Back in July 2016 I worked my way down the Conwy Valley Line, from Llandudno Junction to Blaenau Ffestiniog and then on to Porthmadog. This journey was for a book which, sadly, I never actually wrote. However, I did make copious notes and took dozens of photos, and since it's 2020 and the idea of travelling anywhere at all is a pipe dream, I've decided to write it up at last. Remember that this is all taking place four years ago, so things might be different now - there's a new rail operating company for starters - and also I'm dredging my memory so there may be some errors. Be kind. It's the first lot of content on here in months.
I thought I'd have a cup of tea at the top of the Great Orme. That's what you do, isn't it? You go to the top of the local landmark, you have a cup of tea, then you go back down again. I'd ridden the clanking, wheezing, grinding tramway right up the side of the limestone mountain and now I had time to kill until I went back down again.
I headed for the cafe at the top. a squat white building decorated with mobile phone masts. The smell of chip fat hit me long before I got there. Not the good kind, the inviting, tantalising scent that wafts from a chippy on a Friday night, but the dark scent, tinged with burning, so greasy you can almost taste it on the air. It's the smell of oil that lingers in the furniture of the cafe and you wipe off the plastic menus. It was off-putting, but not as off-putting as the prices, chalked up outside. You go to the top of the local landmark, you have a cup of tea, and you get thoroughly gouged. I flounced away, walking back down to the visitor's centre attached to the tram stop.
Inside it was dry, a respite from the fine rain that had whipped across the summit and sprayed my glasses, but the exhibits were very much aimed at the younger generation. Lots of bilingual signs with colourful fonts and buttons to push and knobs to pull. I was at least thirty years too old for it, and besides, there was a man in there with body odour so strong it left me light headed, so I walked back to the tramway and headed down again.
The Great Orme Tramway has clanged its way from Llandudno to the peak for over a century. I managed to get a seat, a hard wooden slat that I felt all the way down, and the rest of the carriage filled up with a gang of boy scouts. They wore their scarves over their regular clothes and an anxious looking leaded counted and recounted their heads to make sure one hadn't been left behind. The cable-operated tramcar slid down the peak, creaking, groaning, jerking around, until it reached the half-way station and we all got out and trooped over the rubber floor to a second tram to take us down into the town.