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Wales Llangollen and the Llangollen Railway

Llangollen is an attractive market town on the banks of the River Dee, and is surrounded by the Berwyns and Clywdian mountains. It is overlooked by the ruins of the Welsh stronghold, Castell Dinas Bran. The name comes from the C7th monk, St Collen who founded a church here, although the present building is C15th.

The town grew up to the north of the river, where there was more flat land. The railway and canal are on the south bank. The Dee Bridge across the river was built in 1345 and was widened in the 1960s to cope with modern traffic. There are good views of the town from it.

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When I visited, it was covered with over one hundred patchwork panels. I overheard someone describing it as looking like washing day.

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These are part of a new artwork 'Bridges not Walls'. Quoting from the information panel on the bridge, this is a first commission in Wales for the internationally renowned Luke Jerram, known for his art installations around the world. It is part of the International Music Eisteddfod which is returning this year. The bridge is covered with over on hundred fabric panels made by the local community and others around the world. Looking closely, they have all been machine sewn (and not very well at times). Also several panels are beginning to come unstitched and beginning to look tatty. It might have been a good idea on paper but in practice look tacky and distracts from the beauty of the bridge.

Llangollen was on important stopping point on the main London to Holyhead coaching route. The population grew, especially when the canal was built providing employment and a method of easy transport for raw materials and finished goods.The railway followed and this also brought visitors to the town. The tourist industry began .

It is now a popular tourist destination with festivals and activities throughout the year and in particular the world famous Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.

The high street is thriving and retains its traditional old fashioned appeal with many privately owned speciality shops. The chain stores have yet to arrive. There are also ice cream parlous and plenty of cafes and places to eat and drink.


The Town Hall was originally the Assembly Rooms with a market hall beneath. Tourist Information is in an old chapel.

Although the railway closed in 1964, a stretch of line has been restored and again runs trains. The canal is now popular with narrow boats. Llangollen Wharf which was once a busy transhipment point for goods, is now a thriving centre for horse drawn barge trips and also longer narrow boat trips across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct .

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There is also much to do in the surrounding area too, from the ruins of Castell Dinas Bran overlooking the town
and the lovely ruined Valley Crucis Abbey. There is also the enigmatic Eliseg’s pillar.

Plas Newydd with its quirky C18th owners is a few minutes walk from the town centre.

For those wanting to be a bit more energetic, there are water pursuits as well as excellent walking .
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Llangollen Railway

This is a volunteer run heritage railway along the River Dee between Llangollen and Corwen and is the longest preserved standard gauge steam railway in Wales. It was part of the former GWR Ruabon to Barmouth route that closed in 1965.

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The railway has had a checkered career. The railway company announced in March 2021 that, having made a loss in three consecutive years, and having to cancel operations in 2020 due to Covid, they had invited their bank to appoint receivers and put up the railway for sale. There were concerns that it would close again.

The Llangollen Railway Trust appealed to the public to help raise funds to save the railway and undertook a massive fund raising appeal to save the railway and encourage individuals or groups to buy assets for the benefit of the railway. Other preserved railways were very supportive of their efforts and agreed not to bid against them at auctions of rolling stock and other assets.,.

They have been able to purchase assets belonging to the railway along with the right to use the railway line, and have begun to run services again, using volunteers.

When we visited in early August, it was a DMU service running to Berwyn, although there were plans to extend to extend to Deeside halt and Glyndyfrdwy Station using steam trains later in the month. There are plans to gradually open up the line as things progress and hopefully eventually run back to Corwen.

Cont...
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Llangollen Railway cont - some history of the line

Llangollen was already a popular place for tourists by the 1840s. Travel up to this time had been by horse-drawn carriage but, by the 1840s, the Shrewsbury to Chester railway line had been completed, which allowed passengers to alight at Llangollen Road (later known as Whitehurst Halt), and then take a coach towards Holyhead.

As the local mining industry began to grow, a railway became increasingly essential to the region's economic development. A number of schemes were proposed, including one to turn the Llangollen canal into a railway. In 1859 a scheme for a new railway received the Royal Assent. This was to build a new line from the Shrewsbury Chester line south of Ruabon to a new station at Llangollen. The line opened to freight in December 1861 and to passengers in June the following year. By 1865, the line had been extended as far as Corwen. This involved building a tunnel through the Berwyn mountains along with bridges over the River Dee. Later the line was extended to Bala and Dolgellau.

By the mid 1870s, it was possible to travel from London Paddington to Llangollen with a change at Ruabon in nine hours.

By the 1930s, traffic had declined and the line was scheduled for closure as part of the Beeching cuts. Passenger services ceased in 1965, followed by all goods traffic in 1968. The local council bought the land and station buildings from British Rail. The track, signalling and much of the infrastructure was quickly removed or demolished, although Llangollen, Berwyn and Carrog station buildings survived.

