Harbour Station

Coordinates: 52°55′26″N 4°07′37″W / 52.92391°N 4.12697°W / 52.92391; -4.12697
From Festipedia, hosted by the FR Heritage Group

More pictures of the subject: Harbour Station (Pictorial Views)
Harbour Station
Type Principal Station
Head office
Status Open
Latitude 52:55:26.05N
Longitude 04:07:36.92W
Grid reference SH571383
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52°55′26″N 4°07′37″W / 52.92391°N 4.12697°W / 52.92391; -4.12697
Stamp - old company Parcels
Issue No. old company Parcels
First Issued unknown

Railway Letter Service

Serving the town of Porthmadog, Harbour Station is the principal station of the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways.[1][2]

Situated among the old slate quays of Porthmadog Harbour the station opened in 1865 as the bottom terminus of the Ffestiniog Railway's passenger services. With the arrival of the Welsh Highland Railway in 1923 it briefly decreased in importance as a passenger station but soon regained its prominence. Following the revival of the Festiniog Railway and reopening of the Welsh Highland, Harbour Station has been much expanded with new sidings and platforms to meet the needs of the modern railways.

As well as the station facilities Harbour Station is also home to the main offices of the Festiniog Railway Company (including the control office which overseas the running of trains on the F&WHR network), the main railway retail shop and Spooner's cafe and bar.

All distance measurements on the FR are measured from the water tower, near the buffer stops.


The original buildings of Harbour Station can be seen in the background of this 1871 photo featuring Welsh Pony.

Early years[edit]

Harbour Station was opened for passenger service on 6th January 1865. It lies approximately 17ft (5.25m) above sea level. The original buildings lasted until 1879 when they were replaced with the stone buildings that exist today. Parts of the original wooden buildings were then used in the construction of Penrhyn Station.

Under the original 1865 arrangement the goods shed was at the quay end of the site and the station buildings were on the site of the later goods shed (1880), now Spooner's, in the Y of the junction between the station sidings and the line that led to the wharves behind the station, the Britannia bridge and the wharves on the far side of the harbour. The tanks from which locomotives took water were immediately beside the station, in the fork of the junction (See the 1871 picture to the left).

New buildings and later developments[edit]

The new station building of 1879 photographed in 1885.

The new (1879) station building, which included provision for the Company's offices on an upper floor, and the separate goods shed remained virtually unaltered for over 70 years.

Boyd, in 1949, wrote "Here are the headquarters of the Festiniog Railway and also those of its late offspring, the Welsh Highland Railway. The offices of the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways were also here, likewise those of Messrs. Spooner & Co."

In the 1920s the layout at Porthmadog was still dominated by sidings to serve the slate wharves. Harbour station was just a small part of the overall scheme. Three tracks ran in front of the station building, terminated by a three way stub point to the headshunt. Off the seaward line a spur led through a turreted gateway on to the extensive private sidings and turntables of The New Wharf, later known as South Snowdon Wharf.[3] By the late 1930s the New Wharf area had fallen into disuse and the connection removed. [Confirmation needed]. There was one additional siding in the station, laid to the seaward side. There was a raised bank with spiked railings marking the boundary on the seaward side.

The area behind the station building, which is now the car park, was then another slate wharf, and there was no doorway in the rear of the building. The only access was from the platform. This remained the case until 1960.

Serving two railways[edit]

With the arrival of the WHR in 1923 the station became known as 'Portmadoc Old', to distinguish it from the 'Portmadoc New' station, established beside the crossing over the Cambrian Coast line at the other end of town. It had been originally intended that the New Station would replace the Old Harbour Station as the main terminus of both the FR and WHR, whereby trains would no longer need to pull in front of Harbour Station, but stop at the platform by the goods shed in passing, and for fuelling. However, both lack of cash, and opposition to some of the plans were responsible for it never happening. The suffix 'Old' was replaced in Bradshaw's Guide by 'Harbour' from the July 1930 edition, by which date it had been brought back into use as the main narrow gauge passenger station.

Derelict stock at the station in 1952


The station was closed to passengers on 15th September 1939 but continued in use as the principal offices of the Festiniog Railway Company occupied only by the Manager (Mr Robert Evans) throughout the years of its closure.

During the second world war many of the Portmadoc wharves were taken over by the military for vehicle parking and some of the rooms in Harbour Station were requisitioned.[4] The tracks in the station were used to store an assortment of disused rolling stock, all of which suffered due to the exposed location.


Prince at the reopened station in 1956.

When the new administration took over they inherited the four road layout in front of the station building. All the trackwork was laid in bullhead or doublehead rail in chairs. The platform line had considerable cant (superelevation) on the curve. All these lines were full of damaged and decayed rolling stock.

