The Welsh Highland Railway
8 pm Thursday
The Welsh Highland Railway, at 27 miles, is Britain’s longest heritage railway. Andy Savage described how the Railway, a narrow gauge line that linked Porthmadog with Snowdonia and a northern terminus three miles south of Caernarfon, grew from a series of minor narrow gauge railways built between 1828 and 1912.
The Welsh Highland Railway was completed and opened in 1923, supported by the local MP and Prime Minister, David Lloyd-George. The railway was a commercial failure, going into receivership in 1927 and closing to traffic in 1936. The track was lifted in 1942, but the company remained in receivership and continued to own the land. In the 1980s the neighbouring Ffestiniog Railway decided to restore the railway, and to extend it north to Caernarfon. Andy described the sequence of reopening, and the engineering problems involved, before going on to note how the Ffestiniog had subsequently developed the railway in operation. The rebuilding of the Welsh Highland cost an initial £27m, and contributes some £15m a year to the economy of North Wales; indeed, the First Minister has commented that it was the best single investment the Welsh Assembly Government has ever made.
Andy, until recently the Chairman of Avenue House Estate Trust, is a career railwayman. He joined British Rail as a trainee Civil Engineer in 1970, and retired as Deputy Chief Inspector of Railway Accident Investigation at the start of 2010. Since then he has worked as Executive Director of the Railway Heritage Trust, giving grants for the restoration of listed stations and structures across the UK.
The meeting took place at Avenue House, located in Stephens House and Gardens, 17 East End Road, Finchley N3 3QE.