History of the NWNGR and PBSSR route
The 1906 route around Beddgelert
Click here for new images updated 12/8/04
Click here for J.C. Sreeves new historical map of Beddgelert
Click here for Steve Harris' historical maps and gradient plans
Origins of the PBSSR
The PBSSR (or Portmadoc, Beddgelert & South Snowdon Railway) was incorporated in 1901 to link the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railway at South Snowdon (Rhyd Ddu) with Porthmadog. It also promoted a Beddgelert to Betws-y-Coed link and an extension of the NWNGR from Dinas to Caernarfon largely along the abandoned Nantlle tramway. The PBSSR was proposed to be of the same gauge as the NWNGR, Croesor Tramway and FR and so provide a through link of 40 miles from Ffestiniog to Caernarfon.
In 1906, after some parliamentary battles, the PBSSR finally raised funds to start constructing the missing link between the Croesor Tramway and the NWNGR. From Porthmadog, it followed the Croesor Tramway to Croesor Junction, and then struck west and north for the Aberglaslyn pass. Work began in 1906 and proceeded intermittently until 1908 when funds dried up.
The northern end functioned as a timber tramway from 1911 through WWI for the first 2 km from South Snowdon to a loop just south of the Cwm Ddu bridge. The southern end also performed the same function with an extension timber tramway descending steeply through the woods above the Beddgelert Forest Campsite to join the northern end of the cutting at Ty'n-y-coed. This tramway dropped down steeply from the Goat Tunnel to terminate at a loading bay on the A498 just south of the abortive PBSSR road bridge.
A short section from Croesor Junc. to the Afon Dylif bridge was completed and later used by the WHR. Much of the work at Nantmor and through the Aberglaslyn Pass was completed, though the 1922 WHR works opened out the cuttings and tunnels. In the Beddgelert area itself, the railway followed a different route to that adopted by the later WHR of 1923. The PBSSR chose this route so a junction station could be constructed on the east side of the Afon Glaslyn for the proposed Betws-y-Coed and South Snowdon routes. No doubt a depot and loco shed would also have been established here for the fleet of 10 electric locos proposed for the new routes.
The PBSSR rejoined the WHR 1923 route at the south portal of the Goat tunnel. Works done under a 1901 Order by the NWNGR (Beddgelert Light Railway Ext.) were funded by the PBSSR from Aug. 1904. The first 500m north of Beddgelert was abandoned in 1905 as being too steep at 1 in 20. Boyd suggests that surveying errors on the NWNGR Beddgelert Extension led to gradients of 1 in 28, so engineers looked again at how they could reduce the gradient to an acceptable 1 in 40 for the section north of Beddgelert station.
The 1906 Order that resulted has an alignment swinging around the north of Beddgelert station in a modest S-curve before rejoining the abandoned PBSSR route at Ty'n-y-coed. Parliamentary Orders for these works were obtained on 24/10/1906 though no work was done. The later WHR chose an even more sinuous route involving heavy cuttings and embankments, which allowed the gradient to be eased further to 1 in 48 on the S curves.
For the PBSSR, the link up the Nant Colwyn to South Snowdon involved a climb of about 150 m in approx. 4 km in a direct line, eased to 6 km by the reverse curves proposed. This implied continuous steep gradients of 1 in 40 and 10 electric locos were ordered from Bruce Peebles (who also constructed the earthworks) to a Ganz (Budapest) design (first loco completed 1905). The large size of the PBSSR overbridges at Pitt's Head and the Aberglaslyn Tunnels was due to the need to erect a trolley wire for the 3-phase electric supply.
The North Wales Power & Traction Company was behind the proposals and part of their idea was to use the railway route for feeding Porthmadog, Ffestiniog and the quarries with electricity from their Cwm Dyli power plant (on the Beddgelert-Betws section). In the early 1900s, a growing environmental lobby was opposed to having cable routes through the beautiful unspoilt scenery around Snowdon. The PBSSR's own masts could carry an electricity feeder (in addition to the trolley supply) to Porthmadog etc.
