Although I have slept for more than 11 hours, I woke up late this morning at 6:15am. I was thinking about check out this morning, carry my backpack to Wales and try to find a cheaper hostel there last night. But since I was running out of time, I did not have any time for check out and must stay in the hotel for one more night. I rushed out of my room after a quick shower. The receptionist was not on duty yet. I told the porter about my intension for staying one more night. He asked me to leave my key card and promised to tell the receptionist after she came back half an hour later.
I left the hotel in no time. The morning temperature of Wolverhampton was quiet cool. I read the timetable of 501 and knew that the next one would be too late for the train. I decided to run to the station. The distance to the station was about 3km. It should be okay for me as I completed 10km race twice before. But maybe I ate too much Fish 'n' Chips in this trip, I felt exhausted soon. I really wanted to take a cab. But luckily, when I arrived Chapel Ash, I saw another bus running on a different route, heading to the station, coming. I arrived the station 15 minutes earlier than the departure time of my train.
Before walking to the station from the bus terminus, I saw this MCW Metrobus coming. I finally saw some Metrobus running on normal bus routes in the UK. I used to take Metro buses on 501 every weekends when I was here. I did not see them yesterday was possibly because these old buses were stalled at depot on Sundays and holidays.
My train arrived on time. I boarded the train and found a forward facing seat with a table.
When my train arrived Shrewsbury, most of the passengers got off the train. This station was on the boarder of England and Wales. After this station, my train started to travel backward and entered Wales.
After an hour of travel, I arrived Machynlleth. My train was heading to Aberystwyth. (Don't ask me how to pronounce this, please.) And I was recommended to change here for the Pwllheli for Porthmadog.
Machynlleth station was located in a quiet area, nowhere near its town center. This Welsh station looked the same as a station in England. But if you looked at it in details, you would notice there were signs with Welsh language, such as the one on the lower left photo. "Cafe Open" is in English and "Caffi Ar Agor" is in Welsh.
On the lower right photo was quite interesting. When I was studying in Wolverhampton, there were direct train to Pwllheli. The train operated this way: When the train arrived Machynlleth, the first coach will turn left to Aberystwyth while the second coach will turn right to Pwllheli. The train model operated on this route is called Sprinter. Sprinter was a Diesel Motor Unit (DMU) and each coach got its own driving cabin and engine. That means each coach can move alone. But now, they did not separate the train in the midway. Instead, the whole train form Wolverhampton went to Aberystwyth. Passengers going to Pwllheli needed to change at Machynlleth.
I needed to wait for half an hour for the Pwllheli train. And I saw another Sprinter arrived on the opposite platform, heading to Wolverhampton and Birmingham.
Finally, my train arrived and I went on board.
After turning into the Pwllheli branch, the train followed the coastal line. Tracks were built on the cliff and there were various sharp curves and wooden bridges. Speed was lowered to about 20 km per hour. And there were stops every few minutes. May be because of the nice weather today, my 2-coach sprinter was packed with passengers.
There was a YHA hostel near Llanbedr station. I have considered to stay in that hostel before.
There were notice in Welsh on this train, which could not be find in anywhere else of the UK.
After another 2 hours of journey, I alighted at Porthmadog while the train continued to Pwllheli.
Porthmadog was a small Welsh town built on the coast. Walking on the street with the summer sunshine was really lovely.
The reason I went here was because of the Ffestiniog Railway. It was a narrow-gauge preserved railway operated by steam locomotives. I have never tried steam train before. Also this was also my first time to Welsh.
Porthmadog itself was a tourist attraction. I could see open-top buses serving the town center and the nearby attractions.
There was a 15 minutes walk from the "normal" Porthmadog station to the "steam" Porthmadog station. The "steam" Porthmadog station was built near the coast.
Porthmadog station of the FFestiniog railway is a small red brick house with a small car park in front of it. The car park was full. The whole station was packed with tourists.
An ice-cream van was parked outside the station. It looked classic.
