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87 waits for the off, May 2009.
|1997||WHR Station opened|
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Coordinates: Caernarfon is the the northern terminus of the modern Welsh Highland Railway. It is a distance of approx 39.44km (24.5 miles) from Porthmadog.[route 1][wikipedia 1] The original Welsh Highland Railway never ran to Caernarfon, the present narrow gauge station opened in 1997 with the first phase of the modern WHR.
Caernarfon (from Caer yn Arfon or y Gaer yn Arfon meaning "(the) fortress in the land opposite Anglesey") lies at approximately 5m (16ft) above mean sea level (OS datum) on the estuary of the Afon Seiont (hence the Roman name Segontium, as with Kanovium on Afon Conwy and Deva on the Dee). The most prominent feature of the town is the large castle designed by the master mason (= architect) James of St George for his client King Edward I from 1283. The octagonal towers and the horizontal sandstone stripes on the walls are said to have been built to make the castle resemble the Theodosian Wall at Constantinople, because an ancient legend had it that the Empress Helena was born here and married the emperor of Rome; their son Constantine built the city named after him. The tale may or may not have been true, but at the time it was - and by some still is - believed.
The current northern terminus of the reconstructed Welsh Highland Railway is on the former standard gauge LNWR trackbed at the south end of the tunnel beneath the town centre. The tunnel has been adapted to serve as a relief road. The SG formation in this area was wide enough for double track; it carried the parallel lines for the branch from Caernarfon to Llanberis and the single line southwards, through Dinas, towards Afon Wen. The addition of a platform means that there is only room for a run-round loop at the WHR station, rather than the more usual sidings for spare carriages and services that might be expected.
The station stands almost under the shadow of the famous Caernarfon Castle, adjacent to the historic slate quay once served by the Nantlle Railway and just across St Helen's Road from the historic buildings that once housed the de Winton works. The station is now undergoing a major redevelopment as is the slate quay site.
Rheilffordd Eryri leaves the platform end on a sharp gradient of 1 in 48, climbing past the Llanberis branch junction, over the twin-span viaduct (designed by C. E. Spooner about 1867) over Afon Seiont. It then joins the alignment of the Nantlle Railway at Coed Helen, crossing and recrossing this 1828 line on the way to Dinas. It is thought that this section of railway may be the only line in the country which has run passenger services on three gauges - 3ft 6in (1828-67), 4ft 8½in (1867-1969) and 2ft (1997 onward).
The station building remained for many years a wooden semi-permanent structure, though the initial - very frugal - provision of 1997 was improved and expanded in time for the 2004 season.
The southern end of the station was modified to extend train capacity to ten carriages in late 2005. Originally a siding had been provided to access the water tower, but this was replaced by the extended run round loop.
The new building
For many years, the portacabins providing the facilities at Caernarfon have been seen as inadequate, and not befitting of the major starting point of a world class railway. In the summer of 2015 the first plans for the redevelopment of the station were released. It was anticipated that the new building could be finished by early-2017. Estimated to cost around £2m, and as part of a redevelopment of the local area, the station was to be built on existing land (including the car park). It was expected to safeguard existing jobs and create a minimum of 2 new jobs. Facilities would include a ticket office, a gift shop, toilets, catering facilities, and several display facilities, spread over two floors. Many of the suggestions made by the locals at consultation meetings were incorporated into the design.
During 2016 the redevelopment plans picked up in pace. The WHR gained almost £1m from the European Regional Development Funding, with a further £500,000 possibly coming from the Vibrant & Viable Places Fund. The remainder of the cost would be paid for by support from the Welsh Government and the rest by the railway. It was said that the relocation of the sewer underneath the temporary buildings would take place in the winter of 2016/17.
To enable the sewer relocation the headshunt was lifted and the station closed over the winter, with seasonal trains beginning at Dinas station. The site of the new station was cleared of the old buildings.
For the main 2017 season part of the headshunt was relaid to allow the station to reopen. The shop and booking office were relocated to the building formerly inhabited by age concern near the southern end of the station. The steps at that end of the platform were refurbished to provide access. The toilet block from the old station was reinstalled adjacent to the temporary booking office.
Work clearing the new site took longer than expected due to the discovery of some unexpected services below ground. However by August work had begun on the station foundations. Construction of the building itself was well underway in September 2017.
During the Winter of 2017/18 the station was again temporarily closed and some track lifted whilst alterations to the platform were made. The track was reinstated on a temporary alignment for the main 2018 season.
The building was largely complete in August 2018. It was open for the first time during 2018's Super Power weekend when it hosted an exhibition of railway paintings. Fitting out started soon after and the building was in use as a shop and ticket office for Santa services and over the Christmas week.
After the end of the Christmas services the fitting out was expected to recommence allowing final completion in time for the main 2019 season. It is also expected that the headshunt will be lifted again and moved to its final location which will allow the runround loop to be lengthened a little further and provide space for two Garratts to run around simultaneously.
Since the construction of the new station buildings, there are no longer any standard car parking places in the station itself. There are extensive car parks on the Slate Quay (400 yards/m) and on the north side of the walled town, half a mile (1km) away. The easiest approach on foot is from the Maes or Castle Square in the middle of the town along Segontium Terrace (NB - not near the Roman fort of Segontium!) 200 yards/m and down the footbridge to the station.
For general details see here
This is our main terminus station situated close to the castle. We recommend that you start your journey from here.
Please be advised that due to the construction of the new station, access is subject to variation - please contact the railway in advance if this may be an issue.
- Butler, Ben (26 August 2015). "First picture released of what Caernarfon's new £2m railway station could look like". North Wales Live. Retrieved 3 January 2019.