Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The Beginning of a New Era

For a number of years, the management group at Snowdon Mountain Railway have had a vision to improve the quality of everything we do at the Railway in order that we might exceed our thousands of customers’ expectations. An integral part of this was the bringing to fruition the complex project to replace our Snowdon Summit destination with a state of the art visitor centre named Hafod Eryri that opened in 2009.

For the three years prior to this significant work to the track and infrastructure took place and the vision was that on completion attention would move to improvements to the rolling stock. Customer intelligence told us that even though trips by Steam train would cost more, providing the trip represented value for money, our customers would be happy to pay for the appropriate quality. In addition, it was our vision to provide an improved passenger experience for all of our customers in modern contemporary carriages pushed by refurbished and improved Hunslet Diesel Locomotives. These projects were long in gestation but from order to delivery were less than 12 months.  Major Capital projects of this type have historically been rare events at the Railway. New locomotives in 1896 to open the railway were not added to until 1923 and diesel locomotives were added in 1985. Likewise passenger carriages were a rare addition with the current stock in part dating from the opening in 1895 and some from 1923.

New contemporary carriage being pushed by diesel loco
The planned development of new contemporary carriages and a more traditional carriage for the steam service is truly of enormous importance for the continued success of our railway. Our first contemporary carriage for diesel service was delivered and commissioned in November 2012 and an additional three carriages will follow on February 2013 in time for the new season that begins in March. The Traditional Diesel Service offers a more contemporary style of travel with the addition of four new carriages. Designed and build in the UK by a partnership between Garmendale Engineering Limited, Hunslet Engine Company, and Snowdon Mountain Railway. These carriages boast higher levels of space and comfort for our passengers compared to the previously used carriages. This innovative lightweight design not only holds an increased carrying capacity of 74 passengers but also enables disabled access for every trip as opposed to the four trips a day previously. The diesel locomotives are powered by 320 Horsepower (238 kW) six cylinder turbocharged Rolls Royce diesel engines of 12 litres capacity. 

The Railway holds a wealth of history, spanning three centuries, something we are proud of and want to share with each passenger who travels with us. The primary concept for the Heritage Steam Experience was to take passengers back in time for a journey not too dissimilar to what our first passengers experienced over 100 years ago. With an original 1895 steam locomotive and 21st Century Victorian style carriage, it would be the ultimate heritage experience. The Heritage Steam Carriage is currently in the pre - production phase and the plan calls for its arrival in Llanberis, May 2013 ready for service in June.

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  1. I think the new carriages are a good idea, but how about taking the approach of the brienz Rothorn Bahn, who operate modern, more efficient steam locomotives capable of pushing 2 coaches to the summit in normal service and the older steam locomotives comes out when needed. Diesel traction should only be used for maintenace, emergencies and out of season trains, the guarantee of steam for every trip on certain days of the year would draw in more people, the present lottery makes the trip unappealing because of the risk of being stuck on a diesel train.

  2. The various new carriages all look very exciting, but it seems as if there will only be one "heritage" carriage and only one or perhaps two trips each day with a steam locomotive - so 90% or more of the trips will be diesel. What is going to happen to the rest of the steam fleet if you only need one loco? It is great that at last people will know which trains are run with steam and which with diesel, ending the unpopular "diesel lottery", but please run lots of trains with the wonderful old steam locos. They are so much more atmospheric than the diesels and I am sure people will pay for a trip to the summit by steam!

  3. Thank you very much for your comments. The new era begins with a dedicated steam service which customers will be able to book and guarantee - this is the first time we have been able to offer this service. Not only will customers be able to guarantee a steam locomotive, but will travel on a spacious carriage seating 34 passengers with an hour stop at the summit.

    If this is successful we intend to bring in a second service in 2014. Each of the two steam services will complete a maximum of 3 journeys - which is roughly the number of steam journeys we are currently able to complete. We hope the new dedicated steam service will be able to preserve our heritage and hope that the steam locomotive service will run for at least another 117 years.

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