Porthmadog: 1st April 2017
If, back in the 19th Century, James Spooner had been told to survey a route for a scenic railway, instead of one for the more everyday purpose of conveying slate down to Porthmadog, I think he’d have come up with exactly the same thing.
The Ffestiniog Railway does indeed give a superb view of some of the best of the Welsh countryside … although the same could be said of most of the former slate railways that now serve as popular tourist attractions.
When we descended from the Llechwedd Slate Caverns, the train was waiting for us, drawn, I was delighted to see, by Merddin Emrys, one of the railway’s famous steam ‘double enders’. For the moment, I’ll just show a picture; I’ll go into the history and technical aspects later.
I was disappointed that we didn’t stop at Tan-y-Grisiau station, for this, in my view, was one of the best stops, with the artificial Llyn Tan-y-Grisiau on one side, and a pretty waterfall on the other. I did a painting here back in the 1970s … but it wasn’t very good, and I think I threw it out ages ago, anyway.
Tan-y-Grisiau is on the ‘Deviation’ which was necessitated when the upper part of the line was submerged by the lake, and presently, you’ll be able to see the line of the original track, which is rejoined at Dduallt, by means of the only railway spiral in Britain.
So … comfortable carriages, big windows, and, if you want to take photos without reflections, there’s a window you can open by the carriage door. So, just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Shortly before arrival at Porthmadog, you pass Boston Lodge, where the engines and rolling stock are sored, restored … and built! At the moment, a new ‘double ender’, James Spooner, is under construction.
Porthmadog lies on the other side of the estuary if the Afon Glaslyn, which is crossed by the artificial embankment known as the Cob, which also carries a footpath and the A497 road.
Eventually, the train steams into Porthmadog … but that’s not necessarily the end of the trip, for the station is shared with the Welsh Highland Railway, owned by the same company, which runs to Caernarfon.
But, that’s for another day!
Disclosure: I rode the Ffestiniog Railway as the guest of North Wales Tourism.