© Geoff’s Rail Diaries 2011
The 15" gauge railway has a long history in the
UK - mention 15" gauge in railway circles and
the RH&DR and the "Ratty" come to mind, or
perhaps the late lamented 15" Fairbourne. But
there were 15" gauge railways before that -
going back in fact to 1875, and Sir Arthur
Heywood's "Minimum Gauge" experiments. His
first locomotive "Effie" was built in that year.
The 15" gauge Rhyl Miniature Railway was opened in 1911,
some years before its better known followers - and today
would be the 90th anniversary of its opening. And there
would be a link with those first days - the full-size replica of
Effie, built in 1999 by the Great Northern Steam Company,
would be visiting.
We spent a most pleasant couple of hours here - firstly
photographing regular trains, hauled around the continuous loop
by Joan and Effie. Joan is one of the locomotives built in the
early 1920s for the line by local engineer Albert Barnes. There
were six of these locomotives at one time, now
Joan is the only one resident on the line,
although today she was joined by John, another
Barnes locomotive returning to the line for this
anniversary occasion, from its home in
Later in the morning, Joan and John ran double-
headed, and for the anniversary cavalcade, a
complete circuit was completed by the other motive power on
the line - firstly 0-4-2 "Clara", a steam-outline diesel built in
1961 for Dudley Zoo, then the re-gauged Lister (ex-Shapwick
Heath peat works) which ran assisting "KD1" - best described as a
15" gauge APT!
Rhyl Miniature Railway
Leaving Rhyl (one can have too much of a good thing) we
rejoined the standard gauge and headed for Llandudno Junction.
The Conwy Valley line was on this occasion being served by a
couple of Class 101 DMUs, including the green-liveried set, so we
thought we'd take a ride up to Blaenau. On taking our seats on
the train, we rechecked the timetable and decided to shorten
the trip by only travelling to Bettws-y-Coed - this would give us a
decent interval during which we could take on refreshments, and
have a look at the miniature railway there (I think my colleague
is getting a bit of a taste for very small gauges!). On arriving at
Llanrwst North, the guard suggested to passengers that they
might like to get out and take a breath of air for few minutes.
Apparently, the Festiniog Railway had suffered a minor
derailment at Blaenau, which was causing some problems for an
excursion which was attempting to run round on the standard
gauge. As a result, the token for the Llanrwst - Blaenau section
could not be released...
The outcome was, in effect, rather like a photo stop on a
special, as numerous gricers lined up to take pictures.
Eventually, after about 40 minutes, we were called back to the
train, and we soon arrived at Bettws, where we we able to get
an excellent quick meal in the "Buffet Coach Cafe". Sadly there
wasn't time to sample the delights of the 7¼" gauge line, so a
quick snap had to suffice.
And that was it - back down the valley - perhaps our last trip on
a 101 - to Llandudno Junction, where there was time for a pint
before rejoining the North Wales Coast line. "Perhaps we'll get a
ride in a Coradia" suggested Steve. It was a Pacer. 'Nuff said!