Great Little Trains of Wales
Great Little Trains of Wales are a very special way of seeing some of the best scenery in the British Isles. All are narrow gauge steam railways and some have a history spanning well over 100 years. All of them have in common the charm of old-time steam trains with plenty of polished paintwork and brass.
Built in a time less hasty than our own, most originally served to carry Welsh slate from the quarries to the sea. However, no two are the same and they all offer a unique experience of a bygone era.The special attraction of narrow gauge railways lies in their modest size compared with the main line ones and their leisurely speed gives time to take in some of the splendid scenery.
Snowdon Mountain Railway, Llanberis
Since 1896 visitors from around the world have travelled on the Snowdon Mountain Railway. Trains travel to the summit of Snowdon, which at 3,560ft (1085m), is the highest mountain in England and Wales, where the surrounding countryside boasts dramatic landscape and scenery. This unique railway is one of the most popular visitor attractions in North Wales.
For more than 115 years holidaymakers and day-trippers have been appreciating the truly spectacular views they have experienced while claiming the ascent of Snowdon. As the train climbs through the atmospheric landscape of Snowdon, passengers can absorb themselves in the rich myth, legend and history Snowdonia has to offer. Based on Victorian engineering Snowdon Mountain Railway is the only public rack and pinion railway in the United Kingdom and a true majestic mountain top adventure.
Ffestiniog Railway, Porthmadog
Established by an Act of Parliament way back in 1832, the Ffestiniog Railway is truly a 'Great Little Railway' and is the oldest independent railway company in the World today. In May 2007 we proudly celebrated the 175th Anniversary if the grounding of the line.
Originally built to serve the slate industry of Blaenau Ffestiniog, the line used to be operated by gravity. Wagons laden with slate, rumbled down the hillside, kept under control by intrepid brakemen who leapt from wagon to wagon tightening or loosening the brakes while their colleague on the front wagon blew his horn to warn others of its passage. Steam locomotives were introduced in the 1860s and today, some of those same little engines haul carriages of holidaymakers through the stunning scenery of the Snowdonia National Park.
Blaenau Ffestiniog, at the head of the valley still bears the scars of its industrial past with slate tips all around. One of these quarries is open to the public and makes and interesting addition to your day out. Porthmadog's Harbour Station, the headquarters of the railway, is where most trains start and finish.
Welsh Highland Railway, Caernarfon and Porthmadog
The Welsh Highland Railway – train travel as it used to be. Take a trip on the new Welsh Highland Railway has to be one of the most spectacular ways to see the awe-inspiring scenery of the Snowdonia National Park.
Sitting in the comfort of one of the first class Pullman carriages is surely one of the finest experiences in North Wales, as is the excitement of riding in one of the open carriages behind the world’s most powerful narrow gauge steam locomotives. The Beyer Garratt NG/G16.
Weighing in at over 60 tons, these magnificent locos are more powerful than many standard gauge steam engines and the sound of them working hard up the toughest railway in the UK is an experience to be savoured by any steam enthusiast – a solid six miles of 1 in 40 gradient is as tough as it gets.
Starting from beneath the castle walls in historic Caernarfon, the railway climbs to the foot of Snowdon before dropping again to sea level at the harbour in Porthmadog. The original railway closed in 1936, but has now been completely rebuilt by volunteers at a cost of £28 million.
Beautiful scenery, comfortable carriages and historic steam engines await you here in the Snowdonia National Park. Glorious coastline, ancient woodlands, mountains, waterfalls and a viaduct, all beckon as you embark on your journey.
Relax and enjoy the stunning scenery of Southern Snowdonia, with refreshments at Tywyn Wharf and Abergynowlwyn stations and a fully-licensed bar at Tywyn Wharf featuring locally-brewed award-winning beers.
As the world’s first preserved steam railway, we know a bit about what makes a journey special: even a short trip on our railway will help you unwind – so much so, we think you’ll want to do it all over again.
