

The Mountain Spirit runs daily from 23/3/24.

The Quarryman runs FSuX from 25/3/24.

There are no Victorian services in March.

With the Snowdonia Star and The Harbourmaster running on the same day it is possible to make return journeys from Caernarfon to Rhyd Ddu or Porthmadog to Beddgelert/Rhyd Ddu on both the morning or afternoon departures.

 

Tornado midnight test run on Cambrian?

Tornado is the test engine for the signalling trials of ETC on the ECML. It is apparently to be tested on the Cambrian too. NR reneged on promises 13 years ago to provide a mobile ERTMS signalling unit for visiting traction. This has had the effect of banning visiting steam and heritage diesel excursions on the Cambrian Coast and WCR's regular summer dated Cambrian Coast Express steam operation which mirrored The Jacobite on the Mallaig Line. Now the trial ETC unit fitted to Tornado will be tested west of Shrewsbury. See Shropshire star story.

 

Five Cambrian Coast railtours from Pathfinder!

With the Barmouth Bridge reconstruction completed and open all year in 2024, Pathfinder is planning no less than 5 excursions to the Cambrian Coast this year. In recent years there have sometimes been no excursions on the Cambrian Coast so this trend is to be welcomed even though NR require double headed Class 97 haulage west of Shrewsbury. After Shrewsbury, passengers can opt to get off at Barmouth, Minffordd, Porthmadog or Pwllheli.

1) 4/4/24 Reading and stations via Oxford/Birmingham New Street.

2) 18/4/24 East Midlands Parkway and stations via Coleshill Parkway/Birmingham New Street.

3) 16/5/24 Cardiff and stations via Hereford.

4) 5/9/24 Bristol and stations via Bromsgrove/Birmingham New Street

5) 12/9/24 Swindon and stations via Stourbridge Junction/Tame Bridge Parkway

 

Depending on the day passengers could travel on the FR between Minffordd (excursion stops 13:50-17:00) and Porthmadog (excursion stops 14:00-16:45) or vice versa. The F&WHR does not seem to be planning any special services to meet the trains yet and there are no add on fares but it should be possible to do something in 3 hours 10 minutes at Minffordd. The Minffordd stop is advertised as being for a 1 mile walk to Portmerion allowing over 2 hours to visit the famous Italianate village.

It seems the only area that Pathfinder is not offering a tour from is the North West but passengers from this area could join any of the excursions at Shrewsbury. All trains will be hauled by Class 67 to Shrewsbury and double headed Class 97/3 (Class 37) on the Cambrian.

In comparison, trips to the North Wales Coast are few and far between this year with just one trip advertised so far.

8/6/24 Festiniog Express by Vintage Trains from Dorridge with S5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe or S7029 Clun Castle with a diesel loco hauling up the Conwy Valley.

 

F&WHR 9/2/24

Friday 9/2/24 was forecast to be a chilly overcast drizzly day with temperatures of 6-8C as the cold snap ended. Temperatures were forecast to rise a little over the weekend. Steam was being raised at Boston Lodge at 09:00 as Blanche was prepared for its journey to Dinas where cab rides were planned over the Half Term Holiday weekends. Up at Tan-y-bwlch Harlech Castle was still present with the three wagons in the loop but had gone by 10:00. From 11:00 Blanche was running up and down the Carriage Shed presumably on test for the next hour as the mist descended. At 12:20 the loco emerged onto the main line and worked towards the Old Loco Shed presumably to deliver some rolling stock before returning to the Carriage Shed. Later information revealed Prince, Welsh Pony and Palmerston had been moved there.

 

Clearance of Trawsfynydd branch

The closed and disconnected Trawsfynydd branch line south of Blaenau Ffestiniog has become an overgrown rubbish dump and NR has apparently received complaints from neighbours. Some clearance work is reported to be underway.

 

Moving Pictures No.88 9/2/24

Click on the YouTube link to watch 19 minutes 43 seconds of video showing various Winter volunteer projects. This video is copyright F&WHR and was published on 9/2/24. It is best viewed at 1080p with Chrome and was videod on a 4K camcorder by John Wooden (F&WHR).

 

F&WHR 8/2/24

Thursday 8/2/24 was forecast to be a chilly day of sleet and snow with temperatures of 4-6C as the cold snap rolled in. Temperatures were forecast to drop later as a short cold snap with snow was due Thursday/Friday. Snow warnings were in place until 06:00 on Friday and some schools in North Wales had been closed as a precaution. A dusting of snow fell on the Rhinogs but there was no lying snow even at Tan-y-bwlch. More snow was evident at Blaenau Ffestiniog.

 

This westerly view (8/2/24) shows snowfall at Blaenau Ffestiniog with staff on hand to finish the platform works. The number of footprints on the platform indicate it is used by a through route by schoolchildren. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image courtesy Daily Post and was taken on a digital camera.

 

No trains were scheduled to run but works trains and stock transfers were possible with Blanche going to Dinas on Friday in a stock move. A tall crane was working at Boston Lodge at 09:00 and Vale of Ffestiniog was doing some shunting at 09:20.

Up at Tan-y-bwlch, the rake of three wagons and Harlech Castle were still present at 09:00 where they had been left the night before. At 09:24 the diesel propelled the rake out of the station towards the relay site and returned by 16:25 to finish the day's activities.

 

2024 timetable compared

The 2024 timetable is shown above with the 2023 timetable retained for comparison. Dates of operation will be reviewed later. There have been some changes to timings on the FR and this may be to make better connections with the Conwy Valley line. There have been no changes to the WHR timetable.

Woodland Wanderer Up to 4 services will run according to anticipated demand. Trains run earlier with an 09:45 over an hour earlier than the 11:10 first train of last year. The final train is also earlier at 14:50 compared to 15:30 last year which was thought to arrive back too late at 17:40.

The Victorian This new service utilises two of the paths allocated to last year's Woodland Wanderer starting with the 11:50. The Victorian operates on days when the Woodland Wanderer does not operate.

Mountain Spirit The times are similar to last year's two paths but with the 40 minutes layover at Blaenau Ffestiniog extended to 50 minutes which results in the afternoon working getting back a little later at 17:35.

The Quarryman This utilises the same path as last year but with an extended 2 hour 35 minute layover in Porthmadog compared to 2 hours 15 minutes last year and so a later arrival back at Blaenau Ffestiniog.

The Gelert Explorer This runs up to twice a day with the same times as last year.

The Aberglaslyn This also runs up to twice a day with identical times to last year.

The Snowdonia Star This also runs to the same times as last year.

The Harbourmaster This is also unchanged.

The Cwellyn This operates TWThO to unchanged times but only in the high season.

 

New A487 Dyfi bridge opens 2/2/24

The new £46 million A487 Dyfi Bridge opened on Friday 2/2/24. This will ease traffic coming towards the F&WHR from the Aberystwyth area. The old bridge is sometimes closed by flooding on its approaches, a problem now avoided by the new road being on a viaduct across the Dyfi floodplain. This is one of the last TfW road schemes as WAG has paused road building for environmental reasons. It remains to be seen if they will invest the money in new rail schemes such as the Amlwch line or the major TRAWS scheme to reconnect Bangor to Porthmadog and Aberystwyth to Carmarthen or Swansea to provide a North Wales-South Wales rail link within Wales. Most of the bridge is subject to a 50mph speed limit.

See TfW report and BBC report.

 

Click on the YouTube link to watch 3 minutes 5 seconds of video showing the opening of the new A487 Afon Dyfi bridge at Machynlleth. This video is copyright Griffiths, the contractor, and was published on 6/2/24. It is best viewed at 1080p with Chrome and was videod by Griffiths staff using a quadcopter.

 

F&WHR 7/2/24

Wednesday 7/2/24 was forecast to be a chilly day of sunny periods with temperatures of 2-7C as the cold snap rolled in. Temperatures were forecast to drop later as a short cold snap with snow was due Thursday/Friday. No trains were scheduled to run but works trains and stock transfers were possible. The WHR tracks at Porthmadog are looking very rusty again as it appears there have been no movements for a few weeks now. The Up line at Minffordd also looks rusty with fewer works trains noted recently.

Up at Tan-y-bwlch, the rake of three wagons and KMX tamper-liner were still stabled by the signalbox at 08:30 in the Down line. There was no sign of steam being raised at Boston Lodge with Blanche due to be transferred to Dinas depot by Friday. The KMX tamper had left Tan-y-bwlch by 11:00. By 16:30 Harlech Castle had joined the east end of the rake at Tan-y-bwlch and the KMX had not returned.

 

Small Loco Shed progress 7/2/24

Roughly 70 cubic metres of concrete was pumped into formwork to create the floor of the Small Loco Shed on 7/2/24. Rebar was included to make the floor strong enough to bear weight. For images see F&WHR Facebook page.

 

F&WHR responds to Half Term

The F&WHR has finally responded to the absence of any Half Term trains in February compared to the services offered on the Tal-y-llyn and Bala Lake Railway and is providing BLANCHE on cab rides at Caernarfon station in a previously unadvertised move that will cheer WHR supporters. The loco will most likely make the light engine movement to Dinas by Friday 9/2/24. While the FR may be blocked by PW work, the WHR is available for Half Term services from both Porthmadog and Caernarfon with only the occasional lineside clearance trains to pass.

By providing BLANCHE at 'Y Stesion' during the break for footplate rides over the three weekends of 10/11, 17/18 and 24/25 February, the F&WHR is dipping a toe in the water with Half Term Holiday trains. Regular Half Term holiday trains were offered over 2 weeks at the end of February in the years before COVID to cover both English and Welsh schools' holiday weeks. Cab rides will be offered between 10:00 and 16:00 on those days and you can join the driver and fireman in the cab of BLANCHE for a ride through the station area. It is a great way to entertain the family - and it is warm and dry inside the cab if the weather is not at its best!
Caffi De Winton and the station shop will be open as well - and visitors can also see the new interactive displays and information panels that have just been installed. This previously unadvertised service will be a family treat for the many visitors who come to North Wales during Half Term holidays to see the sometimes snow covered alpine scenery.
BLANCHE was built in 1893, by the Hunslet Engine Company of Leeds, to work the Penrhyn Quarry Railway's main-line between Coed-y-Parc, Bethesda and Porth Penrhyn, Bangor. Retired by the quarry in 1962, BLANCHE moved to the Ffestiniog Railway in 1963, following its sister LINDA, where the loco has been kept busy - working trains longer and heavier than it ever did during its time on the PQR! It also acquired a pony truck to improve riding using the trailing bogie wheelsets from the much missed WHR single Fairlie Moel Tryfan.

