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- This article is about the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. For the current station see Blaenau Ffestiniog Station
Blaenau Ffestiniog, meaning 'Heads of Ffestiniog' ('ffestin = a fortification'), lies at a height of 710ft (216.4m) and a distance of 13miles 50 chains (21.93km) from Porthmadog on the route of the Ffestiniog Railway.[route 1][wikipedia 1]
Blaenau Ffestiniog is an historic mining town, famous for its slate. Slate mining in the area is the very reason for the town's existence. Mining began in the eighteenth century but really took off with the coming of the railways.
In 1821, the Ffestiniog parish had the sum total of 1,168 people. By 1841, after the arrival of the railway, this had grown to 3,500-4,000. By 1871 it had risen to 8,062. The area comprised of the villages of Tan y Manod, Congl y Wal, Four Crosses, Rhiwbryfdir, and Tanygrisiau. With time, these merged into the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog, and apart from Four Crosses, each of the names still exist as localities.
The railways of Blaenau Ffestiniog
- For such a small town, Blaenau Ffestiniog has had quite a number of different stations. See Stations in Blaenau for the full list
The first railway to arrive in Blaenau in 1836 was the Festiniog Railway main line to Portmadoc which ran from the foot of the Oakeley quarry inclines at Dinas Station in the hamlet of Rhiwbryfdir, west of the present town. A Festiniog Railway branch line from the foot of the Maenofferen Quarry incline at Duffws (meaning precipice) was opened.
When the public passenger service was introduced on 6th January 1865, trains from Portmadoc ran at first to Dinas, with services to Duffws commencing in 1866. The priorities of the termini later became reversed, with operations being centred at Duffws. Dinas passenger station closed in 1870, leaving Duffws as the northern terminus of the FR. Initially the loco shed remained at Dinas until the construction of the shed at Glan y Pwll.
The next railway to arrive in Blaenau was the narrow gauge Festiniog and Blaenau Railway (F&BR) who opened a station (also called Duffws) at Dolgarreg Ddu. To change trains to the FR passengers had to walk between the two Duffws stations. The F&BR made a junction with the FR at Dolgarreg Ddu.
The coming of the standard gauge lines to Blaenau Ffestiniog resulted in the establishment of yet more stations.
The first standard gauge line to arrive was the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) in 1881 who established a new station on the west side of the town. The FR built an interchange station - Stesion Fein, the "Narrow Station" - on the other side of the road. There was also an extensive interchange yard accessed by a bridge under the road which can be seen in the 1962 views in the gallery section.
The final railway to arrive was the Great Western Railway (GWR) in 1883, who bought the F&BR and converted it to standard gauge and linked to their new line from Bala. This resulted in the building of the GWR Exchange station, which also had an interchange yard. This meant that the FR had three stations in its northernmost three-quarter mile stretch.
Duffws closed to passengers temporarily from 1923 to 1925, and closed again permanently in October 1930, when the public winter passenger service ceased. The old Duffws station building can be found in the car park across the road from the current FR station - it now houses public toilets.
After the closure of Duffws the GWR Exchange station became the terminus for passengers on 31st May 1931. Stesion Fein and the GWR Exchange station both remained open until the end of FR passenger traffic on 15th September 1939.
With the coming of British Railways (BR) in 1948 the LNWR station became "Blaenau Ffestiniog North" and the GWR station "Blaenau Ffestiniog Central".
The GWR closed on 27 January 1961 because of the construction of the Tryweryn reservoir (Llyn Celyn) from 1958 onwards, which severed the line between Bala and Trawsfynydd, although it would have been a target for closure in any event. The ex-GWR station had been closed since 2 January 1960. The line from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Trawsfynydd was retained to serve the CEGB nuclear power station there and in 1963 was linked to the former LNWR line by using the FR alignment between these points. This link line, which was not originally approved for passenger services, crossed (and blocked) the course of the FR main line, then ran alongside and to the south of the remaining section of the FR line from the LNWR yard to the GWR station. This section had until recently been carrying quarry traffic from Duffws, and it was in fact partly relaid near the LNWR yard entry, but traffic on it did not resume, and it was lifted in 1968. The BR line was later realigned to the northern side of the cutting to accommodate the new FR main line.
In 1982 a new joint FR/BR station was opened on the site of the old GWR station, but with the standard and narrow gauge lines on opposite sides of the station. This station remains in use today.
Looking down towards Stesion Fein and Glan-y-pwll. The link through to the LNWR exchange sidings can be seen going off to the right, between the pillars, June, 1962
Looking up towards the joint Great Western / Festiniog Railway station in the centre of Blaenau Ffestiniog. The link through to the LNWR exchange sidings can be seen emerging from the left with the North Western Hotel behind the wall, June 1962
View eastward towards the new FR/BR joint station in 2013. When originally laid in 1963 the SG line was laid further to the right to allow the NG line from Duffws to the LNWR yard to remain in situ. The SG line was later moved to the left to allow space for the new FR main line. Compare this with the previous view taken in aproximatley the same place 50 years previously.