Conwy Valley Line
|Conwy Valley Line|
|Operator(s)||Arriva Trains Wales|
|Rolling stock||Class 150 and Class 153|
|Line length||30.8 miles (49.6 km)|
|No. of tracks||Single track throughout|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Conwy Valley Line|
The Conwy Valley Line (Welsh: Lein Dyffryn Conwy) is a railway line in north Wales. It runs from Llandudno via Llandudno Junction (Welsh: Cyffordd Llandudno) to Blaenau Ffestiniog, and was originally part of the London and North Western Railway, being opened in stages to 1879. The primary purpose of the line was to carry slate from the Ffestiniog quarries to a specially built quay at Deganwy for export by sea. The line also provided goods facilities for the market town of Llanrwst, and via the extensive facilities at Betws-y-Coed on the London to Holyhead A5 turnpike road it served many isolated communities in Snowdonia and also the developing tourist industry. Although only a little over 27 miles (43 km) between Llandudno and Blaenau Ffestiniog, the journey takes over one hour. Most of the stations along the route are treated as a request stop.
The first section from Llandudno Junction to Llanrwst (now called North Llanrwst) was built as the Conway and Llanrwst Railway and opened in 1863. The LNWR took over in 1863 and opened the extension to Betws-y-Coed in 1868.
The next extension was to Blaenau Ffestiniog to access the output of the large slate quarries there. The LNWR first proposed a narrow gauge railway via the steeply graded Lledr Valley to Blaenau Ffestiniog. After construction began, it was decided that the extension would be built to standard gauge, allowing through running of trains. Between 1874 and 1879 the railway tunnel underneath Moel Dyrnogydd was bored, allowing the extension to open in 1881.
Blaenau Ffestiniog's other standard gauge railway, the Bala and Ffestiniog Railway, was closed to all traffic in 1961, and a portion was flooded in the creation of the Llyn Celyn reservoir. A rail connection was desired for the nuclear power station under construction at Trawsfynydd, and a connecting line was built from Blaenau Ffestiniog North to the site of the demolished Blaenau Ffestiniog Central station for freight use. With the reconstruction of the Ffestiniog Railway, passenger services were relocated to a new joint station on the site of the old Central station in 1982. Regular freight traffic to Trawsfynydd ceased in the 1990s, and the power station is being decommissioned.
The line from Llandudno Junction to Blaenau is single track, and includes the longest single track railway tunnel in the United Kingdom (over 2.5 miles or 4.0 kilometres). Between Llandudno Junction and Llandudno the service uses the double track branch line from the North Wales Coast Line. The fully signalled passing loop at North Llanrwst is the last remaining between Llandudno Junction and Blaenau Ffestiniog and trains on the branch must stop at the signal box there to exchange tokens for the single line sections on either side.
The line is currently served by 6 trains per day in both directions from Monday to Saturday between Llandudno and Blaenau Ffestiniog and vice versa with the first two southbound services of the day starting at Llandudno Junction and terminating in Blaenau Ffestiniog. The service is reduced to 3 trains per day in both directions on Sundays.
