17th November 2021
The Bala Lake Railway’s high-profile ¾ mile extension to the new Bala Town station received a boost this month with the award of a second grant for almost £40,000 from Magnox Ltd, the company responsible for the decommissioning of the Nuclear power station at Trawsfynydd (near Blaenau Ffestiniog) and which provides socio-economic support to enhance education and skills, provision or support for local employment, economic diversification or social infrastructure.
Describing the award, Bala Lake Railway Trust Chairman Julian Birley BEM said:
This is fantastic news and further confirmation that the belief and support in ‘The Red Dragon Project’ is unabated. The support we have received from Magnox has been vital to ensure the extension remains on track.
Before a single piece of track can be laid a lengthy process involving designs and planning needs to take place and this is expensive. Thanks to Magnox we can now achieve our targets to seek the respective consents needed and continue the momentum that will take us into a superb new station on Bala high street.
Fellow Trustee Toby Watkins said:
In over three decades of railway heritage I have never seen an organisation with such energy and purpose as the Bala Lake Railway Trust. I have been involved with a number of steam railways and have seen up close the difference they can make to a local economy. Our extension into Bala town will transform the high street and the local area.
We are extremely grateful to Magnox for their continued support as we are approaching the point where the next phase of detailed work is required from local specialist companies.
The grant of £38,790 will pay for the fees required for the final part of the planning application, additional engineering consultants, architects and quantity surveyors whose services are needed to move the project on to the next stage of scoping up the specification for the actual construction.
28th May 2021
19th May 2021 was another major step forward for the extension of the Bala Lake Railway when Natural Resources Wales (NRW) was granted planning permission by Snowdonia National Park Authority to upgrade the flood defences around the town of Bala.
NRW have been a great support to the railway, agreeing to design and incorporate the additional civil engineering required for the railway to be laid on top of the defences along the north shore of the lake.
As a result of a successful fund-raising campaign in February, the Trust is now able to enter into an agreement with NRW to pay for the additional engineering work and we can look forward to the turning of the first sod towards the end of the year.
This work will cover nearly a third of the whole route and the Trust wishes to express its deep gratitude to NRW.
With planning permission now granted for NRW, the Trust will imminently be submitting the application for planning permission for the full 1,200m of the extension.
Over the weekend of 12th and 13th June, for the first time in 56 years, it will be possible to experience the sight and sound of a steam locomotive in the town of Bala as the railway celebrates the progress of the extension with the Bala ReRailed event.
Quarry Hunslet "Winifred", built in 1885 to work at the Penrhyn Quarry’s harbour near Bangor, will be giving rides along a demonstration line that has been constructed on the site of the new Bala Town station. In addition, there will a miniature railway, displays of cars and guided walks along the route of the proposed extension.
Bring the family and see how Bala is becoming the new “Go To” destination of north Wales. Full details of the event are available on the railway's website.
The railway will be operating a frequent service between Llanuwchllyn and the current terminus at Bala (Pen y Bont), with a vintage bus connecting the station with the site in town.
1st March 2021
We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the level of support and the generosity of your donations in response to our urgent appeal to raise £50,000 in a month. We're pleased to announce that not only have we reached the target, but we've raised an astonishing total of £71,000, and every penny will go towards the work of extending the railway to Bala.
With the final money raised, we are now in a position to commit to Natural Resources Wales the £277K required to include the route of the railway in their flood defence upgrade alongside Bala Lake. This means that the first physical work on the extension will now begin later this year.
Julian Birley, Chairman of the BLR Trust said:
This is beyond our wildest expectations. We have been bowled over how wonderful people have been. The Bala Lake Railway Trust, all the staff and volunteers of the railway, the businesses and residents of the town would like to express their heartfelt thanks to each and every person who has supported us and donated. You are now forever part of this railway.
As well as individual supporters, we have received support from a number of organisations and would like to acknowledge their help:
• The editor of Llanuwchllyn Express, the magazine of the Bala Lake Railway Society, has put together a special edition of the magazine and the proceeds from all sales are going to the Trust.
