Friday, 15 October 2010

Nant Prysor Viaduct

This wonderful old structure is one of the many remains of the old Bala to Blaenau Ffestiniog railway line. The bridge itself was built in 1882 and is 105 feet (32 metres) high from river bed to rail level. I can't find any mention of the engineer responsible for the bridge, but it is a beautiful curving 9 span structure. The bridge is crossed these days by a permissive path, accessible from a lay-by a mile or so towards Bala from the viaduct.

The line was built at huge expense so that the Great Western Railway could tap into the slate wealth of Blaenau Ffestiniog. It might not look it today, but back in the 1880's, Blaenau was a seriously happening place. Unfortunately, the railway's arrival co-incided with the start of the decline in the slate industry and while the line became a vital transport link, it never re-couped the cost of it's construction.

Shadows resemble tracks across the viaduct
It's amazing to think that before the A4212 was built in 1964, the railway was the only way to travel between Bala and Blaenau Ffestiniog. The road, however, spelt the death knell for the railway as it was part of a deal done with Liverpool council where part of the trackbed was flooded to make a reservoir, Llyn Celyn, supplying water to the city. Acknowledging the role the railway played in connecting Bala to Blaenau, a new road was built, giving that dubious meddler Beeching the excuse that he needed to close the line, with the loss of over 100 jobs in Bala.

The trackbed continues off towards Trawsfynydd. It's just visible
perching on the side of the hill in the middle distance.
How short sighted that decision was can be seen today when walking the trackbed beyond the viaduct. The views are incredible as the railway perches over a hundred feet above the valley floor, looking for all the world like some improbable model railway. There are plans to re-open a small part of the line, from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Trawsfynydd, as a tourist line. Pie in the sky, probably, but how wonderful it would be to see a preserved steam train clinging once more to those rocky ledges!


Anonymous said...

Great stuff Iain. Went to have a look at it myself yesterday.

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks, Graham. It's a lovely spot.

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