The Bala Lake Railway - 2004-07-18

Bala Lake Railway

The Bala Lake Railway (Welsh: Rheilffordd Llyn Tegid) is a narrow-gauge railway along the southern shore of Bala Lake in Gwynedd, North Wales. The line, which is Template:Convert long, is built on a section of the former standard-gauge Ruabon–Barmouth GWR route that closed in 1965. Another section of the former permanent way is used by the Llangollen Railway. The Bala Lake Railway, which runs on Template:RailGauge-gauge preserved rolling stock, is a member of the Great Little Trains of Wales.

The railway now has the largest collection of historic narrow-gauge quarry locomotives built specifically for the slate industry in North Wales by the Hunslet Engine Company in Leeds.


Standard Gauge

The narrow-gauge Bala Lake railway uses the permanent way of the former standard-gauge GWR Ruabon–Barmouth line. The railway, which opened in August 1868, was built by the Bala and Dolgelley Railway Company. Its original Template:Convert route ran between the Corwen & Bala Railway at Template:Rws and Cambrian Railways' station at Template:Rws. In 1877 it became part of the network operated by Great Western (GWR). In 1896 Template:Rws was redeveloped with the addition of a passing loop and second platform, extended building and a new signal box.

Passenger services through Bala Junction ceased on Monday 18 January 1965 when the line from Template:Rws to Template:Rws was closed. Although originally earmarked for dieselisation by the Western Region of British Railways in the early 1960s, the Template:Rws to Bala–Barmouth line was included in the 1963 Beeching Report. Traffic on the line was gradually reduced and facilities rationalised; the last scheduled through-rail service was the mail train from Template:Rws in December 1964. Long-distance holiday charter trains and through freight traffic were diverted on to the Cambrian main line via Template:Rws. Goods traffic finally ceased on 1 January 1968 when the branch at Pontcysyllte was closed.

Narrow gauge

By 1969 the track had been lifted. But reuse of the line as a narrow-gauge railway began when local engineer, George Barnes, saw the potential of the lakeside section for both local and tourist traffic. With the help of the Tom Jones CBE, Chairman of Merioneth County Council's Finance Committee, they established Rheilffordd Llyn Tegid Ltd, the first company in Wales to be registered exclusively in the Welsh language.

Bala Lake Railway opened on 13 August 1972. In its first season, it operated a small industrial diesel engine with two open carriages on Template:Convert of track between Llanuwchllyn and Pentrepiod.

Extension work continued throughout this period with the help of local ex-British Rail employees. The line was extended to Llangower by the start of 1973. In 1975 the line reached a new temporary station at Pant-yr-hen-felin.[1]

The following year the line reached Bala (Llyn Tegid), now known as Bala (Penybont). Expansion plans were to extend the line into Bala's town centre, with this final section opening in 1981. However, these plans were abandoned early in that year.[2]

The canopy at Llanuwchllyn was built in 1979 with supports which were made for the Cambrian Railways station at Pwllheli, but were relocated to Aberdovey in 1907 when Pwllheli station was moved. The stations along the line are:

  • Llanuwchllyn, includes the main buildings, workshops and railway offices.
  • Pentrepiod Halt, an operational request stop.
  • Glan Llyn Halt, a limited-use station, open only during the Halloween and Santa Special train services.
  • Llangower, principal intermediate station that all trains stop at. It has a passing loop for two-train services.
  • Bryn Hynod Halt, a request stop that closed in 2011 (platform demolished in February 2012).
  • Bala (Penybont), terminus located near the town of Bala.

The company now has the largest collection of historic narrow-gauge quarry locomotives built by the West Yorkshire Hunslet Engine Company specifically for the North Wales' slate industry.

Future developments and expansion

In 2010, the company revived plans to complete the final Template:Convert of the railway to Bala town centre. The Red Dragon Project, under the auspices of the Bala Lake Railway Trust, has been established to build the £2.5 million extension.[3] The plans also include: a new engine shed and visitor centre as well as rebuilding of the carriage shed. In March 2017, the Trust announced that it had acquired the land required for the new railway's new terminus in the town.[4]

Rolling stock

File:Maid Marian Bala.jpg
File:Llangower Bala Lake Railway geograph-3283026-by-Ben-Brooksbank.jpg

Steam locomotives currently in use or stored on the line are:

  • Maid Marian, works number 822 (in use). Arrived on the line 1975. It has twice undergone overhaul supported by her owners, the Maid Marian Locomotive Fund.[5]
  • Holy War, works number 779 (in use). Arrived on the line 1975, serviceable 1979.
  • Alice, works number 780 (in use). Bought initially for spares for Holy War, restored to its own right in 1994.
  • Winifred, works number 364 (in use). It was repatriated to the UK from a warehouse at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the USA in April 2012.[6] It has since been restored to working condition.[7]
  • George B, works number 680. Entered service in April 2017.[8]

All locos were built by the Hunslet Engine Company for the Dinorwic and Penrhyn Quarries. The numerous Hunslet slate quarry steam locomotives have led the railway to market itself as the home of the Hunslet.[9]

Until late 2011, Peckett 0-6-0st Triassic was stored on the Bala Lake Railway, was relocated to the Statfold Barn Railway during the overhauls of Winifred and George B due to storage space issues, but returned in Summer 2016.[10]

