Charles Clark told us how, as a teenager in 1961, he stood with his father in the Aberglaslyn Pass in North Wales and watched hikers walking up the disused trackbed that had once carried the Welsh Highland Railway.
His father recalled how, as a teenager, he had stood on the same spot in the 1920s and watched trains working the line. Little did either of them guess that today you can stand on the same spot and once again watch steam trains on the line.
Charles explained how the Welsh Highland Railway was reborn with a fascinating talk, vividly illustrated with images, videos and plans.
The Welsh Highland Railway was formed in 1922 from the merger of two companies – the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways and the Portmadoc, Beddgelert and South Snowdon Railway. The railway was originally built to serve the slate industry which had previously used a tramway system.
The Welsh Highland Railway Company was also to serve the leisure industry but unfortunately at that time it was unsustainable and in 1933 the Ffestiniiog Railway took over its operation. It was closed during the war but in 1964 it became the Welsh Highland Light Railway. In 2011, the Welsh Highland was officially opened throughout from Caernarfon to Porthmadog. Charles said that catching an early train, one is able to do an 80 mile round trip on the Welsh Highland and Ffestiiog narrow gauge railways by steam, using the connection with the Ffestiniiog.
Charles showed pictures of the reconstruction of the railway – starting from Porthmadog where the railway crosses the harbour by a river bridge. He had many photos of the work done by volunteers to restore the railway throughout its length and of particular interest was the work through the Aberglaslyn Pass where the line travels though the cliffs. He also showed modern pictures of Beddgelert Station where tourists can see staff in traditional Welsh costume. Continuing on the line he showed photos where one could see Snowdon and the Moelwynion Hills. 2019 saw the opening of the new Caernarfon Station, offering greatly-improved facilities.
Finally, Charles showed a video of the trip from Porthmadog to Rhyd Ddu – a journey of 1¾ hours but sped up in the video to 3½ minutes through tunnels, over rivers and S-bends – which was most enjoyable.