WHR

The 40 km Dream

Archive Page

January 1997

V4.2 updated 23/5/20

with news to 15-17/2/97

 

This page is organised as a timeline.

 

The 40km Dream

This is the first part of a regular series of the history and images concerning the construction of the WHR, initially prior to the start of this website. Hopefully those who are housebound through Covid-19 social distancing (like your webmaster) will find it an interesting read. The title '40 mile Dream', featured on websites and magazines, comes from the idea that when the WHR, length when complete approximately 25 miles, is added to the FR, the total length of the narrow gauge network approaches 40 miles. The WHR element is 40.2km so, as the WHR is a metric railway, the title of this story is the '40 km Dream'!

Episode 1 (November 1995-January 1997)

11/95 Millennium Commission Grant for Caernarfon-Dinas 735,000

12/95 GC grants Planning Permission for Caernarfon-Dinas

Mid/96 GC agrees 999 year lease of Caernarfon-Dinas trackbed for 999, signed early 1997.

26/7/96 Un-rebuilt Funkey named Castell Caernarfon in Castle Square Caernarfon (see images)

Mid/96 GC start moving out of Dinas in preparation for sale to F&WHR in December 1996

Late 96 WHRS working at Glan-y-pwll preparing track material from ex-Channel Tunnel Narrow Gauge Railway materials and helping prepare new shed and test track for Garratt testing

9/96 Some 700 tonnes of rail arrive Dinas from SAR Umzinto-Donnybrook Line via Immingham plus B wagons with track components (see images)

10/96 European Regional Development Fund Grant 735,000 awarded being matching the Millennium Grant and together covering the estimated cost of getting the Caernarfon-Dinas section open.

30/10/96 Garratt No.138 on test at ACR following refurbishment and subsequently shipped to Immingham

30/10/96 Six vacuum braked coaches ordered from Winsons in a 400,000 contract for delivery in June 97, following granting of a Welsh Tourist Board Grant of 100,000 towards the cost.

11/96 500 tonnes of rail arrive Dinas from same source including the tenth B wagon of track components

18/11/96 Tender deadline for construction of trackbed, consultants Travers Morgan recommended John Mowlem PLC's 705,000 contract

11/12/96 Mowlem sign contract set up site at Dinas. The contract included waterproofing of two viaducts, making the trackbed on the east side of the formation and diverting the Lon Eifion long distance footpath to the west side, fencing, drainage and bottom ballast plus other minor works.

20/12/96 Dinas station site purchased from GC for 170,000

28/12/97 WHLR staff/volunteers move into Dinas and lay three panels of track into Goods shed for the Funkey.

6/1/97 Mowlem staff move into Dinas and start work almost immediately scarifying the trackbed

14/1/97 Castell Caernarfon arrives Dinas and is stored in the old Goods Shed on the first lengths of rail

15/1/97 Start of Works event with Caernarfon Castle (see image)

3/97 300 tonnes of rail as complete panels arrive Dinas from same source

It is interesting to look back at the initial plans and they change and evolved due to circumstances.

In 1996 plans for the WHR got well underway with EU grants applied for and a schedule for opening in 1997. With closure of Trawsfynydd Nuclear Reactor some funds were also available for local developments for engineering and the FR built the new shed on the Glan-y-pwll branch. The track was relaid on the branch with a headshunt at the Afon Barlwyd bridge and a three road shed alongside BR tracks near the Crosville depot. This shed would later become home to No.138 and a test track for Garratts. The WHRS were active here sorting out track materials recovered from the narrow gauge Channel Tunnel construction railway which were being disposed. A set of jacks came to the F&WHR from the same source.

Notes of WHR plans made in this period are interesting to read.

September 1996: Track arrives at Dinas

October 1996: Garratt arriving Glan-y-pwll depot

November/December 1996 : Trackbed clearance starts

January/February 1997: Tracklaying starts

March 1997: Track in Caernarfon station/Garratt delivered to Dinas

April 1997: Trial runs

May 1997: Steaming

June 1997: Snagging

July 1997: Public Opening

Due to some slippage in the schedule, the opening did not occur until 13/10/97 and missed the Summer season holiday traffic!

