Festiniog Railway

Gauge: 1ft 11½in (600mm)


Collection Objects

NumberRailwayObject TypeDescriptionImage
TYWRM:FR001Festiniog Railwaywagon platewagon plate marked 'FESTINIOG RAILWAY 101'; 10" x 7 1/2" file FR001.jpg
TYWRM:FR001.2Festiniog Railwaywagon platewagon plate marked 'FESTINIOG RAILWAY 101'; 10" x 7 1/2" file FR001-2.jpg
TYWRM:FR002Festiniog Railwayphotographframed photograph of a train with locomotive 'LITTLE WONDER' ca. 1869 file FR002.jpg
TYWRM:FR005Festiniog Railwaywagon platewagon plate marked 'FESTINIOG RAILWAY 128' file FR005.jpg
TYWRM:FR006Festiniog Railwayrail chaircast iron S-shaped base super elevated chair c.1868 file FR006.jpg
TYWRM:FR009Festiniog Railwaywagon platewagon plate marked 'F.R.Co. No. 39' file FR009.jpg
TYWRM:FR010Festiniog Railwaywagon platecarriage plate marked 'F.R.QUARRY WORKMEN'S CARRIAGE No. 34'; cast iron; oval file FR010.jpg
TYWRM:FR011Festiniog Railwaysignwooden board marked 'LAST VEHICLE' file FR011.jpg
TYWRM:FR013Festiniog Railwaysignaldisc signal on fluted cast iron column with access platform and ladder file FR13-3.jpg
TYWRM:FR014.1Festiniog Railwayadvertising postercoloured poster titled 'FESTINIOG TOY RAILWAY WONDERLAND OF WALES' file FR014-1.jpg
TYWRM:FR014.2Festiniog Railwayadvertising posterreproduction of poster titled 'FESTINIOG TOY RAILWAY WONDERLAND OF WALES' file FR014-2.jpg
TYWRM:FR015.1Festiniog Railwayadvertising postercoloured poster titled 'THE WELSH HIGHLAND AND FESTINIOG RAILWAY COMPANIES' file FR015-1.jpg
TYWRM:FR015.2Festiniog Railwayadvertising posterreproduction of coloured poster titled 'THE WELSH HIGHLAND AND FESTINIOG RAILWAY COMPANIES' file FR015-2.jpg
TYWRM:FR016Festiniog Railwaymilepostmilepost; slate; marked '2' above '11 1/4' file FR016.jpg
TYWRM:FR017Festiniog Railwaymilepostmilepost; slate; marked '0); 00; (0' in three rows file FR017.jpg
TYWRM:FR018Festiniog Railwaynoticebyelaw notice; reproduction file FR018.jpg
TYWRM:FR019Festiniog Railwayboardboard "BL FESTINIOG / PORTMADOC" file FR019.jpg
TYWRM:FR020Festiniog Railwayrail chaircast iron chair for 50 lb/yd. bullhead rail file FR020.jpg
TYWRM:FR021Festiniog Railwayrail chairtwo cast iron chairs for 50 lb/yd. bullhead rail file FR021.jpg
TYWRM:FR022Festiniog Railwayrail chaircast iron chair with S-section base file FR022.jpg
TYWRM:FR023Festiniog Railwayrail chairfourteen cast iron chairs for rail of the horse-drawn era file FR023.jpg
TYWRM:FR024Festiniog Railwayrail chaircast iron joint chair for rail of the horse-drawn era file FR024.jpg
TYWRM:FR025Festiniog Railwayrail chaircast iron joint chair for rail of the horse-drawn era (differs from FR024) file FR025.jpg
TYWRM:FR026Festiniog Railwaysignstation name board; plywood; marked 'MINFFORDD' file FR026.jpg
TYWRM:FR027Festiniog Railwaysignstation name board; marked on both sides 'BLAENAU FFESTINIOG' file FR027.jpg
TYWRM:FR028Festiniog Railwaysignmetal board marked 'LAST VEHICLE' file FR028.jpg
TYWRM:FR029Festiniog Railwayboardboard "BL FESTINIOG / PORTMADOC" file FR029.jpg
TYWRM:FR030Festiniog Railwayadvertising postercopy of FR014 'FESTINIOG TOY RAILWAY WONDERLAND OF WALES' file FR030.jpg
TYWRM:FR031Festiniog Railwayadvertising poster"The Welsh Highland and Festiniog Railway Companies" file FR031.jpg
TYWRM:FR032Festiniog Railwayrailstwo lengths of 50 lb/yd. bullhead rail file FR032.jpg
TYWRM:FR033Festiniog Railwaysleepers and chairsfour wooden sleepers with cast iron chairs for 50 lb/yd. bullhead rail file FR033.jpg
TYWRM:FR034.1Festiniog Railwayrail chairchair; cast iron platform joint for bridge rail; Rhiwbach Tramway ref MRFS file TEMP026.jpg
TYWRM:FR034.2Festiniog Railwayrailshort length of bridge rail; Rhiwbach Tramway ref MRFS file TEMP026.jpg
