Phase 4: Rhyd Ddu to Porthmadog

Traeth Mawr - Cambrian Crossing

Phase 4 pages:
Beddgelert: Bridges & Station
Traeth Mawr - Cambrian Crossing

Recent updates are underlined and in red.

Click for a map of the Phase 4 route in a separate window.

The route section of the site includes detailed illustrated descriptions - Rhyd Ddu to Beddgelert and Beddgelert to Porthmadog.

Most of this section, from Traeth Mawr to Pen y Mount, has been rebuilt by WHR Ltd for the extension of WHR(P) services ahead of completion of the whole line. Detailed coverage of this work can be found at the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway site - formerly WHR(P) - and the dedicated site; these sites should serve as your main points of reference and sources of information for this section.

Traeth Mawr

The loop here was a temporary feature. WHR(P) volunteers are seen below at work on ballasting and other finishing works on August 5th 2006, with no fewer than five diesels in attendance, as well as the Talyllyn tamper (see below); the big diesel Eryri had delivered ballast from Pen y Mount earlier in the day.

The last passenger trains to terminate at Traeth Mawr ran at the end of the WHR(P) season on October 28th 2007. Lifting of the loop started the following weekend, with two RRMs checked over at Dinas and sent south to help. The loop had to be removed to give access for contractors working on the Pont Croesor - Traeth Mawr section, including the new farm bridge nearby. WHR(P) services continued to run on the extension in 2008, using push-pull working, and terminating a short distance south of Traeth Mawr. The pictures below show the latter stages of track lifting at the loop, and the "new" Head of Steel awaiting the arrival of track from the north. The second row of pictures show the new use for the turnout which had been at the north end of the loop. It has been reused for a new siding giving access to supply the WHR(P) coal dock by rail, as the previous vehicular access to it along the main WHR trackbed is no longer available.

An additional four panels south of Traeth Mawr were lifted by the Black Hand Gang on May 24th 2008, to allow contractors to reinstate the missing low embankment and bring the trackbed up to the correct level. Rails and sleepers were stored nearby for relaying when the track arrives from the north, with other parts being removed to Dinas.

WHR(P) volunteers were recovering sleepers adjacent to their limit of working just south of Traeth Mawr on July 5th 2008. Note the raised trackbed to the north.

South of Traeth Mawr, the line runs along the side of a sandy bank which is a remnant of the Creassy Embankment of 1800, the first part of William Alexander Madocks's land reclamation schemes.

The 96 lengths of rail needed for extension to Traeth Mawr, part of the second shipment of Phase 4 rails from Poland, were unloaded at Pen y Mount on October 21st 2005. WHR(P) volunteers started work to extend tracklaying out of their existing sites and onto the trackbed proper the next day, starting (as seen below) with removal of the last panel of existing track, as otherwise a rail joint would have been necessary on the crossing (which has to be a single unit).

A week-long working party saw track laid across Pen y Mount crossing, and as far as one panel beyond the next crossing at Cynfal, with small diesels Cnicht and Taxi 2 working the first works trains onto the extension. Gelert also posed on Pen y Mount crossing on October 25th 2005. The wooden sleepers were temporary (except at the two crossings, where tracklaying was essentially complete) and were later replaced with steel. However the use of Pandrol clips was the first visible example of the rail fixings to be used throughout Phase 4.

With all materials to hand, rapid progress was made with tracklaying during WHR(P)'s "Spring Bash" in March 2006, with the Head of Steel advanced approximately halfway to Traeth Mawr. The section between the two crossings at Pen y Mount and Cynfal was levelled and packed ready for final tamping over the first weekend in April. It was also found that several packs of gauge widened sleepers (intended for use on sharp curves) had been delivered to WHR(P); these were exchanged for standard ones from the stocks at Dinas. Further progress towards Traeth Mawr was made during an extended Easter working party. Pictures are at

Work is seen in progress below on April 30th 2006.

Tracklaying on the extension was completed with the laying of the final panels on the loop at Traeth Mawr at the end of July 2006. Tamping then proceeded, using the Talyllyn Railway's Matisa Junior tamper, which had had its gauge adjusted (from 2'3") at Gelert's Farm for the purpose; this design uses tamping heads set on separate side frames for each rail, and can thus have its gauge adapted quite easily. The right-hand picture shows tamped track north of Cynfal Crossing.

