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.
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 lollypop 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. However a request was made by the Railway Inspectorate to have them removed to allow passengers to exit through them in the case of accidents jamming the doors. This was obviously complied with. So the wheel has turned full circle from the FR being required to have window bars to now being required not to have them.
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.
- 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.