WELSH HIGHLAND RAILWAY

THE ROUTE: CAERNARFON TO PORTHMADOG


[Introduction] [Note for visitors] [Phases] [Detailed descriptions] [Aerial photos] [For loco crews] [Place names] [Historical maps] [Gradient profiles] [Statutory instruments] [Extras] [Other sites]

General location

The WHR route (click for larger view)

The Welsh Highland route runs through some of the most stunning scenery in Britain. Starting near the quayside at the ancient port of Caernarfon, the route climbs on the old standard gauge trackbed to the old junction with the original WHR at Dinas. Rejoining the trackbed of the original WHR, the line climbs into the heart of the Snowdonia mountains, past lakes, then down through a forest and a spectacular rocky gorge to the sea at Porthmadog, having crossed Snowdonia from sea to sea in the course of its twenty-five miles (40 km). As well as being a magnet for rail enthusiasts, the rebuilt line also offers a new way to reach the communities and countryside en route, and offers an alternative to motor transport in an ecologically sensitive area, particularly for the tens of thousands who visit Snowdonia every Summer.


Note for visitors - this is an operational railway, trains are unforgiving. Walking along the track is dangerous and is strictly prohibited. 

Access to the railway is restricted to stations and  public rights of way.

The railway takes trouble to maintain good relationships with adjacent landowners, and visitors (photographers in particular) are requested not to trespass on private land to view the railway.


The rebuilding of the Welsh Highland is divided into four phases, thus:

  From ... To (North to South) Status
Phase 1 Caernarfon - Dinas Opened 1997
Phase 2 Dinas - Waunfawr Opened 2000
Phase 3 Waunfawr - Rhyd Ddu Opened 2003
Phase 4 Rhyd Ddu - Porthmadog Opened progressively, final stage opened late 2010


This route description is split into sections in the interests of faster downloads:-

I. Caernarfon to Dinashow it was built

II. Dinas to Waunfawr - how it was rebuilt

The Bryngwyn Branch - now a footpath in part

III. Waunfawr to Rhyd Dduhow it was rebuilt

IV. Rhyd Ddu to Beddgelert how it was rebuilt

  V. Beddgelert to Porthmadog how it was rebuilt

Upper parts of the Croesor Tramway - not to be rebuilt

Information on subsequent maintenance and development of the route


Aerial Photographs

A series of large pictures showing most of the route from Caernarfon to Portmadog from a light aircraft can be found here.


Notes for loco crews

Loco Crew Supervisor Peter Lawson has created a very detailed document giving an introduction to the route from Caernarfon to Rhyd Ddu for loco crews - but we think it will be of much wider interest. As this is a large PDF file (556KB) you may prefer to right-click on the link below and save a copy of the file locally. A further document published more recently covers Rhyd Ddu to Porthmadog.


Place names

These descriptions use the modern spellings of places on the WHR route; some of these differ from the often semi-anglicised forms commonly used in earlier periods of WHR history, such as Carnarvon or Caernarvon, Waenfawr, Quellyn Lake, Tremadoc, and Portmadoc; however the form "Porthmadoc" found in some sources is something of a mystery as the town has never been spelled this way. If you feel the need, see the page of hints about pronunciations.


Detailed Historical Maps

Those wanting detailed maps of the route of the railway - and feedback suggests there are plenty of you - are recommended to visit Steve Harris's maps site. This is based on Ordnance Survey 1:2500 (25" to the mile) maps of c.1916 as prepared more recently under the auspices of Trackbed Consolidation Ltd, showing the constituent parts of the WHR as then existing:

The individual maps are large downloads (typically 300-400K). The site also has details of how to get the maps on CD-ROM.

It should be noted that parts of the route south of Rhyd Ddu may not be completely accurate, particularly in Beddgelert Forest, where recent investigations suggest that previous assumptions about details of the route are not quite right. The sections of the WHR completed in the 1920s and dismantled in 1941 were never mapped by the Ordnance Survey.


Gradient profiles


This graphic shows a simplified gradient profile of the WHR route from Caernarfon to Porthmadog ( FR Company). The detailed version as surveyed for the WHR Project is available (should open in a separate window which will update as you choose a new section), either in seven sections -

[One] [Two] [Three] [Four] [Five] [Six] [Seven]

- or as one complete file file if you prefer (70K).

These files are J.C. Sreeves (thanks to Steve Harris for extraction from CAD format), and derived from originals scaled at 1:2500 Horizontal, 1:250 Vertical.

The profiles can be viewed in conjunction with maps at Steve Harris's site (see above), starting here.


Statutory Instruments

The hard-won legal documents authorising the rebuilding and operation of the Welsh Highland are available in online form. While not the easiest of reading for the layman, they are important as documents of record and offer numerous detail clarifications about the implementation of the WHR Project.


"Extras":


There are two other descriptions of the WHR route (Dinas-Porthmadog) on the Web, both well worth a visit:-


Back to WHR Project homepage
Authored by Ben Fisher who last updated it December 31st, 2008.  Last updated on 29th  December 2011 by David Tidy