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|Dates of operation||1850s–1947|
|Track gauge||2 ft 6 in (762 mm)|
The Deeside Tramway was a gravity and horse-worked, 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge industrial railway connecting the slate workings on the Dee valley with the main road at Glyndyfrdwy and later the Great Western Railway's Ruabon-Dolgellau railway. It was one of the last tramways in regular use to use wooden rails covered in iron sheaths.
The exact opening date of the Deeside Tramway is unknown, but is believed to be in the 1850s. Even by this date the use of wooden rails with iron sheaths on the running surfaces was unusual. The tramway originally connected the Deeside slate quarry with the Nant y Pandy slate mill and a transshipment wharf on the main road at Glyndyfrdwy.
In the late 1870s the tramway was extended in two directions to bring its total length to 3 miles. A line was laid north from Glyndyfrdwy wharf to connect with the newly built Great Western Railway line at Glyndyfrdwy station. A second line was laid southwards to the Moelfferna slate quarry. These extensions were laid with traditional iron rails, although the original section retained the wooden rails throughout its lifetime.
The line continued operating until just after the end of the Second World War and its route can still be traced for much of its length.
Throughout its life the tramway was operated by gravity workings from the quarries to Glyndyfrdwy, with return trains hauled by horses.
Viewing the remains of the tramways today
The remains of the trans-shipment wharf can be seen just East of the crossing keeper's signal box on the present-day (preserved) main-line railway; these remains are now part of a children's play area. From here, or from the main street of the village, it is possible to see the inclined plane leading approximately Southwards up the hill (one modern house, currently white, is built exactly across it on the north side of the A5 road). Another house has been built across the formation on the south side of the A5, and the tunnel under the road has disappeared.
Glyndyfrdwy to Nant-y-Pandy
To follow the routes, leave Glyndyfrdwy railway station and follow the road South (uphill) until you come to the main road. Turn right, then turn left next to the village hall, following the public footpath sign, which takes you along a side-valley by a stream. In about 200m, there is a fork (signposted) and a small footpath leads steeply up to the left; take it (although I know it looks unpromising compared to the main path!). After its steep climb, this footpath will lead you across the tramway's cable-worked incline near its top, where you can see the walls of the old winding gear, to a road. Turn right on the road and a permissive footpath will soon lead off along the tramway itself. You can see cross-sleepers occasionally, and at least one piece of conventional flat-bottomed rail is visible embedded in the ground near the south end of this line (where it joins the other line).
At the site of the Nant-y-Pandy mill, the remains of many buildings are visible, and there are explanatory signboards present; to your right as you enter this area, the gentle incline of the tramway towards Deeside Slab Quarry continues southwards; you can see the longitudinal wooden rails still in situ in many places, especially in the damp cuttings. Occasionally, a line of rusty metal marks the site of one of the tie bars that held the rails to gauge. In at least one location, just South of where a stream crosses the line, the metal sheath is still visible over the wood of one rail.
Nant-y-Pandy to Deeside Slab Quarry
Above Nant-y-Pandy the route passes the site of the reservoir that provided water power to the mill's overshot water wheel, before the formation is breached by the valley road. After a gate across the road above Ty'n y Wern the tramway formation reappears on the hillside above the road, past Tan-y-Graig, until the road climbs up and takes over the tramway route. From here until Deeside Quarry the tramway formation is now a farm road and the tramway remains that were visible in the 1980s have been lost. The formation crosses the head of the valley in a horseshoe curve and rounds the bluff to reach Deeside Slab Quarry. At the south-west edge of the quarry an incline leads up to the route to Moel Fferna Quarry.
The line is a public footpath (or is right next to one) almost all of the way, but good walking boots are recommended, especially if you want to follow the tramway cuttings rather than the parallel path. The path is scenic enough to delight companions who may not share your passion for industrial history. Allow about 2hrs to explore if you are coming from and going back to the railway station.
- Richards, Alun John (2001). The Slate Railways of Wales. Gwasg Carreg Gwalch. ISBN 0863816894.
- Boyd, JIC. On the Welsh Narrow Gauge (especially photo on page 38). Bradford Barton (Truro). ISBN 085153340X.
- Lawton, Paul. Glyndyfrdwy and its Railways. A Purely Local Publication. ISBN none.
- Sallery, Dave, "Quarry railways and Tramways", in The Slate Industry of North and Mid Wales, retrieved 26 April 2010
- Sallery, Dave, "Some remains and relics", in The Slate Industry of North and Mid Wales, retrieved 26 April 2010 See Deeside Tramway rail, Glyndyfrdwy, Denbighshire further down page.
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