© Geoff’s Rail Diaries 2011 Domestic distractions had taken up a fair bit of the Easter period - but with fine weather and a few days to spare, we took the opportunity for a trip or two. I'd visited Llandudno's Great Orme tramway back in 1985, in the company of my then small son (now a railwayman in his own right) - my wife had never been. Time for a visit! The tramway is unique in the UK, a funicular with four cars raised and lowered by a permanently attached cable, running in the lower stretches through the streets, the cable hidden in a conduit. Halfway up the lower section is the passing loop, where the single track splits then, after the loop, becomes an unusual three-rail line, the centre rail shared by the two tracks. The gradient of the lower section is fearsome - 1 in 3.7 at its steepest. We change cars at the halfway station, home of the cable drums and electric winding motors, and soon begin the ascent of the upper section. The gradient on this line is much easier - maximum 1 in 9, and unlike the lower section, the line, now running through the grassland, is exposed like a normal railway. The cables and pulleys rumble and jingle as the cars ascend and descend. Again there is a passing loop halfway - but above the loop the line is single track (no odd three-rail sections this time). We didn't stay long at the top, choosing instead to walk a little way down to record the tramway in action, then paying a visit to the bronze-age copper mines (well worth a visit!) close by the halfway station. Curiosity satisfied, we then rejoined the tramway for the return to the lower station, and lunch (fish and chips and a pot of tea - what else?) Links: The Great Orme Tramway  Don't be put off by the "Cool for Schools" link - follow it to the downloadable "Resources for Schools" pack, an excellent and comprehensive history, description and explanation of the tramway and its workings, well worth a read even if you're well past your schooldays. The Cable Car Home Page by Joe Thompson a site about cable cars (also known as cable tramways) all over the world.
Summit station - car no. 6 Car 6 descends... ...passing car no. 7... ...heading for the summit Complicated pointwork on the upper section Car no. 6 begins its ascent from the halfway station Car no. 5 begins the descent on the lower section Charles - Hunslet 283 of 1882 Beckton No 1 - Neilson 1561 of 1870 Fire Queen - Horlock (Kent) of 1848 "Haydock" RS 2309 of 1876, and 1893 3' gauge De Winton The Ruston! RH 327904 of 1951 Penrhyn Castle I'd been to Penrhyn Castle before - as long ago as 1968 - but hadn't any photographs, so we made our way a little further along the A55 (the scenic stretch!) to the National Trust property, described in their words as a "19th-century fantasy 'castle'" built with slate money. It is also home to the NT industrial locomotive collection - a very fine and truly eclectic assembly of locomotives, including the amazing 4' gauge "Fire Queen" of 1848, 3' gauge "Kettering Furnaces No 3", and 1' 10¾" gauge "Charles" - brother of "Linda" and "Blanche", now on the Festiniog Railway. Oh, and a Ruston... It's not a preserved railway - the locomotives are "stuffed and mounted" - but they're worth a visit. The rest of the castle looked like it would be worth a visit too, but time was against us, and we were soon on the A5 and heading for home. Link: Penrhyn Castle Kettering Furnaces no 3 - Black Hawthorn 850 of 1885