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Ffestiniog Railway

by ianjking

The Ffestiniog Railway

View from the Ffestiniog Railway on The Cob, Porthmadog
View from the Ffestiniog Railway on The Cob, Porthmadog

The Ffestiniog Railway runs for 13.5 miles from Porthmadog to the historic slate town of Blaenau Ffestiniog.

The track was built between 1833 and 1836 (with a final section and the Moelwyn Tunnel near Tanygrisiau being completed in 1842). The track climbs and bends its way to a maximum height of 700 feet after starting at sea-level. The whole line was built with a 1 in 80 gradient, so the slate-loaded wagons could travel unpowered all the way from Blaenau Ffestiniog to the port at Porthmadog where it was loaded onto ships and transported all over the world. The empty wagons were then pulled back up using horses (who travelled down in their own special wagons). Passengers were carried from the early 1850s and three original locos are still in operation after 150+ years, with original carriages.

The railway closed to passengers at the end of 1936, but after much effort, restoration started in 1954 with the first passenger train running the short distance from Porthmadog across The Cob to Boston Lodge in 1955. The line was gradually extended from Porthmadog over the next few years, extending to Minffordd in 1956, Penrhyn in 1957 and Tan-y-Bwlch in 1958. Seven miles of track were reopened in these four years.

The Ffestiniog Railway Approaching Tanygrisiau
The Ffestiniog Railway Approaching Tanygrisiau

Due to the building of the hydro-electric power station and its reservoir (Llyn Ystradau) at Tanygrisiau, the line had to be diverted 2.5 miles, which meant building a new 930 feet tunnel near Tanygrisiau (built between 1975 and 1977) and a spiral near Dduallt to gain the 35 feet (11 meters) needed to bypass the old Moelwyn Tunnel which had been flooded when the reservoir was built. The diversion took from 1965 to 1978, although Dduallt was opened in 1968.

The final part of the track to Blaenau Ffestiniog took four years, with completion in 1982. This included the demolition and rebuilding of four old footbridges.

The Map Showing Porthmadog (Bottom Left) and Blaenau Ffestiniog (Top Right) and the Route of the Ffestiniog Railway.

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