Sixty years since the last train to Cwm Prysor #2

Sixty years since the last train to Cwm Prysor #2

The second part of the ‘Sixty years since the last train to Cwm Prysor’ feature. Previously it had been mentioned the line closed because of a new reservoir, that is true of course however in terms of passenger traffic it had in fact been closed some time earlier. The only reason the line was still operational was because of two things – the first being the quarries at Arenig which provided stone for the railways’ ballast. The second was during the line’s final years cement was being delivered to Blaenau Ffestiniog for the new power station being built there. In the meantime proposals for the reservoir which would flood the upper valleys the line passed through were mooted, and British Railways was given an opportunity to realign the railway to avoid its being flooded. A new alignment for the railway was drawn up too, but British Railways wanted none of that and so the line closed.

At the top of Arenig Fell Race the line reaches the site of an overbridge – the line is in the rocky cutting at centre of the picture. The overbridge has obviously been demolished. There’s more climbing yet to do in order to reach Cwm Prysor! The height difference between Arenig and Cwm Prysor is roughly 200 feet elevation in just two and half miles. Source: Google Streets

The private road to Nant Ddu showing a good prospect of Arenig Fawr with the railway itself climbing westwards (at right) towards Cwm Prysor. Source: Google Streets.

Compare Arenig Fawr with the painting below. That and the Google view above are of the same mountain, its just how the artist choses to interpret the landscape. The work by James Dickinson is composed from the shores of Llyn Tryweryn.

This is the celebrated painting of 1913 by Welsh artist James Dickson Innes showing a romantic view of Arenig Fawr (2802 ft/854m) from Llyn Tryweryn. The lake is right at the summit of the pass through which the railway traverses. Cwm Prysor station stood at the eastern end of the lake with splendid views across to Arenig Fawr. The railway would have been to the left just out of Innes’ line of sight. Source: Twitter.

James Dickson Innes and Augustus John (a fellow Welsh artist) painted together at Nant-Ddu during 1911 and 1912. and a lot of their work depicts the Arenig mountains. Alas many art writers, even the Tate, says the lake in the painting is Llyn Tegid or Bala Lake! Its not even Bala Lake but Llyn Tryweryn as mentioned earlier. It is suggested the painting was completed in London at a later date. Innes work is strongly influenced by the output from impressionists such as Matisse and Le Douanier Rousseau, the works of which Innes may have seen in Paris.

One thing is certain about Innes and Augustus John! They took the Bala-Ffestiniog railway as far as Arenig station from which they reached a cottage by Nant Ddu they rented for £10 per year. Here’s a nice story on how Innes met Augustus John at Arenig station for the first time:

At the tiny Arenig station, Innes is standing on the down line platform between the signal box and the water-tower, his back to the mountain, looking over the opposite platform and across to the river below, the rounded shape of Arenig Fach rising from the flat marshland. Innes can see the smoke of the Bala train as it stops briefly at Capel Celyn Halt; now he hears the engine as it comes in sight and steams slowly into the station. Carriage doors are flung open, various items of luggage are thrown onto the platform and, as the steam clears, Innes sees that his friend has indeed arrived. Augustus John has come to Arenig. He is 33 years old, wealthy, hugely talented, famous, notorious even, a demon draughtsman, painter of people from rich celebrities to itinerant gypsies, and he has just fetched up in the wilds of Merionethshire at the instigation of his young artist friend. This meeting was to become a highly significant moment in the story of British painting, comparable to Van Gogh bringing Gauguin to the Yellow House in Arles. Augustus John and James Dickson Innes were at the forefront of the avant-garde practice apparently confined to urban subjects as exemplified by the Camden Town Group; yet here were the two Welshmen, returning to the remotest part of their homeland to pursue their work in a way which would deliberately emphasise their plein-air approach with vigorous, direct brushwork inspired by a wild and mountainous landscape. (Source: Wales Arts Review.)

In the next section we look at Cwm Prysor station itself and the trains in service and of course the famous viaduct and the spectacular sections of the line to be found in the locality.

Old hut by the former railway as the route nears Cwm Prysor station. The huge bulk that is Arenig Fawr can be seen in the background. Source: RMWeb.

The line soon meets the A4212 and in fact the newer road takes the easier course of the old railway for about two miles or so past Llyn Tryweryn. The summit of the line was 1292 feet above sea level near Cwm Prysor station roughly eleven miles from Bala station. The total ascent consisted of a rise of around 650 feet.

