The Infrastructure Department of the Festiniog and Welsh Highland Railways has produced an ambitious Autumn and Winter maintenance plan. This is in response to the restrictions placed on the railway by the Pandemic and the need to operate trains to produce a healthy revenue.
We are pleased with the success of our services on both railways but are very much aware that we need a far reaching maintenance plan not only to continue with routine work but also to deal with improvements which covid “lockdown” prevented us from doing last year. The plan includes laying new track, signals and telegraph work and improvements to our buildings.
The most labour intensive work will be the re-railing and re-sleepering of stretches of track between Tan y Bwlch (the Ffestiniog’s halfway station) and Rhiw Goch (which has an important passing loop) and also between Rhiwplas Bridge (where the main road between Porthmadog and Dolgellau passes over the railway) and Boston Lodge. The sleepers being used are plastic ( their main constituent is re-cycled plastic milk bottles) which last far longer than conventional ones, are difficult to distinguish from wooden ones, can be re-cycled if necessary, and, of course save the use of valuable hardwoods.
The Signals and Telegraph Department which is part of the infrastructure Department is working at Tan y Bwlch to make the “run round” much easier. Tan y Bwlch has been extensively used with our Covid services this year as well as last. The work includes improvements at the Porthmadog end of the station to allow a safe “run round ”without having to use the token ,the installation of a wrong line departure signal and improvements to the track circuiting. The S+T Department also has work to do at Rhiw Goch installing a mains electrical cable from Rhiw Goch Farm Crossing to improve the power supply and a fibre optic cable to upgrade the signal box’s IT capability.
The Buildings Department will be working in the Harbour station to deal with some water leaks and the scaffolding will be in position until all the work has been carried out. In addition there will be some general maintenance to maintain the high standard of the facilities. Once the Company Board has decided on the nature of next year’s train service the department will improve facilities at Beddgelert and Tan y Bwlch. Blaenau Ffestiniog station has already been “spruced up” during the lockdown period.
Lineside maintenance is an ongoing problem because the Welsh climate encourages prolific vegetation growth which causes damage to rolling stock and unnecessary work for the Carriage Department. On the Welsh Highland once the trains have stopped running there will be a concentrated effort to work on the section between Caernarfon and Dinas providing the weather permits and if this work is successful then the section between Dinas and Waunfawr will be tackled. Work on the Festiniog will include protecting the pole route and opening up the viewing windows through the woods.
From the preceding paragraphs you can see that the various parts of the Infrastructure Department have a great deal of work to do. This explains why the Festiniog will be closed when the daily service finishes and will not re-open until March next year. There will be train services on the Welsh Highland both from Caernarfon and Porthmadog. Please look at our web-site to see what services are available. The railway is always keen to attract new volunteers in all departments including the Infrastructure Department.