 

North Wales Track Gang 2-4/2/24

Work took place between Caernarfon and Dinas and later the lineside team moved to the Dinas-Waunfawr section. The works train consisted of Caernarfon Castle with the well wagon occasionally, a B wagon, the WHR Mess Car No.111 and the SAR brake van.

 

This southerly view (3/2/24) shows Caernarfon Castle with the WHR Mess Car No.111 at Hendy Crossing during lineside clearance work. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image copyright Tom Waldren and was taken on a phone camera.

 

This northerly view (3/2/24) shows Caernarfon Castle with the WHR Mess Car No.111 at Caernarfon station during lineside clearance work. The B wagon is full of cuttings. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image copyright Tom Waldren and was taken on a phone camera.

 

F&WHR 6/2/24

Tuesday 6/2/24 was forecast to be an overcast rainy day with temperatures of 2-10C. Temperatures were forecast to drop later as a short cold snap with snow was due Thursday/Friday. No trains were scheduled to run but works trains and stock transfers were possible. The WHR tracks at Porthmadog are looking very rusty again as it appears there have been no movements for a few weeks now. The Up line at Minffordd also looks rusty with fewer works trains noted recently.

Up at Tan-y-bwlch, the rake of three wagons and KMX tamper-liner were still stabled by the signalbox at 08:30 in the Down line, apparently unmoved since Friday. The KMX had disappeared by 10:20 and was presumably working on tamping the relay west of Tan-y-bwlch. The KMX was back in the loop at Tan-y-bwlch by 15:00.

 

Launch of The Victorian service

Click on the advert to enlarge. Advert copyright F&WHR.

 

The new Victorian service will be launched to run on selected dates in April and May. Further dates will be added in due course if the venture is successful. The service will use the FR's Victorian period liveried coaches including No.15 and the bowsiders, bugboxes and probably the curly roofed van. Compartments for up to six persons can be booked. The trains will be hauled by a double Fairlie loco (probably James Spooner) or other vintage loco and have an hour lay over at Tan-y-bwlch for a break in the cafe. Passengers may choose their compartment.

The F&WHR and Tal-y-llyn Railways are proud to be part of the UNESCO Slate Landscape of Northwest Wales as both were built to service the slate industry. The railways are pleased to announce they will be working together to offer an opportunity to try both The Victorian and Tal-y-llyn’s Slate Trail experiences.

The return journey is priced at £33 (children and dogs £3) but it may be possible to take a single journey by returning on one of the alternative FR services which must booked separately. It is possible to purchase two single tickets on The Victorian on days when two services operate. Initially trains will operate TThO from 9/4/24 to 23/5/24 and additionally on a few Saturdays (20/4/24 and 4/5/24). Trains run twice a day at 11:10 and 14:50, arriving back at 13:20 and 17:00 respectively. The Woodland Wanderer will not operate on days when The Victorian runs. The Victorian can be seen as upselling as the return fares are £4 dearer than the Woodland Wanderer being a premium for the Victorian ambience.

 

NG15 No.134 launch?

Assuming Kalahari is completed in time, it is hoped to launch this loco at this year's SuperPower event 14-15/9/24. If the loco is still not ready, guided tours of the loco are likely to be given.

 

F&WHR 5/2/24

Monday 5/2/24 was forecast to be an overcast day with temperatures of 9C all day with misty conditions at times with a short cold snap due Thursday/Friday. No trains were scheduled to run but works trains and stock transfers were possible. The WHR tracks at Porthmadog are looking very rusty again as it appears there have been no movements for a few weeks now. The Up line at Minffordd also looks rusty with fewer works trains noted recently.

Up at Tan-y-bwlch, the rake of three wagons and KMX tamper-liner were still stabled by the signalbox at 09:00 in the Down line, apparently unmoved since Friday. At 19:00 Upnor Castle and Harlech Castle were noted propelling the FR Mess Car No.1111 out of Minffordd loop wrong line towards Porthmadog. Moel-yr-Hydd arrived at Minffordd from Porthmadog at 12:56 propelling a B wagon filled with coal and dragging the FR's Mess Car No.1111. The train reversed into Minffordd Yard at 13:04.

 

2024 tickets on sale 6/2/24

The F&WHR's 2024 season will begin on the 23/3/24 and this year the railway will be running all the journey options that they offered last year, plus a brand new FR addition to the timetable… introducing ‘The Victorian’! There has been no attempt to follow the example of other North Wales heritage railways and offer Half Term services in February on the WHR or any additional service on the WHR in the main season despite last year's promise to promote services more from Caernarfon.

Here are the F&WHR's 9 journey options for 2024:

• Woodland Wanderer : Porthmadog - Tan-y-Bwlch
• The Victorian : Porthmadog - Tan-y-Bwlch
• Mountain Spirit : Porthmadog - Blaenau Ffestiniog
• The Quarryman : Blaenau Ffestiniog - Porthmadog
• Gelert Explorer : Caernarfon - Beddgelert
• The Aberglaslyn : Porthmadog - Beddgelert
• Snowdonia Star : Caernarfon - Porthmadog
• The Harbourmaster : Porthmadog - Caernarfon
• The Cwellyn : Caernarfon - Rhyd Ddu (Summer dated)

Details of all services will be available here from 6/2/24. This link currently gives access to an 18 minute video showing the services.

All trains between late March and early November will be available to book via the F&WHR website. A full analysis of services offered compared to last year will be made in tomorrow's edition of this webpage.

 

Snow alert!

The Met Office has put out a warning for heavier than expected snow on Thursday and Friday 8-9/2/24 for North and Mid Wales from 03:00 to 03:00. See Met Office warnings.

 

Pwllheli Job Fair 7/2/24

The Pwllheli Job Fair is being held on Wednesday, 7t/2/24 at Neuadd Dwyfor 13:00-16:00. Local people looking for a job come and say ‘Hello’ as the F&WHR will be attending the event too. Staff would be happy to have a chat and explain all the exciting opportunities the F&WHR has available including both seasonal and full time jobs.

 

F&WHR 4/2/24

Sunday 4/2/24 was forecast to be an overcast day with temperatures of 8C to 10C with misty conditions at times. No trains were scheduled to run but works trains and stock transfers were possible. The WHR tracks at Porthmadog are looking very rusty again as it appears there have been no movements for a few weeks now. The Up line at Minffordd also looks rusty with fewer works trains noted recently.

Up at Tan-y-bwlch, the rake of three wagons and KMX tamper-liner were still stabled by the signalbox at 08:30, apparently unmoved since Friday. Conditions at Tan-y-bwlch were very misty at first. No other movements were noted.

 

Carriage Works report 2/2/24

It has been a busy week in the Carriage Works. Staff have been busy making the new bottom end headstock for Bowsider Carriage No.20. The old chequer plates have gone and traditional wood has taken their place and it is looking great. Window mouldings have also been making progress and are now dry fitted and, again, these too look great. Meanwhile other staff have been busy repairing the roof of WHR carriage No.2043. For images see F&WHR Facebook page.

 

F&WHR 3/2/24

Saturday 3/2/24 was forecast to be an overcast day with temperatures of 8C to 11C and misty at first but with some sunny periods at the end of the afternoon. No trains were scheduled to run but works trains and stock transfers were possible. The WHR tracks at Porthmadog are looking very rusty again as it appears there have been no movements for a few weeks now. The Up line at Minffordd also looks rusty with fewer works trains noted recently.

Up at Tan-y-bwlch, the rake of three wagons and KMX tamper-liner were still stabled by the signalbox at 08:30, apparently unmoved since yesterday. Conditions were very misty everywhere on the railway at first. At 09:12 the PW train exited Minffordd yard with Harlech Castle propelling the FR Mess Car No.1111, the PW container wagon and two small FR wagons. The train made its way east towards the relay site just west of Tan-y-bwlch with the mist clearing slowly.

 

More NLHF interpretation panels erected

Despite the rain and cold foggy winter weather, the National Lottery Heritage Fund Project bilingual interpretation panels continue to be erected. The second week of installation has gone well with new wall panels and displays installed at numerous locations including Porthmadog. Minffordd, Boston Lodge Halt, and Dduallt but nowhere on the WHR this time it seems! For images see F&WHR Facebook page.

 

F&WHR 2/2/24

Friday 2/2/24 was forecast to be an overcast day with temperatures of 9C to 10C and misty at times. No trains were scheduled to run but works trains and stock transfers were possible. The WHR tracks at Porthmadog are looking very rusty again as it appears there have been no movements for a few weeks now, as is the Up line at Minffordd with fewer works trains noted recently.

Up at Tan-y-bwlch, Harlech Castle was still stabled in the Up line with its rake of three wagons at 10:20 apparently unmoved since yesterday. At 16:06 the loco was missing having left the rake in the platform (including DZ1424) as the fog descended. The KMX tamper-liner was visible at the far end of the rake.

 

2024 Trailffest date changed

The date for the Trailffest run has been changed to 28/9/24. A special train will be run. Registration commences 1/3/24.

 

Hairy Bikers Go West

BBC2's Hairy Bikers have visited the FR. The FR clip will appear during the fifth episode of the programme and will be broadcast on Tuesday 5/3/24 at 19:00.

 

Main line news

On 10/1/24 BR blue No.52015 (D1015) Western Champion piloted the Avonmouth to Pen-y-ffordd cement empties with 66714 inside for part of its journey. The Class 52 is not thought to have reached Welsh metals as it was a main line test for the SVR based loco and probably returned to there. It is a long while since a member of Class 52 graced the North Wales Coast Line. The loco was noted northbound at Wickwar between Bristol and Gloucester.