Scanning and dating the WHR archive has taken a considerable amount of time, partly due too poor record keeping, partly because some slides need cleaning up but mostly because they were mixed up at some stage and do not have printed dates/numbers on mounts. A few of these photos were published in Railway Magazine for a short period but all predate this website which started about 2000. These pictures were taken around the end of August 1995 with a processing date of 10/9/95.

 

This southerly view (30?/8/95) shows the trackbed on the narrow shelf in the gorge at Plas-y-nant. The landowner claimed right of access over the Plas-y-nant bridge which was to result in a gated cantilevered footbridge being required and apparently never used as with the footpath crossing immediately to the north! Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 SLR camera. Slide scanned with Minolta DiMAGE ScanDual III AF2840 and post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This southerly view (30?/8/95) shows the Caernarfon station site used as a car park at that time as viewed from Segontium Terrace footbridge. Gwynedd Council had provided railway style gates on the Lon Eifion to restrict access to vehicles. There was as similar gate at Hendy Crossing. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 SLR camera. Slide scanned with Minolta DiMAGE Scan Dual III AF2840 and post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This southerly view (30?/8/95) shows the Caernarfon station site used as a car park at that time with Caernarfon Castle framed by Segontium Terrace footbridge. Originally the Afon Wen and Llanberis branches passed under this bridge and the horse worked Docks Branch took off to the left just after the bridge where the formation became wider. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 SLR camera. Slide scanned with Minolta DiMAGE ScanDual III AF2840 and post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Engineers examined Pont Croesor and determined that the existing lintels that carried the WHR were sufficiently strong to carry the rebuilt railway. Initially a concrete ballasted deck was proposed. The bridge was rebuild by Gwynedd Council in 1994 with a new concrete deck and new high impact resistance highway balustrades. As GC was aware that the WHR was being planned care was taken to ensure the railway alignment was unimpeded. The initial plans were for a concrete deck with track ballast trough. Plans changed with the wider loading gauge and a steel beam structure was eventually built slightly cantilevered upstream to the west to allow for wider rolling stock and a walkway.

 

This northerly view (5-6?/4/96) shows the line of the WHR on the vacant piers adjacent to the recently rebuilt Pont Croesor road bridge. The studs of the holding down bolts are still visible in the concrete lintels. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 SLR camera. Slide scanned with Minolta DiMAGE ScanDual III AF2840 and post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Track materials were being lifted from the Donnybrook line in South Africa, stored in B wagon bodies to be delivered to Dinas, with extra bogies purchased for coaches. On the rolling stock side two NG16 Garratts had been purchased Nos.138/143 and two Funkeys from PPC Porth Elizabeth SA. Winsons in Daventry had the order for the initial rake of coaches and a giant track laying machine that it was hoped would mechanise the laying of preassembled track panels. A Pullman to be named Bodysgallen was being donated by the owner of the Luxury Spa of the same name at Llandudno. Initially 10 forty foot coaches were to be ordered with a design speed of 25-30 mph in view of the 25 mile length of the WHR. Similar coaches on the Port Elizabeth line in South Africa were operated at 30mph. In the event an initial tranche of 5 coaches (plus the Pullman) was ordered for delivery in September 1997.

 

This easterly view (17/6/96) shows a BR DMU heading towards Llandudno Junction passing the new Glan-y-pwll shed which was to become the initial operating base of the WHRS and see trackworks. The shed was soon to see the first work on an NG16 and three roads were laid inside. A connecting test track was laid from the shed to a headshunt and back along the old trackbed alongside the Afon Barlwyd to the junction with the FR to the right. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

The WHR's Funkey was unaltered given the larger loading gauge designed for the line. It is a large loco for narrow gauge measuring 31' by 7' and weighing 27 tonnes. The loco is vacuum braked as is all F&WHR rolling stock and has a 350hp Cummins diesel power unit. The 6 cylinder unit is turbocharged and linked with a fluid flywheel to the final drive.

