Narrow Gauge Pleasure

The Bala Lake Railway

The Bala Lake railway runs practically the full length of Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid in Welsh) along its Eastern Shore, from Llanuwchllyn to Bala. The lake, situated at the confluence of the rivers Dee and Tryweryn, is the largest natural lake in Wales and lies in the valley amidst unspoilt scenic splendour. The round trip on this 2' gauge railway takes about an hour and offers the opportunity to break the journey at any of four intermediate stations or the terminus.

Views of the lake and the surrounding mountains, which rise to almost 3000 feet, are spectacular and the railway is an excellent way to see some of the natural beauty in this part of Wales. The little line is well equipped to serve its customers with the comfortable and appealing combination of modern coaches hauled by historic steam engines. A buffet and souvenir shop are located within the headquarters at Llanuwchllyn where it is also often possible (ask a member of staff) to visit the engine shed and see the engines not currently in steam, something which is sadly not permitted on many of our narrow gauge lines.

A train standing at
Llanuwchllyn station
Maid Marian Built by the
Hunslet Engine Company

History and Origins

The Bala Lake railway follows the track bed of the Bala to Dolgellau railway built in 1868 as part of Britains standard gauge rail network. Following closure of the standard gauge railway in 1965 a local engineer, George Barnes saw the potential of the old route and track bed to carry local traffic and tourists and so registered the company "Rheilford Llyn Tegid Cyf" (Bala Lake Railway Ltd.). Narrow gauge came to the site in 1971 with delivery of the first rolling stock, for use in construction of the line.

The railway was first opened to the public in August 1972 when the new track was a modest 1 1/4 miles long. Work proceeded rapidly with a further 3/4 mile opened later that year and the line extended to a full 3 miles in the winter of 74-75, followed by the first regular steam services. These first steam trains were hauled by Maid Marion, bought from the Dinorwic slate quarry, an engine which still serves on the railway today.

Like all railways the Bala Lake railway is constantly undergoing change through improvements and maintenance (the alternative being to undergo change by neglect and decay) and the railway today has been extended to 4 1/2 miles and has much improved accommodation at its stations. All in all this is a thriving little modern railway which offers the delights of narrow gauge steam haulage behind two of the classic Hunslet quarry locos or, occasionally, a very unusual Pecket six wheeled locomotive named Triassic.

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