After much clearance Harbour Station was reopened to passengers on 23rd July 1955 in a ceremony performed by the then Welsh Tourist Queen, Miss Janet Jones. Part of the upper floor of the 1879 office building was converted to serve as a flat for the Manager, Allan Garraway and the ground floor was progressively altered to suit the requirements of the developing restored railway. See hostels for part of the story, also several accounts in FRM over the years written by those involved in the work.

In late 1956 some of the lines were relaid due to frequent derailments. It appears that some of the cant on the curve was also removed at the same time.[5] On the landward side there were also two sidings into the goods shed, and the remains of the line to connect to the Welsh Highland and the wharves crossing the west side of Britannia Bridge. The line over the bridge was still usable in 1957, but was lifted at the end of 1958.[6]

This layout remained, after clearance, re-sleepering, and a general tidy up until the three way stub point was removed in 1964, first being moved to Boston Lodge, and is now in situ at Minffordd Yard, serving roads into the Maenofferen Shed. It was replaced by normal turnouts, and the end of the southern siding had been raised to allow coal wagons to unload onto the coaling stage.

The general environs of the station site were to change dramatically with the development of two storey dwellings on the rest of South Snowdon Wharf by Bourne Developments. There was some dispute over access to the site, eventually a link span was erected to take the access road past the headshunt. The boundaries were now well defined, and rather closed in at this end of the site.

The platforms and yard, taken from the Custom House in 2005

Expansion of the yard and new buildings[edit]

Negotiations took place with the owners of the site of the station, Tremadoc Estates, and by 1974 these were concluded and the railway was able to expand seaward, resulting in a new yard layout. By 1975 space was available for six roads, and with oil firing dominant the coaling facilities had been removed. Initially one line was laid to the seaward side, leaving a considerable space between that road and the previous four roads.

By 1975 the growing business required more and better accommodation, particularly for the all-important souvenir shop and café. A Leeds based architect and volunteer, Eddie Jones (who also ran the Railway's lorries) designed a structure to link the offices with the former goods shed. The latter had served as a carriage workshop/paintshop and stores for the shop since 1955 but was now converted to house an enlarged museum, part of the catering facilities and, eventually, Spooner's Bar.

Initial planning for the platform awning began in 1985, with most of the erection work taking place in 1987. The valance, which was specially commissioned, was added in 1988. It was made at BR's Taunton Concrete Works and is similar to the standard GW timber valance.

A fence marked the edge of the platform from the end of the goods shed, whilst the Cleminson Waggon was exhibited at the end of the goods shed on a section of track. This was removed in the early 1990s, and the platform area extended. This extended area provides additional seating area for Spooner's.

In the winter of 1984-5 the throat layout was rebuilt with turnouts constructed from 75lb flat bottom rail.[7] No 3 road became the main run round road, and the new FB point at the throat was changed from a R.H one to a L.H one. The removal of the connection that led to the goods shed and the old route across Britannia Bridge done at the same time. This allowed for a new platform surface to be made.[8]

Six roads now ran in front of the station building, No 3 road also had a locomotive servicing pit built under it, replacing the one on the platform road, this being later used for part of the toilet disposal system.

The Welsh Highland returns[edit]

Platforms and buildings in 2008, showing the then-new temporary WHR junction in the foreground.

This layout remained for over twenty years until the arrival of the new (temporary) Welsh Highland connection. This was made in approximately the same position as the old junction. The junction points on the main running line was installed in March 2008, the connection being celebrated at the ‘Golden bolts’ ceremony in February 2009.[9] This junction was about 39.7 km (24 miles 54 chains) from the Caernarfon datum of the new WHR.

This junction was used by WHR trains from the opening in 2011, but it was clear that further alterations to the junction and platform would be necessary as approaching trains off the WHR had to stop on the Cob after crossing the junction then reverse into the platform. It was not permitted for the train engine to propel the train into the platform so an additional engine had to be attached to haul the train in. A departing WHR train also required the pilot engine to haul it out beyond the junction before it could set out for the north. While all this was going on no FR train could use the only platform. Plans were therefore drawn up to move the junction further east along the Cob to allow for a separate platform for WHR trains. A plan of the signalling system, as of 2011, is available on the CTRL page.

The rebuilt station showing the new signal box and carriages in both platforms.


For details on the remodelling of Harbour Station in connection with the Welsh Highland Railway, please click here.

Since 2011 and the arrival of the WHR into the station it was clear that more capacity was needed at the station. Firstly the Cob was widened south of the station in the winter of 2011 and then over 2013 the wave wall was completed and a signal box and relay room built. Then during the winter of 2013 the old station was almost completely rebuilt with all lines being lifted and old pits filled in or modified and the new platform curb stones placed on the alignment. The pointwork for the station throat was moved southwards, to make room for the platform to be extended eastwards forming an island platform between the WHR line on the north side (which has its own run-round loop) and the relocated FR line on the south. These lines converge at a new junction beyond the eastern end of the new platform. The FR trains still start from the platform beside the station building, and the buildings were not altered but were repainted and generally spruced up.