• Nigel Bird Books who have sponsored the printing costs of Llanuwchllyn Express Special Edition.
• RailAdvent have donated all proceeds from selling a limited edition print to the Trust.
• Support from the specialist press, including Heritage Railway magazine who published a wonderful article to raise awareness and which we are pleased to make available for download below.
Whilst this gets the first stage of the project rolling, funds are still needed to complete the rest of the work, and we would be pleased to receive any further donations.
13th December 2020
The Trust is urgently looking to raise £276,000 towards the cost of work being undertaken by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) on the flood defence improvements for the town of Bala. The £6million project is due to start next year and NRW have agreed to include the railway's requirements for approximately 300metres of new formation (that will form part of the route of the extension) and undertake the physical construction work, but only if the Trust contributes towards the overall cost. So far, approximately £70,000 has been raised, leaving a shortfall of about £210,000, which the Trust needs to find as quickly as possible so as not to miss this exceptional opportunity. Commented Trust chairman, Julian Birley:
This is absolutely time-critical. We cannot miss this opportunity, as to visit this element of the project at a later date will, at best, triple the cost and, at worst, put the whole project in jeopardy, as to work in an area so environmentally sensitive will be very, very difficult. This is incredibly important.
The Trust would therefore welcome any donation that you could make, no matter how small or large, towards the cost.
We are are also very grateful to The Railway Magazine for allowing us to publish here the complete six-page article that appears in the December 2020 issue of the magazine, which provides a very full account of the Trust's ambition to extend the railway to Bala.
18th September 2020
Work continues on the planning application to made to Snowdonia National Park Authority, which we hope will be ready to submit in December 2020. Dave High of engineering firm Caulmert comments:
While the railway extension may be short in length, it is incredibly complex due to its surroundings. The site is protected, and the new route takes it over a Grade 2 listed bridge, all in the Snowdonia National Park which presents many interesting challenges. Our engineers have been extremely innovative in overcoming some of these issues and making sure that the project will have minimal impact on the environmentally and historically sensitive site.
The route of the extension will make use of approximately 300 metres of the £6m improvements being made by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to the flood defences for the town of Bala. The Trust is working in close partnership with NRW and it is essential that the railway is ready to be constructed at the same time as the flood defences to minimise the disruption to the town.
We have updated the Construction page to reflect the new three-phase approach we are taking towards the construction of the extension, which includes revised figures for the cost for of the extension. We have so far spent a total of just over £1million (including volunteer and professional pro-bono support) and anticipate that the final phase will cost £2.5million. However, with £500,000 very generously pledged by Visit Wales, the total remaining that we now need to raise is £2million.
News of the extension is spreading far-and-wide and an excellent article about the extension was published on the BBC News Website:
Finally, we have launched an online petition to gauge the level of support for the extension, which has attracted over 1,000 signatures in a little more than 24 hours since it was launched; a huge thank you to everyone who has signed it so far. In addition, we are very grateful for the support that we are receiving from many of the shops in the town who are promoting written petitions to complement the online petition. If you would like to sign the petition, please visit the following link:
4th August 2020
It was with great excitement that the Bala Lake Railway was the first heritage railway in Wales, and one of the first in the UK, to reopen after the enforced lockdown., having watched the rails of our wonderful railway go rusty during the beautiful weather of early summer.
Behind the scenes, work has continued apace on the lengthy preparation of the planning application for the extension of the railway into the town. It is hoped that this will be ready for submission by late Autumn. Being a new railway formation and being built in such an environmentally sensitive area, this application is incredibly detailed and involved, with the current cost standing at £140,000. All the signs coming back from the consultant engineers who are working on this are that, providing we tick all the boxes, then the permission will be forthcoming.
Where we can we have continued to fund raise and the belief and support in the project continues to grow.
