The Ffestiniog Railway in Wales celebrated the 150th anniversary of steam powered locomotives working their railway with a special weekend event from Friday, 3 May 2013, to Monday, 6 May 2013. Their unique collection of steam engines and carriages performed for four days between Porthmadog and Blaenau Ffestiniog and between Porthmadog and Caernarfon. Every manner and combination of locomotives and rolling stock was provided for the visiting enthusiasts. To commemorate the event, and to explain the operations, a twelve page guide was printed and sold out rapidly to participants and the general public for £3.50. It included a timetable for each of the four operating days. The following text is taken from that booklet. Photos taken during the four days are included to show SOME of the trains, carriages, and landscapes of the Ffestiniog Railway.
A hundred and fifty years ago, the Vale of Ffestiniog was very different to the place you see today.
Blaenau Ffestiniog, the inland starting point for the Ffestiniog Railway, is swarming with people earning good money in the quarries but the town is now overcrowded and creaking at the seams. On the coast, Porthmadog has grown up around the new harbour and sailing ships are coming here from all over the world. In an ancient land, changes are suddenly happening everywhere.
The Ffestiniog Railway hasn't yet been open thirty years but it is already starting to show signs of promise. The foresight of its first engineers in ensuring an even gradient all the way to the sea means that ever-longer trains can take premium roofing slate by gravity to the quayside, but there's a challenge when the empties go uphill. The horses pulling them cannot keep up with the demand.
How to solve the problem? The railway's engineer thinks steam locomotives are the answer. By now, full-size railways have been laid all over the country but narrow gauge steam locomotives are new and untried. They may suit shunting little wagons round an iron works or a coal mine but can they be put to work on a long and steep railway like this one? No-one, anywhere, has tried that before.
If the railway makes a success of running these little engines, it will change the face of the area. Blaenau Ffestiniog will become the slate capital of the region. Porthmadog harbour will be filled with even more ships. Local people know this. They will turn out in huge numbers to see Princess, the first locomotive to arrive and the first to be tried out. There was great excitement when the engine was drawn on a specially made cart all the way from Caernarfon to take up her duties on the railway in 1863.
It could change the face of the world. Full-size railways are costly, narrow-gauge ones are cheap. Everywhere, entrepreneurs and politicians are looking for cost-effective ways of modernising their countries, by bringing minerals to harbour, goods to market, and people to work.
But will it succeed?
Fast forward one whole sesquicentury, today, the thriving Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways are the best place on earth to celebrate not only 150 years of Ffestiniog Steam, but 150 years of global narrow-gauge steam. The F&WHR's collection of steam locomotives, built up over the years not only to shift slate but to move passengers through the Snowdonia National Park, shows this technology from first to last, from Princess and her sisters to the sophisticated Beyer-Garratt designs of the 1950s.
"Steam 150 - A Narrow-Gauge Odyssey" tells a story and we'll have assistance, some two-legged, some four-legged, to bring it to life. Enjoy the steam trains and marvel at the engineering prowess which allowed this railway to flourish, but spare a thought as well for the changes it made to this area, and to the world. This beautiful part of Wales bred a pioneering spirit of invention. Nothing was ever the same afterwards.
It started right here. Let the celebrations begin!
Steam engines, historic carriages, and beautifully restored stations you will find in abundance on the F&WHR. All these things help us get a feel for the railway itself and give us the chance to experience some of life in the century-before-last.
However, for the first time here, come and join some characters from the past as they help bring a sense of emotion and humanity to the history. Expect sadness as the age of the horse passes but huge excitement and wonder as new technology arrives. Will it work?
Their theatrical performance will form a major part of the "Princess Delivery" and of Blaenau Ffestiniog's Town Celebrations on Saturday.
They will also repeat their performance on Sunday at various times throughout the day. Further details of performance times and locations will be available from the Porthmadog Booking Office during the event.
Harbour Station - Saturday from 08:00-08:45
150 years of steam. What happened before that?
Horses used to be the sole means of getting empty slate wagons back to the quarries in the mountains. This form of haulage has only been demonstrated on the FR a handful of times since the 1860s so this is a very rare event. Come and see how things were done before the modern age, how the FR survived over the first 30 years of its existence.
Harbour Station - Saturday 08:45 sharp
Witness the delivery of our first steam locomotive!
