Little Trains of Wales / Narrow Gague Railways
(Also see our Railways of Wales pages)
Popular with tourists, narrow gauge railways in Wales include -
Bala Lake Railway, Gwynedd
The Bala Lake Railway (Welsh Rheilffordd Llyn Tegid) is a preserved railway at Bala Lake, north Wales for a distance of 4½ miles using 2ft (610mm) gauge rolling stock.
It was built on a section of the Ruabon-Barmouth railway route which was closed 1965 which runs along the section of the old line that skirts around one side of Bala Lake. The Llangollen Railway also uses a section of the same old railway line.
Brecon Mountain Railway
The Brecon Mountain Railway is a narrow gauge preserved railway that runs through the Brecon Beacons along the full length of the Taf Fechan Reservoir. It is located three miles north of Merthyr Tydfil.
The line runs along part of the trackbed of the northern section of the former standard gauge Brecon and Merthyr Railway from Pant to Pontsticill and then to Dolygaer. The purpose of the line is to take tourists into the Brecon Beacons National Park in preference to them entering with their cars. Plans exist for the line to be extended as far as Torpantau, at the southern entrance to the tunnel that carried the line through the hills, along the side of Glyn Colwen and as far as Brecon.
The line has unusual locomotives and rolling stock, with American Baldwin-built Pacific and an 1890-built German 0-6-2WTT Graf Schwerin-Lowitz. Coaching stock is American in style with open-ended ends.
Corris Railway, Gwynedd
The Corris Railway (Welsh: Rheilffordd Corris) is a narrow gauge 2'3" (686mm) preserved railway line along the Dulas Valley on the border between Merionethshire (now Gwynedd) and Montgomeryshire (now Powys) in Wales. For most of its existence it ran from Machynlleth north to Corris and on to Aberllefenni. Branches served the slate quarries at Corris Uchaf, Foel Grochan at Aberllefenni, the isolated quarries around Ratgoed and quarries along the length of the Dulas valley.
Ffestiniog Railway, Gwynedd
The Ffestiniog Railway (in Welsh Rheilffordd Ffestiniog) is a narrow-gauge heritage railway, located in North West Wales. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Wales, as it weaves in and out of the Snowdonia National Park.
The railway is about 13.5 miles (21.5 km) long and runs from the harbour at Porthmadog to the slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. The line travels through spectacular mountainous scenery and has a track gauge of 1 foot 11.5 inches (597 mm). The first part of the line runs along "the Cob", which is the dyke of the Traeth Mawr "polder".
Llanberis Lake Railway, Gwynedd
The Llanberis Lake Railway (Welsh: Rheilffordd Llyn Padarn) is a narrow gauge heritage railway that runs for 2.5 miles along the northern shore of Llyn Padarn in north Wales in the Snowdonia National Park. The starting point is the town of Llanberis at the eastern end of the lake with the western terminus at Pen Llyn in the Padarn Country Park. The return journey takes around 45 minutes.
The railway was built in 1971, specifically for the tourist market. It uses three steam locomotives (“Elidir“, “Dolbadarn” and “Thomas Bach”) all of which ran on the internal 2 ft. gauge lines of the Dinorwic slate quarry. There is also a diesel loco “Twll Coed“, which is used when the steam locomotives are unavailable.
The railway runs along part of the trackbed of the defunct Padarn Railway, a 4 ft. gauge line which connected the quarry with Y Felinheli (Port Dinorwic) on the Menai Strait. The Padarn Railway was lifted in 1969 and the lakeside length was replaced by the current Llanberis Lake Railway, originally running from the Welsh Slate Museum at Gilfach Ddu to Pen Llyn. Gilfach Ddu was the main engineering workshop of the Dinorwic Quarry and provided repair facilities for all of the steam locomotives of the quarry system.
In June 2003 the railway was extended the town of Llanberis, with a new station close to the start of the Snowdon Mountain Railway. The original terminus at Gilfach Ddu is now a through station serving both the Welsh Slate Museum and the nearby Dolbadarn Castle. On the return journey from Pen Llyn, passengers may stop off at the Cei Llydan station for a picnic and a chance to enjoy the magnificent views of the Snowdonian mountains above Llanberis Pass.
