The Snowdon Mountain Railway is unique amongst Britain's railways, quite literally a Swiss mountain rack and pinion railway translated to the grandeur of Snowdonia to ascend Wales' highest peak, Snowdon. Built in 1895 by the Snowdon Mountain Tramroad & Hotels Company, it is usually best remembered for the tragic accident that occurred on the first day of public operation in 1896. It overcame that awful event and has established a well-earned place as one of the most popular tourist railways in Wales. Less than five miles long, with gradients as steep as 1 in 5.5 and climbing from Llanberis, 350 above sea level, to a station 50ft below the 3,560ft summit, the 800mm gauge Snowdon Mountain Railway regularly attracts over 120,000 passengers a year brought by the combination of Swiss steam locomotives, modern diesel locomotives and fantastic scenery. The opening of the Snowdonia National Park Authority's stylish new summit building, Hafod Eryri, in 2009, makes the railway a more popular destination for 21st century visitors.
Unusually amongst Britain's passenger-carrying railways, the Snowdon Mountain Railway was built without Parliamentary authority on private land, a situation that limits the amount of historical information available in public archives. Research carried out by railway historian Peter Johnson has uncovered many new insights into the railway's fascinating history for this latest addition to OPC's popular "Illustrated History" series.
Peter Johnson is a specialist in the history of Welsh narrow gauge railways and an accomplished railway author and journalist. He has contributed many significant railway histories to the Ian Allan Publishing list, the latest being An Illustrated History of the Travelling Post Office and An Illustrated History of the Welsh Highland Railway. He was the Editor of the Ffestiniog Railway Magazine for many years and was a member of the team that obtained the Welsh Highland Railway Transport & Works Order, that essential legal sanction to the WHR's reconstruction. He now writes a regular column on narrow gauge railways in Steam Railway magazine, also regularly providing features. He is a prolific photographer and his articles and books are illustrated with many of his own photographs. He currently lives in Leicester, England.