Klausrl’s Weblog

The World according to Richard Klaus..Trains, Planes, Cars, Wales,Scotland.

Latest travel deal. $6 a day train travel!

Just an update to those that might travel in Wales.  The railcar on the right in this photo is on the Conwy Valley  Line, a delightful ride from the North Coast to Blaenau Ffestiniog .

The little train on the left is on the Ffestiniog Railway and a great way to get to Porthmadog on the coast. And of course as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, later this year the connection with the Welsh Highland Railway.

The new news is the price. A full day pass on the Conwy Valley Line is (drum roll please) 3 pounds sterling, less that $6.00 for the whole day.

Considering the area served by the Conwy Valley Line, this might be the best travel buy on the planet.

Thanks to John for pointing this out.  The Cambrian Coast Line “One Day Ranger” pass is 8 pounds sterling, or in U.S. terms. A little less than $16 for a days travel.


April 7, 2010 Posted by | trains, Uncategorized, Wales | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland this summer?

I’ll let the links speak for themselves.



And, if you decide on a trip to the Ffestiniog/Welsh Highland check out the Oakeley Arms Hotel. Large rooms for the U.K., and great food. In the Pub, on cool nights they have a coal fire going in the fireplace. The coal warms you to the bones.

New this year to Porthmadog  a Travelodge. Provides the equivalent of US turnpike, motel service.  For those on a budget, this could make the difference.

Remember also Port Merion is just nest door, for you Patrick McGoohan fans, Port Merion is the Hotel/Town that served as the setting for “The Prisoner” BBC TV Show.

For those of you that are “Bucks UP” The Village is operated as a Hotel, although the tariffs are breath taking.

The grounds are however open to us commoners for a small fee. It’s worth an afternoon walkaround.

December 28, 2009 Posted by | trains, Uncategorized, Wales | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tal-y-Llyn Railway troubles

DSCN0572 Small Web view

Just getting the word out. Not sure how to help, but the Tal-y-Llyn railway on the coast of Wales would seem to be suffering from the slack economy. Word is that the operation lost about 100,000 pounds, roughly $180,000 last year.
The Tal-y-Llin is one of the oldest restored railways in the U.K., but suffers from being some distance off the be beatin track. About halfway between Porthmadog, and Aberystwth Wales, this wonderful little railway is passed by on the way to other destinations.
Check them out at http://www.talyllin.co.uk.. it’s worth the look, and if you happen to get to the U.K. a trip through Wales is worth the time. You don’t really need a rental car as the train service is good. The only notable gap in transportation, being that the west and north coast railways have no direct connection. If you have the time, one can take the Ffestiniog from Porthmadog to Ffestiniog, and catch the Conwy Valley standard gauge line to the coast.
The Cambrian Coast route stops right at the west end of the Tal-y-Llin railway, a 1/2 block walk to the narrow gauge station and museum.
Anyway here’s the question for you. Any ideas on how to get the word out about the trains of Wales. I know there are sites out there (Great Little Trains of Wales) and other, but their visibility seems low. I’m not in the travel industry, but it seems like that might be the key to helping out these small railways. It would be a shame to lose some of them.

June 26, 2009 Posted by | trains, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Welsh Highland Golden Spike

Saturday, February 2009 the Welsh Highland and Ffestiniog Railways will be linked in a golden spike ceremony, in Porthmadog, Wales. Actually a golden clip, they do things a little different over there.

Now the work begins for those of us in the U.S.  Time to spread the word, with the world economy going in the tank, it would be a shame for the Welsh railways to fail after all they have done to restore the lines.

I know that not everybody can afford to take off every other year or so, but, for a relatively inexpensive trip Wales works.

Give it a thought. Castles, little trains, mountains,sea,and great people.

I’ve been to London several times (big city) and York (old city) great trains museum there.  But if you would like to visit an area that lets you turn your mental clock back 50 years, it’s got to be Wales, OK Scotland was pretty cool to.

I’m going to work on a trip plan next time I get home, but I’m thinking there’s a loop from Manchester west along the north coast, then south to Aberystwyth (ask Avrila) then back to Manchester.  Train travel is very reasonable, and fast.  If you rent a car, try Avis, avoid National.  Someday I’ll have to tell about the Vaxhaul, $1600 for two weeks (OUCH).

Might be a good year to go if you can afford it. Lots of people are going to stay home and there might be some good deals to be had.

February 28, 2009 Posted by | trains, Wales | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Welsh Highland Update 3.0

vacation-oct14-004-small-web-view1 Latest news is that  the Welsh Highland will begin service to the public over the entire route in July 2009.

Might be worth planning some vacation time for late summer or early fall. The dollar is quite strong against the pound right now, and airfares have dropped to levels we haven’t seen in a year.