The Aberystwyth log train did not appear to run on 2/2/24 but instead a light engine moved from Porthmadog to Coleham Depot (Shrewsbury) using the same path from Dyfi Junction. The train was 0Z50 the 14:58 Porthmadog-Coleham ISU which had probably taken a tamper to Porthmadog to use as part of weekend PW.

 

F&WHR 1/2/24

Thursday 1/2/24 was forecast to be a chilly day with temperatures of 6C to 8C with light cloud. No trains were scheduled to run but works trains and stock transfers were possible. The WHR tracks at Porthmadog are looking very rusty again as it appears there have been no movements for a few weeks now, as is the Up line at Minffordd with fewer works trains noted recently. Ballast lorries were delivering to Minffordd after 08:15 in preparation for a ballast train to deliver top ballast to the Crossing Bothy relay site, just west of Tan-y-bwlch.

The KMX tamper was noted leaving Minffordd Yard at 08:22 heading for the Crossing Bothy relay site. Up at Tan-y-bwlch, Harlech Castle was still stabled in the Up line with its rake of three wagons at 08:15 apparently unmoved since Friday but had gone by 11:40. The loco was back with its 3 wagons by the signalbox at 14:30.

 

KS4415 report 1/24

Kerr Stuart pioneer diesel Works No.4415 was a demonstrator 6wDM of 1928 which was loaned to the WHR on test in 1928. There must be some hope that the restoration project will see the loco restored by its centenary. It operated Winter services on the Bryngwyn branch in 1928 before transferring to the FR in March 1929 as bottom end shunter. The loco was returned to Kerr Stuart in august 1929. For images of progress see F&WHR Facebook page.

After 5 days in Wales for the team, the main achievement is that the bonnet is now ready for riveting! It does not really look like anything has changed but a lot of work has been carried out over the last few days to get it to that state. The low point was Sunday where virtually the whole day was spent just grinding millscale off steel. The highlight was David High's entertaining talk on the project, which drew a record crowd for the Gwynedd Area Group's meeting.
In the works volunteers extended the bonnet top at the rear where it was a little short after bending to the required shape and then drilled this through into the angle iron hoop that stiffens the rear end of the bonnet. That was the last of the "making", so volunteers then completely dismantled the bonnet so they could clean up and de-burr every piece of steel. Where bits will be riveted together they removed all millscale and contamination with grinders and then primed the faces with Galvafroid paint. The bonnet was then reassembled and is now ready for riveting.
The rings of angle around the hatches had to have all their holes countersunk because they are flush rivets and this was done on the big radial arm drill in the erecting shop. Some of the cab steelwork has been attacked with a square file to make holes for the special dome headed bolts, so volunteers will be able to change the look of cab in the future while maintaining the illusion that it is all riveted together.
Away from bodywork, the fuel tank frame was looked at and some new steel sourced to repair one stiffening strip that was rusted through. Volunteers also got the gear and clutch controls out to assess them and work out what repairs are necessary.

 

F&WHR 31/1/24

Wednesday 31/1/24 was forecast to be an increasingly overcast and windy day with temperatures of 2C to 10C and heavy rain from dusk. No trains were scheduled to run but works trains and stock transfers were possible. The WHR tracks at Porthmadog are looking very rusty again as it appears there have been no movements for a few weeks now, as is the Up line at Minffordd with fewer works trains noted recently.

Up at Tan-y-bwlch, Harlech Castle was still stabled in the Up line with its rake of three wagons at 09:00 apparently unmoved since Friday and was still there at the end of the day. No other movements were noted.

 

Infrastructure progress 31/1/24

Following the Xmas break and after some 23 man shifts work since then, 14 x 18m panels have been lifted, the formation excavated and new base ballast laid. Track has been relaid on new plastic sleepers and - by 1300 on 31/1/24 - the through route to Blaenau Ffestiniog has been reopened. This will only be for a short time though as the Infrastructure Team will move onto the next second to be relaid almost as soon as this section is tidied up. Top ballast is due to be laid on Thursday 1/2/24 and Friday with tamping due Monday and Tuesday of next week. The KMX tamper liner may be required to attend to speed up the job. The infrastructure team then starts on the next section with a further 180m of relaying in Crossing Bothy area further west than the Whistling Curve relay, nearer to Plas Halt. The follow up Drains Gang are due on 11/2/24 to replace over 50 trackside drain lids on this section using a works train. For images see F&WHR Facebook page.

 

Fire Queen moves to VoR 22/1/24

The unique 4 foot gauge Padarn Railway's Fire Queen, a loco built by marine engineers Horlocks, has been moved from Penrhyn Castle, Bangor, to a temporary display at the Vale of Rheidol, arriving by 22/1/24. The VoR's new display shed will open at the end of March in the former Loco Shed just east of the NR station and will also feature the loco's tender and Padarn Railway Director's Saloon. The long term home for the loco is planned to be an exhibition at Gilfach Ddu, Llanberis, where the loco ran from 1848-1886 down to the docks at Y Felinheli (Port Dinorwic). This is a further step in the reduction of the railway museum at Penrhyn Castle which still has Penrhyn loco Charles on display, which is of the same original design as Linda and Blanche. See Cambrian News story for images. For full details see World of Railways webpage.

 

F&WHR 30/1/24

Tuesday 30/1/24 was forecast to be a sunny day with temperatures of 4C to 8C. No trains were scheduled to run but works trains and stock transfers were possible. The WHR tracks at Porthmadog are looking very rusty again as it appears there have been no movements for a few weeks now, as are the tracks at Minffordd with fewer works trains recently.

Up at Tan-y-bwlch, Harlech Castle was still stabled in the Up line with its rake of three wagons at 08:30 apparently unmoved since Friday. The train did not move again today. No other trains were noted.

 

February Half Term trains in the snow?

Although there was snow around the F&WHR for few days in mid January, the month was mostly wet and windy with many mild days with temperatures reaching the teens in some places. The end of February is often a period with snow but the F&WHR has not reinstated the Half Term holiday trains it used to run over the two weeks that cover both English and Welsh Half Term holidays in the years before COVID. These services sometimes offered trains when snow was lying. Other local heritage railways take a different view e.g. the Tal-y-llyn Railway are operating 12-24/2/24, the Bala Lake Railway 10-22/2/24 and the Llanberis Lake Railway 11-25/2/24. Is it time for the F&WHR to restore such services? While major works are programmed on the FR, the WHR could be made available from either Porthmadog or Caernarfon for passenger services, apart from the need to pass the odd lineside clearance train.

 

Photo archive back on line

The F&WHR photo archive has been offline for January having an update and extra collections added. Please see the latest information from the Festiniog Railway Heritage Group about how to access the improved site.

 

F&WHR 29/1/24

Monday 29/1/24 was forecast to be an overcast day of with heavy rain and temperatures of 5C to 8C. No trains were scheduled to run but works trains and stock transfers are possible. The WHR tracks at Porthmadog are looking very rusty again as it appears there have been no movements for a few weeks now as are the tracks at Minffordd with fewer works trains recently.

Up at Tan-y-bwlch, Harlech Castle was still stabled in the Up line with its rake of three wagons apparently unmoved over the weekend. The train did not appear to move all day. Down at Porthmadog the platform lights were on as dusk fell though no movements seemed likely.

 

NG15 No.134 progress 23/1/24

The latest news in from Project Leader Adrian Strachan.

As always we are in need of donations to bring 'Kalahari' back to steam for 2024. Every penny helps, use the button on this post to donate. Thanks to our December and January working parties and our first volunteer working week mid Jan, there’s quite a bit to report at the start of the year.
The valve gear pins were sent away for hardening in early December, and when these returned the Dinas staff quickly reassembled both sets of gear for us so the loco was mobile for our working party over the holiday period. We measured the piston travel with the connecting rods on and adjusted one piston to ensure equal travel for both in the bores. Now the gear is on (hopefully for the final time..) we are ready to check & adjust for equal mid gears, return crank positions & dead centres, prior to setting the piston valves. The lubrication pipework to the pistons, valves, glands, slidebars and Krauss-Helmholtz truck should also be completed at our next working party and ready for test.
Once the Cab sides & Front returned from shotblasting they were taken to Boston Lodge, where the volunteer working party in the Carriage Works over the Christmas to New Year period set to in applying several coats of paint, resulting in a dramatic transformation (certainly for those who have made them!) from dirty steelwork into pristine loco parts. We have since erected these on the engine to assist in the positioning of cab controls, components & pipework. The barrel cladding sheets also travelled south and were glossed in Minffordd in early January, before being fitted onto the loco at the January working party. These have now been covered with a protective layer to hopefully reduce scuffs during the fitting of the feed pipes. New steam pipe cladding covers have been fabricated too.

 

This Dinas view (23/1/24) shows No.134 complete with blue boiler barrel cladding. The loco number is carried US style on the headlamp bracket. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image courtesy WHRSoc. and was taken on a webcam.


The first 9-piece Brick Arch was cast in our working week and the new stainless steel moulds worked a treat, with the blocks easily coming out of them after curing. These are now drying out fully before we fit them in the firebox. Also in this area, we water tested the ashpan damping, and adjusted the jets for the optimal position to keep the ashpan sides clear in service. At the January working party the ashpan sliding door operating shaft was refitted under the boiler barrel following straightening of the shaft, with weld build up and re-cutting the keyway and fitting of a new gib key. Clearly this assembly had taken some force in SAR service!
With both Injectors mounted on their new brackets under the Cab, the stainless steel pipework was extended back to the water valves and towards the tender flexible hoses. The loco vacuum train pipe has also been fabricated back into the cab and awaits the final mounting of the ejector & steam brake. We trial fitted the ejector exhaust along the boiler.
Early in the new year thanks to December’s donations, the large diameter copper pipe arrived, and we had our first demonstration and instruction in the art of bending these into the compound curves required for the injector steam and feed pipe runs. There is much more of this to do on No.134!.. but it is very dramatic in the process, and quite satisfying on the outcome so we are looking forward to it.
The Tender found a slot back in the workshop in December and so we were able to start catching back on the completion jobs there. The handbrake mechanism was completed with its new pullrod from Boston Lodge, and the toolbox hoods fabricated which fit either side of the coal tunnel. The design work on the new sandboxes is close to completion so material for these can be ordered when funds permit. Working the evening shifts around us the painters transformed the fabricated tank sides into smooth shiny surfaces with their filler, sanding and keen eyes.
Finally of note, Tommy the shed cat has become much more interested in the project recently and has been making a habit of sidling up to discussions and gatherings around the engine to give his approval. Obviously looking to secure an early footplate ride! Perhaps the recent change of colour on the loco has appealed to him, or he just has great taste in locomotives, you decide.

