Heritage Railways

2023 on the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways

January – Spooners Birthday

Nothing much in way of trains happens during January however on the very first day of the year I did spot a Garratt whilst on a walk on the old Bwlch Gwyn branchline. It was in fact the last train of the 2022 Christmas season.

End of the month I was celebrating my birthday with a visit to Spooners for a lovely Sunday carvery.

February – Helping the National Trust

On Valentine’s Day I had a date with a very beautiful Lilla! The National Trust were carrying out repair work on the Fisherman’s Path in Aberglaslyn and the only way to get materials anywhere near the path is by rail. So Lilla to the rescue hauling wagons of sub base so the National Trust could carry out their work.

March – Narrow Gauge North and Return of Trains

Before the return of trains at the end of the month I took a trip to Narrow Gauge North Model Railway show up in Pudsey. The Railway had a trade stand and so for a day out I went to help out.

End of the month saw the return of the regular service trains so naturally I spent a day chasing steam engines with my camera. Always good fun and always makes for a good video!

April – The Quarryman Service, Snowdonian and Gravity Train!

Now exciting stuff happened in April with the launch of a brand new service – The Quarryman! This service runs from Blaenau Ffestiniog down to Porthmadog and of course I’d be there for this inaugural event! I love the fact there’s a service with starts form Blaenau. Sign of good things to come I hope with more things happening at Blaenau station.

At the end of the month it was the Snowdonian. Welsh Pony and Merddin Emrys in charge of the Ffestiniog section with 130 and 143 in charge of the Welsh Highland section. Fun day of chasing trains! On the Sunday there was a gravity train special and guess who was on board to film it? Yep me! People would pay good money for that experience yet here I am, allowed to do it for free! Amazing stuff.

May – Birthday Train, A Baldwin Revival and Another Blaenau Visit

Britomart, Maid Marian and Blanche at Tan Y Bwlch

During May we had a visitor on the line with Maid Marian being brought over from Bala Lake Railway for a special birthday celebration. It was lovely seeing Maid Marian together with Britomart and Lilla hauling a birthday train along the line

Baldwin 590 at Gelert's Farm

At the end of May there was a special day to launch the newly refurbished Baldwin 590 over at the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway. Whilst technically not a F&WHR event, the Moving Pictures team were invited over to film the day. It was lovely!

Double Fairlie at Coed Y Bleiddiau

And of course no month is complete without a Blaenau visit. The youngest and I were left to our own devices and ended up on a train from Tanygrisiau to Blaenau Ffestiniog. We love that section seeing as it’s my home stretch. Also it was the end of May that we walked from Tanygrisiau to Oakeley Arms and I finally saw a train run by Coed Y Bleiddiau.

June – WHR100 Weekend

Russell and Lyd at Caernarfon Station

At the end of June there was a whole weekend of celebrating the Welsh Highland Railway’s centenary which meant that the F&WHR and the WHHR worked together for the celebrations. It was a fun weekend of chasing trains including chasing down a duo of Double Fairlies in the lashing rain with Mr Tim Dunn.

By the end of the weekend the sun had made an appearance and we got to see Russell and Lyd double header to Caernarfon.

July – Maenofferen and Diffwys Quarry Walk

Diffwys Quarry walk with the Boston Lodge Interpretation Team

So not technically a trains event but it was a Railway event. As part of the NHLF project at Boston Lodge, we were invited on a guided walk and talk with Dr David Gwyn (Dafydd) up to Maenofferen and Diffwys Quarries. That man knows everything there is to know about the Snowdonia slate quarries (literally wrote the book on it!). After the quarry walk we had a quick walk around Blaenau Ffestiniog and I found out something really interesting. Since forever I have pronounced Maenofferen as Maenofferam and never quite understood why. After talking to Dafydd he said it’s because I’m proper Blaenau folk and that the original name was Maenofferam in reference to the farm land that was there before the quarry. It was the gentry landlords who renamed it to Maenofferen to make it sound “posher” and to make links with religion (with the word “offeren” being a religious term).

August – Eisteddfod Llyn & Eifionydd

6 pictures / Top left to right - Me with Ben Dant, Me with Kiri Pritchard-McLean and Maggi Noggi, Foster Bear on our engine Bottom Left to Right - Dylan Morris with our engine, Welsh Whisperer with our Lilla, me with Heledd Cynwal

As August is naturally the busy season the Railway don’t tend to host any events during the month. However this year was special as we had the Eisteddfod in the local area. And we had Lilla on the Maes and I attended our stall for 3 days. I had an amazing time! Met so many people! Great fun!

September – Eryri Tales & Trails & OO9 50th Birthday

Eryri Tales and Trails - view from Gorseddau Quarry

So the month started off with a new event which wasn’t technically a Railway event but it was hosted at the Railway – Eryri Tales & Trails. It was held by Tyddyn Mawr Tearooms and was a series of events over the weekend of 9-11th September. I couldn’t go to every session but I did manage to attend a talk about the slate heritage with Dr David Gwyn OBE and the walk up to Gorseddau Quarry with him. In addition I took the girls to an evening storytime with Mair Tomos Ifans at Dinas Station.

Rebecca selfie with an engine at Statfold Barn

Mid month I attended the OO9 Society’s 50th Birthday bash at Statfold Barn. A two day model railway event and I must admit it was lovely! The Railway had a stand and I, together with the rest of the Moving Pictures Team had a great event. We were successful on the sales front having sold lots of Christmas cards, Blu Rays, books and of course the miniature models of our beautiful engines. And (according to the guys) no weekender is complete without curry… so of course curry was consumed!

October – Bygones Weekend & James Spooner Naming

Blanche at Stwlan Dam crossing. The Moelwyn mountains can be seen in the background

Well Bygones Weekend was just as great as ever! Three days of chasing trains! Highlights included seeing James Spooner for the first time (without nameplates of course) but mostly I just had a great weekend of chasing trains with friends.

James Spooner arrives at Blaenau Ffestiniog Station
Credit – Chris Parry, F&WHR (I was on this train! And no it’s not my camera you see out of the window. I had stopped filming at this point)

Two weeks later we had the official naming ceremony for James Spooner at Blaenau Ffestiniog station. Typical naming ceremony weather of rain but even that didn’t dampen spirits! It was a really lovely event with the local school children signing. I got quite emotional listening to them actually. Such a privilege to be able to attend this event!

November – Warley Model Railway Show

A model of a Garratt on Bron Hebog layout at Warley

With the service trains now finished for the year November isn’t really a filmtastic month for me. However I was offered the chance to attend the Railway’s stall at Warley Model Railway Show for a weekend. Lots of wonderful layouts to be seen – there’s some talented people out there. But the best bit was spending the weekend with the Railway family as it was a good laugh. It was great fun!

December – Santa Trains

Selfie of Rebecca with Lilla in tinsel

The trains were back out for December with the WHR running Santa trains from Caernarfon and Santa had a grotto at Harbour Station in Porthmadog. I didn’t go on a Santa train but instead took the girls to see Santa at his grotto. We had a lovely day! A smashing carvery lunch at Spooners, not one but TWO footplate rides on Linda and of course seeing the big man himself in the grotto. Really lovely day out.

2023 hasn’t quite finished yet I know but do you really think I can squeeze in another train trip in before the end of the year? *

(* the answer is yes, yes I can! I have a post Christmas trip booked for this week!)

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