One of my "must do" activities in Wales was to ride on one of the heritage steam trains through Snowdonia. The weather would have been perfect on Sunday, however limited public transport options made it almost impossible for me. I had to wait until today. Even then it involved getting on the number 5/5C bus to Caernarfon at 7:30am in order to get there in time to catch the 10:00am train.
There were two steam railways I was interested in. One goes between Caernarfon and Porthmadog and the other goes between Porthmaog and Blaenau Ffestiniog. The route maps are at the end of this post. Rather than choose one line and make a return trip it was possible to create a kind of circuit by travelling one way on both. To complete the loop there is a mainline train from Blaenau Ffestiniog back to Llandudno.
I got to Caernarfon in plenty of time to get a ticket and find a good seat, though I had no way of knowing which would be the best side. Plus, single seats were only on one side so I didn't really have much of a choice. The weather at the start was grey and lightly spotting with rain. Not ideal, but OK.
There was a sense of excitement as the train arrived at the station.
The initial landscape was similar to what I've already seen though there was a lot of a rust coloured grass that was a nice contrast against all of the green.
About 1/2 hour in it began getting more mountainous. Unfortunately the weather started getting worse. The combination of misty mountains, rain on the windows, smoke from the train and generally low light made photography very difficult.
I wasn't able to get any good shots of the really dramatic mountain tops. It would be spectacular on a clear day.
We ran by and crossed a number of rapidly flowing streams and rivers.
Towards the end of the first line the area had clearly flooded as the water level was coming up to the top of the fence line.
The first trip took just over two hours. It was definitely a case of the "pensioner express" which made me feel a little bit younger than usual. I managed to get a shot of the carriage as we were alighting.
As well as a better picture of the engine.
And the full train.
I had roughly an hour and a half in Porthmadog before the return trip but the weather wasn't all that pleasant. I did a quick trip down the high street. I noticed that the clouds/mist was slowly coming down the hills at the back of the town.
Good to see the tide in for a change.
At 1:35pm the second trip began on a different train. Again, I wasn't really on the best side for photographs of the dramatic landscape but there were other things to capture.
Polution aside, it was quite mystical to see the train smoke occasionally wafting between the trees.
Or when another train approached.
At one stage the line loops over itself.
Which gave me my best opportunity to get a shot of the front of our train in motion.
There were a number of dramatic waterfalls down the sides of the mountains. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to capture the largest ones.
The second train journey took about an hour and a half. In theory that would leave 20min before the next mainline train to Llandudno. We must have been running late though and there was a train waiting and ready to depart. We needed to dash to make it because the next one was over 2 hours later.
All in all it was a great journey and I'm really glad I did it. It's the first serious steam engine I can remember going on and the scenery was spectacular. It would have been so much better in clearer weather or combined with some walking at one or more of the stops. In summer the trains are more frequent which would make getting off to walk for an hour more viable.