For more images of progress and to donate see NG15 No.134 Project webpage.

 

F&WHR 28/1/24

Sunday 28/1/24 was forecast to be a day of light cloud and sunny periods with temperatures of 7C to 11C. No trains were scheduled to run but works trains and stock transfers are possible. The WHR tracks at Porthmadog are looking very rusty again as it appears there have been no movements for a few weeks now as are the tracks at Minffordd with fewer works trains recently.

The lineside clearance train set off from Minffordd at 09:05 with the same formation as yesterday. It presumably returned at around 15:30 as the volunteers had to get back to Birmingham. There were 10 University of Birmingham Railway Society volunteers including some young women. Up at Tan-y-bwlch, Harlech Castle was still stabled in the Up line with its rake of three wagons apparently unmoved over the weekend and remained there at 5pm as dusk fell, ready for next week's Works Train.

 

F&WHR 27/1/24

Saturday 27/1/24 was forecast to be a day of light cloud and sunny periods with temperatures of 7C to 9C. No trains were scheduled to run but works trains and stock transfers are possible. The WHR tracks at Porthmadog are looking very rusty again as it appears there have been no movements for a few weeks now as are the tracks at Minffordd with fewer works trains recently.

Harlech Castle was noted stabled back at Tan-y-bwlch near the signalbox at 09:00 with three wagons (possibly two DZ and a BZ) in the Down road for a change and had been there overnight. The train appeared to remain there all day. Upnor Castle propelled a lineside clearance train from Minffordd Yard up to the wooded section below Tan-y-bwlch with volunteers from the University of Birmingham Railway Society. The rake consisted of the FR Mess Wagon next to the loco, a DZ wagon with the chipper and a B wagon for larger branches. The train must have returned about 4pm as the sun began to set.

 

This westerly view (27/1/24) shows Harlech Castle stabled with 3 wagons at Tan-y-bwlch. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a webcam.

 

Aberystwyth logs 26/1/24

The Aberystwyth log train to Chirk Kronospan ran on 26/1/24 and was, for a change shown in Real-Time Trains. The train ran as 6C56, the 15:48 departure which left 10 minutes early with two locos on the front NR 97302 Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway in charge and 37405 in Harry Needle livery inside. The train reversed at Chester and propelled the rake into Chirk Kronospan siding 25 minutes early. This YouTube video shows the train at Machynlleth.

 

F&WHR 26/1/24

Friday 26/1/24 was forecast to be a day of light cloud and sunny periods with temperatures of 7C to 9C. No trains were scheduled to run but works trains and stock transfers are possible. The WHR tracks at Porthmadog are looking very rusty again as it appears there have been no movements for a few weeks now as are the tracks at Minffordd with fewer works trains recently.

Harlech Castle was noted stabled back at Tan-y-bwlch near the signalbox with three wagons (possibly two DZ and a BZ) in the Down road for a change at 16:15 as staff and volunteers packed up for the day.

 

Boston Lodge Garratt shed Appeal

The F&WHR is moving forwards with a plan to build a Garratt sized single road loco preparation shed on the 8 Road siding between the existing Loco Shed and the new Small Loco Shed. Work may start this year and be completed in 2025. A Garratt is normally stabled at Porthmadog for the services that start from there and proceed up the WHR to Beddgelert/Caernarfon. Currently the locos have to be prepared/stored in inclement weather.

The WHRS will be helping with fund raising towards the shed which has been costed at about £35,000. An Appeal has been launched. ,The existing 8 Road siding was extended for this purpose as soon as Garratts reached Porthmadog with some excavation of the rock face to lengthen the sidings and the construction of a concrete pit (currently unused). The shed design features SAR practice with a vented roof and sliding side panels to allow more light in but offer good weather protection. The shed will feature the usual compressed air, water and electrical supplies. The existing pit will be adapted to allow better maintenance of the Garratt's underneath components. The track into the shed will be relaid to modern standards. The shed will be demountable if it does not fit in with future plans to extend the Erecting Shop onto the site of the existing small loco shed.

 

F&WHR 25/1/24

Thursday 25/1/24 was forecast to be an overcast rainy day with temperatures of 5C to 10C. No trains were scheduled to run but works trains and stock transfers are possible. The WHR tracks at Porthmadog are looking very rusty again as it appears there have been no movements for a few weeks now as are the tracks at Minffordd with fewer works trains recently. The Tan-y-bwlch webcam was off line from 09:00 and continued to be offline until midday.

Harlech Castle was noted arriving back at Tan-y-bwlch light engine at 12:44 but the webcam was offline at 12:45, though the other webcams were working.

 

NLHF Project Interpretation Panels

Over 35 new Interpretation Panels are being installed along the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways over the next couple of weeks. Work began on Monday 22/1/24 at a very damp Pont Croesor and has already moved on to Tan-y-Bwlch, Waunfawr and Rhyd Ddu. Some panels will keep the strapping in place temporarily in order to allow the glue to dry. The panels are mounted on posts made of old rails that have been manufactured by volunteers and will tell stories about the people and history of both railways across the centuries - and hopefully will encourage our visitors to want to learn more and even join the railway community.

 

This easterly view (22/1/24) shows the new interpretation panel by the east end of Tan-y-bwlch station car park. Platform edgings have been reset and block paving is replacing tarmac in part. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera.

 

F&WHR 24/1/24

Wednesday 24/1/24 was forecast to be a day of sunny periods with temperatures of 5C to 9C and decreasing wind. No trains were scheduled to run but works trains and stock transfers are possible. The WHR tracks at Porthmadog are looking very rusty again as it appears there have been no movements for a few weeks now as are the tracks at Minffordd with fewer works trains recently.

Harlech Castle was noted with a 2 wagon ballast train (including DZ1424) stabled overnight in the Up platform at Tan-y-bwlch with the loco on the east end. The train reversed out of the station to the west at 09:02 and the loco was back in the station ten minutes later light engine presumably having deposited the wagons at Whistling Curve where track was recently re-laid. No further movements were noted.

 

Blaenau Ffestiniog platform progress 24/1/24

This easterly view (24/1/24) shows the improved platform at Blaenau Ffestiniog with loco Moel Hebog in attendance with the spoil train. Platform edgings have been reset and block paving is replacing tarmac in part. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera.

 

F&WHR 23/1/24

Tuesday 23/1/24 was forecast to be an overcast day of heavy rain with temperatures of 8C to 11C and there was a wind warning for storm Jocelyn overnight into Wednesday. No trains were scheduled today. run but works trains and stock transfers are possible. The WHR tracks at Porthmadog are looking very rusty again as it appears there have been no movements for a few weeks now.

At 09:25 Harlech Castle was noted with a 2 wagon ballast train departing the Up platform at Tan-y-bwlch with DZ1424 with the loco on the east end. The train was back in the station at 13:55 loading materials from an excavation near the old station building and had departed again by 14:30 and remained there all afternoon. Staff and volunteers were packing up at 16:00 and a track block was placed on the Up line behind the train.

 

YouTube Moving Pictures No.87 23/1/24

Click on the YouTube link to watch 19 minutes 23 seconds of video showing Linda back in steam, work on the platform at Blaenau Ffestiniog and progress with the NG15 at Dinas. This video is copyright F&WHR and was published on 20/12/23. It is best viewed at 1080p with Chrome and was videod on a 4K camcorder by John Wooden (F&WHR).

 

New infrastructure van 23/1/24

This northerly Boston Lodge view (23/1/24) shows the newly outshopped infrastructure van with S&T loco Moel-yr-hydd. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera.

 

The new Lineside Tool Van was released today by Boston Lodge on its permanent bogies. A little over four months ago this was just a pile of newly delivered steel. Boston Lodge has built it quickly with FRS funds. The platform at the end of the vehicle helps solve working at height issues. An operative can safely work from within it and is already 2m from the ground. With a pole saw they can safely be cutting branches 5m above rail level. The van needs to be numbered and painted in PW livery.

 

Port Talbot closure may affect Shotton Steelworks/North Wales rail freight

The closure of steelmaking at Port Talbot will most likely affect Shotton Steelworks which receives daily trains of steel for converting to steel coil and adding coatings such as galvanising and paint treatments. Shotton may have to use import steel with re-jigging of the rail traffic flows. The Tories has previously promised to keep steelmaking alive in the UK and there are security of supply issues associated with importing all our steel from outside the UK. See BBC story.

 

F&WHR 22/1/24

Monday 22/1/24 was forecast to be a day of sunny periods with temperatures of 6C to 8C and decreasing wind. No trains are scheduled to run but works trains and stock transfers are possible. The WHR tracks at Porthmadog are looking very rusty again as it appears there have been no movements for a few weeks now. Storm Jocelyn is forecast for Wednesday bringing more wet and windy, if mild, weather to North Wales.

At 12:15 Harlech Castle was noted with a 2 wagon ballast train in the Up platform at Tan-y-bwlch with DZ1424. The train left by 12:45. The train arrived back at 13:45 with the loco at the east end and a track block protecting the Up line behind the train.

 

Aberystwyth logs ran again 19/1/24

Although an empty train went from Chirk to Aberystwyth on Friday, the return loaded working was missing from schedules on Friday but apparently ran as it was recorded on video! 97302 and 37405 provided the traction as sunset fell.

 

Click on the YouTube link to watch 4 minutes 36 seconds of video showing 97302/37405 hauling the Aberystwyth logs between Glandyfi and Talerddig in the late afternoon. This video is copyright Mr Thrash37 and was published on 22/1/24. It is best viewed at 1080p with Chrome and was videod on a camcorder.

