Phase 4 News page


Dated 3/3/05

Click here for new images from 12/12/04


First Minister visits WHR


First Minister visit.JPG (33648 bytes)

This view (10/12/04) shows the Welsh Assembly's First Minister visiting the WHR, climbing into the cab at Waunfawr with FfR Chairman Michael Whitehouse. The Right Hon. Rhodri Morgan joined the special train at about 9am from Snowdon Ranger Station and travelled to Caernarfon. The line was closed south of Snowdon Ranger due to continuing pw works. He rode on the footplate of WHR locomotive No.138 Millennium from Waunfawr to Dinas as part of the visit. Photo courtesy FR taken on a digital camera and post processed using IPhoto+4.


FfR Chairman Michael Whitehouse said: “We are pleased to welcome the First Minister, The Right Hon. Rhodri Morgan, to the WHR today. We are delighted at this demonstration of support from the Welsh Assembly Government for this exciting project. The Welsh Highland Railway will assist the economic regeneration of the area and provide an imaginative tourist transport link in the National Park.”


Phase 4 News

The topological survey across Porthmadog is substantially complete. This involved gorse clearance on the stretch from the Flour Mill site next to Snowdon Street, through the site of Porthmadog New station (1923). The Cambrian Coast Line crossing is being surveyed this week in collaboration with Network Rail. The surveyors will shortly return to working south from Rhyd Ddu as clearance is starting to move sufficiently far ahead of them to give a free run for survey. The total survey contract involves about 3 months work.

The flooded cutting in middle of Beddgelert Forest at Ch.18600 approx. is being de-watered in collaboration with Forest Enterprises under the direction of the WHRCL appointed Environmental Supervisor. This involves letting the water go a little at a time by taking few inches off top of track/dam each day and letting it drain naturally. Preparations are also being made to de-water other flooded cuttings at Pitt's Head bridge and at Cwm Cloch, the upper part of the lower S curve at Ch.21450. It will be fascinating to see if these initial drainage and clearance works, that are only intended to give enough clearance to allow access for survey purposes, expose the original 1920s WHR rails that are reputed to remain at Pitt's Head cutting.


Fisherman's Path works

Roland Doyle, WHRCL manager, gave permission on 29/11/04 to the Snowdonia National Park Authority (SNPA) to allow their contractors to use the trackbed between Nantmor and Bryn y Felin as a haul route to fetch materials in for work they are doing to improve the Fisherman's Path. This path parallels the railway through the Aberglaslyn Pass from the new Bryn-y-felin footbridge to the main road at Pont Aberglaslyn.

The current path runs at a lower level than the railway, in some places alongside the Afon Glaslyn rapids, and is difficult to use. At some stage after the path is improved, the WHRCL will be able to fence off the remaining section of the trackbed in the Aberglaslyn Pass in preparation for reconstruction of the railway from Autumn 2005. SNPA's contractors will be using small dumpers. The work is likely to start very shortly and be finished by Christmas.


Clearance works in Beddgelert Forest

Environmental Consultants will handle a small clearance contract for the WHRCL in the Beddgelert Forest. Initial survey work started last week in a contract let to NRG Engineering Services of Llanfairfechan but will require the clearance of the afforested section between Ch.18400 near Hafod Ruffydd Ganol and the start of the first S curve at Ch.18600 approx. Beudy Weirglodd Isaf. A portion of this section is blocked by a forestry access road and will require removal of the road which dams the trackbed. The trackbed resembles a canal for a short length north of this point with water over 1 m deep.

Meanwhile the costs of the detailed planning will be reduced by about £300,000 through doing the work 'in-house'. Several engineers have offered their services free of charge to the WHRCL.


Rhyd Ddu Phase 4 details firmed up

Whilst Rhyd Ddu station is still subject to a topographical survey (one of the first designs planned), the WHRCL plan to complete the construction of this section during winter 2005/6. The station platform will be more than doubled in length to be similar to that at Waunfawr and a platform shelter will be added at the north end, near the existing access. The missing western platform face for southbound trains will also be added, thereby creating an island platform as at Waunfawr. However a main station building is not planned for Phase 4. Loco watering facilities will be constructed at both north and south ends as locos will need replenishing, particularly after their long 1 in 40 climb from the Aberglaslyn Pass.

The final siding and signalling arrangements have been agreed between the FR and WHRCL. Outer home signals and a shunt token similar to the Dinas system will enable siding access and shunt facilities. A siding connection point off the mainline will be positioned at the far south end of the site and located in advance of the loop point as trains approach from Beddgelert. The main siding will accommodate an 8, or ideally 10, carriage train plus loco. The shunt limit on the Beddgelert side will be a substantial proportion of the length towards the site of Pitt's Head Halt.

