Great Little Trains of Wales
There are lots of small steam railways in Wales. It’s a great way to see our country – relax and enjoy the scenery. Several offer an insight into the industries that built them and provide a great snapshot of Wales long ago. Eleven of our narrow gauge steam railways are part of the Great Little Trains of Wales. They offer a discount Card entitling individuals 20% off one adult full round trip fare on participating railways. Cardholders can also take advantage of discounts with selected accommodation providers close to the railways. Please note that discounts are for individuals and not groups. All will have an events programme, please check their websites for details. www.greatlittletrainsofwales.co.uk
- The Talyllyn Railway Mid Wales runs for 7¼ miles (11.8km) from Tywyn to Abergynolwyn and Nant Gwernol. It passes Dolgoch Falls and visitors can enjoy forest walks at Nant Gwernol. The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum at Tywyn Wharf terminus illustrates the development of narrow gauge railways over 200 years. Note that only Tywyn Wharf and Abergynolwyn stations have easy access for coaches. Full provision is made for disabled passengers. Reduced rates are available for groups 15+. Refreshments are offered at King’s Licensed Café & Bistro at Tywyn Wharf and Quarryman's Tea Room at Abergynolwyn. “Steam and Cream" teas are a feature for parties of up to 30 with a typical Welsh cream tea. Drive a Steam Train experience, Private charter trains and evening excursions combining catering services can be booked.
- Llanberis Lake Railway - The 5 mile (8km) return journey takes up to 1 hour starting at Gilfach Ddu. It passes the 13th century Dolbadarn Castle, birthplace of the Welsh Prince Llywelyn the Great, and across Afon y Bala, possibly Britain's shortest river, before entering Padarn Country Park and joining the original slate railway route alongside lake Padarn, the largest of the two lakes in Llanberis. The train continues to Gilfach Ddu, originally where slate was transhipped from the quarry system to the slate railway.
The slate museum is located next to Gilfach Ddu Station. It’s one of the National Museums of Wales and is free admission. The story of slate and the men who worked it comes to life through displays and demonstrations. A discount is available for groups of 20+. There is a shop and café at Gilfach Ddu station.
- Established by an Act of Parliament way back in 1832, the Ffestiniog Railway is truly a 'Great Little Railway' and is the oldest independent railway company in the World today. It takes you on a 13½ mile (21.7km) journey from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog, the slate-quarrying town and home to Llechwedd Slate Caverns. Visitors can choose from a deep mine tour or the quarry explorer or a thrilling guided adventure in a 4 x 4 military truck. You will also find Zip World adventures here. Tan-y-Bwlch Station, half way along the line, is situated just off the main valley in the Merionydd Oakwoods with many nature trails starting at the station. www.festrail.co.uk
- The Welsh Highland Railway The Welsh Highland Railway is North Wales' newest and the UK's longest heritage railway and is now open throughout from Caernarfon to the Ffestiniog Railway's Harbour Station in Porthmadog. The two lines (Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway) offer visitors a journey across Snowdonia more than 40 miles in length. Waunfawr station, approximately halfway along the line, has a friendly pub and campsite beside it and there is a craft village a few minutes walk away.
The Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway offer discounted rates for parties 20+ (10+ if disabled). Carriages on some trains have extra wide doors for standard width wheelchairs. Porthmadog, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Caernarfon and Rhyd Ddu Stations have ramped access routes and specially adapted toilet facilities. Refreshments are available at Spooner's Cafe and CAMRA award winning bar at Harbour Station, Porthmadog and at Tan y Bwlch station cafe, also licenced for civil services. Large groups may be able to charter a train - booking well in advance is essential.
- Welshpool & Llanfair Railway - The 16 mile (25.7km) return journey runs from the edge of the old market town of Welshpool and travels up the notoriously steep Golfa Bank, which makes a great echo of the locomotive’s engine. The track then runs out into the rolling scenery of the Banwy valley. All this is viewed from the unique open balcony coaches. The journey provides an opportunity to see deer, hawks and even otters. The train is hauled by one of the historic steam locomotives from around the world including the latest acquisition from Romania which arrived and began duties during 2007. At Llanfair Caereinion station there is a shop and a tea room serving home made snacks.
Group rates for 10+ are available and special trains can be hired to suit your requirements. Driver Experience Courses also offered.
- Vale of Rheidol Railway - Vale of Rheidol Railway - The railway runs for 11¾ (19km) miles from Aberystwyth to Devil's Bridge and journey time is approximately one hour in each direction. Trains normally wait for 1 hour at Devil’s Bridge but visitors can choose to return on a later train. The terminus is adjacent to the national network station at Aberystwyth, and passengers have spectacular views of the wooded Rheidol Valley. At Devil's Bridge, there are walks to Mynach Falls, Devil's Punchbowl and Jacob's Ladder.
