Welsh Highland Railway
Note : The name Welsh Highland Railway, from 1922 to date, has applied to three different operations -
- The original 1922 operation - which is detailed below
- The 1964 operation, now known as the WHHR
- The present-day Welsh Highland Railway or Rheilffordd Eryri, between Caernarfon and Porthmadog.
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.
The WHR reopened passenger traffic on the NWNGR section from Dinas to Rhyd Ddu in 1922, and opened the new line from Rhyd Ddu to Portmadoc (as it was then spelt) in 1923. The WHR and FR Co. had come 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.
However financial results were very disappointing and the Chairman of both railways, H. J. Jack, resigned in 1924, and thereafter the railways were operated separately. However the WHR's results were not much improved and the WHR went into receivership in 1927 but continued to operate until 1933.
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 when the FR ceased to operate it. 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, never getting the use of the old WHR trackbed but eventually creating the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway in Porthmadog.
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 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 site at this external link
Information about current services, timetables and fares can be found on the FR Co's official site at http://www.festrail.co.uk.