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European Railroad Discussion > The Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways in the age of Covid


Date: 09/13/20 05:19
The Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways in the age of Covid
Author: 86235

In the UK the heritage railway industry (if that's the right word) has had a pretty torrid time of it adjusting to Covid. When Lockdown came in March many of the operations were only just reawakening from their winter slumbers, most having last operated before Christmas and over New Year. Lockdown meant total closure for all, with only a few volunteers and paid staff remaining at work, subject to all the restrictions of movement and social distancing. Many made appeals to their memberships and the wider enthusiast community for funds to help them through the crisis and so far none APPEAR to have folded, although the West Somerset is yet to operate a train and neither the Brecon Mountain nor Vale of Rheidol Railways intend running any trains this year at all. The other operations have re-started in some form or other.

On the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways trains on the former began operating in July but on a limited basis, from Porthmadog to Tan-y-bwlch, approximately halfway to the upper terminus at Blaenau Ffestiniog. The Welsh Highland only restarted in August and again in a very limited way, just a single train a day on four days of the week from Caernarfon to Beddgelert and back, which left the section from Beddgelert through the Aberglaslyn Pass to Porthmadog without service. All tickets for all trains have to be booked on line in advance, there's no turn up and ride. There's also no on board refreshments available although on the WHR you can pre-book a food hamper which you pick up at Caernarfon when boarding. To maximise revenue on the WHR they are running a 13 car second class only train, no Pullman observation cars and obviously limiting the capacity in each car to 25 to 35% depending on the number pre-booking either individually, in pairs or groups within households (up to 6 being allowed to mix together). On the Ffestiniog they are only using their heritage compartment rolling stock, which helps social distancing, making a virtue out of a necessity and, as I said, only as far as Tan-y-bwlch. I think confining non-rail fan passengers in some of the early compartment stock for the whole hour plus ride to Blaenau was considered to be a too difficult sell.

So that's how things remain, but yesterday (September 12th) the railway ran a pair of special trains for members of the Welsh Highland Railway Society (CRhE) from Porthmadog to Beddgelert and back, the first trains carrying passengers on this section since before Lockdown. This weekend is traditionally the Super-power weekend on the Welsh Highland, with freights and double headed services but of course that had to be cancelled, so this is what the railway did instead. The rides were free for CRhE members but had to be reserved in advance to ensure social distancing, and to make it even more special the railway's newest locomotive, Large England 0-4-0STT Welsh Pony was rostered for both trains (along with Double Fairlie Merddin Emrys). Welsh Pony, which dates from 1867, has been out of service for 80 years, its rebuilding was started a few years ago but only completed in 2020 during the Covid lockdown. Much of what you see is new but there are a sufficient original components for it to be described as a rebuild rather than a replica. Here are some pictures from yesterday's fun.

1: Merddin Emrys led on the first leg to Beddgelert, here just beginning the climb to Nantmor
2: A close up of the two locomotives, the 'toastrack' carriage is a replica of a type of car the Ffestiniog acquired during the 1920s for the tourist trade.
3: Welsh Pony at the head of the train returning to Porthmadog in the Aberglaslyn Pass. Six 0-4-0STT were supplied by George England to the railway, four were of the small variety, three of which survive, and two were of the large type, of which Welsh Pony is the only survivor



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/13/20 08:50 by 86235.








Date: 09/13/20 05:23
Re: The Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways in the age of Covid
Author: 86235

4: The train pulls out on to the Britannia bridge in Porthmadog for the final stretch into Harbour station
5: Back at Beddgelert I watched the 14:15 WHR departure to Caernarfon behind Beyer-Garratt NGG16 87 which has been overhauled and repainted in SAR black
6: Overlooking the vilage of Beddgelert the second train of the day returning to Porthmadog








Date: 09/14/20 11:02
Re: The Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways in the age of Covid
Author: dwatry

I think #4 is my favorite - the driver is almost bigger than the cab!



Date: 09/15/20 01:48
Re: The Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways in the age of Covid
Author: 86235

dwatry Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I think #4 is my favorite - the driver is almost
> bigger than the cab!

I guess Victorian railwaymen were shorter 😀



Date: 09/15/20 10:24
Re: The Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways in the age of Covid
Author: 55002

Thanks for those, Nick. Good to see there is some service operating, and hopefully things improve during the remainder of the season. chris uk



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