Leaving Rhyd Ddu, the trackbed continues to climb gently, running alongside the A4085. In the picture below it is to the right of the road, visible as a light strip in the grass. Rhyd Ddu Station is out of view behind the trees in the middle distance.
Across the road lies the lake Llyn y Gadair. In this winter view, the lake is frozen over. The remains of a mineral tramway can be seen near the lake, running to a former slate quarry on the far side. This tramway was not connected to the railway, although this seems to have been the intention.
The line passes under the road into a notoriously damp cutting, adjacent to the rock known as Pitt's Head, so called for its resemblance in profile to the 18th century politician.
The bridge is of unusual design; the railway passes under the road at a skew angle, but the arch projects at each side, almost as if the roadway was an afterthought. The arch is generously proportioned as this section was originally to have used electric traction with overhead wires, and it will not need the same surgery as the NWNGR section bridges. The pictures below show reinforcing bolts fitted during work by the highways authority in 2000, done in anticipation of reinstatement of the railway.
Immediately to the south of the bridge, the abutments of a small occupation bridge survive. About ten years separate these pictures, and the undergrowth in the cutting has made considerable progress.
This is the highest part of the line, reaching the summit at Pont Cae'r Gors, seen below looking towards Caernarfon. At this point passengers travelling north will be rewarded with a fine vista of Snowdon (weather permitting).
From this point the trackbed loses height rapidly, plunging through Beddgelert Forest in the process, at gradients as steep as 1 in 40, passing the former halt of Hafod Ruffydd. The plantations at the northern end of the Forestry Commission section are relatively young, allowing for magnificent views southwards towards Moel Hebog, or northwards towards Yr Aran and Snowdon.
The section downhill from Pont Cae'r Gors can at present be walked as far as the site of the halt at Hafod Ruffydd. This section, whose formation had been completed by contractors before the original work stopped for the Portmadoc, Beddgelert & South Snowdon Railway, was used for forestry purposes during World War 1, reputedly with a steam locomotive from Glanrafon Quarry. The site of the terminus of this temporary line lay a couple of hundred yards beyond the spot shown in the left-hand picture below, just beyond the crossing of the Afon Cwm du (which is just out of view round the bend). In World War Two, this steep section was used by the military for artillery target practice, using targets on slate wagons running downhill by gravity! The second picture, looking North from near Hafod Ruffydd, shows the trackbed climbing from left to right towards Pont Cae'r Gors, with the slopes of Snowdon beyond. The right-hand one is looking South towards Hafod Ruffydd; the farm of Hafod Ruffydd Ganol is visible.
The site of Hafod Ruffydd Halt has been in use as a forestry loading area (left-hand picture); significant parts of the plantation near the trackbed have been felled in this area. Immediately beyond the halt site there is a level crossing across a lane, and the trackbed passes across a field (right-hand picture) before plunging into the forest.
The section within the forest is in places amongst the hardest to follow on the ground. Parts have been adopted for use as roadways, while others are partly or entirely within the plantation, or on open fields (where, unusually for this railway, few earthworks were needed). In order to keep to a workable gradient this section of the trackbed describes a sharp and elongated S-bend, drawing close to the Afon Colwyn, but never crossing it. The pictures below show a sheep creep in the embankment in the first part of the S-bend, which will need a new deck.
The line now turns to the left (north) and heads out of the Coed Mawr woods, then turns right (south) again though a cutting (crossing a stream twice) to re-enter them. The left-hand picture below is looking north on the first of these sections; the middle picture shows the trackbed about to enter the woods again (the caravans visible in the first picture can just be made out on the left), and the third picture is at the same spot as the second, but looking the other way (towards Beddgelert) into the woods.
Shortly after this point the trackbed crosses the Afon Colwyn's tributary the Afon Meillionen, at the same spot as the present roadway bridge leading into the large and popular Beddgelert Forest Campsite (left-hand picture below; the roadway is to be moved and provided with a new bridge adjacent to the railway). The trackbed passes through this site (right-hand picture), where it is expected that a halt and possibly a passing loop will be developed.
The line continues to drop steeply towards Beddgelert; the site of a small stream bridge at Ty'n y Coed is seen below.
The trackbed now executes another, even more dramatic S-bend to keep the gradient within workable limits; earthworks survive for the incomplete original Portmadoc, Beddgelert and South Snowdon Railway of the 1900s, whose route would have cut across in a shorter line with fewer bends, but would probably have proved too steep even for the electric traction then intended for the line. From the point of view of a train coming downhill from Rhyd Ddu, it would have cut off to the left a few hundred yards past the above bridge. The pictures below show parts of this abortive route.
