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Snowdon Mountain Railway

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The Snowdon Mountain Railway (Welsh: Rheilffordd yr Wyddfa) is a narrow gauge rack and pinion mountain railway in Wales. It is a tourist railway that travels for 7.5 km (4.7 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 100 years of service it remains a highly popular tourist attraction. It is operated by a mixture of steam locomotives, diesel locomotives, and diesel railcars. The line is owned and operated by Heritage Great Britain PLC.

The route and operation of the railway
The railway starts at the side of the main road in Llanberis and consists of a single track with passing loops between Llanberis and the summit. The loops are around 15 minutes traveling time apart. All three passing loops are on the north-west side of the line so that, if traffic was heavy, the line could easily be converted to double track.

The total length of the railway is 4 miles 1188 yards (7.524 km), with an average gradient of 1 in 7.86. The steepest gradient on the route is 1 in 5.5, and this occurs in a number of places.

    Llanberis station - includes the company offices and the locomotive shed and workshop building. The forecourt has recently been changed from a visitor car park into a cafe/picnic area.
    The two platforms here are dedicated, one for arrivals and the other for departures. Arriving trains empty of passengers then shunt to the other platform. For steam trains, this shunt includes a trip to the water crane and coaling stage outside the locomotive shed.
    The first stretch of line is uphill at 1 in 50, steep for a mainline but shallow compared with the 1 in 6 incline that begins shortly afterwards.

    Waterfall Station  - Originally built to allow visitors to use the train to travel to a spectacular waterfall close to the line. It had a siding but never a loop and has been closed for many years, but the station building remains.
    A short distance from Waterfall station is a bridge over the river and a gate. This marks the start of the mountain.

    Hebron Station - 1069 ft (326 m), Named after the nearby 'Hebron' Chapel. Passengers are not allowed to leave or join the trains here. The operation of the loop was converted to semi-automatic operation in the early 1990s. It had originally been hoped that agricultural traffic could be carried to and from this station.
     
    Halfway Station - 1641 ft (500 m), As the name suggests, the middle of the line and close to the 'Halfway House' on the nearby footpath. Passengers are not allowed to leave or join the trains here. Steam locomotives take water from a water crane, the large water tank for which is located just above the station. The operation of the loop was converted to semi-automatic operation in the mid 1990s.
    A short distance above Halfway Station is a path that leads down to the 'Halfway House' cafe. Works trains stop here to drop off supplies for the cafe.
     
    Valley Halt - Trains terminate here when the weather is too bad to allow them to proceed safely to the summit. The halt consists of a narrow platform sheltered by a rocky outcrop to the east. Immediately beyond the platform the line joins the exposed ridge on which it runs for about half a mile.
     
    Clogwyn Station, 2556 ft (779 m) - The third and final passing loop, it is still staffed and retains the original mechanical point levers. Passengers can join down trains here, if there is space. A large water tank nearby feeds two water cranes for emergency use. The station is located on the exposed ridge and overlooks the Llanberis Pass. The wind speed is measured here and used to determine if trains can continue to the summit.

    Summit station, 1065 metres (3493 ft) -  This is only 20 metres below the summit, which is at 1085 metres (3560 ft). The station has two platforms that link directly to the summit building and to a path to the summit.
    Arriving trains generally alternate between the two summit platforms.

Train operation
Trains start from Llanberis Station on the hour and the half hour. Trains consist of one locomotive pushing a single carriage. It is possible for two trains to run together 'on sight', which involves the second train following after a few minutes (more than two but less that five minutes) and keeping a safe distance throughout the journey. This is known as a 'Doubler'. All platforms and loops are long enough for two trains running together.

When steam and diesel trains run together, it is normal for diesel to lead up the mountain. This allows the steam train to enter the departure platform and load at its leisure, while the diesel moves across from the arrival platform from a quick turn-around.

Including stops at the passing loops, the train takes an hour to climb to the summit. The average speed of the trains is around 5 mph (8 km/h) and is limited in both directions by independent automatic brakes on the locomotives and the carriages.

