North Wales Towns Tour Journey Notes 2 - Barmouth to Pwllheli.
Times in brackets are for halts and stations that are request stops (we may not call at these) assuming departure from Barmouth on schedule at 10.01. Left or Right refers to when facing the direction of travel.
10.01 Depart Barmouth and run in between the A496 road to Harlech and the sea.
(10.04) Llanaber. R - The station is reached by a steep path from the road and is located just below the village and the church and immediately above a rocky beach; the January 2014 storms deposited 800 tonnes of debris on the line near here stopping all trains for four months.
(10.08) Talybont. L - Mostly caravan and holiday home parks; the village is to the right. We then cross the Ysgethin River and move a little further inland.
(10.11) Dyffryn Ardudwy. With the village on our right, we continue to travel a little further inland but still with the A496 road on our right. Llanbedr Airport will be on our left; opened during WWII as a base for the RAF’s Fighter Command and subsequently used for Target Drone services to the UK Armed Forces, it reopened in 2014 catering for the needs of general aviation activities in the area. It is on the UK Government’s short list of six airports being considered for the site of the UK spaceport!
Llanbedr, originally a slate mining village (10.15), Pensarn (10.17) and Llandanwg (10.19) are three more request stations serving villages and communities. We briefly return to running alongside the coast.
10.25 Arrive at Harlech. On Day Two (Tuesday), we leave the train here. The number of waiting shelters on the station are because many children travel by train to and from school here.
10.27 Day Three (Wednesday) - Depart Harlech; the railway now heads north-east to negotiate the Dwyryd estuary.
Tygwyn (10.31) and Talsarnau (10.33) are two request stops.
(10.36) Llandecwyn. R - The very small station, just big enough to accommodate the two carriage trains, was completely reconstructed during the summer of 2014 as part of a £20 million scheme to replace the nearby Pont Briwet. This Grade II listed timber bridge, built in the 1860s, carried the railway over the Dwyryd to Penrhyndeudraeth and a single lane, privately owned toll road which connected the Harlech to Blaenau Ffestiniog road with the road from Porthmadog; both were in a very poor state of repair. The project includes a bridge for the railway, a two-lane road and a cycle/footpath. The bridge opened to rail traffic on 1 September 2014 with services between Harlech and Pwllheli recommencing after a gap of 9 months; work on the parallel roadway is expected to be fully completed in 2015. After the bridge, we turn west for Porthmadog.
10.40 Penrhyndeudraeth. R - The road opposite the station leads to the centre of this large village which has a population of over 2,000. Its name translates as ‘Peninsula with Two Beaches’ - it is located between Traeth Mawr (Big Beach), the now largely reclaimed estuary of the Afon Glaslyn, and Traeth Bach (Little Beach), the estuary of the Afon Dwyryd. Prior to the 19th century land reclamation projects and the building of the Ffestiniog Railway, the few local inhabitants relied on agriculture and small scale copper mining. Some men worked boats on the River Dwyryd, carrying slate from to the sea for export and women at that time gathered cockles in the estuary for sale in local markets. Just prior to the station is the site of a former explosives factory that at one time employed up to 600 people. Established in the 19th century to make guncotton, a manufacturing plant was set up here to produce munitions for WWI and explosives for quarrying and mining; production of explosives continued until 1995.
10.44 Minffordd. We run under the main road to Porthmadog and the Ffestiniog railway which are adjacent to each other; the Ffestiniog also has a station here - the narrow gauge line pre-dates the Cambrian Coast line by some 36 years! We now cross the Glaslyn and travel to the north of Porthmadog.
10.52 Arrive Porthmadog; on Day Three (Wednesday) we leave the train here.
10.52 Day Four (Thursday) - Depart Porthmadog. We head west and cross over the A498 Caernarfon road and then the A497 Pwllheli road before turning south towards the sea.
10.59 Criccieth. L - As we approach the station, look out for the ruins of Criccieth Castle which is situated on a headland between two beaches, on a rocky peninsula overlooking Tremadog Bay. It is unusual in that it is of mixed Welsh and English construction; built by Llywelyn the Great in 1230, it was later captured by Edward I who built the gatehouse and inner walls. After the Cambrian Coast Railway reached the town in 1867, the pastimes of the Victorians of sea bathing, hill walking and mountain walking increased in popularity and this coupled with the stunning scenery ensured the prosperity of this beautiful coastal resort which today has a population of around 1,800.
We continue west; just north of the line (to our right) is the village of Llanystumdwy where David Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister from 1916 to 1922, lived until he was 16. The railway crosses over the Dwyfor and runs very close to the coast.
(11.04) Penychain. In the 1950s and 1960s this was an important station serving a large Butlin’s Holiday Camp with large numbers of holidaymakers arriving by trains from Liverpool, Manchester, London and South Wales. The station still serves visitors at what is now the Haven Holiday Park.
11.08 Abererch. The little station serves the nearby caravan park on the left. In the other direction, the lane leads to the little village of Abererch which is half a mile away.
11.14 Arrive Pwllheli and leave the train.