"North and Mid Wales Day Ranger"*
Fairbourne and Ffestiniog
18/19 August 2003  
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The national news media were proclaiming "misery for commuters" when, in the middle of the heat wave, my friend suggested a day out using a "North and Mid Wales Day Ranger" - "Great value - £20 round trip - out via the Cambrian, up the Ffestiniog, and back along the North Wales coast. We could have a look at the Fairbourne on the way". The weather forecast suggested much cooler weather in Wales, especially along the coast, and it was unlikely that the 60mph limit imposed on the main lines, due to the risk of rails distorting in the heat, would affect the Cambrian lines.... We left Shrewsbury on the 9.36, which would split at Machynlleth. Our portion would then travel as far as Barmouth. Another train, a couple of hours later, would provide our northbound connection for Porthmadog - hence the opportunity for the Fairbourne break, my colleague's ulterior motive being that he hadn't visited the railway since the regauging from 15" to 12¼", back in the mid-1980s. A two-train service was in operation, with locomotives "Yeo" and "Sherpa" in action. As their names suggest, the former is a replica of the Lynton and Barnstaple loco, while "Sherpa" is a half-scale Darjeeling Himalayan Railway 0-4-0ST. Having seen and photographed both, there was time for refreshments... ...before joing the next northbound 158 to Porthmadog. The main line station here is beside the Welsh Highland (Heritage) Railway, where "Gelert", a rather nice Bagnall 0-4-2T (no. 3050 of 1953, ex- South Africa's Rustenburg platinum mines) was in action.
Geoff’s Rail Diaries
It is a fair walk from here to the Ffestiniog Railway's station - we set off along the path which runs beside the Tremadoc canal - the trackbed of the old Gorseddau tramway, closed over 100 years ago. Our train to Blaenau arrived hauled by the Alco "Mountaineer", not, I have to confess, my favourite locomotive on the railway. My views were partly reversed by the fine performance of this loco, which, apart from one or two slight slips on pulling away, made a wonderful sound as it hammered away up the gradient. And so to Blaenau Ffestiniog, where, contrary to the usual experience, the sun, hidden for much of the day behind ominous looking clouds, was trying to shine. We were a bit concerned about the number of passengers waiting for the main line service, even more so when it arrived in the shape of a single class 153. The capacity of these units is deceptive - all were accommodated with room to spare. We had left Blaenau a few minutes late, but arrived at "the junction" in plenty of time for our penultimate homebound working, which was formed of a two-car class 170 "Coradia", whose performance was noticeably smoother and quieter than our previous trains. A break of nearly an hour in Chester provided an excuse for refreshments, before joining the Shrewsbury train in its usual bay platform, for an uneventful run home, where we arrived a minute of two early. What a good day - and what a great change from the sweltering heat at home! *No longer available - instead, try the “Ffestiniog Round Robin Links: Fairbourne Steam Railway Welsh Highland Heritage Railway Ffestiniog Railway
"Yeo" on the sector plate at Fairbourne "Yeo" heads away for Penrhyn Point "Sherpa" approaches Fairbourne Sherpa poses at Fairbourne "Gelert" at Porthmadog "Gelert" runs around its train at Porthmadog "Mountaineer" at Porthmadog "Mountaineer" in the misty mountains, Blaenau Ffestiniog HST and Merseyrail electric in the evening light, Chester