Most passengers travel on a return trip (the ticket pricing is biased towards this), which involves being booked onto a specific train for the hour-long climb, a half-hour break at the summit and then returning on the same train.

Trains run only if sufficient tickets are sold. During the summer when the weather is favourable, most trains are sold out. The diesel locomotives (and railcar when available) are used first, with the steam locomotives being used on trains as required.

Locomotives spend the whole day with the same carriage. Any locomotive can work with any carriage, although carriage No.10 (the most modern) usually runs with a diesel locomotive. On arrival at Llanberis, diesel-hauled trains run directly from the arrival platform to the departure platform, load and depart within a few minutes, making one trip every two-and-a-half hours. Steam-hauled trains take at least half an hour to transfer from the arrival to the departure platform, the time being used to take on fresh coal and water, thus making no more than one trip every three hours. The use of diesel locomotives allows more trains to be run with the same number of carriages.

Locomotives push a single carriage in front of them. For safety reasons the carriage is not coupled to the locomotive, although couplings are used during shunting operations An electric cable is run between the locomotive and the carriage, which enables a buzzer to be used to signal between the driver and the guard. The cable is designed to pull free if the locomotive and carriage separate. It was originally intended that each steam locomotive push two carriages to the summit, but this has not been normal practice since 1914.

The first train of the day is the 'Works train'. This carries supplies, including drinking water and fuel for the generator, to the summit. It returns mid morning with the previous day's rubbish from the summit. The train also carries the permanent way gang to where they are working. Most staff at the summit building live there through the summer. Upon its return to Llanberis, the locomotive from this train (always now a diesel) goes straight into service with a passenger train.

It is proposed to rebuild the summit building, and all materials for this work would have to be carried up the mountain on the works train.

Locomotives and carriages are all fitted with automatic brakes that are applied mechanically if a set speed is exceeded.

The rack rail
The line uses the Abt rack system and has a track gauge common to other mountain railways of 800 mm (2 ft 7½ in). The rails are fastened to steel sleepers.

The entire railway is equipped with rack rails. On sidings and around the yard at Llanberis, the rack rail comprises of a single rack bar, but on the running line and through all the loops up the mountain, two rack bars are used. These bars are staggered so that there is a difference of ½ a pitch between the two bars. This is one of the major features of the Abt system and helps to reduce the shock of the pinions running along the rack. The joints between bars are also staggered and align with the sleepers - each sleeper supports the rack rail as well as the running rails.

The rack bars are machine cut from a special quality of steel: the profile is not symmetrical and the bars must be installed the correct way round. Bars tend to fracture between the fixings. When spotted these breaks are marked and then supported with wedges until the bar can be replaced.

Each locomotive is equipped with a pair of pinions (toothed wheel/cogwheels) on each driving axle. These engage the rack and provide all the traction - the wheels are free to revolve on the drive axles. The driving axles are spaced so that the pinions on one axle are ¼ of a pitch out from those on the other axle. Combined with the ½ pitch difference in the two rack bars, the smoothest practical transfer of power is given. In spite of this, the vehicles suffer from very high levels of vibration.

The pinions consist of an outer ring that is easily replaced. This ring is mounted onto a centre disc, and springs between the two reduce shock loads and allow the small movement needed to accommodate joints and curves. The pinion rings have teeth that are symmetrical and are turned round to double their working life.

On the way down, all braking is done using the rack and pinion system. Each carriage has pinions mounted on one axle which is used for the manual and automatic braking (all service braking is done by the locomotive).

Following an accident in 1896, most of the line was fitted with 'gripper rails'. These are fixed to either side of the rack rail and are an inverted 'L'. A 'gripper' is fitted to each locomotive, which fits around the gripper rails and holds the locomotive to the rails and prevents the pinion coming free from the rack. The gripper rails are not fitted in the top and bottom stations, around Llanberis yard, on any point-work, nor on the less steep lengths of railway just out of Llanberis and near Waterfall. At the beginning of the sections of gripper rail, the ends are staggered and chamfered to help guide the gripper into place.

