Without a doubt, the re-birth of the Welsh highland is the greatest railway heritage story of our times. Begun in the 1870s, this fascinating narrow-gauge line, built through some of Britain’s most glorious scenery, was bankrupt almost from the start.
Struggling on, dogged by misfortune and mismanagement, its 23 miles were not fully completed until 1923, and even then it failed to reach its ultimate goal of Caernarfon. Then, after just fourteen brief years, it closed down, to be sold off for scrap in the Second World War, while the trackbed reverted to farmland and wilderness, in places vanishing altogether.
A full half century was to pass before the railway preservation movement became confident and established enough to attempt to waken this sleeping beauty. The rebuilding of the Welsh Highland, from scratch, would lead through a quagmire of debt, scheming, and politics high and low, while steam engineers searched the world for suitable locomotives and rolling stock.
This programme tells the story of how that seemingly impossible dream was conceived, nurtured and finally completed, all the way to Caernarfon. Rare historic and contemporary film is backed by nostalgic scenes of the wilderness years, now themselves history, while several of the key players involved tell of their part in bringing the dream to reality. With wide-ranging appeal to tourists, historians and enthusiasts alike, this programme forms a lasting record of a truly remarkable achievement.
A final segment of the programme is devoted to 10 minutes bonus footage featuring steam action on the South African Railway’s narrow gauge in the 1980s. A source for equipment essential to the rebuilding of the Welsh Highland and a source that through its existence helped ensure that a dream could indeed come true.