Garmendale Engineering hits new heights after building £1m mountain carriages
CARRIAGES built by a Derbyshire firm have started ferrying tourists up and down the highest mountain in Wales.
Garmendale Engineering, at Ilkeston, was commissioned by Snowdon Mountain Railway to design and build four new carriages for the line in a deal worth £1 million.
The firm, which is based on the Manners Industrial Estate, was asked to come up with lighter carriages that had room to accommodate more people.
A railway has run up the side of Snowdon, which has an altitude of 1,085 metres, since 1895.
Until now, the railway had used ageing rolling stock, some of which dated back to when the line first opened.
A year ago, Snowdon Mountain Railway approach-ed Garmendale to make the carriages and another firm the Hunslet Engine Company, to refurbish and improve an existing diesel locomotive. Both companies have since worked in partnership on the project.
Snowdon Mountain Railway took delivery of its first carriage in November. A further two were delivered last month and, next week, Garmendale will deliver the final carriage. The first carriage has already been now put into service. It is hoped that all four will be operating in time for Easter when the number of tourists visiting Snowdon ramps up.
Each carriage can hold 74 passengers – 20 more than their predecessors. The Garmendale carriages are lighter than the old ones because many of their components, including seats, are made out of carbon fibre composite material. Carbon fibre, which is used to make Formula One cars, is lighter and stronger than conventional metal.
Zoe Shelmerdine, sales and marketing director at Garmendale, said: "We were asked to come up with a design that increased capacity but at the same time decreased weight, which was no easy task.
"We were set a target of making each carriage weight 10 tonnes. To do this we used lightweight carbon composite material to make a number of interior components.
"As a result, we managed to come up with a carriage that weighed 7.6 tonnes."
Founded in 1980, Garmendale specialises in rides and services for the leisure industry. Employing 18 people, the company has carried out commissions for a number of theme parks, including Alton Towers and Thorpe Park, as well as attractions such as the London Eye.
Zoe said: "This latest project proves that, despite the difficult economic times, engineering, design and development is still buoyant.
"We have ridden out two recessions and as a company we are continuing to grow."
Alan Kendal, general manager of Snowdon Mountain Railway, said: "The building of new carriages at Snowdon Mountain Railway is a once-per-century event and we are confident that our partnership with Garmendale Engineering has delivered the best possible outcome for our railway and its future."
Garmendale is now busy making a "heritage" carriage for the railway, which will be pulled by a steam locomotive. The company hopes to complete this carriage by May.