The Penrhyn Quarry Railway first opened in 1798 as the Llandegai Tramway; it became the Penrhyn Railway in 1801 although on a different route. Constructed to transport slate from Lord Penrhyns' slate quarries at Bethesda to Port Penrhyn at Bangor, Wales. The railway was around six miles long and used a gauge of 1 foot 10¾ inches. It is said to be the oldest narrow gauge railway in the world; and it was closed in 1962.
The Penrhyn Railway Heritage Trust are currently attempting to reopen a small length at Bethesda.
Snowdon Mountain Railway, Gwynedd
The Snowdon Mountain Railway (Welsh: Rheilffordd yr Wyddfa) is a narrow gauge rack and pinion mountain railway in Wales. The line is a tourist railway that travels for 7.5 km (5 miles) to the summit of Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales. It is the only public rack railway in the British Isles and after more than a hundred years of service, it remains a highly popular tourist attraction. It is operated by a mixture of steam locomotives, diesel locomotives, and diesel railcars.
Talyllyn Railway, Gwynedd
World's first heritage railway and inspiration for The Titfield Thunderbolt. The Talyllyn Railway (Welsh: Rheilffordd Talyllyn) is a 2'3" (686mm) narrow gauge preserved railway line running for 7¼ miles (11.67km) from Tywyn on the Mid-Wales coast to Nant Gwernol. Despite its name it does not quite reach Tal-y-llyn Lake, a large glacial finger lake at the foot of Cadair Idris.
Teifi Valley Railway, Ceredigion
Situated between Cardigan on the West Wales Coast and Carmarthen. In the beautiful Teifi Valley. The Teifi Valley Railway was created from a branch line of the Great Western Railway, which served the West Wales rural area .
Vale of Rheidol Railway, Ceredigion
The Vale of Rheidol Railway (VoR, Welsh: Rheilffordd Dyffryn Rheidol ) is a narrow-gauge (1 foot 11¾ inches) heritage railway that runs for 11¾ miles between Aberystwyth and Devil's Bridge in Wales, UK. It was the last steam line to be operated as part of the nationalised British Railways network.
Welsh Highland Railway, Gwynedd
The Welsh Highland Railway (WHR) is a narrow gauge heritage railway in Wales. It achieved fame not just because of its spectacular scenery, but also because it was one of the greatest white elephant schemes of British industrial history.
The line ran from Dinas near Caernarfon to Porthmadog, with a branch line to Bryngwyn and the slate quarries at Moel Tryfan. The railway was not a commercial success and went into receivership in 1927. The service continued, operated by the Ffestiniog Railway Company from 1934 until that company closed it in 1936. After only fourteen years of operation the longest narrow gauge railway in Wales closed, and the tracks were lifted during scrap collections in World War II.
The restored line is known as both Rheilffordd Ucheldir Cymru and Rheilffordd Eryri in Welsh. Rheilffordd Ucheldir Cymru has been used since 1980 by the group restoring the Porthmadog end of the line. Rheilffordd Eryri - literally Snowdonia Railway - is a brand name used by the Caernarfon end. The original Welsh Highland never had an official Welsh translation of its name, despite running through the heartland of the Welsh language. Locals tended to refer to it by informal names such as y lein bach Beddgelert (the little Beddgelert railway).
Welshpool & Llanfair Railway, Powys
The Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway (W&LLR) is a narrow gauge heritage railway in Wales.
The line is around 8.5 miles (14 km) long and travels between the towns of Welshpool and Llanfair Caereinion. The track gauge is 2ft 6in (760 mm).
The W&LLR was one of the few narrow gauge branch lines to be built under the provisions of the 1896 Light Railways Act. It was opened on 4 April 1903 to aid economic development in a remote area. It never made a profit. It was originally operated by the Cambrian Railways. The line is built through difficult country, having a great number of curves in order to reach the summit of 600ft. The original terminus at Welshpool was located alongside the main line station and trains wound their way through the town, using the locomotive bell as a warning.
In the 1923 grouping of railway companies the line was taken over by the Great Western Railway. On 9 February 1931 the line lost its passenger service, which was replaced by a bus service, and it became a freight-only line. It was temporarily re-opened to passengers between 6 and 11 August 1945 for the Eisteddfod. The W&LLR was nationalised in 1948.
Freight traffic lingered on until 1956, by which time British Railways decided to close the line.
A group of volunteers and enthusiasts took the line over and started raising money to restore it. On 6 April 1963 the line was re-opened as a tourist railway. The line through Welshpool however could not be reopened, so the line has a new terminus at Raven Square on the outskirts of the town.