In the course of the S-bend the railway makes three crossings each of a stream (Nant Cwmcloch) and the adjacent private road/public footpath which leaves the road at Pont Alyn, at the northern end of Beddgelert. Meeting the trackbed not just twice but three times has been known to leave walkers puzzled! The span of the small bridge over the stream at the first crossing is missing, seen here (left) with a felled tree lying across the abutments. The right-hand picture shows the trackbed just before this point.
Past the first crossing (heading from Caernarfon to Porthmadog), the railway turns sharply left through more than 180 degrees, carried on substantial embankments (visible in the trees, second row below centre and right), in a spot which is surprisingly lonely considering its proximity to the busy village of Beddgelert. The visual effect of the restored railway here may prove to be a little like that of the Ffestiniog's spectacular Dduallt Spiral. There is a deep rock cutting on this section, halfway round the bend (first row of pictures). The first picture in the second row, at an accommodation crossing just past the cutting, is the site of a well known 1923 picture with Russell (see Peter Johnson's Portrait of the Welsh Highland Railway , p.64).
Having turned to face north, the railway crosses the stream and roadway again; the bridge here is in agricultural use, and the shallow cutting just beyond it is blocked.
To the north of this crossing the line again turns back to face south, via a slightly gentler curve as it loses height. The junction of the WHR and abortive PB&SSR routes is found at the apex of this curve. Jim Hewett's picture below, looking downhill towards Beddgelert, shows where the two trackbeds part company. The WHR trackbed is on the right, while the PB&SSR formation climbs sharply away to the left.
At the end of the S-bend the railway makes its third and final crossing of the roadway and the Nant Cwmcloch, on a quite high embankment; thus the road crossing is by an overbridge, as opposed to level crossings at the others higher up. This bridge is missing not only its span but also most of the abutment on the Beddgelert side.
Just on the Beddgelert side of the above bridge, the arched bridge over the stream is intact.
The embankment (seen here looking towards Caernarfon, just on that side of the station) finally leads the WHR down to the picturesque village of Beddgelert (link to the village website). The deck of another small bridge just north of the station needs replacement; the mountings of the original deck girders can just be made out on the abutment seen on the left below.
In and around Beddgelert, there are a number of railway features that were not actually used by the Welsh Highland, most obviously the bridge over the road near the Royal Goat Hotel, and the abutments of an incomplete bridge standing in open country. These were built in the 1900s by the abortive PB&SSR, and as they were intended for electric traction, were designed for a gradient too steep for the WHR steam trains that finally reached Beddgelert in 1923. The route finally adopted south of the village was also considered to be less intrusive within the landscape. This map (© J.C. Sreeves - should open in a separate window) shows the different routes and other features.
The WHR station site stands above the village's main car park, and has caused various headaches to Rheilffordd Eryri planners, given that it is on a steep gradient as well as a curve; along with much of the rest of the trackbed, it has been mapped for the Project using precision satellite surveying technology. To the layman, there are few signs that this was once a railway station, as it soon will be again. The casual visitor in recent years might have been likelier to notice the "locomotive" (since removed and replaced with a couple of mine tubs) adjacent to the road in the village...!
The left-hand picture gives a general view of the station site, looking towards Porthmadog. The base of the water tower remains, along with the inspection pit used for locomotive inspection and maintenance (second picture), as one of the clues linking the site as it is today to the station seen in historical photographs. Also present are the bases of the Goods Shed (third picture), and the station building itself (right-hand picture). At times the old WHR's timetables included a "lodging turn" at Beddgelert, with the engine kept in the Goods Shed overnight - though in practice the crews seem to have preferred to run back to Portmadoc light engine, and sleep at home.
The station building was similar in design to the replica of the Nantmor building which can be seen at Pen y Mount on WHR (Porthmadog) (see below), though a little larger. The tracks lay to the right of the concrete base as seen above.
On leaving the station site the formation passes through a deep cutting, which was deeply choked with undergrowth - underneath which some track was in situ, not original, but laid by the 1964 Company in the 1960s. A footpath crosses the cutting via a small bridge, which was rebuilt in 2002.
The pictures below were taken by Simon Foster in June or July 1978; as well as showing the track laid in the 1960s, they also show that the station site was much clearer than it had become in the years between then and the start of rebuilding in 2006.