Heritage Steam Railway

Wednesday 18th July 2018

The Day Hotel Outward Corwen Return Signals Repeat Llangoll'n Evening Read Me

The Day

Today was a day of leisure. I enjoyed being taken for a ride and going around the bend(s) on the Llangollen Heritage Steam Railway. It gave me the opportunity to have a look around Corwen and to try and absorb things I may have missed on the previous days. I travelled out from Llangollen to Corwen, which I duly visited and then I returned to Llangollen, where I visited the signal box on one end of the platform. Then I took the last "out and back" train of the day. In the evening I visited the "Corn Mill" in Llangollen for a reasonably early repast.

Being taken for a ride and going around the bend
through the Dee Valley on the Llangollen Steam Railway.

Royal Hotel

Before breakfast I looked around the Royal Hotel to see if any interesting prints had escaped my notice. Very interesting, these prints, because they can provide a window onto history, both local and national - but only if you care for such things!

In my bedroom there are two prints of flower arrangements This one is entitled "April".

The second print is entitled "December" and gives a clue as to the origin of these two prints. The description on this print says, "From the Collection of Robert Furber, Gardner at Kensington 1730". Prints were very expensive to produce in the early 18th Century, and both were (of course) hand coloured. "Kensington" is likely to refer to "Kensington Palace" (as in Kensington Gardens). How prints on a London subject came to be displayed in North Wales is a matter of conjecture, but it may be because this is the "Royal Hotel" with emphasis on "Royal".

The "White John" is the "short-toed snake eagle", an old-world bird.
As the name implies, reptiles are on its menu.
The "chick" is not as silly as it might look.
It is expecting its parents to bring a tasty reptilian morsel.

Now it's down to the lobby ...

... with its elegant but "hard to sit on" carved oak chair gracing one of the corners.

From the wall, the "Flower Girl" looks at guests as they check in or check out.
With only the faintest hint of a smile (AKA the Mona Lisa smile),
this lady looks serious - even if she sells flowers.

Here is Victorian PR for the Royal Hotel.
"Families Boarded by the Week".
"The Royal Omnibuses meet All Trains".

A picture of the Dee babbling and gurgling under Llangollen's old bridge
heads this Victorian poster

Steaming to Corwen

The first part of the day was partly aimed at the attractions of the rail journey - steaming back in time along the Dee Valley. I also wanted to discover historic Corwen, the heart of Owain Glyndŵr country.

Down at the station it's a steamy affair
where the second train of the day will shortly be departing for Corwen.

Before departure I have time to appreciate the "Cycling Lion", that proud symbol of the early nationalized "British Rail". On Nationalization, out went the liveries, emblems and lettering of the "big four" railway companies (GWR, SR, LMS, LNER) which dominated the railway scene in Britain between 1924 and 1947. Soon anything that moved "under its own steam" was repainted to sport this emblem - or logo if you will.

The locomotives of the Great Western Railway had a certain Victorian style. They all had these individual brass number plates. The blue circle is a "route availability code"; this one states that this engine could work not only on the main lines but also on "additional routes", but not quite everywhere on the GWR rail network - typically for fear that the locomotive's weight might wreck important weight-bearing infrastructure such as bridges.

Much of the upholstery on the carriage seats reflects the infatuation in the 50s and 60s with colour schemes containing predominately dark red and light blue, sometimes with an admixture of white.

Leaving Llangollen, there is this Victorian-looking house
with a balcony balustrade which might have been added at a later date.

Here are the extensive carriage sidings which may originally have been a goods transfer point between canal and rail in the days when freight was king on the canals.

The carriage sidings again.

Here we cross the River Dee. Luckily this bridge escaped Beeching's axe.

Berwyn: River Dee, road bridge and up-market hotel.

Berwyn: River Dee, up-market hotel and newly restored chain bridge.

Before reaching Glyndyfrdwy there are views across to the Llantysilio Mountain.

Another view towards Llantysilio Mountain.

