Historical Milestones

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1863
The Croesor Tramway was built to carry goods between the Croesor Valley and Portmadoc. More history.
1872
The North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways Company was incorporated by Act of Parliament. More history.
1877
The North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways commenced operating between Dinas and Rhyd Ddu.
1901
The Portmadoc, Beddgelert and South Snowdon Railway Co. was incorporated under an Act of Parliament. Some time later, it started but never finished construction of the link from Rhyd Ddu to Portmadoc. More history.
1922
The Welsh Highland Railway (Light Railway) Company was formed. Construction was completed a year later. More history.
1927
The Welsh Highland Railway Co. went broke but continued operating under the control of the Receiver. More history.
1934
The Ffestiniog Railway leased the Welsh Highland Railway and took over its operation. More history.
1937
The WHR finally ceased operating, although passenger services had its operation. More history.
1940
From 1940 onwards, the rails & equipment were removed for the War effort. More history.
1941
The first attempt to re-vitalise the WHR was made.
1944
A High Court winding up order was issued for the defunct Welsh Highland Railway (Light Railway) Co in 1944 (this order has still to be completed).
1961
The Welsh Highland Society was formed. In 1964 it became the Welsh Highland Light Railway (1964) Co Ltd (often called " The '64 Co ") (Later, the name changed to the Welsh Highland Railway Ltd).
1980
The railway opened from Porthmadog to Pen-y-Mount (3/4 mile) and plans were made over the next few years for Gwynedd County Council (GCC) to acquire old trackbed from the Official Receiver of the old company & lease sections back to the WHR'64 Co (background). This WHR/Council partnership developed over the next fourteen years.
1983
The decision to bid for the trackbed in partnership with GCC was adopted formally by the WHR'64 Co. (background). A rival approach of gathering the assets of the 1922 Company and resurrecting it resulted in the formation of a separate organisation (Trackbed Consolidated Limited). Both approaches subsequently failed, but for quite different reasons.
1987
The Ffestioniog Railway (F.R.) secretly offered to buy the trackbed and give it to the County Council on condition that it would never be used for railway purposes. This came into the open in 1990.
1988
Restoration of Hunslet 2-6-2T Russell was completed.
1991
The F.R. attempted to gain control of the trackbed by applying to the High Court in London to bring the 1922 Company back out of receivership. This attempt failed: it was ruled 'Wholly Misconceived' by the High Court Judge (here is the reason why this had not been attempted before).
1992
The F.R. attempted to gain control of the trackbed by applying for a 'Light Railway Transfer Order'.
Restoration of Bagnall 0-4-2T Gelert was completed.
1993
The F.R. launched its own 'Welsh Highland Railway Society' (nothing to do with the existing WHR'64 Co nor the earlier 1961 Society of that name).
November 1993
A 4 week long Public Inquiry was held in Caernarfon in 1993 to recommend which party should be allowed to purchase the 1922 company assets and liabilities. The recommendation was clear and was strongly in favour of the joint WHR/Council application.
July 1994
On the same day as he resigned from office, the Minister of Transport overturned the result of the Public Inquiry. Instead, the application by the F.R. was upheld.
This decision attracted widespread criticism in the press. The W.H.R. Ltd considered challenging the basis on which the decision had been reached, but was unable to call it into question because of the high cost of High Court litigation (W.H.R. Ltd is a registered charity with only limited resources.) A period of bitter animosity with the F.R. followed.
August 1995
In order to further the overall objectives of rebuilding the railway and to foster goodwill between the two parties, the WHR'64 Co withdrew its opposition to the F.R.'s Caernarfon-Dinas LRO, and vigorously encouraged GCC to do the same. Strong support was given to the Planning Permission request by the F.R. for this section.
October 1995
rebuilding of the WHR. This represents almost half of the estimated cost of a rebuilt railway as far as Rhyd-Ddu by the end of the century. Full payment of the grant is dependent on this being done. The award has to be matched pound-for-pound by additional finance or equivalent volunteer labour.
