Modernisation on the SMR

The Snowdon Mountain Railway’s modernisation has taken place over a very long time, and this is not as substantial as other mountain railways. In its early days it used lower quadrant semaphore signals and a electric telegraph communications system. The signalling fell out of use and was finally removed in 1930 or 1933 (depending which source is referred – I think Johnson’s date of 1921 – given in his 2010 book on the railway, is clearly wrong as scenes in the later part of the 20’s show the signals still in use.) The electric telegraph was progressively retracted from the summit downwards to Clogwyn between 1899/1901 and the wires buried beneath the tracks due to the rigours of the mountain weather, but the traditional telegraph pole system remained in use as far as Clogwyn. This was later retracted to Halfway.

Llanberis station in the 1920’s with its semaphore starter signal (source – SMR)
(Picture is available as wallpaper at the Snowdon Mountain Railway’s gallery)

Halfway showing lower quad signals in use – complete with finials – c1928.
Note the blockman’s cabin damaged roof!

Few really good pictures exist of the semaphore signalling, most are poor quallity.
That above shows the loop signals at Clogwyn. This image is available at oldphotos

Early view showing the electric telegraph near the summit
(Author’s collection)

The summit signals in Edwardian days (Author’s collection)
This image is available at oldphotos

It is thought the old electric telegraph system remained in use on the lower section as far as Halfway until the mid 1970’s. By the 1980’s the telegraph wiring had vanished leaving just the poles.

Near Hebron June 1977 showing the telegraph system still in use. No.5 Moel Siabod is on ‘the Truck’
(Author’s collection)

Halfway one evening in 1980 showing disused telegraph masts (Author’s collection)

The crossings were converted to automated operation starting with Hebron in 1991, and Halfway in 1995. These were supplemented by colour light signals in 2006 at Llanberis, Hebron and Halfway. Work to convert the loop at Clogwyn appears to have begun in early 2010, with masts being visible there most of the year, whilst Snowdon Summit has also seen similar work take place. At the time of writing (October 2011) these masts had still not recieved their signals.

Supervisor’s cabin at Llanberis showing points lever and signalling controls. Trains are now backed up by computerised data

Llanberis – colour light signals

In the spring of 2011 three new colour light signals were installed on the approaches to Llanberis. Clearly these are intended to control descending trains especially when shunting operations are taking place in the station environs.

New signals – unused & sheeted – on the approach to Llanberis station July 2011

The colour light signals at Hebron

Solar panelling and signalling for the loop at Halfway

Clogwyn in 2010 with masts for automation of the loop

The summit in 2010 showing mast in place for electronic train operation


In terms of accessibility, Hafod Eryri has been designed with level flooring throughout. There is a disabled toilet adjaccent to the public toilets at the western corner of Hafod Eryri. The difference in level between the train platforms and the cafe is achieved by an accessible lift that has a capacity for one wheelchair and one helper, or two adults. Unfortunately due to the very difficult terrain upon the summit of Snowdon, accessibility is limited to the train platforms and Hafod Eryri plus part of the south western terrace.

Accessible lift to/from the train platforms at Hafod Eryri

Note: Hafod Eryri’s owners are the Snowdonia National park Authority, who lease it to the railway.

In terms of accessibility on the trains themselves, this was augmented by the former HPE railcars. The cessation of the railcars and their scrapping left just the one 1988 East Lancashire built carriage for wheelchair use.

The accessible railcars – scrapped in the summer of 2010. These had not been used since 2003

The East Lancs carriage with No.10 Yeti at Rocky Valley halt. It can be used with either steam or diesel traction

Prior to the intorduction of the new longer carriages in 2015, disabled people could be accomodated on any train, however the general rule was to leave wheelchairs at Llanberis and upon arrival at the summit use the wheelchairs kept there. The rule excepted when the train in question consisted of the 1988 East Lancs built carriage thereby allowing disabled passengers to take their own wheelchairs directly to the summit buildings.

Of course the introduction of the new carriages (and the refurbishment of two of the old carriages as heritage stock) means that disabled people who use wheelchairs can now access any train whether its diesel or steam operated.

At Llanberis station, both train platforms, shop and cafe, any neccessary changes in floor levels are now supplanted by access ramps.

Llanberis ticket office & ramp, with LED scroll indicator. Usually it relays the time of the next available train, but proffers other information when appropriate. Accessible toilets are at right

Examples of LED scroll information seen at Llanberis include suspension of services – an example being on the morning of 13th October 2010 when one of the diesels suffered a major drive failure above Halfway and no services could be run until the stricken diesel could be moved. It is possible the locomotive in question was no.9 Ninian as it has been observed standing on hard ground behind the platforms at Llanberis with its wheelsets and cam rods removed.

The summit station will have train announcements for the 2011 season. Hopefully visual indicators in Hafod Eryri will be the next step. As always there has to be a balance between what can be provided in line with legislation and effect in practicality.

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