In 1863 crowds turned out in force to wonder at the new technology arriving in the area. A hundred and fifty years later, local community members and visitors will again greet the garlanded Princess as she arrives in Harbour Station, fresh from promoting Wales and the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways at London Paddington for several weeks, which started with a high profile event on St David's Day.
Princess will be delivered by road, while Prince will prove its worth by doing what it is meant to do hauling slate wagons. Palmerston will also be on hand to assist with arrangements.
It is difficult to re-enact those very early days in the 21st Century, but this short period on Saturday morning aims to let you experience a glimpse of a Ffestiniog Railway with just a horse and small locos pottering about.
Blaenau Ffestiniog - Saturday 09:30-11:30
Llechwedd Slate Caverns will be celebrating the historic links between the Ffestiniog Railway and Blaenau's slate quarries which thrive to this day. A variety of special events will take place in and around Llechwedd's Victorian village on Saturday.
Victorian entertainment · Morris Dancers · Fire Eater · FR Theatrical re-enactment · Horse shunting slate waggons · Local Stalls · Live Music · Slate splitting demonstrations
10% discount on Miners' Tramway and Deep Mine Tours to holders of Ffestiniog Railway tickets.
Llechwedd are producing souvenir Steam 150 slates for the event which will be carried by freight train to Porthmadog. A free bus service to Blaenau railway station leaves Llechwedd at 11:30, providing a connection to the celebrations being held there.
Llechwedd Slate Caverns attraction is open all day.
Blaenau Ffestiniog Station - Saturday 11:50-13:30
Linking to the events at Llechwedd Slate Caverns, specially printed Steam 150 slates will be handed over by Llechwedd and residents of Blaenau, the starting point of our railway, for transport to Porthmadog (and into the shop for sale).
Local dignitaries and community members will take part in a ceremonial hand-over celebrating the important link between town, quarry, and railway. This includes specially commissioned performances by local musicians and a theatrical re-enactment.
Blaenau Ffestiniog - Saturday 13:00
The streets of Blaenau are paved with slate, at least slate bands of poetry. There's the River of Slate, a pavement mosaic with the names of the 350 slate mines of Wales, each engraved on a slate block the colour of that quarry. Massive 7.5 metre tall slate sculptures, each made up of 15,000 stacked slates, greet passengers arriving at the railway station.
Huw Jenkins, Director of the Snowdonia Society and honorary stationmaster at Campbell's Platform, leads a guided walk around the new developments starting at 13:00 on Saturday 4th May. The walk covers 1 1/2 miles of mainly pavement, with a few steps along the way, and takes 1 1/2 hours. There is no charge for this but donations to the Snowdonia Society will be most welcome. Meet under the canopy next to the 4 giant chisel-shaped sculptures.
Anyone who wants to join the walk needs to book via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Other walks take place in and around Blaenau Ffestiniog at various times during the day. Further details are available from the Booking Offices or from:
Blaenau Ffestiniog, Station - Saturday 10:00-15:45 - Sunday 10:00-17:45
Quarry Hunslet 0-4-OST Hugh Napier, owned by the National Trust and restored at Boston Lodge, will be on duty in Blaenau Ffestiniog station during the weekend providing footplate rides.
Saturday, Sunday, and Monday - 08:00-17:00
Please Note: Friday is a normal work day for Boston Lodge staff, so the works will not be open to members of the public.
Subject to a few restrictions, the works will be open on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday to holders of valid "Steam 150" tickets to view progress on various projects and to take in the atmosphere of the oldest railway works in the world. For your own safety, please do not go exploring in any of the areas that have been cordoned-off.
There is an opportunity to see and photograph old FR Company locomotives being prepped at their spiritual home, the original loco shed, from 07:00 on Sunday and Monday. The recommendation on this is to be early, as locos go off shed from 07:15.
There is only one access point to Boston Lodge, along the footpath next to the Old Loco Shed from Boston Lodge Halt platform. There is NO access to Boston Lodge via the Tollgate steps or, for very obvious reasons, along the track from Pen Cob!
It is highly recommended that the extensive train service is used to travel to Boston Lodge as car parking is restricted to railway staff.
