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WHR in Archives

Archive storage

Recorded history can only be the “story” as we know it from available records and so it is always liable to revision in the light of the emergence of new evidence or “forgotten” records. The “standard works” † published about the Welsh Highland Railway (operated 1922 – 1936) contain much diligent research and give an excellent insight into its history and that of its predecessors. Nevertheless, further details do continue to come to light — published particularly through the pages of the Welsh Highland Heritage, the quarterly journal of the Welsh Highland Railway Heritage Group, and the Group’s occasional publications ‡ .

It is clear that, even now, much detail remains to be extracted from various archival collections, both to amplify the story and to untangle some of the mysteries that still remain. The Welsh Highland Railway Heritage Group is committed to continuing research into the history of the Welsh Highland Railway and its predecessors, with the results of its researches appearing in the Group’s quarterly journal.

Knowing where to start and where to look when researching railway history can sometimes be a little daunting (Peter Johnson’s Acknowledgements† show the breadth of his searches) so to assist and encourage new researchers, listings have been compiled of material relating specifically to the Welsh Highland and its predecessors which is known to exist – and to await further “mining” – in some of the publicly accessible archives – follow the links below. The Gwynedd and National Library of Wales links open a .pdf file in a separate window in each case.

Gwynedd Archives – principally at Caernarfon Record Office (access details).

National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth (access details).

The National Archives at Kew – use their catalogue search facility, with Welsh Highland, North Wales Narrow Gauge, Portmadoc Beddgelert & South Snowdon (or any other relevant title in which interested) in the “Word or phrase (mandatory)” box (access details).

University of Glasgow Archive Services houses the Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons archive (use their search facility for McAlpine); this contains nothing specific to their contract to construct the Welsh Highland Railway but does contain general material about the McAlpine firm’s activities in that era (access details).


Members will be aware that Professor Pat Layzell-Ward has compiled a catalogue of the Festiniog Railway’s deposit (XD/97) at Gwynedd Archives, Caernarfon, and that this deposit – which also contains Welsh Highland material – has now become available for inspection. Some of the WHR documents have been accessed and we keep a record of this here so that researchers can quickly identify the location of documents which may be helpful to their work.

In order to facilitate our record keeping and to help future historians may we request that members who take advantage of this new facility advise Derek Lystor (email : di*********@we*******************.uk) of the reference number and title of any material which they access.



Important documents which have either been photographed or transcribed are shown below:

1922 contract for renovating the North Wales Narrow Gauge, for up-grading to passenger standards the Portmadoc, Beddgelert & South Snowdon (the erstwhile Croesor Tramway), and for constructing the long-awaited link between the two.

1923 working instructions for the Welsh Highland and the Portmadoc Junction Railways.

1934 lease by the Festiniog Railway of the Welsh Highland Railway.

Chronologies of the Stations and Operations of the WHR as prepared by Richard Maund.

Additionally a list of pre-existing material held at Gwynedd archives relating specifically to the WHR and its predecessors can be accessed here.

† = James I C Boyd, Narrow Gauge Railways in South Caernarvonshire, Oakwood Press, 1988/1989 (two volumes), and Peter Johnson, An Illustrated History of the Welsh Highland Railway, Oxford Publishing Co., 2009.

‡ = WHRHG Membership Secretary: Derek Lystor, 14 Teign Village, Bovey Tracey, Newton Abbot, TQ13 9QJ; e-mail: di*********@we*******************.uk

Richard Maund