Out of every crisis there are opportunities and our present situation with the pandemic is just one such opportunity. With foreign travel being so badly decimated by the Covid-19 outbreak and the siyuation unlike to improve for years to come, here in Wales we are looking to welcoming many more visitors in need of a well deserved holiday but who have decided to stay in the UK. While there was already a strong commercial business case for the railway to reach town, the situation has intensified dramatically.
With the new main station just off the high street and visitors starting their journey from there, the railway draws itself, the town and the lake much closer together. By doing this Bala becomes a destination in its own right rather than a town to just pass through.
Come and see us and as always, thank you for your continued support.
5th April 2020
10th February 2020
On Saturday night, the Heritage Railways Association held its annual awards dinner in Birmingham. It is the Oscars for the heritage railway movement.
Despite some stiff opposition such as The London Transport Museum in Covent Garden and the Bluebell Railway in Sussex, we are delighted to announce that the railway won the award for the Most Outstanding Visitor Attraction in recognition of the opening of the new Heritage Centre at Llanuwchllyn. The centre, made possible by a Heritage Lottery Grant, protects and displays artefacts relevant to the slate industry of north Wales. This includes not only locomotives but less obvious items such as a variety of waggons, tools, signs and a demonstration of the different types of rail that have been used over the years. This all goes towards telling the story of how important the slate industry was to the region. The centre is open every day that trains run on the railway and has proved very popular with visitors to the line.
The Trust sends its warmest congratulations to the team from the railway whose hard work has been so deservedly recognised.
28th October 2019
We are very pleased to announce that the Trust has completed the purchase from Bala Rugby Club of the next section of land that will form the trackbed of the extension of the railway to the new Bala Town Station. The Rugby Club has been extremely supportive of the plan to extend the railway and this is a great example of two local organisations working together.
We are absolutely delighted with this acquisition as it is another great step forward in extending the railway. It is also very gratifying to think that the money for this land has come from funds raised from all over the UK and this has now gone into a local community asset. The Bala Rugby Club have been fantastic with their help and support and it is great to see the community benefit.
Tony Parry, Chairman of the Bala Rugby Club, said:
We were very happy to support and help the Bala Lake Railway as it will be of benefit to the whole town. It is great to have two local organisations working so well together.
Work now continues behind the scenes towards submitting the planning application to the National Park Authority by the end of January.
Finally, we are very grateful to Heritage Railway magazine for supplying the following excerpts of their recent coverage of the Trust's work.
2nd October 2o19
A huge amount of work continues behind the scenes. The Trust has been in extensive consultations with the Highways Agency and National Park Authority in relation to the extension, and we continue to work closely with Natural Resources Wales in scoping the scheme to upgrade the flood defences that will also provide us with a formation for approximately one third of the route.
We are therefore pleased to announce that Dave High from Caulmert has been appointed to work on the planning application for the extension to be submitted to the Snowdonia National Park Authority. Dave brings a huge amount of experience having been closely involved with number of railway civil engineering projects, including the construction of the Porthmadog Cross-Town Rail Link on the Welsh Highland Railway. In the meantime, Roland Doyle continues to work on technical design aspects of the extension.
21st September 2019
The Trust’s fundraising efforts have been given a major boost over the past month thanks to the amazing efforts of Bala Badminton Club and the generosity of two new Gold subscribers to the Red Dragon Appeal.
The Bala Badminton Club held a sponsored 24 hour ‘bike ride’ on static bikes at the Bala Leisure Centre earlier in the summer. They aimed to cycle the equivalent of Bala to Cardiff and back, but they ended up going to Cardiff a second time and over half way back! They raised just short of £2000, and made it up to this sum, the amount being shared equally between the Trust and a charity in Wrexham. Lois Jones, who has worked seasonally for the railway in the café for several years, and her mother Nia, wanted to raise money for the railway, and the kindly club agreed to help out.
On accepting the cheque for £1,000 from the Club on behalf of the Bala Lake Railway Trust, the railway's General Manager David Jones said:
I would like to thank the club for their superb fundraising effort. The money raised will be going towards the extension of the railway into Bala town, and it is absolutely fantastic that part of the local community in Bala has raised such a large sum of money towards our goal, which will not only benefit the railway, but the town of Bala as well.
