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The First Narrow Gauge Railway to be Built on an Ex BR Trackbed
The nominal 2’ gauge Bala Lake Railway (Rheilffordd Llyn Tegid) is a delightful little
4½ mile line running alongside Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake) in the beautiful Snowdonia
National Park. The trains are hauled by historic Welsh steam locomotives.
The Bala Lake Railway was built on the trackbed of the former Ruabon to Barmouth
Line which was closed by British Railways in 1965. It was the first narrow gauge
railway to be built on an abandoned British Railways trackbed.
1868 - The railway between Bala and Dolgellau, built by the Bala & Dolgelley Railway
Company (English spelling used for the latter place) opened. The railway joined the
Corwen and Bala Railway at Bala, and to the Aberystwyth and Welsh Coast Railway at
Dolgellau. It completed the line from Ruabon to Barmouth Junction (now Morfa Mawddach).
1877 - The Bala & Dolgelley Railway, along with the other railways which formed the
Ruabon to Barmouth line, was absorbed into the Great Western Railway which had operated
it from the outset.
1948 - The Great Western railway became the Western Region of British Railways. After
nationalisation, most of the railway's traffic was diverted to the former Cambrian
Railways line between Welshpool and Machynlleth
1963 - The Ex Great Western lines in North Wales were transferred to the London Midland
1964 - The Ruabon to Barmouth Line was closed to freight and the section from Ruabon
to Bala Junction was prematurely closed to all traffic due to flooding.
1965 - The Line was closed to passenger traffic.
1969 - Track lifting was completed. A local engineer, George Barnes conceived the
idea of building a narrow gauge line alongside Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid) and approached
Tom Jones CBE, an influential resident of Llanuwchllyn and Chairman of Merioneth
County Council's Finance Committee.
1971 - George Barnes, Tom Jones and others formed Rheilffordd Llyn Tegid Cyf (Bala
Lake Railway Ltd), the first company to be registered in the Welsh language, to build
a 2’ gauge railway.
1972 - Tracklaying commenced and the first 1¼ mile section from Llanuwchllyn opened
on 13 August.
1975 - Regular steam services commenced when Hunslet 0-4-0STs Maid Marian and Holy
War arrived on the line, although the latter did not enter traffic until 1979.
1976 - The final section of the Bala Lake Railway to Bala (Penybont), ½ mile from
the centre of Bala, was opened. It has always been the railway’s intension to extend
the line into the town but it is yet to be built. The supporting Bala Lake Railway
Society was formed, volunteers from the society have played an increasing role over
the years in operating the railway.
1979 - The canopy at Llanuwchllyn was built with supports which were made for the
Cambrian Railways station at Pwllheli, but were moved to Aberdovey in 1907 when Pwllheli
station was moved.
1989 - Wooden platform at Llangower replaced by new concrete structure
Attractions and Facilities
Llanuwchllyn - Railway HQ and maintenance facilities, original GWR signal box often
open to the public. Refreshment room, gift shop, picnic tables, toilets, free car
Llangower - Station is close to Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid). Adjacent car park, picnic
area and toilets provided by Snowdonia National Park. Good starting point for walks
by the lake.
Bala - No facilities except waiting shelter at station, only on-road (narrow) parking
available. Bala town centre (½ mile) with shops, restaurants and pubs.
Trains run every day from early April to early October except certain Mondays and
Fridays. There are also services during autumn half term and Santa specials in December.
Refer to the Bala Lake Railway website for full details (see link below).
All passenger trains are steam hauled.
Some of the locomotives listed are currently being rebuilt with the hope that they
will enter service on the Bala Lake Railway in the future.
Hunslet 0-4-0ST George B, works no. 680 built in 1898 for the Dinorwic Slate Quarry,
Hunslet 0-4-0ST Holy War, works no. 779 built in 1902 for the Dinorwic Slate Quarry,
Hunslet 0-4-0ST Alice, works no. 780 built in 1902 for the Dinorwic Slate Quarry,
Hunslet 0-4-0ST Maid Marian, works no. 822 built in 1903 for the Dinorwic Slate Quarry,
Peckett 0-6-0ST Triassic, works no. 1270 built in 1911 for Kaye & Co. Lime and Cement
Works, Little Itchington.
Ruston & Hornsby 0-4-0 diesel-mechanical Chilmark, works no. 194771 built in 1939
for the Air Ministry and used at RAF Chilmark.
Severn-Lamb Bo-Bo diesel-hydrostatic Meirionnydd, works no. 22 built in 1973 for
the Bala Lake Railway.