 

F&WHR 21/1/24

Sunday 21/1/24 was forecast to be a rainy day with temperatures of 7C to 10C with increasing wind. An AMBER storm warning for strong winds has been issued for 6pm-6am tomorrow. No trains are scheduled to run but works trains and stock transfers are possible. The WHR tracks at Porthmadog are looking very rusty again as it appears there have been no movements for a few weeks now.

At 10:33 a train was noted in the Minffordd loop with FR Mess van No.1111 on the rear with staff checking the line between there and the Minffordd Yard level crossing. The train had disappeared by 13:00. The stormy weather was very extreme overnight with a record UK gust of 90mph recorded at Capel Curig.

 

Volunteering 2024

It is the start of a new year at the F&WHR, and while trains may not be steaming until the 23/3/24, there is plenty of work taking place across the railways to make sure the railway is all set for the big opening in a few months’ time! The railway's extensive ‘Winter Works’ programme is now well underway, with Volunteers working side by side with Staff to tackle an array of tasks - including the replacement of sleepers on the track bed, providing carriages with some much needed ‘TLC’ in the Carriage Works, organising material in the archives and much more.

Once the new season starts, the railway will also be relying on Volunteers to help it keep the trains running, either through driving or firing on the footplate, serving refreshments on-board or guarding the train itself! Volunteering on the railway provides a sense of belonging, community and wellbeing and it is also a great opportunity to put your existing experience to good use or pick up some brand new skills!

So, if any of these roles sound of interest, head over to the new Volunteers page on our website: https://www.festrail.co.uk/volunteering/

Click on the this short Facetime video to watch volunteers at work guarding a train at Caernarfon.

 

F&WHR 20/1/24

Saturday 20/1/24 was forecast to be a sunny day with temperatures of 5C to 8C with heavy rain at times and increasing wind. The snow retreated to the summits of the Rhinogs as the cold snap came to an end. There was a weather warning out for heavy rain and gales for Sunday and Monday. No trains are scheduled to run but works trains and stock transfers are possible. The WHR tracks at Porthmadog are looking very rusty again as it appears there have been no movements for a few weeks now. No train movements were noted.

 

Spooner's St Dwynwen's Day offer 25/1/24
Welsh Romantics have two days each year to celebrate their love for their partner.
'Dydd Santes Dwynwen' - Wales' very own 'Valentine's Day' - is just around the corner and so Spooner's is planning a special menu for next Thursday evening, as a treat for anyone who wants to celebrate the day with their 'one and only'.
Spooner's three-course menu, with a 'Welcome' Glass of Prosecco, is just £30 per person. Please book in advance - in person or by phone on 01766 516032
----------
• GLASS OF PROSECCO •
• STARTER •
Melted Golden Cenarth Cheese
with sourdough bread for dipping
• MAIN •
Minted Welsh Lamb Chops
or Glamorgan Sausages
with a Laverbread Herb Sauce
Served with creamy mash potato,
rainbow carrots and cavalo nero
• DESSERT •
Chocolate Fondant
with cherry kirsch truffles

 

F&WHR 19/1/24

Friday 19/1/24 was forecast to be a sunny day with temperatures of 3C to 7C warming up slightly as the cold snap fades away. There had been a little further dusting of snow overnight and light covering was visible again on Porthmadog platform as well as a fresh covering of lying snow at Tan-y-bwlch. There was a weather warning out for ice until 10:00 Friday. No trains are scheduled to run but works trains and stock transfers are possible. The WHR tracks at Porthmadog are looking very rusty again as it appears there have been no movements in a few weeks now.

Harlech Castle arrived light engine at Tan-y-bwlch at about 11:30 and stabled there for a while. The loco departed to the west at 11:55.

 

Coach rot

Examination of one of the Boston Lodge built coaches (No.2043 which was new to service 20/5/07) in the Coach Works for annual maintenance has revealed extensive rotten wood, despite being stored in Carriage Sheds some of the time, This will upset the planned maintenance programme leading to Pullman coach Bodysgallen No.2115, currently stored at Boston Lodge, moving back in the maintenance programme again.

 

Aber Logs 19/1/24

The empty Aberystwyth log train arrived at the Aberystwyth run round loop early on Friday some 23 minutes late. The train operated in snowy conditions in the mountains giving photographers a rare opportunity to take images of the Class 37s in the snow! This train may run on Saturday as the Friday afternoon path was not activated.

 

Storm Isha to bring gales 20/1/24

The BBC warn about Storm Isha which is set to hit the UK on Sunday. The storm will bring an end to the cold snap but has high winds which might affect the F&WHR by possibly bringing trees down across the line. See BBC news story.

 

F&WHR 18/1/24

Thursday 18/1/24 was forecast to be a very cold but sunny day with temperatures of -4C to 4C. There had been further snow overnight and light covering was visible on Porthmadog platform as well as a fresh covering of lying snow at Tan-y-bwlch. The cold snap is forecast to continue until Friday with snow and ice weather warnings until 11:00 Thursday.

Harlech Castle arrived from the east light engine at a pristine Tan-y-bwlch with a couple of centimetres of snow at 09:59 and promptly departed towards Porthmadog. The loco was noted returning to Tan-y-bwlch with the two DZ wagons at 11:24 where it stabled over the lunch break. The train was gone by 16:20.

 

This westerly view (18/1/24) shows Harlech Castle passing through Tan-y-bwlch after overnight snowfall. The loco continued to collect wagons presumably from the nearby Whistling Curve relay site. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a webcam.

 

TfW examine TRAWS proposals for Bangor-Carmarthen 18/1/24

A BBC report reveals TfW has reported an estimated cost of £2 billion to restore the rail link between Bangor and Carmarthen. It might take 10 years to achieve and not be value for money but TRAWS campaigners dispute the figures as they say studies are not complete. The report's author TfW's Chief Executive James Price agrees that the route would offer shorter journey times even after reversal at Machynlleth and Aberystwyth. The report does admit that the 28 miles between Bangor and Afon Wen are a better prospect for reinstatement with higher traffic figures likely on this section which shares a trackbed with the WHR between Dinas and Caernarfon. A practical solution would require gauntleting of the WHR tracks within the 4' 8.5" standard gauge tracks and a common signalling system.

See BBC report.

 

Velinheli latest progress

Quarry Hunslet Velinheli is nearing completion with lagging and cladding of the boiler last weekend. The cladding sheets are now awaiting painting. For images see F&WHR Facebook page.

 

F&WHR 17/1/24

Wednesday 17/1/24 was forecast to be a very cold but sunny day with temperatures of -4C to 4C. There had been no further snow overnight and lying snow at Tan-y-bwlch was fading. The cold snap is forecast to continue until Friday with snow and ice weather warnings for Tuesday-Thursday.

Upnor Castle was noted emerging from Minffordd Yard at 11:01 possibly propelling a works train towards Tan-y-bwlch.

 

Another storm predicted 20/1/24

The cold snap is set to end on Saturday with increasing temperatures and the arrival of mild wet and windy stormy weather from the west. See North Wales Live report.

 

Alco Mountaineer report 16/1/24

The team returned to Glan-y-pwll after the festive period. The wood developments continued with the front supports to see if they can be connected to the smoke box saddle rather than the smoke box itself. A new lubricator drive similar to that used on the Garratts has also be mocked up. There is a new location for the reverser on the previously made rear frame supports. This is to stop the need to have a packing piece on the reach rod when the reverser was attached to the boiler. Lastly a set of sliding doors for the cab to see how they would fit in and in turn how easy they would be to use.
On the locomotive itself, focus turned to start disabling the cylinder pistons. This involves removing the piston rod from the cross head. The cotter pins were removed with the aid of a power pack and safely stored. The front cylinder and piston valve covers were removed and refitted to allow inspection of the bores, which will need to be measured in the near future to ascertain what work is required. Attempts were made to undo the little end pins out of the cross-head but a lack of the correct sized spanner prevented this from happening.
The removal of tubes continued with all of the welds in the firebox now ground down to allow the tubes to be removed from this end, a very essential but dirty job that the team will be glad to see the back of. They also started to tackle the remains of tubes in the smoke box.
More Non Destructive Testing was carried out with thicknesses being taken on the firebox tube plate and the inner fire box. All NDT results so far are as positive as the boiler shell. There is still a large amount of ground to cover with this task until volunteers can be certain of the condition of the boiler but they hope to reach a conclusion at the next working party. The team were very kindly lent the endoscope from the NG15 project. This small camera plugs into your phone and allows the interior of the boiler to be viewed. Upon viewing it was found that as with the boiler tubes the rest of the boiler is coated in the red layer of boiler treatment. It was decided that once the tubes have been removed the boiler should be washed out to remove as much of the dried boiler treatment as possible to avoid any confusion between it and the boiler plate work.
As ever there are some tidying jobs to do on site and two pickup loads of scrap were taken down to Minffordd. Two tarpaulins that had come loose were re secured and 3 old industrial welders were carefully drained of oil to allow the metal components to be taken away for the recycling and the oil to be safely disposed of next time at the railway's waste oil store.
Lastly a sub team began work to focus on how to store the vast amount of tools that have been found at the site. As can be seen in pictures the far corner of the workshop has now been kitted out with a shadow board and a good selection of tools hung upon it. Shelves have been added to the cabinet and the cupboards have started to be sorted though with the aim of streamlining the equipment storage on site.
As ever, thank you to the team whose determined efforts every working party are bringing the project ever closer to the goal volunteers are all waiting for.
There are many ways to support the project and get involved. Please find the Volunteer Appeal page on the Ffestiniog Railway society web site. https://www.ffestiniograilway.org.uk/full_article/mountaineer-appeal. Volunteers have their own website, where they have a selection of items for you to purchase to support the project. https://www.alco1265.org.uk/
Finally if you would like to get involved please contact pbooth@ffwhr.com for more information on how you can do this.

For images see Facebook page.