Gelert is seen below running light engine on the extension on September 16th 2006.

The Pen y Mount - Traeth Mawr extension opened to passenger services at the start of April 2007. The scenes below date from April 7th, when passenger and works trains were sharing the section, as volunteers worked on completing LC120 at Cynfal, work which had been delayed pending removal of a BT pole; the works train shuttled back to Pen y Mount to get out of the way of passenger workings.

Visiting Bagnall 4-4-0T Isibutu is seen below piloting Gelert across Pen y Mount crossing on July 28th 2007; the second picture shows the loco at Gelert's Farm Halt on the WHR(P) line.

Although Traeth Mawr - Pen y Mount has seen two seasons of passenger operation, the track needs some work to bring it up to to the requirements for Garratt-hauled trains running at up to 25mph, work that will be included in the preparations for full reopening.

Pen y Mount

Pen y Mount is the junction between the WHR main line and the line leading to the WHHR Porthmadog station, and is below and to the right of centre on this aerial view.

The junction turnout has been in place since August 2002, supplied from Dinas and adapted to the location by WHR(P) volunteers. Track was laid south of it for a short distance on the main line - or "Harbour Siding", as our friends at WHR(P) like to call it - but it should be emphasised that unlike the turnout, the track was definitely temporary! The loco standing on it below is one of WHR(P)'s Barclay "Taxi" diesels, coupled to a pair of RRM rail trollies which had been sent down from Dinas as welcome aids to tracklaying.

Temporary track was also seen on the trackbed south of Pen y Mount in 2005, running parallel with the WHR(P) line before the two lines separate either side of Gelert's Farm Works. This was however only for a miniature line during the WHR(P) 25th anniversary gala, operated by a model of the FR's permanent way diesel Harlech Castle.

Carillion were laying ballast at Pen y Mount on February 28th 2008, close to the conclusion of their extended Cross-Town Link contract (see below). The heavier posts visible in the third picture were for the point where the footpath crosses the line. The concrete pad in the fourth picture covers an inspection chamber for the gas main which crosses under the railway; the course of the railway has been adjusted slightly to suit. The excavator in the distance marked the limit of ballast at the time.

Following tracklaying south to Cae Pawb in March 2008 (see below), Pen y Mount became a more complex place than it used to be, with a railway on each side of it. The new platform on the "Harbour Branch" side is likely to be of comparable length to the one at Plas y Nant halt, and will be to the south of the station building, in the area visible in the third of these pictures.

Gelert's Farm

South of Pen y Mount, the trackbed runs parallel with the existing WHHR line, and then behind Gelert's Farm Works to reach the Cambrian Crossing. The scene along this stretch changed for the first time in many years during March 2006, with mechanised clearance of undergrowth, particularly along the eastern boundary. Marker posts for fencing on both sides were put in place by WHR Construction Ltd staff in early April. The pictures below, all looking north, show scenes from the 1929 Portmadoc New station site (relocated north of the Cambrian Crossing to reduce crossing fee payments to the GWR) to Pen y Mount.

The Cross-Town Link contractor Carillion has taken up a contract option to extend its works northwards to Pen y Mount. The works on the section covered by this page include a new retaining wall behind the WHR(P) caravans (close to the Cambrian Crossing) and alongside the RED shed at Gelert's Farm, in addition to general fettling to take the line through to Pen y Mount. Gwynedd Council issued the order for temporary closure of the footpath between Gelert's Farm and Pen y Mount for railway works to take place, effective as of October 13th 2007.

Carillion are seen below left at work stripping topsoil adjacent to the junction point at Pen y Mount on October 2nd 2007; the second picture shows the embankment by the WHR(P) caravans the same day, with topsoil stripped.

These views were taken on October 8th 2007.

These pictures taken later the same month show the stripped trackbed running parallel with the WHR(P) line through the old Beddgelert Sidings site.

Carillion were at work in mid-November 2007 on the sandy embankments alongside Gelert's Farm. The first pictures below show the gabion retaining wall being put in place alongside the WHR(P) RED shed; the wall was required here to support the realigned footpath. The other pictures show excavation of the embankment behind the WHR(P) caravans on the approach to Cae Pawb crossing.