If a broken rack bar lifts under a locomotive, it can strike the gripper mechanism and jam under the train. In such an incident, the gripper has to be cut away in order to rescue the train.

It is said that in very high winds, a train can proceed over the exposed sections with the carriage held in to the rails by the gripper. If true, such actions are not routine.

A mechanical failure in 1987 could have caused a repeat of the 1896 accident, but the gripper system worked and held the train on the rails - but the rails were lifted off the ground by the locomotive.

Although no other Abt rack railways use a gripper system, other rack systems do.

The traditional logo for the railway is a pinion ring engaged on a rack bar. At the stations and passing loops, the real items are mounted on steel frames.

Rolling stock
The company has owned a total of eight steam locomotives, five diesel locomotives and three diesel railcars. With the exception of one steam locomotive and one diesel locomotive, all are still extant and on the railway.
 

No

Name

Date built

Type

Notes

1

L.A.D.A.S.

1895

Steam locomotive

Destroyed in accident on opening day

2

Enid

1895

Steam locomotive

Operational

3

Wyddfa

1895

Steam locomotive

Operational

4

Snowdon

1896

Steam locomotive

Operational

5

Moel Siabod

1896

Steam locomotive

Operational

6

Padarn

1922

Steam locomotive

Operational

7

Ralph

1923

Steam locomotive

Dismantled, boiler scrapped

8

Eryri

1923

Steam locomotive

Dismantled, boiler scrapped

-

-

1949

Diesel locomotive

Owned 1972-78. Never used

9

Ninian

1986

Diesel locomotive

Operational

10

Yeti

1986

Diesel locomotive

Operational

11

Peris

1991

Diesel locomotive

Operational

12

George

1992

Diesel locomotive

Operational

21

-

1995

Diesel railcar

Out of use 2001

22

-

1995

Diesel railcar

Out of use 2003

23

-

1995

Diesel railcar

Out of use 2003


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steam powered
When the railway was planned, only the Swiss had significant experience in building rack locomotives, so it was they who won the contract to build the engines for the line. In comparison with some Swiss railways, the line is not very steep, and this is reflected in the design of the engines. All are classified 0-4-2T.

For most of the time, the railway's steam locomotives have burnt coal. The requirement for the locomotives to have a hot fire burning efficiently for a solid hour has led to problems when "Best Welsh Steam Coal" has not been readily available. During 1978 Nos 2 and 8 ran with oil burners. To hold the fuel oil, a tank was fitted to the roof of each locomotive. The tanks were thin and followed the profile of the roof. In 2000, No.2 was again fitted with an oil burner in an attempt avoid the increasing problems of obtaining a suitable quality of coal.

Original locomotives - No. 1 to No. 5
Built specially for the line in 1895 and 1896, these locomotives were manufactured by the Swiss Locomotive and Machine Works of Winterthur. The first locomotives cost £1525.

Numbers 1 to 3 were delivered before the line was open and used on construction work.

The boilers are inclined on the locomotives, to ensure that the boiler tubes and the firebox remain submerged when on the gradient, a standard practice on mountain railways - the locomotive always runs chimney-first up the mountain. The water gauges (gauge glasses) are mounted half at the centre on the locomotive so that the water level does not change with the gradient. One result of the boiler's angle is that the firehole door is at waist height, requiring the fireman to lift the coal some distance. The boiler is not superheated.

Water is carried in tanks that run the full length of the boiler, but not all this water is for use in the boiler. The tanks are in fact divided into two sections, the smaller front section holding water that is used for cooling when the engine is running downhill.

The drive to the wheels is through a series of levers that allow the pistons to have a longer stroke than the cranks. This is another common feature in mountain railways.

On at least two occasions, trials have been made on oil burners, the latest being on No.2 in the late 1990s.