TYWRM:FR035Festiniog Railwaysingle line ticketsingle line tickets for Minffordd to Tan-y-Bwlch and Tanybwlch (sic) to Minffordd file FR035.jpg
TYWRM:FR037Festiniog Railwayconsignment noteConsignment notes; one issued Duffws 31/8/1939; one issued from station unnamed 6/09/193x file FR037.jpg
TYWRM:FR038Festiniog RailwaybookA Pictorial History of the Festiniog Railway. The book contains a timetable for 1909 which indicates how much the Festiniog Railway was competing for passenger traffic by the introduction of this new train in February of that year. file FR038B.jpg
TYWRM:FR039Festiniog Railwaydisplay cardHanging display card advertising "The Faery Line" circa 1930 file FR039.jpg
TYWRM:FR040.1Festiniog RailwayticketFestiniog Railway ticket : 91 Bl Festiniog to Minffordd Day Excursion Child 7 AU 36. Severed half file FR040.jpg
TYWRM:FR040.2Festiniog RailwayticketFestiniog Railway ticket : 1517 Bl Festiniog to Portmadoc Day Excursion Child SE.2.36. Severed half file FR040.jpg
TYWRM:FR040.3Festiniog RailwayticketFestiniog Railway ticket : 1160 Bl Festiniog to Portmadoc Day Excursion JY. 1? 37. Severed half file FR040.jpg
TYWRM:FR040.4Festiniog RailwayticketFestiniog Railway ticket : - - - - Dduallt to Bl Festiniog Quarryman JY 12 7. Severed half file FR040.jpg
TYWRM:FR040.5Festiniog RailwayticketFestiniog Railway ticket : 1142 Portmadoc to Bl Festiniog Quarryman NO.29.37. Severed half file FR040.jpg
TYWRM:FR041Festiniog RailwayhandbillFestiniog Railway handbill with timetable for 1959 file FR041A.jpg
TYWRM:FR042Festiniog RailwaybookFestiniog Railway Guide Book c1959 file FR042.jpg
TYWRM:FR043Festiniog RailwayticketFirst and Third Class Tickets; Porthmadog to Tanygrisiau and return; used for the opening to Tanygrisiau on 24 June 1978. Undated. file FR043A.jpg
TYWRM:FR044Festiniog Railwayticket4 FR tickets collected by G R Stone
TYWRM:FR045Festiniog Railwaytimetable posterFestiniog Railway timetable poster for 1963; featuring 100 years of steam.
TYWRM:FR046Festiniog RailwayleafletFestiniog Railway publicity leaflet with photographs on front page and advertising the new Rambler's Hostel at Boston Lodge on rear; and with maps inside file FR046A.jpg
TYWRM:FR047Festiniog Railwayadvertising posterFestiniog Railway poster advertising Blaenau Ffestiniog "Ultimate Goal of the Festiniog Railway"
TYWRM:FR048Festiniog Railwayadvertising posterFfestiniog Railway poster "If God had meant us to see Snowdonia; He would have given us flanged wheels and a chimney". file FR048.jpg
TYWRM:FR049Festiniog Railwayadvertising posterFestiniog Railway Society poster file FR049.jpg
TYWRM:FR050Festiniog Railwaytimetable posterFfestiniog Railway timetable poster for 1966 with Cuneo print of trains at Tan-y-Bwlch file FR050.jpg
TYWRM:FR051Festiniog RailwayticketFestiniog Railway three part paper Through Ticket
TYWRM:FR052Festiniog RailwaystaffFestiniog Railway Type F Miniature Electric Train Staff for the Portmadoc to Minffordd section file FR052.jpg
TYWRM:FR053Festiniog Railwaypatternwooden foundry pattern : point lever side support file FR053.jpg
TYWRM:FR054Festiniog Railwaypatternwooden foundry pattern : point lever mechanism cover file FR054.jpg
TYWRM:FR055Festiniog RailwaycrockeryCommemorative plate marking the completion of the Festiniog Railway Llyn Ystradau Deviation Project 1978 file FR055.jpg
TYWRM:FR056Festiniog RailwayreportFestiniog Railway Directors report and accounts for December 1909
TYWRM:FR057Festiniog RailwayplaqueFestiniog Railway plaque mounted crest file FR057.jpg
TYWRM:FR058Festiniog RailwaybookFestiniog Railway Guide Book c1972 file FR058.jpg
TYWRM:FR059Festiniog RailwaybookFestiniog Railway Pictorial Series 2 1971 file FR059.jpg
TYWRM:FR060Festiniog RailwaypostcardLimited edition of six art-drawn postcards featuring 150 years of the Festiniog Railway file FR060.jpg