The Welsh Highland Railway Experience at Porthmadog was announced (see the Press Release).
December 1995
Planning Permission was granted for the building and operation of the Caernarfon-Dinas section.
January 1996
A Memorandum of Understanding was drafted between the WHR'64 Co and the F.R. This opened the potential for an effective phase of cooperation between the two parties. It was fully ratified by the WHR'64 Co.
April 1996
The Memorandum of Understanding was angrily rejected by the F.R. board. This followed the sudden departure of F.R. General Manager Gordon Rushton.
May 1996
The Welsh Highland Light Railway (1964) Co. Ltd. formally became known as the Welsh Highland Railway Ltd.
July 1996
As a gesture of new cooperation, The WHR P-Way gang built a siding for the F.R. at Glan-y-Pwll. A Joint Press Release describes this and the warming relationship between the F.R. and WHR. No volunteer effort was available from the Welsh Highland Railway Society.
Gwynedd County Council withdrew its opposition to the F.R.'s Caernarfon-Dinas LRO, as the WHR'64 Co had done in August 1995.
September 1996
Porthmadog Town Council resolved to oppose the construction of a rail link across the town. The F.R. plan was to link the existing WHR at Pen-y-Mount across the standard gauge tracks to a new terminus at Llyn Bach, right next to the supermarket. A connecting line would run across Brittania Bridge to the Harbour Station. At the Public Inquiry, eleven 'Material Objections' to the cross-town link had been raised, making this half-mile the hardest and most expensive section to rebuild.
The first consignment of rail (700 tons) was delivered to Dinas yard, together with several wagons, all imported from South Africa.
October 1996
The European Regional Development Fund announced a grant of £735,600 towards the Caernarfon to Dinas railway. This is effectively doubled up pound-for-pound by part of the Millenium Commission award (announced October 1995).
The Wales Tourist Board announced a grant of £100,000 towards the cost of importing two NGG16 Beyer Garratt locomotives from South Africa and the procurement of some carriages.
November 1996
At the latest board meeting, the WHR Ltd decided to lift the current membership suspensions from the 5 Trackbed Consolidated Ltd members (Messrs Ewing, Lodge, & 3 Prestons). These members had been suspended since 1983 (background). As a gesture of reconciliation, it was felt that this was long enough.
December 1996
The contract to clear, ballast and fence the formation between Caernarfon and Dinas was let to Mowlem.
January 1997
Gwynedd County Council temporarily closed the Lon Eifion cycleway along the Caernarfon - Dinas trackbed. This was to allow access for the contractors. The cycleway was reinstated in the summer alongside the newly fenced-off railway.
Construction of the Caernarfon - Dinas section commenced at Dinas. The contractors cleared the trackbed and provided fencing, drainage and first-level ballast. The tracklaying was to be done by volunteers.
May 1997
0-4-0 Sezela No. 4 restoration had proceeded to the point where the locomotive can operate under its own steam.
Tracklaying started in Dinas Llanwnda, heading northwards towards Caernarfon.
This had come twenty years after the start of the WHR reconstruction in Porthmadog, a hiatus resulting from legal and bureaucratic obstacles and somewhat prolonged by rivalry between different organisations, as outlined above.
June 1997
The New Labour Minister for Transport, announced a Public Inquiry into the reconstruction of the Welsh Highland Railway.
July 1997
The F.R. application for Transport and Works Act powers were set back six weeks whilst notices are served allowing further objections to alterations to footpaths and bridleways affected by the railway (see the House of Commons Written Answers" reply in Hansard).
The annual Civil's Week trackbuilding included laying a significant stretch of track (260 yd) towards Caernarfon by the W.H.R. Ltd gang, in collaboration with W.H.R.S. volunteers and W.H. Light Rly Ltd employees.
