History of the Line
The mothballed section from Blaenau to Trawsfynydd Halt is quite new railway which was first connected through to the London North Western Railway (LNWR) Conwy Valley branch only in 1964. Prior to that it was solely the northern end of the Great Western Railway (GWR) sponsored Bala to Blaenau line. The Ffestiniog separated the two as it forged East up towards its Duffws station – now the Car Park and Toilet block in Blaenau – and on up to Duffws and other slate quarries. The LNWR and GWR were daggers drawn competitors, both seeking to tap the slate traffic from the Blaenau quarries and to cut out the Ffestiniog, so no surprise there was no attempt to link them before that.
Strictly speaking, our bit of line is pure GWR. Only later was it accessible to Modernisation Plan diesels from the North Wales Coast.
That Company was formed in July 1873 and, with GWR backing, completed the line to Llan Ffestiniog in 1882. Between Llan and Blaenau there was already a 2′ gauge railway operated by the Ffestiniog, the Festiniog and Blaenau Railway (sic). The Bala and Festiniog succeeded in buying that company and converted the line to first dual gauge and finally standard gauge, opening to Blaenau Ffestiniog in September 1883. Formal incorporation into the GWR followed in 1910.
The focus of the line was to compete with the Ffestiniog and with the LNWR for the slate traffic. But it was on the wrong side of the break where the Ffr ran east to Manod. Slate was never a success and coal and general goods dominated. Unsurprisingly, given the sparsity of population, passenger traffic was never large either. It was inevitable, then, that the line did not even make it as far as the Beeching era. It was closed by BR(W) in 1960 to passengers and a year later to freight.
Subsequent to closure, the needs of the new nuclear power station at Trawsfynydd, and the then moribund status of the Ffestiniog in Blaenau, allowed a new end on connection to the Conwy Valley line at Blaenau. A new transfer siding for nuclear flasks was built at Trawsfynydd and the line as we know it today was born – in 1964. The remainder of the line was lifted and the new Llyn Celyn reservoir flooded part of the line at the Bala end. Some parcels of land were sold, but much of the lifted section remains in the stewardship of the Highways Agency Historical Railways Estate and London & Continental Railways Ltd.
One section of this lifted section is in the hands of a private owner who has built a house on the old formation of the line, the presence of this house means that the Trust is unable to expand southwards and this is not one of the aims and objectives but we do still want to tell the story of the line to the south of our eventual operational limits.
Meanwhile, flask trains and the occasional enthusiasts special made irregular use of the stub from Blaenau to Trawsfynydd.