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Sunday, 20 May 2012

Bala Lake Railway

In a Nutshell

Gauge: 2'

Length:  9 miles

Opened: 13 Aug 1972

Location: Llanwchllyn,Gwynedd


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Yr Orsaf / The Station
Llanuwchllyn
Gwynedd
LL23 7DD

Web: www.bala-lake-railway.co.uk
Email
.
balalake@btconnect.com

 

Dates of visits: 19 May 2012, 27 May 2012

 

Key Facts

  • The railway was originally part of the standard gauge line from Corwen to Dolgelley.
  •  The line possesses five steam locomotives which are former 0-4-0 Hunslet quarry locomotives from the Dinorwic slate quarries.
  • The line also has three diesels
  • The railway runs for most of its length along the banks of Bala Lake

  Route

Map of the line: Courtesy Bala Lake Railway [http://www.bala-lake-railway.co.uk/images/railwayroute.jpg]

My Impressions

 Although I have visited the railway several times I have not been systematic in taking photos or video. On this occasion I started my visit at Bala station where the 1.25pm train was due to arrive. After the arrival of the train, the loco (maid Marian) ran round its train,
Hunslet 0-4-0 Maid Marian runs round its train at Bala Station
 before coupling up and departing for Llanuwchylln.
Main Marian about to depart Bala Station
 I then pursued the train by car to take snapshots and video clips at various locations along the line.
Maid Marian approaching Bryn Hynod Halt
I eventually caught up with the train at the line's southern terminus and main station, Llanuwchllyn where I was able to buy a guide, have a coffee and watch the run-round process.
Maid Marian at Llanwchllyn Station
Maid Marian;s footplate


Maid Marian ready to depart from Llanwchllyn
 Following departure, I once more pursued the train on its way back to Bala and got some more snaps and clips.
Maid Marian between Bryn Hynod Halt and Bala


Further up the line towards Bala Station
Maid Marian approaching Bala Station
If you like seeing Hunslet quarry locos in action then this railway will appeal. They run steam hauled trains most days during the operating season (see timetable on their website) and have specials days when they have several locos in steam. I found the staff to be extremely friendly and helpful - I felt to be almost part of the family! There are no facilities at Bala station but the main station at Llanuwchllyn has a small cafe and souvenir shop, as well as a signal box which can be visited. As can be seen, the railway is very photogenic - with plenty of good vantage points on the roadside to get good shots with the lake as a backdrop.

Video



Unfortunately on this first visit, once I had taken the lineside shots, I had insufficient time to take a ride on the railway. It looks as if I am destined for a return visit.


Return visit (27/5/12)
 On my second visit I ensured there was time to travel the line. We left the car at Llanuwchllyn, enjoyed a leisurely coffee and I had time to see the loco for the day (Alice) steaming-up in the loco shed.



Visiting the loco shed is positively encouraged though those taking photos are strongly encouraged to leave a contribution to funds in the donations box. Here we see 'Maid Marian' which was on duty during my previous visit, ........

....... Holy War - another former Dinorwic quarry Hunslet ........

.... and Winifred, the line's most recent addition.

After a quick tour around the yard - a goldmine for anyone interested in modelling narrow gauge railways .......


....... then back to the platform to board the train.

The train rattled along the line at a sedate pace. The railway staff have a very relaxed attitude and yet are efficient and affable. For example, at Llangower station a few minutes were spent talking about the railway and the timetable with some holiday-makers who seemed pleasantly surprised to see a steam train chugging along.

After watching the run-round process at Bala, we set off along the southern scenic footpath gaining some interesting views of the lake and distant views of the railway.


 However, after a couple of miles along the path, the lure of the railway dragged us back off the hillside and down to the lakes for a few more pictures and video clips.

Bracket signal at Llangower station
Pentrepiod Halt

Llanuwchllyn Station
There is a variety of footpaths which can be taken along the valley, ranging from 'easy' to 'moderate'. See http://www.visitbala.org/things_to_do/walks

Another coffee (and cake) and whilst we awaited the departure of the 4.00pm train, I took the opportunity to visit the signal box.



What else is there to say? This railway is a delight to visit. Its informality and the welcoming attitude of its staff, together with the setting for the railway, make this railway a must-see for anyone interested in narrow gauge railways. I can thoroughly recommend the coffee and the carrot cake - 'nuff said!