 

This easterly view (26/7/96) shows the unaltered Funkey Castell Caernarfon in new maroon livery displayed in Y Maes, Caernarfon town square. The loco was to be named shortly afterwards. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This southerly view (26/7/96) shows the Funkey being named Castell Caernarfon by Dafydd Wigley, the local MP, Tony Smare and Mike Schumann in the rain. Unusually for the FR it was monolingual, without a English nameplate Caernarfon Castle on the other side. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This southerly view (26/7/96) shows the Funkey being named Castell Caernarfon by Dafydd Wigley, the local MP, Tony Smare and Mike Schumann in the rain. Given the weather there were few onlookers! Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This southerly view (26/7/96) shows the Funkey being named Castell Caernarfon by Dafydd Wigley, the local MP, Tony Smare and Mike Schumann in the rain. Unusually for the FR it was monolingual, without a English nameplate Caernarfon Castle on the other side. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This easterly view (26/7/96) following the naming shows a spare nameplate Castell Caernarfon being presented to Dafydd Wigley, the local MP by Mike Schumann. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This easterly view (26/7/96) following the naming shows a spare nameplate Castell Caernarfon being presented to Dafydd Wigley, the local MP by Mike Schumann. An information shop was opened on Y Maes and a teenager won the prize of a model railway and later became a buffet attendant! Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This easterly view (26/7/96) following the naming shows the loco getting thoroughly wet after the ceremony. The loco was on display for a few days before being moved to Dinas, following the FR taking possession of the site. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This southerly view (26/7/96) shows the complete trackbed north of St Helens Road bridge and passing over the Gwyrfai viaduct. Gwynedd Council had just completed the new A487 Gwyrfai Bridge and included in the design in collaboration with the FR, space for the WHR and the Lon Eifion long distance cycleway. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This northerly view (26/7/96) shows the complete trackbed with the new St Helens Road raised up to pass over the new bridge, previously it had passed under the railway. The design allowed for the new WHR Funkey loading gauge with the Lon Eifion long distance cycleway on the left with some ballast on the right for the future railway. This was arguably the first section of the railway to be completed but will require further alteration if the standard gauge Bangor-Afonwen link is reopened. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This southerly view (26/7/96) shows the propped Coed Helen lane bridge. The original Carnarvonshire Railway was build with structures completed for double track in future but there was never more than a single track. The prop needed to be replaced and moved to the right as the trackbed would be on the left in this view. GC was responsible for overbridges and eventually replaced the prop with a new structure that gave adequate railway clearance. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Things started to move quickly in mid-1996 with the Gwynedd Council (GC) site at Dinas sold to the FR and evacuated over the next few months. Track materials were purchased from the redundant SAR Donnybrook line and shipped to the UK but at times it was a race between the locals and the contractors to remove the rail in South Africa. Some came as panels and some disassembled for use on curves. Track components came in B wagons which were stored at Dinas up on the bank behind the future Dock Siding. The following views were taken on 30/9/96 by invitation.

 

This easterly archive view (30/9/96) shows some of the workshops retained at Dinas that had been constructed by Welsh Water. B1899 complete with bogies and filled with track components stands in front of the shed. The shed was later to be known as the Clip shed where many track clips were cleaned and greased. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This southerly archive view (30/9/96) shows the Goods Shed at Dinas and some initial clearance of the Welsh Water site sufficient for the delivery and storage of track materials. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This southerly archive view (30/9/96) shows the convoy of lorries delivering loose rail to Dinas parked in the area that was to become the future platform. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This southerly archive view (30/9/96) shows bundles of 5 rails being unloaded to a stack on the site of the future Carriage Shed. In the background are the Welsh Water offices that were soon to be removed. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This northerly archive view (30/9/96) shows the pile of rails growing. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This northerly archive view (30/9/96) shows the B wagon bodies, still with bogies attached and full of track fittings, stored on the bank about the future Dock Siding. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This southerly archive view (30/9/96) shows the Clip shed on the left and the erstwhile Gwynedd Council offices. A pile of ballast has been delivered presumably to level the site as tracklaying was not to start until the following Spring as the constrictor Mowlem refused volunteer access to the site whilst it was under construction. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This northerly archive view (30/9/96) shows the south face of Dinas Goods shed which was to become a temporary home to Castell Caernarfon. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This northerly archive view (30/9/96) shows the east face of Dinas< station building with an extension that was soon to be knocked down. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This northerly archive view (30/9/96) shows the narrow gauge bridge just south of Dinas station building. The WHR was to use the standard gauge bridge to the left and this bridge remains in use as a road access to the WHR depot at Dinas where they had purchased the southerly half of the Welsh Water building. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright F&WHR and was taken on a digital camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

The following views are probably from 1/10/96 as it looks like the weather had changed from the photos of the previous day's rail delivery to Dinas.

