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.
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”:https://www.llangollenrailwaytrust.org/ appealed to the public to help raise funds to save the railway and undertook a massive fund raising appeal and encouraged 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 many 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 that month. There are plans to gradually open up the line to Carrog and hopefully eventually run back to Corwen.
Their “Facebook”:https://www.facebook.com/llangollen.railway/ page has up to date details.
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 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 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 on 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 donated 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 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…..