Since April, when Bala Lake Railway’s plan to extend to town was refused, locals have rallied round the railway and its cause.
Bank holiday weekend saw a flurry of activity both on the railway and in the town itself, to support of the railway’s extension appeal.
Bala Lake Railway’s steam gala featured six steam locomotives, and the special heritage bus service that connected the out of town railway station with the town itself was exceptionally busy, also helping trade in the town.
In its 51 year history, Saturday 26 August was the railway’s busiest day on record, beating the previous record by an incredible 10 per cent.
At the same time, Bala Badminton Club held a 24-hour spin cycle on the lake foreshore raising funds to help the railway apply again to the Snowdonia National Park for permission to extend the railway into the town.
Bala Lake Railway Trust chairman, Julian Birley said: “When we were refused planning permission in April our team of volunteers were so disappointed that nine years work seemed to have been in vain.
“However, the public outcry in the town was absolutely unprecedented and very soon it became apparent that the businesses and residents saw the commercial potential that it will bring to Bala, and set about organising their own fund raising events. This revitalised us all to pick ourselves up and go again.
“I can not think of another heritage railway anywhere in the UK that has had such great support from its local community. It is unheard of and must be celebrated. And for that we promise that the town of Bala will get its railway.”
Bala Badminton Club’s sponsored event and raffle - with incredible prizes donated from virtually all the businesses in the town and from beyond - raised £5,177.
Weekends at holiday lodges, holiday cottages, day’s fishing on the River Dee, sets of high quality power tools as well food hampers, petrol vouchers, drink hampers and baskets of confectionery were among the prizes available.
Bala Lake Railway has operated since 1972 between Llanuwchllyn and Bala station, which is currently half a mile out of the town itself. A new station is planned in Aran Street, Bala, near one end of the High Street, which will benefit the shops and cafes in the town.
Plans for the line’s extension into the town itself have been in development for over nine years. The initial planning application was refused by the Snowdonia National Park Authority in April, largely on the grounds that the increase in visitors to the railway would have a detrimental effect on the phosphate levels in the river Dee, which already fails its targets downstream of Corwen.
The issuing of a Phosphate Permit by Natural Resources Wales for the Bala Waste Water Treatment Works in August, along with Welsh Water’s plans to spend £6M improving the treatment works and installing a phosphate stripping plant gives the railway renewed hope their planning application may be successful at the next attempt.
The unprecedented support from the people of Bala show that it is not just the railway that wants these plans to succeed.