C2 Project - www.c2project.org
0-8-0 Dahuichang No. 4 is thought to be the world's last narrow-gauge steam locomotive commercially constructed for industrial use. Built in China in 1988, it is being restored privately at Boston Lodge. Team members will be on hand to show visitors their purpose built restoration facilities and the impressive loco, which is currently being re-gauged.
ALCO 2-6-2T Mountaineer
On display at Boston Lodge after years in storage, Mountaineer has recently returned from a trip to England. Take a rare chance to photograph this popular locomotive, currently out of traffic but being considered for overhaul.
Mountaineer represents a key part of the narrow gauge story. Wartime railways were developed as a key transport link, especially during WW I, where the ALCO operated along with other Ffestiniog Railway stock, such as the Baldwin tractor Moelwyn.
The British Army's railways during World War One were the inspiration of the Minister of Munitions, later war-time Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, who as a young lawyer, had regularly travelled on the Ffestiniog Railway to defend his clients in the court house at Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Old Engine Shed Boston Lodge - Saturday 19:00-21:45
Don't miss the chance to participate in an evening photography session around the Old Engine Shed at Boston Lodge, featuring all four England engines, No. 1 Princess, No. 2 Prince, No. 4 Palmerston, and No. 5 Welsh Pony, with a guest appearance from Double-Fairlie No. 10 Merddin Emrys.
The OES sidings and the interior of the shed will be suitably illuminated to enhance the photographic opportunities and qualified crew will be on hand to move locomotives to create a variety of scenes.
Prince and Palmerston will be in light steam, while Welsh Pony will have been turned to face chimney first towards Porthmadog. The loco crew on duty will be dressed in period costume to help set the scene and pose with the locomotives as required.
Merddin Emrys will pose beside the restored disc signal on the main line next to the OES at 20:45. Participants should take particular care while the locomotives are moving in and out of the shed and around the sidings. Please keep to the footpath area alongside the sidings. Access to the interior of the Old Engine Shed will be restricted to the new corrugated extension, with any locomotives inside the shed being visible from a safe position.
Harbour Station - Sunday 08:20-08:50 - Monday 08:15-08:50
On Sunday and Monday, the early morning activity at Harbour Station will concentrate on setting up a variety of locomotive line-ups in the station yard.
The train graphs for these two days give some indication of the locomotives to be included, but the opportunity will be taken to organise as many different permutations as possible in time available.
Themed line-ups have been considered, such as:
The exact number of line-ups we are able to set up will depend on a number of factors, including the number, and co-operation, of spectators. Please listen carefully to any instructions from the Event Stewards and do your best to follow them as quickly and closely as possible.
Harbour Station is in the middle of a major redevelopment to produce a facility suitable for the operation of two major narrow-gauge lines. As a result we would remind you to take more care than usual when walking around the station area.
Please Note: The newly-extended station area on the Cob is a construction site and as such is not accessible to the public. Please stay on the station platform or on the footpath alongside the railway.
Harbour Station - Sunday 16:10 - Monday 07:45
If you've never seen a train running non-stop past Spooner's, or you have but want to see it again, there's the mouth watering prospect of not one, but two trains steaming over the Cob without pausing at the station.
On Sunday afternoon, the returning "Queens of the Hill" special runs non-stop from Pont Croesor to Minffordd. Early risers on Monday morning can see Prince and Palmerston top'n'tail a long train as they head to Hafod y Llyn from Boston Lodge Halt.
Harbour Station - Sunday 10:50
One of the highlights of the May Bank Holiday weekend, this additional Welsh Highland Railway train will be double-headed by Linda and Blanche Porthmadog to Caernarfon and back to Minffordd (return to Porthmadog via FR train from Minffordd).
This is a unique opportunity to see the reprise their outstanding performance at the 2011 Welsh Highland Railway "Super-Power" weekend, but with an entirely unexpected twist... both locomotives will have been turned to run chimney first to Caernarfon. Ensure that you get to see, or even better, travel on this train, as we're not sure when the Ladies will be let out to play again. Please remember, though, a separate "Queens of the Hill" ticket is required for travel on this train.
Minffordd Station - Friday 18:00-20:20
See a re-creation of a re-creation, as we replicate the 1963 "Centenary of Steam" gravity runs!
Dduallt to Porthmadog - Sunday 14:55
Compare the 1963 re-creation of a gravity train to today's equivalent as a rake of loaded slate waggons descends through the Vale of Ffestiniog.
