Sunday, 7 June 2020

A Tale Of Tunnels (3)

Church Link
(here) at approx 1015

The Dogged Determination Of The Deviationists
Again, thanks to Northampton Alan for reminding fbb of one of the most spectacular bits of engineering on any preserved railway in the UK, possibly even in the world. For many years the Festiniog Railway did not go where its name suggested it should.
Trains ran from Porthmadog to Tan-y-Bwlch. This over-enlarged timetable does show that there were occasional bus connections through to Blaenau; but they were not very easy to use.
Most people thought that was that; there would never be a re-instatement of the link through to Blaenau Ffestiniog. What made this long term aim seem remote beyond hope was the CEGB's pumped storage reservoir scheme at Tan-y-Grisiau.
The lower lake (Llyn Ystradau) effectively blocked the line's path.

Moelwyn tunnel ...
... was plugged and no trains would ever run that way again.
There were protracted legal claims against the C E G B for a fat wad of fivers by way of compensation but, in the dark corners of Porthmadog pubs, plans were discussed that seemed too far fetched to consider.

If you can't go through the Moelwyn Tunnel and the Llyn Ystadau why not go round them?

The work, done almost exclusively by volunteer labour took 15 years, a lot of shovels, wheelbarrows and sweat. The line did a U-turn immediately after Dduallt halt, curved round and over the top of itself, this creating the first ever  "mountain" spiral (as on Swiss railways) in the UK.
The volunteers were soon known as the "Deviationists".

Work started in 1965 and construction was complete in 1978.
Never slow to make a bob or two, the Railway began using the spiral well before the tunnel was built by running a diesel hauled "Shuttle" to a stop at Gelliwenog south of the new tunnel portal.
A typical train is pictured above at Dduallt.

As soon as the new Moelwyn tunnel was ready, "proper" trains ran through to a temporary terminus at Llyn Ystradau station.
There was no access to this platform other than by train, it offered simply a chance to ride through the tunnel and see the lake.

But soon the line moved on to a new fully operational terminus at Tan-y-Grisiau.
Still the "elephant in the room" remained. Would the railway get back to its original terminus at Blaenau? And if it did, would Festiniog trains pull into the station at about the same times as the last British Railways trains pulled out as the line to Llanduddno Junction closed?

In the end it all worked out beautifully. The line was not closed. A new joint station was built ...
... and yes, it is usually raining at Blaenau Ffestiniog - it certainly was on all three occasions that fbb passed through!

But it was Alan who reported on one final development of note, only recently completed.

The original Moelwyn tunnel had distinguished stone portals ...
... whereas its replacement, although constructed with slabs of fine welsh slate ...
... simply never looked quite right.

So the lads at the FR have added new portals ...
... aiming to re-create the elegance of the first now-blocked bore.
"Wirioneddol odidog!" as they are wont to exclaim in the speakeasies of Dduallt!
And, as luck would have it, the trains JUST fit through the hole.

Four Rousing Cheers ...
... for GoAhead North East

A twitterer tell us ...
O.K., they are departure lists, not the fully useful full timetables, but it is a start. 
And it gets better. GoAhead North East has also produced ...
... wait for it ...

... a Timetable Book!
Whoever did that should be promoted instantly to Managing Director. Maybe it was the Managing Director - in which case give him the job of Minister of Transport with powers to compel all operators to do what his team has done.

Bus bosses please note - if GoAhead can do it WHY CAN'T YOU?

In Praise Of Panscrub!
fbb's slipshod approach to railway modelling sometimes leads to problems, like these badly "built" brick walls ...
... with unrealistic joins. so plant some teased out panscrub undergrowth ...
... and a cheap Chinese tree and things begin to look better.

The "Tunnel That Was Never Built"is postponed until tomorrow.

 Next Tunnels blog : Monday 8th June 


  1. It was actually Arriva that produced the departure listings in Durham bus station - Go North East (specifically Martin, the MD) was thanking them for doing so!

  2. Andrew Kleissner7 June 2020 at 07:25

    I was a Deviationist! - only for a couple of weeks in 1969, with a group organised by the Crusaders Bible Classes. We stayed in the Tunnel Mess, a large temporary building hard by the southern portal of the old Moelwyn Tunnel, and we had the disused stretch of line down to Dduallt station to play on!

    I don't think the portals of the new tunnel were "constructed with slabs of fine welsh slate" - they were just bare concrete. In fact they weren't proper portals at all, simply what was needed for safety. In dry summers, when the water level in the lake is low, it is still possible to see the old course of the line.


  3. I really enjoyed reading this article, I always appreciate topics like these being discussed with us. Very good information. I will follow the article Thanks for sharing.
    I also have a pretty interesting blog if you are interested in checking it out!
    Introduce Cute For 18 Media

    You can play games at:Friv300 Online