Ffestiniog celebrates its 175th anniversary and completion of revived Welsh Highland Railway
The Ffestiniog Railway (FR) was opened from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog on April 20 1836. The 175th anniversary of this milestone was marked by a double celebration on April 20 2011, this also being the day when the Welsh Highland Railway between Caernarfon and Porthmadog, rebuilt by the FR, was officially declared completed.
With no normal FR and WHR services operating on April 20, the celebratory day commenced with FR chairman, Dr John Prideaux inviting Pete Waterman to unveil a plaque in front of around 300 invited guests at Harbour Station. Pete spoke of the achievements being marked as a testament to the belief that amazing things could be achieved by heritage railways, while also contributing to employment and the economy of the local community.
The slate plaque was produced and engraved at Llechwedd Quarry, one of the Blaenau Ffestiniog slate quarry’s the Ffestiniog was built to serve, and collected by an FR train for transport to Porthmadog a few days prior to the unveiling. By the end of the day it had been cemented in the wall of the Harbour station buildings opposite Britannia Terrace at the official junction between FR and WHR lines.
Following the speeches at Harbour station, a special WHR train hauled by Garratt NG/G16 No. 138 took guests from Porthmadog to Pont Croesor where Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas (Welsh Assembly Presiding Officer) spoke of the benefits the WHR brought to the area.
A presentation to Dr Prideaux by representatives of the Hartz railway system in Germany followed before the train continued to Beddgelert. After lunch, guests had the afternoon option of continuing to Caernarfon on the Garratt-worked train before returning to Porthmadog, or travelling back to Harbour station on a train hauled by newly-built Lynton & Barnstaple 2-6-2T replica Lyd and then behind a Ffestiniog Railway special to Tan-y-Bwlch headed by Double-Fairlie Merddin Emrys.