 

This northerly archive view (1/10/96) shows the old Bryngwyn incline as seen from Rhosgadfan Road-Y Fron road. The section of track from Tryfan Junction to Bryngwyn was to be sold off to Gwynedd Council for use as the future Slate Trail as it was not envisaged that it would be restored. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This northerly archive view (1/10/96) shows Caernarfon Castle from the old Bryngwyn incline as seen from Rhosgadfan Road-Y Fron road. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This southerly archive view (1/10/96) shows the overgrown Summit Cutting from the A4085 road bridge at Pitt's Head. At this time the cutting was overgrown and flooded due to poor drainage at the site of Pitt's Head halt. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This southerly archive view (1/10/96) shows the overgrown Summit Cutting from the A4085 road bridge at Pitt's Head. At this time the cutting was flooded due to poor drainage at the site of Pitt's Head halt. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This northerly archive view (1/10/96) shows Summit level from the A4085 at Pont Cae'r Gors. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This northerly archive view (1/10/96) shows the trackbed in rather open conditions near the Cwm Du Forest Car Park. Later planting obscured the views at this location but a new footpath crosses the line at this point. Snowdon is visible touching the cloud cover. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This northerly archive view (1/10/96) shows the trackbed in rather open conditions at Cwm Du bridge. There are no views from this area now as deciduous forestry has grown since the area was clear-felled in 2000. Snowdon is visible touching the cloud cover. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This southerly archive view (1/10/96) shows the view now lost to forestry looking south towards Beddgelert near the Afon Cwm Du bridge. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This easterly archive view (1/10/96) shows the view now lost to forestry looking towards Snowdon near the Beddgelert Forest car park at Cwm du. The track curves north towards Pont Cae'r Gors cutting. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

While work at Dinas had yet to start, some work was underway at Glan-y-pwll building a new shed and test track for Garratts. Money for this came from a government fund set up to ease the closure of the Trawsfynydd nuclear Power Station.

 

This easterly archive view (1/10/96) shows the headshunt of the Glan-y-pwll test track alongside NR tracks near the former Dinas (FR) station. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This easterly archive view (1/10/96) shows the new shed at Glan-y-pwll and the test track extending towards Glan-y-pwll junction. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This southerly archive view (1/10/96) shows the test track at Glan-y-pwll Junction. Some redundant bridge beams had been used to shore up the disused and dilapidated FR formation at this point. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Here are the final two images from October 1996, just prior to the start of WHR construction. Subsequent images (starting January 1997) will have detail from your webmaster's notepad used in coverage for magazines of the period. The two previous images shown further below have been re-dated to an accurate date of 10/11/96 through internal cross-referencing of notebooks. Both of the images shown below confirm structures on the Carnarvonshite Railway (sic) were built for future expansion to double track which fortunately gave space for both the Lon Eifion and the WHR.

 

This southerly archive view (26?/10/96) shows the Lon Eifion crossing Bontnewydd Viaduct as the contract for reconstruction was being considered. Both the Seiont and Gwyrfai viaducts were stripped out, waterproofed and repointed under the Mowlem's contract in 1997. The old Nantlle Tramway bridge over the Afon Gwyrfai can be viewed to the left from this point. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This southerly archive view (26?/10/96) shows the Lon Eifion passing under Plas Dinas overbridge. The old Nantlle Tramway tunnel is in a lower cutting to the left under the same road. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Scanning of your webmaster's slide collection through the construction and launch period of the WHR to 1998 has made good progress over the last few weeks and with the help of friends and magazine articles your webmaster wrote, many slides now have dates. Updates will appear more regularly after this gargantuan task of cataloguing is complete! Apologies for lack of updates over the last two weeks while this process was completed.

Here are some views, probably taken 10/11/96 before work started.