 

F&WHR 16/1/24

Tuesday 16/1/24 was forecast to be another chilly day with sunny periods and temperatures of 0 to 6C. There was a dusting of snow at Porthmadog and Tan-y-bwlch (at 130m asl) had a couple of centimetres and so probably at Rhyd Ddu as well as the latter has a higher elevation (200m). The cold snap is forecast to continue until Friday with snow and ice weather warnings for Tuesday-Thursday.

Harlech Castle was still at Tan-y-bwlch at 09:30 having been left there overnight but was started up and departed the station light engine at 09:55 towards Porthmadog. The loco was back with two loaded ballast wagons at 10:17, presumably from Whistling Curve relay and departed at 10:19 towards the east.

 

This westerly view (16/1/24) shows Harlech Castle standing at Tan-y-bwlch after overnight snowfall. The loco departed later to collect wagons from the nearby Whistling Curve relay site. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a webcam.

 

This westerly view (16/1/24) shows Harlech Castle hauling two wagons loaded with spent ballast wagons into Tan-y-bwlch from Whistling Curve relay area presumably for disposal at Dduallt. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a webcam.

 

MainLine news 15/1/24

66734 Platinum Jubilee hauled a Wembley Llandudno Junction working into the rusty Glan Conwy Yard on 15/1/24 possibly heralding a revival of rail freight to this terminal. The train left after a period suitable for loading so may have been a test working for Ashville Aggregates of West Drayton close to the M4/M25 junction on the Staines Branch line. The Thorney Mill depot in West London has received aggregate from other suppliers in the past.

 

F&WHR 15/1/24

Monday 15/1/24 was forecast to be another chilly day with sunny periods and temperatures of -2 to 4C. There was a dusting of snow at Tan-y-bwlch (130m) and so probably at Rhyd Ddu as well as the latter has a higher elevation (200m). The cold snap is forecast to continue until Friday with the possibility of snow and ice.

No public trains were planned today, though there might be stock movements as well as the continuing WMWP departmental workings with the ongoing works in Blaenau Ffestiniog and elsewhere. All three webcams were back in action again today (after no service 2 weeks running for the Porthmadog webcam). Unfortunately, there is reduced utility as the 'roll back time' function on the Minffordd webcam has been removed. This means that those supporters who like to spot train movements will have to occupy the F&WHR bandwidth for much longer rather than going on line at a random time and scrolling back through time.

Harlech Castle was noted light engine in the Tan-y-bwlch Up road at 11:15. The loco was still there at 16:05 with the platform still covered in a dusting of snow. Temperatures must have stayed below zero all day!

 

F&WHR 14/1/24

Sunday 14/1/24 was forecast to be another chilly day with sunny periods and temperatures of -1 to 6C. No public trains were planned today, though there might be stock movements as well as the continuing WMWP departmental workings with the ongoing works in Blaenau Ffestiniog and elsewhere. All three webcams were out of action again today (the thirteenth day running for the Porthmadog webcam) so it appears staff must be very busy upgrading the IT systems.

 

School visit 11-12/1/24

The F&WHR has occasional school visits providing an educational opportunity for pupils about the local slate industry etc. Blanche was turned out to shunt Minffordd Yard slate wagons for a local school on Thursday and Friday. See Friends of F&WHR Facebook page for images.

 

Yellow snow/ice weather warning for North Wales

Two weather warnings predict snow and ice for North Wales during the week ahead. See Met Office coverage,

 

F&WHR 13/1/24

Saturday 13/1/24 was forecast to be another chilly day with sunny periods and temperatures of 2 to 4C. No public trains were planned today, though there might be stock movements as well as the continuing WMWP departmental workings with the ongoing works in Blaenau Ffestiniog and elsewhere. All three webcams were out of action again today (the twelfth day running for the Porthmadog webcam) so it appears staff must be very busy upgrading the IT systems.

 

Cold snap next week?

Despite the forecast snow next week, the Met Office is now forecasting temperatures of up to 6C all week and no snow at sea level at Porthmadog or Caernarfon. It will however snow on the mountains providing a suitably alpine backdrop to the F&WHR for any works trains running. Beddgelert is forecast a light snowfall Sunday night and Monday night which might leave a light dusting around the height of Rhyd Ddu too. Similarly Blaenau Ffestiniog is forecast to have overnight snow Monday night and Tuesday night.

 

KS4415 update 12/1/24

The first working party of the New Year has now been completed and some good progress made on KS4415, the Kerr Stuart experimental diesel shunter trialled on the WHR and FR in 1928-9. Volunteers finally got round to drilling the fixing holes in the angle that attaches the bonnet to the chassis. They had put this off because it was thought it would be a nightmare spotting through the old holes in the footplate, but as is often the case, it was not that bad when the volunteers actually got on with it. They also drilled the rivet holes in the piece of angle at the front of the bonnet. The end of the drilling is nearly in sight! To access some of what was being drilled and bolted volunteers cut the front access hatch out. That had been left solid to keep the strength in the sheet, but now the angle ring is bolted to the access hatch it is stiff enough.
Before the volunteers split the bonnet and cab they drilled the fixing holes for the brass window frames, so the location is fixed. The bonnet is now off and virtually ready for riveting, although there is a lot of cleaning up to do first. Volunteers also did some fettling of the main drive gear cover and hopefully that will go on the loco before too long. The cover was bent out of shape and the drain plug at the bottom had a fixing sheared off in it, probably the result of various off-roading adventures in Mauritius!

Restoration of the loco is being progressed as a volunteer project. Let us hope the loco is operational before its centenary on the WHR in 5 year's time when the loco was the Bryngwyn pilot and later operated the Winter passenger service to South Snowdon (Rhyd Ddu). For more information and images see KS4415 Blogspot or Facebook page.

 

F&WHR 12/1/24

Friday 12/1/24 was forecast to be another chilly day with sunny periods and temperatures of 1 to 6C. No public trains were planned today, though there might be stock movements as well as the continuing WMWP departmental workings with the ongoing works in Blaenau Ffestiniog and elsewhere. All three webcams were out of action again today (the eleventh day running for the Porthmadog webcam) so it appears staff must be busy upgrading the IT systems.

 

WHR lineside clearance team 20-21/1/24

The WHR Lineside Clearance Weekend planned for this weekend (13-14/1/24) has now moved to the 20-21/1/24. Volunteers will be working with the General Manager out of Dinas starting at 8.30am and back by dark (sunset is about 16:30 but Works Trains often return an hour before this given cloudy conditions). Please send a Private Message on Facebook if you wish to join the gang. The group will probably use Caernarfon Castle and the WHR Mess Car No.111 as a base.

 

Revision of 20mph zones 11/1/24

A massive campaign and petition has seen opposition to blanket 20mph zones grow in Wales. Almost half a million of Wales 3 million population have signed the petition opposing the lowering of speed limit to 20mph. Some 'jobsworth' North Wales councils have redesignated over 99% of 30mph roads as 20mph zones whereas in South Wales some councils have reduced the speed limit to 20mph in no more than 90% of 30mph zones. WAG is reconsidering the issue. See Wales on line story and Daily Post story.

 

F&WHR 11/1/24

Thursday 11/1/24 was forecast to be another chilly day with sunny periods and temperatures of 0 to 6C. No public trains were planned today, though there might be stock movements as well as the continuing WMWP departmental workings with the ongoing works in Blaenau Ffestiniog and elsewhere. All three webcams were out of action today (the tenth day running for the Porthmadog webcam) so it appears staff must be busy upgrading the IT systems.

 

More hope for Wylfa 11/1/24

Government announcements about the Nuclear Power Station programme have identified Wylfa as one of two potential sites for the next large scale nuclear power station. Britain's aging nuclear power stations currently provide about 15% of baseload energy 24/7 which is something other carbon free resources cannot match in terms of reliability. However, this is set to decrease as the existing power stations reach the end of their lives. The Government has committed to renewing nuclear in the face of Russian gas supplies being interrupted by the Ukraine War. See BBC News story.

The Wylfa site has a lot going for it as land has already been allocated for Wylfa B in plans abandoned by Tories stop/go nuclear policies of recent years. The Valley Nuclear Electric (nuclear waste flask) siding would be reactivated and still receives GBRf path retention/staff familiarisation trains. Construction materials could be delivered via the former Rhosgoch Tank Farm site (the oil storage facility for the long closed Anglesey Oil Pipeline) on the Amlwch Branch which could be rehabilitated quickly. A 5 mile long temporary haul road across intervening farmland could avoid HGV traffic on inadequate local loads.

In addition to this development, planning work is still underway for a Small Modular Reactor site at the former Trawsfynydd nuclear power station where, again, materials could be delivered by train if the Trawsfynydd branch was rehabilitated. However, the SMR concept is still under development and a production line of self contained reactors that can simply be plugged into the mains is a few years off yet whereas proven large scale reactor designs are available off the shelf and under construction in several countries.

 

Spooners closed until 16/1/24

Due to unforeseen circumstances encountered during the maintenance work currently taking place at Spooner’s, the F&WHR will be delaying the reopening until Tuesday, 16/1/24. The team involved in the maintenance work are working hard to make sure these vital improvements are completed so that Spooner's can welcome customers to a new and improved experiences soon!

 

F&WHR 10/1/24

Wednesday 10/1/24 was forecast to be another chilly bright day with temperatures of 1 to 4C. No public trains were planned today, though there might be stock movements as well as the continuing WMWP departmental workings with the ongoing works in Blaenau Ffestiniog and elsewhere. The Porthmadog webcam was out of action for the ninth day running, so staff must be busy with other tasks.

No trains were noted running on Wednesday.

 

Linda outshopped 10/1/24

Hunslet 2-4-0STT LINDA has just emerged from the Boston Lodge Paint Shop, revealing the results of the work carried out by the volunteer painting crew. LINDA will now be winterised and join the other locos stabled on shed until the start of the new season.
The F&WHR would like to thank all who carried out the work on the loco. If you would like to help out and fancy volunteering on the F&WHR, there is plenty of information on the website with details of all the activities planned.
See www.festrail.co.uk/volunteering to discover more.

 

This northerly Boston Lodge view (10/1/24) shows the newly painted LINDA. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera.

