Beddgelert Station

Coordinates: 53°00′44″N 4°06′31″W / 53.01224°N 4.10861°W / 53.01224; -4.10861
From Festipedia, hosted by the FR Heritage Group
Beddgelert Station
Type Station
Status Open
Latitude 53:00:44.24N
Longitude 04:06:31.73W
Grid reference SH586481
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53°00′44″N 4°06′31″W / 53.01224°N 4.10861°W / 53.01224; -4.10861

Beddgelert is the principal intermediate station on Rheilffordd Eryri / Welsh Highland Railway at the well-known tourist spot, famous for its fictitious Dead Dog, Gelert, who was invented around 1793 by David Pritchard, the landlord of the Goat (locally pronounced Go-at [1]) Hotel. Pritchard must be accounted the greatest benefactor to the local tourist trade. The original Kelert was possibly a sixth-century Celtic saint who was buried here, but the Priory was dedicated to St. Mary. The graves of the FR Spooners are in the churchyard, together with that of their nursemaid.

The station lies at a height of approximately 55m (180 ft), and a route distance of approx 12.71km (7.9 miles) from Porthmadog.[2][3]

Early history[edit]

Beddgelert Station is in the middle of a thoroughly awkward piece of railway construction. The first plan was for the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways to end above the Goat Hotel and for the Portmadoc, Beddgelert & South Snowdon Railway to end below the South Snowdon Quarry further up the Gwynant valley. There would have been a station on the east bank of the river in the village. Second thoughts were to join them (forgetting the line to South Snowdon Quarry) by a quite appalling embankment across the middle of the valley next to Gelert's Grave, but fortunately this plan fell through, leaving as its memorial the well-known 'Bridge to Nowhere' across the road into the village from the south and the nearby bridge abutments in a field. From the air, this alignment can still easily be followed east across the valley to the incomplete bridge abutments (by the nilometer) across Afon Glaslyn. Third thoughts conceived the station c.1905 as a P.B. & S.S.R. tram station on a rising gradient of about 1 in 28, with a level space in the middle for a tram stop. Much of this work was built in 1906-8 and abandoned incomplete. The plan was modified for the construction of the W.H.R. in 1923 by :

  • changing the alignment to follow the hillside to Bryn y Felin
  • easing the gradient to 1 in 40
  • building three curves of barely more than 50m radius between Bryn y Felin and Beddgelert
  • some quite odd alterations in the levels of the Goat Tunnel below the station
  • some relevelling through the station, and
  • lowering the levels above the station. This last involved demolishing the P.B.& S.S.R. arch bridges and substituting steel beams (removed c.1942).

The modern (2006-9) reconstruction involved concrete structures at the bridges and a considerable remodelling of the station to allow for the 200m passing loop. In keeping with FR tradition, trains normally pass on the right-hand side of the loop. Provision has been made for decorative stone facing to be added to the new bridge abutments if funds become available. The gradient in the station is such that the top of a train at the bottom point is lower than the wheels at the top point. There is a new water tank at the top end which can water trains on either line; there is also a tiny tank halfway down the station on the west side, sitting on the concrete plinth of the 1923 tank (see picture below), but it does not work.

The Original Station[edit]

Welsh Pony at Beddgelert with the water tower in the background.

Beddgelert station was situated above the village, behind the Royal Goat Hotel. Many tourist Guide Books of the time commented that it was a long way from the village, which cannot have helped to attract customers. In reality it was no further from the village than any other station - about 500yards/m from the platform to the bridge in the centre of the village.

All trains stopped here to take water from the small tank, of which the concrete pillars remain, to the puzzlement of visitors until 2013 when the tank was restored to the top. It was also a staff (token) exchange point.

The station also handled a fair bit of goods traffic - it was here that the bulk of goods carried on the WHR (other than slate) were either loaded or unloaded. Incoming goods were primarily coal and items for shops, hotels and farms.

The ruling gradient through the station was 1:42.6 (towards Portmadoc), and on a curve of 8 chains. There was a 4mph speed limit within station limits.

