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Thursday, 26 July 2012

Fairbourne Railway

In a nutshell

Gauge: 12¼"

Length:  2 miles

Opened: 1895 (as 2' gauge tramway) converted to 15" gauge in 1916. Closed in 1940. Reopened in 1947. Re-gauged to 12¼" in 1986.


Fairbourne Railway,
Beach Road,
LL38 2EX.
Tel: +44 (0) 1341 250 362
Fax: +44 (0) 1341 250 240

View Larger Map


Date of visit:   24 July 2012

Key Facts

  • Originally built as a 2' gauge horsedrawn tramway to convey building materials and then passengers
  • It was converted to a 15" miniature railway in 1916 by Wenman (Wynne) Joseph  Bassett-Lowke, a pioneer of early miniature railways. This railway became a test-bed for some of his ideas along with the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway (See also - 15" gauge railway chronology).
  • Some locomotives are half-size replicas of narrow gauge originals (eg Lynton & Barnstaple - Yeo; Darjeeling & Himalaya Class B - Sherpa; NWNGR - Beddglelert; WHR - Russell)
  •  There is a passenger ferry linking the end of the railway with Barmouth on the other side of the estuary.
  • The railway has had a troubled history and is presently facing problems owing to the death of one of its owners.



My Impressions

The station buildings in Fairbourne are well organised and the café provides a very satisfying cup of coffee. There is a relaxed and friendly atmosphere with staff pleasant and welcoming. There is even a G Scale model railway with free entry.

 There were two trains running the services on the day we visited, one hauled by L&B replica Yeo

and the other hauled by the D&HR Class B replica, Sherpa.
The journey along by the sea wall and into the sand-dunes is a delight - including a tunnel through the dunes - with spectacular views up the Mawddach estuary to Cader Idris and the Cambrian Coast main line railway bridge across the river.
Apologies for quality - still shot from video
At the end of the line is another café and the possibility of taking the passenger ferry across the estuary to Barmouth where there are plenty of places to eat and all the usual amenities of a small seaside resort.

Although there is a return-loop at the esturary end of the railway, this was not being used on the day we visited. The locos were running round their trains and running bunker-first back up the line.

The locos and stock are well turned-out and there is an air of professionalism and pride among the staff whom we encountered on our visit.

If you have not yet visited the railway, I would strongly urge you to do so and lend your support. There is some uncertainty as to the future the railway and it would be a great shame to lose this fascinating and historically significant miniature railway.


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