Founded by an Act of Parliament in 1832, the narrow gauge Ffestiniog Railway is the oldest surviving railway company in the world. The railway was constructed between 1833 and 1836 to transport slate quarried from the mountains around Blaenau Ffestiniog to the coastal town of Porthmadog where it was loaded onto ships for export. In 1865 the Ffestiniog Railway became the first narrow gauge railway in Britain to carry passengers.
For many years the railway flourished, however the slate industry fell into decline around the time of the First World War and passenger numbers also started to decrease. The railway finally closed in 1946. Fortunately it did not remain closed for long: a group of railway enthusiasts were determined the railway should survive and after restoring the line to working order, it re-opened as a tourist attraction in 1954. Today the Ffestiniog Railway offers passengers a fantastic journey through the wild and spectacular scenery of the Snowdonia National Park - a highlight of any visit to Wales.
The full route of the railway is 13.5 miles long (20.7km) and runs from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog. On our Railways & Castles of Wales tour, we join the train in Minfford, just a few miles inland from Porthmadog. From Minfford the train climbs to Penrhyn and as it leaves the village, we enjoy wonderful views across the valley down the Dwyryd Estuary to Harlech Castle. A little further along, the train enters the beautiful Snowdonia National Park and continues round a hanging valley to Tan-y-Bwlch station, a passing point for the trains travelling in the opposite direction. The train continues its climb through an area of slate quarries and mines to the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. Once the centre of the Welsh slate industry, Blaenau Ffestiniog is the final stop on the Ffestiniog Railway and it is here that we leave the train.