My Day on the WHHR
The Welsh Highland Heritage Railway (WHHR) is essentially a living museum for the 1ft 11½ (596.9 mm) gauge Welsh Highland Railway (WHR), the latter now linking Porthmadog Harbour to Carnarvon via Beddgelert and Dinas. On the WHHR, I spent an enjoyable time delving into the interesting history of the Welsh Highland Railway (WHR), its motive power and carriages. Steam locomotives including Russell, Gelert and Karen, diesel locomotives including the three large LYD diesels from Poland, and carriages and trucks including the Gladstone Coach and a Dandy Wagon and last but not least, some interesting models, all featured on my visit. A veritable treasure trove of an important slice of Welsh narrow-gauge history!
WHHR's Gelert Farm Works house a number of interesting exhibits, some of which are operational or "close to operational". Here is
" from Zimbabwe (Rhodesia).
We shall meet her again later on this web page.
Welsh slate was at one time king and this is reflected in what can be seen at the WHR's Gelert Works. Indeed, the WHHR occupies what, between the 1860s and 1930s was the Beddgelert Siding. This was an exchange siding between (1) the Croesor Tramway, and its successor, the Welsh Highland Railway and (2) the standard gauge Cambrian coast line, presently linking Machynlleth and Pwllheli. At this siding, the slate, which had been brought from Beddgelert, was laboriously transferred by hand to the standard gauge trucks for onward dispatch to various parts of Great Britain.
Porthmadog WHHR Station
The journey into the Welsh Highland's past starts at Porthmadog. Close to the mainline station is the terminus of the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway. I have a quick look around before the train sets off.
Here's the train at the Porthmadog's mainline station
on the Cambrian coast line between Pwllheli and Machynlleth.
I cross the road, and with the main line station behind me, enter the WHHR terminus.
The Cambrian Coast mainline is on the right of the picture.
(Apologies for the fuzzy picture!)
Some colourful plants greet the visitor to the WHHR.
Once on the WHHR platform, I notice on the left the narrow gauge local "Purple Moose [Local] Brewery" truck in the company of a closed freight car. They seem to be in good condition, but I don't know how "genuine" they are. On the right is the assembled train awaiting the loco to take it to Pen-y-Mount (the junction with the WHR(Ffestiniog)) and then back part of the way to stop at Gelert Museum and Works for a ¾ hour visit, before returning to Porthmadog.
Before the loco arrives, there is still time to "nose around" Porthmadog WHHR station.
This sign translates as follows (if my linguistic endeavours are correct!).
CHANGE HERE FOR
Here is our train again.
The nicely restored leading coach indicates
how much volunteer effort takes place on Britain's heritage railways.
It was built by the "The Ashbury Railway Carriage and Iron Company Limited", whose repertoire includes the six well-known Ashbury coaches (see Link
) built between 1898 and 1900 for London's Metropolitan Railway.
The WHR and Ffestiniog Railways use a type of
Gelert Works via Pen-y-Mount
The Welsh Highland Heritage Railway combines a journey of ¾ miles from Porthmadog to Pen-y-Mount with a visit to the Gelert Museum and Works. So, it's Porthmadog to Pen-y-Mount, followed by Pen-y-Mount to Gelert Works, followed by Gelert Works to Porthmadog. Should you ask, "Gelert" is the name of Prince Llewelyn's faithful dog, buried in Beddgelert - this might be the origin of the name "Gelert Works" and the name of the steam locomotive we shall see shortly. Today the diesel
"Emma" is in charge of the train.
" arrives and is coupled on to the train.
The train is ready to depart.
On the outward journey we pass Gelert Museum and Works and reach Pen-y-Mount.
Pen-y-Mount is the junction with the main Welsh Highland Railway (WHR)
The WHR is seen here on the right and links Porthmadog and Carnarvon.
I would travel on the WHR the next day.
At Pen-y-Mount, Emma, still on WHHR metals, runs around its train.
We finally reach Gelert Museum and Works.
In the museum we see
, who had a tough life, hauling chrome ore in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia).
She was built in the U.K. in 1942 by Peckett of Bristol.
On the side of one of the vehicles we see the splendid crest of the "North Wales Narrow Gauge Company", the forerunner of the present Welsh Highland Railway.
I was keen to see "Russell
" the iconic locomotive of the Welsh Highland. It was receiving some attention on another part of the Gelert site. Thank you to the WHHR staff member who showed me where Russell was located.
"Russell" was built in 1906 and was named after the then Chairman and Managing Director, J.C. Russell, of the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railway (NWNGR). The over-budget electrification project aiming to link Beddgelert and Porthmadog was cancelled in 1908, the steam locomotive, "Russell", providing much needed additional motive power on the NWNGR.