And even the car used by the visitor was classic enough! In the ticket hall of Ffestiniog Railway, there displayed lots of leaflets of other preserved railway operators. Actually, there were plenty of preserved railways, operating everywhere in the UK. Most of them even got a better scenery or cheaper fare than the Ffestiniog Railway. But there was a reason for choosing to travel on it.
Most of the preserved railways were not newly built but converted from abandoned routes. Operating a railway is always expensive. And it is not always easy for a railway to become profitable. In UK, there were quite a lot of railways being abandoned because of losing money heavily. Most of the preserved railway started from the end station of the existing line, running on an abandoned track, to a station on the other end which connects to nowhere. Some of those preserved railways, the entire route did not even connect with any of the existing lines.
But Ffestiniog Railway is different. It started from Porthmadog on the west cost of Wales to Minffordd station, where it connects with the main line railway. Then it started climbing up the mountain to Blaenau Ffestiniog, where it connected with another main line railway. It connects the railway system in Central Wales to the railway system in North Wales. Without it, there was no rail connection from Central Wales to North Wales without leaving Wales. So apart from being a tourist attraction, this railway actually got its purpose.
A day rover ticket cost 16.75p. After buying the ticket I walked into the souvenir shop. I wanted to buy lots of souvenirs there but my budget did not allow me to do so. Outside the shop is the platform. And a notice showed the departure time of today. There were 8 departures in total, which was already the busiest timetable in this year.
This is the track of this narrow gauge. As seen from the photo, the track was much narrower than a normal rail.
About 15 minutes before the departure time, the engine hauling about 6 coaches arrived. People started boarding the train. Possibly because of too many passengers waiting, just minutes before departure, I saw another engine pushing some extra coaches and joined to my train.
After the joining of the extra coaches, engineers were busy rearranging the engines.
Before the train departed , I got a chance to take photos inside the coach I took. The coach was a wooden structure. Doors were hand-operated. And the advertisement panels were drawn by hand.
The coach I took was a third class coach. Everything inside were classic. There were only two class available, first and third. To rode on the first class, I needed to pay an extra 3 for one trip. I certainly did not get myself upgraded.
There were different types of third class coach. The only I took from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog was numbered 107.
10 minutes after the scheduled time, the train finally departed. My coach was packed with passengers. Most of them were enjoying their family day out.
The train first moved along the coastal line until it reached Minffordd, the connecting station with the mainline railway. Then it started climbing up the hills slowly.
There were several intermediate stations along the route. I saw another train on the opposite side of the platform when passing the station Tan-y-Bwlch. That train was heading to Porthmadog. There was also a carnival beside the station. Most passengers got off here.
The train made a 360 degree loop after the station Dduallt. It was quiet funny to see the train climbed over its previous track.
After Dduallt, the train climbed even steeper and reached a reservoir near Tan-y-Grisiau. After a brief pause at Tan-y-Grisiau, waiting for the opposite train to arrive, the train would approach Blaenau Ffestiniog soon.
After more than an hour of bumpy journey, the train arrived Blaenau Ffestiniog. After all passengers alighted the train, I got a chance to take more photos of my coach.
There was a separated compartment in my coach. Inside the compartment was the first class. There were only six seats inside and was remained empty throughout the journey.
This is another type of coach. This one got a metal ceiling and metal window frames. It gave me a feeling of the late 60s. And the emergency alarm was activated by pulling the little metal chain. It looked funny.
The first class compartment was different from the one I took. It contained 4 seats and a sliding door.
This one is a special coach. The first half of it is the passenger compartment and the rest is a kitchen. Ffestiniog Railway provides catering services and all food and drinks were delivered from here.
This is another type of coach. This one did not contain any aisle. The whole coach is formed by separated compartments. I did not know who the conductor checked the ticket of the passengers on this coach.
The videos above showed how the first class and third class compartments looked like.
This was only coach without window and wall put in service today. I really wanted to have a ride on it. But the weather was not very stable. I believe passengers in this coach will be very miserable if it started to rain when the train was between stations.
And finally, this is the first class coach. It was hauled behind the engine so passengers can sort of enjoying the driver's eye view. However, this coach was reserved by a family.
