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Review: Little Steam Trains of North Wales

Attraction - Railway & Train

Llanberis, Snowdonia, United Kingdom

Lovingly restored to their former glory

  • By SilverTraveller oldlangelei

    37 reviews

    Ribbon Ribbon

  • May 2016
  • Husband

78 people found this review helpful

A train climbing up a mountain, albeit the highest in Wales, was our Christmas present. And I thought, I may like trains but do I really, really want to go up a mountain in one?

In the end we travelled on several. These, I may add, were all geriatrics, lovingly restored to former glories and nurtured for further use. You will find them all over Wales, ex-slate mine engines with adorable names. Our first was Elidir, built in 1889, pulling wooden carriages with equally wooden seats of comparable age, around the beautiful lake of Llanberis and beneath the stunning mountains of the Snowdonia range. Our immediate introduction to the line was with its chief engineer, a slip of a woman who had served her apprenticeship and was cleaning off the line with a mechanical piece of equipment that looked like a motor mower, before the first trip of the day. It appeared she was having a break from being in the actual engine house and stripping down one of the original engines!

Crossing the road we then ventured up Snowdon itself with a choice of either steam or diesel train. At £40 a head for the steam train we opted for the diesel experience at £30 per person. We climbed aboard the new coaches, named after Sir David Brailsford CBE, and were PUSHED up the mountain by means of the rack and pinion method by diesel engine No. 9, Ninian built, as all the engines were, by the Hunslet Engine Co., of Leeds. The eldest steam locomotive, ENID, to climb to the summit since it was opened in 1896 is still going. Once at the summit, as long as the cloud has not enveloped you, a fantastic view surrounds you and if it has then a brand new and welcoming venue of hot food, drinks and the inevitable gift shop awaits.

At Blaenau Ffestiniog the steam railway of the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway stretches for 40 miles around the Snowdonia National Park. Sit back, relax and enjoy.

Going west to Barmouth the little Fairbourne Railway is a sedate little ride and set in a scenic coastal area is a gorgeous trip on a beautiful day.

And these are just a few of them! Enjoy.

78 people found this review helpful

This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.

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Other Members' Thoughts - 1 Comment(s)

  • ESW
    almost 5 years ago
    Don't forget the Talyllyn Railway, a few miles down the coast from Barmouth.

    The Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways are my out and out favourites and have an intersting history as well.

    The Ffestiniog Railway was built to carry slates from the hills above Blaenau ffestiniog to waiting sloops in teh harbour at Porthmadog. Originally built as a tramway with trucks running down by gravity and horses pulling them back up, traffic increased so much that they invested in steam engines. Prince, their second loco is still in use as is the oldest working steam loco in the world. Even these locos weren't powerful enough to cope with the level of traffic and this lead to teh revolutionary and iconic double Fairlie locos. (Basicall two engines joined by a single cab. The separate bogies meant they were able to cope with the tightest curves on the line and people literally came from all over the World to look at the Ffestiniog Railway and copy it. They were a very far sighted company and were the first company in the world to have bogies under passanger coaches. Some of these original coaches are still in use and you can ride in them on the vintage train. They were also using computerised tickets before BR and they have the only spiral on a railway in the UK. Apart from that it is a pretty stunning run too.

    The Welsh Highland Railway runs from Porthmadog to Caernarfon and has had a very chequered history. It was built mainly as a passenger railway through a very isolated part of Wales so it is hardly surprising that it didn't make money and was closed in the 1930s. The Ffestiniog Railway gained control of the trackbed John Prescott (one of teh best things he did) decided they should be allowed to rebuild the line. It took about ten years to rebuild, using a lot of volunteer labour, beginning from Caernarfon. Gradients are steep in places and the railway use mighty Beyer Garrett locos which they bought from South African Railways to pull the trains. Again this is a wonderful run along the flanks of Snowdonia.