Restoration of the 1891 'Gladstone' coach was completed.
August 1997
Following the significant contribution to track laying (see above), more concrete proposals entered discussions and negotiations between the W.H.R. Ltd and F.R..
Track construction towards Caernarfon entered the outskirts of that town. The railhead was at Pont Seiont and 3 sets of points were delivered to Caernarfon. Work started on extending the long shed in the ex-Welsh Water yard for locomotive use.
September 1997
Discussions between the F.R. and W.H.R. led to seven heads of agreement. An Extraordinary General Meeting was held for W.H.R. members to debate this (see background article).
October 1997
The F.R. withdrew its earlier agreement to a draft contract with the W.H.R., insisting instead on almost complete handover of rights and assets owned by the W.H.R. This was a serious backward step which was difficult to understand.
The F.R. operated public train services between Dinas and Caernarfon for a period of a few weeks.
November 1997
Negotiations between the W.H.R. and F.R. continued. The earlier reversal was overcome. A second Memorandum of Understanding was agreed (the first MoU had earlier been rejected).
December 1997
The F.R. Public Inquiry (regarding the application for a Transport and Works Order) started.
January 1998
The F.R. Public Inquiry (regarding the application for a Transport and Works Order) concluded.
Negotiations between the W.H.R. and F.R. reached a Formal Agreement, broadly similar to the draft agreement of August '97. This has now been formally concluded.
March 1998
Restoration work began on the ex-NWNGR buildings at Dinas.
April 1998
Phase two of the Porthmadog Station building was completed.
October 1998
Co-operation between the WHR Ltd and F.R. improved following the agreement earlier in the year. The F.R. donated the chassis of a heritage coach to the WHR and loaned some original slate wagons for restoration. Also, several important items of heritage rolling stock in full working order were lent for the "Dirty Chappies 5" enthusiasts weekend.
March 1999
The Snowdon National Park Authority Public Inquiry report was issued with the recommendation that the WHR route be protected for railway use. This policy had earlier been present in the Eryri Local Plan, but the relevant clause had been deleted in 1998. The SNPA accepted the recommendation and reinstated the relevant clause, thereby returning to their prior policy of supporting the WHR.
April 1999
The Public Inquiry report was issued with the recommendation by the Inspector that the WHR should not be rebuilt. However, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott conditionally approved the reconstruction of the entire WHR, subject to rockfall prevention plans being satisfactory to the DETR. The F.R., to whom John Prescott is 'minded' to grant powers under the Transport and Works Act, have appointed consultant surveyors to resolve the rockface questions.
See the Press Release.
June 1999
Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, approved the proposal to rebuild the former Welsh Highland Railway through the Snowdonia National Park.
"After giving very careful consideration to this complex and sensitive case, I am satisfied that the benefits of the scheme outweigh the disadvantages and that it would be in the public interest to allow it to proceed.
"I said in April that I was inclined to grant the powers which the Festiniog Railway Company needed to reconstruct the railway. But before reaching a final decision, I wanted the Company to undertake a detailed survey of the rock faces in the vicinity of the Aberglastyn tunnels.
"A survey has since been completed by Ove Arup and Partners. I have carefully considered their report, together with a review of that report carried out by Hyder on behalf of the Snowdonia National Park Authority, as well as other representations and advice received. I am satisfied from this information that the railway can safely be taken through the National Park without causing unacceptable harm to the environment."
July 1999
Statutory Instrument 1999 No. 2129 came into effect. This grants powers to the Festiniog Railway to build and operate a railway along the course of the old Welsh Highland Railway.
The National Farmers Union applied for a Judicial Review of the granting of these powers, seeking to revoke the Order.
November 1999
The F.R. issued Compulsory Purchase notifications to some landowners at the northern end of the WHR trackbed. The Compulsory Purchase comes into effect in February 2000.
Note that there remain considerable lengths of disputed land on the trackbed, contrary to what was earlier reported on this page.
