The Group has helped rebuild, restore or replicate a diverse range of carriages, structures and other fascinating parts of the railway’s heritage over the years. This page does not try to list them all, but it hopefully gives you an insight into a selection.
Our first Group Chairman, Michael Seymour, wanted to see a replica of “The Boat”, a whimsical gravity inspection vehicle used by the Spooner family in the 19th century. The original came to a bit of a sticky end when its owner disobeyed his own rules and crashed into an up train in 1886! When Michael died he left money to build a replica, which now appears occasionally at festival weekends, perhaps most notably at the 2010 Quirks and Curiosities event, when it successfully sailed across the Cob in both direction.
The ‘Flying Bench’
In the summer of 1863 the railway ordered eight four-wheeled carriages from Brown, Marshall and Co of Birmingham. They arrived the following year, becoming the first carriages to carry fare paying passengers on narrow gauge lines and, today, probably the oldest carriages anywhere in the world still in regular use.
As you can probably imagine, they were somewhat basic. Two were completely open to the – frequently damp – Welsh elements, aside from a leather apron to protect passengers’ legs. Canvas awnings were added in 1871, before they were both rebuilt and enclosed. They survived into the 1950s revival era, but were now in such a poor state, one had to be scrapped, with the other placed in storage.
It was not until the late-60s that an attempt at restoration was made, with a decision taken to return it to its original condition. Whilst clearly unique, Health and Safety regulations, even in the 1970s, meant it was considered unsuitable for ordinary service; however permission from HMRI to run it on special occasions was granted in the 90s, provided a suitably competent person – for example a guard – travelled in the vehicle.
It had been a Heritage Group aspiration for some time to recreate the ‘tent’ and awnings and, now re-liveried to match the rest of the Victorian train, passengers can once again travel in 1870s style!
Minffordd platform shelter
The shelter you now see on the Porthmadog bound platform took over ten years in planning and fund raising. It replicates as far as possible an earlier shelter, demolished in 1956, although some modifications were made to help it survive the rigours of the Welsh climate. It was finished in spring 2002 and was shortlisted in the National Railway Heritage Awards that year.
Disc Signal Restoration
Disc signals were used on the Festiniog from the mid-19th century until the 1920s. Although falling out of use, a number survived and have been slowly repaired and reassembled. Those with sharp eyes will be able to spot them outside the old loco shed at Boston Lodge and in the field by the entrance to Minfford yard. However the easiest to spot is on the Cob, now returned to use as a fixed distant signal as you near Porthmadog, where trains will whistle twice to warn the signalman of their approach.
Iron bogie wagon
The group was involved in the restoration of Waggon No.8, a 6-wheeled ‘Iron bogie’, which is a simplification of the unsuccessful Cleminson design. It required dismantling, cleaning, painting and refurbishment of all moving parts, as well as the replacement of the floor. One potential final job is the provision of a corrugated iron roof, as once carried.