A Visit To The FR 27th August 1961 By Cyril Perrier
On the 27th August 1961 Cyril Perrier spent a a day travelling on the FR. A writeup on the visit appeared in detail in the Heritage Journal No. 66, accompanied by some of his own photos in black & white photos. Many of these now appear here in colour, and were posted here with his kind permission.
My first acquaintance with the Ffestiniog Railway occurred on 14th July 1950, in pouring rain when I ventured from Bangor to Tywyn to visit the still privately-run Tal-y-Llyn and journey in lonely state to and from Abergynolwyn. On the way back, I stopped off at Portmadoc (sic) and visited Harbour Station, a scene of desolation with paintless carriages and strings of slate wagons scattered about. Dead as a doornail, I thought, and soon the TR would surely be the same. Not long after I was posted abroad, but the welcome 'Railway Magazine' kept me in touch with home, and I learnt to my astonishment that not only had the TR been saved, But the Ffestiniog also was under restoration. But it wasn't until August 1961 I had the chance of seeing for myself. On the 26th I was at Tywyn, journeying again to Abergynolwyn with many others and marvelling at the splendid re-habilitation that had taken place under Tom Rolt's aegis. Could the Ffestiniog match this?
The 27th August saw proof that it could, with the help of a day out with Merddin Emrys. Stepping out from Owens Hotel on a fine morning, I strode across the Cob to Boston Lodge and encountered ME being steamed for the day's work with the help of two cylindrical extensions to the funnels. She (he) was in ex-works red oxide, and cabless.
ME is steamed at Boston Lodge
Back smartly to Harbour, to photograph the splendid loco as she pottered about preparing for the train's departure. The carriages, in their green and ivory livery, looked magnificent, externally anyway. There seemed plenty of passengers, and a professional air about operations.
Anyone who remembers his or her own first journey on the Ffestiniog will surely recall the frisson of excited enjoyment as the train steamed out of Harbour terminus, rattled briskly across the Cob and turned in its business-like way to climb into and above the Vale of Ffestiniog. There were brief glimpses of the works at Boston Lodge, then the train slowed for Minffordd station, with a view left of the Cambrian line below.
Then through Penrhyn, to be followed by glorious views (in those days) of the Dywryd estuary. No Rhiw Goch loop then, but the solidity of Cei Mawr is as striking today as it must have been to the first passengers in 1865.
ME taking water at Tan y Bwlch
After the wonderful twisting run through the woodlands of Plas Tan y Bwlch came arrival at the then terminus at Tan y Bwlch; no modern facilities, no footbridge, just its splendid setting to enjoy, with people wandering freely where they wished, quite unfenced, and giving me the opportunity for more photographs.
On to Dduallt
The gap before the return departure was enough to explore the unrestored route to Garnedd tunnel. The track, while grass-grown, looked in reasonable condition, but it was to be seven more years before a revenue-earning train rolled that way.
ME in red oxide at Tan y Bwlch
Meanwhile Merddin Emrys had taken water, and soon I was returning to Portmadoc, with an opportunity for an 'out of the window' shot of the train as it left Minffordd. Sadly, with further overseas work, it was to be 1965 before I saw the Welsh 'little trains' again.
On to the Cob