Julian Birley, Chairman of the Bala Lake Railway Trust, who is spearheading the work on extending the railway but was unfortunately not able to be present when the cheque was presented, said:
The support that we’ve had for extending the railway from Pen-y-Bont into the town has been overwhelming, with donations coming from all over the country. But it means so much more to us to see how the local community, and in particular the Bala Badminton Club have got behind our plans and gone to so much effort to this raise money. I can’t thank them enough.
The Red Dragon Appeal, which was launched to help raise funds for the Red Dragon Project to extend the railway, has now passed the £40,000 mark thanks to three new subscribers in the past month, two of whom have taken a Gold subscription, representing a donation to the Trust of £12,000. The project is gaining a huge amount of momentum, as demonstrated by the wonderful efforts of the Badminton Club and the extraordinary generosity of our subscribers.
If you have not yet become a subscriber to the Red Dragon Appeal, this would be a wonderful time to join. There are a range of fantastic benefits on offer, including the only way to secure a ticket on the inaugural, invitation-only train to run along the extension for you and your family. Please visit the appeal’s page for more details.
26th February 2019
The Trust is delighted to announce that its flagship Red Dragon Project, which is working towards extending the Bala Lake Railway to a new terminus in the town of Bala, has been awarded a £23,000 grant by the Magnox Socio Economic Fund.
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority established the fund to mitigate the impact that decommissioning its nuclear power stations would have on local communities, and provides support for local employment, economic diversification and social infrastructure, and to improve education and skills provision.
Edward Selden, Trawsfynydd Closure Director, said:
The Magnox socio-economic scheme is providing invaluable support in the early stages of this transformational project, boosting the economy through tourism to the area and bringing much needed employment opportunities. This helps to build a sustainable future.
Describing the award, Trust Chairman Julian Birley BEM said:
This is fantastic news that gives further impetus to a project that continues to build momentum. There are now so many people on board with this project and it has got the town buzzing. With the necessary land purchases well in hand, we are getting ever nearer to the magic moment when we start laying track, although we still have a lot do before then.
Explaining how the Trust qualified, Julian added:
The extension means so much more than an extended running line; it will completely transform the fortunes of the town. The overwhelming support this project has from the local community shows how important it is to them and why it so important that we keep up the pace.
The grant will go towards the engineering consultancy necessary for the extension designs, in particular working with Natural Resources Wales to include the formation for the railway during their forthcoming scheme to upgrade the flood defences along Llyn Tegid.
25th October 2018
The Trust is pleased to annouce that funding has now been secured to purchase the next two pieces of land that will form part of the track bed of the extension of the railway to Bala Town Station. These are the strip of land alongside Bala Rugby Club, and the piece of land across the top of the two adjacent fields. The legal work to progress the purchase of both is underway and as ever, we are indebted to our solicitor, Lisa Williams, for all of her hard work, which she is providing free-of-charge on the Trust’s behalf.
For those who have looked at the updated plans, it can be seen that part of the extension will run along the lake foreshore, which will provide a stunning vista of Llyn Tegid and the mountains beyond. The Trust has been working closely with Natural Resources Wales (NRW), who have a remit to improve the town’s flood defences; as luck would have it, these works will provide us with the formation for this part of the route. Through collaboration with NRW, it is anticipated that they will carry out all the civil engineering works required for the railway to then lay the track.
The Trust has set a fundraising target of £150,000. Whilst we are delighted with the initial response to the launch of the Red Dragon Appeal, this really would be a fantastic time for you to become a subscriber if you have been considering it but have not yet signed up.
9th July 2018
We are pleased to publish revised plans for the planned route of the extension on the route page. The principal changes are a revision to the crossing over the River Dee, where the railway will share the bridge with the road, and the realignment of the route alongside the Bala Town Rugby Club.
