In 1864 Captain Henry W. Tyler, Inspecting Officer for the Board of Trade, required the fitting of window bars across the opening windows of Ffestiniog Railway passenger carriages because of the limited clearances between the train and cuttings and bridge abutments etc. The practice for the next 100 years was to fix two horizontal metal bars across opening droplight windows.
Concern about passengers being unable to get out of the coaches in the event of an accident or fire was certainly an issue - and was referred to in a complaint of a passenger to the Railway Inspectorate in 1969 about the locking of doors. In his reply to the Railway Inspectorate, Allan Garraway, the FR General Manager, wrote on 18th November 1969 "we have removed bars from the windows and put warning notices on the doors, as we found that people would get their heads between the bars, but at times could not get them in again quickly. The fact that this information was included in a letter to the Railway Inspectorate, in response to their enquiry following a complaint from a member of the public, suggests that Garraway had not sought agreement of the authorities before removing the window bars.
Louvred Windows & No. 14
One might think it was the desire to stop passengers putting their heads out of windows that led to the use of louvred windows on ex Lynton & Barnstaple Carriage 14 and the first of the Centenary Stock constructed in the 1960s, popularly known as "Barns". After it was rebuilt 14 had six "Ellbee" patent louvre windows when introduced to FR traffic in 1963 but the article about its conversion does not mention avoiding window bars as a reason for their selection and there were droplight windows without bars in the doors. The 1960s louvred windows were very hard to keep clean and in good repair. Passengers often resorted to means such as wedging them with a lollipop stick to keep them open. On at least one occasion they were used by persons unknown to attempt entry to No. 14. They were eliminated on refurbishments.
When some of the FR's early bogie carriages (15 - 20) were restored to their Victorian condition in the early 2000s, the window bars were replaced to be historically correct. They were later removed at the request of the Railway Inspectorate to allow passengers to exit through the window in the case of an accident jamming the doors.
Passengers sticking their heads and shoulders out of droplight windows remains a problem. Safety bulletin No. 14 of September 2018 contained the following instruction: "Action: In view of the obvious risk of hitting lineside features, staff must challenge any passenger observed leaning out of windows, warn them of the dangers, and instruct them to keep their body inside the carriage." Note that this is an instruction addressed to staff which is a much wider group of people than guards.
In 2019 it was reported that regulations requiring bars over droplights and locking of outward opening doors might be introduced that would affect Train Operating Companies on National Rail. This was an official response to the £1 million fining of Govia Thameslink for the death of a passenger who put his head out of a window on the Gatwick Express and hit it on a signal gantry. The authorities were simultaneously looking to heritage railways to demonstrate that they had risk assessments and mitigation measures in place, without prescribing a "one-size-fits-all" ban on opening droplight windows. How this might affect the FR, with its very limited clearances, remains to be seen. One early mitigation measure employed is a move to more prominent notices placed next to opening windows. These first appeared on Carriage 2152 and are in a modern style similar those being implemented by mainline operators. Unlike earlier notices which "warn" passengers, the new signage explicitly prohibits the leaning out of windows and includes a red colour scheme as specified by standards for prohibition signs.
On 1st of December 2018 a female passenger was fatally injured as she leaned out of a Great Western Railway train near Twerton, Bath, after coming into contact with a fallen tree branch. This caused the RAIB to issue a report in October 2019 which contains this recommendation: "Operators of heritage railways, using stock that passengers could lean out of, should review their risk assessments for people leaning out and implement any additional mitigation measures necessary to achieve an acceptable level of safety". (RAIB, 2019)
- Boyd, James I.C. (1975) . The Festiniog Railway 1800 - 1974; Vol. 1 - History and Route. Blandford: The Oakwood Press. p. 73. ISBN 0-8536-1167-X. OCLC 2074549.
- Johnson, Peter (2004). Immortal Rails (Vol 1) The Story of the Closure and Revival of the FR 1939-1983. Chester, England, CH4 9ZH: RailRomances. p. 118. ISBN 1-900622-08-4. OCLC 56654167.
- "The Ex L. & B. R. Buffet Brake", Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 021, page(s): 016
- Stirling A (2017) Facebook post on Bristol Group FB page, 26/3/2017.
- "Editorial", Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, Issue 246, page(s): 406
- Evans, Gareth (27 September 2019). "Do you understand the risk?". Heritage Railway (259): 74.
RAIB (2019) Rail Accident Report: Fatal accident involving a train passenger at Twerton 1 December 2018. page 31.