Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Corris Railway

Many years ago, when I first became interested in railways (about 1970), I invested in a paperback guide to the 'Preserved Railways and Tramways of the British Isles' (or something very similar!) Back then there were very few actual 'preserved' railways - the Bluebell, the KWVR and the Middleton were about the only standard gauge lines open. I think the Dart Valley had just been added, and the Severn Valley was just starting. The Kent and East Sussex was there, but under a huge shadow thanks to the Ministry of Transport refusing reopening due to a level crossing. There was the Blackpool Tramway, Shipley Glen, some cliff lifts, the Isle of Man and other borderline heritage set ups. There were some museums. There were loads of planned preserved lines, many of which made it and are now essential local attractions. But compared to now there wasn't a lot happening. Outside, on the network, lines were still being closed (!) - and most of these also became heritage routes in time. But Wales seemed to have loads of lines - the Festiniog, Tallylln, Fairbourne, Snowdon Mountain, Vale of Rheidol (still BR then), Welshpool and Llanfair and the Great Orme Tramway. But one museum operation fascinated me - the Corris. The line was just along the way from a few other NG lines, but was in deep sleep. There were a few fascinating pictures of the line in operation (including one very similar to the one above). There was talk about laying a short stretch of track ...

45 years on I still haven't visited the Corris, but plan to in the future. It does now of course operate as far more than a museum, with regular steam trains in the season. And hopefully eventually it will link with the Network at Machynlleth. For now it's still a work in progress, inspired by the long established NG lines elsewhere in Wales, and in turn inspiring the last great NG Welsh adventure restoration - the Glyn Valley.

Corris Railway c1910

Photo copyright James Waite Aberllefenni 1969 

Part of the route saw freight traffic many years after the main line was closed in 1948.

CORRIS Aberllefenni Quarry 4.7.1969 Copyright James Waite

Looking towards Corris - 14.5.1981 Source

The Corris Railway revived. 15.6.2013 Source

More info (from Wikipedia)

The Corris Railway (WelshRheilffordd Corris) is a narrow gauge preserved railway based in Corris on the border betweenMerionethshire (now Gwynedd) and Montgomeryshire (now Powys) in Mid-Wales.
The line opened in 1859, and originally ran from Derwenlas, south east of Machynlleth north to Corris and on to Aberllefenni. Branches served the slate quarries at Corris UchafAberllefenni, the isolated quarries around Ratgoed and quarries along the length of the Dulas Valley.
The railway closed in 1948, but a preservation society was formed in 1966, initially opening a museum; a short section of line between Corris and Maespoeth was re-opened to passengers in 2002. The railway now operates as a tourist attraction. A new steam locomotive was built for the railway, which was delivered in 2005. The two surviving locomotives, plus some of the original rolling stock, are preserved on the nearby Talyllyn Railway.
The gauge of the railway is 2 ft 3 in (686 mm).


Tramroad era: 1850 to 1878

Proposals to construct a line to connect the slate quarries in the district around CorrisCorris Uchaf and Aberllefenni withwharves on the estuary of the Afon Dyfi at Derwenlas and Morben, south-west of Machynlleth, first appeared around 1850 with Arthur Causton as engineer. At this time slate from the quarries was hauled by horse-drawn carts and sledges to transport their output to the river. The proposed Corris, Machynlleth & River Dovey Railway would have run along Dulas Valley to the north shore of the Dyfi at Pant Eidal. This scheme was not constructed, and was followed by two further proposals during 1850. Following the plans for a standard gauge railway along the Dyfi valley, these early proposals were shelved.
On 12 July 1858 the Corris Machynlleth & River Dovey Tramroad (CM&RDT) was formed, and immediately began construction on a 2 ft 3 in (686 mm) gauge railway. The first train ran on 1 April 1859. Locomotives were forbidden from use, so the railway was worked using horses and gravity.
On 3 January 1863 the standard gauge Newtown and Machynlleth Railway opened, followed on 1 July of the same year by the line from Machynlleth to Borth of the Aberystwyth and Welsh Coast Railway. These two lines had become part of theCambrian Railways by August 1865. The opening of the standard gauge line to Borth made the section of the CM&RDT from Machynlleth to Morben obsolete. It was much easier to transship slates to the main line at Machynlleth, so the lower section of the tramway was abandoned.
With the arrival of the standard gauge, the CM&RDT saw the chance to greatly expand their operation. They applied, on 13 November 1863 to convert the tramroad to a railway, adopt steam locomotives and formally close the section between Machynlleth and Derwenlas. On 25 July 1864 an Act of Parliament was passed changing the name to the Corris Railway Company and permitting the use of locomotives on the line. It appears that around this time the line was under the control of Thomas Savin, the contractor who built the standard gauge lines in the area.
It took until the 1870s for work to begin to upgrade the Corris Railway to a standard where locomotives could be used. The original tramroad was laid with light bridge rail suitable for waggons to traverse as they were pulled by horses. These rails would not support the weight of much heavier steam locomotives. In 1878 control of the railway passed to the Imperial Tramways Company of London. The new owners saw the potential for passenger traffic on the Corris Railway and ordered the first passenger carriages for the railway, even though the Act of 1864 did not permit passengers to be carried. They also appointed Joseph R. Dix, son of the main-line stationmaster at Machynlleth, as Manager in successor to David Owen.

