All aboard

With the news last week that a locomotive, which first launched in 1896, had returned to carrying passengers up to the summit of Snowdon - we thought we'd share all about the fabulous steam trains that chug along in the beautiful scenery of North Wales.

A ‘not so new’ way to explore North Wales!

Exploring the stunning North Wales coast and countryside without your car and using public transport instead, perhaps isn’t something you’ve considered. But with the arrival of a new guidebook and website launched recently by the Great Little Trains of Wales together with Arriva Trains Wales, perhaps it’s time to think again.

The ‘Bradshaw’ style guide, similar to the book used by Michael Portillo in his delightful TV series, helps you plan your travel and activities with interesting titbits of info along the way. You will find features on each of the Great Little Trains, and some of the big scenic railways of Wales; plus some travellers’ tales to whet your appetite; including BBC ‘Antiques Roadshow’ expert, Paul Atterbury, who took a few days out to explore some of the delights of Snowdonia by train.

Travelling on a Great Little Train through the astoundingly spectacular scenery of North Wales is a unique experience, and one that has just been made even better: ‘This isn’t just a guide to some great railways,” says Claire Britton, the Chair of North Wales Tourism. “It also pulls together the nearby visitor attractions, places to eat, walking routes and interesting bits of history and local info along the way. Whether you want to hop on a train and go out for lunch, enjoy a day trip, or plan a few days away this is the book!”

Here is a quick round up of those little railways:

The Llanberis Lake Railway starts from beside the slate museum at Llanberis and runs along the side of Lake Padarn through the country park. The journey takes around an hour and there are plenty of things to do in the locality.

The Snowdon Mountain Railway is a trip of a lifetime right up to the summit of Wales’ highest peak. The railway has been taking visitors to the summit since 1896 and its steam locomotives are specially designed for the climb. You do need to book in advance as seats are limited on each journey.

The Welsh Highland Railway steams coast to coast between Caernarfon and Porthmadog, crossing the slopes of Snowdon. This 50 mile round trip is a full day out with time to explore, though shorter trips and single journeys are available.

The historic Ffestiniog Railway climbs from Porthmadog along the picturesque Vale of Ffestiniog to the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog surrounded by the rugged scenery and legendary ‘push me pull you’ Double Fairlie locomotive designed to pull the huge slate trains of the late 1800’s.

The Welsh Highland Heritage Railway is a great line for young families with a hands-on museum and miniature railway. It is conveniently situated right beside the Cambrian Coast line station and has a welcoming shop and café on site.

The Bala Lake Railway follows the track of an old standard gauge line along the shores of the lake. The main station in the village of Llanuwchllyn is a beautifully preserved example of a country halt from the old railway.

The Fairbourne Railway may be small but it has a unique story and has been taking passengers to the Barmouth ferry in various guises for 100 years. Do a joint ferry and rail trip for a great day out.

The Talyllyn Railway is where Thomas the Tank Engine begun. Steaming from Tywyn up to Nant Gwernol, there are delightful halts with forest walks and waterfalls nearby.

The vale of Rheidol Railway will take you from its base in Aberystwyth to Devil’s Bridge station high up in the hills from where you can explore legendary places such as Jacob's Ladder Or the Devil’s Punchbowl waterfalls.

The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway is nearer the Welsh Border, running between Welshpool and Llanfair Caereinion and built to serve the agricultural community through which it runs. Don’t miss this lovely area, plan to extend your stay in Wales to fit it in.

The Brecon Mountain Railway sits alone, much further south but it is a wonderful day out and has some stunning scenery as it rises from Merthyr Tydfil up into the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Add to these, some of Arriva Trains Wales’ Community Rail lines along with some excellent rail and bus rover tickets and you are on your way. We look forward to welcoming you aboard…

This article is taken from Volume 2 of The Handbook - find out how to get hold of your copy here!