Glyndyfrdwy Station.

At the west end of Glyndyfrdwy Station there is a signal box from Barmouth South.
It is awaiting another life on the Llangollen Railway.

We are steaming along the bank of the Dee.

Still steaming along the bank of the Dee.

Still steaming along the bank of the Dee.

Still steaming along the bank of the Dee.

Here is the teak and large-windowed splendour of the Mk1 carriage we are travelling in.

And so to Carrog.

Yes, it's unmistakably Carrog.

The village of Carrog is actually on the other side of the Dee.

We are steaming again along the bank of the Dee

Still steaming along the bank of the Dee.

Still steaming along the bank of the Dee.

Still steaming along the bank of the Dee.

Still steaming along the bank of the Dee.

Still steaming along the bank of the Dee.

Still steaming along the bank of the Dee.

There's a nice lot of steam once we reach Corwen West (the temporary station).

At Corwen there's time to get a picture of the British Railways logo that replaced the cycling lion.
The crown has, from left to right: the Welsh leek, the English (Tudor) Rose, an English oak leaf,
the Scottish thistle, and once more, the Welsh leek.
All three nations on the island of Great Britain are duly represented!

At the beginning of 2019, the train will continue a few yards further on to a new Corwen Station.

Corwen Interlude

Corwen is very much in Owain Glyndŵr country. Owain Glyndŵr proclaimed himself Prince of Wales in 1400, and spent a lot of his time fighting the English. He had a manor in nearby Glyndyfrdwy and his statue graces down-town Corwen. The church of St Mael and St Sulien is of Norman origin. The Victorians, in their restoration zeal, had a go at it in the 19th century, but mercifully did not obliterate everything of historical interest. I also went up to the conical stone monument on Pen y Pigyn; the monument, with royal connections, is about 1 mile out of town and looks down on Corwen from a height of over 260 metres.

At the moment, the train reverses back to Carrog Station,
where the engine runs around the said train.

Outside the present temporary station there is, suitably,
a nice poster saying that you should come to Corwen by train.

The new station is nearing completion, with the island platform and the water tower already in place. The water will be drawn from a deep well,
so as to avoid the need to use Corwen's residential water supply.

From a sketch, I reproduced this rough - not to scale - diagram of the layout of the new station.
The car park will also take tourist coaches. Tourists can be unloaded at Corwen and reach Llangollen by train, before returning by train to Corwen to re-join their coaches. The tourists can enjoy a scenic ride along the Dee Valley and at the same time, the road coaches need not use the often very busy roads into Llangollen. Everyone benefits.

Very close to the railway is the historic centre of Corwen with its famous half-timbered house.

Corwen's church is dedicated to the Breton-Welsh saints St Mael and St Sulien. The church was founded in the 6th century, but the present edifice dates from Norman times. The Victorians, as so often, caused some destruction of the Norman building, but mercifully, left sufficient of the old building and its monuments for the enjoyment of future generations!

View towards the altar.

View towards the back of the church.

Monument from the 1700s.

Monument from around 1860.

Monument straddling the 18th and 19th centuries.
The disparity between ages of man and wife is interesting.
English was used in preference to the native Welsh language.

Near the church is the path up to the Pen-y-Pigyn monument on the south side of Corwen.
It's not even a mile up to the monument.

As the path markers indicate, Corwen has strong associations with Owain Glyndŵr, who proclaimed himself Prince of Wales in 1400 and fought for 14 years against English rule.

The Pen-y-Pigyn monument was built in 1863 to commemorate the marriage of the then Prince of Wales (Edward VII to be) and restored in 1911 to commemorate the investiture of his grandson (Edward VIII to be) as Prince of Wales.

The monument and Corwen Station are respectively at 282 and about 137 metres above sea level.
However, from the monument there is a good view over Corwen.

View from the monument to the north.

View from the monument to the north and the new Corwen Station.

View to the north west.

View to the north.

View towards the east up the Dee Valley.

View towards the north and the new Corwen Station.