The station sported a lengthy passing loop of 320', with weighted points at the top end set for the main (eastern) line, and weighted points at the bottom end set for the loop. This indicates that left-hand running was normal through the loop, as at other WHR stations, though not invariably worked that way. (Photographs are not a good guide as to what actually happened as many show trains which turned back at this point, therefore showing Up trains about to depart on the Down line and vice versa.) In addition to the passing loop there were also three sidings, locked by a key on the Staff. The siding to the west was the 100' Ash Pit siding, and of the other two sidings on the eastern (village) side, an 80' siding at the top end of the station led to the Goods Shed, which had a trap worked by weighted lever. At the bottom end of the station there was a 96' coal siding (added in 1924) protected by locked scotch.[4][5] (Colonel Mount, in his inspection, recommended that this be replaced by an interlocked trap.[6], but there is no reference to this being done.)

When the railway first opened this goods shed was at times used to house an engine, this working the first train to Porthmadog (and on to Blaenau Ffestiniog, but finishing its day at Boston Lodge). Of an evening the last working from Dinas terminated here, and thus these two locomotives alternated their workings, and consequently their use of the shed.[7]

As losses on the railway grew, an increasing number of trains terminated at Beddgelert, necessitating a change. After the FR took control of the WHR in 1934 there was little, if any, through running, and Beddgelert quickly established itself as a frontier station, with trains terminating here from both directions, sometimes even when the timetable indicated a through train. South of here the service was run partly by Festiniog locos and stock, with the service north of here being run by WHR staff and stock from Dinas. Trains from Portmadoc were most commonly hauled by Russell or one of the England Engines. There was less use of FR stock in the later years of the WHR. Double Fairlies were a rare sight at Beddgelert, and probably not at all after 1924. Only three photos are known to exist of Fairlies at Beddgelert station. One shows (James Spooner) .[8].

Boyd [9] in 1950 contended that the decision for trains terminating at Beddgelert was in fact to avoid the costs of installing and running signalling, as required by Light Railway orders, for although trains met here, they did not pass. The loop therefore was used simply for running round, and not as a passing loop (although that is not to say that this arrangement was always adhered to). When only one engine was in steam on the whole railway, it could, of course, pass through Beddgelert. Boyd did not repeat this theory in his later works on the line and it does not hold much water. The station was inspected by Col. Mount in 1923 and 1926 as a passing station and although there were some things he did not approve of (such as lack of facing point locks) there was no mention of signals, which were not normally required on speed-limited Light Railways such as the WHR. There was probably more potential hazard in reversing two trains here than in passing them, particularly in view of the gradient.

The breaking of the journey at Beddgelert (often with a protracted wait for the other train) pleased tourists who could walk into the village, but frequently frustrated through passengers who wanted to get to the end of their journey. A typical wait here was of 35 - 50 minutes, but a few only stopped for 10 or 15 minutes, not enough to go into the village. The waiting times here, together with the relative busyness of watering and trains passing, has left this the most photographed station on the line during the original period of WHR operation.

Beddgelert station was the most lavish intermediate station of the WHR route, though that is not saying much. Although there was no proper platform, for passengers there was a tearoom and also a book stall, although the latter blew down in a gale in October 1927, to be later sold for £5. These buildings were of wood and corrugated-iron construction, rather than the traditional brick-and-stone of the NWNG stations to the north.

There was a Station Mistress, Miriam Jones, who dressed in traditional costume, though she never achieved the fame of Bessie Jones, the Station Mistress at Tan y Bwlch.

Station Water Supply 1923-36[edit]

Green & Carter pump

Thanks to Richard Maund's delving at Gwynedd Archives in Caernarfon, the saga of the water supply for the station during its first history, (1923-1936) has been unravelled.

During the reconstruction of the railway, and the final 180° curve between Cwm Cloch farm and its access lane, a considerable length of pipe running parallel with the trackbed was unearthed. At the time its purpose was unknown, but it has since been confirmed that this pipe represented the second and third alternative supply to the Beddgelert water tank.

The alternative water supply scheme was due to the intransigence of the then owners of the Cwm Cloch estate, Messrs Howarth and Walsh, who had previously 'enjoyed' the water rights of the Afon Cwm Cloch.