1st March 2018
The Trust has taken the first step in the construction of the extension of the Bala Lake Railway with the demolition of the derelict warehouse on Heol Aran. The site, where the new Bala Town station building is to be located, has been levelled and will initially be used for storage of materials for the extension, starting with a number of points that have been acquired from the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway.
Commented Trust chairman, Julian Birley:
The Extension has started! The Bala Lake Railway really does mean business.
The acquired site in the town has been cleared and levelled, and is now ready for the future construction of the new terminus.
Support from the town and members is incredible but we still need help, so please either donate through the website or join the Red Dragon Appeal.
The following pictures show the warehouse as it was, the demolition process, the cleared site, and the points being unloaded::
14th December 2017
The Trust is pleased to annouce the launch of the Red Dragon Appeal, to help raise money for the Red Dragon Project, the Trust's flagship project to extend the Bala Lake Railway into the heart of the town of Bala. Supporters can make donations by monthly subscription, or as a one-off donation, and in return receive a package of exclusive benefits.
The Trust's chairman, Julian Birley, said:
The extension of the Bala Lake Railway into the town is going to be huge step change to the future success and sustainability of the railway. Never have I come across such local and political support for a railway project. It is ambitious and exciting, and I hope as many people as possible will take part in the incentive scheme and become part of our success.
27th October 2017
The Trust is delighted to report that following discussions with Bala Rugby Club and a local farmer, an agreement in principle has been reached to purchase a strip of land along the very edge of the rugby field and a small piece of the adjacent field. With slight realignment of the intended route, this will put the extension within a very short distance of the proposed new town station.
Julian Birley, chairman of the Bala Lake Railway Trust, said:
We could not have asked for more support, it has been a delight to work with Bala Rugby Club and the neighbouring farmer. We regard ourselves as a community asset, and working with other parts of the community fulfils our absolute aims and objectives. However, there is still much to do, not least the application for the Transport and Works Act Order from Parliament. We look to continue to work with the local community to bring this project to a successful conclusion creating benefits for the local area.
A revised plan of the realigned route can be found on the Route page.
Following the acquisition of the site for the new station building in the town, the Trust is pleased to announce that the Snowdonia National Park planning department have granted planning permission for the demolition of the derelict warehouse in Aran Street, and the clearing and levelling of the site. This immediate improvement to the area will send out the clear message that it is not a case of if, but when, the railway will arrive in the town.
With support and belief in the project growing, fundraising is continuing apace and we urge as many people to join us to donate be part of the team that makes this happen.
3rd August 2017
Acquiring this second piece of land is a huge step towards the Trust's ambition of extending the railway as it means that we have now secured the site for the new station building, which crucially is next to a large public car park. The purchase has been made possible thanks to an incredibly generous single donation from a supporter of the Trust who sees the tremendous potential and value in the project. Once again, we are indebted to Lisa Williams for the huge amount of work she has undertaken on behalf of the Trust.
The diagram below shows the land that has been purchased:
The next stage is for the land to be registered and planning consent obtained to demolish the derelict garage. From there, the site can be cleared, levelled and landscaped, ready for when the rest of the trackbed has been acquired and construction can begin.
2nd April 2017
Following the exciting news about the purchase of the land for Bala Town station, there is further good news for the Red Dragon Project with the award of a Heritage Lottery grant, made to the Railway, of £38,500 to improve the carriage shed at Llanuwnchllyn. As well as larger and more secure accommodation for rolling stock, the extended building will provide a much improved visitor experience through disabled access and better interpretation of the heritage exhibits. A revised track layout that allows access from each end will also provide better operationally flexibility, particularly useful during the increasingly popular programme of galas events held each year.
Full details of the grant can be found on the Railway's website and Facebook page:
18th February 2017
The Trust is thrilled to announce that yesterday (17th February 2017), the exchange of contracts took place for the first plot of land where the new Bala Town station is to be constructed. Commented the Trust's chairman, Julian Birley:
Securing the first piece of land for the new Bala Town station is a hugely significant step towards the construction of the extension of the Bala Lake Railway. The land has been paid for by the very generous donations of our supporters across the UK, showing how important the Red Dragon Project is and how it has captured people's imaginations. The Trust is indebted to the fantastic work of volunteer solicitor Lisa Williams who has been instrumental in the purchase.
