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 this discount is for individuals and not groups. There are also offers for groups and group organisers. The International Gold Card is designed for groups from other countries which must be applied for. All have an events programme, some offer driver experiences and private charters. Please check their websites for details.
Bala Lake Railway
The nine mile (14.4km) return journey on the Bala Lake Railway takes around one hour and 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+.
Brecon Mountain Railway
The return journey on the Brecon Mountain Railway 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.
Fairbourne Steam Railway
The railway line for Fairbourne Steam Railway was rebuilt in 1984 having carried passengers for most of the 20th century from Fairbourne village to the Mawddach Estuary. It connects with the Barmouth ferry which takes guests over the estuary to Penrhyn Point.
Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway
The Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway was established by an Act of Parliament way back in 1832. It 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.
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.
Discounted rates are offered 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.
Llanberis Lake Railway
The five mile (eight km) return journey on the Llanberis Lake Railway takes up to one 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 National Slate Museum is located next to Gilfach Ddu Station. It is 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.
Snowdon Mountain Railway
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 two and a half 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.
Hybrid diesel locomotives have joined the fleet which will run alongside the traditional diesel and steam trains to reduce the carbon footprint. They are driven by free electric motors powered by a traction battery and diesel generator.
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 (three quarter distance up Snowdon) or Rocky Valley (five eighths 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 the 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.
Talyllyn Railway runs for seven and a quarter 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 all be booked.
Vale of Rheidol Railway
The Vale of Rheidol Railway runs for eleven and three quarter miles (19km) 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 one free entry per party.
Welsh Highland Heritage Railway
The Welsh Highland Heritage Railway station is situated in Porthmadog, close to the mainline railway station. The journey takes around one 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 at 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.
Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway
The 16 mile (25.7km) return journey with Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway 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 are also offered.
Other Steam Railways
A standard gauge steam railway which travels on an eight mile (12.9km) round trip of picturesque landscapes alongside the River Gwili. There is dedicated coach parking at Bronwydd Arms Station where groups can see a fully working signal box and visit the gift shop. Special rates are offered to coach parties with discounts for 10+ and the driver will receive a complimentary meal, drink and railway ticket.
A ten mile journey upstream on North Wales' only standard gauge heritage railway takes visitors from Llangollen town centre through the Dee Valley to Corwen town. Discounts are available for groups of 15+ with a further discount given if the party is larger than 35. Booking is essential and reserved seating will be given with the booking. On board catering can be offered to groups on request, or alternatively, at Llangollen station's tea room. Tour guides and coach drivers will receive free travel with all pre-booked visits. There are dedicated coach bays at Market Street car park.
Teifi Valley Railway
A narrow gauge railway which offers a train ride in the countryside of west Wales.
Transport for Wales
Transport for Wales operate train services around Wales, including the scenic routes such as the Cambrian, Conwy Valley and Heart of Wales line.
Cambrian Railway Line takes you through 120 miles of beauty which is natural and unspoilt. The main line stops at market and historical towns before reaching the coastal town of Aberystwyth. Alternatively, the main line merges with the coastal line which travels along the coast line of Gwynedd.
Conwy Valley Railway travels from the north Wales coast to Snowdonia with breathtaking views of the Conwy and Lledr rivers.
Heart of Wales Line runs between Swansea and Shrewsbury through the dramatic landscape of mid Wales
Traveline Cymru has lots of useful information on planning your journey. They provide simple timetable enquiries, a comprehensive journey planner and links to operators.
The Explore Wales Pass is valid for four days and gives unlimited access to Wales' rail and selected bus networks. Alternative tickets include the North and Mid Wales pass, the South Wales Pass and Rovers and Rangers tickets.