After travelling to North Wales to see Mostly Autumn on the Friday, I decided to make a weekend of it. Not that I didn’t head out of Rhyl on the first train out of town on Saturday morning…
I travelled west to Caernarfon, capital of Gwynedd, starting point of the 60cm gauge Welsh Highland Railway. The original WHR ran from Dinas Junction, a few miles south of Caernarfon, through twenty miles of spectacular mountain scenery to Porthmadoc. The northern section dated from 1875, but the extension to Porthmadoc wasn’t completed until 1923, by which time it couldn’t really compete with buses for local traffic. The entire system closed in 1937, too early to benefit from the postwar tourist boom.
The new WHR begins in Caernarfon itself, and runs on the trackbed of a former standard gauge line to Dinas Junction, before running on the original WHR formation.
The engine is by far the largest narrow gauge locomotive running in Britain. It’s an ex-South African 2-6-2 + 2-6-2 Beyer-Garratt, built, I think, in Manchester. It’s more than double the size of the sole surviving locomotive from the original WHR.
The current terminus is Rhyd Ddu, about half-way to Porthmadoc, and half a mile short of the summit of the original line. The remaining section through Beddgelert to Porthmadoc is still under construction, and is due to open in 2009. When complete it will be the longest narrow-gauge line in Britain by a long way.
Long before the coming of the WHR, Caernarfon has been famous for it’s magnificent castle. There are several well-preserved castles in north Wales, but Caernarfon is not only the most impressive, but the most complete. While it was build by Edward I to oppress the conquered Welsh, I notice it’s now flying the Welsh national flag, not the British one.
I’m not sure what to make of this building. It’s the offices of Gwynedd Council, the unitary authority for the top left-hand corner of Wales. The design is so cod-medieval it looks like something out of a Katherine Kurtz novel.