Nantlle Valley History



Memories of my LMS Career

by Ifor Williams

My interest in steam probably arose because my childhood home in Penygroes, was only yards away from the Caernarfon to Afonwen line. At that time the station at Penygroes was very busy. A branch line operated between the station at Penygroes to Nantlle, a two coach push and pull service, which covered a distance of less than three miles. The main purpose of this line was to transport slate from the local quarries. In addition to this branch line the sidings were used by a local coal merchant. A coal merchant had a store on the sidings and a cattle and sheep dock was also in existence, to serve the local market.

Passenger services to Nantlle ceased in the early 1930s but the line was kept open for mineral traffic. A loading bay was built next to the former Nantlle Bay and slates were brought down by road to be loaded onto the low-sided trucks which were then moved out on the daily goods train.

The Nantlle Bay was also used once a year by a travelling fair. Some of their equipment was brought down from Criccieth. Their arrival at Penygroes saw the fair's steam locomotive pulling these vans off the low loaders and taking them to the next village for their annual fair. As school children we were highly delighted to see these being towed away.

I left Penygroes after my parents died. My new home was with my sister and her husband who was a porter signalman at Bethesda. He later moved on to Aber, then Bangor No1 Box as signalman. He ended his career on the railways as Station Foreman at Colwyn Bay.

It was inevitable, I suppose, that my working life should start on the railways. In 1935 I was sent as a very junior porter to Treborth which is between Menai Bridge and Port Dinorwic. There I found myself as the only member of staff other than the Station Master. His name was Hughes and he had a wooden leg, presumably a result of an accident. Very few trains stopped at this isolated station No passengers got off and the only exception to this very quiet routine was when the owner of Treborth Hall, Sir William Vincent, wanted to travel to London. On these occasions one of the Hall staff came to the station requesting that the Welshman to London Euston would pick him up. I believe this concession was permitted because the line went through his land. My job was to make a call to Caernarfon requesting this special stop. The rest of the time at this station was rather soul-destroying for a 15 year old. I cleaned windows on the station buildings and swept non-existent rubbish off the platforms to relieve the boredom.

My spell of duties at Bangor was much more lively. A spell in the telegraph office was very rewarding. After a Royal Tour of Wales I had to collect a telegram from the Royal train, and send it on to the Constable of Caernarfon Castle, David Lloyd George. Other duties included changing destination boards, sticking reserved labels on coaches and generally keeping out of the way of the very strict station master! Relief duties at Menai Bridge and Caernarfon followed. Menai Bridge being the junction to Caernarfon and Holyhead, the routine was very hectic with two trains to look after. Some of the duties included taking the evening papers to a newsagent on the other side of Menai Bridge. This task was particularly difficult in the winter gales! To say the least I was a little scared with the sea crashing below and the wind howling around my head! Other duties included changing lamps on distant signals which frequently went out. The one by the Tubular Bridge afforded panoramic views over the Menai Straits. Another lamp was sited near the entrance to Belmont Tunnel leading to Bangor.

My favourite station was Caernarfon, situated on the outskirts of the town and overlooking the Straits. This "posting" lasted only a few weeks, much to my regret. One advantage though was that I did get to see some of my old school chums from Penygroes passing through, some I had not seen for years.

I had a spell of Saturday evening duties at Felinhen, a halt on the Bangor-Bethesda line. I sold tickets for the evening trips to Rhyl for 16d and Llandudno for a shilling. These trips were very popular, giving local people the opportunity of an evening by the seaside.

Sadly, with the exception of Bangor, these branch lines have long since gone, and the buildings with them. Bangor has also lost its loco shed, goods yard, No l signal box and possibly more by now.

The passing years have not diminished my interest in steam and I have great pleasure in watching my collection of videos. It is pleasing to read that the W.H.R. are opening up the Dinas to Caernarfon line. I have a very fond memory of being taken for a trip along the whole of that route I
am sure its reopening would be well received.

In 1939 I changed my black L.M.S. uniform for an R.A.F. one and did not return to the railway. But these memories remain with me and always will.

Thanks to Mr Ifor Williams of Tutbury, Staffordshire, for his kindness in sharing his experiences of living and working in Dyffryn Nantlle, as well as his railway memorabilia, with

  Valid HyperText Markup Language (HTML) 4.01 Transitional Level A  compliance with the W3C's WCAC 1.0 Valid Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)