Narrow Gauge Pleasure

The History of the Welsh Highland Railway

The Welsh Highland Railway (Light Railway) Company was formed in 1922. The WHR took over the existing North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways and the Portmadoc, Beddgelert and South Snowdon Railway Company who, between them, ran railways over much of the line which was to become the Welsh Highland Railway and had powers to construct the remainder.

A train enters the tunnel in the
aberglaslyn pass circa 1925

Finance was raised from a mixture of local council and Government sources to the tune of just short of £70,000 and work commenced in March 1922. The company had to undertake major refurbishment and upgrade work on the existing railways as well as construction of 8.25 miles of new track. Once finished the line was 22 miles long running from Dinas to Portmadoc and continuing through the town itself with a section of line laid down the high street to reach the harbour and connect to the Ffestiniog Railway's Harbour Station.

In its early years the only locomotive in good condition was a very over worked Russell and locomotives were borrowed from the Ffestiniog when needed. In 1923 Colonel Stephens (a larger than life character involved in Light Railways all over Britain) became locomotive superintendent and purchased Baldwin No. 590 an American built ex war department locomotive, providing some welcome relief for Russell.

The railway never attracted the level of traffic which would have made it profitable and In 1927 was taken into receivership. The line struggled on under the receiver but underwent steady decline until, on 1st July 1934, the railway passed into the control of the Ffestiniog for a nominal sum in the hope of keeping it open.

For a time the railway had a brief resurgence as the Ffestiniog management invested in improvements, sadly these were inadequate or cosmetic and the Railway closed completely in 1937.

You may also like to visit the pages within this site which describe the railway today:

The Welsh Highland Railway (Caernarfon)
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