Monday 13 August 2012

25: Small Steam, Steep Snowdon and Simply Sheep

Once again a warm welcome to the Railwaymedia blog, this being edition number 25 and covering a quick résumé of a few days in Wales based near to Porthmadog.

With the exception of the photo I took in Caernarfon and mentioned in the last edition of this blog, I had not previously covered any of the little railways, nor even the 'main line' to Pwllheli, that are located on the Cambrian Coast; indeed I haven't visited the area since childhood, so despite it being a family holiday I managed to escape as much as I could to make up the defecit.

In the end I managed a good range of shots from 4 of the railways. The first day I covered both the Welsh Highland and Ffestiniog Railways which are now operated by the same organisational structure. Although the Welsh Highland's Garrett 2-6-2+2-6-2 locos (numbers 87 and 143) seem to be the mainstay of that route, summer peak time extras to Rhyd Ddu utilise Ffestiniog engines, the morning working being diesel hauled, 'Vale of Ffestiniog' seen here near Nantmor.

This day was largely dull, though there were one or two good spells of sunshine later on. The Welsh Highland line seems far easier to find locations to get good photographs as it is a lot more open and less tree-lined than the Ffestiniog, although there are far less trains on it. As mentioned in the last blog there are only 3 trains each way over the whole length of the line as against the Ffestiniog's 7. The timetables, and other information, can be found on the Festrail Website

I didn't though to be honest venture far up the Ffestiniog, so there will be I'm sure good shots available towards the Blaenau end of the line; this shot of the Lynton and Barnstaple replica loco 'Lyd' at Penrhyndeudraeth was the most easterly point I explored. More to do another holiday!

After a morning spent photographing and an afternoon back with the family, with the light getting better, I nipped back out at teatime. I had a quick visit to Boston Lodge works before going a few miles up the Welsh Highland to Pont Croesor for a shot of the last Caernarfon to Porthmadog train, hauled by Garrett 87. This is a useful location where a 'B' road runs parallel for about half a mile.

The second day in Wales I negotiated a full day out away from the family as I wanted to get some shots of the Snowdon Mountain Railway. I had only intended to maybe walk a short way up in order to get some reasonable shots of the railway, however in the end I spent 6 and a half hours going to the very top and back. Admittedly I maybe could have done it quicker as I stopped a lot on the way up waiting to get pictures (well that's the excuse, getting my breath back was another reason!)

There were 7 individual trains out on the day, three out of four of the currently operational steam engines and all four diesels. I seemed to manage to time it badly for catching the steamers going uphill, though I did managed a few shots at Clogwyn (the 3/4 point) as I went up. Despite the mist covering most of the top part of the mountain it was still well worth the effort to get to the summit, both to be able to say I made the ascent, but also as on the return I got the shot I really wanted at Clogwyn, in reasonable light, of number 6 starting out the final bit of the climb.

If you are interested in looking at them, the rest of my Snowdon pictures, and those of the other railways featured in this blog, can be found  HERE in my new 'Heritage' section of my site. 

Day number 3 and I took the family to Barmouth for the morning. Again it is many years since I visited the place but knew I could safely leave the family wandering round the town, the amusements and the beach whilst I nipped across on the small Ferry to get a few shots of the Fairbourne Railway. I even managed some shots of class 158s on the Cambrian Coast line whilst I was there!

On my return from Snowdon the previous day I had gone for, but missed out on, a shot of the last Welsh Highland service to Rhyd Ddu due to some severe late running, it turning out to be over an hour late. With beautiful evening light again this particular evening, and the sun still being high enough to reach into the pass, I went to Aberglaslyn to get the classic shot of a train in the gorge, this being the Ffestiniog's 'Merddin Emrys' on the 1645 from Porthmadog. 

This is a spectacular part of the line, as can be seen. I waited in the gorge for Garrett 87 to come the other way, which was booked to pass this working at nearby Beddgelert, and then drove up the valley to Rhyd Ddu where I easily beat Merddin Emrys again for the final shot of the day, and holiday.

Well, it wasn't quite last shot of the holiday as I took the family via Llandudno on the way back and, whilst they went for a cable car ride up the Great Orme, I took advantage of this and the good weather to get a few shots of the tramway once again. During previous visits, both in 1996 and the week previously, I had only covered the bottom section from Victoria Station up Old Road, so by parking the car at the top I could easily walk down and get pictures of the two Upper Section cars, and also the top bit of the lower section. In fact I ended up almost walked right to the station at the bottom anyway, but if I guess if I can get up Snowdon then the Orme is easy!
I've tried to be as concise as possible with the description of the weeks wanderings, whilst still giving a taste of what photographic opportunities there are on the lines concerned, and indeed what trains can be seen. It is certainly an area I need to visit again as there are plenty more little lines dotted about to cover. The entire weeks pictures can be found in my  Trips 2012 section. As this edition has been about Wales I'll leave you with a picture of some sheep. Bye for now!


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