I was introduced to the FR by my parents on family holidays in North Wales in 1957 and 1958 when we travelled from Portmadoc to Penrhyn and Tan-y-Bwlch. Naturally – I was captivated. Two more opportunities to travel occurred in 1965 and 1966 when on Youth Hostelling trips to the area. I also remember finding at home the 1958 guidebook and on examining the map and wondered why the FR did not open to Dduallt? In 1966 I joined the FRS and by April 1967 I was ready to help in the push for Dduallt.
In the early 1960’s the Festiniog Railway seemed to have become the Tan-y-Bwlch Railway and a minority thought it should so remain. The cause of the delay in further reopening was the state of the track as far as Tan y Bwlch. It was not just that the sleepers were rotten, the heads of the double head rails were worn so shallow that the wheel flanges hammered on the high inside cheeks of the old ‘S’ chairs. But by 1966 new (second hand) bullhead rail and chairs had been acquired from the Penrhyn Quarry Railway and the serious relaying above Tan y Bwlch had begun. The target date of reopening to Dduallt for the 1968 season had been announced.
I booked myself for a week’s bed and breakfast at the Davies of Bron Madoc near Minffordd having selected it from a list obtained with an SAE to Harbour Station. I believe I was attracted by the location and had no inkling of the landlord & landlady’s connection with the FR. I soon discovered that I had lodged with members of a famous FR family. Tom Davies and his brother had worked on the FR before it closed and after he retired from Cooke’s explosive factory he went back to work on the FR three days a week – driving Prince in the summer and working on the fences with Evie Roberts in the winter.
On my first day at work it was a working day for Tom too, and with him I walked down across the field below his house to Bron Madoc crossing to await the arrival of the Wickham Trolley from Portmadoc. Thus I met Norman Gurley who was driving and Tony Massau, both members of Permanent Way gang and paid staff. At Minffordd we picked up Ron Lester, the ganger and Evie Roberts. At Minffordd I also saw Fred Howes who, a mere slip of a lad after 2 years on the staff, was busy building a turnout somewhere and thus did not accompany us.
The Wickham Trolley gave its passengers a very good view forwards and backwards up and down the line. The passengers sat sideways on the wooden engine housing with their feet resting on platforms that rang along each side. It could accommodate - at a push - about 8 passengers. From this vantage point I got my first plate layer’s view of the line to T-y-B where we stopped to load some fencing stakes from the goods shed onto a trolley towed by the Wickham. The PQR rails had been re-laid from T-y-B to Old Coed y Bleddiau cottage except for old rails still in Garnedd tunnel. At the railhead was a short relaying train including slate waggon mounted tool boxes, a similarly mounted diesel generator and No. 2 van. From the railhead at the cottage the new materials of sleepers, rails and chairs etc. had been laid out along the empty track bed as far as Coed y Bleddiau curve from where the old track was still in place.
The others – Tom, Evie and Ron went on to where the fencing was being worked on so I was alone with Norman as we began to relay the track. The birds were singing on a sunny spring morning as we set to work in the woods. The process was to lay out the sleepers (nine per PQR 24 foot long rail), move the rails from the cess onto the sleepers and then line up the chairs along the rails.
Mark Temple was a 'Deviationist' - a name coined for the volunteers who worked on the deviation at Dduallt in the 1960's.