For the 1923 opening McAlpine had installed a water supply from the Afon Cwm Cloch. From the intake chamber, a hydraulic ram pumped water from the river to the tank at the station. On a verbal agreement, the WHR paid Howarth and Walsh annually, in advance for these water rights. In July 1927, Walsh, and Alexander Sharples, who had inherited Howarth’s interest, refused to continue the agreement, and would not accept payment until other land issues were resolved, and demanded the removal of the installation from their land. To this, FR & WHR Chairman, Colonel Stephens responded by 'making alternative arrangements for a locomotive water supply from one of the streams crossed by the railway'. It would seem highly probable that these 'arrangements' were at Nantmor where there was a stream-fed water tank in the cutting north of the station on land belonging to Owen Cadwallader Owen. It has become apparent that this supply was provided by McAlpines to water their locomotive during the 1922 - 23 construction period.

Sharples and Walsh's intention was obviously to disrupt or even prevent the railway from operating as it set about finding an alternative source of water. By September 1927 water was still being extracted from the Afon Cwm Cloch but further upstream and from the opposite bank, erroneously believing that this circumvented the estate's riparian rights. To feed this water to the station a pipeline, (the one found recently), was laid around the 180° curve of previous mention. The original (1923) pipe was removed from the estate land i.e. the river bank and Mr Owen promptly cut off the Nantmor supply!

In October 1928 D.O. Jones, the Dinas stationmaster/WHR agent, reported to Stephens that water was still being extracted from the Afon Cwm Cloch, but he had found a spring on WHR land which was one of the feeds to the Goat Hotel reservoir. However, not wishing to aggravate Sharples and Walsh further he had found another spring in the abandoned PBSSR cutting and the pipe was moved thereto, from the river bank. This remained the source for the Beddgelert tank's water until the line closed.

Bringing the story nearly to date, 2009, and a ram pump,[10] similar to the sort used by the WHR, was spotted at a farmhouse in the Lleyn Peninsula. Made by [Green and Carter], a long established (1774) company in Somerset, specialising in these pumps, it had installed a number of them for the original railway. Whilst the originals have long since disappeared, (possibly reclaimed in the 1941 lifting of the line), arrangements were made to acquire this unit as an example for the museum. However, repair and installation at a suitable location, would see a working heritage item, and reduce the costs of locomotive water.

Activity in the 70's[edit]

The station remains in 1960.

In 1973 the WHLR (1964) Ltd. laid some temporary light rail at Beddgelert Station in order to establish a presence and to highlight their intentions to rebuild the line up to here. This rail had been taken from the old Croesor Tramway north of Croesor village (i.e. from the section not dismantled). This rail was removed from Beddgelert in 2005 during the rebuilding, and returned to Gelert's Farm.

The New Station[edit]

The modern station (2006-9) has a 200m right-hand running loop and a short Up (i.e. downhill, west side) siding. Although on a continuous gradient of 1 in 47 through the station, HM Railway Inspector permitted locomotives to run round here. One end of the loop is some 13ft (4m) higher than the other, so the carriage tops at the downhill end are lower than the rails at the uphill end; we do not know of any other railway station in Britain where this pertains.

The legal terms of reconstruction stated that by agreement with the Snowdonia National Park Authority, the station was not permitted to open for passengers to board or alight until WHR track was relaid through to the boundary of the National Park at Afon Dylif (SH601434). The fulfilment of this condition led to a decision to open Beddgelert as a temporary terminus from April 2009.

There is an island platform which had flower beds (alas, removed because ravaged by sheep), two small shelters (with room for signalling equipment) and a foot crossing toward the village at the lower end. The station building foundation is in place but construction was deferred after a spat with the Snowdonia National Park Authority (since resolved), and currently awaits funding. In May-June 2009 a temporary wooden station building with a ticket office, of the same type as that at Rhyd Ddu, was erected in front of the concrete foundation intended for the definitive building. It was intended that the wooden building should be removed to Nantmor Halt when the new station structure is built, but in the event, a new building of similar design was erected at Nantmor in 2010.