The train service is operated by Arriva Trains Wales and is being marketed as the Conwy Valley Railway (Welsh: Rheilffordd Dyffryn Conwy). A feature of the service is the availability on Conwy Valley trains as well as on local buses in Snowdonia of the new "Tocyn Taith" day ticket. The services run every three hours on weekdays and Saturdays, with six departures per day each way in total. There is also a limited (three each way) summer Sunday service in operation from the beginning of the summer timetable in May until early September
From 20 May 2007, Concessionary Travel Pass holders resident in Conwy and Gwynedd have been able to travel free of charge on the Conwy Valley Railway line between Llandudno and Blaenau Ffestiniog, as well as between Llandudno Junction and Llandudno on all Arriva Trains Wales services, as a result of funding provided by the Welsh Assembly Government. Also, there are plans to upgrade the line to take slate from Blaenau Ffestiniog to the coast, sponsored by the Welsh Assembly Government 
According to the Office of Rail Regulation statistics, the line was used by 116,500 passengers in 2013/14, excluding exits and entries at the main line stations of Llandudno Junction, Deganwy and Llandudno. This was a small increase compared with the figure of 112,134 in 2012/13. Figures show that Blaenau Ffestiniog is the busiest of the line's stations with 44,828 passengers in 2013/14, followed by Betws-y-Coed with 35,400. Other stations have very low footfall with Dolgarrog attracting just 828 passengers in 2013/14
Until 1998 steam traction had not been seen on the route since the ending of steam on BR in 1968; in 1998 the first steam working in the preservation era was to run back to Blaenau Ffestiniog from London behind a BR Standard 4 Tank no 80079. The first attempt up the route ended in disaster as the engine stalled near Pont-y-Pant and due to the water supply running low resulted in the train having to be rescued and then returned to Llandudno. A second attempt the day later proved successful, with 80079 becoming the first standard gauge steam locomotive in Blaenau for 31 years.
The BR Standard returned for a rematch on the route; this time she was to haul 4 coaches instead of 6 and she was working the trip with another member of her class, no 80098. Once again 80079 slipped to a stand near Pont-y-Pant and 80098, which had been waiting with the second portion of the train at Llanwrst, was detached to bank 80079 up to Blaenau. Thereafter the two engines double-headed the remaining 4 coaches before reforming the train to 8 coaches for the journey back to Llandudno.
In 2009, after a 10-year gap since the BR Standard tanks had worked up the route, "The Railway Touring Company" ran a special under the name "The Welsh Mountaineer" from Worcester to Blaenau Ffestiniog with 2 LMS Black 5's working the train from Llandudno Junction for the journey up the route to Blaenau. The Black 5's chosen for the trip were Bert Hitchen's no 45231 & Ian Riley's no 45407, the Lancashire Fusilier. The locos' support coaches were left at Llandudno for the journey, leaving them with a load of 9 coaches to take up the line's 1 in 47 gradient. After the success of this trip a number of regular "Welsh Mountaineer" trips are run on Tuesdays from Preston to Blaenau during the summer months, and today in 2015 these trips are still running.
The towns and villages served by the route are listed below.
- Llandudno Junction
- Glan Conwy
- Llanrwst (for Trefriw)
- Pont-y-Pant railway station
- Roman Bridge railway station
- Blaenau Ffestiniog
The original line terminated at the North Western station (where there were extensive slate yards) to the west of Blaenau Ffestiniog town centre. However, following the closure and removal of a section of the former Great Western Railway line from Bala, a short section of new railway was built alongside the Ffestiniog Railway Company's narrow gauge line in order to connect the Conwy Valley Line with the isolated section of the GWR line, which had been retained to serve the nuclear power station at Trawsfynydd. Years later a new Blaenau Ffestiniog station was constructed in the centre of the town. Beyond the new station, the line was used only for goods traffic connected with Trawsfynydd, although occasional special passenger trains have been run at times. In recent years, the traffic from Trawsfynydd has ceased completely and the line has been disconnected from the Conwy Valley Line just outside Blaenau Ffestiniog station.
- Baughan 1980, page 117
- Baughan 1980, pages 128-130
- Photos of Llanrwst station, signal box and crossing loop www.penmorfa.com; Retrieved 2010-06-08
- "BBC NEWS - UK - Wales - North West Wales - Campaign to improve railway link". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
- "Estimates of station usage". orr.gov.uk. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
- "ACORP Summary map" (PDF). Association of Community Rail Partnerships. 28 July 2014. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
- Baughan, Peter E. (1980). A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain: Volume 11 North and Mid Wales (1st ed.). Newton Abbot: David & Charles. ISBN 0-7153-7850-3. OCLC 6823219.
- Baughan, Peter E. (1991). A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain: Volume 11 North and Mid Wales (2nd ed.). Nairn: David St John Thomas. ISBN 0-9465-3759-3. OCLC 26361284.