Saturday, January 21, 2012

Those crazy Victorians

(Well, it can be a long walk. And it does rain. Quite a lot.)

In Britain, the majority of railways were built in the three "railway manias" - most famously 1844-46 but also again in the 1850s and 1870s - when something like the internet bubble happened for roughly the same reason; a disruptive technology that made the flow of information and services easier than ever before. Some of the routes promoted were outright fraudulent, others were directly competitive (there was no obvious reason to have two mainlines from London to Birmingham or three from London - Manchester), and until the 1923 grouping there were a plethora of lines - more than one hundred survived to join the Great Western, London Midland & Scottish, London North Eastern and Southern Railways.

But this very national network - reaching into odd corners (Laxfield), hopelessly romantic names (Ashby Magna), high peaks (Bakewell) and the mountain fastnesses (Cwm Prysor) and some - like Steele Road - that served nothing but the railway itself - would be cut back by Beeching and the failure of network economics. But some of the strangest bits of Victorian over-enthusiasm for railways survive. And the Snowdon Mountain Railway is one of the oddest.

So mass tourism came to North Wales in the 1880s and 1890s. And Snowdon (snow hill in Anglo-Saxon) or Yr Wyddfa (The Tumulus in Welsh) Wales' highest peak, stood proudly at 3,560ft over the lake at Llanberis, along with a number of paths to the top. But it's a steep walk, and besides, railways (in this case imported from Switzerland) could do almost anything - in the case, literally climb mountains. And thus was born the SMR.

It is steep.

(The lake at the top of the picture is the bottom of the railway.)

And since the opening, little steam engines (and in more recent years, some diesels) have pushed one or two coaches up the mountain. And continue to do so....


But the walk is also lovely, and if you come up the other side of the mountain, you can see this:

(And then you get to see steam trains at the top, and have a nice lunch in the new cafe on top too. Bonus!)

No comments: