A steam train crashed through level crossing gates after the train driver ignored signs, an investigation has found.

On Sunday, 6 January this year at around 4.30pm, an engineering train returning from Tan y Bwlch to Minffordd did not stop as it approached the level crossing at Penrhyndeudraeth on the Ffestiniog Railway. The gates were closed across the railway, and the train struck the upper gate and pushed through it, coming to a stand part way across the A4085.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch said it was lucky no vehicles were travelling past at the time of the crash, and warned that such crashes can have fatal consequences.

There were no injuries, and minor damage was caused to the crossing gates on the Tan y Bwlch side of the crossing.

The RAIB investigation found that the driver had not stopped at a specified place to prevent such incidents taking place. As the train then approached the crossing, the wheels locked and the driver attempted to brake, but was too close to the level crossing and crashed through it.

The report said: “The wheels of the locomotive locked approximately 15 metres before the crossing gates.

“The brakes of the van coupled to the locomotive were not applied until the last moment, and the rest of the train was not fitted with a continuous brake.

“The driver stopped at the first stop board and then proceeded at walking pace, past the second stop board, with the intention of stopping close to the crossing gates.

“He stated that this was the custom and practice of the drivers who had trained him when he qualified as a driver in 2013, and, despite the local instruction in the operating procedures and the clear signage adjacent to the line, this was also his usual practice.”

Paul Lewin, director and general manager of Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways, said the railway accepted the findings and is working on implemented steps suggested by the RAIB.

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