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Ffestiniog & Highland Railway

About Us

Welcome to the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways…

If you are thinking of training with us, you may be thinking about joining our very special railways. You may be interested to find out about our heritage as the world’s oldest independent railway company.

Our history stretches back to 1832 when our company, the Festiniog Railway Company, was first formed and is the very same company that runs the railway today. In 1946 the Ffestiniog Railway closed but unlike many railways the rails were not lifted and the rolling stock was not scrapped or sold. Instead the railway was left, just as it stood for nine years until the founders of the Ffestiniog Railway Society rescued the line and started on the challenge of restoration and conservation that continues today. In our early years the emphasis was more on restoring the line to operation rather than preservation and to this day few people view our railways as ‘preserved’. Back in those days, steam engines were still a common sight on British Railways and the importance of our heritage was not so readily apparent. As the years pass by, we have become much more aware of the depth, quality and importance of the heritage features of our railways.

A large part of the railway is of national importance in heritage terms. We have the oldest narrow gauge steam engines, the first ever bogie carriage and the only working double Fairlie locomotives in the world.

But that is not all, the railway itself is highly original and that includes embankments and bridges, fences and walls, signals and buildings. In fact, everywhere one looks around the railway there are heritage features in abundance. The fact that so much of the original railway survives is one of the reasons why it is important. In addition to the original features the last 50 years have seen some other very important things like Carriage No.14 from Lynton and Barnstaple Railway, Quarry Hunslet Lilla and NGG16 No.143 – the last Beyer Garratt built in the UK.

In training with us we hope you will enjoy learning more about our heritage and will help us keep all our amazing artefacts intact for future generations.

What is the Ff&WHR ‘Heritage Skills Training Programme’?

The training programme will tackle the developing crisis surrounding heritage and conservation skills whilst taking much needed steps to broaden our skilled heritage workforce towards a more ethnically diverse and younger demographic. The programme will offer short periods of training, leading to a meaningful and transferrable qualification, thus opening up the potential of a heritage career for many more people. Successful applicants will receive a bursary of £13,000.

We have selected six areas where it is perceived skills shortages in the future will have a dramatic impact on the ability to look after our heritage effectively. In each case trainees will have access to a highly skilled workforce who are eager to pass on their skills to a new generation. We will deliver training to 20 trainees (10 a year over 2 years) and will actively embed a culture of training across many different skill sets, for the benefit of future trainees across the railway sector as a whole.

Our focus will be on passing on the essential skills to keep a heritage narrow gauge railway operating safely within the requirements of current safety standards. As a trainee you will be required to work on an individual project that supports your syllabus and to produce a ‘Learning Portfolio’, both of which you will be asked to present during a ‘Showcase Day’ at the end of each training year.

The Festiniog Railway Company is committed to increasing diversity amongst its workforce. A diverse workforce brings in new ideas and gives opportunities for skills to be shared and enhanced thus promoting continued stability and growth for the Railway. The Heritage Skills Programme will enable us to explore ways of reaching communities and groups that traditional recruiting methods may not reach, and to learn more about how to make the Railway a welcoming and inclusive organisation.

The Railway is also committed to working in the local community to bring down unemployment and promote the use of the Welsh language. We estimate that around 40% of our workforce are Welsh Speakers. Therefore, we encourage applications from those already in the area and from a local Welsh background.

Due to the nature of the programme trainees must be aged 18 or over when they begin their training.

The first round of training will start in September 2018, the second round will start in September 2019.

What will the traineeship give you?

Imagine being able to tell future employers that you have trained with the world famous ‘Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways’… exciting isn’t it? This is exactly what we are offering.


As a trainee you will receive a TAX FREE bursary of £1000 a month, paid monthly.

At the end of the first 6 months you will receive a discretionary supplement of £500 and another £500 on satisfactory completion of your training.

That’s £13,000 TAX FREE in total.


You will have an Individual Training Plan tailored to your chosen skills area resulting in a recognised qualification on completion, see the skills area pages for more information.


You will be supplied with:

  • Safety boots
  • High Viz Personal Protection Equipment (Waterproofs)
  • Relevant equipment associated with role (safety goggles, gloves etc.)

You will also be loaned a lap top (if required) and digital camera for the duration of your training (1 year) to help you prepare your Learning Portfolio.

And all this:
  • First Aid at Work Certificate training
  • Access to Course and Pastoral Mentors
  • Coursework support and Workshops (including time out for coursework and to complete Individual Project Portfolios)
  • Membership of professional bodies e.g. Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain, Association of Heritage Interpretation
  • CV Writing and Interview Skills workshop
  • References provided by Department Managers

And much, much more…you will be working alongside and learning from a team of skilled and experienced craftsmen and professionals who have a wealth of knowledge to impart.

Who will you learn from?

Training Manager

Each skills area has a Training Manager who will oversee the training of you, the trainee.


You will be assigned a Trainer to see you through your training whilst you are on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways. They will be experienced craftsmen in your chosen skills area. You will meet with your Trainer on a regular basis to share and submit your coursework and learning portfolio, and to discuss progress on your agreed projects.

Personal Mentor

You will be assigned a personal mentor who you can meet up with to discuss coursework, to chat about how things are going generally and any issues that need addressing.

Coursework Coaches

There will also be ‘Coursework Coaches’ available for drop in sessions as and when required. They will be able to help you with your assignments and learning portfolio.

Working with Volunteers…

Some of your training will involve working alongside some of our many dedicated volunteer staff. Volunteers are integral to what we do on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways. We simply could not operate as a business without our volunteers and they are vitally important to our heritage restoration and conservation work. We have volunteers working different roles across the whole railway, ranging from gardeners, guards, buffet crew, builders, electricians, sign writers, permanent way engineers, mechanical engineers, carpenters, line side technicians and more…

As part of your role, trainees will be working with some of our many volunteers every day. Our volunteers come from all walks of life and have ages varying from 14 to 80 plus. The one thing they do have in common is a passion for working on the Ff&WHR and other heritage organisations. They all bring with them invaluable skills and experiences that we rely upon. Working with our volunteers can be an enriching and rewarding experience and trainees will gain immeasurable support from them all.

Placements and Future Prospects


As part of the training programme you will have the opportunity to visit other Heritage Organisations in the UK.

You will have placements and networking opportunities with our placement partners e.g. National Trust, National Railway Museum, Beamish, CADW, Severn Valley Railway, and many more.

It doesn’t end there

Towards the end of your year with us we will help you in planning for your future career, whether that is with us, or another Heritage Organisation, or elsewhere. The contacts you have made through placements and networking during your traineeship will help you in this.

Taster Days

Interested in the Heritage Skills Training Programme but not sure if it is for you?
Why not come along to one of our Taster Days to find out more!

Taster days will be held at the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways during May and June 2019.

On the taster day you will be able to see ‘behind the scenes’ at the railways, visiting Boston Lodge Engineering Works and the Infrastructure Depot, Minffordd Yard. You will also be given the opportunity to travel on our trains to see the railways for yourself.

You can meet the team, and hear more about each of the skills areas. You can get answers to any questions you have and see the accommodation available onsite.
The taster day starts at Harbour Station in Porthmadog at 9.30am and finishes back at Harbour Station at 4.30pm. We will provide refreshments and lunch during the day. Accommodation is available in our Volunteer’s Self-catering Hostel if needed.

If you are interested in attending one of the taster days please email

We look forward to seeing you there!

Contact Us

Heritage Skills Training Programme
Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways
Harbour Station
LL49 9NF


Phone: 01766 516064

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