No.1 LADAS is named after Laura Alice Duff Assheton-Smith, wife of the major landowner in the area. A race horse was also named Ladas and it is after the race horse that the LNER locomotive No.2566 was named. This is the same Alice as the class of small Hunslet quarry engines.
No.2 Enid is named after Laura Alice's daughter.
No.3 Wyddfa is named after the mountain (in Welsh).
No.4 Snowdon is named after the mountain (in English).
No.5 Moel Siabod is named after a neighbouring mountain - Moel is Welsh for a round-topped or bald-topped mountain.

 Improved locomotives - No. 6 to No. 8
In 1922/1923 a further three locomotives were delivered. Although similar to the first engines in terms of size and power, they have a different design. Again all were built by Swiss Locomotive and Machine Works of Winterthur.

The boilers of these engines are superheated, making them more efficient, and in place of a lever type regulator, they have a wheel that must be turned 2¼ times between closed and fully open.

The drive from the cylinders and to the wheels again uses levers, but in a different pattern. The linkage is fitted within double frames at the front of the locomotive. This results in a locomotive that is far more rigid.

The side tanks are arranged vertically just in front of the cab. No.6 carries the same amount of water as the earlier engines, but No.7 & No.8 carry enough water to get to the top of the mountain without stopping, if required. There is no separate tank for cooling water as it is drawn from the boiler on these engines.

As the boilers of No.7 & No.8 needed replacing, they were withdrawn from service but no new boilers purchased. This is probably a result of the extra expense of superheaters, added to reduce need for steam locomotives after the introduction of the diesels. Neither is likely to run in the foreseeable future.

No.6 Padarn is named after the lower lake at Llanberis. Originally it was named 'Sir Harmood' after the chairman of the company, Sir John Sutherland Harmood Banner.
No.7 Ralph (previously Ralph Saddler) is named after Ralph Saddler, the company's consulting engineer between 1964 and 1977. Originally 'Aylwyn', until October 1978.
No.8 Eryri is the Welsh name for Snowdonia and the surrounding region (Eryri = Land of Eagles).

Diesel powered
The railway's first thought of using a diesel locomotive was in the early 1970s, when a small 4w diesel-mechanical locomotive built by Ruston & Hornsby (their class 48DL) was bought second-hand from a quarry. It was intended to re-gauge this locomotive and use it as a yard shunter at Llanberis. It was sold to the Llanberis Lake Railway in 1978 without being re-gauged or used on the SMR. It would have been the railway's only locomotive without pinions, and as such would have been of limited use - it is doubtful if it would have had sufficient grip on the grease covered rails to shunt a dead steam locomotive. This locomotive has since been dismantled and scrapped.

It was the mid 1980s before any effort was made to obtain a diesel locomotive that could work trains up the line.

Locomotives - No. 9 to No. 12
1986-built diesel locomotive 10 Yeti at Llanberis station Built by the Hunslet Engine Company of Leeds to a design and specification jointly developed with the railway. The design specifically includes features for safety, reliability and appearance. In place of cardan shaft drives to the wheels, coupling rods were used to give people something to watch and engine covers were omitted to give a good view of the Rolls-Royce diesel engines, chosen for the prestige of the name (or so it is said). The full-length canopy above the engine covers not only adds to the distinctive outline but also supports the exhaust silencer. For added safety with only one man in the cab, a dead-man device is included, a pedal that when released triggers the braking system to bring the train safely to a halt.

The locomotives are classified as 0-4-0. The turbocharged six-cylinder engine is rated at 238 kW (320hp) and drives through a hydraulic transmission that has only one drive ratio. The result is a locomotive that accelerates quickly up to speed.

During the time between No.9 and No.12 being built, both the locomotive manufacturer and the diesel engine manufacturer changed their names, Hunslet becoming Hunslet-Barclay and Rolls-Royce diesel engines being sold to Perkins.

It is maintained by the management that the vast majority of passengers do not care whether the trains are powered by steam or diesel locomotives. In the late 1980s comparative figures for the diesels against steam locomotives made it clear that they made economic sense.

