Fairbourne Railway

Fairbourne Railway

Heritage Railway
name = Fairbourne Railway

caption = Official Crest of the railway
locale = flagicon|WAL Wales
terminus = Fairbourne and Barmouth Ferry
linename = Fairbourne Miniature Railway
builtby = Narrow Gauge Railways Ltd
originalgauge = RailGauge|15
preservedgauge = 1895-1916: RailGauge|24
1916-1986: RailGauge|15
1986-Present: RailGauge|12.25
era =
owned =
operator = Fairbourne Railway Limited, supported by Fairbourne Railway Preservation Society
stations = 2 and 4 halts
length = 2 miles
originalopen = 1895
closed = 1940
reopened = 1947
converted to RailGauge|15 = 1916
converted to RailGauge|12.25 = 1986
stageyears = 1925
stage = Arrival of Bassett-Lowke locomotive "Count Louis"
years1 = 1927
events1 = Brief period of dual gauge operation (15 and 18ins)
years2 = 1935
events2 = First Internal Combustion locomotive "Whippit Quick" arrives.
years3 = 1947
events3 = Purchased and re-opened by John Wilkins
years4 = 1959
events4 = Fairbourne Station expanded
years5 = 1976
events5 = Line extended to its present length
years6 = 1984
events6 = Purchased by John Ellerton and regauged to RailGauge|12.25
years7 = 1995
events7 = Purchased by Professor Tony Atkinson and Dr Roger Melton
years8 = 2006
events8 = Fairbourne Railway Supporter's Association becomes Fairbourne Railway Preservation Society

The Fairbourne Railway is a RailGauge|12.25 gauge miniature railway running for 2 miles from the village of Fairbourne on the Mid-Wales coast, alongside the beach to the end of a peninsula at Barmouth Ferry where there is a connection with a pedestrian ferry across the Mawddach estuary to the seaside resort of Barmouth ( _cy. Abermaw). cite web |title=Fairbourne Railway History page |url=http://www.fairbournerailway.com/railway-history.htm]


The line has provided a service between Fairbourne village and Penrhyn Point since 1895 opening as RailGauge|24 gauge horse-drawn construction tramway. It was converted in 1916 to RailGauge|15 gauge, and again to its present gauge in 1986. Originally built to carry building materials, the railway has carried holidaymakers for over a hundred years. At its peak in the 1970s it was carrying in excess of 70,000 passengers a year. [cite book |title=Rails Through The Sand|author=W J Milner|publisher=Rail Romances|year=1996]

The Early days - Fairbourne Tramway

Following the construction of the Cambrian Coast Line in 1865 and the completion of the Barmouth Bridge in 1867 there were lavish schemes to develop the area for tourism, the area being easily accessible to day-trippers and weekend visitors from the Midlands. cite web |title=Mawddach Cresent History page |url=http://members.aol.com/fquirk202/page42.html]

There were several horse drawn construction tramway in the area serving the Henddol Quarry above the neighbouring village of Friog. The tramway that was used to construct the Fairbourne village soon introduced passenger cars to transport people to the ferry station.

The Pioneering Days - Fairbourne Miniature Railway

The line was converted to a 15 inch gauge steam railway in 1916 by Wenman Joseph Bassett-Lowke of Narrow Gauge Railways Ltd (NGR)They were keen to promote tourism in the area. The railway played an important part in the development of the 15 inch gauge railways in the UK. Services were operated by Bassett Lowke Class 10 locomotive "Prince Edward of Wales" designed by Henry Greenly and passengers were conveyed in four open top carriages.

The railway had mixed fortunes during the inter war years and went through a series of changes in ownership. At one time it was leased to the ferrymen. The railway experienced motive power problems and at one stage experimented with dual gauge track after purchasing an RailGauge|18 gauge locomotive. This was a model of a GNR Stirling 4-2-2. A third rail was laid as far as the Golf Course.

The line closed in 1940 after operating its final year with "Whippit Quick" a Lister 'Railtruck' petrol locomotive as the steam locomotive "Count Louis" was out of service.

The Wilkins Era - 1947-1984

The railway was rescued by a consortium of businessmen from the Midlands in 1946 and after rebuilding, was reopened by 1947. The line's owner John Wilkins funded the redevelopment of the railway and the purchase of new steam locomotives. The line's heyday was in the 1960s and early 1970s but the advent of mass foreign holidays meant there was a steady decline in passenger numbers during the 1970s and 1980s.

