Welsh Highland trains cross the width of the Snowdonia National Park, past the foot of Snowdon and the beautiful village of Beddgelert, before travelling the length of the Aberglaslyn Pass - voted the most beautiful spot in the UK by members of the National Trust.
The Welsh Highland operates the most powerful narrow gauge steam engines in the world - Beyer Garratt NG/G16s weighing over 60 tons. These are the only locos capable of hauling long trains on some of the longest and steepest gradients to be found on any railway in the UK.
On April 20, 2011, the Welsh Highland was officially opened throughout from Caernarfon to Porthmadog. At 25 miles, the WHR is the longest heritage railway in the UK. Its connection with the Ffestiniog enables passengers to travel between Blaenau Ffestiniog and Caernarfon - almost 40 miles of narrow gauge steam.
Rebuilding the 25 mile Welsh Highland Railway cost £28 million, most of the work being carried out by volunteers. £12.5m of the funding came from the Welsh Assembly Government, the EU and the Millennium Lottery fund, the remainder being raised through donations and fund raising schemes. In 2014, a £1.25 million rebuild of Porthmadog Harbour Station was completed to enhance customers' experience.
In addition to employing 85 full-time staff, rising to over 100 during the peak season, independent research shows that the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways generate £25 million for the local economy each year - £250 for every man, woman and child in Gwynedd - and create a further 350 jobs in the area. Two supporting societies have 8,000 members and over 1,000 volunteers regularly work on the railways.
For over three decades, between 70 and 80 young people have worked on the railways each year as part of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme. Pupils from local schools carry out work experience on the railways throughout the year and Boston Lodge Works trains young people through its apprenticeship scheme.
The Welsh Highland Railway (WHR) or Rheilffordd Eryri, runs 25 miles from Porthmadog to Caernarfon on the north-west coast of Wales, making it the UKs longest heritage railway.
It’s also arguably the most scenic railway in Wales, taking in the Aberglaslyn Pass, Beddgelert, the foot of Snowdon, Llyn Cwellyn, before arriving back on the coast in Caernarfon and it’s majestic castle.
You can travel in comfortable third-class or luxurious Pullman carriages (plus an observation carriage). Each full one-way trip from Porthmadog takes around 2 hours 15 minutes with a stop of around 1 hour 15 minutes in Caernarfon. There are two full return trips per day in peak season and one in off-season (please check their website at festrail.co.uk for a full timetable).
The line originally ran from Porthmadog to Dinas near Caernarfon, the extension being built on the trackbed of the former standard gauge railway. The trains run on a single track line with passing loops at Pont Croesor (the Glaslyn Osprey viewing centre), Beddgelert, Rhyd Ddu, Waunfawr and Dinas.
There are currently five steam locomotives running on the WHR.
Visit their Ffestiniog & WHR website at festrail.co.uk of their Facebook page at facebook.com/festrail.