From 1987 Steam Diesel
Round trip fuel costs £51.00 £3.05
Locomotive crew 2 1
Round trips per day 3 4
Daily Maintenance (hours) 1½ ½

Note: these figures are taken from a talk given by a member of the design team. It is assumed that the fuel costs include the cost of fuel for "lighting up" a steam locomotive, or keeping the fire in overnight, as well as the fuel for a single round trip. For a diesel locomotive, preparation consists of starting the engine and leaving it to run until sufficient air pressure has been created.
The reduction in costs for both operating trains over the line and having them standing between infrequent runs has allowed the operating season to be extended considerably.

No.9 Ninian is named after the Chairman at the time the locomotive was delivered.
No.10 Yeti was named by local school children following a competition. It was seen as a most suitable name for a mountain creature.
No.11 Peris is named after the upper lake at Llanberis (Llyn Peris).
No.12 George is named after George Thomas, 1st Viscount Tonypandy

Railcars - No. 21 to No. 23
 
1995-built diesel railcarsIn 1995 three railcars were delivered. These were designed to run as either two- or three-car multiple unit trains. When all three railcars are coupled together, they are the maximum length of the train that can fit into the platforms and passing loops. The three railcars are identical.

The drive is diesel-electric using a standard industrial generator set mounted at the downhill end of each vehicle. This powers an induction motor through electronic controllers. The generators have a Cummins engine rated at 137 kW (184hp) and run at a constant speed of 1800rpm giving a 440 V AC output at 60 Hz. Unlike any other train on the system, the driver sits at the front when climbing the mountain.

The railcars cannot run as single vehicles for safety reasons, since they each have only one set of pinions. The standards hoped for by the railcars was not adequate, and number 21 had had to be taken out of service by 2001 due to problems with the speed control mechanism. Numbers 22 & 23 were then taken out of service in 2003 for the same reason.

Braking systems
More than any other railway, a mountain railway must have a good braking system, and it is a sign of how seriously this has always been taken that, right from the opening, each locomotive and carriage has had its own braking system that includes an automatic brake.

Hand brakes
All locomotives (and carriages) have a hand brake. These use brake blocks that clasp drums on either side of the pinions. On the steam locomotives, two hand brake levers are fitted, one for the driver and one for the fireman. These are identical and each can control the descent of a train. If needed, a train could be brought down the mountain using the hand brake, but the wear on the drums and blocks would be great, and there is the possibility of damage from the heat generated. In normal operation, the hand brakes are used to bring a train to a complete stand (as opposed to controlling the speed) and as a parking brake.

On the diesel locomotives, the hand brake is applied by a powerful spring and held off by a hydraulic system.

Automatic brakes
Each vehicle with a hand brake also has an automatic brake that is triggered by the speed. This system uses the same brake blocks and drums as the hand brake.

A centrifugal governor is connected to the pinions by gears. When the set speed is exceeded, a lever on the governor hits a lever on the brake valve and the brakes are applied. The system can be reset (and the brakes released) only by the driver leaving the footplate, once the train has stopped.

On the steam locomotives, steam is applied to a small brake cylinder that acts on the driver's side brakes.

The automatic brake on the locomotive is always set to a lower speed than the system fitted to the carriages.

Compression brakes
Fitted to the steam locomotives

Hydraulic brakes
Fitted to the diesel locomotives.

Rheostatic brakes
Fitted to the railcars. Current is generated by the traction motor. The power is dissipated in roof-mounted resistors, creating a distinct heat shimmer when the vehicles are descending and shortly thereafter.

It is vitally important that all braking is done in a controlled manner, as any sudden shocks impose very high loads on the rack rail and pinion wheels, and can cause damage.

Liveries
It is believed that the first livery for the locomotives was a dark-red colour. It these early years the carriages would have been open-bodied, and were probably a dark brown in colour. Throughout the 50s & 60s - all the Vehicles received an upgrade. The carriages were converted to closed-body design and the locomotives had their wooden shutters and doors replaced with more weather resistant metal ones. The livery ‘at this point – would have been changed to a more typical welsh livery; with the carriages being of a cream & crimson livery, and the locomotives of an pea-green & red livery. Until 1998, the diesels' liveries would have been of a overall mid green colour. It was decided that the warning colour on the Coupling section would be striped with red & white; with the crank axles of an overall red colour.

