My first encounter with the Welsh Highland Railway was one day in October or November, probably in 1970. I might even be able to date it precisely to 31st October 1970, as my family always went to Beddgelert for a holiday in the same week every year.
Heading north from Dorset, we would approach Beddgelert by the A4085. Just south of Nantmor this passes under the route of the WHR at UB182. A little further on is a track that formed the original route of the road, that would have crossed the railway on the level, before the bridge was built. Just here is where the 1964 WHR volunteers relayed several panels of track from the bridge towards Nantmor. That's as far as they got (having switched attention to the Beddgelert Siding at Porthmadog), but the quarry tub base that they left was great fun to play on!
Simon in ~1970
From then on, a regular part of the holiday was to stop here once or twice, and push or be pushed up and down the tracks. Then one year, later in the '70s, it was gone! All that was left was a small number of rejected rails. I'm sure the track materials found a good use on the WHR in Porthmadog, but for a small boy it was devastating.
Fast forward to the '90s, and the WHR(C) scheme to rebuild the railway. My wife and I enjoyed an early run from Caernarfon to Dinas, and I followed developments in respect of the new WHR (Rheilffordd Eryri) with interest. Work took me to Sweden in 2000, and then to Cardiff in 2001. Not being a fan of long journeys it was not until I moved jobs to Manchester that I decided it was time to play my part in rebuilding the railway. So during 2007 I started attending track-laying weekends, mostly with Paul Bradshaw, and a couple of times with Dafydd Thomas.
In October 2007 we emerged from the long tunnel in the Aberglaslyn Pass. With track heading rapidly southwards during the autum working week I was determined not to miss out on my favourite stretch, south from the cuttings near UB182. On 13th and 14th October 2007 we relaid the approaches to UB182.
Simon in October 2007
In the months that followed we pushed the “head of steel” further and further south. On 31st August, 2008, track layers reached the limit of track previously laid northwards from Porthmadog. Much more remained to be done, before the first train movements between Porthmadog Harbour station and Dinas on 12th March, 2009.
Volunteers have achieved a great deal on the WHR Phase 4 project – and even now a great deal more lies ahead – to which I am please to have contributed in a small way. But still that weekend in October will be remembered by me with the greatest satisfaction.