The Glan yr Afon Project
Glan yr Afon Weigh Bridge July 2019 (Iwan Wyn Jones)
Possibly the most significant piece of North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways’ architecture that remains unconserved or unrestored is the Glan yr Afon weighbridge building and surrounding site. For many years before the coming of the ‘new’ Welsh Highland Railway, this was very visible evidence of one of the major sources of traffic for the NWNGR. Glan yr Afon quarry was the largest on the railway and employed some 450 men at its peak. It is conceivable that without this quarry, the NWNGR may never have reached Rhyd Ddu, and it is believed that the slate company paid for the bridge over the Afon Treweunydd, colloquially but incorrectly called the Glanrafon Viaduct. Access from the quarry to the NWNGR was by an inclined plane with, at its base, sidings and the weighhouse. Working ceased by 1919 although scavenging of the slate waste and minor quarrying continued, and the weighhouse had a second use as a slate mill to cut the scavenged slate in the late 1940s and early 1950s .
The quarry itself is privately owned by a local farmer. Access to the weighbridge building and its site is only by rail or by permission across the farmer’s land. The weighhouse building is in a dilapidated state having lost its roof sometime in the late 1960s/early 70s. Until the rebuilding of the WHR the site was free of vegetation and the grass cropped short by sheep. The land in the possession of the FR/WHR company was fenced in for the rebuilding of the railway leading to the whole site becoming covered in extensive undergrowth, almost completely obscuring the building remains.
In 2018, the Journey into the Past trains highlighted in a very practical fashion the hidden opportunity at Glan yr Afon to tell more of the Welsh Highland story. Members of a FR/WHR company team led by Dafydd Wyn Roberts took the initiative in the early summer of 2019 to clear part of the site thus revealing the weighhouse remains and the incline to passengers on passing trains.
Following the submission of a project appraisal form by the WHRHG, the Board of Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways Heritage Limited agreed in principle to support a WHRHG sponsored conservation project at the Glan yr Afon site. This is a long term project which is still in the planning stage awaiting resolution of difficulties over access.