Richard Klaus Thoughts

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

Just a couple updates.

Dateline: 6/16/2010.

I’m in Tennessee tonight. Brought a load of plywood from Baltimore to a small town in Tennessee, then got a load of casting sand to go to New Jersey.  Not my favorite state to deal with, toll roads, crowded, and right now muggy.

Hopefully something headed west from New Jersey will turn up.

In other news. The Welsh Highland, cross town link to the Ffestiniog Railway will be approved for operation in October. I expect that a full schedule will wait for the 2011 season. The hold-up seems to have been the design an installation of the warning light on Britannia Bridge. This is the sort of thing that happens when governments are involved. It’s not like anybody had to invent the train crossing.

I find that in the interest of accuracy, I must modify this post. Sometime ago, I read somewhere that there was a bureaucratic hold up on the Welsh Highland cross town link.  As Chris was correct to point out, this was a funding problem.  Furthermore the Welsh Government has been a big help in completing this huge project.

My personal funds may permit a trip to Dublin next year, my Wife really wants to see Ireland. A quick boat ride to Wales seems like a good idea.


June 17, 2010 Posted by | trains, Truck Stuff, Wales | , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

Wales without a rental car.

Just a quick taste of Wales.  This particular photo from Arriva Trains Wales web site.

I’m working up a sample trip from Manchester to Llandudno Junction, then to Blaenau Ffestiniog. There transfer to the Ffestiniog Narrow gauge to Porthmadog.  In Porthmadog a person could ride the Welsh Highland round trip to Caernarfon, taking a few hours to see the huge castle at that end of the line. Remember that also in Porthmadog there is the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway a short ride with a stop at the shops working to restore some of the old engines. Very nice “Tea Room” as well.

Back on the standard gauge line south to the Talyllyn Railway. This little railway is a great ride, well worth the time.

The Talyllyn also hosts a very nice museum.

On to  Aberystwyth and the Vale of Rheidol. A first rate operation although lacking in some of the personality of the Ffestiniog or Talyllyn, the Vale of Rheidol runs deep into dense forest, clinging to hillsides, up to Devils Bridge.

Back at Aberystwyth, it’s an easy connection back to Manchester.

This trip could be made without the use of a rental car or bus transfers. The airport at Manchester has a train station in the terminal, that has frequent service to Manchester Piccadilly (that’s the main train station).

April 6, 2010 Posted by | trains, Uncategorized, Wales | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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 update (update)

Just so you know.. While pretty much complete, the link from the Welsh Highland Railway to the Ffestiniog will become fully operational during June 2009.  And it looks at this point like those who want to take the entire trip will have to change trains twice.

The Welsh Highland out of Caernarfon will operate as far as Beddgelert.  From Beddgelert to Porthmadog looks like a combination of Welsh Highland Porthmadog, and some Ffestiniog trains.  Then of course from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog will be much like the current Ffestiniog service.

Probably this is a good thing. Quick walk changing trains, and you will get to see at least three different locomotives in the process.

For those of you that haven’t been to Wales, and I suspect that’s most of you.  Wales is a step back in time, the Railroads, Castles, and most of all, the people are great.  Less expensive than a vacation in England and a bit less frantic.  I have other posts that go into some detail on the railways of Wales, if your interested it’s worth a quick look.  In that post I’ve covered the railways I have seen in person. But there are many more, and I may add an additional post using some second hand information, until I can get to them as well.

My daughter rode the Vale of Rheidol Railway, out of Aberystwyth, and she tells me it’s a very nice ride, and a well run operation.

The other must ride (although I haven’t as yet) would have to be Snowdon Mountain Railway. This railway is so steep that the locomotives have a cog wheel under the center of the frame that runs on a third rack rail.

Start saving now, it’s worth the trip.  Just a quick thought.  After mid September air fairs and room rates drop quite a bit, and Wales in fall is very nice.

October 26, 2008 Posted by | trains, Uncategorized, 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 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

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 ,


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,

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.

Wharf Station

Loco “Tom Rolt, at Wharf Station

Tom Rolt at Abergynolwyn.

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