The Judicial Review launched by the N.F.U. upheld the Secretary of State's decision to grant the Transport and Works Order, by which the Welsh Highland Railway is being rebuilt.
April 2000
Tracklaying commenced on the eastward extension from Dinas to Waenfawr (Welsh Highland Railway Caernarfon).
July 2000
Tracklaying was completed between Dinas and Waunfawr (Welsh Highland Railway Caernarfon).
August 2000
Twenty years to the day after services began on the Welsh Highland Railway (Porthmadog), some trackbed clearance took place north of Porthmadog to facilitate surveying.
Train services started on the extended Welsh Highland Railway (Caernarfon).
September 2000
Over the weekend of the 16th - 17th September 2000, the re-opening ceremony for the Dinas-Waunfawr extension involved crews from both the Ffestiniog Railway and the Welsh Highland Railway (Porthmadog), from whence Russell came to visit Dinas. more
End of 2000
Construction and tracklaying commenced southwards from Waunfawr.
February 2001
Trackbed clearance commenced northwards from Pen-y-Mount.
Foot & Mouth Disease halted both northward and southward construction projects. Southward work recommenced gradually as new disease control measures were introduced and restrictions were gradually eased.
June 2001
Track construction was completed as far as Betws Garmon station. Tracklaying has since been progressing over the Rhyd-ddu to Glanrafon section.
August 2001
Trackbed clearance re-commenced northwards from Pen-y-Mount, following the FMD hiatus and end of the bird-nesting season.
August 2002
The preliminary junction north of Pen-y-Mount was installed, consisting at this stage of two points. more
January 2003
Tracklaying started at Rhyd Ddu Station on the section northward from there toward Waunfawr.
March 2003
Planning permission was granted for the Pen-y-Mount to Traeth Mawr extension, subject to certain caveats (press release). The northward extension started in earnest with fencing and the construction of a haul road (the base on which the ballast will be laid).
July 2003
The FR's application for £7.24M to fund Phases 4 and 5 (Rhyd Ddu to Porthmadog) was rejected.
Extension Phase 3 from Waunfawr to Rhyd Ddu was formally opened by HRH Prince Charles on 30th July, although passengers weren't carried for three more weeks.
August 2003
Extension Phase 3 from Waunfawr to Rhyd Ddu commenced operation in mid August. The Caernarfon line now reaches 12 miles into Snowdonia.
February 2004
Phase I of the Pont Croesor Extension (northward from Pen-y-Mount to Traeth Mawr) completed the fencing and formation works.
June 2004
Baldwin 4-6-0PT '794' arrived at Gelert's Farm for restoration as '590'. more
September 2004
Project Rheilffordd Eryri - Phase 4 has been secured, with the help of £5m grant funding from the Welsh Assembly and the EU, plus a similar amount of private funding, much of which is still to be raised. more
September 2006
Formation of the Welsh Highland Railways Association representing The Welsh Highland Railway Ltd, The Welsh Highland Railway Society and The Welsh Highland Railway Heritage Group. more
November 2006
The new crossing on the level of the Cambrian Coast railway was installed and marked the first visible construction of the Porthmadog cross-town link. This is the only place in Britain where a 2' gauge railway crosses standard gauge.
March 2007
The Traeth Mawr extension opened. The line northward from Pen-y-Mount was thus extended by about 1km to a point half way to Pont Croesor.
October 2008
The WHR Ltd decided to adopt the trading name "Welsh Highland Heritage Railway". This followed the joining up of the complete WHR route from Porthmadog to Caernarfon and the pre-agreed dropping of the "Welsh Highland Railway (Porthmadog)" and "Welsh Highland Railway (Caernarfon)" trading names.
- Latest News -
May 2010
Negotiations with the Ffestiniog Railway reached an impasse with the exclusion of the WHHR heritage trains from the main WHR route, in spite of earlier committments to allow such services. (press release)


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