 

This northerly archive view (10/11/96) shows the former level crossing style gate erected at the future Hendy Level crossing to prevent vehicular access to Lon Eifion long distance path. In the cutting just north of the crossing there was a caravan in adverse possession selling plants from a makeshift garden centre. By this time the caravan was left abandoned on site for the WHR contractors to remove but some of the shrubs have survived over 20 years to make an interesting wild garden in this area. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

The WHR reconstruction in 1997 used the former LNWR Afonwen-Caernarfon branch, itself largely on the Nantlle Railway alignment between Pen-y-groes and Caernarfon. Much of the formation of the 1825 Nantlle Railway was used by the Carnarvonshire Railway (later LNWR) to reach Caernarfon Harbour and the Chester & Holyhead Railway Caernarfon Branch (opened 1852), although many curves were eased meaning the WHR is now as much as 50m off the route of the Nantlle. The Carnarvonshire Railway opened to a temporary station at Coed Helen cutting known as Pant on 2/8/1867 but the Cross Town link to Caernarfon station was stalled. This meant that the Nantlle operated an isolated section between Pant and Caernarfon Quay for about 4 years. The Nantlle tunnel under Coed Helen Road and the shelf to the now demolished Seiont Bridge is still visible today. The Caernarfon Town line was opened 5/7/70 connecting both the isolated Llanberis Branch and Afonwen branch to Caernarfon station through what is now the road tunnel. The horse worked Quay branch followed in December 1871 at which point the isolated section of the Nantlle line through Coed Helen tunnel was abandoned.

 

This southerly archive view (10?/11/96) shows the former Nantlle Tramway tunnel under Coed Helen lane. The tramway saw extended use after the Caernarvonshire Railway was opened to Pant (Coed Helen Cutting) with transhipment there. It finally fell into disuse a few years later when the Caernarfon Cross-Town link and Quay Branch was opened. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Work was to be divided into three sections with the Lon Eifion closed for the duration of the 4 month construction period and used as a haul road. The sections would be released to F&WHR staff for tracklaying midweek. The WHRS had completed the tracklaying for the new Glan-y-pwll shed and test track at the end of December and their expertise was to be used at weekends on tracklaying gangs. It was planned that by 21/1/97 PW vehicles and the Funkey would be on site at Dinas. It was hoped to start tracklaying mid-February if Mowlem released that section to schedule. Some 100 lengths of rail were to be delivered as assembled 60' panels and were to be laid in the platforms in order for PW stock to be railed. These left South Africa in mid November with the 11th and 12th B wagon of track components.

It was announced that the railway was funded to Waunfawr (6 miles) and this had been a condition of releasing the full Millennium Grant. A provisional opening date of 1/7/97 was set for opening the first section from Dinas to catch the Summer Holiday traffic. It was hoped that the six coaches ordered from Winson's would arrive in June allowing time for testing and snagging. One hundred ex SAR diamond frame bogies had been ordered for WHR stock. The ones for use on passenger coaches would be refurbished with dampers to provide an improved ride. The design of the coaches was quickly agreed and construction started in January 1997. The coach design was for 2+1 seating with three saloons, Nos.2040-42, and a composite brake, No.2090, with cushioned seats, an Open with slatted seats and no windows, No.2020, and a Pullman, No.2115. The standard coaches were to seat 36 passengers. It was initially planned that the Pullman would come as a body shell to be completed at Boston Lodge Carriage Works and would seat 20 in 5 bays with 1 + 1 seating. The cost of the Pullman would be borne by Historic House Hotels and would be named after their Llandudno hotel 'Bodysgallen'.

The FR's construction arm was named Welsh Highland Light Railway Ltd. and a new manager was to be appointed in January. Roland Doyle, a regular FR volunteer and later driver, got the job. Staff arrived on site along with volunteers on 29-29/12/96 with Mowlem's staff arriving a few days later on 6/1/97. It soon became apparent that due to questions of site insurance Mowlem would not allow access and the whole schedule was going to slip. Mowlem started on the Section 1 between Dinas and Bontnewydd in early January, clearing trees and bushes etc. It was hoped they would be hand over the section in early March to the tracklayers but this was not be. Some clearance works were needed at Dinas and remaining council office cabins would be demolished. All NWNGR/WHR buildings were to be retained which mean the toilet extension to the ex-WHR waiting room would be carefully removed. A 200m platform was to be build (all WHR measures were to be metric) on the site of the old Down platform but due the narrower loading gauge the Up platform could be wide. A bay platform would be constructed at the north end for a possible Dinas-Caernarfon shuttle service. At Caernarfon a short 100m platform with run round was planned at the country end of the station allowing retention of the car park. This was to be extended to the full 200m in time for the expected traffic boost in the Year 2000. The station footbridge was designated the initial Zero point.

