Celebrating our Heritage at London King’s Cross : February 16th – 24th
183 years ago, in a remote corner of North Wales, the Ffestiniog Railway opened for business. The railway was initially used to carry slate from the quarries in Blaenau Ffestiniog to the sea at Porthmadog, where it would be loaded on to ships which sailed all over the world.
The present-day railway is very different….
Today, the Ffestiniog and its sister railway the Welsh Highland form the longest heritage line in the UK, stretching 40 miles coast to coast from Caernarfon to Porthmadog and Blaenau Ffestiniog and recognised as one of the Top railway journeys in the world. The lines showcase some of the most spectacular scenery that the United Kingdom has to offer, which is viewed from the comfort of your seat in our luxurious carriages.
The railways carry nearly 400,000 passengers each year and trains cover 63,500 miles – more than two and a half times round the Earth at the Equator.
This year at King’s Cross we will focus on our heritage, showing two locomotives: A ‘Quarry Hunslet’ locomotive from the Victorian era – Velinheli, and Chaloner – a vertical-boilered locomotive built in 1877 by de Winton of Caernarfon, whose factory was a stone’s throw away from our brand new purpose-built terminus station. Both of these diminutive but deceptively powerful steam engines were used to transport slate around the local quarries. They have now been lovingly restored to working order, keeping heritage alive to educate the younger generations. We are very grateful to our friends at the Leighton Buzzard Railway for allowing us to display Chaloner.
The locomotives will be rolled into King’s Cross Station at 0100 on Saturday February 10th, and will be on display in the ticket hall until Sunday February 18th. For the duration of the visit, our staff and volunteers will be on hand to talk to the public and answer questions.
The new £2.2m station in Caernarfon forms a key part of the £16m Waterfront Development Project, led by Gwynedd County Council, to give a major boost to this historic area. Opening to the public at the end of March 2019, the futuristic new building will offer much improved facilities for visitors arriving by road or by rail from Porthmadog, where a major station improvement project was completed in 2014.
Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway Facts
- The Ffestiniog Railway Company operates the two foot (597mm) gauge Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways, which carry up to 400,000 passengers a year.
- The Ffestiniog Railway is recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest operational railway company in the World, being founded by Act of Parliament in 1832. 2015 marked the 150th anniversary of the start of passenger services in 1865.
- In 1863, it became the first narrow gauge railway in the World to introduce steam engines – two of which are still in use today, with a third undergoing restoration – the oldest locos in the World still operating on their original railway and celebrated their 150th birthday in 2013. It is also the only railway in the World to operate double-ended Fairlie steam locomotives, all built in the railway’s own workshops.
- It runs the oldest railway works in the World, where new steam locomotives and carriages have been built in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries – Merddin Emrys was built in 1879 and is still in regular use today. In August 2010, the UK’s newest steam loco, Lyd entered service.
- Since the 1950s, the Ffestiniog Railway has become a leader in railway preservation and is now one of the UK’s top and North Wales’ Number One tourist attraction. The line reopened to Blaenau Ffestiniog in 1982.
- Welsh Highland trains cross the Snowdonia National Park, past Snowdon and the village of Beddgelert and through the Aberglaslyn Pass – voted the most beautiful spot in the UK by members of the National Trust.
- The Welsh Highland operates the most powerful narrow gauge steam engines in the world – Beyer Garratt NG/G16s weighing over 60 tons. These are the only locos capable of hauling long trains on some of the longest and steepest gradients to be found on any railway in the UK.
- On April 20, 2011, the Welsh Highland was officially opened throughout from Caernarfon to Porthmadog. At 25 miles, the WHR is the longest heritage railway in the UK. Its connection with the Ffestiniog enables passengers to travel between Blaenau Ffestiniog and Caernarfon – almost 40 miles of narrow gauge steam.
- Rebuilding the 25-mile Welsh Highland Railway cost £28 million, most of the work being carried out by volunteers. £12.5m of the funding came from the Welsh Assembly Government, the EU and the Millennium Lottery fund, the remainder being raised through donations and fund raising schemes. In 2014, a £1.3 million rebuild of Porthmadog Harbour Station was completed to enhance customers’ experience.
- In addition to employing almost 100 full-time staff – rising to over 150 during the peak season – independent research shows that the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways generate £25 million for the local economy each year – £250 for every man, woman and child in Gwynedd – and create a further 350 jobs in the area. Two supporting societies have 8,000 members and over 1,000 volunteers regularly work on the railways.
- For over three decades, between 70 and 80 young people have worked on the railways each year as part of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. Pupils from local schools carry out work experience on the railways throughout the year and Boston Lodge Works trains young people through its apprenticeship scheme.