Shunting manoeuvres will occur at Rhyd Ddu from time to time as, in addition to WHR(C) requirements, the WHR(P) has indicated this is one of the locations they would like to turn back when they are running heritage trains. The stock siding will be laid hard against the platform loop track on the west (main road) side of the platform, allowing space for an additional short siding off the stock siding for general use, closer to the road.


Cross Town Rail Link to be an early priority

Construction of the section of Phase 4 between Harbour Station and the WHR(P) is to be an early priority for the WHRCL. The Network Rail Crossing itself is planned for a February 2006 possession. The WHRCL plan to use the derelict Gas Works site, immediately north of the existing central car park as a construction base for the Cross Town Link (CTL) works. As the railway will take a part of the car park, most of the Gas Works site will be used to compensate for the loss of car parking space when all is finished.

Interpretation of CTL Porthmadog Deviation section is difficult as TWO plans specify limits of deviation either side of the centreline and thus the finished alignment may differ from the centreline shown on publicly available plans. Nevertheless, what is already in the public arena shows the Deviation begins just before Snowdon Street, which is crossed more nearly at right angles than before. The reverse curve from this into the car park access allows a straight section almost 200m long from Ch.34430 to Ch.32630 approx. where a passing loop is planned to be built in due course.

The centreline of the published new alignment goes through the corner of the Gas Works site emerging 10m from its south east corner to enter the car park. There will be two level crossings, one at each end of the site of the possible loop, at LC124 and LC125. These give access to the grassed area to the east, alongside Llyn Bach which is a public area.

From LC124, adjacent to the existing north east corner of the Leos (Coop) shoppers' car park wall, the centre line of the new route runs along the Coop boundary with the existing footpath diverted parallel locally to the east, alongside Llyn Bach. If the final alignment follows the centreline, the trackbed will hug the west wall along the rear of Ynys Tywyn, occupying the space between the footpath and the property wall.

Finally, the centreline curves onto the Britannia Bridge. This curve starts at Ch.34800 at the northeast corner of the petrol station and will need alterations to the north west corner of the bridge. Assuming the final alignment is as shown by the centreline in TWO plans, LC126 will be required at this point to allow the footpath to cross from the eastern side of the alignment, alongside Llyn Bach, and rejoin the main road at the existing gate next to the petrol station.

Britannia Bridge was rebuilt with a substantial concrete deck and thick tarmac layer in the mid 1990s and no problem is envisaged in getting the rail and fixings depth within the existing tarmac layer. The railway regains its original alignment about 10m from the eastern edge of the bridge. It will be in the roadway on the south side of the bridge.

The section between Harbour Station and Snowdon Street crossing (inclusive) is legally defined in the TWO as a Tramway. The level crossing on the bridge will be about 70m long, from the corner where the Welsh Pony plinth used to be, to the curve onto the Llyn Bach section.


WHRC plans develop

Plans to start the construction of Phase 4 are nearing completion. WHR Construction Ltd. (WHRCL) has appointed Roland Doyle as its manager and established its office at Dinas. It is hoped this will lead to a start on construction in October 2005 and tracklaying by volunteers from Christmas 2005. Employed staff will follow up the tracklaying with ballasting and fettling.

Environmental consultants have been engaged and are at work preparing the necessary documents (Environmental Statement) to allow work to start. They will directly manage a small contract to clear overgrown sections of the trackbed to give access for a topographical survey (Croesor Junction and some overgrown areas in the Beddgelert Forest).

The WHRCL will use its expertise of dealing with local companies to further channel the grants/donations into the local economy. Already a local company has been engaged to make the topographical survey. This will lead to detailed construction plans and alignment surveys (MOSS).

At this stage it is the intention to engage a number of specialist Civils contractors rather than one large contractor. This will give opportunities to smaller local companies to bid for work. Discussions are underway with service providers (water, electricity, phone etc.) to agree diversions of routes where necessary. Adjacent landowners are also being contacted about the fencing and access implications.

There are ongoing discussions with the two local authorities, Gwynedd and the SNPA, about the final design of the structures, which will probably be faced with local stone as in earlier phases. The final WHR specification is nearing completion and has involved discussion with the FR about operational requirements e.g. length of loops, gradients and watering facilities. As the management role expands, the number of staff employed at Dinas will also expand as in Phase 3.


