Llanberis Lake Railway's 40th birthday is celebrated in style.
For 40 years the Llanberis Lake Railway has quietly gone about its business, providing steam-hauled rides along the shore of Llanberis Lake. During those four decades this lovely little line, in the same village as the Snowdon Mountain Railway, has carried nearly 3million passengers, but rarely figured on the enthusiast radar as the location for major events.
That all changed over July 2-3 when the railway’s current resident locomotives - Hunslet 0-4-0STs Elidir, Dolbadarn and Thomas Bach (the latter running with more correct historic Wild Aster nameplates) which used to work in the huge Dinorwic slate quarry complex adjacent to the line’s Gilfach Ddu HQ – were joined by a trio of guest locos, all of which had run on the LLR at some point in its past.
The visitors were Hunslet 0-4-0ST Maid Marian (now resident at the Bala Lake Railway), Henschel 0-4-0T Helen Kathryn (based at the South Tynedale Railway) and De Winton 0-4-0VBT Chaloner (from Bedfordshire’s Leighton Buzzard Railway).
This six-strong line-up was also joined, for one train each day, by another Hunslet 0-4-0ST, The Welsh Slate Museum’s Una which resides in the adjacent (and rail connected) slate quarrying museum located in Dinorwic’s old works complex.
Almost every train ran double-headed (a visitor with an LLR loco) with the occasional triple-header to be spotted between Gilfach Ddu and Llanberis stations. In true gala tradition, a demonstration freight train was also periodically slotted between the frequent passenger operations.
In addition to operations on the 2ft gauge LLR, the Fairbourne Railway’s ‘scale’ Darjeeling Himalayan Railway B-Class 0-4-0STT Sherpa visited with a coach and ran on a section of specially laid 12.25in gauge track laid at Gilfach Ddu, while miniature locos on their own lines provided further steam rides at Gilfach Ddu and Cei Llydan, the passing loop on the LLR’s Gilfach Ddu-Penllyn section.
A gala is a rare thing on the LLR and it is unlikely there have ever been seven locos in action on its line during a weekend. It is also a long time since five ‘Quarry Hunslets’ were in action together anywhere. To crown the weekend, the event was blessed by glorious weather. What more could one ask?