The Flint and Deeside Railway Preservation Society was founded in 1972 with the aim of re-opening a closed railway in North Wales. At first the society was interested in the Dyserth to Prestatyn line, but then decided the line was unsuitable as a small amount of freight traffic was still using it. The society the turned its attention to the Llangollen to Corwen section of the Ruabon to Barmouth line.

The local council granted a lease of the Llangollen railway station building and 3 miles of track to the society, with the hope that the railway would improve the local economy and bring more tourists to Llangollen. The station reopened on 13 September 1975, with just 60 feet of track.

Early progress was slow due to a lack of funding, though in 1977 Shell Oil donated a mile of unused track. Volunteers started laying the track with the aim of reaching Pentrefelin, 3⁄4 mile from Llangollen. Work finished in July 1981 with the remaining quarter mile of track used to lay sidings at the old Llangollen Goods Junction to house the railway's growing fleet of rolling stock.

The local council renewed the lease of the land to the railway for a further 21 years. The Llangollen Railway Trust was given significant amounts of track, allowing the next extension of the line to Berwyn. This involved a £30,000 refurbishment by the local council of the Dee Bridge, which had fallen into disrepair since the commercial closure of the line. The first trains operated over the newly extended 1.75 mile line to Berwyn in March 1986. Rebuilding work progressed with services arriving at Deeside Halt in 1990, Glyndyfrdwy in 1993 and finally Carrog in 1996.

The Victorian stations were repainted in the 1950s Great Western Railway colour scheme of chocolate and cream Signal boxes were rebuilt at Llangollen Goods Junction, Deeside Halt, Glyndyfrdwy and Carrog.

In 2011, work finally started on the 2 1⁄2 mile extension to Corwen and a temporary station built on the eastern side of the town. The original station had been bought and was a showroom for Ifor Williams Trailers, one of the largest manufacturers of trailers in the UK. There were plans to replace this with a permanent station, Corwen Central, with a run round loop.

And then everything came to a halt with Covid-19 and the railway going and coming out of receivership...

For those interested, there is a detailed history of the line here.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Llangollen Railway cont - A trip along the line from Llangollen to Berwyn

The route follows the River Dee from Llangollen to Corwen and as the gradient map shows, is a steep climb from Llangollen

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Llangollen is the main terminus with the locomotive shed and yard and is the base for the commercial functions of the railway. The station was built in 1865 and is next to the C13th bridge across the River Dee. The best views of the station are from the bridge.

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It is a cramped site with the railway built against the side of the hill below the canal.

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The station has been restored back to what it might have looked like in GWR times, with ticket office and small refreshment room.

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The signal box is at one end of the station and a water tower at the other.

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When I visited in early August 2021, a DMU service was running between Llangollen and the next station up the line at Berwyn.

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Leaving Llangollen, it is an attractive run to Berwyn station with views of the river and one of the old and now derelict mills.

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The line passes the carriage and wagon workshops at Pentrefelyn.

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It then crosses the river and climbs towards Berwyn Station. There are views back over the bare mountainsides.
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Cont...
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Llangollen Railway cont - Berwyn Station

Berwyn Station is built on a ledge above the valley floor. With increasing summer traffic, the platform had to be extended onto a viaduct, crossing the road and bridge below it.

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It is a large station with an attached timber frame station master’s house. By the 1950s it was an unmanned halt and is now a holiday let.

The Chainbridge Hotel across the river is reached by a chain suspension bridge.Apparently the half-timbered Tudor design of the station building was designed to match the Chainbridge Hotel at the request of the local landowner.

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Just beyond the hotel is the Llangollen Canal and there is a short walk along the tow path to Horseshoe Falls, a weir across the River Dee designed by Thomas Telfor to control water level in the canal.

The DMU had about 20 minutes at Berwyn before the return journey to Llangollen. Hopefully one day I will finish the trip!

Cont...
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Llangollen Railway cont - the rest of the route

Deeside Halt did not exist under BR. The present station was built in 1990 as a temporary terminus and the platform allowed passengers to watch the loco run round the train. When the line was extended to Glyndyfrdwy, this was kept as a request stop.

The stone built Glyndyfrdwy Station has been lovingly restored as a holiday let. The wooden buildings on the opposite platform are used by visitors to the railway. The signal box is manned when the railway is running to operate the crossing gates.

Carrog Station is close to Carrog village with its C17th bridge across the river. While the station masters house was in reasonable condition, the rest of the station buildings had to be rebuilt by volunteers. This was the terminus before the line was extended to Corwen. It had a tea room and two coaches in the siding sold railway memorabilia, raising funds for the railway.

The line has been extended to Corwen, with a temporary station at Corwen East, until a permanent station was built nearer the town centre, with run round facilities and water tank. Trains have yet to run there....
 

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