The Glan yr Afon Project
Possibly the most significant piece of North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways’ architecture that remains unconserved or unrestored is the Glan yr Afon weigh bridge building and 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 to the NWNGR was by an inclined plane with, at its base, sidings and the weigh house. Working ceased by 1919 although scavenging of the slate waste and minor quarrying continued, and the weigh house 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 and access to the weigh bridge building and site is only by rail or across the farmer’s land. The weigh house building is in a dilapidated state and 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 the rebuilding of the railway leading to the whole site becoming covered in extensive undergrowth and the building remains were almost completely obscured until 2019.
In 2018, the Journey into the Past trains highlighted in a very practical fashion the lost or 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 weigh bridge 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 has now agreed in principle to support a WHRHG sponsored conservation project at the Glan yr Afon site.
The proposed project has a number of different elements and stages that will ultimately lead, it is hoped, to the conservation and possibly restoration of the weigh bridge building. This will be a long term project and in the light of current circumstances unlikely to commence until 2021. It will require careful consultation with local landowners.