(Whilst I have worked with Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways recently, this is post is done simply because I bloody love this amazing little railway)
Every October the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways host a marvellous Victorian Weekend. Normally the weekend would be full of activity with steam trains running up and down the lines, people in Victorian costumes on the platform (there was even an appearance by Queen Victoria* herself a few year ago) and lots and lots of people just loving the gala. Of course because of Covid, the gala couldn’t be quite the same but it didn’t stop the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways putting on a fantastic Bygones Weekend!
* obviously not the real Queen!
Friday – Chasing Trains ALL Day
Me being the click happy person that I am, managed to wangle a volunteering job with the marketing guys on Friday. I had an amazing time! I pretty much ended up in every station (except Blaenau itself funnily enough, oh and Dduallt of course). Started the day at Porthmadog Harbour Station, went to Penrhyn, up to to Tan y Bwlch, to Tanygrisiau and Glan y Pwll, back down to Tanygrisiau (where we stopped for tea), back to Tan y Bwlch (lunch!), to Rhiw Goch farm, back to Minffordd, to Boston Lodge and then finish the day with a panad at Porthmadog Harbour Station.
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Locomotives wise I saw all that were out that day. The day started with chasing Lilla from Porthmadog to Penrhyn. Then my favourite engine, the beautiful Double Fairlie that is Merddin Emrys, made an appearance at Penrhyn Crossing and then we chased it up to Tanygrisiau and Glan y Pwll where I took my absolute most favourite photo of the whole weekend.
No5 (the soon to be Welsh Pony) was also in service to Tan Y Bwlch on friday and it was lovely to see it all lined out. The nameplates were not on display as the rededication ceremony wasn’t happening until Saturday. Managed to capture some photos of it at Tan Y Bwlch and Minffordd.
Palmerston was out and about pulling the goods trains between Porthmadog and Rhiw Goch. Lovely to see a different engine on the line. I’m just so used to seeing the Hunslet Ladies and the Double Fairlie.
Saturday – Tan Y Bwlch Trip and More Chasing Trains
Tickets were booked for the first train of the day. Might have been an early start but the main reason for this is because I wanted to be in Tan Y Bwlch to see the gravity slate train passing through. I had seen the videos of past Victorian events but I had never seen the slate train with my own eyes. I’m so pleased that I saw it fly by although I did feel for the pour souls on board because the weather was miserable!
The other benefit of being on the first train of the day is that we had a double header pulling us back to Porthmadog. And not only a double header but a Merddin Emrys and Linda double header.
Not only that but we also got to see No5 (still not quite Welsh Pony!) on it’s way up to Dduallt for the rededication ceremony. The ceremony was a strictly private affair thanks to covid but you can watch the ceremony over on the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways YouTube channel.
After our return to Porthmadog we had a lovely lunch at Spooners before seeing Welsh Pony arrive back in with her nice shiny nameplates. I suppose the first time Welsh Pony to be in steam at Porthmadog Harbour Station in 80 years. However this wasn’t quite enough for me so we headed on up to Tanygrisiau and then to Blaenau so I could see Welsh Pony in steam at Blaenau station. I took a couple of photos of it standing proud in the Blaenau rain… because no event is complete without some typical Blaenau weather. I also saw Welsh Pony pass by my childhood home on the way back at the end of the day. That was pretty special and I so wish Taid could’ve been here to see it. He would’ve loved it!
Sunday – Mynd Nol i Flaenau Ffestiniog
I was so pleased to have been able to book tickets for a Blaenau train! I have been desperate to get back to Blaenau on a train since the beginning of this whole pandemic. Sunday morning this was fulfilled. Our noble steed was Prince, an engine I’m not familiar with at all I must admit. Whilst the England locos are not my favourites, I can’t deny that Prince has a beautiful whistle.
The sun was shining and getting to travel through Tanygrisiau to Blaenau on a steam train was pretty special. Whilst on the train I obviously couldn’t take great photos but the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways photographer took an absolutely smashing photo of our train going by our house!
The trip to Blaenau is a longer one than Tan Y Bwlch, we ended up back at Spooners – just in time for lunch. We pottered around at Harbour Station for a bit just to watch Palmerston and the goods train and Blanche (another engine I’m not too familiar with).
All in all it was an absolutely fantastic weekend. It might even be the best weekend I’ve had throughout 2020! Ph and at least I’ve got to tick two things off my Steam Train Bucket List for 2020!
(The Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways are currently closed due to Wales being in a two week period of lockdown but keep checking their social media and website for announcements of return of the trains. I’m hoping for Santa Specials!)