The Ffestiniog, famous for its extraordinary double engines and gravity worked slate trains, is a real main line in narrow gauge, the world’s oldest independent railway company and in the premier league of worldwide tourist railways.
The railway runs for over 13 miles from Porthmadog Harbour, where slate from the quarries was loaded into ships, to the slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. The gauge of 1 ft 11 1⁄2 in (597 mm), allows through running on to the Welsh Highland Railway of the same gauge.
The first mile or so of the route runs at the top of a large embankment built to reclaim land from the sea and known as the cob, before the line passes Boston Lodge works on a sweeping curve and then serves the villages of Minffordd and Penrhyn. From here the line enters scenery only visible by train and with wonderful views of the estuary below. The mid way passing place if Tan y Bwlch has a great little cafe, play area and local walks.
At Dduallt the line was rebuilt following the decision to flood part of the route for a hydro-electric power scheme. After a long legal battle the railway won compensation but the deviation, including an extraordinary spiral to gain height and a new tunnel, was built by a dedicated band of volunteers.
The line runs higher up above the reservoir, with the old line visible at low tide, but this change in height also prevents gravity trains running from beyond this point as there is now a portion of line which runs counter to the ruling downhill gradient.
Blaenau Ffestiniog is the end of the line, although it connects with the standard gauge Conwy valley line and a velorail scheme which runs onto the old festiniog and blaenau railway trackbed towards Llan Ffestiniog.