Cool down with a rail trip up Snowdon

August 4, 2021
Cool down with a rail trip up Snowdon

As Britain basks in summer heat, the places to escape this are quite easy to find for the team at Raildiary. We have the coast not far from our Manchester base, a place that is invariably cooler, the hills and fells of the Peak and Lake Districts and, if you’re a train lover, Snowdonia.

Now don’t get us wrong - we’re not advocating abandoning hill and mountain walking for the convenience of a mountain train, but the weather in North Wales is notoriously fickle. You can do the classic ascent up the Miners Track and down the Pyg, but there is relief in the form of a light railway.

Park up at Pen Y Pass and the Miners Track is clearly signposted near the café and 3 hours of steady walking / climbing beckons, up to the splendid summit.

You can almost get to the peak too via rail and it’s this we want to focus on, as a leading software provider for the rail construction industry.

There’s many interesting quirks about the line. First though, don’t park at Pen Y Pass - set the sat nav for Llanberis instead and there a 4.7 mile journey awaits.

The railway is incredibly popular and carries 140,000 passengers a year from spring to autumn. It was first opened in April 1896 and is the only public rack and pinion system in Britain. Basically the engineering has had to be adapted to cope with steep ascents and descents, with teeth like a rollercoaster.

Its construction and planning was lengthy and expensive. In today’s money, it would actually cost £8 million to recreate it. Its building was obviously challenging given the remoteness and gradients of the terrain, as well as extreme weather conditions.

It didn’t have a great start to life either as one passenger died after jumping from the carriage on the first return trip as the train and two carriages lost control. This led to smaller, lighter carriages and “gripper rails” fitted to prevent future derailments.

Its track gauge is 800mm, almost half the current standard width on other rails. It uses steel sleepers too, mimicking much of the construction technology from Swiss mountain railway systems.

The rolling stock has evolved however - eight steam locomotives. five diesels from Leeds, as well as two new hybrid diesel electrics, added in 2019, designed by Clayton Equipment Ltd in Burton on Trent. Obviously battery power alone can’t propel the trains up such a climb, but on each descent, the diesel generator is switched off, with regenerative braking recharging the batteries.

125 years on, the SMR remains as a lasting legacy of engineering excellence.

Perhaps, now, when the country is still in a period of pandemic isolation, it’s time for us for all to appreciate what we have in the UK - the Snowdon Mountain Railway seems a great place to begin that journey.

“There’s a whole world out there, right outside your window. You’d be a fool to miss it.”

Charlotte Eriksson

Overall, the Snowdon Mountain Railway is an impressive example of railway heritage and a testament to the importance of preserving and promoting railway history in the UK. The railway's continued operation and popularity are a testament to the enduring appeal of rail transport and its important role in the development of the UK.

Oliver Donohue

Snr Account Manager

Snr Account Manager

Raildiary LinkedIn
Table of Contents

Keep up with Raildiary

Make sure you never miss out! Sign up to our monthly newsletter to keep up with the biggest news stories in construction and the latest Raildiary updates. Full of our latest case studies, blogs and fun quizzes!

Thank you for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Rail Diary needs the contact information you provide to us to contact you about our products and services. You may unsubscribe from these communications at anytime. For information on how to unsubscribe, as well as our privacy practices and commitment to protecting your privacy, check out our Privacy Policy.