North Wales Steam Railways Tour Journey Notes 2 - Machynlleth to Barmouth.
Times in brackets are for halts and stations that are request stops - we may not call at these. Left or Right refers to when facing direction of travel. Times assume departure from Machynlleth at 12.51 based on timetables to 20 May 2017.
The Corris Railway used to run south from the village and the slate quarries to terminate here at Machynlleth. Built originally in 1859 as a horse-hauled tram road, steam locomotives arrived in 1878 and passengers were carried from 1883 to 1930; the Railway closed in 1948. However, passenger services recommenced in 2002 on the northern section of the Railway out of Corris with regular steam-hauled services returning in 2005. No time to visit this Railway on this Tour - another visit to take this in?!
12.51 Leave Machynlleth, cross over the road to Dolgellau and then begin to follow the Dyfi River.
12.57 Dovey Junction (Cyff Dyfi) station. The Cambrian Line to Aberystwyth is on our left. This was once a busy interchange with a waiting room and refreshments on the platform; the two portions of the Up Cambrian Express were joined here. Signal box and extensive signalling (including a four-arm gantry) until 1988. The junction was prone to flooding at high tide and in 2008 the station and track in the area were raised by 2 feet. There is no road to the station - a 0.6 mile footpath runs from Glandyfi. We cross over the Dyfi.
Virtually all the stations on the Cambrian Coast Line are still open but there are a few very small halts that have closed. Gogarth Halt was located where we join up with the A493 road on the northern side of the estuary and Abertafol Halt was 1.75 miles further west; both saw their last trains stop in 1984.
(13.06) Penhelig. R - This is just as we enter Aberdyfi/Aberdovey at the eastern end of the village, between two bridges over the A493. It only opened in 1933 as an alternative to the main station which is to the west of the village. Annual passenger usage has been 9,000 - 10,000 over the last five years - reasonable numbers for what for formally called a Halt!
13.10 Aberdyfi/Aberdovey station. R - The station buildings are now privately owned. It once had a canopy using supports originally built for Pwllheli station; they are now at Llanuwchllyn station on the Bala Lake Railway! Recent passenger usage around 35,000 per year. Former passing loop, signal box and small goods yard; a short branch also used to be here to serve the jetty at Aberdyfi Harbour.
13.19 Arrive at Tywyn (formally known as Towyn) station. 300 yards before we arrive here is the Talyllyn Railway’s Tywyn Wharf - from here, slates would have been transferred from the narrow gauge waggons to the main line freight trains. Tywyn’s station buildings are all in private use; passenger usage around 100,000 annually. Former goods yard, signal box (this lasted until 1988 when radio signalling was introduced) and sidings; the passing loop still exists and we are scheduled to cross with the 11.37 from Pwllheli. We depart at 13.25.
(13.29) Tonfanau. We cross over the Dysynni River just prior to arriving here; a short branch on the right used to run to local quarries. The station once served an Army camp but today there are few local inhabitants with a daily average of less than eight passengers starting or completing their journey here. L - With no mains electricity in the vicinity, there is a small wind turbine at the north end of the platform that powers the station lighting. On 3 January 2014, a section of embankment near here was washed out by storm-force winds/tidal surges and services were suspended for five weeks; two trains were marooned at Barmouth and taken away by road. Trains then ran only as far as Barmouth as part of the sea wall north of the town had been swept away. The line re-opened in May but only as far as Harlech. A replacement viaduct was being built near Penrhyndeudraeth but the original was declared unsafe which meant that the entire line to Pwllheli didn’t re-open until 1 September.
2.25 miles further north on right was the location of Llangelynin Halt which closed in 1991.
(13.35) Llwyngwril station. R - The station building is now a private dwelling; passenger usage in recent years has been 35-40,000 annually. Llwyngwril used to have a long passing loop, signal box and water tank. To the north of the village, the line near Friog is rock-fall prone and we pass through a short avalanche shelter. This was constructed after a 1933 accident (which was almost identical to another one 50 years earlier) when debris on the track derailed a locomotive which fell onto the rocks below.
13.44 Fairbourne. L - This station is by a level crossing on the road into the village; this used to have a goods siding and a small signal box. Passenger usage now around 45,000 a year. Fairbourne was founded as a seaside resort by Arthur McDougall, of self-raising flour making fame. The Fairbourne Railway is a 2 mile long miniature railway which has provided a service between the village and Penrhyn Point since its opening in 1895. Originally built to carry building materials, the Railway has carried holidaymakers for over a hundred years. It runs alongside the beach to the end of the peninsula to Barmouth Ferry station where there is a connection with a pedestrian ferry across the Mawddach estuary to Barmouth.
(13.45) Morfa Mawddach. A shadow of its former self, this station once had four platforms and was known as Barmouth Junction. A 54.5 mile line ran to Ruabon (on the Shrewsbury to Chester line) via Dolgellau, Bala Junction (for Bala and Blaenau Ffestiniog), Corwen (junction for the line from Rhyl, Denbigh and Ruthin) and Llangollen. Through passenger services ceased in December 1964 after flood damage to the track and the last passenger train ran the following month. Most trains started from or terminated at Barmouth station.
The route of the line from here to Dolgellau is now the Mawddach Trail, an eight mile footpath and cycle track. Two Heritage Railways are on the northern section of the old line - the standard gauge Llangollen Railway (recently extended to a new station near Corwen) and the narrow gauge Bala Lake Railway at Llanuwchllyn.
We now cross over the Mawddach estuary via the spectacular Barmouth Bridge. Opened in 1867, the bridge is 764 yards long and contains 113 wooded trestles supported by a series of cast iron piers; it is one of the longest timber viaducts still standing in Britain. It has a swing bridge section at the northern end to permit the passage of tall ships, though it has not been opened since testing nearly 30 years ago. A footbridge is incorporated on the eastern side and pedestrians and cyclists can cross the estuary by the side of the track. In 1980 it was discovered that the bridge's structure had come under attack from marine woodworm and only diesel multiple units were allowed to use it - this brought an end to freight traffic on the line. Following major repairs the weight restriction was removed in 2005, and locomotive-hauled trains were again allowed to cross.
13.55 Barmouth (Abermaw). R - Just before the level crossing over the road to the beach was a bay platform that was used by trains to Dolgellau and Ruabon. The signal box (Barmouth South) that once stood by the level crossing is now at Glyndyfrdwy on the Llangollen Railway - although non-operational. The station buildings house a tourist information centre (which also acts a booking office for train tickets) and a small museum devoted to the history of the town. In the region of 170,000 passenger journeys start or finish here.
We depart Barmouth at 13.57 and continue up the coast to Harlech (there are six request stops en-route) where we arrive at 14.21. After waiting ten minutes to allow a south bound train to pass, we continue to head north with three more request stops, then Penrhyndeudraeth, Minffordd (the Ffestiniog Railway also has a station here) and Porthmadog - arrival is due here at 14.56.