There’s no doubt about it, a journey on board one of the many narrow gauge steam trains of Wales is certainly the best way to enjoy the magnificent landscape of the country. From our highest peaks, to our greenest valleys and epic seascapes, Wales has a plethora of vintage railway options available to train enthusiasts, and those who simply like to sit back and watch the world go by from the tracks.
Here are just a few of the beautiful options that traverse our country.
Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways
From the harbour at Porthmadog and the backdrop of Caernarfon Castle, to the slate quarries of Blaenau Ffestiniog, these powerful trains of the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways make for a captivating journey. See the sights from the comfort of a carriage, climbing more than 700 feet from the sea to the peaks of Snowdon.
Snowdon Mountain Railway
Heading along two major viaducts via a waterfall and an ancient forest, this epic journey to the peak of Wales’ highest mountain on the Snowdon Mountain Railway takes on volcanic rock faces, fairytale lakes, sweeping vistas and distant seascapes, culminating at a summit visitor centre with unbeatable views across Snowdonia. Truly one of the most spectacular train journeys you’ll ever take.
Brecon Mountain Railway
Limestone quarries and the 13th century ruins of Morlais Castle give Brecon two of the most evocative gateways to a railway – and they’re just the start. The Brecon Mountain Railway journey takes you into the Brecon Beacons National Park, through Pontsticill and along the full length of the Taf Fechan Reservior, before climbing to Torpantau high in the Brecon Beacons and the summit of the original line.
Llanberis Lake Railway
Glimpse the 13th century Dolbadarn Castle, and take in the twin lakes, the beautiful village of Llanberis and the historic Padarn Country Park from a vintage steam train on the Llanberis Lake Railway. The five-mile trip offers enviable views of Snowdon, a chance to admire the steam engines rescued from nearby Dinorwic quarries and a lakeside picnic opportunity on your return.
Vale of Rheidol Railway
The stunning 12 mile Vale of Rheidol route between Aberystwyth and Devil’s Bridge through the Rheidol Valley is a master class in engineering, which has been operating for over 110 years. Let the vintage steam trains take the strain on an adventure through rolling countryside as birds of prey such as red kite and buzzards are regularly seen soaring high above the valley floor.
Steam through the southern reaches of the Snowdonia National Park on the Talyllyn Railway, the world’s first preserved railway. The beautifully maintained original steam trains are manned by a friendly team on the tracks, offering excellent views of the Fathew Valley up towards Cader Idris. Travel past streams, waterfalls and the ancient timeless landscapes of the Merionethshire mountains. Look out for the red kites and buzzards - regularly seen chasing the trains! Abergynolwyn Station has a lovely cafe and play area (with a massive slide!) for keeping everyone entertained.
Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway
Start in historic Welshpool and take in the Banwy Valley pulled by a vintage locomotive en route to the rural community of Llanfair Caereinion. Established in 1903 the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway is a 2 foot 6 inch narrow gauge steam railway. It was built as a Light Railway to avoid some of the costs of railway construction and now provides a tourist service for all the family. Its narrow gauge nature allows for tight curves and steep gradients, enabling the line to follow the contours of the countryside. And the carriages are rather special; those in regular use being from Hungary and Austria, with access to the enclosed seating area via an open balcony - a great way to watch the world go by.
Bala Lake Railway
Sit back and relax on a nine-mile cruise (1 hour) on the Bala Lake Railway through the celebrated Snowdonia National Park, beginning in the pretty Llanuwchllyn Village, a place entwined with Arthurian legend. Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake) itself is the largest natural body of water in Wales and for much of the journey it will be in clear sight. Watch out for the sailboats and wildlife as you trundle by. Other attractions along the way include a Roman fort, charming villages (at which you can hop off to explore further) and even a Norman Castle Motte.
Welsh Highland Heritage Railway
The Porthmadog based Welsh Highland Heritage Railway offer a short train ride and a tour of their heritage centre, taking an hour in total. It's a fascinating glimpse into the history of narrow gauge railways in the area. The staff are super friendly, and there's a good cafe and shop to browse in as well.
Fairbourne Miniature Railway
The 12 ¼ inch gauge track Fairbourne Railway has been running from Fairbourne village to the mouth of the Mawddach Estuary, connecting with the ferry to Barmouth for over 100 years. The roots of this locomotive service hark back to mid-19th century expertise, and the wonderfully relaxing two-mile ride takes in stunning seascapes and a coastal golf course. The stations on the route drop you off right next to Fairbourne's long, golden beaches.
Rhyl Miniature Railway
Rhyl Miniature Railway is Britain's oldest running miniature line, running a mile round Rhyl's Marine Lake. Stop off en route to try lakeside crabbing, or explore the Nature and Heritage Trail. There's also a museum where aspiring engine drivers can sit in Billy's cab and learn how steam engines work.