View towards the north east and the Iron Age hillfort of Caer Drewyn.

The crest of Owain Glyndŵr - Corwen's local hero.
Yes, there were four lions - two red, two yellow.

Down-town Corwen.

Corwen's local hero.

The short footpath to Corwen East, Corwen's temporary station until the new one is opened in 2019.

The track leads to Corwen's new station, due to open in early 2019.

The Dee flows right by the wooden platform of Corwen's temporary station.

Return to Llangollen

On the return journey to Llangollen, I saw some interesting adverts at Carrog, some of the old "enamel-on-iron type". I wonder how many know of gas mantles, other than those perhaps in the camping community. Other adverts harked back to the more recent "British Railways" era. Of course, I also obtained more views of the train curving round the bends of the Dee Valley.

The train arrives.

Carriage seat upholstery - 50s and 60s style.

The Dee between Corwen and Carrog.

It's Carrog, ...

... where the engine ...

... runs around its train.

Is there much demand for gas mantles nowadays? Perhaps still for camping equipment.

Ever heard of Pluvex? It's still around. It's described as "ruberoid" (one "b")
and is also used for damp courses. Well, what do you know?!

Advertising 50s and 60s style.
Use of private cars was starting to become more widespread,
so folk were encouraged to give their cars a rest when going on holiday.

After Carrog, the train has some more curves ...

... to negotiate before reaching Glyndyfrdwy.

Yes, it's Glyndyfrdwy, which - surprise, surprise - means "Valley of the Dee".

Here's some more of the Dee Valley.

We come to Berwyn Station with its distinctive half-timbered station building.

From the train we look onto the rocks in, the chain bridge over, and the hotel next to, the Dee.

Now we cross the Dee over the bridge which luckily escaped Beeching's axe.

The Dee from the bridge.

It's another curve ...

... or two before we reach Llangollen.

Llangollen Station & Signal Box

Back at Llangollen Station there was time, before the next train, to take some more pictures including some of the signal box and of the signalman in action. Manually operated signal boxes are a fast dying breed, so it was fascinating to appreciate the instruments and levers that went into a traditional signal box. All needed to make the railways of old run according to the timetables.

Llangollen Station.

I go up to the signal box, where I see our Prairie Tank ...

... preparing to run around its train, ...

... ready for another trip along the 10 mile stretch up the Dee Valley to Corwen.

In the signal box I watch the signalman in action
as he appropriately sets the points for our Prairie Tank.

The hand levers in a signal box always have a cloth between the metal of the lever itself and the hand that moves the lever. This is meant to protect the metal of the lever and also to keep the metal clean. This is approach is a long-standing tradition which has not faded with the passage of time!

Track layout at Llangollen Station.

Repeat Journey - Corwen There and Back

This was the last "there and back" journey of the day. I took some more pictures of the scenery and "railwayana". At Carrog, the teak Gresley coach - of the type used on the "Flying Scotsman" express from King's Cross, caught my attention.

Llangollen carriage sidings

We cross the River Dee.

Berwyn: gurgling Dee, restored chain bridge, expensive hotel.

Berwyn Station

Looking north eastwards towards the mountains.

Rounding some more bends ...

... into Glyndyfrdwy.

Then we hug the Dee ...

... all the way ...

... into Carrog.

Just a curve or two ...

... before we reach Carrog.

Parked at Carrog, there is a nice "Gresley" teak coach of the type used on the steam hauled "Flying Scotsman" train out of King's Cross. How did it get here onto Great Western metals? Well, in the preservation era, rolling stock "moves around" quite a lot between the different heritage railways. Preservation is more the focus than old railway rivalries! The carriage might have been restored in the railway workshops in Llangollen. I think that these teak coaches have an aesthetic appeal.

Here's a closer view.

Yes, it's Carrog!

The lamp looks like a gas lamp, but it's an acceptable "Kluge". Electricity rules OK!

Then we hug ...

... the Dee again ...