Initial tracklaying was planned for the loading dock and a siding into the Goods Shed to store the Funkey due to arrive from Minffordd early in January with several ex SAR wagons for use on PW trains also stored at Minffordd. The third load of ex Donnybrook track was expected over Christmas including 12 sets of points, a further two wagons and materials for coaching stock suck as vacuum gear swan necks and some 60 bogies. A fourth and final delivery was envisaged containing buffer stops to complete the trackwork.

On the loco front, No.138 was on its way to North Wales after refurbishment in South Africa and No.143 was ordered in the same shipment in relatively poor condition as the final Garratt built, to be restored at Glan-y-pwll. After 6 months of negotiations, red Garratt No.140, owned by some German/Swiss enthusiasts, was gifted to the railway for a nominal fee of 100. It was hoped it could be restored with Millennium Funds and due to arrive in Glan-y-pwll in the Spring and be shown at the FR Gala 3-5/5/97. Options had been taken on Nos.139/142 meaning only No.141 was needed to complete the set of last 6 Garratts built in Manchester. There was also on option on a further Garratt, either No.149/151 from the South African built Hunslet-Taylor variants. At this time it was hoped to ship the locos from snagging in Glan-y-pwll to driver training at Dinas in June prior to the opening on 1/7/97.

Elsewhere, work underway on K1, the original Garratt, at the Birmingham Railway Museum Tyseley had hit a snag. Cracks had been found radiating from rivet holes in the firebox throatplate. Although the K1 Group had raised 65,000 towards the cost of refurbishment it was likely to need up to 15,000 more for a new firebox. Cracks had also been found in the engine unit pivot plates that support the boiler frame. Stronger steel plates were likely to be fitted to guard against any reoccurrence of this problem. With reassembly of the loco taking place at Tyseley it was still hoped to have the loco ready for the proposed WHR opening on 1/7/97 (see images).

Two lengths of rail were laid into the Goods Shed and Castell Caernarfon arrived 14/1/97. There was a press rollout of 15/1/97. The first recorded loco movement at Dinas. Your webmaster started visiting the site regularly from January 1997 at weekends and school holidays and observing progress with his late father who had been recently widowed. Leaving the car at Dinas we would walk down Lon Eifion to Caernarfon and catch the bus back. After a while Lon Eifion was closed and we were on one occasion turned back by Mowlem's staff.

 

This southerly view (15/1/97) shows the roll out of Castell Caernarfon at Dinas with the JCB marginally winning the race. The press event was staged to mark the start of work on the WHR, though the Funkey was emerging from the standard gauge side of the Goods Shed!. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Ben Fisher and was taken on an SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

Nos.138/143 arrived at Felixstowe on 6/1/97 in seven containers and the boiler units were moved to Glan-y-pwll on 14/1/97. The boiler units went to Minffordd Yard where they were shunted to Boston Lodge works by Linda. These four power bogies or 'engine units' were to be brought up to FR standards by the Spring then taken to Glan-y-pwll for fitting and trial running on the new test track up to the new Coach Shed. Basic trackwork there was completed by 11/1/97 and a 50 tonne crane used to unload the boiler units. Moel Hebog then hauled the boiler units on ambulance bogies up the 400m test track and shunted them into the Glan-y-pwll shed alongside NR tracks. It was hoped that NG G16 No.138 (Beyer Peacock Works No.7863) would be in steam for the FR Gala (3-5/5/97) while NG G16 No.143 (Works No.7868) will follow later.

