Highland Railway - Rheilffordd Eryri
The first half - Caernarfon to Rhyd Ddu
The Royal Reopening 2003
The world famous Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland
are currently celebrating the reopening of the final section of the
first half of the Welsh Highland line from Caernarfon to Porthmadog (25
miles) where it will join the Ffestiniog line that runs
from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog (14 miles). So far the Welsh
Highland has re-opened in three stages. From Caernarfon to Dinas in
1997 (2½ miles), Dinas to Waunfawr in 2000 (3½
miles) and now Waunfawr to Rhyd Ddu (6 miles). The original line
was known as the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways and was first opened
to Rhyd Ddu (then called South Snowdon) in 1881. The 13 mile section
from Rhyd Ddu to Beddgelert, Pont Croesor and Porthmadog first opened
for passengers in 1923 when the whole line was incorporated as the
Welsh Highland Railway. A significant start to the rebuilding of this
lengthy section through the Snowdonia National Park has already been
made and the rebuilding will be completed in 2009.
The first train to Rhyd Ddu, with His Royal
The Prince of Wales (seen above on his way to the platform) travelling
on the engine, ran on July 30th 2003. The Royal Train, driven at this
point by Prince Charles, is seen here en route to Rhyd Ddu on an
overcast day with slight drizzle.
engine goes by the name of 'Prince'. It was
built in 1863 (parts of
it are original, many others replaced over the
was then named in honour of the then Prince of Wales, who later
became King Edward VII. The three coaches and the engine were chosen as
the lightest available for this special day which had been arranged
many months in advance. Prince is generally believed to be the oldest
railway engine in regular use on passenger trains anywhere.
Prince is one of four identical engines (three of them still survive)
built in London in 1863/64 by George England and Company. They
were the world's first successful narrow gauge
Above, HRH Prince Charles
mingling with the crowds at Rhyd Ddu.
reconstruction of the six miles from Waunfawr to Rhyd Ddu took
three years and it was a rush by volunteers to complete just in
time for the Official visit by HRH Prince Charles on July 30th.
Two further frantic weeks of trackwork consolidation by gangs of
volunteer trackmen were needed before the Government Inspector
would authorize the carriage of fare paying passengers!
The First Public Train
honour on the first public train on August 18th 2003 were two gentlemen
from Beddgelert. Mr Richard Williams had
travelled on the first ever through train from Rhyd Ddu to Portmadoc
eighty years ago in 1923. That 1923 journey was in a
little three coach train hauled by Prince (the same engine that Prince
Charles drove). His friend, Mr John Pritchard, regularly travelled as a
schoolboy on the WHR in the mid 1920's.
aged 93, made the 24 mile round
trip from Dinas to Rhyd Ddu and back with Mr & Mrs Pritchard
and a WHR courier. They travelled in the Welsh Highland's latest
first class carriage, the 20 seat Pullman Car 'Bodysgallen' sponsored
by the luxury leisure group that now run Bodysgallen Hall near
Llandudno as a five star country house hotel.
In conversation they were full
of praise and enthusiasm for the reopened railway - rebuilt and
reopened after 65 years of closure and they are seen above after
leaving the train at Dinas
prior to being driven off to lunch.
Pullman Car at Rhyd Ddu after the second public run on August 18th.
Garratt No. NG138 is an articulated locomotive, specifically designed
mountainous lines with sharp curves and steep gradients. It was
restored for use on the Welsh Highland Railway with sponsorship from
Edison Mission Energy and grant aid from the Millennium Commission and
is named Mileniwm/Millennium.
Seen above at Dinas on August 18th 2004 on the second public train to
engine was one of seven built in 1958 for use in South
Africa. They were the final batch of steam
engines built at Gorton in
Manchester at Peacock's, the world famous British
locomotive works of Beyer, Peacock
photographs © Noel Walley
last updated March 2009