The one remaining crossing gate at Cwm Prysor, now a gate to the dwelling itself. The post on the other side is in fact that which held the opposite crossing gate! Source: Google Streets.

Cwm Prysor station as it was. Source: Lightmoor Press.

Cwm Prysor station seen from the SLS special on 22nd January 1961. Source: RMWeb.

The station was just west of the line’s summit at 1292 feet, which was one of the highest summits on British Railways, and beyond this summit the line crossed a spectacular viaduct before clinging to the sides of a precipice high above the valley floor for a considerable distance as it descended towards Trawsfynydd. The viaduct and the precipice section are generally considered to be the line’s piece de resistance.

The A4212 on the course of the old line past Llyn Tryweryn. The road uses the old railway as far as the west side of Llyn Tryweryn. Source: Google Streets.

This is the point at which both road and rail routes split off. The railwya headed off to the right towards its summit and the viaduct. The railway alignment can be seen hugging the steep sides of the valley for the next couple of miles or so… Source: Google Streets.

The line hereabouts was often snow bound in the winter and special procedures were in place for a train with a snow plough to work the line…

Special arrangements for snow plough trains between Arenig and Trawsfynydd. Source: RMWeb.

Nice black & white view of the A4212 descending into the valley with the former high level railway alignment very clearly apparent on the right. The mountains seen in the distance beyond are the Rhinogydd. Source: Twitter.

Below is a similar view to that taken from the road. The shape of Craig Aderyn (Teryn Bluffs in english) which the line crosses is unmistakeable even though most of the Rhinogydd are shrouded in cloud. Note that there was no road though the valley below, in those days it was a farm track! Craig Aderyn is a noted spot for rock climbing novices.

Train from Blaenau approaching Llyn Tryweryn and Cwm Prysor station. Source: RMWeb.

Although many know the structure as Cwm Prysor viaduct, according to the notices placed there by the Snowdonia National Park its called Nant Prysor viaduct, and further the viaduct isn’t any sort of official walking route but rather a permissive path by agreement with the landowner whose property the viaduct lies within. The viaduct is some distance from the road as this Google Streets view shows. Also here’s a Cwm Prysor viaduct aerial that can be seen at Google Streets.

Dramatic view of the viaduct. Source: Twitter.

Cwm Prysor viaduct from the SLS special 22nd January 1961. Source: RMWeb.

Cwm Prysor viaduct in 1955 showing evidence of a rebuilt parapet and repointing work. Source: Lightmoor Press.

The line can be seen very high up on the hill side – there’s a bridge visible too. In fact there’s another bridge up there but its hidden in a small cutting. The dramatic view of the line’s former course can be seen on Google Streets.

The course of the line as it passes high above the valley. Source: Google Streets.

As the line progresses west it still has a lofty elevation and this continues a little way past Castell Prysor. Source: Google Streets.


Nant Prysor with the mound of Castell Prysor clearly visible. Its evocative of the mounds belonging to Dinas Emrys or Dinas Bran which is what makes it a spectacular setting. Those riding the train would however had a good view of the mound because the railway runs in the background high up on its shelf as the picture clearly shows. Source: Flickr

Bryncelynog Halt. An isolated location but no doubt it served some remote farms. In the background is Craig Aderyn. Source: Facebook

There was another halt at Llafar further down the valley but a little to the east of the end of the current permissive footpath near Cae-y-Glas from Cwm Prysor. This had a GWR style pagoda shelter similar to that at Bala Junction. Again it was sited in a very isolated spot and was purely for the use of the farms. The pictures below show that halt before and after.

Llafar Halt and the same site today. Source: Facebook

At the far end of the current permissive footpath from Cwm Prysor by Cae-y-Glas an overbridge can be spotted in the undergrowth. Its one of many cast iron structures on the line from Brymbo Works. Another of those bridges was shown in the first part of this feature where Llyn Celyn halt was located. The road here used to cross the line via the bridge itself but now cross the line on the level. The bridge can be seen at Google Streets.

Continued in Part Three.

The Cwm Prysor posts:

Sixty Years Since the Last Train to Cwm Prysor 1

Sixty Years Since the Last Train to Cwm Prysor 2

Sixty Years Since the Last Train to Cwm Prysor 3