WHR(P) appeal for rails

The WHR(P) has launched an appeal for £30,000 for rails to complete its 900m extension to  Traeth Mawr loop. This money will have to come from donations alone as the WHR(P) does not receive any of the £5million grants awarded to the FR for completion of the WHR.

Now that the ballast is all but finished, the rails are needed next Spring and need to be the same type as those used on the WHR(C), offering more flexibility than some heavier rail profiles available. Work on the points for the temporary loop at Traeth Mawr continues.

The company is appealing for donations, which can be sent to its headquarters at Gelert's Farm, Porthmadog, or made via the website



Portacabins arrive at Dinas

Three Portacabins arrived at Dinas by 30/10/04, presumably for use a site offices on Phase 4. Construction site offices are likely at Rhyd Ddu, Beddgelert and a point south of there possibly at Pont Croesor. These items, plus a JCB and a diesel powered mobile compressor, were donated to the project by Historic House Hotels Ltd. following the completion of building work at one of their hotels. The same company sponsored the building of the Pullman coach Bodysgalen.


Dinas_plant12-12-04.JPG (73292 bytes)

This northerly view at Dinas (12/12/04) shows the plant donated to the WHR by Historic House Hotels Ltd. Click on the image to enlarge. this image is copyright B.W.Hughes and was captured with a Concord 3340z digital camera. image post processed with Iphoto+4.

Appeal successful already!

The WHR 'half million' appeal reached its target in October in record time, within one month of the launch on 8/9/04. Now, the appeal is being kept open with the hope of raising a second half million for rolling stock.


Phase 4 tracklaying plans

The Phase 4 appeal is making good progress with over £150,000 raised in the first few weeks. There is a steady flow of donations and the FR hopes the appeal will raise £500,000 over coming months as work needs to have started by this time next year. Given  good progress with an existing section of firm trackbed e.g. south from Pont Cae'r gors, tracklaying is planned from Xmas 2005.


Rhyd Ddu-Beddgelert unlikely to open early

The WHR does not currently plan an interim opening at Beddgelert for various reasons including an agreement with SNPA not to have passengers joining or leaving at a terminus here. There is also the problem of terminating trains on a gradient of 1 in 43. Phase 4 work will require access for rail delivery for track laying through much of the construction period due to poor road access for deliveries by lorries elsewhere along the route.


First sod!

In the great tradition of starting railway construction, a 'first sod' event was held at Rhyd Ddu south on 23/9/04. The sod was cut immediately south of the ballast by Mike Schumann and Dr. John Prideaux with Mike Hart and WHRC Manager Roland Doyle in attendance. Some of the party then went on a 'Trustee's Day' trackbed walk including Beddgelert station.


Phase 4 appeal to ex-Deviationists

All known ex-Deviationists who helped complete the FR's missing link between Dduallt and Tan-y-grisiau (including your webmaster!) have been circulated with a letter and Appeal leaflet seeking for help with the WHR's Phase 4 'half million Appeal'. Help is also sought with technical drawings and plans for the line by those familiar with Autocad 2002. Please contact Mike Schumann if you are able and willing.


AGM success

The WHRS AGM at Barcud Studios Caernarfon on 11/9/04 was a great success with the largest ever turnout of members to hear the news about Phase 4. Mike Hart confirmed that there would be stations at Beddgelert Forest and Beddgelert (passing loop) but not at Nantmor due to the objections of local residents. If residents subsequently requested a station, separate planning permission would be required at extra cost to them!

Some sources suggested the construction site office would be at Beddgelert station, more central to the project but this is now unlikely. Early progress would be seen in Porthmadog with Network Rail agreeing a possession during the February half term holiday 2006 for putting in the main line crossover. This was timed so as to avoid inconveniencing school trains. Access could be from the WHR(P) 'harbour branch'.

The FR is currently organising a Community Plan, which will offer a vehicle for communication with the residents and representatives about reconstruction proposals. Directors view consultation as an important aspect of a satisfactory project. Phase 4 will offer extra local jobs both during construction and in the operating phase, bringing a substantial benefit to the local economy.

The cross-town link in Porthmadog has been granted tramway status so it will not require fencing. The Porthmadog WHR platform will be situated from the location of the former plinth of Welsh Pony out onto The Cob, which will be widened as necessary to provide a platform of acceptable width between the WHR and the existing platform.


New construction company to be launched

Phase 4 has required the setting up of a new construction company in the same type of arrangement that protected the FR during Phase 1-3 using the WHLR Ltd. The new company, to be known as WHR Construction Ltd, will be wholly funded by grant and donation income. Roland Doyle, who headed  the WHLR Ltd. is due to be appointed the GM of the new company.