The four main diesel locomotives are:[11]

  • Meirionydd, a Bo-Bo diesel-hydrostatic locomotive built by Severn Lamb of Stratford-upon-Avon in 1973, and based on a Western class standard-gauge locomotive outline
  • Trigger (Bob Davies), a Baguley Drewery, works no. 780, which is the railway's main standby diesel, used to haul out of season trains, for yard shunting and goods or works train haulage, which was built as 2 ft 6in gauge for the Royal Navy at Fishguard, purchased by Pete Briddon's Yorkshire Engine Company, regauged to 2 ft, and named 'Bob Davies' in honour of a remarkable local railwayman
  • Chilmark, Ruston & Hornsby, works no. 194771, the oldest of the railway's diesels (a 40DL diesel mechanical 3-speed built in 1939 for the Air Ministry), used by the Royal Air Force for hauling explosives and ammunition at RAF Chilmark, Wiltshire
  • Lady Madcap, a Ruston & Hornsby 20DL, which sees only occasional use for light shunting and ballast ploughing.

A new addition to the fleet is a track maintenance trolley in the style of a standard-gauge Wickham trolley.

Current and former locomotives

Locomotive Name Locomotive Type Year Built Builder Works Number Notes
Current Steam Locomotives
Winifred 0-4-0 ST 1885 Hunslet Engine Co 364 In service. Relaunched 13 April 2015, by Pete Waterman.[12]
George B 0-4-0 ST 1898 Hunslet Engine Co 680 In service. Underwent an extensive restoration that was completed in 2017.
Holy War 0-4-0 ST 1902 Hunslet Engine Co 779 At Bala since 1975, first worked 1979. In service. Overhauled in 2015.
Alice 0-4-0 ST 1902 Hunslet Engine Co 780 In service. Overhauled in 2010.
Maid Marian 0-4-0 ST 1903 Hunslet Engine Co 822 At Bala since 1975. In service. Overhauled in May 2017 and was returned to original open-cab form.
Triassic 0-6-0 ST 1911 Peckett 1270 At Bala from 1992. In service from 2008. Left Bala 2011. Returned 2016. Stored.
Former Steam Locomotives
Diana 0-4-0 T 1917 Kerr Stuart 1158 In service for the 2016 season.
Lilla 0-4-0 ST 1891 Hunslet Engine Co 554 Sold to Ffestiniog Railway in 1997.
Jonathan 0-4-0 ST 1898 Hunslet Engine Co 678 Left Bala in 1986.
Dryw Bach or Ashover 0-4-0 ST 1918 Kerr Stuart 3114 Now in the Vale of Rheidol Railway collection.
Helen Kathryn 0-4-0 T 1948 Kassel, Germany 28035 At Bala from first opening until 1975. Moved to Llanberis Lake Railway and now on South Tynedale Railway in Cumbria.
Current Diesel Locomotives
Chilmark 4W DM 1939 Ruston & Hornsby 194771
Lady Madcap 4W DM Ruston & Hornsby Light duties.
Bob Davies 4W DM Baguley Drewery 780 Built for the Royal Navy. Passenger & engineers' locomotive.
Merionnydd Bo-Bo 1973 Severn-Lamb 22 Diesel hydrostatic double-cabbed locomotive. Passenger locomotive. Built specifically for line.
Wickham trolley 4W trolley A track inspection trolley in the style of a Wickham trolley.
Former Diesel Locomotives
Goofy 4W DM 1930 Hudson 38384
"No 2" 4W DM 1936 Ruston & Hornsby 182137
4W DM 1938 Ruston & Hornsby 189972
Indian Runner "No 3" 4W DM 1940 Ruston & Hornsby 200744 Built for gravel works. Moved to Bala in 1977. Left Bala in 2004. (Named Invicta until 1981.)
Cernyw "No 11" 4W DM 1940 Ruston & Hornsby 200748
Flaxen 4W DM 1942 Ruston & Hornsby 209430
4W DM 1949 Ruston & Hornsby 283512
4W DM 1934 Motor Rail 5821
4W DM 1939 Hunslet Engine Co 1974
4W DM 1942 Hibberd 2544
4W DM 1949 Lister-Blackstone 34025 Left Bala in 2001 (to Devon Railway Centre).
Alister "No 2" 4W DM 1958 Lister-Blackstone 44052 Moved to London Museum of Water & Steam

See also


  1. Steam '82 directory, edited by Roger Crombleholme and Terry Kirtland, published 1981 by Allen & Unwin (London), Template:ISBN, entry 304.
  2. Statement of G H Barnes (General Manager) in Steam '81 directory, edited by Roger Crombleholme and Terry Kirtland, published 1981 by Allen & Unwin (London), Template:ISBN, entry 304.
  3. Template:Cite web
  4. Template:Cite news
  5. Template:Cite web
  6. Template:Cite news
  7. Template:Cite web
  8. Template:Cite news
  9. See the full list at this Template:Webarchive supporters' society webpage.
  10. Template:Cite web
  11. See data and illustrations at the official webpage.
  12. Eryl Grump: Bala Lake Railway steaming ahead with more visitors in 2015. Daily Post, Trinity Mirror Merseyside, 5 June 2015.

External links

Template:Commons category

Template:Heritage railways in Wales

Template:Coord Template:Use dmy dates

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