If you are thinking about a day or two in Porthmadog, the Oakeley Arms, about 5 miles from Porthmadog in Maentwrog, is worth a look.  A delightful hotel with a Pub/Restaurant in the building.  And old building with many odd hallways, and stairs, it’s easy to get lost on your way to your room.  When we checked in last year, the desk clerk had some time finding our rooms.  Oh the food in the pub is first rate, and priced for a budget.

For those on a tight budget, a Travel Lodge has opened in Porthmadog.  The rates are on a par with U.S. motels.

vacation-day-1-044-small-web-viewRemember to stop by Spooners in the Ffestiniog station at Porthmadog and have an ale with “The Princess”

January 17, 2009 Posted by | trains, Uncategorized, Wales | , , , , | Leave a comment

Welsh Highland Railway update.

Latest news from Wales is hat that last sections of the Welsh Highland may be set in place sometime late this month. This makes the Easter 2009 open for passenger traffic, look like a go.

A Garrett at Caernarfon, on the Welsh Highland.

Next year it will be possible to take a train from Caernarfon, south through the Snowdona National Park to Porthmadog on the west coast, then east on the Ffestiniog Railway to Blaenau Ffestiniog. That’s about a 40 mile trip, plan for the whole day for this trip.

Not sure at this point what locomotives will run the through trips, the big South African Garratts are too large to run past the yard at Boston Lodge, so I assume the the Double Fairlies from the Ffestiniog will handle any “express” trains.

Double Fairlie on the Ffestiniog.

For any train buff, this is worth the trip. Several airlines serve Manchester, England. For those that dont want to deal with London it’s a great way to get into the U.K.

Take the time to check out the other little railways in the area.

August 13, 2008 Posted by | trains, Wales | , | 3 Comments

Save the Wales.

Ok, silliest title I’ve come up with in a long time.
Want to turn your mental clock back 50 years or so?
From London or Manchester, grab a train and head west to Wales. For those of you that follow science fiction, Cardiff is the new center of the Si.Fi. world. Dr. Who and Torchwood are produced in Wales in and around Cardiff.
A few hours north near Porthmadog, on the coast is Port Merion. This first class hotel is “The Village” from “The Prisoner”. Port Merion is worth a day on it’s own, but be advised, that the hotel grounds are on a very steep hillside, on the coast. Lot of up and down walking, and night be a bit much for some people.
Of course Wales has more little railways than you have the time to see, on any one vacation. Rather that repeat my work, I ask you to check out my post “Narrow gauge railways in Wales” under the trains category, on my blog.
One little gem I found is the Oakeley Arms, in Maentwrog, about ten miles east of Porthmadog.
The Oakeley, an old hotel, resturant, and local pup, is mostly stone construction, the rooms are large by U.K. standards, and the food is first rate. A good cook and local produce make for great dinners. The halls in the hotel will make you wonder why you have never seen a mystery movie made here. Lots of turns, and nearly hidden stairs, make this a most interesting building.
From the Oakeley it’s a short drive to Ffestiniog and the slate mines, the other direction and 15 minutes brings you to Porthmadog, and to the south a half hour sits Harlech Castle. A bit beyond Harlech is the town of Tywyn and the Talyllyn Railway. This little known railway, smaller than the Ffestiniog, is a gem. Great museum and a nice ride into the hills. Have tea at the end of the line, while the crew gets ready for the return trip.
Wales is great for unwinding, get away from the job. The only problem, is that if you spend a week with the Welsh people, you might start thinking silly things, like “Is there some way I could make a living out there”.
If somebody offered me a driving job, and it could be done. Too many problems, being a U.S. commercial driver. Well if it could happen, I’d be there as fast as I could get there.

April 30, 2008 Posted by | Wales | , , , , , | Leave a comment

009 model railroad

First of, I should explain what OO9 means. OO the scale 1/76 that is 1 inch represents 76. This is the common equivalent of the popular HO in the United Kingdom. HO being 1/87 and OO 1/76 there is a degree of sharing between the scales. People, trees, and buildings from one scale are usable in the other.
OO9 is OO (1/76) scale, but using the 9 millimeter gauge track from the N scale (1/160) manufactures. This results in a workable 2 foot narrow gauge, in the OO scale. Using the chassis from N scale locomotive, the bodies are replaced with 1/76th scale bodies, making a narrow gauge locomotive. There are quite a few good suppliers of kits for the conversions, and some manufactures make some full kits, with running gear.

