The first Welsh Highland Heritage Railway train has run on the challenging gradients of the Welsh Highland Railway on Saturday June 25, 2011. The test train, double headed by WHHR locos Gelert and Gertrude, was run in conjunction with Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland engineers to test braking systems. The WHHR operates air-braked stock, while F&WHR trains are exclusively vacuum-braked.

The train left WHHR metals at around 1800 and headed for the foot of Nantmor Bank – the start of the almost continuous 1 in 40 six mile climb to the summit of the line at Rhyd Ddu which makes the WHR the toughest railway in the UK.

After the satisfactory completion of brake tests from speeds of up to 20mph to measure stopping distances on the level and on Nantmor Bank, Gelert proceeded through the Aberglaslyn Pass and tunnels to Beddgelert to take water, before returning to Hafod y Llyn to rejoin Gertrude and the train for the run back to Porthmadog, arriving back at around 2230.

This is the first time a WHHR train has travelled beyond the site of Traeth Mawr Loop – the end of the section of the railway laid by WHHR volunteers as their contribution to the rebuilding of the whole 25 miles of the Welsh Highland. The location is now marked by one of the ‘Tin Tunnel’ accommodation bridges built for farm access.

“This is an historic moment for both railways,” says WHHR Chairman Martyn Owen. “At times it seemed that it would never happen, but the wait has definitely been worthwhile.”

Further tests are planned over the coming months and the next movement from Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland to WHHR metals is likely to be the visit of historic de Winton vertical boiler locomotive Chaloner on its way from Caernarfon to Porthmadog in July.

“We’re very pleased to be working with our colleagues at the WHHR,” adds F&WHR General Manager Paul Lewin. “The new spirit of cooperation can only bring benefits to both our organisations and to tourism in the area.”

More photos can be found of the event in the WHR Photo gallery. Our thanks to Andrew Kennedy and Oakwood Visual for the photos.