Junction Railway

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Junction Railway
Baldwin 590 on the Junction Railway in the 1930s.
Type Former railway alignment
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The Junction Railway was the original cross-town railway which connected the Festiniog Railway with the completed Welsh Highland. Whilst in legal terms the "Junction Railways" comprised just 10 chains of railway, the term "Junction Railway" came to be synonymous with the whole line between Portmadoc Old and Portmadoc New (1923)

Prior to 1923, the Festiniog Railway mineral line (called the 'Harbour Branch') ran past the Goods Shed at Harbour Station, over Britannia Bridge, and onto the slate wharves. Similarly the Croesor Tramway ran down directly to the wharves, crossing the top end of Madoc Street, then the High Street. Until the construction of the exchange sidings at Minffordd in 1872, FR slate destined for standard gauge transfer had to be transported to the Cambrian Railways at Beddgelert Siding by proceeding toward the wharves then 'reversing' back up the lower part of the Croesor Tramway. In fact, even after the opening of Minffordd this route still saw some use, when Minffordd periodically got clogged up.

During the planning stage for the original WHR, Portmadoc Council, concerned about the road crossings involved, considered several routes across town (including the one to be used for the current CTRL). A direct connection between FR and WHR was required for passenger traffic, but no provision for this was made in the WHR scheme, so it was decided that the FR would provide it. The FR Light Railway Order of 30th January, 1923 defined two new short railways, each only some 5 chains in length (i.e. 110 yards), and also made provision for the widening of Britannia Bridge.

Constructed by Sir Robert McAlpine, "Railway No 1" crossed from Harbour Station over the reconstructed Britannia Bridge on the south side, to replace the old route (which had been on the south side of the old bridge but would have been in the middle of the bridge as widened). "Railway No 2" connected with No 1 then went across High Street and entered Madoc Street to link with the WHR where it ran along the old route of the Croesor Tramway. Effectively this line formed the third (eastern) side of the triangle. In 1928 the western curve (WHR to the wharves) was abandoned.

It was intended that the line over the bridge would be separated from the road by a wall, but this was not done.

Henry Joseph Jack, Chairman of the FR/WHR, proposed that locomotives should carry a bell, but his engineers advised that this would be unnecessary - the trains would be running only at slow speeds.

The following Operating Instructions were issued in 1923. [1]


Instructions for working over the Junction Railway between Portmadoc New Station and Portmadoc Old Station.

(1) Drivers of all trains on the Junction Railway must proceed with caution over the public roads, they must keep a good look-out for traffic in both directions and have their trains under control. They must be prepared to stop before crossing the roads.

(2) Speed across roads and where the line runs alongside roads must not exceed 5 miles per hour. Speed between Snowdon Street and Madoc Street must not exceed 10 miles per hour.

(3) The stationmaster or person in charge at Portmadoc must arrange for a man to be on duty at Portmadoc Old Station to exchange the staffs at that point when trains are expected and this man must use his discretion in passing trains on to the junction railway.

(4) Drivers must sound their whistles before crossing a road and when passing round curves where sight is restricted.

(5) All concerned must observe the "Ministry of Transport Special Regulations" and the Bye Laws of the Portmadoc Urban District Council (when made) relating to the junction railway.

(6) Drivers must not take their trains onto the junction railway without being in possession of the staff or ticket relating to that section.

(7) The staff is made of wood and the staff and tickets are coloured BLUE.

(8) The section between Portmadoc Old Station and Portmadoc New Station is worked under the ordinary regulations for Train Staff and Ticket working.

(9) All points on the main line are locked by the key attached to the staff. Trains desiring to work in the sidings must be in possession of the staff itself and not the ticket.

(10) If an engine is required to work on the wharf branch for some time and it is desired to pass a trin over the junction railway while it is so doing, the engine must be locked into the Wharf branch and the staff brought back to work the train over the junction railway. While this is being done, the driver of the engine on the branch must not bring his train within 50 yards of the junction railway until he has regained possession of the staff.


The opening of Portmadoc New (1923), together with the by-passing of Harbour Station, effectively made the Junction Railway part of the Festiniog running line. However, the later termination of non-through WHR trains north of the Cambrian Crossing at Portmadoc New (1929), and the re-use of Harbour Station, served to make this line something of a No Man's Land to regular passenger traffic until regular crossings were reinstated - all too late - in 1935.

After the closure of the WHR the crossing at the GWR line was removed in 1938 by the GWR, but the Croesor section of the WHR survived the The Dismantling of the Welsh Highland Railway in 1941-2 due to a policy decision that the Croesor line should not be dismantled at that time in case of a subsequent resumption of quarrying in the Croesor valley. If that had happened, presumably the GWR would have had to reinstate the crossing, unless the traffic ran only as far south as Beddgelert Siding, but in fact the situation did not arise.

The Junction Railways themselves were FR property. The WHR track from Madoc St to New Station had passed to the FR as part of the settlement at the ending of the lease, and there was then still occasional traffic to the Flour Mill. However most of the WHR line between Glaslyn Foundry and the Cambrian Crossing was removed in May 1949. Prince hauled the last train across Britannia Bridge on the 2nd September 1958, probably reclaiming any available material from the wharves on that side. The rails were then lifted shortly afterwards. A further small length was removed from the junction with Madoc Street in mid-March 1960.


  • Johnson, Peter (2002). An Illustrated History of the Welsh Highland Railway. Hersham: Oxford Publishing Co. ISBN 0-860935-65-5. OCLC 59498388.
  • Portrait of the Welsh Highland Railway, by Peter Johnson, 1999

See also[edit]