The diagram below shows the land that has been purchased:
11th February 2017
On Tuesday, 7th February, former Dinorwic Quarry Hunslet George B worked its first train in nearly 50 years during a David Williams photo charter. Thanks to the generousity of renowned railway photographer Malcolm Ranieri, we are delighted to present a selection of images from the event.
7th January 2017
We are delighted to publish the findings of the Economic Impact Assessment Report that was conducted to determine the effect that the construction of the extension will have on the local economy. The report, conducted by JOP Consulting, is extremely positive and shows the significant additional benefit that the extension will bring to Bala and the surrounding area. A synopsis of the report can be found here.
23rd December 2016
The Trust's proposal to cross the River Dee on a tramway section using the existing B4403 road bridge featured in a prominent article in the main news section of issue 223 of Heritage Railway magazine, and we are delighted that the magazine has given us permission to make the full article available through our website.
We are extremely grateful to the publishers of Heritage Railway magazine for allowing us to reproduce the article on this website.
17th December 2016
4th December 2016
The Trust is pleased to announce the launch of a brand-new Facebook page. We'll be posting regular updates as the Red Dragon project progresses, so we hope you'll follow the page to receive the latest news.
29th November 2016
21st November 2016
The Trust's plans for the Red Dragon project have been featured in an article in the North Wales Daily Post, which can be found on their website:
The full text of Julian Birley's quote to the paper reads as follows:
Crossing the river is the biggest hurdle we encounter in extending the railway into the town of Bala. We have commissioned a highways agency to look at the possibility of doing what we want to do in the plan and this has now been done. Paid for by one of our supporters at a cost of £6,500 this report demonstrates that the proposal is viable to run the railway down the road as a tramway and with this in mind the agency are now consulting with the county’s highways department. By adopting this plan a million pounds will be saved in engineering works. There will be no need to encroach on to the Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI) and it will add a novelty to the route that has been met with great support by the local residents. By having the railway cross the bridge as a tramway it will also serve to slow the traffic down approaching the town.
A meeting with Natural Resources Wales is planned for 21st November when it will be discussed how best to build the railway along the northern end of the lake. This is important so as to still provide walkers and cyclists with their own route but also to visitors to see and appreciate one of the finest views from a train anywhere in the United Kingdom.
Money has now been raised to purchase the first piece of land which will provide space for the new platforms. Fund raising now commences to raise the £85,000 for the site of the station building itself opposite the car park in Aran Street. Please support us by donating through our website www.balalakerailwaytrust.org.uk.
16th November 2016
We are pleased to announce that the Trust is now able to accept online donations through the MyDonate portal.
28th October 2016
The Trust is pleased to publish revised plans for the route of the extension into Bala Town. Working in partnership with the Highways Agency, it is now planned that the railway will use a tramway section across the River Dee bridge (similar to that found on the Welsh Highland Railway across Britannia Bridge). The revised plans can be found on the route page.
In addition, the Trust has been engaging with the various stakeholders involved in the project. Commented Julian Birley, Chairman of the Trust:
One of the most important aspects of preparing for the extension of the railway into the town has been the Economic Impact Survey. During the season, our visitors have been surveyed and their responses are now being analysed. However, the views of local businesses are also of vital importance, and so invitations were sent out for a meeting with the Trust and market survey agency at Llanuwchllyn Station on 13th October.
We were delighted that nineteen businesses attended and a very useful meeting was conducted. Their response was extremely positive and it was very reassuring that the railway is regarded as the premier tourist attraction in the area. Once concluded I met with John Pritchard the surveyor who was very brief in his reaction saying: "It does not get any better than that."
With the surveys and meeting concluded, we await the completed report. In the meantime, we continue the detailed and complex discussions with Natural Resources Wales and the Highways Department.