Young people in Gwynedd are being given jobs on a real-life train set, as part of a £4m restoration of one of the world’s oldest railway workshops.
Boston Lodge near Porthmadog is Ffestiniog Railway’s main depot, maintaining steam locomotives, carriages and wagons for over 150 years.
The historic buildings will be refurbished, with training given in engineering and railway operating.
It will also re-open to visitors.
The project is being mostly funded by a £3.1m grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Boston Lodge works opened in 1842 in the days when trains on the Ffestiniog Railway were pulled by horses, or rolled down the gradients by gravity.
It features in the Guinness Book of Records as the “oldest railway workshop in continuous operation”.
In the Victorian period, it became a centre for innovation when the railway acquired some of the world’s first narrow gauge steam locomotives.
Engineers at the works went on to build their own steam engines, something that has continued into the 21st century with another locomotive currently under construction.
Boston Lodge works was included in the Welsh slate industry sites which were given world heritage status in July in recognition of its contribution to exporting Welsh slate around the world.
Now, old buildings at the site including the old blacksmiths workshop, the old iron foundry and the old brass foundry will be repaired, and a better electrical workshop set up.
New visitor facilities will also be set up so people can visit the works. Managers hope it will increase the overall number of people visiting the railway, which is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Wales.
Back on track
New jobs have been created by the project, with the first eight posts advertised this month.
The railway is planning to recruit local young people to be trained in mechanical engineering, civil engineering and administration.
Paul Lewin, director and general manager of the Ffestiniog Railway and its sister line the Welsh Highland, said: “We are a Welsh railway and our history is intertwined for two centuries with the local community.
“We want to build on those existing links so that the local community can have pride in and be involved in the heritage of the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways and Boston Lodge.
“Through our project, we want to capture our stories and make sure they’re shared with future generations and that we continue to play our part in the economy and success of north Wales.
“Our railway has survived by adapting and embracing technology.
“Thanks to this investment from the National Lottery Heritage Fund we will do that again now to make sure that we offer a high quality tourism experience that brings real benefit to the North Wales economy.”
Andrew White, director of the National Lottery Heritage Fund in Wales said: “This investment will allow the railways to provide work and training opportunities for the local community and boost the economy of north Wales by bringing an additional 50,000 visitors to the area every year.
“This project is a great example of how heritage can help us understand who we are and where we come from and how the communities we are part of have been shaped by the past by bringing history to life.”
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