The FR has examined the winding down of the WHLR Ltd and a recent trackbed walk of Phases 1-3 by Andy Savage and Roland Doyle has identified items to be finished off by the WHLR Ltd. and items that are the responsibility of the FR under a maintenance regime before final handover occurs.

The loop at Plas-y-nant needs completion and a halt is likely there next Spring if funds can be found. Tenders are out for this small contract. Some culverts needs facing stone. In some areas excess ballast will be reduced and reused. Ballast retaining kerbs will be constructed on some bridges to prevent loss of ballast. There is an appeal for volunteers to assist with this work.

The contractual model for the Phase 4 will be similar that used in the main previously, with one or two main contractors (Jones Bros. and Mulcair have previously been employed to construct large sections of the route). Work will begin at the north end of Rhyd Ddu station with the completion of both platform faces to the full 200m length and, presumably, the waiting shelter. The contractual splits have yet to be decided but could be as follows.

Although final details have yet to be determined, it has been decided not to employ any direct labour. Contractors will finish the line to bottom ballast. Materials will be placed along the trackbed to ready the task for volunteer tracklaying teams, hopefully every weekend.


Phase 4 funding announced

In a ceremony at Caernarfon on 8/9/04, The Welsh Assembly Government announced funding to enable Ffestiniog Railway to reconstruct the final section of the Welsh Highland Railway between Rhyd Ddu and Porthmadog. A 'large cheque' was handed over for £5 million. WHR Director Mike Schumann and Dave Kent for the WHRS were also in attendance.


Cheque.JPG (63203 bytes)

This view (8/9/04) at Waunfawr, shows the awarding of the 'large cheque' to the WHR by Dr. Gibbons. Mike Schumann and Michael Whitehouse are in view. Click on the image to enlarge. This image is copyright Colin Hill and was taken on a SLR camera. Image post processed using iPhoto Plus4 image correction technology and displayed at 96dpi.


Dr Brian Gibbons, Deputy Minister for Economic Development and Transport, announced the provision of a package of grants totalling £5m to create a vital strategic link in the Northern Snowdonia public transport network. He said "This funding will result in a major improvement in the region's transport infrastructure, and create one of Europe’s foremost tourist attractions." The railway is now carrying 50,000 visitors per year between Caernarfon and Rhyd Ddu.


Rhyd Ddu breakthrough.jpg (117635 bytes)

This view (8/9/04) at Rhyd Ddu, shows No.138 about to break through the banner that says it all! This image is courtesy/copyright Colin Hill and was taken on a SLR camera. Image post processed using iPhoto Plus4 image correction technology and displayed at 96dpi.


Ffestiniog Railway Chairman, Michael Whitehouse, said, "This is a major vote of confidence in a successful, bold and promising project to boost sustainable tourism and economic development in the area. We are grateful to the Welsh Assembly Government, and to all our supporters for backing this enterprise, and look forward to the day when people can ride by train from Caernarfon to Porthmadog through the Snowdonia National Park."

The £10.7m cost of the reconstruction of the 13 miles of old trackbed between the current terminus of Rhyd Ddu and Porthmadog (excluding Pont Croesor to Pen-y-Mount, which the WHR(P) is funding separately) has been met by various grants, private supporters, match funded labour and the Phase 4 Appeal.

The £10.7m cost is funded from several sources (and as rounded up numbers) with grants of:-

£ 3,700,000 from the Welsh Assembly European Objective One Grant Scheme
£ 1,300,000  from the Welsh Assembly Government
£ 4,670,000  has been donated by private supporters
£580,000 is provided by the very successful WHR Appeal
£450,000 cash equivalent value of volunteer tracklaying


As in the first phases of construction, the WHLR (as the engineering arm of the FfR charged with WHR construction) will use mainly locally based contractors for the civil engineering work, which, together with the expected increase in visitor numbers, will deliver a significant boost to the local economy.

Mr. Whitehouse believes that once reconstructed, the WHR will link with the FfR to make a 40 mile world-class narrow gauge scenic railway journey on 'The Snowdonian' through train. "People from everywhere will be able to experience a new ‘Great Railway Journey of the World’ to rival famous trains like the Glacier Express".

Preparatory work will start immediately with the expectation of construction being completed during 2008 so that the railway can be opened at Easter 2009.


Route details

Full details of the route can be found on the link pages above (all links now active!). These are in the process of being updated and expanded, a process that should be complete by the end of October.



