lastcwmprysor - Sixty years since the last train to Cwm Prysor #2

The second part of the ‘Sixty years since the last train to Cwm Prysor’ feature. Previously it had been mentioned the line closed because of a new reservoir, that is true of course however in terms of passenger traffic it had in fact been closed some time earlier. The only reason the line was still operational was because of two things – the first being the quarries at Arenig which provided stone for the railways’ ballast. The second was during the line’s final years cement was being delivered to Blaenau Ffestiniog for the new power station being built there. In the meantime proposals for the reservoir which would flood the upper valleys the line passed through were mooted, and British Railways was given an opportunity to realign the railway to avoid its being flooded. A new alignment for the railway was drawn up too, but British Railways wanted none of that and so the line closed.

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Old hut by the former railway as the route nears Cwm Prysor station. The huge bulk that is Arenig Fawr can be seen in the background. Source: RMWeb

The line soon meets the A4212 and in fact the newer road takes the easier course of the old railway for about two miles or so past Llyn Tryweryn. The summit of the line was 1292 feet above sea level near Cwm Prysor station roughly eleven miles from Bala station. The total ascent consisted of a rise of around 650 feet.

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View looking back towards Cwm Prysor station which still exists as a residency among the trees on the right. This is the point at which the road joins the railway alignment for some distance. Source: Google Streets

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The one remaining crossing gate at Cwm Prysor, now a gate to the dwelling itself. The post on the other side is in fact that which held the opposite crossing gate! Source: Google Streets

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Cwm Prysor station as it was. Source: Lightmoor Press

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Cwm Prysor station seen from the SLS special on 22nd January 1961. Source: RMWeb

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Cwm Prysor station, whose public rail services ended in January 1960. This view shows Harriet James and her family in the early 20th century. She was the station’s master, however she lived at Trawsfynydd & cycled daily the five miles up the valley to the remote halt. Source: Penmorfa

The station was just west of the line’s summit at 1292 feet, which was one of the highest summits on British Railways, and beyond this summit the line crossed a spectacular viaduct before clinging to the sides of a precipice high above the valley floor for a considerable distance as it descended towards Trawsfynydd. The viaduct and the precipice section are generally considered to be the line’s piece de resistance.

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The A4212 on the course of the old line past Llyn Tryweryn. The road uses the old railway as far as the west side of Llyn Tryweryn. Source: Google Streets

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This is the point at which both road and rail routes split off. The railwya headed off to the right towards its summit and the viaduct. The railway alignment can be seen hugging the steep sides of the valley for the next couple of miles or so… Source: Google Streets

The line hereabouts was often snow bound in the winter and special procedures were in place for a train with a snow plough to work the line…

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Special arrangements for snow plough trains between Arenig and Trawsfynydd. Source: RMWeb

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Nice black & white view of the A4212 descending into the valley with the former high level railway alignment very clearly apparent on the right. The mountains seen in the distance beyond are the Rhinogydd. Source: Twitter

Below is a similar view to that taken from the road. The shape of Craig Aderyn (Teryn Bluffs in english) which the line crosses is unmistakeable even though most of the Rhinogydd are shrouded in cloud. Note that there was no road though the valley below, in those days it was a farm track! Craig Aderyn is a noted spot for rock climbing novices.

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Train from Blaenau approaching Llyn Tryweryn and Cwm Prysor station. Source: RMWeb

Although many know the structure as Cwm Prysor viaduct, according to the notices placed there by the Snowdonia National Park its called Nant Prysor viaduct, and further the viaduct isn’t any sort of official walking route but rather a permissive path by agreement with the landowner whose property the viaduct lies within. The viaduct is some distance from the road as this Google Streets view shows.

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Cwm Prysor viaduct aerial. Source: Google Streets

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Dramatic view of the viaduct. Source: Twitter

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Cwm Prysor viaduct from the SLS special 22nd January 1961. Source: RMWeb

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Cwm Prysor viaduct in 1955 showing evidence of a rebuilt parapet and repointing work. Source: Lightmoor Press

The line can be seen very high up on the hill side – there’s a bridge visible too. In fact there’s another bridge up there but its hidden in a small cutting. The dramatic view of the line’s former course can be seen on Google Streets.

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The course of the line as it passes high above the valley. Source: Google Streets

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As the line progresses west it still has a lofty elevation and this continues a little way past Castell Prysor. Source: Google Streets

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Nant Prysor with the mound of Castell Prysor clearly visible. Its evocative of the mounds belonging to Dinas Emrys or Dinas Bran which is what makes it a spectacular setting. Those riding the train would however had a good view of the mound because the railway runs in the background high up on its shelf as the picture clearly shows. Source: Flickr

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A spectacular aerial view looking east and showing the former railway alignment. Bryncelynog Halt (picture below) would have been about where the top end of this long straight bit of railway is, just before it curves round to the right to pass across the front of Craig Aderyn. Source: Google Streets

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Bryncelynog Halt. An isolated location but no doubt it served some remote farms. In the background is Craig Aderyn. Source: Facebook

There was another halt at Llafar further down the valley but a little to the east of the end of the current permissive footpath near Cae-y-Glas from Cwm Prysor. This had a GWR style pagoda shelter similar to that at Bala Junction. Again it was sited in a very isolated spot and was purely for the use of the farms. The pictures below show that halt before and after.

