A trip to North Wales wouldn’t be complete without visiting the summit of Snowdon. There are six wonderful walking trails to experience but if you don’t feel that you can manage these, why not take the train? The Snowdon Mountain Railway has been transporting sightseers to the summit of Wales’ highest peak since 1896. The journey delivers a memorable day with amazing views and a slice of history. More than 12 million people have taken the train up Snowdon since it opened and the outing remains as popular as ever.
The idea of a railway to the summit of Snowdon was first discussed as early as 1869. However, George William Duff Assheton-Smith, the owner of the land, objected to the plans as he felt the railway would ruin the landscape. When plans for a railway from Porthmadog to the summit were mooted and the narrow-gauge railway to Rhyd Ddu opened, LLanberis suffered a loss of trade. Assheton-Smith was then forced to withdraw his objection to the Snowdon train.
Snowdon Mountain Railway was constructed between December 1894, when the first sod was cut by Enid Assheton-Smith, and February 1896. The total cost of the project was £63,800. The railway was constructed by just 150 men in 14 months.
150 men with picks, shovels and dynamite laid almost eight kilometres of track up the mountain. The Snowdon Mountain Tramroad and Hotels Company Ltd.then purchased five Swiss steam locomotives, three of which are still in service on the mountain. Three further locomotives were purchased from Switzerland in the 1920s. In 1924, the Snowdon Mountain Tramroad and Hotels Company Ltd sold the Royal Victoria Hotel and became the Snowdon Mountain Railway.
The precise date that the first building at the summit was built isn’t known. By 1820, there was definitely a structure there and it wasn’t long after this that you could buy refreshments . A multipurpose building designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis was constructed in 1930. This was replaced by a new building and station which opened in 2009.
The locomotive fleet has been supplemented by four diesel locomotives and three diesel-electric railcars. It is still possible to reach the summit by steam train. Check the timetable for steam train departures and book in advance to secure your place.
There is much to see on the journey from Llanberis to an altitude of 1085m. Shortly after departing from Llanberis you will coross two viaducts where the Ceunant Mawr waterfall plunges into the gorge below. It isn’t long before you get your first glimpse of the summit and you can also admire Moel Eilio. Later, Moel Hebog comes into view. Steam trains refill their water tanks at Halfway Station before the final ascent. After you leave Halfway Station, you can enjoy gorgeous views of the valley below and then a stunning rocky landscape before arriving at the UK’s highest visitor centre.