 

Snowstorm predicted 19/1/23

The latest medium range forecast predicts deep snow over North Wales disrupting travel and activity from 19/1/24. While no passenger trains are scheduled to be operated at this time, works trains are likely. Weather maps for a week on Friday suggest over 10cm of snow is likely at Porthmadog with more potentially blocking the mountain passes to the east.

See Daily Post report.

 

F&WHR 9/1/24

Tuesday 9/1/24 was forecast to be another chilly bright day with temperatures of 1 to 4C. No public trains were planned today, though there might be stock movements as well as the continuing WMWP departmental workings with the ongoing works in Blaenau Ffestiniog and elsewhere. The Porthmadog webcam was out of action for the eighth day running, so staff must be busy with other tasks.

Upnor Castle was noted leaving Minffordd Yard with the Mess Car No.1111 in the morning at 09:22 to a worksite in the east with plenty of volunteers and staff on board and returned 2 hours later. The train left again in the afternoon and was noted returning to Minffordd Yard at about 15:30 to close the day's activities.

 

Funkey weekend 6-7/1/24

The WHR Funkey Caernarfon Castle was working with the track gang near Waunfawr on Saturday and then near Tryfan Junction on Sunday. The train included former push-pull Driving Observation Car No.111 which is now the WHR's Mess Car. The main job was lineside clearance, preventing undergrowth scratching the sides of rolling stock and, for that matter, passengers on open coaches!

 

This easterly view (7/1/24) shows Caernarfon Castle with the WHR Mess Car No.111 at Tryfan Junction during lineside clearance work. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image courtesy Tom Waldren and was taken on a digital camera.

 

F&WHR 8/1/24

Monday 8/1/24 was forecast to be another chilly bright day with temperatures of 1 to 4C. It appeared there had been a ground frost. No public trains were planned today, though there might be stock movements as well as the continuing WMWP departmental workings. The Porthmadog webcam was out of action for the seventh day running.

At 08:22 Upnor Castle was noted exiting Minffordd Yard with one empty B wagon (B2925). Some attention to the points was necessary as they appeared to be manually wound over after an apparent failure of the electrical point motors. At 08:38 the loco propelled the wagon towards Boston Lodge. There was further attention to the points at 09:00 with more manual winding of the point motors back to the 'Normal' setting. So when Upnor Castle returned with a B wagons full of Boston Lodge rubbish at 09:25 it had to stop west of the crossover. After consultation the loco proceeded through the station at 09:26 on the normal Up line and crossed over at the eastern end of the loop before propelling the B wagon into the yard at 09:36.

No further loco movements were observed.

 

Blaenau WMWP 8/1/24

Work on the reconstruction of the platform at Blaenau Ffestiniog is well underway. The project will continue over a number of years and this year will see the platform edgings, surfaces and drainage tackled. Further work next winter will deal with the gutters and canopy roof. Thanks are due to the members of the Ffestiniog Railway Society members whose generosity has allowed the society board to fund these much needed improvement works.

 

This easterly view (8/1/24) shows the excavation of the platform edgings at Blaenau Ffestiniog. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera.

 

Mainline News 7/1/24

Class 37 No.97302 was on duty on rail replacement work at Cemmaes Road. A Colas loco has also been involved over the weekend PW work.

 

Llangollen News

Excellent progress has been made with 03162 at Llangollen and it is possible the loco may appear in traffic in the not too distant future. The resident Class 26/31/47 are all in good condition. The 2024 timetable will see a similar train service to last year with a similar number of diesel turns. The railway could do with a visit by more prototypical locos. It has been 5 years since 37240 left and much longer since a Class 24/25 visited the line despite the abundance of these smaller locos on other railways.

 

GVT Trust news

The Glyn Valley Tramway Trust has launched a website and continues to run its Facebook page. An item of rolling stock (regauged to 2' 3" in common with the TR and Corris Railway) has been delivered and a siding laid for the future Rolling Stock shed. The station building will be rebuilt and the line extended for just over a mile to Pont Faen, down a 1 in 60 bank. The run round loop in the station will also be completed and the railway hopes to acquire passenger rolling stock and a diesel/battery loco initially though a replica GVT Tramway loco must be a long term aim. Meanwhile the separate organisation that runs the museum at Glyn Ceiriog goes from strength to strength and has recently laid track in the platforms. See museum website.

 

F&WHR 7/1/24

The bright colder weather arrived for Sunday with sunny periods forecast and temperatures of -2 to 5C and it appeared there had been a ground frost. No public trains were planned today, though there might be stock movements as well as the continuing WMWP departmental workings. The Porthmadog webcam was out of action for the sixth day running.

No works train movements were noted on Sunday.

 

Mainline news 1-5/1/24

Three car Class 197s have begun to appear on the Blaenau Ffestiniog branch. These ugly DMUs at least provide better accommodation and views from the window that the Class 150s they replace. No.197105 was on duty on 2/1/24. These trains also have started working on the Borderlands Line where the Class 230 battery EMUs are still failing to impress.

Silver DB liveried 67029 Royal Diamond made it to Holyhead on 5/1/24 with 1W96 the 17:14 from Cardiff Central, the surviving North Wales Coast loco hauled, on one of the days it has not been substituted by inadequate DMU rolling stock.

 

This southerly view (5/1/24) shows Royal Diamond at Holyhead on the afternoon train from Cardiff. This one surviving loco hauled train on the North Wales Coast is often substituted by inadequate DMUs to the disgust of TfW passengers. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image copyright Ross Austin and was taken on a digital camera.

 

F&WHR 6/1/24

Colder weather was forecast for Saturday (and the week ahead) with showers and sunny periods and temperatures of 0-8C. No public trains were planned today, though there might be stock movements as well as the continuing WMWP departmental workings. The Porthmadog webcam was out of action for the fifth day running.

The first movement noted today was Upnor Castle at 09:07 propelling the PW containers, 2 small FR wagons and the FR Mess car out of Minffordd Yard towards the east. The same train returned at 15:40, passing through Minffordd for the yard to close the day's activities.

 

Velinheli boiler test 4/1/24

The new boiler for ex-Dinorwic Quarry Hunslet Velinheli had its hydraulic test witnessed by the BES Inspector on 4/1/24. The boiler was tested to 360psi (twice design pressure) and no leaks were seen. Although designed to 180psi the safety valves will be set at 120psi as this is the original pressure for this loco. This popular small loco is likely to back in traffic later this year.

 

F&WHR 5/1/24

The mild Xmas weather has gone away and Friday was forecast to start with heavy rain day and temperatures of 3-8C but improve with sunshine and showers later. No public trains were planned today, though there might be stock movements as well as the continuing WMWP. The Porthmadog webcam was out of action for the fourth day running.

The first movement noted today was Upnor Castle propelling BZ2004 with ballast and tamping equipment and a DZ wagon loaded with ballast out of Minffordd Yard at 09:01, returning from the east, light engine at 10:08. At 10:55 Upnor Castle re-emerged from the yard propelling a DZ wagon loaded with ballast and the FR's Mess Car at 10:55. At 14:55 Upnor Castle hauled the FR Mess Car No.1111 back through Minffordd into the yard to conclude the day's activities.

 

Slate Waggons progress 4/1/24

Slate Waggon volunteers are back at work in the Blacksmiths Shop at Boston Lodge this winter maintaining vehicles which make up the F&WHR's famous gravity slate train. So far efforts have focussed on stripping down four vehicles to replace the floors, overhaul brake gear and carry out bodywork repairs. They also achieve a few other jobs along the way.

 

Aber Log train problems 29-30/12/23

Running the Chirk log train just before New Year presented several problems for NR. The booked Friday working on 29/12 with 97303 saw the loco trapped in the run round loop at Aberystwyth by a broken ground frame key and so an early morning light engine move was authorised for Saturday morning from Coleham with 97304. The rescue loco extracted the rake from the run round and propelled it back into the main platform allowing the original train engine to remain on the rear to top and tail the logs. The train (6C56) departed Aberystwyth 17 minutes early at 09:50 and ran to time over Talerddig Summit. However it seems 97303 developed a problem and the train struggled into Welshpool almost an hour late causing delays to other services and the need for one train to pass wrong line through Welshpool to avoid the log train stuck in platform 1. 97304 took the train forward after 97303 was shunted to a refuge siding.

This was not the end of the problems though. 56094 replaced the Class 37 at Coleham but itself experienced traction problems and the train was terminated at Gobowen 35 minutes late. This led to the following Cardiff-Holyhead being terminated trapped behind it and subsequent northbound trains passing wrong line through the Up platform. There does not seem to be a record of the train completing its journey over the next several days on RTT so it may still remain in the refuge siding at Gobowen or shunted onto the Cambrian Heritage Railways exchange sidings. The Aberystwyth Logs did not run on Friday 5/1/24 or as the 09:50 6C56 Saturday 6/1/24 (the back-up path).

 

F&WHR 4/1/24

The mild Xmas weather has gone away and Thursday was forecast to be a sunny day with temperatures of 3-8C. No trains were planned today, though following the Festive Trains on both the FR and the WHR, it seems likely that there might be stock movements as well as the continuing WMWP. The three wagons left at Tan-y-bwlch from the Whistling Curve relay before Xmas were still blocking the Down line on Wednesday but had been removed by the end of the day. The Porthmadog webcam was out of action for the third day running.

The first movement noted today was Upnor Castle arriving at Minffordd wrong line from the west at 08:40 propelling a B wagon and entering Minffordd Yard at 08:45 with B1630 full of random construction material presumably from the Boston Lodge rebuild. The train reappeared at 09:37 reversing into the loop before departing at 09:38 for Boston Lodge. At 15:18 yesterday's PW train returned from presumably Blaenau Ffestiniog running directly into Minffordd Yard.

 

F&WHR 3/1/24

The unseasonably mild Xmas weather continued into Monday with temperatures of 6-9C forecast and an overcast drizzly afternoon with weather warnings out about possible flooding. The strong winds from Storm Henk have dies down. No trains were planned today, though following the Festive Trains on both the FR and the WHR, it seems likely that there might be stock movements as well as the continuing WMWP. The WHR line in Porthmadog is looking rather rusty as there have been few movements for some weeks on this route. The three wagons left at Tan-y-bwlch from the Whistling Curve relay before Xmas were still blocking the Down line on Wednesday ready to restart the WMWP so any other trains will have to continue to pass through Tan-y-bwlch using the Up platform reversibly. The Porthmadog webcam was out of action for the second day running.

