Why we need volunteers

The permanent way is, perhaps, the most important part of the infrastructure of a railway. Most of the track over the 25 miles of the WHR has been laid by volunteers.  Of the final twelve miles from Rhyd Ddu to Harbour Station contractors laid the in-street sections in Porthmadog and the Network Rail crossing at Cae Pawb but, those apart, volunteers have been responsible for all the rest.

The Company employs a small team of paid staff to look after the permanent way so the volunteer gangs that laid the track have now evolved into maintenance gangs to help the employed staff. The work volunteers carry out is varied in both what they do and where they do it. A volunteer can find him or herself greasing fishplates at Caernarfon one daythen doing important track alignment work near Porthmadog the next.

You will be welcome

If you have an interest in working on the track or even if you just want to see what it’s all about you will be welcome to join us. Yes, you need to be reasonably fit but not massively so. We have lighter jobs as well as those which need some muscle power.   You do not need to be a member of Cymdeithas Rheilffordd Eryri or the Ffestiniog Railway Society or any other railway oriented organisation. You do not even need to be interested in the WHR or railways generally. A willingness to join in on an important project in a marvellous part of the world and to work with interesting people is one of the key factors to your enjoying the experience.Lunchtime for our Volunteer track workers (Photo: John Williams)

Our volunteers, male and female, are of all ages from students to the retired, though we do ask that you are over 16. They come from a multitude of backgrounds, some with railway experience, others with none. We will teach you the skills you need to do the tasks that volunteers undertake.

Our volunteers come from all over. Some live locally, others coming from much further afield, not only from the UK but with France, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, Ireland, Hong Kong, Canada and the USA all feature in our volunteer address list.

We ask you to complete an information form to tell us a bit about you.  You can do this on your first visit but preferably before you come. The form can be downloaded from this web site here, alternatively email or phone the Trackwork Volunteers Co-ordinator, details on the Track Work 'Contact Details' page, and he will send you a copy. You will receive a short induction the first time you join us.  All you need to do to arrange your first visit is to contact the Trackwork Volunteer Co-Ordinator or the leader of the Trackgang you wish to join in with. Their contact details are all on the Track Work 'Contact Details' page.

When to come

Most volunteer track work activity takes place at the weekends, but not all of it. The North Wales Gang, otherwise known as the Black Hand Gang whose members are mainly but not exclusively from North Wales, and the Rest of the World Gang (speaks for itself, doesn’t it?) work on alternate weekends. This means that there is a volunteer track gang out there doing important work on the permanent way pretty well every weekend. Another gang, the Tuesday Gang keeps busy every Tuesday. Sometimes long weekends running from a Friday to the following Monday are organised as well as working “weeks”, Monday through to Friday.

So, there are plenty of opportunities to join in.  We continue to need plenty of help from our volunteers. If you have worked with us before and not paid us a visit recently, now is the time to do so. If you have not tried track work on the WHR previously, come and see how we do things.

Work Programme

The dates of our various working parties are on the Track Work dates page and contact details for the organisers can be found on the Track Work Contact Details page.

Where to stay

There are a number of bunk houses and some hostel type accommodation in the area as well as B&Bs and guest houses. Volunteers may also be able to stay at the Minffordd Hostel operated for the Ffestiniog Railway but it is essential to book in advance as sometimes the hostel can be oversubscribed especially at the busier 'holiday' times of the year. 


You will need some suitable work clothes including safety boots and work gloves as well as Hi-vis and waterproof clothing. Full details are in the Useful Information section, All these items can be purchased from Workwear clothing suppliers such as Arco.


There is more information by way of the “Your Questions answered” document - follow the Useful Information link in the Track Work section. If you want to get further information or have any queries or, better still, you want to book yourself in to a working party, please contact the Trackwork Volunteers Co-ordinator, Welsh Highland Railway - Contact details are on the Track Work Contact Details page 

Paul Bradshaw