Ffestiniog Railways

1128 Reviews

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Review type

Things to do


Date of travel

October, 2019

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Travelled with

On your own

Reasons for trip

All services ceased on the Ffestiniog Railway in 1946 when the line closed leaving locos, carriages and wagons where they had been abandoned. A group of supporters formed a few years later with plans to reopen the line. By 1958 the line had been cleared as far as Tan y Bwlch. Plans to extend the line back to Blaenau hit a problem as a pumped water storage reservoir and power station had been built at Tanygrisiau, drowning the top section of the line.

In 1954, the British Electricity Authority proposed a scheme for a pumped water electric power station at Tanygrisiau, designed to boost the national grid at peak demand times. The Festiniog Railway opposed the plan which involved flooding part of the route with a reservoir but British Electricity Authority challenged this as they regarded the Railway’s directors and supporters as mere amateurs ‘playing trains’. Compulsory acquisition of the line above Moelwyn Tunnel went ahead in 1956.

Not to be defeated, the Ffestiniog Railway gradually restored the line to Ddualt, so establishing its claim of commercial and tourist value and a legitimate claim to compensation. The Festiniog Railway Company took the electricity company to court and after a long legal battle succeeded in winning compensation of over £100,000 for loss of profits.

Various solutions were considered, including building a new route round the east side of the new reservoir, before it was decided to build a spiral to take the railway above the level of the reservoir. This is the only spiral on a British railway.

Land was given by the Economic Forestry Group and work began on the Deviation. This was built entirely with volunteer labour using the same techniques as the railway navvies a hundred years earlier. A new tunnel had to be dug as well as bridges across the four water pipes to the power station and a new station at Tanygrisiau.

The trains now reach Ddualt beneath the spiral bridge and then do big loop before crossing over the spiral bridge. There are splendid views from the spiral towards Blaenau Ffestiniog and Ffestiniog. Beyond Ddualt station, the original track bed can be seen running along a raised stone embankment to the old Moelwyn Tunnel

The line runs above the reservoir and if water levels are low, the line of the original trackbed can still be seen running across the bottom of the reservoir. The deviation eventually joins the original trackbed just beyond Tanygrisiau station.

These pictures were taken on a trip to the Ffestiniog Railway in October 2019. They are part of a series of reviews and pictures from that trip.


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