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Heritage Railway Tour Day 1: Southern Snowdonia

Welcome aboard our five day/four night Tour of narrow gauge steam railways in North Wales travelling on the Cambrian Line from Shrewsbury to Machynlleth and then the Cambrian Coast Pwllheli Line up to Porthmadog.

We will take in the Ffestiniog, Welsh Highland, Fairbourne and Talyllyn Railways; we will also visit the little Welsh Highland Heritage Railway. 250 miles on a scenic rural and coastal railway and 93 miles on narrow gauge steam railways. We will be staying for three nights in Porthmadog and one night in Barmouth. Suggestions for overnight accommodation are in or very close to the towns (and their railway stations) that we will be visiting so that you can drop off your luggage when you arrive and not have to carry it around with you!

Points of Interest - there are notes available with points of interest along the Cambrian Lines including old routes and stations that are now closed and, for the return journey, some details of services on our route from 50 or 60 years ago in the age of steam.

The itinerary is from Monday to Friday based on National Rail timetables from 15 December 2019 to 16 May 2020. Subsequent train times until December will probably be similar but will not be confirmed until nearer the time. Ffestiniog Railway trains on Day 2 (Tuesday) run from 7 April to 27 October 2020. Welsh Highland Railway trains on Day 3 (Wednesday) run from 1 April to 28 October 2020. Fairbourne Railway trains on Day 4 (Thursday) run from 9 April to 29 October 2020 (“diesel train on demand” 8, 15 & 22 October). Also on Thursday, trains on the short Welsh Highland Heritage Railway run from 7 May to 24 September 2020; we have an alternative trip on the Cambrian Coast line to the Pwllheli terminus. The Friday trains on the Talyllyn Railway operate from 10 April to 30 October 2020.

How to join the tour (please see seating notes below):-
From London Euston - Take the 08.43 to Birmingham International which arrives at 09.53 (or alternatively the 08.23 arriving at 09.33); the 10.09 train for Aberystwyth will be waiting for you on Platform 5.
From Birmingham & the West Midlands - Take the Aberystwyth train from Birmingham International at 10.09, New Street at 10.25, Wolverhampton at 10.43 or Telford at 11.00.
From Manchester Piccadilly - Take the 09.31 Carmarthen train to Shrewsbury (or from Crewe at 10.08) which arrives at 10.38.
From Cardiff Central - Leave on the 09.22 Holyhead train (09.36 Newport, 10.02 Abergavenny, 10.29 Hereford) which will arrive at Shrewsbury at 11.22; there is an earlier train from Cardiff at 08.50 arriving Shrewsbury 10.51
From Shrewsbury - The Aberystwyth/Pwllheli train leaves at 11.27.

Seating Notes - The Aberystwyth/Pwllheli train normally consists of four coaches; the train divides at Machynlleth with two coaches going to Aberystwyth and the other two to Pwllheli. If you are getting on the train at Birmingham International (or from here to Telford) board one of the front two coaches as these will be going on the Pwllheli line. Getting on at Shrewsbury - board one of the front two coaches of the train as it arrives; these will be at the rear of the train when it leaves. If you prefer to sit facing the direction of travel, the train leaves Shrewsbury in the opposite direction from which it arrives - so if you are facing the rear of the train at Birmingham, you will be facing the front of the train when we leave Shrewsbury. A bit complicated - we hope that this is clear!!

Our first day includes a five and a half hour trip on the Cambrian Lines - so take some lunch with you!

 

Morning

We start the Tour with a trip down the Cambrian Line to Machynlleth and then take the Cambrian Coast Line to Porthmadog - take some lunch with you! Leaving Shrewsbury at 11.27, we cross the border in to Wales and call at Welshpool at 11.49, Newtown 12.03 and Caersws at 12.11.

Journey notes available for rail enthusiasts - see Points of Interest Shrewsbury-Machynlleth.

We arrive at Machynlleth at 12.42. As previously mentioned, the train divides here so ensure that you are in one of the rear two coaches for the Pwllheli line to Porthmadog.

