A 1920s view from the FR main line at Minffordd station looking down onto the Maenofferen wharf within the yard
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Minffordd Yard is located to the north of the Ffestiniog Railway main line just west of Minffordd station. In old company days traffic was transshipped here to and from the standard gauge Cambrian Railways (later GWR, then BR Western Region). Slate brought down from the quarries was shipped out whilst incoming traffic included coal, for the railway's locomotives and for local domestic use.
Standard gauge transshipment ended in 1970 and the yard is now the headquarters of the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways' Infrastructure Department and one of their main depots. It is also used to store heritage vehicles and artefacts. Recent developments have seen an array of new buildings erected to improve the available facilities whilst the surviving heritage buildings are being conserved.
The extensive slate wharves and exchange sidings with the Cambrian Railways were established in 1872. Having originally leased the land from the Huddart Family estate, the FR Co. eventually bought the land for £2500 in mid 1876.
Slate storage sheds were built at the FR main line end of the yard adjacent to the Maenofferen wharf, and continued in use, leased to Davies Bros., slate merchants, until the mid 1960s. Once the FR closed in 1946 the slate was brought to the yard by lorry and at least some of it was shipped out in BR waggons. The sheds are now fully used for railway purposes. The last delivery to Minffordd Yard by BR was second hand rail for the FR from Tilbury Power Station on 30th May 1970.
Since then the yard has been developed as the headquarters of the Infrastructure Department. It houses their main offices as well as workshops and space is provided for the storage of trains used by permanent way and S&T.
Rail Access Arrangements
The only rail access is from the bottom end of the Down line at Minffordd, originally the Mineral line. Trains leave the present loop and join a line which runs parallel to the FR main line, passing over the road access to the yard at Weigh House Crossing and in front of the former weigh house itself before reaching a set of weighted points that are normally set for the small fan of post-preservation sidings that comprise the Upper Yard. In order to gain access to the steep, sharply curved, line into the lower (main) yard the weighted points must be held over by the guard or second man of the train. Trains 'rushing the bank' in order to leave the yard simply trail through the weighted points so that their progress up the bank is not hindered.
The weighted points have considerable heritage significance as there has been a set on this location ever since the yard was established and they have been operated by the same method throughout that time! The only other set of points having a similar pedigree is at Boston Lodge, though their operating lever has been changed over time. Beside the weighted points is situated the old Harbour Station Bobby's Box. This was made redundant in the resignalling of Harbour station and was erected here as there is evidence of a similar looking building being her in Victorian times.
The steepness and curvature of the line down into the main yard places limits on the locomotives and stock that can use it; double engines are forbidden, as are some of the older bogie carriages.
- See also Minffordd Yard buildings
The main yard area
Near the foot of the slope the yard line divides into a number of forks. The left-most fork leads down into the to the sunken road known as the Coal Hole. Here there is a loop with chutes for coal and ballast above the left hand line. Originally provided for coal delivered by standard gauge wagons and used as such into the 1960s, when the standard gauge side of the yard was closed, they are now mostly used for deliveries of ballast by road. In the early preservation period the FR bought used ballast from BR and this, too, was delivered by rail to the chutes. As the FR moved to buying new ballast, delivered by lorries, so the use of the chutes was adapted. The coal hole is also used to stable part of the demonstration gravity slate train.
The next line to the right passes behind the old Goods Shed and serves the northern two roads of the Wagon tracks shed. The subsequent line enters the old goods shed. This was previously in use by the Permanent Way gang (FR Section) as a workshop and shed for their loco, Harlech Castle. The shed has recently been completely rebuilt to restore a numner of heritage aspects and is currently empty. The line through the goods shed continues into the Wagon Tracks shed as the central road.
The Wagon Tracks shed provides covered storage for the railway's heritage goods wagons. It has five roads, three entered from the goods shed end and two from the other. The shed was paid for by major fund-raising initiative from the Festiniog Railway Heritage Group. The track within the shed is historic FR material going right back to the earliest types.
