There is no doubt that the track makes a railway. Simply, if there's no track there is no railway! And if there's no railway there's nowhere for the rest of the 'toys' to run.
This however, is no toy. It is a serious business running the Welsh Highland Railway and with that in mind it is therefore of no surprise that tracklaying and maintenance is high on the Society's list of activities. Whilst the railway company has its own staff working on the track they are very much involved with the day to day maintenance of the track to ensure the published trains are able to be run. They therefore rely heavily on the volunteer trackgangs to provide that extra effort needed, especially when specific tasks or projects are to be done.
But first there had to be a railway to be maintained. Whilst the railway was paid for with funding from the Millennium Fund (Caernarfon - Rhyd Ddu) and the Welsh Assembly (Rhyd Ddu - Porthmadog) in most cases that only paid for the civil engineering works. The railway itself, or more precisely the track, was laid predominantly by volunteers with the section from Rhyd Ddu to the Network Rail crossing in Porthmadog being 100% volunteer laid. Cymdeithas Rheilffordd Eryri were central to that effort.
Two track groups were set up with the aim of laying the track. The Black Hand Gang that started around 1997 and is made up of mainly local volunteers, and the Rest of the World Gang, well, from where it says, that was set up to provide the extra effort needed to complete the Rhyd Ddu to Porthmadog section. Your geographical location, however, does not preclude you from joining in with any one particular group as you availability dictates.
Once the track was complete from Caernarfon to Porthmadog and the railway was operational over its whole length, the two groups then became actively involved with the reconstruction of Harbour Station in Porthmadog. This was part of the Phase 5 construction project that saw the station track layout considerably altered with a new island platform constructed for better operation of the railway's two train services, to Caernarfon and Blaenau Ffestiniog.
With all the railway now complete however, attention has turned to maintenance and upkeep of the whole railway from Caernarfon to Blaenau Ffestiniog. There are therefore regular working parties active over the whole line most weekends of the year as well some weekdays. You're always welcome to join in and detail of how to do that are on the Volunteering for Track Work page