Boyd reports the specification for the electric locos suggested '100 hp capable of hauling 50 tonnes up a gradient of 1 in 40' and elsewhere 'at 12.5 mph'. The revised 1906 plans saw gradients of 1 in 40, though double heading by electric locos was clearly necessary on the Beddgelert to South Snowdon section. South Snowdon would remain a traction change over point initially as no bridge heightening works were undertaken north of this point on the NWNGR section. The PBSSR also ordered 'Russell' to bolster the remaining NWNGR locos, which were in poor condition. In the longer term, the NWPTC would want to extend its power supplies to Caernarfon District and would have converted the whole railway to electric traction.
Why was the route changed in 1923?
The route north of Beddgelert was changed to ease gradients to 1 in 40 (as mentioned above). South of Beddgelert station, Boyd claims that the 1923 WHR scheme engineers preferred the hillside route between Goat Tunnel and the 1923 Bryn-y-felin bridge across the Afon Glaslyn to avoid 'spoiling the view with an embankment across the valley'. However, a much more likely reason is the unacceptably steep gradient (1 in 28) between the Goat Tunnel and the Glaslyn Bridge at Gelert's Grave and the lack of a source for the vast amounts of fill required to complete the PBSSR embankment to the Gelert's Grave bridge.
In fact the bridge abutments are extant on the 1906 route and suggest a bridge 2 metres above the river. This implies that the 1906 route was approximately level from Bryn-y-felin to the Afon Glaslyn bridge near to Gelert's Grave and did almost all its climbing across the field to the Goat Tunnel. Boyd reports that in February 1909, with work stopped, the girders for the river bridges were stored at Porthmadog. These were later scrapped in the WWI scrap drive.
So to this day the following abortive 1906 works survive unadopted by the later WHR.
Cuttings in the Beddgelert Forest
As the WHR route drops from the Beddgelert Forest campsite towards the Cwm Cloch bridge, a deep cutting is visible on the left in the woods. This steeply graded cutting provided the spoil for embankments nearer Beddgelert and was not strictly necessary otherwise as it runs along the hillside parallel with lower land. The formation rejoins the WHR formation on the northern approaches to Beddgelert station.
This southerly archive view shows the WHR right just south of Ty'n-y-coed. The abandoned works of the PBSSR (1906) are to the left in cutting at a lower level. This is the northern end of traceable PBSSR works. As can be seen from the sloping land to the Afon Colwyn to the east, the deep rock cutting was not strictly necessary other than to provide spoil for embankments near Beddgelert. Click on the image to enlarge. This image is copyright B.W.Hughes. Slide scan technology utilised is Olympus ES10 & iPhoto Plus4. Image scanned at 200dpi.
Goat Tunnel to Gelert's Bridge
Public footpaths behind the Goat Hotel/Beddgelert Station lead to this location. Follow the fence past the old reservoir and through the gate at the top of the rise.
This northerly view (18/8/99) is the Porthmadog end of the short (80 m) tunnel behind the Goat Hotel in Beddgelert as viewed from the unused PBSSR bridge over the main road. The WHR formation is seen curving sharply to the left and is already nearly a metre above the PBSSR formation where they diverge. The wood tramway used in the First World War drops down steeply between the two formations. Click on the image to enlarge. This image is copyright B.W.Hughes. Slide scan technology utilised is Olympus ES10 & iPhoto Plus4. Image scanned at 200dpi.
New fencing and signage prevents access to this end of the tunnel following similar work on the Aberglaslyn pass tunnels in mid-August. This view was taken on 18/8/99 from the steeply graded incomplete 1906 works. The far end of the tunnel is in gloom with a sharp bend to the right and a deep rock cutting. This cutting is blocked by a collapsed aqueduct behind the Goat Hotel on the approaches to Beddgelert station.
There is still track in the cutting beyond the tunnel from the 'unofficial' '64 Co.'s attempts in the early '60s to restore the line at this location. Further rail is in place from other unofficial works from the same period at Nantmor, immediately north of the A4085 road bridge.
This southerly view (18/8/99) looking in the opposite direction from the same location. The 1923 alignment swings sharply to the right (south) following the valley side. The 1906 alignment drops steeply (already almost 1 metre below the 1923 alignment where it emerges from the later formation) to the left and crosses the A498 visible in top left). Between the two formations an even steeper temporary railway was built down to the road during the First World War to deliver logs from Beddgelert Forest to a roadside loading bay. Click on image to enlarge. This image is copyright B.W.Hughes. Slide scan technology utilised is Olympus ES10 & iPhoto Plus4. Image scanned at 200 dpi.