The Talyllyn Railway starts from Tywyn on the Mid-Wales coast, halfway between Dolgellau and Machynlleth on the A493 road. Opened in 1865, the line – which is narrow gauge, powered by coal fired steam locomotives – was built to carry slate from quarries in the hills. The quarries closed in 1946 but the daily passenger train carried on, to the terminus at Nant Gwernol, over seven miles from Tywyn. In 1951 the railway was taken over by the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society, the first in the world, and it is the volunteer members of the Society together with a small dedicated full time workforce who run the Railway today. The original two steam locomotives and four passenger coacher are still in regular use, together with others which have been built or acquired over the years.
Abergynolwyn station, on the B4405, is half a mile from the end of the line and has road access with a car park. Abergynolwyn station features a café, small shop and toilets and disabled facilities. The Railway Adventure playground is a magnet for children of all ages. At Dolgoch you can walk around majestic waterfalls and there are country walks to suit everybody from the intermediate stations and halts.
Welsh Highland Heritage Railway, Porthmadog
The Welsh Highland Heritage Railway is a small, friendly railway where the train ride is just part of the experience. Our vintage train also stops at the sheds, where you can get off for a guided, hands-on tour.
Our trains are pulled by vintage steam locomotives, or by heritage diesel engines. Climb on board one of our old fashioned carriages, some of which are over 100 years old. You could travel in the coach that used to carry bombs, or see where the Prime Minister sat when he visited the railway in 1892!
When your train reaches the end of our one-mile demonstration line, at Pen-y-Mount Junction, you can watch the guard changing the points and signals so that the locomotive can run round, and enjoy the ambience of a typical 1920s-style WHR rural station. As your ticket lasts all day, why not go for a walk on the Traeth, and return to the station for a later train?
Bala Lake Railway occupies the trackbed of the former Ruabon Barmouth line of the Great Western Railway between the peaceful village of Llanuwchllyn and what was Pen-y-Bont Halt on the opposite side of Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake) to the market town of Bala. Opened as a narrow gauge railway in 1972, we are one of the youngest of the narrow gauge railways, although the steam locomotives we normally use are over 100 years old.
The railway, whilst being relatively young in narrow gauge terms, uses the original standard gauge station buildings and signal box. Whilst there have been considerable changes the character of the buildings remains. The smaller scale of the railways operation and the old buildings and locomotives means the railway has all the charm of the old fashioned narrow gauge railway, and it remains a place where the staff and volunteers have time to deal with passengers on an almost individual basis.
Our steam locomotives are all ex-quarry engines, all but one from the slate quarry at Llanberis. Four of the loco's were built by the Hunslet Engine Company and are all over 100 years old. The odd one out is a Pecket built locomotive from 1911 and was used by Rugby Portland Cement at Southam.
Llanberis Lake Railway
Situated in the heart of Snowdonia, and with a terminus at the foot of Snowdon, the Llanberis Lake Railway offers a delightfully relaxed steam train ride along the shores of Padarn Lake.
Starting from Llanberis the little trains take you past the 13th century Dolbadarn Castle, birthplace of the Welsh Prince Llywelyn the Great, along the new extension and across Afon y Bala, possibly Britain's shortest river, before entering Padarn Country Park and joining the original slate railway route alongside lake Padarn, the largest of the two lakes in Llanberis. The outward journey takes you non-stop to Penllyn, and along the way there are magnificent views of Snowdon and the surrounding high peaks.
On the return journey the train stops briefly at Cei Llydan, mid-way along the lake. Passengers may alight here and use the lakeside picnic area, or visit the nearby (independently operated) children's play area.
Fairbourne Miniature Railway
The Fairbourne Railway has a unique story with four different track gauges in a hundred years.
Built initially as a horse-drawn tramway and converted to a miniature steam railway in 1916 it has carried passengers continuously, aside from World War II, since 1895.
After leaving the village of Fairbourne, the journey offers unsurpassed views of the Mawddach Estuary and Cadair Idris mountains before arriving at Barmouth Ferry Station. From here it is possible to take a short boat ride into Barmouth town and make a day of it. . The steam locomotives are half-sized replicas of narrow gauge engines and are a delight to children because of their small size.