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Welcome to Havant U3A

On Thursday 19th November 2020 Havant U3A will be welcoming Stephen Murfitt who will give us a talk on ‘The Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways: the past and the future’. As we are still social distancing the talk will be over Zoom.

Stephen Murfitt is a local solicitor who has been a member of the Board of the Festiniog Railway Company since July 1995. In 2017 he was awarded a PhD in railway history from York University.

The Ffestiniog Railway is a narrow-gauge railway running for 13 miles between Porthmadog and Blaenau Ffestiniog in North Wales. Incorporated by statute in 1832, it is one of the UK’s earliest railways and The Festiniog Railway Company is the oldest independent railway company in the world. It was initially a gravity railway constructed to convey slates from the quarries to the port of Porthmadog. In 1863 steam engines were introduced and by the end of the century slates from Blaenau Ffestiniog were being shipped around the world in significant quantities. However, the popularity of new roofing materials caused the decline of the Welsh slate industry and the line closed abruptly on 1 August 1946. In 1951 volunteers commenced one of the first attempts to reopen a heritage railway that nature had taken back. It took until 1982 to reopen to Blaenau Ffestiniog. The talk will examine the rich history of the Ffestiniog Railway highlighting its many acknowledged firsts in engineering, legal and social history.

The Welsh Highland Railway runs from Porthmadog to Caernarfon. It opened in 1923, closed in 1936 and the Ffestiniog Railway commenced reconstruction in 1997, being completed in 2009. By contrast to the Ffestiniog Railway much of the reopening was financed by European grants supported by volunteer labour. Together the two railways cover 40 miles making them the longest heritage railways in the UK.

The questions to be addressed in the talk will include the sustainability of these railways. For example, will Covid-19 and or the restrictions as to the supply and use of coal herald the end of a railway that has operated since 1832?

Please join us over Zoom on 19th November, you will not be disappointed.

Welcome to Havant U3A