The Ellerton Era - 1984-1995

The line was sold again in 1984 to the Ellerton family and underwent dramatic changes to the infrastructure which included construction of a new station at Fairbourne and the re-gauging to 12¼ inches in 1986. Four new steam locomotives were introduced and most of the 15 inch locomotives left the site. Two of the new locomotives had run on the Réseau Guerlédan Chemin de Fer Touristique in Brittany, France in 1978. All four steam locomotives are half sized replicas of narrow gauge engines: "Yeo", "Sherpa", "Beddgelert" and "Russell". Of the extant 15 in gauge locomotives only "Sylvia" (rebuilt as Lilian Walter) remained. Most of the 15 inch gauge locomotives are still intact and have found homes on lines around world.

In 1990 the railway built their first steam locomotive, Number 24, a replica of a locomotive from the Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes Railroad in Maine. The locomotive has since left the line and now operates on the Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway in Lincolnshire.

The railway was again put up for sale in 1990 and the line's fortunes appeared to be declining once more. During the five years it was up for sale the railway deteriorated dramatically.

Present: 1995 onwards

The current owners Professor and Mrs Atkinson and Dr & Mrs Melton bought the line in April 1995. There has since been considerable investment in the railway improving the reliability of the locomotives and the quality of the track, and a new attraction, the Rowen Nature Centre was set up at Fairbourne station. In 2007 some of the displays were changed to accommodate a large G scale model railway which is gradually being added to and improved by local model engineers. cite web |title=G Scale Model Railway |url=http://www.fairbournerailway.com/rowen-nature-centre.htm]

Preservation Society

Like most heritage railways, the Fairbourne Railway has an active volunteer society: Fairbourne Railway Preservation Society (formerly the Fairbourne Railway Supporter's Association). The society are actively involved with the running of services and maintaining the locomotives, rolling stock, stations and track work. cite web |title=Preservation Society |url=http://www.fairbournerailway.com/steam-railway-preservation-society.htm]


For hundreds of years the ferry has been providing a crossing service over the Mawddach estuary and was originally operated by monks. In recent years it has been operated by independent operators. During the summer of 2007 the Railway Company acquired a ferry boat and commenced operating its own ferry service in July 2007. The new ferry boat "Y Chuff" was bought to ensure that a reliable service across the harbour to Barmouth would operate even during quiet periods of the season. cite web |title=Ferry Service|url=http://www.fairbournerailway.com/barmouth-ferry.htm]

tations and facilities

Former locomotives

12¼ Inch Gauge

Rolling Stock


The railway has a fleet of about 20 passenger carriages, most of which are wooden bodies examples originating from the Réseau Guerlédan. The standard livery is blue and cream, although some examples still carry maroon or brown and cream however these liveries are gradually being phased out.


There are a small pool of goods vehicles in use for engineering works.




* Boyd J. I. C.; "Narrow Gauge Railways in Mid Wales", 1965.
* Buck, S; "Siân and Katie - The Twining Sisters", Siân Project Group, 1995
* Buck, S; "E. W. Twining, Modelmaker, Artist & Engineer", Landmark Publishing, 2004 ISBN 1-84306-143-0
* Butcher, Alan C. (ed); "Railways Restored 2005". Ian Allan Publishing Co, Hersham, Surrey, 2005. ISBN 0711030537
* Milner, W.J.; "Rails through the Sand". Rail Romances, Chester, 1996. ISBN 1-900622-00-9
* Wilkins J; "Fairbourne Railway - A Short History of It's Development and Progress, c1961
* Fairbourne Railway; "Souvenir Guide Book", 2005.


* "One Foot Between The Rails" published quarterly by the Fairbourne Railway Preservation Society.


* "Tracks in the Sand" The Story of the Fairbourne Railway - A film by Eric Montague [http://tracksinthesand.co.uk Website]

External links

* [http://www.fairbournerailway.com Official web site]
* [http://fairbourne.fotopic.net Return to the Ferry photo gallery]
* [http://fairbournephotos.fotopic.net Fairbourne Railway Fotopic Gallery]
* Maps and photos of: Fairbourne - gbmapping|SH615128 and Barmouth Ferry - mmuknr photo|261685|314985|10|SH616149

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