Mowlem's work started week beginning 6/1/97 with clearance of the Dinas site and scarifying the trackbed all the way to Caernarfon by 19/1/97. This involved clearance of some LNWR/BR structures like an abandoned roofless PW hut between Bontnewydd and Dinas. Mowlem agreed to place packs of sleepers at regular intervals as they finished bottom ballasting the trackbed. The initial plan saw the Dinas site being released by mid February and the three miles of trackbed cleared by the end of April. At the end of March it was hoped the Dinas-Bontnewydd Viaduct (exclusive) section would be released for tracklaying from 1/4/97. Initially access to Lon Eifion was allowed and it was noted that the construction posts had Dinas at 9.6km with markers at 100 m intervals along the trackbed. However with the footpath being diverted in places residents were informed it would be closed from time to time.

In January it was confirmed that K1 would need a new firebox costing 20,000 but Bob Meanley of the Birmingham Railway Museum, kindly offered to design it free of charge. The loco would now be delayed until at least the 1998 season. On the positive side, Gwynedd Council decided to donate its Debenture WHR stock (nominally some 29,000) to the F&WHR. Councils had helped finance the WHR in the 1920s as a project to make work in to deal with unemployment in the area after the First World War soldiers returned by completing the unfinished PBSSR works of 1906 with deviations to ease gradients. The FR had bought up about 75% of this stock previously and was now in total financial control of its assets. Meanwhile at Minffordd WHR volunteers, denied access to the WHR trackbed, were at work adjusting sets of points for later use at Dinas and Caernarfon. The gauge had to be reduced slightly from the SAR's 2' gauge.

 

This northerly archive view (18-19/1/97) shows the newly built test track at Glan-y-pwll as seen from the junction. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Ben Fisher and was taken on an SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This easterly archive view (18-19/1/97) shows No.138's boiler mounted on ambulance bogies in the new shed at Glan-y-pwll. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This southerly archive view (18-19/1/97) shows the headshunt of the Glan-y-pwll test track alongside NR at the missing Afon Barlwyd bridge near the FR's original Dinas terminus. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This easterly archive view (18-19/1/97) shows the fan of sidings that leads into the new Glan-y-pwll coach shed alongside NR. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This archive view (18-19/1/97) shows No.138's power bogie with tank removed in Boston Lodge shed for fettling. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This archive view (18-19/1/97) shows No.138's power bogie with water tank removed from the front in Boston Lodge shed. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This easterly archive view (18-19/1/97) shows No.143's power bogies with water tanks still attached in Boston Lodge Yard. Behind is the other power bogie from No.138. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This westerly archive view (18-19/1/97) shows No.143's and No.138's power bogies with water tanks still attached in Boston Lodge Yard from the reverse angle and No.138's other power bogie on the right. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This easterly archive view (18-19/1/97) shows No.138's power bogie with tank removed in Boston Lodge Yard. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This southerly archive view (18-19/1/97) shows the coal tanks and cabs from Nos.138/143 on flat wagons in Boston Lodge Yard where they had arrived a few days before on 14/1/97. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This westerly archive view (18-19/1/97) shows the cabs and coal tanks from Nos.138/143 on flat wagons in Boston Lodge Yard where they had arrived a few days before on 14/1/97. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This northerly archive view (18-19/1/97) shows the scarified trackbed with Hendy 'level crossing gate' visible in the distance. Clearance had reached at least as far as this point judging by the cut vegetation on the side of Lon Eifion. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on a Sigma SA300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

The 40km Dream Episode 2

February 1997

By February 1997 Mowlem's work was apparent throughout the 5km Dinas-Caernarfon stretch and progress was being made in Boston Lodge on the loco bogies, Minffordd Yard on the points and Glan-y-pwll on the loco boilers.

The two viaducts across the Seiont and Gwyrfai had been excavated down to the brick arches to weather seal them. They were then to be backfilled with reinforced concrete to strengthen the structures. The Lon Eifion trackbed walk was then closed for a few months to allow this work to progress uninterrupted. Following scarifying, the trackbed centreline was marked out with a 3m clearance. Many trees were cut down as a result that had grown since 1936 and impinged on the trackbed or reduced safe sighting lines approaching the many crossings. Some had been marked by the local council's tree officer for saving.

It had become obvious that while the Gwyrfai Viaduct was double track that the embankment either side had not been completed to full double track width when the Carnarvonshire Railway was opened. Gabions were used to establish a firm trackbed of sufficient width. These steel mesh cages were filled with local rock. some 80,000 was required to complete the work either side the Afon Gwyrfai. Here and there the Lon Eifion was to be moved onto the western shoulder of cuttings to create sufficient width for the trackbed.

