Come back for lost narrow gauge railway?


Glyn Valley Tramway coach on the Talyllyn Railway,
photo Wikipedia Commons

(click to see photo in original context and details of licensing)

From the Glyn Valley Tramway website.

Just beyond Chirk lies the Ceiriog Valley, ‘A little bit of Heaven on Earth’ according to Lloyd George, and visitors to this now idyllic valley may be surprised to discover the area’s rich industrial heritage based on its rock and mineral deposits.

Initially slate was moved by packhorse from Glyn Ceiriog across the hills to Llangollen, and there loaded onto barges for onward carriage, a system that was at best slow and very uneconomical. In 1873 a narrow gauge railway was built, and pack horses gave way to horse power. Industry created the tramway and because the tramway existed it in turn gave birth to other industries. From out of the valley poured a steady stream of slate, to which in the following years was added granite, china stone, tarmacadam and even gunpowder. From the mills came cloth and perhaps the most innovative was the ‘export’ of live trout from the valley’s trout fishery.

With the arrival of steam the whole process accelerated and mixed trains of slate and other mineral products together with passenger coaches became the norm. On the journey passengers would catch glimpses of the River Ceiriog running alongside the track. When the train reached Pontfadog many passengers would take the liberty of expecting the train to wait for them while they enjoyed a drink at the Swan Inn. Often the last customers emerging from the inn would have to dash across the road and would only just manage to clamber aboard in time before the train continued along it’s way to Dolywern and then onto Glyn Ceiriog. A humorous postcard from this time claimed the tramways motto was ‘No hurry, no worry’ and that ‘ten minute stops were made to pick flowers!’

The last train ran through the valley in 1935. The news had gone round, and scores of locals turned out at Glyn to see the “tram” go by, never to return.

Now the Glyn Valley Tramway Trust have been awarded a £38,500 grant to engage external consultants to undertake preliminary work to enable the line to be reconstructed. £30,000 is being provided from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) via the Welsh Assembly Government, and an additional £8,500 is being orovided by Wrexham County Borough Council.

The Grant will be administered through Northern Marches Cymru and . The Grant will pay for the engagement of external Consultants to undertake all the detailed work required before re-construction of the Glyn Valley Tramway can begin at Chirk.

The First Part will be a High Level Study to look in detail at the overall future of the original route of the Glyn Valley tramway and how it might be re-instated in part or in total, either directly through the Trust or other interested bodies. The Second Part will cover all the detailed work required for a First Phase re-instatement at Chirk. This will include all the technical design work including Railway and Buildings, Environmental and other specialist reports. The Final Part will be a Public Exhibition / Event to present the results of the High Level Study and design of Phase 1.

More information:

  • Glyn Valley Tramway Trust website
  • Glyn Valley Tramway blog

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6 Responses to “Come back for lost narrow gauge railway?”

  1. Robert Hall Says:

    I must be a miserable so-and-so with a very negative outlook: but on the whole, I can find no pleasure or attraction in schemes for the revival – in whatever shape or form – of narrow-gauge (as it usually seems to be in Western Europe) railways which were abandoned and demolished decades ago. The Glyn Valley Tramway (1873 — 1935, RIP) strikes me, from photographs and descriptions, as having been an utter delight; but any attempt at supposed resurrection three-quarters of a century later, would strike me as quite screamingly artificial and failing-to-ring-true – among other things, because its only transport purpose would be to provide fun for tourists and railway enthusiasts.

    I fell in love with railways – sometimes regret that this was so – during a 1950s childhood: getting towards the last years of the era when Britain’s rail network was mostly steam-worked, and predominantly still in place, and functioning to provide everyday transport needs. Thus, for better or worse, I find it hard to get keen on much of the preservation scene: especially when it is not so much preservation, as total re-creation. Cerebrally, I can see the positive aspects; but can only say, good luck and success to those involved in this GVT project, and their endeavours – just so long as I’m not obliged to go and visit the venue.

    Having said this, after feeling dubious for many years about the “New” Welsh Highland Railway, earlier this year I went there for the first time, and loved the experience; but would consider the WHR, in my view, a special case.

  2. dyspozytor Says:

    I can emphasise with your view. I feel quite differently about rescued railways that still play a genuine transportation role as opposed to those that are only in the entertainment business. What do other BTWT readers think?

  3. John Proctor Says:

    I agree that it is better when railways do server a genuine transportation role. I’d like to the the WHR extended to Bangor and DMUs or Parry People Movers operating over the route to provide transportation for people who want to get somewhere rather than ride on a railway. Doubt it will happen but I can dream and perhaps make some models.

    Some of the welsh narrow gauge railways offer unlimited free travel to members. I like the idea of joining a railway for a year and having a holiday near one of the stations then using the railway each day to explore the area.

  4. Robert Hall Says:

    On my WHR visit, sad feelings prompted by the apparent considerable degree of development — road and other — over the former rail trackbed Bangor — Caernarfon, making any restoration, ever, of a rail line (whatever gauge) between those points, look highly unlikely. One could wish that when closure of a rail line was decided on, its actual course could be retained (except in the case of railways which were blatantly and absurdly useless) — in some instances, possibly keeping the track in situ on a minimum-maintenance basis — with an eye to possible future changes in use / need patterns; but human beings do not tend to be that forethoughtful.

  5. dyspozytor Says:

    There’s a concept called ‘rail banking‘ in the U.S. that seeks to retain old railway formations for possible future railway use. Sadly there is no UK equivalent.

  6. klausrl Says:

    Many of our branch lines, when shut down, are converted to bike paths. This does leave open the return to rail use at a future date.
    Now that rail travel, mostly for commuting is gaining favor in the U.S. those old right of ways are looking very nice.
    Of course we lack the history of narrow gauge in much of the U.S., but some smaller cities are at least looking at narrow gauge equipment on old standard gauge rights of way, to restore service at a lower cost.

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