The Conwy valley line - Lein Dyffryn Conwy

Trawsfynydd to Bala
(this section of track was closed in January 1961)

This wonderful photo, supplied by Gwilym James, shows what I believe is a troop train from Trawsfynydd in the loop at Cwm Prysor.  The train is headed by GWR Dean Goods 0-6-0 2418.  Note the impressive snow fences behind the train.  Some special traffic notices for troop trains can be read here.

I have added this section onto the end of the website to try to give some idea of what a heroic undertaking the GWR line from Bala to Blaenau Ffestiniog was.  The section from Blaenau to Trawsfynydd was retained to serve Trawsfynydd Nuclear Power Station and access to it was achieved by means of a new connection from Blaenau Ffestiniog North to the ex GWR Central station.  

The line South from Trawsfynydd to Bala was closed in 1961.  Part of the trackbed, North of Frongoch station, was flooded by the Llyn Celyn reservoir while a section at the head of Cwm Prysor was incorporated into the A4212 road.  Of the remainder, most of the trackbed is easily traceable although all trace has gone of Bala and Bala Junction stations.

Some relevant dates

Ffestiniog & Blaenau Railway (2 foot gauge)  opened 29th May 1868, later converted to standard gauge as part of the Bala - Blaenau Ffestiniog line.

Bala to Ffestiniog opened - 1st November 1882.

Ffestiniog to Blaenau Ffestiniog opened 10th September 1883.

Passenger services withdrawn on 2nd January 1960.

Freight services withdrawn on 27th January 1961.

Bala to Bala Junction closed 16th January 1965.  Trains ran from Bala to Barmouth from 17th December 1964 to 16th January 1965.  The last ever through trains ran from Ruabon to Bala and Barmouth on 12th December 1964, when severe flooding washed away the line in several places.  After that only Ruabon to Llangollen and Bala to Barmouth were open, until 16th January 1965, with a bus service in between.

New connection at Blaenau Ffestiniog opened on 20th April 1964.

Last train to Trawsfynydd ran on 17th October 1998.

Troop trains to Trawsfynydd

The Great Western Railway built the line from Bala to capture a share of the lucrative Blaenau slate traffic, unfortunately for the GWR it failed to do so. The slate was still mainly dispatched via the Ffestiniog Railway to Minffordd or by the LNWR line.  The only slate of any consequence it carried was in transporter wagons from Manod to Blaenau.  Of far greater importance was the working of troop trains to Trawsfynydd to serve the large Army ranges in the mountains to the South East of the village.  To give some idea of the traffic handled I have scanned three typical movement orders giving details of seven such troop trains.  The date is probably 1919, of particular interest are the details given of the horses.

Click here to view the troop train special traffic notices

A recollection of the Blaenau Ffestiniog - Bala Junction line by Eddie Bellass

September 1959, at Blaenau Ffestiniog Central station....

My 7 months pregnant wife and I were waiting to catch the day's last, one coach train down to Bala Junction.  There we'd change into a train from Barmouth to Chester, where a further change would get us home to Earlestown on a North Wales-Manchester express.

While being run round and temporarily stabled to allow for some freight stock shunting, the single ex-GW non-corridor brake coach was derailed on some dodgy pointwork. No amount of old fishplates and sleeper packing would persuade it back on the rails.  The last LMR train from Blaenau Ffestiniog North station to Llandudno Jn. had gone and no taxi could be found.

We and one other passenger were invited up with the crew of the ex Great Western 0-6-0 Pannier Tank locomotive and off we chugged, five in the cab, with my wife turning her 'bump' through 90 deg. whenever the fireman needed to put on a round of coal -- not very often due to running downhill almost all the way.

The other passenger alighted at Trawsfynnydd but two more joined, one with a bike! This was put up on the flat top of the tanks. With six up, the name of the game was to avoid the rise and fall of the rear driving wheel springs which protruded into the cab on either side of the firebox. The extra two people and one bike disembarked at Arenig and we remained at four up into Bala Junction, where the connecting train had been held for us.

On a remote railway branch like that one, operations were conducted very much in a 'family' manner, with no questions asked as long as the job got done.

Next page: Trawsfynydd to Cwm Prysor

Return to the index page