And this was the locomotive that hauled the train from Porthmadog up to Blaenau Ffestiniog. It was a double-engine steam locomotive with only one driving cabin. It was said that this design can provide a double power steam locomotive, without a cost of employing more staff.
The engineers were busy rearranging the engines and refilling them for the journey back to Porthmadog.
These photos showed clearly the difference between narrow gauge and standard gauge tracks. Blaenau Ffestiniog station consists of 3 platforms. The island platforms were served by steam rail and the side platform was served by normal rail.
To exit the station from the "steam" platforms, passengers needed to either use the footbridge or walk over the tracks. There were not too many place that you can walk on the train tracks legally in the UK.
Blaenau Ffestiniog is a small mining town on the hill. There was a souvenir shops next to the station. Also from the bus stop outside, there was a bus service going to Porthmadog. Train journey took more than an hour but the bus journey only took 35 minutes.
The train departed to Porthmadog again. It ran faster when going down hills.
Here was Minffordd Station, where it provided connection service with the mainline railway.
Before approaching Porthmadog, the train passed through a barrier. I could see a lake on one side and the sea on the other.
The next train to Blaenau Ffestiniog would depart at an hour later. So I walked around Porthmadog. I bought some souvenirs for BT and friends. I also written some postcards to Sony, George and Steven.
I took the last departure of Ffestiniog Railway from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog. This time, I rode on other type of coach, the only with metal ceiling and metal window frames.
There was a waterfall near Tan-y-Grisiau. I missed it in the previous journey. And this time, I managed to take a photo of it.
My train arrived Blaenau Ffestiniog the second time.
After 3 rides on the steam railway, I switched to the normal diesel rail. The service is offered by a 2-coach DMU with regional rail configuration.
Do you think this sign is funny? A train station that provides normal and steam railway service.
The train from Blaenau Ffestiniog descends steadily along the riverside with beautiful sceneries decorated with sunset.
At Betws-y-Coed Station, there was a camping site. A railway society operated a rail restaurant on a retired railway coach. It also built a toy train system around the camping site.
After exactly an hour of downhill journey, I reached Llandudno Junction on the north coast of Wales.
Then I changed to another train to Chester. The train was also in regional configuration provided by First Rail. but this train was an electric train.
Do you think the seats inside the train looked similar to the seats of New World First Bus in Hong Kong?
The train dashed along the north coast of Wales with miles long beaches. I saw colourful rainbows but no swimmers in colourful swimming suits.
The train arrived Chester on time. I did not have the time table to Wolverhampton with me. I asked the conductor and he asked me to change in chester to Crewe. So I waited for the Crewe train and got a chance to take photo of this train. Do you think it looked more like a single decker bus than a train?
The Chester to Crewe train was possibly the smallest train I took in my journey. It was a single coach Sprinter. It provided express service from Chester to Crewe with no intermediate station.
The sprinter terminated in Crewe. From there, I took the Virgin Pendolino electric train London bound train to Stafford. The train was called "City of Chester".
From Stafford, I needed to change again. I boarded the train called "Tyne Voyage" beck to Wolverhampton. When I arrived there, it was around 10pm already.
I was very worry about my hotel room at that time. I did not pay any deposit. Will they throw away all my belongings? Or will they rise their room rate dramatically? I waited for 501 and the bus arrived late. The driver looked like a Chinese but I did not bother to ask if he speak Cantonese.
I alighted the bus at Chapel Ash. Luckily, the Fish 'n' Chips shop was still open. I bought a large portion of chips but couldn't afford any fish. I headed back to the hotel and some funny thing happened. My room was occupied by another one. I told them that I informed the porter but they said that the porter did not tell the receptionist and the receptionist thought that I had left and rented the room to other. They apologize to me and said that there was one single room left with a higher room rate. But since that was their mistake, they were willing to offer the room to me at the same rate. I didn't mind to change room but when I told them about my luggage, they couldn't tell where they are! They kept on asking the house keeper and cleaning ladies but no one got a clue. Finally, we found out that my luggage was in the original room untouched but the person checked in the room didn't say a word when he discovered his room was occupied!
Anyway, I got a bigger room and a larger bed.