Saturday - Boston Lodge to Porthmadog 16:45 - Porthmadog to Boston Lodge 17:55
For the first time ever, all FOUR England locos will quadruple-head a long slate train across the Cob. Make sure you get yourself in position early!
Minffordd Station - Sunday 15:25
The Waggon Tracks Appeal, launched to provide covered storage for the railway's unique collection of heritage waggons, continues to raise money, and this scene at Minffordd is what it is all about. A beautiful station crammed with slate waggons. View our loaded gravity train packed with slates pass a long train of empty slate waggons. Find more about the appeal at www.frHeritage.org.uk
Dinas to Porthmadog - Monday 11:10
From the South African veldt to Snowdonia's lush valleys, see this spectacle, unique outside South Africa, hauled by one of our powerful NG/G 16s. Don't miss the afternoon return working either, formed as a mixed train hauled by two Garratts.
Harbour Station - Monday 10:50
The FR's England locos have a strong connection with the original Welsh Highland Railway, they were the locomotives used in publicity photographs for the nascent railway and hauled many of the trains during the WHR's existence.
To recognise their contribution to the day to day running of the WHR, a special train will run from Porthmadog to Beddgelert and return, recreating the days of the "frontier station" service, when trains made up of FR stock operated the southern section of the Welsh Highland Railway.
To add further interest to this train, Palmerston will have been turned to run chimney first to Beddgelert. The timing of the train allows a leisurely lunch break in Beddgelert, during which it is hoped to pose the locomotive and carriages alongside the old water tower, as homage to the 1923 photos featuring Little Giant and FR Carr. 10 at Beddgelert.
Please Note: Due to advance bookings, there are no more tickets available for travel on this train.
Harbour Station - Monday 07:30
If you're looking for an unusual train during the week-end, this is the one for you. This Porthmadog - Boston Lodge - Hafod y Llyn (WHR) - Porthmadog service has a bit of everything... non-stop run past at Porthmadog, a strengthened rake of FR carriages, top'n'tailed by Prince and Palmerston, with the locos facing in opposite directions... and it doesn't cost a penny more to travel on!
A marquee tent in the coach park area by the main road will house trade and society stands, including:
Jonathan Clay will be bringing his sales stand, with a selection of new designs that have been completed to coincide with the "Steam 150" celebrations.
The F&WHR shop will have several new offerings to attract your attention. Don't miss your chance to get a copy of "Fred Howes: The Permanent Way Man" DVD, a fascinating documentary about Fred's early days on the FR. There'll also be stock of the specially-commissioned Limited Edition "Steam 150" commemorative roofing slates on sale.
Two authors will be in attendance during the course of the weekend to sign copies of their latest books. John Stretton with "The Ffestiniog Railway Past and Present - Volume 3" and Peter Johnson with his new book "The Forty-Mile Railway".
The Gweithdy (workshop) at Minffordd Station will be a hive of activity over the weekend. Pop in to see displays of traditional sign-writing skills, historic FR Permanent-Way materials, volunteering, and Kidz Week activities, together with a Parks and Gardens plant stand, plus drinks and light refreshments. All profits from sales are going to a fund for repairs to this vital building.
If you chance to wander around the harbour over the weekend, take the time to pop in to the newly refurbished Maritime Museum and see how slate from Blaenau continued its journey across the globe. The museum is open Saturday, Sunday, and Bank Holiday Monday 12:00-16:00.
Spooner's Cafe will open earlier than usual during the weekend to allow passengers on the first trains of the day the opportunity to buy bacon baps, teas, and coffees etc. before they join the train.
Tan-y-Bwlch Cafe is also open throughout the weekend between 10:00 and 17:00 with hot food served until 15:00
A vibrant celebration in May, traditional costumes, press calls to promote the railway, horse haulage, Princess cosmetically restored, Prince driven by a bearded driver, demonstration gravity trains.
Also included with the Steam 150 guide were 4 timetables, one for each day, and each with a diagram of the day's operations printed on the back. Click on the appropriate link below to view each timetable:
Friday - 3 May 2013
Saturday - 4 May 2013
Sunday - 5 May 2013
Monday - 6 May 2013
Here are SOME of the locomotives doing duty during the Steam 150 event:
25 Feb 2013 - Princess Returns to Paddington to Celebrate 150th Birthday
Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways