Snowdon Mountain Railway
(Rheilffordd yr Wyddfa)
5th August 2015
© copyright photographs by Colin Duff
During summer 2015 the Snowdon Mountain Railway ran regular diesel propelled services and two steam propelled services daily, weather permitting, from Llanberis to the summit. The railway suggests you book in advance, particularly for the steam journeys. Of course this requires you to take a gamble on the weather for your chosen-in-advance day and time, though as the weather can change rapidly in the area there is always an element of a gamble.
Now I have been up Snowdon, both by train and on foot, a number of times in my life and have never seen anything from the top. In fact it is a standing joke in the family that if you can see your hand at the end of your arm the visibility is excellent.
(left) Steam and diesel propelled trains in the platforms at Llanberis.
The forecast for the 5th August did not bode well, with heavy rain and poor visibility predicted. When we arrived at Llanberis it was sunny and warm! Upon collecting our pre-booked tickets we were warned that due to high winds at the summit we might not be able to go the whole way. In fact no train had been able to go to the summit for the past three days. We declined the offer of a full refund not to travel and decided to take our chances and to receive a partial refund if the train could only reach Clogwyn.
(left) Hunslet diesel number ten descending, approaching the Hebron passing loop, in bright sunshine.
Point to note - the Snowdon Mountain Railway is not a cheap half day out and the steam option being even more expensive. However, the diesel trains seat passengers five aside on a bench, which look tight even for five adults of moderate size, and the views if you are seated mid-bench must be limited. The steam trains have 2 + 1 seating with an aisle (whilst you are not permitted to move around whilst the train is moving, when stationary at a passing loop you can move around) and everybody has a good view. So in addition to having the experience of a steam locomotive taking you up and down the second highest mountain in the British Isles, the more comfortable accommodation and unrestricted viewing makes paying the premium - if you can afford it - worthwhile.
(left) Higher up - Hunslet diesel number eleven descending, approaching the halfway passing loop, still in bright sunshine.
|Ta da! The wind speed dropped just below the threshold and the diesel train ahead of us was the first to reach the summit for three days. Here is our locomotive, number 2 Enid (built in 1895) , and coach at the summit station. As for visibility - you can see it was much more than an arm's length.|
|The cloud base was level with the roof of the building at the summit, affording views down the mountain, where it remained sunny.|
It was cold at the very summit, windy, and was mostly enveloped in cloud. However, the wind usefully caused the cloud to clear for brief moments, affording views, albeit below the clouds, all around. At last! I remarked "now I have seen a view from the top of Snowdon I can die happy", and was immediately rewarded with a sharp chest pain. My next thought was that this might be a self-fulfilling prophesy, but it passed quickly and was just a middle aged twinge.
This view is from the very summit looking south south west-ish towards Tremadog Bay (the greater Cardigan Bay) and the Irish Sea.
As for the weather forecast of heavy rain that day - at Llanberis mid-afternoon it rained gently for a few moments, not enough even to get mildly damp!
"Here is one I did earlier". Taken in the mid 1960s (can't you tell from the standard of dress?) with my schoolboy's Kodak Brownie, in the days when you could only afford one film roll of 12 exposures for a holiday, steam locomotive number 8 Eryri at Llanberis. Ironically Eryri (built 1923) is a younger locomotive than Enid but has been withdrawn, dismantled and currently stored off site.
I now have a new ambition - to be at the summit on a completely clear day, but on how many days a year does this happen?