The Dix Years: 1879 to 1906

In February 1879 three new
 steam locomotives purchased from the Hughes Locomotive Company arrived and began work. Although the carriages arrived in 1878 it was not until 1883 that the Act of Parliament was secured to allow the formal commencement of passenger services. A semi-official passenger service had been running since the early 1870s using adapted waggons to convey quarry workers and visitors.In 1880 and 1883, two new Acts were obtained which adjusted the tolls on the railway and permitted the carriage of passengers. The second of these Acts was necessary because the owners of the quarries served by the railway objected that passenger trains would interfere with their mineral traffic. Initially the railway ran a test passenger service on the local roads; this proved to be so popular that they were able to pass the parliamentary act over the opposition of the quarry owners. It was also the first instance of a long history of the Corris Railway operating passenger road services in the area.
The railway developed a network of horse-hauled road services, including providing a link between Corris station and Abergynolwyn station on the Talyllyn Railway. This was promoted as part of a circular "Grand Tour" which took in the two narrow gauge railways and the Cambrian service between Tywyn and Machynlleth.The line was now in its settled form and began to operate a full service under Dix's energetic management. The railway was widely promoted to visitors as the best route to Tal-y-llyn Lake and Cader Idris (ignoring the claims of the rival Talyllyn Railway). The initial passenger service ran from Machynlleth to Corris, with new stations at Esgairgeiliog and Llwyngwern opening in 1884. The track was upgraded beyond Corris so that passenger services could reach the line's northern terminus at Aberllefenni, with services starting on 25 August 1887, and in the same year stations were also opened at Ffridd Gate and Garneddwen.
In 1892 control of Imperial Tramways moved to Bristol and George White of Bristol Tramways became chairman and Clifton Robinson became managing director. In the 1900s Bristol motor buses were sent by the parent company to run the road services.

Decline: 1907 to 1930

Following a dispute with the directors Dix was dismissed and replaced by John J O'Sullivan (formerly of the Cork, Blackrock and Passage Railway). The closure of Braichgoch Quarry in 1906 brought the railway its first loss, and although the line continued on through subsequent decades, serving the quarries around Corris and Aberllefenni, it never again showed a profit. As well as slate and passengers, the line hauled timber extracted from the Dyfi forest in the 1910s through 1930s. There was also a constant traffic in coaland general goods to the quarries and communities served by the railway.
After World War I, the decline in slate traffic continued as cheaper foreign slate and alternative roofing materials became popular. O'Sullivan had died in office in 1917 and the new manager, Daniel J McCourt, took over after the war and was responsible for developing and extending the connecting bus services as partial compensation for the decline in rail traffic.

Takeover and nationalisation: 1931 to 1948

In 1930 Imperial Tramways sold the Corris to the Great Western Railway (who by that time were the owners of the main line serving Machynlleth) whose primary interest was taking control of the railway's bus routes. After running a bus in direct competition with the railway in 1930, the railway's passenger service was withdrawn at the beginning of 1931. In 1948 the line was nationalised along with its parent company as part of British Railways. Serious erosion to the railway formation caused by the Afon Dyfi led to closure later that year, the last train running on 20 August 1948. The track was lifted by the end of 1949.
In 1951, the nearby Talyllyn Railway, which shares the unusual 2 ft 3 in (686 mm) gauge, became the first railway in the world to be preserved. The Talyllyn purchased the two remaining locomotives, which had been stored out of use at Machynlleth, along with several goods waggons. In 1958, the Talyllyn also purchased one of the Corris carriages, which had been in use as a summerhouse in a garden in Gobowen.