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Llafar Halt and the same site today. Source: Facebook

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At the far end of the current permissive footpath from Cwm Prysor by Cae-y-Glas an overbridge can be spotted in the undergrowth. Its one of many cast iron structures on the line from Brymbo Works. Another of those bridges was shown in the first part of this feature where Llyn Celyn halt was located. The road here used to cross the line via the bridge itself but now cross the line on the level. The old alignment can be seen on Google Aerials. Source Google Streets

The next location of major interest was Trawsfynydd station and formerly it was an important one for it was here the railway’s locomotives were stabled. There was a substantial goods yard and a passing loop. The station’s importance was all the more essential as army camps were numerous around this part of Wales. Many Troop specials trains used to come over the mountains and these served the area until about the 1950s when the camps were finally closed down and work commenced on building the new power station.

Trawsfynydd station lost its status somewhat early on because from 1911 onward another station known as Trawsfynydd Camp was opened a little further north and this became the main stopping point for the troop trains.

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The small locomotive shed added as a lean to on the large goods shed at Trawsfynydd where the line’s locomotives were kept. These generally worked the line between Blaenau and Bala Junction. Additional locomotives as required had to be sourced from either Bala or Croes Newydd sheds. Source: RMWeb

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The Goods Shed at Trawsfynydd as seen today from the nearby minor road. As the picture shows it has a modern extension added onto the rear. Source: Google Streets

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Trawsfynydd with No. 3749 on a train for Bala during 1959. The road bridge in the background is still extant and the location from which the next scene is depicted. Source: Flickr

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The line can be seen heading north from Trawsfynydd towards Blaenau. The bridge here at Stryd Ardudwy still remains just north of the former station. Source: Google Streets

Although its not very clear to see at a point north of Trawsfynydd there’s a small overbridge to facilitate a footpath which goes up into the hills. This path goes to Castell Tomen y Mur which stands on the hillside adjacent to what was known as Sarn Helen, a medieval roadway that extended through Snowdonia often at a considerable elevation above the valleys. This very small underpass still exists and can be seen on Google Streets. The loading bay for the Trawysfynydd power station nuclear flasks that were brought by rail is just to the south of this spot and that has been the furthest extent of the line ever since it was cut back in the 1960s. The site is now very overgrown thus its not possible to view it on Google Streets.

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The loading facility for the nuclear flasks trains. The year is 1987 with just four years of service left in terms of these special trains from Sellafield. The nuclear power station closed in 1991. The last train left here with materials carried away from the closed power station in 1997. Source: Pinterest

The rails northward to Blaenau Ffestiniog still exists in large and parts of it has been cleared for a preservation scheme. Practically all the former stations on this section has existed in various states of repair since the line closed in 1997. Much of the track has been left intact and its is why there’s still a rail link (the condition of the tracks vary) northward to Blaenau.

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The bridge by Maentwrog Road station with some tracks visible. If one zooms into the Moelwyns beyond, the Ffestiniog Power Station can be seen high up in the mountains. Source: Google Streets

Tracks can be viewed extant to Maentwrog Road station, where this view can be seen from the A470, with the Moelwyns forming a nice backdrop. The site here is the base for the heritage railway project that has taken over the line.

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The Cynfal viaduct. Source: Twitter

North of here there were stations at Ffestiniog, Teigl halt, Manod, Tan-y-Manod and finally Blaenau Ffestiniog central – not forgetting another spectacular viaduct at Cwm Cynfal. Despite threats of demolition, the route was in due course retained for possible re-use. One attempt to revive the line was a Velorail scheme. The Antur Stiniog project envisaged plans to introduce a Velorail (cycle powered train) along the line by 2016. Despite early promises it was not successful unfortunately.

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How the velorail project would have looked. This picture shows trial runs on the line at Blaenau during 2011. Source: Antur Stiniog

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The terminus of the line at Blaenau Ffestiniog Central. Source: BBC News

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A nice photograph of Blaenau Ffestiniog Central – even though its actually a shot of the station with demolition underway. The page this image is featured on has some great shots of the various stations on the Bala-Ffestiniog line. Source: RMWeb

Ironically the present station at Blaenau Ffestiniog is where the former Bala-Blaenau station once stood. Even though a connection was built between the Conwy Valley line and the stump of the line in order to facilitate Trawsfynydd, it was to be sometime before the town’s station would be relocated here. Part of the reason for this was the site was perfect for the construction of an interchange station for both the Conwy line and the Ffestiniog Railway and the new station was ready for use in 1982.

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Almost the same exact view as the 1963 one! The connection to the Conwy Valley Line was opened in April 1964 however passenger services continued to use the other Blaenau station until 1982 when the new one was opened. The narrow gauge Ffestiniog Railway can be seen at left. Photograph credit Nigel Thompson. Source Geograph.

The line northwards from Trawsfynydd has a newer and ever changing history, thus the pace of change is quicker than on the remainder of the line from Bala. In a nutshell it is being restored and the work is ongoing. I would suggest the Bala & Ffestiniog Railway Heritage Trust site for further reading on this project. Not forgetting this excellent page at RMWeb showing many of the stations on the line.

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