Shrewsbury railway station is the hub for many rail services to and from Wales.

Castle Foregate, Shrewsbury, SY1 2DQ

 

Heritage Railways Tour Journey Notes 1 - Shrewsbury to Machynlleth.

Shrewsbury Railway Station, Castle Foregate, Shrewsbury, SY1 2DQ

 
 

Afternoon

The Aberystwyth portion of the train leaves Machynlleth first at 12.47 and we follow at 12.51. We reach Dovey (Dyfi) Junction at 12.57 and take the Cambrian Coast Line calling at Aberdyfi (Aberdovey) at 13.10, Tywyn 13.19 (leave 13.25) and Fairbourne 13.44 before crossing the Mawddach estuary to arrive Barmouth at 13.57; there are also four request stops that we may call at.

More journey notes available for rail enthusiasts on this section of the route - see Points of Interest Machynlleth-Barmouth.

We depart Barmouth at 13.57 and continue up the coast to Harlech (there are six request stops en-route) where we arrive at 14.23. After waiting eight minutes to allow a south bound train to pass, we continue to head north with three more request stops, then Penrhyndeudraeth, Minffordd (the Ffestiniog Railway also has a station here) and Porthmadog - arrival is due here at 14.55.

For more journey notes on this section of the line - see Points of Interest Barmouth-Porthmadog.

The growth of Porthmadog followed the building of a sea wall in 1811 to reclaim land from the sea which also created a new harbour for boats to carry slate to markets in England and overseas. Coupled with this was the opening in 1836 of the Ffestiniog Railway and subsequently other tramways and within 40 years nearly 120,000 tons of slate were exported through Porthmadog in more than a thousand ships. Today the community has a population of 4,200; the harbour and the Ffestiniog are still important but for tourism rather than slate!

We leave the train at Porthmadog at 14.55. If you are in need of immediate refreshment - there is a pub on the station platform! Opposite this station is the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway station - this operates a mile long route - not to be confused with the Welsh Highland Railway which runs for 19.5 miles from the Ffestiniog Railway’s station! We will be back here later in the week.

A location tour of Porthmadog - the Queens Hotel is by the station or turn right out of the station for the town centre, other overnight accommodation, eating places, shops and the Ffestiniog Railway. We pass Tesco on right, the Royal Sportsman Hotel on left and we reach a crossroads with a mini roundabout. Penamser Road is on the right (this is the road to Criccieth and Pwllheli) with Tudor Lodge on the left; this road leads to the Travelodge - about half a mile.

Straight on is Stryd Fawr/High Street for more cafes and restaurants. For Yr Hen Fecws, right in to Bank Place and left for Lombard Street. Continue along High Street for the harbour; you will then see the narrow gauge tracks of the Welsh Highland Railway in the road, running over a river bridge and in to the Ffestiniog’s Porthmadog Harbour station. The Railway’s Spooner's Grill, Café & Bar is located here - what better place to spend the rest of the afternoon watching the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland’s arrivals and departures!

Heritage Railways Tour Journey Notes 2 - Machynlleth to Barmouth.

Machynlleth Railway Station, Heol y Doll, Machynlleth, Powys, SY20 8BL

 

Heritage Railways Tour Journey Notes 3 - Barmouth to Porthmadog.

Barmouth Railway Station, Station Approach, Barmouth, LL42 1LS

 
 

Evening

Porthmadog has a good selection of cafes and restaurants to provide an enjoyable evening meal; the Royal Sportsman has its own restaurant and Yr Hen Fecws a bistro.
 

Overnight

Overnight stay suggestions (both for tonight and the following two nights) include the Royal Sportsman Hotel, constructed in 1862 as a staging post for coaches on the turnpike road, the Queehs Hotel, the Tudor Lodge Guest House, Yr Hen Fecws Guest House & Bistro and Porthmadog’s Travelodge.
 
 

Other Itineraries

> Explore Mid Wales Days Out

> Heritage Railways

> Scenic Railway Day Trips

> Short Breaks by Train

> Short Breaks in Mid Wales

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