Other than at Aberllefenni and Braichgoch quarries, no rails remained in situ along the Corris route. Initially the Society sought to purchase Machynlleth station for its museum, but when this proved impossible it turned its sights elsewhere. The main buildings of Corris station were demolished in 1968 leaving only the adjacent railway stable block standing, and these buildings - badly in need of maintenance - were acquired, along with a short section of trackbed leading southwards. In 1970 the first part of the building was opened as the
 Corris Railway Museum. A short length of "demonstration" track was laid in 1971.In December 1966 a group of dedicated enthusiasts led by Alan Meaden, formed the Corris Railway Society with the aim of preserving what was left of the railway, opening a dedicated museum, and to explore the possibility of reviving some or all of the line. Many of the founding members of the Society were volunteers on the nearby Talyllyn Railway.
During the 1970s the Society undertook lengthy negotiations with the relevant authorities to establish the requirements for re-opening the line for passengers, while steadily building up funds and equipment. A new Corris Railway Company, reviving the original name, was incorporated to act as the Society's trading and operating arm, while the Society achieved charitable status. The Museum was extended as more of the building was returned to satisfactory condition.
In 1981 the line's original locomotive shed at Maespoeth was acquired and became the railway's operational base. During the 1980s light track was laid between Maespoeth and Corris, a distance of just under a mile (1.6 km). The formal "first train" back to Corris ran in 1985. In the following years the track was upgraded to passenger standards while negotiations with the authorities continued.
In the summer of 2002 passenger services resumed after a break of seventy-two years, initially diesel-hauled. The society has also built a new steam locomotive, to a design based on the Kerr Stuart No.4. This loco arrived on the railway on 17 May 2005 and runs as No.7 (the Corris Railway never officially named its locomotives). No. 7 went into service on 20 August 2005, fifty-seven years to the day since the last train on the original railway, and now hauls the regular passenger service between Corris and Maespoeth.
The railway is also actively pursuing a southwards extension towards Machynlleth, with the initial aim of extending the line to Tan-y-Coed, midway between Esgairgeiliog andLlwyngwern and some two and a half miles south of Corris. As always, this is involving lengthy negotiations with the authorities, not least due to the line south of Maespoeth running immediately adjacent to the A487 trunk road. While these are continuing the railway has consolidated its facilities at Maespoeth with the construction of a new two-road carriage shed in the adjacent field (the original carriage sheds at Corris and Machynlleth having been demolished).
During 2009 the railway marked the 150th anniversary of the first train on the Corris with a series of events, including demonstration horse-worked freight trains and gravity runs of rakes of waggons.

Both the surviving original locomotives have visited the Corris since its reopening. In 2012 No. 3 featured in a steam Gala over May Bank Holiday weekend along with the railway's resident steam loco No. 7. No. 3's boiler ticket expired on 17 May 2012 and the loco was on static display at Maespoeth until February 2013 when the loco left the Corris to tour heritage railways and museums in the UK to raise awareness of the Talyllyn and to raise funds for its overhaul.
The revived Corris Railway has maintained friendly links with the Talyllyn Railway, which resulted in both of the original Corris locos and rolling stock returning to the railway. In 1996 ex-Corris loco No. 4 returned to celebrate its 75th anniversary. In 2003 ex-Corris loco No. 3 returned on the occasion of its 125th anniversary with a heritage train of coach No 17, brake van No. 6 and two trucks. Corris No. 5 visited the Talyllyn Railway in 1983 and 1990,[10] and No. 7 in October 2011. It hauled a few charter trains and played a part in the TR's Corris Weekend, when it ran with the two surviving ex Corris engines; No. 4 (Edward Thomas) and No. 3 (Sir Haydn) and stock.

About the railway

 2 ft 3 in (686 mm) gauge is rare, shared by only three other public lines in the UK: the nearby Talyllyn Railway and Plynlimon and Hafan Tramway and the Campbeltown and Machrihanish Light Railway in Scotland.The Corris Railway had several unusual features:
  • Its origins as a horse tramroad and ascent through the narrow and winding Dulas valley meant it had exceptionally tight curves. Its original passenger carriages were simple 4-wheelers derived from urban horse-drawn tramway designs with end balconies; they rode poorly and were quickly rebuilt into longer bogie carriages by placing two of the original bodies end-to-end on a longer underframe.
  • The stations were exceptionally narrow, again because of the geography of the line, and all were on the east side of the rails, so the carriages and locomotives had doors on that side only, as on the neighbouring Talyllyn Railway.
  • The vertical trestle waggons for carrying large slabs of slate from the quarries were also rarely found on other railways, notable exceptions being the Ffestiniog Railway and the nearby Hendre-Ddu Tramway.
  • Corris Station and the original Machynlleth Station had overall roofs, features which were rare on a British narrow gauge railway. At Corris, the roof was over the main running line and trains for Aberllefenni passed under it; at Machynlleth the rear of the train rested under the station roof while the front was in the open air. The original Machynlleth station was demolished and replaced in 1905 with the building that still stands alongside the A487 trunk road north of the main-line railway overbridge.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

to ilfracombe!!

NÂș34069 Hawkinge running into Mortehoe & Woolacombe Station from Ilfracombe, with an up train. Some time during the 1950s. (Photographer unknown)

Devon suffered greatly from the Beeching cuts and seemed to be mortally wounded for decades after much of the rail network was brutally slashed mainly in the 60s. The Ilfracombe line - a magnificent steeply graded double track main line - did struggle (just) into the 70s, closing on 5 October1970. It was the final nail in Devon's railways, and very nearly the last Devon closure (which was the Kingswear line in 1972, though that line never really closed as such, just turned into a 'heritage' line overnight).

