The narrow gauge Ffestiniog Railway in North Wales, the oldest independent railway company in the World, opened in 1836 to carry slates from the rapidly expanding slate mines at Blaenau Ffestiniog to the newly built harbour at Porthmadog, from where slates were exported all over the world. In 1863 steam locomotives were successfully introduced for the first time on such a narrow gauge line and in 1865 it became the first public narrow gauge railway to carry passengers. In its heyday the Ffestiniog Railway carried 130,000 tons of state a year and became a pioneer in the development of narrow gauge railways worldwide, but after a long decline in the slate industry the railway closed in 1946 and became derelict. It was taken over by enthusiasts in 1954 and re-opened in stages as a tourist railway and trains finally returned to Blaenau Ffestiniog in 1982. The work needed to reopen the line included construction of Britain?s only railway spiral as part of a 2.5 mile diversion as the original line had been flooded for a pumped storage power station. The Ffestiniog Railway now carries around 250,000 passengers a year through some of the most beautiful scenery in the Snowdonia National Park, with many trains pulled by its world famous Fairlie double-ended engines. The Ffestiniog Railway Society was formed in 1954 to help the restoration and operation of the railway. Its main purposes are to raise funds for the work of the railway, to promote volunteer work on the line and to raise the profile of the Ffestinog Railway as a unique part of Britain?s industrial heritage. The Society has over 5000 members and is itself entirely volunteer run.