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An Unusual Miniature Railway on the Welsh Coast

Built as a horse drawn line to transport building materials in the late 19th century, the 12¼” (311mm) Fairbourne Steam Railway now uses half scale replicas of narrow gauge steam locomotives to haul it’s trains from Fairbourne to the Mawddach estuary.

Brief History

Following completion of the Cambrian Coast Railway and the Barmouth Bridge, schemes were drawn up to develop the area. A 2ft gauge horse-drawn tramway was built in 1895 from the Mawddach estuary to carry building materials for the construction of Fairbourne villiage.

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Attractions and Facilities

Operation

Service

The Fairbourne Steam Railway operates a passenger service from early April until late October as well as school half term holidays. A daily service is provided during school summer holidays. At other times, trains do not run daily, check the Railway’s website for current timetable (see link below).

Locomotives

Stock

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Fairbourne
Beach Halt
Golf Halt
Loop Halt
Barmouth
Ferry

Map

The map below shows the location of all the stations on the Fairbourne Steam Railway. Click on the markers to see the station name. Use the zoom and pan tools to explore the map. Postcodes, OS map references and coordinates are given below the map.

Getting there

By train - Fairbourne main line station on the Cambrian Coast line and is served by Arriva Trains between Machynlleth and Pwllheli. The Fairbourne Steam Railway station is across the road from the main line station.

By bus - Fairbourne is served by Arriva Cymru's No 28 bus service.

By car - Fairbourne is situated on the Mid-Wales coast on the South side of the Mawddach Estuary, the village is halfway between Tywyn and Dolgellau, just off the A493. Follow the brown signs to the railway or use the map and location information above.

By Ferry - From Barmouth quayside, catch the pedestrian Ferry which connects with the train at Barmouth Ferry Station.

Links

Headquarters Address:





Telephone:

email:

Fairbourne Railway,
Beach Road,
Fairbourne,
Gwynedd,
LL38 2EX.

01341 250362

fairbourne.rail@btconnect.com

Map | Getting there | Attractions & Facilities | Operation| Brief History | Review | Links

Fairbourne Railway at a Glance

Type: Preserved Narrow gauge railway.

Gauge: Narrow, 12¼” (311mm)

Length: 2 miles

Stations: 2 + 4 halts

First opened: 1895

Closed: 1940

Re-opened in preservation: 1947

Review

Not many lines of less than 15” (381mm) gauge are featured on British Heritage Railways but the 12¼” (311mm) Fairbourne Steam Railway deserves a place here. The line’s current locomotives are unusual half scale replicas of nominal 2ft gauge examples and the line itself is over 100 years old and has it’s origins in broader gauges.

The railway is really easy to find, either following the brown signs by road or travelling on the picturesque Cambrian Coast Line to Fairbourne station which is right across the road from the FSR station. You can also travel by passenger ferry across the Afon Mawddach estuary from Barmouth or walk along the embankment footpath to Loop Halt.

The footpath starts at Morfa Mawddach (formerly Barmouth Junction) station on the Cambrian Coast Line, it can be accessed by train or from the Mawddach Trail, a railway walk along the estuary from Dolgellau to Barmouth via the Barmouth Bridge (featured on Julia Bradbury’s Railway Walks on BBC).

Upon arriving at the Fairbourne Railway, the first thing I noticed was how robust the track is, presumably this is due to being re-gauged from 15”. Having purchased tickets at the gift shop/ticket office we had time to look around Fairbourne station before the next departure.

Fairbourne station is the headquarters of the line and is where the engine and carriage sheds are located. these are unusual in that they are accessed by traversers and sector plates that are more commonly found in model railway fiddle yards. You pass the locomotive workshop on the way to the rather small toilet, access to the workshop is not permitted but you can see what’s going on from the doorway.

Further along the platform are the Station Café, the Rowen Centre containing a large G-Scale model railway, a fish-filled freshwater stream, chipmunks and ferrets; and a small museum with photographs of the line.

The little half-scale narrow gauge locomotives are coaled and watered in sidings on the other side of the line from the platform before running round and coupling to the front of the train. Carriages are provided for all weather conditions, some open some with roofs but no windows and some fully enclosed. Our train in late September comprised of the latter two. Like all miniature railways they are small but comfortable enough once inside.

The 20 minute Journey takes you first alongside Beach Road, over level crossings and then turns right to run parallel with the beach and Penrhyn Drive. The halts are all request stops and we didn’t stop at any of them or even in the passing loop as there was only one train in operation that day. After the loop the road comes to an end and the line passes through a short tunnel under the sand dunes before arriving at Barmouth Ferry station at Porth Penrhyn.

There is a balloon loop at Porth Penrhyn and a run round loop at the station, either can be used. Our driver used the run round loop, the locomotive Sherpa therefore returning tender first. Of course if the balloon loop was used, the whole of the next out and back journey would have been tender first.

Barmouth Ferry station is home to the Harbour View Café but it is only open in peak season when a two train service is running. It is also where you can catch the passenger ferry to Barmouth, across the Afon Mawddach estuary. There are brilliant views from here including Barmouth Bridge which takes the Cambrian Coast line and a footpath across the estuary.

The train returns to Fairbourne about 10 minutes after after arrival but if the weather is good and the Harbour View Café is open, there’s no need to rush back as this is a really nice spot to stay a while.

Whether you have an interest in miniature railways or just want a family day out, the Fairbourne Steam Railway has everything you need. Put it on your list of places to go in Wales, it’s better when a two train service is running but still good with just one.

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Estuary Halt

Fairbourne Steam Railway

Station

Postcode

OS map ref

Coordinates

Fairbourne

LL38 2EX

SH 615 128

Lat: 52.695116N Long: 4.050850W

Beach Halt

LL38 2UQ

SH 611 131

Lat: 52.697709N Long: 4.056891W

Golf Halt

LL38 2DX

SH 610 135

Lat: 52.701276N Long: 4.058539W

Loop Halt

 

SH 610 140

Lat: 52.705768N Long: 4.058751W

Estuary Halt

 

SH 613 145

Lat: 52.710337N Long: 4.054525W

Barmouth Ferry

 

SH 617 150

Lat: 52.714932N Long: 4.048818W