This northerly view from the Beddgelert Cemetery entrance shows the never used PBSSR bridge over the main road. Click on the image to enlarge. This image is copyright B.W.Hughes and were captured on a Kodak DX6490 digital camera. Image post processed using Iphoto+4 and displayed at 96dpi.
This easterly view (20/2/01) shows the incomplete embankment sloping down from the unused road bridge (left) at Beddgelert. In the middle of the field are the abutments of an accommodation bridge that was never completed. Click on image to enlarge. Beyond the abutments the railway land swung to the left around Gelert's Grave mound before swinging to the right over the incomplete Gelert's Grave bridge This image is copyright B.W.Hughes. Slide scan technology utilised is Olympus ES10 & iPhoto Plus4. Image scanned at 200 dpi.
Gelert's Grave and bridge
The completed abutments for the PBSSR bridge at Gelert's Grave survive. The are constructed in dressed local stone. The railway would have been carried about 2 metres above the river on a girder bridge similar to that installed at Bryn-y-felin.
This northerly view (12/9/04) shows Gelert's Grave in the centre of the field with a lone tree. Moel Hebog rises into the sunset in the northwest. The PBSSR route followed the path to the left, curving around the hillock behind the grave. Click on the image to enlarge. This image is copyright B.W.Hughes and was taken on a Concord 3340z (3.1 Mega pixel) digital camera. Image post processed using iPhoto Plus4 image correction technology and displayed at 96dpi.
This easterly view (12/8/04) shows the western abutment of the Afon Glaslyn bridge. Sometime before the mid-1960s, the building was added which houses a winch for a cradle transport across the river. The eastern abutment is visible across the river. Click on the image to enlarge. This image is copyright B.W.Hughes and was taken on a Concord 3340z (3.1 Mega pixel) digital camera. Image post processed using iPhoto Plus4 image correction technology and displayed at 96dpi.
This northerly archive view shows the east abutment of the Gelert's Grave bridge. The dressed stone walling is easily distinguished from the later rubble stone additions that provide field boundaries. Each corner of the PBSSR abutment has an angled bracing support. On the west side of the river is a matching structure, now surmounted by a modern rope pulley system, possibly for transporting sheep across the river. Click on image to enlarge. This image is copyright B.W.Hughes. Slide scan technology utilised is Olympus ES10 & iPhoto Plus4. Image scanned at 200 dpi.
The PBSSR work on the embankment between Bryn-y-felin bridge and the incomplete Gelert's Grave bridge was largely finished. Work proceeded south from a quarry, which utilised scree close to the Gelert's Grave bridge. Spoil was skipped down the grade on temporary tracks, long since removed. The embankment was completed to within a few yards of the WHR Bryn-y-felin bridge. At the northern end, the same scree quarry provided rock fill for the short curving embankment onto Gelert's Grave bridge. However, a short length of cutting through the scree quarry was never completed.
This northerly view (23/12/00) was taken from the east bank of the Afon Glaslyn. The PBSSR alignment can be seen curving west onto the Gelert's Grave bridge. The building on the far side of the river (extreme left) is the winch station. Vehicles have used the track crossing the embankment to access the Aberglaslyn Works for the WHR under construction during the winter of 2000/1. This location was the site of the proposed junction between the PBSSR Caernarfon branch and its Betws-y-Coed branch. Click on image to enlarge. This image is copyright B.W.Hughes. Slide scan technology utilised is Olympus ES10 & iPhoto Plus4. Image scanned at 200 dpi.
This northerly view (23/12/00) shows the incomplete cutting in the scree just south of the previous image. A landslide has partially blocked the cutting. The embankment can be seen curving west from the end of the cutting. The cutting resumes about 10 metres south of here with a substantial scree excavation that provided the spoil for the embankment towards Bryn-y-felin bridge. Click on image to enlarge. This image is copyright B.W.Hughes. Slide scan technology utilised is Olympus ES10 & iPhoto Plus4. Image scanned at 200 dpi.
This northerly view (12/8/04) shows the new concrete path leaving the WHR formation and taking a short cut to the bridge abutment. Click on the image to enlarge. This image is copyright B.W.Hughes and was taken on a Concord 3340z (3.1 Mega pixel) digital camera. Image post processed using iPhoto Plus4 image correction technology and displayed at 96dpi.
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