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Festiniog Railway (Hardback)

The Spooner Era and After 1830 - 1920

Transport History Photo Books Colour Books Trains and Railways

By Peter Johnson
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
Pages: 208
ISBN: 9781473827288
Published: 30th May 2017

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Festiniog Railway 1836-2014 describes the history of the worlds first steam-operated narrow gauge railway to carry passengers. It covers the history of the railway from its beginnings as a horse-worked tramroad in 1836, through its technical developments with the introduction of steam locomotives, Fairlie articulated locomotives and bogie carriages through its twentieth-century decline, to closure in 1946, and then to the preservation era and its development as a major twenty-first-century tourist attraction.

Built to serve the extensive slate industry in the Ffestiniog area of North Wales by carrying slate from the quarries to the port at Porthmadog, from 1865 the railway also operated a passenger service to serve the local community, which also attracted tourists. Closed in 1946 the railway was revived in stages from 1955, when a prolonged compensation claim was mounted against a major state-owned company for land taken to build a power station. Volunteers from all over the world came together to restore and operate this important piece of world industrial heritage, including the construction of the 2 mile deviation needed to bypass the power station. Services were resumed between Porthmadog and Blaenau Ffestiniog in 1982.

The Festiniog Railway runs through some of the most beautiful countryside in North Wales, with spectacular views of mountains and lakes. The railway also has a very impressive collection of modern and historic motive power and rolling stock. It is one of the most successful tourist attractions in Wales and is one of the most important industrial history sites in the world.

Peter has delved extensively in to recently digitised newspaper archives to find stories of day to day incidents on the railway and its interaction with the communities it ran through.
Even if you already have all the other histories of the FR, I must recommend that you make room to add this one to your selves as well! Better still, make two spaces now, the second volume, bringing the story up to date is scheduled for publication in the autumn.

Festiniog Railway Heritage Group No.130

The major arrival this month is the first of a two-volume history of just about the bestknown narrow gauge railway around. And while we may think that the Festiniog/Ffestiniog Railway is one of the most documented lines, it has not really been subject to a detailed history of its entire life since the two-volume set produced by J I C Boyd and last reprinted in 2002.

Peter Johnson is without doubt the most qualified to write such a history, having been intimately connected with the FR since the 1970s and having also written several past books on the railway, including the two volume Immortal Rails documenting the preservation history since the 1950s. Peter has made the most of many hours spent scouring archives for this new history, and also taken advantage of both the A4 format and modern high-quality printing techniques to reproduce many of the colourful original plans that were deposited in Victorian times as the railway was progressing. In fact two of the appendixes consist of maps deposited for the 1869 Act of Parliament applied for by the line, and 6in Ordnance Survey maps revised in the same year.

The text is to typical Peter Johnson style, chronological and documenting the factual history without going off on tangents or lapsing into romantic picture painting. It is a highly detailed history, from the leading affairs of the company down to individual incidents, actions of the loco drivers and such like – for example we learn that building the single Fairlie 'Taliesin’ cost the FR £1305 4s 10d! Most of the pictures are familiar, as one would expect from any history of this period as new illustrations are unlikely to surface, but they benefit from making the most of the large format.

In summary this is an excellent, perhaps definitive, history of the FR up to 1920, and we look forward to the second volume bringing the story up to date.

Narrow Gauge World, July 2017
 Peter Johnson

About Peter Johnson

Now a retired local government officer, Peter Johnson was editor of the Ffestiniog Railway Societys quarterly magazine from 1974 until 2003 and a director of the society for eleven years. In 2003 he was appointed the Festiniog Railway Companys official photographer. Since his first book was published in 1984 he has added more than thirty titles to his list, specialising in Welsh and narrow gauge railways, but also including books on tramways and traveling post offices. In the last fifteen years he has researched original sources to write in-depth and readable histories on the Cambrian Railways, the Festiniog Railway, the Great Western narrow gauge, Shropshire & Montgomeryshire Light Railway, Snowdon Mountain Railway, traveling post offices and the Welsh Highland Railway.

Perfect Partner

Festiniog Railway From Slate Railway to Heritage Operation 1921 - 2014 (Hardback)

Opened in 1836 as a horse tramway using gravity to carry slate from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Porthmadog, by the 1920s the Festiniog Railway had left its years of technical innovation and high profits long behind. After the First World War, the railway’s path led inexorably to closure, to passengers in 1939 and goods in 1946. After years of abandonment, visionary enthusiasts found a way to take control of the railway and starting its restoration in 1955. Not only did they have to fight the undergrowth, they also had to fight a state-owned utility which had appropriated a part of the route. All problems…

By Peter Johnson

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