The first movement noted today was Harlech Castle going up the line eastwards light engine passing Minffordd at 11:13, before  reversing into the yard at 11:20 by using the unusual route of the points at the east end of the station. At 11:48 the loco emerged from the yard with a PW train consisting of BZ2004 carrying a 360 degree excavator, a small FR wagon, the container wagon, a second small FR wagon and the FR Mess Car on the rear.

By late afternoon the three wagons left over Xmas had been removed from the Down line at Tan-y-bwlch but the PW train was nowhere to be seen so it may have stabled at Glan-y-pwll for the planned work at Blaenau Ffestiniog.

 

F&WHR 2/1/24

The unseasonably mild Xmas weather continued into Monday with temperatures of 8-10C forecast and an overcast rainy afternoon continuing overnight with weather warnings out about possible flooding. No trains were planned today, though following the final day of the Festive Trains on both the FR and the WHR, it seems likely that there might be stock movements as well as a resumption of the WMWP. Volunteer groups are said to be working off the Xmas cheer! The WHR line in Porthmadog is looking very rusty as there have been no movements for some weeks on this route though a stock transfer is anticipated for 2/1/24. The three wagons left at Tan-y-bwlch from the Whistling Curve relay before Xmas are still blocking the Down line. They were still present on Tuesday ready to restart the WMWP so any other trains will have to continue to pass through Tan-y-bwlch using the Up platform reversibly.

The Porthmadog webcam was out of action for much of the day. The first move came at 09:39 when Harlech Castle emerged from Minffordd Yard propelling the cable drum wagon and dragging the FR's Mess Car and headed towards Tan-y-bwlch. Storm Henk followed up the dousing with strong winds.

 

Stock move 1/1/24

There was a stock move from Boston Lodge to Dinas on 1/1/24. The 5 coach set may have been to replace The Cwellyn rake. The return working was double headed with Caernarfon Castle from Dinas to Rhyd Ddu as it consisted of a full WHR rake going for annual maintenance at Boston Lodge, which is over the timing load for a single Funkey.

 

This southerly view (1/1/24) shows Vale of Ffestiniog heading a stock transfer train to Dinas from Boston Lodge. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image copyright Tom Waldren and was taken on a digital camera.

 

2024 Events

Additional events may be organised at short notice. In previous years for example there have been Halloween Trains.

Click on the image to enlarge and click again to enlarge fully if available. Poster copyright F&WHR.

 

Bill goes to Blaenau

1/1/24 saw Bill making its way to Blaenau after its recent repaint. The loco took a rake of small FR wagons ready for the relay scheme.

 

This easterly view (1/1/24) shows Bill resplendent in its new paint scheme just before its trip to Blaenau Ffestiniog. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera.

 

F&WHR shortlisted for HRA Awards

The F&WHR is delighted to announce that the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways have been shortlisted for two prestigious awards at the upcoming HRA 2024 Annual Awards:
- Coiley Award for Steam Locomotive Engineering – James Spooner
- HRA Award for Rising Stars – Osian Hughes (Marketing Lead)
The winners will be announced at the 2024 HRA Awards in Brighton on the evening of Saturday, 10/2/23.
Read the full story here: https://www.festrail.co.uk/2024-hra-awards/

 

Happy New Year

Your webmaster would like to wish all readers a happy, healthy and successful New Year.

 

F&WHR 1/1/24

The unseasonably mild Xmas weather continued into Monday with temperatures of 7-8C forecast and  an overcast rainy afternoon. The weather started off sunny. Two trains were planned today, the final day of the Festive Trains on both the FR and the WHR and it seems likely that the WMWP has been paused until 2/1/24 though volunteer groups are said to be working off the Xmas cheer! The WHR line in Porthmadog is looking very rusty as there have been no movements for some weeks on this route though a stock transfer is anticipated for 2/1/24. The three wagons left at Tan-y-bwlch from the Whistling Curve relay and still blocking the Down line were still present on Monday ready to restart the WMWP so the Christmas Mountain Spirit will have to continue to pass through Tan-y-bwlch using the Up platform reversibly.

Steam was being raised at Boston Lodge at 08:30 on Monday and Vale of Ffestiniog appeared to be assisting with the early shunting in the Carriage Shed. The  ECS for the Christmas Mountain Spirit eventually came across The Cob hauled by Blanche and James Spooner at 09:40. The pair then ran round at 09:45 before being coupled up with Blanche as pilot. Departure came a few minutes late at 10:03. The train made good time and arrived at Minffordd at 10:11 and departing 4 minutes later. Arrival at Tan-y-bwlch came at 10:40, departing 7 minutes later. The train appeared to be lightly loaded despite the fine morning weather.

 

This westerly view (1/1/24) shows Blanche piloting James Spooner through Minffordd with the n10:00 Christmas Mountain Spirit. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a web camera.

 

The return working passed Minffordd at 12:48 and arrived at Porthmadog about 10 minutes later. At 13:28 Vale of Ffestiniog departed the WHR platform with an ECS 5 coach train for Dinas. James Spooner left single headed at 13:33. Blanche was standing in the seawall siding with an empty B wagon at 16:33 and started shunting. James Spooner arrived at Minffordd at 13:41 and departed at 13:43. The train arrived back at Porthmadog at 16:43. departing with the ECS at 16:56 to close the day's activities. Blanche was shunting the two water wagons at 13:48. The WHR water carrier was being emptied at the disposal point to prevent freezing the pipes.

 

This easterly view (1/1/24) shows Vale of Ffestiniog departing with an ECS for Dinas while James Spooner readies for departure on the final 13:30 Christmas Mountain Spirit. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to expand fully where available. Image courtesy F&WHR and was taken on a web camera.

 

The train passed Minffordd at 16:17 and arrived back at Porthmadog at 16:26. The Fairlie ran round at 16:31 and departed with the ECS at 16:35 to close the Festive season trains.

 

Festive season report

The F&WHR's General Manager has given this commercial report on a successful Festive Season:

ONE BIG 'THANK YOU'..!
As we head towards the New Year, we've been looking back at our Christmas celebrations and activities. It's been a fantastic festive period again and the looks of joy on the faces of visitors young and old has been wonderful to see.
In total, 843 adults and 828 children visited Santa in his Magical Christmas Carriage Grotto in Harbour Station, while also enjoying the station decorations and footplate rides.
On the Welsh Highland Railway, 1378 adults and 971 children travelled on our Santa Trains - meeting Santa and the Elves during the journey, and enjoying tasty treats from their Christmas Hampers along the way.
Now, as 2023 draws to a close, we'd like to thank everyone who came to visit us this year, everyone who supported us from afar by shopping online or telling friends and family about the wonderful time they could have if only they'd visit the F&WHR, everyone who supported us with donations to appeals, everyone who spent time promoting the F&WHR at events and venues across the UK ... and especially, everyone who came to work on the F&WHR this year - whether as volunteer or paid staff, as one can't exist without the other.
So - it's a big 'THANK YOU' to you all from the F&WHR..!
Make a note in your new diary that F&WHR services restart from 23/4/24...
BLWYDDYN NEWYDD DDA
HAPPY NEW YEAR..!

 

Trackwork Volunteering 2024

Volunteering is currently organised differently due to the Covid-19 outbreak. We have a mix of weekend and weekday working parties. The Black Hand, Tuesday Gang and Rest of the World Gangs will be very glad to accept your help. Contact the relevant organiser to let him know when you plan to join us. Please do not just turn up as that makes it difficult for us to plan ahead.

The programme for 2024 is fortnightly for the North Wales Track Gang in RED but details are still awaited for the ROWG in BLACK:

January   13-14/1/24      
February          
March          
April          
May          
June          
July          
August          
September          
October          
November          
December          

Bank Holiday weekend

! Subject to confirmation when the Winter Major Works Programme is available

WW-Working week Saturday-Thursday

The Tuesday Gang expects to be operating most Tuesdays.

Arrangements may change so contact the working party organiser before you commit yourself to joining us just to make sure.

Contacts

If you intend to join one of the weekend or Tuesday gangs, please contact the appropriate organiser. If you are interested in weekday working or have any queries about track work volunteering, please contact Phil Nock.

Tuesday Gang:

North Wales Black Hand Gang (BHG): Dafydd Thomas Phone: 01248 681019 Email: dthomas@ffw

Rest of The World Gang (ROWG): Phil Nock Email: pnock@ffwhr.com

If you intend to join one of the weekend or Tuesday Gang days, please contact the appropriate organiser. If you are interested in weekday working or have any queries about track work volunteering, please contact Paul Bradshaw. See Contacts page.

Gradient graph

John Hopkins has contributed this image of the gradient profile of the WHR. It makes clear how much of a mountain we have climbed and how steep the drop through Beddgelert is. Maybe most of all, it reveals the challenge facing northbound trains after they stop at Beddgelert!

This image is courtesy/copyright John Hopkins and is derived from data courtesy John Sreeves with additional work by Michael Bentley. Click on the image to enlarge.

Site development

If you have suggestions for development of this site, please contact me by email at the address at the top of the page.

Comments

If you would like to make a comment about this website, why not visit my Guestbook.

If you have a correction or require a reply please leave your email address or, more simply, send an email directly to my email address shown near the top of this page, just after the list of links to other pages.

 

[Sign My Guestbook] [View My Guestbook] Powered by E-Guestbooks Server.

 

Maps & Plans and links

Click here for Steve Harris' /WHRS' full list of Historical Maps and Gradient Profiles

DVD material can be purchased from Jon Marsh who is the WHRS' (DVD Only) Mail Order officer. All other materials are now sold in the F&WHRS shop.

Click here for the Mail Order web page

Click here for the Official WHR website

Click here for Official WHHR site

Click here for FR Company websites

Click here for Welsh Highland Heritage Group

 

V4.4787 updated 28/2/24