The Festiniog Railway was opened in 1836 to connect slate quarries around Ffestiniog with William Madocks’ harbour at Portmadoc. The Railway received its parliamentary assent after three attempts. Money came from Ireland and Henry Archer was the first Managing Director. James Spooner surveyed the route and produced a plan that would allow maximum economy in operation.

Slate was brought from the quarries down inclines to two branch-lines which joined at where Blaenau Ffestiniog would develop. From there the line descended for 12¼ miles to its terminus in Portmadoc Harbour. The route wound along the contours in sharp curves, made a U-bend around a side-valley, crossed embankments built to a height of 60ft with dry-stone walls, followed ledges cut in rock and through two tunnels. On this track loaded wagons were able to descend all the way by gravity. Horses returned empty wagons to the top in two stages and rode down again in dandy-wagons. Down trains took 1hr 40mins but up-trains took 5hrs 50mins

James Spooner was the driving force behind the railway from 1836 till his death in 1856, first as Clerk to the Company and from 1845 as Secretary as well. His successor was his son, Charles Easton Spooner.

It was C.E. Spooner who transformed the line into a miniature main line of worldwide influence. Until then the only passengers had been quarrymen. The scenic nature of the route had been recognised, and Spooner realised that tourist and local passenger traffic could be approved by the Board of Trade if track was improved and locomotives introduced.

In 1863 the first steam locos were delivered, four 0-4-0 saddle tank locos with tenders, built by George England & Co., of London. One, Prince, still survives in working order. Regular passenger service began on 6 January 1865. The locos did not prove powerful enough for uphill work with passenger carriages and a train of empty slate wagons. Shorter, more frequent trains were required, but a double track would be needed at huge cost. Spooner found an answer in Robert Fairlie’s double engines which provided greater power and flexibility. Little Wonder, a Fairlie loco built by G. England appeared in 1869 with great success. Up journeys now took less than two hours. It was Little Wonder ‘s trials that convinced so many at home and abroad of the usefulness of narrow gauge. More Fairlie locos appeared on the Festiniog. A further innovation, in 1871, was the first use in Britain of American-style bogied carriages.