Baguley Drewery 0-6-0 diesel-mechanical Bob Davies, works no. 780 built in 1983 for
the Royal Navy at Fishgaurd.
The Bala Lake railway has nine coaches built by various manufacturers between 1974
and 1982. Some are fully enclosed and some are semi open to cater for any weather
condition. Wheelchair passengers, bikes and buggies can be accommodated in certain
The map below shows the location of all the stations on the Bala Lake Railway, click
on any of the markers to see the station name and postcode (where known). Use the
zoom and pan tools to explore the map.
By train - The nearest railway stations are Ruabon, on the Shrewsbury to Chester
line and Barmouth on the Cambrian Coast Line. Both stations are served by Arriva
Trains wales. The Bala Lake Railway is approximately a 25 mile bus journey (Service
94) from Ruabon and Barmouth. See the Bws Gwynedd link below for details.
By bus - The nearest bus stop to Llanuwchllyn Station is approximately 300 yards
away at the junction of Station Road and the B4403. Bus services are provided by
Arriva Cymru service 94 running between Wrexham and Barmouth. The same service serves
Bala town. See the Bws Gwynedd link below for details.
By car - Llanuwchllyn is the best place to join the train. The station is just off
the B4403 about ½ mile from the A494 at the South-Western end of the lake (follow
the signs). Ample free car parking is available at the station.
Bala (Penybont) is situated about ½ mile from the centre of Bala town near the junction
of the B4391 and B4403. Parking is restricted to narrow on-road parking.
See the map above, click on the pointers for postcodes.
Type: Narrow gauge railway on former standard gauge track bed.
Gauge: Narrow, 1’ 11¾” (603mm)
Length: 4½ miles
Stations: 3 + 2 halts
First opened: 1868
Re-opened in preservation: 1972
The town of Bala and the village of Llanuwchllyn sit at either end of Llyn Tegid
(Bala Lake), the largest natural body of water in Wales. The British Railways Ruabon
to Barmouth Line which served them ran along the south-east shore of the lake, offering
stunning views across the water to the mountains of Snowdonia beyond.
It’s the perfect setting for the first narrow gauge Railway to be built on an abandoned
British Railways trackbed. The nominal 2’ gauge Bala Lake Railway (Rheilffordd Llyn
Tegid) is a delightful little 4½ mile line combining the beautiful location with
historic Welsh steam locomotives.
The mainstay of the locomotive fleet since their entry into traffic has been two
quarry Hunslet 0-4-0STs, Maid Mairian and Holy War which were built over 100 years
ago for the famous Dinorwic Quarry near Llanberis about 40 miles to the north-west
of Bala Lake. Two more ex Dinorwic Hunslets, Alice and George B, are being restored
and it is hoped they will eventually join the working fleet.
Being built on a standard gauge trackbed, there are no sharp curves as normally found
on narrow gauge lines so the little Hunslets get to stretch their legs, a stark contrast
to their work in the quarry. It’s fascinating to stand at the trackside when they
pass at full speed.
The journey from Llanuwchllyn to Bala takes about 25 minutes, the train waits there
for 10 minutes while the engine runs round for the return journey so a round trip
will take an hour if you don’t stay to visit Bala itself. Llanuwchllyn is definitely
the best starting point as parking near Bala (Penybont) station is restricted to
narrow roads only whereas there is ample free parking at Llanuwchllyn.
Llanuwchllyn station still has the original GWR buildings and signal box. The station
buffet was the original waiting room and the long seating section was once a waiting
room at Barmouth Junction. The main building has been extended to provide a booking
office and store room.
There were three stations in the Bala area, the original Bala station was on the
Bala to Blaeanau Ffestiniog line, Bala Junction was at the junction of the Blaeanau
Ffestiniog line with the Ruabon to Barmouth Line and Bala Lake Halt on the Ruabon
to Barmouth Line where the current Bala (Penybont) station stands. The centre of
Bala is about ½ mile from the station and unless you are in a rush, it is well worth
the 10 minute walk.
Llangower is also a good stopping off point, the station is right alongside the lake
and is an ideal place to take a stroll along the shore or have a picnic.
Bala Lake is in a fairly remote part of Wales which makes it all the more beautiful
but it is easily accessed from Dolgellau or Corwen by the A494. The Bala Lake Railway
is different from many other Welsh narrow gauge lines as it is not climbing steep
inclines and traversing sharp curves but it has a charm all of it’s own.