Welsh Highland Railway
Note : The Welsh Highland Railway, from 1922 to date, encompasses a number of different operations -
- The original 1922 operation - which is detailed below
- The 1964 operation, now known as the WHHR
- The WHR(C), the main thrust of the rebuilding
The Welsh Highland Railway was formed in 1922, taking over the Croesor Tramway (which carried slate from quarries in Cwm Croesor to Porthmadog), North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways (an ambitious scheme to build an extensive network of narrow gauge lines which only succeeded in building a line from Dinas, near Caernarfon, to Rhyd Ddu with a branch to Bryngwyn) and the Portmadoc, Beddgelert and South Snowdon Railway (a scheme to connect the NWNGR to Porthmadog using electric traction which was abandoned whilst still under construction).
The WHR was expected to help the local economy and reduce unemployment. It was therefore welcomed by local interests and several local authorities invested in the railway.
Unfortunately the WHR was not a success. Although it was an ideal tourist railway, there weren't enough tourists to allow the WHR to survive. There was insufficient mineral traffic to sustain the line. Passenger and general freight traffic lost out to competition from road transport. The fact that the WHR terminated at Dinas, three miles south of Caernarfon, did not help the situation.
Having opened in 1923, the WHR went into receivership in 1927 but continued to operate. The WHR and FR Co. came under common control and the owners, North Wales Power and Traction Co. Ltd, adopted joint management and operation. There is evidence that the FR Co. was providing a hidden subsidy to the WHR at this time.
The FR Co. took out a 42 year lease on the WHR from 1934. The WHR had effectively closed at the end of 1933, but with this "lease", passenger operations continued under the FR Co. until 26th September 1936. There was some sporadic goods traffic until 1st June 1937 The FR Co.'s attempts to rid itself of the lease failed until the track was removed in 1941. Since the FR Co. could not reasonably be expected to continue leasing a railway which no longer existed, the lease was terminated in 1942.
Efforts to restore the WHR started in the early 1960s but encountered many difficulties. The FR Co. eventually acquired the trackbed and set about restoring the WHR itself, including an extension into Caernarfon over the old standard gauge route. The restored railway is known as the Welsh Highland Railway (Caernarfon) or Rheilffordd Eryri.
A more detailed history, on the original line, can be found on the WHRL company site at this external link
A more detailed, and pictorial current look at the line, can be found on the offical site at this external link