History
The idea of a railway to the summit of Snowdon was first proposed in 1869, when Llanberis was linked to Caernarfon by the London & North Western Railway. No action was taken, as the local land owner, Mr Assheton-Smith, thought a railway would spoil the scenery.

A plan to build a railway to the summit of Snowdon from Rhyd Ddu station on the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways brought fears that Llanberis would lose its income from tourists, and the Snowdon Mountain Tramway and Hotel Company was formed to build the railway. Mr Assheton-Smith, still the principal landowner in the area, was not a major influence in the company.

The railway was constructed between December 1894, when the first sod was cut by Enid Assheton-Smith (after whom locomotive No.2 was named), and February 1896, at a total cost of £76,000.

No act of parliament was required, as the line was built entirely on private land obtained by the company, without any need for the power of compulsory purchase. This was unusual for a passenger-carrying railway, and also meant that the railway did not come under the jurisdiction of the Board of Trade.

By April 1895, it is said that the earthworks were 50% complete, a sign of the effort put into the construction work as much as the lack of major earthworks along much of the route.

All tracklaying had to start from one end of the line, to ensure the rack was correctly aligned, so although the first locomotives were delivered in July 1895 very little track was laid until August 1895, when the two large viaducts between Llanberis and Waterfall were completed. Progress up the mountain was then quite rapid, with the locomotives being used to move materials as required. Considering the exposed location and possible effects of bad weather, it is surprising that the first train reached the summit in January 1896. As the fencing and signals were not ready, the opening was set for Easter.

The opening day accident
The line was opened at Easter 1896. In anticipation of this, Major Fancis Marindin from the Board of Trade made an unofficial inspection of the line on Friday 27 March. This included a demonstration of the automatic brakes. He declared himself satisfied with the line, but recommended that the wind speed be monitored and recorded, and trains stopped when the wind was too strong.

On Saturday 4 April, a train was run by the contractor consisting of a locomotive and two coaches. On the final section, the ascending train hit a boulder that had fallen from the side of a cutting and several wheels were derailed. The workmen on the train were able to rerail the carriage and the train continued.

The public opening was on Monday 6 April. A train was run from Llanberis to the summit to check that no more boulders had come loose. It is thought the locomotive was No.2 "Enid". On its return to Llanberis, locomotive No.1 "LADAS" departed with two carriages on the official first train. Shortly afterwards, No.2 "Enid" departed with a second public train. All went well on the ascent, except for mist and cloud covering the top of the mountain and extending down to about the level of Clogwyn Station.

At a little after noon, "LADAS" with the two carriages started back down the mountain. It is said that the driver (William Pickles, a Yorkshireman) had some difficulty keeping the speed of the train under control. Although this train was no heavier than the trains run up the mountain during the construction of the line, it is quite possible that this was the heaviest train brought down from the summit. About ½ a mile above Clogwyn, where the line runs on shelf formed across a steep drop, the locomotive jumped off the rack rail, losing all braking force and accelerating down the track. At first it remained on the running rail and the driver tried to apply the handbrake, but with no effect. Realising that the train was out of control, Mr Pickles and his fireman (his nephew) jumped from the footplate.

"LADAS" ran about 100 metres after losing the rack rail before hitting a left-hand curve. Here it derailed and fell over the side of the mountain. Some way below, Mr Badger and a friend were climbing up from the Llanberis Pass through Cwm Glas. Afterwards they told how they were aware of a boulder falling from the mountain above them, only to find that it was a steam locomotive that appeared out of the cloud.

Back on the railway, the two carriages had accelerated to a speed at which the automatic brakes were triggered (7-10 mph). These brakes brought both carriages to a stand safely. Unfortunately one of the passengers, Ellis Roberts of Llanberis, had seen the driver and fireman jump from the locomotive and did likewise. Falling to the ground, he sustained a serious cut to the head and later died from loss of blood.