The right hand fork from the access line used to lead to a series of wharves, leased to the various quarry companies and some merchants, from which slate was transferred to standard gauge wagons for onward transport. Charles Easton Spooner took great care to arrange the various transfer sidings so that loads were mostly moved on the level or downhill. The construction of Minffordd yard and the negotiation of favourable rates for slate traffic over the FR and Cambrian Railways did much to reduce the impact upon the FR of the arrival of the LNWR and GWR in Blaenau Ffestiniog.
The present right hand fork runs past the former Goods shed to a post-preservation loop and siding used for shunting and marshalling Permanent Way & Works trains. At the Porthmadog end of these loops is an overhead gantry crane provided for the transfer of heavy objects and machinery from road to rail transport. Its use has declined significantly since road access was provided into Boston Lodge Works. Also most deliveries now arrive on pallets and are moved by a forklift. Minffordd often receives larger items for Boston Lodge as large HGVs find it hard to use the works access road.
The outer siding, parallel to the loop, previously served the bulk tanks into which fuel oil for the steam locos was delivered. Since the railways converted back to coal firing the tanks have been removed and the siding is now used to park the KMX Tamper. A ground level bunker for coal, comprising a concrete hard standing with sleeper walls retained by vertical RSJs, has been built in the vicinity of the gantry. Coal wagons are loaded using an industrial shovel.
Maenofferen sheds area
A continuation of the left hand loop line forms a long siding on the edge of the former Maenofferen slate wharf. This line acts as a headshunt for the access to the wagon tracks shed from this end.
On the wharf are the Maenofferen shed. These were originally slate storage sheds and were not rail served. The roof of the larger, left hand, shed (Maenofferen Mawr) was raised towards the end of 1970 so that it could be used for winter storage of rolling stock, usually smaller vehicles. It is accessed via a 'point' comprising a pair of rails held to gauge by tie rods and able to be slewed to connect to each of the four lines leading into the shed. It is a giant, crude, stub point and requires the rail to be positively aligned at the loose end by short fishplates. Slewing the rails requires a large crowbar and is a back-breaking task for one man! This shed continues to be used to store heritage vehicles, mainly four wheel carriages.
The right hand shed (Maenofferen Bach) had its roof raised a little later and is reached via a 3-way stub point, previously used at Harbour Station, which was possibly an apprentice piece by George Percival Spooner (1850-1917). The lever for this point can be seen in the photos below; it has a very worn latch for each alignment.
Maenofferen Bach and the adjacent Anderlecht Siding/Chapel Road (between the two sheds) are gated and used for the secure storage of Heritage vehicles and artifacts, under the management of the Festiniog Railway Heritage Group. The Anderlecht Siding is so called because it was laid through the shed in the 1960s by a group of Belgian Girl Guides from Anderlecht in Belgium; the alternative Chapel Road name arises because the corrugated iron roof over the siding was paid for by a charitable donation from the Welsh Church Acts Fund.
A trailing connection from the right hand fork of the yard entry road crosses back over the left hand fork by a diamond crossing, the nearer of the two in the 1887 photo shown, to a siding roughly aligned with, but largely laid over, an earlier line along the edge of the Votty wharf. The sunken standard gauge tracks in this area have been filled in and the siding serves the Permanent Way department's rail stacks and, since the early 2000s, an area of the yard given over to the S&T department. A single siding protected by a polytunnel houses their works train. An additional siding alongside the polytunnel was removed in 2011 as part of plans for the further development of the yard, but was reinstated a couple of years later (date to be confirmed) to ease shunting of the S&T train. The sylvan nature of this end of the yard has led to its nickname, Dingley Dell.
Alongside the rail wharf and on the edge of the yard is the Infrastructure Department office. It is built on the site of the old Minffordd hostel and rather ironically is a similar colour and shape and uses the same septic tank!
Near the entrance to the yard is a new building providing staff mess facilities along with new workshop space and storage for various railway departments. The construction of this shed allowed a number of old, life expired sheds to be removed and for the relocation of the S&T department to the yard from Boston Lodge.
Linda reversing through Minffordd Yard into the "Coal Hole" in May 1966 to pick up some coal wagons from the exchange sidings with BR.
- Mitchell V, 2002 "Festiniog: 50 years of Enterprise" caption 55