<>Check out the 009 society web page, they have links to suppliers. Try their web site www.009society.com/ Look around but be sure to check the suppliers at the bottom of the links page.
Currently I’m building a traveling show layout, based on the Ffestiniog Railway, in Wales. This layout started small, but sections keep getting added until now it has grown to a 15X25 foot rectangle. In the style of show layouts, the operation is inside the box, and made to be best viewed from the outside.Taking a train on an imaginary trip from Porthmaddog to Ffestiniog would be a follows:
The Cobb

Leaving the Station at Porthmaddog, the train goes across the Cobb, a six foot long sea wall section. Next is a sharp left turn alongside Boston Lodge, the work shop, locomotive and coach storage areas. This section of the model is being extended slightly to include a scaled down representation of Port Merion, known to some as “The Village” from the spy, sci fi show, The Prisoner.

The Village


After Boston Lodge turn our train runs past Minnffordd. This is the site of the exchange yard with the standard gauge railway.

Penrhyn Level Crossing

Penrhyn Crossing

Mid 1980

After Minnfford there is a bit of forest and the level road crossing at Penrhyn. This is the section where the climb to the mine starts. Also the forest will become a lot more dense at this point. Thanks to a 009 member, John de Frayssinet , I now know that the stems of common sage, makes great trees. So now it looks like I can afford to have a forest that the trains disappear into. My current thinking is that a very dense forest is a good way to hide the points where the sections join together.

Leaving Minnffordd there is some question. Until a week ago the next section was going to be Ddualt, but since a trip to Wales, and a visit to Tan-y-Bwlch (take that spell check), we are thinking of adding a 6 foot section that would include the Tan-y-Bwlch station.

Tan-y-Bwich Station


Next would be the signature work of the new Ffestiniog , Dduallt. Dduallt was where the restoration team had to gain considerable elevation to clear a reservoir that had been built while the railway was inactive. This spiral, one of a kind in the UK is a great photo location, and had to be part of the model. At Dduallt the mainline makes the turn to run across the back of the layout.

At this point things are not yet set in stone, but some type of a festival is going to be going on, just a good excuse for all the odd stuff we can’t justify any other way.

Another turn back toward the front including the mine. At this point there is considerable height to the main, and the slate mine will have plexiglass sides showing the operation in the mine.

Then a hidden spiral will bring the mainline back down to Porthmaddog.

When complete the trains will take a 70 or so foot trip, hopefully creating the feel of actually going somewhere, rather than running in a circle.

The photo below shows the port area framework. Since this photo I’ve completed the 2X6 frame and trackwork for “The Cobb” The tracks have been proven using an N-Gauge locomotive that is larger than any of the 009 locos that will run on the layout.

Porthmadog area

Porthmadog framework

We have decided that rather than staying strictly with Ffestiniog locations, the some scenes will be “visiting” from other railways, such as the Tal-y-Llyn Railway.

December 1, 2007 Posted by | trains | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Narrow Gauge Railways in Wales

Wales could have the highest concentration of little railways in the world.

The crown jewel of Welsh Railways must be the Ffestiniog running from Porthmadog, Wales up to Blaenau Ffestiniog. Link to them at http://www.festrail.co.uk

The Ffestinog was built to haul slate from the mines around Blaenau Ffestiniog, to Porthmadog, and later to the transfer yard at Minniford. Opened in 1836 as a gravity operation, the entire line was on a steady down grade to Boston Lodge about 1 mile south of Porthmadog. On special days, the gravity trains are still run, a train of slate cars pulled up the line, then let run back toward Boston Lodge, just gravity, and a crew of brakemen enjoying the ride. Draft horses supplied the up hill power until 1863 when the first steam engines were brought on board. Although much changed some of the original Locomotives are still in service. Prince continues in daily use after nearly 150 years.

The Ffestiniog worked quite well for decades, but fell on hard times, with the introduction of heavy trucks, and new roofing products, that reduced the demand for slate. In August 1946 what was thought to be the last train ran on the Ffestiniog ran from Blaenau to Porthmadog.

That probably would have been the end, but an error in the original charter for the railway, had no provision for scrapping. While not in use, it was not permitted to tear up the railway.

Eight years later, after several tries, a group of rail fans, began the project of reopening the line, and on July 23 1955 a small World War 1 surplus gas powered locomotive, “Mary Ann” pulled a short train the mile from Porthmadog to Boston Lodge.

It took until 1982 to complete the line back to Blaenau. The largest problem being a reservoir that covered part of the line. This was overcome by adding a loop at Ddualt where the line curves back over itself ,and climbs to a higher track bed clear of the water.

At Porthmadog there’s a well equipped station. Great resturant and pub, Spooners Cafe & Bar. Take the time to tip a pint with a princess. Princess one of the first engines on the Ffestiniog back in the 1860s has retired, and sits in the bar. Not every day you can have a beer with a Locomotive to lean on.


