The Welsh Highland Railway, once finally completed, was the longest of the Welsh narrow gauge railways, running as it did from Dinas Junction to Porthmadog. The line's origins date back to the 1870s, when the first section of the line was opened as the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railway. The route's total completion, however, only dates from the 1920s when, under the influence of Colonel Stephens, the line was extended to Porthmadog. This represented the last major expansion of the narrow gauge network of North Wales. The resulting line, was, despite all the high hopes, financially suspect and, even with the support of the Festiniog, the line closed completely in the late 1930s. There the story might have ended, but with the growth in interest in the Welsh narrow gauge a society was launched in the early 1960s to rebuild the line; a further twist occurred two decades later when the Festiniog Railway decided to promote its own rebuilding scheme.
Today it is possible to travel on a rebuilt WHR - partly over the ex-standard gauge line from Dinas to Caernarfon and partly over the route to Waenfawr - while the future of the original route is being rebuilt as part of Britain's most ambitious preservation scheme. In 1999 lan Allan Publishing released Peter Johnson's first book devoted solely to the line, Portrait of the Welsh Highland Railway. The success of this book, and the wealth of new material that has subsequently come to light, much of it from the Public Record Office, allows for the publication of this new and highly detailed account of the history of the line. Peter Johnson, an expert on narrow gauge railways, has delved deeply into the archives both locally and nationally to produce a considerable amount of new information and illustrations concerning the construction, operation, locomotives and rolling stock of the line. Illustrated with some 250 mono photographs and line drawings, this new book is certain to become regarded as the definitive account of the history of the line.
Peter Johnson lives in Leicester. One of the country's foremost railway journalists covering the narrow gauge scene, he has a regular column in the magazine Steam Railway. He is also editor of the Ffestinlog Railway Society's magazine and has been following the story of the rebirth of the WHR since its inception. He has written numerous books including, for lan Allan Publishing, Portrait of the Welsh Highland Railway.