History awakens as you ascend higher into the clouds
Snowdon Mountain Railway
Snowdon Mountain Railway was first proposed by Sir Richard Moon, Chairman of the London & North Western Railway, after a branch line from Bangor to Llanberis had been completed in 1869. Initial Parliamentary Bills were met with stiff opposition from the landowner George William Assheton-Smith.
For two decades nothing happened, however a significant loss of trade to Llanberis in 1881 caused Assheton-Smith to eventually withdraw his objections. The Snowdon Mountain Tramroad and Hotels Company Ltd was formed, and the scene was set for one of the world’s great feats of engineering to begin in 1894.
The railway was constructed between December 1894, when the first sod was cut by Enid Assheton-Smith (after whom locomotive No 2 was named), and February 1896, at a total cost of £63,800 (equivalent to £6,775,000 in 2016). 150 men with picks, shovels and dynamite laid almost eight kilometres of track up the mountain – all in fourteen months.
The original steam locomotives — Enid, Wyddfa, Snowdon and Moel Siabod — were manufactured in Switzerland in 1895 and 1896.
Padarn, Ralph and Eryri
Three more steam locomotives were built in Switzerland — Padarn, Ralph and Eryri — along with two more carriages.
During World War Two, the army began using live ammunition during training exercises in the mountains. Although the exercises were not held near the railway, an indemnity was obtained from the War Department and appropriate notices were posted in the booking hall and on the trains.
The 50’s and 60’s
The 50s and 60s were good years for the railway, and the four original locomotives were sent to Hunslet to be overhauled, No 2 in 1958, No 5 in 1959, No 3 in 1960 and No 4 in 1963.
The 80’s and 90’s
Four British diesel locomotives costing £250,000 each were added to the fleet — Ninian, Yeti, Peris and George — together with one new carriage.
The Snowdonia National Park Authority agreed to replace the summit buildings and station facilities with a new visitor centre called Hafod Eryri (SH609543). It is the highest building in England and Wales. It was designed by Ray Hole Architects in conjunction with structural civil engineer Arup and it was opened on 12th June 2009 by Welsh first minister Hywel Rhodri Morgan (b.1939).
New Railway Carriages
New railway carriages were put into service between 2013 and 2014. Four contemporary carriages built by Garmendale Engineering for use with diesel locomotives were introduced, along with two new heritage carriages the “Snowdon Lily” and “The Mountain Goat”. Pushed by original Swiss steam locomotives and built on the original chassis and bogeys, the heritage carriages are accurate re-constructions of the carriages of 1896.
Snowdon Mountain Railway celebrated its 120th anniversary
A Victorian themed weekend was held at Llanberis station during September, with local Welsh stalls, punch and Judy and a variety of entertainment throughout the 3-day event.
Moel Siabod returns
After almost 20 years out of service, steam locomotive no.5 Moel Siabod returned to service after a comprehensive refit. The railways employed its first ever female fireman to work on-board the steam locos.