The name of a Class 97 locomotive was unveiled at a ceremony hosted by Network Rail at Minffordd railway station on Friday 12 April.
To celebrate Network Rail Wales and Borders’ partnership with the Welsh heritage railway community, the locomotive was named ‘Rheilffyrdd Ffestiniog ac Eryri/Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways’.
Ffestiniog Railway, which runs from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog, is the world’s oldest narrow-gauge railway and the Welsh Highland Railway, operating from Caernarfon to Porthmadog, is the UK's longest heritage railway.
Representatives from Network Rail, Transport for Wales and other industry bodies attended the ceremony, with Dafydd Elis-Thomas, Assembly Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd and Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism unveiling the chosen name.
Minffordd railway station was chosen for the naming ceremony, due to its location on the Cambrian Coast Line and close proximity to Ffestiniog and Welsh Highlands Railway.
The newly-named locomotive is part of a special fleet of three Class 97 (Network Rail engineering trains), which are solely for work on the Cambrian line.
The Cambrian line, which runs from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth and Pwllheli, was the first to trial the European Railway Traffic Management System (ERTMS), a technological system which sees traditional track-side signals replaced by an in-cab system.
This particular locomotive, which is compatible with ERTMS, has recently been in use for Rail-Head Treatment during the autumn season and is planned for track renewal work later in the year.
Paul Lewin, general manager of Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways said: “We really value the relationship between Network Rail and the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways.
“We both have a strong focus on skills that will be needed in future. Every apprentice that works for Network Rail in Wales and Borders spends some time with our team and we also look to help attract applicants from North Wales to join the training schemes offered by both our companies. Also, a number of Network Rail staff use their volunteering allowance to work on our railway, which is really appreciated.”
Sir Peter Hendy CBE, chair of Network Rail, said: “We are proud of our strong links with the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways and value its important role in increasing tourism on the Cambrian coast line.
“I was delighted to attend the naming ceremony, which was a fantastic opportunity to celebrate our partnerships with heritage railways and local stakeholders.”
Dafydd Elis-Thomas, Assembly Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd said: “It was a great pleasure and honour to name this Class 97 locomotive Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways.
“It celebrates the collaboration and new partnership between Network Rail, Transport for Wales and the heritage railways, and highlights this very important relationship between the railways. This co-operation will further support the railway transport network and enhance tourism opportunities in the area.”