Welsh narrow gauge railways scored

by

The jury – ignore mum and the kids at your peril

(click on picture to see photo in original location, on Ryd Ddu blog)

One of the problems of running a heritage railway is that while many railway enthusiasts can be enormously passionate about what colour their engines and carriages should be painted, but this enthusiasm becomes somewhat lukewarm when it comes to properly looking after their customers. One of our best experiences on a British heritage railway was on the Chosley and Walingford Railway simply because of the quality of conversation with which the volunteer station staff regailed their customers. Another memorable occasion occured during a visit to see that beautiful model of railways and 1930s rural England at Pendon Museum. Normally Pendon runs like a Swiss watch, but this time, due to an extended opening, the engines were beginning to run a little less sweetly because dirt had built up on the tracks. A model GWR 28xx 2-8-0 freight locomotive derailed its tender and became separated from its train. A member of our party managed to sound the alarm just before the locomotive pulled its off the rails tender through some complex and very delicate pointwork, with potentially catastrophic results. We were rewarded for our efforts by a most comprehensive detailed explanation of what went on ‘behind the scenes’ at Pendon with none of our questions left unanswered. We all had a wonderful time.

But we don’t all visit railway locations just for the quality of the conversation. Mr and Mrs Colin Lea devised an 18 point scoring system in order to rate the North Wales narrow gauge railways that they visited on their holiday.

Marks out of 5 for the following

  • Loco variety
  • Parking
  • Cafe
  • Shop
  • Carriage comfort
  • Staff friendliness/helpfulness
  • Days open in the year
  • Publicity
  • Walks
  • Revisit potential
  • On board service
  • Attractions along the line
  • Facilities for kids
  • Photography opportunities
  • Engines in use at peak
  • and up to 5 extra for special things such as being offered a footplate ride

plus marks out of 10 for the following:

  • Views
  • Interest along the length of the railway

I wonder what criteria you would use to score your own heritage railway experiences. Anyway, here are the results of the Lea review. (Click on railway to see their detailed comments and photos.)

  1. Ffestiniog Railway
  2. Talyllyn Railway
  3. Welsh Highland Railway (Caernarfon)
  4. Bala Lake Railway
  5. Llanberis Lake Railway
  6. Fairbourne Railway
  7. Welsh Highland Railway (Porthmadog)
  8. Great Orme Tramway
  9. Llechwedd
  10. Corris Railway

It was interesting that using the Lea points system the Corris Railway came last. Yet they reported, Both staff and cafe scored very highly – very friendly people, a relaxed atmosphere and the best cup of tea we had all holiday. We do wonder how the Leas would score the heritage railway sites in Poland.

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