The rebuilt station was equipped with semaphore signals electrically operated from the new signal box. The signals feature modern coloured lights allowing the arms themselves to be fitted with only a single spectacle in the style of those built by McKenzie & Holland for the upper reaches of the old FR. The money for the signalling was raised in memory of the late Alan Pegler.

During early 2014 many volunteers and contractors were working flat out to complete the works before the running season with large groups turning up in awful weather to get the job done. On the 22nd of March 2014 the first service trains for both railways left the new station.

The official opening occurred on 22 May. Edwina Hart, Minister for Economy, Science and Transport, opened the extended £1.3 million station at Porthmadog Harbour. Also present at the opening were Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM, F&WHR Chairman Dr. John Prideaux and project director Mike Hart. Schoolchildren from Ysgol Cefn Coch in Penrhydeudraeth and Ysgol Eifion Wyn in Porthmadog were also invited and performed songs specially written for the occasion.

Station Staff[edit]

Station Staff 1872[edit]

  • Thomas Prichard jnr., Chief Station Master
  • John William Wheeler, Station Master
  • Robert Williams, Clerk
  • W.R. Owen, Telegraph Clerk
  • John Lewis, Demurrage Clerk
  • John Davies, Wagon Inspector
  • William Roberts, Porter
  • William Parry, Porter
  • Robert Griffiths Oilman
  • William Roberts, ?
  • Owen Owen, ?
  • Howell Williams, ?
  • Robert Williams, Carriage Cleaner
  • David Prichard, Painter
  • Edward Evans, Shunting Driver
  • Evan Williams, Shunting Stoker
  • John Owen, Shunting Guard
  • Griffith Roberts, Road Cleaner
  • Evan Griffiths, Repairing tarpaulins

Station Staff 1912[edit]

By 1912 (February) the number of staff had been greatly reduced and were:-

Station Staff December 1915[edit]

Station Staff December 1918[edit]

  • Henry Ellis Parry-Jones, Station Master
  • Owen Davies, Clerk
  • John Brown, Foreman Porter
  • Ellis J. Griffith, Porter
  • Robert Jones, Parcel Porter

Station Staff 1920[edit]

  • Henry Ellis Parry-Jones, Station Master
  • Owen Davies, Clerk
  • Ellis J. Griffith, Porter
  • Robert Jones, Parcel Porter
  • John Ivor Jones, Coalman
  • W.O. Williams, Porter

Station Staff 1927[edit]

By 1927 the number of staff had fallen even further and were:-


In 2007 Harbour Station was temporarily, (for a day), renamed "Rockferry" when pictures and video for Duffy's album and its title track were shot on and around the station.[10]

Car Park[edit]

The new hut under construction

As befitting any main station, there is a limited car park area. Public car parks are available within a short walk. Over the years the area has been transformed from a mud and slate wasteland area, to a modern tarmacked, and lined car park. In about 19??, with its life as a mobile exhibition centre at an end, a caravan was provided for the use of the parking attendant. In 2010 this was replaced by a new "designed for purpose", wooden hut.

The old caravan

Company Access Statement[edit]

For general details see here
Our main station is adjacent to the A487 at the southern end of the town. We have a small tarmac car park which usually has an attendant. There are three allocated “Disabled” spaces close to the main entrance as well as a dedicated “dropping off” point.

Our main entrance has a ramp direct into the Booking Hall. From here there is level access through the building to the Shop, Café and Bar. There is level access onto the platform. The toilets are situated at the far right hand end of the platform when leaving the building. There is a small step into the Ladies’ and the Gentlemen’s toilets. The accessible toilet has level access and also contains nappy changing facilities.

The Booking Office counter is 1040mm / 41” in height – if this presents any difficulty to you, please ask and someone will come and assist you.

The Shop counter is 940mm / 37” in height. Shelving is both on the walls and free standing. If you need any help with your shopping, our staff will be happy to help.

The Café counter is 890mm / 35” in height and the bar is 1010mm / 40” in height. Food and beverages can be brought to your table if requested.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Location
  2. ^ Wikipedia entry
  3. ^ Boyd, The Festiniog Railway Vol 1, 1965, map between P 42 and 43.
  4. ^ Boyd, James I.C. (1975) [1959]. The Festiniog Railway 1800 - 1974; Vol. 2 Locomotive and Rolling Stock and Quarry Feeders. Blandford: The Oakwood Press. ISBN 085361-168-8. Page 247.
  5. ^ Boyd, The Festiniog Railway Vol 2, 1962, P351
  6. ^ Johnson, Immortal Rails, Vol 1, 2004, Picture P93 , P 111
  7. ^ Festiniog Railway Magazine, No 107, P11.
  8. ^ Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 108, page(s): 12
  9. ^ Dr Ben Fisher's website
  10. ^ Rockferry music, for more detail see here