Here's how to drive "Russell". There were two water gauges, while the GWR used only one on practically all of their standard gauge locomotives!
Here's another view of "Russell". By now the volunteers had restored the original height cab, which had been removed before WWII.
Here's yet another view of "Russell"
" was built in 1953 by Bagnall. She worked in the South African Rustenberg Platinum Mines. Having no name when she came to the WHHR, the WHHR thought it would be nice to call her something, and "Gelert" - as in "Gelert Farm Works" - seemed a suitable choice! At least, I think that's what happened!
And here is Gelert's traditional style manufacturer's brass plate.
Gelert Works - Second Visit
There was so much to absorb at the Gelert Works. Therefore, it seemed a good idea to make another journey up and down the WHHR and then have a second chance to find out some more Welsh Highland history. On my second visit I saw, amongst other things: Karen, Gladstone's carriage, a WWI Motorail Simplex, and a "dandy wagon". I also learnt something about the WHR electrification scheme that never quite made it.
Back at Porthmadog WHHR, Emma runs around its train.
After coupling up, Emma is ready to return to Pen-y-Mount.
We have arrived at Pen-y-Mount.
(Same picture as before.)
Emma runs around its train.
We stop at Gelert Works for a second visit.
Here we see Karen
again. As mentioned, she was built in the U.K. in 1942 by Peckett of Bristol. Her purpose in life was to haul chrome ore in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia).
Here is another view of Karen.
This is how she should be driven!
Firebox door, levers, gauges and valves.
When Gladstone came to visit, he had a more relaxing experience than the engine driver.
Here is the Gladstone Coach with curtains and upholstered seats.
The "No Smoking" sign seems to be of latter day "British Railways" origin.
Like most passenger coaches, even the Gladstone Coach
was of basically simple, but effective, construction.
This Motorail Simplex
is petrol-driven and built in 1916 for use in WWI.
The passenger coaches, may have been of simple build, but, as if to counteract this, the crest of the "North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways Company" - the forerunner of the Welsh Highland Railway - was decidedly elaborate.
Before the advent of steam, the Ffestiniog Railway ran "Gravity Trains" to enable the slate from the mines at Blaenau Ffestiniog to reach the harbour at Porthmadog. On the downward - seaward - run from the mines at Blaenau, horses used to ride in "Dandy Wagons" attached to the carefully braked trains of slate wagons. Once unloaded at Porthmadog harbour, the empty - now much lighter - slate wagons could be hauled back uphill to the mines at Blaenau by the horses, without undue effort. Simple idea, but effective.
This is one of the
three LYD2 diesel locomotives
which came from Poland and were built between 1976 and 1980 in Romania to a German design, each using a Maybach diesel engine.
So we have three countries - PL
- to which we can now add GB
We saw "Gelert
" on our first visit, but here she is once more.
The North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways (NWNGR) Company had reached Beddgelert from Dinas, using steam motive power, and the
Portmadoc, Beddgelert & South Snowdon Rly
" (PB&SSR) had intended, using electric traction, to make the link between Beddgelert (NWNGR) and Porthmadog. The PSB&SSR Company was responsible for some preparatory works such as the Aberglaslyn Pass but the company ran out of money and ceased activities in 1906. The PB&SSR never laid a single mile of track. A number of these electric locomotives were built for the PB&SSR in accordance with a contract of 1905, by
. For the financial reasons stated, not all locomotives were actually built, and those that were, were - for lack of any other buyer - eventually scrapped in 1916 to support the WWI war effort. Locals had to wait until 1923 until a new company, the WHR, was able to run steam services on the whole route between Dinas and Porthmadog.
The electric locomotives were to run on the
3-ph AC system
developed by Ganz of Hungary.Three
phase? Yes, one phase was "clamped" to earth through the running rails, and the other two phases were supplied by twin overhead cables. The above link points to other electric railways that used - or indeed, are still using (!) - this three-phase system. I believe that, in the PB&SSR case, the voltage between the phases was to have been 630 volts rms.
Return to Porthmadog WHHR Station
From Gelert Works it was a short run back to Porthmadog (WHHR). At Porthmadog WHHR there was time for a quick snack and a further chance to look at the extensive number of drawings lining the walls. Pictures of
and two of its later colleagues, the single-ended Fairlies
"Snowdon Ranger" and
"Gowrie" caught my attention.
At Gelert Works it's "All Aboard" for the final run into Porthmadog WHHR.
The single-ended Fairlie
" was built in 1875
for the original North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways Company.
(Sorry about the reflections which I could not avoid!)
(Photo of picture in Porthmadog WHHR station.)