Funds will be coming from the European Union Objective 1 scheme (for areas suffering economic hardship) and funds from the Welsh Assembly as detailed above. The £5m grant eclipses the £4.3m grant from the Millennium Commission that match-funded Phases 1-3.


Construction Timetable

The provisional construction timetable may look like this. Compulsory purchase orders were served in June 2004 under the original WHR TWO (30/6/1999). These clear the way for access to the railways lands (where disputed) and allow areas alongside to be rented temporarily for construction bases and the like.

The WHRS has already funded the Environmental Statement and this clears the way to construction. Tree felling and similar disturbance to birds nesting prohibits clearance works effectively until July 2005. Therefore some months will go by while the contracts are let. Only fencing repairs and similar 'dutiful landowner' jobs will therefore be expected in the next 10 months.

It is anticipated that construction work might commence in earnest in Summer 2005. Given that construction overruns earlier in the project caused advertising problems, three years are being allowed for the construction phase, to be completed in Autumn 2008. This will allow a planned opening of Phase 4 at Easter 2009 with a six month breather for testing and commissioning.

Year Activity
2004/5 Planning and contract letting
2005/6 Construction
2006/7 Construction
2007/8 Construction
2008/9 Commissioning

The extension of WHR (P) services by 900m to Traeth Mawr is anticipated for Spring 2005 and they may open to Pont Croesor in their own time, prior to 2008.

The intention to reopen the through route in one go rather than in stages has often been stated by the FfR. An agreement with the SNPA that there would be only one temporary terminus in the National Park (at Rhyd Ddu) seems to preclude any early opening from Rhyd Ddu to Beddgelert.

However, some WHR Directors are keen to see this station open early to improve the revenue stream that supports the project. An extra four miles of route would allow higher fares to be charged. This section also taps the large caravan site at Beddgelert Forest where a halt will be provided.

If Rhyd Ddu-Beddgelert does open early, passengers will not be allowed to join or alight at Beddgelert as this might increase traffic congestion there. Top and tail operation could be introduced from Rhyd Ddu with a diesel pilot working to Rhyd Ddu on the first train of the day and stabling there as happened when Waunfawr loop was incomplete during the opening of Phase 2.


WHR Phase 4 Appeal launched

An appeal is being launched asking individuals to make affordable monthly contributions by DD over an extended period, in this case 5 years (60 months). It is hoped at least 200 people will take up this challenge to help with the £500,000 cash the appeal needs to raise as its contribution to match-funding. Funds will not be released for construction until £300,000 of promises are confirmed! Half of this amount was raised by the AGM! If funds exceed this amount they will be put towards new carriages and locomotives required to operate the extended railway.

There are three levels of sponsorship, with corresponding benefits:

BRONZE - £20 per month by direct debit for 60 months


SILVER - £50 per month by direct debit for 60 months


GOLD - £100 per month by direct debit for 60 months



Please note that benefits are only available if  payments are up to date. If donors wish to donate by a single payment, please contact FfR via Harbour Station (full address on the appeal form, link below) to make arrangements. All donations to this appeal go the FR Trust's Welsh Highland funds.

This appeal is operated by the Festiniog Railway Trust, Registered Charity No. 239904.

APPEAL FORM - to print, complete, and post

Gift Aid - important: If donors are a UK taxpayers, they should ensure they complete the Gift Aid Declaration at the top of the form. This allows the FR Trust to recover tax on donations, bringing a considerable extra benefit to the Appeal. It will not cost a penny extra and donors may additionally recover higher rate tax paid.


WHR(P) view

James Hewett, Chairman of the Welsh Highland Railway (Porthmadog), said: "The WHR(P) welcomes the news that resources have been found to finish the WHR between Rhyd Ddu and Porthmadog."

"We, as a long-established, independent railway operating company, are fully committed to seeing the whole line restored. We already have a legal agreement with the FfR and WHR(C) that our heritage trains can run over the whole route between Porthmadog and Caernarfon and we are actively engaged in rebuilding the line by constructing part of the missing section at our own expense.  We are due to open an extension to a new terminus at Traeth Mawr in the near future."

"Today's announcement shows the WHR project can only succeed through partnership with funding agencies, our company and the people of Gwynedd."

"We are glad to be part of that partnership, as we believe we can bring many benefits to the completed WHR.  We operate a popular, family-friendly railway where we are recreating the atmosphere of the 1920s, we have strong links with our local community, and we are experts in constructing railways very economically to a high standard. All these things will be important to the project if it's to succeed."


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V4.2 dated 3/3/05