Even in 1970 the closure was seen as ridiculous and soon attempts were being made to reopen the line, which stayed intact until 1975. But the scheme collapsed in a mess of financial shenanigans, and the line was ripped up. The heart had been ripped out of both North Devon's railways and holiday trade.

Some people claim this tainted rail revival in North Devon which should really be a centre for heritage rail. Bideford station, Instow signal box and Torrington station are being or have been restored, and there is the fantastic Lynton and Barnstaple line up on Exmoor, but really the whole area has a lot of catching up to do ....

But now we have Combe Rail, a group dedicated to rebuilding the Ilfracombe line. I like to think I played a small role in helping launch this as it grew out of the Ilfracombe Facebook group, which now has over 800 members!! Hopefully many will join the new organisation and help make this happen sooner rather than later. 

So North Devon is stirring. There is even the chance of a 'Race to Barnstaple' as the Lynton and Barnstaple, Torrington and Ilfracombe lines rebuild back to Barny. There is also the other important route to Barnstaple, the line from Taunton, once a busy partly double track cross country route which cut a lot of time getting to Ilfracombe from here in Bristol. A tiny part of this line has been rebuilt of course, as part of the West Somerset's Taunton facilities. So far there is only a Facebook group, but how long before this line also has an active group promoting its early reopening? I'd love to see a fourth runner in the Race to Barny!

As Climate Change hits harder and harder (and warmer!) and as oil supplies tighten our coastal resorts are going to see a boom in visitor numbers. They are already inventing themselves as ideal short break destinations - but to really cash in on this they have to offer easy rail connection.

The Ilfracombe line revival is part of that process ....

In deep sleep 1973 (source)

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

trafford park

All 13.5.1986 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing

Back in 1986 I was in Manchester and got the chance to look around the Trafford Park Estate, which I knew had been rail connected. I was surprised to find that a good deal of track remained, but all seemed strangely disused. For what better way to bring goods in and out of factories than rail - this network should have been bustling, but it wasn't.

Once a lot of factories and industries were rail connected but the estate railway was something special. The large estate at Slough for example had a number of its own steam locos, which like at Trafford steamed alongside the roads and into factory sidings.

In many ways this is a vision of the future. There will still be some industry after oil, smaller scale obviously, and much of it serving local markets, but I suspect industrial estates will still exist. They will all need to be rail connected, either through private sidings or estate railways. 

More info Wikipedia

The Trafford Park Railway System is the mainly disused railway system that runs around the site of large Trafford Park Industrial Estate, which closed in 1998, although much of its infrastructure remains.

History of System

The system's history started at the end of the 19th century there were no public transport routes in Trafford Park. Due to the size of Trafford Park meant that the Estates Company was obliged to provide some means of travelling around the park, and so a gas-powered tramway was commissioned to carry both people and freight. The first tram ran on 23 July 1897.

Earlier Years

The service was operated by the British Gas Traction Company, which paid a share of its takings to the Estates Company, but by 1899 the company was in serious financial difficulty, and entered voluntary liquidation. Salford Corporation then refused to provide any more gas for the trams, and the service was once again suspended until the Estates Company bought the entire operation for £2,000 in 1900. A separate electric tramway was installed in 1903, and was taken over and operated by Manchester and Salford Corporations in 1905. The takeover did not affect the gas trams however, which continued to run until 1908, when they were replaced by steam locomotives. Between 1904 and 1907 the Estates Company also operated a horse-drawn bus for the use of "gentlemen" staying at Trafford Hall, then a hotel. The service, available 24-hours a day, was replaced by a motor car in 1907.
Under an 1898 agreement between the Estates Company and the Ship Canal Company, the latter committed to carry freight on their dock railway between the docks and the park and to the construction of a permanent connection between the two railway networks. The West Manchester Light Railway Company was set up the following year to take over the operations of the tramway and to lay additional track. In 1904 responsibility for all of the parks roads and railways passed to the Trafford Park Company, as a result of the Trafford Park Act of that year. The railway network could subsequently be extended as required, without the need to seek additional permissions from Parliament.

Size of Network

The network was also connected to the Manchester, South Junction and Altrincham Railway near Cornbrook. At its peak, the estate's railway network covered 26 route miles (42 km), handling about 2.5 million tons of cargo in 1940. Like the rest of the park, it fell into decline during the 1960s, exacerbated by the increasing use of road transport, and it was closed in 1998.

Present Day

The Trafford Park Euroterminal rail freight terminal, which has the capacity to deal with 100,000 containers a year, was opened in 1993, at a cost of £11 million. In addition to this Freightliner continues to serve the Barton Dock freight terminal adjacent to the Trafford Centre.
Most of the rest of the system still exists but it is disused.