The first of the following pictures from early December 2007 shows the completed gabion wall for the footpath alongside the RED shed (with wheelsets from NG15 no. 120 visible alongside). The second shows the new weighbridge footbridge, a short distance to the north. This structure has been built to take the footpath over the pit of the old Beddgelert Siding weighbridge pit without affecting the existing remains.

The picture below shows the new gabion embankment under construction behind the WHR(P) volunteers' caravans, immediately before the Cambrian Crossing. This embankment is very narrow, to fit within the limits of deviation on the west (caravan) side. The construction here is a combination of gabion (mass retaining wall) and reinforced earth techniques, with the two rows of gabion baskets being tied together by geotextile every 500mm vertically.

In mid-January 2008 the work moved a little further north.

The gabion walls were finished and the embankment was almost complete when seen in early February 2008; the earth bank had been restored outside the gabions on the side away from the caravans.

Tracklaying, Pen y Mount - Cambrian Crossing

WHR Ltd and the FR Company issued the following press release on January 30th 2008:

The Welsh Highland Railway Limited and Festiniog Railway Company are pleased to announce a further gesture of co-operation between the two organisations.

A volunteer gang from the Welsh Highland Railway Limited is to lay track on the section between Pen y Mount and Cae Pawb Crossing, the point where the WHR Cross Town Link meets the standard gauge Cambrian Coast Line.

The half-mile section runs parallel to the existing WHR Ltd main line from Porthmadog (WHR) to Pen-y-Mount. It is planned to lay the track on this section during the company's "Spring Bash" volunteer week at the start of March.

Dr Richard Buxton, Director of the Festiniog Railway Company said: "we're delighted to welcome the WHR Ltd gang for a further stretch of tracklaying. It's a positive move for both sides, and one which brings the completion of the Welsh Highland a step closer."

James Hewett, Chairman of the Welsh Highland Railway Limited, said: "our volunteers have plenty of experience laying track to a high standard, and have already contributed to the WHR project by building the section from Pen y Mount to Traeth Mawr Loop. We look forward to continuing good relations between our two organisations."

These views from February 17th 2008 show rail and sleepers stockpiled at Pen y Mount ready for laying in March, and (right) trackbed alongside WHR(P) further south, adjacent to the new WHR(P) coal dock siding.

After a first day of "Spring Bash" spent on preparations, tracklaying south from Pen y Mount towards Cae Pawb got under way on March 2nd 2008, and the gang quickly got into their stride.

The pictures below show ballast at Cae Pawb on March 4th and 5th 2008. The WHR(P) volunteers didl not lay track right through to the crossing, as the trap points on the approach to it would be installed later by contractors.

Tracklaying came within range of the Harbour Branch Cam (no longer operational) on March 6th 2008. To quote a member of the welshhighland forums: "better than anything on telly!"

The week's tracklaying tasks were concluded on March 7th 2008, when the wide-to-gauge trap points were delivered to site by rail. The last panel (with widely spaced sleepers) was a temporary part of the method for installing the points, which would be jacked up, then lowered once the temporary panel is removed.

Following the tracklaying, work proceeded on fencing and gates for the lineside footpath, and the excess geotextile base was trimmed back either side of the ballast bed. These pictures from April 18th 2008 show (left) the footpath bridge over the old exchange sidings weighbridge pit north of Gelert's Farm, and (right) the gas main inspection chamber near Pen y Mount.

WHR(P) took the opportunity to demonstrate parallel running during the May 2008 Gala.

On Sunday September 7th 2008 the Rest of the World Gang met at Gelert's Farm, reconnected the final full panel on the north side of Cae Pawb before the gap for the transition onto the trap points, and slewed it appropriately. Also, a number of sleepers were replaced. Ballast at the trap points here was packed and tidied up, and left over baseplates were removed. After lunch the RotWG demolished the sleeper stacks at Hafod y Llyn that had formed the base for the rail stack and restacked them ready for moving to Llyn Bach on the CTRL.

With the track newly connected up at Traeth Mawr, volunteers took a works train as far as the short gap in the track north of Cae Pawb on December 4th 2008, stopping on the way to collect a rail to lay there the next day, together with one that was already waiting by the gap. The gang had also been carrying out trackside clearance between Hafod y Llyn and Traeth Mawr (which had filled two B wagons), and had completed the installation of kilometre posts from Rhyd Ddu to Harbour earlier in the week.

