22.10.14

Llandudno and the Snowdonia railways, part 1

Snowdon Mountain Railway.
Snowdon Mountain Railway
Ever since I went on my coach trip to North Wales in 2009, staying in Rhyl. I've wanted to return, but this time staying in the more attractive resort of Llandudno, with the twin objectives of doing the Snowdon Mountain Railway and travelling on the completed Welsh Highland Railway line all the way to Porthmadog. I was joined for the first part of the holiday by Chrissie, who through a train-driving friend at the Albion had wangled a couple of free tickets for the Ffestiniog. We travelled up on Thursday 9 October via Warrington, a station that could do with a few more destination boards, and by the time we arrived in Llandudno, at 4pm, everywhere was closing! I booked in at Anglesey House, right bang opposite the Tramway station, and she was in the Stella diagonally opposite. It was curry night at the rather splendid Wetherspoons, the Palladium, and I had a couple of pints of Dark side of the Moose.

Snowdon Mountain Railway.
Will we get a ride today?
Day 2: to Snowdon
We got the train to Bangor (I bought an 8-day North Wales Flexi-Rover ticket for £42.20, Chrissie got  £10 day rover) and then jumped on a bus to get us to the bus station. Bangor was another place lacking in information, so after asking a few bus drivers we established that we needed a yellow 85 from stand A and they were one an hour (a quarter to, we discovered). Arriving at Llanberis we saw the queue for the 1pm train, but our names were taken and if they could find 20 people we'd go up at 2pm. As it happened only 14 people registered so the train was cancelled! We'd also missed the Llanberis Lake Railway, which set off at 1.40, but we spotted an S2 Sherpa bus, heading for Betws -y- Coed so we jumped on.

Pen-y-pass
Pen-y-pass
 The journey through Llanberis Pass to Pen-y-pass was spectacular and made up for the disappointment. At Betws-y-Coed we visited the museum (£1 admission), where they had many model railways and a scale model of 70000 Britannia and got an X19 back to Llandudno and fish and chips at the Palladium and another pint at the King's Head, up near the tram station.

Brittania
70000 Britannia model
Day 3: Ffestiniog Railway Victorian weekend
On Saturday we discovered there was a rail strike, so got the X1 bus to Blaenau Ffestiniog. We got there just as the train was coming in and exchanged our vouchers for free tickets. The train was hauled by David Lloyd George, one of those push-me pull-you designs, and we travelled down the hill to Porthmadog, where Chrissie was surprised to find her football friend Paul waiting.

Ffestiniog Railway
David Lloyd George
A beautiful Garrett, No. 138 from the Welsh Mountain Railway was also waiting on the platform, and Paul arranged for me to step up into the cab. He also arranged for us to travel back First Class in the observation coach.

Cabbing 138
Garrett 138 with me on board!
On the way back up, we stopped to allow a gravity train to pass by, populated by volunteers sitting in slate wagons with their legs hanging over the side of the loco-less train.

Gravity train
Gravity train
We had to make the last X1 bus at 16.30, but we had plenty of time and back at Blaenau Ffestiniog had a coffee in a nearby cafe. In Llandudno, we had a pint at the Cottage Loaf, and a Chinese at Jasmine House, then it was back to the B&B for Dr Who and Casualty.

First class
Travelling First Class
More photos on Flickr.
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