The Festiniog conformed fully with the Regulation of Railways Act of 1889. By 1893 block signalling, interlocking of points and signals and vacuum brakes had been introduced and steel rails laid throughout the length. The electric train staff was introduced in 1912.

Between 1867 and 1910 slate traffic almost always exceeded 100,000 tons annually. It was still carried in long gravity trains controlled by brakesmen riding the load. Slate went to Portmadoc until 1872 when an exchange of traffic to Cambrian Railways was opened at Minffordd. The L&NWR opened a branch line to Blaenau in 1881 followed by the GWR in 1883, giving each a share in the slate output. This had effects on the prosperity of the Festiniog. After 1897 slate carriage by the Festiniog declined sharply. Increasing use of roof tiles and imported slates reduced demand for the Welsh product and road transport provided more competition.

In 1923 Col. H.F. Stephens was appointed Civil Engineer and Locomotive Superintendent. Stringent economy was the watchword of Stephens’ Kent-based operation and, with little understanding of the local situation, a Light Railway Order was obtained granting exemption from statutory signalling regulations. These methods were disliked by the Festiniog’s loco crews who insisted on the restoration of protected single line working.

After 1925 road transport began to take its toll of passenger traffic too. Income fell and maintenance suffered. Unreliable connections with the main line were the consequence. By 1939 slate tonnage was a mere 30,000. All passenger traffic ceased on the outbreak of war in 1939 and slate trains were stopped in 1946.

For several years suggestions of a rescue were put forward. A Society was formed, but unlike the Talyllyn Railway, Festiniog proprietors had no faith in a revival. The Society had to buy them out and in 1954 a Holding Company was formed to do this. A separate Festiniog Railway Society was formed for fund raising and as a pool of volunteers. A short public service began in July 1955 as the track was slowly cleared.

Then a formidable obstacle was hit. The British Electricity Authority (later CEGB) announced its intention to compulsorily purchase a part of the Festiniog’s right of way to flood it by a new reservoir. A 15 year legal battle ensued after which the Authority yielded, and the railway won compensation for loss of profit. The line was eventually completed with a deviation which included a tunnel and a feature new to Britain, a double spiral completed in 1971.

Valuable publicity had been gained with the legal struggle. A new station, shared with British Rail, opened at Blaenau Ffestiniog on 23 May 1982, exactly 150 years after the passing of the Festiniog Railway’s Act of incorporation. The Festiniog is more than a preserved railway, it connects two standard gauge lines. New station buildings have been built at Portmadoc and a fully computerised booking system, the first on a British railway, was inaugurated in 1985.


On closure 1946
1 Princess of 1863; 0-4-0 tank
2 Prince 0-4-0 tank
3 Taliesin Single Fairlie (Vulcan Foundry) of 1876; 0-4-4 tank. Withdrawn 193?
3 Earl of Merioneth Double Fairlie of 1885; 0-4-4 tank. Originally Livingston Thompson then Taliesin
4 Palmerston of 1864; 0-4-0 saddle tank
5 Welsh Pony George England of 1867; 0-4-0 saddle tank. Withdrawn 1938
10 Merddin Emrys Festiniog Railway Works of 1879; 0-4-4 tank

Mountaineer American Locomotive Co. of 1917
Linda Hunslet Engine Co. No. 590 of 1893; 0-4-0 tank. Ex-Penrhyn Quarry
Blanche Hunslet Engine Co. No. 589 of 1893; 0-4-0 tank. Ex-Penrhyn Quarry
11 Petrol loco
101 Simplex 40 HP petrol tractor No. 507 of 1917. Ex. WD
Conway Castle Planet Diesel of 1958; ex RN

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