Princess in Spooners Bar

The Ffestiniog is working toward completing the Welsh Highland from Caernarfon south through Snowdon National Park, to join the Ffestiniog at Porthmadog. This will probably be completed in the fall of 2008, and will open to passenger traffic for the 2009 season. The golden spike will complete a nearly 40 mile ribbon of two foot gauge steel, taking passengers through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.

The Welsh Highland is quite a return from the dead story, in that it did not dodge the scrappers torch. With the exception of a few feet here and there, the entire railway was lifted, for the scrap value of the rails. That the new Welsh Highland is nearly complete says much about the people that stuck with the idea of bringing it back. Much has been written about the confict surrounding this project. Lets just say that the partners in the project were not always on the same page. Last time I was in Wales all the parties seemed to have found a balance, and have assumed positions in the operation well suited to their interests.

The Welsh Highland Caernarfon currently runs on the completed sections of the build from Caernarfon, near the Castle to Rhdy Ddu, deep in the Snowdon National Park. They operate what may be the most powerful 2 foot gauge steam locomotives now in use. Only the Welsh Highland Porthmadog’s Polish diesels may be more powerful ,at 400 plus horsepower, one can’t help but think that the big diesels will be called on for rescue missions from time to time. Beyer-Garretts built in the late 50s for South African freight service, these locomotives are big, powerful and look oversized when standing next to most Welsh locomotives.

Garrett at Caernarfon
At this point the big Welsh Highland Garretts will not see use past Porthmadog on the combined railway. They are simply to big for the tunnels, and other trackside construction, east of Boston Lodge.

Locomotive “Prince” at Tan-y-Bwlch stationporthmadog-07-144-small-web-view.jpg

Prince and Earl of Menioneth

at Tan-y-Bwlch station.

The Ffestinog can be reached by regular train sevice at Blaenau Ffestiniog, from the Conwy Valley Line. This is curently run by Arriva Trains. You would catch the Conwy, at Llandudno Junction, near Conwy on the north coast. The Conwy Valley is a worthwhile trip on its own. Take the time for a stop over at Betws-y-Coed. Across the footbridge in the station there’s a miniature railway for the kids, and for those of you that are model train nuts, like me, there’s a great trains hobby shop.

Find out more about the Conwy line at , http://www.conwyvalleyrailway.co.uk/


Conwy Valley railcar at Betws-y-Coed

Just across town from the Ffestinog is the Welsh Highland, Porthmadog. This group was the first to start the idea of restoring the Welsh Highland, and while no longer the lead dog, will play an important part in the new railway. This is a better site for those with children. The soon to be complete 40 mile trip will prove too much for most youngsters. At the Welsh Highland,Porthmadog , the flavor is very family, and the museum is just right. The crew here is a little more easy going, and seems to have more time to chat.
The Welsh Highland Porthmadog also has a nice sandwich shop, and book store that is not to be missed.

The Welsh Highland Porthmadog web site is, www.whr.co.uk/s/index.en.php

Ruston Loco

Ruston loco at Welsh Highland, Porthmadog

Call ahead and for a small fee, adults can arrange a Cab ride in one of the Locomotives. Great chance to check one item off that things I always wanted to do list.

About an hours drive south of the Ffestiniog you will find the town of Tywyn and the Tal-y-Llyn Railway.

This little railway, built in the 1860s, struggled for many years, finally under the ownership of Sir Hayden Jones. The quarry that was the railways largest customer was closed, and Sir Hayden ran the railway at a loss untill his death in 1950. That looked like the end of the Tal-y-Llyn, but a group from the area, led by Tom Rolt , worked out an agreement to operate the railway, and three years later received the railway from Sir Hayden’s widow. They did pay 1350 pounds sterling for the railway, which was about the scrap value.

Having dodged that bullet, the Tal-y-Llyn has gone on to become a first class operation. Great ride behind coal fired locos. The coal fire does have a special charm to it.

Be sure to try the Tea Room at Abergynolwyn . Yes you probably can’t pronounce it, but just think “end of the line”. There they move the locomotive to the down end of the train ( great photo opp ) and take a break before heading back toTywyn.

The museum at Wharf Station is small but packed with history. Well lighted for photos, something notably lacking in many museums. Lots of very small locomotives, and for the kids, well, maybe big people too, there’s a room of Reverend Awdrys work. Known best for Thomas The Tank Engine, Rev. Awdry worked with the Tal-y-Llyn for years.

Tal-y-Llyns wonderful web site is at. http://www.talyllyn.co.uk./

Wharf Station

Loco “Tom Rolt, at Wharf Station

Tom Rolt at Abergynolwyn.

November 25, 2007 Posted by | trains, Wales | , , , , , | 1 Comment