Yesterday I went to the Ffestiniog Railway in North West Wales. It’s been a week since I got my camera back, so took it with me to get some excellent photos from areas not reachable by road or public footpath. I only ended up going because my father has always wanted a day out going up the Conwy Valley by train. It’s a great journey, the only problem being you have to spend time in Blaenau Ffestiniog for a few hours to make a day out of it and the only problem with that is that you have to spend time in Blaenau Ffestiniog. The only two things to alleviate this issue is to do one of two things; Go under Blaenau Ffestiniog in the Llechwedd slate caverns, or get away from Blaenau Ffestiniog on the Ffestiniog railway. The latter made more sense, as it takes you away from that forsaken place.
The day began with an early start on a Saturday. Usually this isn’t an issue, but as I’d not had 15 hours sleep in the previous week, it meant I was really tired. So my dad drove, to ensure I didn’t crash into a wall. Unfortunately we were stuck behind slow moving traffic for most of the way. I’m sorry, but if you can’t do 60 in an NSL where 60 is safe, GTFO mah roads. Seriously, 40 is not a viable alternative.
Anyway, we got to Llandudno Junction for 10:20, ten minutes to park and get the tickets. But there was a problem. This was an NCP car park, it only accepted coins, and we had none. So we needed to get the tickets and the parking. So, I parked by phone using my dads card. By the time I’d gotten off the convoluted automated phone system and back to reality, we were on the train, halfway up the Conwy valley, on the side with no views, and facing backwards, so there are no photos of Llandudno Junction or the train journey up.
Of course, apparently my dad was heading for a good seat when he was shooed away from it by an approaching woman, who could only be described as a “chunky scouser”. My dad was further shocked when the train moved off away from the direction he thought it was heading. After a short hour journey, including a four minute journey through the seventh longest tunnel in Britain, at over two miles.
Upon exiting the tunnel, the doom and gloom of Blaenau dawns on you. It was raining, the sky is grey, the enormous slate tips are grey, the buildings are grey, their slate roofs are grey, the tarmac roads are grey, the pavements are grey, and the only green areas are tiny gardens, and council run playing fields. Lovely.
Upon stopping at the station, we notice an FR train is there in the station. Headed by the double fairlie David Lloyd George, this train was rather empty, being the first train of the day from Porthmadog, probably leaving around 9:15. Most people from our busy train rushed over to the booking office, which was a less than impressive container, which I am sure is the one we got tickets from in Caernarfon a number of years ago (see below)
By this point, it was raining heavily. We quickly retreated to a carriage with space left, in our case, an old heritage carriage from the 1920’s. This had no aisle or end connection to the rest of the train, but every two seats were enclosed, with windows on each side. The seat was comfortable, but the backrest was wooden, and not very. As the train snakes its way out of Blaenau, the train gets so close to walls and other trackside objects that in some places there must be almost no clearance at all, yet the train maintains what appears to be quite a good speed.
The weather improved considerably on the way down, and by the time we got to Porthmadog it was bright enough for the sun to start poking through.
Once we were in Porthmadog, we had 35 minutes to kill, so we walked to the bank, got out some cash, and both a pint each and some sandwiches from the station. The pub there, Spooners, has won pub of the year several times, and you can see why.
The journey back to Blaenau was notably sunnier, and I had several photos by now, but when we arrived back in Blaenau, it was grey again. We boarded the train, but not before I got this classic of both gauges.
We got back to Llandudno Junction, but I was falling asleep at this point, so the way back was quieter. When I got back, I put the photos on the upload, and then fell asleep. 16 hours later, I woke up again, and am completely rejuvenated, but was annoyed to find the upload had put everything up twice, and not in the right set. So I’ve spent the last few hours making things work correctly. Oh well.