The gang returned to the site on Friday December 5th 2008 and closed the gap, meaning that a continuous line of track now extended from Caernarfon to just short of Pont y Cyt in Porthmadog. The return works train (crewed by Ben Rosen, James King and Andrew Thomas) turned out to be the first working through from an original WHR station site in Porthmadog (the basic 1929 one north of the Cambrian) to Dinas since Russell's last trips over the old WHR to collect rolling stock in June 1937; Castell Conwy returned a B wagon to Beddgelert, before taking a faulty DZ wagon from Rhyd Ddu for repair at Dinas, and then returning to Rhyd Ddu ahead of the Black Hand Gang's weekend work.

In the afternoon of Saturday 25th July 2010 the Rest of the World Gang were working on the North side of Cae Pawb where they re-distributed ballast that had been dropped earlier.

The Bypass

The Welsh Assembly Government announced on June 10th 2009 that it would go ahead with the A487 Porthmadog & Tremadog bypass road, with work starting in 2010 (though some preliminary works are already visible). The bypass will cross the WHR main line and the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway by a new overbridge roughly midway between Pen y Mount and Gelert's Farm, with substantial new approach embankments for the road - the position is shown on this map (external link, PDF). This work is not part of Phase 4, but will of course involve coordination between the railways and WAG's contractors.

Work on the bypass commenced in February with a tree planting ceremony marking the start of the work.

With work started on the Porthmadog bypass there is a need to sever the line where it is to be crossed by the new road. The Rest of the Word Gang therefore spent the weekend of 12th and 13th June 2010 removing two panels of track in preparation for the road works. The following pictures from Andrew Thomas/FR show the work in progress on the 12th June.

  WHHR train passing the site of the working party (Photo:A.Thomas/FR)Working Party and WHHR train (Photo A.Thomas/FR)Preparartion for the new road. (Phote: A.Thomas/FR)The construction road (Photo: A.Thomas/FR)Working alongside the site for the new road. (Photo: A.Thomas/FR)

The 'thankless task' of shovelling ballast (Photo: A.Thomas/FR)The 'thankless task' of shovelling ballast (Photo: A.Thomas/FR)Track removed (Photo:A.Thomas/FR)The 'thankless task' of shovelling ballast (Photo: A.Thomas/FR)The end of the line for a short while. (Photo: A.Thomas/FR)

The following two photographs show 'Haul Road' across the trackbed at Pen y Mount an the 2nd August 2010. 

The Haul Road at Pen y Mount. (Photo A.Stewart)The Haul Road at Pen y Mount. (Photo A.Stewart)

On August 7/8 the Rest of the World Gang were at work reconnecting the line at the same point. Note that the contractors will do the rail fixings in the concrete channels later in the week.   RotWG reconnected the track that was broken to allow the bypass flood culvert to be built. This was done with short rails, which will later (after construction has finished) be replaced with the original rails. The rails also pass through the temporary level crossing made for bypass construction traffic. The contractors will fix this section using some sort of grout around the track screws. Work on the point at the junction was also carried out.

ROTW Gang (Picture by Steve Broomfield)ROTW Gang (Picture by Steve Broomfield)New storm culvert - Simon MelhuishROTW Gang (Picture by Steve Broomfield)ROTW Gang (Picture by Steve Broomfield)

ROTW Gang (Picture by Steve Broomfield)ROTW gang (Photo by Andrew Thomas)ROTW gang (Photo by Andrew Thomas)ROTW gang (Photo by Andrew Thomas)ROTW gang (Photo by Andrew Thomas)

ROTW Gang (Picture by Steve Broomfield)ROTW Gang (Picture by Steve Broomfield)ROTW Gang (Picture by Steve Broomfield)ROTW Gang (Picture by Steve Broomfield)

The ballasting north of Cae Pawb crossing was completed on 2nd August 2010 by the Rest of the World Gang

Bllasting complete north of Cae Pawb - Steve Broomfield

21st September 2010:   LC117 and LC118 (on the Traeth) were both completed today:

LC117 complete - Steve BroomfieldLC118 complete - Steve Broomfield

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Maintained by Ben Fisher; last updated September 29th 2010 by David Tidy