Monday, 9 June 2014

Glyn Valley Tramway - a Welsh roadside idyll

One of my all time favourite lines was (is) the Glyn Valley Tramway, which ran from Chirk yo Glyn Ceiriog. The line had the (possibly unique) gauge of 2'4½" and ran along an impossibly beautiful valley and alongside the road. It linked quarries at Glyn to - at first - the canal and later the main line railway. The line closed to passengers in 1933 and completely in 1935.

(All 30.5.1985 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)  

Back in 1985 I had the chance to follow the route of the line through the valley and took the pics above. The line of course ran alongside the road for nearly all its length.

A rebuilt line would be a huge tourist attraction. The example of the Welsh Highland Railway, which closed around the same time, means the old argument of 'it'll never happen' is no longer valid. But in fact there are TWO separate revival groups concentrating of different aspects of the line. I can't wait to travel on this route!

Further info (from Wikipedia)

The Glyn Valley Tramway was a narrow gauge railway that ran through the Ceiriog Valley in north-east Wales, connecting Chirk with Glyn Ceiriog in Denbighshire (now Wrexham County Borough). The gauge of the line was 2 ft 4 12 in (724 mm). The total length of the line was 8 14 miles (13.3 km), 6 12 miles (10.5 km) of which were worked by passenger trains, the remainder serving a large granite quarry and several minor slate quarries.

The railway was built to connect the quarries at Glyn Ceriog with the Shropshire Union Canal at Chirk. A standard gauge "Ellesmere & Glyn Valley Railway" was authorised by an Act 6 August 1866 to run from Cambrian Railway at Ellesmere to the GWR at Chirk and thence to follow the Glyn Ceiriog road to the quarries. No construction took place and by Act of 1869, the Ellesmere to Chirk portion was abandoned. The company was reincorporated by an Act of Parliament in 1870 as the Glyn Valley Tramway, which allowed theompany to build a narrow gauge tramway from the canal at Chirk Bank to the Cambrian Slate Quarries. This initial line, 6 12 miles (10.5 km) was opened in 1873, and was worked by horse and gravity traction. Both passenger and freight traffic was carried from that year.

In 1885 additional parliamentary powers were obtained to abandon the Quinta Tramway section between Pontfaen and Chirk Bank, replacing it with a new line from Pontfaen to the Great Western Railway's Chirk Station. A two mile extension was also authorized from Glyn to the quarries around Pandy.

Rebuilding of the line was undertaken with steam locomotives borrowed from the Snailbeach District Railways. The new line was opened for freight traffic in 1888 and to passengers in 1891. The new line was operated by steam locomotives purchased from Beyer Peacock in Manchester.
The two original locomotives, Sir Theodore and Dennis were joined by a third, Glyn in 1892. These tram locomotives worked the line until 1921 when an ex-War Department Light Railways locomotive was purchased. This locomotive was regauged by Beyer Peacock from its original 1 ft 11 12 in (597 mm) gauge.

After the First World War costs started to rise significantly, while revenues did not. The railway's financial situation declined steadily during the 1920s. The railway needed to carry approximately 45,000 tons of traffic per year to break even. In 1929 it carried 64,857 tons, but by 1932 this had dropped to 21,400 tons. Increased use of road haulage and a change in the ownership of the remaining quarries was the cause of this downturn in traffic.

In 1932 a bus service was started in the valley, for the first time offering passengers a serious competition to travelling on the tramway. Passenger receipts declined steeply that year, and passenger services were abandoned at the beginning of 1933. Freight traffic continued to decline and the losses to mount on the railway and all services ceased in July 1935 as the company went into voluntary liquidation. The locomotives were all scrapped in 1936.


Most of the railway's stock and track were scrapped in the 1930s. However, some carriage bodies were sold to local farmers. Two of these bodies survived long enough to be rescued by the Talyllyn Railway where they have been restored to working order and are now used in regular traffic. A quantity of Glyn Valley track also found its way to the Talyllyn.

The waiting rooms in Pontfadog and Dolywern survive to this day in their original locations. In 1950 the council officer used Pontfadog waiting room to collect rates and the locals nicknamed it ‘Pontfadog Town Hall’. It was later bought by the public house and it was also used as a craft shop.

Part of the historic tramway bed – dubbed the 'Little bit of Heaven Railway' is set to be revived by the Glyn Valley Tramway Trust (formed as a charity in October 2007) who plan to recreate its appearance in the 1920s era and provide a visitor centre and workshops with educational facilities to display and interpret the history and development of the Tramway through artefacts and audio visual media. However, the planned tramway will be operating with a different track gauge to the original, and so cannot be seen as a "heritage" line. The Glyn Valley Tramway Trust are to carry out a Design and Evaluation study of the entire route from Chirk to Glyn Ceiriog and beyond, and as a first phase intend re-instating a 1 km section as an operational steam heritage railway from the original Chirk GVT station next to the Shrewsbury to Chester main line to Baddy's Wood near Pontfaen by 2010.

The New Glyn Valley Tramway & Industrial Heritage Trust have plans to open a Heritage and Interpretation Centre in Glyn Ceiriog. Their website at details their aims.

There is some local and political support for a revival of part of the Tramway by the Glyn Valley Tramway Trust (, particularly in and around the town of Chirk, to assist with the economic regeneration of the area whose economy is dependent on two large local employers. . However, there is substantial opposition to the plans in the valley itself. The Trust recognises that to make a viable attraction from day one, it will have to make use of available resources, which is likely to result in the use of non-authentic, but sympathetic locomotives and rolling stock initially. The income from such an operation will allow the more specialised conservation and historical activities to be supported. At a later stage of development the Trust is keen to pursue the construction of replicas of the original Beyer Peacock tramway locomotives. The gauge proposed will not be the unique 2'41/2" of the original tramway but 2'6".

1 comment:

  1. The website is now with effect from May 2017