There is a standard Braithwaite type water tank at the top end of the station and a water crane on the platform. The original concrete plinth for the 1923 water tank is still in place, and has been improved by the Welsh Highland Heritage Group fitting a replacement water tank in 2013. There are both steps and a ramp down from the station to the nearby village car park. Public footpaths pass the station on both sides and there is a viewing platform on the west side, accessible from the footpath.

Artist's impressions of a new station building here show it, at some 70ft x 40ft, to be larger than the original building, and as such, it caused controversy amongst some of the population of Beddgelert, who complained that it was far too big, and that it intruded upon the landscape. Other concerns were raised, such as increased traffic in the village, and the fear of parked cars, given that the village's public car park (enlarged in anticipation of the railway's arrival) already overflowed with tourists in summer without the railway.

The size of the new station is set by having to allow for 300 people to alight from two trains on a wet day. London Tube crush standards allow 4sq.ft per person; we allowed double. So 300 x 8 = 2400sq.ft; add the lavatories and the design comes out at 2800sq.ft or 70ft x 40ft. As it happened, the arrival of hundreds of tourists by train - without their cars - improved the local perception of the railway.

The new station was officially opened by Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas on April 7th 2009, and public services between Caernarfon and Beddgelert began the following day.[11]

Beyond the station the line descends into the awkward short No. 1 or Goat Tunnel; at the lower end the line swings sharply to avoid crossing the Bridge To Nowhere (which was built by the Portmadoc Beddgelert & South Snowdon Railway in 1904-08) and runs alongside the A498 to Bryn y Felin, passing behind Bryn y Felin house with another sharp curve.


Car Park[edit]

The car park belongs to the Snowdonia National Park Authority; there is only limited parking available.

Company Access Statement[edit]

For general details see here
This station is situated above the village with access through the public car park near the Royal Goat Hotel. Between the car park and the station there is a long tarmac ‘zig-zag’ sloping path which is relatively steep but usable by wheelchairs. The slope is down hill from the platform to the car park. There is level access on/off the platform and the ticket/information office is situated beside the entrance to the platform. If this is not manned, tickets may be purchased from the guard of the train. There are temporary toilets including an accessible toilet with ramped access close to the gate on to the platform.

Once in the car park, the main village street is only a short distance away. Pavements are quite narrow but it is possible to use a wheelchair. There is a wheelchair-friendly walk beside the river.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Go-at, so pronounced: ex. inf. elderly but distinguished and reliable members of Cymdeithas Hynafiaethau Cymru. The usage has diminished of late years because of the immigration of many Saeson, but if you speak to locals around the place, you will find it still in use.
  2. ^ Location
  3. ^ Wikipedia Entry
  4. ^ Boyd, James I.C. (1950). Narrow-gauge rails to Portmadoc. The Oakwood Press. OCLC 30180615.
  5. ^ Boyd, James I.C. (1989). Narrow Gauge Railways in South Caernarvonshire, Vol. 2, The Welsh Highland Railway. Blandford: The Oakwood Press. ISBN 0-85361-383-4.
  6. ^ Johnson, Peter (2002). An Illustrated History of the Welsh Highland Railway. Hersham: Oxford Publishing Co. ISBN 0-860935-65-5. OCLC 59498388.
  7. ^ Boyd, James I.C. (1978). On the Welsh narrow gauge. Truro: Barton. ISBN 9780851533407. OCLC 5776970.
  8. ^ Johnson, Peter (2002). An Illustrated History of the Welsh Highland Railway. Hersham: Oxford Publishing Co. ISBN 0-860935-65-5. OCLC 59498388.
  9. ^ Boyd, James I.C. (1950). Narrow-gauge rails to Portmadoc. The Oakwood Press. OCLC 30180615.
  10. ^ A hydraulic ram can pump water without using any external power. All it needs is the natural flow from a small stream. The basic idea was developed over 200 years ago, and because of current environmental concerns, are entering the spotlight again. A single pump, and good water supply can provide an entire village with water. Green and Carter are one of the country's leading suppliers of these pumps.
  11. ^ Video of Opening Ceremony 7th April 2009

External Links[edit]