In derailing, locomotive No.1 had broken the telegraph lines used to signal between stations. Some versions say that the wires had touched as they were hit and made a signal that was mistaken for the 'line clear' signal, while other versions say that so long a time had passed that the people at the summit assumed that the telegraph system had failed. Whichever is true, the other train left the summit on its descent.

In spite of the 5 mph line speed and a man being sent back up the line to warn the second train, it did not stop before reaching the point where No.1 had lost the rack rail; exactly the same thing happened, with No.2 losing the rack rail and accelerating out of control. This time, however, the line was blocked by the carriages of the first train; No.2 hit these with some force, causing the carriages of the first train to drag their brakes and run away down the line, and causing the locomotive to drop back onto the rack rail and stop safely. The carriages from the first train rolled down the line to Clogwyn station, where they became derailed.

It is said that the railway continued to run trains to Clogwyn for the rest of the week. These trains stopped only after the Board of Trade became involved and pointed out that this was not the way to run a passenger railway. All trains stopped and the inquiries began.

It was revealed during the inquiry that the locomotive on a ballast train had 'lost the rack' in January 1895 a little lower down the line. Details are not recorded, but it is likely that the locomotive dropped back onto the rack and was not badly damaged.

After hearing all the evidence, it was decided that the weather had caused a freeze/thaw action which had led to settlement in the ground. Another contributory factor to this was the construction work being carried out during poor weather conditions, and then not being checked for settlement when the weather had improved. The settlement was sufficient to twist the tracks and reduce the contact between the rack and pinion. The weight and speed of the train did the rest; then the damage caused by the first derailment made the second almost inevitable.

The first recommendation was that the maximum load for the locomotives be reduced to the equivalent of 1½ carriages. These led to a further carriage being bought that was smaller and lighter than the others. From then on, only this carriage was used, with one of the originals, for two-carriage trains.

The second recommendation was that a gripper system be installed (described in the rack rail section). This required extra rails to be added to the rack rail and a mechanism to be fitted to the locomotives and carriages.

Locomotive No.1 was recovered and taken back to Llanberis. The chassis was damaged beyond use but the boiler was sold, possibly to the Dinorwig Quarry for reuse.

The second opening
On 9 April 1897 the line re-opened. This time there were no incidents and the train service continued.

In 1936 a new building was built at the summit. This was designed by Clough Williams-Ellis, a local architect best known for constructing Portmeirion.

During the Second World War, the summit hotel was taken over by the R.A.F. and used as an experimental radar station. To supply this, the trains continued to run to the summit. Although passengers were still carried during the early years of the war, they were not permitted at the summit. It is said that the radar was capable of detecting the trains crossing the ridge at Clogwyn.

Normal service resumed in 1946. The shortage of coal led to the railway trying to burn old army boots.

The British Railways Llanberis-Caernarfon line closed to passengers in 1962.

In 1983 the summit buildings were transferred to the ownership of Gwynedd County Council.

A share issue was made in 1985, primarily to raise money to purchase the first two diesel locomotives.

Between 1986 and 1992 the railway company was involved with the airfield and aviation museum in Caernarfon.

As part of the Centenary Celebrations in 1996, the railway held an enthusiasts' weekend in the September. This was one of the few occasions when the public were allowed to visit the railway's workshops. Scrap pinion rings were also sold as (rather large) souvenirs. From this time, the locomotives were painted in differing liveries, but by 2005 this practice had ended.

The railway in fiction
The Snowdon Mountain Railway was the inspiration for the Culdee Fell Railway in The Railway Series by Rev. W. Awdry.
 

 

 

The images below are by Denis Egan.
 To view a larger image, just click on the image


 

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This Month

July 5th

Philip Madoc (actor) born 1934 in Merthyr Tydfil

July 12th

Gareth Edwards
(rugby player) Born 12 July 1947 in
Pontadawe


July 13th

Ian Hislop (Editor of Private Eye) born 1960 Nr. Swansea


July 26th

Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson (athlete) DBE born 1969 in Cardiff