... in all its Summer glory ...

... and enjoy the hilly landscape ...

... before we reach Corwen.

On the return journey, between Corwen and Carrog, I manage to get ...

...two shots of this tranquil summer idyll on the Dee.
This is reminiscent of Constable's Essex/Suffolk paintings,
but the year is 2018 and we are in Wales.

At Carrog, ...

... the engine does its ritual (until 2019) ...

.. of running around its train.

Once more we hug the Dee ...

... until we reach Glyndyfrdwy.
I hope I've learnt the correct spelling by now.

Level crossing gates must be opened, or closed,
depending on your perspective, rail or road.

Forwards we go ...

... rounding the bend out of Glyndyfrdwy.

The level crossing gates will shortly be opened.

For the rest of the journey ...

... between Glyndyfrdwy and Berwyn ...

... I was so busy getting "going around the bend" shots ...

... that I passed Deeside Halt ...

... without knowing that ...

... I had passed Deeside Halt.


Another bend.

Here we see again the Llangollen carriage sidings with their assortment of rolling stock such as one might expect on a heritage railway.

As already suggested, these sidings may well have been established originally to facilitate the transfer of goods and freight between canal and rail.

Here's the final curve into Llangollen.

Llangollen Station Again

The train moves into Llangollen Station with its long curved platforms. It's time for a few more pictures including of the old railway adverts gracing the wall on platform one. A view of how to uncouple a train from the locomotive and an encounter with a "robotic member of staff" round off my day on the railway.

The platforms at Llangollen Station were built
to be long to accommodate the holiday traffic between the Welsh coast and other parts of Britain, and
to be curved to accommodate the contours in the landscape.

We gradually come to a stop.

In a few moments the platform will become alive with tourists.

This is where ...

... we have been.

This is where we are now.

Number 5199 has brought its train into platform one ...

... and there is time to see how to drive Number 5199.

Number 5199 then shunts the train into platform two.
Here the carriages await a special evening service.
Perhaps a real-ale train or a wedding special.

Prairie Tank number 5199.

Coupling and uncoupling is a "body-contorting" task. Of course, for safety reasons,
it requires due care and diligence in its execution.

Number 5199 ...

... reverses ...

... and makes its get-away along platform one.

The Llangollen Railway is currently trying out robotic staff.

Llangollen Station is right next to down-town Llangollen.


This evening I dined at the "Corn Mill", where, afterwards I took a few more pictures. I then visited Llangollen's church of St Collen, outside of which is a memorial to the Ladies of Llangollen and their housekeeper.

Royal Hotel

River Dee AKA Afon Dyfrdwy.

Corn Mill: 18/19th Century Print of Llangollen Bridge

Corn Mill: 18/19th Century Print of Pont Cysyllte.
On the mountain, what you see is not sunshine or even a dramatic fireball.
It's only the reflection in my camera lens.

Outside the Corn Mill we see this "ye olde" way sign.
It's a long way to Holyhead, but is it really that far to Llangollen?
Come to think of it, it looks as if this rusty old distance marker
comes from somewhere outside Llangollen!

Here is a potted history of the "Corn Mill", and
an opportunity to learn some Welsh,
Rosetta Stone fashion.

It's time for a post prandial perambulation before retiring for the night.

So, I walk to the church of Saint Collen, which is still in the throes of some restoration work.
The Welsh word "Llan" means "a religious settlement" and Saint Collen was a 6th-century monk who founded a church beside the Dee. Now you know - in case you were interested, and why shouldn't you be - how Llangollen got its name.

In the churchyard there is one monument which is for three people
- the Ladies of Llangollen and their faithful housekeeper.
Here we have Lady Butler who died 1829 aged 90.

120° later we have Sarah Ponsonby who died 1831 aged 76.

And 120° after that we have Mrs Mary Carryl, their faithful housekeeper, who died in 1809.
She was outlived by those for whom she kept house.

A final view of Saint Collen's Church, framed by the verdancy of Summer.