The original carriages used on the railway were not designed to carry wheelchairs and therefore access at present is only possible if wheelchair users can climb two steps from the platform into the carriage. The railway shop at Aberystwyth sell refreshments and The Two Hoots cafe at Devil’s Bridge station offers a wider variety of snacks including freshly prepared sandwiches, jacket potatoes, cakes etc.
Group rates 15+ are available and Coach Drivers have 1 free entry per party. www.rheidolrailway.co.uk
- Bala Lake Railway - The 9 mile (14.4km) return journey taking around one hour runs alongside Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid) through Snowdonia National Park. Opened as a narrow gauge railway in 1972, it is one of the youngest of the narrow gauge railways, although the steam locomotives normally used are over 100 years old. The railways base is just off the A494 in the village of Llanuwchllyn, where there is adequate car parking, and a café/gift shop. From Llanuwchllyn the line descends to almost lake level and is never far from the lakeside. There are many short walks along the foreshore providing stunning views over and along the lake. The Bala terminus is a short walk into the town for the shops and cafes. Driver experience packages are available and group rates for parties 10+.
- The Welsh Highland Heritage Railway The Welsh Highland Heritage Railway station is situated in Porthmadog, close to the mainline railway station. The journey takes around 1 hour including a stop at the sheds, where there are guided, hands-on tours. The trains are pulled by vintage steam locomotives, or by heritage diesel engines. It is possible to travel in the coach that used to carry bombs, or see where the Prime Minister sat when he visited the railway in 1892! At the end of the one-mile demonstration line, Pen-y-Mount Junction, you can watch the guard changing the points and signals so that the locomotive can run round, and enjoy the ambience of a typical 1920s-style WHR rural station. The Russell Tea Room offer refreshments including home-cooked meals. Special rates are offered for groups 12+ and wheelchair users travel free. There is a wheelchair accessible carriage on every train. Special arrangements can be made and they’ll even run a special train just for you. Full day and evening driver experiences are also available.
- Since 1896 visitors from around the world have travelled on Snowdon Mountain Railway. The journey begins at Llanberis station and travels to the Summit of Snowdon, which at 3,560ft (1085m), is the highest mountain in England and Wales. The journey takes 2 ½ hours which includes a 30 minute stop at the peak. Visitors can opt to walk up or down and purchase a single ticket. This unique railway is one of the most popular visitor attractions in North Wales.
The Snowdon Summit Visitor Centre, Hafod Eryri, has been sympathetically designed to complement the landscape and features spectacular panoramic windows giving travellers to unimpaired views across the mighty Snowdonia range and the Irish Sea.
Weather conditions on Snowdon are very unpredictable and can change quickly. If weather conditions become severe and trains cannot proceed to the Summit they will terminate at Clogwyn Station (3/4 distance up Snowdon) or Rocky Valley (5/8 up Snowdon). A reduced fare is offered for such journeys. Coaches can drop off just 30 metres from the ticket office and there is coach parking in Llanberis. Groups have a free visit to the film theatre for a 13 minute presentation explaining the history of the railway. For group discounts see website. Refreshments are available at the Station Buffet, the Platform Grill and Hafod Eryri. A range of quality gifts can be purchased from the Copa Siop. The railway is accessible to wheelchair users with assistance. Advance notification is essential.
- Brecon Mountain Railway - The return journey takes just over an hour in all-weather observation coaches behind a vintage steam locomotive. It runs through beautiful scenery into the Brecon Beacons National Park along the full length of the Taf Fechan Reservoir to Dol-y-Gaer.
At Pontsticill you can alight from the train and visit the Cafe, with views across the water to the peaks of the Brecon Beacons, and go for a ramble alongside the reservoir. There is a play area for children.
At Pant station the railway also has a workshop where old steam locomotives are repaired – with a new footpath to a picnic site which has an amazing panoramic view of the valley. There is also a licenced tearoom and souvenir shop.
Reduced rates are available for groups 20+. There is room for up to four wheelchairs per train – advanced booking required.
Big Trains meet Little Trains
Taking the big trains to meet the little trains is the theme of a 100-page guidebook published by the 11 little railways, working together with Arriva Trains Wales. The guidebook includes ideas for intriguing places to stay and eat, walks, heritage sites and the magnificent scenery of Wales.
The guide features Bala Lake, Brecon Mountain, Fairbourne, Ffestiniog, Llanberis Lake, Snowdon Mountain, Talyllyn, Vale of Rheidol, Welsh Highland, Welsh Highland Heritage and Welshpool and Llanfair Railways.
Visit the Big Train meets Little Train website
Arriva Trains Wales
Arriva Trains Wales operates train services around Wales, including the scenic routes such as the Cambrian Coast, Conwy valley and Heart of Wales line.
Public transport in Wales can quickly get you from A to B and beyond. With simple timetable enquiries, a comprehensive journey planner and links to operators, Traveline Cymru has lots of useful information on planning your journey.
The Explore Wales Pass allows you to enjoy unlimited access to Wales' rail and bus network and discounts for participating attractions and accommodation.