" was also a single-ended Fairlie and was built in 1908. It was probably scrapped in the late 1920s, but in 2018 a new-build was planned, with a six-inch longer boiler to overcome steam problems with the original "Gowrie".
(Photo of picture in Porthmadog WHHR station.)
Porthmadog Harbour Station: FR & WHR
Back in Porthmadog, I headed for the FR & WHR Harbour Station to get a ticket for the next day's return journey from Porthmadog to Carnarvon. While I had already travelled the length of the Ffestiniog Railway, a trip on the WHR would be a new experience. At the Harbour station I took a few more pictures of Fairlies and Beyer Garratts and the harbour itself. I was also invited to look around one of the Pullman cars, "Glaslyn" by an understandably enthusiastic member of the WHR staff - to whom, many thanks.
The Hub: The Ffestiniog meets the Welsh Highland
In 1923 the WHR station in Porthmadog was located between the WHR's crossing at the level with the GWR and the "Y Cyt" channel, passengers having to walk between Porthmadog WHR and FR (Ffestiniog Railway) stations. By 1937 the original WHR had closed, but with its subsequent rebirth, it was 2011, when the extension of the WHR to the FR station in Porthmadog was finally opened. As can be expected, it is an interesting place to watch the comings and goings of the FR Blaenau Ffestiniog trains and of the WHR Carnarvon trains. There were quite a few photographic opportunities which were all grist to my camera.
Here is a typical Ffestiniog Railway compartment coach, dating from Victorian times but nicely restored by enthusiastic volunteers.
" is a double-ended Fairlie,
built in 1879, but restored at various times in its career.
" backs on to its train which appears to have arrived from Blaenau Ffestiniog. In this case, "Merddin Emrys" is probably shunting the empty carriages, in preparation for next day's working to Blaenau Ffestiniog.
The monogram of the Ffestiniog Railway on the locomotive is so elaborate,
one can hardly read the actual letters! But it's artistically impressive!
" steams out of Porthmadog with its train.
Splendidly preserved heritage from the Victorian age.
Opposite, Beyer Garratt
of 1958 vintage has just arrived
with a Welsh Highland train from Carnarvon.
Here is the detail of number 138's cab and number plate.
A Touch of Elegance: The Pullman Car "Glaslyn"
There are two first class Pullman cars on the Ffestiniog Railway ("150" and "152") and two
("Bodysgallen" and "Glaslyn") on the WHR.
See the following Link.
"Glaslyn" is newer than "Bodysgallen". I was invited to look around "Glaslyn" by an understandably enthusiastic member of the WHR staff - to whom, many thanks.
Here is the main saloon looking towards
the observation saloon with its bow-fronted end.
At one end of the Pullman
I saw some nice inlay work depicting an Osprey.
Sort of 1930s elegance.
The Glaslyn Osprey Centre is next to Pont Croesor WHR station.
Out of a left-hand window I saw "Merddin Emrys
busy marshalling some FR carriages.
This Pullman crest appeared on standard gauge Pullman carriages.
Now it appears on "Glaslyn".
England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales are all represented.
The lions look a tad grumpy for such an elegant task.
Nice bit of scrolling above the windows.
"Glaslyn" gives first class passengers a 270° view of the landscape
as it rolls past the end of the train.
Garratt & Fairlie & Spooner's Bar
It's time for a few more pictures of the motive power and it's also time for a short visit to "Spooner's Bar" for an evening repast.
"Eryri" is Welsh for Snowdonia and was the first Welsh national park. It contains Snowdon, UK's second highest mountain. The FR and the WHR share the same management. This is emphasized by the crest which proudly says "Ffestiniog and Snowdon". The Welsh dragon and the "Ich Dien" motto seem to be everywhere in these parts.
At the end of its 25 mile run from Carnarvon, Beyer Garratt
now probably take the carriages to Boston Lodge in preparation for tomorrow's first train of the day from Porthmadog to Carnarvon.
Everything is quietening down after a busy day.
However, number 138
is still waiting patiently to take the carriages to Boston Lodge.
And here is today's last view of number 138.
Now it's time for an evening repast on Porthmadog (FR & WHR) Station.
Robert Fairlie was the inventor of the "two-faced" locomotive.
James Spooner was a manager of the Ffestiniog Railway.
Neither may have been familiar with the concepts of "Grill, Café and Bar".
Porthmadog's Harbour was important for exporting slate to various parts of England and also to the Continent of Europe. After WWI, the demand for slate rapidly diminished. The erstwhile commercial importance of Porthmadog gradually yielded to a new-found purpose in life - the tourist trade.
Sailing boats and more sailing boats ...
... are now an important feature of Porthmadog's Harbour.