At Dinas station in mid February demolition was complete and the platforms were being to appear alongside the old BR trackbed. A new access road and car park was being constructed from the station gates around the east side of the Goods Shed and south along the trackbed to the Welsh Water shed, the south end of which was to become the Loco Shed. It was hoped that parts of the Dinas station site could be released at the end of March so that tracklaying could begin in the platforms. Work on the points at Minffordd had started on 23/2/97 and these were being regauged by 1/8 inch. It was hoped complete assembled units could be transported to Dinas by lorry in the Spring.

No work had begun yet at the Caernarfon station site which remains a car park. Documents were due to be signed leasing the trackbed after negotiations with Arfon Council on a 999 year lease at 1per annum. However Gwynedd Council took over as a Unitary Authority on 1/4/96 which may have caused some delay. Sufficient track had been delivered or was on its way to complete the railway to the site of Betws Garmon station. Transport & Works application documents were being prepared to present to the DoT in early march for the rebuilding of the line from Dinas to Porthmadog.

On the loco front, more than 20 volunteers turned up to help ready the locos at Boson Lodge in February. No.138's tanks had been finished in green, the same shade as Blanche whereas it had originally intended that the locos would appear in red. Meanwhile No.143 would appear in black as in SAR. Work on the power bogies was progressing well with No.138's rear 2-6-2 unit completed in January and the front unit being attended to by Boston Lodge in mid February. Red Garratt No.140, being donated by the Swiss/German consortium, was moved to Durban ready for shipping in early February. The loco was to arrive by Easter and the be stored at Glan-y-pwll new shed. Once the first two (Nos.138/143)are up and running it was to be given a full overhaul ready for the anticipated expansion of services to Rhyd Ddu by the Millennium.

Roland Doyle took over management of Welsh Highland Railway Construction Ltd. at Dinas in mid February. He was monitoring the Mowlem's contract and was to also coordinate the volunteers. There was a call for a big effort by volunteers to start track laying soon and open the line by 1/7/97. Discussions were underway with Winson of Daventry, from whom the coaching stock was being purchased, for a tracklaying gantry to speed up the process.

 

Any help with the dates for the following slides would be much appreciated.

 

This westerly view (15-17?/2/97) shows the FR's Vale of Ffestiniog assisting on the WHR many times over the years, especially when Castell Caernarfon was out of service. Initially the loco was due to appear in National Power's blue livery as seen on its main line Class 59/2 locos. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is scanned from a slide copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on Sigma SA 300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This westerly view (15-17/2/97) shows the FR's Vale of Ffestiniog with a cab at both ends much like its larger cousin National Power's blue livery Class 59/2 locos. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is scanned from a slide copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on Sigma SA 300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This westerly view (15-17/2/97) shows the FR's new PW Mess coach No.1111 freshly outshopped in undercoat. This coach was also to appear on the WHR from time to time during PW activity. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is scanned from a slide copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on Sigma SA 300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This westerly view (15-17/2/97) shows the FR's PW diesel Harlech Castle with a simulated freight in Harbour Station. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is scanned from a slide copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on Sigma SA 300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This Boston Lodge view (15-17/2/97) shows the cabs for the rebuild of FR Funkey diesel Vale of Ffestiniog at Boston Lodge looking remarkably similar to a BR Class 58. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is scanned from a slide copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on Sigma SA 300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This Boston Lodge view (15-17/2/97) shows the cabs for the rebuild of FR Funkey diesel Vale of Ffestiniog at Boston Lodge looking remarkably similar to a BR Class 58. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is scanned from a slide copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on Sigma SA 300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This Boston Lodge view (15-17/2/97) shows the freshly painted green water tank for No.138 at Boston Lodge. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is scanned from a slide copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on Sigma SA 300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

This Boston Lodge view (15-17/2/97) shows the front power bogie for No.138 receiving attention from the fitters. Click on the image to enlarge and click again to see full size (where available). This image is scanned from a slide copyright Barrie Hughes and was taken on Sigma SA 300 SLR camera. Image post processed and displayed at 96dpi.

 

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