Blaenau Ffestiniog from Moelwyn Bach
|Post town:||Blaenau Ffestiniog|
Blaenau Ffestiniog is a small town in Merionethshire, most famed for the Ffestiniog Railway which runs from the town down the mountains to the sea. The town's population together with Llan Ffestiniog is some 5,000, but at the height of the slate industry in the town, about 10,000 souls lived in Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Locals divide Blaenau Ffestiniog into "parts" - among these are Tanygrisiau, Rhiwbryfdir, Bethania, Dolrhedyn, Glanpwll, Cwmbowydd and Manod. In this sense, "Blaenau Ffestiniog" is used to refer only to the centre of the town.
The English pronunciation of Blaenau Ffestiniog suggested by the BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names is ˈblaɪnaɪ fɛsˈtɪnjɒɡ, but the first word is pronounced ˈbləɨna by local Welsh-speakers and usually ˈblaɪnə by non-Welsh-speakers.
Geography and history
Blaenau Ffestiniog is found in the mountains of Snowdonia. The town was once a centre of the Welsh slate mining industry, from which it owes its origin in its current form. All about the town are the heaps of slate and waste from the industry. The railways came up the mountain to Blaenau Ffestiniog in the nineteenth century to bear the slates down to the sea for export.
The slate industry declined during the early 20th century and the town's economy is now largely dependent on tourism. Although the town is in the centre of the Snowdonia National Park, the boundaries of the Park are specifically arranged to omit the town with its substantial slate waste heaps from the Park.
Blaenau Ffestiniog hosted the National Eisteddfod in 1898.
At various times the town has been the terminus for four independent railway lines, each with its own station or stations:
- the Ffestiniog Railway
- the Festiniog and Blaenau Railway
- the Conwy Valley Line of the London and North Western Railway, and
- the Bala Ffestiniog Line of the Great Western Railway.
Today Blaenau Ffestiniog railway station on the site of the former Great Western station serves as a combined station for the Ffestiniog Railway and the Conwy Valley line, their previous stations' being no longer in use.
The Ffestiniog Railway
The Ffestiniog Railway, once a practical, working railway, is now run as a heritage railway and it is a major draw for visitors. The railway was one of the first founded, by Act of Parliament in 1832, and it is now the oldest independent railway in the world.
It is a narrow-gauge railway drawn by steam. The line still runs from Blaenau Ffestiniog 13½ miles down to the port at Porthmadog, where once the slates would have been loaded onto ships. The climb from Porthmadog takes the trains 700 feet from sea level into the mountains through tranquil pastures and magnificent forests, past lakes and waterfalls, but also through the ingenious curves adopted by the engineers to take it up the slopes, with horseshoe bends, a spiral at one point, cliff-edge track and tunnels.
Together with the more recent Welsh Highland Railway, whose track runs from Porthmodog, the line connects to Caernarfon over spectacular mountain scenery.
The Ffestiniog Railway Society exists to support the Ffestiniog Railway.
- The Ffestiniog Railway: a narrow-gauge, steam-drawn heritage railway.
The Llechwedd Slate Caverns: a former slate mine open to visitors. Llechwedd is regularly listed as one of Wales' top 5 visitor attractions.
- Mountains: visitors to the town may wander among unspoilt mountain landscape, with tumbling rivers and lakes. Walking routes are laid down. One may nevertheless come across the derelict quarries of the town's industrial past.
Blaenau Ffestiniog has strong roots and tradition with music from the Quarrying boom days with the Caban, Male voice choirs and brass bands, to the Jazz / Dance bands and popular-rock bands.
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