Railways in North and Mid Wales
North and Mid Wales is a veritable paradise for railway enthusiasts - with a wide range of different railway types. Bala makes an ideal base, with the Bala Lake Railway on the doorstep, and within easy travelling distance of many other railways. These railways types include:
- Steam-powered and narrow-gauge lines.
- Railways that will also be of interest to children, as well as other members of the families.
- Lines that were built to connect quarries or mines to ports.
- Mountain railways with fantastic views.
- Lines that Dr Beeching decided were surplus to requirements in the 60s, but are now operated by Railway Preservation Societies.
The area has a rich industrial history, where the railways were used to provide transport from quarries and mines to the coast. For example, the Ffestiniog railway was originally gravity operated - the trucks loaded with slate rolled downhill to the coast. A horse that was carried in a special carriage then hauled the empty trucks back uphill.
In order to re-open the Ffestiniog line in 1954, volunteer enthusiasts built a new tunnel and an alpine-style spiral to gain height thus avoiding a reservoir that had been enlarged sine the line was originally built. Just another engineering achievement associated with the railways of North Wales and the enthusiasts that have re-opened them.
By combining the Ffestiniog and West Highland Railways, you can now travel 33 miles from Blaenau Ffestiniog via Porthmadog to Caernarfon by rail while enjoying the outstanding scenery of Snowdonia and rising to 700 ft. The route goes through Aberglaslyn Pass (voted the ‘most scenic view in the UK’ by members of the National Trust) and passes to the west of Snowdon, giving splendid views.
Rather than walking, you can enjoy the ride to the summit of Snowdon be mountain railway built in 1896. Then you can enjoy the wonderful views from the summit and see the visitor centre, Hafod Eryri, which cost around £9M!, and was opened in 2009.
Many lines offer special events, such as jazz, barbeques, Murder and Mystery, and most offer Santa trains in December. You can even take charge of a steam train.
The railways accessible from the Bala area include the following:
- Bala Lake Railway (Rheilffordd Llyn Tegid) offers a delightful 9-mile return journey alongside Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid), through the beautiful and natural Snowdonia National Park.
- Corris Railway and Museum (Corris, near Machynlleth) a narrow gauge (2' 3") railway whose origins date back to the 1850's. The line was initially built as a horse-and-gravity-worked tramroad to carry slate from the quarries of Corris Uchaf and Aberllefenni to the nearest navigable point on the River Dovey.
- Welsh Highland Railway (Caernarfon to Porthmadog) Journey behind the most powerful 2' gauge steam locomotives in the world on a 19½ mile journey through the fabulous scenery of the Snowdonia National Park.
- Talyllyn Railway is a historic narrow-gauge steam railway, set in the beautiful Mid-Wales countryside. Running from Tywyn to Abergynolwyn and Nant Gwernol, the line passes the delightful Dolgoch Falls and there are excellent forest walks at Nant Gwernol. Driver experience available.
- Ffestiniog Railway (Rheilffordd Ffestiniog) which takes you on a 13½-mile journey from the harbour in Porthmadog to the slate-quarrying town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. The historic trains climb over 700 feet from sea level into the mountains through tranquil pastures and magnificent forests, past lakes and waterfalls, round horseshoe bends (even a complete spiral) clinging to the side of the mountain or even tunnelling through it.
- Llanberis Lake Railway (Rheilffordd Llyn Padarn) (Llanberis), Starting at Gilfach Ddu, the journey takes you past the 13th century Dolbadarn Castle, crossing possibly Britain's shortest river and passing Llanberis' twin lakes as the train negotiates the extension (opened in 2003) to Llanberis village.
- Llangollen Railway which runs trains for 7 ½ miles along the banks of the River Dee from Llangollen to Carrog through some of the most beautiful scenery in the UK.
- Fairbourne Steam Railway The Railway runs from Fairbourne village along Fairbourne spit to Penrhyn Point, where there is a passenger ferry to Barmouth. Driver Experience Courses available.
- The Cambrian Steam Train Travel aboard 'The Cambrian' from Machynlleth to Porthmadog or Pwllheli and revel in the romance of the steam train. Sit back and view beautiful Cardigan Bay on one side and the mountains of Snowdonia on the other. A day for all the family to relax and discover the magnificent Cambrian Coast.
- Vale of Rheidol Railway (Aberystwyth) One of the Great Little Trains of Wales and was the last steam railway owned by British Rail until it was privatised in 1989.
- Snowdon Mountain Railway (Llanberis) Let Snowdon Mountain Railway take you on a journey of a lifetime to the rooftop of Wales. Mount Snowdon, at 3,560 ft dominates the landscape of Snowdonia National Park in North Wales.
- Conwy Valley Railway (Betws-y-Coed) The Conwy Valley line, part of the National Rail Network, runs alongside one of the great rivers of Wales, the Conwy and continues along the banks of the turbulent river Lledr after it's confluence with the Conwy at Betws-y-Coed.
Note that some railways do not operate on every day. The Snowdon Mountain Railway does not operate in the winter (November to early March) or if weather is unsuitable. It is recommended that you check directly with railway for the latest timetable information and book in advance for the Snowdon Mountain Railway, buring busy periods.
It is possible to travel to the area by rail to Barmouth, Wrexham/Ruabon or Chester and then by bus to Bala (more information).