Thursday, 14 June 2012

Wednesday 13th June - Blaenau Ffestiniog Railway

I was woken this morning by a loud rumbling noise. My first thought was that it was my tummy, but soon realised that it was thunder. The rain was lashing down, and the odd rumble of thunder was followed by a bolt of lightning. Thankfully the thunderstorm did not last for too long, but the rain seemed settled in for the day.

Because of the weather, we decided to go to Pwlhelli as there is a market there on a Wednesday, one which claims to be the largest in North Wales. We set out with high hopes of finding some local produce.

By the time we were on our way to Pwlhelli, the rain had pretty much stopped, and the skies were brightening up. The journey didn't take too long, as it was only a few miles. More by luck than judgement we found the market and, more importantly, somewhere to park.

It was now quite sunny, and we were already doubting our choice for the day, and when we discovered that the market was actually rather a let down, and was just the same as any market you could find in any town, we were very much in the mood for a change of plan.

We had a brief wander around the town, but there was little to keep us interested, and so we headed back to the apartment much sooner than we had expected to so that we could check on the timetable for the trains. We found that the next train left Porthmadog at 1:35pm, which gave us around 45 minutes to spare.

Once back in the car, we quickly got to Porthmadog, although finding somewhere to park was a bit less simple. The carpark at the station was full, and so we had to use one of the normal ones, which was not only quite expensive, but also meant that the timings involved with our trip were tight.
Our original plan had been to take the train to Blaenau Ffestiniog, stay there for about an hour and a half to have a look around, and then go back on the train. This would have made us way too late for the carpark, and so we had to get there, wait while they refilled the tender for the engine and then come straight back.

As it happened, this was not the end of the world, as it appears that there was very little to see once you are there. It is a very bleak town, dominated by the remains of its previous slate and mining industries. Even in glorious sunshine it was not too welcoming, but thankfully the journey there and back on the narrow gauge steam train more than made up for it.

The route the train takes is both beautiful and awe inspiring. I gather that it is the only railway in the UK that has a spiral in it. This is something that makes train enthusiasts from all over the world want to experience it. Now don't get it into your head that it is like going on a roller coaster ride at a theme park, because it is not anything like that, but it is quite something to see the track go around a small hill and double back over itself. At one point the front of the train is pointing 180 degrees different to the rear of the train.

The track winds it's way up the sides of mountains, through woods, and alongside small cottages. Many times along the route you could reach out of the window and touch the cottages it passes. There are numerous level crossings, most of which just have lights and beepers on them rather than gates or barriers. At one point the train actually goes across  and along the main street of a village before carrying on up the mountainside.

The views just get more spectacular as you round every corner, and no matter how hard you try, photographs just cannot do it justice - they give you no idea of the sheer scale of the scenery.

The carriages are obviously very narrow and not particularly comfortable to ride in. Thankfully the journey is only an hour and ten minutes each way, but even so, the harsh ride gives you a numb bottom by the time you reach your destination!

The sun shone for the whole trip there and back, and it was all very pleasant, and we are very pleased that we have done it. Yes, I would do it again, just not too soon - I need to get over the aches first!

The evening started to come over very dull, and the clouds took on a threatening look. Eventually the rain came, and the wind picked up. By now it was almost dark though, so we didn't mind. Considering the forecast had been for rain all day, we can't complain.


  1. As a rabid Harry Potter Fan I got all excited when I saw the inside of this locomotive. The decor reminds me of the Hogwarts Express! Although from your description I would guess that the Sweets Trolley never came around with chocolate frogs. ;)

  2. Ha ha, no sign of the chocolate frogs I'm afraid! There was a staff member who came around asking if anyone wanted refreshments, but it was limited to tea, coffee, coke cola, potato chips and candy bars!